Africa Media Review for January 30, 2017

AU Summit Agenda Obscures the Real, Off-Book, Work of African Summit
As is often the case at African Union summits, the ambitious official theme, this year it’s “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”, is not the main draw. As is often the case, Africa’s messy, exciting politics is. This year, there is a lot to watch. This summit is an African debut of sorts for Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow, triumphant from a bruising election that nearly ended in bloodshed after the longtime president initially refused to vacate the seat he had held for 22 years. On the other end of the spectrum, this is the umpteenth summit for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980 and recently announced he would stand again in the next elections, at age 94. VOA

Morocco Rejoining African Union Seen Shaping Vote for New Leader
African heads of state gather in the Ethiopian capital on Monday for a two-day African Union summit in which Morocco’s bid for readmission to the continental bloc will shape the election of a new chairperson. Morocco formally submitted its bid to rejoin the body last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s objectives of placing the country “at the center” of Africa’s development. The North African nation withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, three decades ago in protest at recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member state. The status of the SADR has split the African Union, with 28 of its 54 members voting in July to expel the state — a move that Morocco would welcome because it claims the portion of Western Sahara ruled by the SADR as its own territory. However, the continental body has no procedures for expelling member states, and so once Morocco regains membership, it’s likely to lobby for the SADR to be removed from the bloc, NKC African Economics said in an e-mailed research note. Bloomberg

African States Still Divided over ICC Membership
The issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains a controversial one among the members of the African Union, and across Africa in general. In the run up to this year’s 28th African Union Summit, African countries are looking at a roadmap for a coordinated withdrawal from the ICC. Last year, three countries—Burundi, the Gambia, and South Africa— threatened to pull out of the ICC. Even the African Union itself, while it cannot force countries do to anything, issued a call for African states to consider a withdrawal from the court. RFI

Witnesses Say Dozens Killed in al-Shabaab Attack on Kenyan Troops
Witnesses have confirmed claims that Islamic militants killed dozens of Kenyan troops in an attack on a remote military base in Somalia. A spokesman for al-Shabaab, which has been fighting an insurgency in Somalia for more than a decade, said on Friday morning that its fighters had killed at least 57 Kenyans deployed with a regional peacekeeping mission at the base in Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told the Reuters news agency that the group was still pursuing “the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods” after the attack. He described how two fighters had driven suicide car bombs into the Kulbiyow base before others stormed it, killing the soldiers and seizing vehicles and weapons. “We have taken over the base,” he said. Kenyan military officials dismissed the claims as “completely false”. The Guardian

Adama Barrow Removes ‘Islamic’ from The Gambia’s Official Name
The Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow has removed “Islamic” from the official name of his country pledging more reforms in the tiny West African nation. In his first press conference since taking over as leader, Barrow said he would soon be overhauling government institutions to make the administration more effective. “The rule of the law, that will be the order of the day,” said Barrow, adding that The Gambia, where Muslims constitute 90% of the population, would no longer be an “Islamic republic”. The word “Islamic” was added to the country’s name in 2015. Calling on the nation to unite, the 51-year-old former businessman promised to develop the country by implementing a series of democratic reforms. International Business Times

The Gambia: President Adama Barrow Pledges Reforms
Adama Barrow, The Gambia’s new president, has vowed to reform the country’s notorious intelligence agency and promised to ensure media freedom in the country. Speaking at his first news conference since returning to take office on Thursday, Barrow announced plans to rename the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a dreaded secret police accused by rights groups of forced disappearances and torture under the control of former leader Yahya Jammeh. Barrow told reporters on Saturday the NIA was “an institution that has to continue”, but with a different name. “The rule of the law, that will be the order of the day,” he said, adding that training would be given to NIA’s operatives. Al Jazeera

Senegal Police Arrest Former Boss of Gambia’s Notorious Prisons
Senegalese police said on Friday that they had arrested General Bora Colley, the man who ran Gambia’s prisons, where human rights groups say perceived opponents were tortured and in some cases died. Colley was made the director of prisons by Gambia’s former leader, Yahya Jammeh, who lost an election last month but refused to step down. Jammeh fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea last week as a West African regional military force stood poised to remove him. Senegal surrounds tiny Gambia on three sides, and it spearheaded the operation to install opposition figure Adama Barrow, the election winner. Its police reinforced border checks following Jammeh’s departure. “These checks led to, among other results, the arrest on Jan. 25, 2017, of Gambian General Bora Colley by police at the border checkpoint in Mpack as he attempted to enter Guinea-Bissau,” the police said in a statement. Reuters

Kenya to Return Peacekeeping Force to South Sudan
Kenyan troops will return to South Sudan to rejoin the UN peacekeeping mission, the State House in the capital Nairobi announced in a statement on Sunday. The latest development comes following talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. According to the statement, Kenya and the UN agreed to reset relations after the East African nation pulled out its troops from South Sudan in November last year after former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon fired Kenyan commander, Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki as the force commander of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Anadolu Agency

AU Mediator Mbeki Says New Constitution Draft Plans Are Set for Sudan
The African Union (AU) Chief Mediator, former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, says after a marathon of discussions the government of President Omar al-Bashir and the opposition groups have agreed in principle to constitute an interim government. This is on the basis of appointment of a prime minister as head of government, reconstitution of legislatures, as well as drafting a new constitution. The conflict began in 2003 after African fighters took up arms against Sudan’s Arab government, accusing it of discrimination against black Africans. Despite the fighting easing in the last several years, the United Nations (UN) estimates that 300 000 people have been killed during the conflict and 4.4 million people need aid and more than 2.5 million have been displaced. SABC

Nigerian Gunmen Attack Convoy on Northeast Highway, 7 killed
Gunmen believed to be Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists attacked a convoy of motorists along a recently secured highway, killing at least seven people and injuring many others, including soldiers in a military escort, witnesses said. The Maiduguri-Biu highway has been one of the most dangerous routes in northeastern Nigeria for three years because of Boko Haram attacks. The Nigeria military recaptured it last year and declared it safe, but the military escorts motorists moving in convoy along the road. Eyewitness, Dauda Pambe, said he was among the travelers guarded by soldiers when gunmen launched the ambush attack on Saturday. AP

Nigeria: Militant Group Dumps Pipeline Bombing, to Commence Attacks on NDDC, Others
A militant group, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, Friday, warned that it would, in seven days time, move from bombing oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region to destroying essential infrastructure of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, NDBDA, and other federal interventionist agencies in the region over their alleged underdevelopment of the region. The group in a statement by its spokesperson, W O I Izon-Ebi, lambasting the NDDC and its chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, over purported comments that aggrieved militants bombing pipelines were criminals and the Commission would serve in the interest of All Progressives Congress, APC, in the new dispensation, also made a six-point demand on the Federal Government. Vanguard

Zuma May Fire Disobedient Ministers to Tighten Grip on Power
South African President Jacob Zuma is considering firing ministers who backed calls for him to step down last year and defied his instructions, according to senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress. The rand slumped. Zuma told the party’s National Executive Committee this week that he’s considering the action and said the government needs to improve its performance, according to two leaders who attended the gathering in Johannesburg and declined to be identified because they’re not authorized to comment. Presidential spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment. The meeting was called to discuss ways to boost the economy, improve access to land and contain rising public impatience with a government that is not meeting its targets to fight poverty and reduce a 27 percent unemployment rate. The ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral performance in an August municipal vote, when it lost control of Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg to opposition party coalitions. Bloomberg

Uganda Rebel Returns Add to Growing Headache for Kabila and Congo
Government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga said hundreds of armed ex-M23 fighters, supposedly exiled in Uganda, had re-emerged in North Kivu Province in eastern Congo, from where they waged a 19-month war against the Congolese government in 2012-2013. “We are disappointed with our Ugandan colleagues for letting these criminals out, moreover armed,” said Mende. “We can’t allow this [destabilisation] to happen. We engaged these criminals in confrontations and flushed them out.” The clash he refers to took place in the border town of Ishasha on 14 January, but it’s unclear how many ex-M23 or Congolese government troops were killed. The M23 (March 23 Movement), a largely Tutsi rebel group, began as a mutiny but rapidly gained ground in North Kivu, taking control of the provincial capital, Goma, in November 2012. It was finally defeated by the Congolese army and the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in November 2013. IRIN

Ethiopia Faces New Drought and Seeks Urgent Aid for 5 million
The carcasses of goats and sheep litter the ground near the airstrip in this remote eastern region of Ethiopia, which is struggling to counter a new drought that authorities say has left 5.6 million people in urgent need of assistance. U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien visited a camp for displaced persons on Saturday, saying that “these people are really struggling to survive.” He cautioned, however, against “dramatizing by saying this may degenerate into famine.” Last year’s drought, exacerbated by the El Niño climate phenomenon that affected seasonal rains, left 10.2 million people hungry and killed several hundred thousand of the animals that the local sheep and cattle farmers depend on for their livelihood. La Times

Sudan Summons U.S. Envoy over Trump’s Travel ban
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday has summoned the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Khartoum Steven Koutsis to protest against the decision by President Donald Trump restricting entry for Sudanese nationals to the United States. President Trump on Saturday issued an executive order temporarily banning refugees and travellers to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gharib Allah Khidir said Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Abdel-Ghani al-Nai’m has expressed to Koutsis his government resentment over the ban against Sudanese nationals. He described the move as a “negative signal” in light of the recent positive developments in relations between the two countries following the ease of economic sanctions imposed on Sudan and the joint cooperation in the fight against terror. Sudan Tribune

EU Interior Ministers at Loggerheads over Distribution of Migrants
The [EU] ministers agreed in principle on the need for external camps six months ago. But now there are going to be tangible negotiations with Tunisia and Egypt, the European Commission says. Such camps would be currently inconceivable in Libya because large swathes of territory are outside the fragile government’s control. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says a deal with Libya along the same lines as the pact with Turkey would not be worth pursuing. Since March, Turkey has committed itself to take back refugees or migrants that have arrived in Greece from its territory. This measure, together with the closure of the Balkans route, has reduced migrant flows by 80 percent. But refugee and migrant traffic via the Mediterranean route was as almost as high in 2016 as it was in 2015, standing at around 200,000. Estimates say that around 4,000 drowned while attempting the crossing. EU interior ministers want to drastically reduce the numbers coming to Europe via the Mediterranean. “We want to stop the traffickers from plying their trade,” de Maiziere said in Valletta. If the refugees or migrants know that they will be rescued but brought back to Africa, then they won’t even contemplate paying thousands of euros for a hazardous crossing. But such measures must be “in line with international law,” de Maiziere said. Deutsche Welle

Suspects Held in Morocco ‘Planned to Attack Embassies’
A top Moroccan security official said on Sunday jihadists linked to the Islamic State group arrested this week had planned to attack embassies and tourist sites in the North African country. Seven members of a “dangerous cell” were arrested in a dawn operation on Friday in five different cities and “other suspects are on the run”, said Abdelhak Khiam who heads Morocco’s anti-terrorism security service. He told a press conference that the group’s chief, calling himself an “emir” was among those arrested, and that he had sought to set up a branch of IS in the kingdom. Khiam said the man had received “financing and weapons from members of the Libyan branch of IS”. News 24

Fighting Africa’s Illicit Financial Flows: A 14-Step Guide Revealed
[…] Last year, Global Financial Integrity President Raymond Baker called IFFs “the ugliest chapter in international affairs since slavery”. An estimated $70-billion, and increasing, leaves Africa each year through illicit outflows. As a percentage of GDP, IFFs in Africa are the highest in the world, with multinational corporations a lead contributor, undermining the effect of foreign direct investment and aid. Civil society leaders from across Africa and the United States, with financial support from the Swedish government, are embarking on a new campaign to pressure African states and regional organisations to implement practical solutions to confront IFFs. The continent has been a leader in challenging illicit flows, which expose the hypocrisy of foreign direct investment and donor funding – allowing local governments to spread some of the blame for their countries’ developmental challenges – and deny states of much-needed tax revenue. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki led a United Nations panel on the issue and the AU has repeatedly spoken about it in recent years, but curbing IFFs is notoriously complex. Daily Maverick

Mozambique Fell Prey to the Promise of Fabulous Wealth – Now It Can’t Pay Nurses
Mozambique’s £1.6bn borrowing spree has caused a fiscal crisis that means interest on loans, civil service new year bonuses and other government bills was not paid this month. Four years ago, with one of Africa’s largest natural gas reserves in developmentand visions of fabulous wealth before them, Mozambique’s leaders took secret loans worth $2bn. These were organised by the London offices of two major European banks, Credit Suisse and the Russian state-owned bank VTB, the conduct of whom was sufficiently questionable that they are now being investigated by financial authorities in the UK, Switzerland and the US. The money was for tuna fishing, maritime security and weapons to fight Renamo rebels; according to Christine Lagarde, director general of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), some if it was also used corruptly. The Guardian

47 Killed in Madagascar Wedding Crash: Police
At least 47 people, including 10 children and a newly-wed couple, were killed when a truck carrying a wedding party and guests veered off the road and plunged into a river in Madagascar, police said on Sunday. Police said the accident occurred early on Saturday outside the town of Anjozorobe, around 90km from the capital. The truck was transporting passengers who had attended a wedding the day before. There were “a total of 47 deaths, including 10 children” and the newly-wedded couple, police spokesperson Herilala Andrianatisaona told AFP. Twenty-two others were injured. The police have blamed the driver for taking too many passengers on a truck meant to carry only goods. News 24

Has the South African Defence Industry Lost Its Edge?
South Africa’s defence industry has a well-established reputation, especially regarding artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mine-protected vehicles, helmet-mounted sights and guided weapons. Although once a pioneer in these and other fields, it seems that South Africa is falling behind. South Africa was an early adopter of unmanned aerial vehicles, using types such as the Vulture and Seeker. The latter was developed by Denel into the Seeker 400, which can be armed, but the company halted development of the larger Bateleur and only has the Seeker 400, smaller Seeker 200 and civil Hungwe in its portfolio. In the last several years a number of Middle Eastern and African countries (the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria amongst others) have acquired armed Chinese UAVs such as the CH-3 and CH-4, after struggling to gain American approval for the export of similar systems like the Predator. This is widely regarded as a lost opportunity for South Africa’s defence industry, especially as one of its biggest strengths is that it offers US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) free products. DefenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones