Africa Media Review for April 3, 2017

DR Congo Peacekeeping: UN votes to Scale Down Mission
The UN Security Council has voted to cut the size of Monusco, its largest and most expensive peacekeeping mission, which operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under a draft plan, the total of 19,000 peacekeepers will be reduced by 3,000. The UN force is already undermanned by close to that number. The move came as a political deal brokered by the Catholic Church to pave the way to presidential elections collapsed, leaving the country on edge. Several UN member states have signalled a desire to cut spending on peacekeeping, in particular the new Trump administration in the United States – which is the largest donor. On Wednesday, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Hailey, said the UN was partnering with a “corrupt” government in Congo, and called for the downsizing of Monusco. BBC

International Court Says Violence in Congo May Amount to War Crimes
Recent acts of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the murder of two United Nations researchers and the discovery of 23 mass graves in the Kasaï region, may constitute war crimes, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Friday. “I am deeply concerned by the numerous reports of serious violence in the D.R.C., particularly in the Kasaï provinces, for several months,” the I.C.C. prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement. “There have been reports of violence between local militias and Congolese forces, the killing of many civilians and noncivilians, kidnappings and summary executions of persons, including U.N. experts on mission and their accompanying persons,” she said. “Such acts could constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the I.C.C.,” Ms. Bensouda said, adding that the court would not hesitate to prosecute those believed to be responsible for the crimes. The New York Times

South Sudan’s Civil War Creates a New Lost Generation
Six-year-old Santo proudly wears a Harvard T-shirt as if he has just been accepted into the elite institution, but its warped lettering, layers of dirt and gaping holes say more about the young refugee’s future. […] South Sudan is known for its “lost boys,” roughly 20,000 orphans who trekked across southern Sudan in the 1980s during the region’s struggle for independence. Three decades later, young Santo is part of another lost generation of children whose new nation, barely older than themselves, has been ripped apart by fighting. As U.N. officials warn of ethnic cleansing, their data create a harrowing portrait of innocence lost: More than 200,000 children are at risk of death caused by a lack of food. More than 17,000 have been child soldiers for the government or various rebel groups. And U.N. officials say they are increasingly worried about children killing themselves in crowded U.N.-run displacement sites across South Sudan under grim conditions. AP

Grief as Bodies of Kenyan Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan Arrive Home
The employees of Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organisation (Gredo), a non-governmental organisation funded by Unicef, were ambushed while travelling from Juba to Pibor, a town in the Eastern part of South Sudan last month. There were emotional scenes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday as family and friends received bodies of the Kenyan aid workers killed in South Sudan a week ago. The three bodies of the aid workers arrived at JKIA at 1pm after a requiem mass at Tearfund near Juba hospital. Among those who received the bodies included Gredo Programme Director Jaffar Mbugua. ReliefWeb

With Visit by Egypt’s Sissi, Trump Administration Signals Sharp Policy Shift
When President Trump hosts Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on Monday in Washington, they will have a packed agenda: the fight against terrorism, the Middle East’s multiple wars, the refugee crisis and Egypt’s anemic economy. But what is unlikely, at least publicly, is any discussion of the plight of Aya Hijazi. She’s an Egyptian American humanitarian worker from Falls Church, Va., who has been incarcerated by the Egyptian regime for nearly three years, accused of abusing children she was seeking to help through her nonprofit organization. Those charges are widely viewed as false. The Obama administration could not pressure Sissi’s government to release Hijazi, despite Egypt receiving $1.3 billion in military aid annually. But President Barack Obama drew a line at inviting Sissi to the White House. Under Sissi, repression has been widespread. Egypt’s security forces have jailed tens of thousands and committed human rights abuses, including the torture and forced disappearances of critics and opponents. The Washington Post

Trump Urged to Mention Egypt Prisoners as He Meets Sisi
As the White House prepared to roll out the red carpet for the Egyptian leader, a parody look-alike of President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi showed up at the Washington Monument, a few blocks away. Wearing an oversized mask of Sisi, the impersonator was part of a vigil held on Sunday to bring attention to the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Egyptian prisons. The man under the mask kept quiet as he tore up protesters’ banners with gloves stained red to resemble blood. Others were more vocal, condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to meet Sisi and criticising the US’ support for his government. Al Jazeera

Somalia Piracy: India Ship Hijacked in New Attack
Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian cargo ship off the coast of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, officials there say. One source said the vessel was heading towards Somali shores. There were no details of the crew or destination. Some two weeks earlier an oil tanker en route to Mogadishu was seized by pirates who then released the boat apparently without conditions. That incident was the first hijack off the Somali coast since 2012. “We understand Somali pirates hijacked a commercial Indian ship and [it is heading] towards Somalia shores,” Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, a former director of Puntland’s anti-piracy agency, told Reuters news agency. BBC

More Aggressive US Strikes in Somalia Put Civilians at Risk, Experts Say
President Donald Trump’s approval of greater U.S. military authority to pursue al-Qaida-linked extremists in Somalia will put civilians further at risk, experts say, especially as drought displaces thousands of people in areas that now will be considered a war zone. Trump has approved a Pentagon request to allow more aggressive airstrikes against extremist group al-Shabab as parts of southern Somalia will be considered areas of active hostilities. U.S. special operations forces can move closer to the fight and call in offensive airstrikes more quickly while increasing assistance to the Somali National Army. Some in long-chaotic Somalia, where access to independent information is extremely challenging, could see this as a chance to spread misinformation, said Laetitia Bader, a Somalia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “At a time when thousands of civilians are currently on the move … the U.S. should be cautious in relying on information about whether civilians are present before deciding to strike,” she said. AP

Somaliland Suspends Development Programs in Face of Famine
Somaliland authorities say famine looms in the breakaway republic as the government suspends development programs due to a crippling drought that has killed dozens of people and most of the livestock in eastern regions. Speaking to VOA in Hargeisa, Somaliland Vice President Abdirahman Abdullahi Seylici says drought conditions look set to deteriorate further with an increasing risk of famine. Seylici says Somaliland has few resources to cope with the drought, which has severely affected the economy. VOA

We Are Not the World: Inside the “Perfect Storm” of Famine
There was conflict. There had been years of consecutive drought – similar to Somalia now. The government spent its money on fighting, not aid. The rich world eventually reacted, with Bob Geldof and Live Aid at the forefront of a public funding campaign. But access in a time of war was hard. By 1984, 200,000 mostly starving Ethiopians had died, young children often the first to go. The final toll was closer to one million. More than three decades later, the stakes are arguably even higher. A badly strained humanitarian system finds itself facing not one but four vast challenges. In all, more than 20 million people are at risk of starvation and famine across South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northeastern Nigeria. Much has been learnt since 1984: the value of building resilience before crises arrive, the role climate change plays, the imperative of early conflict prevention, the importance of cash aid, the need to prioritise water as well as food. Nonetheless, the goal posts for those struggling to reach the world’s most vulnerable and provide them with life-saving assistance have shifted. Why? IRIN

3 Suicide Bombers Die on Outskirts of Maiduguri, Niger
Nigerian police confirm that three suicide bombers blew themselves up attempting to get into the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Police spokesman Victor Isuku said that on Sunday morning two men detonated explosive vests when security agents challenged them near an entry to Maiduguri, the northeastern city that has sustained several attacks. He said the bombers killed only themselves. Isuku said a lone bomber at a different location also blew himself up, injuring a civilian. Dozens have died recently in such attacks blamed on Boko Haram Islamic extremists, but many other bombers have been stopped by soldiers and civilian self-defense militia. AP

Niger President Issoufou Says Will Not Seek Third Term
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said Saturday that he would not amend the constitution to allow him to seek a third term after his second and final mandate ends in 2021. “One of my greatest ambitions is to organise free and transparent elections in 2021 and pass the baton to another Nigerien whom the Nigeriens will have chosen,” the president said in an interview on state television on the occasion of the first anniversary of his inauguration for his second mandate on April 2, 2016. The constitution of Niger limits the president to two terms of five years. Issoufou, 65, was re-elected in March last year following the end of his first term, albeit in elections boycotted by the opposition.eNCA

New Jihadist Alliance Claims Border Attack in Mali
Three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links recently joined forces to create the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghaly of Islamist organisation Ansar Dine. The group, also known as Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, mounted an attack that killed three gendarmes, they said, though Malian security sources told AFP the day of the attack that it was two soldiers and a civilian who were killed. “This past Wednesday, a brigade of mujahideen was able to attack a Malian gendarmerie post in Boulikessi, which is part of the Douentza area, near the Burkinabe border,” the statement released by SITE said. AFP

Nkurunziza Says There’s Now Political Stability in Burundi
In one of his rare appearances in a regional event, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi came out strongly yesterday, saying there was now peace and stability in his country. He said despite the chaos that rocked his nation two years ago following his extension of tenure, there were enough indications that the political situation has stabilized. Gracing the opening of the sixth East African Health Summit, Exhibition and Trade Fair, Nkurunziza said his country was now peaceful contrary to the ugly past during which scores of people were killed during clashes between protesters and the security forces. “Indeed holding this session in Bujumbura is a strong indication that peace and stability are a reality in our country contrary to the lies conveyed by some malicious groups”, he said. The Citizen

Zuma May Face No-Confidence Motion, Parliament Speaker Says
South African parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete said she’s considering a request to recall lawmakers to debate an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, after he made sweeping cabinet changes that top ruling party officials said was done without their consultation. “Given the seriousness inherent in the motions of no confidence and their implication on the nation, I have therefore decided to cut my trip to Bangladesh short to ensure that these requests are given the appropriate consideration,” Mbete told reporters Sunday as she landed at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Parliament is currently on its Easter recess. Zuma and his cabinet would have to resign if a no-confidence motion succeeds, Masibulele Xaso, the National Assembly secretary, said at the briefing. Mbete ruled out a secret ballot in a possible vote, saying it’s not in the rules of Parliament. Bloomberg

South Africa Braces for Black Monday Protests Calling for Zuma Ousting
South Africans are expected to take to the streets in their thousands this week in a series of demonstrations against President Jacob Zuma. Anger has built across the country since Mr Zuma, 74, fired nine cabinet members, including his highly respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan, 67. A social media campaign dubbed “Black Monday” that went viral at the weekend called on South Africans to wear black clothing on Monday as a demonstration against Mr Zuma. The largest protests is due to held in Johannesburg this Friday with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, calling on other political parties, unions and civil society movements to march to the ANC’s city centre headquarters, Luthuli House. The Telegraph

Corruption, Cronyism, Calamity: What the World Thinks of South Africa’s Latest Political Crisis
[…] “Jacob Zuma faces backlash over South Africa cabinet purge”, said the Financial Times; “South African President Jacob Zuma’s midnight reshuffle throws ruling ANC party into crisis” said the Independent; and “South Africa in crisis after Zuma sacks minister” said the Times of London. Most international outlets focused on the likely implications for the South African economy, which makes for grim reading. Take this, from the Los Angeles Times: “[The Cabinet reshuffle] roiled financial markets and saw the value of the currency plummet sharply. Gordhan had been seen as a steady hand by the markets, admired for standing up to the president and fighting corruption and cronyism in Zuma’s government. Analysts predicted South Africa’s credit rating would be downgraded to junk in coming months.” The Financial Times, considered a must-read for international investors, echoed this negative outlook: “Business leaders warned the dismissal of Mr Gordhan, who was leading efforts to restore confidence in South Africa, could cause turmoil in the stagnating economy and hasten a credit downgrade to junk status. The rand, which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies, plummeted about 7 percent this week — its worst fall since late 2015,” the paper said. Daily Maverick

Video: One Year into New CAR Presidency, Security Still Precarious
One year after Faustin-Archange Touadera became president of the Central African Republic, citizens say the security situation has improved, but more work remains to be done. FRANCE 24’s Clément Bonnerot reports from Bangui. When he took office, Touadera promised to unify the country, which was plunged into sectarian violence after a coup in 2013. The country is more secure under Touadera, but 60 percent of the country remains under the control of armed groups. Locals say they see signs that the economy is starting to pick up, but the country has a long way to go. More than 48 percent of its citizens are hungry and only 35 percent have access to safe drinking water. France 24

1Million African Migrants May Be En Route to Europe, Says Former UK Envoy
As many as one million migrants are already on the way to Libya and Europe from countries across Africa, the former head of the British embassy in Benghazi has warned. The warning by Joe Walker-Cousins, head of the UK’s Libya mission between 2012 and 2014 comes as European governments struggle to find a response to the flow of migrants from the Mediterranean, and the appalling conditions in detention camps run by traffickers or the Libyan government. More than 590 migrants have drowned on the central Mediterranean route in the first three months of this year, and the overall number reaching Italy from Libya has risen. The International Organisation for Migration estimates 21,900 refugees reached Italy in the first three months of this year, up from 14,500 last year. A total of 181,000 refugees reached Italy from Libya last year, and with little sign of an effective unity government being formed in Libya to combat the militia-organised trafficking, mainstream European politicians are facing a massive challenge. The Guardian

Diaspora Now Investing in Mogadishu as Security Improves
Authorities in Mogadishu say that the city is now ready for full scale foreign investment since security and infrastructure have significantly improved, despite some lingering challenges. The Mayor of Mogadishu, Yussuf Hussein Jimale, told The EastAfrican that the city is no longer considered high risk for foreign investors because of the efforts his administration has put in to improve security, roads and electricity infrastructure. Mr Jimale, who is also the Governor of Banadir Regional Administration — in which Mogadishu falls — said since he assumed office in November 2015, his administration has been offering incentives to foreign investors such as tax breaks and fast-tracking of company registrations. “We have achieved a lot in improving security. Even though Al Shabaab still remains a challenge, Mogadishu is far better than it was five years ago. We have been trying to create jobs and attract investments by building roads. For instance, we have completed tarmacking 17 kilometres of roads in the city and are currently working on two more,” said Mr Jimale. The East African

‘Sapphire Rush’ Threatens Rainforests of Madagascar
A “sapphire rush” has brought tens of thousands of people into the remote rainforests of eastern Madagascar, disfiguring a protected environmental area and prompting calls for military intervention. More high-quality sapphires have been found in the biodiverse area known as Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena in the past six months than were found in the entire country over the past 20 years, according to Vincent Pardieu, a French gemologist who has been visiting mines there for more than a decade. “I can tell you this is big,” Pardieu said. Gem trade shows around the world now have “nice, big, super-clean sapphires” from the region. “It’s the most important discovery in Madagascar for the past 20 or 30 years.” Tens of thousands of miners and gem traders have poured into the rainforests around the village of Bemainty, said local officials. The miners have cut down thousands of acres of forest in the protected area, which environmental group Conservation International helps to manage, said the officials. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones