Africa Media Review for April 12, 2017

Zambian Opposition Leader Hakainde Hichilema Detained
Zambian police have detained opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema for committing “treason”, according to his lawyer. Hichilema was narrowly defeated by President Edgar Lungu in an August 2016 election, which he described as fraudulent. His attempts to mount a legal challenge have so far been unsuccessful. The leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) arrived at a police station in the capital, Lusaka, on Tuesday after officers raided his home overnight. Authorities allege that Hichilema blocked Lungu’s motorcade with his own convoy of vehicles during a traditional ceremony in Zambia’s Western Province over the weekend. Al Jazeera

US Begins Delivery of Nonlethal Aid to CAR Army
At a ceremony this month, the U.S. ambassador to the Central African Republic turned over the keys to four cargo trucks to the national army. It was the first installment of $8 million worth of nonlethal assistance that is expected to include 16 more trucks and communications equipment. “Essentially, we want to help the various processes that will allow this country that has known some really difficult times to pull out of that crisis and move into something sustainable, something safer for the region and ultimately safer for the American people as well,” U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Hawkins told VOA. “Because if there is glaring instability, even in a place that is remote like C.A.R., that does not serve American interests.” VOA

Post-Election Vigilante Violence Flares in Ghana
Ghanaians were horrified when members of a vigilante group loosely affiliated with the ruling party stormed a court to free 13 members standing trial for assault late last week. The Delta Force is just one of a handful of groups responsible for commandeering public facilities since New Patriotic Party (NPP) leader Nana Akufo-Addo won December’s presidential polls. In March, more than 200 Delta Force vigilantes attacked a regional government building, in a bid to force a senior official out. Described as “macho men” in Ghana, vigilante groups like the Delta Force campaign on behalf of political parties. In return, they expect jobs. With names like “Aluta Boys (wrestling boys)”, “Pentagon”, “Al Qaeda” or “Al Jazeera”, members of the over 20 vigilante groups in Ghana tend to come mostly from poor backgrounds. News 24

Congo Police Arrest Dozens at Banned Protest Rallies
Police have detained several dozen people accused of violating a ban on protests against DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, police sources say. “Police have arrested and detained 34 people in Kinshasa,” said national police spokesperson Pierre-Rombaut Mwanamputu. “Some wanted to breach the ban on a march and others were preparing acts of vandalism”. Mwanamputu said he had no details of arrests in other parts of the vast country, where there is anger to Kabila remaining in office beyond the end of his mandate in December 2016. News 24

Somalia’s Al-Shabab Are Ramping Up Attacks after Rejecting the President’s Amnesty Offer
Al-Shabab militants killed at least 15 people in a suicide bombing targeting military officials on Sunday, as the Al-Qaeda affiliate rejected the president’s offer of an amnesty. Two further attacks on Monday signaled that the militants are ramping up violence following a declaration of war on Al-Shabab by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo on Thursday. President Farmajo said that militants had a 60-day period to take up a government amnesty offer, but the militant group dismissed the declaration as a statement made “just to please the West,” the BBC reported. Newsweek

Somalia’s Military Rescues 8 Indian Crew Held by Pirates
Somalia’s military has rescued eight Indian crew members who had been held hostage by pirates, an official said Wednesday. The sailors of a ship hijacked last week were rescued after regional forces surrounded their pirate captors in a small village outside Hobyo town, Abdullahi Ahmed Ali, the town’s mayor, told The Associated Press. Four pirates were arrested during the operation, he said. All the Indian crew members have now been rescued as two had been freed in the ship on Sunday, the mayor said. Ten crew members were taken captive, not 11 as initially announced by officials, he said. Pirates made the captive crew members walk long distances in the bush for days to avoid troops that were chasing them. “They are exhausted and hungry because of that long ordeal,” the mayor said. AP

Child Suicide Bombings Surge in Boko Haram Conflict: UNICEF
The use of children as suicide bombers by the insurgents of Boko Haram has surged in 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday. In the countries fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad – 27 children have been used in suicide attacks by the armed Islamist group in the first three months of the year, UNICEF said in a report and statement. There were nine cases in the same period last year, and 30 children used for bombings in all of 2016, it said. Most were girls. The Boko Haram insurgency is now in its eighth year with little sign of ending, having claimed over 20,000 lives. Its child kidnappings gained global notoriety after the abduction of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria’s northeast in 2014, three years ago on Friday. Reuters

Nigeria’s Governor Releases Pay Slip, Government Funds
A Nigerian governor has released full details of his own monthly pay along with blow-by-blow accounts of how funds allocated to his state have been spent since he assumed office in 2015. Nasir el-Rufai, governor of northwestern Kaduna state, on Tuesday evening published his official pay slip in response to an open challenge by the speaker of the country’s House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. The move is rare in a country known for official cover up of government expenditure. “El-Rufai is today making publicly available his pay-slip as Governor of Kaduna State. In February 2017, the Kaduna State Government paid the Governor a net salary of N470,521.74 ($1,518) with the following details,” the governor said in a statement. Anadolu Agency

