Africa Media Review for December 19, 2016

DRC Capital a Tense Ghost Town as Leader’s Mandate Runs Down
Workers and schoolchildren stayed at home and patrolling soldiers outnumbered civilians in some parts of Kinshasa on Monday as tensions rose with one day left of Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s mandate. Kabila’s second term ends on December 20 but he has shown no sign of stepping down and mediation talks have failed, sparking fears of fresh political violence in the mineral-rich but unstable Democratic Republic of Congo. Capital Kinshasa, normally a teeming megacity home to 10 million people, was a shadow of its normal self early Monday, according to AFP journalists there, with quiet main city arteries almost empty of traffic. Public transport was running a minimal service and in the north and east of the city, soldiers and police outnumbered passers-by. News 24

Congo’s Leader Trapped in ‘Labyrinth of His Own Making’
[…] the paradox is that Mr. Kabila may not especially want to stay in power. Instead, former confidants say, he refuses to give up for a simple reason: He is afraid — for his family, for his safety and, not insignificant, for his wealth. “He doesn’t have an exit plan,” said Martin Fayulu, an opposition politician. It is an old problem with a new twist. According to forensic investigators, mining executives and officials in his own government, Mr. Kabila has looted millions of dollars in public assets. Recent troves of documents shared with The New York Times — whose authenticity has been verified by current and former Congolese officials — reveal a string of suspicious bank transfers totaling $95.7 million, dubious mining rights sales that have generated millions more and possible money-laundering schemes involving a bank executive widely described as Mr. Kabila’s adopted brother. ‘Labyrinth of His Own Making’ Authoritarian leaders used to be able to steal with impunity. But today, a whistle-blower with an iPhone can be a dangerous foe. The post-Panama Papers, WikiLeaks world is an uncomfortable place for an autocrat. The New York Times

West Africa Bloc to Take ‘Necessary Actions’ to Uphold Gambia Vote Result
The West African regional bloc said on Saturday it would take all necessary actions to uphold the result of a Dec. 1 election in Gambia, where veteran President Yahya Jammeh says he will not step down after losing to Adama Barrow. ECOWAS leaders said in a communique marking the end of a summit in the Nigerian capital that they would attend the Jan. 18 inauguration of Barrow, “who must be sworn in”, and guarantee the safety of the president-elect. Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to step down was seen across Africa as a moment of hope. Jammeh announced on Dec. 9 that he would reverse that position and called for a fresh vote. That move was widely condemned, including by ECOWAS leaders who say it violates the principle of democratic accountability. Reuters

12 Soldiers Killed in Jihadist Attack on Burkina Faso Army
Authorities say at least 12 soldiers are dead after dozens of Islamic extremists attacked an army barracks in northern Burkina Faso. The jihadists stormed the barracks early Friday in Nassoumbou, a town near the Malian border that is about 260 kilometers (160 miles) from Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. The assailants also set fires to the premises, including tents and military vehicles, a security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. This West African country has seen a number of assaults since al-Qaida-linked extremists attacked in Ouagadougou in January, killing 30 people. AP on ABC News

Mali May Let Burkina Troops Chase Jihadists Into Its Territory
Mali’s president said Sunday he could let Burkina Faso forces pursue jihadist fighters when they flee across the border into his country, days after militants massacred 12 Burkinabe soldiers. Around 40 fighters attacked a base some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Burkina-Mali border on Friday in what local authorities called the biggest ever jihadist attack on the army. It was the second direct strike against the Burkina army since jihadist militants surfaced in the country in early 2015, mostly staging attacks in the north near the borders of Mali and Niger. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta stopped off in Ouagadougou on his way home from a summit in Nigeria to show his support for Burkina Faso after Friday’s attack. “There can be no question of people coming to kill with impunity in Burkina and then finding safe refuge in Mali — certainly not,” Keita told reporters as he stood alongside Burkina President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. AFP on Yahoo News

Mali Will Not Charge Former President Toure with Treason
Mali’s National Assembly has overwhelmingly dropped treason accusations against former president Amadou Toumani Toure. Youssouf Toure, a spokesman for the National Assembly, announced Saturday that the members of parliament had voted 104-5 against pursuing charges against Toure, who was ousted in a March 2012 coup. “I confirm the abandonment of the charges against him was adopted by the majority of deputies,” said Mamadou Diarrassouba of the ruling Rule for Mali (RPM) party. Malian law charges lawmakers to judge current or former presidents. Toure has lived in exile in neighboring Senegal following the coup. Toure led the country from 2002 until the coup. The coup was led by army captain Amadou Sanogo and caused northern Mali to fall to Islamist insurgencies linked to al Qaeda until French-led military operations drove out the militants. The groups have since reorganized and launched attacks in Mali in recent months. Sanogo has since been charged with the murders of several soldiers found in a mass grave.  Deutsche Welle

AU Peacekeepers Accused of Killing 11 Somali Civilians
Somali officials are accusing African Union peacekeepers of killing 11 civilians in two separate incidents over the weekend. The governor of Lower Shabelle region, Ibrahim Aden Najah, told VOA that an armored vehicle belonging to the AU ran over some homes late Sunday after a landmine blast hit an AU convoy at El-Wareegow village near Marka. He said a mother, three children and a baby were killed in the incident. And he called on the AU mission to launch an investigation. The deceased children were between 6 months and 14 years old, the governor said. On Saturday, AU troops opened fire on a minibus near the town of Qoryooley, killing six civilians, Najah said. “AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) told me their troops were on patrol when they encountered the minibus. They suspected it as a car loaded with explosives, so they opened fire on it, killing all those on board,” the governor told VOA. VOA

AMISOM Launches Operation Antelope in HirShabelle State, Somalia
The African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) Burundi contingent has embarked on an operation code named “antelope” to open up key supply routes in HirShabelle state in troubled Somalia.   “The objective of the operation is to open the roads to facilitate humanitarian access, support the local population to move their crops from farms to markets, and assist the military to get access to forward operating bases (FOB) in the sector,” the African Union (AU) said in a statement on Saturday.   Sector Five commander Brig-Gen Venuste Nduwayo said the operation which was already underway would see more than 150km of roads rehabilitated in the agriculturally rich HirShabelle region. These roads included the Jowhar Airfield to Jowhar Town, Biyo-Adde to Jowhar Town, Mahadaay to Elbaraf, Biyo-Adde to Raga-elle, and Raga-elle to Mogadishu, among others. Mareeg

Suicide Bombing Kills Haftar Troops in Contested Benghazi District
A suicide bomb attack in Benghazi targeting forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar left at least seven dead, and a further eight wounded on Sunday, according to medical and security officials. The attack occurred in the Ganfouda district, one of the last remaining areas in the city where resistance to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is ongoing. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack. All those killed in the attack were LNA personnel, according to a medical source from Benghazi’s main hospital who spoke to Reuters. Haftar has carried out a military campaign in Benghazi for more than two years and has wrestled control of most of the city from Islamist militias, and other opponents.  Al Araby

Dlamini-Zuma to Hold First and Only ‘State of Continent’ Address
African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will address her first and only “state of the continent” media briefing in Durban on Monday, a month before her four-year term ends. Despite being the first address of its kind in recent African Union (AU) history, communication regarding the event has come through South African regional and provincial channels and from the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). There is no notice of what would be deemed a major event on the AU website and the provincial government only received a request to host the event a couple of weeks ago. It is not immediately known why KwaZulu-Natal was chosen as the venue, but as the African National Congress leadership battle gains pace Dlamini-Zuma is known to enjoy widespread support in the province. SABC

Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF Confirms Mugabe as 2018 Election Candidate
Zimbabwe’s governing Zanu-PF party has confirmed President Robert Mugabe as its candidate for the 2018 elections. Mr Mugabe, who is 92, has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980. At the party’s conference, the Zanu-PF youth wing even proposed that Mr Mugabe should be declared president for life. However, there have been unprecedented protests this year against Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil and Mr Mugabe’s leadership. The Zanu-PF has also suffered serious infighting as factions battle it out to succeed Mr Mugabe once he eventually leaves. BBC

UN Extends Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan for a Year
The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously passed a draft resolution extending its peacekeeping mission in violence-plagued South Sudan by a year.  The U.S.-drafted resolution includes stronger language aimed at protecting civilians, saying peacekeepers should do more to prevent and respond to sexual attacks in the country. It also calls on peacekeepers to monitor, investigate and report on hate speech incidents and incitements to violence. In a vote of 15-0, council members also proposed creation of a 4,000-troop Regional Protection Force in addition to the approximately 13,000 peacekeepers already there, mainly to ensure safe movement in and around the capital of Juba and to protect the airport there. The mandate maintains its original core functions, including the protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights violations and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Stars and Stripes

A Rare View from Inside South Sudan’s Most-feared Prison
More than 30 political detainees in South Sudan’s most notorious prison face torture, starvation or death, according to a Danish man detained alongside them for over two months before being released in late November. Henrik Tobiesen, a businessman and former United Nations de-mining worker who had lived in South Sudan for 11 years, told The Associated Press he was locked up for 67 days starting Sept. 16 in the National Security Service compound in the capital, Juba. He said he was arrested for losing his passport but was released after pressure from his government. He said NSS officials also accused him of being an American or U.N. spy, but he was never charged. His account is one of the first to emerge from the compound, known locally as “Blue House” for its blue-tinted windows. Political detainees are held on the top floor, with suspected criminals below. For the first time, Tobiesen confirmed that a South Sudanese rebel spokesman who vanished in early November after being deported from Kenya, despite having refugee status, is being held at the prison in solitary confinement. He saw James Gatdet walking with guards past his cell door. AP on The Washington Post

South Sudan: Retired SA Colonel Jailed for Four Months Without Charges
William Endley, 55, was arrested in South Sudan’s capital Juba on August 18 and locked in a prison within the National Security Services headquarters compound, a notorious complex known as Blue House. His case has come to light through the testimony of Henrik Tobiesen, a Danish businessman imprisoned for 67 days in Blue House on the same floor as Endley. Tobiesen said at times Endley was so weak from malnutrition in the prison he could not even sit up for extended periods of time. “He’s skin and bloody bones.” Tobiesen told Daily Maverick of Endley’s condition when he last saw him. “I’ve not seen people alive that could be so skinny,” Endley is one of over thirty political prisoners held in the Blue House. Others include South Sudanese journalist George Livio who has been jailed for more than two years and Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet, according to Amnesty International. Daily Maverick

Amid Growing Unrest, South Sudan Kicks Out Aid Workers
Over the last week, South Sudanese authorities expelled two top officials from the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the largest international aid groups working in the country. “It’s hugely concerning … in part because we truly don’t know why,” says Joel Charny, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s U.S. office. “For no reason whatsoever, our country director is detained for nearly 24 hours and then asked to leave. Now an area manager is asked to leave. It’s puzzling because we don’t know what we’ve done wrong.” AFRICA Fears Of Genocide In The World’s Newest Nation The South Sudanese authorities gave no explanation for the deportations. The United Nations has condemned the decision by South Sudan. As an ethnically charged civil war escalates, the U.N. and other aid officials say South Sudan is becoming one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world for humanitarian groups to operate. NPR

Ethiopia Opens Massive Gibe 3 Hydroelectric Dam on Omo River
Ethiopia on Saturday officially opened the Gibe 3 hydroelectric dam, which is among the biggest in Africa, despite concerns by environmentalists about its impact downstream and upon neighboring countries. Ethiopia aims to produce 15,000 megawatts of electricity through its dams in the coming five years, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at a ceremony launching the Gibe 3 dam. Officials said Gibe 3 makes Ethiopia one of the biggest producers and consumers of renewable energy in Africa. They said the massive dam will help Ethiopia meet its own and neighboring countries’ increasing demands for cheap, renewable electricity. The Gibe 3 dam cost $1.7 billion to build, with 40 percent of that covered by the Ethiopian government while the remaining 60 percent was obtained through a loan from the Chinese government, officials said. AP on The Washington Post

Algerian Defense Ministry: 125 “Terrorists” Killed this Year
Algeria’s defense ministry says that 125 “terrorists” have been killed during year 2016, without giving details on their identities and the location of the military operations. In its monthly magazine El Djeich, the ministry also says that 225 other people have been arrested in its effort to fight terrorism. The ministry says the military “pursues its mission with determination and rigor, achieving results on the ground this year, including the elimination of a subsequent number of terrorists and criminals and the seizure of war weapons.” This year, the Islamic State group has been trying to expand in Algeria, where al-Qaida’s North African branch and other Islamic extremist groups have been based and have long fought Algerian authorities. AP on The Washington Post

Ivory Coast Votes in Poll Likely to Bolster President Ouattara
Ivory Coast went to the polls on Sunday as President Alassane Ouattara sought to strengthen his parliamentary majority. Ouattara’s coalition already controls 85 percent of the seats, and was expected to hold on to power despite criticism that the ruling RHDP party runs the government like a monarchy. “Give me a strong majority to enable me to speed up the work that I have set as an objective in the four years to come,” the president said in a televised statement. Opposition politicians loyal to ousted leader Laurent Gbagbo, Outtara’s one-time ally turned rival, hoped to gain some ground after largely boycotting politics since 2011. The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) dominated politics for over a decade after the former military junta was toppled in 2000 and Gbagbo installed as president. Deutsche Welle

Pan Am Pilots, Still Feeling Victimized 28 Years After Lockerbie, Seek Money from Libya Fund
The shock waves from a terrorist attack often spread widely, to include not only the immediate victims of a bombing or shooting but to their families, the area of the attack and the businesses affected by it. In the case of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Libya eventually admitted responsibility and created a $1.5 billion fund to pay the 270 families of those on the plane and on the ground who were killed. But did that bombing also kill the airline? The once preeminent carrier closed down three years after the attack. In a federal courtroom in Washington on Wednesday, dozens of former Pan Am pilots from around the country gathered to press their case that they were victims of Lockerbie too, suddenly thrown out on the street in 1991 with their jobs, their pensions and their health insurance all gone. Most are now in their 80s, and they argued to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission that they too are entitled to a chunk of the Libyan settlement fund. The two members of the commission have already expressed a preliminary opinion that they are not entitled to a dime, and the pilots — backed by a former Pan Am executive — made an emotional final appeal that the terrorist act harmed them as well. The Washington Post

Blood Samples Show Presence of Zika Virus in Tanzania
Tanzania has detected the presence of Zika virus infections in 83 out of 533 tested blood samples taken in 2015 and 2016. On Jan. 31, this year, the Tanzanian government through the Health Ministry refuted reports that the Zika virus had been detected in the country. Director general at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Mwele Malecela told journalist in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s business capital city, that the virus was detected in over 80 of 533 blood samples taken from newborn babies in eight regions across the country. According to Malecela, the research — conducted in collaboration with the Bugando Medical University in Tanzania — revealed that some of the children were born with several disabilities, including mental, and microcephaly (smallness of the head). Anadolu Agency

Aid to Africa Projected to Fall During Trump’s Presidency
Kenya and Tanzania are among African countries likely to face a drop in foreign aid as the new US administration cuts spending to create room for increased infrastructure expenditure, according to a new report. The report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) says the Trump presidency raises the risk of the US rolling back development aid, thus affecting dependent countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The accountancy and finance body said that signs of an expansionary fiscal stance under the Trump administration, coupled with spending cuts to build dollar reserves for infrastructure development, are likely to lead to a decrease in aid to African countries. “Aid is probably the main channel through which a change in US policy under a new president could impact Africa,” states the fourth quarter (2016) report commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones