Africa Media Review for February 22, 2017

South Africa Court Blocks ICC Pull-out
South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been ruled “unconstitutional and invalid” by the High Court. South Africa notified the UN of its intention to leave last October, saying the ICC undermined its sovereignty and pursued “regime change”. But the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) argued that the government had to first seek parliamentary approval. The court ordered the government to revoke its notice of withdrawal. The decision to pull out came after a dispute over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to the country in 2015. South African authorities refused to arrest Mr Bashir despite him facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes. Mr Bashir was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, when the government ignored an ICC request to arrest him. BBC

Bodies of Dozens of People Wash Ashore in Western Libya
The bodies of at least 74 people, believed to be migrants, have washed ashore on the Libyan coast in the latest tragedy at sea for people fleeing to Europe to escape war and poverty. The Libyan Red Crescent said on Tuesday the bodies had been found the previous morning on the coast of the city of Zawiya, and aid workers had spent six hours recovering them, with more dead believed to be in the vicinity. A spokesman for the organisation, Mohammed al-Misrati, told the Associated Press that a torn rubber boat was found nearby and it was likely that more migrants had drowned in the incident, as such vessels usually carry about 120 people. The Zawiya coastguard later posted a video that showed the migrants’ boat with no engine. Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told Reuters a local staff member had reported that “traffickers came and removed the engine from the boat and left the craft adrift”. The Guardian

Trial of Libyan Gadhafi Regime Members Found Flawed
The trial in Libya of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of former strongman Moammar Gadhafi and 36 other members of his regime, failed to live up to international standards of fairness, a United Nations report said Tuesday. The trial was a major effort by the Libyan judiciary to hold people accountable for crimes, including grave violations of human rights during the 2011 revolution, which toppled former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But in the end, the U.N. report determined the trial did not do what it was meant to do. The report calls the trial procedure flawed and unfair. For example, the report says defendants were held incommunicado for prolonged periods and allegedly were subjected to torture — charges that were never investigated. The report says lawyers complained they were unable to meet their clients in private and had difficulty accessing documents. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ representative in Libya, Claudio Cordone, says each defendant was limited to two witnesses. VOA

Russia Increases Involvement in Libya by Signing Oil Deal
Russia has significantly boosted its involvement in Libya by signing a potentially major contract to help redevelop Libyan oilfields. The head of the Libyan national oil corporation (NOC) signed a cooperation agreement with Rosneft, the Russian oil giant, which NOC said on Tuesday “lays the groundwork for investment by Rosneft in Libya’s oil sector”. “The agreement envisages the establishment of a joint working committee of the two partners to evaluate opportunities in a variety of sectors, including exploration and production,” an NOC statement said. Russia had extensive investments in Libya before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and is eager to recover as many of them as possible in a country still plagued by violent conflict but keen to boost oil production with the help of foreign companies. The Guardian

Growing Support for Libya’s Powerful Army Chief Amid New Peace Drive
A new peace initiative to end Libya’s bitter two-year civil war began this week, with neighbouring powers meeting in a process dominated by questions about the future of the country’s most powerful military chief. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country’s key oil production, enjoys growing public support. His Libyan National Army (LNA) is close to clearing the city of Benghazi of militias, cementing its dominance of eastern Libya. After a two-day meeting by foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, it was announced that their respective presidents — Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Beji Caid Sebsi — will convene a high-level summit at a date yet to be set, to debate a Libya peace plan. The diplomats declared, following their meeting in Tunis on Sunday and Monday, their “attachment to Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. All three states are concerned about the overspill of Libya’s ruinous civil war: Egypt has seen Libyan weapons used by terrorists against security forces in Sinai, Algeria has had Libya-based terrorists attack its gasfields, while Tunisia has suffered attacks on tourist sites by ISIL fighters trained in Libya. The National

Who is Yemi Osinbajo, the Man Quietly Running Nigeria in President Muhammadu Buhari’s Absence?

Nigeria’s president has been missing in action for more than a month now. But thanks to the work of his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence has not been as keenly felt as it might have otherwise. Buhari departed from the country on January 19, ostensibly for a short period of medical leave in the U.K., activating a clause in the constitution that made Osinbajo the acting president in his absence. However, his return has been repeatedly delayed: his spokesman Garba Shehu released a fresh statement Tuesday, assuring Nigerians that his extended leave was due to doctors advising the president to take a longer period of rest. “President Buhari wishes to reassure Nigerians that there is no cause for worry,” said Shehu. But while Buhari’s absence has kept the rumor mill spinning, his vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, has been quietly effective in addressing some of the crises affecting the country. Among other things, the 59-year-old former lawyer has met with stakeholders in the volatile yet oil-rich Niger Delta and addressed protesters demanding economic reform and an end to government corruption. Newsweek

UN Boosts Aid for Ethiopia, Somalia to Head Off Famine
U.N. aid agencies are appealing to international donors to provide money to scale up lifesaving operations in drought-stricken Ethiopia and Somalia, where millions of hungry people are at risk of death and illness. Five years after a devastating 2011 famine killed nearly 260,000 people in Somalia, famine again is stalking that country. The worst-affected areas are in northern Puntland and Somaliland, where dozens of drought-related deaths and many illnesses already are being reported. “On Sunday, we received reports of 38 deaths due to drought-linked reasons in the Bakool region of south-central Somalia,” said Leo Dobbs, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency. “Medical cases include people with acute malnutrition — especially children — watery diarrhea and cholera. These problems are likely to grow without substantial aid.” VOA

Burundi Ex-deputy Leader Returns Home, Criticises Opposition
A former vice president of Burundi who fled the country after criticising the ruling party has returned to the country after accusing some of her colleagues in the opposition of being “destructive”. Alice Nzomukunda, who was one of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s deputies between 2005 and 2006, returned to Burundi Monday with two other members of the opposition bloc CNARED, which has been involved in on-off peace talks with the government. Nzomukunda resigned her post in September 2006, accusing the ruling party of corruption and rights abuses. Her return is seen as a victory for the embattled government, which faces accusations of rights abuses since Nkurunziza sought a third term in April 2015. News 24

Seeking to Secure Sinai, Egypt Builds Closer Ties with Hamas
After years of strained relations, Egypt is moving closer to Hamas in Gaza, offering concessions on trade and free movement in return for moves to secure the border against Islamic State fighters who have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in northern Sinai. Egypt has been at odds with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, since a crackdown by Cairo on the armed group’s Islamist allies. Egypt closed the border, opening it only rarely. But in recent weeks Egypt has eased restrictions, allowing in trucks laden with food and other supplies, and providing relief from an Israeli blockade that has restricted the flow of goods into the coastal territory. The relaxation follows high-level Hamas visits to Cairo, which wants to restore its role as a regional powerbroker and crush Islamic State followers in the Sinai Peninsula, a strategic area bordering Gaza, Israel and the Suez Canal. Reuters

Trump Talk of Terror Listing for Muslim Brotherhood Alarms Some Arab Allies 
In Morocco, it would tip a delicate political balance. In Jordan, it could prevent American diplomats from meeting with opposition leaders. In Tunisia, it could make criminals of a political party seen as a model of democracy after the Arab Spring. Of all the initiatives of the Trump administration that have set the Arab world on edge, none has as much potential to disrupt the internal politics of American partners in the region as the proposal to criminalize the Muslim Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist movement with millions of followers. “The impact would be great,” said Issandr El Amrani, an analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Morocco, where a Brotherhood-linked party won the last election in October. “It could destabilize countries where anti-Islamist forces would be encouraged to double down. It would increase polarization.” At issue is a proposal floated by Trump aides that the 89-year-old Brotherhood be designated as a foreign terrorist entity. The scope of any designation remains unclear, but its potential reach is vast: Founded in Egypt, the Brotherhood has evolved into a loose network that spans about two dozen countries. It has officially forsworn violence. The New York Times

Gambia Arrests Head of Intelligence Agency Linked to Killings
Authorities in Gambia have detained the former head of the National Intelligence Agency, a body human rights groups say tortured and killed perceived opponents of former leader Yahya Jammeh, who went into exile last month after losing an election. The former director general of the agency, Yankuba Badgie, and its ex-director of operations, Sheikh Omar Jeng, were arrested on Monday, police spokesman Foday Conta said on Tuesday. Jammeh set up the agency the year after he seized power in a coup in 1994 and it gained a reputation as the state’s most feared institution. The government of President Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in an election in December, stripped the agency of its powers of arrest, changed its name to the State Intelligence Agency and pledged to reform it further. Reuters

Gambian Treasury Says Millions of Dollars Missing After Looting
Gambia’s finance minister accused the former government of misappropriating millions of dollars from the Treasury, leaving the economy “completely destroyed.” Money was diverted in 2014 from a Treasury account created by ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s administration in the previous year, while a withdrawal was made from a so-called Special Projects Fund last year, Finance Minister Amadou told reporters Monday in the capital, Banjul. He said an official in the presidency made some of the withdrawals and more than $5 million is missing. “We have no indication how this money was spent,” Sanneh said. Jammeh, who ruled Gambia for two decades after a 1994 coup, was forced into exile last month under a threat by West African leaders to remove him by force. He initially acknowledged losing a Dec. 1 presidential election, before changing his mind and trying to reverse the outcome a week later. Jammeh’s successor, Adama Barrow, was sworn in as president on Jan. 19. Bloomberg

Ghana’s New President Promises Action to Fix “Bad” Economy
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said in his first state of the nation address the economy was in a “bad way” but he would press ahead with a plan to create jobs, cut the budget deficit and improve sustainable agriculture. Akufo-Addo told parliament on Tuesday a three-year International Monetary Fund programme to stabilise national finances had failed to meet its objectives, and he placed the blame squarely on the government he defeated in elections in December. The fiscal deficit for 2016 was 9 percent of gross domestic product on a cash basis, rather than the target of 5.25 percent, he said, and estimated growth of 3.6 percent last year was the lowest in 23 years. He said the government will significantly reduce the deficit in 2017 as part of its goal of ensuring that fiscal stability becomes an engine of growth, reasoning that it would lead to lower interest rates. Reuters

South Sudan’s Kiir Promises Safe Access to Starving Civilians as Famine Bites
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Tuesday promised aid agencies safe access to hunger-stricken civilians, a day after his government declared a famine in parts of the war-ravaged country. South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013 and the United Nations said on Monday it was unable to reach some of the worst hit areas because of the insecurity. “The government will ensure that all the humanitarian and developmental organizations have unimpeded access to the needy population across the country,” Kiir said in a speech to parliament. Nearly half of South Sudan’s 11 million people will lack reliable access to affordable food by July, the government predicts, because of the fighting, drought and hyperinflation. South Sudan has been hit by the same east African drought that has pushed Somalia back to the brink of famine, six years after 260,000 people starved to death in 2011. Reuters

Who Is to Blame for Famine in South Sudan?
South Sudan has huge areas of fertile land but many of its people are dying from hunger. The crisis is man-made, following years of civil war and a collapsing economy. Government leaders and the United Nations have declared famine conditions in Unity State in the north where around 100,000 people are on the verge of starvation. The UN says five million South Sudanese – that’s about half the population – are in need of urgent help. Around a quarter of a million are severely malnourished. Is the world failing to help? Al Jazeera

Sudanese Army, SPLM-N Trade Accusations over Renewed Fighting in S. Kordofan
Sudanese army and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) on Tuesday have exchanged accusations over ceasefire violation in South Kordofan state. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday morning, SPLM-N accused the Sudanese government forces of attacking its position in Kadugli area in South Kordofan state. “Today morning, 21st February 2017, the Sudanese army and its allied militia started their dry season offensive around 6 am at Krongo Abdalla in Kadougli county, breaching the declared joint cease-fire,”. Sudan Tribune

Millions of African Refugees Face Hunger
Across Africa, some two million refugees are facing critical shortages in food assistance, the United Nations warns. Refugee operations in 10 African countries have experienced cuts affecting the quantity and quality of food assistance for approximately two million refugees, according to a joint press release on Monday from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Millions of refugees depend on WFP food and our work to treat and prevent malnutrition from staying alive. But in Africa they are in danger of being overshadowed by large humanitarian crises elsewhere,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in the release. Food rations have been dramatically cut – in some cases by up to 50% – in large operations including Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Mauritania, South Sudan and Uganda. SABC

African Migrants in South Africa Are in Fear for Their Lives—Again
[…] The 2008 wave of attacks left thousands displaced, 342 immigrant-owned shops looted and 213 burned down. The violence and hate was captured with the image of a Mozambican man burned alive. The shame was quickly forgotten and again in 2015, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s comments that foreigners should “pack their bags” and leave, sparked violence that ended once South Africa deployed the army. At least five people were killed and nearly 2,000 migrants forced into refugee camps, again. The death toll from these waves of anti-migrant violence is a very conservative number according to the African Centre for Migration and Society in Johannesburg. The center’s XenoWatch data tracker estimates that there have been almost 360 xenophobic murders since 2008, particularly of Zimbabwean, Mozambicans and Somalis. There is a history of attacks on foreigners dating back to 1994, when apartheid ended and South Africa billed itself as a “Rainbow Nation” that embraced diversity. African migrants are the most vulnerable, competing for limited resources in the same impoverished areas as most of South Africa’s black majority. Quartz

Museveni, Besigye Agree on New Terms of Dialogue
The government and the largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), have reportedly agreed on a foreign mediator and blueprint for expected talks to resolve the country’s intractable political problems. Both principals – President Yoweri Museveni and former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye – have blessed and bought into the process, our sources revealed. The historic development is expected to be announced soon by the mediator who was agreed on only last week. The talks are expected to last six months and will involve the government on the one hand, political parties, religious leaders and civil society on the other hand. The parties have spent the last several months behind the scenes discussing the modalities of the talks in a highly controlled process involving the prime minister’s office on the one side and a technical committee of FDC party on the other hand. All the sticking issues of the agenda, who participates, a neutral venue and an acceptable mediator have been agreed on. The legal framework to ensure implementation is still being thrashed out. Daily Monitor

EU Marks Zimbabwe President Mugabe’s 93rd Birthday with Renewed Sanctions
The world’s oldest leader, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, turns 93 Tuesday. The European Union marked the occasion by renewing sanctions against the president and members of his government. Zimbabwe state media broadcast the first part of its sit-down interview with President Robert Mugabe on the eve of his 93rd birthday. “This man is not going,” said Mugabe. “The call to step down must come from my party… I will step down. But what do you see? The opposite. They want me to stand for elections. It’s their voice I heed and the voice of no one else.” The Zanu-PF Party recently selected Mugabe as its candidate for 2018 elections. Last week, his wife said people will vote for him even if he were dead and it were just his corpse on the ballot. VOA

Tanzania’s One Month Ultimatum to Foreigners
Tanzania on Tuesday gave a one month ultimatum to foreign employees, employers and employment agents to verify work and residence documents. The Labour Commissioner said the government had established that some employers and employment agents have been giving jobs to foreigners without adhering to the stipulated procedures. A public notice issued by the Labour Commissioner said foreigners, employers and employment agents have been engaging in the malpractice, either intentionally or out of ignorance. The notice further warned that that constituted a violation of the Non-Citizen (Employment Regulations) Act No. 1/2015. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones