Africa Media Review for December 1, 2016

Gambia Election: Internet and International Calls Banned
The Gambia has banned the internet and international phone calls as presidential elections are held in the West African state. Officials have also banned demonstrations to prevent unrest after the elections. Estate agent Adama Barrow is challenging President Yahya Jammeh, who says divine intervention will give him a fifth term. The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence. BBC

Gambia’s Leader Vowed to Rule for a Billion Years. A Vote Will Test That.
Since he took over the presidency of tiny Gambia more than two decades ago, President Yahya Jammeh has made headlines by threatening to decapitate gay people, carrying out a deadly witch hunt and claiming to cure AIDS with little more than a prayer and a banana. On Thursday, voters will decide whether to reinstall Mr. Jammeh, who once said he intended to stay in power for a billion years. “Allah elected me, and only Allah can remove me,” he declared on state television in November. But a recent surge of enthusiasm for the opposition coalition candidate, Adama Barrow, has put into question the outcome of the election and prompted fears of instability and violence in a country known for its repressive leadership. Thousands have turned out for rallies in favor of the president. But unusually large crowds have also spilled into the streets for opposition rallies where people holler chants against Mr. Jammeh. Women, children and imams have joined the gatherings, unlike those in years past. At one rally this week, young people dragged by a rope dolls bearing the face of Mr. Jammeh. The New York Times

Young Gambians Ready to Vote Out Dictatorial Yahya Jammeh Regime
[…] President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the Gambia since seizing power in a military coup in 1994. He is standing for a fifth term in office, but faces stronger opposition than ever before. The election comes at the end of a transformative year for the small west African country. In April and May there were civil uprisings that revealed the extent of discontent with Jammeh’s rule. These protests resulted in the alleged torturing to death in custody of opposition activist Solo Sandeng and the jailing for three years of most of the members of the main opposition party, including its leader, Ousainou Darboe. But out of this adversity, previously fractured opposition parties realised their only chance was to unite and form the Gambia’s first coalition, which is giving many young people hope for a breakthrough. The Guardian

Gambia’s Top Team Lose Half Their Players as They Flee on People-smuggling Boats to Europe
Pictured here after triumphing in their country’s equivalent of the FA Cup, Gambian football club Banjul United gaze proudly into the camera. But two years on from their 2014 victory, the local answer to Arsenal FC is facing an uncertain future – after the departure of half their number on people-smuggling boats to Europe. One by one, some 25 squad members of the tiny West African nation’s top team have left, crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean in the hope of finding fortune in Europe’s Premier Leagues. Meanwhile, the performance of the Capital Boys, as their club is nicknamed, has suffered. Having lost all its best players, Banjul Utd was relegated from Division One to Division Two last season. The Telegraph

US Envoy: South Sudan Government Prepares Attack in Border State
A top U.S. diplomat says the United States has “credible information” that South Sudan’s government is targeting civilians in Central Equatoria state and preparing for “large-scale” attacks within days and weeks. U.S. ambassador Keith Harper told a special Human Rights Council session in Geneva that South Sudan’s government has mobilized at least 4,000 militia members and “is staging these fighters in Equatoria to begin conducting attacks.” South Sudan ambassador Kuol Alor Kuol Arop didn’t directly reject Harper’s claims but responded that the country’s vice president and other top officials are part of the transitional government. Speaking to The Associated Press afterward, Arop denied a build-up of forces or plans for an offensive. VOA

UN Rights Experts Fear Intense Fighting in South Sudan
UN human rights experts on a fact-finding mission to South Sudan warned Wednesday of an escalation in ethnic violence in the war-torn country. “Many expect intensified fighting now that the dry season is setting in,” said Yasmin Sooka of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. Sooka was speaking to the press in the capital Juba at the end of a 10-day visit during which the three-member team spoke with civilians in the battleground towns of Bentiu, Malakal and Wau, as well as government officials and members of civil society. “There are unprecedented levels of violence and ethnic tension all over South Sudan,” Sooka said. “Any sense of national identity is crumbling and tribal or ethnic identity is taking over. I repeatedly heard of the desire for revenge,” she added. The East African

U.S. Push to Halt Genocide in South Sudan Unravels at United Nations
Faced with a dire U.N. warning of a possible genocide in South Sudan, the United States was set this week to finally embrace an arms embargo against the world’s newest country to ratchet down the military might of its warring parties and, potentially, help spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire of worsening civil war. But the effort, which Washington delayed for more than two years, may now be coming too late. The South Sudanese military, which built up its arsenal during three years of civil war, is poised to launch an offensive as the annual dry season — prime time for fighting — resumes in December. And U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, struggling to mount an international response to the killing, has been forced to shelve its planned sanctions after American diplomats realized they couldn’t muster the nine votes necessary for U.N. Security Council approval. On Wednesday, Keith Harper, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, told diplomats in Geneva that South Sudan’s government has mobilized 4,000 troops to carry out attacks against towns in the country’s southern Equatoria provinces, where he said at least 1,901 homes have been destroyed in fighting over the last two months. “We have credible information that the South Sudanese government is currently targeting civilians in Central Equatoria and preparing for large-scale attacks in the coming days or weeks,” Harper said. Foreign Policy

Militants Strike North Mali Airports with Suicide Truck, Rockets
Militants have struck two airports in northern Mali with an explosives-laden truck and rockets, residents and a security source said on Wednesday, in attacks that caused no victims but pointed to desert jihadists intensifying their insurgency. In Gao, the offices of the U.N. peacekeeping mission located next to the airport terminal were razed by Tuesday evening’s truck-bomb explosion which forced the airport to close. French soldiers stationed in Gao took forensic evidence from among a tangle of papers, corrugated iron sheets and fragments of the attacker’s flesh and bones strewn out next to the runway. Al Mourabitoun, a group closely linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed the attack on social media. Reuters

Bomb Kills Four Somali Soldiers as Forces Mull Attack on Islamic State
Islamist insurgents killed four pro-government Somali soldiers and injured 11 others when a roadside bomb destroyed a military pickup in the north of the country on Tuesday, the military said. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in the Galgala hills, an insurgent stronghold about 30 km (20 miles) to the southwest of Bosasso, the largest city in the region. “A roadside bomb destroyed our pickup as we drove from Galgala hills today. We lost four soldiers, including a female soldier, and 11 men from our forces were injured,” Major Mohamed Ibrahim, a military officer in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, told Reuters. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters by telephone: “We completely destroyed the military pickup outside Bosasso – none escaped – all 17 soldiers on board perished.” Reuters

Al-Shabaab Regrouping in Somalia to ‘Attack Kenya’, Police Warns
Al-Shabaab terrorists are regrouping in Jedahaley, Somalia, and plan to attack the country, police have warned. Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet has also revealed that some of the attackers were hiding in small groups pretending to be herders around Hida and Dambala in Somalia while plotting to sneak into the country. “The possible targets for the attacks include security personnel and establishments along the border as well as the passenger service vehicles plying the routes along the border,” he said. The terror group had changed tact, said the police boss, and had split into smaller groups and infiltrated the country especially along the borders of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu counties. Daily Nation

Former Mali Coup Leader Sanogo Goes on Trial for Soldier Murders
A Malian court began a trial of former coup leader General Amadou Sanogo on Wednesday on charges of “complicity in kidnapping and assassination,” three and a half years after his junta was accused of killing 21 soldiers. Sanogo led a coup in March 2012 that deposed former President Amadou Toumani Toure and plunged Mali into chaos, enabling Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants to take over the north. He was arrested in December 2013. Authorities in the same month found a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of missing soldiers. He is accused alongside 17 others of involvement in their deaths and faces a possible death penalty. France 24

Ethiopia’s Leading Opposition Leader Merera Gudina Arrested after EU Visit
Ethiopia has arrested leading opposition leader Merera Gudina after he returned from a trip to Europe. Gurdina was arrested upon his arrival at the airport in the capital Addis Ababa, according to the English private magazine Addis Standard. Gudina had travelled to Brussels where he alleged, during a hearing at the European Parliament, that Ethiopian security forces had committed human rights violations during recent unrest in the country. It is believed Gudina called for the parliament in Addis Ababa to be dissolved and for the establishment of a transitional government, the opposition website Ethiopian Satellite Television ESAT reported. International Business Time

Morocco Accuses AU Chief of Obstructing Readmission
Morocco accused African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of blocking its efforts to rejoin the organization it left 32 years ago, the country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Morocco has asked the African Union (AU) to readmit it, as it seeks support for its plan to offer autonomy to the disputed territory of Western Sahara while keeping it under Moroccan sovereignty. Morocco abandoned its seat in 1984 when the AU recognized Western Sahara, a sparsely populated stretch of desert that was formerly a Spanish protectorate, and admitted it as a member. VOA

Main Opposition Leader Skips Presidential Debate in Ghana
Ghana’s main opposition leader, Nana Akufo-Addo, skipped the country’s only presidential debate Wednesday, leaving the stage to President John Mahama and four other opponents a week before the election. Aides to the leader of the New Patriotic Party said he decided to stick to his prior campaign commitments, even though it meant missing the chance to present his message at one of the most high-profile events of the campaign. Analysts say Akufo-Addo has a real chance of defeating Mahama or of taking the December 7 election to a second round, largely because of voter discontent over an economic slowdown since the president won the first of two possible terms in 2012.  VOA

Will Civil Disobedience Work in Sudan?
“Everything is bad,” said a human rights activist in Sudan while describing life in the country. President Omar al-Bashir has raised fuel prices across the country to curb inflation. Medicine and electricity costs have been on the rise for the past few years and people say they are fed up. Many have launched a civil disobedience campaign. Neighbourhoods across the capital Khartoum and other cities were said to be quiet as people boycotted shops and schools. Most of Sudan’s opposition parties have supported the protest, saying they want President Bashir to step down. But the government has responded by arresting more than a dozen activists and shutting down local media. Al Jazeera

Defusing a Ticking Time Bomb in Kinshasa
[…]  The United States and the international community are pinning their dwindling hopes for the DRC on the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, or CENCO. The Congolese organization of Catholic bishops is mediating talks between Kabila’s ruling party and the coalition of opposition parties known as the “Rassemblement” in an attempt to broker a power-transition agreement before Dec. 19. It comes after the president failed to organize elections before the December deadline, culminating two years of failed political dialogues and an impasse between the ruling and opposition parties. “Supporting CENCO’s effort is our top priority from now until Dec. 19,” Tom Perriello, the State Department Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, told the U.S. Congress Tuesday. He called it “the best effort and perhaps the last effort” to broker a deal before the deadline sparks mass protests and instability in a country still scarred by a devastating civil war that ended thirteen years ago.” Foreign Policy

HIV Vaccine: Clinical Trial Begins in South Africa
A new vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes Aids, is being tested in South Africa in what scientists say is the first large study of an HIV vaccine’s effectiveness since 2009. The study aims to enrol 5,400 sexually active young men and women. About seven million people in South Africa are living with the virus, which is one reason why the trial is taking place there. Experts hope the vaccine will be “the final nail in the coffin” for HIV. The vaccine regime being tested is based on one used in a trial in Thailand in 2009, which had a protection rate of about 30%. Results from South Africa are expected in four years. BBC

Nigeria Has ‘World’s Highest Number of Child Marriages’
Nigeria has the highest number of underage girls forced into early marriage with at least 49 percent of females married off before they turn 18, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF said in a statement late Tuesday such marriages posed grave health risks to the girls, especially during pregnancy and childbirth. The statement comes as Nigeria, joined by several donor agencies, launched a nationwide campaign to end child marriages as part of the global body’s Sustainable Development Goals that the country has committed to achieve by 2030. One of the targets calls for the elimination of all forms of harmful practices, including child marriages. “The campaign…is a call to action. It is an attempt to save the lives of adolescent girls pressed into marriage too early, many of whom become pregnant and are at a higher risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth,” Mohamed Fall, UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, said in the statement. Anadolu Agency

Migrant Boat Traffic from Libya to Europe Is Surging — and Turning Deadlier
Migrants heading to Italy from Libya in leaky boats and inflatable dinghies have broken an annual arrivals record, Italian authorities said this week, underscoring the rising popularity of an increasingly deadly journey that nowadays aims not for land, but for a frigid mid-sea rescue. The number of boat migrants reaching Italy from North Africa this year surpassed 171,000, topping the previous record of 170,100, set in 2014, the Italian Interior Ministry said Monday. But 2016 is also the most lethal year for those trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. So far, 4,690 people have died en route, compared with 3,777 deaths for all of last year, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The surge in fatalities reflects the ever greater numbers of people attempting the journey deep into autumn, even as the sea turns colder and choppier by the day. More than three times as many reached Italy this November as did so in the same month last year, the U.N. says. On Monday alone, Italian and international rescuers reportedly pulled 1,400 people from the water.  The Washington Post

Another Arab Awakening Is Looming, Warns a UN Report
In December 2010 Egypt’s cabinet discussed the findings of their National Youth Survey. Only 16% of 18-29-year-olds voted in elections, it showed; just 2% registered for volunteer work. An apathetic generation, concluded the ministers, who returned to twiddling their thumbs. Weeks later, Egypt’s youth spilled onto the streets and toppled President Hosni Mubarak. The UN’s latest Arab Development Report, published on November 29th, shows that few lessons have been learnt. Five years on from the revolts that toppled four Arab leaders, regimes are ruthlessly tough on dissent, but much less attentive to its causes. As states fail, youth identify more with their religion, sect or tribe than their country. In 2002, five Arab states were mired in conflict. Today 11 are. By 2020, predicts the report, almost three out of four Arabs could be “living in countries vulnerable to conflict”. The Economist

Adapting to Climate Change in Africa Will Hinge on Improved Transparency
After last year’s adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Marrakech climate summit – which closed last week and was billed Africa’s COP – focused on issues for its implementation, including finance. Transparency was central to that discussion. But while the so-called Paris rulebook has until 2018 to be defined, time is running out for many of the continent’s countries on the frontline of climate change facing prolonged droughts, flooding and extreme temperatures. Finding funding to help deal with such effects, let alone reduce emissions, is key. African states, together with other likeminded countries, have long pressured developed countries to boost financial support. Those controlling the purse strings however have been reluctant, saying greater transparency was needed to assure that money was going to where it is needed. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones