Africa Media Review for April 4, 2017

S Africa Unions to Zuma: Time To Go
South Africa’s powerful trades union federation Cosatu has called for President Jacob Zuma to step down. Its Secretary General Bheki Ntshalintshali said he is no longer the “right person” to lead the country. Mr Zuma has been under growing pressure following a major cabinet reshuffle which included the sacking of trusted Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. That led to South Africa’s credit rating being cut to junk status putting more pressure on a troubled economy. Cosatu, a key part of the governing alliance, says it has 1.8 million members. BBC

South Africa’s Credit Rating Has Been Cut To Junk Status
South Africa’s credit rating has been cut to junk status by the ratings agency S&P Global. The agency said that political upheaval, including the recent sacking of finance minister Pravin Gordhan, was endangering the economy. S&P also expressed concern over government debt, and in particular the expense of supporting the state energy firm Eskom. The news put more pressure on the rand, which was down 2% against the dollar. The sacking of Mr Gordhan, seen as a safe pair of hands and with a reputation for financial prudence, led to a 4% fall in the rand on Friday and prompted strong criticism. BBC

Al-Shabab Seizes Key Somali Town after Ethiopians Pull Out
Ethiopian troops fighting militant Islamist group al-Shabab have withdrawn from a key military base in central Somalia’s Galgudud region, according to residents. Heavily armed al-Shabab fighters took control of El Bur following the pullout of Ethiopian troops and a small number of Somali National Army soldiers early Monday. The fall of El Bur was confirmed by Nur Hassan Gutale, the town’s district commissioner, who said Ethiopians did not tell them the reason of their withdrawal. “The Ethiopians and our troops withdrew from the town and now it is under the control of the militants. The Ethiopians did not inform us about their withdrawal plan and once we saw them abandoning, our troops also abandoned,” Gutale said. VOA

Mali Peace Conference Calls for Talks with Jihadists
The conference, enshrined in the country’s 2015 peace deal, was intended to bring together the government, armed groups that support it, former rebels and the political opposition. But an opposition boycott lasted until late Saturday, while the former rebels were absent for Monday’s talks before joining discussions on Tuesday, though all attended the closing ceremony. A resolution agreed at the end of the conference called for “negotiations with radical preacher Amadou Koufa, and the Tuareg Islamist chief Iyad Ag Ghaly,” a move likely to be met with dismay by the international community. Ag Ghaly heads an Islamist alliance that has carried out attacks on Malian troops, and was previously head of Ansar Dine — a jihadist group that hijacked a 2012 rebellion in the north to impose strict Islamic regulations in certain cities. AFP

Mali’s Jihadist Merger: Desperate or Dangerous?
A merger of some of the most notorious groups based in Mali is the latest face of jihadism in the Sahel. Under the new banner of Jamâ’ah Nusrah al-Islâm wal-Muslimîn (Group for the support of Islam and Muslims), or JNIM, the group has claimed responsibility for several attacks carried out in Central Mali, the latest of which occurred on 29 March killing three Malian soldiers. These attacks took place a few weeks after the new alliance announced itself on 2 March. The JNIM is a merger of Ansar Dine, Katiba Macina, al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The new alliance is led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, who previously led Ansar Dine. Ag Ghaly renewed his allegiance to Abdelmalek Droukdel, emir of AQIM; Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda leader; and Taliban leader, Mullâ Hibatullâh. ISS

DR Congo Opposition Piles Pressure on Kabila with General Strike
Monday’s protests in the DRC were mounted by the umbrella group of opposition parties known as Rassemblement (Rally). The strike led to a slow-down in business activity in the capital Kinshasa and in the country’s second city Lubumbashi. Rassemblement accuses President Joseph Kabila of causing chaos by failing to implement a power sharing deal signed on December 31, 2016. “We want no more of him,” a resident of the Kingasani district of Kinshasa said on Monday. There was a heavy police presence in the capital and the normally bustling market was shut. “I couldn’t go to work. It’s my way of supporting the opposition. We want change,” said a central bank employee, who asked to remain anonymous. Deutsche Welle

Armed Group Kills 8 in Southern Congo in Latest Attack
Authorities say a brutal armed group in southern Congo blamed for murdering a U.N. team has killed at least eight people over the weekend. The fighters loyal to traditional leader Kamwina Nsapu launched their attack on Luebo late Friday. Among the victims was the area administrator’s wife. Joseph Mbuyi Mubenga said after killing his wife, the fighters mutilated her body, decapitating her and taking her head, hands and feet. Mubenga told U.N.-backed Radio Okapi that the attackers also set fire to administrative buildings including the prison as well as a local convent of nuns. VOA

US Embassy Helps Dozens of South Sudanese in POC Camp Get Out of Juba
The U.S. embassy in South Sudan says it helped more than 40 South Sudanese, half of whom hold American dual citizenships, fly out of South Sudan over the weekend. All 42 have lived in a United Nations-run Protection of Civilians Camp in Juba since July, when fighting broke out in the capital. They were too afraid to leave because they were affiliated with ousted former First Vice President Riek Machar. The men, women and children boarded a chartered flight to Cyprus on Saturday, officials said. U.S. Ambassador Molly Phee said the embassy began providing support when it learned that its citizens were in the IDP camp, but that the process of facilitating their departure proved complicated. VOA

South Sudan Scraps $10,000 Permit Fee for Foreign Workers
South Sudan will not go ahead with plans to charge foreigners a $10,000 (£8,200) fee for work permits as officially announced in early March. The plan has been dropped in response to criticism that it would penalise aid agencies, the finance minister said. The controversial measure was announced just four days after famine was declared in parts of the country. However, the revised fee will be reviewed by MPs and could be introduced at a later date. BBC

Uganda at Breaking Point as Bidi Bidi Becomes World’s Largest Refugee Camp
The central reception area of the Imvepi refugee settlement, in northern Uganda, is packed to the brim. Thousands of people are crammed into a patch of land meant to hold just a fraction of the current load. They’ve been waiting for days, stuck in an administrative backlog the government of Uganda attributes to lack of funding and an unceasing stream of people from South Sudan. Famine, economic collapse and years of fighting have forced people out of South Sudan faster than from any other nation on the planet. The stream of arrivals, who averaged 2,800 each day in March, has begun to take a toll on the country’s southern neighbour Uganda, host to roughly half of the 1.6 million people forced to flee their homes. Uganda is feeling the neglect. The country has one of the world’s most compassionate refugee policies, which grants migrants land to build a home and enjoy rights to travel and work that are practically unheard of elsewhere. The Guardian

Africa Security Chiefs Meet in Khartoum
A conference on intelligence opened in Khartoum on Monday with participants identifying terrorism, mercenaries and foreign fighters as serious threats to the continent’s security. The meeting bringing together Africa’s security chiefs and experts warned that thousands of jihadist fighters had returned from Syria, Iraq and Libya to become a threat to Africa. The Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services (CISSA) conference has been organised under the theme; “The Phenomena of the Mercenary, Foreign Fighters and Terrorism’’. The East African

Italy-Libya Accord to Fight Smugglers Is ‘Dangerous Fiction’: Aid Groups
An agreement between Italy and Libya to fight people-smuggling in the north African nation will lead to migrants being returned to camps where they are held against their will, extorted and abused, Doctors without Borders (MSF) said on Monday. Italy signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.N.-backed Libyan government in Tripoli – which was endorsed by the European Union – in February that promised training, equipment and money to fight human traffickers. However, Arjan Hehenkamp, general director of MSF and head of the group’s Libya mission, said the idea that migrants can be housed in a humane way on Libyan soil “is simply impossible”. “It’s a dangerous fiction to think otherwise,” Hehenkamp told reporters in Rome after flying in from Libya. Reuters

After His Release: What Future Awaits Libya’s Saif al-Islam Gaddafi?
After more than five years in prison, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi resurfaced as a free man – his name back in the limelight, especially among supporters of his father, Muammar Gaddafi, who began mobilization efforts to bring the heir to the political scene. Can Saif al-Islam be a strong rival in the future race for power or will his return provoke a crisis? At the moment, no one can predict Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s plans following his release from prison and whether he will return to the political scene by virtue of his supporters, or if he would prefer to remain in the shadows. If we look at the Libyan arena and diagnose the political trends, we would find that the second son of Muammar Gaddafi, despite his absence for years, remains popular and admired by a group of Libyans, especially tribes loyal to his father’s regime which began to arrange for his return by forming the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya and nominated him for leadership. Al Arabiya

Russia Nixes Former White House Aide for Top U.N. Job in Libya
Russia derailed the appointment of a dual American-German national as the U.N.’s top official in Libya, flexing its diplomatic muscle in a region where Moscow has been steadily seeking to expand its influence, according to several diplomatic sources. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had decided in recent weeks to tap Richard Wilcox, a senior official at the World Food Programme who served as director of U.N. affairs in the Clinton White House, as his special representative in Libya. But before an official offer was made, Russian diplomats in New York registered concerns about Wilcox’s fitness for the job. It remains unclear precisely why Russia objected to the candidacy of Wilcox, and the Russian mission to the U.N. did not respond to a request for comment. But two sources familiar with the matter said that Moscow said he didn’t have the right profile, or have sufficient stature, for a job that was previously held by senior foreign diplomats, including Martin Kobler, a former German ambassador to Egypt and Iraq, and Bernardino León, a former Spanish diplomat who left the job in disgrace. While in the midst of negotiations on a power-sharing arrangement in Libya, León was in talks with the UAE on a lucrative arrangement to lead the Gulf country’s diplomatic academy. Foreign Policy

Hope for Change as Kenya Court Rules One-third of MPs Must Be Women
Kenyan activists on Monday welcomed a High Court ruling giving parliament 60 days to ensure a third of lawmakers are women or face dissolution. The ruling follows a lengthy struggle to increase women’s political representation in the patriarchal society. Kenya’s 2010 constitution guarantees women a third of seats in parliament, but its male-dominated assembly has repeatedly frustrated efforts to pass legislation needed to enact the quota. “The ruling is good for women who, because of patriarchal cultural backgrounds, cannot effectively compete with men,” Josephine Mongare, chairwoman of the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is the nearest we have come to the two-thirds constitutional requirement.” VOA

The Gambia Prepares for First Post-Jammeh Poll
The Gambia holds its first election Thursday since the downfall of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, with expectations high that new lawmakers will overhaul a national assembly once derided as a mere rubberstamp. Gambians complain that under Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years, laws were often made by executive decree and buttressed by legislation much later on, if at all. The 239 registered candidates representing nine different political parties on Tuesday end campaigning for the 48 seats up for election in the Banjul legislature. Five seats are also appointed by the president, totalling 53 spots in the tiny west African nation’s parliament, and with just 886 000 registered voters according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), every ballot matters. News 24

Gambia’s Ousted Dictator Is Living the Good Life in a Palace in Equatorial Guinea
[…] while Jammeh may be keeping a low profile — a difficult adjustment, perhaps, for someone used to having his portrait plastered everywhere — FP has narrowed his likely whereabouts to one of Obiang’s presidential palaces in Mongomo. “Obiang has three palaces in Mongomo — all big, gaudy-looking places like Saddam Hussein had,” said Tutu Alicante, a human rights lawyer from Equatorial Guinea, who now runs EG Justice, a Washington-based human rights group. “We’ve heard from contacts that Jammeh is in one of them.” […] To date, Jammeh and Obiang have not been seen playing rounds of golf, but an unauthenticated photo that emerged this month shows the two admiring what appears to be Jammeh’s new farm. They previously had a cordial relationship, with Obiang making a state visit to Gambia in 2013. They have also been neighbors before, owning adjacent mansions in the wealthy suburb of Potomac, Maryland, according to The Washington Post. Foreign Policy

African States to Consider Implementation of ‘Kampala Convention’
Millions of families across the continent are displaced due to armed conflict and violence. Many spent years waiting to return to their homes safely. African states are meeting in Harare to consider how to improve implementation of the ground-breaking ‘Kampala Convention’ to protect internally displaced persons. Conflicts, natural disasters and climate change displacing four million across the continent. It’s the highest number in the world. UNHCR representative Cosmas Chanda says, “Today the number of people displaced as a result of conflict and natural disaster is over 60 million, 48 million of those are as a result of conflict.” “According to an IDM 2015 report, conflict displaced more than 2.4 million people in 14 African countries during 2015 making the continent second to the middle-east for violence.” Eight years after the adoption of the Kampala Convention, the Red Cross is calling on African states to action the agreement. SABC

U.N. Food Agency Launches $250 Million Zimbabwe Plan to End Hunger
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday pledged $253 million to fund a five-year plan to end hunger in Zimbabwe, which is emerging from a devastating drought that left more than 4 million people in need of food aid last year. An El Nino-induced drought scorched crops and killed livestock in the southern African nation, forcing the government to launch an emergency appeal for food from donors. On Monday, the WFP representative in Zimbabwe, Eddie Rowe said the agency would move away from short-term food handouts to technical assistance to improve food security in the country. “While maintaining strong humanitarian assistance, the WFP Zimbabwe’s new country strategic plan focuses on supporting longer-term national social protection and resilience efforts, strengthening the systems and institutions needed to help achieve zero hunger,” Rowe told reporters. SABC

Trump Says US Will Forge a ‘Great Bond’ with Egypt
President Donald Trump signaled a new era in U.S.-Egypt relations on Monday, assuring his Egyptian counterpart that years of tepid relations will now give way to a “great bond” between their two nations. Trump reunited with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for talks ranging from collaboration against the Islamic State group to bolstering Egypt’s flailing economy. In Trump, el-Sissi sees new opportunity after years of lukewarm relations with President Barack Obama. “This is my first state visit to the United States since my inauguration and this is the first visit in eight years for an Egyptian president to the United States,” el-Sissi pointed out at the start of his remarks. Obama never invited the Egyptian leader to the White House and Egypt’s government was repeatedly admonished over its human rights record. Obama even briefly suspended some U.S. military aid. The Washington Post

Strong 6.5-Magnitude Quake Strikes Botswana
A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck the southern African nation of Botswana on Monday, US seismologists said, with the tremor felt in several neighbouring countries. The epicentre of the quake, which hit at 19:40, was 238km northwest of Botswana’s capital Gaborone, the US Geological Survey said. It struck at a relatively shallow depth of 11km, and rumbled throughout the capital for about 30 seconds, an AFP correspondent said. No reports on damages were immediately available. The quake was also felt in several cities in South Africa as well as in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, several hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre, witnesses said. News 24