Africa Media Review for February 6, 2018

North Korea Is Dodging Sanctions with Fish and Front Firms in Mozambique
On the surface, there is nothing remarkable about this sleepy fishing port in Maputo. But hidden from view, wedged between the other boats and ships docked there, are the rusty Susan 1 and Susan 2. These are not ordinary fishing vessels, but sanctions-busting trawlers manned by crews from North Korea. Pyongyang’s interest in a couple of aging African trawlers may seem odd at first. But fishing is big business in Mozambique — it’s one of the country’s most lucrative industries. North Korea wants a slice of that much-needed cash, and boats are easy to move and conceal. Joint fishing ventures are just one area of illicit trade the two countries are engaged in. In a months-long investigation, CNN uncovered a secret web of front companies, military cooperation and elite-forces training deals between North Korea and Mozambique, all in violation of international sanctions, according to United Nations investigators. CNN

Zimbabwe’s Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai ‘Critically Ill’
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is critically ill in a South African hospital, reports say. Local media quoted family sources as saying the 65-year-old former prime minister – who is being treated for colon cancer – is suffering from weight loss, exhaustion and muscle thinning. During his political struggle against ex-President Robert Mugabe, he has been beaten and imprisoned numerous times. Mr Tsvangirai heads Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. BBC

Kenya Charges Opposition Figure Present at Odinga “Swearing In” with Treason
A Kenyan opposition politician was charged on Tuesday with treason and unlawful assembly for his involvement in the symbolic presidential “swearing in” of opposition leader Raila Odinga in a challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The charge sheet presented by police to the court in Kajiado south of Nairobi said Miguna Miguna was being charged with “being present and consenting to the administration of an oath to commit a capital offense, namely treason”. Miguna was also charged with “taking part in an unlawful assembly” and “engaging in organized criminal activity”. VOA

Kenya’s about-Face: Fear for Democracy as Dissent Is Muzzled
The most widely watched television stations in Kenya are shuttered, and the government has defied a court order to return them to the air. Opposition politicians are under arrest, and journalists have also been threatened with jail. And the government has officially designated some of its opponents “an organized criminal group.” “This is a new crisis for democracy,” said Willy Mutunga, a former chief justice of the Kenyan Supreme Court, who left the bench in 2016. “Defying a court order is subverting the rule of law.” The events in Kenya over the past week are a stunning about-face in a country praised mere months ago as a shining example of democracy, when the Supreme Court overturned a presidential election, and the winner, President Uhuru Kenyatta, agreed to abide by the ruling. That case was hailed as a powerful display of judicial independence and a win for the rule of law. The New York Times

Libya Forces May Be Colluding with Migrant Smugglers: UN Report
Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, according to a report by a UN panel of experts which found that Libyan forces may be helping rebel groups tighten their control of smuggling routes. The confidential report sent to the UN Security Council also said the Islamic State group is seeking to join migrant smugglers in southern Libya after it was pushed out of Sirte in 2016. “Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, resulting in major human rights violations,” said the 157-page report by the panel of experts, seen by AFP on Monday. AFP

US Blacklists DR Congo General and Three Rebel Leaders
The US Treasury Monday slapped economic sanctions on a Congolese general accused of cooperating with rebel groups, as well as three rebel commanders in the country’s turbulent eastern region. The Treasury said Muhindo Akili Mundos, a general in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and an ally of President Joseph Kabila, had “cooperated profitably” with rebel groups in North Kivu province in 2014 when he was supposed to be working together with the United Nations stabilization mission for the region. Vanguard

Congo Rebel Leader John Tshibangu Extradited from Tanzania for Trial
A renegade Congolese colonel, who had threatened to depose president Joseph Kabila, has been extradited from Tanzania. John Tshibangu will be prosecuted for rebellion, Congo’s defence minister told Reuters on Monday. In a video circulated on social media last month, Tshibangu, who had been based in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, gave the president a 45-day ultimatum to leave or “we are going to take Kabila down”. He detained by authorities in Tanzania towards the end of last month. “John Tshibangu is in Kinshasa. We are going to leave him to face justice for rebellion, a crime catered for and punished by the Congolese penal code,” Defence minister Crispin Atama Tabe told Reuters by text message. Reuters

South Sudan Peace Talks Kick off despite Government Boycott
The second phase of the IGAD-brokered South Sudanese peace talks have resumed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, despite a boycott by the government delegation demanding more representation. The Second Phase of High-Level Revitalization Forum was launched Monday after the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement poorly enforced by the warring parties. So the deal which was designed as a confidence-building measure contributed to further deteriorate the conducive environment before the talks. Multiple sources participating in the discussions told Sudan Tribune from the venue of the talks in Addis Ababa on Monday that the mediation team launched the process after rejecting the “procrastination” of the government. Sudan Tribune

Cameroon: Chad Deploys Military to Southern Cameroon as Crisis Persists
According to multiple sources Chadian soldiers, dispatched by Chadian President Idriss Deby at the request of Cameroonian President Paul Biya, have been fighting for several weeks alongside Cameroon’s armed forces against the English-speaking separatists. “It is since the last summit of the Economic Community of Central African States on October 30, 2017, that the two heads of state – in power for three decades – have had to help each other,” a high-ranking official of the Chadian army told Africa Info on condition of anonymity.” The information we are getting is that the Cameroonian military is finding it difficult to fight the separatists. The military were not prepared for this kind of combat,” he said, adding that even the Chadian military is “feeling discouraged”. allAfrica

How Bell Pottinger, P.R. Firm for Despots and Rogues, Met Its End in South Africa
If an autopsy could have been performed on Bell Pottinger, Britain’s most audacious public relations firm, the cause of death may have been summarized as “acute embarrassment.” This is ironic because Bell Pottinger always seemed defiantly beyond shame. During its 30 years in the upper echelons of Britain’s spin doctoring game, it sought to polish the image of dictators (Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus), repressive regimes (Bahrain and Egypt, to name two) and celebrities accused of despicable crimes (the Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius after he was charged with murder). But in early 2016, Bell Pottinger signed a client that ultimately buried it in disgrace. The company worked for the Guptas, three brothers from India who built a sprawling, multibillion-dollar corporate empire in South Africa. Ajay, Tony and Atul Gupta had earned fantastic sums leveraging their friendship with President Jacob G. Zuma. By bullying officials and bending regulations to their will, they secured contracts in fields as varied as armaments, mining and railways. They offered ministerial jobs to politicians of their choosing. The Guptas and Mr. Zuma were so intertwined that critics had taken to referring to the “Zupta regime.”  The New York Times

Zuma’s Future Is in the Hands of South African Ruling Party’s Top Body
South African President Jacob Zuma’s future is in the hands of the ruling African National Congress’s highest body after he defied calls by top leaders to resign. The ANC’s National Executive Committee will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the transition from Zuma’s administration to one headed by the new party leadership elected in December and headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the party said in a statement on Monday. Zuma, who’s due to deliver the state-of-the-nation address on Thursday, defied calls by the top six leaders to resign at a meeting on Sunday, according to five senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bloomberg

Another Oil Tanker Missing in Gulf of Guinea
A second oil tanker has gone missing in the Gulf of Guinea, weeks after a tanker was hijacked off Nigeria and subsequently released, in a potential uptick in regional piracy. Contact with the Marine Express tanker, managed by Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern, was lost on Friday afternoon, according to an Anglo-Eastern spokesman. The vessel, carrying 22 Indian crew and 13 500 tons of gasoline, was last seen in Benin’s waters. The cause of the loss of communication was unknown and a search was underway, conducted with help from Nigerian and Beninese authorities, Anglo-Eastern said. “We regret that contact has been lost with the vessel, which was the Cotonou Anchorage in Benin, West Africa,” the spokesman said. DefenceWeb

Ethiopia Sentences Opposition Leader to Six Months in Jail for Contempt of Court
An Ethiopian court sentenced a senior opposition leader to six months in jail for contempt of court on Monday because he raised his hand when addressed by the judge rather than standing, his lawyer said. The court ruling came despite a government push to release politicians jailed after mass protests broke out three years ago in the Oromiya region over accusations of land grabbing. More than 2,000 political prisoners have been released since January as part of a package of reforms announced to try to calm lingering tensions. Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the opposition group Oromo Federalist Congress, was arrested in December 2015 and charged with involvement in terrorism. The charge was later reduced to inciting violence. Reuters

Islamic State, Al-Qaeda Support Fuels Attacks in West Africa
Islamist militant groups in West Africa’s Sahel region are using increased support from al-Qaeda and Islamic State and enhanced cooperation among themselves to carry out more sophisticated and deadly attacks, according to the chief of United Nations mission in Mali. “When we examine the explosives, the types of mines, shells and weapons they use, our experts tell us that a fairly advanced level of expertise is required that they didn’t have before,” the UN special representative in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said Friday in an interview in the capital, Bamako. The militant groups are operating across a semi-arid region stretching along the southern end of the Sahara from Mali to Nigeria. France has almost 4,000 soldiers in the region, and the U.S. has troops in Niger and is building a drone and airbase in the northern city of Agadez. The UN has more than 13,000 members in its Mali mission, which suffered the greatest loss of life of any of its peacekeeping operations last year. Bloomberg

Nigerian Military Claims Complete Victory over Boko Haram
The Nigerian Army has completely defeated the Boko Haram insurgents in the restive northeast parts of the country, Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, head of a military operation, said late on Saturday. Nicholas, the Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, spoke this during the inauguration of the Nigeria-Cameroon Military Joint Mission in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. He said the collaboration between the two militaries was critical to the successful completion of the counter-insurgency campaign. “We share information and intelligence to enable us map out strategies to fight Boko Haram insurgents in our common borders,” he said.  Xinhua

Seeking Fair Elections, Sierra Leone Bans FGM during Campaign Season
Sierra Leone has banned female genital mutilation (FGM) until after its March elections to stop candidates buying votes by paying for cutting ceremonies, the government said on Monday. FGM in the West African nation is widely practiced as part of girls’ initiation into powerful secret societies – led by women – which wield significant political clout. The government last month banned initiations to prevent the societies from intimidating people during campaigning ahead of elections on March 7, and to stop candidates swaying voters by paying for ceremonies, said state spokesman Cornelius Deveaux. “So many politicians use initiation into secret society during campaigns to gain votes, especially those of women,” said anti-FGM campaigner Rugiatu Neneh Turay, formerly the deputy minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs. VOA

Turkey’s Foray into Somalia Is a Huge Success, but There Are Risks
Turkey’s engagement with Somalia is striking for its brevity and ostensible success. Turkey has been involved in Somalia since just 2011, yet Ankara can point to a string of reported accomplishments and an arguably outsized presence in an often violent country regularly described as a failed state. Turkey’s presence in Somalia certainly embodies one of the most interesting regional geopolitical developments in the past decade. It also represents one of the most misunderstood and confusing. Why did Turkey choose Somalia? And, after its initial humanitarian intervention in 2011, what internal and external forces have shaped and expanded that involvement? Furthermore, what explains Turkey’s reported triumphs? Some have pointed to a shared history and a common Sunni Muslim heritage. This is questionable, at best, and alone cannot explain Turkey’s engagement with Somalia – let alone the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Others have noted Turkey’s economic clout and its status as a mid-sized country interested in trade rather than extracting resources. Mail and Guardian

Prominent Ivory Trade Investigator Found Stabbed to Death in Kenya
One of the world’s leading investigators into the ivory trade, Esmond Bradley Martin, was found stabbed to death at his home in Kenya on Sunday, The Associated Press reports. Nicolas Kamwende, head of criminal investigations in Nairobi, told the AP that a family member had gone to check on Bradley Martin after he failed to respond to phone calls, and found his body on a bed with stab wounds to the neck. Bradley Martin’s innovative work as a conservationist and investigator made him one of the global authorities on elephant and rhino poaching. “It is a great loss,” Dan Stiles, his colleague of many years, told NPR on Monday morning. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones