Africa Media Review for February 8, 2018

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma Could Quit within Days – ANC
South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says he is holding direct talks with embattled President Jacob Zuma over a transfer of power. Mr Ramaphosa, who heads South Africa’s governing party, said both he and Mr Zuma understood the need for a speedy resolution. He said the pair aim to conclude talks on the president’s future within days. It is being seen as the first confirmation that Mr Zuma will step down shortly. The 75-year-old president is facing extensive corruption charges after a turbulent nine years in power. He has faced increasing pressure to quit since December, when Mr Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). BBC

South Sudan National Security Agents Accused of Rape, Arbitrary Arrests
A new report released by South Sudan’s Human Rights Commission says national security operatives continue to rape women and girls and arbitrarily arrest and detain people across the country. The 53-page report, released Wednesday, also states that most victims of human rights abuses have no access to justice. The report details human rights violations and atrocities committed by security agents and other armed forces during the past two years. Critics say the commission must do more than simply issue reports and, instead, should regularly monitor and keep track of human rights violations and follow up to make sure the perpetrators are arrested.  VOA

South Sudan: More than 300 Child Soldiers Released 
More than 300 child soldiers have been released from armed groups in South Sudan, the United Nations has announced. The 311 children, including 87 girls, will now begin reintegrating into their communities, the UN mission in the country (UNMISS) said in a statement on Wednesday. “Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other,” said David Shearer, head of UNMISS. “They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them.” Al Jazeera

DRC Crisis: Aide Says Kabila Not Standing in Elections
Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016 resulted in ongoing, bloody street protests, will not stand in elections due to be held this year, a key aide has said. Lambert Mende, the minister of communications, said Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, had never intended to seek a third term and would not seek to appoint a candidate to represent his interests in the polls, currently scheduled for December. “This is not a kingdom, where the king appoints an heir. It is a democratic republic,” Mende told the Guardian on Wednesday. The Guardian

Campaigns Kick Off in Sierra Leone Ahead of March 7 General Elections
Campaigns have started across Sierra Leone as politicians seek to woo voters in the upcoming general elections. Voters will cast their ballots for a president and lawmakers on March 7. According to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the campaign period spans between February 4, 2018 through to March 5 – two clear days to the day of voting. Sierra Leoneans will be voting for a new president and legislators. Incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma steps down after leading the country for the last decade. Africa News

African Migrants in Israel Opt for Jail over Deportation
At a detention centre in Israel’s Negev Desert, African migrants facing deportation say they would rather be imprisoned than sent to a country they know nothing about. “I won’t go there,” Abda Ishmael, a 28-year-old Eritrean, said in excellent Hebrew outside Holot, an open facility housing some 1,200 migrants and set to be shut down on April 1 as part of the government’s expulsion policy. “Guys who were here and went to Rwanda and Uganda — we saw what happened to them.” Israel is working to expel thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered illegally over the years, giving them an ultimatum: leave by April 1 or risk being imprisoned indefinitely. AFP

Boko Haram Leader Calls Himself ‘Invincible’ but Also Tired
The leader of Boko Haram says he’s still in control of an important territory that the Nigerian military says it has seized back from the extremist group. In the 10-minute video released Wednesday, Abubakar Shekau says his militants weren’t defeated in the Sambisa forest of northeastern Nigeria. Shekau tells the camera “if you have killed us, why are we still alive?” At one point the head of Boko Haram calls himself “invincible” and vows to continue his fight to establish an Islamic caliphate. At the very end though, he also makes clear: “I am tired of this calamity; it is better I die and go to rest in paradise.” It wasn’t immediately clear when or where the video was made. AP

UN Experts: Al-Qaida Greater Threat than IS in Some Places
Al-Qaida’s global network remains “remarkably resilient” and poses a greater threat than the Islamic State extremist group in several regions, including Yemen and Somalia, U.N. experts say. The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against both groups said in a report to the U.N. Security Council, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, that al-Qaida affiliates also “remain a threat at least as serious” as IS in West Africa and South Asia. In a separate report circulated Tuesday, U.N. experts said IS poses “a significant and evolving threat around the world” despite recent setbacks in Iraq, Syria and the southern Philippines that forced the militants to relinquish strongholds. AP

Sahel Leaders Appeal for Funds for Anti-jihadist Force
Five countries in the Sahel have made a pitch for further funds for a joint force to fight jihadism in their fragile region. The presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger made the appeal after a summit Tuesday in the Niger capital of Niamey, ahead of a fund-raising meeting in Europe later this month. “Given the pressure that the current security situation is placing on the public finances of member states, the heads of state invite the international financial institutions… to put in place additional resources to face it,” their statement said. Vanguard

Mozambique Plans Constitution Changes to Pave Way for Peace Deal
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced plans to change the constitution and give political parties more power in the provinces, in a move seen key to reaching a permanent peace deal with the southern African nation’s biggest opposition group. Under the new laws, parties that win provincial parliamentary elections will be able to select a regional governor, who the president will then need to approve, Nyusi said Wednesday in a television speech. The government will also introduce the position of provincial state secretary, who will represent the state in matters including tax and security. Bloomberg

Inside a Kenyan Courtroom, a Deepening Political Crisis Is on Display
Close to midnight on Tuesday, attorney Miguna Miguna found himself on the tarmac of Nairobi’s international airport. He had been driven there by Kenyan security forces after spending five days in different jail cells, without being able to talk to anyone. Miguna Miguna, 55, is a constant government critic on Kenyan TV — dramatic, funny, caustic and instantly identifiable by the kofia hat he always wears. But since disputed presidential elections last fall, he’s taken on a prominent role in the country’s politics. Miguna publicly pushed the losing candidate, Raila Odinga, to declare himself president, despite threats from President Uhuru Kenyatta that they would be charged with treason. NPR

Kenya Crackdown on Media, Opposition Attracts Heavy Criticism
A top Kenyan newspaper published a fake death notice of a prominent opposition financier on Wednesday, a bizarre error that rights groups interpreted as another sign of an anti-democratic slide. The Daily Nation apologised by mid-morning for publishing the funeral announcement for businessman Jimi Wanjigi, whose picture, history and family details were used but whose name was slightly altered. The paper said the ad was published in error and it was working with police to uncover who placed it. After a week of arrests of opposition politicians and a crackdown on independent media, a prominent rights campaigner said the announcement amounted to a death threat to Wanjigi, who funded opposition leader Raila Odinga’s election campaign last year and whose house was raided by police in October. Reuters

Zimbabwe’s Top Opposition Party Hurt by Power Struggles
Power struggles are ravaging Zimbabwe’s main opposition party months before the election as party leader Morgan Tsvangirai seeks cancer treatment in neighboring South Africa. Three deputies are vying to act as MDC-T party leader in Tsvangirai’s absence. Spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka tells reporters that Tsvangirai remains unwell but will return to the country “soon.” The spokesman described those interested in succeeding him as “political vultures.” The 65-year-old Tsvangirai has dominated opposition politics for close to two decades as the leading voice against former President Robert Mugabe, who resigned under pressure in November. The upcoming election will be the first without Mugabe, who led the southern African country for 37 years. The opposition is scrambling to counter new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe ally who has vowed that the election will be free and fair as he seeks to re-engage the international community after years of sanctions over alleged human rights abuses. AP

Five Children Die in Guinea in Fire Blamed on Post-election Riots
At least five small children have died in a fire in Guinea blamed on post-election riots in a town in the centre of the country, government officials said on Wednesday. The children died in Dinguiraye on Tuesday, said Minister of Territorial Administration Bourema Conde in a statement on state television. He did not specify the circumstances of the deaths or give more details about the children. The violence is linked to opposition suspicions that President Alpha Conde intends to change the constitution to seek a third term at elections in 2020. Conde has declined to comment on his intentions. Reuters

Angolan President Sacks Ambassadors
The president sacked Angolan Ambassadors to the United Nations at Botswana, Japan, Kenya, Belgium, France, China, Austria and to the United Nations Office at Geneva and International Organisations. Angop

US-Led Cutlass Express Boosts Policing of East Africa’s Waters
A U.S.-led exercise aimed at helping East African and Indian Ocean nations thwart piracy, illegal fishing and other seaborne crimes is set to end on Thursday. The 16 participating countries worked together to spot, raid and search suspicious ships during simulations near Djibouti and Seychelles in the weeklong Cutlass Express. U.S. Africa Command and the Navy’s 6th Fleet hosted the exercise. “Today we see cooperation between countries with diverse foreign policies unified around the common theme of maritime security,” J. Alexander Hamilton, U.S. deputy chief of mission in Djibouti, said in a statement. Cutlass is one of three yearly exercises designed to strengthen cooperative policing in waters where criminal activity is a constant problem, especially near vital shipping routes. The other two exercises are Obangame Express in West Africa and Phoenix Express in the Mediterranean. Stars and Stripes

Slavery Is Still Alive in Mauritania. Can a New Court Ruling Help Change That?
In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery. It took another 26 years for its government to pass a law enforcing abolition. So it’s perhaps no surprise that slavery continues to plague the nation of roughly 4 million people in northwestern Africa. Now a landmark ruling by an African Union court, which requires the Mauritanian government to compensate two escaped child slaves and punish their former master, is offering hope to thousands of still-enslaved Mauritanians. Said and Yarg Salem were born into slavery and escaped in April 2011. Soon after, they brought charges against their former master, Ahmed Ould El Hassine, who was found guilty in the Criminal Court of Nouakchott — Mauritania’s capital — of enslavement and depriving the boys of schooling. It was the first and, so far, only successful prosecution under Mauritania’s 2007 anti-slavery legislation. Advocates considered it a crucial step forward in eradicating slavery there. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones