Africa Media Review for February 21, 2017

Death Toll Rises to 39 in Mogadishu Blast
The death toll from Sunday’s car bomb blast in Somalia’s capital has climbed to 39, according to Mogadishu ambulance services. The vast majority of those killed were civilians in the Kawo-Goday mini-market in the city’s Wadajir district, officials said. Security officials say they suspect the vehicle was aiming for another target but was unable to reach it due to road closures and increased deployment of security forces ahead of the inauguration of the new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, on Wednesday. There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing. Militant group al-Shabab has frequently targeted hotels and markets during its decade-long insurgency. President Farmajo promised Monday to give a large reward to anyone with information about car bomb plots. VOA

Somalia Faces Unprecedented Drought
Even the hyenas won’t eat the carcasses of Mohamed Aden Guleid’s sheep, goats and camels, which litter the landscape in Somalia’s northwest Somaliland region. There is too little meat on their bones because of a devastating drought. “I had 550 of these livestock; now only 50 of my livestock remain,” he said. “My family contains 10 members, and I must provide for them.” Herds of animals are dying across Somalia following two failed rainy seasons. Here in Somaliland, at least 40 percent of goats and sheep have perished, amounting to more than 10 million animals. VOA

IMF Says Donors May Partly Forgive Somalia’s $5.3-Billion Debt
The International Monetary Fund says creditors may forgive part of Somalia’s outstanding $5.3 billion debt if the strife-torn Horn of Africa state takes concrete steps toward reforming its economy and improving governance. Somalia, gripped by a three-decade civil war, would have to first clear arrears owed to the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, according to IMF’s country head Samba Thiam. An arrears-clearance plan, a new currency, an effective monetary policy and a “solid track record” on good governance may lead to fresh funding, Thiam said in an interview Feb. 17 in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya. “There is a general willingness from creditors to write off Somalia’s debt when the time comes, it’s a good prospect,” Thiam said. “They are not paying debt now, they will not be asked to pay tomorrow, so they have time to work on consolidating their economic base. The debt is an issue that will be resolved some time.” Bloomberg

‘Look, They Are Dying’: Video Appears to Show Massacre by Congolese Soldiers
The video opens with a squad of soldiers walking down a sandy, sunlit road toward a group of people who are chanting. Then the soldiers — who appear to be uniformed members of the national army of the Democratic Republic of Congo, accompanied by a heavy military truck — raise their weapons. They start firing. One by one, the figures in the road drop. Oddly, several of the people do not make any attempt to run from the advancing soldiers. The soldiers then saunter up to the wounded, blasting them in the head with assault rifles from a few feet away. Many of the victims look young; several are women. None carry guns. These images are part of a battlefield video that was shared with The New York Times on Friday and that, thanks to Congolese human rights activists, has begun to make the rounds on Facebook and other social media. Several analysts said that the footage revealed a government-sponsored massacre of civilians and that the video could be used as evidence of war crimes. The New York Times

France, US Pressure DRC over Video Massacre
The United States and France called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate a video purporting to show soldiers massacring 50 to 100 unarmed civilians in the violence-wracked center of the country. The French foreign ministry on Monday urged authorities in the capital Kinshasa to “shed light as quickly as possible on these unacceptable acts and identify those responsible, who should be held to account.” The United States said on Sunday it was “deeply concerned” and also urged a “thorough investigation” into the “heinous abuses” captured in the video which was seen by AFP on Friday before appearing on social media at the weekend. In the images, a group of men are seen shooting at a group of unarmed civilians, purportedly in the central Kasai region. They appear to be soldiers and are using the army’s official language. News 24

Militiamen Kill 25 Civilians in Ethnic Attack in DR Congo
Local officials and activists are reporting that there has been a massacre of Hutu civilians in the village of Kyaghala in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The civilians were attacked, and many beheaded, by militiamen from the Nande ethnic group. “In total 25 people were killed, decapitated by machete by the Mai-Mai Mazembe in and around the village of Kyaghala,” Francis Bakundakabo, the local representative of the governor of North Kivu province, told AFP. The Mai-Mai are a so-called “self-defense” militia composed of members of DRC’s Nande, Hunde and Kobo communities. They stand in opposition to rivals from the Nyaturu group, which also represents ethnic Hutus. “All of these people were Hutu civilians,” said Bakundakabo, adding that the killings took place between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Saturday. Deutsche Welle

Gambia’s Adama Barrow Orders Release of 171 Prisoners
As The Gambia enters a new era of democracy, President Adama Barrow has reiterated his commitment to ending human rights abuses in the country and ordered the release of all prisoners detained without trial. “Orders have already been given for all those detained without trial to be released,” he said during his official inauguration ceremony at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, a town 20 km from the capital Banjul, on Saturday. As a result, a total of 171 inmates in the tiny West African nation’s notorious 2 Mile Prison were set free. They were all detained without trial sometime during former President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule. Jammeh’s tenure was marred by clampdowns on dissenting views, enforced disappearances and detention without trial, creating a climate of fear. Hundreds of people were jailed for their political views and thousands of others were forced to flee the country. News 24

Ex-president’s Supporters Arrested as Tensions Flare in Gambia
Gambian police said they arrested 51 people in a former stronghold of ex-president Yahya Jammeh for harassing followers of new leader Adama Barrow, amid lingering tensions following Jammeh’s flight into exile. Jammeh narrowly lost a Dec. 1 election to Barrow after 22 years of authoritarian rule. Jammeh initially refused to step down but fled to Equatorial Guinea last month as international military forces descended on the capital Banjul to uphold the election result. The 51 were arrested on Sunday in the western town of Kafenda, a Jammeh stronghold, for insulting people returning from Barrow’s inauguration celebration at the national stadium on Saturday, said police spokesman Foday Conta. Some threw stones, Conta added. Twenty-six of the arrested were juveniles and were released on bail, while 25 were being detained pending an investigation, Conta said. VOA

U.S. Officials Expected in South Sudan to Assess Dialogue Process
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration will dispatch a delegation to Juba this week to assess ways to end the war and bring peace in the troubled east African nation, South Sudanese officials disclosed. The U.S. officials will meet key government officials, including President Salva Kiir to assess for themselves and to understand the circumstances under which the national dialogue was declared and whether it is inclusive and restorative. A top level South Sudanese diplomat told Sudan Tribune Monday that the purpose the visit is to see how best they could work with the government to support the national dialogue initiated President Salva Kiir in December 2016. “The new US administration is for peace, they are not for regime change as it is being propagated by some quarters of our society,” said a diplomat who requested anonymity. “The new administration is for peace and they believe that the only way to resolve political differences is not through violence but through peaceful dialogue like what President Salva Kiir has done,”. he further said. Sudan Tribune

Desperate for Safety: Violence Pushes South Sudan into Famine as Thousands Flee to Neighboring Uganda

A new report published Monday has blamed civil war and instability for a famine in South Sudan – the first to be declared globally for 6 years. Some 100,000 people now face starvation, with 4.9 million more in desperate need of food. This new warning comes as the conflict between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels with allegiance to former Vice President Riek Machar has spread to the Kajo Keji region near the Ugandan border. UN reports of violence, rapes and systematic attacks against civilians have been confirmed by South Sudanese fleeing the war-torn country. The refugee influx streaming into Uganda has numbered an average of 3,657 crossings per day in recent weeks, with a peak of 6,765 new arrivals on Feb. 1, according to the United Nations. Thousands seek out illegal border crossings, as government forces from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) charge people the equivalent of $3 to leave the country. Vice

Nigerian President Disdains His Country’s Best Hospital for Medical Care in Britain. But What Ails Him?

[…] His month-long trip continues a controversial tradition in Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent: presidents disdaining their own health services in favor of overseas medical trips often shrouded in secrecy. Officials originally announced the trip was a short vacation that would include “routine medical tests.” The trip has been extended by almost two weeks, but no details on Buhari’s health or the nature of the tests have been released. It is Buhari’s second extended trip to London for medical treatment, after he spent two weeks there last June. The June trip was to treat an ear infection, according to officials. At the time, critics questioned why Buhari couldn’t have been treated for such a simple ailment at the special presidential hospital State House Clinic Abuja, reputed to be the best hospital in the country. The government upgraded the hospital in 2016 at a cost of $16 million, more than the total capital budget for Nigeria’s 16 federal teaching hospitals. The hospital provides care for the president, vice president, their families and staff. Los Angeles Times

Burundian Refugees in Uganda Too Scared to Go Home 
In 2016, Uganda took in more African refugees than the whole of Europe. This generosity has earned Kampala the praise of the West but African countries are more skeptical. They fear that the camps may offer an ideal stage for the formation of opposition groups. Many Burundians fled the country in 2015 after a failed coup led to increased violence. Burundi has been especially vocal in demanding the return of refugees like Eduard Nshinirimana. Whenever the Burundian student feels tense, he strums his guitar. It is his only possession besides two wooden stools and an old carpet in the living room of his mud house in the refugee settlement of Navikale in western Uganda. A couple of days ago, a high-ranking Burundian delegation visited the Ugandan camp. This brought up memories Nshinirimana would rather forget. Deutsche Welle

Protests over Teachers’ Strike Turn Deadly in Guinea
At least five people have been killed in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, in protests sparked by a teacher’s strike, according to the government, reviving labour tensions in a country where previous strikes have led to dozens of deaths. Guinea’s main teachers’ unions launched the strike on February 1 to protest the government’s decision to dismiss or cut the salaries of many junior teachers after the latest civil service exams. Many of their students have taken to the streets in recent days to support them. Beginning early on Monday morning, unidentified assailants attacked a police station and demonstrators clashed with security forces in several districts of Conakry, witnesses told the Reuters news agency. “By midday, these demonstrations had unfortunately caused the deaths of at least five people,” the government said in a statement, calling the protest “illegal and forbidden”. The statement added that 30 people had been injured, including members of the security forces, and 12 arrested.  Al Jazeera

Libya PM Convoy Hit By ‘Intensive Gunfire’ in Tripoli
The convoy of Libya’s contested unity government chief, Fayez al-Sarraj, came under gunfire in Tripoli on Monday, without causing any casualties, his administration said. A convoy carrying Libya’s contested unity government chief, Fayez al-Sarraj, and other top officials came under heavy gunfire Monday in Tripoli, but they survived unharmed, spokesmen for his administration said. “The convoy of GNA (Government of National Accord) chief Fayez al-Sarraj… came under fire as it passed near the Abu Slim sector of Tripoli,” said spokesman Ashraf al-Thulthi. “All the cars were armoured-plated, and there were no injuries,” he told AFP, adding an investigation was underway to identify the assailants. France 24

Libya’s Eastern Authority Bans Women Travelling Solo
Military officials controlling eastern Libya have banned women under 60 from travelling abroad on their own. The ban is said to be for “national security reasons” and not driven by religious ideology. BBC North Africa correspondent Rana Jawad says it will affect all passengers transiting through the east. Libya is divided between two authorities – one in the east and an internationally recognised one based in the capital, Tripoli. The eastern government is based in al-Beyda and the ban was first enforced in the city’s Labraq international airport. BBC

Defence Secretary Warns Russia Is Interfering in Libya to Test Nato Alliance
The Defence Secretary has warned Russia against interfering in Libya, as Britain and its Nato allies consider sending more aid to help the fragmented country rebuild its armed forces. Sir Michael Fallon said Russia was “testing” the military alliance with overtures to a Libyan strongman in competition with the UN-backed Tripoli government. “We don’t need the bear sticking his paws in,” he said as defence and foreign ministers gathered at the Munich Security Conference. The Tripoli government led by Fayez Seraj this week called on the military alliance for help to rebuild its forces, which were shattered by the Western campaign to oust Col Muammar Gaddafi followed by six years of instability. But the country remains split between rival militia, with Khalifa Haftar overseeing an alliance of armed groups around the eastern port of Benghazi and shunning the government in the capital. The Telegraph

Tanzania Opposition Leader Arrested over Alleged Drugs Link
Tanzanian main opposition Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe was Monday arrested in Dar es Salaam for snubbing a police summon. Mr Mbowe had been directed by the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Commander, Mr Simon Sirro, to report to the Central Police Station within 48 hours. He was wanted by the police for questioning on his alleged links with drug abuse and trade after being named by the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mr Paul Makonda. However, reports from senior Chadema officials established that Mr Mbowe had decided to surrender himself to the police in the afternoon before law enforcers intercepted his car to arrest him. “Mbowe has been arrested by the police,” was a short statement posted on Mr Tundu Lissu’s Twitter account. Mr Lissu is Chadema’s chief legal advisor. “Mbowe has been arrested by police who have been following him as he headed to Central Police Station. He is accompanied by party lawyers,” reads party’s Twitter account. The East African

Tanzania Threatens to Publish ‘Gay List’
Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla wrote on Twitter that his government was investigating “the homosexuality syndicate” and would arrest and prosecute those involved in the gay sex business. “I will publish a list of gay people selling their bodies online,” Kigwangalla wrote. “Those who think this campaign is a joke, are wrong. The government has long arms and it will quietly arrest all those involved. Once arrested, they will help us find others.” Under the Tanzanian penal code, sex between two males is highly punishable, ranging from 30 years to life imprisonment. There is, however, no such ban on lesbian relations. Compared to its neighbor Uganda, Tanzanian politicians had not been focusing much on the gay community, until the recent increase of anti-gay rhetoric by the government. Deutsche Welle

Rockets Fired into Southern Israel from Egypt’s Sinai
Two rockets, apparently fired by Islamic militants in Egypt’s northern Sinai, have landed in southern Israel. The attack came a day after an Isis affiliate claimed that several of its members had been killed by an Israeli drone. The incident is the second within the space of a month after four missiles were fired towards the Israeli Red Sea city of Eilat, suggesting an increase in tensions on Israel’s southern border. The launches are the first time since 2015 that rockets have been fired at Israel from Egypt. “Earlier today, projectiles launched from the Sinai Peninsula hit an open area in the Eshkol regional council,” the army said in a statement on Monday. “No injuries have been reported. Forces are searching the area.” Photographs in the Israeli media showed homemade rockets constructed from metal piping. The Guardian

Nigeria Urges AU to Intervene over ‘SA Killings’
Nigeria on Monday urged the African Union to step in to stop what it said were “xenophobic attacks” on its citizens and other Africans in South Africa. The presidency said there was a need for the continental body to “intervene urgently,” claiming that in the last two years “about 116” Nigerians had been killed, including 20 last year. “This is unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria,” a senior presidential aide on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said in an emailed statement. There was no independent verification of the claimed number of deaths, which may have been the result of wider criminal activities rather than anti-immigrant sentiment. According to the Nigerian Union in South Africa, there are about 800 000 Nigerians in South Africa, many of them living in Johannesburg. News 24

Mugabe’s Band of Loyalists Dwindles
These are the unlikely yet hard-hitting words used by former Zanu PF youth leader Godfrey Tsenengamu to describe President Robert Mugabe last year. His description, which would have been seen as taboo some years back, did not send shockwaves in Zanu PF. Many believed Tsenengamu had aptly described Mugabe, who turns 93 next week, but is still clinging onto power. The expelled Mashonaland Central youth leader went on to say that by defending Mugabe, Zanu PF members were unwittingly “grooming and nurturing another Ian Smith who would turn to hound us”. Smith was the last white ruler of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, before Independence. “I was a blind loyalist of Mugabe, I could not see that I was being used by Mugabe as I thought that I was defending him in the genuine cause and interest of the party, which is the same way he is using others currently who think that they are defending him,” said Tsenengamu who was booted out of the party in 2016. The Zimbabwe Independent



Photo: Adam Jones