Africa Media Review for December 7, 2016

Ghanaians Vote in Tight Presidential Poll
Voting is under way in Ghana’s presidential election in what analysts say is a tight race between President John Mahama and veteran opposition leader Nana Akufo Addo. All seven candidates have pledged to keep the process peaceful but an opposition supporter died when a rally tuned violent on Monday. The campaign has been dominated by the faltering state of Ghana’s economy and the issue of corruption. Results are expected within three days. A run-off will be held later in the month if neither of the two main candidates secures more than 50% of the votes. BBC

Ghana’s Economic Woes Front and Centre in Election Campaign
The economy is at the forefront of Ghanaians’ minds as they prepare to go to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 December. Economic growth has halved since the last election in 2012 and incumbent President John Dramani Mahama as well as the main opposition contender Nana Akufo-Addo have made the economy and job creation cornerstones of their respective campaigns. RFI visited Accra’s renowned Makola market to find out how local traders are coping with the downturn. RFI

Libya Could Become Even More Chaotic after the Islamic State Loses Its Stronghold 
Libyan militias backed by American airstrikes said they have cleared the stronghold of the Islamic State in Libya, a defeat that would set back the group’s ambitions in North Africa. The country, however, remains very unstable amid battles between rival militias and the remaining militants could still undermine a fragile U.S.-backed unity government, analysts said. Libyan fighters erupted in celebration in the coastal city of Sirte on Tuesday after a nearly seven month struggle to oust the Islamic State, as the mostly pro-government forces were searching for any remaining militants. The Islamic State’s hopes of extending their self-proclaimed “caliphate” beyond Syria and Iraq into Libya have been dashed, at least for now. But while their propaganda war and recruiting efforts have also been weakened, analysts said, the group remains active in other parts of the country. The Washington Post

UN: Gains Against Libya Terrorism Real But Not Irreversible
The fight against terrorism has produced results in Libya but those gains are not irreversible, the U.N.’s special envoy to the North African nation said Tuesday. Martin Kobler told the Security Council that advances against terrorists have been made in both the western and eastern parts of the country and that the Islamic State group’s presence in the city of Sirte has been reduced from the entire city to just a few buildings. “Although they continue to be a threat, the days of the Islamic State controlling territory in Libya are over. While in Benghazi, the Libyan National Army continues to make progress, taking area after area,” Kobler said. But he cautioned that these gains may be fleeting unless Libya can develop coherent security apparatus and shore up its ailing economy. AP on The Washington Post

Russia Seeks to Influence in Libya
Hifter visited Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, seeking a potential arms deal. In return, rumor has it that Moscow would receive permission to build a military base in Libya, granting it greater leverage to exert political influence on the country. A deal would also likely be a game changer for Hifter, who seeks to take back the country from Islamist militants. Moscow thus far has denied allegations of going forward with any deal. Libya has been split into two rival governments: one based in Tripoli and the other based in the eastern city of Tobruk. The government in Tripoli is backed by the United Nations, while the government in Tobruk supports Hifter. In December 2015, a unity government, called the Government of National Accord (GNA) was founded. The GNA is the latest political solution promoted by the UN to end the civil war which began in 2014. Deutsche Welle

Protection Crisis in NE Nigeria Turning Into Humanitarian Crisis
Nigerian and U.N. officials say they can prevent the humanitarian crisis gripping northeast Nigeria from spinning out of control if the international community responds quickly to their plea for support. As part of its multi-billion dollar humanitarian appeal for 2017, the United Nations is asking for more than $1 billion to meet the needs of nearly seven million victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria. This is more than double the 2016 appeal. Nigerian National Planning and Budget Minister of State Zainab Ahmed says the request for more money is due to the military’s success in recovering communities that had been held by the militants. “But the paradox of the success is as these areas are recovered, we now are exposed to people that are in a very, very fragile state. So, the numbers keep changing as more communities are recovered,” Ahmed said. VOA

The Human Cost of Chad’s War Against Boko Haram
[…] For the last seven years, the jihadi extremist group Boko Haram has eviscerated this region, uprooting 2.6 million people across four countries. An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in the group’s brutal attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate in West Africa. Lying 150 kilometres north of Chad’s capital, N’djamena, Lake Chad is one of Africa’s great and ancient lakes, sustaining rural communities on the edge of the Sahara for millennia. Since the early 1960s, however, the lake is believed to have shrunk to a 20th of its original size, a decrease largely attributed to human water use and climate change. As a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, 131,000 people are internally displaced from around the lake to makeshift camps scattered around the Chadian shoreline, competing for scarce resources with an already vulnerable host community. IRIN

Careful Steps Ahead for Catholic Church Tasked with Pulling Congo Back from Crisis
The task of preventing Democratic Republic of Congo’s political crisis from spiraling into fresh conflict falls to the country’s Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to emerge from decades of turmoil with its credibility intact. The role as mediator of last resort illustrates the clout of the Church in Congo — home to some 30 million faithful — where Catholic leaders have long gone beyond their pastoral duties to fill the void left by an absent state, providing health care and schooling, and promoting human rights and democracy. In October, Congo’s President Joseph Kabila appeared to have secured the backing of regional leaders for an African Union-mediated deal with some opposition leaders to remain in power until April 2018, a year and a half after his second and last term in office ends. VOA

No Answers from Kenya on Deaths of 150 Troops
At least 150 Kenyan troops are thought to have been killed when an African Union base at El Adde in Somalia was overrun by al-Shabab militants in January. A United Nations report criticised the Kenyan Defence Forces, calling the attack the largest military defeat in Kenyan history. But the Kenyan government still refuses to comment on the numbers killed – or what went wrong. Alastair Leithead reports. BBC

Congo Detains Dozens of South Sudanese Soldiers Fleeing Civil War
Congolese troops last week detained dozens of South Sudanese soldiers who were fleeing a rebel attack across the border, a local radio station and aid workers said on Tuesday, increasing fears of spillover from South Sudan’s conflict. More than 57,000 South Sudanese refugees have poured into Democratic Republic of Congo this year as fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and various rebel groups inches south towards Congo and Uganda. Valentin Ngaito, editor of a community radio station in the Congolese town of Aba, 10 km (six miles) south of the border, told Reuters that Congolese troops detained 41 South Sudanese soldiers and one police officer on Saturday after they fled a rebel assault over the frontier. “They came with their families – women and children. They remained at the military headquarters until (Monday),” he said, adding that he believed the regional U.N. mission had since transported them to the town of Dungu, about 200 km away. Reuters

AP Reporter Deported from South Sudan
Government agents ordered a journalist working for The Associated Press out of South Sudan on Tuesday, taking him to the airport in Juba and putting him aboard a flight to Uganda. Justin Lynch, an American freelance journalist who had reported on human rights violations in the violence-plagued nation for the past six months, said he was arrested by members of South Sudan’s National Security Service who temporarily seized his mobile phones and allowed him to pack a bag. The agents told him only that he was being deported for his journalistic work, Lynch said after arriving in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Lynch, 25, from Saratoga, New York, has been working for AP in South Sudan since July. He recently reported on evidence of ethnic violence in the country and on the warning by a U.N. official that South Sudan is at risk of genocide. AP on The Washington Post

Hunger Stalks World’s Youngest Capital as War Nears 4th Year
As South Sudanese homemaker Sarah Kiden stirs a boiling pan of lentils, she remembers when her five children could count on more than one meal a day. For the first time since the world’s newest country gained independence in 2011, hunger is stalking its capital, Juba, because of renewed violence and a deepening economic crisis. With her clothes-seller husband earning 200 South Sudanese pounds ($2.74) a day and food prices rising eight-fold in the past year, 32-year-old Kiden has to feed her family on a daily pot of stew and a few pieces of round flat-bread. The United Nations estimates 9 out of 10 families in the city are cutting back on meals. “When we used to have breakfast and lunch then supper, all was good,” Kiden said in an interview at her family’s one-room shack in Juba’s Munuki neighborhood. “Now the money can’t buy all those.” Bloomberg

UN: Conflict Fuelling Spread of HIV in South Sudan
The conflict between pro-government forces and rebels is fuelling the spread of HIV/Aids in South Sudan, the United Nations said. The agency said in a statement Tuesday that the displacement of populations in parts of South Sudan adversely affected the HIV/Aids treatment and response, while worsening the vulnerability of women and girls to infection. Statistics indicate there were an estimated 179,000 HIV-positive people in South Sudan, of who more than 19,500 were on treatment. The UN statement said the HIV prevalence was highest in the greater Equatoria region, where fighting and insecurity have escalated since July 2016, displacing thousands of people. “Prior to the latest clashes, the greater Equatoria region hosted about 90 per cent of HIV and Aids patients on treatment,” it said. The East African

China Sends Another 120 Army Peacekeepers to South Sudan
China has sent 120 troops to South Sudan as part of a 700-member UN peacekeeping force, deepening its commitment to the troubled East African nation. Once the entire battalion is deployed, they will replace Chinese peacekeepers currently in place, who suffered two dead in fighting between the government and rebels in July. China has sent two previous battalions to South Sudan to protect civilians, UN staff and humanitarian workers, conduct patrols and provide security escorts. South Sudan has seen continuous fighting since its civil war broke out in December 2013. The more than 12 000 UN peacekeepers already in the country have been criticized for failing to protect civilians. News 24

500 Migrants Drowned at Sea of Egypt. No One Investigated
[…] A solitary electric torch probed the moonless darkness. It came from a smaller boat that was circling, tantalisingly close. The men on that boat, the people-smugglers who had brought their human cargo to this point, were searching only for their comrades. They ignored the screams of the migrants and beat some back into the water. Just 10 migrants managed to scramble up into the smaller boat to join the smugglers and 27 other migrants already aboard. Around 500 adults and children died on the voyage, according to survivor and official estimates, the largest loss of life in the Mediterranean in 2016. Among the dead were an estimated 190 Somalis, around 150 Ethiopians, 80 Egyptians, and some 85 people from Sudan, Syria and other countries. Thirty-seven migrants survived. Middle East Monitor

Senegal’s Migrants: The Lure of ‘Somewhere Else’
In Wolof, the local Senegalese language, “Barça or Barsaax” is simple rhyming slang that illustrates the far from simple journey men are willing to embark on to reach Europe. It means “Barcelona or die” and is an apt description of the sacrifice thousands of men make for their families. A decade ago, thousands of Senegalese boarded fishing boats ill-adapted for the open seas in the hope of reaching Barcelona, Malaga, Marseille, Paris or Rome. Tragically, thousands never made it. Today, the route takes them inland passing through Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Morocco or Libya where again they board often unseaworthy vessels for journeys that end in disaster. According to the International Organization for Migration in the Senegalese capital Dakar, around 6000 Senegalese men have been logged on arrival at reception centers in Italy and Greece this year. Deutsche Welle

The Challenge of Building “New Gambia”
[…] The coalition’s popularity was no surprise. Its two weeks of electoral campaigning had culminated in youthful and energised crowds packing streets for several kilometres in the rallies held in the urban coastal areas. But nobody expected Jammeh, who had vowed that only God could remove him from power, to accept defeat without a fight. “People were ready for change, but knowing the type of person Jammeh is, they did not believe that he would concede defeat without contesting the results,” said exiled journalist Alhagie Jobe, reporting from Dakar, Senegal. “Hopes were not high for a peaceful transfer of power.” Gambians were bracing for the worst after Jammeh, without warning, imposed a total internet and telecommunications ban at 8pm on the eve of the election. “We thought there would be Ivory Coast-style electoral violence,” said Jobe, referring to a 2010-11 crisis that led to civilian massacres. But the communications blackout ultimately failed to intimidate voters, and activists and journalists within the country published rolling results via SMS and on satellite phones, in a victory for transparency. IRIN

Sudan to Receive $500 Million Deposit from UAE: Bashir
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Tuesday has said that his country will receive a $500 million central bank deposit from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On Thursday, al-Bashir and his accompanying delegation concluded a four-day visit to the rich Gulf state where he discussed bilateral ties between the two countries. In a meeting that lasted until the early morning hours of Tuesday, al-Bashir briefed the leadership office of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on the outcome of his visit to the UAE. Following the meeting, NCP deputy chairman for party affairs and presidential aide Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid said that al-Bashir informed the meeting that the UAE has agreed to deposit a $500 million with Sudan’s central bank (CBoS). Sudan Tribune

Thousands of Tunisian Lawyers Join Protest Against New Taxes
Several thousand Tunisian lawyers demonstrated on Tuesday in front of the prime minister’s office, with some demanding his resignation as they escalated a protest against widely unpopular new taxes that will hit them and other high-end professions. Under a budget draft approved by parliament’s finance committee on Monday, lawyers will pay tax of between about $8 to $20 on each file they present to court. The levy is part of austerity measures proposed for 2017 by a government under pressure from international lenders to cut the fiscal deficit. According to a Reuters witness some 3,500 of the country’s 8,500 lawyers joined the protest in Tunis which, coming on top of an open-ended strike that the profession launched on Monday, will test the government’s resolve to implement its reforms. The budget draft also includes a public sector wage freeze, in protest at which the UGTT union – the country’s biggest – has called a general strike for Thursday. Reuters

France Confirms Rwanda Investigating Its Officials 
Paris has acknowledged receiving requests by Rwandan authorities to investigate several senior French officials it accuses of playing a role in the 1994 genocide. Last week, Rwanda said it had begun formal investigations into the role of senior French officers and politicians in connection with the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, with the initial inquest targeting 20 individuals. On Thursday, France’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed to Radio France Internationale that it had received requests from Rwanda in regard to the inquiry and they have been forwarded to the French Ministry of Justice for review. French officials, however, declined to comment further on the matter, which is likely to worsen the already damaged diplomatic ties between the two countries. On November 16, the French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian said accusations by Rwanda were “outrageously untrue.” The East African

Egypt Arrests ‘Organ Trafficking Ring’
Egyptian authorities have arrested doctors, nurses and professors suspected of being involved in an international organ trafficking ring. The arrests of at least 25 people on Tuesday also included organ buyers and middlemen, the country’s Administrative Control Authority said. Authorities also found “millions of dollars and gold bullion”. It is illegal to purchase organs in Egypt, but poverty drives some to sell their body parts. The Administrative Control Authority, a powerful anti-corruption body, claimed the network targeted on Tuesday was “made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens’ difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell [them] for large sums of money”. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones