Africa Media Review for January 18, 2018

Nigeria: Two Americans and Two Canadians Kidnapped in Ambush
Two Americans and two Canadians have been kidnapped in an ambush in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, in the latest abduction targeting foreigners. State police spokesman Mukhtar Aliyu said that “unknown armed men” seized the four on the road to Abuja at 7pm local time on Tuesday. “They engaged in a fierce gun battle with the two police escorts attached to the expatriates, who unfortunately lost their lives,” he added. No further details were given and Aliyu said “every possible means” were being employed to rescue the four abductees and arrest the kidnappers. A spokesman for the US embassy in Abuja said he had no comment to make when contacted by AFP. There was no immediate response from the Canadian high commission. The Guardian

Suicide Bombers Attack Market in Nigeria, Killing at Least 12
A double suicide bombing at a market in Nigeria’s northern city of Maiduguri killed at least 12 people and wounded 48 others on Wednesday, residents and an emergency official said. Ibrahim Usman, a trader in the Muna Garage market, said the first bomber attacked inside the market while the other remained outside, killing only himself. “Suddenly there was a loud bang and everywhere became disorganized,” Mr. Usman said. “I counted 12 corpses and over 40 injured victims.” The official in charge of rescue operations for the State Emergency Management Agency, Bello Dambatta, said that the bomber who was inside the market was a woman and that the one who remained outside was a man. Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the attack was similar to many carried out by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Muna Garage, the site of a camp for displaced people, has been attacked several times in the past few years by Boko Haram insurgents. Reuters

Oromia Erupts as Ethiopia Govt Frees Merera Gudina
People in Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state flooded the streets as they welcomed the release from detention of Merera Gudina, a leading opposition voice in the country. Thousands of people clad in apparels that bore Gudina’s picture lined the streets leading to his residence where the authorities sent him after his release. Local media portals showed other people holding placards and banners welcoming Gudina back. The respected academic and leader of main opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) had been in detention since December 2016. Africa News

Egypt Raises ‘Extreme Concern’ about Nile Dam with Ethiopia
Egypt’s president says he expressed his “extreme concern” over the lack of progress in talks over the construction of a massive Nile dam in Ethiopia during a meeting with that country’s visiting prime minister. Egypt fears the dam, which is about 60 percent complete, will significantly reduce its vital share of the Nile’s waters. Ethiopia has downplayed those fears and said it needs the dam for its own economic development. A grim-faced President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi emerged from a meeting in Cairo on Thursday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, saying cooperation between Nile basin countries should not be a zero-sum game. El-Sissi says Ethiopia has rejected an Egyptian proposal for World Bank experts to mediate the dispute. Egypt depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs.  AP

UN: Congo Armed Groups Uniting against President Kabila
Militias in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are uniting in opposition to President Joseph Kabila, a senior U.N. official there told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday. In 2017, a brutal conflict in Congo’s southwestern Kasai region drew international attention and condemnation because of reports of atrocities by pro-government militias. Less attention was paid to escalating violence by armed groups in eastern provinces bordering Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia. “What we hear is that whilst initially some of these armed groups were in it for themselves — they would burn a village, and pillage, rape, burn and scorch the earth — it seems now that they have more of a political agenda,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration in Congo. VOA

Uganda’s Museveni Accuses U.N. of “Preserving Terrorism” in Eastern Congo
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused the United Nations on Wednesday of “preserving terrorism” in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where U.N. peacekeepers have been unable to curb deadly attacks by Islamist rebels. Museveni levelled the criticism in a statement after meeting U.N. officials investigating an ambush of peacekeepers in eastern Congo last month that left 15 dead and 53 wounded. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist rebel group that has been operating in the chaotic eastern Congo jungles for years, was widely blamed for the attack. “The United Nations is responsible for preserving terrorism in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Museveni told U.N. investigators, according to the statement from his office. Reuters

People in DRC Face Death as Money for Humanitarian Aid Dries Up
The International Organization for Migration warns that many people in the Democratic Republic of Congo will die if international donors do not plug the enormous funding gap that is depriving millions of people from receiving crucial humanitarian assistance. The DRC is beset by widespread insecurity and escalating conflicts in many parts of the country. Extreme violence by armed groups in Kasai and Tanganyika in eastern DRC last year has pushed the number of internally displaced people in the country to 4.3 million, the largest in Africa. IOM DRC Chief of Mission Jean-Philippe Chauzy says the humanitarian situation in the country has dramatically deteriorated during the past year. He says more than 13 million people will need international assistance to survive. VOA

UN Probes DR Congo Clashes That Killed Burundi Refugees
The United Nations announced Tuesday it will investigate the death of 39 Burundian refugees in clashes with soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in September. The soldiers allegedly opened fire on the refugees in eastern South Kivu province after they protested the detention of a small group of Burundians by Congolese authorities. Nigerian Lieutenant-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor will lead the UN investigation of the violence on September 15 in Kamanyola, said a UN statement. The special investigation will look into the response of UN peacekeepers to the violence and provide recommendations, it added. AFP

Congo Republic Plans to Join OPEC Oil Cartel
Congo Republic plans to join the OPEC oil cartel, the government said, as the former French colony presses ahead with projects that could help it become the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. “The Republic of Congo has decided to accede to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),” the statement dated Jan. 11 but sent out to journalists on Wednesday. Congo’s oil sector was badly hurt by the global dip in prices and a slowdown in its own output since 2014, but it has been rejuvenated by new projects scheduled to boost output by a quarter to 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year. If successful, the country, where Italy’s ENI and France’s Total are among the operators, will be the no. 3 oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, analysts say. Reuters

South Africa Moves to Tackle Corruption as Zuma Loses Influence
South African prosecutors moved to freeze the assets of suspected allies of the politically connected Gupta family more than a year after the nation’s top graft ombudsman outlined the depth of state looting in the country. The National Prosecuting Authority is targeting U.S.-based consultancy McKinsey & Co. and South African financial services firm Trillian Capital Partners Pty Ltd. for what it says was unlawful work for the state power utility. It’s expected to be the first of many moves to tackle corruption more broadly. Trillian used to be majority-owned by an ally of the Guptas, who were accused by former Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela of wielding undue influence over the government to make money. The three Gupta brothers, who are friends with President Jacob Zuma and in business with one of his sons, are alleged to have used those relationships to win contracts from state companies and influence government appointments. They and the Zumas have denied wrongdoing. Bloomberg

Lourenco Proves He’s No One’s Puppet in Angola
Shortly after becoming president of Angola in September, Joao Lourenco did something completely unexpected: he stopped at a red light. The incident prompted thousands of social-media users to praise the 63-year-old former army general for abiding by the law. In October, Lourenco waited in line at a KFC restaurant to buy a burger, and then this month, photos surfaced of him and his wife Ana Dias strolling on a beach in the capital, Luanda. Few predicted the sharp contrast in leadership style with his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who rarely left the pink presidential palace from where he ruled Africa’s second-biggest oil producer for almost four decades. When he did emerge, hundreds of soldiers swarmed the city center to allow his convoy to move swiftly through the pot-holed streets, leaving traffic paralyzed for hours. Bloomberg

Zambia Bars Public Workers from Discussing Gov’t Issues on Social Media
The Zambian government on Wednesday barred public workers from using social media to discuss issues affecting them. Dickson Chasaya, the chairperson of the Civil Service Commission, said public workers should stop discussing government issues on social media with the people they socialize with. He told journalists during a press briefing that no public worker below the rank of permanent secretary should discuss anything with the media on government issues. Any public worker who fails to observe the ban will be dealt with, he added, without specifying what punishment entails. Bloomberg

The Netherlands Expels Eritrea’s Top Diplomat over ‘Diaspora Tax’ Enforcement
Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra announced the Netherlands’ decision on Wednesday to expel Eritrea’s top diplomat in the country after being warned to end the African country’s practice of enforcing a so-called “diaspora tax” on Eritreans. Tekeste Ghebremedhin Zemuy, Eritrea’s charge d’affaires in the Netherlands, “has been declared persona non grata,” Zijlstra said in a letter to the president of the Dutch parliament. “In light of the continuous intimidation and force used in the collection of diaspora tax and its resulting social and political unrest, the cabinet is forced to give the Eritrean government a powerful signal.”  Deutsche Welle

In Central African Republic, Militia Violence Leaves Villages Devastated
[…] Two rival armed groups, calling themselves the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), are jockeying for control of the area. Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travellers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through. But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing. Retaliatory attacks swiftly spread to the local population, suspected of conniving with the other side. The better-armed MNLC is being supported, according to several witnesses, by fighters on horseback from the Fulani nomadic ethnic group, who have come from Chad. AFP

U.S. Congressional Delegation to Visit Khartoum on Sunday
A delegation from the United States Congress would arrive in Khartoum on Sunday on a three-day official visit at the invitation of Sudan’s National Legislature, said parliament speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omer. Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum Wednesday, Omer said the Congressional delegation would meet with the Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Salih, ministers of the economic sector, speaker of the National Assembly, opposition parties and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). According to to Ashorooq TV, Omer added the visit comes at the invitation of the parliament, saying the delegation would be hosted by the Sudanese businessman Bashir Hassan Bashir. He pointed out that the Congressional delegation would discuss ways to promote bilateral relations between the two countries as well as exchanging ideas on the political, economic and security issues of common concern. Sudan Tribune

Italian Lawmakers Pass Anti-terror Military Mission to Niger
Italian lawmakers have approved sending a military mission to Niger to combat human trafficking and terrorism. The vote in the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday was likely lawmakers’ last session before a March 4 election. Premier Paolo Gentiloni has said some of Italy’s troops now in Iraq will be transferred to the African nation, a major migrant trafficking route. His center-left government is focusing on Africa in a strategy to combat trafficking of migrants to Libya and then onwards toward European shores via perilous journeys in smugglers’ unseaworthy boats. VOA

Democracy on a Decline in East Africa – Report
Civil and political liberties of East African citizens are repressed, notes a new survey on the status of global freedom. The Freedom in the World 2018 report by Freedom House, a US-based watchdog, states that democracy has been on a downward trend across the region. Though in Uganda there was notable jump in civil liberties, the “political environment remained tightly restricted under the regime of long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni”. President Museveni, 73, in power since 1986, sought to extend his rule by pushing for the removal of the presidential age limit of 75 which would allow him to run again in 2021, the report notes. This is even as his re-election in 2016 was marked by police brutality, internet shutdowns and treason charges against his main challenger, Kizza Besigye. The East African

U.S. Restores Trade Benefits to Gambia, Swaziland
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday restored trade benefits to Gambia and Swaziland under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said. The AGOA trade program provides sub-Saharan countries duty-free access to the United States on condition they meet certain statutory eligibility requirements, including eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism. Gambia lost its eligibility in 2015 due to human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law, USTR said in a statement. It said Gambia had made progress in strengthening the rule of law, improving human rights and supporting political pluralism. Reuters

Cape Town Could Become First Major City in World to Run Out of Water after 90-Day Warning
Cape Town may become the first large city in the world to run out of water, as officials warn there are fewer than 90 days left before the supply runs dry. The city’s mayor Patricia De Lille said residents had until 22 April until “day zero”, when authorities have estimated the water supply will be finished if residents do not scale back their usage. As a result, officials have introduced strict measures to limit the consumption of available water, including capping usage at 87 litres per person per day. The crisis is the result of three years of low rainfall and drought, coupled with a growing population and an increase in water consumption. The Independent