The Africa Report - 18 February

EWN's Africa Correspondent Jean-Jacques Cornish reports on the day's top African news.

Police evacuate passengers on 17 February, 2014 from the Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to Rome, which was on hijacked and forced to land in Geneva, where the hijacker has been arrested, police said. Picture: AFP.

Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacks plane

The co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome may be facing 20 years imprisonment after hijacking a plane carrying 202 passengers.

The aircraft was flown to Switzerland.

Co-pilot Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn waited for the pilot to go to the bathroom before locking himself in the cockpit and hijacking the plane.

He then asked for permission for emergency refuelling, before setting off an alarm indicating the plane had been hijacked.

According to reports, Tagegn exited the plane and handed himself over to the police as the hijacker of the plane.

He also requesting asylum in Switzerland.

Speaking on behalf of the Ethiopian government, Information Minister Redwan Hussein said he would seek Tagegn's extradition.

The minister further added, "His actions represent a gross betrayal of trust that needlessly endangered the lives of the very passengers that a pilot is morally and professionally obliged to safeguard".

Children maimed in CAR

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said it is horrified at how children are being maimed and killed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The rights organisation says at least 133 children have been killed and maimed in the past two months.

Unicef has verified cases of children intentionally beheaded and mutilated.

Many children who require medical attention have often not been able to get to the hospital for treatment because of the violence.

North African political union not working

Political divisions within five countries that make up the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) have hampered stronger economic ties.

The five countries are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.

Together, they have a population of 90 million and an estimated GDP of $430 billion in 2012.

The economic integration of the five countries could boost the region's GDP by two to three percent annually.

International Monitory Fund chief Christine Lagarde said obstacles to such integration include complex bureaucratic procedures, punitively high customs tariffs, limited openness to foreign investment, tax reform and the lack of infrastructure.