Boko Haram Taunts Two Years After #BringBackOurGirls


A new video emerges. “A video showing 15 of the 219 schoolgirls held by the jihadist group Boko Haram has added pressure on the Nigerian government to secure their release, after activists accused authorities of mishandling the case in the two years since their mass kidnap…President Muhammadu Buhari, elected a year ago on a promise to end endemic graft and crush the group, said in December the government could talk to Boko Haram if credible representatives emerged.In January he said the government was launching a new investigation into the kidnapping, vowing to return the girls captured at a school in the town of Chibok while taking exams. But little has emerged since then.In the video, apparently taken in December and given to government officials by Boko Haram as proof of life for the negotiations, a person asks the 15 girls to say their names as they stand quietly in two rows, wearing headscarves.”  (Reuters

Major Polio vaccine rollout next week… “In a massive undertaking aimed at stamping out polio once and for all – dubbed ‘the switch’ – a United Nations-backed eradication initiative will next week begin the largest and fastest globally coordinated rollout of a vaccine into routine immunization programmes in history. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) announced today that between 17 April and 1 May, 155 countries and territories around the world will stop using the trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV), which protects against all three strains of wild poliovirus, and replace it with bivalent OPV (bOPV), which protects against the remaining two wild polio strains, types 1 and 3…This transition, referred to as the global vaccine ‘switch,’ is possible because type 2 wild polio has been eradicated. The switch has been recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization and endorsed by the World Health Assembly as a critical component of the polio endgame strategy.” (UN News Center

Highlights from the third and final day of the UNSG Hearings…Helen Clark, Serbian politician Vuk Jerevic and Macedonia’s Srgjan Kerim were in the hot seat. (UN Dispatch

After 9 candidates and 20 hours of hearings….If you want a rundown of who may have emerged as a frontrunner and the broader international relations implications of the SG hearings have a listen to Mark’s conversation with UN expert Richard Gowen (Global Dispatches Podcast


Demonstrators in Zimbabwe held the largest protest against President Robert Mugabe in nearly a decade on Thursday, marching through central Harare demanding that the 92-year-old leader make a “dignified exit.” (AP

An official from Burundi’s ruling party was shot dead, a local administrator said on Thursday, in what appeared the latest in a spate of tit-for-tat killings that U.N. officials fear is driving the nation back into conflict. (Reuters

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika declared a national disaster after a severe drought ravaged the southern African nation and appealed for 1.2 million tons of maize to plug a looming deficit of the staple. (Reuters

The United Nations is withholding more than 40 new cases of sexual violence by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic in direct contravention of its promise to disclose all information to the public, an NGO has said. (AL Jazeera

Liberia’s teachers have threatened to strike over plans to privatise the country’s crumbling primary schools, as criticism grows louder over a multi-million-dollar project to outsource education in one of the world’s poorest nations. (AFP

Supporters of Congo President Joseph Kabila want the country’s highest court to rule on whether he would stay in power if his government fails to hold an election due in November, a senior ally said on Thursday. (Reuters

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita underwent an operation at a hospital in Paris this week as part of treatment for a benign tumor on his neck, the presidency said in a statement late on Wednesday. (Reuters


A U.N. body set up to monitor the delivery of humanitarian assistance to besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria accuses the government of Bashar al-Assad of continuing to hamper the delivery of desperately needed aid. (VOA

An Israeli soldier caught on video fatally shooting a Palestinian in the head will be charged with manslaughter, prosecutors announced Thursday in a case that has sparked national outrage and support for the soldier. (USA Today

Obama to the Middle East…Obama will meet with King Salman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and attend a summit with other leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Thursday.  (Reuters

China on Thursday urged U.N. Security Council members to back a draft resolution demanding states report when militants are developing chemical weapons in Syria. (Reuters


At least two people were killed and 45 injured by a magnitude-6.5 earthquake that knocked down houses and buckled roads in southern Japan on Thursday night. (CBS

The U.S. government agency charged with monitoring international religious freedoms called on Myanmar’s new government on Thursday to do away with abusive policies against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims.(Reuters

The government of Bangladesh has indicated it is unlikely to abandon its push to build more coal-fired power plants despite growing opposition among local people and environmentalists. (TRF

A new study points to the risk that China and India will be facing severe water shortages due to a perfect storm of economic growth, climate change, and demands of fast growing populations by mid century. (Reuters

In a military buildup certain to inflame tensions with China, the United States said Thursday it will send troops and combat aircraft to the Philippines for regular, more frequent rotations, and will conduct more joint sea and air patrols with Philippine forces in the South China Sea. (WaPo

The Americas

Colombia has confirmed the first two cases of a rare birth defect associated with the spread of Zika. (AP

President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday punitive electricity rationing would be imposed on 15 shopping malls and drought-hit Venezuela’s time zone would also be modified to save power. (Reuters

The government in Brazil is seeking an injunction at the Supreme Court in an effort to prevent an impeachment vote against President Dilma Rousseff. (BBC

Two Mexican soldiers face military charges after a video surfaced of them helping a federal police officer torture a female suspect, the army said Thursday. (AP

Argentine President Mauricio Macri is siding with Buenos Aires taxi drivers in a dispute against Uber. Macri said Thursday that he values the stance that city officials have taken in defending cabbies. He says they’re an important symbol of the city and Argentina as a whole. (AP

Federal scientists say that U.S.-affiliated nations in the Micronesia region are facing extreme drought conditions that have led to water rationing, emergency shipment of bottled water and health concerns. (AP

…and the rest

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday he is “extremely concerned” about the widespread creation of offshore companies by wealthy people around the world to evade taxes, saying it takes large sums away from governments who need the money to fight poverty. (VOA

Poland cannot take in the 7,000 refugees it agreed to accept and thinks the plan to distribute 120,000 migrants across the European union is “dead”, its deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Thursday. (Reuters

The leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches are meeting on a Greek island Saturday to deliver a single message — that they stand with the people who have risked death, been thwarted by barbed wire and locked up in camps in their pursuit of safety in Europe. (AP

Fast food workers and union members have held a protest at a McDonald’s restaurant at Disneyland Paris to demand higher wages and an end to the use of tax havens by multinational corporations. (AP

Exxon Mobil Corp. is squaring off against government investigators who believe the energy giant covered up knowledge of how fossil fuels contribute to climate change. (AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition agreed Thursday on sweeping measures to spur the integration of migrants and refugees in a “historic” first for a country that long resisted embracing immigration. (AFP


Will the UN’s new leader stand for the powerful or the powerless? (IPS

The West in Africa in the Age of Extremism (Daily Maverick

Embracing Impact: How Africa Can Overcome the Emerging Market Downturn (Atlantic Council

Robust Global Economic Recovery Needs Coordinated Policy Response (IPS

Western Sahara’s moment in the sun (IRIN

The problem with the development banks’ environmental and social safeguards (ODI