Africa Media Review for January 18, 2017

Nigerian Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Scores
A Nigerian fighter jet searching for Boko Haram members on Tuesday accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people who had fled the militants, killing dozens of camp residents and at least six humanitarian workers, and wounding numerous others. The bombing struck a government-run camp in Rann, Nigeria, near the Cameroonian and Chadian borders, an area where Boko Haram had recently increased attacks. Government officials could not provide an exact death toll, saying they were focused on treating the wounded. Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said its teams in Rann had counted 52 dead and 200 wounded as they tried to provide first aid and stabilize patients who were awaiting evacuation. But there was little hope of evacuation until Wednesday, raising the prospect that many seriously wounded victims of the attack would die overnight as ill-equipped rescuers stood by helplessly. The New York Times

Mali Car Bomb ‘Kills at Least 37 People’ in Gao
At least 37 people have been killed in northern Mali in a car bomb attack on a military base, officials say. The incident occurred when a vehicle packed with explosives detonated at a camp housing soldiers and members of rival armed groups in the city of Gao. Mali’s northern desert region has been restive since it was captured by militant Islamists in late 2012. Despite French military intervention in 2013, the region remains tense with sporadic attacks and kidnappings. The camp targeted in Wednesday’s attack is located in Gao, the main city in northern Mali.  BBC

Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh Declares State of Emergency
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has declared a state of emergency, just two days before he is supposed to cede power after losing elections last month. In a national TV address, Jammeh said on Tuesday the measure was necessary because of “the unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference” in a December 1 presidential vote, which he lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow. Jammeh also cited external interference in “the internal affairs of The Gambia and the unwarranted hostile atmosphere threatening the sovereignty, peace, security and stability of the country”. The state of emergency, which is supposed to last 90 days, bans “acts of disobdience” and “acts intended to disturb public order”. Al Jazeera

Gambia’s President-elect Could Be Sworn In Outside Banjul, Says Nigerian Foreign Minister
The inauguration for Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow may take place outside of the capital Banjul as President Yahya Jammeh continues to refuse to leave office, according to Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. Barrow is expected to be sworn in on Thursday, however talks on resolving a political impasse have yet to result in long-standing leader Jammeh stepping down. “It might be considered impractical for him to be inaugurated in Banjul, in which case it will be done on Gambian territory somewhere,” Onyeama told RFI in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “Banjul is not the only part of Gambian territory and there are other parts of Gambian territory to which he would have access.” RFI

Gambia’s Neighbors Reportedly Prepare Troops to Oust Brutal and Bizarre Dictator
While the world braces for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, another inauguration in West Africa has regional leaders worried: Gambia’s. West African countries are reportedly preparing for a military intervention in Gambia if President Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down on Thursday, the day that his successor Adama Barrow was scheduled to take office. […] The state of emergency puts the country on lockdown, banning “acts of disobedience” and “acts intended to disturb the public order.” He’s also shored up power in the country’s supreme court and national assembly, which are considered mere extensions of the one-man regime. “Jammeh is digging in for a long fight here,” Gambia expert Jeffrey Smith told Foreign Policy. There may be will in neighboring countries to send in troops to remove him by force. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members, including Nigeria and Gambia’s neighbor Senegal, are reportedly preparing troops. On Tuesday, Nigeria deployed a warship off the coast of Gambia. A source in the Nigerian military told Reuters; his country and other West African countries were readying for military action. Foreign Policy

Morocco Offers The Gambia President ‘Golden Retirement’
Morocco has offered The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh asylum in return for accepting election defeat and stepping down, a local news website reported on Tuesday. The small west African country has been plunged into political turmoil since Jammeh disputed president-elect Adama Barrow’s December election victory and refused to cede power. Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and the North African kingdom’s foreign intelligence chief Yassine Mansouri have been conducting “a delicate mission in Banjul”, the Gambian capital, for several days, Le Desk website reported. Morocco wants Jammeh “to accept his election defeat in return for a golden retirement in Morocco”, the website said. News 24

Thomas Cook to Fly Almost 1,000 Britons Out of the Gambia
Thomas Cook is to fly almost 1,000 UK customers out of the Gambia, following a change in Foreign Office advice due to unrest in the country. The west African nation has become a political battleground following presidential elections last month, with incumbent leader Yahya Jammeh unwilling to hand over power to the winner in the polls, Adama Barrow. In response, the UK Foreign Office (FCO) are now advising against all but essential travel to the Gambia, citing the “deteriorating political situation and potential military intervention following the presidential elections on 1 December”. In the latest of a series of attempts to retain power, a 90-day state of emergency was declared by Jammeh on Tuesday, two days before he is due to leave office. The Guardian

The Role of External Actors in the DRC Crisis
[…] In the face of concerns about wider violence and instability as a result of Kabila’s refusal to leave office, the DRC Conference of Catholic Bishops brokered an agreement on New Year’s Eve to establish a transitional government headed by a prime minister to be appointed by the opposition. Under the deal, Joseph Kabila would stay on as president until the end of 2017, when new elections would be held. He would not be allowed to run for a third term. The agreement also restores the prime minister with the powers granted to the office in the 2006 Constitution—a significant check on presidential authority. Kabila has not yet signed the agreement, however, and did not mention it in his New Year’s address. Given the lengths that Kabila has gone to extend his mandate so far, skepticism that he will abide by the agreement remains high. Indeed, the current prime minister, Samy Badibanga, has publically rejected the agreement, calling it “unfit for purpose.” The actions of African and international actors will be central in keeping the parties to their commitments under the new deal. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mozambique Conflict Spills Over the Border into Zimbabwe
The ongoing political unrest in Mozambique has spilled over into neighbouring Zimbabwe.Thousands of Zimbabweans living along the border have fled their homes. Others have even been killed and their livestock stolen. Africanews paid a visit to the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border, where villagers are living in makeshift homes after their houses were destroyed by the wrangling Mozambican FRELIMO and RENAMO fighters. Tasara Zamchiya, a Village Head at the border said: “There’s a serious crisis here. People are living like animals because of the war in Mozambique. Most Zimbabweans who stay along the border are now fleeing their homes and now living in deplorable conditions, in shacks, with no water, no food or toilets. I can foresee an outbreak of serious diseases if the situation is not urgently dealt with.” Africa News

South Sudan: Over 4,500 Children Reunited with Families
At least 4,563 children have been reunited with their families in South Sudan, some of them after years of separation, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) has said. The agency said the figure only included children who have been identified and registered and the real numbers “are evidently higher”. “Since 2013, we have reunified 4,563 children with their families,” UNICEF spokesman Timothy Irwin revealed to Anadolu Agency in an interview in Juba on Tuesday. “9,046 cases of children also remain active and open requiring ongoing interim care and family tracing services,” Irwin said. An estimated 900,000 children have been displaced by the ongoing war in South Sudan, with 14,628 identified as separated and missing from their families since December 2013, putting them at risk of abuse, he added. Anadolu Agency

Envoys Fail to Convince SPLM-N to Accept U.S. Humanitarian Proposition
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has declined a request by a number of international envoys to accept an American proposal paving the way towards the signing of a humanitarian agreement with the Sudanese government. Washington since last November has proposed to the warring parties in the Blue Nile and the South Kordofan states that the USAID delivers medicines and some humanitarian relief to the civilians in the war affected areas directly after its inspection by the Sudanese authorities. Khartoum accepted the proposal but the SPLM-N stuck to its request that 20% of humanitarian aid be delivered to the civilians in the rebel controlled areas in the Blue Nile State through Asosa in Ethiopia. In a bid to convince the rebel group to accept the American humanitarian proposal, the US envoy for the two Sudans, and his British, French and Norwegian counterparts met on Monday with the SPLM-N delegation to discuss the matter. Sudan Tribune

S. Sudan’s Kiir Sacks Four Governors after Creating New States
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has issued several republican orders, sacking four state governors and appointing eight others. The order, announced on the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), saw Ruweng state governor Mayol Kur Akuei removed and Theje D’Aduot Deng appointed. Chol Thon Balok, governor of the defunct Eastern Nile state, Patrick Zamoi, governor of the former Gbudwe State and William Akan Othon (Fashoda State) were also removed. Sudan Tribune

Delays, Dispute Hamper Plans for UN Regional Force for South Sudan
Plans to deploy a UN regional force in South Sudan are bogged down in delays over visas, the allocation of land for bases and a dispute over protecting Juba airport, according to a confidential report obtained by AFP on Tuesday. The Security Council decided six months ago to deploy the 4 000-strong protection force in Juba to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission that failed to protect civilians during heavy fighting in the capital in July. In a report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said recent statements from South Sudanese officials “shed doubt” on the government’s “actual willingness to actively cooperate with the deployment and operationalisation of the force.” News 24

Sudan: Sanctions Eased, Khartoum Comes In from the Cold
Sudan is open for business. After 20 years, the United States has announced that it is easing trade restrictions in a move designed to normalise relations with Khartoum. “The actions taken today are an outcome of ongoing engagement between the United States and the government of Sudan, and the result of sustained progress by the government of Sudan on several fronts, including a marked reduction in offensive military activity, a pledge to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan, steps toward improving humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and co-operation with the United States on counterterrorism and addressing regional conflicts,” said the US Treasury in a statement released on Friday last week. The deal to lift sanctions was approved by both the Obama administration and President-elect Trump’s team. Initially, US companies wishing to trade with Sudan can apply for a waiver. Depending on Sudan’s behaviour, the trade embargo will be scrapped entirely after 180 days. Sudanese authorities are already planning for an influx of foreign investment following the announcement. Daily Maverick

East Libyan Forces Claim Control of Islamist Holdout in Benghazi
Forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government said Tuesday they had gained control over one of the last pockets of resistance held by Islamist-dominated opponents in Benghazi. The Libyan National Army (LNA) troops captured the south-western district of Bosnaib from fighters loyal to Islamic State following a two-day assault backed by heavy weaponry and air strikes, said Fadel al-Hassi, an officer in the LNA’s special forces. The LNA has been battling Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi since 2014, making major advances over the past year. It is led by Khalifa Haftar, who has become an increasingly dominant figure for factions based in the east that have refused to join a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli. Reuters

Al-Shabab Video Appears to Show Killing of Ugandan Soldier
Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group has released a video that appears to show the killing of a Ugandan soldier who had been held captive since an attack on an African Union peacekeeping base in 2015. The footage released Tuesday shows the soldier, called Masassa M.Y., sitting handcuffed with someone holding a gun near the back of his head. The footage shows him falling backward onto the ground. The video says he was captured during the attack in Janale town. Al-Shabab claimed it killed more than 50 Ugandan troops there, though Ugandan officials reported 19 deaths. AP

What Is at Stake as Somalia Goes to the Polls
In the coming weeks, Somalia will head to a crucial presidential election that will define the country’s strategic direction as it strives to regain stability after 25 years of conflict and get ready for a one-person, one-vote election in 2020. The election matters not only for Somali nationals in and outside the country, but also for the region and the larger international community keen to see a stable country emerge from the ashes of conflict. Firstly, among the urgent priorities should be to speed up the rebuilding of the Somali National Forces to shoulder more responsibility in combating security challenges such as al-Shabaab. Currently, the Somali National Army is largely unable to maintain law and order on its own and has to rely heavily on the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Daily Nation

Ugandans React to Trial of Former LRA Warlord at The Hague
The trial of Ugandan warlord Dominic Ongwen has begun at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Many Ugandans are critical of the trial and think that local courts would be a better venue for healing old wounds. Deutsche Welle

At Least Two Soldiers Killed Amid More Clashes in Ivory Coast
At least two soldiers were killed in fresh unrest in Ivory Coast’s capital and gunfire erupted in other cities Tuesday, signaling further upheaval inside the security forces just as it seemed the government had settled a mutiny in the army. Ivory Coast has emerged from a 2002-11 crisis marked by two civil wars as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but over the past two weeks it has struggled to cope with a public sector strike and growing tensions in the military. Tuesday’s unrest appeared to have started in the capital, Yamoussoukro, just hours after the government began paying bonuses to former rebel fighters now serving in the army in line with a deal to end their mutiny earlier this month. VOA

King Mohammed VI Appoints Warraq Inspector General for Royal Armed Forces
King Mohammed VI appointed General Abdel Fattah Warraq as Inspector General of the Royal Armed Forces, according to a royal statement released Tuesday. Warraq will succeed General Boushoaib Arroub, who will be leaving the position under uncertain circumstances. The monarch met with the new leader at the palace in Casablanca Tuesday morning, the release said. […] Gen. Arroub had been the subject of rumors circulated by a number of media outlets last May, which said the leader had died due to illness in a military hospital in Rabat. A few weeks later, the rumors dissipated when the general was spotted participating in official activities around the country. Gen. Arroub, born in the medium-sized city of Khouribga, began his tenure as Inspector General on June 13th, 2014, at the appointment of King Mohammed VI, who serves as Commander-in-Chief of Morocco’s armed forces. He succeeded General Abdelaziz Bennani when he took over the key position. Morocco World News

AFCON: Football Fails to Bring Relief to Gabon
The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, the continent’s biggest football tournament, is taking place in Gabon. But across the country, there is a quiet unease in the background. Support for the tournament appears somewhat muted following last year’s fiercely contested presidential election and the country’s buckling economy. Gabon is hugely reliant on revenue from petroleum and the expense of this tournament comes at a time when oil prices have been falling and many public-sector workers are on strike. The disputed outcome of the 2016 election resulted in violence in which Libreville’s parliament building was set on fire. […] I spoke to a supporter of Bongo’s opponent Jean Ping. He told me new football stadiums funded by international loans are the last thing the country needs right now. “The stadiums don’t help develop our economy,” Georges Mpaga told Al Jazeera. “They were built by the Chinese who brought in their own workers. That doesn’t benefit the population. We should be investing in education, health and housing.” Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones