Africa Media Review for August 17, 2016

South Sudan’s Kiir Calls for Elections Before End of Interim Period
South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, has unexpectedly called for an early election, two years ahead of schedule and before the completion of the implementation of the peace agreement which recommends a lot of institutional and political reforms for two and a half years of the transitional period. President Kiir made the remarks weeks after he dislodged from Juba his former first deputy Riek Machar who is currently on the run in Equatoria region. The President said it was time to renew mandate from the people in an early election, which he believes to have no challenger. “I believe we need a new mandate and trust from the people. I will therefore consult with other political leaders and pursue our transitional constitution provisions in order to reach general consensus on expediting electoral process,” announced president Kiir in a speech on Monday in the national parliament. Sudan Tribune

UN Launches Independent Probe Into South Sudan Rampage
The United Nations secretary-general is launching an independent investigation into allegations that U.N. peacekeepers did not respond to prevent multiple cases of abuse and sexual violence against civilians and foreigners in South Sudan’s capital. Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said late Tuesday that the U.N. chief is alarmed by reports of the July 11 attack on a compound popular with foreigners in Juba. The Associated Press this week reported that South Sudanese troops went on a nearly four-hour rampage through the compound in one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in the country’s three-year civil war. Several witnesses told the AP that soldiers shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people and carried out mock executions. Separately, several witnesses also told the AP that U.N. peacekeepers in Juba did not stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.’s main camp last month. NY Times

23 South Sudan Refugees Charged in Ethiopia Murder Case
A court in Ethiopia has charged 23 South Sudanese refugees with the April murders of 10 Ethiopians, local media reported Tuesday. The murders took place in the Jewi refugee camp in the western Gambella region on April 21 after two South Sudanese children died when they were hit by a car driven by an Ethiopian employee of an international aid agency. The accused are alleged to have killed two Ethiopian women and eight men working in and around the camp in a series of retaliatory attacks. The discovery of their badly-mutilated bodies triggered 48 hours of intercommunal clashes in Gambella town, which lies on the border of South Sudan. Buildings and vehicles belonging to the UN and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were also attacked by angry Ethiopians who accused them of helping the refugees. The 23 defendants appeared in court on Monday and their next hearing is due on October 13, state-controlled Fana radio said. Times Live

Morocco Arrests Four over Alleged Ties with ISIS
Morocco on Tuesday arrested four men allegedly linked to the Islamic State jihadist group and planning attacks in the kingdom’s economic capital Casablanca, the interior ministry said. It said authorities had dismantled “a terrorist cell of four extremists who were active between Casablanca and Mograne”, a rural area about 50km north of political capital Rabat. Initial findings in the investigation pointed to the men having “pledged allegiance” to ISIS and preparing to attack “vital sites in Casablanca”, it said. In late July, Morocco announced the arrests of 52 suspects it said were planning to set up a branch of ISIS and carry out attacks in the North African country. Rabat says 159 “terrorist cells” have been busted since 2002, including 38 over the past three years with ties to jihadists in Iraq and Syria. A study by the US-based Soufan Group said last December that at least 1 200 Moroccans had travelled to fight alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria in the previous 18 months. News24

Mauritania Anti-Slavery Activists ‘Tortured in Custody’
Thirteen anti-slavery activists in Mauritania on trial for “rebellion and use of violence” told a court on Monday that they had been tortured during their detention, their lawyer said. They were arrested last month after a protest in a Nouakchott slum community that was being forcibly relocated as the West African country prepared for an Arab League summit. “One by one, the 13 spoke out against the forms of torture they had been subjected to in custody”, according to lawyer Brahim Ould Ebetty, representing the members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement. He added that the campaigners demanded that “proceedings be brought against the torturers they have mentioned by name”. Al Jazeera

Young Man Killed as Half a Million Protest Guinea Government
A young man was shot dead by police on Tuesday during a demonstration in Guinea that saw at least half a million people protest against alleged government corruption, officials said. Several others were injured in the Conakry rally to denounce what they said was economic mismanagement by the government of President Alpha Conde, according to the same sources. Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said 700 000 people had joined a 15 km procession from the suburbs to the 28 Septembre stadium in the west African nation’s capital. Security forces said the number was closer to 500 000. News24

Why Liberia Could Plunge Back into Conflict if a Historic Land Rights Bill Isn’t Passed
Liberia could plunge back into civil war if the nation does not pass a historic bill protecting community land rights in a region where weak land rights have been tied to armed conflict, civil society organisations have warned. In 2014 and 2015, Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf proposed the draft Land Rights Act (LRA) and Land Authority Act (LAA), which would strengthen the rights of rural communities to land on which they have lived and worked for generations, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). In its proposed form, the act legally recognises communities’ rights to native “customary land”—defined as land owned by a community that is used in accordance with traditional practices such as crop farming. IBTimes

IGAD Says Al Shabaab Has ‘Safe Havens’ in Kenya
In a statement, IGAD said the Somalia-based Al Shabaab has set up safe heavens in Kenya, in which the group can plan and execute deadly attacks against the east African Countries. IGAD report revealed that Al Shabaab’s Jayshul Ayman was successful in Kenya over the past few years and carried out attacks, including Westgate mall and Garissa University attacks that left scores dead. IGAD says Al-Shabaab has two military wings—Jayshul Ayman and Jaysh al-Usra. Jayshul Ayman is tasked with attacking Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, while Jaysh al-Usra is assigned to attack Ethiopia. The new report suggests that neither is true. It said the group has a presence in five countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania and Uganda. It said the group maintains “safe houses” in Kenya “within which they can securely meet, plan, and execute operations. Al-Shabab is also “actively developing new external operations in Ethi­o­pia,” according to the report. Shabelle News

African Union Soldiers Jailed over Somali Fuel Racket
Nine Ugandan soldiers serving as peacekeepers in Somalia have been jailed for running a fuel racket. The African Union (AU) said they had been sentenced to between one year and three years by a Ugandan military court, which sat in Somalia. The officers, including two majors, were arrested in a sting operation in June. The AU mission is fighting alongside Somali government forces against al-Shabab Islamist militants. It was the first time a military court connected to the AU mission (Amisom) had sat in Somalia since the troops were deployed nine years ago. Correspondents say it was decided to do so as an attempt to show Somalia’s citizens that the Amisom force was being held to account. BBC

Gabon Opposition Chooses Ping as Candidate for August Election
Gabon’s main opposition parties chose former foreign minister Jean Ping as their candidate in an election Aug. 27 against President Ali Bongo, who is standing for a second term. Ping, age 74, is considered one of Africa’s foremost diplomats. He has served as chairman of the African Union commission and as president of the U.N. General Assembly. “I understand the gravity of the task I have been given,” Ping told thousands of cheering supporters in Libreville. “I won’t disappoint you.” Ping has an unusual history for an African politician. His father was a Chinese businessman who came to Gabon in the 1930s, married the daughter of a traditional chief and grew rich trading goods including timber and seafood. VOA

Three Aid Workers Kidnapped in DRC
Three workers with the Catholic aid organisation Caritas were abducted on Tuesday in a troubled region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the charity said. The incident occurred 125km northwest of the provincial capital of Goma, in an area notorious for attacks by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group. “Two Caritas-Congo vehicles were ambushed in Misinga and three Congolese workers were kidnapped,” Caritas-Congo spokesperson Guy-Marin Kamandji said. “One of the vehicles came under, fire but was able to turn around,” he said. One of its occupants, a German photojournalist, was wounded in the leg, he said. The vehicles were carrying neither money nor aid, Kamandji added. FDLR members are the “suspected authors” of the kidnapping, he said. News24

Zambian President’s Inauguration Delayed until Court Rules on Vote
Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Tuesday his inauguration would be delayed until a court rules on a challenge from his main election rival who said the vote was rigged. Results on Monday showed Lungu narrowly won re-election in Africa’s second-largest copper producer which is suffering an economic slump due to depressed commodity prices. But his rival, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, said he would challenge the result, alleging fraud during the vote counting process after Thursday’s election. Police said they arrested about 150 protesters in opposition strongholds in the southern African country, while one ruling party supporter was detained on Monday after torching a police vehicle during celebrations. Reuters

Zambia’s Reputation as Stable Haven Tested After Contentious Poll
These are worrying times in Zambia, a southern African nation that takes pride in its peaceful, democratic history. After the president won re-election by what seems like an impossibly narrow margin, the nation’s opposition alleged last week’s poll was rigged and said it plans to challenge the results in court. President Edgar Lungu says he will delay his inauguration, scheduled for next week, while the Constitutional Court examines the petition. The court will have two weeks to rule. On Tuesday, police announced they had arrested more than 150 rowdy opposition supporters around the country who “ran amok” and vandalized property belonging to ruling party supporters. VOA

Zimbabwean Government Brands Social Media Users as ‘Cyber Terrorists’ and Reiterates Threats
Zimbabwe’s government has threatened to crack down on social media activists it brands as “cyber-terrorists” as protest movement leaders continue to encourage users to vent their frustrations over the nation’s faltering economy using the “safe” platforms. In recent months, the nation of almost 16 million people has been rocked by a social movement that successfully managed to shut down the capital Harare in a series of protests against bad governance from President Robert Mugabe’s regime. The civilian-led demonstrations, a rarity in Zimbabwe where activists are routinely targeted by the authorities, was publicised with the hashtag #ThisFlag, and described by many as the most provocative movement in Zimbabwe’s recent history. After leaving the country for his safety—first to neighbouring South Africa, then to the United States—the movement’s architect, Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested last month for his internet activism and admitted to having received death threats. IBTimes



Photo: Adam Jones