Africa Media Review for April 19, 2017

Report: 669 Killed in Ethiopia Violence Since August
Almost 700 people have been killed during violence in Ethiopia since August 2016, a government-sponsored commission has said, bringing the total death toll since the unrest began in late 2015 to more than 900. Ethiopia declared six months of emergency rule in October after almost a year of anti-government violent protests in its Oromia, Amhara and SNNP regions. In March, the measure was extended by four months amid reports of continuing violence in some remote areas. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission – mandated by parliament to investigate the violence – presented its long-awaited findings on Tuesday. The commission blamed a lot of the violence on opposition groups, saying that security forces in some places had no choice but to respond with lethal force. Al Jazeera

Another 17 Mass Graves Found in Central Congo, UN Says
Investigators have confirmed another 17 mass graves in central Congo, bringing the number to 40 discovered since clashes between soldiers and a local militia intensified in August, the United Nations human rights office said Wednesday, adding that Congolese soldiers reportedly killed at least 114 people, including 41 children. The recent violence in once-calm Central Kasai province has included the killing of an American and a Swedish investigator for the U.N. last month, alarming the international community. U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned Wednesday that if Congo’s government doesn’t investigate the violence effectively, he’ll urge that the International Criminal Court or another outside entity do it. The new U.N. statement said Congolese soldiers reportedly dug the 17 newly discovered mass graves after fighting with suspected militia members in late March and killing at least 74 people, including 30 children. AP

DRC: A Tale of Two Corpses
In the refrigerator of a Brussels mortuary lies the corpse of Etienne Tshisekedi. The veteran Congolese opposition leader was 84 when he died in a hospital in February; nearly three months later, his body is yet to return home. Somehow – perhaps unsurprisingly, given his long involvement in Congolese politics – the fate of Tshisekedi’s body has become embroiled in the fate of the country he so desperately wanted to lead. “Tshisekedi’s death was a shock and a surprise and has completely changed the political game in the DRC,” said Stephanie Wolters, an analyst from the Institute for Security Studies. Just weeks before his death, Tshisekedi had helped to negotiate a deal with the government. Brokered by the Catholic church, the deal was a good solution to the country’s political impasse. It provided for new elections to be held before the end of 2017; for President Joseph Kabila to finally step down, and for a transitional government to rule until then. Kabila would remain president during the transition, with a politician from the opposition Rassemblement coalition selected to run the government as Prime Minister. Daily Maverick

Controversial DR Congo Police Chief Sacked, Replaced by Assistant
The head of police in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) capital Kinshasa, General Celestin Kanyama has been sacked. He has been replaced by his assistant, Colonel Palanga Nawej, the Congolese police said in a statement on Monday. “Colonel Elvis Palanga Nawej has been appointed acting provincial Commissioner of the Congolese National Police for Kinshasa,” the statement signed by police spokesperson Colonel Pierre-Rombaut Mwanamputu said without stating details. The reason for his sack is not yet known. General Kanyama was sanctioned by the United States last year for his role in acts of violence and kidnappings targeting civilians, women and children. Africa News

UN: Burundi Militia Waging Campaign of Terror 
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights says he is alarmed by a growing, widespread campaign of terror in Burundi being waged by government-backed militia against opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party. The U.N. human rights office says a chilling video circulating on social media has laid bare the horrifying and alarming nature of the campaign of terror. Rupert Colville, spokesman for High Commissioner Zeid Ra-ad al-Hussein, says the video shows more than 100 members of the Imbonerakure, the government’s youth wing, inciting violence. He says the young men are heard calling for opponents to be impregnated so they can give birth to Imbonerakure or for them to be killed. VOA

Watchdog Says Sudan May Have Violated Arms Embargo
The Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir may have violated U.N. sanctions on arms sales with Iran and also skirted a European Union embargo, a weapons-monitoring group said Wednesday. The report by Conflict Armament Research says a cache captured from the Khartoum government forces may contain evidence of those violations. The London-based watchdog said the weapons were captured in the contested Blue Nile region by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, which has been battling government forces. According to the report, the weapons include an Iranian howitzer artillery gun and tanks refurbished by the Sanam Industrial Group, an Iranian government-affiliated company that was placed under sanctions in 2007 when the U.N. Security Council banned heavy weapons exports from Iran. However, the date of the acquisition of the weapons remains unknown — hence it’s unclear if any violations actually took place. AP

