Africa Media Review for January 4, 2017

Gambia’s Electoral Commissioner Flees Country after Threats
The head of Gambia’s electoral commission has fled to Senegal due to threats to his safety after declaring that President Yahya Jammeh lost last month’s election, a defeat the ruler has refused to accept. Alieu Momarr Njai left the country on Friday, family members said on Tuesday. He had declared opposition leader Adama Barrow the winner of the Dec. 1 election, stunning many Gambians who were used to Jammeh who took power in a coup in 1994 and whose government gained a reputation for torturing and killing perceived opponents. Jammeh initially accepted defeat but a week later reversed that decision and said he would not relinquish power. Njai maintained the validity of the election process but also said he was worried for his safety. Gambian security forces seized control of the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters, which holds the original poll records, and told staff, including Njai, to leave. Reuters

Two More Gambian Radio Stations Shut Down by National Forces
Hilltop Radio and Afri Radio, two private radio stations in Gambia, were ordered off the air by national security agents on Monday. “Three people who identified themselves as staff of the National Intelligence Agency [NIA] came to the radio station on Sunday around 4 p.m. and asked me to stop transmission,” Hilltop Radio chief Basiru Darboe told French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). A source from Afri Radio told AFP the station was ordered to stop broadcasting by NIA agents as well. The shutdowns come after popular radio station Taranga FM was forced to stop broadcasting on Sunday, also by the NIA. Taranga FM, known for translating newspapers into the local languages of wolof and mandinka, has been closed four times in recent years. “It is a slap in the face of the country’s democratic process,” said Gambia Press Union President Emil Touray. “People will not have access to information in this critical period of our history.” Deutsche Welle

Pact Would Force Out Joseph Kabila From Congo. If, of Course, He Agrees.
Did a group of bishops just disarm one of the most explosive political problems in Africa? Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, with crowds waiting anxiously in the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Catholic bishops announced a deal that could calm a very turbulent nation. Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, who has overstayed his term in office and is widely believed to have looted millions, would step down by the end of 2017, the bishops said. The opposition would play a meaningful role in a transitional government. Elections would be held. Political prisoners would be freed. This was huge news in Congo, which has never enjoyed a peaceful transfer of power. It has been racked by more rebellion, assassinations, civil war, suffering and death than just about any other country on the continent. Geographically the biggest nation in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most stunningly beautiful, Congo is also one of the poorest and most violent. So in the last few days, many Congolese have expressed relief, gratitude, even downright joy, calling the deal brokered by the Catholic Church “historic.” The New York Times

Talks to Implement Landmark Political Deal Begin in Kinshasa
[…] in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the government and opposition are hammering out details on how to implement the landmark deal that could pave the way for the country’s first ever peaceful transition of power. France 24

Congo Opposition Leader Who Fled Country Announces Candidacy
A top Congo opposition leader who fled the country has announced his candidacy for president and is commending a new political agreement that might allow him to come home. In a statement Tuesday, Moise Katumbi praised the deal signed by political parties that calls for President Joseph Kabila to leave power after an election that will be held by the end of the year. The election originally had been set for November, and delays caused growing unrest. Under the deal, mediating group CENCO will examine Katumbi’s case. Katumbi fled Congo last year as prosecutors announced their intent to try him on charges of hiring mercenaries, which he has denied. Katumbi says he will fight for “the rise of the rule of law” as a presidential candidate.  AP

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Tipped to Lead Opposition Coalition – #2018elections
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says “people will decide their future” if securocrats deny him the chance to lead the country – if he wins the 2018 national elections. Tsvangirai’s remarks came at a time when insiders within opposition parties indicated that he was tipped to lead the proposed opposition coalition that will challenge President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party in the forthcoming polls. Tsvangirai has challenged Mugabe, 92, in three consecutive elections in which he has accused the veteran leader of rigging the vote. Opposition parties were now mulling fielding a single presidential candidate who would challenge the nonagenarian. Mugabe has already been endorsed by Zanu-PF as its candidate. allAfrica

Ethiopia Jails 20 Muslims Accused of Pursuing Sharia State
An Ethiopian court has sentenced 20 Muslims to prison after they were found guilty of trying to establish a state ruled by Sharia law and inciting violence. They were charged under Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism law and convicted last month. All but one received prison terms of five and a half years. Two were journalists working for a Muslim radio station. The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate, citing the court ruling, said Tuesday that the 20 defendants also were found to be “participating in a movement to secure the release of another Muslim group that was under detention.” Muslims have long felt marginalized in Ethiopia and have carried out a number of protests since 2011. Some were met with force, and many protest leaders were jailed. “The defendants didn’t get a fair trial. In fact, we didn’t expect the court to give a fair verdict,” Mustafa Safi, the defendants’ lawyer, told The Associated Press. “They were subjected to both a mistrial and a bad treatment at the infamous Kilinto detention center. They were even unable to pray there. But we will appeal the sentencing anyway.” AP

Senegalese Diaspora to Receive Extra Seats in Parliament
Representatives from Senegal’s diaspora will be granted almost 10% of seats in parliament, lawmakers said on Tuesday, underlining the key role that migrants play in the west African nation’s economy. More than half a million Senegalese live outside their homeland, sending back more than $1.64bn a year in remittances to their families, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures. Senegal is home to 13 million people, but France, Italy and Spain are popular choices for legal and illegal migrants. Moustapha Diakhate, an MP with the country’s ruling coalition of parties, told AFP the parliament had passed a bill on Monday increasing the number of lawmakers by 15 to 165 [9.1%], who would be elected to serve the interests of the diaspora. News 24

Burundi Bans Oldest Rights Group
Burundi authorities have banned the country’s oldest human rights organisation, which had continued reporting abuses despite being suspended when political turmoil broke out nearly two years ago. A ministerial order made public on Tuesday accused the Iteka League of “continuing to tarnish the image of the country and sowing hatred and division among the population.” The rights group, established in 1991, took part in a two-year investigation with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) which resulted in a report released in November documenting state-sponsored violence and warning of the risk of genocide. “We are not surprised by this decision [because] it confirms that the Burundi government continues to do everything to prevent the reporting of serious violations of human rights,” Iteka president Anschaire Nikoyagize, who lives in exile, told AFP. News 24

Somalis Plead with EU to Keep Burundi Troops in Amisom
The Somali Community in Uganda have appealed to the European Union (EU) as funders of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to mobilise salaries for the Burundi troops now threatening to pull out of Somalia. Burundi has also threatened to sue the African Union (AU) over failure to pay its peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. “Security in Somalia is still very fragile that is why we still need Amisom. The other day, media reported a gunman believed to be an al-Shabaab militant having shot someone dead in State House [in Mogadishu]. This is evidence that we are not yet stable to stand on our own,” the Somali community chairman in Uganda, Mr Hassan Hussein, told journalists in Kampala on Monday. “Should Amisom withdraw now, even the little peace we have achieved will be washed away,” Mr Hussein said. President Pierre Nkurunziza said the Burundian forces serving with Amisom have gone for more than one year without salaries. “Failure by the African Union to sort out the problem by next month, Burundian soldiers will pull out of the mission,” he said. Daily Monitor

Death Toll Rises to 9 in Twin Somali Bombings
The death toll in Monday’s twin suicide car bombings near Mogadishu international airport has risen to nine after rescue workers Tuesday found two bodies under the rubble of the Peace Hotel targeted by one of the bombers. Regional officials told VOA’s Somali service that the bodies of a man and a woman were found after the hotel’s security cameras showed them standing near a wall at the impact of the explosion. At least 21 people were injured in the attacks. The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. This was the second time the group used the tactic of back-to-back suicide vehicles, with the first meant to provoke panic and the second meant to cause maximum casualties. VOA

Mozambique Cease-Fire to Be Extended 60 Days: Opposition
The head of Mozambique’s opposition movement says a cease-fire declared a week ago will be extended for two months to allow peace talks to continue in a “favorable environment.” Afonso Dhlakama’s announcement comes a day after he spoke by phone with President Filipe Nyusi, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported Tuesday. Talks between the government and the opposition Renamo movement, aided by international mediators, have been hurt by attacks on officials from both camps. The two sides fought each other in a devastating civil war that ended in 1992. The ruling Frelimo party won 2014 elections, but Renamo alleged fraud and wants a bigger role in the government as well as more autonomy in areas it dominates. AP

Libya Strongman Says Russia ‘to Fight Arms Embargo’
Russia will seek to end an arms embargo against Libya and could supply weapons to Khalifa Haftar, whose forces support a rival administration to the UN-backed unity government, the military strongman said on Tuesday. Asked whether he was promised arms during a recent visit to Russia, Haftar said Moscow had told him weapons “can arrive only once the [UN] embargo ends”. But he was assured that “Putin will undertake to revoke it,” he said in the interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera. The Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, is recognised by the international community. But Haftar, the controversial head of the so-called Libyan National Army, supports a parallel authority, based in eastern Libya near the border with Egypt, that controls much of the country’s oil production. News 24

South Sudan Rival Forces Clash in Eastern Equatoria State
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) has accused government forces of fresh attacks in Eastern Equatoria state, the spokesman for the armed opposition said. In a statement obtained by the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA), Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, the official spokesperson for the SPLA-IO, said Juba-backed troops launched surprised attacks on rebel containment sites along a Torit-Maguiy road in an area called Lolere. “It was in the afternoon when the SPLA-IG launched an attack on the SPLA-IO at the containment base along Torit, Maguiy road…,” Col. Deng said. South Sudan News Agency

The Revenge of Salva Kiir
South Sudan’s civil war has played out largely along ethnic lines, pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against supporters of vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar, a Nuer. […]  the U.N. is warning of an impending genocide, even as the Security Council failed once again last month to impose an arms embargo on the warring parties. With the resumption of fighting, Machar fled into exile in South Africa. Kiir seized the opportunity to replace him with Taban Deng, a onetime ally of Machar’s who is now widely seen as a traitor by the rebels. Greeted with a collective shrug from the United States and other Western powers, the move amounted to an internationally sanctioned palace coup, and all but guaranteed the escalation of a war that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced more than 3 million people from their homes. “It’s actually going to fracture the conflict even more because you’ve removed any possibility of the opposition being in negotiations,” said Joshua Craze, a researcher focusing on South Sudan at the Small Arms Survey. Foreign Policy

Sudan: Blame Traded over Civilian Deaths in Darfur
A Sudanese official and rebels have traded blame over civilian deaths in central Darfur, an area that has seen sporadic clashes between the army and armed groups despite a government-announced ceasefire. The Darfur Union UK, an activist group, reported on Tuesday that gunmen, reportedly in military uniforms, killed 11 at a camp for displaced people in the Jabal Marra area. Jaafar Abdelhakam, the governor of central Darfur and member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, accused the SPM Abdelwahed movement of perpetrating Sunday’s attack. SPM Abdelwahed is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur that has refused to enter into dialogue with the government. However, locals blamed government forces for the deaths in what they described as an apparent revenge attack for the murder of a soldier. Al Jazeera

Can France Hold Corrupt African Leaders to Account?
The son of Equatorial Guinea’s president has been accused of widespread corruption and money laundering, but he is not being tried for it in his home country of Equatorial Guinea. Instead, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue has been prosecuted in the US, is being investigated in Switzerland, and was tried in absentia in France on Monday. Obiang is known for his taste for luxury cars, mansions, and expensive works of art. French prosecutors say the items were bought using illegal money – most of it in cash. They say Obiang stole $115 million from the government while he was Agriculture Minister from 2004 to 2011. They are specifically trying him for property he bought in France, including a Parisian villa worth more than $100 million. Obiang has always said he earned his money legally. The trial is a major shift in French policy, which has long ignored corrupt African leaders who buy property in France. So, what’s behind the crackdown? Al Jazeera

Zambia, Zimbabwe Row Over Fishing of Matemba in Kariba
A fierce stampede for fish has ensued among Zimbabweans and Zambians in Lake Kariba, raising the spectre of a diplomatic storm between the two neighbours. Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri revealed recently that Zambia had deployed nearly a thousand fishing boats which were encroaching into Zimbabwean territory in violation of the protocol regulating the use of the Kariba Dam by the neighbouring countries The lake lies between the two former British colonies although Zimbabwe is entitled to a bigger share of the aquatic resource. Kariba is a source of a variety of nutritious fish species with fishing there being employing thousands. “According to Article 6 of the protocol, fishing effort (number of boats fishing) is to be shared according to the area of the lake which each state holds,” Muchinguri-Kashiri told parliament recently. New Zimbabwe in allAfrica

Drought Worsens Deadly Battle Between Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers in Nigeria 
[…] On 3 November, near Amida’s home in a village in Demsa district, two people were killed by Fulani herdsmen. “I now have to send my son to my plot to till the land,” says Rebekah. “Before we thrashed the crops outside, but now we do them in here. It’s more dangerous there now.” Farmers have accused the herdsmen of trespassing on their farmland to graze their cattle, destroying their crops. The Fulani herdsmen have always ventured in search of land on which to feed their cattle; some are semi-nomadic, rooted in communities across Nigeria, while others travel along courses leading from Niger and Chad to Nigeria. But the combined effect of competition for land and droughts has made their search increasingly desperate. Reprisal attacks and provocations exist on both sides. Cattle are sometimes stolen from herdsmen by criminal groups and communities often attack the herdsmen, assuming them to be a threat. But the conflict has been deadly for farming communities. In August, more than 30 people were killed when herdsmen attacked villages in Demsa. In the three months prior to this, another 50 people were killed in escalating attacks that led to crisis meetings involving the governor of the state and local rulers. The Guardian

Chinese Foreign Minister to Visit Five African Countries
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will follow a two-decade-long diplomatic tradition to make Africa his first overseas destination in 2017, a spokesperson said Tuesday. Wang will pay an official visit to Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Nigeria from Jan. 7 to 12, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang announced at a news briefing. “Relations with developing countries, including in Africa, is the bedrock of Chinese diplomacy,” Geng said. “Chinese foreign ministers have visited Africa during their first foreign trips each year over the past two decades. The practice has become a much treasured diplomatic tradition for China.” Wang will discuss the implementation of President Xi Jinping’s consensus with African leaders and the outcome of the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, to help the revival of Africa and enhance solidarity and common development among developing countries, Geng said. Xinhua

Pyramids at Risk: Egypt is Struggling to Maintain its Rich Archaeological Heritage Following a Huge Drop in Tourism Revenue

With a shaky economy following years of unrest and a huge drop in tourists, Egypt is struggling to preserve its fabled archaeological heritage. From Alexandria on the Mediterranean to the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last of the Seven Wonders of the World – and Aswan to the south, the North African country is home to impressive ancient monuments. For years, the sites were able to rely on a steady stream of ticket sales to finance their upkeep. But since Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the number of tourists visiting the country has dwindled, leaving authorities scrambling to make up for lost revenues. The Daily Mail



Photo: Adam Jones