Africa Media Review for December 16, 2016

Congo Braces for Unrest as President’s Mandate Expires
When protests erupt in Kinshasa, Congo’s sprawling riverside capital, politicians usually trot out the adage that they won’t last more than a couple days because people need to find food for their families. That assumption faces its sternest test in years on Dec. 19, a date that marks the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second term in office and which was intended to herald the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful transition of power. Kabila’s allies say the president now plans to stay on beyond that date, thanks to a deal with some rivals to delay an election due last month to April 2018, ostensibly because of logistical difficulties registering millions of voters. However, the main opposition bloc has rejected this plan, accusing Kabila of postponing elections to cling to power. It wants demonstrations to force him out if talks mediated by the Catholic Church fail to produce a last-ditch compromise. Reuters

Family of DRC Leader Kabila Built Fortune – Report
President Joseph Kabila and his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo have created a personal economic empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the Bloomberg News agency reported on Thursday. “Together the Kabilas have built a network of businesses that reaches into every corner of Congo’s economy and has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the family,” the US news agency said five days before Kabila’s mandate to rule expires. “The sprawling network may help explain why the president is ignoring pleas by the (United States), the European Union and a majority of the Congolese people to hand over power next week.” Bloomberg News stated that the report was based on a year-long investigation by three journalists into the Kabila family’s business network in and beyond the mineral-rich yet dirt-poor central African country. News 24

DRC to Block Social Networks, WhatsApp Ahead of Protest
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have ordered the blocking of social networking websites including Facebook and Twitter, as well as WhatsApp, before President Joseph Kabila’s mandate expires at midnight on Sunday. The government order, sent to at least three internet providers and seen by AFP news agency on Thursday, will probably hamper the organisation of public protests against Kabila. The letter from Congo’s Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ARPTC) requires the “temporary blocking of sharing of images, video and voice [data] over the network” from 11:59pm local time (2259GMT) on Sunday, but gave no reason for the orders. Al Jazeera

Two Bombs Kill 11 in Mogadishu
Mogadishu – Two attacks on Thursday killed at least 11 people in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, police and witnesses said. At least five people were killed when a car suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the presidential palace. The bomber was reportedly chasing a convoy carrying two police officers, but missed the target. A civilian vehicle was caught in the explosion instead. The dead included three members of the security forces, who were patrolling in the area, and the bomber, police and witnesses said. Six people were reported to have been injured. Witness Abdisalan Garad said some of them were inside a nearby restaurant hit by the blast. Parts of the building collapsed. IOL News

Ethiopian Troop Withdrawal from Somalia Exposes Peacekeeping Problems
Since October, Ethiopia has been withdrawing troops from Somalia. The redeployment highlights problems with the international community’s funding of military operations in Africa. The Ethiopian troops had been assisting the internationally funded African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The draw-down could imperil Somalia’s chances of becoming a viable nation state. Many assumed this redeployment was aimed at bolstering Ethiopia’s security forces in order to tackle the country’s ongoing six-month state of emergency. But the reasons are more complicated, revealing problems with internationally-funded peacekeeping and with AMISOM’s efforts in battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia. Since the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) withdrew its forces, the Islamic insurgency of Al Shabaab has already retaken a number of towns across south and central Somalia. France 24

Gambia Election Row: Adama Barrow to Declare Himself President
The Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow, has told the BBC he will declare himself president on 18 January despite incumbent Yahya Jammeh’s rejection of the election result. He said his team was preparing for his inauguration and he urged Mr Jammeh to respect the will of the electorate. The election commission declared Mr Barrow winner of the 1 December poll. Mr Jammeh has launched court action to annul the result after initially accepting defeat. BBC

South Sudan Armed Forces Recruit 1,300 Children in 2016
Armed forces and groups in South Sudan recruited 1,300 children in 2016, bringing the total number of children used in fighting since late 2013 to 17,000, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) said Thursday. UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, said UNICEF and its partners have documented 2,342 children killed or maimed and 1,130 children sexually assaulted since conflict broke out in December 2013. Gharagozloo-Pakkala said a total of 1,932 children have been released by armed forces and groups — 1,755 in 2015 and 177 in 2016. South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the allegation but then mobilized a rebel force. Xinhua

Report: U.N. Gave Arms to South Sudan Rebels Later Implicated in Massacre
The U.N. mission in South Sudan gave weapons to a top rebel general just weeks after civil war began three years ago, and his forces went on to carry out one of the war’s worst atrocities, according to a report released Thursday. The Small Arms Survey, a ­Geneva-based research group, found that in December 2013 U.N. officials in the town of Bentiu in northern Unity state handed dozens of weapons, as well as ammunition, to rebel general James Koang. Four months later, Koang’s troops killed hundreds of civilians sheltering in a mosque and a hospital in Bentiu, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Koang has said in interviews that those killed were not civilians but members of a pro-government militia. The report did not say whether the weapons given by the United Nations were used in the massacre. AP on The Washington Post

UN Force in S. Sudan Ramps Up Security at Civilian Protection Sites
The streets outside the U.N. protection of civilians (POC) site in Juba are quiet on this December day, and the Ethiopian peacekeepers guarding the site want to keep it that way. So the battalion of several dozen soldiers braves intense afternoon heat to conduct a careful patrol of the area. First they circle the perimeter of the POC site, watching closely as a truck filled with charcoal bags is unloaded. They venture farther from the site to enforce a new “weapons-free zone” that in theory extends 200 meters from the POC site fences. They also walk near an impromptu graveyard. Sometimes, they say, they assist people burying their loved ones there. VOA

Traces of Explosives Found on Human Remains from EgyptAir Flight Crash
Traces of explosives have been found on some of the victims of an EgyptAir flight from Paris that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea in May, killing all 66 people aboard, Egypt’s Civilian Aviation Ministry said Thursday. In a statement, the ministry said that it was notified by Egyptian investigators and that a criminal investigation into the crash of Flight 804 will be carried out. The statement provided no further details. There has been plenty of speculation that terrorists may have targeted the Airbus A320, but no group has asserted responsibility. However, Thursday’s revelation is likely to intensify concerns about Egypt’s aviation security and further damage its sagging tourism industry, an important source of foreign currency. AP on The Washington Post

Gabon Crimes Against Humanity Accusation Sent to ICC
Lawyers representing Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping sent a case file to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Thursday, accusing the government of crimes against humanity. The accusation relates to violence which broke out for two days following the controversial reelection of President Ali Bongo in August, a result questioned by the European Union. The opposition claimed 26 people were killed during the riots and protests that begun on August 31, although official government figures put that toll at just three. The file sent to the ICC was “the fruit of three months of investigations carried out in Gabon and abroad, which demonstrate the existence of crimes against humanity committed by the Gabonese authorities”, French lawyer Emmanuel Altit said in a statement. AFP on Yahoo News

‘They Crushed Me’: Tunisians Reveal Abuses They Endured Before the Arab Spring
Nada Elwikil was still in high school when she was taken to Interrogation Room 27 for the first time. Security services ordered her to take off her clothes and headscarf. When she refused, they stripped her naked. Then, in between sessions, they dunked her head in a toilet filled with excrement. “Everything in the room became an instrument of torture,” she recalled in an interview, demonstrating the shoving motion with her right arm. “The table, the chair, the belt. Even the bathroom became part of the routine.” More than five years after Tunisia’s authoritarian leadership was overthrown in the Arab Spring revolution, a still-tormented country is revisiting its brutal past in hopes of healing. Since last month, Tunisians have been riveted by heart-wrenching testimony as witness after witness appears before a Truth and Dignity Commission. The rare public airing of abuses committed under nearly six decades of authoritarian rule is being broadcast nationally on television and radio, and shared on social media. The Washington Post

EU Claims of Success in Curbing Niger Migrants Greeted with Scepticism
The EU has hailed a plunge in the number of migrants crossing Niger to reach Europe as a success for its anti-trafficking strategy, even as MEPs complained that the bloc’s figures did not add up. The volume of migrants making the perilous journey across Niger’s desert fell from 70,000 in May to 1,500 in November, according to an EU statement released on Wednesday. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc’s funding of anti-migration measures in Africa was creating “positive results and important building blocks for new cooperation”. The Finnish prime minister, Juha Sipila, has called for the scheme to be extended to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. At an EU summit on Thursday, an announcement of thousands more “voluntary assisted returns” to Libya is expected.  The Guardian

The Boy, the Ambassador and the Deadly Encounter on the Road
[…] Ms. Power described April 18 as the “worst day of my professional life.” “What can you say?” she said on ABC’s “Nightline” after the accident. “You come here to help.” Her motorcade had been heading to a United Nations refugee camp at Minawao, swollen with 60,000 people who had fled Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group that has terrorized Nigeria for years and moved into Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram has left at least 20,000 people dead and has targeted girls, many of whom have been raped and forced into marriages with their captors. Soldiers from countries in the region, with help from American Special Operations forces, had some success in pushing the group back in the months before the ambassador’s visit, though sporadic Boko Haram raids still occurred. The militants have never attacked Mokong, 25 miles from the Nigerian border, where 55,000 people are scattered in packed-mud houses along creek beds that fill during the rainy season. But the Islamic group has struck villages closer to the border and the Sambisa Forest, where American military officials believe most of the fighters have been hiding. The New York Times

Non, Merci: English-speaking Cameroon Rises Up, Wants Republic of Ambazonia
A middle-aged man stands in front of a freshly covered grave, a flag tied around his neck. The flag has blue and white stripes and a white dove in its top left quadrant, but these are not the colours of any country recognised by the United Nations. That is something this man and thousands like him in the two western English-speaking regions of Cameroon want to change. They are agitating for secession, and the creation of a brand-new country called the Republic of Ambazonia. The grave contains the body of a young man shot dead by security forces on 8 December in Bamenda, the largest city in Cameroon’s Northwest Region. He was one of four people who died that day, as they demanded the rolling back of French influence. IRIN

Libya’s Biggest Oil Port, Fields Set to Reopen this Week
Libya is preparing this week to reopen two of its biggest oil fields and ship the first cargo from its largest export terminal in two years, as the war-torn OPEC state pursues plans to almost double crude output in 2017. Repsol SA-operated Sharara, Libya’s largest oil field, and the El Feel, or Elephant, deposit run by Eni SpA will soon start pumping crude to the Zawiya refinery and the Mellitah energy complex after pipelines reopened Wednesday, Mansur Abdullah, manager of the refinery’s oil movement, said by phone. The two western fields have been closed for more than a year and a half and have a combined output capacity of more than 450,000 bopd. The tanker Seamusic is scheduled to arrive at the port of Es Sider on Friday to take on the first crude for overseas shipment from the terminal since 2014, Adnan Omran, general manager of Al Omran International Maritime Agencies, said by phone. The vessel will load 630,000 bbl of Es Sider crude and head for Italy, he said. World Oil

Tanzanian Authorities ‘Trying to Suppress’ Anonymous Whistle-blowing Website
Police in Tanzania have arrested the co-founder of popular whistle-blowing website Jamii Forums and are demanding that he reveal the identities of its users. Maxence Melo was arrested on Tuesday and is likely to be charged with obstructing a police investigation, according to an organisation that is providing him with legal representation. “The police have asked him several times to reveal the particulars, the identities of the online users,” Onesmo Olengurumwa, National Coordinator, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, told RFI. “But he has been responding that he hasn’t the capacity of actually identifying the particulars, the names of the online users.” RFI

Incoming UN Chief Appoints Nigeria’s Amina Mohammed as Deputy
Incoming United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday appointed Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina Mohamed as his deputy secretary-general amid a push by more than a third of the 193 U.N. member states for gender parity at the world body. Guterres, who will take over from current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, was sworn in Monday as the ninth male U.N. chief and pledged to reach gender parity among senior leadership within his five-year term. He also appointed Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as chef de cabinet and Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea to a newly created position as special adviser on policy. VOA

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Will Run in 2018 Elections – Zanu PF
Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old president Robert Mugabe could be vying for a further term in office in the 2018 elections. According to the country’s ruling party Zanu PF, Mugabe is certain to be endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 polls. The party’s secretary general Ignatius Chombo revealed that Mugabe will get the endorsement at the party’s annual conference this week, saying that Mugabe brings “wisdom and unity” to his leadership of Zimbabwe, which is struggling with a dire economic situation that has prompted periodic protests against the government. This is a confusing twist of plot, coming after Mugabe’s announcement in early November that he would retire. Speaking to a group of war veterans in November, Mugabe admitted that the country’s economy is crumbling and said he would retire. He has previously said that he would die in office,although he said he is open to retirement if asked by his party. Africa News

Malawi Announces Africa’s 1st Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor
Malawi’s government on Thursday announced Africa’s first drone air corridor to provide a controlled platform for drones to deliver needed services to communities. Alfred Mtilatila, director of the Department of Civil Aviation, said the launch of the testing corridor is largely supported by UNICEF-Malawi as a pilot project using unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, for transporting dried blood samples for the early diagnosis of HIV in infants. “We would like to establish a designated area where we will permit different types of unmanned aerial vehicles so that we will be able to come up with the right type of vehicles which can be used for different purposes,” Mtilatila said. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones