Africa Media Review for January 11, 2018

Protests Continue in Tunisia, Army Deploys, Hundreds Arrested
More than 300 protesters were arrested overnight, and the army was deployed in several Tunisian cities to quell violent demonstrations over prices, taxes and unemployment that have swept the country. In Thala, near the Algerian border, troops were sent in after protesters burned down the national security building forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses told Reuters. Violent anti-government protests have raged in other towns in the North African country since Monday, among them the tourist resort of Sousse, against price and tax increases imposed by government to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders. VOA

EU Observers Report on Kenya Polls Cites Bribery, Use of State Resources
The European Union’s head of the election observation mission during Kenya’s August and repeat October 2017 vote says her plans to come to Nairobi to present their were frustrated. Ms Marietje Schaake, in a televised address on Wednesday morning from Brussels, said she had to read the report from the European Union parliament so as to meet the EU’s guidelines of presenting a report three months after an election. “This is one of the very few times that a presentation of an EU mission observation final report takes place here in the European parliament instead of the country where we observed — Kenya,” Ms Schaake said. “We were entirely prepared to travel to Nairobi this week to present the final report of our recommendations to the government of Kenya as well as to other important stakeholders, of course the most important being the people of Kenya. Daily Nation

‘Hunger Is Killing Me’: Starvation as a Weapon of War in South Sudan
“Food,” says John Lasona, “tortures my mind.” Hunched over, bare-chested, the 48-year-old father in Lainya town runs his fingers over his hollowed frame. “The hunger is killing me.” Once regarded as South Sudan’s breadbasket, the ravaged Equatoria region is slipping into catastrophe, its once self-reliant citizens now dependent on handouts. An estimated 1.25 million people in South Sudan are on the brink of starvation, according to the latest food and security analysis update by the UN and South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, released in November. Almost half the population in Central Equatoria – 390,000 people – are facing extreme hunger, a number that’s expected to increase significantly in the coming months. The Guardian

Soldiers Loot Arms, Burn Military Base in Ivory Coast’s Second City
Soldiers in Ivory Coast’s second largest city looted weapons from the base of a rival elite military unit before setting it on fire during an overnight clash, leaders of the faction that carried out the raid said on Wednesday. The soldiers, who were involved in a series of mutinies last year that tarnished the image of Ivory Coast, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, accuse the elite unit, known as the CCDO, of spying on them. Gunshots and heavy weapons fire erupted between the rival factions late on Tuesday, though residents said the situation on Wednesday was calm after some early sporadic gunfire, and businesses were operating normally. Reuters

Greece Seizes Freighter Carrying over 400 Tons of Explosives to Libya
The Tanzanian-flagged freighter Andromeda was impounded at the port of Iraklion on Crete on January 6, the Greek coastguard said Wednesday. Four days of inspections of the ship found 29 containers with 410 tons of explosives and detonators. “The coast guard neutralized a moving time bomb that could have had unpredictable consequences both for people and for the marine environment,” Rear Admiral Yiannis Argyriou was quoted by Kathimerini as telling reporters. Greek authorities stopped the ship south of Crete and brought it ashore after receiving a tip. An international ban prohibits weapons shipments to Libya, where there is a civil war and multiple armed groups operate. Deutsche Welle

Ethiopia Intercepts Arms Being Smuggled into Country
Ethiopia’s defense minister told local media on Wednesday that they had intercepted a large number of firearms being smuggled into the country. Siraj Fegesa, the defense minister of Ethiopia, said they had seized some 270 Kalashnikov rifles, 200 pistols, and a total of 66,000 bullets while being smuggled into the country “to escalate the conflicts”, the state-affiliated FANA broadcasting corporate reported. The minister drew attention to the armed clashes that broke out after the country had lifted its ten-month state of emergency in Aug. 2017. He said the anti-government protests in many parts of the Oromia and Amhara states as well as the recent clashes between the Somali and Oromia regional states had left hundreds dead and caused tens of thousands to flee their villages. Anadolu Agency

Somalia Launches Digital Counter-Extremism Center
Somalia’s government has launched a digital counter-extremism center that aims to dissuade young Somalis from supporting militant groups such as al-Shabab and Islamic State. The Somali Ministry of Information says the center will carry out campaigns on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and state-run media designed to promote stability in the Horn of Africa nation, which has seen little peace during the past 30 years. “The center plans to raise public awareness campaign on countering violent extremism, security and peace building, good governance, civic education, and implementing programs that can provide confidence to the people by discrediting terrorists’ narratives of violence and destruction,” said Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman. During the opening ceremony Wednesday, Osman said the center will specifically target al-Shabab “by exposing their brutality, and hence weakening its following and public support.”  VOA

ISIS Declares War on Hamas, and Gaza Families Disown Sons in Sinai
[…] Tensions have long simmered between the two groups, even as common interests have led to cross-border cooperation in the past, particularly in arms smuggling, according to officials and experts in the region. But in declaring war against Hamas, the Sinai group has surrounded itself with enemies — Egypt, Israel and now Hamas — and given Hamas a common cause with Israel. One of Hamas’s main crimes, Islamic State argues, is its participation in Palestinian elections, which the Islamic State views as putting man-made law above God’s law. Another factor in the dispute is Hamas’s efforts to improve relations with Egypt as that country tries to broker a reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, its rival based in the West Bank. As part of that effort, Hamas has been tightening control along its border with the Egyptian Sinai in recent months, constructing a buffer and installing cameras and barbed wire. The New York Times

Egypt Opens Criminal Inquiry over New York Times Article
Egypt’s prosecutor general has ordered a criminal investigation over a New York Times article that described a covert effort by Egyptian intelligence to sway public opinion in favor of accepting President Trump’s decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The article “undermines Egypt’s security and public peace, and harms the country’s public interest,” the prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, said in a statement. The investigation comes after a torrent of furious commentary in Egypt’s pro-government media and in Parliament, where lawmakers denounced the article, published online on Saturday, as part of an international conspiracy to embarrass Egypt. Egypt officially supports a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But The Times reported that Egypt, along with other Arab nations, had quietly acquiesced to Mr. Trump’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and to move the U.S. Embassy there. The New York Times

Belgium in Uproar over Torture of Sudanese It Deported
A Belgian official’s decision to expel several Sudanese migrants late last year — several of whom say they were tortured when they went back home — has roiled Belgium’s politics, reflecting not only the fraught migration debate in Western Europe but also the divisions that have made the country notoriously difficult to govern. The official, Theo Francken, is a 39-year-old Flemish nationalist who in 2014 was appointed secretary of state for asylum and migration. He is known for making incendiary comments about migrants; in September, he apologized for using the term “cleaning up” about a police operation in which several undocumented immigrants were arrested. The term was condemned as xenophobic. Supporters and critics alike have called Mr. Francken “the Flemish Trump.” Last September, Mr. Francken invited several Sudanese officials to Belgium to review the cases of dozens of Sudanese people who were in the country without authorization. The decision outraged advocates for the migrants, who pointed to Sudan’s abysmal human rights record and the fact that its president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for trial on war crimes and genocide charges.  The New York Times

Short on Space for Migrants, Spain Sent Them to a Town’s New Prison
When the Spanish authorities intercepted about 500 Algerian migrants who had traveled by boat to the southeastern coast of Spain, a space shortage in the country’s migrant detention centers left few options for where to send the new arrivals. So the government sent them to an empty facility near this whitewashed town in the mountainous heartland of southern Spain, about 35 miles north of Málaga: its brand-new prison. Archidona’s penitentiary stands a few miles outside the town, amid olive groves that were covered in snow last weekend. Designed to hold about 2,000 prisoners, with a staff of almost 600, it was due to open in the first quarter of this year. The arrival of the migrants, in November, has provoked mixed feelings. Many of the town’s 8,400 residents helped collect food and clothing for them. Then the migrants held protests in the prison — smashing windows and furniture, and prompting the stationing of riot police officers in Archidona, according to the authorities. Some residents voiced concerns about possible damage to the new prison even before its official opening.  The New York Times

Migrants Top Agenda at EU’s ‘Southern Seven’ Meeting in Rome
The heads of seven southern European states gather in Rome for a mini-summit Wednesday to tackle a number of issues confronting the “Southern Seven”. But migration is expected to dominate the agenda. The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain are meeting in the Italian capital for a fourth meeting of the “Southern Seven”, an initiative launched by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in September 2016. The group met twice last year, in Lisbon and Madrid. France 24

Ramaphosa to Lead South Africa’s Delegation to Davos
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead to nation’s delegation to World Economic Forum gathering in Davos later this month, the presidency said in an emailed statement. This is because President Jacob Zuma will lead the country’s representatives at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, which takes place in the same week, the presidency said. Ramaphosa replaced Zuma as head of the ruling African National Congress at an elective conference last month. Bloomberg

Senegal in Crackdown on Timber Trafficking after Massacre
Senegal has said it will step up efforts to stop the trafficking of prized timber in its southern Casamance region, following the massacre of 13 men in an incident believed linked to the trade. The army is leading a search for the perpetrators of the January 6 attack in the forest of Borofaye, close to the regional capital of Ziguinchor. Most of the victims were shot, and one was burned to death. Justice Minister Ismaila Madior Fall said the authorities would “evaluate the policy for criminality linked to wood trafficking in the region” in remarks released late on Tuesday, after the illicit sale of teak emerged as a possible motive for the killings. Loggers have long benefited from lax oversight of Senegal’s southern Casamance forest, often taking timber over the border to The Gambia before exporting it to China. AFP

Zambia Closes Main Passport Offices to Curb Cholera Spread
Zambia has closed its main passport offices in the capital, a hub which is always thronged with people, as part of measures to curb the spread of cholera which is sweeping the country, the government said. Street vending and public gatherings have also been banned in Lusaka to counter the disease, which has killed 67 people since September, 62 of them in the capital alone. Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo said the Passports and Citizenship Office in Lusaka would remain closed until further notice. “In the meantime officers will only attend to travel emergencies. This is to allow for measures to be put in place to avoid the spread of cholera,” Kampyongo said. Reuters

Congo May More Than Double Tax on Critical Cobalt Supply
The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to more than double a tax on two-thirds of global cobalt supply, potentially increasing the cost of the critical battery metal just as the world begins to embrace electric vehicles. Congo, the world’s biggest cobalt producer, will increase the royalty miners pay on exports of the metal to 5 percent from 2 percent if it opts to categorize cobalt as a “strategic substance,” Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told the country’s Senate last week. The new classification is part of an overhaul of mining legislation that is fiercely opposed by the industry, which says the law may deter future investment. Under the revised code, backed by the government and being scrutinized by parliament, the tax on base metals including copper and cobalt will increase to 3.5 percent from 2 percent. If approved by the Senate, the law will also allow the state to select “strategic” metals, likely to include cobalt, and tax them at a higher rate of 5 percent, Kabwelulu said. Bloomberg

US Revamps Travel Warning System, Ranks Countries
The United States unveiled a way to warn its citizens about the dangers of foreign travel on Wednesday (Jan 10), with a four-point safety ranking system for countries and an interactive world map. Ten war zones and failed states are ranked Level Four, “Do Not Travel”: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. North Korea is also Level Four, with the additional restriction that US law prohibits American travellers from using their passports there, effectively banning visits. But some of the other country ratings may raise eyebrows – or international anger – even if the State Department says it is only presenting existing advice in a new format. Straits Times