Africa Media Review for February 6, 2017

In Sign of Grave Illness, President Buhari Extends Vacation
In a clear sign of his serious illness, President Muhammadu Buhari has extended his medical vacation in the United Kingdom. This is the second such extension since Mr. Buhari left Nigeria a fortnight ago to travel to London in what his spokesmen described as a vacation cum medical checkup. In a short statement released today, presidential spokesman Femi Adesina disclosed that Mr. Buhari had sent a letter today to the National Assembly indicating “his desire to extend his leave in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.” However, two sources at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that the President may need to be absent from Nigeria for as long as four months in order to undergo surgical procedures to address myriads of medical issues confronting the aged leader. One of our sources said President Buhari requires a major surgery. “The surgery will entail him staying away from work for at least four months, but members of his kitchen cabinet, afraid of losing their influence and power, have been advising him against staying abroad for such a prolonged treatment,” said one of the sources. Sahara Reporters

Nigerian Force in The Gambia Operation to Oust Jammeh Returns Home
The Nigerian Air Force troops deployed to The Gambia as part of the ECOWAS mission to restore democracy in the West African country have returned to Nigeria. Nigeria contributed 200 Navy and Air Force soldiers to the 7,000 joint force led by Senegalese Commander General Francois Ndiaye and headquartered in Dakar. The withdrawal started last Thursday after Nigeria’s Senate president Bukola Saraki briefed the media that the troops will be returning but “it is likely some number of troops will be kept behind”. The ECOWAS forces were deployed to enforce a peaceful transfer of power and to protect the rights and freedom of civilians if defiant Yahya Jammeh decides to use the military to remain in power. Africa News

Nigeria: Ex-governor Jailed for Corruption Back from UK
A former powerful Nigerian governor convicted in Britain on charges of money-laundering and corruption returned to Abuja on Saturday after serving out half of his 13-year term in London. The former head of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta state had been freed last December. James Ibori arrived in Nigeria in the early hours of Saturday, according to his publicists, who said the influential politician was headed for his country home in Oghara. But there were unconfirmed claims that Ibori was headed for the office of the secret police in the Nigerian capital, where operatives were set to grill him. Following a five-year trial, Ibori was convicted in 2012 by a British court after he pled guilty to charges of money laundering. The British government said Ibori had stolen over $250 million from the Treasury while serving as the Delta governor from 1999 to 2007. He was said to have bought home and luxury cars with the funds in the U.K., United States, and South Africa. Anadolu Agency

Angola’s dos Santos Calls End to 38 Years in Power
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos confirmed on Friday he will not run in this year’s presidential election, calling an end to 38 years as head of state, but he will retain control of the powerful ruling party. Dos Santos, aged 74, said in March last year he would not run in elections due in August but opponents remained suspicious given he had reneged on similar pledges during nearly four decades running Angola. The ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) approved 62-year-old Defence Minister Joao Lourenco as its presidential candidate at a meeting on Dec. 2, dos Santos said in a televised speech. Dos Santos, a communist-trained oil engineer and a veteran of the guerrilla war against Portuguese rule, will remain president of the MPLA, retaining sweeping powers that include choosing parliamentary candidates and appointing top posts in the army and police. Reuters

Angola’s Unita Leader to Step Down after August Poll
Angolan main opposition Unita leader Isaías Samakuva has said he will step down from his party leadership after the August 2017 General Election. Mr Samakuva told Radio France Internationalle (RFI) in Paris that he would quit even if Unita won the poll. The Unita leader is in France on a working visit that will also see him proceed to Belgium and the US. He has led the Union for the Total Independence of Angola since 2003 when the party’s ninth congress elected him to replace Dr Jonas Savimbi. Mr Samakuva will be Unita’s flag bearer for the August election. Africa Review

EAC at a Crossroads after Kenya Failure to Clinch Continental Post
The betrayal of Kenya’s candidacy of the African Union Commission chairperson’s post is the latest salvo in a furious wave of discordance in the East African Community — from the civil strife in Burundi and South Sudan, and the abrupt re-routing of major regional infrastructure, railways and oil pipelines to the petulant turning back on the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EAC-EU EPA) that had peaked in August last year. The EAC partners are doggedly putting their differences and national interests first instead of embracing the cause of regional integration. It is negative developments like these that led to the collapse of the old EAC in 1977. Differences between Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere on ideological and economic grounds made for an unstable integration at best. Daily Nation

Canada Stalled on Request to Lead Mali Mission Because of Trump: Sources
Canada may have missed a chance to provide the commanding officer for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali because it wanted to talk first to the Trump administration, the Canadian Press has learned. The UN put out requests to a handful of top-tier countries in mid-December as the term of the mission’s previous commander, Danish Maj.-Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, was coming to an end. Sources say the Liberal government asked the UN to hold off on a decision until after the government had a chance to consult the new American administration on Canada’s future peacekeeping plans. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said last month he wanted to talk to his American counterpart, Defence Secretary James Mattis, before Canada sent peacekeepers to Africa because co-ordination with the U.S. is essential. The Glob and Mail

South Sudan Rebels Accuse Egypt of Bombing Raid, Drawing Denials
Feb 4 South Sudan rebels accused Egypt on Saturday of carrying out bombing raids against their positions, drawing an immediate denial from Cairo, and warned of the risk of a regional war. It was the first time either side had alleged Egyptian involvement in South Sudan’s festering conflict, which pits President Salva Kiir’s military against forces loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar. The Egyptian air force on Friday dropped “more than nine bombs and explosions on the gallant SPLA-IO positions” near the northern village of Kaka, a rebel statement said, using an acronym for the rebel force. Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid denied the alleged air strikes, saying: “Egypt does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.” South Sudan presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny also denied Egypt had conducted any bombings in the country, describing the allegations as “nonsense.” Reuters

South Sudan Rejects UN Trusteeship
South Sudan has once again rejected the country to be placed under trusteeship. The government said that the international community should support implementation of the African Union-brokered peace deal rather than impose an external trusteeship regime. Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudanese Presidential spokesman said, “It is our right. It is our country. We fought for it. We achieved the independence through referendum. The people of South Sudan decided for their country. So nobody is better than the people of South Sudan.” If South Sudan is placed under the UN trusteeship then the body will govern the country for a specific period of time before handing governance back to South Sudanese. Some former government officials have proposed putting the country under UN trusteeship. Africa News

UN Reports Mass Displacement in South Sudan’s Kajo-Kaji
Civilians continue to massively flee Kajo-Keji in Central Equaloria as result of the increasing violence and insecurity in the region, said UN spokesperson in a press briefing on Friday evening. Speaking to the media at the UN headquarters in New York, Stéphane Dujarric, said they received reports from aid groups indicating mass displacement of people from areas in and around Kajo-Keji in Central Equatoria heading to Uganda. “More than 4,000 people arrived into Uganda on 28 January alone,”.Dujarric said. He said that refugees report killings of civilians, sexual violence, and fears of arrest and abduction to explain their exodus. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: Thousands Killed in Cattle Raids Since 2011
For centuries, cattle raiding has been a problem among pastoralist communities in South Sudan. And years of conflict have made the stealing raids even more dangerous, with young raiders using guns and machetes. Local organisations say more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in cattle raids since South Sudan gained its independence in 2011. The violence has seen villages destroyed, women abducted and lives lost. “Our children are being killed,” Rebeca Apien, a villager, told Al Jazeera. “We used to live in cattle camps with our children but now we’re losing them because of the raids.” With a population estimated to be more than the number of civilians in the country, cows are considered a walking wealth, especially among herding communities. Organisations expect the raids to increase with the approach of the dry season. The government says it is trying to stop the violence, but acknowledges that it is struggling. Al Jazeera

Mugabe Ponders Cabinet Reshuffle
President Robert Mugabe, who effectively started work on Wednesday this week when he chaired a cabinet meeting, is mulling a reshuffle that might see Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa losing control of the Ministry of Justice and several ministers shunted around or removed. Senior government officials told the Independent this week that several ministers could be affected by the reshuffle, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of the year. The reshuffle would be informed by the state of the economy, performance by ministers, factional realignments and succession considerations, among other issues. Officials said Mugabe was eager to realign the balance of forces within Zanu PF and government so that he reasserts control in the wake of the ever-intensifying succession battles, which are causing conflict and fragmentation ahead of next year’s elections. The Independent

Congo Police Kill at Least Eight in Clashes with Sect, Activists Say
Police in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday killed at least eight members of a separatist religious sect, local activists said, escalating tensions in a normally peaceful part of a conflict-ravaged country. The police opened fire on members of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) as they approached the morgue in the town of Kimpese to recover the bodies of fellow members killed in protests last month, Jonas Lukoki, the provincial coordinator of the New Civil Society, told Reuters. “There were 12 deaths, including three children,” Lukoki said. A police spokesman told Reuters that several people had been killed when BDK members clashed with the police in Kimpese but did not have further details. Reuters

Congo Rebel Revival Endangers Elections: Ambassador to U.N
The Democratic Republic of Congo has told the United Nations that a re-emergence of the M23 rebellion in the east is endangering a deal with the opposition intended to lead to a presidential election this year. President Joseph Kabila is meant to step down after the election under the agreement, which defused unrest prompted by his failure to step down as his mandate ended in December. In a letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council, Congo’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ignace Gata Mavita, detailed a series of M23 incursions that began in November and accelerated last month. “It goes without saying that this situation risks diverting the attention of the government, which would have to devote available financial means to face this war,” he wrote to Sweden’s Olof Skoog, the council’s president for January, in a letter dated Jan. 27 and seen by Reuters on Friday. He said the fiscal strain would imperil the political agreement and “perturb the electoral process itself”. Reuters

European Union Plans to Cut Migrant Influx by Working with Largely Lawless Libya
European Union leaders at a summit Friday devised a plan involving largely lawless Libya to try to shut down the smuggling of hundreds of thousands of migrants from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The vast human tide has helped boost anti-EU populist parties across the continent that have exploited the immigration crisis to gain voters. But even as EU officials meeting in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta were voicing hopes that the strategy would help stop the loss of thousands of lives yearly when flimsy trafficking boats from Libya founder or sink, concerns arose that the plan risks seeing thousands of people marooned in inhumane conditions in Libya. Los Angeles Times

Suspended DRC Talks to Resume Next Week
Opposition groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the umbrella group Rassemblement are expecting talks with the government will begin next week, despite the death of the group’s leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. Opposition supporters and civil society organizations expressed concern that Tshisekedi’s demise could imperil the transition agreement recently signed with the government. The agreement will, among other things, allow President Joseph Kabila to lead a transitional government for a year, after which fresh elections would be held. The Catholic Bishop mediators, who suspended negotiations between the Rassemblement and the government, are expected to return to the capital, Kinshasa, to jump start the talks next week, according to Freddy Mbuyamu Matungulu, leader of the opposition Congo Nabiso Party (known as Congo — in the local Lingala language). VOA

How the AU Can Avoid  Reinventing the Wheel in Guinea-Bissau
In Guinea-Bissau, the situation on the surface often seems to belie deeper and darker problems facing the country. On 26 November, the headquarters of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) – the movement that led the liberation of Guinea Bissau – seemed set for a celebration; a Saturday afternoon party. Loud music boomed from speakers, and people laughed and talked excitedly in the auditorium, which was bedecked with flags and a large banner celebrating PAIGC´s 60 years. Slowly, the auditorium filled up. But the festive atmosphere masked the gravity of the situation, and did little to foreshadow what would later unfold. ISS

Morocco ‘Will Never Recognise Western Sahara’
Morocco will “never recognise” Western Sahara’s independence despite rejoining the African Union after a decades-long dispute over the territory, Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said in published remarks Sunday. Last Monday, the AU approved Morocco’s re-entry into the bloc which it quit in 1984 in protest at the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared by the Polisario Front at the height of a war for the territory. “Not only does Morocco not recognise — and will never recognise — this so-called entity,” Mr Bourita told website Le Desk in an interview. “It will (also) redouble its efforts so the small minority of countries, particularly African, which recognise it, change their positions.” The East African

In the Fight Against Government-ordered Internet Blackouts, Where Are Africa’s Mobile Providers?
[…] It’s been more than two weeks since Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, roughly 20% of the country, had its internet access switched off. […] Much has been written about the role of the government in enforcing the shutdown. But this issue is bigger than just the 34-year old government of president Paul Biya. In 2016, the United Nations adopted a Human Rights Council resolution on promoting and protecting freedom online. That year, the internet was switched off to stifle dissent in 11 African countries. Some have suggested democratic African countries should follow the UN’s lead and enshrine internet freedom in local laws. But there is well-placed skepticism as to whether countries with weak democratic practices would adhere to even their own laws in the event of a political crisis. What’s interesting is that no one ever brings up the role of the phone companies in these shutdowns. Most Africans connect to the internet via mobile phone. In the case of Cameroon, there’s evidence the phone companies were worried about losing their licenses if they didn’t comply with the local regulator’s demands. Quartz

Fall Armyworm ‘Threatens African Farmers’ Livelihoods’
Scientists are calling for urgent action to halt the spread of a pest that is destroying maize crops is spreading rapidly across Africa. The fall armyworm poses a major threat to food security and agricultural trade, warns the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (Cabi). It says farmers’ livelihoods are at risk as the non-native larvae threatens to reach Asia and the Mediterranean. The Food and Agriculture Organization plans emergency talks on the issue. The armyworm, so called because it eats its way through most of the vegetation in its way as it marches through crops, is native to North and South America but was identified for the first time in Africa last year. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones