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Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent

Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

This is the home of my reports, updates and analysis from across the world’s liveliest continent

Oscar Pistorius trial: Sense of an ending

9 August 2014
Defence lawyer Barry Roux makes a point during closing arguments in the murder trial of South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria August 8
Defence lawyer Barry Roux went on the offensive against the prosecution, accusing them of "manipulation"

Judge Thokozile Masipa smiled inscrutably from time to time. But she asked surprisingly few questions, and gave no hint as to which way she was leaning, as Oscar Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux presented his final arguments in court on Friday.

Both prosecution and defence had already submitted their detailed written arguments to the judge. With no jury to sway, the last two days in court felt, in some ways, rather overblown.

On Thursday prosecutor Gerrie Nel - a study in incredulity - focused on attacking the athlete's "deceitful" character.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel in court, Pretoria, South Africa - 7 August 2014
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel is known as the "bull terrier" in court circles

On Friday Mr Roux responded with his own display of sustained indignation. He angrily accused the prosecution of manipulating and ignoring key evidence before proceeding to lay out - in forensic detail - the defence's timeline of events, screams, phone calls and bangs, the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed.

Given that the only eyewitness to the killing is rather firmly on the defence's team, Mr Roux was always going to have a more compelling reconstruction to offer the judge than Mr Nel. But will that be enough?

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Oscar Pistorius trial: Nel covers all options

7 August 2014
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel in court, Pretoria, South Africa - 7 August 2014
Gerrie Nel is known as the "bull terrier" in court circles

It was an impressive display of sustained incredulity.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, standing in courtroom GD for most of Thursday searched for new words - "mendacity", "deceitfulness", "a snowball" of lies - to describe Oscar Pistorius' version of events the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp.

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Central African Republic crisis: 'Lame-duck' president?

1 August 2014
Transitional President Catherine Samba Panza arrives at parliament in Bangui, CAR - May 2014
Catherine Samba-Panza, a former mayor of Bangui, took over as president in January

The Presidential Palace in the Central African Republic (CAR) - a collection of tired-looking white buildings set around a pot-holed central parade ground - sits on a gentle slope overlooking the centre of the capital, Bangui.

Years ago, during the rule of the self-proclaimed Emperor Bokassa, the palace was at the heart of an intimidating, highly centralised, all-powerful regime.

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CAR crisis: Meeting the rebel army chief

Seleka fighters in Bambari, CAR - May 2014

On a dirt side-street between the deserted petrol station and the hospital in Bambari in the Central African Republic, five well-armed soldiers were standing guard outside the tall gates of what must once have been a rather grand colonial villa.

A few minutes earlier, I had received a rather brusque phone call from a man called Major General Joseph Zoundeiko, who wanted me to come and see him immediately.

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Central African Republic crisis: Silent majority held hostage

A car on a road to Bambari in CAR - May 2014

Travelling into the countryside of the Central African Republic around Bambari is an unpredictable business at the best of times. Two punctures on the rutted dirt track delayed our first attempt.

We limped back to a tyre-repair shop in the town's dilapidated Muslim quarter, close to the spot where a suspected Christian fighter had been hacked to death by a mob.

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Central African Republic: Where rumours can kill in seconds

French Sangaris troops patrol in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) as a schoolboy passes by, in Bangui, the Central African capital, on 13 July 2014.

The French soldier nearly tripped over the old man.

"I thought he was dead," he said, moments later, bending down to examine the skeleton-thin body lying naked in the dark debris of what the French patrol had assumed was an abandoned building on the outskirts of Bambari.

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Central African Republic: Fighting spreads like infection

A boy being treated at the University Hospital in Bambari, CAR

Francoise Gerizapa scrunched her face into a fierce pout and then screamed once more - a chilling, sing-song whoop that filled the dark, crowded ward at Bambari's hospital in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Two nurses were holding Ms Gerizapa's shoulders as a third poured disinfectant into a large, rotting, bullet wound in the 43-year-old's lower leg.

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Central African Republic's road to anarchy

Men on a vehicle approaching an anti-balaka militia checkpoint on 2 March 2014 in Bangui
People fleeing the conflict approach a checkpoint run by anti-Balaka militiamen

On a map, the RN (Route Nationale) 2 looks like a rather important highway linking the central town of Sibut with the entire eastern half of the Central African Republic (CAR) and beyond.

If you want to drive from the capital, Bangui, towards South Sudan, Uganda and the Indian Ocean, then the RN2 is your only option - a vital artery for commerce and migration that runs through valleys and forests, past gold and diamond mines and dozens of major towns as it forges eastwards just north of the equator and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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How did Oscar Pistorius' defence fare?

Oscar Pistorius during his murder trial at the Pretoria High Court - 8 July 2014, Pretoria, South Africa.

Judge Thokozile Masipa stood up, bowed and walked stiffly out of courtroom GD; minutes later South African athlete Oscar Pistorius slipped away too, followed by his legal team.

No-one appeared to be smiling.

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Oscar Pistorius: A glimpse of what might have been

Oscar Pistorius on trial in Pretoria, South Africa, 1 July
Oscar Pistorius in court on Tuesday

Trials are, necessarily, about past events. And yet in court today, we were treated to a tantalising glimpse of the future Oscar Pistorius might once have had.

It wafted through the courtroom like a patch of unexpected sunlight, before prosecutor Gerrie Nel - true to form - marched over and yanked down the blinds.

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About Andrew

Andrew has been Africa correspondent since 2009, covering the continent's highs and lows - from the World Cup, Africa's economic boom, and the literary treasures of Timbuktu, to the pirates of Somalia, the conflict in Ivory Coast, and the struggles of Zimbabwe.

He has spent twenty years as a foreign correspondent, based in the former Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia, and reported on the 1993 parliamentary rebellion in Moscow, two Chechen wars, the Asian tsunami in 2004, and conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Congo, Sudan, Liberia and beyond.

Andrew was born in the UK, grew up in Belgium and at boarding school. He is married with three children.

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