Africa Media Review for December 22, 2017

South Sudan to Implement Cease-Fire Saturday
South Sudan’s government and armed groups signed a cease-fire agreement Thursday during peace talks in Ethiopia, in their latest push to end a four-year civil war. The agreement pledges that all parties on Saturday will end hostilities; freeze military positions; and release prisoners of war, political detainees, and abducted women and children. African Union chairman Moussa Faki called the agreement “an encouraging first step” toward ending the conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more from their homes. But this is only the latest attempt at a peace agreement in a war that has mutated from a conflict between two sides to one between the government and multiple opposition groups, as the world’s newest nation struggles to establish its identity. VOA

Fresh South Sudan Fighting Casts Doubt on Peace Talks
As South Sudan’s warring parties met for peace talks this week, dozens of refugees streamed into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, fleeing what they said was a fresh government offensive. The push to recapture a key rebel stronghold came shortly before mediators tabled a ceasefire agreement in Addis Ababa, raising serious doubts over the government’s commitment to talks seen as a last-ditch chance to end the country’s four-year war. On Sunday, President Salva Kiir’s troops attacked the town of Lasu in Central Equatoria State, which has served as the headquarters for Riek Machar’s SPLA-IO, the main opposition movement in South Sudan. AFP

AU Says It Needs Urgent Resources for Its Mission in Somalia  
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) says it needs urgent and reliable funding in order to defeat al-Shabab militants and transfer security responsibilities to the Somali National Army. AMISOM chief Francisco Madeira issued the appeal while talking to reporters in Nairobi Thursday. “We need urgent support. Our troops are ready, but they need to be resourced. This has not been happening to expectations, despite the repeated commitments by partners in different forums,” said Madeira. Madeira warned that lack of funding could endanger the hard-won gains in the fight against militants over the last decade. VOA

Macron Offers Support to French, African Forces in Niger
President Emmanuel Macron will hold a holiday dinner with French troops in Niger as he tries to bolster international forces fighting extremists across a swath of Africa. In a trip starting Friday, Macron wants to encourage Niger’s growing military efforts to fight terrorism in West Africa. France has thousands of troops there in its largest overseas military operation and wants African forces to take a more prominent role. In meetings with President Mahamadou Issoufou, Macron is also expected to discuss migrant trafficking through the area. Macron is trying to show support for French troops based in Niger and is bringing a special present: the chef from the Elysee presidential palace. The chef will oversee a meal for hundreds of French troops in addition to American, Canadian and German forces. AP

Uganda’s Opposition Legislators to Challenge Age Limit Removal in Court
The age limit constitutional amendment that was passed by Uganda’s parliament yesterday will be challenged in court. Legislators who were opposed to the amendment have revealed that they will challenge the outcome of the parliamentary vote because the process of removing the age limit was fraudulent. “We are going to challenge the process [in court]. We want to let Ugandans know that we played our part and now we are giving ball to the Ugandan in a new campaign K’ogikutteko,” the leader of opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kizza said while addressing journalists in Kampala. Africa News

Ululations, Tears as White Zimbabwean Farmer Returns to Seized Land
The last time white Zimbabwean farmer Rob Smart left his land it was at gunpoint, forced out in June by riot police armed with tear gas and AK-47 assault rifles. He returned on Thursday to ululations and tears of joy from former workers and their families who were also kicked out – a jubilant return and the first sign that the president who has replaced Robert Mugabe is making good on a vow to stop illegal land seizures and restore property rights. Scores of jubilant black Zimbabweans nearly knocked the 71-year-old off his feet as he and his two children stepped out of their car and onto their land for the first time in six months. Reuters

Top US Aid Recipients Ignore White House Threat on UN Vote
Ahead of a dramatic vote at the United Nations on Thursday, the United States made an unprecedented threat to fellow members of the international community: those who vote against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital risk diplomatic retaliation and losing American financial aid. […] With the exception of Israel, the top recipients of international aid are Muslim, Arab or African countries. Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan all voted to back the resolution proposed by the Palestinians, as did African countries Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa. In addition to Israel, the only member of the top 10 aid recipients not to support the Palestinians was Kenya, a close Israeli ally that skipped the vote, according to AP

Togo Only African Nation to Back Trump on Jerusalem Vote despite A.U. Stance
Togo on Thursday voted with the United States in Washington’s resolution to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But at the end of the day, it was Togo, the United States and seven others against the motion whiles 128 other countries voted in favour of the motion rejecting the U.S. move. Out of the 35 countries that chose to abstain, there were a number of African countries including Rwanda, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, Malawi, South Sudan and Uganda. Togo’s position comes as a surprise to many political watchers given that the African Union had put out a position that others like Ethiopia (a current member of the Security Council) had openly said they were backing. Africa News

South Africa’s ANC Decides on Israel Embassy Downgrade Ahead of Jerusalem Vote
South Africa’s ruling ANC decided to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office over a U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ahead of a U.N. vote on Thursday on a resolution urging Washington to drop the move. The decision was taken at the end of a five-day African National Congress conference, in which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as its new leader and South Africa’s likely next president after 2019 elections, following Jacob Zuma. “Delegates endorsed the proposal that we must give practical support to the oppressed people of Palestine and resolved on an immediate and unconditional downgrade of the SA (South Africa) Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office,” new ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said on Thursday. Reuters

Liberia to Move Ahead with Dec 26 Runoff Poll
Liberia’s Supreme Court has denied a request from the governing Unity Party to halt the Dec. 26 presidential runoff, ruling that the National Elections Commission has acted within the law in setting the election date. The second-round vote between former soccer star George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai had at one point been on hold after the third-place candidate’s Liberty Party alleged first-round voting irregularities. The Supreme Court cleared the way for the runoff the beginning of December ordering the voter lists be fully cleaned up. The ruling Unity Party then filed a complaint last week against the lists. AP

French Foreign Minister Visits Libya in New Push for U.N. Talks
Libya’s rival factions should stick to a United Nations peace process and prepare for elections in spring 2018, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday, trying to give stalled U.N. talks a new push. The North African country has two rival governments, one in the east and a U.N.-backed administration in the capital Tripoli in the west, in a conflict stemming from the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. France was a leading player in the NATO intervention against Gaddafi, sending warplanes to bomb his forces. Reuters

Trump Sanctions Jammeh over Corruption and Human Rights Abuse
Former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh is on the latest list of U.S. sanctions under a regime that targets human rights abusers and corrupt actors across the globe. President Donald Trump on Thursday (December 21, 2017) signed an Executive Order declaring a national emergency with respect to global human rights abuse and corruption. As part of the order 13 persons were sanctioned whiles 39 affiliated individuals and entities were also sanctioned, according to a press releasefrom the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Africa News

U.S. Sanctions Israeli Billionaire Gertler over Congo Deals
The U.S. sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, one of the biggest individual mining investors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what it calls a clampdown on human-rights abusers and corrupt actors. The U.S. Treasury said Gertler has used his close relationship with the country’s president, Joseph Kabila, to amass a fortune through corrupt and opaque deals. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, Congo reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler, it said. “Gertler has used his close friendship with DRC President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales in the DRC, requiring some multinational companies to go through Gertler to do business with the Congolese state,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement. Bloomberg

Pirates Kidnap 10 Sailors off Nigeria: IMB
Pirates have kidnapped 10 sailors from a merchant ship off the coast of southern Nigeria in the latest attack in the restive region, the International Maritime Bureau said on Thursday. “A bulk carrier underway was attacked and boarded by six pirates from a small boat. Ten crew members were reported missing. The remaining crew onboard sailed the vessel to a safe port,” the IMB said in a statement. The kidnapping happened around 32 nautical miles south of Brass last week in the volatile Niger delta, a growing piracy hotspot in west Africa, it said. AFP

RFI Journalist Acquitted in Cameroon
A Radio France International (RFI) correspondent was acquitted Thursday in Cameroon after he was jailed for 10 years in April for “laundering the proceeds of terrorist acts”, representatives said. A military tribunal in Yaounde acquitted Ahmed Abba following an appeal, but he was sentenced to 24 months in prison for a lesser charge of failing to “denounce acts of terrorism”. This paves the way for his release although he has served a total of 29 months behind bars following his arrest in July 2015. He had been facing up to a decade in jail after the court agreed in April with authorities’ charges that he had collaborated with the Boko Haram jihadist group and failed to pass on information about planned attacks. Abba has always denied all charges. AFP

France Closes Probe into 1994 Attack on Rwanda President Juvenal Habyarimana
French anti-terror judges have ended an investigation into the missile attack on a plane that killed former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, sparking Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, legal sources said Thursday. The long-running probe has been a major source of tension between the two countries following accusations that a Tutsi militia headed by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame was responsible for the attack on the plane in April 1994. The missile strike near Kigali’s airport sparked 100 days of slaughter of the Tutsi ethnic minority by members of Habyarimana’s Hutu ethnic group, leaving an estimated 800,000 people dead. Kigali has long accused France of complicity in the genocide by supporting the Hutu regime, training the soldiers and militiamen who carried out the killings. AFP

Paul Kagame and Omar Bashir Join Hands against ICC
Rwanda and Sudan have agreed to jointly confront the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing it of targeting only African leaders. Sudanese President Omar Bashir and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame struck the deal as they held talks in Khartoum on Wednesday. President Kagame had arrived in the Sudanese capital for a two-day visit. Addressing a joint press conference, after a closed-door meeting with his host, President Kagame stressed that the African Union’s position was against the ICC, stating that the continent’s leaders were victims of its biased justice. “We have also talked about the International Criminal Court and I can say our opposition has been very clear,” President Kagame emphasised. Daily Nation

Madame Idriss, the Fixer
An important player in Semlex’s use of well-connected individuals to land contracts was a woman named Zina Wazouna Ahmed Idriss, an ex-wife of President Idriss Deby of Chad. She is referred to as Madame Idriss in Semlex emails. A source with direct knowledge of the company, as well as a Semlex email written by the company’s finance manager in April 2009, described Wazouna’s role as acting as an intermediary to help Semlex win new business in Africa. In November 2007 and February 2008, Semlex secured two deals worth around 21 million euros to produce passports, visas and ID cards for Gabon, Semlex contracts seen by Reuters show. From early 2008 to early 2010, Wazouna received payments totaling some 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) from Semlex, according to a Semlex spreadsheet of costs related to Wazouna reviewed by Reuters. The payments were described in invoices sent to Semlex as commissions for helping land business in Gabon.  Reuters