Africa Media Review for April 6, 2017

Gambians Head to Polls to Choose Parliament Under New Leader
Voters headed to the polls Thursday in Gambia for parliamentary elections that are expected to end two decades of domination by the party of former leader Yahya Jammeh. The vote is crucial for the transition promised by President Adama Barrow, who beat Jammeh in December elections. Barrow has promised a path toward reconciliation and greater freedoms in this tiny West African country. Jammeh’s government was long accused of rights abuses. Many Gambians are eager to flex their new freedoms, but fear that if the new parliament doesn’t strike the right balance, their December vote could be compromised. Early turnout was slow “but we expect more people in the coming hours,” said Lamin Fofana, an assistant at Serrekunda’s largest polling center. Some 886,000 Gambians are registered to vote on 239 candidates for 53 constituencies. Barrow then nominates five additional seats, including speaker and deputy speaker, according to electoral officials. AP

Congo’s Leader Promises Election but Doesn’t Say When
Congo’s president said Wednesday he would appoint a prime minister within 48 hours as a political impasse looms, and he promised that long-delayed presidential elections would take place without saying when. President Joseph Kabila’s comments to parliament were his first since his party reached a deal with the opposition on Dec. 31 to hold elections without him by the end of this year. Concerns have grown about the deal’s implementation. Catholic bishops who mediated the talks walked away last week, and the opposition this week refused to participate. Under the deal, the prime minister would come from the opposition. If opposition members don’t work together to agree on a candidate, Kabila said, he will name one instead. VOA

DRC To Get New PM This Week Under Peace Deal: Kabila
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila pledged on Wednesday the appointment of a new prime minister this week in line with a stalled December peace deal struck with the opposition. “The prime minister will absolutely have to be named within 48 hours,” Kabila said in a much-awaited speech to MPs and senators on the power-sharing agreement struck to avoid a full-blown crisis following his failure to step down at the end of his second and final mandate. News 24

DR Congo President Kabila Warns Against Foreign Meddling
The Democratic Republic of Congo will not tolerate any foreign interference in the country’s electoral process, President Joseph Kabila has said. He told MPs in the capital, Kinshasa, that he will name an opposition prime minister within the next 48 hours to lead the country to the polls. He has been under pressure to salvage a political deal after it collapsed last week, leaving the country on edge. Critics said he delayed the elections on purpose to hang on to power. BBC

A.N.C. Backs Jacob Zuma, Papering Over Divisions in South Africa
The African National Congress in South Africa closed ranks on Wednesday behind President Jacob Zuma, who has faced growing criticism and calls for his resignation after firing a widely respected finance minister last week. The A.N.C., Mr. Zuma’s party, also chastised three of its senior leaders who, in a break from party tradition, openly criticized the president’s actions last week. “That public dissonance was a mistake that will not happen again,” the party’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, said at a news conference after a meeting of the party’s leaders. On Friday, Mr. Zuma abruptly dismissed the finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, in an apparent show of force meant to consolidate his faction’s power before the A.N.C.’s national conference in December, when a new party leader — and most likely the country’s next president — will be chosen. The firing instead deepened divisions in the party and caused a backlash among voters. The New York Times

Rwandan FM Says Relations with South Africa Have Improved
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Tuesday that the country’s relations with South Africa have significantly improved. She made the remarks while a dressing a news conference about Rwanda’s diplomatic relations with different countries across the globe. “Rwanda’s ties with South Africa have improved. Our relations are at a much better place than they were a few years back,” she said. Muhsikiwabo noted that both countries had moved forward and beyond some of the tension that had been there since 2010. Rwanda and South Africa, diplomatic ties severed in 2010 when Kigali accused the latter country for being a safe haven for the Rwandan fugitives. Xinhua

South Sudanese Troops Butchered Civilians, Shot Children: Refugees
Hundreds of South Sudanese refugees fled into Uganda for a second day on Wednesday, bearing further grim testimony of an attack by government forces on the border town of Pajok in which at least 17 people were killed, according to a Reuters tally. Some were shot as they tried to flee. Others had their throats slit before their bodies were strung up from door frames. Two children were run down by a car. The testimony from the refugees, more than 3,000 of whom have gathered just inside the Ugandan border, offers a glimpse of the brutality of a three-year civil war ripping apart the world’s youngest nation. The government denies its Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces target civilians and said Monday’s operation in Pajok, a town of more than 10,000 people 15 km (10 miles) north of the Ugandan border, was to flush out rebel guerrillas. Reuters

Car Bomb Kills at Least 7 at Restaurant in Somalia’s Capital
A massive car bomb blast at a restaurant in Somalia’s capital killed at least seven people, police said Wednesday, as fears grew that al-Shabab extremists who have vowed to destabilize the country’s new government were behind it. Several others were injured in the blast near the ministries of internal security and youth and sports in Mogadishu, Col. Ahmed Hashi said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group al-Shabab group often carries out such attacks. The powerful blast largely destroyed the restaurant. Police pulled the bloodied body of a man from the rubble and said there may be more. Soldiers pushed back a surging crowd and fired in the air to disperse people. AP

French Soldier Killed in ‘Clash with Terrorists’ in Mali
A French soldier has been killed in a “clash with terrorists” in southeast Mali near the border with Burkina Faso, the French presidential office announced on Thursday. French President François Hollande paid tribute to Julien Barbé, a soldier from the western town of Angers who was killed overnight by enemy fire. Barbé’s unit was ambushed as they were assisting the crew of a lightly armoured vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED. Two soldiers were injured in the blast. The ambush took place about 200 kilometres southwest of Gao, near the Burkinabe border.  France 24

Morocco King Names New Cabinet, Islamists Lose Key Post
After six months of post-election deadlock, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Wednesday named a new cabinet led by the main Islamist party, which lost a key ministry after protracted negotiations with rivals in the ruling coalition. The Islamist Justice and Development (PJD) party won elections in October, but the formation of a government was delayed during wrangling with parties who critics say were too close to royalists uneasy with sharing power with Islamists. Under Moroccan law no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king holds ultimate power despite ceding some authority during protests in 2011. The PJD’s Saad Eddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, was appointed premier last month by the king to replace PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane, after his efforts to form a government had been frustrated. Reuters

China Binges on African Oil Like Never Before After OPEC Cuts
China is set to import record amounts of crude oil from West Africa this month as OPEC’s supply cuts pave the way for other nations to gain a greater foothold in the fast-growing Asian market. West African producers led by Angola and Nigeria are poised to send crude to China at the rate of 1.48 million barrels a day in April, the most since Bloomberg began compiling the data in August 2011, according to loading programs and traders. Overall Asian imports of West African crude are poised to reach 2.4 million barrels a day this month, also a record. The surge in flows occurs as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries curbs output in an effort to drain a worldwide glut that has depressed crude prices for nearly three years. As a result, Asia is increasingly turning to other suppliers for crude, including Africa and the U.S. By the end of the year, China could become the world’s top oil buyer, according to the International Energy Agency. Bloomberg

Is Berlin’s New Africa Policy Faltering?
Germany’s development minister Gerd Müller (above, right) is a man with a mission he is impatient to fulfill. He recently attended the Berlin African Economic Forum, a conference convened by the German-African Business Association (Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft) and the Westerwelle Foundation, which is named after the late German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. Müller said he was pleased that plans to turn 2017 into Germany’s Year for Africa were finally firming up. “We have plenty of backing in the finance and economics ministries,” he said. After the conference, he planned to meet Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. “We want to brief him on Africa. He’s open for ideas and is supporting us all the way,” Müller said. Deutsche Welle

Sudanese Security Arrests Three Opposition Figures
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Wednesday has arrested three leading members of the opposition umbrella National Consensus Forces (NCF) following a protest pause in Khartoum. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune Wednesday, NCF general commission said the NISS arrested the secretary general of the Arab Ba’ath Party, chairman of the Sudan Change Movement Adel al-Nour and the leading member of the Socialist Democratic Unionist Party (Hashd) Siddig Abdel-Jabar. According to the statement, the NISS also arrested four protesters including Mahgoub Bashir, Suhaib Mahdi, Fadl-Alla Rahma and Osman al-Sanjak. The general commission condemned the “arbitrary measure against the political leaders who exercised their political rights”, demanding the immediate release of all detainees. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria’s Ex-Oil Minister Charged With Money-Laundering
Nigeria’s Federal High Court on Wednesday charged a former oil minister with money-laundering in an election bribery scandal over efforts to ensure former President Goodluck Jonathan won the 2015 election. Diezani Allison-Madueke is the first minister from Jonathan’s Cabinet to be formally charged. Prosecutors allege that she paid bribes totaling 264 million naira (nearly $1.4 million at the time) to three electoral officials the day before the March 2015 elections. A former national security adviser has told the court that $2.1 billion was diverted from the war on Boko Haram Islamic extremists for bribes to ensure Jonathan won. VOA

European Union Trains ‘Credible Army’ in CAR
With EU help, the Central African Republic is seeking to turn the page on years of bloodshed by retraining its army and by month’s end a first battalion is to present arms. The European Union last year unveiled the launch of a two-year military training mission for CAR troops in the capital Bangui, along the lines of similar assistance in conflict-hit Somalia and Mali. Some 70 instructors have been tasked with whipping the army into shape and rendering it democratically accountable following its failure to prevent a three-year civil war between mainly Muslim former rebels and mostly Christian militias, that started in 2013. President Faustin-Archange Touadera took office a year ago to oversee the transition to peace in one of the world’s poorest nations, where the conflict has displaced about 900 000 people in a population of some 4.7 million. News 24

Burundi Youth Militia Sings of ‘Impregnating’ Opposition
Rights activists in Burundi are condemning an online video in which members of a pro-government youth militia sing about impregnating the regime’s opponents. The song reflects the “climate of impunity” enjoyed by the ruling party’s youth group, the iBurundi activist group said. In the video, Imbonerakure members sing in the local Kirundi language: “Impregnate those opponents, so that they give birth to Imbonerakure.” The video was filmed in a rural province. Burundi’s ruling party has criticized the song, saying it “does not match either the morals or the ideology” of the party. Burundi has been plagued by violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully sought a disputed third term in 2015. Hundreds of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country. News 24

Dozens of Eritrean and Nigerian Former Islamic State Captives Freed in Libya
Libyan authorities released on Wednesday 28 Eritreans and seven Nigerians who were captured and enslaved by Islamic State in Sirte and had been held in detention since the jihadist group lost the city in December. The group, all but two of whom are women and children, escaped from Sirte, a former Islamic State stronghold in central Libya, while forces from the nearby city of Misrata battled to oust the militants late last year. Some of the women were on their way to Europe when Islamic State fighters kidnapped and held them as sex slaves. After they escaped from Sirte, they were investigated for possible ties to the group and held for several months in a Misrata prison. Reuters

Feast and Famine in Africa’s Dubai
As balmy night settles over Djibouti City, the arc lights come on at its growing network of ports as ships are offloaded 24 hours a day and trucks laden with cargo depart westwards into the Horn of Africa interior. Not that long ago Djibouti was known for little more than French legionnaires, atrocious heat and its old railway line to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Nowadays, however, this tiny republic of only about 900,000 people on the Horn of Africa coast has big plans, including turning its capital into the Dubai of Africa. Since gaining independence from France in 1977, Djibouti has steadily carved out a regional role through its strategic and commercial relevance at the junction of Africa and the Middle East, and at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, overlooking a passage of water used by 30 percent of the world’s shipping transiting from and to the Suez Canal.  IPS

South African Court Ends Ban on Sale of Rhinoceros Horns
A court in South Africa effectively overturned a national ban on the trade of rhinoceros horns, a move that was celebrated by the country’s commercial rhino breeders but condemned by animal preservation groups. “This court has concluded that the application should be dismissed,” the Constitutional Court said in a one-paragraph order that ended the government’s attempts to uphold the moratorium. The order appeared to have been issued in late March, but it was not shared with the news media until Wednesday. The decision was a victory for commercial rhino breeders, who argued that a legal trade in horns would end the poaching of an endangered species and offset the costs of protecting the animals. “We welcome the Constitutional Court ruling,” Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association of South Africa, which brought the case, told reporters. “We believe it is a right we have been entitled to.” The New York Times

Facebook Adds Wifi Hotspots to Sustain African Growth
Facebook Inc. has increased the number of its African users to 170 million and plans to expand further by adding wifi hotspots and laying fiber-optic cables in a bid to spread its reach outside of developed markets. The figure is 42 percent higher than when the U.S. social network first opened an African office in 2015, Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing, said in an interview in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The rollout of wifi in Nigeria and Kenya will be done via partnerships with international wireless carriers such as Emirates Telecommunications Group Co., known as Etisalat, and closely held Surf, she said. Facebook also announced the construction of 770 kilometers (478 miles) of fiber-optic cables in Uganda alongside Bharti Airtel Ltd. of India earlier this year. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones