Africa Media Review for February 7, 2017

African Leaders Agree to New Joint Counter-terrorism Force
Troops from five Sahel countries plan to set up a new counter-terror force in the region, where alarm over the jihadist threat is mounting, leaders said Monday in Mali’s capital. The announcement came as leaders of the Sahel G5 states – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – that describe themselves as “in the frontline against terrorism”, met to discuss the desert zone’s perilous security situation. The gathering took place barely three weeks after the worst attack in the region for years, the January 18 suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao that left almost 80 people dead. France 24

Corruption Likely to Mar Somali Presidential Vote
Election observers in Somalia say corruption is running rampant ahead of Wednesday’s presidential election, with candidates giving gifts and large sums of cash to lawmakers to secure their votes. Twenty-three candidates are challenging incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is seeking a second four-year term as leader of the Horn of Africa nation. The president will be elected by members of the parliament, who were elected last year. Speaking to reporters Monday, the chairman of an independent anti-corruption committee threatened to expose those who are offering and accepting bribes. “We know what is going on in the city and we want to make sure that things happen in a transparent and legal way,” said Abdi Ismail Samatar. “There is no way we can immediately prevent if a lawmaker makes deals under the table, but we make sure that the voting process is free and fair, and later if we find out any corruption and bribery involvement, we will make it public,” he said. VOA

Somalia Presidential Hopefuls Make Last Vote Pitch in First-ever TV Debate
Presidential candidates in Somalia rounded off campaigning with an unprecedented televised debate on Monday, dominated by issues of corruption, security and U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Somalia, which holds a presidential vote on Wednesday, is one of seven majority Muslim nations whose citizens were barred from travel to America under Trump’s executive order. Many Somalis were sent back home or stranded at airports, until a U.S. judge put the ruling on hold. “I will tackle the issue of refugees deported from the United States and other countries, and will settle internally displaced people,” Bashir Rage, one of several former warlords seeking election, said in the debate broadcast on TV and radio. Wednesday’s presidential vote is part of the rebuilding effort in Somalia, which was shattered by more than two decades of conflict and where clan loyalties still tend to trump policy in politics. Reuters

Somalia’s al Shabaab Executes Four Men Accused of Spying
Al Shabaab militants in Somalia publicly beheaded four men accused of spying for the country’s Western-backed government, the United States and neighbouring Kenya, residents in the south of the Horn of Africa country said. The al Qaeda-linked group confirmed the executions, which took place on Sunday after the men were found guilty by an al Shabaab court in Jamame district of lower Jubba region, some 70km (43 miles) north of Kismayu. “The court ruled on their cases and four of the men were executed publicly in Jamame District according to the Sharia this (Sunday) afternoon,” Mohamed Abu Abdalla, al Shabaab’s governor for the Jubba region, told Reuters, without elaborating on the method of execution. “The four men admitted they were spies.” SABC

Two-thirds of Somalia’s Presidential Candidates Hold Foreign Passports
After an arduous electioneering process marred with corruption, vote-buying, and delays, Somalia will finally hold its presidential elections on Wednesday (Feb. 8). Given the ethnic nature of Somalia’s voting system, lawmakers, elected through clan delegations instead of universal suffrage, will vote for the country’s next president. One key feature unites some parliamentarians and the majority of presidential candidates: many hold foreign passports. More than 100 of the country’s 275 legislators hold foreign passports according to Wakiil, an online initiative that promotes accountability by documenting the electoral process. And out of the 24 candidates cleared to run for the country’s top office (one dropped out this week), 16 of them have foreign passports. This reportedly includes both the current president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his immediate predecessor Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, both of whom have Kenyan passports and are running for president. View image on Twitter. Quartz

US Envoy Eyes Cuts to UN Peacekeeping
Washington’s new UN envoy Nikki Haley is putting in motion a far-reaching review of UN peacekeeping that is likely to lead to closures and downsizing of missions, according to diplomats. Haley took up her post with a vow to overhaul the United Nations and “do away” with what she termed as “obsolete” activities amid fresh clamor in Washington over US funding for the world body. During one-on-one meetings with Security Council ambassadors this week, the new US envoy raised peacekeeping as a priority for cuts, zeroing in on the UN’s flagship enterprise, according to three diplomats with knowledge of the discussions. “On UN reform, I think there is a particular interest in peacekeeping,” said a Security Council diplomat. Haley is setting up a mission-by-mission review of all 16 peace operations and is “relatively skeptical” of the value and efficiency of many of the blue-helmet deployments, said the diplomat, who spoke on background. AFP

Burundi: United Nations Experts Raise Alarm at Growing Repression of N-G-O and Human Rights Defenders

A group of United Nations human rights experts today condemned the recent ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi, and warned about “the obstructive, restrictive and stigmatizing effect of recent legislation on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in a context of growing repression of human rights defenders.” On 19 October 2016, the Burundian authorities banned five civil society organizations. In December 2016, the Ligue ITEKA, one of the leading human rights institutions of the country, which was suspended in October as well as OLUFAD – an NGO promoting good governance and the fight against corruption – have also been barred. Another four organizations were provisionally suspended.Following that move, the National Assembly adopted two bills in December 2016 aimed at closely controlling the action of local and international NGOs. Mareeg

S. Sudan Orders Execution of Soldiers for Murder, Rape
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Monday afternoon ordered the country’s defense minister and his army chief of staff to execute soldiers for crimes including murder, rape against civilians. President Kiir issued the order while addressing a gathering in Yei town, less than 60 miles (around 96.5 km) away from capital Juba where he paid a visit upon the invitation of the Episcopal church of Sudan and South Sudan to celebrate 100 years of existence. Kiir was accompanied by top government officials and army officers. According to a local online radio, he said “getting rid of bad elements” through capital punishment will free the country from such vices. “Let us do one thing; we get rid of bad elements amongst us and we remain clean, pure and perfect. “From today onward, if such a thing happens, I want them to bring me a report that somebody has committed such a crime and has been shot,” the president said. Anadolu Agency

Sudanese President Bashir Slams Iran, Egypt
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused Egyptian intelligence of supporting Sudan’s opposition forces, and vowed to take a border dispute between the two neighbours to the United Nations Security Council if negotiations fail. Al-Bashir, who came to power in 1989 coup and is the only sitting head of state facing genocide charges at the International Criminal Court, also accused Iran of attempting to spread Shiite Islam in Sudan in an extensive interview with Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV network. A close ally of Saudi Arabia, al-Bashir spoke at length about what he called Iran’s expansionist plans in the region — saying the United States essentially “handed over” Iraq to Iranian control by ousting Saddam Hussein. News 24

Nigeria Demands $500m from Trump Administration
Civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has written to the US to release to Nigeria $500 million worth proceeds of corruption traced to the late dictator Sani Abacha. The letter, released on Sunday in Abuja, is addressed to President Donald Trump and the US Administration. “These proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order. “SERAP’s request was fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria have ratified,” it reads. Africa Review

Tanzanian President Tells Security Forces to Target Drug Traffickers
President John Magufuli told Tanzania’s security forces on Monday to crack down on the drugs trade and said no one should be spared, even if they are top politicians or their relatives. Magufuli, nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for the way he pushes through projects, has launched a drive against corruption, tax evasion and poaching since taking office in November 2015. His new drive against drugs reflects growing international concerns that East Africa is being used by traffickers. While most Europe-bound Afghan heroin still goes through Iran and the Balkans, a spate of record-size hauls near Kenya and Tanzania has raised fears East Africa is seen as an easier route because of porous borders and weak maritime surveillance. Reuters

Law Used to Imprison Egyptians Draws Scrutiny
Rights activists are trying to force President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to throw out a law used by his government to imprison thousands of Egyptians and sentence hundreds to death by arguing that it was overturned as far back as 1928. Over the past three years, judges have cited Law 10 of 1914, or the Assembly Law, in jailing opposition activists and ordinary people for protesting against Sisi and his government and in issuing mass death sentences, mainly to Islamists. Security forces also cite it to justify the use of force against demonstrators that has led to thousands of deaths, a crackdown they say is in response to fatal attacks on police and soldiers and is needed to preserve stability in the most populous Arab state. IOL News

Kagame African Union Reform Team Seeks to Realign Key Bloc’s Institutions
A team of experts led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame have come up with proposals to end duplication of roles by various Africa Union organs; and to cede some roles to regional economic communities. If implemented, the proposals will realign a dozen or so institutions of the AU. The proposals were collated from views gathered from various experts and regional blocs, and contained in a report presented at the 28th AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week. “The point is to think strategically about which organisation at which level is best placed to take the lead in a given case. The AU should focus on a fewer number of priority areas that are by nature continental in scope, such as political affairs, peace and security, economic integration (including the Free Trade Area), and Africa’s global representation and voice,” said President Kagame. The team also proposed a clear division of labour between the AU, regional economic blocs, regional mechanisms (such as Igad), member states and other continental institutions, in line with the principle of subsidiarity. The East African

Rwanda Fires 200 Police Officers Accused of Corruption
Rwanda’s government has dismissed 200 police officers implicated in corruption as the East African country strives to maintain its reputation as largely free of petty graft. Rwanda is sub-Saharan Africa’s third least corrupt country in Transparency International’s latest survey. The ranking shows the Rwandan government’s will to fight corruption, said Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the head of Transparency International in Rwanda. The dismissal of the police officers was approved by a Cabinet meeting last Friday chaired by President Paul Kagame, whose government has been hailed by donor countries for punishing corrupt officials. Rwanda depends on foreign aid to finance a sizable part of its national budget. News 24

Isolated Events Point to Changing Alliances Against Kenya’s Lead Role
The just concluded African Union Commission election has shown that countries in East Africa are challenging Kenya’s political leadership in the region. The last minute ditching by fellow East African Community member states — Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi — of Kenya’s candidate, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, in her quest to be the chair of the African Union Commission, is a major blow to the country’s long-held presumed leadership role. Sources in Addis Ababa told The EastAfrican that regional rivalry played a big role in Ms Mohamed’s election loss as Kenya was seen as a Big Brother riding roughshod over its neighbours and taking the EAC support for granted. Nairobi, while sending delegations to 53 African countries in an unprecedented diplomatic run-up to the AU election, forgot to lobby the EAC region. Ms Mohamed, was trailing Chad’s Foreign Affairs Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, by 25 to 28 votes in the sixth round, after Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti refused to vote for her, while Tanzania abstained, in solidarity with 15 other countries from the Southern African Development Community of which it is also a member. The East African

Kenya’s Opposition Needs More Than a Coalition to Win the Polls
[…] In Kenya, opposition politicians are well aware of the imperative to unite. If early polls are right, they are facing an uphill struggle to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has consolidated his support for a second term under the banner of the newly formed Jubilee Party. If Kenya’s opposition parties split the opposition vote between them, they risk handing Kenyatta an easy election victory come August this year, when Kenya’s general elections are scheduled. Of course, the opposition in Kenya have tried to unite before. In 2002, in a shock result, the National Rainbow Coalition defeated the Kenya African National Union (KANU), which had ruled Kenya since independence in 1963 – a powerful reminder that unity can beat incumbency. And in 2013, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) united most of the major opposition parties in a bid to prevent Kenyatta’s election. It didn’t work. Kenyatta, then deputy prime minister, created his own coalition of political parties to boost his chance of victory, and ultimately his Jubilee Alliance proved stronger than CORD at the polls. ISS

Tribunal Hears Maritime Dispute between Ghana and I Coast
An international tribunal on Monday began hearing arguments in a dispute between Ghana and Ivory Coast over a contested maritime boundary that cuts through lucrative offshore oil fields. The area is believed to hold the biggest hydrocarbon resources discovered in west Africa over the last decade. The neighbours have asked the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to rule on where the border lies exactly, with Ghana arguing there is no need to deviate from a decades-long “mutually agreed and recognised” boundary line based on equidistance. Ivory Coast however claims the border is not properly demarcated and accuses Ghana of carrying out oil exploration activities in Ivorian maritime zones. News 24

The Practice of Female Genital Mutilation Appears to Be on the Decline in Many Countries, Surveys Show

The practice of female genital mutilation appears to be on the decline in a number of countries, according to recent surveys, a sign that years of advocacy work may be paying off. But while the percentage of girls being cut is lower than in previous generations — significantly so in some countries — the overall number subjected to the ritual is higher because of population growth, a new study found. Analysts at the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, studied the results of health and demographic surveys carried out in 29 of the 30 countries where the practice is most common. The surveys aren’t done every year. But of the 16 countries that reported new data since 2014, 12 said that the percentage of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 who were forced to undergo the procedure had declined since surveys carried out between 2003 and 2011. Los Angeles Times

Tunis Greets an Ottoman-Era History Long Banished by Its Dictators
Since their revolution in 2011, Tunisians have tussled among themselves to define their new identity after successive dictatorships. Belatedly, they have started reclaiming their history as well. Dictatorships have a way of manipulating historical narratives. So alongside any of the most pressing issues of the day, the past, too, is in play. The struggle to shape the past, and give it new authenticity, can be witnessed all around the Tunisian capital. Last summer, the Tunisian government restored a statue of Habib Bourguiba, the founder and first president of the republic, to its original place on the capital’s main avenue. The famous symbol of Mr. Bourguiba — astride his horse, arm aloft rallying Tunisians to independence — had been banished to a seaside neighborhood in 1987, after he was ousted by his prime minister, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The current president, Beji Caid Essebsi, who served in Mr. Bourguiba’s cabinet, was the main driver behind reinstating the statue, which he said was intended to reinforce his call for national unity and a strong state. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones