Africa Media Review for January 25, 2017

Somalia: Al-Shabab Attack at Mogadishu Hotel ‘Kills 15’
At least 15 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a coordinated gun-and-bomb attack carried out by al-Shabab at a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, according to officials. The assault on Wednesday morning began when attackers rammed an explosives-packed car into the gate of Dayah Hotel, which is near Somalia’s parliament in central Mogadishu, and then stormed inside exchanging fire with security guards. A second massive car bomb blast went off after ambulances and journalists had arrived at the scene, leaving at least four reporters wounded, according to AFP news agency. Al Jazeera

Bomb Blast Kills 5, Wounds 7 in Southern Somalia
At least five people, including four Somali soldiers, were killed and seven others wounded by a bomb blast claimed by al-Shabaab in Afgoye, southern Somalia Tuesday morning, officials said. Amin Mohamed, Afogye’s district police commissioner, confirmed to Anadolu Agency on the phone that the bomb targeted security forces in the lower Shabelle region’s town of Afgoye, some 30 kilometers from the country’s capital Mogadishu. “The bomb was a landmine explosion planted near a security checkpoint. Four Somali army forces were killed and three others wounded. We conducted a security operation after the blast and captured two suspects,” Amin said. Anadolu Agency

28th AU Summit: The Continuing Threat of Terrorism in Africa
Over the course of the past year, the African Union (AU) experienced a mixed bag of advances and setbacks in its efforts to curtail Islamic-inspired terrorism. As the 28th AU Summit kicks off in Addis Ababa, it is useful to review these, given that terrorism will remain a pressing issue in 2017. The fluctuations in successfully addressing this issue were particularly apparent in Libya. The Islamic State (ISIS) seized control of Sirte in May 2015, incorporating the coastal city as a key area of its global caliphate. Nonetheless, a campaign initiated by militias from the nearby city of Misrata in May 2016 – supported by United States air power – culminated in the liberation of Sirte this past December. ISS

Where are Sierra Leone’s Missing Ebola Millions?
[…] Nearly three years after Ebola hit Sierra Leone, millions of dollars in funds raised to fight the deadly virus have still not been accounted for. An internal audit of the first six months of the outbreak said at least $14m (£11m) had been misappropriated or was unaccounted for. The audit also said that no proof existed that payments of high-risk health workers’ hazard allowances, amounting to more than $4m, had been paid. During the outbreak it was commonplace for payment of such allowances to be delayed. BBC

Liberia Leader Acknowledges Failure in Anti-corruption Fight
Liberia’s president said Tuesday her administration had fallen short in its fight against corruption, which she called “public enemy number one” when she took office more than a decade ago. “We have not fully met the anti-corruption pledge that we made in 2006,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told lawmakers in her final state of the nation address. “It is not because of the lack of political will to do so, but because of the intractability of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance,” she added. Sirleaf took office in 2006 after winning the country’s first election following more than a decade of conflict. VOA

Gambia: ECOWAS Force to Remain for 6 Months
The ECOWAS Commission has said its coalition force in The Gambia would remain for the next six months, as requested by President Adama Barrow. Marcel de Souza said this while briefing members of the diplomatic corps and partner organisations on the political situation in The Gambia on Tuesday in Abuja. Mr. De Souza, however, said that retaining troops in that country would be decided by the Chiefs of Army Staff. “By the end of the week, the forces will fall back. “Barrow would like us to have a sufficient force on ground for about six months; we will see which troops will be withdrawn and which would be retained.” He said the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia was to secure peace contrary to reports that there was a military force in the country after former President Yayah Jammeh’s departure. Premium Times

Gambians Return Home to Breathe ‘Freedom Air’
Gambians who fled the political crisis in the country are returning home following the departure Ex-President Yahya Jammeh and deployment of Senegalese troops. Some 45,000 people fled the country, according to the UN refugee agency, as tensions rose over Jammeh’s refusal to leave office. “We’ve been exile for about six days and we’ve been in worse for 22 years,” said Ruben, who had just stepped off the ferry in Banjul. “Breathe, smell it – freedom air, nothing beats it!” Many of the Gambians arriving by boat from Barra, on the other side of the River Gambia, had crossed the border to neighbouring Senegal. RFI

In a New Gambia, the Prison Doors Begin to Swing Open
Gambian soldiers picked up Tijan Barrow, beat him with their guns and threw him into a cell at the notorious National Intelligence Agency prison. His alleged crime: Creating and selling T-shirts for the opposition. In the final days of his crumbling rule, defeated leader Yahya Jammeh turned again to the tactics that human rights groups had long accused his government of using against opponents during his more than 22 years in power. Now, after Jammeh’s weekend flight into exile, the country’s prison doors are starting to swing open. AP

What Southern Africa Can Learn from West Africa About Dealing with Despots
Has the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) just taught the Southern African Development Community (SADC) a lesson? The West African states effectively took a dictator to task after he refused to comply with the democratic will of the people to vacate office. By using diplomacy in combination with the threat of military force they managed to convince the former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh to surrender power and leave the country. This was after he was defeated in an election. Why has the southern African regional body been, in comparison, so ineffectual? Will it learn from Ecowas and become more interventionist? Many countries in southern Africa have not had free and fair elections; Zimbabwe is the most obvious example. News 24

UN Urges Halt to South Sudan Fighting and 4 000 New Troops
The UN Security Council is calling for a halt to fighting in South Sudan and swift deployment of a new contingent of 4 000 peacekeepers to boost the existing UN force in the conflict-wracked African nation. The UN’s most powerful body backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ political efforts to reinvigorate peace efforts in order to prevent a deterioration of the security situation and beef up the 12 000-strong UN peacekeeping force. The council statement, which also urged access for humanitarian aid, followed a closed-door meeting Monday between the 15 council members and the top monitor of South Sudan’s peace deal, former Botswana President Festus Mogae. News 24

South Sudan Ambassador Dismisses Rift with Ethiopia 
South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia is dismissing reports that relations are strained between the two countries after President Salva Kiir visited Egypt and met with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo earlier this month. South Sudan’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, James Pitia Morgan, made the remarks after some Ethiopian and South Sudanese media outlets reported that South Sudan and Egypt signed what they called a “dirty deal” to arm Ethiopian opposition groups based in South Sudan who aim to sabotage the big dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile River. Egypt has long felt that the massive dam Ethiopia is currently building will decrease its share of Nile waters, despite Ethiopia’s assurances that it won’t. This raised tensions between the two countries and the Ethiopian Prime Minister recently charged that “some elements within the Egyptian government” are supporting the unrest in his country. VOA

Mass Presidential Pardon for Quarter of Prisoners in Burundi
Burundi began Monday releasing a quarter of its jail population under a mass presidential pardon, but prisoners’ rights groups voiced concern they were just making room for more political inmates. A first group of 300 were released from the Mpimba central prison in Bujumbura, but authorities aim to free some 2,500 of the total, which stood at 10,051 last month. The releases, which included 58 activists arrested in a police crackdown on demonstrators in April 2014, were aimed at “relieving prisons to allow those remaining to live in acceptable conditions,” said Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana. “Every time political prisoners are released it’s a good thing,” Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa of the Aprodeh prisoners’ defence group told AFP. France 24

Mortar Attack Kills UN Peacekeeper in Mali
A mortar attack in restive northern Mali has killed one United Nations peacekeeper and seriously wounded two others in their camp near the Algerian border, the UN said Tuesday. The statement from the UN peacekeeping force Minusma on Monday’s attack at the Aguelhok camp did not provide nationalities, but most of the UN troops there are from Chad. “Mortar fire targeted the Minusma camp in Aguelhok”, the force said in a statement, adding “it took the life of a peacekeeper and seriously wounded two others.” The United Nations has deployed 13 000 troops in Mali to serve in the Minusma force, considered one of the deadliest missions in peacekeeping. News 24

US Gives Nod for $418m Military Aircraft Sale to Kenya
The United States has approved a $418 million sale contract that will see Kenya acquire military equipment from a US-based firm. In a statement, the US State Department said that the company, L-3 Communications, can now supply Kenya with 12 Air Tractor AT- 802L armed aircraft that will aid the country in its fight against Al-Shabaab terrorists group. The sale contract also includes two AT-504 trainer aircraft and weapons packages. “The Air Tractors are more efficient and able to fly closer to conflict zones than Kenya’s aging Northrop F-5E fighters,” the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notice said, adding that the short-field aircrafts are “capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance.” The East African

Opposition Chief Exits Congo Amid Power Deal Talks
Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi headed Tuesday to Belgium for medical treatment — just as his party is trying to negotiate a power-sharing deal following President Laurent Kabila’s refusal to step down. The 84-year-old head of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a historic heavyweight in DR Congo’s opposition movement, took off from Kinshasa’s airport aboard a private plane at 6:00am (0500 GMT), an AFP journalist reported. The departure of the frail leader could complicate negotiations over the timetable for a New Year’s Eve deal under which Kabila will stay in office before new elections are held in late 2017. The country’s influential Catholic bishops brokered the deal in a bid to prevent more bloodshed in a crisis that has already claimed dozens of lives in the chronically unstable nation. The East African

More Reshuffles: Ugandan President Museveni Names New Internal Spymaster
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni continues to shakeup top leadership in the country’s key security organs and has now fired the head of the internal spy agency. Brigadier Ronnie Balya, who served as the deputy director-general of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) since 2006 before taking the helm in 2010, has been replaced. Taking over from him is retired Major Kaka Bagyenda, an army veteran who was among soldiers that fought alongside President Museveni in the 1981-86 bush war which brought the latter to power. Brig Balya has been named an ambassador but without a posting. He becomes the second spymaster to be replaced barely two weeks after the head of the military intelligence, Brig Charles Bakahumura, was transferred to Chief of Logistics and Engineering. The East African

Up to Three-quarters of Nigeria’s Prison Population is Serving Time Without Being Sentenced
New data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics suggests Nigerian prisons may hold more innocents than guilty criminals. The report, covering data from 2011 to 2015, shows that 72.5% of Nigeria’s total prison population are inmates serving time while awaiting trial and without being sentenced. The alarming figures highlight key flaws in Nigeria’s criminal justice system with proceedings often going on for years without conclusion. While lawyers often cite a large number of cases being tried as a reason for long drawn-out trials, the charged inmates on the other side of the divide often spend years waiting to get convicted or win back their freedom. In one instance, an inmate accused of murder spent 16 years in a prison in Nigeria’s southeast without being tried. While lengthy court proceedings are an obvious problem, the figures in the NBS report also highlights a worrying culture of arbitrary arrests by Nigerian law enforcement agencies. Local police officers have been known to arrest people randomly for frivolous offenses such as “loitering”. To secure their release, family members of those arrested are expected to pay bail fees dictated by the police in an elaborate racket. Quartz

Trump’s Revival of the Antiabortion ‘Gag Rule’ Could Have a Big Impact in Africa
One of President Trump’s first foreign policy decisions is set to affect some of the world’s poorest people: women seeking health services in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where government hospitals are sometimes scarce. On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it would revive a Reagan-era policy that bans American assistance to organizations that offer abortion services, including counseling and referrals. In practice, experts say, that policy will freeze millions of dollars in funding that has gone to critical health treatment, including HIV testing and neonatal care. The United States does not fund any abortion services overseas, but many health groups receive American assistance to provide other women’s services, while using different funding sources to provide abortion counseling and procedures. Now, those organizations will have to stop providing abortion services if they want to continue to receive U.S. aid for their other programs. The policy is known as the “global gag rule” because it even restricts references to abortion in counseling sessions. The Washington Post

Libya Says Oil Sector Open Again for Business
Libya intends to reopen its oil sector to new foreign investments, its state-run oil company’s chief said Tuesday, a move that would give oil companies the opportunity to develop the largest petroleum reserves in Africa for the first time in five years. Libya froze all new foreign investment in 2011 after the civil war that toppled strongman Moammar Gadhafi. International oil companies such as Total SA of France and ConocoPhillips have long had operations in Libya, and Eni SpA of Italy has found ways to keep pumping even as clashes among warring militias and Islamic State damaged the country’s oil infrastructure. Libyan National Oil Co. Chairman, Mustafa Sanallah, told a London energy conference Tuesday that he had been waiting for a “legitimate government with a mandate from the people to come to power” before allowing foreign investment again. But that hasn’t happened. The Wall Street Journal

New African Railways Ride on Chinese Loans
Earlier this month, the first train rumbled down the tracks of a $3.4 billion electric railway connecting landlocked Ethiopia with Djibouti and its access to the Red Sea. The 750-kilometer (466 miles) line, expected to carry up to five million tons of goods per year, promises to have a massive impact on the economies of both countries and the region at large. At the official launch of the project, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said its importance cannot be overstated. “This project is like our blood vessels,” he told a VOA Somali service reporter who was riding on the inaugural train. “The reason is because Ethiopia’s outlet is through Djibouti. Therefore, this project determines if we can live or not live.” The project was 70 percent funded by a loan from China’s state-run EXIM Bank and built by China Railway Group and Chinese engineers. VOA