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Ebola outbreak ‘over by August’, UN suggests

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa will be over by August, the head of the UN Ebola mission has told the BBC.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed admitted the UN had made mistakes in handling the crisis early on, sometimes acting "arrogantly".

A year after the outbreak was officially declared, the virus has killed more than 10,000 people.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres says a "global coalition of inaction" led to tragic consequences.

Looking back over the year, the charity suggests its early calls for help were ignored by local governments and the World Health Organization.

Most deaths occurred in the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The head of the UN Ebola response mission told the BBC, when the virus first struck, "there was probably a lack of knowledge and there was a certain degree of arrogance, but I think we are learning lessons.

"We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer."

'Turned away'

The first person to succumb to the disease during this outbreak is thought to have been a toddler in a remote part of Guinea. He died in December 2013.

Three months later the WHO officially announced an outbreak. And it was a further five months before the organisation declared it a public health emergency of international concern. At this point more than 1,000 people had lost their lives.

Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator, told the BBC: "We were well aware this was something different in March and April last year and we did try to bring this to the attention of the WHO but also governments within the countries affected.

"And of course it was frustrating that we weren't heard and that has probably led to the scale of the epidemic we see today."

The charity says it should also have used more of its own resources earlier in the crisis.

The analysis, which includes dozens of interviews with MSF staff, says by the end of August 2014 treatment centres in Liberia where overwhelmed.

In January 2015 at a rare emergency meeting, the WHO admitted it was too late to respond.

Dr Margaret Chan, director general, said: "The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us."

Continued threat

But the organisation says it made it clear from the start "this was a very serious situation".

There are now proposals to build-up a rapid response team to react more swiftly to future threats.

Case numbers are falling but MSF says the outbreak is not yet over. Overall cases have not declined significantly since January, the charity warns.

Liberia recorded its first case in more than two weeks on Friday, dashing hopes the country would soon be declared virus-free.

In Guinea, cases are rising again after a dip at the beginning of the year.

Some patients in Sierra Leone are are not on lists of known Ebola contacts, suggesting chains of spread are going undetected.

Dr Derek Gatherer, at Lancaster University, said: "In retrospect, it is now apparent that the delay from December to March was crucial in the dissemination of the virus to several locations in eastern Guinea and then onto the capital, Conakry, which remains one of the few areas with active transmission."

But until zero cases are recorded in all three worst-affected countries for a period of at least six weeks, the outbreak will not be officially declared over.

BBC

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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