Africa Media Review for April 24, 2017

Pentagon Warns Ships as Pirates Again Prowl Waters Off Somalia
Commercial ships must once again shore up their defenses against forced boardings at sea, United States Defense Department officials said on Sunday, warning that Somali pirates are returning to waters off East Africa after five years of calm. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that while he was not calling for a response yet from the United States Navy, a half-dozen pirate attacks on commercial ships off the coast of Somalia in the past eight weeks meant that civilian mariners and shipping companies must again be on high alert. American military commanders at the Pentagon’s sole semipermanent base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier in neighboring Djibouti, have been monitoring the attacks. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of the United States Africa Command, said drought and famine in Somalia are probably behind the recent spike in attacks, in which pirates have boarded commercial ships and seized food and oil. The New York Times

Pentagon Chief Visits Djibouti, Sole US Base in Africa
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has visited Djibouti, the tiny east African nation that is home to the United States’ only military base on the continent, in his sweeping tour of the Middle East and Horn of Africa. Mattis called Djibouti, located on the Bab el-Maned strait, an “important geographic crossroads.” Dozens of commercial and military ships travel through the strategic strip of water every day, and the deep Djiboutian port on the strait is used by the U.S. and French navies and about 10 other nations, according to a U.S. official. In addition to speaking with French and U.S. troops at Camp Lemonnier on Sunday, Mattis met with the Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Minister of Defense Ali Hasan Bahdon. VOA

Roadside Bomb Kills Six Soldiers in Somalia’s Puntland
A military vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region on Sunday, killing at least six soldiers and wounding another eight. The al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened on the outskirts of the region’s port city of Bosasso. Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the Horn of Africa country’s Western-backed government and wants to rule the country according to its strict version of Islamic sharia law. It also wants to drive out of Somalia Africa Union peace keeping force AMISOM that helps defend the country’s central government. Al Jazeera

DR Congo’s Veteran Opposition Chief Will Be Buried at Party’s Headquarters
The body of veteran Congolese opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, is expected back in the country on May 12. According to reports, when his remains arrive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) he is to be buried at the headquarters of the party he led till his demise. Family and members of the party had their way with the burial at the UDPS offices in Kinshasa. Authorities in the capital had proposed that he be buried at the Gombe cemetery in the city centre instead. Initial information stated that the return of his remains was scheduled for March 11, it followed a call for an autopsy into the cause of death by his family. Africa News

UN: 2,000 Children Used by Militias in DR Congo
At least 2,000 children have been press-ganged into fighting by militias and more than 600,000 people have been displaced in rising violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region, UNICEF said on Friday. The UN agency also said the security and humanitarian crisis had affected more than 1.5 million children overall. “The children of Kasai are being forced to face horrible hardship … hundreds of children have been injured in the violence, with reports of children being detained, raped and even executed,” Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF representative in DRC, said in a statement. At least 300 children have been seriously injured and more than 4,000 have been separated from their families, according to the UN. Anadolu Agency

Congo Rights Group Urges Attorney General to Investigate Costly Passports
A Congolese rights group has written to the attorney general to demand a criminal investigation into a Reuters report that most of the money from fees for printing new passports goes overseas. Documents reviewed by Reuters of a 2015 deal between Congo’s government and a Belgian company called Semlex to produce biometric passports show that most of the $185 price for a new passport goes to Semlex and a small company called LRPS in the United Arab Emirates. The Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) wrote to Attorney General Flory Kabange Numbi on Wednesday to demand he investigate the passports deal, “which has brought about enormous losses to the public treasury”, the letter seen by Reuters said. Reuters

Rwanda-Burundi Tensions Reflected in War of Words over Food
The English-language New Times in Rwanda on Saturday described the Burundi government’s refusal to accept humanitarian aid because the food was grown in Rwanda as folly and “misplaced obstinacy.” “It is those kinds of immature politics we are witnessing across the border that has destroyed many countries,” the news outlet said in an op-ed piece that underscores the tensions between the close neighbors in its stinging critique. The piece calls on Burundi to stop looking for scapegoats for its woes, and asks if it is willing “to sacrifice its people on the altar of ego” because it has blocked at the border trucks loaded with World Food Programme (WFP) aid. That assistance was destined to help some of the estimated 2.1 million people affected by what the WFP called an extremely severe humanitarian situation in a February report. Both Burundi and WFP officials confirm the border incident, the AP reported Friday, although the NGO staff said it’s likely a misunderstanding. Africa Times

Kenya Cancels Primaries after too Many Voters Turn Up
An unexpected surge in voters in the primaries for Kenya’s ruling party overwhelmed authorities and led them to partially cancel the vote, the President announced on Saturday. President Uhuru Kenyatta said large voter turnout sparked chaos and confusion during voting on Friday, leading to a shortage in voter materials. “Primaries usually do not experience the kind of turnout we saw yesterday,” Kenyatta said at a press conference. His Jubilee Party took the “unprecedented and difficult decision to cancel the entire nominations exercise, because doing anything to the contrary may have resulted in a subversion of the democratic will of the people,” the president said. Deutsche Welle

‘I Dreamed of Africa’ Author And Conservationist, Shot In Kenya
Kuki Gallmann, a conservationist best known for her book I Dreamed of Africa, was ambushed and shot while she drove across her conservancy in Kenya Sunday morning. Gallmann, 73, was shot in the stomach and “severely injured” while surveying her property with rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service, according to her brother-in-law Nigel Adams and a press release from a farmers’ association of which she’s a member. She was flown to a hospital in Nairobi for treatment, and was still conscious and speaking after the attack, according to The New York Times. Her conservancy, the Laikipia Nature Conservancy, has been the center of a bloody battle for weeks, as a large-scale drought has pushed cattle-herders to extreme measures to try and find grazing land. NPR

South African Deputy President Says `Rot Has Set In’ at the ANC
A crisis has emerged in South Africa and “the rot has set in” within the ruling African National Congress, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday. “Corruption must be rooted out” and anyone found guilty must be dealt with severely, Ramaphosa said at a memorial for the late ANC leader Chris Hani in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. Allegations of families and people unduly influencing government appointments and contracts should be “of great concern” to the ANC, he said, adding that he supports a judicial commission of inquiry into the charges of state capture. Ramaphosa, one of the front-runners to succeed President Jacob Zuma at an ANC conference in December, was speaking just 3 1/2 weeks after Zuma fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and named a lawmaker without Treasury experience as his replacement. In response, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. downgraded the nation’s debt to junk on concerns about policy continuity and political instability. Bloomberg

Liberian Navy Tackles Piracy
The International Maritime Organization warns that crime syndicates are thriving in the Gulf of Guinea. West Africa is becoming a hot spot for piracy. Al Jazeera

Tunisia Prevented 27,000 Youths from Joining Terror Groups
Tunisia announced on Saturday that authorities had prevented over 20,000 youths from joining terrorist organizations. Interior Minister Hadi al-Majdoub said that since 2012 security forces succeeded in preventing over 27,000 youths from joining the ranks of these groups. These suspects have been barred from traveling to countries witnessing armed conflicts, he explained. He stressed that a travel ban is one of the most important methods that the Interior Ministry has adopted in thwarting youth from heading to conflict zones and getting recruited by terrorists. Tunisian security agencies succeeded in 2016 in dismantling 245 terror cells and arresting 517 members of these networks, revealed al-Majdoub. Ashark Al Awsat

Divisions Within the Rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Create an Opportunity for Renewal

Friction within the rebel movement surfaced on 7 March when SPLM-N Deputy-Chairman Abdel-Aziz Hilu offered his resignation to the regional political body, the Nuba Mountains Liberation Council (NMLC), citing a lack of confidence and vision within the rebel movement’s executive leadership. The NMLC announced their support of Hilu’s stance, called for Yasir Arman to leave his position as the SPLM-N Secretary General and claimed peace talks would be suspended until the internal riff within the rebel movement was resolved, according to a leaked letter, officially translated by Nuba Reports. Reacting to this, the SPLM-N executive leaders, including Chairman Malik Agar and Secretary-General Yasir Arman, came to the rebel-controlled capital Kauda in the Nuba Mountains on March 25 and held consultative meetings for a week with the army and the regional council. The rebel army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), assured the executive leaders their forces would remain united despite political differences within the movement. Daily Maverick

C.A.R Holds Unprecedented Disarmament Talks with Rebel Groups
Central African Republic (CAR) officials and rebel groups have recorded remarkable success during a meeting to brainstorm on the implementation of a disarmament deal in Bangui. For the first time in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion and Repatriation programme, DDRR, the Central African Republic Government was seated at the same table with all the armed groups responsible for numerous abuses in the country. “General progress has been quite substantial,” said Jean-Marc Tafani, head of the disarmament process for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central Africa, MINUSCA. The meeting took place on Friday with representatives of 14 armed groups. Africa News

Ivorian Political Parties form a New Opposition Coalition
A new opposition coalition has been formed in Ivory Coast. The bloc known as “Together for Democracy and Sovereignty” was announced on Thursday. It will be led by Georges Amadin Ouegnin while his deputy is Laurent Dona Fologo. During his speech, the leader said, “I believe that along with supporters of former president Gbagbo that we must have peace. This is the message that I am sending to the current ruling party. We are open to constructive dialogue, because Ivory coast is one and indivisible.” Africa News

Sicily Prosecutor Probes Possible NGOs-Smuggler ‘Contacts’
An investigation of humanitarian groups operating migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean has turned up evidence of contacts between some NGOs and Libyan-based human smugglers, a prosecutor based in Sicily said in comments published Sunday. Anti-migrant politicians immediately demanded to know who finances rescue ships run by NGOs. Catania Chief Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro was quoted as saying in an interview with La Stampa newspaper that his office’s probe has revealed “evidence that there are direct contacts between some NGOs and human traffickers in Libya.” Several nongovernmental organizations have operated rescue boats in the Mediterranean just outside Libya’s territorial waters. AP

Morocco Summons Algeria Envoy over Syrian Refugees
Morocco has summoned Algeria’s ambassador to express concern after 54 Syrians attempted to “illegally enter” the country from Algeria, the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Sunday. It said 54 Syrians attempted to enter Morocco through the border town of Figuig, an area surrounded by mountains, between April 17 and 19. It accused Algeria of forcing them to cross into Morocco. “Algeria must assume political responsibility and morality concerning this situation,” the ministry statement on MAP state news agency said. “It is immoral and unethical to manipulate the moral and physical distress of these people, (and) to sow trouble in the Morocco-Algerian border.” There was no immediate response from Algeria on state news agency APS. Reuters

South Sudan’s Kiir to Meet al-Bashir over Security Matters
South Sudan president, Salva Kiir is seeking an audience with his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir to discuss how best plans to strengthen security along their borders could be implemented to enhance bilateral relations between both countries. Diplomats and a presidential aide involved in these arrangements told Sudan Tribune that the planned meeting of the two leaders will take place after the ministers of foreign affairs, security, internal affairs, defence and justice hold preparatory meeting at the venue to be agreed upon so that they work out a plan for joint security committee, with a timetable to implement the security measures. It is still unclear when and where the meeting of the leaders will take place, but a preparatory committee is expected to first convene. Sudan Tribune

Thousands of Congolese Flee Violence in DRC’s Kasai Province
The U.N. refugee agency reports that more than 11,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring Angola, seeking refuge from an upsurge in violence between rebels and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai Province. According to the The U.N. refugee agency, more than one million people have been displaced within the DRC since mid-August when conflict erupted in Kasai Province. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said more than 9,000 people fled to Angola this month, in fear of their lives, as fighting intensified. He said some refugees have been forced to hide in the forest for several days before making their escape. All the refugees, he said, arrive in Angola in desperate condition. VOA

No One Detained over South Sudan Civilian Killings, UN Says
The United Nations’ top human rights official in South Sudan says no one has been detained in connection with recent killings of civilians in the western town of Wau. Eugene Nindorera in a statement on Sunday says he was “shaken” to hear testimonies of victims of the government offensive that killed at least 16 people and displaced more than 23 000. Residents said soldiers singled out civilians of the Fertit and Luo ethnic groups in retaliation for a rebel attack on government forces. Nindorera says the continued impunity is one of the biggest challenges to stopping violence in South Sudan’s civil war, which has entered its fourth year. News 24

New AU Chief Puts Peace Back on the Agenda
The scene is not a familiar one at the African Union (AU): the AU Commission (AUC) chairperson, in shirtsleeves, walking in the blazing sun down an unpaved alley in a war-torn country. Yet this picture of Moussa Faki Mahamat, the new AUC chairperson, on a visit to South Sudan, is probably the first of many. Mahamat last month visited South Sudan and Somalia, two of the worst war zones the AU has had to cope with in the past few years. He was accompanied by Smaïl Chergui, the AUC Commissioner for Peace and Security. He also met with politicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. Mahamat’s predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was criticised in some quarters for not paying enough attention to burning crises on the continent. She rarely travelled to conflict zones. Mahamat has been travelling to hotspots and meeting with leaders about solving conflicts. ISS

Tunisia’s Truth-Telling Renews a Revolution’s Promise, Painfully
Like many of his fellow torture victims, Sami Brahim, a former political prisoner, did not expect much when he testified at the opening of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission in November. But to his surprise, he stirred up a storm. Thousands of letters and messages poured in from rapt Tunisians. He spent two weeks replying to them all. They are still coming. The next day, two of his torturers walked in to the commission and owned up to their crimes. In eight hearings over five months, the commission has opened a Pandora’s box of emotions for Tunisians. After long averting their gaze from past horrors, Tunisians are now digging deep into the dirt. Even former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has been watching the proceedings from exile in Saudi Arabia, according to his lawyer. Tunisia’s effort, wrenching as it is, may stand as the one bright spot in a region where the promise of the Arab Spring — for democracy and accountability — has been blunted in country after country: new authoritarianism in Egypt, civil war in Syria, chaos in Libya. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones