Africa Media Review for December 26, 2017

Liberia Election Run-Off: Ex-Footballer up against Vice-President
Liberians are choosing a new president in a run-off vote between Vice-President Joseph Boakai and former international footballer George Weah. Mr Weah, 51, won the first round, but did not secure the required 50% of the vote for an outright victory. Legal challenges delayed the vote to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president. Liberia, which was founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years. Polls across Liberia opened at 08:00 GMT and will close at 18:00. More than two million people are eligible to cast their ballots.  BBC

South Sudan Army, Rebels Clash Hours after Ceasefire
South Sudan’s army clashed with rebels in an oil-producing region early on Sunday, both sides said, shattering a ceasefire hours after it came into effect. Both sides accused the other of starting the fighting around the town of Koch in Unity state. Seventeen aid workers fled the violence, according to a humanitarian source. There were no immediate details of casualties. The government and rebel groups signed a ceasefire on Thursday in the latest attempt to end a four-year civil war and let humanitarian groups reach civilians. The ceasefire formally came into force on Sunday morning, but fighting broke out soon afterwards, according to a humanitarian security report seen by Reuters. Reuters

Nine DRC Soldiers Killed in Two Ambushes
Nine soldiers have been killed in two ambushes by a suspected rebel militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, the military said Monday. “The army recorded a loss of nine soldiers in two ambushes in the Baraka operational zone” in the South Kivu province, a unnamed military official told AFP. A lieutenant was killed on Sunday in the village Lweba, 7km from the Baraka district, the official added. The other deaths came in an attack two days earlier. “Our hospital received the bodies of eight soldiers killed by bullets on Friday,” an official at a hospital in Lulimba, a village 60km south of Baraka, told AFP. AFP

Uganda Says Killed over 100 ADF Rebels in Eastern DR Congo
The Ugandan military said on Monday that it killed over 100 Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in an operation last Friday against rebel camps in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The airstrike and artillery operation, code-named “Tuugo,” targeted eight ADF camps in Eringeti triangle in the DRC’s North Kivu province, Maj. Ronald Kakurungu, spokesperson of the operation, told Xinhua by phone from the western border district of Bundibugyo. Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) used fighter jets and long artillery to carry out preemptive attacks on the ADF bases of Madina, Canada, Tadia, Popoke, Makayoba, Kainama, Ngiti and Kikingi after receiving intelligence that the rebels were planning to attack the east African country, Kakurungu said. Xinhua

Republic of Congo Reaches Peace Deal with ‘Ninja’ Rebels
The Republic of Congo on Saturday agreed a ceasefire with rebels in the southeast region of Pool, ending a 15-year conflict that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. The conflict escalated in April 2016 after a contested presidential election was won by 74-year-old President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled the country for 33 of the past 38 years. Frederic Bintsamou, a militia leader better known as Pastor Ntumi, battled Sassou Nguesso during and after a civil war in 1997. The government has blamed him for deadly attacks on police, military and government bases. The so-called Ninja militants he led also erected blockades aimed at choking off trade in the Pool region. Deutsche Welle

Islamic State Group Releases 1st Video of Somalia Fighters
A group that monitors extremist organizations says the Islamic State group has posted what is thought to be the first video from IS-affiliated fighters in Somalia. The video posted online Monday calls on supporters to “hunt down” what it calls nonbelievers and attack churches and markets. The SITE Intelligence Group says the video urges supporters to take advantage of people’s “drunkenness” over the holiday season to attack. The United States last month launched its first drone strikes against Islamic State group-affiliated fighters in Somalia. The Horn of Africa nation has a small but growing presence of the fighters, many of them defectors from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The fighters are based in northern Somalia’s rural Puntland. Experts warn their numbers could grow as IS fighters flee Syria and Iraq. AP

Somali Cadets Graduate from Turkish Military Academy
Somali President H.E. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo Friday attended the passing out ceremony of the first batch of national army troops who received training from Turkey’s military academy in the capital Mogadishu. Farmajo thanked the Turkish government for its support in enhancing and rebuilding the Somali National Army. “We have a lot of gratitude for your appreciated support to us, and our foreign policy is based on cooperation which is open to everyone,” the president said. He called on the cadets to use what they have learned during their training in the country’s fight against terrorism, namely against the al-Shabaab terror group. Anadolu Agency

Ethiopia Pardons 361 Suspects of Violence Last Year
Ethiopia’s Southern regional state on Monday pardoned 361 suspects who had been charged with involvement in deadly riots in October 2016. Seifu Keneso, Attorney General for Justice Office at Southern regional state, said the individuals were pardoned to encourage them to be productive members of the society. However, 141 individuals suspected of grave offences including murder, severe bodily harm and rapes will have their criminal cases continue. Parts of Southern regional state was convulsed in deadly ethnic riots in October 2016 which left at least 34 people dead. The disturbance centered around Gedeo zone of Southern regional state saw ethnic Gedeos attack the properties of other ethnicities which they accuse of unfairly exploiting their resources. Xinhua

2017 Daily Maverick South African Persons of the Year: The Whistle-Blowers
In 2017, the horrifying extent of State Capture finally became clearer to the South African public. And we would still be languishing in the dark were it not for the whistle-blowers: the handful of courageous South African men and women who did not remain silent in the face of wrongdoing, but stood up and spoke out. From the anonymous figures who risked everything to expose the #GuptaLeaks emails, to the workers who blew the whistle on misdeeds in big corporates and State-owned Enterprises: South Africa owes you a great debt. Daily Maverick

Italy PM Plans to Shift Military Forces from Iraq to Niger
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Sunday he would propose to parliament transferring some of the country’s troops stationed in Iraq to Niger to fight people smuggling and terrorism. Gentiloni said Italy’s 1,400-strong military presence in Iraq could now be reduced after victories against Islamic militants and instead deployed in the Sahel region of West Africa. “We have to continue to work, concentrating our attention and energies on the threat of people trafficking and terrorism in the Sahel,” he said aboard the Italian ship Etna used in the European Union’s “Sophia” operation to counter people smuggling in the Mediterranean. “For this reason, part of our forces in Iraq will be deployed to Niger in coming months – this is the proposal the government will make to parliament,” Gentiloni said. Reuters

Macron: France Ready to Strengthen Force in Sahel Fighting Islamists
President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday France stood ready if needed to strengthen its military force fighting alongside African troops against Islamist insurgents in the Sahel. France has been seeking to eventually withdraw from the poorly policed scrublands of the Sahel region – which abuts the Sahara to the north and has become a recruiting and training ground for Islamist militants – with the help of a new regional African force. The G5 Sahel, which began official operations in November, is made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania that will patrol the region in collaboration with 4,000 French troops deployed there since intervening in 2013 to quell an insurgency in northern Mali. But Macron said on a visit to the Niger capital Niamey that the Sahel would remain a focus for the French army, should it be required in the future. Reuters

Macron Promises €400 Million in Aid to Niger
French President Emmanuel Macron promised more than 400 million euros ($474 million) in aid over four years to Niger during a visit and told the country’s president he was ready to strengthen France’s presence in the Sahel. Macron spoke alongside President Issoufou Mahamadou Saturday after the two met to discuss the fight against extremism, migration and development in Niger. “We are ready to strengthen our presence in the Sahel, because the fight against terrorism is essential,” Macron said. Though he emphasized that there were other major issues of concern discussed. “The lasting stabilization of Libya and the fight against migration and human trafficking,” he said. RFI

Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa Appoints Former Army Boss as Party VP
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed retired army boss Constantino Chiwenga and veteran politician Kembo Mohadi as the ruling party’s vice presidents, a spokesperson said on Saturday. The appointments paved the way for the two to ascend to similar positions in government, officials said. Mnangagwa, who took over last month from 93-year-old Robert Mugabe after the intervention of the military, is under pressure from opposition parties and the public to implement political reforms. Under Mugabe’s 37-year rule political space was limited, with the latter part of his reign marked by the emergence of a ZANU-PF faction aligned to his wife Grace that threatened to usurp the army’s central role in government. Reuters

‘We Won’t Tolerate Fresh Land Grabs… We Want Total Stability on Farms,’ Zim Govt Says
The Zimbabwean government has reportedly said that it would not tolerate any fresh farm grabs, adding that “the law would come hard on those who seek to disrupt farming activities by legally resettled people”. According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Agriculture, Lands and Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said last week that the government was pushing for the issuance of 99-year leases. “We realise as the ministry of lands, agriculture and resettlement that for all our aspirations to be realised we need total stability on the farms and to that effect we shall ensure that (illegal) farm occupations will not be tolerated anymore. Offer letters should be respected. The process of issuance of 99-year leases shall be expedited to allow long-term planning by the farmers and to also allow them to access funding,” Shiri was quoted as saying. News 24

Chad Reshuffles Finance, Other Key Ministries – Decree
Chad’s President Idriss Deby on Sunday appointed Abdoulaye Sabre Fadoul as minister of finance and also named new economy, foreign affairs, security and justice ministers, a presidential decree showed. Fadoul has served as interim finance minister since Deby sacked his predecessor, Christian Georges Diguimbaye, last month. The appointment comes amid stalled negotiations with Glencore over more than $1 billion in oil-backed loans Chad owes the commodities trader. Glencore lent the West African country’s state oil firm SHT about $1.45 billion in 2014 to be repaid with crude oil. The loan was subsequently syndicated with several banks. Reuters

South Africa’s Ruling ANC to Ask Zuma to Step Down: City Press
Members of South Africas newly elected African National Congress executive committee will meet with President Jacob Zuma to advise him to step down, Johannesburgs City Press reported, citing unidentified people. The ruling partys leaders have been discussing a conflict-free exit for Zuma, after his term as president of the ANC came to an end last week, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa taking the helm, according to the newspaper. Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was backed by the president, to the top ANC position in a closely contested vote last week. Ramaphosa and new ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule would lead discussions with Zuma, City Press reported, citing unidentified party officials. Bloomberg

Nigeria Said It Defeated Boko Haram. So Why Is It Throwing More Money into the Fight?
For two years, the Nigerian military has claimed to have defeated Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has terrorized the country’s northeast since 2009. But even if the government has regained much of the territory once controlled by the group, the fight is far from over. Close to 2 million people remain displaced in northeast Nigeria, civilian victims who have become highly vulnerable to the threat of regular suicide bombings, food insecurity and even exploitation by their own security forces. A series of particularly deadly bombings in November and December killed dozens of people across the northeast. On Dec. 16, insurgents attacked an army convoy accompanying World Food Program-hired trucks in the northeastern state of Borno, the birthplace of Boko Haram. Los Angeles Times

Nigerian Military Kills Militants in Air Strike near Lake Chad
The Nigerian air force bombarded Boko Haram locations at Tumbun Rago in the northeast near Lake Chad on Sunday, killing “scores” of militants, spokesman Olatokumbo Adesanya said in an emailed statement. Boko Haram began an insurgency in 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous country of more than 180 million people. More than 20,000 people have died in the violence, according to the government. Bloomberg

Nigerian ‘Mafia’ Working with Libyans to Smuggle Migrants “
Amid the global outcry over hellish migrant camps in Libya, many African leaders have accused the country of racism and crimes against their African “brothers”. But for those who have returned from the living hell, it’s not only the Libyans who are profiting from the “migrant business”. Illegal migrants are also the prey of sub-Saharan mafia groups, especially Nigerians. Daniel was a student when smugglers convinced him to travel to Europe, which many migrants see as the path to a prosperous life. “In two weeks, you will be in Italy,” they promised him. But 10 months later, in early December, the 28-year-old Nigerian was repatriated to Benin City, his hometown, after enduring kidnapping, violence and forced labour. His legs were lacerated by electric wire burns. AFP

Attack Fears Prompted UAE-Tunisia Female Passenger Row
A row between Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates was triggered by fears of terrorist attacks, Tunisia says. Since Friday, Tunisian women have reported being banned from Emirates flights to the UAE. In response, Tunisia suspended Emirates airlines flights from landing in Tunis. A Tunisian official said UAE authorities had received “serious security information about the possibility of a terrorist attack” by female Tunisian passport holders. A spokeswoman for the Tunisian presidency, Saida Garrach, said that UAE carrier Emirates had received “clear instructions” to deny Tunisian women access to its planes. She said that the information indicated that, with jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq, there was “a possibility of a terrorist attack involving either Tunisian women or women carrying a Tunisian passport”. BBC

The Battle to Contain Africa’s Hidden Killers
Rainy seasons in Nigeria bring out venomous snakes, which emerge from their shelters to hunt and breed. This is always a hazardous time, particularly for agricultural workers tending their fields, and this autumn proved especially cruel. Around 250 people were reportedly killed over a three-week period in the central states of Gombe and Plateau, in a crisis that overwhelmed local doctors and prompted a national outcry. The case was extreme, but not unique. Nigeria is among the countries worst affected by what some public health experts are calling an epidemic. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many of the world’s deadliest snakes, including the black mamba and the carpet viper, and they exact a terrible toll. An estimated 32,000 people in the region are killed each year by snakebites, and a further 100,000 are left disabled, often by severe injuries that require limb amputations. CNN