Africa Media Review for April 17, 2017

Migrant Boats: Thousands Saved Off Libyan Coast over Easter
Thousands of migrants have been saved from the sea near Libya during one of the busiest weekends of the year for rescue workers. More than 2,000 people were rescued on Friday and 3,000 on Saturday in dozens of separate rescues, the Italian Coast Guard said. But at least seven people drowned as aid workers struggled to rescue more than 1,500 migrants in one operation. An eight-year-old boy was among the dead, rescue workers said. An earlier agency report said 20 bodies had been recovered by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas), but this was later corrected. Moas said its rescue started in the early hours of Saturday and had continued non-stop into Sunday afternoon. BBC

Saving Lives, 1 Day at a Time, on the Deadly Mediterranean
[…] Most migrants on the Mediterranean are now trying to reach Italy. Those numbers have dramatically increased since the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement last year that allowed Greece to send new asylum-seekers back to Turkey. In exchange, the EU agreed to speed up visas for Turkish citizens and donate 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion) to help support the hundreds of thousands of refugees living on Turkish soil. Last weekend alone, Italian authorities oversaw the rescues of more than 6,000 migrants at sea on Friday and Saturday, and hundreds more on Sunday — including at least eight bodies. With the Greek smuggling route largely closed off, the path of least resistance has drifted to Libya — a sprawling, lawless country with a huge coast and competing rebel and government factions. Migrants have flooded into Libya from across Africa, producing a bonanza for smugglers.  AP

Spain Saves 73 Migrants from 5 Boats Crossing from Africa
Spanish rescue ships saved 73 migrants, including one pregnant woman, from five different smuggling boats trying to cross the sea from Africa to Europe during the previous 24 hours. The pregnant woman and 25 other migrants were aboard a vessel that was taking on water in the Atlantic Ocean when reached by the rescue boat Salvamar Gadir before daybreak Friday. They were found 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of the Atlantic coastal town of Barbate, which lies between Cadiz and Gibraltar. Emergency services for Spain’s Andalucia region said the 20 men and six women were all of North African descent. Another four boats carrying migrants who told Spanish authorities they were from Algeria were intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea. AP

Uganda Troops Announce Withdrawal from the CAR
The Ugandan army has announced its withdrawal from the Central African Republic (CAR). The announcement was made during a meeting with the local authorities in the region, this comes less than three weeks after the decision of the United States to put an end to the activities of Joseph Kony.The commander of the Ugandan troops said the withdrawal should take place during May next year, according to a timetable that has not been communicated. The Ugandan army was deployed to the east of the CAR in 2009 as a result of a resolution of the African Union. Its objective was to put an end to the atrocities of the Lord resistance Army who had fled to Uganda. Africa News

Can South Africa Risk Going Back into CAR?
On an official visit to South Africa last week, Central African Republic (CAR) President Faustin-Archange Touadéra promised his counterpart Jacob Zuma that his country would build a monument to honour 15 South African soldiers at the place on the outskirts of the capital Bangui where they were killed by Seleka rebels four years ago. Touadéra expressed his condolences to Zuma for the deaths of the soldiers and thanked him for the support South Africa had given CAR during its crisis in 2013. South African defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the national broadcaster SABC that her government would help the families of the fallen soldiers to visit the monument in Bangui to pay respects to their loves ones. ISS

Clashes in Northwestern South Sudan Town Kill at Least 14 People
At least 14 people were killed in the South Sudanese town of Raga when fighting erupted between government forces and the main rebel group, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday, within a week of violence in neighbouring Wau state that killed 16. The rebels, the main force fighting the governement in the famine-hit nation’s civil war, had briefly occupied the northwestern town, near the border with Sudan and Central African Republic, before withdrawing to nearby bases to prepare for a counter-attack. “For the last two days the government bombed our areas around Raga and yesterday our forces decided to go and raid Raga,” opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel Lam said by phone. “Around 14 people were counted killed but many are injured … we had one soldier killed with some injuries,” he told Reuters. Reuters

South Sudan Rebels Allied With Machar Take Control of Raja
Rebels with the South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), allied with rebel leader Riek Machar, on Friday attacked Raja town, the capital of Lol state. SPLM-IO Secretary-General Tingo Peter confirmed his forces now controlled Raja after clashing with government troops. “Since 12 o’clock, we captured Raja, and it is now totally under our control. Even now, our forces are looking for the governor. They are trying to see where he is,” Peter said. Lol Governor Rizik Zachariah Gassan and his entire cabinet fled the area, according to Peter. Peter said the SPLM-IO was asking civilians in Raja to remain calm as their forces combed the town for government soldiers who might be hiding in residential areas. VOA

Kiir Signs Suspicious Oil Agreements to Turn Around Fortunes of Economy
The South Sudanese government is signing deals with suspected wheeler dealers, some of whom may be out to take advantage of Juba’s financial crisis. In less than four months, President Salva Kiir, who is presiding over a cash-strapped economy torn apart by a conflict that is teetering towards genocide, has received offers from agents of established companies, organisations and non-descript financing groups, all dangling deals worth billions of dollars that critics warn will mortgage the country and its resources for generations. Critics in Juba worry that President Kiir’s desperation to get cash may push him into the hands of outright con-men and that even genuine companies could take advantage to secure sweet deals for themselves while leaving the country with peanuts. The East African

Uganda to Retire Bush War Generals
Uganda has unveiled an eight-year timetable that will see nearly all generals from the bush war era retire. Among those to exit the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is Gen David Sejusa, who will be retired next year. Two years after the former Coordinator of Intelligence Services walks away from an army with which he has had a love-and-hate relationship for more than three decades, Gen Sejusa (formerly known as Tinyefuza) will be joined in civilian life by police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura, whose year of retirement on the schedule is 2020. The East African

Protests Against South Africa’s Jacob Zuma Are Gaining Momentum and Young People
Perhaps never before has the downgrading of a country’s credit rating sparked a protest march. Thousands of young South Africans, braving rain, took to the streets of the capital April 12, angry at president Jacob Zuma’s record of alleged corruption. The march through Pretoria was the third since Standard & Poor’s then Fitch cut South Africa’s bond ratings to junk, but it was by far the largest show of force and could turn into the first real mass movement against Zuma. Organized by a quickly formed coalition of opposition parties, the red berets and overalls of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters dominated the crowd. The protestors were young, energetic and irreverent, singing the whole way as they passed shuttered businesses. Quartz

Mgwebi Stays On as MONUSCO Force Commander
To many in South African military circles he is the epitome of the professional officer and further testimony to this comes with the renewal of Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi’s contract as MONUSCO Force Commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a further 12 month period. This was confirmed to defenceWeb this week by Charles Bambara, director of the MONUSCO public information division in Kinshasa, and follows the extension of the mission’s mandate by the UN Security council – albeit with reduced troop numbers – for another year. Mgwebi took up the post at the start of last year after being appointed by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a year. Bambara told defenceWeb: “General Mgwebi is still in charge as MONUSCO Force Commander. I am not aware of any plan for him to leave the mission soon and, like all staff in a peacekeeping mission, contracts are renewed once a year”. DefenceWeb

Tunisian Islamist Party Says Time to ‘Bury’ Democracy
The Tunisian branch of the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which calls for Islamic law and wants to unify Muslims into a caliphate, said Saturday it was time to “bury” democracy. “Democracy no longer attracts anyone,” the movement’s politburo chief Abderraouf Amri told its annual conference. “It is time to announce its death and work to bury it.” Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in several countries and Tunisian authorities regularly accuse it of “disturbing public order”. Hundreds of party members took part in the congress near Tunis, praising “the caliphate, saviour of humanity” and denouncing “persecution” by the democratic system. Al Arabiya

Nigeria Foils Plans to Bomb US, UK Embassies in Abuja
Nigeria’s secret service says it foiled a planned attack by Boko Haram militants on the US and UK embassies in the country’s capital, Abuja. Six ISIS-linked Boko Haram members were arrested for the planned attack last month, the Department of State Services (DSS) said. “The group had perfected plans to attack the UK and American Embassies and other western interests in Abuja,” DSS official Tony Opuiyo said in a statement. The men were arrested March 25 and 26 in Abuja and central Benue state, Opuiyo added. Another man was previously arrested, on March 22, in north-eastern Yobe state, the DSS said. That man confessed to being part of the group, officials said. CNN

US Senators Say Food Aid Constraints Delay Help Amid Famine
As President Donald Trump seeks to cut foreign aid under the slogan of “America First,” two U.S. senators are proposing making American food assistance more efficient after meeting with victims of South Sudan’s famine and civil war. Following a visit to the world’s largest refugee settlement in northern Uganda with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told The Associated Press on Saturday that the U.S. “can deliver more food aid at less cost” through foreign food aid reform. The United States spent roughly $2.8 billon in foreign food aid last year and is the world’s largest provider of humanitarian assistance. But current regulations require most food aid to be grown in the U.S. and shipped under an American flag. Stars and Stripes

Will the ‘Long Rains’ Save Somalia?
The main rainy season in Somalia was deficient in 2016. Then the important short rains of October to November 2016 failed, causing crop failures and severe food shortages. A report this month from the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that “the humanitarian situation in Somalia is on the verge of catastrophe, and concern is growing that the trajectory is worryingly similar to Somalia’s 2011 famine disaster, when an estimated 260,000 people died. Today an estimated 6.2 million, more than half the country’s population, face acute food shortage and the number of severely malnourished children is on the rise.” Drought is also affecting neighbouring countries, with some 16 million people severely food insecure in the Horn of Africa region: 5.6 million people in Ethiopia, 2.6 million people in Kenya, 6.2 million people in Somalia and 1.6 million people in Uganda. Al Jazeera

UN to Cut Food Aid for Nigeria Crisis as Funding Falls Short
Food aid will be cut for more than a million hungry Nigerians affected by Boko Haram’s insurgency if promised funding from the international community doesn’t arrive, according to a United Nations official. Peter Lundberg, the deputy U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde that just 15 percent of the U.N. aid appeal for one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has been received. Over the next six months, $242 million is needed to help 1.8 million people, he said. AP

Zambian Leader Warns Diplomats Against Interfering in Internal Affairs
Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Saturday warned diplomats not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Various local media quoted the Zambian leader warning the diplomats in the wake of the arrest of the country’s leading opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema who has been charged with treason, a move that has heightened tension in the southern African nation. The United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have issued statements expressing concern over the heightened political tension in the country. The News Diggers, a local online publication quoted the Zambian leader warning the diplomats not to meddle in the affairs of the country as Zambia was a sovereign state. Xinhua

Cairo Court Acquits Egyptian-American Aid Worker After 33 Months In Custody
A Cairo court acquitted on Sunday an Egyptian-American woman and seven others who worked with street children and had been detained for nearly three years on human trafficking charges, in a case that had raised concerns in Washington. Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian who holds U.S. citizenship, founded Belady, an NGO that promotes a better life for street children. She has been in custody for 33 months in violation of Egyptian law, which states that the maximum period for pretrial detention is 24 months. Dressed in a white prison uniform, Hijazi stood in the courtroom cage with her husband and Belady co-founder Mohamed Hassanein. With tears of joy streaming down their cheeks, they vowed to resume their charity work. Reuters

Tanzania Gunmen Kill 8 Police in Restive Region
Gunmen have ambushed and killed eight police officers in eastern Tanzania, the presidency said Friday, the latest in a string of killings targeting politicians and security officers in the East African nation. “President John Pombe Magufuli is surprised and very sorry to learn of the news of the death of eight police officers killed last night by armed people,” Tanzania’s presidency said in a statement. The policemen came under attack in their vehicle in the eastern region of Kibiti as they returned from patrol, and their assailants fled into a nearby forest, the statement said. AFP

Kenya to Export 100,000 Workers to Saudi Arabia
Kenya may soon export 100,000 workers to Saudi Arabia if negotiations between the two countries bear fruit while Qatar is willing to open its market for Kenyan meat. These are some of the wins the government achieved when it received high-profile visitors from the two countries this week. The Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was on a one-day state visit to Kenya on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia’s Commerce minister Majed bin Abdullah Al-Kassabi led a delegation of 70 people from the private sector and government officials for talks with Nairobi on Wednesday. Resolutions seen by the Sunday Nation show that Saudi Arabia and Kenya agreed to work together on a number of issues. The East African

France Gives Citizenship to 28 African WW2 Veterans
French President Francois Hollande has given citizenship to 28 Africans who fought for France in World War Two and other conflicts. Mr Hollande said France owed them “a debt of blood”. The veterans – many from Senegal, and aged between 78 and 90 – received their new certificates of citizenship at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Campaigners have long been calling for the rights of the veterans, long-term French residents, to be recognised. “France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” said President Hollande. BBC

Less Armed Conflict But More Political Violence in Africa
Current armed conflicts in Africa are clustered in four regions: North Africa and the Sahel, West Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes region. ACLED reports that between 2010 and 2016, the highest number of politically violent events occurred in Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Across both UCDP and ACLED, in 2015 conflict killed the most people in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and the DRC. Despite ongoing brutal conflicts since the early 2000s, violence in Africa has been moving away from armed conflicts to higher levels of riots, protests and social violence, such as homicide and violence associated with organised crime. The evidence base for social violence is however weaker – typically drawn from nationally reported homicide statistics. These sources provide little information about for example actor types, tactics and association with criminal gangs, limiting our ability to understand the relationship between political and social violence. ISS



Photo: Adam Jones