Africa Media Review for April 13, 2017

Egypt Identifies Alexandria Church Bomber as Fugitive with Militant Ties
Egypt on Wednesday named the suicide bomber who attacked a cathedral in Alexandria as 31-year-old Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah, describing him as a fugitive with links to militant cells that carried out previous strikes in the country. Abdullah detonated his explosives at the entrance to Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17 people as mass was being conducted. Hours earlier, another bomb tore through a church in Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta. … The interior ministry said Abdullah had links with the Islamist militant cell behind the December suicide bombing on Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral, an attack also claimed by Islamic State. Authorities are still trying to identify the Tanta attacker, the ministry said. Reuters

Egypt Court Sentences Lawyer to 10 Years for Facebook Posts
An Egyptian criminal court has sentenced a rights lawyer to 10 years in prison and five years of house arrest and a social media ban for using Facebook to “destabilize the general order” and “harm national unity and social peace.” The Alexandria-based lawyer, Mohamed Ramadan, was sentenced using a controversial 2015 counter-terrorism law, days after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency. The law determines terrorism to include a wide range of actions including propagating ideas and beliefs calling for the use of violence via social media. News24

UN Chief Wants New Talks in 40-year Western Sahara Impasse
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he wants renewed negotiations to resolve the Western Sahara conflict, which has pitted Morocco against the Polisario Front independence movement for 40 years. In a report to the U.N. Security Council this week, Guterres proposed relaunching the negotiations “with a new dynamic and a new spirit.” The goal, he said, should be reaching “a mutually acceptable political solution” that would include “an accord on the nature and form that the exercise of self-determination” would take for the disputed and mineral-rich Western Sahara area. Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front. The U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it and to help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future that has never taken place. VOA

Nigerian Security Thwarts Boko Haram Plan to Target US, UK Embassies
Nigeria’s security services said Wednesday that they had thwarted a plan by Boko Haram militants to attack the British and US embassies in the capital Abuja. A statement from the Department of State Services said that it broke up a cell late last month that had “perfected plans to attack” the embassies along with “other Western interests” in Nigeria’s capital. The statement said five suspects who had been based in Benue State and the Federal Capital Territory were arrested. The US State Department issued an updated travel warning for Nigeria on April 5, warning that Boko Haram had targeted government installations and other venues in the Federal Capital Territory and elsewhere. France24

Rise in Boko Haram Child Suicide Bombers ‘Alarming’: UNICEF
An “alarming” number of children, most of them girls, have been used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers in the first months of 2017, UNICEF said Wednesday. The Islamists have increasingly been using children to attack crowded markets, mosques and camps for internally displaced people in northeast Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad region. Experts said the number of children used in suicide attacks by Boko Haram surged to 27 in the first quarter of this year, compared to nine over the same period in 2016. Since 2014, 117 children — the “vast majority” of them girls — have been used to carry out attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, said the report by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. Times Live

South Sudan: Government Troops Accused of Rape and Murder in Yei
A civil society activist in Yei town accused government troops and allied militia of killing five youth based on their ethnicity and raping more than 15 women over the past two weeks. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday, Hawa Adam said government soldiers have been continuously committing atrocities against Yei citizens. “The cases of rape are many here. On March 25, a 20-year-old woman was raped in Hai Leben and she was taken to the hospital. A 17-year-old girl and another woman who was pregnant were raped. In Mukaya Payam, a 90-year-old woman was also raped,” said Adam. Adam urged the state government to protect it civilians and prevent such atrocities in the state. Radio Tamazuj

British Official: South Sudan Violence is Tribal Genocide
A senior British official says she believes the violence in South Sudan is now genocide that is being perpetrated along tribal lines. Priti Patel, the UK secretary of state for international development, said in an interview late on Wednesday that there are “massacres taking place, people’s throats being slit.” She said there is a “scorched earth policy,” with villages being burned down, women being raped, and food being used as a weapon of war. She described the situation in South Sudan as “absolutely abhorrent and inhumane.” News24

Fears of Imminent Clashes between Murle, Dinka Bor Tribes in Greater Jonglei
Fears are growing of imminent clashes in greater Jonglei State between the Murle and Dinka Bor tribes after attempts to make peace between the two feuding communities failed. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Wednesday, Simon Gain, Pibor County Commissioner of Boma State, accused local youth from the Dinka Bor tribe of attacking citizens from his state along the Juba-Pibor road recently. He also accused the Dinka Bor youth of rejecting any peace with local youth from the Murle tribe. … For his part, Ayuel Guet, representative of the Dinka Bor youth, said that a large group of Dinka Bor youth have already reached areas near the Jonglei-Boma borders. Instead, Ayuel accused the Murle youth of killing several people in Baidit, Kongoor and Jonglei villages during a cattle raid over the past two days. The youth leader warned against renewed fighting between the two tribes in the coming days if their stolen cattle and abducted children are not returned back. Radio Tamazuj

Desperate Families Flee from South Sudan to Uganda in Africa’s Biggest Exodus since 1994 Rwandan Genocide

At least 832,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda since fighting erupted in July last year, in the biggest cross-border exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Overall, the fighting has uprooted more than three million people, and by July 5.5 million – nearly half the population – are unlikely to have a reliable food supply, according to the United Nations. IBTimes

Burundi Government Bans Major Opposition MSD Party for 6 Months in Continuing Crackdown
In line with the Burundian government’s crackdown on dissenting voices and political opponents, the nation’s Interior Ministry has suspended the statute and activities of opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) party, whose leader Alexis Sinduhije is in exile. After a failed coup led by a disloyal faction within the army’s high command in May 2015, the government intensified its bloody crackdown on dissident and forcing the majority of the nation’s stifled opposition in exile. Recent reports increasingly points to a regime shifting towards totalitarianism: populations are forced to pay “voluntary” contributions to fund public works including buildings for the ruling CNDD-FDD, whose youth league Imbonerakure have in areas taken over the role of a para-military security force. The United Nations describe the Imbonerakure, who have been accused of committing serious violations of human rights, as a “militia”. IBTimes

US Sanctions against Militia Leaders ‘Sends Strong Message to Armed Groups in CAR’
Human rights groups have welcomed United States sanctions on two top Central African Republic (CAR) militia commanders who have been conspiring and stoking deadly sectarian violence to defend their own political and economic interests. Impunity in the CAR remains one of the main challenges in addressing past and ongoing atrocities, as the vast majority of suspected war criminals, who date as far back to December 2012, have never been held accountable. On 12 April, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed financial sanctions on two warlords and high-profile leaders, Abdoulaye Hissène, a key leader of the former mainly Muslim rebel group Seleka, and Maxime Mokom, a top commander of the Anti-Balaka militia made up largely of animists and Christians. IBTimes

Uganda Tries to Commit Critic of President to Mental Institution
The government of President Yoweri Museveni, still in power 31 years after setting out as a great hope for African democracy, routinely intimidates dissidents and journalists. Live broadcasts of demonstrations are banned, and social media is blocked during elections that are already deeply flawed. And the longer Mr. Museveni clings to power, the tighter his grip on dissent appears to be. Uganda’s top prosecutor sought this week to crack down even further on dissent, trying to use a colonial-era law, once employed by the British to quash African resistance, to commit a prominent critic of the president to a mental institution. It was only the second time in recent memory that the law, the Mental Treatment Act of 1938, was invoked in a case over free speech, according to lawyers. … This time, Stella Nyanzi, who until recently was a research fellow at Makerere University in Uganda, was charged on Monday with “cyberharassment” and “offensive communication” after a series of Facebook posts this year. NY Times

Zimbabwe Could Soon Use Livestock as Loan Security
Zimbabwean entrepreneurs could soon use movable assets — including livestock and vehicles — to secure loans from banks, according to a bill brought before the country’s Parliament this week. The southern African country’s economy is now dominated by informal business following the formal sector’s contraction by as much as 50 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to government data, after President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms decimated the key agriculture sector. The Movable Property Security Interest Bill, brought before lawmakers by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Tuesday, seeks to make it easier for Zimbabwe’s burgeoning informal sector to access funding from banks. Reuters

30 000 Birthday Wishes for Zuma
As President Jacob Zuma sang, danced and cracked jokes at his 75th birthday celebrations in Soweto yesterday, more than 30 000 people marched in Pretoria calling on him to quit. Opposition parties who joined forces after the nationwide rallies against Zuma on Friday, held hands as they led their supporters through the streets of the city and held a rally at a field outside the Union Buildings. Police said the event had been peaceful. … A string of events throughout the day put a further blight on Zuma’s not-so-happy birthday. They included: ANC national executive committee member Mathole Motshekga writing to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, requesting an urgent NEC meeting to discuss Zuma. Herald Live

African Media Shines in Award-Winning Panama Papers Expose
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation known as the #PanamaPapers has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. The Panama Papers project, which included more than 300 journalists on six continents. In Africa, two AllAfrica content partners – Premium Times of Nigeria and The Namibian – participated in the in-depth probe into global corruption. AllAfrica



Photo: Adam Jones