Africa Media Review for February 15, 2017

More Than 100 People Killed in DRC Army and Militia Clashes
The U.N. human rights office says more than 100 people have been killed over the past few days in clashes between the army and a local militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai-Central province. The fighting took place between February 9 and 13 in the territory of Dibaya. Tensions in the area of persistent conflict had been growing since April with the emerging friction between the customary tribal chief and authorities. The situation reached a fever pitch in August when the chief was killed by Congolese armed forces. U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell tells VOA that since then, the local militia has become radicalized, attacking institutions viewed as symbols of the state. “A lot of the people fighting with the militia, they are children,” she said. “They have been recruited by the militia leaders and that is something that we strongly condemn…I cannot say exactly who the victims were, but we are given to understand that the majority of the people who have been killed were militia members.” VOA

US Warns of Growing Piracy Risk off West Africa
The United States is increasingly worried about pirate attacks off West Africa and is committed to helping countries bolster security in the region, a US diplomat said Tuesday. At least 27 attacks on boats, including robberies, kidnappings or failed attempts, have occurred off the West Africa coast since April, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Off Africa’s east coast however — a former hotbed of pirate activity notably based in Somalia — only two attacks have been reported in the period. “Creating .. national strategies for maritime security is an essential first step,” said Andrew Haviland, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan. He was speaking at the opening of a US-organised conference on sea security attended by officials from 15 African countries that runs through Friday. AP

Merkel Presses Tunisia on Taking Back Failed Asylum Seek
Angela Merkel has pressed Tunisia to expedite the repatriation of failed asylum seekers, eight weeks after the deadly Christmas market attack in Berlin. On Tuesday the German chancellor and her Tunisian counterpart, Youssef Chahed, visited Breitscheidplatz, where 12 people died after Tunisian man Anis Amri hijacked a truck and crashed it into the Christmas market. Amri had left Tunisia in 2011 and, after serving prison time in Italy, sought asylum in Germany in 2015. His application was refused but, a year later, he had yet to be deported because of clerical errors, multiple aliases and bureaucratic hurdles involved in getting a replacement passport on the Tunisian side. In talks in Berlin, Dr Merkel said she and Mr Chahed agreed a greater effort was required to ensure that those who are obliged to leave, do so. Irish Times

Amnesty Accuses Tunisia Security Forces of Abuses in War with Militants
Tunisian security forces are using methods in their war against Islamist militants that are associated with overthrown leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, including torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, Amnesty International said on Monday. The human right group said in a report that such practices are threatening the road to democratic reform in a country that was the birthplace of the Arab uprisings against autocracy. Tunisia says it recognizes that some of what Amnesty has charged exists, but says it only individual cases and that there is no systematic abuse or policy of torture by state forces. It has set up a torture commission to stamp out abuses. Tunisia has been praised as an example of peaceful democratic transition since overthrowing Ben Ali in 2011, with a compromise between secular and Islamist leaders, two free elections and a new constitution. Reuters

Somali Official Says Somaliland Deal with UAE Corrupt, Illegal
Officials in Somalia and breakaway Somaliland took bribes in exchange for authorizing a United Arab Emirates military base in the port city of Berbera, according to Somalia’s auditor general. Auditor General Nur Jimale Farah is one of several observers questioning the propriety of the UAE base deal, which Somaliland’s parliament overwhelmingly approved Sunday. In an interview with VOA’s Somali service, Jimale accused senior officials in Somaliland and the government of Somalia’s former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of backing the deal for the sake of “illegitimate private gains.” He also questioned Somaliland’s right to reach an agreement with the UAE. Somaliland considers itself independent from Somalia, but is not recognized by any country. VOA

Footballer Turns Spotlight on Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis
[…] For years, the anglophone minority has alleged discrimination in classrooms, courtrooms and state offices, while accusing the government, dominated by French speakers, of treating it like second-class citizens. Those frustrations boiled over in recent months into protests on a scale not seen since the early 1990s. The government of Paul Biya, who has been president since 1982, has responded by arresting dozens of people and imposing a virtual blackout on the country’s two English-speaking provinces, South-West and North-West, by shutting down the internet for weeks. Two people were killed in Bamenda on Friday when police fired into a stone-throwing crowd, according to Amnesty International. “If this crisis continues to be mismanaged, we’re probably going to get to a point where, in the eyes of many Cameroonians, the legitimacy of this government will be zero,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, regional director at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute. Financial Times

The AU’s (other) ICC Strategy
At the recently concluded 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, heads of state and government adopted a decision on a strategy for withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision is not binding on the 55 member states, but remains controversial. A team from the Institute for Security Studies who attended the summit reports that three African states immediately expressed reservation to the decision, with several others joining. The relationship between African states and the AU with the ICC has been fraught following years of tensions, mainly due to indictments of sitting African heads of state. Within the AU, the expanded Open-Ended Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs is tasked with developing strategies to implement various decisions of the Assembly related to the ICC. Last year, subsequent to an intervention from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the continental body decided at its 26th Summit in Addis Ababa to look into possibilities for a collective withdrawal of African states parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC. ISS

Ailing President Abroad Leaves Nigeria With Sense of Deja Vu
A president who’s flown abroad to seek medical treatment and given no firm date for his return: Nigeria has been here before. Muhammadu Buhari, 74, traveled to the U.K. on Jan. 19 for medical tests and was due back on Feb. 5. He’s yet to return and hasn’t appeared or spoken in public for more than three weeks after asking lawmakers for medical leave. […]  For many Nigerians the situation recalls former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s time in office. Like Buhari, Yar’Adua was a northern Muslim with a southern Christian vice president in a country with often sharp sectarian divisions. Yar’Adua was flown in November 2009 to Saudi Arabia for treatment of a heart condition. It took about three months for the legislature to appoint then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan acting president, as Yar’Adua associates sought to cover up the severity of his condition. Yar’Adua eventually died in office on May 5, 2010. Unlike Yar’Adua, Buhari formally transferred power to his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, before departing. Bloomberg

Nigeria Loses Up to $100 Billion in Revenue as Attacks Cut Oil
Nigeria said it lost out on as much as $100 billion in revenue last year as attacks by militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta cut crude output to a record low. Production fell by 1 million barrels a day to 1.2 million a day at the peak of the attacks, Emmanuel Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum, said Tuesday in a video-clip on his Facebook page. Last year, Nigeria suffered its first full-year recession since 1991 as a resurgence of armed conflict in the delta, combined with lower oil prices, blighted the economy. While recent peace efforts have curbed the frequency of attacks on oil infrastructure, the West African nation has struggled to boost output as one of its largest export terminals remains closed. Bloomberg

Who Pays the Hidden Price for Congo’s Conflict-free Minerals?
[…] A proposed executive order by US President Donald Trump reportedly seeks to cancel those regulatory controls. The draft order, obtained by The Guardian and Intercept, claims to be acting out of concern over “mounting evidence” that instead of preventing minerals from fuelling conflict, these controls are actually causing harm and contributing to instability in the region. On this occasion, Trump may have a point. A months-long IRIN investigation in mineral-rich eastern Congo found that some artisanal mining communities have suffered serious consequences as a result of the new conflict-free rules. IRIN

Head of Libya’s Unity Govt to Meet Rival Army Chief
The head of Libya’s unity government and a rival army chief were to meet in Cairo on Tuesday to find a solution to turmoil in the country, a government official said. The UN-backed Government of National Accord has struggled to assert its authority across the North African country since starting work in Tripoli nearly a year ago. GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Marshal Khalifa Haftar were due to meet on Tuesday afternoon in the Egyptian capital, the official said, without providing further details on the agenda. Haftar, whose forces control much of Libya’s east, is backed by a parliament based in the far east of the country that has refused to recognise the unity government. News 24

US to Give Uganda $25m in Aid for Refugees
The United States will give over $25m in humanitarian aid to Uganda, to help the nation cope with a huge influx of refugees fleeing conflict in east Africa, the US ambassador in Kampala said on Tuesday. Uganda is hosting more than a million refugees, nearly 700 000 of whom escaped the brutal civil war raging in neighbouring South Sudan since December 2013. US ambassador Deborah Malac praised Uganda’s “very progressive policy” towards refugees. “We applaud that the government is committed to keeping the door open to refugees,” she told reporters. The $25.2m will be used to improve water and sanitation in refugee camps, fight gender-based violence and ensure ongoing protection. News 24

Tanzania Turns the Heat on Illegal Immigrants
The Regional Immigration Office in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam has embarked on a crackdown on foreigners without residence or work permits. The department will also take measures against officials who issue foreigners with fake documents. Regional Immigration Officer (RIO) John Msumule, made the revelation Tuesday while briefing the Press on last week’s operation which, among other things, seized and detained 25 Indian nationals. The 25, working with Quality Group, were allegedly living and engaging in employment in Tanzania without permits. The East African

Mali Security Forces Accused of Abusing Peulh Community in Anti-terror Operation
After the Malian army swept through villages in an anti-terror crackdown, there have been accusations of abuses by security forces committed against the ethnic Peulh community. The security operation targeted jihadists in the Dialoubé locality over the weekend of 11-12 February. Dialoubé is considered a jihadist base in the Mopti region in the middle of the country. Malian security claimed to have arrested some 20 suspected Islamist fighters and killed one person. Following the sweep, rumours of abuses committed by the army against the local Peulh community circulated on social media and in the local press, which allege that Malian soldiers attacked villagers. Malian authorities denied the allegations, which were also rejected by Ali Nouhoum Diallo, the chairman of the coordination of the Peulh associations of Mali. International Business Times

Concerns Raised for Media Freedom in Lesotho
The Lesotho Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) says it is mobilising international support to curtail what it sees as government intimidation of the media. This is after two Lesotho radio stations were cut off air, allegedly on instructions from the Minister of Communications. The stations were later re-opened after obtaining a court order. However, the National Director of MISA Lesotho, Tsebo Mat’sasa, says they remain concerned about threats to media freedom in the kingdom. “I think at the moment, looking at the incidents that have happened, it looks like the media is under threat. We have contact with committee to protect journalists. we are also in touch with amnesty international and as we speak, we are giving updates from time to time because we think that whatever is happening with regard to the media, if it infringes the freedom of the media the world will be affected in one way or another, because we as a country, we are not living in isolation.” SABC

Egypt Merges Ministries as It Pursues Economic Reforms
Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday approved a cabinet reshuffle that includes a merger of the ministries of investment and international cooperation, as the country pushes ahead with major economic reforms. The reshuffle, presented by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, comes at a critical time for Egypt following a spike in consumer prices since the central bank floated the pound in November and the government cut fuel subsidies. The revamp brought the ministry of investment under the ministry of international cooperation, according to a statement on the parliament’s website. It also brought eight new ministers into the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail to oversee the portfolios of supply and internal trade, planning, agriculture, parliamentary affairs, education, transport, higher education, and local development. Al Arabiya

East Africa Food Prices Reach Record Levels Due to Drought – U.N
Drought in East Africa has sent prices of staples such as maize and sorghum soaring, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday, warning that a sharp increase in food prices could lead to renewed hunger in the region. Prices of staple cereals have doubled in some markets, reaching record and near-record levels in swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, FAO said. “Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity,” Mario Zappacosta, FAO senior economist, said in a statement. In South Sudan, food prices were between two and four times higher than a year ago while in Kenya prices of maize were up by about a third, FAO said. In Somalia, maize and sorghum harvests were estimated to be 75 percent lower than usual and more than half of the country’s population, mostly in rural areas, was facing hunger, it said. Reuters

It Came From The Americas — And It’s Bad News For Africa
Southern Africa is facing an invasion by an army — but not the sort of force you can defeat with ammunition. This foreign invader is an agricultural pest that is threatening the breadbasket of the region. Zambian farmer Daniel Banda noticed in late December that something was munching through his crop of corn, destroying the maize fields on his small farm just outside the capital, Lusaka. Voracious caterpillars, known as fall armyworms, had nestled in the cobs and chomped through the leaves. “Not until I saw my field did I realize how serious this issue is,” says Banda. “I’ve been affected drastically because I spent a lot of money in buying seed, which is almost going to waste if [the fall armyworm] is not controlled. And I’m just hoping that God comes to our aid … because this field is what I normally use to feed my family.” NPR

Living in Darkness, But Holding On to Hope in Liberia
[…] Liberians, as they have for decades, simply adapted. They acquired Tiger batteries, the lower-cost alternative to expensive generators, and used those to plug in their cellphones. Those cellphones they then used to light their way at night, as they traveled in the dark along rural roads and city streets. They bought so-called Chinese lanterns every other day. In Liberia, the phrase “Chinese lantern” does not apply to the silk-and-satin-covered red and gold lights that people string up at Chinese New Year. Instead, it is an ugly square or rectangular battery-powered light, the kind you might use at a campground at night. Even the wealthiest Liberians — those with access to generators — still hoard electricity as if it’s about to be taken from them. If you walk into the average Liberian’s house during the day, you will not find any lights glowing, let alone air-conditioners, fans, televisions, radios or refrigerators running. In fact, most Liberians with generators don’t have refrigerators; they have a deep freezer that they plug in for a few hours at night, long enough to get cold. Then they unplug it and keep the door closed, sometimes for up to two days, until they decide it needs another four-hour juicing. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones