Africa Media Review for August 30, 2017

IOM: No Reports of Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean in past 20 Days
The International Organization for Migration reports no migrants have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea over the past 20 days. It adds migrant fatalities in general appear to be on the decline. The central Mediterranean Sea route from Libya to Italy is much favored by African migrants who risk their lives on smugglers boats desperate to reach Europe. While this route might become a gateway to a better life for some, it also is notorious for taking the lives of many. The International Organization for Migration reports a total of 2,410 Mediterranean Sea fatalities so far this year. IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle says it is remarkable to go without a single reported death for 20 days. He acknowledges it is very hard to know exactly why. VOA

Libya Says Boats Carrying 700 Migrants Have Been Intercepted
Libya’s navy says it has intercepted and brought to shore vessels carrying nearly 700 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe over the past two days. Navy spokesperson Colonel Ayoub Qassem says the coast guard of the UN-backed government in Tripoli on Tuesday intercepted two boats together carrying 290 migrants. A third vessel with 164 on board was intercepted off the coast of Sebratha. With Italian help, the coast guard intercepted a boat with 88 migrants and another one with 134 migrants on Monday. News 24

A Growing Number of Migrants Are Detained in Libya, Enduring Dismal Conditions
Libya is ground zero for Europe’s migrant crisis. Tens of thousands of people from across Africa and Asia use it as a transit point to get to Europe. It’s attractive because it’s relatively close to southern Europe, and because Libya is itself a country in conflict. But now the authorities in Libya are trying to get a handle on the migrants. Hundreds are being locked up prior to deportation. But conditions are terrible. Bel Trew of The Times of London got rare access to the camps and just got back. She calls the conditions “horrific.” “We’re talking about airless, windowless houses in soaring temperatures,” she says, “with hundreds of people in these rooms. And they’re often there months at a time because they are waiting to be repatriated home.” PRI

Germany’s Merkel Admonishes Other European Nations for Not Accepting More Refugees
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday admonished some European countries for what she called their failure to accept a fair share of migrants and refugees during a crisis that has caused rifts across the continent. Merkel, who has supported an open-door policy for migrants, said Germany, Italy and Greece were dealing with the bulk of the challenges associated with accommodating hundreds of thousands of people who have made their way on perilous voyages to Europe. The 28-nation European Union has not done enough to balance the distribution of migrants or provide services for them, she said. Many migrants and refugees have fled poverty and fighting in their home countries, many coming from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Los Angeles Times

Petrol Bomb Attack on Sierra Leone Opposition Headquarters
Fire has gutted the headquarters of a Sierra Leone opposition party, the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP). Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray, outspoken leader of the party, told a Reuters reporter in the that the fire was caused by a petrol bomb. He said the bomb was thrown into their offices in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Police have yet to comment on the attack. The attacked headquarters is located in a central part of town with other offices very close to it. Reports indicate that the other buildings were not affected. The ADP leader was only released from detention for gun related crimes on 7 June 2017 after he secured bail from a Magistrate Court. Africa News

ANC Leadership Race: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Her Social Media Campaign Speak in Two Voices
There is a small but discernible change in gear in ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign, thanks to a little more activity on her social media pages. But there appears to be a dissonance between what she’s telling her audience and what is posted for the outside world to see – a bit like the dissonance between what really happened at struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s house, and what some news machine wanted us to believe. Daily Maverick

Kenya: Electoral Body Defies Court in Presidential Petition
Lawyers made their closing arguments Tuesday night to Kenya’s Supreme Court over a challenge by longtime politician Raila Odinga to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election earlier this month. Odinga claims the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory with 54 percent of the vote was fraudulent, contending hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s servers and manipulated results in the president’s favor. The challenger’s lawyer, James Orengo, said the court should invalidate Kenyatta’s win because a scrutiny of forms used to tally presidential results showed many lacked security features that the electoral commission agreed on. He said the forms also were not signed, as required to ensure accountability. He said those anomalies affected nearly 5 million votes. “Our case has proven forgery alteration of documents, trickery and deception has been used in various ways,” Orengo said. AP

South Sudan Says There Was No Hint That Dead American Was a Journalist
The American journalist shot dead in South Sudan over the weekend had entered the country illegally with rebels, the army said Tuesday. There was no indication that Christopher Allen, 26, was a journalist, said army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, who warned that journalists will not be protected if they come with rebels into this East African country’s civil war. “Anybody who comes attacking us with hostile forces will meet his fate,” said Koang. Allen, a freelance journalist, was killed Saturday in fighting between government and rebel forces near the Ugandan border. His body was handed over by South Sudan’s army to the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. Bloomberg

As Sudan Seeks Sanctions Relief, US Presses Religious Freedom
The United States has raised the issue of religious freedom in talks about easing sanctions on Sudan, the new head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said in Sudan on Tuesday. The head of the agency, Mark Green, held the talks with senior Sudanese officials as the U.S. government weighs whether to ease or extend the 20-year-old sanctions, a decision that must be made by Oct. 12. “We have asked questions and… have received assurances,” Green told reporters after a meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh. While human rights and religious freedom are not conditions for the permanent lifting of some Sudan sanctions, the U.S. government is increasingly raising them as a concern. Religious leaders have complained that churches have been bulldozed by the government and priests arrested, stoking fears among Christians that they will not be able to practice their faith in majority-Muslim Sudan. VOA

Cash-Burning Activist Sets West Africa’s Social Media on Fire
A West African activist who burned a bank note to demonstrate his hatred of the regional CFA franc has reignited a decades-old debate and prompted thousands of supporters in former French colonies to turn to social media and demand that the currency be scrapped. The French-Beninese national Kemi Seba appeared in court in Senegal in connection with a video that showed him setting a bank note of 5,000 CFA francs ($9) alight. He was arrested on Aug. 25 after the Central Bank of West African States lodged a complaint for destruction of money, and was acquitted on Tuesday. Keba says on his Facebook page that French-speaking nations in West and central Africa should mint their own currencies to free themselves from economic bondage imposed by the former colonial ruler. The CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro and backed by reserves held in France, was established after World War II to help France import goods from its colonies. Bloomberg

‘I Can’t Pay’: Taxing Times for Small Traders in Ethiopia Hit by 300% Rate Hike
In the dense cobblestone streets of Burayu town, outside Addis Ababa, Melaku Abdella and his family had been making a living selling basic items such as vegetables, cooking oil and soft drinks at competitive prices from their kiosk. But after the Ethiopian government stung him with a more than 300% tax increase last month, Abdella says he was left with no option but to close the business. Like many low-income traders in the country’s Oromia region, the family didn’t keep accounts, meaning the authorities based their annual tax demand of 7,000 Ethiopian birr (£231) on an estimate of income. “It’s beyond my capacity to pay. I will have to hand in my business licence,” Abdella says. Uneasy peace and simmering conflict: the Ethiopian town where three flags fly Read more The hikes on grocers, barbers and cafes were met with widespread anger and protests in parts of the volatile state, which has endured unrest and fatal clashes during the last two years. The Guardian

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Nigeria
An eight-member United States Congressional delegation led by Senator Christopher Coons (Democrat-Delaware) is visiting Nigeria over issues including Boko Haram, according to a statement reaching Xinhua Monday. The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, in a statement said Senator Coons, who is a member of the Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Ethics committees is leading the largest U.S. congressional delegation to Nigeria. The delegation also includes Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan); Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado); Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware); Representative Terri Sewell (D-Alabama); Representative Charlie Dent (Republican-Pennsylvania); Representative Barbara Lee (D-California); and Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Florida). The Congressional delegation is visiting Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and The Gambia in addition to Nigeria during their West Africa tour. Xinhua

Cameroon Cable TV Operators Warned against Hosting Pro-Secession Channel
The Cameroonian government has threatened to shut down satellite television operators who host a new pro-secession TV channel banned in January 2017. The Minister of Communications Issa Tchiroma Bakary sounded the warning on Monday saying those who will broadcast the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation (SCBC) TV channel or programmes will be closed down. He added that those found in breach of the order will have their equipment confiscated and legal actions taken against them. The SCBC TV was launched on May 6, 2017, yet it was banned four months earlier by an order from the Cameroonian government. Africa News

Qatar Crisis Shakes East Africa, a Home to Gulf Militaries
Though far-removed from the Gulf, East Africa has been shaken by the Arab diplomatic crisis gripping Qatar. In recent years both Qatar and the other energy-rich nations arrayed against it have made inroads in the Horn of Africa by establishing military bases, managing ports and showering friendly nations with foreign aid. As the rivalry heats up, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain seeking to isolate Qatar, East African nations stand to gain or lose from an increasingly fierce competition for influence. And with Saudi Arabia and its allies mired in a war just across the Red Sea in Yemen, the area has never had more strategic value. “I think we’re seeing a game of geopolitical chess being played out,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. AP

Al-Shabab Defectors Being Rehabilitated to Re-Enter Somali Society
Last June, al-Shabab militants attacked an Ethiopian base in the Somali town of Halgan, one of several raids on African Union military camps. The Ethiopian troops repelled the attack, causing massive casualties. One of the al-Shabab fighters, Mohamed Daud Mohamed, known as Mohamed Dhere, said his unit lost 45 men. “It was a difficult fight; we left behind the wounded as we didn’t have a chance to evacuate them. … Everyone ran for their lives,” he told VOA’s Somali service. For Dhere, 20, it was a lesson. He decided to desert al-Shabab, but said his commanders were suspicious. After eight months, he found his opportunity in February when his commander sent him to attend a seminar. VOA

Niger: Heavy Rains Destroy Hundreds of Houses
Emergency officials in Niger say torrential rains have destroyed hundreds of houses outside the capital, Niamey. Colonel Aboubacar Bako, director general of civil protection and disasters, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying on Tuesday that residents were forced to evacuate after several days of heavy downpours. Bako said the rains began Saturday in the capital and surrounding areas. According to Niger’s government, the rains have killed at least 44 people in Niamey and other parts of the West African country since June. Images posted on social media showed dirt roads turned to puddles of mud, making it difficult for vehicles to navigate Niamey, a city of more than a million people. Al Jazeera

Scientists Devise Early Thunderstorm Alerts for Fishermen in Africa
Every year thousands of fishermen in east Africa are killed in boating accidents due to intense night-time thunderstorms that whip up unexpectedly on Lake Victoria. Now a new satellite-based forecast system may help to provide early warnings of the storms. Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, is the perfect setting for brewing thunderstorms. During the day hot air rises over the land surrounding the lake (in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) creating onshore breezes. At night-time the opposite occurs, with air rising over the now warmer lake, pulling air offshore from the cooling land. “As the lake is shaped like a circle, these land breezes from all directions converge above the lake. Add evaporation to this cocktail and you get a lot of storms, rain, wind, and waves,” explains Wim Thiery, a climate scientist from ETH Zürich. About 200,000 people fish in the productive waters of the lake and International Red Cross estimates suggest that every year between 3,000 and 5,000 fishermen die because of the violent storms. The Guardian

Under Pressure: The Story behind China’s Ivory Ban
For years Chinese government officials were followed around the world, at every meeting, by a single issue: the scores of dead elephants across Africa, and the international community that blamed China for this “ivory “holocaust”. Even the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, could not escape lectures on poached elephants and the evils of China’s legal domestic ivory trade from foreign leaders. For years, China deflected the criticism with claims of a long cultural heritage and incremental policies, such as a ban on ivory carving imports two years ago. And then in June 2016, then president Barack Obama fulfilled a promise made during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, and imposed a near total ban on domestic ivory sales. China followed suit, and officials shut 67 carving workshops and retail stores in March 2017, with another 105 set to close by the end of the year. It was an astonishing U-turn – a far bigger step than campaigners had dared to hope for. The Guardian