We Did Not Bomb al Shabaab Fighters in Somalia, Says US after ‘False Reports’
The United States has denied conducting air strikes in southwest Somalia on April 14, 2017. Several social media platforms and websites had reported that US military conducted air strikes in Somalia. The Chicago Tribune said the US military sent dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades. But in a statement on Tuesday, the US Africa Command said it did not conduct air strikes on Somalia. “The US military did not conduct any kind of kinetic action in that area during the time frame referenced. The most recent US strike in Somalia was conducted in January, 2017,” the command said. They said Washington routinely works with allies and partners in coordinated efforts to address regional security and stability matters. The Nairobi Star

Nigeria: Army Operation Frees 1,600 from Boko Haram
The Nigerian army has freed over 1,600 persons from Boko Haram hideouts in the northeast region, killing at least 21 militants in the operation, the military announced. Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Sani Usman said the operation late Monday followed a tip-off by residents that militants were holding them hostage in the Kala Balge area of Borno state. “During the operation, the troops neutralized 21 Boko Haram terrorists and rescued 1,623 residents of Jarawa who were held captives by the terrorists,” said the statement, adding that various weapons were also seized. “While advancing, the troops came under heavy fire at the village of Jarawa. The troops responded decisively and went on to clear the Deima, Artano, Saduguma, Duve, Bardo, Kala, Bok, Msherde and Ahirde settlements,” the army said. Anadolu Agency

French, Mali Forces Kill 12 Extremists after Attack on Army
French and Malian armed forces killed at least a dozen Islamic extremists who attacked an army camp in northern Mali Tuesday, killing at least four soldiers and wounding another, according to a statement by the French Operation Barkhane. The attack on the army camp in Gourma-Rharous, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Timbuktu, also destroyed a half-dozen vehicles, army spokesman Lt. Col. Diarran Kone said. French air forces, alerted by Mali’s army, responded as the assailants fled in two pick-ups, according to the Operation Barkhane statement. The town has been targeted regularly by Islamic extremists. The recently formed extremist group Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen claimed responsibility for an attack on Malian forces in Tagharost, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Timbuktu, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors online extremist activities. The extremist group said it staged a similar attack there, storming elite force barracks and taking vehicles. AP

Islamic State Claims Attack on Egypt Police Checkpoint
The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint near the famed Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai late Tuesday which authorities said killed one policeman and wounded four. The militants opened fire from an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint just outside the monastery, which is located in a remote desert and mountainous area in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, according to a statement by the Interior Ministry. After an exchange of gunfire, the attackers fled the scene, the ministry said, adding that some of the gunmen were wounded in the shootout. No further details were immediately available. According to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online activity of militants, the IS-affiliated Amaq news agency announced that the group’s militants carried out the attack near Saint Catherine. This is the first time the IS has attacked a monastery. AP

AU Chief Urges African Leaders to Cut Ties with France
Guinea’s president, who also serves as African Union (AU) chairman, has called on African countries to “cut the umbilical chord with France” so as to initiate the continent’s development. Speaking at the 12th International Salon of Agriculture, held in Morocco’s northern city of Meknes late Monday, Alpha Conde harshly criticized western countries — singling out France in particular — for what he described as their policy of interfering in African domestic affairs. “Western countries should no longer dictate what we should do,” he said, going on to assert: “Africa must define its own path to development.” “No one should decide for Africa,” he said. “It is true that there are universal principles governing democracy, but it is important to allow African countries adapt these principles to their conditions.” Anadolu Agency

Nearly 9,000 Migrants Rescued in Mediterranean over Weekend – IOM
Nearly 9,000 mainly African migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this past long weekend after being put by smugglers in Libya onto unseaworthy boats heading toward Italy, U.N. aid agencies said on Tuesday. The migrants, many from Nigeria and Senegal with some from Bangladesh, are among an estimated 20,000 held by criminal gangs in irregular detention centres in Libya, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said. On release, they pay to board the overcrowded boats, often just inflated rubber vessels that could not cross the Mediterranean, in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. “It is obvious that better spring weather has encouraged smugglers to take people from their detention centres,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle told a news briefing in Geneva. Reuters

Libya Fishermen Find 28 Dead Migrants in Boat Offshore: Official 
Libyan fishermen found the bodies of 28 illegal migrants who appeared to have died of thirst and hunger after their boat broke down off the coast of Sabratha city, a ministry of interior official said on Tuesday. Since Libya fell into chaos after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, the North African country is the main departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe by sea. More than 150,000 have made the crossing to Italy annually over the past three years. Interior Ministry security unit commander Ahmaida Khalifa Amsalam told Reuters the 28 migrants, including four women, had been found after sunset by the fishermen who towed the vessel to shore. The victims were buried together in a cemetery for illegal migrants, he said. Reuters

Drought Drives Kenyan Pastoralists into Uganda
As many as 10,000 Kenyan pastoralists have crossed the border from Turkana in Kenya to Uganda in search of pasture and water for their cattle. Josephat Nanok, governor of Kenya’s Turkana County, confirmed their departure and urged Uganda to accommodate them, The Monitor in Kampala reported. This latest exodus means that a total of 60,000 Turkana pastoralists and 127,000 livestock have moved to Uganda’s Karamjoa sub-region over the last seven days. One Turkana pastoralist said they had fled to Karamoja because, unlike Turkana, it still had some shrubs and bushes which could serve as food for the cattle. Deutsch Welle

New Ghana Government Says it Fulfilled over 100 Promises in First 100 Days
The President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led government of Ghana boasts of fulfilling over a hundred campaign promises in the first 100 days of its tenure since it won the December 7 elections last year. The “achievements” were highlighted by the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia at a town hall event in the capital Accra on Easter Monday organised by local television station Joy News. Dr Bawumia mentioned 103 mostly economic feats including: re-profiling Ghana public debt, boost of gross international reserves from $6 billion $8 billion, tax exemptions, abolishment of excise duty on petroleum, VAT on domestic airline tickets, real estate sales among others. “We did not make any promises for 100 days, we made promises for what we wanted to deliver to Ghana during our term in office. Notwithstanding (…) we can can point to some significant achievements in these last 100 days,” he said.  Africa News

MSF: Violence Against Civilians is Surging in CAR
Some 100,000 people have been displaced since September. “Violence against civilians in Central African Republic, including summary executions and mutilations, is reaching levels not seen since the height of its years-long conflict, Doctors Without Borders said.The country descended into chaos when a mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance ousted then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking reprisals from Christian militias. Religion has played a waning role as splinter groups now clash over control of territory and resources. UN Dispatch

Burkina Faso Police Stage Nationwide Protest over Corruption
Burkina Faso police have staged a nationwide protest, calling it the first in a series of peaceful demonstrations against corruption and a lack of transparency among their leaders. One protest leader, Patrice Sanou, on Tuesday said more protests will follow. Tensions have grown within Burkina Faso’s police forces in recent months. The police union has warned authorities about unfair treatment and pay among those guarding private buildings including banks, mining companies and hotels. The union is asking for the written contracts with companies who hire the police. The recent rise in fears over extremist attacks in the region is another source of pressure on police in this West African nation. AP

Cameroon Internet Shutdown Inspires Punitive Proposal Targeting African Governments
The punitive measures have been inspired by a three-month shutdown in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions that the authorities have imposed following a series of protests and demonstrations. The plan by some internet service providers would restrict African governments’ access to internet resources if they stop their citizens from accessing the web. Authors of the proposal hope the idea will inspire more debate on censure of the World Wide Web in Africa and how to prevent it. Various discussions on this text will take place before a meeting of the regional internet registry body, Afrinic, at the end of May when the policy could be adopted. RFI

Russia Interested in Oil and Gas Opportunities in Senegal
Russia has an opportunity to foster a better trade relationship with Senegal, an emerging West African oil producer, the Russian foreign minister said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted his Senegalese counterpart, Mankeur Ndiaye, at his Moscow office to discuss opportunities in the energy sector. “Our trade and economic cooperation has been on the rise, our companies have been looking at a number of promising projects in Senegal, including those in the oil and gas industry, ship-building and fishing sectors,” the Russia foreign minister was quoted by state news agency Tass as saying. Russian interest in Senegal follows a March decision by the British subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. to outline areas of mutual interest offshore Gambia and Senegal with Australian energy company FAR Ltd. UPI

WHO Reports ‘Record-breaking’ Progress in Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that unprecedented progress had been made in tackling many of the world’s most disfiguring and disabling neglected tropical diseases over the past 10 years. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said there has been “record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees.” About 1.5 billion people in 149 countries, down from 1.9 billion in 2010, are affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTD), a group of 18 disorders that disproportionately affect the very poor. In 2007, the WHO and a group of global partners devised a strategy for better tackling and controlling NTDs. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones