Africa Media Review for December 28, 2016

Former Prisoner Tells of Torture of Politicians, Rebels in Sudan
Detained opposition members and humanitarian aid workers in Sudanese prisons are subjected to torture, according to a former prisoner. In particular captured members of rebel movements are exposed to torture. After two months and two days in Kober and Dabrak prisons, the detained Badreldin El Haj and Elsir El Gazouli were released on Monday. They had carried out a protest against the government’s decision that authorities may forcefully seize their lands and sell them to investors. Speaking to Radio Dabanga the next day, El Haj reported that there are more than 350 detainees in Kober. “They are members of the armed movements, political leaders of the opposition and humanitarian organisation workers. “Detainees are regularly tortured and threatened with death by members of the security apparatus.” El Haj himself has been threatened once by a security agent. “His name was Bakri. He threatened to lock me in the water cell for a full week.” He appealed to human rights organisations in and outside Sudan to save the lives of the detainees in the prisons. Nine leaders and members of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) remain in detention. Radio Dabanga

Egypt Sets Up Govt-Picked Council to Oversee Media
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved a law to set up a council headed by his appointees that oversees the media and ensures compliance with “national security” requirements. The law, passed by parliament and published in the official gazette on Monday, mandates the council to investigate media funding and fine or revoke permits of those deemed in violation. The council will be composed of a head picked by Sisi and 12 members recommended by parliament and other institutions, and also approved by the president. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has accused Egypt of placing restrictions on media and being a “leading jailer of journalists”. The law says the council would guarantee the right of citizens “to enjoy a free and honest media”. But it also tasks the council with “guaranteeing the compliance of media institutions to the requirements of national security”. News24

Nigeria’s Army Says 3,000 People Who Fled Boko Haram Return to Hometown
More than 3,000 people in northeast Nigeria who were forced to flee the seven-year insurgency waged by Islamist militants have returned to their hometown following the reopening of major roads in the area, the army said on Tuesday. Damasak – in the northwest of Borno, the state worst hit by the militants – was taken over by Boko Haram in late 2014, when it controlled an area the size of Belgium in northeast Nigeria. The insurgents were pushed out of the town by the army in July. President Muhammadu Buhari said on Saturday that the army had taken back Boko Haram’s main camp in the Sambisa forest. On Sunday, the government said it was reopening two roads between Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, and the northern towns of Damasak and Baga. Army spokesman Sani Usman said more than 3,000 people used one of the roads to return to Damasak on Monday. Reuters was unable to independently verify his statement. Reuters

South Sudan Rival Forces Clash in Oil-Rich Upper Nile State
Clashes and reports of gunfire caused chaotic scenes, interfered with economic activities and disrupted Christmas celebrations in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. Several aid workers workers and local officials told Sudan Tribune Tuesday that Christmas celebrations were disrupted by armed clashes which occurred 24 December, as people stayed indoors throughout Christmas. A humanitarian worker confirmed that there were clashes near Doro camp in Maban county on Sunday night, and that 8-10 people suffered injuries, some of whom were reportedly killed in their houses. Sudan Tribune

Machar Calls for New Political Process in Christmas Message
South Sudan’s former First Vice President and rebel leader Riek Machar has called for an internationally brokered political process to review the peace accord signed last year. In a Christmas message, Machar called on the international community and the African Union to give the people of South Sudan a hope during this festive and to declare the much needed internationally mediated peace process. He further said a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict and genocide should be the highest priority for the international community for the well-being of the South Sudanese people. The rebel leader explained that the political process will allow the warring parties to peacefully engage and will ensure the people of South Sudan can celebrate rather than endure the festive period in the coming years. Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan’s Kiir Protests Global Isolation over Ongoing Conflict
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has expressed disappointment with the global community for isolating his administration, claiming the young nation has been written off. “I know that many in the world community have written us off and there are many out there who believe that the situation in South Sudan will never get any better. We have a simple message for them, South Sudan shall rise once again and it shall be triumphant against all the odds”, he said in a Christmas message to the nation. Sudan Tribune

U.S Mission Gives Uganda U.S. $40 Million for Refugees
The US Mission in Kampala has tripled US food aid contributions to Uganda in 2016 by announcing a new $40 million emergency humanitarian package. Through the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and Office of Food for Peace (FFP), the aid provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide more than 44,000 metric tons of food assistance to those fleeing increased conflict and the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan. AllAfrica

Why Kenya’s Cattle Raids are Getting Deadlier
Kenya’s pastoralist communities have long considered cattle rustling a cultural practice, according to a 2011 Kenya Human Rights Commission report. In the past, warriors would wield crude weapons such as spears, swords and bows and arrows to steal livestock, but they rarely killed people. Livestock is a symbol of wealth; stealing cattle was considered a means to elevate one’s status. But in the past few decades, in West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana and Samburu counties, in northwestern and central Kenya, cattle raids have escalated, fuelled by the proliferation of small arms smuggled into the country. Al Jazeera

Who’s Behind the Massacres in Congo’s Beni Region?
The official explanation for a two-year wave of massacres in a restive corner of DR Congo centres on a shadowy rebel group accused of having ties to the global jihadist underground. But some basic details about the alleged killers of more than 700 victims — the latest over the Christmas weekend — haven’t quite convinced observers and experts. The truth, they say, is more complicated and may lead all the way to the halls of power in the vast, mineral-rich and chronically unstable central African nation. UN experts, referring to the claimed jihadist links in past reports, have simply stated: “There is no proof of this allegation.” The Daily Nation

DRC Opposition Activists Released
Nineteen pro-democracy activists arrested during a protest against the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president Joseph Kabila were released on Tuesday, their organisation and a UN official said. “Lucha confirms that 18 comrades arrested during a sit-in in Goma (in eastern DRC) on December 21 … were released on Tuesday,” the opposition movement’s Ghislain Muhiwa said. “Another Lucha activist, Gloria Senga, who had been kidnapped on December 18 in Kinshasa, has also been freed,” he said. Seven other Lucha activists are still behind bars, he added. News24

Somalia Police Could Soon ‘Stand on its Own’
The Somalia Police Force, which like all government institutions was incapacitated by a civil war that lasted decades, is looking to stand on its own feet, but challenges abound. The force has been receiving training and financial support from the African peacekeepers and international partners. So far, 7,000 police officers countrywide have been trained. Mogadishu city — which was liberated from Al Shabaab in August 2011— is currently being guarded by the 5,400 Somali SPF, with assistance from the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom). Amisom hopes that SPF will be fully functional by the time African peacekeepers leave Somalia in 2020. The East African

Gabon’s Ping Urges Security Forces to Defect
Gabon’s opposition leader Jean Ping on Friday called on the police and army to join in his fight against the contested re-election of President Ali Bongo. Ping has repeatedly declared himself the winner of the August election, but Gabon’s constitutional court has upheld Bongo’s victory. “I join you in telling them (security forces): Join us in liberating Gabon”, he told a crowd of supporters in Libreville, who refer to him as president-elect. He promised he would soon be sworn into office, and spoke a line from the presidential oath: “I swear to dedicate all my strength to the good of the Gabonese people…” Bongo has already been sworn in, taking his oath in September with a call for unity after the disputed election win that sparked deadly unrest and revealed deep divisions in the oil-rich country. News24

Mozambique’s Opposition Agrees to 7-day Truce After Call with President
Mozambique’s Renamo opposition party will cease all military operations against government forces for the next seven days to allow the public to enjoy New Year festivities, its leader Afonso Dhlakama said Tuesday. Rights groups estimate that dozens of people have been killed this year in tit-for-tat attacks between Renamo fighters and the ruling Frelimo government. Renamo and Frelimo fought on opposing sides in a civil war from 1976 to 1992 in which a million people died. Mozambique is on the verge of developing huge offshore gas reserves which could transform one of the world’s poorest countries into a middle-income state. Competition to control this newfound wealth could stir unrest, analysts say. VOA

Trump Spokeswoman: No Trump Meeting With Republic of Congo President
President-elect Donald Trump has no meeting planned with Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou, a Trump spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Sassou’s spokesman, Thierry Moungalla, earlier had said Sassou, a member of the African Union’s High Level Committee on Libya, and Trump were scheduled for a U.S. meeting on Tuesday to discuss the political turmoil in Libya and other African issues. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said there had never been a meeting scheduled and would not be one before Trump takes office on Jan. 20. VOA

Zimbabwe: Typhoid Outbreak Hits Harare, at Least 1 Dead
One person died in the Zimbabwean capital Harare while dozens were hospitalised after cases of suspected typhoid were reported during the Christmas holidays. Authorities confirmed that one person died on Monday while more than 30 people suspected to have contacted the disease in Harare’s Mbare high density suburb were treated at local hospitals. A medical doctor, Ordwell Chanakira, confirmed the death adding that authorities were now on high alert. “We urge people to maintain high levels of hygiene to ensure that we do not lose many lives to typhoid and other water borne diseases,” said Chanakira. Residents in the area have blamed the outbreak on dirt and called on authorities to scale up refuse collection and repair burst sewage pipes. News24

West Africa Now Has its Own Blockchain-Enabled Digital Currency
Senegal will soon begin using a digital currency, ushering in the use of blockchain technology by the central bank. It’s another opportunity for financial technology (fintech) to help emerging markets leapfrog traditional banking systems and bring financial inclusion to more people. If the Senegal roll-out is successful, the currency will be used in most of Francophone West Africa Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Togo and Lusophone Guinea Bissau. Known as the eCFA, it is designed to operate alongside the CFA, the West African Franc. The eCFA will be issued by the regional bank Banque Régionale de Marché and will be used by countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (link in French), according to a statement. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones