Africa Media Review for August 25, 2016

Social Media Crackdown: The New Normal for Africa?
Police in Burundi arrested eight people Saturday for allegedly circulating defamatory anti-government statements on social media. The Burundi case is not unique. The list of African countries trying to cut or control social media keeps growing, particularly during elections or periods of unrest. In Ethiopia, no stranger to restrictions on press freedom, authorities began periodically shutting down access to social media in the Oromia region in March as a response to ongoing protests. In July, Ethiopia blocked social media after university entrance exams were leaked online. VOA

Burundian Government Cracks Down on WhatsApp Group
Eight members of a Burundian WhatsApp political discussion group have been detained at the police jail in the capital Bujumbura, police said on Wednesday. They were meeting when police arrested them last Saturday. National police spokesperson Pierre Nkurikiye told ANA on Wednesday that they are accused of “sending out libellous and insulting writings against institutions and authorities on the social media networks”. Police arrested 54 members of the group but released 46 of them soon after. “They had gathered in a pub in the town centre where they were preparing to write and send out their writings through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter,” Nkurikiye said. IOL

Uganda: Museveni’s Age Law Set
A private member’s bill believed to be a ruse for the repeal of the presidential age limit in the constitution has for the second time been shelved by parliament. The bill, sponsored by Nakifuma MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko, appeared on the order paper yesterday as part of parliament’s “business to follow.” The bill, among other things, seeks to remove limits on the tenure of commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and extend the retirement age for judges. Nakifuma MP Kafeero Ssekitooleko had initially been expected to table his bill, The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2016, on August 10, only to withdraw it at the last minute. Yesterday, after failing again to table the controversial bill, Ssekitooleko said he was entirely to blame. “I think I took long to make the necessary adjustments to it,” Ssekitooleko said. The Monitor on allAfrica

Burundi Could Scrap Presidential Term Limits
A debate on whether to scrap Presidential term limits in Burundi is set to kick off after a commission formed last year to chart the country’s political future said it was ready to present its findings to Parliament. Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman Justin Nzoyisaba said views it collected from across the country favoured removal of the two-term limit for the President. “More than two means that people said that they have to remove the term limits. It means that the president can go for as many terms as he wants if elected by the people,” said the inter-Burundi dialogue commission chair Justin Nzoyisaba. Mr Nzoyisaba said this would necessitate a review of the Arusha Accord and the country’s constitution which prohibit a President running for a third term in office.  The East African

Zimbabwe Starts Firing State Workers as it Runs Out of Money
Zimbabwe, which hasn’t been able to pay its more than 300,000 state workers on time this year, will start firing employees at its agriculture ministry as it seeks to trim a civil service where wages absorb over 80 percent of government revenue. The state-controlled Herald newspaper on Wednesday reported that 8,252 posts at the ministry, or 43 percent of its workforce, have been abolished, citing the Public Service Commission, which oversees government departments. The government has ordered a freeze on hiring and promotions across all departments, a finance ministry document obtained by Bloomberg shows. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe: Chaos Rocks Harare as Police Clash with MDC-T Youth
Chaotic scenes returned to Harare on Wednesday as anti-riot police clashed with youth from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change- Tsivangirai (MDC- T) party who were demonstrating against heightening police brutality in the country. Violence erupted after the police intercepted the demonstrators who were marching to the Ministry of Home Affairs offices at Mukwati Building where they intended to hand over a petition to Minister Ignatius Chombo. The police invited the ire of the MDC-T youth after they fired teargas at the procession close to the Mukwati building, sending the demonstrators and other passers-by scurrying for cover. The demonstrators responded by hurling stones at the police, igniting running battles that spilled back into the Central Building District along Nelson Mandela Avenue, which houses the MDC-T Headquarters. SABC

South Africa: Who Could Replace Jacob Zuma as ANC Leader?
In the wake of its worst election result in more than 20 years, South Africa’s governing party is getting ready for a shake-up at the top. Despite taking more than 50 percent of the vote, the African National Congress (ANC) lost control of key urban areas—including the country’s financial hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria—as voters turned to the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA) and radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). As a result, the ANC has indicated it is considering bringing forward its party conference—scheduled for December—in order to overhaul the party’s top brass. An early conference is “not a bad idea, because it will give whatever leadership that comes out of the conference a longer period to prepare for [elections in] 2019,” ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday. Newsweek

Not-so Risky Business in Congo as Australians Embroiled in Offshore Bribe Claims
At stake was the multibillion-dollar dream of Australian company Sundance Resources – a dream that, if it came true, would not only pay tremendous dividends for Australian shareholders but also help transform the economy of one of the poorest countries. To achieve it, the trio had travelled to the Republic of the Congo’s poor but stylish capital, Brazzaville, with a plan to win over the most powerful man in the country. And there lay the risk. President Denis Sassou Nguesso had a reputation as a despotic and corrupt leader. If Sundance’s envoys agreed to pay an inducement to secure his support for its iron ore mining project, Sundance could find itself at odds with Australia’s foreign bribery laws. Sydney Morning Herald

Ghandour and Kerry Discuss Peace Talks, Sudan-US Relations
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour on Wednesday discussed with the United States Secretary of State John Kerry bilateral relations between the two countries and recent developments in Sudan and the region. The meeting, which took place in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, comes two days after the American top diplomat met with the five foreign ministers from the regional bloc IGAD to discuss the situation in South Sudan. In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Ghandour briefed Kerry on the progress of the national dialogue process, pointing to the participation of the political, societal and armed forces in order to reach national consensus that achieves security and stability in the country. Sudan Tribune

S. Sudanese Opposition Parties Plot to Overthrow President Kiir
A group of armed and unarmed political parties opposed to South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s government have resolved to overthrow what they described as the “totalitarian regime” along with supporters, mainly from the Dinka tribe. The resolution emerged at the end of a consultative meeting attended by former agriculture minister, Lam Akol and ex-education minister Peter Adwok Nyaba in Nairobi from 18-20 August on the theme “Towards National Democratic Revolution.” “The political situation in South Sudan underlying the current civil war is a contradiction, as well as a struggle, between narrow ethnic sectarianism represented by President Salva Kiir and Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders (JCE) on the one hand and South Sudan nationalism on the other hand,” partly reads a seven-page dossier from the group. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria Fights Polio Case, Malnutrition Fueled by War
Six years of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has been exacerbated by a polio outbreak and malnutrition among hundreds of refugees displaced by violence in the country’s northeast region, officials said this week. Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s health minister, announced the discovery of two children with polio at a camp for displaced victims of the insurgency in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, and Gwoza, a Borno community at the Nigeria-Cameroon border recently liberated by Nigerian forces. “It is unfortunate that we have this development. It has set us back,” he said. In its reactions to the two polio cases in Nigeria last week, the WHO said the outbreak highlighted the “need to prioritize the immunization of children,” particularly in “hard-to-reach areas” like the Lake Chad region where the military still engages Boko Haram fighters. Anadolu Agency

US Backs Anti-Corruption NGOs and Others for Transforming Nigeria
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has praised NGOs working in Nigeria for their unwavering commitment to build communities, fight corruption and transform the country. Kerry met with representatives of anti-corruption non-governmental organizations and a group of adolescent girls studying and working on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field at the United States embassy in Nigeria’s capital Abuja Wednesday. “I salute you for your courage,” said Kerry. “I salute you for your vision and your commitment to trying to help to change things and we want to work with you.” Anti-corruption groups in Nigeria have asked Kerry to help speed the return of billions of dollars looted from the country’s treasury by local officials. VOA

Nigeria Banks Banned from Foreign Currency Deals
Nine Nigerian banks have been suspended from foreign currency trading for not paying money owed to the government, a central bank source has told the BBC. The banks are said to be withholding a total of $2.1bn (£1.6bn) belonging to the state-owned oil company. Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the merger of all state accounts into one single account at the central bank to reduce corruption. It is nearly a year since the deadline to transfer the money expired. The banks affected are: Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank, First City Monument Bank, Heritage Bank, Keystone Bank, Skye Bank, Sterling Bank and United Bank for Africa. BBC

Strong Opposition Bid Seen in Gabon Presidential Election
Gabon President Ali Bongo is facing a tough challenge in his bid for another term in office. The runup to Saturday’s vote has been tense, with the opposition questioning Bongo’s citizenship and eligibility. Ten challengers are vying to end nearly 50 years of rule by the Bongo family during the one-round presidential poll. The results may hinge on popular discontent over the state of the Gabonese economy, which relies heavily on oil revenue and has been deeply affected by the drop of oil prices in recent years. Gabonese economic analyst Mays Mouissi said the state budget has shrunk, so cuts have been made in such areas as investment and credit. “Companies have been laying off staff, and there has been quite a number of social conflicts,” he said. VOA

US Deploys Attack Helicopters to Strike ISIS in Libya
The United States has begun using attack helicopters to target the Islamic State group in the jihadists’ Libyan former stronghold of Sirte, a defence official said on Tuesday. American jets have since the start of August been helping fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) retake the coastal city of Sirte, conducting dozens of strikes on ISIS fighting positions and equipment. Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo, a spokesperson for the US military’s Africa Command, said Marine Corps AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters had in recent days joined the operation. “The Cobras provide additional precision airstrike capability,” Stuttgart-based Falvo said. News 24

Algeria Clears Islamic State-tied Militants East of Capital – Sources
Algerian forces have cleared out Islamic State-affiliated militants from the mountains east of Algiers, two years after they kidnapped and beheaded a French tourist in the former al Qaeda stronghold, senior security sources said. Algeria, emerging from a 1990s war with armed Islamists, has been carrying out operations to flush out remnants of militants from Jund al-Khilafa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate”, who had declared themselves allied with Islamic State. Bombings and attacks are rarer in Algeria since it ended its decade-long war, but al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is still active and a small group of rival militants tied to Islamic State also began operating east of the capital. Reuters

The Way Home: Rebuilding Peace in Central African Republic
For nearly three years now, the Fatima church has been Bertrand’s home. During the peak of the violence between the Séléka – a coalition of mostly Muslim insurgent groups from the north of the country – and local vigilante groups known as the anti-Balaka, religious sites across the country became improvised boltholes for people fleeing the indiscriminate killings, rapes, and looting. […] According to the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, more than 800,000 Central Africans have still not returned home. Around half that number live outside CAR in neighbouring countries. The rest are in camps for internally displaced persons, or in the homes of family and friends. IRIN

Zambian Opposition Leader Puts Pressure on Lungu to Step Down
Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has increased pressure on newly-elected President Edgar Lungu to step down, claiming that he was using state machinery to effect a coup d’état in the country. The opposition leader made his utterances in the wake of a petition that was filed by his United Party for National Development (UPND) on Friday, citing that there were several irregularities during the country’s presidential elections on August 11. Reports on Monday indicated that the inauguration of Lungu had been halted pending a constitutional court ruling on the poll results. News 24

Mozambique: Renamo Leader Rejects VP Position
Leader of the opposition Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) Alfonso Dhlakama has rebuffed a proposal to offer him the position of a deputy president. If accepted, the proposal advanced by the international mediators would have culminated into the formation of a coalition government. But Dhlakama vehemently rejected the proposal, saying he did not want the ruling party to swallow or weaken his party.  According to the Renamo leader, it was also not possible for the ruling Frelimo and opposition Renamo to form a coalition government because the two parties have different political ideologies. News 24

Japan’s Charm Offensive Returns to Africa
Africa is becoming a lucrative investment destination for Asia’s leading economies — primarily China, India and Japan. This month, Nairobi is hosting the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which will focus on creating a favourable environment for Japan-Africa economic co-operation. In this forum, Japan hopes to cement its diplomatic and economic clout on the continent. This follows similar Summits with the Chinese and India last year. In November, Delhi hosted the India-Africa summit that saw it commit to $10 billion in funding, 50,000 scholarships and infrastructure projects for Africa. A month later, in Johannesburg, China hosted its own Africa summit that resulted in a $60 billion pledge to develop Africa’s infrastructure, education and health sectors. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones