Africa Media Review for December 18, 2017

South Africa ANC Vote Too Close to Call, Markets on Edge
Counting of ballots began to determine who will head South Africa’s ANC party that has ruled since the end of apartheid but is tarnished by a welter of scandals and corruption allegations. The vote is perhaps the most pivotal moment for deeply divided African National Congress since it launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela’s leadership 23 years ago. Whoever emerges at the helm of the ANC, a 105-year-old liberation movement that dominates Africa’s most industrialized economy, is likely to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019. Senior party members drew battle lines on social media, backing either Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – a former cabinet minister and the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma – who are contesting the leadership. Reuters

Dozens Die in Clash between Ethiopian Somalis and Oromos
At least 61 people have been killed in clashes between different ethnic groups in Ethiopia’s Oromia region since Thursday, officials said. It is not clear what caused the latest violence between ethnic Somalis and Oromos. But it comes after soldiers shot dead 16 ethnic Oromos at a protest on Tuesday, reports Reuters news agency. Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions share a long internal border and in the past have fought over grazing land. BBC

Libya’s Haftar Announces End of Skhirat Agreement
Libya’s national army commander Khalifa Haftar announced on Sunday the end of the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed in Skhirat in Morocco in 2015, and said he does not recognize any decisions issued by the political bodies linked to it. “The military institution will not submit to any party unless it has gained its legitimacy from the Libyan people,” Haftar said in a televised speech. “We are fully obedient to the commands of the free Libyan people as they are the source of authority and the (real) decision makers,” he added. Addressing the Libyans, Haftar said: “The country is at a historical crossroads. We feel that your patience has run out and that the stability you have long waited for is now out of reach. Your hopes and dreams seem to be shattering now that you are disappointed and frustrated by all national institutions.”  Al Arabiya

Libya’s Coast Guard Rescues More Than 270 Migrants
Libyan coast guards rescued at least 270 migrants off the country’s shores, a Navy official said on Saturday, bringing to over 450 the total number of migrants they’ve rescued in less than a week. El-Hadi Kheil said that the Arab and African migrants, who included women and children, were found at sea in an area between the coastal towns of Garabulli and Zliten, east of the capital, Tripoli, where they were taken to a naval base.”We were lost and didn’t know where to direct our boat,” said Omar Yusef, a Sudanese migrant. “We called the coast guard and a helicopter came and guided us.” Doctors from the U.N. migration agency and UNHCR received them at the naval base to provide medical assistance ahead of immigration control transferring them to a Tripoli detention center. Libya descended into chaos following an uprising in 2011 that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. It has since become a frequently used perilous route to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war in the region. Stars and Stripes

Scores of Boko Haram Fighters Arrested in Huge Raid by Nigerian Armed Forces
Scores of Boko Haram fighters were among the 400 people arrested by Nigerian soldiers, military authorities in the west African nation said. The two-week operation on the islands of Lake Chad netted the largest number of arrests, said Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, adding that the operation included air and ground offensives. The military said many Boko Haram insurgents were killed, but it did not give details. Among those arrested were 167 Boko Haram fighters, 67 women and 173 children. The women and children will be handed over to authorities of displacement camps after investigations, the military said. The Independent

Nigeria Military Rescues 4 Chinese Nationals from Pirates
A Nigerian military official says four abducted Chinese nationals have been rescued after a gun battle with sea pirates. Army spokesman Maj. Ojo Adelegan says the four expatriates were kidnapped Friday while travelling from Lagos to Ondo state in the south. He says the military received a distress call and captured one of the kidnappers. He says some of the Chinese nationals were wounded and all are receiving treatment. The military declines to give names or other details. China’s embassy has not yet commented. Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria but generally involves no fatalities. Hostages are returned unharmed once money exchanges hands, though a German construction worker was killed in southwestern Nigeria in 2015. AP

UN Reports Ethnic Violence in South Sudan
The UN says that sexual violence, directed killings and displacement, and control of aid are being used to harm civilians, although the government of South Sudan denies any role in crimes against civilians. The UN Commission for Human Rights says that some civilians in South Sudan are being targeted for murder and rape based on their ethnicity. Fighting began shortly after the country gained independence in 2013. Thousands of people have been killed and almost 3 million forced from their homes. Al Jazeera

South Sudan Inches Closer to Hybrid Court on Conflict’s Four-Year Anniversary
A court to try alleged war criminals in South Sudan’s conflict was one step closer to reality Friday, the fourth anniversary of the day hostilities began. South Sudan’s Council of Ministers and the African Union agreed last week to the contents of a document that defines the roles of the so-called “hybrid” court, according to Elizabeth Deng, a Nairobi-based researcher for Amnesty International. “This is the document that would specify the criminal jurisdiction of the court, that would define the crimes that the court has the competency to investigate and prosecute. The statute would describe the structure and the composition of the court and the appointment procedure for the courts staff,” Deng told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. VOA

Somalia PM Says His Government Demanded US Aid Cut
Somalia’s prime minister, Hassan ali-Khaire, said his government had demanded the U.S. briefly suspend aid to much of Somalia’s armed forces in an effort to improve transparency and accountability following corruption concerns. Speaking Saturday to reporters in Mogadishu, Khaire blamed former Somali governments for U.S. concerns about corruption. “In the first month in office, my government stood for the need for Somalia to be governed on transparency principles,” he said. “To ensure such principles, Somalia and the U.S. government have agreed to this aid suspension.” He said that the pause in assistance was part of his government’s effort to fight corruption by tackling misconduct and opening the door to accountability. VOA

Under-Fire UN Peacekeepers Struggle in African Nation at War
Scanning the road from a police armored vehicle, Martine Epopa says she isn’t fazed when people make throat-slitting gestures at her United Nations convoy patrolling the capital of the Central African Republic. Sometimes men jump in the road brandishing machetes, while others just stand and scowl, said Epopa, a 29-year-old Cameroonian police officer and the sole woman in a six-vehicle UN patrol that included Portuguese special forces and Mauritanian troops. “We just wait until they give up and leave,” she said, clutching her rifle as her vehicle bounced over potholes. “We’re here to make people understand that the UN is here to protect them and their country. It can be challenging.”  Bloomberg

Central African Republic: The State That Doesn’t Exist
Imagine a country without a functioning government. Imagine a province where the rule of law has broken down completely. Imagine a town without any basic services or state institutions — no police, no schools, no courts, no civil service. Imagine Batangafo. It is a small town, up towards the northern border of the Central African Republic (CAR), and even in its heyday it was little more than a few tree-lined roads of red dirt strung along a bend of the river Ouham. But it was calm, and orderly, with a local authority just about able to keep the peace and uphold some semblance of the rule of law. Now, like much of the rest of the country, Batangafo is an experiment in anarchy. Mail and Guardian

Egypt Raises Security Level to Maximum Alert in Preparation for Coptic Holidays
Egyptian authorities announced that they will raise security levels to maximum alert on Sunday in preparation for Coptic Christmas festivities and possible Sinai terrorist attacks. Following a meeting chaired by the Minister of Interior, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, the ministry released a statement showcasing their plan to secure Christmas celebrations which begin later this month and will continue until January 7. “Critical security confrontations with terrorist factions in North Sinai may prompt some of them to flee and try to sneak into cities, and this will require vigilance and preparation to face those attempts,” said Abdel Ghaffar. Al Arabiya

How a Priest Convinced Robert Mugabe to Step down
Zimbabwe’s recent transition of power was unusual. The military seized power, but didn’t remove President Robert Mugabe. Instead, a Jesuit priest helped persuade the longtime leader to resign.  NPR

Seven Years After Arab Spring Revolt, Tunisia’s Future Remains Uncertain
Tunisia marks seven years on Sunday since the start of protests that spread across the region and came to be known as the Arab Spring. Although praised for its relatively peaceful transition to democracy, Tunisia is still struggling economically. On December 17, 2010, a frustrated street vendor set himself alight outside a local municipal office in Sidi Bouzid to protest against repeated harassment from authorities, who often confiscated his goods or fined him for selling without a permit. In the demonstrations that followed, fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi became a symbol of Tunisia’s disenfranchised, those forced to eke out a living on society’s margins. France 24

West African Leaders in Nigeria to Discuss Morocco’s Membership
The 52nd Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government summit opened in Abuja, capital of Nigeria on Saturday as leaders discuss Morocco’s membership of the bloc and the security situation in Guinea Bissau. Morocco had made its request to be a member of ECOWAS while Tunisia requested to be an observer country. The 51st Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia in June agreed in principle to Morocco’s membership of the sub-regional bloc and directed the commission to consider the implications of the country’s membership. The commission confirmed that study on the impact of Morocco’s membership was carried out and the outcome would be submitted to the Authority. Xinhua

Macron Eyes New Ties with Africa to Better Tackle Terrorism, Migration
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday stressed the need to forge new relationship with African partners, mainly those of the Sahel region, based on common security interests to better fight terrorism and tackle migrant flows to ensure calm at home. “We can effectively battle against terrorism and protect our citizens only if we have an effective action with the Sahel,” Macron told France 2 TV in an interview. He stressed that “working for a new relationship with Africa is essential to avoid migration.” After visiting Mali twice since he took office office in May, Macron said he is to travel to Niger by the end of the year to bolster common defense and military action so as to eradicate insurgents in the Sahel region that push thousands to flee war and seek refuge in European doors. Xinhua

Tributes Pour in for Late Kenyan Scholar Calestous Juma
Prominent Kenyan academic Calestous Juma has died in the United States at the age of 64, prompting an outpouring of grief and tributes on social media. “Intellectual giant”, “innovator”, “tireless champion of the world’s poorest” – these are just some of the words used to describe the Harvard University professor after news of his death broke out on Friday. Juma, whose research and writing focused on science and the environment, was a passionate advocate of the role of technological innovation in transforming African countries. Earlier this year, he was named among the 100 Most Reputable People on Earth by Reputation Poll, a South African consulting company. Juma was also repeatedly included in the annual list of the 100 Most Influential Africans by the New African magazine. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones