Africa Media Review for January 2, 2018

In Congo, 8 Killed and Altar Boys Arrested amid Crackdown on Protests
At least eight people were killed and a dozen altar boys arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday after security forces cracked down on planned church protests against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to leave office before coming elections. Seven people were killed in Kinshasa, the capital, and one in Kananga, a city in the central part of the country, according to Florence Marchal, the spokeswoman for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congolese security forces set up checkpoints across Kinshasa, and the government issued an order to shut down text messaging and internet services indefinitely across the country for what it called “reasons of state security.” Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people, had been militarized by the heavy presence of soldiers and the police, who sought to disrupt planned demonstrations, witnesses said. The New York Times

UN Chief Calls for Restraint, Urges Kabila to Step down
The UN chief has called on Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to peacefully leave office in accordance with an agreement in late 2016. The comments by Antonio Guterres late on Sunday came after security forces killed at least seven people and arrested more than 120 during protests against Kabila’s rule. Catholic protesters rallied in the capital, Kinshasa, and other cities after Sunday mass to demand Kabila, whose second term as president ended in December 2016, step down. A year ago, the president committed to holding an election to choose his successor by the end of 2017. That vote has now been delayed until December 23, 2018. Al Jazeera

Liberia’s Vice President Concedes Election: ‘It Has Never Been about Me’
After allegations of election fraud and a delayed runoff that raised fears about a constitutional crisis, Vice President Joseph Boakai of Liberia accepted defeat in the country’s presidential election on Friday and offered his support to the new government. “I congratulate the winner, Ambassador George Manneh Weah, and pray that God will guide and guard him as he takes upon the onerous responsibility of steering the affairs of our nation,” Mr. Boakai said outside his party’s headquarters in Monrovia. By conceding the race to Mr. Weah, a former international soccer star, Mr. Boakai helped pave the way for the first democratic transition of power in the West African country in more than 70 years. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is stepping down after two terms as Africa’s first democratically elected female president. The New York Times

President-Elect Weah Says Liberia “Open for Business”, Vows to Fight Corruption
Liberian President-elect George Weah on Saturday declared the country open to investment and pledged to tackle entrenched corruption, in his first speech to the nation since decisively winning an election this week. Speaking in front of reporters and aides packed into a small conference room at his party headquarters, Weah thanked his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for enabling Liberia’s first democratic transition in over 70 years but said he was determined to usher in sweeping changes. “Those looking to cheat the Liberian people through corruption will have no place,” said Weah, 51, alluding to a series of high-profile scandals that have tarnished Johnson Sirleaf’s 12-year presidency. Reuters

Foiled Equatorial Guinea Coup, Cameroonian Mercenaries Complicit
Authorities in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea say they foiled an overnight attempt to overthrow the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago – Africa’s longest serving leader. The attempt as reported by the French news portal Jeune Afrique took place overnight from Wednesday December 27 to Thursday December 28. Even though details of the incident are sketchy, there is said to be heightened security measures across the country with reports of swoops on persons believed to be involved. Some 31 mercenaries were also reported to have bee arrested in southern Cameroon as they attempted to enter the country apparently to help execute the overthrow. This is the second such attempt, the first took place in 2004. Africa News

Secessionist Crisis in Cameroon Risks Sliding into a Rebellion
A secessionist push in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions is on the brink of a full-blown revolt, threatening political stability in a country ruled by one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Following a crackdown on independence supporters who tried to raise flags on government buildings in the central African nation’s English-speaking regions in October, at least 16 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks the government blames on the activists. This month a mob of 200 men besieged a paramilitary police station, according to the government. It marks a dangerous turn in the crisis that began about a year ago with peaceful protests against the French language’s dominance in courtrooms and schools. Attacks on the military “presented those activists who were against armed combat before with a fait accompli – those who want to take up arms now have the upper hand,” said Hans De Marie Heungoup from the International Crisis Group. “There’s a real risk of rebellion that could make the Anglophone regions ungovernable.”  Bloomberg

Nigerian Army Says 700 Boko Haram Captives Have Escaped
The Nigerian army says more than 700 people held by Boko Haram militants in the north-east of the country have escaped captivity. An army spokesperson, Col Timothy Antigha, said they had fled several islands in Lake Chad and arrived in the town of Monguno, in Borno state. There has been no independent verification of the army’s claim. A BBC correspondent says the escapes are likely to have happened over a period of time, not in one go. The military says a recent armed forces operation, Deep Punch II, has weakened Boko Haram. In his New Year address, President Muhammadu Buhari said the group had been “beaten”. BBC

Nigeria North State Says 5,247 Muslims Dead from Boko Haram
The Adamawa State chapter of Nigeria’s Muslim Council says at least 5 247 Muslims have been killed in the past four years in the northern state because of Boko Haram. A report presented on Sunday adds that more than 5 100 Muslims in the state have been injured since 2013. The report was presented to the Adamawa governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Bindow, calling for more support for victims and reconstruction of places of worship and schools. It also recommends increasing security and financial support to local defense groups assisting the military in the fight against Boko Haram. The report says more than 12 700 properties, including houses, mosques, livestock and farm produce worth $220m have been destroyed in the state. AP

Nigeria: Death Toll in Boko Haram Attack on Loggers Rises to 25
The number of loggers killed in a Boko Haram attack in north-east Nigeria has risen to 25 following the discovery of more victims, survivors and militias said on Sunday. Motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked a logging site where people were loading firewood into vehicles 20km from the state capital Maiduguri on Saturday. Four bodies were initially recovered, but search teams later found more victims in the surrounding area. “We found 21 more bodies after search teams combed the bushes when many people didn’t make it back to the village after we were attacked,” logger Bunu Gana, who survived the attack, said. The Guardian

Sudan Imposes State of Emergency in Two States
Sudan’s president on Saturday announced a state of emergency in two states in the centre and east of the country, the official news agency said. President Omar al-Bashir issued a decree to install the state of emergency in North Kordofan and Kasala for six months, SUNA said, without providing any reason. Kasala is on the country’s eastern border with Eritrea. A state of emergency is already in force in seven other conflict-ridden states. These include the five states that make up the region of Darfur, where government forces have been battling rebels since 2003. AFP

Zimbabwe: Leader of ‘Coup’ Appointed Defense Chief
In an apparent move to consolidate power in his young administration, Zimbabwe’s president on Friday placed his new deputy, retired army commander Constantino Chiwenga, in charge of defense matters. Chiwenga, who was sworn in as one of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s two vice presidents on Thursday, led a “coup” last month which forced 93-year-old Robert Mugabe to resign. The decision to appoint Chiwenga both vice president and defense minister put to rest fears by some that another military intervention could take place in the future, should Mnangagwa fall out of favor with the military. The retired commander would be directly in charge of the affairs of the army as well as war veterans, who are regarded as the vanguard of the ruling ZANU PF. Anadolu Agency

Rwandans Lose Refugee Status as Cessation Clause Comes into Force
Countries are set to invoke the cessation clause for Rwandans who fled the country between 1959 and 1998 after the December 31, 2017 deadline passed yesterday. The cessation clause is part of the 1951 Refugee Convention. It’s coming into force from January 1, 2018 means Rwandans who fled the country during the years in question lose refugee status and require no more international protection because fundamental and durable changes in their country of origin guarantee that there is no well-founded fear of persecution. The December 31, 2017 date was arrived at by both UN refugee agency UNHCR, Rwandan government and host countries. But some have been reluctant to repatriate due to fear of facing justice having participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, according to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees affairs.  The New Times

A Widening Budget Gap Is Forcing the U.N. to Slash Food Aid to Refugees
Eight years ago, Khadija Abdi fled the fighting and chaos in Somalia that killed her father and brother and made it across the border to a refugee camp in southern Ethiopia. Life isn’t so bad here, she says. Tents have gradually been replaced by huts. She is safe, and her daughter goes to school. The problem: There’s not enough food. “Three times this year, rations have been cut,” Abdi, 40, said of their monthly allotment of grain, pulses, cooking oil and salt. Beset by funding shortages, the U.N. World Food Program has reduced the daily calorie intake for the 650,000 refugees it feeds in Ethiopian camps by 20 percent, leaving them with an average allowance of just 1,680 calories a day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, men need on average about 2,500 calories a day, women about 2,000. The Washington Post

Migrant Arrivals to Italy by Sea Fall by a Third in 2017
Migrant arrivals to Italy by sea fell by a third in 2017 compared to a year earlier, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday, as Libyan authorities helped to slow departures during the second half of the year. More than 119,000 came to Italy by boat this year after a record 181,000 made the crossing in 2016, the ministry said in a statement. Since July, arrivals have declined by more than two thirds versus a year earlier. “We were able to govern the flow because we were the first to believe that an agreement with Libya was a turning point,” Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in an interview with Corriere della Sera, commenting on the decline. In February, Italy signed an agreement with the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, promising aid, equipment and training in exchange for its help in fighting people smuggling. The deal was endorsed by the European Union. Reuters

Mali’s Keita Names Ex-Defence and Foreign Minister as PM
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday appointed Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga – a former defence and foreign minister and intelligence chief – as the new prime minister, according to a decree read on state television. Boubeye Maiga is expected to form a new government in the coming day after his predecessor Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga and his entire cabinet resigned on Friday. Idrissa Maiga did not give a reason for his resignation but he is widely expected to either manage Keita’s campaign for next year’s election or to run in Keita’s place. The new government will be the fifth to serve under Keita since his election in 2013. Usually fewer than half the ministers appointed to a new government have served in the previous cabinet. The Washington Post

Mali President Eyes Amnesties under ‘National Consensus’ Law
Mali will adopt a law on “national consensus” that may amnesty rebels who took part in a revolt in 2012, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in a New Year’s speech. Keita, in a nationwide message late on Sunday, said the law would draw on a so-called charter for peace, unity and national reconciliation, which he received in June as the outcome of a two-year-old peace pact between the government and Tuareg rebels aimed at shoring up Mali’s shaky security. The “draft law on national consensus… (will) include exemption from prosecution for all those who are implicated in armed rebellion but who do not have blood on their hands,” he said. It will also include “measures of conciliation”, he said. AFP

Somalia Charges 5 for Attack That Killed over 500
Somali prosecutors have filed charges against five men in connection with the Oct. 14 truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed 512 people — the single deadliest terrorist attack in African history. Four of the accused men are in government custody and appeared before a military tribunal in Mogadishu on Monday, while the fifth defendant is on the run. Among those charged is Hassan Aden Isak, who is accused of driving a vehicle that allegedly was intended to be used in a second suicide bombing that day. The chief of the military tribunal, Col. Hassan Ali Nur Shute, also accused Isak of coordinating the attack and working as head of explosions and assassinations in the Mogadishu area for the militant group al-Shabab. VOA

Chad’s Deby Sets Delayed Elections for 2018
The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, on Sunday said general elections, scheduled for 2015 but much postponed, would be held in 2018. “I am happy to announce, on the cusp of the New Year, that legislative elections will be organised in 2018,” Deby said in a televised address, urging all politicians to show responsibility and patriotism in the run-up to the poll. The country’s parliament was due to be dissolved on June 21, 2015, but the constitutional court extended its term. Deby, who took office in 1990 and won a contested fifth term in April 2016, delayed polls still further last February. The opposition derided his comments that the country did not have the financial means to hold polls before 2019 and have dubbed the current parliament illegitimate. AFP

Senegal: Opposition Party Suspends Leaders
The opposition Socialist Party has suspended its leader, jailed Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall and 65 other top party figures. According to a press release issued by the party’s spokesman, the suspension was voted on during an extraordinary meeting Saturday. “The party has expelled Mayor Khalifa Sall and 65 others with immediate effect. The party decided to take this action in line with its principles and procedures” Spokesman Abdoulaye Wilane told Seneweb a local news network. The expulsion released included Mayor of Sicap Mermoz area Dakar, Barthélémy Diaz, Mayor of Medina locality Bamba Fall, Mayor of Podor region Aissata Tall Sall, and several other top officials. All of the expelled members are close allies and supporters of Mayor Khalifa Sall who is standing trial for alleged corruption. Anadolu Agency

To Sate China’s Appetite, African Donkeys Are Stolen and Skinned
[…] As demand increased, China’s donkey population — once the world’s largest — has fallen to fewer than six million from 11 million, and by some estimates possibly to as few as three million. Attempts to replenish the herds have proved challenging: Unlike cows or pigs, donkeys do not lend themselves to intensive breeding. Females produce just one foal per year and are prone to spontaneous abortions under stressful conditions. So Chinese companies have begun buying donkey skins from developing nations. Out of a global population of 44 million, around 1.8 million donkeys are slaughtered per year to produce ejiao, according to a report published last year by the Donkey Sanctuary, a nonprofit based in the United Kingdom. “There’s a huge appetite for ejiao in China that shows no signs of diminishing,” said Simon Pope, manager of rapid response and campaigns for the organization. “As a result, donkeys are being Hoovered out of communities that depend on them.” In November, researchers at the Beijing Forestry University warned that China’s demand for ejiao may cause donkeys “to become the next pangolin.” The New York Times