Africa Media Review for August 21, 2017

Nigeria’s Buhari Returns Home after Three-Month Sick Leave in Britain
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned home on Saturday from three months of medical leave in Britain where he received treatment for an unspecified ailment. Buhari’s leave, which began on May 7 and was his second this year, left many in Nigeria questioning whether he was well enough to run the country. The refusal of officials to disclose the nature of the ailment has led to speculation about the illness. Dressed in a dark kaftan and Muslim prayer hat, the 74-year-old Buhari walked unaided from his plane – holding rails on either side of him – after it landed at the international airport in the capital, Abuja. He was greeted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has acted as interim leader, and was accorded a military salute. He made no statement and immediately travelled to the presidential villa. Reuters

President Buhari in Plea for Nigerian Unity
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has addressed the nation following three months of medical leave in the UK. In a televised speech, Mr Buhari said he had followed events in Nigeria closely during his absence. He was “distressed” by calls for the dissolution of Nigeria, he said, urging Nigerians to come together. But the president failed to disclose what he was being treated for. It was his second spell of medical leave this year. “I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media, have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation,” Mr Buhari said. Nigeria’s unity was “not negotiable”, he added. BBC

Hospital Officials: Nearly 500 Dead in Sierra Leone Mudslides
Churches across Sierra Leone held special services Sunday in memory of those killed in mudslides and flooding earlier this week, as hospital officials announced the toll had risen to nearly 500 bodies collected. More than 600 people remain missing and rescue officials have warned that the chances of finding survivors are decreasing each day. The death toll earlier stood at 450. The Inter-Religious Council called for the services to be held Sunday in honor of the deceased, as special prayers and recitals were offered in mosques Friday and Sunday. The preacher at Buxton Memorial Methodist Church in Freetown, the capital, offered a sermon that looked at mankind’s contribution to the disaster, as a gospel band rendered the song “Papa God Sorry for Salone (Sierra Leone).” VOA

Landslide in Congo Kills Dozens, Official Says
A landslide after heavy rains in an eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed dozens of people, and possibly as many as 200, according to an estimate of the number of households buried by tons of mud, an official said Saturday. The landslide buried about 50 households in the fishing village of Tora, in Ituri Province on the shores of Lake Albert in the Western Rift Valley, said Pacifique Keta, the vice governor of Ituri Province. He said he feared that as many as 200 people had died. So far, at least 50 bodies have been recovered with the help of Red Cross workers, Mr. Keta said by telephone. He added that he had asked the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo to help with the recovery efforts because the area is difficult to get to. “It is very mountainous,” he said. The New York Times

Mali’s President Postpones Suspends Revising Constitution under Opposition Pressure
Mali’s president has suspended plans for a referendum on constitutional change, a move cheered by the opposition Saturday after months of street protests against the reforms. “In the higher interests of the nation and to preserve a peaceful social climate, I have taken the responsibility of deciding to suspend the holding of a referendum on revising the constitution,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on television Friday evening. The proposed reforms, the first constitutional revision in 25 years, aim to put in place some commitments made in a 2015 peace accord between the government and former rebel groups in the north of the country. They also call for creating a Senate, with a third of the seats appointed by Keita himself — a plan that critics said aimed at consolidating his own power. News 24

Kenya Opposition Files Challenge against Presidential Vote
Lawyers representing the Kenyan opposition coalition National Super Alliance filed a petition Friday with the Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, beating a midnight deadline. A statement from the group’s presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, and his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, said they turned to the court because of alleged irregularities in the Aug. 8 presidential vote. Those included, among others, “numerous instances when their ticket was denied votes and others in which their competitor … had undeserved votes added to his total,” the statement read. AP

Devolution Gives Kenyans a Taste of Power as They Vote Governors Out 
As disputes raged over the presidential results from Kenya’s election last week, a little-noticed democratic revolution blossomed in the layer of government directly underneath. Kenyans sent home 25 out of 47 county governors, upholding a strong anti-incumbency tradition and warning that voters would turf out failing local leaders after power and money devolved to the counties in the last election cycle. Anti-corruption campaigners – and voters – hope the new taste of direct accountability will eventually help curb corruption in East Africa’s biggest economy and weaken the grip of parties that rely on ethnic voting blocs. “Party doesn’t matter. We want performers,” said Ann Wairimu, 48, a real estate agent in Nairobi, where dirty water and open sewers caused a recent cholera outbreak. Reuters

Togo Protest Turns Bloody, 7 Killed
Togo opposition leader told a press conference, Saturday night, that police fired into the crowd as they demonstrated against the ruling party.  Tikpi Atchadam, President of the Togolese Pan African National Party said, “Police shot and killed seven innocent civilians in Sokode over 300 kilometers from Lome who were protesting over the way one family has been ruling the country for over fifty years. From the father to the son. It’s like a family property and we are ready to resist that this time”.  Scores were also reported injured. The opposition members, with their red T shirts, chanting anti government slogans, also called for reform of the country’s constitution to include term limits.  President Faure Gnasimbge has been in power since February 2005, after the death of his father President Gnasimgbe Eyadema who ruled the country for 38, since 1967.  Anadolu Agency

Task Force to Tackle Threat of Terrorism in Africa’s Sahel Region
The joint task force by the so-called Group of Five to tackle the threat of terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region is now operational. The G5 comprises of – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. But a number of challenges remain, including funding and the group has taken their plight to the United Nations Security Council. Briefing the Council on the activities of the G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, El-Ghassim Wane, it was also noted the need to tackle cross-border crime and to impose targeted sanctions. El-Ghassim Wane says: “The cross-border dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region, as well as the serious challenges posed by transnational organised crime and its links to terrorism continue to pose a serious threat to stability, prosperity and growth in the Sahel region.” SABC

Moroccan ISIS Terrorists ‘Pose a Threat on Europe’s Doorstep’
As the hunt intensifies for members of a Moroccan-led cell thought to be responsible for the terror attacks in Spain, attention has turned to the hundreds of returned jihadists across the Strait of Gibraltar who intelligence officials fear pose a large, residual threat on Europe’s doorstep. Up to 1,000 jihadists are thought to have been smuggled back to Morocco and Tunisia from the battlefields of Islamic State’s now crumbling caliphate. About 300 are thought to have returned to Morocco, from where six of the 12 terrorists who carried out the attacks in Catalonia are believed to have hailed. A former leading member of the extremist group’s external operations arm said the exodus of Isis fighters included militants who had fled disenfranchisement and lives of petty crime and felt aggrieved by their status in Europe – particularly France. With the land controlled by Isis shrinking by the week, he believes that some of them will take their grievances back to their countries of birth and use the proximity of Spain to launch attacks, or infiltrate further into the continent. At the height of Isis’s powers, up to 1,600 Moroccans are believed to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, making them, per capita, one of the largest national groups in the fast-shrinking caliphate. The Guardian

Spain Rescues 600 Migrants in Mediterranean in 24 Hours
Spain’s maritime rescue service has saved more than 600 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco in the past 24 hours, making it one of its busiest days so far this year. The service said it rescued 16 migrants early Thursday in the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow passage that separates Spain from Morocco. On Wednesday, its vessels rescued 601 migrants, including two in a canoe and six in a beach paddle boat. The service said of the 601, 432 migrants were rescued in the Strait and 169 further east in the Mediterranean. Some 550 of the migrants were from Maghreb countries of northwest Africa and the rest from sub-Saharan African countries. More than 9,000 migrants have reached Spain by sea so far this year, more than the total for all of 2016. AP

Congo’s Civil Society Look to Force Kabila out
Representatives of Congo’s civil society launched a manifesto on Friday calling for a democratic transition and for President Joseph Kabila to step down. Kabila has repeatedly refused to commit to a timeline for stepping down. Members from Congo’s grassroots organizations and religious institutions chose the International Federation of Human Rights headquarters in Paris to launch their manifesto on Friday. The notes of the national anthem ‘Congo rise up’ were belted out by the crowd waving the national flag’s blue, yellow and red. “Whether it’s the government or the opposition, everyone has now realized that the country is in a bad shape,” André Mbata Mangu, Director for the Institute of Democracy and Governance, told RFI. RFI

Republic of Congo Prime Minister and Cabinet Resign amid Economic Turmoil
Republic of Congo Prime Minister Clement Mouamba resigned on Thursday just days after the country’s president announced he would try and form a new government. Mouamba announced his resignation along with the rest of his cabinet after President Denis Sassou Nguesso called for new leadership. The Republic of Congo has been struggling with economic woes since a 2014 drop in oil prices. The drop reduced export revenues and increased public debt. Congolese journalists posted images of a presidential letter confirming Mouamba’s resignation. Deutsche Welle

S. Sudan President Warns over Deployment of Regional Forces
South Sudan president Salva Kiir on Sunday warned that his government could reconsider its decision on the deployment of regional protection forces mandated by the United Nations Security Council. “They [regional protection forces] have come and the way they have started is already becoming a matter of concern. They want to deploy at the airport. They also want whatever they bring into the country not to be checked,” warned the South Sudanese leader. In August 2016, the UN Security Council, following a request by the East African regional bloc (IGAD), approved the deployment of a 4,000-strong protection force to secure Juba in the aftermath of renewed clashes that occurred in the capital in July. South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity confirmed its unconditional consent to the deployment of the regional forces in a communiqué to the UN Security Council on November 30, 2016. Sudan Tribune

Somalia Forces Capture Key Al-Shabab Town of Bariire
African Union and Somali government forces have captured the town of Bariire, a strategic militant base in the south of the country, officials and witnesses said Saturday. Commanders said the Islamist al-Shabab group fled following heavy fighting outside the town in which the joint troops approached from three directions. Bariire was one of al-Shabab’s strongholds in the south and only 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Mogadishu, the country’s capital. “The joint troops attacked the town from three directions, forced the militants to flee and secured its control,” Abdinasir Alim Ibrahim, a district commissioner in nearby Afgoye, told VOA’s Somali service. “Hopefully, the next target will be Toratorow, and then we will proceed to other towns and cities controlled by the militants.” VOA

Grace Mugabe Flies Home to Zimbabwe with Diplomatic Immunity
Grace Mugabe, the wife of the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, flew home from South Africa on Sunday after being granted diplomatic immunity from being prosecuted for allegedly assaulting a young model in Johannesburg. State broadcaster ZBC showed her greeting government and military officials at the airport in Harare after returning on an Air Zimbabwe plane with her husband, who had attended a summit of southern African leaders in Pretoria. The Mugabes did not attend a state funeral for a senior ruling party official later that day in the Zimbabwean capital, although the president usually presides over such events. South Africa’s foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, granted the immunity in a notice published on Sunday that recognised “the immunities and privileges of the first lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr Grace Mugabe”. The Guardian

Chaos as Zimbabwe Bans South African, British Flights
Hundreds of people were yesterday stranded after South Africa’s decision to ban Air Zimbabwe flights due to non-payment of permit fees invited a retaliation by Harare, which ground planes operated by the neighbouring country’s national carrier. Passengers that were booked on South African Airways (SAA) flights out of Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls Airports failed to travel as scheduled. Zimbabwe also grounded British Airways flights over the same issue. The South African Civil Aviation Authority on Friday night grounded the Air Zimbabwe flights after the airlines failed to renew its foreign operators’ permit, together with other documents, which must be on board an aircraft at all times. The Standard

SADC Bids Farewell to Dos Santos, Ian Khama
The 37th ordinary SADC summit of heads of state and government in Pretoria on Sunday bid farewell to two outgoing regional leaders – presidents José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Ian Khama of Botswana – who are stepping down at the end of their terms in office. In his closing remarks, incoming Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairman President Jacob Zuma told delegates that the regional bloc would miss the two leaders. “During our discussions, we bid farewell to President Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola who is retiring. President Dos Santos has been one of the key pillars of SADC. We thus take this opportunity to thank him profoundly for his contribution to the liberation struggle in the region and his outstanding contribution to SADC,” said Zuma. “We wish him good health in his retirement. We also wish to take this opportunity to wish the people of Angola peaceful elections.” Zuma also paid tribute to Khama, who will be leaving office in April 2018. SABC