Africa Media Review for April 13, 2018

DR Congo Boycotts Its Own Aid Conference
The Democratic Republic of Congo has boycotted a UN donor conference in Geneva seeking to raise $1.7bn (£1.2bn) for the country. The UN says more than 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid, calling it a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. But the government says the UN has exaggerated the scale of the problem. Aid agencies say 4.5 million people have been forced from their homes by violence, hunger and instability. Tens of thousands of Congolese have sought refuge in western Uganda. DR Congo is rich in mineral and other resources but is affected by armed conflicts, corruption and a political crisis.  BBC

Violence Is Roiling the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some Human Rights Authorities Suggest It’s a Strategy to Keep the President in Power
In a fog of tear gas, a priest in the capital drags a woman to safety after she was shot. In the churchyard. By the police. About a thousand miles away in the Ituri region, on the other side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people fleeing a massacre climb out of boats and wade ashore, their homes burned to the ground, their dead unburied. And 700 miles from there, in the Kasai region, the United Nations discovers 80 mass graves, then blames government soldiers for most of the deaths. It is easy to see these recent scenes as unrelated incidents in the panoramic chaos of a vast and troubled nation spinning out of control. But there is another theory: The events are part of a plan. Los Angeles Times

Bomb Blast at Packed Somalia Stadium Kills 5 Football Fans
A bomb exploded at a packed football stadium in southern Somalia and killed five spectators while wounding several others, police said Thursday evening. The Somalia-based, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion in the port town of Barawe. Witnesses said the bomb had been buried in the sandy stadium and went off during the local-level match. AP

Losing Candidate in S Leone Presidential Race Appeals to Supreme Court
Samura Kamara, the losing candidate in last month’s presidential elections in Sierra Leone, has appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the result, just days after he congratulated the declared victor, Julius Maada Bio, according to documents seen by AFP on Thursday. In a petition to the West African state’s top court, Kamara said the electoral process was “fundamentally flawed” and the declaration in favour of Bio “was invalid and cannot be supported in law.” The spokesperson for the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Albert Massaquoi, said the petition was filed on Wednesday evening. “We have informed our legal team and they will take it from there. It is all part of the democratic process,” said Massaquoi. AFP

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Has Abducted More than 1,000 Children since 2013: U.N.
Islamist fighters from Nigeria’s Boko Haram group have abducted more than 1,000 children in the northeast since 2013, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday. The militants regularly took youngsters to spread fear and show power, the agency said on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, a case that triggered global outrage. “Children in northeastern Nigeria continue to come under attack at a shocking scale,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF’s Nigeria head. The agency said it had documented more than 1,000 verified cases, the first time it had published an estimated tally. But the actual number could be much larger, it added. Reuters

A Libyan Strongman Looks to Washington, but a Health Crisis Looms
Pulverized buildings daubed with the names of fallen fighters line the ghostly seafront in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. Land mines and booby-trapped bodies are scattered across the rubble. At night, men huddle over bonfires piled with broken furniture.This picture of devastation is what victory looks like for Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the military strongman whose forces routed the last Islamist militias from Benghazi in December. After three years of grinding combat, and with the help of foreign allies, General Hifter now controls most of eastern Libya and has become the most powerful if polarizing figure in a fractured landscape.Now, as he aims to consolidate and expand his power, he is looking to woo the Trump administration. In December, he hired a firm of Washington lobbyists to burnish his image as a potential future leader of his country, and to counter critics who denounce him as a crude warlord. […] The nomination of the C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state could further align General Hifter with the United States. Mr. Pompeo, whose confirmation hearing took place Thursday, and Mr. Hifter, a onetime C.I.A. asset, are avowedly hostile to all forms of political Islam. The New York Times

Head of Libya’s Tobruk Assembly Accepts Invite to Talks
Aguila Saleh, the speaker of Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), has accepted an invitation to talks from Khaled al-Meshri, the newly-appointed head of Libya’s Supreme Council of State. On Wednesday, al-Meshri called on Libyan political forces to set aside their narrow differences with a view to resolving the country’s ongoing political crisis. In a statement issued one day later, HoR spokesman Abdullah Belihaq said Saleh had “welcomed the invitation” to take part in negotiations. The talks are aimed at reaching consensus over proposed amendments to a UN-brokered political agreement signed in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in late 2015. Anadolu Agency

In Africa, US Special Forces Shifting Approach on Extremism
Even as Islamic State group fighters flee the Middle East and cause fear across Africa’s Sahel region it is al-Qaida that poses the more serious long-term threat, the U.S. military’s special operations commander in Africa said in an interview with The Associated Press. Speaking on the sidelines of the annual U.S. counterterror exercise to train West African special forces, Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks pointed to last month’s deadly attack on the army headquarters and heavily guarded French Embassy in Burkina Faso that was claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group in neighboring Mali. It was the first evidence of a transition away from attacks on “soft” targets such as hotels, he said Thursday, and further proof that West Africa’s multiple extremist groups continue to push into new areas of the Sahel. AP

Togo Police Crack Down on Anti-Government Protesters
Police in Togo have dispersed an opposition protest in the capital Lome. Reports indicate that teargas was fired to disperse protesters in Lome and in other towns across the country. The 14-member opposition coalition calling for the resignation of the president since August last year called a two-day protest beginning today. Reports indicate that the violent clampdown by the police led to injuries to a number of protesters. Photos shared on social media showed how a vehicle belonging to opposition chief Jean Pierre Fabre was smashed. Africa News

Ivory Coast Inaugurates New Senate amid Opposition Criticism
Ivory Coast inaugurated on Thursday its first senate, an upper house to the West African nation’s parliament that President Alassane Ouattara called a “chamber of wisdom” but which the opposition says will tighten his grip on power. Its creation was a provision of a new constitution enacted in 2016. Ivory Coast’s main opposition groups boycotted the referendum that approved the charter as well as polls last month that elected 66 members to the 99-seat body. “The senate is installed. It is an important chamber for the rooting of democracy,” said Ouattara, addressing the newly elected lawmakers bedecked in green, white and orange sashes – the colours of the Ivorian flag. “It is a chamber of wisdom.” Reuters

Ethiopia’s New Leader Makes Rare Outreach to Opposition
Ethiopia’s new prime minister is making a rare outreach to opposition parties, calling on them to prepare for “peaceful dialogue and negotiations” in an effort to broaden the political space. Abiy Ahmed spoke Thursday evening as he hosted opposition figures, civic group members and religious leaders in the capital, Addis Ababa. Among the guests were some opposition figures recently released from detention, including Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina. “I urge you to serve as alternative idea generators for our country,” the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate quoted the prime minister as saying. The outspoken new leader assumed power early this month amid widespread hopes that he would bring an end to months of the most severe anti-government protests in a quarter-century. Hundreds of people were killed in the demonstrations that began in late 2015. Ethiopia is still under a state of emergency but the level of violence has dropped since Abiy took office. AP

Ahead of Peace Talks, a Who’s Who in South Sudan’s Splintering Civil War
When the third round of talks aimed at revitalising the chances of peace in South Sudan gets underway in Addis Ababa on 26 April, the country’s influential former military chief wants to be at the table. […] Malong’s group, the South Sudan-United Front, is one of as many as 14 opposition groups seeking to join the discussions in the Ethiopian capital on 26 April, many of which already see the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) process as discredited. Announcing the formation of his new group from exile in Kenya, Malong said he wanted to “arrest the carnage” of South Sudan’s ongoing war, stating that President Salva Kiir “has concentrated all his efforts, with the help of a small clique around him, to quite literally loot the coffers of our great nation to total bankruptcy.”  IRIN

Uganda Backpedals on Proposed Social Media Tax
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted to tax social media to keep the gossip mill in check and raise revenue for the cash-strapped country. Now the government says it has no such plans. The government of Uganda admitted this week that it won’t impose a social media tax, after President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted to levy a tax on platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. “Olugambo [gossiping] on social media (opinions, prejudices, insults, friendly chats) and advertisements by Google and I do not know who else must pay tax because we need resources to cope with the consequences of their lugambo,” wrote Museveni recently in a letter to the finance ministry. Deutsche Welle

US Notes Release of 54 Political Detainees in Sudan
The United States on Thursday noted the release of a group of Sudanese political prisoners, following an order by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir earlier this week. “Some 54 political detainees were released from prison by an order of President Bashir the evening of April 10, according to a statement issued by the committee of the detainees’ families,” a State Department official told VOA. State news agency SUNA reported Bashir’s order is part of an effort to promote “reconciliation, national harmony and peace” weeks after mass arrests were made to suppress anti-government protests. VOA

ICC Prosecutes Islamist Militant on Groundbreaking Gender-Based Charges
The international criminal court in the Hague has launched a potentially groundbreaking new prosecution for the crime of persecution on the grounds of gender, seeking a lengthy jail sentence for an Islamist militant accused of forcing hundreds of women into sexual slavery. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, 40, was transferred to the court’s custody earlier this month from Mali, where he had been held by local authorities for more than a year. The former extremist fighter is accused of a long list of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, extrajudicial punishments and participation in a policy of forced marriage, which the court argues. The Guardian

Kenya: Government Told to Send Home Thousands of Staff
Donors are piling pressure on the Government to revisit a radical programme that would see thousands of national and county government employees sent home. The retrenchment of redundant workers is one of several proposals put forward by the World Bank to cut operational expenses. The World Bank joins its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has recently been pushing the Government to significantly shrink its payroll. In its latest update on the country’s economy, the World Bank has asked the Government to consider “cleaning the payroll of ghost and redundant workers and reducing the level of wage adjustments”. The World Bank’s chief economist, Allen Dennis, noted that recalibrating fiscal consolidation from development to recurrent expenditure was going to be a challenge, but it was the only way the country could ‘safeguard fiscal consolidation’. Standard Media

Google Releases New Africa App to Beat Slow Internet Speeds
Google is releasing an app in Africa that will help internet users overcome obstacles such as the lack of high-speed connectivity and the cost of data on the continent. The release of Google Go is the U.S. technology giant’s latest attempt to extend its reach into emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa, where Facebook Inc. is also making inroads. The Alphabet Inc. unit has laid fiber-optic cable on the continent, eased access to cheaper Android phones and trained a workforce in digital skills. The new app reduces the amount of data needed to display search results by 40 percent and allows previous searches to be accessed offline. The internet giant has also adapted the voice function to work better on slow connections, even as basic as 2G networks, according to Google Africa Chief Marketing Officer Mzamo Masito. Bloomberg