Africa Media Review for December 13, 2017

Priorities for Security and Justice during Liberia’s Transition
The second round of Liberia’s presidential elections, pitting former FIFA World Football Player of the Year, George Weah, against incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, is now proceeding after the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence of fraud to warrant a redo of the first round of balloting. Regardless of who emerges victorious, the new administration will need to address numerous pressing challenges related to the country’s security and stability. This is all the more critical as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is drawing down and plans depart the country in March 2018, after 15 years in country. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Liberia Electoral Commission Sets Presidential Run-Off for December 26
Liberia will hold a delayed presidential run-off vote on December 26, the electoral commission chief said on Tuesday. Former soccer star George Weah faces Vice-President Joseph Boakai in the poll that was held up for several weeks by a court challenge by the candidate who came third in round one. The winner replaces Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president in what will be, if it goes smoothly, Liberia’s first peaceful handover of power in 70 years. The Supreme Court last week dismissed a complaint from third-place finisher Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party, which had said fraud had undermined the first round in October. Electoral Commission chairman Jerome Korkoya said campaigning could start immediately but must end by December 24. France 24

South Sudan Clashes Leave More Than 170 Dead
More than 170 people have been killed in fighting between rival cattle herders in central South Sudan in the past week, a lawmaker said on Tuesday. “When it comes to those who are wounded, it is almost 200,” added Dharuai Mabor Teny, a member of parliament from the Western Lakes area, some 250 kilometres northwest of the capital Juba. It more than doubles a previous toll issued late last week, since fighting between rival factions of the Dinka people, the Rup and Pakam clans, broke out on December 6. The government has declared the fighting a state of emergency, meaning that soldiers have been deployed after local state officials were overwhelmed. “The state of emergency is meant to curb violence,” presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said, adding the fighters were hurling grenades and firing rockets at each other. AFP

US Airstrike Hits Undetonated Car Bomb outside Mogadishu
A U.S. airstrike has hit and destroyed a car bomb-in-waiting near the capital of Somalia, according to a Somali official and the U.S. military. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the airstrike occurred early Tuesday morning and targeted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device about 65 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. A statement said the vehicle belonged to militant group al-Shabab and was an “imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” The U.S. said no civilians were killed. Ali Enure, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, told VOA Somali the attack happened in the village of Mubarak. VOA

Nigeria: Senate Chief to Face Corruption Charges
Nigeria’s senate president Bukola Saraki will be charged with three counts of false assets declaration and corruption, the appeals court ruled on Tuesday, reversing an earlier ruling of the conduct tribunal which had acquitted the top politician. The code of conduct tribunal had in June discharged and acquitted Saraki of an 18-count corruption charge, upholding the politician’s argument that no case was established against him. But a three-member appeals panel chaired by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson said the prosecution established a prima facie case against the politician in at least three of the 18 charges. Akomolafe-Wilson said the politician must explain the perceived discrepancies in his claims regarding properties he allegedly bought with loans from commercial banks in the country’s commercial capital Lagos — contrary to his claim that he had bought them with funds from sales of his farm produce. Anadolu Agency

Why It’s Now a Crime to Let Cattle Graze Freely in 2 Nigerian States
[…] Benue is now the second Nigerian state to implement a ban on the open grazing of cattle, after nearby Taraba implemented a ban this summer. It’s a controversial new approach to resolving a long saga of conflict between Nigeria’s pastoralists and their farmer neighbors that has come with unintended violence and displacement, as shown in this video from the scene. The ban’s backers contend that free-roaming cattle are a major threat, as they routinely trample crops, setting off fights with farmers. But pastoralists argue that the grazing ban discriminates against the West African ethnic minority, Fulani, most of whom keep cattle as their traditional livelihood. The state deputized unarmed citizen groups to enforce the ban and keep a roving lookout for herders. (The police and military are controlled by the federal government, and President Muhammadu Buhari, who owns cattle himself, hasn’t committed to enforcing the law.) Herders think the citizen groups are more likely to create new conflicts than resolve them, and worry they will acquire weapons and will become, in effect, anti-Fulani gangs — after years of conflict, ethnic animosity runs high here. When the ban went into effect, many herders like Tambaya fled the state. NPR

2 Teenage Girl Suicide Bombers Kill 4 in Nigeria’s North
A Nigerian official says two teenage girl suicide bombers attacked the town of Gwoza, in the country’s north, killing at least four people. Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, spokesperson for the Military Command and Control Center in Maiduguri, said on Tuesday that the attack was carried out on Monday evening. He said local defense forces spotted the girls and shot one, detonating her vest and killing only her. He said the other girl managed to infiltrate the crowded residential area in Borno state and detonated herself, killing four others. He said several people injured have been taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment. AP

UAE, Saudi Arabia Join G5 Sahel Force Summit in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a summit for the leaders of five African nations, in the ongoing effort to combat armed groups in the Sahel region. Earlier this year, the governments of Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania agreed to form a joint regional military force known as the G5. But there are fears it is struggling to cope, as groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda push to expand their operations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are attending a summit in Paris on Wednesday aimed at accelerating efforts to set up a West African force to combat armed groups in the Sahel region, a sign Gulf Arab states are upping their influence in West Africa. However, France, which has some 4,000 troops in the region, has bemoaned that the fighters have scored military and symbolic victories in West Africa while the G5 force has struggled to win financing and become operational. Al Jazeera

Trafficking of Pills Used by Suicide Bombers Soars in Sahel
The UN has warned of a rise in trafficking of the synthetic opioid tramadol across West Africa, as one official revealed it is being found in the pockets of suicide bombers. Seizures of the drug have skyrocketed since 2013, from 300kg (660lb) to more than three tonnes a year, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said. In September, three million pills in UN-logoed boxes were found in Niger. The opioid is known to be popular with Islamist militants Boko Haram. The pills – which can be legally prescribed as painkillers – are thought to be used to calm the would-be attackers, with the Guardian previously reporting the terrorist group stuff it into dates which they then feed to children before sending them to their deaths. BBC

Ethiopia Faces Social Media Blackout after New Ethnic Unrest
Ethiopia faces a social media blackout as clashes intensify between ethnic groups in various parts of the country. Facebook and Twitter are down Tuesday after reports emerged of killings on Monday by security forces in the Oromia region. Oromia regional spokesman Addisu Arega said the violence in Chelenqo town killed six people and was being investigated. On Facebook he called the victims “innocent civilians.” The Addis Standard news site reported 15 killed, including women and children. The Associated Press was not able to independently verify the reports. Oromia regional officials have long accused special police from the neighboring Somali region of committing atrocities against ethnic Oromos. The regions also have had bitter border disputes. AP

Burundi’s President Launches Campaign to Extend His Rule
Burundi’s president launched a campaign on Tuesday to support constitutional amendments that could extend his rule despite warnings by his opponents of more violence ahead. President Pierre Nkurunziza told supporters in Gitega province to vote in favor of the changes in an upcoming national referendum. The proposed changes include extending a presidential term from five years to seven. A date for the referendum has not been set but it is expected next year. The opposition has warned that attempts to change the constitution could lead to more bloodshed in the East African country still reeling from deadly violence following Nkurunziza’s contentious decision to seek a third term in 2015. AP

Togo’s Opposition Coalition Boycotts Government Talks
Togo’s main opposition coalition, which has led protests against President Faure Gnassingbe for more than three months, on Tuesday boycotted government consultations for talks on ending the political impasse. The international community has called for talks between the two sides to end the stalemate over constitutional reform to introduce a maximum two-term limit for presidents. But only five out of the 14 parties comprising the main opposition bloc were invited to preliminary discussions, scheduled to take place behind closed doors at the presidency in the capital, Lome. Opposition coalition spokesperson Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson said the alliance refused to attend the meeting in the face of the government’s “diversionary tactic.”  AFP

Russia Asks UN for the Green Light to Send Arms to Bangui
Russia has asked the UN Security Council for permission to supply light arms and ammunition to the struggling armed forces of the Central African Republic beginning next week, according to a request obtained by AFP on Tuesday. The move has raised concerns from France which has questioned Russia’s plan, notably over the storage of the weaponry, according to a Security Council diplomat who declined to be named. Russia is asking for an exemption to the arms embargo imposed on the Central African Republic in 2013 when the impoverished country descended into violence. CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the military assistance during talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in October, a diplomat said. AFP

Tight Race as South Africa’s ANC Prepares to Elect Zuma Successor
South Africa’s ruling party African National Congress is set to hold its election this weekend to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader in a closely fought contest whose winner is likely to emerge as the nation’s next president. The front runners are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and one of South Africa’s richest people, and Zuma’s preferred candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission. In a race seen as too close to call, seven candidates are seeking to succeed Zuma, who has been at the helm of the party for a decade. Reuters

Robert Mugabe Leaves Zimbabwe for the First Time after Coup
Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe flew to Singapore on Monday night, leaving the country for the first time since he was toppled by the military last month. The 93-year-old, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years, was forced to resign on November 21 after he was put under house arrest by the army. According to the privately owned NewsDay newspaper, Mr Mugabe was going for a routine medical check-up in Singapore before flying to Malaysia where his daughter is expecting her second child. He was accompanied by his wife Grace Mugabe and some unnamed government officials. Before his ouster, the former president frequented Singapore for medical treatment. Daily Nation

Rwanda Urges France to Admit Alleged Complicity in 1994 Genocide
Kigali has stepped up pressure on Paris to come clean over its alleged complicity in the Rwanda genocide of 1994 in which at least 800,000 Tutsis and their Hutu sympathisers were killed. Rwanda’s government published a report on Wednesday that it had commissioned from a US law firm alleging that France helped arm and protect the perpetrators of genocide before, during and after the 100-day period from April 1994 in which up to 70 per cent of the Tutsi population was killed. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, said some French officials had “got away with murder, literally”. Financial Times

Latest Viral Video: Ghana’s Prez Throws Shade at Foreign Aid
The latest viral video to capture young Africans’ social media pages has a striking lack of epic fails or baby animals. It’s literally just Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo in a joint press conference in Accra with French president Emmanuel Macron, who was making the last stop of his first Africa tour on November 30. Akufo-Addo’s response to a journalist’s question about French aid has viewers reacting with the “flexed biceps” and “clapping hands” emojis. They’re echoing a catchphrase from the early months of his presidency: “Ghana beyond aid.” “We want young Africans to stay in Africa,” said the Ghanaian president, who took office in January, to a chorus of applause from journalists. “And it means that we have to get away from this mindset of dependence — this mindset about ‘What can France do for us?’ ” NPR



Photo: Adam Jones