Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Public expressions of concern are on full display as South Africans monitor the hospitalization of anti-apartheid hero and former president Nelson Mandela. The 94 year old is being treated for pneumonia.

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NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Lagos, Nigeria, on the death of one of Africa's greatest contemporary writers. Quoting his publisher, AP, CNN, and the BBC are reporting Chinua Achebe has died.

Chinua Achebe who taught at colleges in the United States made literary history with his 1958 best-seller Things Fall Apart, a sobering tale about Nigeria at the beginning of its colonization.

It's Friday night in Bamako, and a club in the Malian capital has come alive. Guitarist and singer Baba Salah is on the floor.

His hometown of Gao, along the banks of the River Niger on the fringes of the Sahara Desert, made headlines as the first city in the north to be liberated by French-backed Malian forces in January. Gao was one of three regional centers in the north captured by rebels and jihadis a year ago. Islamists warned musicians that their tongues would be sliced out if they continued to sing and play. Speaking in French, Salah says artists left in a hurry.

The names of African cardinals are popping up as possible contenders to succeed Pope Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church when he steps down at the end of the month.

The Mary Mother of Good Council School is one of a number of respected Roman Catholic schools overseen by the archdiocese of Accra, the capital of the West African nation of Ghana. The Metropolitan archbishop of Accra, Charles Palmer-Buckle, who trained as a priest at pontifical universities in Rome, is upbeat about the continent's contribution to the Catholic Church.

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The city of Timbuktu is free...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Mali, Mali, Mali, Mali...

INSKEEP: ...and residents cheered as French and Malian forces entered the city. Those forces swept aside Islamist rebels who'd controlled the place for months. The Islamists rule included amputations and the destroyed ancient tombs. It ended with the burning of a library housing priceless manuscripts.

In Ethiopia, the donkey is more than just a beast of burden.

The Horn of Africa nation is home to more than 6 million donkeys and comes second only to China in global donkey numbers. The country is both donkey heaven and donkey hell, but though the animal is highly prized, it can also be mistreated.

"In Ethiopia, there's a good saying: 'A farmer without a donkey is a donkey himself,' " says Bojia Endebu, a veterinary surgeon and seasoned donkey doctor. "Because the donkey does lots of work, so they are very valuable for Ethiopian farmers."

Voting for a new president and parliament in Ghana has been extended into a second day in some areas due to glitches with the new biometric voter verification system.

Ghana, which began pumping crude oil in 2010 and is also a major cocoa and gold exporter, has gained an enviable reputation in its often-turbulent West African neighborhood. It's admired for being a relative oasis of stability and peace in the region — despite tensions in the build-up to the vote.

A Peaceful Democracy

Public transit in South Africa can be a bit of a nightmare. Many South Africans have had to depend on the ubiquitous taxivans, which are often overcrowded, dirty and driven recklessly.

But the continent's first rapid rail service, built to ease traffic congestion in South Africa's economic heart, is changing that.

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In South Africa, striking mineworkers are still locked in a deadly dispute over pay.

There is growing international criticism over plans by Gambia's hard-line president to execute all of the country's death-row inmates within the next couple of weeks.

Gambia's leader, President Yahya Jammeh, has long faced criticism for his human rights record. In a recent speech marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, the president vowed to put to death all prisoners facing the death penalty by mid-September, as a way to curb crime.

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A rebellion in northern Mali, followed by a military coup in the south, has shattered the veneer of stability in a country that was hailed for 20 years as a model democracy in turbulent West Africa.

Now Mali is facing twin crises, prompting regional and international fears that the north — currently controlled by jihadists — is a terrorist safe haven. And the politicians who are meant to be fixing the problems are bickering.

Mali is a country rich in culture, both old and new.

The banging of hammers on silver echos through the main crafts market in Bamako, Mali's capital. It's usually teeming in a place where you can buy anything, from silver earrings to batik fabric, all of it handmade.

And despite its remote location, Mali has enhanced its cultural reputation in recent years with an annual international music and arts festival in the Sahara Desert near Timbuktu, drawing both African and Western artists.

Hard-line Islamists in northern Mali stoned a reportedly unmarried couple to death for adultery last Sunday. Analysts worry this is growing evidence of the rebel fighters' avowed intention to impose strict Islamic law in the vast territory under their control.

Another version of the story put about by an al-Qaida-linked militant group is that the couple was married but engaging in extramarital affairs.

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This was the scene one year ago today in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We hereby declare Southern Sudan to be an independent and sovereign state.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

The teachers' staff-room is a charming thatched building adjacent to the classrooms overlooking the dusty recreation and assembly ground at Good Hope Basic Primary School in Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity State in South Sudan.

Bentiu is near the disputed border with Sudan and within striking distance of Sudanese fighter jets and warplanes.

There's a tense calm at South Sudan's front line, just 10 miles from the frontier with Sudan, its neighbor to the north. South Sudanese commander Maj. Gen. Mangar Buong says his troops remain on alert and on the defensive.

There is not a civilian in sight. They all fled the area, known as Panakuach, after Sudan's recent aerial bombardments and escalating concerns about a full-scale war.

The two Sudans appear to be complying with a U.N. ceasefire ultimatum, which came into force on Friday — ending weeks of bitter border fighting over oil.

But there remains a separate conflict in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan that has forced thousands to flee bombardment and hunger for newly independent neighbor South Sudan.

Those refugees are streaming into the Yida camp in South Sudan, across the border from the Nuba Mountains in the South Kordofan area, Sudan's last remaining oil-producing state.

Sudan and South Sudan are facing the threat of United Nations sanctions if they fail to stop fighting along their disputed frontier in the Horn of Africa.

A unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution, which condemns the surge of border violence, orders the two Sudans to cease hostilities within two days and resume negotiations within two weeks.

The U.N. resolution endorses an African Union road map it hopes will avert a return to war.

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Judges at a war crimes tribunal convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga of snatching children from the street and turning them into killers. A sentencing hearing will now be scheduled. Lubanga faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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People in Senegal voted over the weekend, an election overshadowed by protests and violence. People managed to keep the actual voting mostly peaceful. Now, it looks like they'll have to vote again. A run-off seems likely in the election that features an 85-year-old president who changed the law in order to seek a third term. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

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Senegal's capital of Dakar remains jittery, with youth and police locked in running street battles.

Riot police are firing tear gas on rock-throwing protesters who oppose President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term in office. With a week to go until the presidential vote, opposition demonstrations have been banned, but crowds have taken to the streets and the atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense.

Some of the protests have been led by rap artists. They have been mobilizing the youth and putting pressure on Senegal's leader to step down.

The Senegalese are known for campaigning loudly, musically and enthusiastically, yet the country's reputation for democracy and stability in turbulent West Africa has taken a knock as it prepares for elections on Feb. 26.

When Senegal's top court gave its blessing last month to President Abdoulaye Wade's third-term ambitions, his opponents angrily took to the streets to demonstrate their disapproval.

Senegal was tense as police clashed with protesters demanding that the president withdraw his candidacy.

A radical Islamist group in northern Nigeria has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombing attacks last week that left more than 200 people dead. Boko Haram's campaign of violence has left minority Christians on edge in the city of Kano.

The New Road bus station in the heart of Kano is a scene of bedlam.

Men, women and children are milling around, with huge bundles and baggage in all shapes and sizes, waiting to be loaded onto half a dozen buses. Others are already onboard. They're in a desperate hurry to head south, leaving behind this troubled city in the north of Nigeria.

Kano, the largest city in Nigeria's Muslim north, is an ancient, sprawling city of more than 9 million. Last Friday, the Muslim day of prayers was shattered by a series of coordinated bomb blasts.

Just down the street from one of the main market areas in the city, the street remains blocked off from a police station hit in the attacks. The radical Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

Sagir Ali, a security guard at a parking lot at the market, says he watched as nearby government offices were attacked.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is facing the most sustained challenge to his presidency as he confronts crises on two fronts.

His government recently removed fuel subsidies, which has sent transportation costs soaring and prompted nationwide strikes that were in their third day Wednesday.

And a radical Muslim group is warning of renewed sectarian violence in a country that has a roughly equal split between Muslims and Christians.

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