Africa Media Review for April 21, 2017

The Internet Shutdown in English-Speaking Parts of Cameroon is Finally Over
After a 93-day blackout, internet service has been restored to English-speaking regions in Cameroon. President Paul Biya ordered the restoration of internet services in the northwest and southwest regions of the country today (April 20), BBC reports. Internet services had been cut off in both regions in January after protests against political and economic discrimination by the country’s French-dominated government. The government achieved the shutdown by pressuring mobile operators and did not give any prior notice before cutting off the internet services. A bilingual country in theory, Cameroon’s government and institutions are dominated by the French-speaking majority. Anglophone regions account for slightly less than 20% of Cameroon’s 23 million population. Quartz

UN May Ask ICC to Probe DRC Mass Graves
UN investigators have confirmed the discovery of another 17 mass graves in central DRC, prompting the world body’s top human rights official to raise the prospect of action by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The announcement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of the discovery of a further 17 mass graves in Kasai Central province in the Democratic Republic of Congo brings the number of such sites recorded by UN investigators to 40. Fifteen of the newly uncovered graves were in a cemetery in the town of Tshimbulu, while two others were located in the village of Tshienke, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR). Deutsche Welle

Now Is Not the Time for the UN to Run from the DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will only have successful elections if the United Nations (UN) maintains its strong presence in the country. UN infrastructure and personnel are vital for a credible poll. In 2006, for example, the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco) played a pivotal role in organising and supervising the presidential and provincial elections. Before the 2011 elections, the UN was instrumental in creating space for freedom of political expression and association. Few other civilian institutions within the DRC can match the UN’s contingent of 22 016 uniformed personnel. These officers have the capacity to prevent violence and facilitate a peaceful election. Mail and Guardian

DRC: Repatriation of South Sudan Ex-Rebels Begins
The process of repatriation of South Sudanese ex-rebels living at camps in DRC has kicked off, a UN radio in DRC said Thursday. As many as 520 South Sudanese former rebels have been confined since September 2016 to the camps of MUNSCO, UN peacekeeping mission, in Munigi, North Kivu province. “So far 8 ex-rebels have voluntarily been repatriated to South Sudan in an exercise that started on Sunday and it will continue until all are repatriated,” a security officer in North Kivu, Lt. Paul Kasamba told Anadolu. Their repatriation has been supervised by a tripartite mission composed of representatives of MONUSCO, the Congolese government and the South Sudanese government. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan Fighting Forces 100,000 to Flee, Says UN Report
A South Sudanese government offensive in the Jonglei region has displaced roughly 100,000 civilians, the United Nations said Thursday, causing aid workers to relocate from an area that has dire humanitarian problems. A report from the U.N’s office of humanitarian affairs said that fighting in the Waat and Walgak areas last week caused scores of thousands of civilians to flee, as well as 60 aid workers. The U.N. warned the government offensive may exacerbate food insecurity in the Jonglei region, which has some areas that are on the brink of famine. Food drops in one area of Jonglei have been suspended as a result of the fighting, the U.N. said. AP

Pentagon Chief Pledges Support for Egypt’s Sisi
US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and top brass in Cairo on Thursday, pledging support for the American ally on his first regional tour. The brief visit, with Mattis later setting off to Israel, came after Sisi hit it off with Trump during a White House meeting earlier this month. Sisi’s visit marked a shift in relations after Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had given the Egyptian leader the cold shoulder for leading the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt following a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters. AFP

Egypt Says Air Strikes kill Islamic State Leaders in Sinai
Air strikes in northern Sinai have killed 19 members of Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, including three of its leaders, the Egyptian military said on Thursday. Islamic State this week claimed an attack on security forces near St. Catherine’s Monastery in the south Sinai, the latest incident in a spate of Islamist violence targeting Egypt’s Christian minority in recent months. Egypt is tightening security ahead of a visit by Pope Francis next week as a result of suicide bombings this month on two Christian churches, also claimed by Islamic State, that marked one of the bloodiest days for the country’s Christians in decades. Reuters

Egypt Army Says Kills 19 Extremists in Sinai
The Egyptian military says its air force has killed 19 Islamic extremists in the volatile Sinai Peninsula. It says in a statement on Thursday that the strikes in northern and central Sinai on “terrorist strongholds” of the local Islamic State group affiliate also destroyed four vehicles. The announcement comes a day after police said they killed one of the militants involved in an attack on a checkpoint that killed a policeman near south Sinai’s famed Saint Catherine’s Monastery earlier this week. News 24

Video Appears to Show Egyptian Soldiers Killing Unarmed Men in Sinai
A video has emerged that appears to show members of the Egyptian military shooting unarmed detainees to death at point-blank range in the Sinai Peninsula and staging the killings to look as if they had happened in combat. The leaked video, which was posted on social media on Thursday, could undercut claims made by the Egyptian Army in December that the men were suspected terrorists who died in a fight with the military. The video was released the same day that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met in Egypt with its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to discuss improving their countries’ military relationship. It also comes after human rights groups accused the Egyptian military of killing up to 10 men in January in a staged counterterrorism raid in Sinai. The New York Times

Khartoum, Cairo Agree to Deescalate Diplomatic Row 
Sudan and Egypt have agreed to work on easing a diplomatic row that in recent weeks had soured relations between the two neighbors. The agreement came out of a Thursday meeting in Khartoum between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri and Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour. Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, Shokri told reporters that mounting political tensions had led to a “media war that has negatively affected relations between our two countries”. “We are keen to end this [media war] and work with the Sudanese side to maintain good relations and overcome any misunderstandings,” he added. Ghandour, for his part, criticized recent anti-Sudan sentiments in the Egyptian media, which he said had reached “unacceptable levels”. Anadolu Agency

Trump Says he Does Not See Expanded Role for U.S. in Libya Beyond ISIS Fight
President Trump on Thursday reaffirmed his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal and pledged not to expand the United States’ role in Libya beyond fighting the Islamic State. At a time when several of the president’s stances on foreign affairs appear to be shifting, the dual comments represent a fidelity with some of the national security positions Trump staked out during the campaign, many of which were aimed at projecting military strength through a buildup of the armed forces while promising a more limited U.S. role in foreign conflicts. Speaking at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump bluntly declared that he saw “no role” for the United States in stabilizing Libya, except in fighting the Islamic State. AP

The World Food Program Needs $961 Million to Avert 20 Million Deaths From Famine
The statistics are only getting worse. Nearly 20 million people across four countries are currently at risk of famine. This includes 1.6 million children who are already considered “severely malnourished.” If food does not arrive soon, the numbers of deaths across Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northern Nigeria will soon begin to skyrocket. The world may stumble into the worst mass death event since World War Two. “It is a famine if 20% of the people are starving, 30% of children under 5 are suffering severe malnutrition and death rates are two per 10,000,” says Arif Husain, Chief Economist of the UN World Food Program. Parts of South Sudan have already crossed that threshold. Elsewhere in South Sudan and parts of those other three countries are on the precipice. UN Dispatch

Another Anti-Zuma Demonstration to be Held on Freedom Day
Opposition parties, religious leaders and civil society will gather on Freedom Day to protest against President Jacob Zuma. They announced this at the launch of the “Freedom Movement” at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto on Thursday. “Under President Jacob Zuma the foundations of our constitutional democracy are under severe and sustained threat,” said political analyst and member of the Midrand Group Prince Mashele. The demonstration will be held at Freedom Park in Pretoria on April 27. News 24

Zambia Court to Rule on Opposition Leader’s Treason Case Next Week
A Zambian court will rule next week on whether to throw out a treason case against the leader of the main opposition party whose lawyers say the charges are vague and ambiguous, a magistrate said on Thursday. United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested last week in a police raid on his home and charged with trying to overthrow the government. His lawyers asked the court on Wednesday to dismiss the case, saying the charges were not specific. Magistrate Greenwell Malumani said he needed time to decide whether to dismiss the treason charge and consider other preliminary issues that had been raised by the defence. Reuters

Zambian President Lungu Says He May Declare State of Emergency
Zambia’s president said he may declare a state of emergency in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer because of turmoil following the arrest of the nation’s main opposition leader on treason charges. “Why are they burning markets? Why are they burning court houses? Why are they burning government buildings?” Edgar Lungu said in a speech in Livingstone, southern Zambia, that was broadcast on his Facebook page. “If you force us to call a state of emergency we will go that way.” Political tensions have been high since Zambia’s general elections last year, the outcome of which was disputed by the opposition. They escalated further with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s April 12 arrest, which took place after a convoy he was traveling in failed to pull off the road for Lungu’s motorcade. Bloomberg

Thousands protest in Tunisia to demand jobs
Thousands protested in northeastern Tunisia on Thursday to mark a general strike over unemployment and poverty, six years since a revolution ignited by similar grievances. Demonstrators gathered at the local branch of the powerful UGTT trade union in Kef, 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of Tunis, before marching down the main streets. “Work, freedom, dignity!” they shouted. “Kef has the right to development!” They denounced the government over “broken promises” to develop the region. “This demonstration and strike are important, raising a cry of anger in the face of a situation that cannot last,” teacher Rached Salhi said. Al Arabiya

In Somalia It’s a Race Against Time for AFRICOM-Backed Troops
Time is running out to prepare Somalia’s fledgling army to lead the fight against the militant group al-Shabab, which could eventually overwhelm local forces if their capabilities aren’t quickly improved, the commander of the African Union’s military mission in Somalia said Thursday. “I am afraid they (the Somali army) are not ready to take over the security right now,” said Lt. Gen. Osman Nour Soubagleh from Djibouiti, who leads a multinational African force known as AMISOM. “In two years we have to prepare them. The time is very short.”  U.S. Africa Command wrapped up two days of talks in Stuttgart Thursday with about 40 African chiefs of defense, where leaders discussed a range of threats facing the continent. A key focus was Somalia and the looming withdrawal of African Union forces who are set to begin their drawdown in 2018. Stars and Stripes

Kenya Leader Warns Against Violence as Poll Fever Hits
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned Thursday against violence as election season gets into full swing, with chaotic party primaries already leading to bloody scuffles. East Africa’s largest economy holds a general election on August 8, a decade after disputed polls fuelled violence that left more than 1,100 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. “As a party, we will not tolerate violence. As president, I will also not tolerate violence and anybody who engages in acts of violence will be dealt with in accordance with the law, irrespective of who they are,” Kenyatta told a press conference in Nairobi. AFP

US to Continue Training Regional Troops Against Lord’s Resistance Army
The United States said on Thursday it would maintain training for east and central African regional forces to prevent warlord Joseph Kony’s rebels from regrouping, despite plans to pull troops from operations hunting the insurgents. About 100 U.S. military personnel have been providing a regional force made up of soldiers from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic with intelligence, logistics and other support to track Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The rebel leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Last month, Washington announced that it was pulling its contingent out of operations against the LRA, saying the insurgent force had been “dramatically weakened.” VOA

Five Years Later, State Authorities Return to Northern Mali
Mali restored interim authorities to its northern cities of Timbuktu and Menaka Thursday, ending a standoff with armed Tuareg factions that had prevented the transfer of power. The return of state authority is meant to fill a power vacuum that has turned northern Mali into a launch pad for jihadi attacks across a vast region on the Sahara Desert. Most government posts have been unfilled since ethnic Tuareg separatists and desert jihadists took over northern Mali in 2012, before French forces intervened to push them back. A peace deal signed in 2015 was meant to enable authorities to return. Pro- and anti-government Tuareg-dominated factions finally agreed in February how this would happen, after months of arguments over how the authorities should be constituted. VOA

Wildlife Groups Want Giraffes Added To Endangered Species List
With its spindly legs, distinctive patterning, and absurdly long neck, the giraffe makes a compelling figure on the savanna. But the population of the world’s tallest mammal has dropped sharply in recent decades – from about 150,000 in 1985, to fewer than 100,000 today. That decline prompted five wildlife groups to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday to classify the giraffe as an endangered species. They say the giraffe is facing increasing threats from habitat loss, illegal hunting for bush meat and an international trade in trophies and bone carvings. Giraffes aren’t native to the U.S., but FWS classifies foreign species, too. There are a few ways the U.S. classification could help the giraffe population rebound in Africa, says Jeffrey Flocken, regional director for International Fund for Animal Welfare, one of the groups behind the petition. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones