Media Review for April 13, 2016

South Sudan Rebel Leader Riek Machar Returns Home
South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar has returned to the country for the first time in more than two years – as part of a peace deal. His spokesman told the BBC Mr Machar was now at rebel military headquarters in the eastern town of Pagak. He is expected in the capital Juba next week to resume the post of vice-president as part of last year’s deal. The deadly civil conflict erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting a coup. Since then thousands of people have died and more than two million have been displaced. BBC

South Sudan: Clashes Ahead of Rebel Leader’s Arrival
South Sudan’s security officials have arrested and severely beaten 16 members of the rebels’ publicity team, days before the expected arrival of rebel leader Riek Machar, a spokesman for the rebels said Tuesday. The arrests of the rebel workers was “irresponsible,” said William Ezekiel, a spokesman for the rebels’ advance team in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Machar, who is to become vice president in a unity government with President Salva Kiir, is scheduled to return to Juba on April 18 in hopes of ending more than two years of civil war. Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal last August, but there have been repeated ceasefire violations by both sides. In a statement Monday, the U.S. State Department accused government troops of launching fresh attacks on rebels in the country’s western Bahr el Ghazal state. That statement also cited credible reports that the rebels recently attacked government forces and civilians in the area and condemned that violence as well.  AP on US News and World Report

At Least 8 Killed as US Airstrikes Target al-Shabab in Somalia
At least eight people were killed Monday and early Tuesday in U.S. airstrikes targeting al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said unmanned drones were used in the attacks. Witnesses and officials told VOA’s Somali service that five militants and three civilians were killed in the airstrikes, which hit the al-Shabab-controlled village of Yontoy in Somalia’s Lower Juba region. The Pentagon spokesman put the death toll at 12 militants. He described the airstrikes as “self-defense,” saying the targets of the attack “were posing an imminent threat to U.S. personnel.”  VOA

DRC May Not Meet Constitutional Deadline for Upcoming Elections – AU Envoy
The African Union envoy for national dialogue in Democratic Republic of Congo has said that it is crucial for elections in the country to be conducted before the end of the year. The commission also acknowledged that it may be difficult for DRC to meet the constitutional deadline for the coming elections given the limited duration for all the preparations. “The problem we have today is that there is a constitutional deadline that must be respected. We are not sure of finishing all the process of elections as prescribed by the constitution,” said Edem Kojo, head of the AU envoy to DRC.  Africa News

Twitter, WhatsApp Down in Ethiopia Oromia Area After Unrest
Internet messaging applications such as WhatsApp haven’t worked for more than a month in parts of Ethiopia that include Oromia region, which recently suffered fatal protests, according to local users. Smartphone owners haven’t been able to access services including Facebook Messenger and Twitter on the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom’s connection, Seyoum Teshome, a university lecturer, said by phone from Woliso, about 115 kilometers (71.5 miles) southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa. “All are not working here for more than one month,” said Seyoum, who teaches at Ambo University’s Woliso campus. “The blackout is targeted at mobile data connections.”  Bloomberg

Diplomatic Tension Escalates Between Egypt and Italy
Diplomatic tension is escalating in the wake of the death of an Italian student in Egypt. 28-year-old Giulio Regeni disappeared in Cairo at the end of January. His body was found on the roadside a few days later. Investigators say it bore signs of torture. Italy has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, after Cairo refused to hand over relevant phone records. “Italy has been a very very close friend of Egypt since the 30th of June. And if you discuss logically, and people don’t wan’t logic here, they want the truth, But if you discuss logic, I mean, why would the Egyptian authorities, why would any Egyptian harm an Italian? We have no history of torturing foreign visitors in Egypt,” Ahmed Said, the head of the Egyptian parliamentary delegation told Euronews during a visit to the European Parliament. Euronews

Italian foreign Minister Meets New Leaders in Libya, Pledges Support
Italy’s foreign minister made a flying visit to Tripoli on Tuesday to meet Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government, pledging broad international support as the new administration tries to consolidate its presence. Western powers hope the new government can unite Libya’s warring factions, end its political chaos and request foreign help to tackle Islamic State insurgents and migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean. The visit by Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni was the first by a senior Western official since the arrival in Tripoli nearly two weeks ago of the unity government’s Presidential Council. Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, has played a prominent role in rallying international support for the new government. After meeting the unity government’s leader Fayez Seraj, Gentiloni told reporters he believed his visit would be “a precedent that other countries will follow”. Reuters

Tunisia Uncovered a History of State Sexual Violence. Can it Do Anything?
For decades, thousands of Tunisian women suffered from systematic sexual violence at the hands of state agents. The establishment of the Truth and Dignity Commission less than two years ago has empowered many of these women to seek legal remedies and public recognition of those crimes. Redress for gender-based violations at the hands of state agents in Tunisia represents an important, albeit until recently ignored, dimension of Tunisia’s post-revolutionary democratic transition. The extent of the use of rape as a weapon of political intimidation and the number of women who had suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of state agents was surprising, even to those following Tunisian affairs closely. Since the commission began to hear testimonies from more than 20,000 victims, an ugly picture of the state’s systematic use of sexual violence against female members of the opposition and female relatives of opposition members began to emerge. According to the commissioners, between June 2014 and December 2015, thousands of women came forward, recounting stories of being raped and tortured while held in detention, some suffering serious physical and psychological injuries that would last for decades. The Washington Post

US Cites ‘Strong Partnership’ with Djibouti Following Disputed Election
The United States on Monday affirmed its “strong partnership” with Djibouti following President Omar Guelleh’s April 8 landslide victory in his bid for a fourth term in office. A statement by a State Department spokesman did not include an offer of congratulations to President Guelleh. But it did commend Djiboutians for “peacefully exercising their right to vote.” The US added, “While elections are an integral component of all democratic societies, democracy is also built on the foundation of rule of law, civil liberties and open political discourse between all stakeholders. “We encourage the government of Djibouti to support the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression for all of Djibouti’s citizens.” Election officials reported that Mr Guelleh had won 87 per cent of the vote in a six-way race. Daily Nation

AU Threatens to Withdraw from ICC
The African Union (AU) has threatened to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) unless its raft of demands are met. At a meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday, African foreign affairs ministers welcomed the termination of the case against Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, and journalist Joshua Sang. However, they made several demands which include immunity from prosecution for sitting heads of state and senior government officials. They also want the powers of the chief prosecutor trimmed. Other demands that the open-ended ministerial conference are making are that the decisions of African judiciaries and the AU are given precedence over the ICC and the reduction of the powers of the prosecutor. SABC

Nigeria: Air Force Jet Strikes Boko Haram Logistics Base
The Nigerian Air Force has said its F-7NI fighter jets carried out strikes on a Boko Haram logistics base at Kangarawa, Borno State. A statement on Tuesday by Air Force’s spokesman Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa said the air strike has taken off another logistics base of Boko Haram at Kangarawa in Northern Borno State, thereby decimating their capabilities. Famuyiwa said the scale of the accompanying inferno and multiple explosions, suggests that the location possibly houses a fuel or ammunition dump. “The strike therefore constitutes another major setback for the insurgents, while providing tangible evidence of many of the recent successes recorded by the air component of Operation Lafiya Dole,” the statement said.  Daily Trust on allAfrica

Nigeria: Amnesty Calls for Probe of Shiite Mass Graves
Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into mass graves allegedly containing the bodies of hundreds of Shiites killed in clashes with the Nigerian military. Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN)—Nigeria’s largest Shiite Muslim group— clashed with the Nigerian army in December 2015 in the northern city of Zaria, Kaduna state. The secretary to the Kaduna state government, Balarabe Lawal, told an inquiry on Monday that 347 Shiites killed in the clashes were buried in a single mass grave. IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa told Newsweek that the burial took place “in the middle of the night” and the families of the deceased were not informed beforehand. Amnesty’s country director in Nigeria, M. K. Ibrahim, said that the revelation was “an important first step” in bringing those responsible for the killings to justice. Newsweek

Nigeria Says China Offered $6 Billion Loan for Infrastructure
China has offered Nigeria a loan worth $6 billion to fund infrastructure projects, the Nigerian foreign minister said on Tuesday. The announcement came as both countries signed a currency swap deal to boost trade. Nigeria has been in talks with China on an infrastructure loan for months. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and its top oil producer. But its public finances have suffered as the price of crude oil dropped around the world. Although President Muhammadu Buhari wants to triple capital spending in 2016, he also needs to plug a projected deficit of $11.1 billion. “It is a credit that is on the table as soon as we identify the projects,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told reporters after Buhari met Chinese President Xi Jinping. “It won’t need an agreement to be signed. It is just to identify the projects and we access it.”  Reuters

Mine Blast Kills French Soldier in Northern Mali
Officials say a French soldier has been killed in northern Mali after a mine exploded beneath an armored vehicle. The defense ministry said Tuesday that Pfc. Mickael Poo Sing was travelling in a logistics convoy heading north from Gao on Friday when the explosion hit. Three other soldiers were wounded in the blast. In a statement, President Francois Hollande extended his “deep respect for the sacrifice of this young solider” and called for solidarity. About 3,500 French troops are engaged in the Barkhane Operation, which aims to fight jihadi groups in the Sahel. AP on ABC News

Arab Youth Reject ‘Islamic State’ But Key Misgivings Remain
The ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller (ABM) public relations firm on Tuesday published its eighth annual Arab Youth Survey shedding light on key trends and perceptions among the Arab world’s largest age bracket. The firm conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with men and women aged 18 to 24 in 16 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, excluding Syria. The top finding of the study showed that “an overwhelming majority of young Arabs reject Daesh (ISIS) and believe the group will fail to establish an Islamic State,” ABM said in its report, referring to the militant group by its Arabic acronym. When asked whether they would support the “Islamic State” if the militant group “did not use so much violence,” 78 percent of respondents said they would not. Some 76 percent of those queried disagreed with the statement that the militant group would establish an Islamic state in the Arab world. Deutsche Welle

Oxfam Accuses World Bank of Funding Potential Tax Cheats in Africa
The World Bank has been accused of funding potential tax cheats in Africa through its private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. A British non-profit, Oxfam claims the global lender funded 75 per cent of companies with presence in tax havens in 2015, calling on World Bank to ensure proof of tax compliance before funding. “Oxfam analysis reveals that 51 of the 68 companies that were lent money by the World Bank’s private lending arm in 2015 to finance investments in sub-Saharan Africa use tax havens,” says the report. “Together these companies, whose use of tax havens has no apparent link to their core business, received 84 per cent of the International Finance Corporation’s investments in the region last year.” The report comes in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, which reveals how powerful individuals and companies are using tax havens to hide wealth and dodge taxes. The East African

Low Turnout in Darfur Referendum on First Day of Voting
El Tijani el Sisi head of Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) and Chairman of Liberation and Justice Movement acknowledged that there is low turnout on the first day of voting in the Darfur Referendum which began yesterday. The referendum is meant to allow citizens of Darfur to determine whether the region should keep its five states or unite as one entity with a semi-autonomous administration, as mandated by the Doha Document for peace in Darfur signed by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM). el Sisi explained that the low turnout is because it is the first day of voting, saying the turnout may increase. “Turnout of voting is low in some polling centers but it is the first day. We are expecting the citizens to go to vote,” he said. “The process is still going on and we are now in Abushok seeing there is sense of enthusiasm among the citizens. We hope it will continue like that.”  Radio Tamazuj

ECOWAS Frets over Growing Terrorist Attacks Amid Dwindling Funds
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed concern over deteriorating financial contributions from member countries despite mounting insecurity confronting the regional bloc. There have been attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire in recent times, while intelligence agencies have warned that a “credible terrorist’s threat” faced all the 16 member countries in the West African sub-region. The warning followed a deadly attack launched on a hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso that claimed 28 lives and injured 56 in January this year followed by another in March, on Cote d’Ivoire’s three hotels in the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam that killed 16 people. Africa Report

Enduring Somalia Drought Puts Hundreds of Thousands at Risk, U.N. Warns
The severe drought in Ethiopia has made headline news. But it has also scorched northern Somalia, a region far less able to cope with the impact. About 385,000 people are already facing a hunger crisis in semiautonomous Somaliland and Puntland, to the east. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, says an estimated 1.7 million people, nearly 40% of the 4.6 million people living in these areas, are in need of humanitarian assistance and livelihood support. “Of these, 1.3 million people are at risk of slipping into acute food insecurity if they do not receive assistance,” it warned. LA Times

Malawi President Declares National Disaster After Drought
Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday declared a state of national disaster due to food shortages caused by drought, in the latest sign of alarm over a hunger crisis across southern Africa. Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are all suffering food supply problems, while South Africa declared the recent drought its worst in at least 100 years. “I declare Malawi (in) a state of national disaster following prolonged dry spells during the 2015/16 agriculture season,” Mutharika said in a statement. Daily Mail

Morocco, Long a Stopover for African Migrants, Becomes a Destination
Constantin Ibanda Mola unlocks the door to his small, two-bedroom apartment in a poor suburb of Rabat, Morocco. Mola was an economist in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as a migrant in Morocco who makes just over $300 a month, this apartment is a luxury. He shows me the tiny kitchen, the little balcony that opens near the sink and his bedroom. “I’m very happy here,” he says. Mola has had a tough journey, like so many people searching for a better life in a foreign country. Six years ago he came here from Congo, which is consumed with instability and poverty. He dreamed of a new life in Europe. But his attempts to sneak into Europe on a fake passport landed him in jail. When he got out he began doing construction work because he needed the money. “It was not easy for me because it’s the first time to go to construction. I’m an economist,” said Mola, who has now found a job for an aid group that helps other migrants. NPR

Yellow Fever Spreads to DR Congo, Kills 21
An outbreak of yellow fever has killed 21 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, linking some cases to an outbreak in neighbouring Angola. In a statement, the WHO said the deaths had occurred in January to March, with 151 suspected cases recorded. There was, it said, a “serious risk of further spread of the disease” in DRC. The acute, mosquito-borne viral disease has killed 225 people in Angola and infected about 1,600 there. The WHO said the DRC health authorities had set up a national committee to respond to the outbreak, including “screening and sanitary controls” on the country’s borders. BBC

West African Countries Come Together to Stop the Illegal Rosewood Trade
Eleven West African countries have come together and agreed to take collective action to curb illegal rosewood logging and trade in response to a quickly developing crisis. Several species of rosewood, belonging to the genera Dalbergia and Pterocarpus and collectively known as hongmu, are highly sought after by Chinese furniture manufacturers, who use them to make products that are coveted status symbols. The majority of rosewood imports into China have traditionally come from Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, but West Africa has become one of the largest exporting regions feeding China’s growing demand for rosewood in the past few years.

Senegal Gambia Trade: Tired of Taking the Long Way Around
Travellers between north and south Senegal are currently being forced to take a 10-hour detour because of a trade dispute between Senegal and The Gambia, an Anglophone enclave which sticks into the heart of its much larger, French-speaking neighbour. Of all the artificial borders drawn up in Africa by the colonial powers in the 19th Century, one of the most ridiculous has to be that between the two countries. The Gambia, colonised by the British, is a thin sliver of land either side of the eponymous river, surrounded on three sides by Senegal. On either side, people share the same culture and local languages but those who have been to school are divided by the language in which they were instructed. And the tiny Gambia is always keen to remind its much larger neighbour of its independence. BBC

Uber Expands in Africa as Users Seek Public Transit Substitutes
Uber Technologies Inc. plans to start operating in three new African countries by the end of June, extending its reach 2 1/2 years after introducing its ride-hailing service in the continent. The company is set to expand to Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, Alon Lits, the general manager of Uber Africa, said in an interview. Last week, Uber started in Mombasa in Kenya and Abuja in Nigeria, after entering South Africa in 2013. Uber is gaining users in Africa as travelers and commuters seek alternatives to often unreliable or non-existent public transport, Lits said. Uber, whose rivals in the continent of more than a billion people include smaller providers such as Taxify and Zapacab, is also benefiting from customers embracing pooled rides, which allows them to reduce the bill per person. Bloomberg