Africa Media Review for February 16, 2017

Separatists Claim to Have Killed Angolan Soldiers
Separatists in an exclave on Africa’s west coast ruled by Angola on Wednesday claimed to have killed several Angolan troops in a flare-up of a long-running territorial dispute. The fighters are seeking independence for the oil-rich territory known as Cabinda which is sandwiched between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville, with the Atlantic ocean to the west. It is not linked to mainland Angola. “Nine soldiers of the Angolan armed forces were killed in combat Tuesday,” said Jean-Claude Nzita, spokesperson for the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) separatist group. Two of the group’s fighters were also killed in the clashes, he added. An Angolan army source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that five soldiers had been killed by “guerilla action”. News 24

Burundi Peace Talks Appear on Shaky Ground
Talks to end Burundi’s political crisis are slated to resume Thursday, but there is renewed and widespread doubt the talks will help bring peace to the unsettled central African country. Opposition and civil society groups say the facilitator of the talks, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, is dooming the process by welcoming politicians who tried to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza in a 2015 coup attempt. It was not clear Wednesday whether the Burundian government will even send a representative to the talks in Arusha, Tanzania. The opposition coalition CNARED initially said it will demand that Mkapa remove himself as facilitator but changed its position, saying Wednesday it will attend the talks without conditions. VOA

Uganda Moves to Expel Burundian refugees
Uganda is home to over 45,000 Burundian refugees, many of who live in the Nakivale Camp in the western Ugandan District of Isingiro. Over 200,000 Burundians have fled the country after violence broke out in protest of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election in 2015. The government has recently embarked on a campaign to convince its citizens who took refugee in neighboring countries of Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo to return home. The call for refugees to return home comes on the eve of peace talks which are scheduled to run from February 16 to 18 in Arusha, Tanzania. However, the Burundian government has refused to send representatives to the talks. Deutsche Welle

DR Congo Cannot Afford $1.8bn to Organize 2017 Polls – Minister
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) cannot afford the cost of holding elections this year. According to Minister of State in charge of Budget, Pierre Kangudia Mbayi, the $1.8bn needed to organize the polls was out of reach. At a press conference held on Wednesday (February 15, 2017) the minister said he doubted if the DRC could raise the amount in time for polls to hold. “It will be difficult to think that we can mobilize 1.8 billion USD this year. At this stage, I prefer to keep a language of sincerity,” he said. The amount was arrived at by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) under a provision of the agreement between the government and a faction of the opposition in October 2016. The African Union facilitated talks was led by former Togolese Prime Minister, Edem Kodjo.  Africa News

Yellow Fever Outbreak in Congo Declared Over
The World Health Organization has declared an end to the yellow fever outbreak that killed about 400 people in Congo and Angola, calling it “one of the largest and most challenging” in recent years. The outbreak, first detected in Angola in late 2015, caused 965 confirmed cases and thousands of suspected cases in both countries, the WHO said in a statement Tuesday. Neither country has reported a new confirmed case in the past six months. Angola in late December declared an end to its outbreak, and Congo made its announcement Tuesday. The global health agency said more than 30 million people were vaccinated in emergency campaigns to control the outbreak in the two neighbouring countries, which have among the world’s weakest health systems. “This unprecedented response exhausted the global stockpile of yellow fever vaccines several times,” the WHO statement said. CBC

Cameroon’s Internet Outage Is Draining Its Economy
[…] If the government has simply shut off access to some parts of the country, it is likely to be making an economic mistake. Late last year, an analysis by Darrell West at the Brookings Institution showed that countries damage their economy significantly when they choose to shut down Internet services. In a single year, he calculated, 81 disruptions in 19 countries cost those economies a total of at least $2.4 billion. Cameroon will be no different. Speaking to CNN, Otto Akama, who runs a technology hub called ActivSpaces in the southwestern city of Buea, said that the ban had brought many businesses to a standstill. “We have empty offices all over the city. All tech companies are down. Most banks are down and ATM machines are not working, so people don’t have access to cash,” he explained. Motherboard reports that some people are opting to make potentially dangerous journeys to ensure that they can send and receive messages. The UN has urged the Cameroon government to restore Internet provision in the country. If that’s not enough, the economic weight of inaction may be. MIT Technology Review

