The Africa Report: 12 August

EWN’s Africa correspondent Jean-Jacques Cornish reports on the day’s top African news

A pro-Keita sample ballot for the second round of the Malian presidential election on August 11, 2013. Picture: twitter.com/IBK_2013

MALI RUN-OFF VOTE CALM BUT WET

On a rainy Sunday, Malians headed to the ballot boxes in yet another step towards rebuilding what was once one of Africa's great democracies.

The vote was for a presidential run-off in the West African country and hopes of renewed democracy and rule of law were high.

Former Prime Minister, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is the frontrunner with a 20-point lead ahead of second-placed Soumaila Cissé, President of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union (UEMOA).

Keita, who is clearly the favourite, was Prime Minister of Mali from 1994 until 2000 before resigning and becoming the founder of the Rally for Mali party.

In the early 2000s, he placed third behind current competitor Cissé.

Mali's Interior Ministry is expected to announce results, which are hoped to signal a new era for Mali sans French intervention and al Qaeda occupation in the north, by Friday.

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DISAPPEARANCE OF AFRICA'S BIG ANIMALS AND THE EFFECT ON SOIL

A recent study has illustrated how the mass extinction of the Pleistocene-era animals have decreased the world's soil nutrients and scientists warn that the "fast approaching" extinction of Africa and Asia's large animals will further reduce the nutrients and result in increased desertification.

During the Pleistocene epoch, which concluded 11,700 years ago, the large animals of the time, megafauna, redistributed nutrients through their dung or the decomposition of their bodies when dead.

With the mass extinction of these animals who weighed more than 44 kilograms, the redistribution of soil by these traveling herbivores stopped abruptly, leading to the reduction of the much-needed soil nutrients that saw many areas of the world change from what looked like an African savannah to vast desert landscapes.

The study, published online in Nature Geoscience, warns that if the rate of poaching continues and large animals such as the elephant continue to disappear, the situation will worsen.

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HALF A MILLION POUNDS OF AID SEIZED BY AL QAEDA

Details of where half a million pounds worth of British aid have landed up has been uncovered in the Department for International Development's most recent annual accounts in the hands of al Qaeda terrorists.

The taxpayer-funded foreign aid was stolen from Somali warehouses by militant Islamists, al Shabaab, between November 2011 and February 2012.

Action has since been taken by British authorities but the revelation is sure to add fuel to an already heated fire about aid spending by the government.