Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

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We're tracking a hostage situation in Mali today. Two gunmen took over an upscale hotel. The Radisson Blu is in the capital, Bamako. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is following this story from London and joins us now. Good morning.

A goat stew has been simmering in Ghana's cooking pots for months.

It all began in March. President John Dramani Mahama was definitely in hot water. He'd been facing an unprecedented series of strikes and protests over poor delivery of services and economic difficulties.

On an official visit to Botswana, he reportedly told an audience of expatriate Ghanaians:

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In a speech marking Zimbabwe's National Heroes Day on Monday, President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabweans had failed in their responsibility to protect Cecil the lion.

"Even Cecil the lion is yours," he said. "He's dead, but he was yours to protect and you failed to protect him."

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Noisy trolleys roll bales of tobacco on and off the auction floors in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. Here they call it "green gold." Some of the country's estimated 100,000 small-scale tobacco farmers look on, hoping for profitable sales.

Auctioneers, quoting prices at high speed, pace up and down rows of extra-large jute-covered bundles, with yellow tobacco leaves spilling out.

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"Where can I go now?" asks Temptation Tekera.

He is one of an estimated 20,000 street vendors in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.

The vendors sell everything from sweet potatoes to new and used footwear to pirated CDs. Goods splay across the sidewalks, making it a minefield for pedestrians in a hurry.

Now the government wants the vendors to pack up their wares and register and pay rent for one of 6,000 places in designated zones. The deadline is June 26. The goal is to restore order to the once sedate city.

On May Day, Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, posted a bleak tweet, listing what he described as his country's triple challenge after the economic crash of 2007-2008: "We've workers without work, we've lost the sense of labour value and we lack a strategy to create wealth."

Zimbabweans lament that life is tough and everything is expensive in their U.S. dollar-based economy.

So how do people get by?

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Goodwill Zwelithini is the influential king of South Africa's Zulu nation. Comments that he made last month — when he reportedly said head lice should be squashed and foreigners should pack their belongings and leave the country — have been blamed for igniting attacks on foreigners, resulting in at least seven deaths. But Zwelithini denies inciting the violence.

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In its latest video, Islamist extremists from the Nigerian group Boko Haram display the bodies of two men accused of spying. They have been beheaded.

Gone are Boko Haram's occasional grainy videos, replaced by slick productions apparently inspired by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

It's a development that may indicate a shift in allegiance by Boko Haram away from al-Qaida.

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Would you kindly bear with me a little while I have a good old moan, please? I'm feeling rather wretched. No, not because I've finally kicked a lingering lurgy that turned out to be bronchitis and stole my voice. But because one of the reasons I blame for the illness is back: the Harmattan.

"Ebola — you have to do more," roars the barrel-bellied cleric El Hadj Mamadou Saliou Camara, with his white beard and mustache, in a snow-white boubou, the traditional flowing gown of West Africa.

That's the message he delivered over the weekend to hundreds of his fellow clerics, who gathered in Kindia, the third largest city in Guinea and a major crossroads. Many of the residents still blame Westerners for bringing the virus to their country.

Red, gold and green – Guinea's national colors — filled the streets of the capital, Conakry, early this morning. Guineans of all ages proudly wore the colors on their T-shirts, headbands, dresses and shorts. Children, with their cheeks and foreheads painted, ran around the street cheering, blowing whistles and waving their nation's flags.

But by 3 p.m. the streets were dead.

At the crack of dawn, the Sow family — parents and four children, two girls and two boys — are up at their home in Conakry, Guinea's capital.

Sitting on a wooden stool, Aissatou Sow bends over to light a gas stove on the floor and heat up a breakfast of fried fish, vegetables and french fries, plus hot milk and fruit.

El Hadj Alhassane is 11; his sister Hadja is 6. They're off to school after being out of class for six months.

Big bro helps little sis zip up her backpack, and they head out the door into their dad's car.

Hundreds of spectators and government officials watched as music and fanfare filled the People's Palace in Conakry, Guinea. Cheerleaders danced vigorously, waving pompoms and twirling on stage. The festive event on Saturday kicked off the government's newest campaign: zero Ebola cases in 60 days.

"Guineans talk too much. People resist even the idea that Ebola exists," said the prime minister, Mohamed Said Fofana, when he took the stage. "Why do we refuse to accept what others have accepted? We really must get a grip on the situation."

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She is one of the African health workers who caught Ebola and died. Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh was the head of First Consultants Medical Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. In July, Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer flew sick to the city from Monrovia, ended up at her clinic and turned out to have Ebola. He wanted to leave. Dr. Adadevoh and her team refused to let him go — if she had, he could have triggered a wide-scale epidemic in Lagos, a city of 20 million people.

Dr. Ada Igonoh says her faith and ORS (oral rehydration salts) helped her pull through after she tested positive for Ebola. The 28-year-old Nigerian doctor was on the medical team that cared for the country's first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who flew into Lagos sick and died at the clinic where she worked. Nigeria was hailed for halting what many feared could have been a catastrophic outbreak. Dr. Igonoh shares her story of fear, faith and recovery.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Florence Allen Jones used to teach in Washington, D.C., before coming back home to Liberia.

Now she's part of the education ministry's teaching-by-radio team. Working with UNICEF and another nonprofit, Talking Drum, in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the government aims to provide lessons to children across the country, hit by the Ebola outbreak. Most schools closed this past summer and will likely remain closed for months.

Ebola has cast a shadow over Liberia, but it can't stop Christmas.

Despite the trauma of the past year, Liberians are trying to have a happy holiday season. Carols are playing on the radio and there's lots of decorating — and painting — going on.

"At a certain time of the year we want our homes to look good," says journalist Siatta Scott Johnson. "It's like a competition in Liberia when it comes to the festive season."

Ganta is the Liberian city that never sleeps. That's what local businessman Prince Haward says of the town of 40,000, one of the country's largest cities and a crossroads for travelers in the southeastern region: "Ganta is a nonsleeping city ... a business-oriented city."

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