Africa Media Review for April 18, 2017

UN: Japanese Troops Start Withdrawing from South Sudan Mission
Japan on Monday started withdrawing its troops from a U.N. mission in war-battered South Sudan, according to an official, a move coinciding with escalating violence in a conflict where killings have been described as genocide. The 350-strong Japanese military contingent, which has been based in South Sudan’s capital Juba for the past five years, has been mostly helping with infrastructure construction. “The first group is leaving today,” Daniel Dickinson, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission called UNMISS, told Reuters moments before the troops were due to board their flight at Juba International Airport. Dickinson said the Japanese contingent would leave in three batches and that the group that was due to leave Monday had 68 troops. VOA

Congo Government Returns Tribal Leader’s Body to Sooth Kasai Tensions
Congo’s government on Saturday said it had returned the body of a tribal leader whose death last year triggered a conflict in Kasai Central province that has killed more than 400 people. The return of the body of Kamuina Nsapu – the leader of a tribal militia by the same name – has been one of its key demands during a brutal conflict that started last July and worsened when Congolese forces killed Nsapu the following month. In a statement, interior ministry spokesman Louis d’Or Balekalayi also said the government would recognize his successor Jacques Kabeya Ntumba as a customary chief. Failure to do this for Ntumba’s predecessor was one cause of the uprising. The fighting in Kasai has become the most serious threat to President Joseph Kabila, whose decision to stay in power even though his mandate ran out in December has stoked rebellion and lawlessness in different parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reuters

DRC Suspends Military Cooperation with Belgium
The Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended military cooperation with Belgium, UN radio reported on Friday. This comes after Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders criticized the appointment of Bruno Tshibala as prime minister. The appointment of Tshibala was also opposed by the DRC opposition coalition, the EU and some donor countries which said it was not in line with a Dec. 31, 2016 agreement between the government and the opposition. DRC’s opposition coalition had named Felix Tshisekedi as their choice for prime minister but were ignored by President Joseph Kabila. In response to the criticism, DRC Foreign Minister Leonard Okitundu warned foreign countries against interfering in Congo’s internal affairs, saying it is an independent country. The DRC was a Belgian colony for 52 years, gaining its independence in 1960. Anadolu Agency

Ethiopia Rejects UN Investigation over Protest Deaths 
Ethiopia’s prime minister has rejected calls by the UN and EU for independent investigations into the deaths of hundreds of people during months of anti-government protests. Hailemariam Desalegn has said that Ethiopia is able to carry out the investigations itself. Protesters from the Amhara and Oromia regions have been complaining about political and economic marginalisation. The government has imposed a state of emergency in response to the protests. The country was hit by an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, which began in November 2015. BBC

“We Can’t Protest So We Pray”: Anguish in Amhara During Ethiopia’s State of Emergency
Events last August in the prominent Amhara cities of Bahir Dar (the region’s capital) and Gonder (the former historical seat of Ethiopian rule) signalled the spreading of the original Oromo protests to Ethiopia’s second most populace region. By October 9, following further disasters and unrest, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party declared a six-month state of emergency, which was extended at the end of this March for another four months. On the surface, the state of emergency’s measures including arbitrary arrests, curfews, bans on public assembly, and media and Internet restrictions appear to have been successful in Amhara. Now shops are open and streets are busy, following months when the cities were flooded with military personal, and everyday life ground to a halt as locals closed shops and businesses in a gesture of passive resistance. IPS

African Union Calls for Investigation of Genocides
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council on Monday called for an investigation, arrest, prosecution and extradition of individuals who perpetrated genocide in Africa. The Council “welcomes the efforts by those Member States, which are investigating and prosecuting individuals who were involved in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and calls upon all the other Member States, which have not yet done so, to also investigate, arrest, prosecute or extradite the genocide fugitives currently residing in their territories, including the leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR),” according to the communiqué of a March 11 meeting on preventing ideology of genocide in Africa. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where minority Tutsis were targeted in a hate propaganda. Anadolu Agency

Syria and Nigeria: Trump Faces the Limits of American Power
President Trump, inspired by TV images of faraway suffering to launch missile strikes against Syria, may be about to discover a lesson that has confounded presidents for 25 years: American power can only do so much. That truth is also embedded in another set of disturbing images that Mr. Trump has not cited publicly: those from Nigeria’s conflict-torn northeast, where a very different crisis is drawing different American action toward different ends. Those two conflicts, in both their contrasts and commonalities, reveal something of the role that Mr. Trump has taken on and its limitation. Both are humanitarian disasters whose ground-level stories horrify and enrage. And they are both crises of a sort that the United States, since emerging from the Cold War as the world’s policeman, has repeatedly tried but often failed to resolve. The New York Times

Niger’s Diffa Province Bans Motorbikes after Attacks
Motorcycles are being banned in Niger’s southeastern Diffa province after a surge in drive-by attacks by the armed group Boko Haram. The order is likely to cause problems for thousands of people whose businesses rely on them. Motorbikes are Diffa’s most common means of transportation. Al Jazeera

Amid Aid Uncertainty, U.S. Counterterrorism Cooperation Continues In Africa
Along the Chari and Logone rivers separating Cameroon from Chad’s capital, four flat-bottomed boats, mounted with machine guns, brimming with Chadian and other special forces, round the curve as they approach the riverbank. Forming an assault force, heavily armed soldiers leap out of the vessels and race up a slope to take up positions while backup forces have their machine guns at the ready. It’s all part of a military exercise that simulates going after a high-value target – a leader from the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram insurgency, who’s taken up residence in a huddle of huts on the far side of the riverfront, a terrorist safe haven. The assault force demonstrates crucial military steps before capturing and eliminating him. Three weeks of U.S.-led counterterrorism exercises, known as Flintlock 2017, ended last month in Chad, which, along with surrounding countries, has been targeted in deadly violence by Boko Haram. The Flintlock exercises take place each year in a different African country. NPR

How U.S. Drones Helped Win a Battle Against ISIS for First Time in Libya
A handful of drones controlled from the United States and a small force of offshore Marine aircraft played a decisive role in defeating Islamic State fighters in Libya last December, the most prominent example of how the U.S. military can help win a key battle from afar. The four-month air campaign to drive militants from Sirte without committing large numbers of U.S. advisers or ground forces is being studied as a model for future U.S. military efforts against the Islamic State as its fighters are ousted from Iraq and Syria and seek refuge elsewhere. The fighting in Sirte was in a densely packed city where nearly 70% of the drone missions were considered so close to friendly forces they needed special authorization. The missiles were sometimes delivered within 30 yards of local allies. “We’re literally talking almost across city streets,” Col. Case Cunningham, commander of the 432nd Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, said in a recent interview on the operation. He provided previously unreported details of the successful campaign. USA Today

Cameroonians Stage ‘Silent Protest’ to Demand Internet
Hundreds of youths on Monday quietly marched to the Cameroonian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to ask the government to reinstate internet connection in the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions. 21-year-old Ruth Tamassang, one of the protesters and a student at the university of Bamenda, told DW, the internet blackout had forced her to move to the capital Yaounde where she can do her research in preparation for her examination. “Now we live in a world that is changing, a world of news.” You have to know what is happening,” Tamassang said. Deutsche Welle

Rains Awaited in Kenya’s East to Ease Land Conflict
Herders and large-scale farmers in parts of Kenya’s Rift Valley are desperately waiting for seasonal rains to ease the prolonged drought and the current conflict over grazing land in which more than 30 people have died. Kenya’s military and police have been working for a month to disarm and drive the hundreds of herders and their animals out of ranches they’ve invaded, but their actions appear to have escalated the violence. The Laikipia Farmers Association says when the military and police drive nomadic herders from one sprawling ranch they move into another ranch. Politicians campaigning for positions in the August elections are inciting the herders to invade the ranches saying that it is their ancestral land, Martin Evans, the ranchers’ association chairman said Monday. AP

Participation in AFRICOM Meeting “Step to Remove Sudan from Terror List”: Spokesperson
The Sudanese army Monday said Sudan’s participation for the first time in the meeting of the United States Africa Command known as “AFRICOM” in Germany is a step towards removing its name from the U.S. list of states sponsors of terror and the full lift of economic sanctions. Last January, former President Barack Obama eased the 19-year economic and trade sanctions on Sudan. The decision came as a response to the collaboration of the Sudanese government on various issues including the fight against terrorism. Next June, several U.S. administration agencies will decide to confirm the decision of President Obama to permanently lift sanctions on Sudan or to maintain it. Also, Sudan was placed on the US terrorism list in 1993 over allegations it was harbouring Islamist militants working against regional and international targets. Washington admitted Sudan’s cooperation in the anti-terror war but continues to maintain the east African nation name on the list with Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Sudan Tribune

How Factions in South Sudan’s War Took Shape on British Campuses
Among the South African, Palestinian and other young exiles debating revolutionary politics on campuses across early 1980s Britain, there was little at first to mark out Riek Machar, a twentysomething student from what is now the troubled young country of South Sudan. Yet within a few years – while pursuing a philosophy PhD at Bradford – he was to establish an underground student grouping in contact with rebels in his homeland and lead a delegation to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya on behalf of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Distinguishing himself as a field commander during one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts, Machar formed a new and more personal relationship with Britain in 1991, when he married Emma McCune, a young English aid worker who subsequently died in a car accident in Kenya. Nearly three decades on, Machar, a former vice-president of South Sudan, is a rebel leader in a brutal post-independence conflict in which both insurgent and government forces have been accused of atrocities. The Guardian

South Africa’s President Dodges No-Confidence Vote
The showdown South Africans have been demanding for weeks is not likely to happen soon, as a no-confidence vote for the increasingly unpopular president has been postponed from Tuesday pending a ruling from the nation’s top court. The postponement is yet another twist in South Africa’s increasingly complicated political drama. The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) asked for the no-confidence vote, which was set for April 18, in response to President Jacob Zuma’s widely unpopular decision last month to fire a well-respected finance minister and reshuffle his Cabinet. That political upheaval prompted a major ratings agency to downgrade the nation’s sovereign credit rating, which has negatively impacted the economy. VOA

Clashes Erupt Between Tribes and ISIS Militants in Sinai
Egyptian security officials say three people have been injured in clashes between militants and local tribes in the Sinai peninsula. The officials told The Associated Press on Monday that militants from the Islamic State group launched RPG attacks on Sunday in response to the kidnapping of three of its members by local tribes. According to tribal sources, the unrest started when militants shot at a truck smuggling cigarettes into the area, where they impose a strict version of Islamic law that prohibits the sale of tobacco. The area around the city of Rafah is at the heart of an ongoing battle between militants and security forces. News 24

The Gambia: Former President Jammeh Accused of Stealing Millions
The Gambia’s new government says former president Yahya Jammeh stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the state. The government is launching an investigation and trying to get the money back. Al Jazeer’a Nicolas Haque reports from the capital Banjul.  Al Jazeera

Attention Shifts to Somalia in Bid to Protect Maritime Trade
Somalia is suddenly back in the limelight, with a number of high-level visits in the past few weeks signalling a renewed interest by the international community in the country that had been written off as a failed state. Among world figures who visited the country last month were British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutterres, and the new African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, who made Somalia his first stop only four days after taking office. In addition to the visits, Somalia is attracting fresh attention from traditional allies, as well as newcomers from the Middle East, Europe and Africa. They include the United Kingdom, former colonial power Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia as well as the African Union, and the traditional seafarers in the Indian Ocean such China, the Philippines, Japan and India. The East African

Gold Rush Fever Among Poor Zimbabweans Leaves Trail of Destruction
Thousands of unemployed Zimbabweans have turned to illegal gold panning in a bid to survive the country’s deteriorating economy, leaving a trail of destruction that has alarmed farmers, timber plantation owners and the country’s environmental authorities. Peasant miners have set up makeshift mines on farmland and timber plantations in the country’s eastern provinces, which border Mozambique where gold fetches a higher price. Deep tunnels have been dug beneath roads, railways and buildings in the Kwekwe area of the Midlands province. In some parts of Manicaland province, waterways have been diverted and roads destroyed. With more illegal miners likely to exploit the area as the economy continues to slump, and the state placing responsibility to act on landowners, farmers are fearful of irreversible damage to their land, and the risk of losing their livelihoods. Reuters

How Morocco’s King Aims to Thwart Extremist Threat
A 20-minute drive south out of central Rabat, the Mohammed VI Institute is a large complex of plush, cream-coloured buildings, sitting behind a fence. Although the luxurious premises resemble a private university, they are in fact a pillar of Moroccan religious diplomacy. The institute was opened in 2015 by the king and it is a training centre for young Islamic preachers, housing 1,200 live-in students from Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa and France. The institute’s international reach reflects its status as a major tool in Morocco’s efforts to encourage a moderate strain of Islam, not just domestically but beyond its borders. This is part of a wide-ranging strategy by Morocco and its king to counter extremism through an array of “soft” initiatives. These have included establishing a radio station, Radio Coran, which broadcasts prayers throughout the day, and even the 2015 pardoning of 37 apparently repentant Salafists serving prison sentences for terrorism-related offences. Dismissed by some as superficial, and by others as political distractions, these efforts nonetheless reflect Morocco’s determination not to fall into the kind of religion-fuelled turmoil that gripped Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring, or which saw neighbouring Algeria riven by civil conflict. The Irish Times

Spain: Cheap Laborers for Cheap Vegetables
African immigrants tend and harvest vegetables for European supermarkets under extreme conditions. They often have to work in the plastic greenhouses where the produce grows. They sleep next to the farms in plastic tents, with no electricity or running water. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones