Africa News Briefs from Global Information Network
PASSING OF MUSIC ICON SHOCKS FANS
Nov. 11 (GIN) – From Michigan to Maputo, fans of Miriam Makeba are mourning the unexpected passing of a human rights champion and beloved musical icon whose distinctive style captivated the world in the 1960s and 1970s, combining traditional African melodies, jazz and folk with the unique and dynamic rhythms of South Africa's black townships.
Makeba had been performing in Italy, paying homage to six Africans killed by the Camorra mafia and to the Italian journalist Roberto Saviano who exposed the murders and was himself threatened with death, when she was stricken and died in a local hospital early Nov. 10.
Former President Nelson Mandela, now in his 91st year, led the tributes to Makeba. "She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika," he said. "The sudden passing of our beloved Miriam has saddened us … For many decades, starting in the years before we went to prison, MaMiriam featured prominently in our lives.”
A Grammy award winner, Makeba knew and performed with Harry Belafonte and Hugh Masakela, and hundreds of world-class musicians. Her outspoken witness before the United Nations in 1963 to the evils of apartheid caused her expulsion from as a “terrorist.” It took her 27 years to go back to South Africa after a personal request from then President Mandela.
“Godspeed to you Mama Africa for your labor here on earth has been fulfilled,” wrote Belinda M. Sanders in a moving online tribute. “I am grateful to have had the pleasure of seeing you in concert in Flint, Michigan. I shall always remember your melodious voice. I was moved by the passion you exuded through song and stage presence.”
"The mortal remains of South Africa's Goodwill Ambassador Miriam Makeba” will be returned to South Africa on Nov. 12," a government spokesman said.
16,000 CHILDREN IN TRIAL FOR MALARIA CURE
Nov. 11 (GIN) – A massive medical trial is being prepared to test an anti-malaria drug on 16,000 children in Africa. It may be the largest such drug trial on children in Africa.
The vaccine trials will be conducted in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania in a joint effort by British-drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and the Bill and Melinda Gates Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
Over $107 million has already been spent by the Gates project, with some $300 million spent by GlaxoSmithKline
Malaria, caused by parasites and spread by mosquitoes, kills nearly 1 million people every year, most of them children in Africa. The trial may start as early as next month, and should be well under way by January.
Preliminary trials showed the vaccine likely to be at least 30 percent effective against mild malaria cases and about 50 percent effective against severe malaria – still a low figure compared to the injectable polio vaccine that is at least 90 percent effective.
Eusebio Macete, director of the Manhica Research Centre in Mozambique, said stopping any percentage of the disease would be welcomed in areas "where people are dying every day of malaria."
"It's a huge, huge burden, this disease," Macete said. "Whatever percentage we can get will be useful in reducing the impact of the disease."
NEW SUIT AGAINST OIL GIANT OVER TOXIC SPILLS
Nov. 11(GIN) – Four Nigerians and the environmental group Friends of the Earth have filed suit against Royal Dutch Shell in The Netherlands, charging the company with negligence in failing to clean up oil spills.
The civil suit seeks to hold the parent company liable for damages allegedly caused by its Nigerian subsidiary.
Alali Efanga of the village of Oruma, who traveled to the Netherlands to file the suit, said thousands of villagers had been sickened by oil that leaked from a pressurized underground pipeline running through nearby jungle. Shell noticed the leak on June 26, 2005, he said, but took 12 days to fix it.
Fruit trees, cassava crops and waterways for mile around were spoiled, including Efanga's own fish ponds, he said.
The latest suit joins more than 500 pollution cases filed in Nigerian courts against Shell Nigeria, but few have reached a conclusion leading to compensation, Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Anne van Schaik said.
"It's very hard to get justice in Nigeria," she said.
Shell spokesman said the company needed time to study the complaint. While Shell has closed down most of its operations in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta, it continues to produce at offshore facilities.
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