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Summary

  1. Nollywood sequel 'breaks box office records'
  2. Civil servants in Burkina Faso made to work longer hours
  3. Five 'spies' executed by Somali militants
  4. Ethiopia to free all political prisoners and close notorious prison
  5. Zambia minister resigns, angered by corruption
  6. Alleged mercenaries arrested on Equatorial Guinea border
  7. South Africans 'pledge $20,000' to catch rock-throwing killers
  8. "At least 10 killed" in suicide bombing in Nigeria
  9. DJ Black Coffee gets Las Vegas residency
  10. Mozambique suspension bridge delay
  11. SA poet and activist Bra Willie dies
  12. Suspected herders attack Nigerian villages
  13. 'Mass demolition' of Zambian vendors' stalls
  14. Zimbabwe crocodile 'kills tourist'

Live Reporting

By Natasha Booty and Lucy Fleming

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Scroll down for Wednesday's stories

We’ll be back tomorrow

That's all from BBC Africa Live today. Keep up-to-date with what's happening across the continent by listening to the Africa Today podcast or checking the BBC News website.

A reminder of today's wise words:

A man’s wound is not to be laughed at."

A Zulu proverb sent by David Mkandla in Randburg, South Africa

Click here to send your African proverbs.

And we leave you with this shot from the Instagram account of Tastemakers Africa, who have been paying tribute in recent days to their favourite African creatives and bloggers, including South Africa's Zovuyo Mputa who is pictured here:

View more on instagram

Mozambique suspension bridge delay

Jose Tembe

BBC Africa, Maputo

Maputo-Catembe Bridge under construction
AFP
The Maputo-Catembe Bridge will be the longest suspension bridge in Africa once completed

The rainy season is threatening to further delay the completion of the suspension bridge being built over the Bay of Maputo in Mozambique.

It will link central Maputo to an outlying district of the capital, with a road linking to the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Silva Magaia, the chairperson of Maputo-Sul - the public company in charge of constructing the bridge, the wet weather is affecting the laying of asphalt.

January and February are normally the wettest months of the year, and heavy rain has been falling in Maputo since the weekend.

Under the initial calendar, the bridge should have been completed by December.

However, work was delayed for six months largely because market stallholders were blocking the bridge's northern access road and refused to move without being compensated.

They had no right to compensation as Maputo-Sul provided them with new, clean stalls in an organised municipal market.

But the Municipal Council declined to use force to move them and instead negotiations were undertaken that led to Maputo-Sul providing compensation.

Construction on the access road resumed last week as most stallholders removed their goods, despite protests from some who said they had not received enough money.

Mr Magaia said he expected the bridge to be finished by the middle of 2018.

The Ethiopians behind bars

The news that Ethiopia is to release all political prisoners has come as a surprise, but it is unclear exactly who will be freed - or when it will take place.

It is also difficult to know exactly how many "political prisoners" there are.

There are about 1,000 facing charges under the country's anti-terrorism laws, including high-profile leaders from the opposition.

Another 5,000 cases are pending related to the 10-month state of emergency (see earlier entry).

These are some of the high-profile people currently in detention:

  • Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) - in detention since his arrest on 1 December 2016 after he had returned from a trip to Belgium. He is facing multiple criminal charges – a main charge of terrorism has been downgraded
  • Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the OFC - arrested together with Dejene Fita Geleta, secretary-general of OFC, and 20 others in connection with the 2015 Oromo protests that resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters
  • Andargachew Tsege, leader of Ginbot 7 (designated a terrorist group) - arrested in 2014 while on transit in Yemen and extradited to Ethiopia where he faces the death penalty after being convicted in absentia. A British national, human rights groups and the UK government have been pushing for his release
  • Andualem Aragie,vice-president of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party - imprisoned since 2011, and now serving a life sentence on terrorism charges
  • Eskinder Nega, journalist and blogger - imprisoned since 2011 after criticising his country's abuse of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 years in jail
  • Woubshet Taye, journalist and editor - imprisoned since 2011 and sentenced the next year to 14 years in prison for terror-related offences.

Nollywood sequel 'breaks box office records'

Nigerian media are reporting that The Wedding Party 2, a Nollywood romantic comedy, has broken box office records with ticket sales of more than 312m naira ($863,267; £638,502) since it opened in cinemas on 15 December.

Poster for The Wedding Party 2
.

Nigerian news site Pulse magazine points to the distribution company's savvy marketing campaigns, which saw some filmgoers bussed to pre-screenings while others say they had no choice but to pay for VIP tickets which cost twice the usual price after they were informed that standard tickets had sold out.

The film is the sequel to the original The Wedding Party, which was released in 2016 and spent seven weeks at the top of the box office and became the first Nigerian film to pass the 400m naira mark.

This time around, the groom's brother Nonso continues his romance with Deirdre, the bridesmaid from London.

But matters are complicated by an accidental proposal, and the pair encounter disapproval from different quarters of their families before agreeing on an extravagant ceremony in Dubai.

Stars of the film include Ricard Mofe-Damijo, Sola Sobowale, Enyinna Nwigwe and Adesua Etomi.

Buhari promises security after 'herder attacks'

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has tweeted that the security forces are working to prevent further attacks in Benue state, where at least 33 have been killed after a series of village raids by suspected Fulani herders (see earlier entry).

View more on twitter

He added in a statement:

This is one attack too many, and everything must be done to provide security for the people in our rural communities."

In the wake of the killings, hundreds of people today took to the streets in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, to put more pressure on the authorities to do more to end the frequent violence.

Shops have been closed as the angry protesters burnt tyres.

BBC Hausa's Ishaq Khalid says deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen are common in central Nigeria.

Farmers accuse herders of destroying their crops while the herders say members of farming communities steal their animals and sometimes kill them in unprovoked attacks, he says.

'Mass demolition' of Zambian vendors' stalls

Street vendors in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, have had their stalls demolished, the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail reports, to "rid the city of cholera".

An outbreak in Lusaka of the potentially deadly bacterial infection, which is caused by consuming contaminated food or water, was announced by Zambia's health ministry in October.

Since then the World Health Organization reports that at least 15 people have died and more than 500 cases have been reported in total.

It is not known how many street vendors operate in Zambia, but many analysts believe the informal sector provides up to 90% of jobs in the country.

Front page of the Zambia Daily Mail
Zambia Daily Mail

Ethiopia jail 'functioned as torture chamber'

The announcement by Ethiopia’s prime minister that all political prisoners are to be freed has been welcomed by human rights groups.

Fisseha Tekle, a researcher at Amnesty International, said it could “signal the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia”.

But he warned against whitewashing the “horrifying events” that have taken place at Maekelawi Prison, which is going to shut down and turned into a museum:

For years, Maekelawi has essentially functioned as a torture chamber, used by the Ethiopian authorities to brutally interrogate anybody who dares to dissent including peaceful protesters, journalists and opposition figures."

Felix Horne, a Human Rights Watch researcher, called on the government to “investigate years of alleged torture of Maekelawi’s detainees and hold those responsible to account":

Ensuring independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions is critical to send a strong and clear message to security officials across the country that torture is no longer permissible and will be punished.”

Read more: Ethiopia 'to free political prisoners'

SA poet and activist 'Bra Willie' dies

South Africa's former poet laureate and anti-apartheid activist Keorapetse William Kgositsile, also known as "Bra Willie", has died at the age of 79.

View more on twitter

Kgositsile, who lived in exile in the US from 1962 to 1975, gained prominence with his 1971 poetry collection My Name is Afrika.

Nigeria protest against 'herder attacks'

Hundreds of people have stormed Makurdi, the capital of Nigeria's eastern Benue state, today in protest against the deadly raids on villages by suspected Fulani herders that began on New Year’s Day (see earlier entry), the AFP news agency reports.

A Twitter user has posted photos of the demonstrations, reflecting anger that President Muhammadu Buhari's government is not doing enough to stop such attacks:

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Over recent years, the herders have been forced from their more traditional grazing lands in the north by the Boko Haram insurgency, and the encroaching desert.

It has put them in direct conflict with local farmers, resulting in death and the destruction of entire communities.

Read more: Deadly battle for land

Nigeria reward to catch New Year’s Day killers

A Nigerian governor has offered a reward of 200m naira ($556,000, £409,000) for information that could lead to the arrest of gunmen who killed 16 people on their way back from church in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

View more on twitter

Nyesom Wike, the Rivers state governor, added that anyone connected with the shooting in Omuku town would have their properties forfeited to the government.

He added:

We will not allow another case of this violence. We have mobilised the security agencies to take the battle to the perpetrators. I am pained by this unfortunate mayhem, enough is enough."

The incident has been linked to growing tensions between rival gangs in the oil-rich state after a government amnesty programme ended.

The amnesty, introduced by former President Goodluck Jonathan's government, had brought relative peace to a region, which had been plagued by attacks by militants demanding a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth.

DJ Black Coffee gets Las Vegas residency

View more on instagram

South African DJ Black Coffee has announced a residency in the US city of Las Vegas later this year.

The Durban-born star will also appear at Coachella music festival in the US in April.

It follows a successful 2017 for the artist, who became the first African act to host a radio show on Beats 1, the online music streaming platform owned by Apple.

