Africa Media Review for February 28, 2017

Gambia’s President Barrow Removes Army Head, Senior Officers
Gambian President Adama Barrow has replaced the head of the military, a pillar of his predecessor Yahya Jammeh’s repressive government, and dismissed a number of senior military officers, officials said on Monday. The director of the prisons system was also arrested, as were nine men suspected of being members of Jammeh’s alleged death squads, known as the Jungulars. The moves were the latest in a series of arrests and personnel changes under Barrow, who is seeking to assert control following the end of Jammeh’s 22-year rule. The former president fled into exile last month after refusing to accept his election defeat. Jammeh was himself an army officer, seizing power in a coup in 1994, and he leaned heavily on the military to bolster his grip on the country, a popular destination with European tourists. General Ousman Badjie, the defence chief of staff, was removed along with 10 other senior officers, including the directors of operations and intelligence, army spokesman Lieutenant Kemo Kanuteh said. Reuters

‘Jihadists’ Attack Police Posts in Northern Burkina Faso
Two police posts in Burkina Faso were attacked by jihadists on Monday night, officials said, just months after 12 soldiers were killed by militants in a raid near the Mali border. It was unclear whether there had been any casualties from the latest attack, which took place in Soum province in the country’s north, security minister Simon Compaore told AFP. Two other security sources told AFP jihadists were behind the attack.  France 24

Guinea President Fires Ministers After Deadly Protests
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde fired three ministers, according to a decree read on state television on Monday, following violent protests over a teachers’ strike last week in which seven people were killed and dozens more were injured. Ibrahima Kourouma, the minister of pre-university education, and Civil Service Minister Sekou Kourouma were removed along with Environment Minister Christine Sagno, the decree said. Though the decree gave no reason for the dismissals, a senior government official, who asked not to be named, said the sackings of Ibrahima Kourouma and Sekou Kourouma were directly linked to the strike. The government agreed to a deal to end the strike last week. Reuters

UN: Attack Helicopters Halt Central African Republic Rebels
The United Nations says its forces used attack helicopters to subdue rebels in Central African Republic. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that about 40 heavily armed rebels were just a few kilometers away from the town of Bambari. Dujarric says “the peacekeeping mission intervened by air to stop progression of the armed elements” of the group, known by its French acronym FPRC. One rebel was killed, while seven others were wounded. Concerns are mounting that the hostilities between two rebel groups – the FPRC and another group known as the UPC – could lead to open warfare in the Bambari area. News 24

Hunting Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Army Is Accused of Massacring Civilians
[…] In some areas, soldiers have treated sick residents, helped with food handouts and repaired wells. Here in Borno State, the center of the battle against Boko Haram, one commander even secured a film projector to host a movie night in a displaced persons camp, screening “Tom and Jerry” cartoons and movies in two local languages. But allegations of abuse continue. The military has detained children and infants for weeks at a time after their families have escaped or been freed from Boko Haram territory. Huge detention centers have been set up to hold families until civilians with perceived sympathies for Boko Haram can be weeded out. Last month, the Nigerian military mistakenly bombed a displaced persons camp, killing at least 90 civilians. Humanitarian workers for the United Nations said they had heard repeated complaints from civilians that the military had been evacuating villages and burning them to the ground. On a helicopter flight over the area, the blackened remains of small villages were clear. The New York Times

US Troops Launch Exercises in African Region Challenged by Boko Haram
In one of U.S. Africa Command’s largest exercises, a contingent of U.S. special operations forces is working alongside hundreds of troops in western Africa, a region threatened by the militant group Boko Haram. Flintlock 2017, run by Special Operations Command Africa, kicked off Monday. Two thousand elite U.S., European and African troops are taking part in three weeks of rugged field training. This year, Chad is serving as the main host for the exercises, which also involve training events in Cameroon, Niger, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who heads SOCAF, said the training is focused on helping partners coordinate a regional response to extremist threats such as Boko Haram, al-Qaida aligned groups and the Islamic State, which has emerged more recently in parts of Africa. “These threats are a shared challenge we can only meet together,” Bolduc during the Flintlock opening ceremony in Chad. “We are stronger together. We work smarter together to be more effective together.” Stars and Stripes

Egypt MP Proposes Extension of Presidential Terms
An independent Egyptian lawmaker stirred controversy after proposing a motion to extend presidential terms from four to six years, only a year before the current term of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi comes to an end. Lawmaker Ismail Nasreddine said Sunday he will start collecting signatures to amend article 140 of the constitution to extend presidential terms, and lift restrictions on re-election, to allow a president to run for more than the two four-year terms currently permitted. In statements to the press, Nasreddine claimed the current rules restrain “the will of the nation” which should have the right to amend the constitution to suit the period’s circumstances, “regardless of who is the president.” “It will be the right of the president to nominate himself for the office as he wishes… and the right of the people to choose him or reject him,” he told reporters. Al Arabiya

ISIS Militants in North Sinai Showing Their Strength
In the past three days, Islamic State militants in Egypt’s volatile northern Sinai region abducted four men accused of collaborating with the government, three of them during a brazen raid in the middle of a public market. Two of the men have been found slain while the others remain missing; Egyptian officials say that one of the slain men had his eyes plucked out and was set on fire before being shot to death. Women are being threatened with punishment if they don’t wear the niqab and farmers are being forced to pay financial tribute to ISIS under the guise of the “zakat” mandatory Islamic donation to charity. The militants have set up their own checkpoints especially on the roads around the city of Rafah, which borders the Gaza Strip. Passengers are forced to recite from the Quran before being allowed to pass, according to area residents and tribal leaders. News 24

IS Group Claims Foiled Suicide Attack in Algeria
A policeman managed to foil an attempted suicide attack in eastern Algeria on Sunday, opening fire on the bomber and triggering the explosives belt he was wearing, officials said. The botched attack was later claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. The Algerian national police force said the attacker had been approaching a police station in the city of Constantine when he was shot by the officer. “An officer who was in front of the police headquarters, underneath a building that is home to a dozen families, responded energetically and heroically after several warnings, targeting with precision the explosive belt worn by a terrorist,” police said in a statement cited by APS news agency. France 24

Ethnic, Religious Violence Again Grips Nigeria’s Kaduna
Long-standing tensions between herdsmen and farmers have flared up again in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, leaving possibly hundreds dead in tit-for-tat violence. Earlier this month at least 21 people were killed and several homes were destroyed when suspected cattle drivers attacked five farming communities. Three districts in the predominantly Christian south of the state — Kaura, Jema’a and Zangon Kataf — have been riven by conflict for the last three decades. But the clashes between the Muslim, largely Hausa-speaking Fulani cattle drivers and the mainly Christian farmers have escalated since December, when a Fulani chief was killed. Times Live

Guinea Bissau: PM Accuses Mediator Alpha Conde of Partiality
The Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo on Tuesday accused Guinean president Alpha Conde of partiality in mediating the country’s political crisis with the president. In an interview, the Bissau premier said he is contemplating Conde’s replacement as the mediator. “If Conde’s mediation does not suit us, we will tell ECOWAS to choose someone else. The role of a mediator is not permanent,” Mr Embalo warned. The tiny west African state has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked then premier Domingos Simoes Pereira, leader of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. Africa News

Libya Exposed As an Epicenter for Migrant Child Abuse
The United Nations has warned that large numbers of children are still risking their lives to make the dangerous journey from Libya to Italy. Unicef says almost 26,000 children – most of them unaccompanied – crossed the Mediterranean last year. In its new report, Unicef says many children suffer from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers. But they rarely report their abuse, for fear of arrest and deportation. The agency also says there is a lack of food, water and medical care in Libya’s detention centres. The plight of children, many of them unaccompanied by parents, has become a tragically familiar part of the wider story of mass migration over the past two years. BBC

NGO Rescues Off Libya Encourage Traffickers, Says EU Borders Chief
NGOs who rescue people in the sea off Libya are encouraging traffickers who profit from dangerous Mediterranean crossings, the head of the EU border agency Frontex has said. Speaking to Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, Fabrice Leggeri called for rescue operations to be re-evaluated and accused NGOs of ineffectively cooperating with security agencies against human traffickers. The comments provoked a bitter row with charities and leftwing groups, who said there was no evidence of a lack of cooperation and that the alternative to rescue operations was to leave people to their deaths. Leggeri said 40% of recent rescue operations at sea off the north African country were carried out by non-government organisations, making it impossible to check the origins of the migrants or their smuggling routes if the NGOs did not cooperate. The Guardian

Kenya Doctors’ Strike Takes Deadly Toll on Poor
Doctors in Kenya’s public health facilities have refused to work since December. They are demanding the government implement an agreement it signed in 2013 to raise salaries and improve working conditions. However, the strike is taking a deadly toll on the nation’s poor. Jared Ochieng lost his son Lamarck to complications from leukemia. “If it were not for the strike, I would have not lost my son,” Ochieng said. Lamarck was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago. When he started experiencing complications in early February, the family took him to the nearest hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital, one of approximately 2,500 public health institutions affected by the nationwide strike. VOA

President Kiir Faces Fresh Rebellion as Senior Military Officers Resign
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is facing a series of defections from the army as other communities accuse him of favouring his Dinka community in promotions. In just two weeks, three top SPLA commanders and a minister have resigned, accusing President Kiir of nepotism. However, the government has dismissed the claims of tribalism as smokescreens. “You cannot be in the army for 20 years and all of a sudden claim that it is tribalised,” South Sudan deputy ambassador to Kenya Jimmy Deng said, adding that those who have resigned know that they are being investigated and they are using ethnicity to divert attention and gain sympathy. Gen Thomas Cirillo, the deputy general chief of staff for logistics, was the first to resign, claiming the military was dominated by Dinkas. He said the current conflict is “tribally engineered” and blamed the government for orchestrating the violations of the August 2015 peace agreement that resulted in the July fighting in Juba. The East African

Famine-Hit South Sudanese Eat Weeds and Water Lilies to Survive
Like thousands of other South Sudanese families caught up in famine, Sara Dit and her 10 children are hiding from marauding gunmen in the swamps and islands of the river Nile. The refuge has a steep price: families cannot farm crops or earn money to buy food. They eat water lily roots and the occasional fish. Dit’s family have not eaten for days. Last week the United Nations (UN) declared that parts of South Sudan are experiencing famine, the first time the world has faced such a catastrophe in six years. Some 5.5 million people, nearly half the population, will not have a reliable source of food by July. The disaster is largely man-made. Oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, plunged into civil war in 2013, after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar. Since then, fighting has fractured the country along ethnic lines, inflation topped 800% last year and war and drought have paralysed agriculture. SABC

S. Sudan’s Unity Government Likely to Rule Till 2021: Official
South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) could, after implementing the 2015 peace agreement in good faith, remain in power until 2021, a prominent member of the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) has said. The peace agreement, Aldo Ajou Deng Akuei said, still requires total restoration of national security, the unification of South Sudan army (SPLA), the reconciliation process, accountability and hybrid court, national census, the election commission law and the making of the permanent Constitution before any elections. The JCE is a group of veteran politicians who advise President Salva Kiir on political issues. Sudan Tribune

Zimbabwe’s First Lady Positions Herself for Presidency
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe marked his 93rd birthday last week by squashing any thought he plans to resign or not seek re-election. “If I feel that I can’t do it anymore, I’ll say so to my party so that they relieve me,” he told state broadcaster ZBC-TV. “But for now I think, I can’t say so. The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, actually. No successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am.” That last statement might be true, given the lack of a strong opposition figure in Zimbabwe. However, the president’s age means that sooner rather than later, Zimbabweans will have to choose another leader, and the succession battle in the ruling ZANU-PF party has heated up. VOA

Burundi to Wait Longer to Join SADC
Burundi will have to wait longer to join the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after a ministerial meeting ruled out against immediate admission of the country to the 15-member regional bloc. Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Minister Augustine Mahiga said Burundi’s application to join the bloc was assessed by Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, which convened in Dar es Salaam on February 24, 2017. Mr Mahiga said Burundi, currently locked in a political turmoil, had been directed to put its house in order first before its request could be considered. However, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government last week once again refused to attend peace talks to negotiate with the main umbrella opposition movement, the National Council for the Restoration of Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law (CNARED) — which is exiled in Brussels. The talks are mediated by former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa. The East African

Nigeria Eases Visa for Foreigners
The government of Nigeria has eased the visa processes for foreigners who wish to visit the country for business and tourism, by removing some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks. The new review would also benefit Nigerians as passport re-issuance has been decentralized. In the new measure, Nigerians do not any longer need to go to the capital Abuja to get this done. In a statement on Sunday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the measures were part of the action plan for the ease of doing business as well as efforts to boost tourism. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones