Africa Media Review for April 27, 2017

Salvaging South Sudan’s Sovereignty (and Ending its Civil War)
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council will convene to discuss the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. The meeting, chaired by Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, in her capacity as president of the council in April, comes at an inflection point for the world’s newest nation and for the global institutions, the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) in particular, that are mandated to manage international crises of this magnitude and preserve the state system. Absent a fundamental change in the current humanitarian and security trends in the next eight months, nearly half of South Sudan’s population will have died of starvation or fled the country by the war’s fourth anniversary in December. Such a rapid depopulation of a sovereign state is nearly unprecedented; Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and Rwanda in the throes of genocide are the closest analogues for such a tragic record. Debates aside as to whether a full-scale genocide has yet begun in South Sudan, the level of trauma and psychological distress endured by South Sudanese citizens is on par with these cases. Council on Foreign Relations

Igad Advised to Sanction South Sudan Army Commanders
The UN panel of experts for South Sudan has urged the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to impose travel bans and on military commanders sanctioned by the Security Council. It also asked Igad to freeze their assets. Last week, the Security Council sanctioned six commanders from the government and opposition forces for committing atrocities since the start of the country’s civil war in 2013. Those targeted are Maj-Gen Marial Chanuong Yol, who is in charge of presidential guards, Lt-Gen Gabriel Jok Riak and Maj Gen Santino Deng Wol, all from government side. The rebel military bosses sanctioned are Maj-Gen James Koang, Maj-Gen Simon Gatwech Dual, the chief of general staff for the rebel forces, and Maj-Gen Peter Gadet. Daily Nation

South Sudan Forces Launch New Offensive: UN
South Sudanese government forces on Wednesday launched an offensive on a town in the north, displacing civilians who may be headed toward the border with Sudan, the UN envoy said. Some 50,000 people in Kodok in Upper Nile state, many of whom fled fighting six weeks ago in the town of Wau Shilluk, were at risk from the violence, said David Shearer, who also heads the UN mission in South Sudan. “The conflict has widened rather than contracted over the past few weeks,” Shearer told a news conference. “As we speak, there is an ongoing operation by the SPLA (the government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army) on the western side of the Nile… toward the town of Kodok. They are on the edge of Kodok,” he said. AFP

South Sudanese Banks Run Out of Cash
Banks in war-ravaged South Sudan have run out of cash and the crunch is exacerbating hunger and widespread famine, the deputy finance minister says. ‘If you go to the commercial banks, you do not find South Sudan pounds and dollars. They are all in the black market,’ said Deputy Minister Mou Ambrose Thiik on Wednesday. He said a parallel economy had emerged and people were hoarding cash. Black market rates have reached 150 South Sudanese pounds to the US dollar, up from 105 in mid-February. South Sudan has a steady stream of hard currency from its oil, but production has been slashed and most of the cash is eaten up by operating costs. Sky News Australia

Triple Suicide Blasts Hit Nigeria’s Maiduguri: Sources
Three suicide bombings rocked the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Wednesday, killing one civilian militia member and injuring several others, security personnel said. The bombings came two days after multiple suicide attacks near the strategic city that killed four members of the civilian joint taskforce (JTF) and injured two others. “There have been three suicide bombings in the city this morning in which one civilian JTF was killed and one other wounded,” a senior military officer, who asked not to be identified, said. In the first blast, a female suicide bomber struck near a sprawling camp for displaced people in the Muna Garage area of the city at about 03:20 GMT. Soon afterwards, another woman exploded her device in the nearby Muna Kuwait area. Neither blast caused casualties. News 24

The Growing Horror In a City Where 500 Children Were Kidnapped by Boko Haram
Construction workers are painting over the Boko Haram graffiti. Plywood frames are rising in the place of homes destroyed by grenades and bombs. Thousands of refugees are returning. On the surface, this city once occupied by Islamist extremists is slowly returning to normal. Except for one horrifying fact: Hundreds of children are missing. Most of them were seized by Boko Haram in the fall of 2014. Months earlier, in April, the militants had carried off 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, a kidnapping that became the subject of a global campaign known by the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But there has been little attention to the lost children of Damasak. Residents say they total more than 500. All but a handful are still unaccounted for. In the ruins of the city, everyone seems to be missing a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister. Outside the mud walls of his roofless house, Aji Bakar holds a picture of his chubby-cheeked 9-year-old grandson, who was kidnapped from his classroom in September 2014. The Washington Post

Piracy Was Never Eradicated from Somali Waters: Experts
Experts have told Anadolu Agency that while recent media reports talk about a resurgence of piracy off the coast of Somalia, it had never truly disappeared. “I would argue that piracy never went away. Despite the clear reduction, many incidents of attempted hijackings have gone unreported,” Ahmed Soliman a researcher on the Horn of Africa at the U.K.-based Chatham House tells Anadolu Agency. He says armed security teams had deterred 11 attacks in 2016, so while the spike in incidents since March 2017 has been more widely reported, the figures dispute that piracy was ever eradicated. Anadolu Agency

Anti-Terrorism Laws Have ‘Chilling Effect’ on Vital Aid Deliveries to Somalia
Strict British and US counter-terrorism laws are discouraging humanitarian organisations from delivering vital emergency assistance to millions of people facing starvation and fatal diseases in drought-hit Somalia. Senior humanitarian officials say the laws, which target any individual or organisation found to have materially assisted a terrorist group, exert a “chilling effect” on vital assistance in areas of Somalia controlled by Islamic militants from al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate. The worst drought for 40 years in the unstable east African country threatens 6 million people with famine. Most of the worst hit – around 2 million people – live in areas run by al-Shabaab. The Guardian

Erdogan Says West Ignores Famine in Africa
The West has ignored the plight of 14 million people facing famine in Africa, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. Turkey would continue to stand alongside “suffering people trying to keep alive in poverty,” he added at an Ankara press conference with Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. “At least 14 million people, mostly women and children, are starving in Africa,” he said. “Many developed western countries play the ostrich in the face of such human tragedies.” Erdogan said Turkey had prepared aid for those countries in need of assistance. Anadolu Agency

In Angolan Town, Land Mines Still Lurk ‘Behind Every Bush’
[…] As the United States and the Soviet Union faced off globally, their proxies laid tens of thousands of mines in Cuito Cuanavale, in an area of Angola then considered so remote and impoverished that it was known as the Land at the End of the World. Continue reading the main story Today, as populations have swelled with Angola’s postwar economic recovery, communities now ring the city’s outskirts and villagers are living next to still-active minefields. But the unearthed land mines have stunted Cuito Cuanavale’s growth and impeded government plans to turn the battlefield into a Gettysburg-like tourist attraction. While the city’s center has been cleared, villages press hard against minefields containing explosives set by Cubans, who supported the Angolan government. On the other side of the city, an 18-mile-long defensive strip, meticulously planted with mines by apartheid South Africa’s soldiers, who backed Angolan rebels, remains untouched. The New York Times

Defence Spending in Africa on the Decrease, But Still Higher than 2007
Military expenditure in Africa as a whole fell by 1.3% to $37.9 billion in 2016, the second year of decrease after 11 consecutive years of increases dating back to 2003, but total spending in Africa is still 48% higher than it was in 2007, according to a new report. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in a recent report said military expenditure in North Africa continues to rise, making this region exceptional on the continent. The total in 2016 of $18.7 billion is an increase of 1.5% compared with 2015 and is 14,5% higher than in 2007. Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, increased its military expenditure by 2.3% over 2015, a much lower level of increase than any other year since 2007. This slowdown in growth came at a time when low oil prices were having a major effect on Algeria’s public finances. DefenceWeb

South Africa’s Nuclear Deals Unlawful, Court Rules
A South African court has annulled initial agreements the government reached with three countries to help it build nuclear power stations. The deals with Russia, the US and South Korea were unlawful, the court ruled. The government failed to hold public hearings and a parliamentary debate over its plans, it added. Environmental groups said they welcomed the ruling, pointing out it came on the eve of the anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The government has not yet commented on the ruling, in a case brought by the Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI). BBC

May Day: Unions Don’t Want Zuma to Address Rally
Tradition has it that the May Day event attended by Cosatu’s president would be the one to which the ANC president would be deployed. So when Cosatu invited its alliance partner to deploy ANC members to attend and address its rallies around the country, it was no surprise that President Jacob Zuma was deployed to the main event at Loch Logan Park in Bloemfontein, where Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini would be present. But if two of Cosatu’s affiliates, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have their way the tradition may be broken this year. In two separate letters the unions have written to Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali expressing their unhappiness that Zuma is scheduled to address the National May Day rally. Both have requested that Zuma be replaced by another “eligible leader” of the ANC. Daily Maverick

South Africa: Succession Race Heats Up
In South Africa the debate about who should become the next president of the country is heating up. Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa has now entered the race to become the next leader with a speech criticizing suspected corruption within the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). He stopped short of openly declaring his candidacy but backed calls for a judicial commission of inquiry into charges of state capture. […] Zuma has already indicated that he’s backing his former wife and mother of four of his children, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for the top post. She is the former leader of the African Union and entered the race to succeed Zuma at an early stage, at the ANC national conference in December while Ramaphosa ran a rather subdued campaign. Deutsche Welle

U.S. Diplomat Discusses Peace Talks in Khartoum
The representative of the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Paul Steven, Wednesday has discussed with government officials and opposition parties issues of peace and the ongoing developments in the country. The American diplomat discussed with the Sudanese presidential aide Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid ways to support the comprehensive peace process and efforts of the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) headed by Thabo Mbeki in this regard. In press statements following the meeting, Steven expressed his appreciation for the progress made on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the affected areas due to the constructive dialogue between Sudan and the U.S. He added the meeting discussed ways to promote human rights and freedoms situation in the country, pointing to his country’s desire to work with the Sudanese government on these issues. Sudan Tribune

Inside Sudan’s House of Cards
Two years ago, in April 2015, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – who assumed power in 1989 – once again won the presidential election. This further entrenched his personal hold on the politics of Sudan. He pledged in February last year that he would step down in 2020, but similar pledges were made in 2010 and 2014 – and he went back on his word. Al-Bashir’s longevity in office can be attributed to his ability to rapidly adapt to new situations, and to win over opponents through financial and political rewards. Is Sudan set to follow a long-term trajectory of continued instability – including ongoing warfare, a political stalemate, popular dissatisfaction and economic hardship – following the separation from South Sudan after a vicious 22-year civil war and the genocidal killings in Darfur? Or is there any hope for concrete change through a more representative form of government? As it stands, the situation in Sudan is making regional and external actors very nervous. ISS

Zambian Court Upholds Treason Charges Against Hichilema
A Zambian court refused a request to drop treason charges against Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, after he allegedly blocked the president’s motorcade earlier this month. Wednesday’s ruling comes after Hichilema, the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader and a self-made businessman, was arrested in a police raid at his home earlier this month. He is accused of endangering President Edgar Lungu’s life when Hichilema’s own convoy allegedly refused to give way to the presidential motorcade as both men travelled to a traditional event in Zambia’s western province. Al Jazeera

UN: 20 Dead in Kasai Amid Lulua-Luba, Chowe-Pende Feud
At least 20 people were killed in ethnic clashes last week in Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled Kasai region, according to the United Nations. The UN’s DR Congo mission said in a statement on Wednesday that the clashes took place in the central region, east of the Kasai capital, Tshikapa. Violence between members of the Lulua-Luba and Chowe-Pende communities escalated, and saw at least 20 members of the Chowe-Pende killed, the agency said. The Chowe-Pende accuse the Lulua-Luba of supporting the Kamwina Nsapu militia. Al Jazeera

Barred Food Trucks for Burundi Return to Rwandan Capital
Ten trucks carrying much-needed food for Burundi are back in Rwanda’s capital after authorities denied entry at the border, citing security concerns. The World Food Program in Burundi says the trucks, carrying 300 tons of beans to feed Congolese refugees and other WFP recipients, were stopped at the border last Friday and returned Tuesday to the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye defended the decision to deny entry, saying Rwanda has been the source of crime and “insecurity” for Burundi since 2015. “If today, there are objects or people coming from the same area, we must take every necessary measure to protect the population,” he told VOA’s Central Africa Service. VOA

Jumping the Fence to Europe: At Europe’s Only Land Border with Africa, Would-Be Migrants Dream of a Better Life in Spain.
The immigrant temporary stay center in Melilla is a long way from John Masal’s glamorous idea of life in Europe. But the 19-year-old from Sierra Leone says he’s happy because this is Europe — Spain, to be precise. Situated on the edge of Melilla, one of two Spanish cities — the other is Ceuta — perched on the North African coast, it is a functional-looking building with a large green gate that occasionally emits distorted loudspeaker announcements. Masal says it is crowded inside and there is a shortage of drinking water. Meanwhile, 100 meters or so away, a six-meter-high triple security fence stretches into the distance. Separated from Morocco only by those imposing fences, Melilla and Ceuta represent Europe’s only land border with Africa. Politico

New Single-Dose Drug Could Help Wipe out Malaria
New research just published in the journal Science Translational Medicine describes the discovery and biological profiling of a new anti-malarial drug, effective against the entire parasitic life cycle and resistant strains of malaria. It has the potential to cure and protect in a single dose, say researchers – bringing us one step closer to wiping out the disease. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town (UCT)’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), in collaboration with a team of international researchers. The drug, MMV390048 – also known as MMV048 – is a compound discovered by an international team led by Professor Kelly Chibale. Chibale is senior author of the published paper, founding Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Drug Discovery Research Unit at UCT, and Founder and Director of H3D, an integrated drug discovery and development centre. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones