- - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — Nearly 12 million school children across South Africa have kicked off celebrations marking the 94th birthday of Nelson Mandela, the country’s deeply loved anti-apartheid icon, with resounding choruses of “Happy Birthday.”

School assemblies began Wednesday with birthday wishes for Mr. Mandela, who was expected to spend the day privately at his homestead in the southeastern province with his family.

Tributes to Mr. Mandela were pouring in. In Washington, President Obama said Mr. Mandela “has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world.”

Communities in South Africa and around the world will dedicate 67 minutes of the day to charity work and projects for the needy to mark Mandela’s 67 years in activism.

South African churchmen and politicians urged people across the country “to make every day a Mandela Day.”

African Union elects first female leader

JOHANNESBURG — The continentwide African Union this week elected a female politician from South Africa for the first time as head of its commission.

South African Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was voted in late Sunday to lead the African Union’s permanent commission of leaders, administrators and technical experts.

Ms. Dlamini-Zuma successfully challenged the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon, who held the post since 2008.

Mr. Ping had the backing of French-speaking African nations, while Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, 63, had the backing of English-speaking nations.  

Mr. Dlamini-Zuma, who is also the former wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, secured the votes of 37 of the 54 African Union member nations to narrowly win the two-thirds majority required at a summit of leaders in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Her election was seen as a major coup for South Africa as it tries to emerge as a political and economic powerhouse on the continent.

KENYA

U.N. finds massive graft in Somalia government

NAIROBI — A scathing report written for the U.N. Security Council says that systematic misappropriation, embezzlement and outright theft of taxpayer funds have become a system of governance in Somalia.

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