Reforming Gambia’s Notorious National Intelligence Agency
In Gambia, the government of president Adama Barrow has the said it will reform its notorious prison system. It has already renamed and started reorganising Gambia’s infamous NIA – the national intelligence agency. RFI’s Bineta Diagne met a former NIA agent in the capital Banjul. For this report his name has been changed to Ousmane and his comments have been revoiced to protect his identity. RFI

How Does Gambia Get Back Into the Commonwealth Club?
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Gambia on Wednesday and said that the country’s bid to re-join the Commonwealth group of mostly ex-British colonies would happen in the “coming months”. However, applying for membership of the club of 52 countries involves various steps and the Gambian government has not yet kicked off the process, according to a spokesperson for the Commonwealth Secretariat. RFI

Sierra Leone President Sets Date for General Election 
Under pressure, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has finally announced March 7 as the date for the general election next year. The country will be conducting presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. “The parliamentary and local council elections will be held a little over one year from now, on March 7, 2018,” President Koroma said in a statement on Tuesday. “Having consulted with me, the National Electoral Commission will also announce that the presidential elections shall take place on the same date,” he added. The announcement comes on the back of a relentless campaign by the civil society and opposition political parties for the election date to be declared. According to the Constitution, the NEC chairman has the mandate, in consultation with the president, to declare the date of the presidential election a month or two before the vote. Africa Review

G20 Foreign Ministers to Tackle Fight Against Poverty in Africa
G20 foreign ministers will discuss ways to fight poverty in Africa, strengthen governmental institutions and better utilise the potential of many African countries, German ministry officials said on the eve of a two-day meeting in Bonn. Germany, keen to improve conditions in Africa and halt a growing stream of economic refugees fleeing to Europe, has made cooperation with Africa a centrepiece of its presidency of the Group of 20 largest industrialised countries. The European Union is also taking steps to stem immigration from Africa, which is set to rise after 181,000 people arriving last year and an estimated 4,500 believed to have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, often in flimsy boats. “Foreign policy is and must be more than crisis management,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement before the meeting. “We are well advised not to continually be running from one fire to another with a fire extinguisher.” Reuters

African States Wary of Potential Repeal of “Conflict Minerals” Rule
A possible plan by U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend a rule on “conflict minerals” could help fund armed groups and contribute to a surge in unrest in central Africa, regional states said on Wednesday. Sources told Reuters last week that Trump planned to issue a directive targeting a Dodd-Frank rule that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain “conflict minerals” from war-torn parts of Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo. A leaked draft seen by Reuters calls for the rule to be temporarily suspended for two years. Competition for Congo’s vast mineral resources has fuelled two decades of conflict in eastern Congo, including a 1998-2003 regional war that killed millions, most from hunger and disease. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional body comprising 12 member states including Congo, warned that repealing the provision would make it harder to ensure that minerals were conflict free. Reuters

In Ghana, Post-election Fiscal Crunch is Politics as Normal
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has taken power with ambitious plans to revive once spectacular economic growth, only to discover a $1.6 billion hole in the budget and a deficit twice as high as expected. He may have a strong sense of deja vu. The country has a vigorous democracy, with voters ready to eject any leader who falls short of expectations. But for a third successive time, the national finances have gone off track before elections, forcing the winner to confront a fiscal crunch. With Ghana more than half way through a three-year International Monetary Fund programme, the new government must reveal in its first budget next month how it intends to restore financial discipline while staying true to Akufo-Addo’s election promises to boost growth and fight poverty. Akufo-Addo entered office last month on pledges to spend the equivalent of $1 million a year on development in each of Ghana’s 275 parliamentary constituencies, build a dam in every village to ensure reliable water supplies and bring a factory to every district. Reuters

A Rough Guide to Foreign Military Bases in Africa
It’s a symptom of the fragility of African states, and the power of external interests. The long and inglorious history of intervention runs from colonial and post-colonial struggles, through to the Cold War, and up to the present day. But we are now in a complex, multipolar world. The “war on terror”, the arrival of China, and the emergence of regional powers, jostling for influence, has complicated the map. Nothing better illustrates this than the spread of foreign bases on African soil. The twin hotspots are the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. “It’s where Europe touches Africa, and where Africa touches the Middle East,” explained the Africa director for the International Crisis Group, Comfort Ero. The Sahel controls the migration route that conveys young men and women across the Mediterranean. It’s also a zone of instability, where al-Qaeda, so-called Islamic State and Boko Haram operate. It’s where state administration and even basic services are absent, encouraging that flow. From bases across the region, US drones and French soldiers have joined African armies to push the militants into the remote hinterlands. But blasting Jihadists from the sky does not win the hearts and minds argument. IRIN

EU: Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean Rising Despite More Aid
Migrant deaths have risen to a record level on the Libya-to-Italy Mediterranean Sea smuggling route, and the increasing number of rescue boats trying to prevent mass drownings there might actually be helping the smugglers, the European Union’s border and coast guard chief says. Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said Wednesday that authorities face a “sad paradox,” for as the international community increases its efforts to send more rescue ships close to Libya, more people die as smuggling rings pack ever more people onto tiny dinghies and push them out toward the open sea. He said the recorded number of migrant drowning deaths on the route in 2016, which might be much less than the true loss of life, stood at 4,579. Leggeri called it “tragic and the reasons are well known: the number of migrants now (arriving) on very small dinghies.” Stars and Stripes

Drought Blamed for Conflict in Kenya From Illegal Grazing
Boasting spectacular wildlife and majestic scenery, central Kenya’s Laikipia area has long been on the country’s tourist circuit, sitting against the backdrop of Mount Kenya. But due to drought, northern pastoralists are illegally bringing tens of thousands of cattle to private and community lands in search of water and grazing lands, often bringing them into conflict with landowners, and displacing wildlife. Several people have been killed in these conflicts, with others injured. Attacks on three out of approximately 50 ranches, farms, and conservancies have been reported, including a tourist lodge that was burned down at the end of January. But Laikipia Farmers’ Association chairman Martin Evans says all land owners have been affected in some way. “Every single owner’s had damage,” said Evans. “When they come in, they smash your fences, they smash all your infrastructure, all your buildings, your security houses, your solar panels, electric energizers, they steal and smash. I haven’t heard of one who hasn’t been.” VOA

Female Genital Mutilation: Kenya’s Worst-kept Secret
In remote rural areas of the Rift Valley – in the dark of the night, behind closed doors – whispering cutters and elders mutilate young girls and marry them off before they have even hit their teens. The procedure they undergo is traumatic, frightening and life threatening, and if it is not performed, girls are considered impure. The “extra women bits” are considered dirty and responsible for any promiscuity that may cause the young girls to cheat on their new, older, polygamous husbands. Circumcision is believed to ensure the young girls never stray and that their sexual urge has been reduced and their “bad” blood “purified”. Death is commonplace, says Patrick Ngigi, a former teacher who runs a haven for girls: “There are some cases where the girls die and they die because of excessive bleeding. There is nobody, no qualified medic – the people who are performing the circumcision are not qualified, they are just women in the village. So they don’t know how to stop the bleeding and sometimes the girls end up bleeding to death. I believe that the girls need to go to school and they need education. They don’t need to undergo FGM to become adults.” How does one stop an excruciating and chilling traditional practice entrenched in the custom and belief of elders and traditional leaders? Just one, young, educated girl at a time. Daily Maverick

