Africa Media Review for February 8, 2017

Somali Lawmakers Gather at Airport to Vote for President
Somali lawmakers gathered behind the blast walls of the capital’s airport on Wednesday to elect their president, after months of delays and threats from Islamist insurgents bent on derailing the process. The protracted vote began with 14,000 elders and prominent regional figures choosing 275 members of parliament and 54 senators, who in turn now choose whether to back President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for a second term or one of 21 rivals. The presidential vote, which was originally slated for August, is likely to take several rounds before a winner is declared. Live television images showed legislators in a hall preparing for the election. President Mohamud, who has led the country since 2012 as it tries to rebuild after more than two decades of war and chaos, has the support of about a third of lawmakers, experts say, giving him an edge but not a guarantee of victory. The threat from Islamist al Shabaab rebels, who regularly launch attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere, meant the government and its Western backers scrapped a plan to give each adult a vote due to the challenge of securing polling stations. Reuters

Al-Shabaab Islamists Attack Hotel in Somalia’s Puntland Region
At least four security guards were killed after members of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab attacked a hotel in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia. The attack comes just hours ahead of the African nation’s crucial presidential vote. Two assailants were also shot and killed in the onslaught, a senior Somali security official told Reuters. The militants entered the hotel—frequented by foreigners—early on Wednesday (8 February) by taking down four guards outside the facility. “Three al-Shabaab fighters stormed the International Village Hotel this morning. Four guards and two of the attackers died in the fighting. Fortunately, the attackers did not enter the rooms. The fighting took place inside the compound. A third fighter escaped and we are pursuing him. All the people in the hotel are safe,” the governor of Bari region, Yusuf Mohamed was quoted as saying. IBTimes

Ivorian Special Forces Mutiny over Pay in Adiake
An elite unit of soldiers in Ivory Coast has mutinied, firing into the air at their base in the south-eastern town Adiake, near the border with Ghana. Residents have stayed indoors and shops and schools have closed. The Ivorian special forces, who report directly to the president’s office, have accused their commanders of stealing part of their salaries. It comes a month after regular soldiers staged a mutiny over pay and conditions. “Gunfire began earlier in the special forces’ camp and then the town began panicking as armed soldiers left the barracks,” a high school teacher told the Reuters news agency. BBC

Nigerian Troops Save Life of Female Suicide Bomber, Prevent Attack
Police say Nigerian troops have saved the life of a young woman strapped with explosives and killed another. The two were apparently planning to attack the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Police spokesperson Victor Isuku says soldiers on guard duty spotted two young women moving toward a large gas station and ordered them to halt. When they continued to advance, soldiers shot and killed one of the women. The second surrendered. Isuku says both women were wearing jackets laden with explosives and the soldiers were able to disarm them. News24

Why Has Cameroon Blocked the Internet?
Three weeks after reports that Cameroon had blocked the internet in English-speaking parts of the country, residents say services have yet to be restored. So what is going on? Cameroonians have little doubt that pulling the plug on internet services for about 20% of the population is an intentional act by the government. The two regions affected, South-West and North-West, have seen anti-government protests in recent months. Just a day before services disappeared, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications issued a statement in which it warned social media users of criminal penalties if they were to “issue or spread information, including by way of electronic communications or information technology systems, without any evidence”. The statement also confirmed that the authorities had sent text messages direct to mobile phone subscribers, notifying them of penalties, including long jail terms, for “spreading false news” via social media. BBC

Over 50, 000 South Sudanese Fled to Uganda Last Month: U.N
At least 52,000 South Sudanese fled the country into neighbouring Uganda in January alone as continued fighting risks creating a situation of mass atrocities, the United Nations special adviser on genocide prevention said Tuesday. Adama Dieng said those displaced, mainly from Kajo-Keji in the country’s Central Equatoria state gave horrific accounts on killing of civilians, destruction of homes and several cases of sexual violence. “President Salva Kiir has made a commitment to end the violence and bring about peace, yet we still see ongoing clashes, and the risk that mass atrocities will be committed remains ever-present,” he said. The senior U.N official said he was particularly alarmed by the situation in Kajo-Keji where fleeing civilians warned of mass violence. Sudan Tribune

Pagan Amum Calls for UN Intervention to Stop Looming Genocide in South Sudan
Pagan Amum, former Secretary General of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and leader of the SPLM Former Detainees (SPLM-FDs), has again called on the international community to intervene quickly and stop what he termed as a “looming genocide and ethnic cleansing” in South Sudan. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj yesterday, Pagan Amum accused President Salva Kiir of ethicizing the SPLA army to target other ethnic groups like what happened in Wau and Yei areas, saying similar military operations are ongoing in Shilluk areas in Upper Nile state. “We condemn this behavior from President Kiir for continuously attacking other ethnic groups though his tribal army. They killed innocent civilians from other tribes like what happened in Yei and Western Behr el Ghazal, now the same thing is happening in Shilluk land, so this is dangerous,” said Amum. The leading member of the opposition group called on the international community to intervene quickly to stop violence against innocent civilians before it turns into ethnic cleansing in other parts of the country. Radio Tamazuj

Number of Burundian Refugees to Reach 500 000 This Year
The number of Burundians fleeing political violence is expected to reach 500 000 this year, and the United Nations is seeking more land for refugee camps in neighbouring countries, the UN refugee agency reported Tuesday. Hundreds have died in the East African nation since April 2015, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a disputed third term. Burundi has seen violent street protests, forced disappearances and assassinations, forcing many to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Some opponents have vowed to remove Nkurunziza by force. UNHCR said more land needs to be allocated for existing refugee camps or for building new ones. Without it, “these countries will struggle to provide sufficient shelter and lifesaving services in the camp sites,” the agency said. … A group of United Nations human rights experts said Monday that civic groups and rights defenders in Burundi face growing repression amid sporadic violence. News24

Conditions Deteriorating in Overcrowded Burundi Refugee Camps
The U.N. refugee agency warns conditions in camps for Burundian refugees in countries of asylum are deteriorating and more land is urgently needed to accommodate the growing number of new refugee arrivals. Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are hosting more than 386,000 Burundian refugees. The U.N. refugee agency expects that number to exceed 1.5 million this year as refugees continue to flee political instability and abuse in Burundi. Peace talks between the government and opposition are stalled. Though Burundi has largely fallen off the media radar, UNHCR spokesman Leo Dobbs told VOA the crisis gripping the country remains acute. “There are still reports of forced disappearances, targeted assassinations and extra-judicial killings of civilians and law enforcement agents. And, also sporadic attacks by unidentified armed people. So, the situation is still quite grave and hundreds of people are still leaving … There is still a flow, hundreds of people a week,” he said. VOA

Human Rights Defenders Persecuted in Burundi, UN Experts Warn
UN human rights experts warn about severe repression of human rights defenders as well as the ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi. Burundi Government denies the allegations. The human rights experts draw the Government’s attention to the allegations concerning a significant increase in cases of enforced disappearances on the basis of unconfirmed reports of more than 60 cases in the last two months of 2016. “All reports of enforced disappearances must be investigated thoroughly and independently, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” the UN experts say, in a statement issued on 6 February. … The UN experts say these moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi. “Disturbingly, these measures take particular aim at human rights defenders and independent civil society, and are being used to unduly obstruct and criminalize their work on broad and often fallacious grounds”, they say. Iwacu

ADF Rebels: Kidnapping Children and Tricking Men into Establishing Caliphate in North Kivu
The Ugandan-led Islamist armed group Allied Democratic Forces, known as ADF-Nalu, may be looking to establish a caliphate in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it has operated since the late 1990s. The merger between puritanical Muslim Ugandans from the Sunni Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (Nalu), was masterminded by Ugandan rebel leader Jamil Mukulu in western Uganda after they found themselves marginalised following the fall of the dictator Idi Amin. Pushed out of Uganda, the religious crusaders settled in the dense forest of DRC’s eastern borderlands during former President Mobutu Sese Seko’s reign (1965-1997). Three decades down the line, the mysterious rebel group is reported to be using terror tactics—abductions and killings—to establish a caliphate in the eastern province of North Kivu, where fighters claim to own land. IBTimes

Photos: Life for the Internally Displaced Women of Congo
Research shows that women and children are overrepresented in internally displaced people (IDP) camps in the conflict zones all around the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo is no exception. The war that has been ongoing for decades in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has displaced more than 3 million people since 2009. Many of them continue to live in more than 50 camps for IDPs. “The situation at the IDP camps in Eastern Congo has been a chronic one for the last two decades,” said Stacey White, a humanitarian policy analyst who worked extensively in these camps. “Hence, the international community doesn’t consider this an emergency anymore. It’s no longer the top priority. But it’s not considered an area in transition either—so there is no traditional development work going on.” PRI

Angolan Rebels Call on Oil Region to Boycott Election
Separatist rebels have called on Angola’s oil region to boycott parliamentary elections in August that are likely to be the most closely watched in decades as President Jose Eduardo dos Santos ends 38 years in power. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), which fought a low-level insurgency for four decades in the thin enclave sandwiched between Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, said it would not participate in a “foreign” election. “The FLEC does not accept the permanence of a foreign power on our territory, but does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of Angola,” the group said in a statement received by Reuters late on Tuesday. “For this reason, FLEC urges all the people of Cabinda to not participate in presidential elections in Angola,” it said. Channel News Asia

Zimbabwe: ‘Unfit to Rule’ Case against Mugabe Dismissed
Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has rejected a case filed by an activist that challenged President Robert Mugabe’s ability rule saying proper court procedures weren’t followed. Promise Mkwananzi of a social movement calling itself Tajamuka wanted to prove the 92-year-old president was unfit to hold office given his advanced age. The court threw out the application on Wednesday, saying Mkwananzi’s case was filed improperly and he has 30 days to address technicalities and refile. Speaking to media outside the court in the capital, Harare, Mkwananzi said he will appeal the decision. … In his case, Mkwananzi argued that Mugabe – who turns 93 this month – is to be blamed for the poor state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment, and alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Al Jazeera

Data Transparency is Being Used to Tackle Nigeria’s Corruption Problem One Report at a Time
For years, stories of major corruption in Nigeria’s government, at federal and state levels have filled the pages local media. One factor in fueling corruption, as well as its perception, has been entrenched opacity and limited access to information on government spending. But that’s starting to change with a crop of organizations focused on analyzing government through the lenses of data rather than rhetoric. One of those is BudgIT, a six-year old Nigerian civic social enterprise which started operations incubated at Co-Creation Hub, a leading technology hub in Lagos. BudgIT has been at the forefront of campaigns to improve transparency and accountability in government. It has focused on ensuring information on government budgets and spending is more easily accessed by Nigerians through its published reports and infographics. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones