Africa Media Review for February 2, 2017

DR Congo Opposition Leader Etienne Tshisekedi Dies Aged 84
DR Congo’s main opposition leader has died in Brussels aged 84, reports say. Etienne Tshisekedi, one of the country’s most important advocates of democracy, was a prominent opponent of successive Congolese leaders. The party he helped found in 1982, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party (UDPS), said he had travelled to Belgium last week for medical checks. He was due to head a transitional council under a deal for President Joseph Kabila to step down this year. BBC

Congo Opposition Leader’s Death Jeopardizes Political Deal
The death of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, puts in jeopardy a political deal aimed at getting President Joseph Kabila to leave office. Tshisekedi, president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress and one of the country’s longest-serving political leaders, died Wednesday in a hospital in Brussels, party spokesman Augustin Kabuya said, after struggling with illness for many years. He was 84. Tshisekedi’s death comes four weeks after opposition parties organized around Tshisekedi agreed in December that Kabila, in power since 2001, would step down after delayed elections this year. Efforts to implement the accord have stalled. “His death is a huge blow to the opposition and to the chances of success for this political deal,” Jason Stearns, a director of the Congo Research Group, said by phone from New York. Bloomberg

Will AU Members Really Withdraw from the ICC?
The news of the adopted AU strategy to withdraw from the Hague based court, came as more of a footnote of the AU summit. There were no big announcements but an AU official who asked not to be identified told the Reuters new agency that “the leaders of AU member states endorsed the strategy of collective withdrawal, with reservations.” At a closer look, the strategy is however more of a recommendation than an actual decision to withdraw from the ICC and a treaty which established the court known as the Rome Statute. The decision is not binding and as country representatives who are in support of the ICC noted, the decision to leave the ICC is up to each individual country. According to DW’s reporter in Addis Ababa, Coletta Wanjohi, several countries which include Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania had reservations about the paper. Other countries asked for more time to consider the withdrawal strategy. Deutsche Welle

Some African Leaders Reject Mass ICC Withdrawal
Some African leaders have rejected a strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. The non-binding decision to withdraw came behind closed doors on Tuesday, near the end of an African Union summit. It follows decisions by South Africa, Gambia and Burundi which are readying to withdraw from the world body. Researcher at African Institute of South Africa Frank Lekaba says, “People act on things according to their own experiences and interests; if you look carefully… countries that are opposed to the attempt to withdraw from the ICC, those who are leading, are countries that have experienced conflicts, and their regions are experiencing conflict…” SABC

Protesters In the Gambia Call for Resignation of National Assembly
Fifteen hundred young people converged outside the Gambia’s parliament on Tuesday in the first demonstration since the country became a democracy, following the inauguration of president Adama Barrow. The protesters called for all members of the national assembly to resign for supporting the decision by the disgraced ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, to declare a state of emergency two days before his mandate expired. The move increased the exodus of Gambians fleeing potential conflict, forced tourists to abandon holidays, and brought the country to the brink of civil war. Demonstrators from youth groups in the capital, Banjul, and surrounding provinces sang the national anthem and held banners reading: “You failed to represent the interests of the Gambian people”. Marching up and down outside the fence surrounding the assembly, they branded members – who are almost all from Jammeh’s political party – unconstitutional and selfish. The Guardian

Key Gambia Ministers Sworn In
Ten of the new Gambian government’s 18 ministers were sworn in Wednesday, less than a week after freshly-elected President Adama Barrow arrived in the country following a major political crisis. In a vote in December, Barrow defeated longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, who during several weeks refused to step down. Barrow left the country for Senegal, where he remained until Jammeh agreed to step aside and go into exile. Among the cabinet members sworn in were Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe, a veteran of the opposition to Jammeh’s regime. Special advisor to Barrow, Mai Fatty, was sworn in as interior minister, while the ex-treasurer of the main former opposition, Amadou Sanneh, became minister of finance. News 24

Gunmen Attack UN Team in Nigeria, Kill 5
Gunmen have attacked a United Nations monitoring team at the Nigeria-Cameroon border, killing five people. Three Nigerians were among those killed, a UN statement said Wednesday. “According to preliminary reports, at around 14:00 hours, yesterday (Tuesday), an unknown armed group attacked a UN Technical Monitoring Team, killing five individuals – a UN independent contractor, three Nigerians nationals and one Cameroonian national – and injuring several others,” the UN envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Chambas, said in a statement. “The team was conducting a field mission in the vicinity of Hosere Jongbi, near Kontcha, Cameroon, about 700 kilometres north of the capital Yaoundé, as part of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission mandate,” he said. The UN “strongly condemned” the attack and called on Nigeria and Cameroon to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Premium Times

German Police Arrest Tunisian Suspected of Plotting Islamic State Terrorist Attack
Police on Wednesday arrested an asylum seeker from Tunisia on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State-linked terrorist attack in Germany in a case that is drawing parallels with a deadly Christmas market attack. The 36-year-old suspect was also wanted by Tunisian authorities in connection with a 2015 attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, which killed more than 20 people, and an Islamic State attempt to take control of the Tunisian border town Ben Gardane last year. But Germany’s attempts to extradite the suspect to Tunisia were hampered by a lack of cooperation from Tunisian authorities, Frankfurt’s general prosecutor said in a statement Wednesday. Details of the suspect’s alleged role in the Tunisian museum attack and the border clashes were not immediately disclosed. The Washington Post

Afcon 2017: The Uncomfortable Relationship Between Sport and Strife
The Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon is drawing to a close and, as expected, it’s been one heck of a ride. On the field and off it, the tournament has delivered everything you expect an Afcon tournament to be. But sporting tournaments do not exist in isolation in the countries where they are held. Those who insist that sport and politics can never be bedfellows obviously haven’t paid close enough attention. The two have been inextricably linked for years and the 2017 edition of Afcon has been no different. Away from the cameras and the fanfare, political activists have been trying to drum up support against the country’s dictatorship. The country has been controlled by the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) since the 1960s and between 1968 and 1990 it was the sole legal party of the country. More pertinently, one single family has been in charge of the country since 1967. Omar Bongo ruled for 42 years until his death in 2009, only for his son Ali Bongo to take over from him. Daily Maverick

Acting SEC Chair Seeks to Scale Back ‘Conflict Minerals’ Rule
The top Republican at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday took the first step toward scaling back the controversial “conflict minerals” rule, which requires companies to trace whether their products contain minerals from a war-torn part of Africa. In his first major action since becoming acting SEC chair earlier this month, Michael Piwowar announced he has directed agency staff to reconsider how companies should comply with the rule and whether “additional relief” from its requirements is necessary. Piwowar’s action comes just one day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to slash government regulations. The White House has said the order does not apply to independent agencies like the SEC. However, independent agencies often try to voluntarily follow the spirit of such orders. Reuters

Will This Border Fence Stop Militants Attacking Kenya?
As Americans ponder the possibility of Donald Trump building a wall on the border with Mexico to keep out immigrants, Kenya is already building its own barrier. BBC African security correspondent Tomi Oladipo reports. BBC

Central Africans Use Radio Network to Stay Safe from LRA
Two decades after the Lord’s Resistance Army began terrorizing civilians in northern Uganda, the LRA boasts just a fraction of its former strength, about 100 to 150 fighters active in parts of central Africa. However, the communities most at risk of attack have little protection in remote lawless regions of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the village of Fenzane in southeastern C.A.R., for example, there are no government police officers, no army, and no United Nations troops. What they do have are regular attacks by bandits and armed groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army. Two people were killed in the village in an attack on Tuesday, just days after VOA visited. VOA

Libya Leader Offers NATO Sea Access If It Upgrades Navy
Libya’s UN-backed prime minister says NATO or European Union ships could be permitted to operate in Libyan waters alongside the national navy if those organisations help modernize his country’s vessels. The European Union wants to secure UN and Libyan backing to move its anti-smuggling mission Operation Sophia into Libyan waters to help prevent migrants reaching Europe. Fayez Serraj said that “if there is something to be carried out jointly between the Libyan navy and any other party that would be interested in extending a hand to the Libyan navy that would be possible.” News 24

Peace in Mali – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Nearly 80 people were killed and more than 100 wounded following the car bomb attack in Gao, Mali. A week later, on 26 January, Malian intelligence services arrested two individuals suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the capital, Bamako. According to preliminary findings of the investigation, the individuals are suspected to belong to al-Mourabitoun, a group allied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This group had claimed responsibility for the 18 January attack on the Operational Coordination Mechanism (Mécanisme opérationnel de coordination – MOC) camp in Gao. On the day, about 600 soldiers from the Malian army, the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) and the Self-Defence Groups’ Platform (Platform) were gathered in the barracks to prepare for their first deployment as joint patrols. These joint patrols were meant to provide better security to many regions, especially in the northern part of the country, which is still not under the control of the Malian government. ISS

Morocco’s Burqa Ban Is More Than a Security Measure
Moroccan authorities have recently banned the manufacturing, marketing and sale of the burqa – an outer garment worn by some Muslim women to cover themselves in public. It completely conceals the face, with a mesh cloth shielding the eyes from view. The decision is noteworthy in a country whose population is 99 percent Muslim. So what does the ban mean? The Moroccan Ministry of Interior cited security concerns as the reason for the ban. It argued that wearing the burqa could help criminals and terrorists hide their identities. Indeed, several criminals have reportedly used the burqa or niqab – a veil that covers the face but not the eyes – to perpetrate crimes, including theft. But beyond immediate security concerns, the real worry for the moderate Moroccan government is the spread of radical, Salafist Islam. Salafism has been linked to ISIS and terrorism in North Africa. Morocco’s concern with terrorism is exacerbated by the fact that it receives about 10 million visitors a year and partly depends on tourism revenues for its development. The government believes that banning the burqa will limit expression of radical Islam and will help contain it. US News and World Report

Mugabe Lashes Out at African Leaders for Morocco Return to AU
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has lashed out at African leaders, saying they lack principles and are easily swayed after they voted to readmit Morocco to the African Union. Thirty-nine of 54 countries approved Morocco’s return to the AU at the bloc’s 28th Ordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday. However, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Algeria were against the move citing Rabat’s continued occupation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. President Mugabe told journalists on arrival in Harare on Tuesday that most African leaders had no ideological grounding. The East African

Moroccan King Vsits South Sudan
Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Wednesday started his three-day visit in Juba, as the North African state moves to diversify its investments and diplomatic influence in Africa. Rabat, which was on Tuesday readmitted to the African Union after more than three decades, is seeking to increase its economic interests on the continent. The kingdom has, in recent East and West Africa tours by King Mohammed VI, signed agreements with host governments in manufacturing, banking, mining, insurance and construction. The East African

Jailed for a Puff: Why Tunisia’s Prisons Are Crammed With Cannabis Users
Many Tunisian prisons are overcrowded, some at 150 percent of their capacity — and authorities say one third of the inmates are there only for marijuana use. Under Tunisia’s Law 52, authorities can carry out random urine tests that can lead to convictions for marijuana use or possession and an automatic one-year prison sentence. Law 52 convictions have been on the rise, going from just a few hundred to several thousand over the last 15 years. But in February parliament is set to debate reforms that could cut down on overcrowding. France 24



Photo: Adam Jones