Africa Media Review for February 22, 2018

Nigeria Rescues 76 Schoolgirls after Boko Haram Attack, Others Missing
The Nigerian military rescued 76 schoolgirls and recovered the bodies of two others on Wednesday, after the students went missing during a Boko Haram attack on a village, three parents, a resident and a local government official told Reuters. “Everybody is celebrating their coming with songs and praises to God almighty,” said Babagana Umar, one of the parents whose daughter had disappeared. “The only sad news is that two girls were dead and no explanation.” The rescued girls were returned to the village of Dapchi late on Wednesday evening, Umar and other residents said. At least 13 students may still be missing, and Reuters was unable to determine how the two girls died. Earlier on Wednesday, sources told Reuters that 91 people were unaccounted for after a roll-call at their school on Tuesday. Reuters

EU to Double Funding for African Sahel Force: Sources
The European Union is to double its funding for a joint African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region with a 50-million-euro boost, EU sources said Wednesday. The bloc is expected to announce the new money for the G5 Sahel force, grouping Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, at talks in Brussels on Friday which will be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The move comes as a surge in rebel attacks has underscored the challenge facing the five countries, among the poorest in the world, which are on the frontline of a war against Islamist militants. The Citizen

2 French Soldiers Killed in Mali by Explosive Device
Two members of a French counter-terrorism force in Mali were killed on Wednesday when their armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in a border region with Niger, authorities said. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said a soldier and an officer were killed in the explosion. A statement by Defense Minister Florence Parly said the troops “dead in combat” were part of a “vast operation” patrolling the border region with Niger. It did not specify the exact locality. The minister identified the victims as Emilien Mougin and Timothee Dernoncourt, from an armored regiment based in Valence but members of Operation Barkhane, an anti-terrorism force operating in the Sahel region of west Africa. AP

US Says Drone Strike in Somalia Kills 3 Al-Shabab Extremists
The United States military says it has carried out a drone strike against al-Shabab extremists in Somalia, killing three “terrorists.” The U.S. Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred Monday near Jilib town in Middle Juba region. “We assess no civilians were killed in this strike.” The U.S. has carried out a growing number of drone strikes in the Horn of Africa nation in coordination with Somalia’s government. Most are against al-Shabab but a small number have targeted Islamic State group-affiliated fighters in the Puntland region in the north. The U.S. carried out more than 30 drone strikes last year in Somalia after President Donald Trump approved expanded military efforts against al-Shabab. The U.S. says it has carried out four such strikes so far this year. AP

Al-Shabaab Plundering Starving Somali Villages of Cash and Children
Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia are extorting huge sums from starving communities and forcibly recruiting hundreds of children as soldiers and suicide bombers as the terror group endures financial pressures and an apparent crisis of morale. Intelligence documents, transcripts of interrogations with recent defectors and interviews conducted by the Guardian with inhabitants of areas in the swath of central and southern Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab have shone a light on the severity of its harsh rule – but also revealed significant support in some areas. Systematic human rights abuses on a par with those committed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are being conducted by the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamist militants as the west largely looks away because most analysts do not see the group as posing a threat to Europe, the UK or the US. The Guardian

South Africa’s FM under Scrutiny Ahead of Cabinet Reshuffle
South Africa’s finance minister has announced the first increase in the value-added tax in a quarter-century as the country seeks to bring in new revenue. Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s budget speech comes less than a week after South Africa’s leadership transition. He says VAT will increase by 1 percent, to 15 percent. It’s the first hike since 1993, during South Africa’s transition from white minority rule to an all-race democracy. Gigaba’s speech drew criticism from opposition leaders who say corruption and mismanagement have drained state coffers for years. AP

Gupta Empire Crumbles as Zuma Exits South African Presidency
For years, brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta were ranked among South Africa’s most prominent businessmen and socialized with the ruling elite, including their friend, then-President Jacob Zuma. They weathered accusations that they’d exploited their political connections to land an aircraft at a high-security military base to ferry guests to a private wedding, installed their allies in key positions at state companies, tried to influence cabinet appointments and looted billions of rand of taxpayer funds. Law enforcement agencies took no visible action against them, saying only that investigations were ongoing. Bloomberg

Behind Walls of His Mansion, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Turns 94
Zimbabwe’s former ruler Robert Mugabe observed his 94th birthday in private behind the walls of his Harare mansion on Wednesday, without the lavish parties that marked the occasion during his nearly four-decade rule. Mugabe was ousted in a defacto coup by the military last November, paving way for his former deputy and protege Emmerson Mnangagwa to become president. An intelligence official who follows Mugabe’s movements said the former ruler was at his Blue Roof mansion with wife Grace and had no known plans to leave the compound. During Mugabe’s rule, his birthday was marked by lavish fetes thrown by his ruling ZANU-PF party, where loyalists would feast on dishes ranging from elephant to buffalo meat. Last year ZANU-PF spend $2 million on Mugabe’s bash just outside the second biggest city Bulawayo. A local bakery donated a cake weighing 96 kg (211 pounds). Reuters

Crackdown on Dissent Puts Kenya’s Democratic Credentials at Risk
Once considered an island of stability in a neighborhood bedeviled by conflict and one-party rule, Kenya is mired in a protracted electoral dispute that’s undermining its democratic credentials. Political tensions have been simmering in the East African nation since opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted a rerun of a presidential vote in October and rejected the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner. They flared again when Odinga declared himself the so-called people’s president last month, and the authorities cut off TV stations airing the ceremony, initially ignored a court order to restore broadcasts and deported a prominent opposition lawyer. Bloomberg

Thousands of Gazans Rush to Border as Egypt Opens Crossing
Egypt opened its border with Gaza on Wednesday, providing rare passage for thousands stuck in the coastal enclave who have lived under blockade for more than a decade. Thousands of Palestinians – some sitting since dawn next to suitcases packed in the hope that Egypt will allow them in – gathered at a stadium before being sorted on to buses. They raised their identification papers as their names were called out from a list. Khalil Qeshta, 45, said medical treatment in Gaza had not helped his son, who has been suffering for months from a debilitating stomach condition causing him to vomit blood. “I’ll go to Egypt at my own expense,” he said. “My son is five-years-old and he’s been sick for more than two years. We tried all the ways and means in Gaza, but there is no treatment. This is the third time I have tried to travel. I hope to be one of the lucky ones today.”  The Guardian

Uganda Says Rebel Group Operations Commander Killed in DR Congo
Ugandan military said Wednesday the chief of combat operations of the rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), hidden in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been killed. Brig. Richard Karimere, Uganda’s military spokesperson, told Xinhua that Muhammad Kayiira who has been ADF combat operations strategist was killed after his group attacked the Congolese troops (FARDC) position near the city of Beni in North Kivu Province on Monday. “We salute the FARDC troops on this victory against ADF terrorists that had attacked their position,” said Karimere. “The killing of one of the ADF leaders definitely weakens the group and FARDC can always count on support from the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Forces) in its fight against such a common regional threat,” he said. Xinhua

Malian Activist Urges Shakeup of Country’s Politics
This year, Malians will vote in nationwide elections amid discontent over continued insecurity and poverty. Popular anger has found a focal point in a diminutive figure who goes by the name of Ras Bath. Without running for office himself, Ras Bath is an influential figure to watch. Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, who everybody calls Ras Bath, addresses a rally in Mali’s second city, Sikasso. With jokes and anecdotes, he paints a picture of how he says Mali’s ruling class holds on to power and perks. Mali’s elites don’t like it one bit — but the people can’t get enough of his speeches. So how did the son of a government minister become the voice of the poor? The answer to that question lies next door in Senegal. VOA

Guinea Ruling Party Wins First Local Elections since 2005
President Alpha Conde’s ruling party won a significant majority in Guinea’s first local elections since 2005, near-complete results showed on Wednesday, although the main opposition party took the capital, Conakry. The election held on February 4 was the first of its kind since the end of military dictatorship, and followed eight years of delays blamed on lack of funds, political infighting and the 2013-16 Ebola crisis. Conde’s Rally for the Guinean People (RPG) took 1.35 million votes, electing 3 284 councillors. Former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo’s Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) won 893 000 votes to gain 2 156 councillors. AFP

DRC Pushes Ahead with Electronic Voting despite Criticism
Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday unveiled an electronic voting machine that will be used in key elections this year, despite accusations that the technology could skew the outcome. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) showed off the machine to reporters, saying it was essential for conducting presidential, legislative and local elections due on December 23. “It’s not a cheating machine (but) a machine to simplify… (and) reduce costs,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, CENI’s rapporteur. On February 13, CENI chief Corneille Nangaa declared, “Without voting machines, there won’t be elections on December 23 2018.” AFP

Joice Mujuru Makes U-Turn, Joins MDC-Alliance
Former Vice President and leader of National People’s Party, Joice Mujuru has mad a comical u-turn after she said she has decided to join the MDC Alliance with immediate effect in an effort to stage a grand coalition that will upsurge the ruling party, ZanuPF, in the forthcoming elections. Mujuru was addressing thousands of people from all walks of life who thronged the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s homestead in Humanikwa, Buhera,to bid a final farewell to the opposition veteran who died on Wednesday aged 65 at a hospital in South Africa where he had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer and was one of Africa’s most admired politicians. The Zimbabwe Mail

Lutheran Church Massacre: The Long Arm of the Law Reaches a Suspected Liberian War Criminal in Philadelphia
“The arc of the moral universe is long,” Martin Luther King said, “but it bends towards justice.” Optimistic, perhaps, as a general rule. But true, it seems, in the lives of two Liberia-born residents of the US state of Pennsylvannia. Charles Sunwabe lives in Erie, on the shores of the Great Lake of that name, and practises as an attorney there as well as in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He also teaches international relations. Moses Thomas lives in Philadelphia, on the other side of the state, and serves tables at Klade’s restaurant, which offers “delicious Liberian cuisine” in the city’s “Little Africa” neighbourhood. They didn’t know it but their lives had collided in Monrovia, capital of the West African state of Liberia, 28 years ago, then ricocheted apart. But on Monday last week their fates intersected again when an investigator walked into Klade’s and presented Thomas, standing behind the counter, with a summons to appear in the nearby district court. Daily Maverick

How Japan Is Evolving and Deepening Its Soft Power in Africa
On March 1, the Embassy of Japan in Kenya will host a workshop to review the implementation of the commitments made during the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) VI Summit in Nairobi in August 2016. But it is clear that after the summit, Japan is powerfully pivoting towards Africa. In February, the Japanese auto dealer, AA Japan, opened new offices in Nairobi to tap into the growing market for used cars in East Africa. In Kenya alone, the company’s sales have expanded by 38 per cent in the past two years from about 3,000 units in 2015 to 4,800 units in 2017. Japan is also expanding to other parts of Africa, specifically Zambia and Senegal, with its agricultural development programme through the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA). The East African

Uganda’s Ruling Party NRM Sacks All Employees
The National Resistance Movement (NRM), Uganda’s ruling party, has sacked all its employees. NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba made the announcement on Tuesday while addressing the sacked staff, numbering slightly more than 500. The staffers work both at the party headquarters in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and at the district level. NRM has about 132 offices across the country. “As we check on our policies, so many things are changing. So we also need to change the way we work,” said Lumumba. Xinhua