Africa Media Review for December 15, 2016

South Sudanese President Launches National Dialogue for Forgiveness
South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday launched a national dialogue that encompasses all the country’s rival political parties and groups. The dialogue will be led by eminent statesmen that are “trusted, genuine and credible.” Addressing members of South Sudan national legislative assembly one the capital, Juba on Wednesday, President Kiir asked for forgiveness for wrongs committed. “National dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhoo, and sense of belonging,” the South Sudanese leader told the country’s lawmakers. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Faces ‘Rwanda-like’ Genocide, UN Human Rights Commission Warns
South Sudan is “on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war,” the head of a UN human rights commission has warned. Yasmin Sooka told the UN Human Rights Council the international community could prevent a “Rwanda-like” genocide by immediately deploying 4,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians. She also called for the country to set up a court to prosecute atrocities in the world’s newest country. Tens of thousands have been killed in fighting in South Sudan and more than a million people have fled. The Independent

UN condemns S. Sudan Deportation of Humanitarian Officials
The UN says it is gravely concerned by the recent expulsion of humanitarian workers by South Sudan. The South Sudan authorities have in the recent weeks ordered the Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and a senior member of his staff, to leave the country. The UN said in a statement Wednesday that the Juba authorities should reverse the orders and to cooperate fully with all international organisations working to bring aid to the South Sudanese people. “Humanitarians in South Sudan are striving day and night to assist civilians who have suffered far too much, for far too long. “Unacceptable actions such as this significantly undermine the ability of humanitarian organisations to operate at a time when the crisis is deepening and aid is needed most,” the statement reads. Africa Review

Nigeria Expects 2016 Deficit to Double as Buhari Unveils Record Budget
Nigeria expects its deficit to double to 2.2 trillion naira ($11 billion) in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday, as the government tries to overcome an economic crisis with a record budget and a tripling of capital expenditure. Africa’s biggest economy has been hammered by a plunge in oil revenues which has weakened the naira and dollar reserves, and forced companies to fire thousands of staff. Buhari told parliament that total spending would be 6.08 trillion naira, of which 1.8 trillion would be capital expenditure to build badly needed roads or rail systems and ease power shortages — three times as much as this year. “The 2016 budget … is designed to ensure that we revive our economy, deliver inclusive growth to Nigerians and create a significant number of jobs,” said Buhari, who was elected in March on pledges to tackle the corruption that has left many Nigerians mired in poverty despite the country’s enormous energy wealth. Reuters

Hundreds of Health Facilities in Northeastern Nigeria Destroyed – WHO
A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) said that one third of more than 700 health facilities in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria have been completely destroyed, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here Wednesday. “Of those facilities remaining, one third are not functioning at all, mostly as a result of lack of access due to insecurity,” Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here. Almost 60 percent of health facilities also have no access to safe water, he said, adding that about 100 temporary health facilities have been set up, of which half are emergency clinics for displaced people living in camps. “WHO says that high insecurity, difficult terrain and lack of health workers, medicines, equipment and basic amenities such as safe water are making access to essential, lifesaving health care extremely difficult for people in this conflict-affected area,” he said. News Ghana

Nigerian Troops Rescue 605 Hostages in Raids
The Nigerian Army said on Wednesday ground troops in different patrols rescued 605 people held hostage by Boko Haram insurgents in Sambisa forest. Lucky Irabor, Theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, told a news conference in Maiduguri, the restive northeast Borno state capital, that 69 male adults, 180 females, 227 male children and 129 female children, were rescued during the operation between Dec. 7 and Dec. 14, 2016. “The victims are in our custody for further investigation and interrogation,” he added. Many areas have been cleared, while many hostages have been set free and scores of insurgents killed in different patrols conducted by Nigerian troops across the region. Xinhua

Gambia Election Crisis: Jammeh Risks Sanctions, UN Envoy Says
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will be “strongly sanctioned” if he tries to stay in power, the UN’s regional envoy, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, has said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with the US, also urged the Gambian security forces to leave the country’s electoral commission office, which they seized on Tuesday. The army could compromise “sensitive electoral material”, Mr Ban said. Mr Jammeh initially conceded defeat to Adama Barrow before changing his mind. A visit by the leaders of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone on Tuesday failed to convince him to hand over power. Mr Ban said taking over the electoral commission building was an “outrageous act of disrespect of the will of the Gambian people and defiance towards the international community at a time when a high-level delegation was in the country to broker a peaceful transfer of power”. BBC

Military Intervention Possible as Gambian President Refuses to Step Down
Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh has been warned he faces “strong sanctions” and even military intervention if he continues to insist on remaining in power despite losing the election. The United Nations and fellow African leaders have all voiced dismay at Mr Jammeh’s refusal to accept the result of December 1 election, which he lost to rival Adama Barrow. “For Mr Jammeh, the end is here and under no circumstances can he continue to be president,” said Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the UN’s special representative for West Africa, after a meeting with other West African leaders failed to come up with a transition plan. When asked whether military intervention was an option following the failed mediation mission, he said: “It may not be necessary. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.” On Tuesday, Gambian security forces blockaded the offices of the country’s electoral commission, a move denounced by UN chief Ban Ki-moon as an “outrageous act of disrespect”. Mr Jammeh is now challenging the election in the Gambian supreme court, which some fear is a precursor to a coup — the method he used to take power in 1994. The atmosphere in Banjul, the capital, is tense as troops pile up sandbags at crossroads. The National

The Real Reason Gambia’s President Isn’t Stepping Down
One of the gentler techniques that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has used to stay in power for the last 22 years is sacking his staff members seemingly at random, before any of them could conspire against him. From cabinet ministers to diplomats to army chiefs, it wasn’t unusual to serve just months or even weeks in office before getting the bullet — hopefully in the metaphorical sense. But as Jammeh tries to wiggle out of a resounding defeat in this month’s presidential election, the habit of keeping his government in a permanent state of reshuffle has come back to haunt him. Two weeks after he conceded defeat to Adama Barrow, a property developer who once worked as a security guard in Britain, the president had a sudden change of heart, vowing to challenge the election result before the country’s Supreme Court. But Jammeh had sacked so many Supreme Court justices over the last year that the body is legally unable to hear the case unless he appoints four new justices. And as the Gambia Bar Association pointed out in a Dec. 12 statement: “Any Supreme Court empanelled by the outgoing President Jammeh for the purpose of hearing his election petition would be fundamentally tainted.” Foreign Policy

DR Congo Halts Football over Fears of Political Violence
The government in DR Congo has told the country’s football association to suspend league competition from Thursday until further notice. The move comes amidst fears that the end of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate next week will spark violence. “This general situation in the country risks spilling into the stadiums,” Barthelemy Okito, secretary-general of the sports ministry, said. One popular chant heard at games warns Kabila that his mandate is over. Kabila is required by constitutional term limits to step down on 19 December but he has said he plans to stay on until at least April 2018, the earliest the government says an election originally planned for last month can be organised. BBC

Mugabe Bemoans Factional Fighting Within ZANU PF
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has bemoaned the factional fights that have characterised his ruling ZANU PF party over the past year. Addressing the party’s central committee in Harare ahead of the party’s people national conference in Masvingo, President Mugabe characterised the infighting which has openly played out between two major factions, one aligned to his wife Grace Mugabe and the other aligned to the Vice President Munangangwa. 2016 has also seen Mugabe fall out with the war veterans’ wing which have in the past been instrumental in his hold of power. “For our party however, 2016 has been quite disturbing too. We failed as leaders to demonstrate the high levels of maturity and discipline expected of us at all times.” Despite some of Mugabe’s ministers being implicated in high levels of corruption he did not address the matter but rather called on his party supporters to be vigilant and cautious of self-serving politicians. SABC

Tanzania’s Magufuli Takes Anti-corruption Drive to Ruling Party
Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, has vowed to root out corruption in his ruling party, threatening “no mercy” for anyone giving or taking bribes. Businesses have long said corruption and slow government bureaucracy were major obstacles to investing in Tanzania, which is ranked towards the bottom third of Transparency International’s 2015 index of least corrupt countries. “Our party is among institutions accused of rampant corruption – this is not a secret,” Magufuli said late on Tuesday while addressing the Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) highest decision-making body. He said corruption was most rampant in Tanzania during elections and promised to “have no mercy on those who give or accept bribes”. Reuters

Why Kenyan Health Workers Are on Strike and What Can Be Done About It
The current doctors’ strike is a result of the government failing to implement a collective bargaining agreement signed in June 2013. The agreement was based on negotiations between the government and the doctors’ union which started after another doctors’ strike in December 2011. Over the last two years, the union has reached out to several government organs to have the agreement implemented, but without success. These have included the Ministry of Health, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the National Assembly and the courts. There have been more than two dozen strikes since the devolution of health services in 2013. At the end of 2013 most, health services were decentralised from the central government to county governments in keeping with Kenya’s new constitution. The process was done hurriedly and the newly established county governments were faced with the responsibility of providing health services with no proper structures in place. Mail and Guardian

Ethiopia: Top US Official Arrives for Broad-based Rights and Political Dialogue
Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Affairs is in Ethiopia for a four day working visit. Malinowski will be in the country between today December 14 and is expected to depart on December 17. The Department of State disclosed that ‘‘During his visit, he will meet with government officials as part of a continued dialogue on human rights and governance. ‘‘He will also meet with members of civil society, political party representatives, and local government officials during the visit,’‘ they added. The United States (US) recently renewed its travel alert for the Horn of Africa nation despite other countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium lifting their travel bans. The US extension warned that there was still the potential for unrest in the country. Africa News

Video: Burundian Refugees Stranded in Tanzanian Camps
More than 300,000 refugees have fled Burundi since the start of political turmoil last year, many of them stranded in sprawling camps in neighbouring countries. FRANCE 24’s reporters visited the Nduta camp in Tanzania. Burundi was plunged into crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in power, despite a constitutional ban on presidents serving more than two. The political turmoil sparked widespread violence that left hundreds of people dead, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee the country. More than 18 months down the line, many of them are stuck in refugee camps in neighbouring Tanzania, in desperate conditions. France 24

Somalia Parliamentary Poll: Results in Races for 11 Seats Annulled
The panel that rules on election disputes in Somalia has thrown out the results in races for 11 seats in recent parliamentary elections because of numerous irregularities, including gunfire at a polling place. The decision by the Independent Electoral Disputes Resolution Mechanism is likely to further complicate Somalia’s attempt to hold a presidential election by the end of the year. Among those whose election win was nullified is Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan Nuh. He won his seat from the Middle Shabelle region, but has been implicated in gun violence inside the polling place in the town of Jowhar. The disputes panel has also disqualified him from running in a new election, but 10 other candidates whose wins were nullified will be allowed to run again. VOA

Hafter Calls on Troops to Be Ready to “Liberate” Tripoli
The head of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, has called on officers and soldiers to be ready for the offensive to free Tripoli. He was speaking to members of the LNA. A top LNA official confirmed to the Libya Herald this evening that Hafter had made the call. Exactly what sort of offensive Hafter intends was not stated. He has previously stated that he would never go to Tripoli if it involved a fight. However, although there are reports of him being in contact with some forces in the capital, it is generally thought that any attempt by LNA forces to take Tripoli will unite the currently divided militia forces there against them. For the past two and a half years Hafter has been regularly predicting the liberation of Benghazi. Hafter also spoke about the rape case in Tripoli, saying that he had been deeply upset by it, as if it had affected him personally. Libya Herald

Ex-Guinea Mines Minister Accused by U.S. of Laundering Bribes
A former minister of mines in Guinea was arrested on Tuesday on U.S. charges that he laundered bribe payments he had accepted to help award a Chinese conglomerate valuable rights, including near control of the West African country’s mining sector. Mahmoud Thiam, a U.S. citizen who served as Guinea’s minister of mines from 2009 to 2010, was accused in a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court of accepting about $8.5 million from the Chinese conglomerate. The complaint said Thiam used that money to, among other things, reimburse an associate who helped him buy a 30-acre, $3.75 million estate in New York state, enroll his children in private schools and pay $46,375 to a piano company. Thiam, 50, was arrested at his apartment in Manhattan, prosecutors said. U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis later denied Thiam bail, after a prosecutor called him a flight risk. “The defendant cannot be trusted to appear in court,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisha Kobre said in court. Reuters

Harsh Facebook Posts, Jail and Now Death: A Man’s Fate Angers Algeria
The Algerian government is coming under criticism for its treatment of a freelance British-Algerian journalist, Mohamed Tamalt, who died in a hospital on Sunday after being imprisoned under a draconian new law that criminalizes offending the president and state institutions. Mr. Tamalt, 42, was arrested in June, sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and fined for “defaming a public authority” and insulting the president. Posts on his Facebook page had often harshly attacked senior politicians and military officials, including the country’s ailing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He went on a hunger strike to protest his incarceration and was hospitalized in August. He spent the last three months in a coma, said Abdelkader Tamalt, his brother. The prison administration announced that Mohamed Tamalt had suffered a stroke, which had required surgery, and that his condition had deteriorated recently because of a lung infection. The New York Times

Morocco Reforms Religious Education to Fight Extremism
In this edition we head to Morocco to look at a reform spearheaded by King Mohammed VI himself: the simplification and modernisation of compulsory Islamic education in state schools. Authorities make no secret of the policy’s main objective: to promote morality and open-mindedness amongst its youth while preventing the worrying spread of Islamic fundamentalism within the kingdom. Our correspondents report on the changes. France 24

Less Oil and More Farms Is What Africa Needs, UN Agency Says
African countries need to increase their focus on agriculture investment and lessen emphasis on oil and mining to improve food security for their citizens, a United Nations agency said. Most African governments have focused on growth in extractive industries such as oil and mining, resulting in some neglect of agriculture, said Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development, based in Rome. That’s heightened food insecurity and crippled opportunities for the majority of the continent’s population that lives in rural areas, he said in a telephone interview from London. “Oil hasn’t fed people,” Nwanze said. “It has enriched the pockets of a few people and the majority have become poorer. A vibrant agricultural sector not only feeds your population, it creates jobs, it generates wealth and it will keep people on their land.” Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones