Africa Media Review for January 13, 2017

Obama to Ease Sudan Sanctions on Way Out
The Obama administration is set to ease sanctions against Sudan and broaden now limited talks with the long estranged African government, a U.S.-designated terrorism sponsor whose leader has been indicted on war crimes charges, The Associated Press learned Thursday. The change in policy is a response to positive actions by the Sudanese government in fighting terrorism, reducing conflict, denying safe haven to South Sudanese rebels and improving humanitarian access to people in need, three officials told the AP. The White House is expected to announce an easing of sanctions on Friday as part of a five-track engagement process, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.  AP

Gambia’s Jammeh Insists He Won’t Hand Over Power
President Yahya Jammeh on Thursday in Banjul reiterated his stand that he would not step down as Gambian leader when his mandate ends on Wednesday. The information ministry said in a statement read on national television that Jammeh was planning to remain in office until the Supreme Court decides on a petition he filed. Jammeh is challenging the result of the Dec. 1 presidential election he lost to Adama Barrow. Barrow, a former real estate agent who was little known before he announced his candidacy, meanwhile has also reiterated he is planning to take office on Jan. 19, as scheduled. Earlier this week, Gambia’s dysfunctional Supreme Court adjourned hearing Jammeh’s petition to Monday, since only one of a required minimum of five judges were present. Experts however believe it will be highly unlikely that four additional judges will be present on Monday. The Punch

Gambia: Jammeh Files Injunction Against Inauguration
The party of Gambia’s outgoing president, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, has filed an injunction to stop the inauguration of the incoming President elect Adama Barrow, country’s chief justice Emmanuel Fagbele has confirmed to Anadolu Agency late Thursday. Gambia was plunged into a crisis on Dec. 9 when Yahya Jammeh, who has held power in the small west African state since 1994, rejected the election results a week after conceding defeat to Barrow, a little-known property developer. Jammeh said the electoral process was tainted with “unacceptable irregularities” and ordered a new vote before filing a petition seeking to annul the results. Anadolu Agency

Nigerian Legislators OK Offering Asylum to Gambia Leader
Nigerian legislators voted Thursday to offer asylum to Gambia’s longtime leader, who is refusing to cede power after losing elections and whose mandate expires next week. Legislators confirmed the vote in favor of authorizing Nigeria’s leader to offer safe haven to President Yahya Jammeh. On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari leads a regional delegation to Gambia to try to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, seen as a test of democracy in a region once populated by military dictators. The asylum offer would “strengthen the hand” of Buhari in negotiating with Jammeh, said Sani Zoro Mohammed, the legislator who sponsored the motion. Some legislators disagreed, saying the offer could be interpreted as showing support for dictatorships. The West Africa regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, also has a military force on standby to intervene if Jammeh does not step down when his mandate expires Jan. 19. AP

After Getting a $40 Billion Pledge from China, Nigeria Ordered Taiwan’s Unofficial Embassy to Move Out
Nigeria has ordered Taiwan to move its unofficial embassy, a trade mission, out of the capital of Abuja, another sign that an unofficial diplomatic truce between China and Taiwan has ended after eight years. Nigeria said that Taiwan, which Beijing maintains is a renegade province of China, would stop enjoying privileges granted to sovereign countries. Nigeria has never established official diplomatic ties with Taiwan. “We recognize the People’s Republic of China, the one-China Policy,” Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama said on Jan. 11, after a meeting with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi. Onyeama was referring to the doctrine that only one China exists and that is the one represented by the Chinese communist party in Beijing. In response, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it strongly “condemns the unreasonable, rude, and outrageous act of political hype carried out by the Nigerian government in complying with mainland China’s political goals.” The ministry said it would be sending an envoy to deal with the issue. Quartz

U.S. Confirms Airstrike Against Al-Shabaab Fighters in Somalia
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has confirmed that, in coordination with Somali, African Union forces and U.S. Advisors, it launched an airstrike against Al-Shabaab as part of counter-terrorism exercise on Jan. 7. AFRICOM said in a statement received on Thursday that the “self-defence strik”‘ was conducted against an Al-Qaida-associated terrorist group in Gaduud, a town in north of Kismayo in southern Somalia. “During a counter-terrorism operation to disrupt Al-Shabaab, the combined partner forces observed Al-Shabaab fighters threatening their safety and security,” Africom said. AFRICOM said Washington conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat but no enemy fighters were killed. Xinhua

The Great Wall of Kenya: ‘A Weird Solution to a Much Bigger Problem’
After a year’s delay, construction finally began in December on an 800km wall on Kenya’s northern border designed to keep out al-Shabaab militants from Somalia. The wall is made of concrete and will be reinforced with barbed wire and electrified fencing, as well as deep ditches reminiscent of the type seen in Kenyan prisons. Armed guards will be stationed in watchtowers positioned along the wall. The project is fully funded by the Kenyan government. Labour comes from the National Youth Service and the Ministry of Transport, while the Kenyan Defence Force will be on the ground to provide security. In total, the wall is expected to cost Kenya a staggering 200-million shillings (R26.6-million) per kilometre. Senior government officials have hailed the construction of the wall, saying it will be a key factor in curbing potential terrorist attacks. Daily Maverick

Kenya to Monitor Social Media During Elections
Kenya will not shut down the Internet during the election period unless the situation gets out of hand, officials said Thursday. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) chairman, Mr Ben Gituku said that the government would only take action if it deemed it as a necessary step to secure the country. “We hope we will not get there, unless it gets out of hand. We do not see Internet shutdown happening,” Mr Gituku said during a press conference in Nairobi to issue guidelines on the conduct of electronic media during the elections on Thursday. Kenyans are increasingly concerned, especially with rising political temperatures ahead of the August polls, that the government would shut down the Internet as witnessed in other regional countries. The East African

Kenya: Doctors Ordered to Call Off Strike, or Face Prison
A Kenyan court Thursday ordered the doctors’ union to halt a state doctors’ strike that has caused near paralysis of the health sector or face a month in jail. At least 5,000 doctors working at Kenya’s public hospitals are on a strike now entering it second month. Officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union have two weeks to end the work stoppage but after that and “if the strike will still be on, you will be arrested from wherever you are and escorted to prison,” Justice Hellen Wasilwa said. AP

Forces Loyal to Self-Declared PM Seize Libyan Ministries
A self-declared prime minister said Thursday that his forces have seized at least three ministries in Libya’s capital, declaring what appeared to be a miniature coup after what he described as a yearlong failure of the current U.N.-backed premier. Khalifa Ghwell told The Associated Press by phone from Tripoli that his forces control the ministries of defense, labor and the “martyrs and the wounded.” His so-called National Salvation government was formed by the outgoing parliament after a disputed 2014 transfer of power that led to the establishment of rival governments, each backed by an array of militias. The U.N. helped establish a third government in Tripoli last year under Fayez Serraj, a Western-backed technocrat, hoping he could unify Libya and lead the fight against Islamic extremists. The oil-rich North African country slid into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The New York Times

EU Eyes New Libya Approach to Block Feared Migrant Wave
The European Union plans new measures to deter migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, officials said, as Malta urged the bloc to act on Thursday to head off a surge in arrivals from a country where Russia is taking a new interest. With options limited by the weakness of the U.N.-recognized government and by divisions among EU states, it is unclear just what the EU may agree. But officials believe a consensus can be found within weeks in support of national steps taken by Italy. Rome once effectively paid Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to block migrants. Since he was overthrown with Western backing in 2011, it has struggled to cope with large numbers of new arrivals. Italy is now working with U.N.-backed Prime Minister Fayez Seraj on a new agreement under which Rome will help guard Libya’s southern desert borders against smugglers. Reuters

Burundi Risks Suspension from Great Lakes Peace and Security Committee
Burundi has been warned by The Great Lakes Committee on Peace and Security that it risks suspension from the organisation over its refusal to implement some of the resolutions passed in 2016 during the 7th Plenary Assembly of the Forums of Parliaments of member countries. Uganda’s KFM Radio Station reported on Thursday that according to the Lakes Committee President, Arinaitwe Rwakajara, member countries had agreed that President Pierre Nkurunziza had to embrace dialogue with the regional and international community, as well as end the rampant killings that were ravaging the country. The Committee further recommended that the Burundian government continue to cooperate with the mediation team instituted by the East African Community. However, despite the concerted efforts, Burundi had remained defiant, refusing to implement any of the recommendations, thereby raising the possibility of suspension from the Committee. SABC

Shell Oil Workers in Gabon Begin “Unlimited” Srike on Thursday
Royal Dutch Shell workers in Gabon began an “unlimited” strike on Thursday at all the company’s operations in the Central African OPEC member country, the workers’ union wrote in a letter to employees. Shell is in advanced talks to sell its Gabon assets, which one source estimated could be worth $700 million, leaving workers worried about layoffs or being moved to new locations, the union said. The national union of petroleum employees (ONEP) said the strike “will cover all of Shell Gabon’s operations (Libreville, Port-Gentil, Gamba Rabi, Koula and Toucan)”. Shell, which produces about 55,000 barrels of oil per day in Gabon, confirmed the announcement of the strike but declined to say if it had had an impact on production. It operates the Gamba export terminal through which an additional 20,000 barrels from other producers are also exported. Reuters

Alleged Mastermind of Ivorian Resort Attack Arrested, Says RFI
The alleged mastermind of a deadly March 2016 attack on an Ivory Coast resort has been arrested in neighbouring Mali in a joint operation coordinated by French special forces, according to Ivorian sources. Mimi Ould Baba Ould El Mokhtar — also known as Mimi Ould Baba Ould Cheikh – was arrested near the town of Gossi in northern Mali earlier this month, Ivorian security sources told FRANCE 24’s sister radio station, RFI, on Thursday. The raid was coordinated by Operation Barkhane, a French-led security operation covering the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. France 24

Gabon Ex Minister Jailed in Rare Anti-graft Measure
A powerful former minister and advisor to Gabon’s President Ali Bongo has been jailed pending trial for graft in a rare move against corruption in the small oil-rich nation. Magloire Ngambia was placed in custody in a Libreville jail on Tuesday, according to the remand order released by Gabonese media. The 45-year-old former economy minister and advisor to Bongo, who quit the government in 2015, is facing charges of embezzling state funds to the tune of $810m, news website Gabonreview said. “For the first time a former government minister has been sent to the ‘Sans-Famille’ (jail) for an affair of embezzling public money,” said the daily l’Union, which is close to the regime but is often critical of its policies. News 24

Rights Group Slams Egypt’s Record in 2016
Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Thursday that Egypt has banned public criticism and peaceful opposition, and that security forces routinely torture detainees and forcibly disappeared hundreds last year. In its “World Report 2017,” the New York-based advocacy group said President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s government has also taken “unprecedented” steps to criminalise human rights work and cripple independent civil society groups. El-Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, whose year in office proved divisive. He has since overseen a crackdown that jailed thousands, mostly Morsi supporters but also some prominent secular activists. News 24

Hollande’s Franco-African Farewell
Some 10,000 security personnel have been seconded to the Malian capital Bamako for the 27th Africa-France summit and they are backed up by the Malian army and French troops. Mali is a tense country. “Clearly, with such a large number of high-ranking guests, security is paramount,” Cheickna Hamala Diarra from the Bamako-based summit organizing committee told DW. This weekend Bamako plays host to French President Francois Hollande, 53 African heads of state and their respective delegations. A total of 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the biennial meeting. It will be an opportunity for Hollande to bid farewell to his African counterparts as this will be his last Africa-France summit. The French leader steps down later in the year; he will not seek a second term at the presidential elections in the spring. Deutsche Welle

Djibouti President Doubts Africa Will Be High on Trump Agenda
Djibouti’s president says African leaders believe President-elect Donald Trump will pay little attention to Africa, but is hopeful that Djibouti can continue a strong bilateral relationship with the U.S. “Africa does not appear on the foreign agenda of the U.S. president-elect, Donald Trump, but as Djibouti, we had a good and deep relationship with U.S. government which I am hopeful will continue,” Ismail Omar Gulleh said in an exclusive interview with VOA Somali Service on Thursday. “Our relationship was not with an individual but with U.S. institutions.” Ending his 2015 visit to Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama warned the continent would not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end. “Nobody should be president for life,” Obama said. VOA

Cameroon Government Outlaws International Money Transfer
According to the 8:30pm news bulletin on state media, the President of the Republic of Cameroon Paul Biya has STOPED money transfer agencies from sending and receiving money internationally. The news which was relay on Wednesday January 11th 2017, over state own radio CRTV, said hence all money transactions will be done nationally. Those who send and receive money from abroad know that for the last six months it’d become impossible to send money out of Cameroon via the likes of Western Union.. It’s the government’s way of combating money laundering and terrorism with all the growing security threats…. Cameroonians would have to get used to this just like Ethiopians have done in the past. Cameroon Concord

Burkina Faso abandons GM cotton
Burkina Faso is one of the world’s top cotton producers, but its sales have taken a hit on the world markets. Some blame GM cotton, which the government now wants to phase out by 2018. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones