Africa Media Review for January 25, 2018

Over 40 African Leaders, UN Chief to Attend AU Summit
Heads of states of more than 40 African nations and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend the 30th AU summit, an Ethiopian official said Wednesday. Speaking to journalists, Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopian foreign minister, said the leaders are expected to discuss political and security matters affecting African countries and reforming the 54-year-old continental body. The 30th AU summit kicked off Monday in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa under the theme “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” The biannual summit will last until Jan. 29. Xinhua

UN: Al-Shabab in Decline, but Still a Threat
The top U.N. official for Somalia said Wednesday that while al-Shabab remains a serious threat, the terror group is on the decline, and the continued deployment of African Union troops in Somalia is essential to its ultimate defeat. “Al-Shabab remains a potent threat, despite — or perhaps precisely because — it is on the back foot as a result of financial pressures, counterterrorism operations and airstrikes,” U.N. envoy Michael Keating told Security Council members. A truck bomb attack Oct. 14 in the capital city of Mogadishu killed more than 500 civilians and demonstrated the al-Qaida-linked group’s ability to stage a large-scale attack, despite an intensive military offensive against them. VOA

Somalia Lures Defectors in New Push against Insurgents
Somalia has appealed to the United Nations and the United States to lift the arms embargo they imposed during the civil war. Anadolu Agency caught up with Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Ali-Nur Hagi on the sidelines of an African Union meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) in preparation for the 30th Assembly of heads of state and government slated for Sunday. The ambassador said the embargo had outlived its purpose. The UN Security Council first imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in January 1992. Although it has been relaxed in subsequent years, the embargo is still in effect. In 2014, the Security Council reaffirmed the overall arms embargo on Somalia. Reuters

Somalia Reiterates Appeal to Lift Arms Embargo
Somalia has appealed to the United Nations and the United States to lift the arms embargo they imposed during the civil war. Anadolu Agency caught up with Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Ali-Nur Hagi on the sidelines of an African Union meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) in preparation for the 30th Assembly of heads of state and government slated for Sunday. The ambassador said the embargo had outlived its purpose. The UN Security Council first imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in January 1992. Although it has been relaxed in subsequent years, the embargo is still in effect. In 2014, the Security Council reaffirmed the overall arms embargo on Somalia. Anadolu Agency

US after Supporting South Sudan’s Leader Calls Him ‘Unfit’
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday the United States is giving up on South Sudan’s president after backing the country’s independence in 2011 and investing over $11 billion, calling him “an unfit partner” in the pursuit of peace and urging an arms embargo on the conflict-wracked nation. She cited President Salva Kiir for almost immediately violating a Dec. 21 cease-fire that took effect three days later, for blocking aid to millions in need despite a promise of “free and unhindered access,” and for last month’s promotion of three generals sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in 2015 for leading “the slaughter” of civilians. In a hard-hitting speech to the council, Haley called the generals’ promotion “a slap in the face” of the council, of nations that supported the Kiir government, and “of basic decency.”  AP

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Attacks in Numbers – as Lethal as Ever
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly said that the Boko Haram jihadist group has been defeated but BBC analysis of its attacks shows little change. Research by BBC Monitoring shows the group killed more than 900 people in 2017, marginally more than it did in 2016. It consistently mounted attacks during the year, defying Mr Buhari’s assertion that the militants had been routed. We have crunched the numbers to show in a series of graphs, the type of attacks Boko Haram stages, which areas they target and which month is most deadly. BBC

Battle for Land Becomes Nigeria’s Biggest Security Challenge
Boko Haram may dominate headlines about Nigeria, but more than twice as many citizens are being killed in battles over land between farmers and herders than they are by jihadists. After decades of government inaction, skirmishes over resources have become blood feuds and threaten to morph into something even deadlier. The conflict already claims more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency. According to a report by the International Crisis Group released last year, more than 2 500 people were killed by the violence across the country in 2016. According to the Global Terrorism Index, there were 1 079 deaths attributable to Boko Haram the same year. AFP

Empty Coffers at Nigeria’s Intelligence Agency?
Nigerians received another big shock last week when another $44million was reported to have vanished from the vaults of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Daily Trust on Sunday reported, quoting top security sources, that $44million in cash kept in NIA’s vaults in Abuja was removed to an unknown destination two days after Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar was appointed as its new Director General. According to the story, the Jonathan administration released $260million to NIA as General Intervention Fund. At the time the Federal Government launched an investigation into the funds last year, only the cash discovered in Lagos and the $44million lying in the Abuja vault remained to be expended out of the original $260million. Daily Trust

There’s a Decades-Old Law Threatening Digital Freedom in DR Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has in recent years emerged as one of the most important nations to watch for digital rights violations in Africa. As the political reality in the central African nation heats up, authorities have resorted to a distinct tactic to keep demonstrations and anti-government rhetoric in check: shutting down the internet and SMS services. Digital rights activists say a 16-year-old law has been instrumental in cracking down on internet accessibility. Passed in 2002, law No. 013/2002 (in French) governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense. Internet service providers, including Bharti Airtel and Orange Group, have often complied with government orders, fearing their licenses would be terminated if they refused to assent. Quartz

Pope Speaks Out against Congo Violence after Protest Deaths
Pope Francis renewed an appeal on Wednesday for an end to violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, where security forces have gunned down protesters during pro-democracy demonstrations called by the local Catholic Church. “Unfortunately, worrying news continues to arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Francis told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square after a regular general audience. “I, therefore, renew my appeal that everyone make all efforts to avoid any form of violence. From its side, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to peace and to the common good of society.” The Catholic Church, which is highly influential in Congo, has become increasingly vocal in its condemnation of President Joseph Kabila’s insistence on staying in office long after the end of his mandate. Reuters

UN Threatens Sanctions against Mali Parties Blocking Peace
The U.N. Security Council threatened sanctions Wednesday against parties in Mali who obstruct or delay the full implementation of a 2015 peace agreement. A press statement agreed to by the 15 council nations expresses “a shared sense of impatience” about persistent delays in fulfilling the accord agreed to by Mali’s government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups. The council welcomed the timeline set by the parties at a meeting in Mali’s capital Jan. 15-16 to implement the agreement by the end of March — and urged that it be fulfilled. It warned that “actions taken that obstruct, or that obstruct by prolonged delay, or that threaten the implementation of the agreement, now constitute a basis for sanctions designations.” AP

South African Graft Inquiry Stalled as It Awaits Terms from Zuma -Justice
South Africa’s judiciary is unable to start an inquiry into alleged corruption because President Jacob Zuma is yet to provide terms of reference, the enquiry’s head said on Tuesday. The two-week delay is fresh evidence that Zuma wants to stall the investigation, said the opposition Democratic Alliance, which has previously accused Zuma of corruption. Zuma established the inquiry into charges by the opposition, civil society and members of the ruling party that individuals including business associates of Zuma unduly influenced state tenders and cabinet appointments. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was chosen on Jan. 9 to lead it. “The commission is still waiting for the terms of reference to be finalised. The presidency is working on them,” Zondo told reporters. “I have no doubt that that is being attended to with the urgency that it requires.”  Reuters

Ramaphosa Sees Progress in South Africa’s ‘Mammoth’ Corruption Fight
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the authorities are intensifying their attack on pervasive corruption in the state and are having “positive” discussions with investors about the future of Africa’s largest economy. “The wheels of change are moving now and they are going to start speeding up,” Ramaphosa said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Cleaning up clearly is going to be quite a mammoth task, but we have to start somewhere. Our people are clamoring for a clean government, and that is what we are going to give them.” Ramaphosa, 65, was elected leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress last month, positioning him to succeed President Jacob Zuma, whose almost nine-year tenure has been marred by scandal. While Zuma’s second term is due to end in mid-2019, the ANC has said its newly elected top six leaders will determine when he should step down. Bloomberg

Egypt’s Sisi Launches Presidential Bid after Biggest Rival Arrested
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi officially launched his bid for a second term in office on Wednesday, submitting documents to register as a candidate, state news agency MENA said, a day after his main potential rival was arrested. Sisi, who won an election in a landslide in 2014 after leading the army in ousting Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi a year earlier, becomes the first candidate to register officially for the election set for March 26-28. Candidates must register from Jan. 20 to 29 before a final list of candidates is announced on Feb. 20, according to the election commission. Reuters

Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa: Mugabe Family ‘Left in Peace’
Zimbabwe’s long-time leader Robert Mugabe will be “left in peace” with a “lucrative” retirement package, his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has said. However, Mr Mnangagwa also told the BBC’s Mishal Husain that no-one had been granted immunity from prosecution. Many Zimbabweans are hoping Mr Mugabe and his family, who became known for their extravagant lifestyles, would be held to account for their actions. Mr Mugabe was ousted in November following 37 years in power. BBC

Sierra Leone’s Political Discourse Is Growing Up
With elections fast approaching, there are clear signs that Sierra Leone’s political discourse is growing up. March 7, 2018 is D-day for Sierra Leone’s electorate. The country will go to the polls and vote for new representatives – MPs, mayors, councillors, district council chairs and of course, a president who will determine our future for the next five years. […] On the face of it, Sierra Leone’s political landscape is still dominated by a mixed bag of Machiavellian smear tactics, party switching politicians, vote buying and overblown rhetoric. Underneath however, there is the sense that Sierra Leoneans expect more from these elections than the usual ethnic politics; and there have been notable efforts by civil society organisations, the media, the voting public and some candidates to reconfigure the discourse with genuine political information. The Sierra Leone Telegraph

Weah Appoints Liberian Army Chief as Minister of Defense
Liberian President and Commander – in – Chief of the Arm Forces of Liberia George Manneh Weah has retired with immediate effect the Chief of Staff of the Arm Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major General Daniel Ziahnkan, and subsequently appointed the army chief as new Minister of National Defense, subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate. A statement issued from the office of the President hours after taking the oath of office on Monday, 22 January says Gen. Ziahnkan’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Brig. General Prince Charles Johnson III, is appointed by Mr. Weah as new Chief of Staff of the AFL with immediate effect. He is appointed with the rank of Major General, pending confirmation by the Liberian Senate. When confirmed by the Senate, retired Gen. Ziahnkan who is appointed as Defense Minister would replace former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s longest serving minister, Brownie Samukai. The New Dawn – Liberia

Gambia President to Favor Former Leader’s Extradition for Abuses
Gambian President Adama Barrow said he will favor the extradition of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, if a commission of inquiry into human-rights abuses during the former ruler’s 22-year reign recommends that he stands trial. Jammeh’s two-decade rule of the tiny West African nation came to an end in January last year after Senegalese troops and Nigerian fighters jets were sent to the capital, Banjul, to enforce the outcome of Barrow’s election victory the month before. The country’s parliament passed a law in December to establish a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to probe state crimes committed during Jammeh’s reign, which was characterized by a violent clampdown on dissent and opposition parties and pledges to kill homosexuals. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones