Africa Media Review for August 29, 2016

Both Sides in Gabon Presidential Election Claim Victory
Supporters of Gabon’s president and his chief rival have both said they expect to win an election that has proved to be the most serious challenge yet to the Bongo family’s half-century rule. The rival, Jean Ping, 73, traded accusations of fraud that raised the prospect of increased tension in the wake of an uncharacteristically bitter campaign. Ping distributed figures showing him easily beating incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba in Saturday’s vote. “The general trends indicate we are the winner of this important presidential election,” Ping told reporters and a large crowd of cheering supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters in the capital, Libreville.  The Guardian

Challenger Cries Foul in Gabon Poll
The candidate hoping to unseat Ali Bongo in Gabon’s presidential election on Saturday alleged a biased court ruling had opened the way to fraud because it allowed soldiers and police to vote several times. Jean Ping’s campaign manager said the Constitutional Court had on Friday – the eve of the vote – “authorised soldiers to vote outside of areas where they are registered and (authorised) supplementary voter lists for them.” “This is a flagrant violation of election law” which opens the way to fraud, Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi said in a statement. He added that it would allow members of the security forces “to vote several times in several polling centres by registering on several supplementary lists.” News 24

Gabon’s Leader Gives Elephants Free Rein. Rural Voters Don’t Forget.
[…] Mr. Bongo, whose family has held Gabon’s presidency since the Lyndon B. Johnson era, has earned international praise for his commitment to conservation. But as he faces re-election on Saturday, his efforts have earned him something else as well: resentment from many residents who complain that he worries too much about wild animals and not enough about them. Some potential voters said they planned to sit out the vote in protest, repeating a common refrain that can be heard in the forests and on city streets alike: Let the elephants vote for him instead.  The New York Times

Heavy Casualties as Libyan Forces Advance on IS in Sirte
Militia loyal to Libya’s unity government have suffered heavy casualties as they push into the last two areas of Sirte held by the so-called Islamic State group (IS). Hospital sources told reporters that 34 government soldiers had been killed and 150 wounded in fierce fighting. The coastal city was seized by the militant group in February 2015. Forces aligned to Libya’s government of national accord launched an operation in May to re-take Sirte. BBC

Nigeria Launches Offensive Against Militants in Delta Oil Hub
Nigeria’s military said on Saturday it had launched a new offensive against militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta, killing five and arresting 23. Armed groups have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the southern region, reducing the country’s oil output by 700,000 barrels day. A special forces battalion moved against militant camps on Friday in an operation “aimed at getting rid of all forms of criminal activities”, army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement. “In the course of the operation, five militants that attacked the troops were killed in action, while numerous others were injured and 23 suspects were arrested.” There was no immediate reaction from militant groups, which operate from hard-to-access creeks in the swampland. Reuters

Nigeria President Says Boko Haram Leader Has Been Wounded
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said Sunday the military wounded the leader of Boko Haram, his country’s homegrown Islamic extremist group. Nigeria’s military said last week it had “fatally wounded” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in an airstrike, but it stopped short of saying that he was dead. Boko Haram no longer holds any Nigerian territory and the group has split into small groups attacking soft targets, said Buhari on Sunday, speaking on the sidelines of the Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development in Kenya. The Nigerian government is ready to discuss the release of the Chibok girls held hostage by Boko Haram, Buhari said in a statement from his spokesman. Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria, is where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted from a school in April 2014. Dozens of the kidnapped girls escaped, but 218 remain missing. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nigeria Would Let Boko Haram Pick NGO Intermediary In Talks To Free Chibok Girls
Nigeria would let Boko Haram choose a non-profit organisation as an intermediary in any talks on the release of about 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeastern village of Chibok in 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday. Buhari first said last year that his government was ready to negotiate with Islamist militants Boko Haram over the girls, but the group has not commented on the proposal. Nigeria’s failure to find the kidnapped children prompted an outcry at home and abroad. Critics of Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, said his government was too slow to act. Any negotiations would be the first publicly known talks between the government and Boko Haram, whose seven-year insurgency to create an Islamic state in the northeast has killed 15,000 people. Reuters

Gender Inequality Costs Africa $95bn a Year – UN
The UN on Sunday urged African nations to close a gender gap that is costing an estimated $95bn a year in lost economic potential. In 2014, the cost was higher, at $105bn. “Where there are high levels of gender inequality, societies are missing out,” UN Development Fund (UNDP) director Helen Clark said. “They are not harnessing the full potential of women, and that costs economically, at the family level, community level and the national level.” Citing agriculture as an example, Clark said that in many African nations, women are banned from owning or inheriting land, making it hard for them to borrow money. “They then don’t have the finance to buy the best seeds, the best fertilisers. So women, despite working very, very hard, end up producing less, being less productive,” she said in Nairobi, where she was attending the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.  News 24

Guptagate: Family Sells South Africa Holdings After Jacob Zuma Influence Claims
South Africa’s wealthy Gupta family, which has been accused of holding undue political sway over President Jacob Zuma in a scandal that became known as Guptagate, said on Saturday it planned to dispose of all stakes it holds in South African businesses before the end of the year. The Guptas have denied accusations that they have used their friendship with Zuma to influence his decisions or advance their business interests. But South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog said in July it would get more funds to investigate whether Zuma allowed the family to make government appointments. In a statement, the Gupta family said “we now believe the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses” and it believed the move would benefit current employees. The Guardian

Police Break Up Zimbabwe ‘Mega-Demonstration’ In Defiance Of Court Order
In Zimbabwe’s capital city, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse a demonstration that the country’s top court had ruled could proceed. Opposition leaders termed Friday’s march in Harare a “mega-demonstration.” It marked “the first time that Zimbabwe’s fractured opposition joined in a single action to confront President Robert Mugabe’s government since 2007,” as The Associated Press reports. Former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who is now at odds with Mugabe, told reporters that 50 people were injured and admitted to the hospital. And Didymus Mutasa, a senior official from Mujuru’s party, told Reuters, “Today has been for me the worst day that I have lived in this country, where I have observed with my own eyes, the state breaking its own laws and the state starting violence by attacking people who were just gathered together.” NPR

Soldiers, Police Reportedly Join Zim Protests
Zimbabwe seems on the verge of a revolt by uniformed forces amid reports that some unpaid rank and file members have joined mass protests demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe and his administration. The defence force leaders are credited with keeping Mugabe in power since independence in 1980 but ordinary officers are frustrated by failure to pay their salaries, for the umpteenth time, sparking an unprecedented move to protest. Officers speaking to CAJ News on condition of anonymity expressed solidarity with the protesting masses, pointing out they also were not exempt from the economic crisis besetting the country. “We have families to look after, so the protests that you are seeing here setting Harare alight have involved some of us,” said a soldier. SABC

Will the Zambian Poll Results Trigger a Constitutional Crisis?
The results of Zambia’s historic five-ballot election are threatening to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. Last week, the opposition filed a petition in the Constitutional Court challenging the validity of the results. The poll was a crucial test for Zambia’s new constitution, which was amended and adopted earlier this year. President Edgar Lungu’s victory, which came after an election campaign tainted by violence, intimidation and a conspicuous bias in favour of the ruling party in public media, has triggered contention over who should run the country. Lungu has yet to be sworn in as Zambia’s president. This is because of a constitutional provision that requires that an incumbent or president-elect should not exercise executive powers once a legal petition is filed challenging their election. ISS

Igad Backs Replacement of Machar, Calls for Peace
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) has said it is up to the South Sudan government to decide whether Dr Riek Machar should be reinstated as the country’s first vice president. That decision would be “naturally accommodated by Igad,” Sharon Kuku, a spokeswoman for the eight-nation grouping of East African states, said. Ms Kuku noted that Taban Deng Gai, appointed by President Salva Kiir as Dr Machar’s replacement, had pledged at Igad’s August 5 Heads of States Summit to abide by the South Sudan government’s decision on the first vice presidency. “Igad did not stop Gen Deng from attending the Summit nor speaking for the South Sudan government,” Ms Kuku pointed out. The East African

S. Sudan’s Kiir Says Imposition of Machar Will Prolong Conflict
South Sudan president Salva Kiir warned on Saturday that any attempt to impose a return to power his main political rival and the leader of armed opposition, Riek Machar, will prolong the war and increases the suffering of the people. Machar was replaced as the country’s first vice president when he left the capital, Juba days after his forces clashed with those loyal to Kiir outside the presidential palace. “What is that they want in South Sudan? If it is peace and end of sufferings, they should wait and see whether comrade Taban and I will do. We know our people are suffering and for this comrade Taban and his group have agreed in principle with me to cooperate to implement this agreement”, he said. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan’s Troubled Agreement is Not Keeping the Peace
When South Sudan’s president signed a peace deal a year ago to try to end the country’s civil war, he added 16 reservations to the agreement. Salva Kiir called it “the most divisive and unprecedented peace deal” in African history and said he only signed it because of “many messages of intimidations and threats” from the international community. He complained about the power given to opposition leader Riek Machar as First Vice President, the placement of rebel forces in the capital of Juba, and the authority given to monitors of the peace deal. Kiir’s reservations were swiftly rejected by the U.S. government, which led the charge for the peace agreement, according to diplomats in Juba. AP on Stars and Stripes

Tunisia’s Youngest Premier Since Independence Sworn In
Tunisia’s new Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and members of his cabinet were sworn in on Saturday, the presidency said, after approval from parliament. The prime minister and his 26 ministers swore to “work devotedly for the good of Tunisia” and to “respect its constitution and laws”, it said. Chahed, at 40, is the country’s youngest prime minister since independence from France in 1956. He is also the seventh premier in less than six years since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Parliament late on Friday approved the cabinet line-up, with 168 out 195 lawmakers who attended the session voting in favour, 22 against and five abstaining. News 24

Japan Pledges Billions In Investments for Foothold in Africa
The funds would make Africa and Japan “grow together,” Abe said on Saturday in Nairobi, addressing dozens of leaders from the continent. Abe traveled to Kenya for the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which has been held in Africa for the first time this year. The prime minister said Tokyo would commit $10 billion (8.9 billion euros), starting this year, to develop Africa’s infrastructure. “When combined with investment from the private sector, I expect that the total will amount to $30 billion,” Abe said. “This is an investment that has faith in Africa’s future,” Abe said. Deutsche Welle

Congo to Free Five Activists to Smooth Election Negotiations
Democratic Republic of Congo will free five pro-democracy activists in the next few days, the justice minister said on Friday, to try to appease the opposition and ease negotiations over an election timetable after a delayed presidential vote. Opponents accuse President Joseph Kabila of deliberately delaying the vote in order to cling to power beyond the end of his mandate in December, a charge his supporters deny. Opposition leaders could not be reached for comment but Friday’s news looked unlikely to appease the main opposition alliance, which dismissed a similar promise to release prisoners last week as insufficient and boycotted the talks. VOA

The Danger of Fighting Fire With Fire: Civilians in Congo Turn To Self-defence Groups To Stop Massacres
People in the eastern Congolese city of Beni have had enough of massacres. Angered by the inability of the army to protect them against shadowy armed groups, some are secretly forming their own self-defence units. But it’s a decision that can’t be taken lightly. The last thing the Democratic Republic of Congo needs is more militias, and there are voices in the community urging caution. “The young have understood that they cannot fold their arms when faced with the killers that the state and its partners no longer know how to stop,” said Jean-Paul Ngahangondi, national coordinator of the Beni-based Convention for the Respect of Human Rights. IRIN

Senate to Mediate Quagmire in Liberia’s House of Representatives
The President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate said his legislative body has set up a peace committee to try to resolve the stalemate in the House of Representatives. The House has been paralyzed for more than two months due to disagreement between two groups of lawmakers. One group wants the Speaker of the House, Alex Tyler, to recuse himself from presiding over the official business of the House until he is cleared of alleged corruption charges. The Speaker and those who support him say he’s innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  VOA

Rush is On To Get East Africa’s Oil, Gas To the Market
Oil and gas are the buzzwords in East Africa as countries try to outdo each other in getting their hydrocarbons out of the ground and into the market. Last week, Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered that exploitation of natural gas begin as a matter of urgency, as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that Tullow Oil would send the country’s first barrels of crude oil to the market from March 2017 ahead of the start of exports in June. The East African