Media Review for June 22, 2016

Jean-Pierre Bemba Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison by International Criminal Court
Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for rape and pillage committed by his troops, becoming the highest-level official to be sentenced at the international criminal court. Bemba, 53, wearing a blue suit and tie, watched impassively from the dock during the hearing at The Hague on Tuesday. The former militia commander is the third person convicted by the controversial “court of last resort” set up to try the world’s worst crimes in 2002. Campaigners welcomed the lengthy prison term. The Guardian

Nigeria Reaches Truce with Militants, says Oil Industry Source
Nigeria’s government has reached a cease-fire with militants that have taken responsibility for attacks on the country’s vital petroleum infrastructure, a senior official at the state-owned oil company told VOA on Tuesday. But the Niger Delta Avengers group denied the existence of a truce, saying on Twitter that they “never remember having any agreement on cease-fire with the Nigeria government.” The group has taken credit for a series of bombings of pipelines and oil facilities that have cut Nigeria’s daily oil production of around two million barrels by as much as half. Nigeria is Africa’s top crude producer, and oil makes up the majority of the country’s exports. VOA

Multinational Force Conducting Operations Against Boko Haram – Niger General
A multinational force has begun operations against Boko Haram along the border between Niger and Nigeria, a general from Niger said on Tuesday. Brigadier-General Abdou Sidikou Issa, tactical chief of staff for troops based in Niger’s southern zone of Diffa, a region plagued by the Islamist militant group, said troops from Chad and Nigeria were involved in the operation. It began in secret almost a week ago. This is not the first time the nations in the Lake Chad basin — Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon — have joined forces against Boko Haram, a violent Islamist group which started in Nigeria seven years ago and has since launched deadly attacks in all four countries.  Reuters

Buhari Appoints New Acting Police IG
President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, an Assistant Inspector General of police, from Niger State, as the new acting Inspector General, the News Agency of Nigeria has reported. Mr. Idris’ appointment follows the retirement of Solomon Arase as he clocks the compulsory retirement age of 60. Mr. Idris was the AIG in charge of operations at the force headquarters, Abuja. Ahead of the announcement, a presidential source told PREMIUM TIMES that the president summoned Mr. Idris to the presidential villa in Abuja.  Premium Times in allAfrica

Arms Depot Blast Kills Scores Near Libyan Capital
An explosion in an arms depot near the Libyan capital killed at least 29 people and wounded dozens of others on Tuesday, security and medical officials said. The blast occurred in Garabulli, a town about 60km to the east of Tripoli, when gunmen stormed the depot belonging to a militia, a security official said. “Armed men stormed the arms depot which belongs to a militia from Misrata [further east]. A blast occurred, but the exact causes are still unknown. Maybe the militia had rigged the depot,” said the official. “There are body parts” at the arms depot, a medical source said, adding that the death toll could rise. News 24

Libya Pro-govt Forces Preparing ‘Decisive’ Sirte Assault
Libya’s unity government forces said on Tuesday they were preparing for a final assault on the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Sirte, after repelling multiple counter-attacks from the surrounded jihadists. “Despite apparent calm along the fronts, our intelligence network is in full swing in preparation for the decisive battle,” forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement. Anti-ISIS forces launched an operation to retake Sirte – the hometown of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi – last month and quickly surrounded the extremists. ISIS hit back with string of suicide car bombings in a bid to break the encirclement. According to the pro-GNA forces statement, fighters were targeting ISIS-held areas of Sirte with heavy artillery as well as with “daily” airstrikes.  News 24

White House Makes ‘No Sense’ on Airstrikes in Libya: AFRICOM Nominee
U.S. advisers on the ground have picked targets, but the White House has yet to approve airstrikes to support the fledgling Libyan government’s fight against ISIS, President Obama’s nominee to head U.S. Africa Command said Tuesday. Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his nomination hearing that U.S. Special Forces advising the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli had identified ISIS targets but AFRICOM needed presidential authorization to conduct strikes against them. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said “That makes no sense, does it?” Waldhauser, known in the Marine Corps for being outspoken, responded: “No, it does not.” “Do you think it would be wise to have that authority?” Graham asked. “It would certainly contribute to what we’re trying to do inside of Libya,” Waldhauser said.

Egyptian Court Quashes Deal to Transfer Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia
In a rare display of rebellion against the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, a Cairo court voted to annul his decision to transfer sovereignty of two islands to Saudi Arabia. Judge Yehia el-Dakroury declared that Egypt’s maritime border would not be redrawn, meaning that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir would remain under Egyptian sovereignty. Sisi previously awarded the two islands to Saudi Arabia in a highly controversial deal during a visit to Egypt by King Salman, which also coincided with the signing of oil deals and development packages from the Gulf kingdom. The deal was designed to coincide with a bridge joining Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.  The Guardian

Somalia Security Chief Killed by Own Guard, al Shabaab Claims Responsibility
The Islamist militant group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior Somalia security official, who was was gunned down late on Tuesday by one of his own bodyguards. Abdiweli Ibrahim Mohamed, the head of national security in Somalia’s Middle Shebelle region, was shot dead in Jowhar, a town 90 kilometres north of Mogadishu. “Two other bodyguards were wounded,” Ahmed Mohamud, a police officer in Jowhar, said. “The assassin ran away, we are pursuing him.” Residents said the bodyguard who shot the security chief was a former member of al Shabaab who had defected to the government. A spokesman for al Shabaab, an al Qaeda linked group which seeks to topple the western backed government in Mogadishu and impose Islamic law, or sharia, claimed responsibility. Reuters

Foreigners Risk Losing Jobs as Kenya Enforces Tough Work Permit Law
Charities, or NGOs, working in Kenya risk losing their licenses if they fail to comply with new tough rules about employing foreigners. The authorities say that, with some exceptions, foreigners should not be employed if there are Kenyans who can do the job. In a statement, the Ministry of Devolution announced that it will henceforth only issue work permits to expatriates in instances where Kenyans lack the requisite skills and qualifications to undertake such jobs. “Take note that the board shall not issue any recommendations unless it is proven and or demonstrated that there are no Kenyans with the skills required available in the job market,” read the letter, making reference to the NGOs Coordination Board which monitors charities operating in the country. Kenya has also accused some organisations of flouting the law by employing expatriates without proper work permits. The East African

Gambia Trio Tortured for Accusing President of Ethnic Slur
Three men charged with sedition in the Gambia were tortured in jail and made to sign false testimonies, their lawyer said on Tuesday, after they allegedly said the president disliked the country’s majority ethnic group. President Yahya Jammeh is regularly accused of sanctioning human rights abuses in the tiny west African country, and was recently accused by the United Nations of “dehumanising” Mandinkas, who make up 41% of the population, in an inflammatory speech. The trio – Ebrima Keita, Musa Fofana and Alasanna Jallow – could face two years in jail for allegedly saying on May 11 that Jammeh “never liked” Mandinkas. The president himself is from the minority Diola ethnic group. News 24

Zimbabwe Delays Civil Servant, Military Wages
Zimbabwe’s government says it won’t be able to pay the military, police or civil servants on time this month amid continued cash shortages. This is the third time in the past year that the government has had to delay wages. But this month, the military and police are also affected. In a statement, the Ministry of Finance cited “severe revenue underperformance and related cash flow challenges.” Some government workers will only get their salaries in mid-July. “We have worked and we are supposed to get our salaries as, and when, they are due, said Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. “The level of opulence and extravaganza that is being expressed by the government – and its officials – in their line of duty or out of it does not suggest that this government is broke….We are simply saying, they have tested our patience too long and it is really time to show our teeth. And we have the teeth, do not forget. And we are simply saying to the government, pay us or we go for confrontation.”  VOA

Kenya Launches Crackdown on Foreign Charity Workers
Charities, or NGOs, working in Kenya risk losing their licenses if they fail to comply with new tough rules about employing foreigners. The authorities say that, with some exceptions, foreigners should not be employed if there are Kenyans who can do the job. The large disparity between what foreigners and Kenyans can earn has also been criticised. An estimated 240,000 people work for NGOs in Kenya, mostly local staff. Kenya is a regional hub for NGOs, with aid agencies working in countries from Democratic Republic of Congo to South Sudan based in the country. BBC

Protests Rocking South African Capital Highlight ANC Divide
Protesters burning tires and barricading roads in townships around South Africa’s capital have highlighted divisions in the ruling African National Congress that are threatening the party’s grip on Pretoria and cities including the commercial hub, Johannesburg, in Aug. 3 municipal elections. The protests erupted on Monday after the ANC’s national executive committee nominated senior parliamentary official Thoko Didiza as its candidate for mayor of the Tshwane municipality, which includes Pretoria, instead of incumbent Kgosientso Ramokgopa. “This is really bad for the ANC because over and above the factional issues that have been there for quite some time, now there’s the problem in uniting behind a mayoral candidate,” Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, said by phone on Tuesday. “The NEC’s focus was to try and find someone who can help build bridges between the different factions but I think it has had the opposite effect.”  Bloomberg

Rebels, Army Seen Profiting From Congo Gold Despite Controls
International regulations aimed at curbing the trade in so-called conflict minerals have failed to stop rebel groups and elements of the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo profiting from gold mining in the region, according to a United Nations group of experts. The lack of a functioning traceability system for gold is a “particular area of concern,” the panel, which monitor sanctions on the Congo, said in a report to the UN Security Council published June 16. “Gold from non-validated mining sites, and therefore possibly benefiting armed groups, is laundered into the legitimate supply chain and, subsequently, into the international market,” it said. Gold production has increased exponentially in Congo from almost nothing in 2011 to 25.5 metric tons (820,000 troy ounces) last year, as commercial mines run by London-listed Randgold Resources Ltd. and Toronto-based Banro Corp. have started up.  Bloomberg

Eritrea Tells UN Ethiopia Contemplating Full-scale War
Ethiopia is contemplating full-scale war against Eritrea, Eritrean Presidential Advisor Yemane Ghebreab told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday, where he was defending his country against allegations of crimes against humanity. “As we speak Ethiopia is making preparations for a bigger military offensive and contemplateing a full-scale war,” Yemane told the Council. Both countries have blamed each other for starting a clash on their border on June 12. Reuters

From Afghanistan to Africa: Heroin trafficking in East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Interest in drug trafficking in Africa has typically focused on cocaine in West Africa. The region is home to what many have labelled Africa’s first narco-state, Guinea-Bissau. But since 2010, an increase in heroin trafficking in and around East Africa has demanded the attention of the international community, which has warned that the effects of large-scale heroin trafficking could be devastating for the region. Daily Maverick

One Year After Mali Peace Agreement, Challenges Remain
The U.N. will send more troops and continued support against terrorists in Mali it announced this week, on the one-year anniversary of the U.N.’s intervention in the West African country. “On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, the Secretary-General welcomes the renewed commitment to peace expressed by the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta, and his Government,” Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement released Monday. “The Secretary-General trusts that the signatory parties will ensure the swift and full implementation of the agreement, bearing in mind the many challenges that lie ahead. He encourages them to remain steadfast in their efforts.” Last week Mali Prime Minister Modibo Keita addressed the U.N. Security Council in New York, particularly noting that the U.N. would send 2,500 troops in addition to the 12,000 already on the ground. VOA

U.S. Army Africa’s Largest Exercise Ever is Now Underway
After a week in the classroom, the American soldiers and their Central African partners are ready to put into practice what they’ve learned as part of the largest, most complex exercise U.S. Army Africa has ever conducted on the African continent. On Tuesday, the soldiers kicked off the field training exercise of Central Accord 2016. During the three-day FTX, soldiers from Gabon, Chad, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo will be paired with squads of American infantrymen from the 3rd Infantry Division to practice and conduct United Nations peacekeeping operations. Central Accord also will include multinational airborne operations featuring the 82nd Airborne Division and French and Gabonese paratroopers, as well as a command post exercise in Libreville, Gabon’s capital. Army Times

A crisis ‘Lost in the Ocean’: Drought and Climate Change in Madagascar
Drought-prone southern Madagascar is facing yet another food emergency this year. An unusually strong El Niño season means the rains have failed once more. Prices in local markets have skyrocketed, leaving more than 665,000 people in urgent need of food aid. This giant Indian Ocean island is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to natural disaster. Madagascar’s semi-arid, deep southern regions of Androy, Anosy, and Atsimo Andrefana have faced emergencies year upon year. The recent El Niño has just made an already bad situation worse. Dami is nearly three years old but weighs only 6.9 kilograms. Underneath his dusty white t-shirt and blue shorts, his limbs are about the size of a carrot but his belly is swollen: a sure sign of malnutrition. IRIN

US Military Veterans to Train Wildlife Rangers in South Africa
A group of American military veterans with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan plans to train rangers at some private wildlife areas in South Africa, where poachers have killed large numbers of rhinos for their horns. The small conservation group called Vetpaw previously operated in Tanzania, which ordered the group to leave last year, partly because of a video in which a member talked about killing poachers. Ryan Tate, a former U.S. Marine and head of Vetpaw, said Tuesday that the member didn’t speak for Vetpaw and that he has sought to “rebrand” the organization. Tate and Shea Peaton, a U.S. Navy veteran, have spent about a month in South Africa, assessing security needs in several wildlife parks. Training will include marksmanship, field medicine and maneuvering at night, Tate said.  AP on Stars and Stripes