NIGERIA

De-escalation in Syria

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WHEN a group of teenage boys scrawled “down with the regime” on their school wall they lit the powder that ignited Syria’s civil war. Ever since their torture at the hands of state-security agents in March 2011, the boys’ home city of Deraa has become synonymous with the rebellion to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Deraa may yet turn out to be the place where dreams of overthrowing the regime finally die. The guns fell silent over the battered city at noon on July 9th as a ceasefire brokered by Russia and America came into force. The truce, announced by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after their first meeting, is the latest in a string of failed attempts by the two powers to quell more than six years of violence that has killed perhaps 400,000 people. Its succes

Donald Trump ducks a decision on sanctions on Khartoum

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FIRST came the Iran nuclear deal; then the Cuban thaw. But less remarked upon at the time was Barack Obama’s rapprochement with another old foe: Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating genocide. In January Mr Obama temporarily lifted economic sanctions on Sudan that had first been imposed 20 years ago by Bill Clinton. The move was a reward for “positive actions” by Sudan. The regime has co-operated with America in fighting terrorism, allowed more aid workers to reach civilians hurt in Sudan’s conflict zones and tried to end its wars with rebels in the south. Yet the decision on whether to end sanctions permanently fell to Mr Obama’s successor. On July 11th Donald Trump ducked the decision for another three months,

Hamas marks ten years of misruling Gaza

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THE smell hits you from a mile away. On the southern edge of Gaza City the crystalline blue Mediterranean is being transmuted into a vast, bobbing pool of raw sewage, the product of half a million people with nowhere else for their effluent to flow. A three-way row between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel has seen electricity supplies cut to a trickle. One casualty has been the strip’s sewage treatment stations. It is ten years since Hamas, an Islamist political party with a lethal military wing, took over Gaza. In June 2007 it threw out its rivals from Fatah, the nationalist faction that runs the Palestine Liberation Organisation. A year earlier, it had beaten Fatah in elections held in the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 war. The split left Fatah to rule the West Bank, Ha

Israel’s Labour party gambles on Gabbay

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Gabbay’s a gamble   ON JULY 10th Israel’s Labour Party elected as leader one of its newest members: Avi Gabbay, who joined only six months ago. He represents a leap into the unknown for Labour, which was once Israel’s party of government but has not been in power for 16 years. It has changed leaders eight times since then. Mr Gabbay is the former chief executive of Bezek, Israel’s largest telecoms firm. He entered politics in 2014, helping to found Kulanu, a centrist party, and served for a year as environment minister (though he failed to be elected to parliament). He resigned in May 2016, denouncing the coalition’s rightward shift, and joined Labour. Last week he came second in the first round of its leadership election, beating Isaac Herzog, the leader for the past four years, into th

Criminals are running circles around South Africa’s police

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Welcome to South Africa SOUTH AFRICA’S crime lords can be audacious. This month they waited until the country’s top security officials were busy preparing for a briefing on rampant crime at Johannesburg’s international airport, then struck again, hijacking a truck loaded with valuable cargo as it left the gates. The incident was the latest of many. In a particularly brazen heist in March, gunmen impersonating police officers stole 20.7m rand ($1.5m) as the bags of money were being loaded onto a flight to London. A few weeks later, thieves attacked a cash-laden van on a busy highway near the airport, blowing it open with explosives. This dramatic episode was caught on video. After years of steady decline, serious crime is on the rise in South Africa. Aggravated robbery has jumped by 31%

Ethiopia’s ingenious video pirates

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DOWNLOADING a movie, legally or not, is prohibitively slow in Ethiopia, thanks to glacial internet speeds. Bootleg DVDs are everywhere, but even so it can be hard to find a reasonable-quality version of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Only one cinema in Addis Ababa, the capital, screens foreign hits. Resourceful pirates spy an opportunity. Last year yellow ATM-style kiosks began to spring up around Addis Ababa. The brainchild of three Ethiopian science graduates and their software company, Swift Media, the Chinese-built kiosks allow customers to transfer any of 6,000 pirated foreign movies or 500 music albums onto a USB stick they insert for as little as 10 cents per file. The kiosks are located in large malls in full view of authorities, who show no interest in shutting them down. T...