He also played to thousands of house music fans during a summer residency on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

Here's a taste of the deep house DJ's catalogue:

View more on youtube
View more on youtube
View more on youtube

Why is Ethiopia freeing political prisoners?

Analysis

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC Africa

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
AFP
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has acknowledged a need for change

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn says the move to release all political prisoners (see earlier entry) is critical for national dialogue.

The unprecedented pardon is expected to apply to both convicted political prisoners and those currently facing court cases.

There are no clear figures as to how many there are, but they include opposition figures from the Oromo and Amhara regions and dozens of journalists seen as critical of the state.

Thousands of people have also been detained since deadly anti-government protests erupted in the country in 2015.

A state of emergency, imposed in October 2016 and lifted in August 2017, failed to calm the protesters, who have been calling for a national dialogue and the release of political prisoners.

Over the past months, there has also been infighting within the ruling EPRDF coalition, which has been in power for 25 years.

The Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organisation and the Amhara National Democratic Movement, which are part of the coalition, have been pushing for increased political space and “respect of their people” following the protests.

This has led the prime minister to acknowledge the need for change.

Coup attempt 'foiled' in Equatorial Guinea

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema
AFP
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has been in power for 38 years

The authorities in Equatorial Guinea say they thwarted an attempted coup in late December.

At least 30 armed men were arrested recently in Cameroon, near the border with Equatorial Guinea.

Security Minister Nicholas Obama Nchama said radical opposition parties had recruited mercenaries to overthrow the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has been in power for nearly 40 years.

He said the coup attempt had been foiled with the help of the Cameroonian security services.

The alleged mercenaries - from Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic (CAR) - were found with rocket launchers, rifles and large amounts of ammunition.

Mr Obiang's government is often accused of corruption and human rights abuses.

An infamous failed coup attempt was led 14 years ago by former British soldier Simon Mann.

The former commando and businessman was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 and extradited four years later to Equatorial Guinea, where he was sentenced to 34 years in prison.

One year later he was released after being pardoned by Mr Obiang.

Watch more: 'CIA foiled' 2004 Equatorial Guinea plot

'Spies' executed by Somali militants

Mowliid Haji Abdi

BBC Somali Service

Al-Shaba militants - archive shot
AFP
Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, controls much of rural Somalia

Somali’s militant Islamist group al-Shabab has publicly executed five men accused of spying for the central government and the Kenyan and Ethiopian intelligence services.

The men, killed in Kunturwarey district in Lower Shabelle region, were aged between 23 to 36 years.

The group, which controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, has carried out executions in the past – they usually follow a trial before an Islamic court.

Villagers are then forced to watch the killings, usually carried out by a firing squad.

Last year, 22 people were executed by al-Shabab based on allegations of spying, rape, and sodomy.

Read more: Who are Somalia's al-Shabab

Ethiopia to free all political prisoners

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC Africa

Oromo protests in Ethiopia - 2017
AFP
Ethiopia has faced more than two years of anti-government protests

The Ethiopian government has announced the pardon and release of all political prisoners in the country.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after days of consultations within the ruling EPRDF coalition.

He has also said that the notorious Maekelawi Prison will be closed and turned into a museum.

An independent task force has also been set up to investigate human rights abuses and the handling of prisoners.

Ethiopia has faced more than two years of anti-government protests with demonstrators calling for political and economic reforms, which prompted a crackdown and thousands of arrests.

SA '$20,000 reward' to catch boulder killer

A South African opposition politician says outraged members of the public have so far pledged 250,000 rand ($20,237; £14,905) to help catch the killer in a bizarre murder case.

View more on twitter

Amina Haffejee and her brother Abdur Rahee were killed when a boulder was dropped from a bridge in KwaZulu Natal province on to the car in which they were travelling last Wednesday.

According to South Africa's Times Live, criminals have been known to "throw rocks off bridges to damage cars and force the drivers to stop‚ so they can be robbed".

The boulder smashed through the windscreen, hitting Ms Haffejee in the front of the car and forcing her seat back into her brother, who was sitting behind her.

The news site says Ms Haffejee's husband drove the two victims to the hospital, but they did not survive the attack.

Democratic Alliance MP Dean Macpherson told Times Live why he launched the crowdfund on social media:

I was so outraged and heartbroken when I saw the pictures and I couldn’t allow them to get away with this... My phone and inbox have been flooded with messages and pledges of money and we have gathered a cash amount that has been made available to the family."

Police spokesman Lt Col Thulani Zwane is quoted by Times Live as saying that no arrests have yet been made.

Zimbabwe crocodile 'kills tourist'

BBC Monitoring

The world through its media

A tourist was attacked and killed by a crocodile while canoeing in an inflatable boat in a national park near Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo at the weekend, the country's state-run Herald newspaper reports.

Another tourist was seriously injured and is intensive care in Bulawayo.

A spokesman for the Matobo National Park, Tinashe Farawo, said the couple had been paddling in the crocodile-infested Mpopoma Dam in the park, which is 22 miles (35km) south of Bulawayo.

He is quoted as saying:

We encourage our tourists to stay away from wild animals.

No matter how domesticated they are, they can be dangerous.

It is unfortunate that they were using air-pumped boats which are not permissible."

Crocodiles in Zimbabwe
BBC
Crocodiles can be found in many rivers, streams, dams and lakes in Zimbabwe

Suspected herders attack Nigerian villages

Nasidi Adamu Yahya

BBC Hausa, Abuja

More than 20 people have been killed in co-ordinated attacks by suspected cattle herders on different villages in Guma, an area in Nigeria’s Benue state, an official has told the BBC.

The raids began late on New Year’s Day, Laurence Onoja, the Benue state information commissioner, said.

They continued into Tuesday leaving many homes burnt, he said.

Some villagers were injured, others were unaccounted for and thousands of have had to flee, he added.

Benue state, which in eastern Nigeria, has suffered years of violence and often deadly clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsman and local farmers.

The herders tend to accuse farmers of killing their cattle while the farmers say the animals are destroying their crops.

In November, Benue state introduced a controversial ban on cattle grazing because of the frequent disputes.

But Mr Onoja said it had been difficult to implement the law as the state did not have enough security personnel.

Read more: Making sense of Nigeria's Fulani-farmer conflict

The Fulani herdsman
AFP
Fulani herdsman travel vast distances tending their cattle

Longer hours for Burkina Faso civil servants

BBC Afrique

Civil servants in Burkina Faso now have to work a longer day - a change that came into effect over the New Year.

Their working day now begins at 07:30 local time and ends at 16:00 with a 30-minute break, instead of starting at 07:00 and finishing at 15:30, with a long lunch break in between.

The BBC's Lamine Konkobo says the lunch breaks often lasted for up to three hours from midday until 15:00.

Burkina Faso's government says it decided to make the change to improve poor staff performance and tardiness.

But many workers, such as Sylvie Kabore - who is an archivist and a mother of three - say they cannot help but arrive late to work because they have to travel long distances from their homes to work and must also drop their children off at school on their way to the office.

As many as 50% to 65% of civil servants arrive late at work for these reasons, says Jacques Dingara, who is one of those charged with "modernising public administration" in Burkina Faso.

For its part, the Burkinabe government has made a number of promises to improve facilities for civil servants, including new canteens, transport arrangements and disabled toilets - but these have not yet been fully implemented.

A postal worker sorts out the mail in Ouagadougou 07 December 1999. The different services of Burkina Faso's post office, dealing with some 10,000 letters daily, are not computerized and 'fear more the rats, which eat the documents, than the year 2000 bug.'
AFP
Postal workers are among those who will now work longer hours

Zambia minister resigns, angered by corruption

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba has resigned, citing the country’s failure to tackle corruption and greed.

It follows ongoing allegations of corruption within President Edgar Lungu's government.

Mr Kalaba explained his decision in a Facebook post:

I have no shred of doubt that this was a necessary undertaking and an unavoidable one looking at the path our country has taken – a path of insatiable greed and shame which is clearly unacceptable and unsuitable."

Mr Kalaba said he had delivered his resignation letter to the president, but a presidential spokesperson told local media that State House had not yet received it

He remains an MP for the governing Patriot Front, and urged the party to return to its ideological roots to fight poverty:

We need to go back to the original agenda of our Party the PF, where the poor and not the corporates must be at the centre of all our decisions. It would appear that the poor Zambians have ceased to be the reason we are holding power. Materialism and the propensity for money has taken over and is arrogantly at the centre of many decisions being made today."

You can read his full Facebook post below:

View more on facebook

'Disguised' bomber attacks Nigeria mosque

Ishaq Khalid

BBC Africa, Abuja

Map showing the location of Gamboru in Nigeria
BBC

At least 10 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack in a mosque in north-eastern Nigeria.

Eyewitnesses say the attacker sneaked into the congregation during morning prayers disguised as a worshipper before detonating the device.

No-one has said they are behind the attack Gamboru, a town on the border with Cameroon, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is known to operate in the region.

This attack comes less than 24 hours after the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he dismissed the assertions by the Nigerian authorities that the group had been defeated.

Wise words

Today's African proverb:

A man’s wound is not to be laughed at."

A Zulu proverb sent by David Mkandla in Randburg, South Africa

Click here to send your African proverbs.

Good morning

Welcome to BBC Africa Live, where we'll be keeping you up-to-date with news and trends across the continent today.