Africa Media Review for February 23, 2017

UN: 20 Million People on Brink of Famine
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that 20 million people in four countries face famine unless the international community steps in to prevent it. “The situation is dire,” Guterres told reporters. “Millions of people are barely surviving in the space between malnutrition and death, vulnerable to diseases and outbreaks, forced to kill their animals for food, and eat the grain they saved for next year’s seeds.” The United Nations has declared South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and the northeastern part of Nigeria on the brink of famine in the next six months. The world body already has declared that about 100,000 people in two counties of South Sudan’s Unity State currently are coping with famine. VOA

Conflict, Growing Authoritarianism, Threaten Human Rights in Africa
During the Nairobi launch of Amnesty International’s annual global report, Muthoni Wanyeki, the group’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes, said there has been a “backtracking” in global human rights, giving examples from some of the 11 countries she monitored. “Obviously, none of us would deny that we’re seeing a growing or higher-than-usual intolerance of dissent, whether we’re talking about the hardening of positions in Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, under the state of emergency, Kenya even in terms of sort of the more informal attacks on human rights defenders, South Sudan, the mass detentions there, Sudan, and Tanzania,” said Wanyeki. Growing authoritarianism, conflict, increased crackdowns on free protests, political tensions and repression, and xenophobia are just some of the threats to human rights in Africa, according to Amnesty. Wanyeki says the fragility of some African states is especially worrisome, as some leaders try to hold on to power. VOA

At Inauguration, Somali President Calls on al Shabaab to Surrender
Somalia’s new president was inaugurated on Wednesday, promising his people that the era of al Shabaab and other Islamist militant groups was over. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, called on al Shabaab’s thousands of fighters to surrender, promising them “a good life” if they did. “To those who work with al Qaeda, al Shabaab and IS (Islamic State), your time is finished,” he said at the inauguration ceremony, attended by the leaders of neighbouring states. “You have been misled, destroyed property and killed many Somalis. Come and we shall give you good life,” he said. Somalia has been in turmoil since 1991, hit by decades of conflict at the hands of clan militias. Over the past several years it has faced an insurgency by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which the government is battling with the help of regional troops. Reuters

Somalia’s New President Appoints Prime Minister
Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has appointed a political newcomer as the prime minister just before he departed to Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip since he was inaugurated. Somali-born Norwegian national Hassan Ali Khaire, the former executive Africa of the British energy explorer Soma Oil, was appointed as the new prime minister on Thursday morning. Mohamed, who was inaugurated as president on Wednesday, also holds US citizenship. He was elected earlier this month in a step toward establishing Somalia’s first fully functioning central government in a quarter-century. News 24

Why is UAE Building a Military Base in Somaliland?
The United Arab Emirates is building a military base in Berbera in Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland. It has proved controversial among neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa. Tomi Oladipo explains the reasons behind the deal. BBC

Kenya’s Opposition Sign Coalition Pact
The Kenyan opposition Wednesday launched and signed the coalition agreement for the National Super Alliance (Nasa) promising to deliver in seven key areas. Nasa, in a statement read by one of its four principals Mr Moses Wetang’ula, said it would turn a new leaf in Kenya’s governance and promised to fight corruption. The coalition brings together Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper Democratic Party, Mr Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya and Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress. Mr Odinga said that those who were doubting that the opposition unity could hold have been disappointed. He said Nasa will unite all Kenya’s ethnic groups. The East African

Growing Discontent is Driving Young Activists, and Even Journalists, to Run in Kenya’s Next Election

“I will never run for office.” In 2012, on his way to questioning at the central police station in Nairobi, Boniface Mwangi, the Kenyan photojournalist turned activist told me he won’t ever run for public office. He was comfortable, he said, being a political agitator, holding elected officials and the government’s feet to fire, and asking Kenyans to join him in that battle. Fast forward to 2017, and Mwangi—a 2015 Quartz Africa Innovator—is now gunning for a seat in Kenya’s upcoming twelfth parliament. As the country gears up for elections in early August, he hopes to unseat Maina Kamanda, a political veteran and the member of parliament representing Starehe Constituency in the capital Nairobi. The electoral area includes the city’s commercial district, and houses private establishments, government offices, besides large numbers of informal, small and medium-sized enterprises. Quartz

Congo Opens Inquiry over Video of Massacre It Had Derided as Fake
After initially ridiculing as fake a video that appears to show army soldiers massacring civilians, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo abruptly changed course and announced on Wednesday that it was opening an investigation into the matter and that several soldiers had been arrested. The disturbing video surfaced last week showing what appeared to be Congolese government soldiers walking down a country road and then shooting at least a dozen people standing in front of them. Close-up images of the bodies revealed that most of the victims were unarmed and that a few had slingshots and wooden sticks. The footage showed soldiers finishing off wounded victims, including young women, with close-range rifle shots to the head and chest. Human rights activists said the video was taken this month during a counterinsurgency operation in the central Kasai Province and that it was evidence of war crimes. The New York Times

Egypt Provides South Sudan with Arms and Ammunition: al-Bashir
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has ruled out the direct involvement of the Egyptian arm in South Sudan’s conflict but said Cairo provided President Salva Kiir with weapons and ammunition. Speaking to reporters aboard the plane returning to Khartoum from Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, al-Bashir denied that Egypt had conducted any air attacks on the positions of the SPLM-In-Opposition in Kaka town of Upper Nile state, as it was claimed by the rebels on 3 February. However “We have intelligence that they supported the South Sudanese government, and continue to support the government with arms and ammunition,” he disclosed in his answer to a question from a journalist. Sudan Tribune

Kiir Grants Aid Agencies Access to His Country
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir promised aid agencies safe access to hunger stricken civilians a day after his government declared a famine in parts of the war-ravaged country. The US Administration of Donald Trump has promised to help the drought stricken country. This is the wake of the United Nations (UN) call that it was unable to reach some the worst hit areas in South Sudan because of the insecurity. Nearly half of South Sudan’s 11 million people will not have access to affordable food by July. The government says this is because of the renewed fighting, drought and hyperinflation. “Those government and agencies that have already come back and resumed their work hearten us. The government will ensure that all humanitarian and development organizations have unimpeded access to the needy population across the country,” said president Kiir. SABC

Ex-U.S Administration Wanted Regime Change in S. Sudan: Kiir
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has said his government has evidence that the United States administration under former President Barrack Obama wanted regime change in the war-torn nation. “It is not secret; we had a strong feeling that the previous US Administration might have sought a regime change agenda in South Sudan and largely complicated the peace process with all threats of sanctions and arbitrary deadlines,” Kiir told lawmakers in the country’s national assembly on Tuesday. “We know the new U.S administration will take a different direction on South Sudan,” he added. This is the first time the South Sudanese leader has publicly accused the U.S, which has provided over $2 billion in humanitarian assistance to war-torn country, for allegedly agitating for regime change. Sudan Tribune

Rapes, Killings Still Blight Darfur: UN
A senior UN rights official said Wednesday that rape and inter-communal killings are still taking place in Sudan’s war-scarred region of Darfur where implementation of rule of law remains weak. Sudanese officials insist that conflict in Darfur has ended, and in January then US president Barack Obama eased sanctions against Khartoum citing a marked reduction of military activity in the country’s conflict areas. But a UN human rights expert on Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, who toured parts of Darfur last week, said that violent incidents are continuing despite a calm overall situation. “Incidents of banditry, armed robbery, assault, killing, rape … inter-communal clashes over farmland… remain major concerns,” Nononsi told reporters in Khartoum. AFP

Head of US Africa Command: Rival Libyan Factions Must Work Together
The commander of the United States Africa Command — which oversees military operations across Africa — has told VOA that the only way to peace in Libya is by bringing together rival governments. General Thomas Waldhauser made the remarks at the recent Munich Security Conference, ahead of Operation Flintlock, a joint military exercise being hosted by seven African nations. Libya’s political chaos remains entrenched. The internationally-backed Government of National Accord controls only part of Tripoli, while rival power bases vie for the capital and other cities. In the east, General Khalifa Haftar — head of the Libyan National Army — holds sway over the House of Representatives. VOA

Justice Minister Says South Africa Still Intends to Quit the ICC
South Africa’s government still plans to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Wednesday, after a court ruled that it was unconstitutional to do so. Masutha described October’s notification to the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the Hague-based court, as a policy decision. He said the government would decide how to proceed, including a possible appeal, after reading the full judgment. Reuters

Five Burundi MPs to Snub EALA Session in Kigali
Five of Burundi’s nine representatives in the East African Legislative Assembly will not take part in the forthcoming session to be held in Rwanda, citing political differences between Kigali and Bujumbura. The EALA 5th Plenary Session is expected to take place in Kigali from March 5 – 17 but the five Burundian legislators have written to the Assembly speaker explaining their desire to abstain from the session. According to sources, Burundian legislators on January 18 met with the EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega to discuss the matter, indicating that they would not attend the plenary in Kigali due to political misunderstandings between the two neighbours. “In this regard, we therefore wish to confirm that due to reasons explained to you Sir, especially the current relations between Rwanda and Burundi, we will not attend the plenary session of the East African Legislative Assembly which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2017,” the letter reads. The East African

Zimbabwe Deploys Army at Hospitals after Doctors’ Strike
Zimbabwe has deployed army medics to work at major public hospitals following a week-long strike by junior doctors who are demanding an increase in call allowances and a duty free car facility, a senior government official said on Wednesday. Gerald Gwinji, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, said the doctors’ strike had put pressure on public hospitals, which were already struggling with shortages of drugs and under-funding from the government. “When some people are not coming to work there is bound to be an impact on service delivery and because these cadres (doctors) on strike are at the first level of care, the impact is even greater,” Gwinji said. “In some instances we have deployed cadres from the uniformed forces to help in reducing the pressure.” The paediatric and maternity sections were the worst affected, Edgar Munatsi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which called the strike, told Reuters. Reuters

Germany Wants Surveillance Airships for U.N. Mission in Mali
The German military plans to beef up security for a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali by deploying a number of tethered aerostats – small airships with threat-tracking sensors – like those used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, a spokeswoman for the armed forces said. U.S. officials said they had provided information to the German Bundeswehr about a range of options, including the possibility of buying used aerostats built by Lockheed Martin Corp for the U.S. Army. The dangers facing the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali were highlighted last month when a suicide bombing killed 77 people at a military base housing government soldiers in the northern town of Gao. The attack was claimed by an affiliate of al Qaeda. Germany is increasing its role in the U.N. force this year by deploying eight attack and transport helicopters and 350 more soldiers, to boost its contingent to around 1,000 of the total force of 15,000. Reuters

Germany Calls on EU to Scrap Human Rights Safeguards so Migrants Can Be Deported to ‘Unsafe’ Countries
Germany has called for the European Union to scrap human rights safeguards so migrants can be deported to countries currently considered unsafe. Under the plan, asylum-seekers who cross the Mediterranean illegally could be sent back to transit countries such as Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria while their cases are considered. The proposals come as a leaked German government paper warned that as many as 5.9m people could seek to enter the EU from countries around the Mediterranean. They would open the way for migrants to be held in internment camps in North Africa while their asylum applications are processed. But they are likely to prove controversial amid warnings that asylum-seekers’ safety cannot be guaranteed in countries suffering from their own internal conflicts such as Libya. The Telegraph

Morocco Uses Migrant Crisis as Leverage in EU Free Trade Dispute
More than 850 migrants have breached the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta over the past week, amid heightened tensions between the North African kingdom and the European Union over a free trade dispute. Located on the northern tip of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, Ceuta is one of only two land borders between Europe and Africa, making it an attractive entry point for many migrants in search of a better life. Around 500 migrants stormed the 8-kilometre (5-mile) stretch of barbed wire and steel fencing that separates Morocco from the Spanish territory on Friday, in what was the largest incursion in more than a decade. France 24

Only One in Four Nigerians Applying to University Will Get a Spot
Every year, millions of Nigerian students get their hearts broken—not by their high school sweethearts, but by a failure to get into university. It will not always be because they did not study hard enough for entrance exams, instead, in many cases, it will be because there simply isn’t enough room for all of them. New data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) shows that between 2010 and 2015, of the 10 million applicants that sought entry into Nigerian tertiary institutions, only 26% gained admission. The most obvious reason for this deficit is the capacity of local tertiary institutions compared to growing student populations. In total, there are around 150 private and public universities in Nigeria, with a capacity to carry 600,000 students. For a country with 180 million people, 62% of them 24 or younger, that’s nowhere near enough. In comparison, the US has over 5,000 higher education institutions, and a population of 319 million. Quartz