Tale of Two Currencies: A Devaluation Sets Apart Egypt, Nigeria
Back in early November, Egypt and Nigeria were in the same situation, crying out for dollars to revive their sinking economies and trying to curb rampant currency-trading on the black market. Egypt’s tactic was to ditch a currency peg, leaving its pound open to market forces. The move helped secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan for Africa’s third-biggest economy. This week, Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised the government for restoring “economic sanity.” Egypt is still short of dollars, but the situation is changing, and investors are gradually returning. Nigeria, in contrast, isn’t letting the naira trade at its market value, insisting that’s the only way to protect the poor from a 15-month surge in inflation. Traders argue it’s left the currency overvalued and say they’ll avoid Nigerian local markets until it weakens. While the government managed to issue a $1 billion Eurobond last week, its first in almost four years, it is struggling to raise money from the likes of the World Bank, which first wants to see a more flexible exchange-rate in place. Here are five charts showing how the two nations have fared since Egypt’s devaluation. Bloomberg

Benin Abolishes Short-stay Visa for Nationals of 31 African Countries
Beninese authorities have abolished the short stay visa for nationals of 31 African countries. The exemption promised by President Patrice Talon, is based on the Rwandan example, and applies to stays of less than 90 days. Talon announced last August during a visit to Kigali that he was considering the abolition of visas for Africans. “Based on the experience of Rwanda, I decided that Benin will no longer require visas for Africans. South-South cooperation can make real sense. My hope is that cooperation between Rwanda and Benin can serve as an example,” Talon said. According to a document of the Consulate General of Benin in Paris, dated January 10, 2017, nationals of 31 countries of the continent are now exempt from visa for Benin, for stays of a duration not exceeding 90 days. This list of the countries exempt include those from South and East Africa such as South Africa and Kenya. Africa News

Botswana’s Bubble Bursts as Economic Decline Sets In
Botswana’s $14-billion economy contracted by 1.7% in 2015, weighed down by persistent power and water cuts that disrupted factory production. It will struggle to achieve 3% growth in 2016. Rating agency S&P warned last month that Botswana faces a “deteriorating outlook” in 2017, suggesting a downgrade from A-/A-2 sovereign credit rating could be on the horizon. Domestic debt is still manageable. But from 6.3% in 2009, foreign debt has increased to 16% of GDP. For decades, Botswana has been praised as an “African tiger” that has avoided the resource curse – the corrosive effect of strategic mineral resources in promoting social divisions and kleptocratic elites. It has achieved an 85% literacy rate and 90% of children of primary age are enrolled at schools. Most HIV-positive citizens receive life-saving drugs. Daily Maverick

South Africa, a Nation With Sharp Inequality, Considers a Minimum Wage
He works in AIDS prevention and his wife gets the occasional gig at a local supermarket. But neither job is regular enough for a “proper home,” Zwai Lugogo says, so his family lives in a shack here in Cape Town’s largest black township, making do with thin walls of painted metal. Many of his neighbors — housekeepers, factory workers, nurse’s aides — are in the same predicament, working hard at jobs available to black South Africans, but barely scraping by. “That money that we’re getting from work is just not enough to be able to take care of our families,” said Mr. Lugogo, 34, as neighborhood children, including his 3-year-old son, ran around their narrow street recently. “We need an intervention.” South Africa is now considering one. Faced with rising discontent over the economy among black voters, the government is weighing something more common in developed economies: a national minimum wage. The New York Times

Sand mining Decimates African Beaches
The coasts of Ghana and Kenya, as well as those of Cape Verde and Zanzibar, are lined by picturesque beaches strewn with the finest sand making them perfect postcard idylls. But what if Africa’s dream beaches suddenly lost their sand and only had dirt and gravel to offer? “Zanzibar has less and less sand,” Zanzibar’s Minister for Natural Resources Hamad Rashid Mohammed told DW. The reason for this, he said, is the excessive use of sand for construction projects in the semi-autonomous archipelago that forms part of Tanzania. Official statistics from the Department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Natural Resources show that almost three million tons of sand were mined on Zanzibar between 2005 and 2015. This amount equals around 120,000 full truckloads. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones