Africa Media Review for December 29, 2016

Can Joseph Kabila and DRC’s Main Opposition Agree to Sign a Historic Power Sharing Agreement?
The national dialogue talks brokered by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s powerful Catholic church between President Joseph Kabila’s political alliance, the presidential majority (MP) and the Rassemblement, a broad coalition of opposition groups, are resuming on Thursday (29 December). Pressure is mounting for opposition parties and the government to agree a deal aimed at stemming the violence that followed Kabila’s refusal to relinquish the presidency despite the expiration of his mandate as leader of the resource-rich African nation. This followed two years of failed political dialogues and an impasse between the ruling and opposition parties. IBTimes

At Least 50 Killed, 1000s Left Homeless in DRC Floods
Floods triggered by heavy rains and a river bursting its banks have killed at least 50 people and left thousands homeless in the southwest Democratic Republic of Congo, a provincial governor told AFP on Thursday. Torrential rains caused the Kalamu river, which flows through the city of Boma, to overflow for two hours before the waters receded, washing some of the victims across the border into Angola. … Boma, which lies near the mouth of the River Congo around 470km southwest of Kinshasa, is the country’s only Atlantic port. “This is a cyclical phenomenon which happens every 10 years. It last happened in January 2015 but with climate change it’s now happened again in December 2016,” Mbadu said. News24

Nigeria: Shekau Resurfaces, Says Group Safe, Not Crushed
Boko Haram’s elusive leader Abubakar Shekau appeared in a new video on Thursday disputing a claim by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that the jihadist group had been routed from its Sambisa Forest stronghold. “We are safe. We have not been flushed out of anywhere. And tactics and strategies cannot reveal our location except if Allah wills by his decree,” Shekau said in the 25-minute video, flanked by armed fighters. Vanguard

War Against Terror: Niger Launches Amnesty & Deradicalisation Program for Boko Haram Deserters
The government of Niger has announced the launch of an amnesty and reintegration program for former fighters of the jihadist group Boko Haram as part of its counter-terror strategy. Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million during a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in Nigeria. In recent years its attacks have spilled into neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Niger’s Minister of the Interior and Public Security, Mohamed Bazoum, announced the new program on Wednesday (28 December) during a visit to Diffa, in the south-east of the country, where he met 31 former fighters. IBTimes

Murder, Rape, Robbery in Central Darfur
A young girl has been killed, a secondary school student raped, and a basic school pupil shot dead in separate incidents across Central Darfur on Sunday and Monday. In Garsila, a perfume vendor was accosted by three gunmen when he stopped his motorcycle outside his house in the Segeregry district on Monday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that as they seized his motorcycle, the men opened fire, seriously wounding the vendor and his wife, and killing his young niece instantly. On Sunday at 6.30am, seven militants raped a higher secondary school student in Mukjar locality. The rape was corroborated by the medical report and forensic examination. This week Mukjar locality witnessed consecutive deadly incidents by gunmen. Most recently, a camp for Chadian refugees was attacked, ten homes pillaged, and several people wounded. Radio Dabanga

UNAMID Says There is “No Military Solution” for the Conflict in Darfur
African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Wednesday said it would continue to promote reconciliation and peace initiatives stressing that there is no military solution to the conflict in the restive region. In his end-of-year message seen by Sudan Tribune Wednesday, UNAMID Joint Special Representative / Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Martin Uhomoibhi, said that “2016 hasn’t been an easy year for the people of Darfur and for UNAMID staff”. “We have lost a colleague from South Africa in hostile action while others passed away due to unfortunate incidents,” he said. “Furthermore, armed clashes among different communal groups in various locations around Darfur and the renewal of conflict in the Jebel Marra area have resulted in numerous casualties and mass displacements,” Uhomoibhi added. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Just Avoided a U.N. Arms Embargo. But Can it Dodge Famine and Genocide?
In a year of grim news, the spread of fighting in South Sudan has doubled the number of people facing severe hunger in the past year to 4.6 million, about a third of the population. The risk of famine and genocide in the coming months is dire, international aid agencies have warned. The number of refugees pouring from South Sudan into Uganda peaked earlier this month at 7,000 a day. But the United Nations Security Council on Friday failed to pass a U.S.-proposed arms embargo on South Sudan that many see as crucial to preventing escalated fighting and the threat of genocide. South Sudan has seen growing ethnic tension since the July collapse of a peace deal that was supposed to end a civil war that began in 2013. LA Times

Japan Diplomat Blasts U.S. Sanctions Plan for South Sudan
A senior Japanese diplomat accused the United States of taking a cowboy approach to bringing peace to South Sudan. Yoshifumi Okamura, Japan’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said Washington’s move to strengthen sanctions against the war-torn country is not the answer. “Japan is making steady efforts (to bring about peace) by sending Self-Defense Forces members to South Sudan. But U.S. involvement is all mouth,” Okamura told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview. Without sending troops to assist in peacekeeping operations, the United States tried to strengthen sanctions against South Sudan by adopting a United Nations Security Council resolution, including an arms embargo. Washington fears that continuing ethnic conflict could lead to a genocide. The Asahi Shimbun

Al-Shabaab Takes Control of Moqokori District from SNA
Al-Shabaab militants have reportedly taken control of Somalia’s Moqokori district from AMISOM troops and allied Somali government forces in Hiiran province on Wednesday. Residents in the town told Radio Shabelle that Al Shabaab recaptured the town without a resistance from the retreating forces. A senior Somali military officer said the allied troops withdraw from the town for tactical reason, and vowed they will launch a counter-offensive to retake it from the militants. Radio Shabelle

Denmark Ponders Sending Somali Refugees Home
The Danish immigration service, Udlændingestyrelsen, is currently investigating the possibility of sending about 100 Somali quota refugees back to their home country. Quota refugees are vulnerable people in need of international protection who are selected by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, for resettling in a third country. Eva Singer, the head of the asylum and repatriation department at the Danish Refugee Council, has called the notion unprecedented. “I have not seen either in Denmark or other countries with similar schemes that they would after a few years begin to assess whether they can send them [the quota refugees] back to their homeland,” Singer told Ritzau. Singer admits, however, that this option has been legally possible since 2005. … In addition to the 100 quota refugees, Udlændingestyrelsen is also assessing whether it can revoke residence permits of another 1,100 Somali refugees living in Denmark and send them back home. Radio Shabelle

Ethiopia: Internet Shutdowns Take Their Toll on Economy
Since the government declared a six-month state of emergency at the beginning of October in response to escalating violence from protests seething since November 2015, internet restrictions and blocking of applications have increased in frequency. Beyond simple inconvenience, there is a mounting financial cost. Internet shutdowns in Ethiopia between mid-2015 and mid-2016 lost its economy about $9m, according to a recent study by the US-based Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, part of a total cost for 19 countries (including seven African countries) of $2.4bn. … Since the October state of emergency declaration, internet shutdowns have primarily targeted mobile data connections, but all internet users have experienced blockages of social media including Facebook Messenger and Twitter. … One reason often given for the Ethiopian government refusing to open up the communications sector to foreign companies is that it is loath to cede its ability to control communications through state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom. African Business Magazine

Kenya’s Senate Moves Cautiously on Contentious Election Bill
In Kenya, a controversial amendment to the electoral law is now before the Senate. The bill would give the electoral commission a workaround if biometric voting equipment fails, but the opposition has rejected the change for fear of voter fraud. But as political temperatures rise ahead of next year’s polls, Senate members are advising caution and careful consideration. The Senate did not vote on the amendment to the electoral law Wednesday. Instead, Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro sent the bill to committee. … Wednesday’s proceedings in the Senate were remarkably sober compared to the chaos last week in the lower house. Debate on the bill descended into fistfights on the parliament floor and a walk-out by opposition members before the vote. VOA

Refugee Hopes to Spark Free Press in Gambia
The founder and executive director of a Rhode Island refugee organization says he’s planning to start a newspaper in the west African country he fled a decade ago. Omar Bah says he plans to launch a private, independent newspaper in Gambia that will be an alternative to government-controlled media there. Bah is a former Gambian journalist. He says he fled the country in 2006 after being beaten, kicked and tortured while trying to cover a secret trial. He arrived in Rhode Island in 2007. He directs the Providence-based Refugee Dream Centre. News24

In Egypt, Even Helping Street Children can Land You in Prison
“She has read a lot of books,” says Basel Hijazi about his sister Aya. “Novels do help her escape the reality she is living.” The “reality” he’s referring to, others might call a nightmare. Aya Hijazi, who turns 30 in January, has been in an Egyptian prison since May 2014. Hijazi, an American-Egyptian citizen, and her Egyptian husband Mohamed Hassanein were arrested on May 1, 2014, after the humanitarian group they co-founded to care for street children in Cairo was raided by Egyptian police. Another six volunteers at their Belady Foundation were also arrested. But the case has implications far beyond these humanitarian workers. Analysts say they have been caught up in one of the fiercest crackdowns on human rights and dissent in Egypt’s contemporary history — even worse than during the dictatorship that was deposed in 2011. PRI

Are Burundi & Rwanda Refugees Being Hunted In Zambia?
When I first met Jean-Claude about eight years ago, he must have been about 24 years old, maybe older. He had a hunted look about him, like a man afraid to even trust his own shadow. The way he cast furtive glances around during conversation gave you the impression of a man driven either by a deep sense of fear and by an intense paranoia. One day he told my wife: there are people who want to kill me. Please, I need some money to move. Help me… I can’t remember exactly how much she gave him, but Jean-Claude dropped out of sight for almost three months. When we saw him again, his story was still the same: there was a death squad out there with a list of people to exterminate and his name was on it. He needed money to relocate in a hurry…. At the time, the idea of a death squad in Lusaka seemed to be to pretty far-fetched, and I must confess, I began to suspect the young man of milking our sympathy for every penny he could get with his sob stories and his tales of bogeymen. But when a friend of his was found murdered one day in one of the compounds in Lusaka, the possibility that Jean-Claude could have been telling the truth all along slowly dawned on me. Zambia Reports

Burundi: Budget Inconsistent with Justice Ministry’s Importance, Study Finds
A study commissioned by the Association of Burundi Catholic Lawyers (ACJB) has concluded that, based on the analysis of 2016 budget, the Ministry of Justice receives a share that does not reflect the importance of the institution. “The overall assessment is that the Ministry of Justice receives an insufficient budget if one considers the needs the ministry has to satisfy”, says Michel Masabo who has carried out the analysis. Consequently, the access to justice for all is hampered due to the lack of qualified human resources, the decaying and insufficiency of infrastructure and equipment. The slowness or failure of sentences execution is the most frequent consequence. The study found out that few to no sentences have been executed in different courts of appeal in 2016. Iwacu

Africa: Uganda’s Slow Oil and Gas Infrastructure Development
Following the withdraw of the Russian-led consortium RT Global Resources, from the oil refinery construction in July, the government is looking for a new investor to partner in the project by mid-2017. This year marked a decade since the government announced the discovery of commercially viable oil and gas resources along Uganda’s western frontier. But even with the 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil confirmed so far of which about 1.7 billion barrels is ready for production, Ugandans are still waiting for the day they will earn petroleum dollars—thanks to a combination of factors. The Independent/AllAfrica

Can Germany’s Talks over Reparations for Massacres in Former Colony Namibia Pave the Way for Justice?
Germany looks set to discuss possible reparation payments over its bloody massacre in its former south-west African colony of what is now Namibia, raising hope for colonisation victims and their descendants. Amid the 19th-century European scramble for Africa, Germany annexed territories in east and west Africa. Land was confiscated or acquired, with native inhabitants often subjected to racially-motivated violence and executions. In 1884, Namibia became a German colony under Otto von Bismarck. IBTimes

The World’s Top Mobile Money Platform is so Successful Regulators Worry it Could Disrupt the Economy
At the time of M-Pesa’s launch in 2007, few could have conceived the mobile money service would be as ubiquitous and deeply entrenched in the lives of millions of Kenyans as it is today. A sizable portion of Kenya’s economy is now deeply ingrained in the platform to levels that are starting to concern officials on the economic consequences in the event of system-wide collapse or compromise. While acknowledging its important role, Treasury officials think mobile money should be regarded as a “plausible fiscal risk” to the country given the growing inter-linkages with different sectors of the economy. At least 25 million Kenyans use the Safaricom-owned service through which they transacted $28 billion in 2015. This was equivalent to about 44% of the country’s GDP of $63.4 billion at the end of the period. In the first three quarters of 2016, it transacted $25 billion. It is the leading mobile money platform globally in terms of regular users and transactions. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones