Africa Media Review for April 18, 2018

Thousands Flee as Inter-Communal Violence Heats up in Mali
A spike in inter-communal violence in central Mali has sent about 3,000 people fleeing to Burkina Faso over the past few weeks, the U.N. refugee agency reports. Since February, dozens of people have been killed and homes and other property destroyed as clashes between the Dogon and Peul communities have increased, according to the U.N. agency. “The new arrivals in Burkina Faso include 2,000 Malian citizens, as well as 1,000 Burkinabe who had been living in Mali for many years,” said UNHCR spokesman William Spindler. “With many afraid to travel by road, for fear of kidnappings and murder, they arrived via unofficial border crossings, on foot or in light vehicles. The new displacement adds to the challenges faced by people of the region.”  VOA

South Sudan Peace Talks Postponed
The next round of the South Sudan peace talks has been adjourned to next month, the monitoring agency said. The talks in Addis Ababa were scheduled to begin on April 26 to April 30. However, the regional bloc’s Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said there was a need for more time for consultations among the parties involved. A delegation of JMEC has been in Juba since last Saturday, meeting with the parties to the conflict and other stakeholders. The East African

200 Child Soldiers Freed in S. Sudan, but Problem Continues
More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, part of a series of releases that will see almost 1,000 children freed in the coming months. An estimated 19,000 children are believed to be in armed forces amid the country’s 5-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. South Sudan has one of the highest numbers of child soldiers in the world, according to the U.N. At the “laying down of the guns” ceremony, 112 boys and 95 girls were returned to their families in areas outside the town of Yambio on Tuesday. It was the first community release of child soldiers where children were directly reunited with their parents and siblings instead of first going to institutions.  AP

Egypt’s Military Says IS Leader in Sinai Killed in Shootout
Egypt’s military says its forces have killed a man they identified as the leader of the Islamic State group in the restive Sinai Peninsula. Col. Tamer el-Rifai, a military spokesman, says in a Wednesday statement that Naser Abou Zaqoul has been killed in a shootout with troops in central Sinai. He did not elaborate. The news came just days after the military said eight soldiers were killed and 15 wounded when militants wearing explosive belts blew themselves up as they tried to infiltrate a military base in central Sinai.  AP

Somalia Army Kills 30 Al-Shabab Militants in Fighting
Somalia National Army (SNA) said Tuesday its forces killed 30 al-Shabab militants in security operation in Hiiraan region of central Somalia. Army Spokesperson in Hiiraan region, Mohamed Noor Agajof said the SNA forces also recovered military equipment from the insurgents following a fierce gunfight with the terrorist group. “We killed about 30 al-Shabab fighters and our forces captured areas from al-Shabab.” Agajof said, “the fighting occurred in areas along the road linking Beledweyne town to Mataban and Mahas.” “We also recovered weapons and liberated other key locations from the terrorists,” he added without stating there number of casualties on the SNA or civilians during the military operations in the central region. Xinhua

Al-Qaeda Attacks in Somalia Scuttle Africa’s Plan to Withdraw
African troops battling an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia for the past decade stand little chance of withdrawing by their deadline in two years as the government remains fragile and a spike in militant violence has drawn in U.S. forces. The longest-running African Union peacekeeping mission, known as Amisom, operates in a shattered country whose lawlessness has bred regional violence — al-Shabaab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti — and piracy that plagued global shipping in the early 2000s. Over the past year, the U.S. has boosted its cooperation with the Somali army, targeting al-Shabaab and an Islamic State faction. The U.S. Africa Command said al-Shabaab controls about a fifth of Somalia, mainly in the south. Bloomberg

Sudan Amnesty Suggests Bashir Presidential Run in 2020
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s decision last week to release all the nation’s political detainees can be seen as a possible indication of plans to contest 2020 elections. At the time, Sudan’s official SUNA news agency said the amnesty would help foster “political and social dialogue” between the country’s rival political camps and contribute to an “atmosphere of harmony”. In 2014, al-Bashir launched a national dialogue initiative that went on for two years. While some political groups and rebel movements boycotted the talks, a number of others participated. In a move ostensibly aimed at fostering “national unity”, al-Bashir last Tuesday responded to calls by dialogue participants to release all of Sudan’s political detainees. Anadolu Agency

15 Countries Participate in ‘African Lion Manoeuvres’ in Morocco
The Moroccan-US joint military training, known as the African Lion Manoeuvres 2018, have been launched in Morocco under the orders of King Mohammed VI and will continue until April 29. A statement which has been issued by the General Command of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces on Tuesday said that “Military units and observers from 15 countries representing Africa, Europe and North America are participating in the 15th session of these military trainings. The matter concerns Germany, Canada, Spain, France, UK, Greece, Italy, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia, as well as the United States of America and the Kingdom of Morocco.” The statement explained that “The military training will include ground, air, airborne and tactical simulations trainings.”  Middle East Eye

Angolan Activist to Be Tried in Camera for Graft Story
Outspoken Angolan human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais will be tried in camera for a story he wrote two years ago exposing alleged corruption, he said Monday. The charges relate to a story that Marques wrote in 2016 about a purchase of land by former attorney general Joao Maria de Sousa. A court hearing on Monday was adjourned until April 24 after de Souza’s lawyers argued that as a former attorney general he had special privileges. “The court said the trial cannot be held in the court of law and must be held in the office of the attorney general, so they moved the trial to the 24th (of April) and it will be held in camera,” Marques told AFP. AFP

Rights Group: African Migrants Face Rape, Abuse in Yemen
African migrants who were detained in war-torn Yemen have described horrific abuses, including the rape of women and boys, at the hands of local security forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, an international rights group said Tuesday. Migrants from the Horn of Africa continue to travel to Yemen en route to jobs in the oil-rich Gulf despite the three-year civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-linked Houthi rebels. Human Rights Watch says security forces linked to the UAE, which is a leading member of the coalition, have systematically abused women and children before forcing them to return to their countries of origin and preventing access to aid agencies. “The crisis in Yemen provides zero justification for this cruelty and brutality, and the Yemeni government should put a stop to it and hold those responsible to account,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at HRW. AP

Ivory Coast’s Ruling Coalition Agrees to Form Single Party
Six political parties that make up Ivory Coast’s ruling coalition have agreed to form a single party as the West African nation prepares for 2020 presidential elections. The parties that signed the accord on Monday include President Alassane Ouattara’s Rally of the Republicans and the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, led by ex-President Henri Konan Bedie, which ruled the country from independence until a 1999 coup, according to an emailed statement. The new party will be called Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace, the same name as the current coalition that’s been named after the country’s founding father, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Bloomberg

Liberian President Weah Orders Probe of Exxon’s 2013 Oil Deal
Liberian President George Weah ordered a probe into Exxon Mobil Corp.’s 2013 deal for drilling rights off the coast of the West African nation, according to his office. The investigation follows last month’s report by campaign-group Global Witness that Exxon purchased the rights despite knowing that the block was suspected of being partially owned by Liberian individuals who may have illegally granted it to themselves while holding public office. Exxon did voice concerns over the history of the oil block but eventually structured a deal to purchase its stake from Canadian Overseas Petroleum Ltd., a partner in the asset, rather than directly from Liberian companies, Global Witness said. Bloomberg

Liberia: Hostile Environment Puts Journalists at Risk
A local reporter dead, a BBC correspondent fleeing the country and a six-figure lawsuit against a government-critical paper — journalists in Liberia fear an atmosphere of intimidation. Press freedom in Liberia has become increasingly vulnerable, local journalists claim, following a spate of attacks on the media that have stepped up security concerns and fears of self-censorship. The body of journalist Tyron Brown turned up in front of his house in Monrovia in the early hours of Monday, according to local media, sparking fears from mourning colleagues that they can no longer operate “fearlessly”. Emmanuel David, who worked with Brown at Super FM radio station, said the situation was scary for young journalists such as himself. Deutsche Welle

Despite No Deal with African Countries, Israel Still Tells Asylum Seekers to Leave for Uganda or Rwanda
A special envoy to Uganda returned Sunday night without signing an agreement to deport asylum seekers there, Israel informed the High Court of Justice on Monday. Consequently, it said, all asylum seekers who had been jailed because they refused to be deported to Uganda were released from prison on Sunday. However, despite the fact that the High Court of Justice has frozen the deportations because the government hasn’t managed to sign an agreement with any third country willing to take involuntary deportees, the state has continued conducting pre-deportation proceedings against asylum seekers. Haaretz

Taiwan Works to Keep Tiny Swaziland on Its Side
Taiwan’s new president makes her first trip to Africa this week to visit one of the island’s two remaining allies on the continent. Support for Taiwan has diminished in Africa over the past decade, as billions of dollars in Chinese investment have flowed into the continent. But the tiny African kingdom of Swaziland says it welcomes Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, as she makes her first visit to the landlocked kingdom that is one of Taiwan’s oldest allies. Jennifer Neves, Swaziland’s undersecretary for international cooperation in the foreign ministry, spoke to VOA on Tuesday as she headed to the airport to receive Tsai for the four-day visit. VOA

Kenya’s Empty Nets: How Cheap Chinese Fish Imports Have Hooked Buyers
With nets in hand and the boat’s motor chugging along on still waters, dozens of fishermen set out to Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, at the crack of dawn. It’s a scene that’s been repeated for generations. Fishing is the mainstay of lake-side communities in Kenya. It has fueled the economy and provided employment for decades, but these days overfishing, a lack of infrastructure and cheap Chinese imports have hit the industry hard. “In the last 20 to 30 years, perch and tilapia catches have declined 60% to 80% throughout this region,” said Joseph Rehmann, co-founder and CEO of Victory Farms. At the same time Kenya’s population has roughly doubled to nearly 50 million. CNN

Cameroon’s Douala Airport Told to Shut down by Regulator
The airport of Cameroon’s port city, Douala, has been told to shut down by the International Civil Aviation Organization because of the poor state of its runways and a general lack of maintenance, according to airport authorities. Complaints by 15 airlines, including Air France and Turkish Airlines, about the condition of the Douala airport prompted an audit by ICAO inspectors earlier this month. The document cites, among other issues, runways in need of repair, poor maintenance of computer equipment and the location of the facility, which is close to residential areas. “We have forwarded the ICAO order to the government and precisely the Ministry of Transport, under whose authority the airport is operated,” Thomas Owona Assoumou, managing director of the Airport Authority of Cameroon, said Tuesday, without giving further details. Bloomberg

Ethiopia Overtakes Ghana as Fastest-Growing African Economy – IMF
Ghana has lost its mantle as the African economy likely to grow the quickest this year to Ethiopia, which has held the position for most of the past decade, International Monetary Fund data showed. West Africa’s second-biggest economy should expand 6.3 percent this year, the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook released Tuesday. That’s lower than the 8.9 percent forecast in October, and is also less than the raised 7.4 percent estimate for Ivory Coast and the prediction for Ethiopia, which was held at 8.5 percent. Commodities including oil, gold and cocoa are the mainstay of Ghana’s $43 billion economy, which surged 8.5 percent last year as the Sankofa crude field started up in May. Ethiopia, whose gross domestic product is almost double Ghana’s, has drawn investors including General Electric Co., Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group and hundreds of Chinese companies. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones