Africa Media Review for August 30, 2016

Car Bomb Kills 5 Soldiers Outside Somali President’s Palace-Police
A car bomb claimed by al Shabaab Islamist militants killed five soldiers outside the president’s palace in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and badly damaged two nearby hotels, police said. Reuters witnesses said gunfire could be heard after the explosion and a huge cloud of smoke could be seen above the president’s palace, outside which were the remnants of the car and splattered blood. “A suicide car bomb exploded outside the presidential palace. So far two hotels opposite the palace are partially destroyed,” police officer Major Mohamed Ali told Reuters by phone. Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for several recent explosions in Mogadishu, including a car bomb and gun attack last week at a popular beach restaurant in the capital that killed 10 people. Reuters

Gabon Opposition Candidate Calls on President Bongo to “Acknowledge His Defeat”
Gabon opposition candidate Jean Ping called on President Ali Bongo on Monday to “acknowledge his defeat” in Saturday’s presidential election, a head-on challenge to the Bongo family’s half-century rule over the oil-rich nation. After publishing numbers on Sunday that showed him comfortably in the lead based on a small percentage of votes, Ping called on Monday for Bongo to step down. “I encourage Ali Bongo to submit to the verdict of the ballot box,” he told a news conference, without providing more voting figures. Bongo’s camp also says it is set to win and has accused Ping’s supporters of fraud. On Twitter, his spokesman Alain Claude Bilie By Nzé called Ping’s news conference “the start of an odious attempt at a coup de force”. Reuters

UN Asks Gabon Candidates Not to Claim Win Before Results
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is calling on candidates in Gabon to refrain from claiming victory in Saturday’s presidential election until the results are released. Sunday, presidential challenger Jean Ping said early results indicate he has won the vote, while a spokesman for incumbent Ali Bongo said the president is headed to a second term. Gabon does not have a run-off system, so the candidate with the most votes in the 10-candidate field will win. A victory by former African Union leader Ping would end a half-century of Bongo family rule. Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo who died in 2009 after more than four decades in office. VOA

Italy’s Coastguard: 6,500 Migrants Rescued off Libyan Coast in One Day
The Italian coastguard on Monday said it coordinated the rescue of some 6,500 migrants off the coast of Libya, one of the largest single-day operations this year. “The command center coordinated 40 rescue operations” that included vessels from the EU’s border agency Frontex and humanitarian organizations, the coastguard said on its official Twitter account. The central Mediterranean route has witnessed a surge in migrants making the perilous journey after the so-called Balkan route was effectively shuttered earlier this year. In July, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that more than 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. Deutsche Welle

China to Mugabe – Submit or Collapse!
Mugabe can’t pay his public servants and his soldiers. It’s a replay of Zimbabwe’s collapse several times in the last 16 years. But this time his back doors – China and South Africa – are both closed. Mugabe owes China $1.5-billion and has defaulted on several repayments. Chinese President Xi Jinping has a different view from his predecessors, according to Soko. He wants to be paid, and he wants a path forward that is sustainable. Daily Maverick

UN Document Says Morocco Violated Western Sahara Cease-Fire
A confidential U.N. document says Morocco violated a 1991 cease-fire agreement with the Polisario Front independence movement by sending armed security personnel and equipment into the contested Western Sahara region without prior notice to U.N. peacekeepers. The note to the U.N. Security Council from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said the Polisario Front deployed 32 armed military personnel in response, also in violation of the cease-fire. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern Sunday at “the tense situation that has developed in the narrow buffer strip in southwestern Western Sahara between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border,” his spokesman said. The U.N. chief said this was the result of “the introduction of armed units from Morocco and the Polisario in close proximity to each other” and urged both sides to respect “the letter and the spirit of the cease-fire agreement,” the spokesman said. AP on Yahoo News

UN Chief Concerned about Western Sahara Tensions
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged Morocco and the Polisario movement campaigning for the independence of Western Sahara to withdraw soldiers and fighters from a buffer strip who have sent tensions soaring. Ban said he was “deeply concerned over the tense situation that has developed in the narrow buffer strip in southwestern Western Sahara” between the Moroccan berm that marks Rabat’s area of control and the Mauritanian border. He called on both sides “to suspend any action that alters that status quo and to withdraw all armed elements so as to prevent any further escalation”, a statement from Ban’s spokesman said. News 24

Tunisia Attack Kills Three Soldiers
Three Tunisian soldiers were killed in a “terrorist attack” on Monday near Mount Sammama, a hideout for jihadists at war with the authorities, security sources said. The attack left six other soldiers wounded, without giving further details. Defence ministry spokesperson Belhassen Oueslati told Al-Wataniya television that explosives were used in the attack and that “at least two terrorists” were also wounded. Clashes between security forces and militants continuing, the private channel said. Mosaique FM radio said earlier that the soldiers were killed when a blast hit their vehicle as they combed an area near the town of Kasserine. News 24

Congo to Start Talks on Elections Without Main Opposition Groups
Long-delayed talks on the organization of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin on Sept. 1 without the participation of some of the country’s largest opposition parties, the African Union said. The talks will last 15 days, according to plan e-mailed Sunday by the office of the African-Union appointed facilitator, Edem Kodjo. The negotiations may be extended if necessary, it said. Bloomberg

Burundi Parliament to Review Plan on Scrapping Term Limits
Burundi’s parliament is set to begin reviewing a report from a national commission, convened by the president, that says the people are in favor of scrapping term limits. Is this a sign the ruling party has been able to use a year-long political crisis to consolidate power? Or could this revitalize the opposition? In October 2015, the government of Burundi formed a commission to find a solution to the country’s political crisis. The crisis began the previous April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a plan to run for a third term, a move that critics said violated the constitution and the Arusha peace agreement that ended the country’s civil war. The 15-member committee was tasked with collecting the views of Burundians on the best way to put a stop to the crisis. VOA

Burundi Activists Call French Language Boycott to Protest UN Police Force
Burundians are being urged to shun the French language on Monday to protest against the planned deployment of a UN police force to the country. Civil society groups have called for the boycott because France moved a UN Security Council resolution paving the way for the deployment of 228 UN police officers to Burundi. “France took the initiative with the UN Security Council to send 228 police officers to Burundi,” said Hamza Burikukiye, chairman, Coalition of Associations of People Infected or Affected by HIV/AIDS (CAPES+). “We’re happy with our peace, we don’t see why France took this initiative now.”  RFI

Nuer Chiefs in South Sudan Disown New FVP Taban Deng
Paramount chiefs in South Sudan hailing from the Nuer community have issued a joint statement disowning the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, who on 24 July replaced Riek Machar, another Nuer fellow, in a controversial process contested by supporters of the latter. In a statement bearing names of 14 paramount chiefs representing Nuer communities in the 14 greater counties in the states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, inhabited by the Nuer, they rejected what they said was an illegal replacement of Machar. “The above communities do not support the illegal move by Pres. Salva Kiir replacing Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the First Vice President of South Sudan with Gen. Taban Deng Gai,” partly reads the statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Court Martials 60 Soldiers
Sixty South Sudanese soldiers have been tried before a court martial for alleged crimes committed during last month’s fighting in the capital Juba, the army spokesperson said on Monday. Brigadier-General Lul Ruai Koang told AFP they include looting, murder, shooting and loitering with at least two officers convicted of murder. He said the military is “waiting for presidential approval” before revealing the exact number of those convicted and their sentences. “They have been tried and the sentences have been passed to the high authorities,” Koang said.  News 24

U.S. Congressman to South Sudan: Implement Zero Tolerance on Rape or Face the Consequences
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman who chairs the House Subcommittee on Africa, told Foreign Policy in a phone call on Monday that one of the women raped by government troops during the July attack is constituent of his. She spoke to him by phone ahead of his trip to South Sudan this past weekend, where, Smith says, he met with President Salva Kiir and Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk. He led both meetings by bringing up her case, and according to him, both Kiir and Juuk agreed to his request to implement a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault by their forces. “‘You need to do it now,’” Smith said he told both of them. “Obviously South Sudanese women are being raped with impunity, aid workers are being raped and of course killed, and leadership starts at the top and needs to be right down through the chain of command.” South Sudan, itself the product of a decades-long battle with Sudan, has been embroiled in a bloody civil war of its own since late December 2013, when fighting broke out between troops loyal to Kiir and those loyal to then-Vice President Riek Machar. Since then, at least 50,000 people have been killed and both sides have committed mass atrocities, although government troops are blamed for far more atrocities than are the rebels. Foreign Policy

Somalia Blocks Returnees, Cites Inadequate Humanitarian Support
Authorities in southern Somalia say they have blocked Somali refugees returning from Kenya because the refugees do not get the humanitarian support they need once they reach major cities. A Tripartite Agreement signed by the U.N. refugee agency and the governments of Kenya and Somalia in November 2013, establishes a legal framework and other support for Somali refugees in Kenya who are willing to return home. But authorities in Jubbaland, a Somali Federal member state, say the agreement does not help the vulnerable refugees once they return. VOA

Ethiopians Shave Heads to Mourn Fallen in Oromia, Amhara
As protests continued to engulf parts of Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia regions this month, citizens have been shaving their heads as a sign of solidarity with jailed opposition leaders. People posted videos online of themselves shearing off their hair with electric razors in response to a letter smuggled out of prison by Oromo political leader Bekele Gerba and others. In some Ethiopian cultures, a shaved head is part of the mourning process after the death of a loved one. “They’re calling for mourning for those who are martyred, for visiting those who are in the hospital and to pay a visit to the families of the martyrs,” said Jawar Mohammed, executive director of the Oromia Media Network, a dissident satellite TV channel based in Minnesota broadcasting into Ethiopia. VOA

In Southern Africa, Leaders Get Bracing Glimpse of a Political Precipice 
When Jacob Zuma, the man who would soon become South Africa’s president, told voters in 2008 that his party was essentially undefeatable, he spoke with earned bravado. His African National Congress (ANC) had already ruled South Africa for more than a decade and was on its way to a commanding victory in the following year’s national elections. But when Mr. Zuma repeated that sentiment in July during the campaign for local government elections, it felt far more hollow. In the eight years since the president had first promised the ANC’s immortality, Zuma and his party had lurched from one crisis to the next – massive strikes, economic stagnation, diplomatic scandals, and corruption trials. Meanwhile, they had been squeezed from both the right and left by opposition parties bent on snatching away the votes of the black middle class as well as those of the ANC’s poor rural base. The Christian Science Monitor

I Survived 5 Assassination Attempts, Malawi Leader Claims
Malawi leader Peter Mutharika has said the culture of hatred resulted in him being hunted like a criminal at the time he was campaigning for the presidency. Mutharika said it was only by the grace of God that he managed to survive five assassination plots in the run up to Malawi’s national elections in 2014. “When I was campaigning to lead this country, I was hunted like a criminal. I survived five assassination attempts. I am happy that most of you gave me refuge, solace and courage. You have been the fortitude of the persecuted as Christ wishes,” he said during the consecration of a bishop at the weekend. News 24

Summit Looks to Consolidate Peace in Lesotho
Consolidating peace and security in the kingdom of Lesotho is high on the agenda as Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders meet Tuesday in Mbabane, Swaziland. Lesotho has witnessed political violence in recent times, including an attempted coup and the assassination last year of Maaparankoe Mahao, the former Lesotho Defense Force commander. The SADC Double Troika summit held this past June in Gaborone, Botswana, mandated South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to help Lesotho consolidate peace and security. The opposition says despite the SADC effort the government has taken no concrete steps towards political reform. VOA

Money Changers Return as Congolese Franc Weakens
Over the last few months the Congolese franc has dropped significantly against the US dollar. On the streets of Kinshasa, one visible sign of choppy currency fluctuations is the return of the money changers. […] Money changers generally make a profit by selling currency at higher rate than that at which they buy it, in addition to any commission or fee they may charge. One of the money changers in Bon Marche is Ngundia Jerry. He returned to street currency trading a month ago after a break of three and a half years. “I resumed the business seeing that it is providing good profits as the national currency has been falling against the US dollar,” he told DW. Deutsche Welle

Can Ghana Stop Its Borrowing Binge?
As Ghana heads towards national elections in November, the government of President John Mahama is taking a high-risk bet that international investors believe in its attempts to reduce spending and debt levels during a period when a change in government could be possible. The government has announced its intention to issue a $1bn eurobond by September, but keeps on equivocating about following through. The economy has been going through rough times since 2012, when the currency nosedived amidst power cuts and a huge government deficit. Since then, Accra has faced diminishing returns on its eurobond offers – bonds issues in foreign currency – and the international climate is particularly difficult with the impact of the June Brexit vote in the UK on already meagre global growth prospects. Despite signing a $1bn International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout in 2015, the government has not been spending within its means. Africa Report



Photo: Adam Jones