Africa Media Review for January 17, 2017

Gambia’s President-elect Arrives in Senegal after Talks Fail
Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow has left the country for neighbouring Senegal, a coalition member and local media said on Sunday, a day after West African leaders failed to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to step aside. Barrow, a former real estate agent, won a December 1 election in the former British colony by a slim margin. Long-ruling Jammeh conceded defeat but then changed his mind, plunging one of West Africa’s tourist hot spots into crisis and dimming hopes for democracy in a region accustomed to coups and autocratic rule. Barrow, backed by the West and the African Union, is due to be inaugurated on January 19, although Jammeh is seeking to block this pending a Supreme Court ruling on his legal challenge to poll results. “He (Barrow) is in Dakar. SABC

Thousands Flee Gambia in Fear of Mayhem
Anxiety has gripped Gambia ahead of Thursday when President Yahya Jammeh must hand over power to rival Adama Barrow after the December 1 election. After initially conceding defeat, Jammeh is contesting the results and vowed not to vacate office. He has defied international pressure and regional diplomacy. The African Union last Friday warned him of “serious consequences” if he stayed on. Several thousand people, mainly children, have crossed into neighbouring countries to escape possible mayhem. While some people have decided to stay in Gambia, many are sending their children to Senegal as a precautionary measure. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials confirmed the surge mainly to Kaolack, Kolda Sédhiou and Ziguinchor areas. IOL News

Gambia: Four Ministers Resign from Jammeh Government
The Gambia’s ministers for finance, foreign affairs, trade and the environment have resigned from President Yahya Jammeh’s government, according to ministry sources and state television. The resignations were announced on Tuesday less than a day after the country’s Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle pulled out of a case filed by Jammeh seeking to stop the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow. Fagbenle said late on Monday that he could not hear the new case, dealing a blow to Jammeh’s efforts to halt the inauguration of Barrow, who remains in Senegal. Al Jazeera

Gambia Crisis Central Focus of France, Africa Leader Summit
Gambia’s political crisis took center stage on Saturday at a summit in Mali, where leaders said they hope that Gambia’s longtime leader will step down peacefully when the president-elect is to take office next week. More than 30 African heads of state, and the French president, met in Bamako, Mali to discuss the fight against extremism, France’s role on the continent and government challenges. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said much of the summit’s focus was on the West African country of Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh has said he will not give up power after 22 years, despite a vote that saw the opposition coalition’s Adama Barrow win. AP

Ecowas Army Chiefs Meet as Jammeh Vows Never to Quit
West African army chiefs met in Abuja, Nigeria at the weekend in preparation for a possible military intervention in The Gambia. President Yahya Jammeh’s tenure ends on Wednesday but he has refused to quit power despite efforts by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) leaders to persuade him to step down. Two missions to Banjul, led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is leading the Ecowas mediation team, failed to convince the Gambian leader to respect the December 1 election outcome. President-elect Adama Barrow is in Senegal until his planned inauguration on Thursday. The military chiefs’ meeting, is part of efforts by the regional bloc to force President Jammeh, in power for 22 years, out should such a need arise. Daily Nation

Burundi Orders Start of Troops Withdrawal from Somalia
Burundi on Monday began the process of withdrawing its troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) due to a dispute with the EU over the payment of wages. Amisom salaries are paid by the EU but have not been received in Bujumbura for months as European diplomats seek to avoid sending money directly to a government against which the bloc imposed sanctions in response to a nearly two-year-long political crisis. The EU wants to pay the salaries, worth 5 million euros ($5.3 million) per month, directly to the troops. But with no agreement yet made President Pierre Nkurunziza has instructed his foreign and defence ministers to begin the process of withdrawing Burundi’s 5,400 soldiers, roughly one quarter of the Amisom total.  The East African

South Sudan Claims Mandate has Expired for More UN Troops
South Sudan’s government is claiming that the U.N. Security Council mandate to send a new contingent of 4,000 peacekeepers to boost the existing force has expired. Minister of Information Michael Makuei told the Associated Press that Dec. 15th was the expiration date for the deployment of peacekeepers to bolster the existing 12,000 U.N. troops in South Sudan. He said a new resolution is needed for the additional troops. The U.N. mission in South Sudan responded in a statement saying that its mandate to increase the protection force had been extended by the Security Council until December 2017. The U.N. Security Council decided in August to send additional peacekeepers after clashes killed hundreds in South Sudan’s capital Juba. South Sudan initially objected to the force and has delayed its deployment. AP

Sudan Extends 6-month Cease-fire in Line with US Deal
Sudan announced on Sunday that it was extending a six-month cease-fire in the country’s warring regions. Sudan has agreed to bring peace to Darfur, south Kordofan, and the Blue Nile within six months as part of a five-track deal between Washington and Khartoum which includes the lifting of two decades of economic sanctions from Sudan. Sudanese Cabinet spokesman Omer Mohamed Salih told reporters that the council decided to extend the cease-fire for six months in order to pave the way for peace and stability in the country. “The Cabinet at its meeting today decided to implement Sudan’s commitments to the five-track agreement honestly and transparently and ordered all the related organs of the state to deal seriously with this matter,” he added. Anadolu Agency

What is Russia’s Endgame in Libya?
Rival factions wrestling for control in a divided Libya are plunging the country into further chaos, as a UN-brokered government struggles to bring stability to its people. In a quick turn of events this week, Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar met Russian officials in an effort to secure crucial military support that would pave the way for his control of the North African county. Haftar visited a Russian aircraft carrier off the cost of Tobruk from where he held a video conference with Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu. Italian State TV RAI reported that Haftar signed an agreement whereby Russia would build two military bases near Tobruk and Benghazi. Al Jazeera

Trump Team’s Queries about Africa Point to Skepticism about Aid
President-elect Donald J. Trump’s views of Africa have, until now, been a mystery. But a series of questions from the Trump transition team to the State Department indicate an overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid, and even about American security interests, on the world’s second-largest continent. A four-page list of Africa-related questions from the transition staff has been making the rounds at the State Department and Pentagon, alarming longtime Africa specialists who say the framing and the tone of the questions suggest an American retreat from development and humanitarian goals, while at the same time trying to push forward business opportunities across the continent. “How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?” asks one of the first questions in the unclassified document provided to The New York Times. That is quickly followed with queries about humanitarian assistance money. “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” The New York Times

Obama’s ‘Hostile Goodbye’ to Mugabe
Outgoing United States President Barack Obama has extended sanctions against Zimbabwe by at least another year, a report said on Sunday. This came as reports on Friday indicated that Obama’s administration was set to ease sanctions against Sudan and broaden now limited talks with the long estranged African government. However, sanctions against Zimbabwe were to continue in “conformity with the Washington’s national emergency policies”. The US imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2000, after they accused President Robert Mugabe of trampling on human rights, rigging elections and repression of press freedom—accusations that the veteran leader denied. News 24

The University That Defied Boko Haram’s Reign of Terror for Years Has Been Bombed
The University of Maiduguri, the largest university in the northeastern Borno state that has defiantly stayed open even at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, has been bombed. Two bomb blasts occurred in the early hours of today (Jan. 16) at the school mosque and close to one of the university entrances, according to local media. Sani Datti, head of media and public relations at Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), says that a total of four people, including the two bombers, were killed with another 17 injured. More are feared dead. The attack comes barely a month after Nigeria’s president Buhari declared the “final crushing of Boko Haram.” The group often does not claim responsibility for bombings, but NEMA says the attacks were suicide bombings—a typical Boko Haram strategy. Quartz

Somalia’s Crooked Route to Democracy
[…] Instead of the one-person, one-vote paradigm—deemed impossible given widespread insecurity and the absence of a census—135 clan elders handpicked 14,025 delegates, who convened in heavily fortified halls across the war-ravaged nation of more than 10 million to select representatives for Parliament, including Mr. Mudey. After months of delays and accusations of bribery, manipulation and candidate intimidation, the selection of 347 lawmakers was completed in December. Parliament on Jan. 9 re-elected its speaker, signaling a likely second term for President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud —who is from a different clan—as the country’s top offices are traded off among top members of the most dominant clans. The complex process, which in part aims to move Somalia closer to federalism, is being lubricated with more than $14 million from Western donors. Diplomats say bigger sums are coming in, covertly backed by other foreign powers—including Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates—who are jostling for dominance in the Horn of Africa nation and its strategic perch on the Red Sea. The Wall Street Journal

Mass Voter Registration Drive Kicks Off in Kenya
It’s a hot day here on the sidewalk outside Nairobi’s St. Peter Clavers primary school, but the 20 or so people standing in line behind a small desk don’t seem to mind. They are here to register to vote in Kenya’s August elections. “It’s our right to vote for the next president and our MPs and all of that,” said 31-year-old laborer and first time voter Samuel Njoroge. This is the first day of the final mass voter registration drive being conducted by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The other took place around this same time last year. The current drive will end in one month’s time. And so far, IEBC communication manager Andrew Limo says things seem to be going well. VOA

Congo Warns of Armed Ex-M23 Rebels Crossing Border
Congo’s government says 250 armed members of a former rebel group have crossed from Uganda into Congo. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said Sunday the government was surprised by the incursion of two columns of the ex-M23 rebels entered Congo’s North Kivu province. North Kivu governor Julien Paluku warned that the former M23 members carried guns and ammunition and could attack. M23 operated in eastern Congo from 2012 until it was repulsed by U.N. forces and Congo’s army. Many rebels fled to Rwanda and Uganda before a 2013 peace agreement. Uganda and Congo agreed last year to share intelligence to combat rebel groups active along the countries’ border. Eastern Congo has been plagued by a myriad of armed rebels since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. AP

At Least Two Dozen Dead in Ethnic Clashes in Southeastern Congo
At least two dozen people, most of them women, have been killed over the past week in ethnic violence between Bantus and Pygmies in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. human rights official said on Monday. The Luba, a Bantu ethnic group, and the Twa, a Pygmy people who inhabit Central Africa’s Great Lakes region, have been in conflict since May 2013 in Congo’s Katanga region, known for its rich deposits of copper and other metals. Clashes have been fuelled by social tensions between Bantu villagers and the Twa, a hunting and gathering people who have long been denied access to land and basic services. Attacks by militiamen from both groups have left hundreds dead. José Maria Aranaz, head of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), said that at least 24 people, including 19 women, have been killed in Moba, a town located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, since Jan. 11. Reuters

Uganda Seeks to Stall $10 Billion Congo Hague Case
Kampala last week dispatched Attorney-General William Byaruhanga to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, as renewed pressure mounted on the government to settle an almost 20 year-old reparation dispute with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Court in 2005 ordered the government of Uganda to pay $10 billion to DR Congo following a complaint Kinshasa filed in 1999. The complaint covered acts of armed aggression, massive human-rights violations, looting, destruction, confiscation of property and arrest of persons and other unlawful acts against its neighbour. A political solution has been in the works between the two countries since 2014 when the governments moved to repair relations. The East African

Côte d’Ivoire Vice-president Takes Office amid Army Discontent
Daniel Kablan Duncan was sworn in as the new Vice-president of Côte d’Ivoire on Monday– the first vice president in the history of the country. His appointment comes after changes to the constitution were approved last year in an effort to calm social and policitcal unrest following several mutinies and strikes. In principle, Daniel Kablan Duncan has the advantage of being inclusive. An experienced technocrat, who served five years as Prime Minister and held several key posts before that, he comes from the southeast of the country, while his Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly is from Kohorgo in the North. His government respects the delicate North-South split in Côte d’Ivoire. RFI

Africa’s Silent Refugee Crisis: 12.4 Million On the Run in Their Own Countries
Yagana, 18, fled her village when Boko Haram attacked. With her husband killed in the ensuing violence, she now lives with her baby in one of Nigeria’s ‘widow’s houses’. She’s one of more than 40.8 million people around the world on the run in their own countries, according to recent figures by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, (IDMC). Nearly one third of displaced people are on the African continent where 12.4 million people in 21 countries were living in ongoing displacement as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015. A little acknowledged issue, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) across Africa is more than twice as many as the continent’s total refugee population of 5.4 million, which only accounts for those who have crossed national borders. “We are always flabbergasted at just how little people actually acknowledge this issue,” says Alexandra Bilak, Director at IDMC. “There are twice as many conflict IDPs as there are refugees in the world. The figures are quite staggering, the problem is far bigger.” CNN

Egyptian Court Blocks al-Sisi’s Government from Giving Away Two Islands to Saudi Arabia
An Egyptian court has rejected a government plan to transfer two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in a final ruling that prompted cheers in the courtroom but could deepen tensions with the country’s erstwhile financial backer. Egypt’s government had announced in April, during a visit by the Saudi king, a maritime demarcation accord that would mean it cedes control of Tiran and Sanafir. The deal prompted protests from Egyptians who said they had been taught in school that the islands belonged to them. It has become a source of tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which has showered its ally with tens of billions of dollars in aid in recent years but suspended petroleum supplies in September amid growing differences. The court’s decision was based on “irrefutable evidence” as well as local and international practices which removed any doubt that the islands belonged to Egypt alone, state news agency MENA said. The Independent

The Most Dangerous Job in Journalism Is Just Being a Reporter in Egypt
Abdullah al-Fakharany just wanted to tell the truth about the Sisi government’s violent crackdown on civilians. It got him life in prison. […] Fakharany’s case is known in the Egyptian media as the “Rabaa operations room” trial. He’s being tried alongside 50 others — a hodgepodge of people with different backgrounds, including at least five other journalists and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, such as Mohammed Badie, the group’s leader in 2013. The inclusion of the Brotherhood leaders in the journalists’ case was a clear attempt by the regime to tar the reporters with the anti-Brotherhood frenzy that swept Egypt after the coup. It “really shapes the way the public is going to perceive” the trial, said Yasmin el-Rifae, who until recently was the senior research associate for CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program. “I think they were sort of banking on him getting lost in the shrillness of the crackdown that followed.” An Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood in September 2013, and since then the government has indiscriminately charged journalists and political dissidents with belonging to the group, according to CPJ. Fakharany is charged with belonging to a banned organization, spreading false news, possessing a walkie-talkie, and forming an “operations room” to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to work against the government during the dispersal of the Rabaa protest. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones