Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is a journalist and broadcaster from Ghana who reports for NPR News on issues and developments related to West Africa. She spent her early years in Ghana, Italy, Britain and Kenya.

Quist-Arcton has lived and worked in the U.K., France, Ivory Coast, U.S., South Africa and most recently Senegal, traveling all over Africa as a journalist, broadcaster, commentator and host.

After completing high school in Britain, she took a degree in French studies with international relations and Spanish at the London School of Economics (LSE) and went on to study radio journalism at the Polytechnic of Central London, with two internships at the BBC.

Quist-Arcton joined the BBC in 1985, working at a number of regional radio stations all over Britain, moving two years later to the renowned BBC World Service at Bush House in London, as a producer and host in the African Service. She traveled and reported throughout Africa.

She spent the year leading up to 1990 in Paris, on a BBC journalist exchange with Radio France International (RFI), working in "Monito" — a service supplying reports and interviews about Africa to African radio stations, and with RFI's English (for Africa) Service as a host, reporter and editor.

Later in 1990, Quist-Arcton won one of the BBC's coveted foreign correspondents posts, moving to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to head the corporation's West Africa bureau. From there, she covered 24 countries, straddling the Sahara to the heart of the continent — crisscrossing the continent from Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, to Zaire and Congo-Brazzaville, via Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. She contributed to all BBC radio and television outlets, covering the flowering of democracy in the region, as well as the outbreak of civil wars, revolutions and coups, while always keeping an eye on the "other" stories about Africa that receive minimal media attention — including the continent's rich cultural heritage. Quist-Arcton also contributed to NPR programs during her reporting assignment in West and Central Africa.

After four years as BBC West Africa correspondent, she returned to Bush House in 1994, as a host and senior producer on the BBC World Service flagship programs, Newshour & Newsday (now The World Today), and as a contributing Africa specialist for other radio and TV output.

Quist-Arcton laced up her traveling shoes again in 1995 and relocated to Boston as a roving reporter for The World, a co-production between the BBC, Public Radio International (PRI) and WGBH. She lived in Cambridge and enjoyed getting to know Massachusetts and the rest of New England, learning a new language during winter, most of it related to snow!

For The World, she traveled around the United States, providing the program with an African journalist's perspective on North American life. She also spent six months as a roving Africa reporter, covering — among other events — the fall of President Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1997.

In 1998, after another stint back at BBC World Service, Quist-Arcton was appointed co-host of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's flagship radio drive-time show, PM Live, based in Johannesburg.

In 2000, she left the BBC to join allAfrica.com (allAfricaGlobal Media) as Africa correspondent, covering the continent's top stories, in all domains, and developing new radio shows for webcast and syndication to radio stations around the continent.

After six years in South Africa, Quist-Arcton joined NPR in November 2004 at the newly-created post of West Africa Correspondent, moving back to her home region, with a new base in Senegal.

Her passions are African art and culture, music, literature, open-air markets, antiques - and learning. She loves to travel and enjoys cycling and photography.

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.

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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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Ethiopia's longtime prime minister died this week. Meles Zenawi was 57. He came to power in 1991 when a rebel army toppled that nation's Marxist dictator and the Ethiopian leader became a trusted U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, he leaves behind a mixed legacy.

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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The nation of Mali is in turmoil. Within two short weeks, the apparently stable West African democracy has gone from preparing for presidential elections to a military coup. Neighboring countries are imposing a total embargo, demanding the coup leaders step down. Add to the mix a separatist rebellion in the north that has captured the fabled desert city of Timbuktu. From Mali's capital, Bamako, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

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.

With just two days left before Senegal's presidential election, mediation efforts are underway to try to calm a political standoff in the West African nation that has led to violent protests.

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.

Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour made his name in music, and now he wants to be president of his homeland.

N'Dour gained an international audience in 1994 with his hit song "Seven Seconds," with Neneh Cherry. He went on to earn a Grammy in 2004 for the album Egypt, becoming one of Africa's most influential and popular singers.

A disputed election in the Democratic Republic of Congo has returned sitting President Joseph Kabila to power for the next five years. The opposition claims there was election fraud. Congo's influential Catholic church has voiced reservations about the conduct of the elections.

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On November 28th, elections were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were only the second democratic polls in the nation's turbulent half-century of independence, and even before voters went to the polls there were signs that all was not well.

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Violence marred the run-up to the actual voting day, so polling was extended in some areas up to three days. Opposition candidates said the election itself was tainted.

The Democratic Republic of Congo holds elections for president and parliament Monday. These are the second elections since a long dictatorship ended in 1997. Elections held in 2006 represented a transition to democracy.

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Voters in the Congo head to the polls at the end of this month. The campaigning has been beset by violence which threatens to undermine an electoral process in a giant nation that's at the heart of Africa. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Campaigning took a stormy turn when veteran Congolese opposition politician and presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi sent a bombshell. He proclaimed himself president and ordered his supporters to stage jailbreaks to free their detained colleagues.

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Yet another foreign army has sent its troops into Somalia.

INSKEEP: Many years ago, American troops took positions there.

MONTAGNE: More recently, forces from neighboring Ethiopia, with U.S. backing, have moved against Islamist groups.

Moammar Gadhafi styled himself as Africa's king of kings and long pursued his grand plan to unite the continent under his rule. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports on how his brutal end is resonating in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, fresh from winning the Nobel Peace Prize, was hoping for an outright re-election victory last week.

But Africa's first democratically elected female leader is facing a runoff election next month. She says she is confident Liberians will vote for her in big numbers, but the first-round voting last Tuesday shows she is facing stiff competition after six years in power.

Liberians go to the polls Tuesday to elect a new president and lawmakers in the second key elections since the end of the civil war in 2003. The incumbent leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa's first democratically elected female president — was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, but her opponents say she deserves neither the award nor re-election.

Moammar Gadhafi bankrolled and championed the vision of a United States of Africa, with himself as the continental president. As Libya struggles to find its equilibrium on the cusp of what appears to be the post-Gadhafi era, one question is its future as part of Africa.

The African Union has not officially recognized the rebel leadership in Libya, saying "regime change" and outside intervention were wrong.

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