Egypt’s Parliament Approves Three-Month State of Emergency 
Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved a three-month state of emergency, broadening the power of authorities to crack down on what it called enemies of the state days after two church bombings killed at least 45. Two suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State at churches in Alexandria and Tanta plunged the nation into mourning and sent shockwaves through a Coptic Christian community that has increasingly been targeted by militants. The countrywide state of emergency was declared by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday after the attacks but required parliamentary approval according to the constitution. Reuters

Churches in Southern Egypt Will Not Celebrate Easter
Egyptian churches, in the southern city of Minya, said on Tuesday that they will not hold Easter celebrations in mourning for 45 Coptic Christians killed this week in twin bombings of churches in two cities during Palm Sunday ceremonies. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations.” Minya province has the highest Coptic Christian population in the country. Copts traditionally hold Easter church prayers on Saturday evening and then spend Easter Sunday on large meals and family visits. Parliament approved on Tuesday President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s decision to declare a three-month state of emergency following the attacks, an action seen as a foregone conclusion since the legislature is packed with el-Sissi supporters. The Cabinet declared it had gone into effect as of 1 p.m. on Monday. AP

‘Sliding Into Catastrophe’: South Sudan Famine Could Spread
Two months after the world’s youngest nation declared a famine amid its civil war, hunger has become more widespread than expected, aid workers say. South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal region is on the brink of starvation, with 290,000 people at risk of dying without sustained food assistance. Humanitarian workers say conditions will only deteriorate as the lean season approaches. In February, South Sudan and the United Nations formally declared a famine in two counties in Unity State. Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s five counties now face the same fate. “All five counties are sliding into catastrophe,” said an aid worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. “If it wasn’t for food assistance, this place would be at a level five famine.” AP

South Sudan War Puts Neighbour’s Tolerance of Refugees to the Test
A year ago the view from Ugandan teacher Richard Inyani’s mud hut was wilderness, land untouched since the 1990s and the murderous rampages of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Now it’s a sprawl of tarpaulin shacks housing thousands of South Sudanese, refugees fleeing a three-year civil war that has triggered the biggest cross-border exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. And they keep coming: Last week, more than 3,000 people arrived at the border in a single morning after an alleged massacre by South Sudan government troops in Pajok, a South Sudanese town with a population of some 50,000. Pajok is now empty, refugees say. Reuters

South Sudan Imposes Curfew Across Wau State after Killings
South Sudanese authorities imposed a curfew across the whole northwestern state of Wau on Tuesday, the deputy governor said, a day after at least 16 civilians died in clashes in its main town. Residents said ethnic militias aligned to the government in the country’s civil war searched house to house for members of other groups in Wau town on Monday. The army said the violence erupted after a mutiny among soldiers guarding Wau’s prison, and it was waiting for more information on what happened. “The curfew will be there until the situation stabilises,” deputy governor Charles Anthony told Reuters by phone, without saying how it would be imposed across the vast, remote territory. Reuters

African Migrants Sold in Libya ‘Slave Markets’, IOM Says
Africans trying to reach Europe are being sold by their captors in “slave markets” in Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says. Victims told IOM that after being detained by people smugglers or militia groups, they were taken to town squares or car parks to be sold. Migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices, the head of the IOM in Libya told the BBC. Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 Nato-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. BBC

Mali President Keita Names Loyalist Cabinet Ahead of 2018 Elections
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced a new government on Tuesday stocked with loyalists seen as helping him prepare for a re-election bid next year. The government, announced in a presidential decree, includes 10 new ministers and 25 holdovers from the previous cabinet. Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, a former defense minister and close Keita ally, was handed the crucial post of minister of territorial administration, charged with organizing presidential and parliamentary elections late next year. VOA

Security Alone Won’t Save Burkina Faso from Extremism
Since 4 April 2015, the day a Romanian citizen was abducted in Tambao on Burkina Faso’s north-east border with Mali and Niger, about 20 terror attacks killing 70 people have been recorded in the country, according to the Minister for Security, Simon Compaoré. Most of the attacks occurred in the administrative Sahel region. They have been claimed or attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)’s al-Mourabitoun brigade and two groups linked to Ansar Dine – the Katiba Macina (active in central Mali) and Katiba Khalild Ibn Walid (who initially operated in the Sikasso region, southern Mali). In late 2016, a local actor entered the fray. Known as Ansarul Islam, this group is reportedly structured around Malam Ibrahim Dicko, who is portrayed as a radical preacher. ISS

UN Seeks to Broker New Talks on Western Sahara
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for new talks on the decades-old Western Sahara conflict, saying negotiations should address proposals from both Morocco and separatist movement the Polisario Front. UN efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the disputed territory, contested since 1975 when the colonial power Spain left, which Polisario says belongs to the Sahrawi people who fought a guerrilla war against Morocco until a 1991 UN-backed ceasefire. “I intend to propose that the negotiating process be relaunched with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” Guterres said in his report presented for review to the Security Council on Monday. Al Jazeera

Amnesty International: Death Sentences on the Rise in Africa
More than 1,000 death sentences were handed down in Africa in 2016. That’s according to the latest report by Amnesty International. Botswana was singled out for resuming executions. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones