Africa Media Review for January 5, 2017

Gambia’s Army Chief Reaffirms Loyalty to Jammeh
The Gambia’s army chief on Wednesday reaffirmed his loyalty to President Yahya Jammeh despite the threat of a regional military intervention if the strongman refuses to step down. Lieutenant General Ousman Badjie used a New Year message published in the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper to “renew to Your Excellency [Jammeh] the assurance of the unflinching loyalty and support of The Gambia Armed Forces”. Regional leaders warned last month that the 15-member Economic Community Of West African States would “take all necessary action” to enforce the results of a disputed December 1 poll that Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow. Barrow initially claimed the army chief had personally assured him of his support, but Badjie subsequently appeared at high-level mediation talks in Banjul in mid-December saying the incumbent was still his boss. News 24

Counting the Cost of Gambia’s Political Stand Off
Gambia, a small country split in half horizontally by its eponymous river, prides itself on being west Africa’s “smiling coast”. However, hopes for peace and prosperity are under threat from the decision of its outgoing president to reject recent election results endorsed by the UN, the African Union and regional economic bloc ECOWAS. Gambians went to the polls on Dec. 1 but, after initially accepting his loss, the country’s strongman, Yahya Jammeh, rejected the result in their “totality”, plunging the country into crisis. Despite Jammeh’s reaction, President-elect Adama Barrow told journalists that his inauguration will be held on Jan. 19, when Jammeh’s 22-year rule is due to expire. Regional leaders have pledged to use force should the outgoing president refuse to step down. Since the stand off began, fear and uncertainty have taken grip and the economy has started to feel the pinch. Anadolu Agency

Two Moroccan UN Peacekeepers Killed in Central African Republic
Two Moroccan U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) were killed and another wounded by unknown attackers, Moroccan state news agency MAP said on Wednesday. The peacekeepers were escorting fuel trucks on Tuesday afternoon about 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of the town of Obo when they were attacked, the mission said in a statement, adding that the assailants fled into the bush. “No claim can justify individuals directing their grievances against peacekeepers whose presence on CAR soil is only aimed at helping the country emerge from the cycle of violence,” mission head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said in the statement. Central African Republic descended into chaos in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation, ousting then-President Francois Bozize and sparking a backlash from Christian militias. France 24

No Charges Over CAR Sex Abuse Allegations Against French Soldiers
No French soldiers have been charged as judges wrap up an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse relating to France’s Sangaris operation in the wartorn Central African Republic (CAR). But, after talking to alleged victims and servicemen, an investigative website claims the authorities failed to provide the necessary resources to uncover the whole truth. Paris prosecutors must now decide whether to pursue the matter further but, with no charges made when the investigative magistrates filed their report on 20 December, the case could well be dropped. But anti-child prostitution NGO Ecpat, which filed a legal complaint relating to the case, said Wednesday it may appeal for further inquiries to be made, as it has the right to do during the next three months. Two other investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by French troops in the CAR were opened at the same time. RFI

UN Welcomes Congo Agreement, Urges Swift Implementation
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday welcomed a political agreement in Congo calling for President Joseph Kabila to leave power after an election by the end of the year and urged “swift implementation.” The council said in a presidential statement that it was encouraged “by the spirit of flexibility and compromise demonstrated by Congolese political leaders” in reaching the agreement. Council members stressed the importance of the government and its partners taking “all necessary steps to accelerate preparations for the elections without further delays, within the timeframe.”[…] France’s U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, who sponsored the Security Council resolution, said after the vote that “it’s a very important and positive move.” Responding to reporters’ questions before the vote over how the agreement can be implemented if Kabila reportedly has not yet signed it, Delattre said: “If the Security Council is fully behind the text, we believe it will be a strong encouragement for every player to implement it.” The council reiterated “its commitment to support implementation of the agreement in close cooperation with the African Union.” VOA

Deadly Violence Flares Up in the Great Lakes Region
Over the weekend news broke of the killing of the Environment minister in Burundi Emmanuel Niyonkuru, on his way home from New Year celebrations, sparking fears of deepening violence and conflict in that country. This incident comes on the heels of massive violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with opposition demanding the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. The two countries are part of what is called the Great Lakes region that includes countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Ambassador Welile Nhlapo is a former special representative to the Great lakes and has spent a lot of time in efforts to bring about peace in this region. SABC

10,000 Prisoners Pardoned in Restive Ethiopia Region
Ethiopia’s state broadcaster says 10,000 prisoners have been pardoned in the restive Oromia region. It is not clear whether they were detained under the country’s state of emergency. Broadcaster EBC reported Wednesday that those pardoned include people who are old, have chronic illnesses or have families and children. It says people sentenced for rape, human trafficking and corruption were not included. Oromia has seen violent anti-government protests that spread to other parts of Ethiopia and led to the state of emergency that was declared in October. Mualtu Gemechu with the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress says the pardons are welcome but estimates that 60,000 to 70,000 people have been detained in Oromia in recent months. He says prisons are full and some people are now being held at private residences. AP

3 Girl Suicide Bombers Gunned Down in Northeastern Nigeria
Self-defense fighters Wednesday killed three girl suicide bombers targeting a bustling market in northeastern Nigeria, civilian and military officials said. They blamed the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group for the attempted bombing. The civilian fighters who work alongside the army challenged the girls as they approached a village near Madagali town, local council chairman Yusuf Muhammad Gulak told The Associated Press. The girls began running at the checkpoint and the fighters shot the girl in the lead, activating her explosives and killing her and a companion, he said. The third girl tried to flee and was gunned down, Gulak said. Army spokesman Maj. Badare Akintoye confirmed the shootings, adding: “Our soldiers are on alert and commercial activities are going on” at the targeted market. AP

Nigeria is Raising Tariffs on Yachts and Sports Cars, But Also Anti-malarial Drugs
In most countries buying and owning a yacht is considered a luxury, but, by the definition of the Nigerian government, so is treating malaria. In a bid to cope with its depleting foreign reserves which fell to an 11-year low of $24.8 billion in 2016, Nigeria’s government has sought to curb its imports for much of the past year. Africa’s largest economy has raised import duties on yachts, sports cars and food items. Generally, the government has defended its higher tariffs and import bans by urging Nigerian to turn to local alternatives. But in the same vein, the government stands to earn more as it seeks more revenue sources amid an economic slump. Import tariffs on yachts and SUVs have been upped by 250%. Conspicuously, Nigeria will also raise import taxes for antimalarial drugs also terming them as “luxury goods.” For its part, Nigeria’s government, through the health minister, has denied the tariff hike, but a ministry of finance document suggests the additional taxes on antimalarial drugs have been approved by the president since last October. The drugs, previously tariff-free, will now attract a 20% rate in a move that has been widely criticized. Quartz

Hymn of Peace by Nigerian Leaders Strikes Some as Off Key
As boy bands go, it was an unlikely crew. In a five-minute video posted online this week, a band of seven aging Nigerian leaders — all but one of them retired — sang a New Year’s hymn of peace for their country. But the amateur choir was mocked by some Nigerians, who expressed dismay at a gathering that included several former military rulers, and leaders they partly blame for corruption, misrule and instability in Nigeria, the most populous African nation. While one observer on social media lauded the gathering as “epic,” another called it a “rogues’ gallery” and lamented that a hymn was insufficient to undo the damage that misgoverning had caused the country. Still others complained that the performance was, however well-intentioned, tone-deaf. Among the men were Yakubu Gowon, who took power in a coup and was the head of state from 1966 to 1975, and Oladipo Diya, a key figure during a military dictatorship in the 1990s. On a continent known for strongmen, some of the leaders showed striking contrition. The New York Times

Tunisia Dismantles ‘Terrorist Cell’ in Growing Crackdown
Tunisian security forces have dismantled a 13-member “terrorist cell” that was funnelling young recruits to jihadist groups, authorities said Wednesday, as part of a growing crackdown on extremists. The suspects, aged between 22 and 43, were arrested on Tuesday in Hergla, a town north of the coastal resort city of Sousse, the interior ministry said in a statement. Members of the cell held “secret meetings in a mosque” and admitted to recruiting and sending 12 youths to fight with jihadist groups abroad, it said, linking it to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion, a group connected to Al-Qaeda. It was the seventh announcement in less than a week of arrests of alleged “terrorists” in Tunisia, which has detained more than 70 people in a widening crackdown on jihadists since December 25. AFP

Sudan Says Agreement Reached with Darfur Rebels on Major Issues
Sudanese government Wednesday disclosed it has agreed with two Darfur rebel movements on major issues at informal meetings held recently expressing hope to reach final agreement during the coming rounds of talks. The Sudanese army and its allied militias have been fighting a number of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. Last August, direct peace talks in Addis Ababa, between Sudanese government and two Darfur groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) under the auspices of the African Union (AU) have collapsed after rebels throw out government requests to disclose fighters’ locations. Since last year, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni facilitated informal meetings in Kampala and Addis Ababa between the Sudanese government, the SLM-MM and JEM leaders. Sudan Tribune

Forces From Rival General Attack Base South of Libyan Coast
Warplanes under the command of a rival Libyan army general have attacked an air base under the control of the U.N.-backed government in a central area south of the country’s Mediterranean coast, officials said Wednesday. In a statement late Tuesday, the Tripoli-based government said “several” government-allied troops were wounded when an aircraft they were traveling in was struck in the attack by the eastern-based forces. Libya fell into chaos following the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It remains divided between east and west, with no effective government and a multitude of rival factions and militias. Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, the military strongman in question, answers to Libya’s parliament that is based in the east. That parliament does not recognize the U.N.-brokered Tripoli government. VOA

Kenya’s Biometric Technology Could Delay Election Preps
Kenya’s Electoral Commission says political wrangles and tension related to biometric voter technology may delay preparations for the country’s upcoming elections. The opposition is threatening protests over a proposed amendment to Kenya’s electoral law. Kenya’s Senate legal committee is reviewing public comments about a controversial amendment to the electoral law the lower House passed late last month. The bill would allow manual voting and also allow the commission to manually submit election results in case biometric voter technology fails during the August election. Electoral commissioners said they requested the amendment because they do not want to lock out some voters who might not be identified by the biometric registration kits. VOA

Trial of E Guinea Leader’s Playboy Son Adjourned in France
A French court agreed on Wednesday to adjourn the corruption trial of the playboy son of Equatorial Guinea’s leader at the request of his defence team. Dates for the resumption of the trial, which opened on Monday, were being discussed, with the presiding judge in favour of June 19. Teodorin Obiang, his country’s vice-president, is suspected of using more than $106m of state money to buy a mansion on one of the swankiest avenues in Paris as well as a collection of Italian supercars. The trial is the first arising out of an unprecedented investigation into the French assets of a trio of African leaders accused of leading a life of luxury abroad while their citizens live in poverty. News 24

With Little Opposition Within, Kagame’s Biggest Worry in 2017 Will Be External
After a resounding endorsement in December 2015 that saw 98 per cent of voters support a third term for President Paul Kagame, his worries will be focused elsewhere in 2017. With the majority of the opposition already in bed with the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front, Kagame faces opposition only from the largely inconsequential Green Party which is still holding out. Besides the uncertainties in the global economic environment, the immediate worries for the President will be his close neighbours. Burundi remains tense while the Democratic Republic of Congo remains restive after President Joseph Kabila extended his tenure. The outcome of the French election also due in 2017 could mean continuing hostilities with a major European power. “Although he is yet to do it formally, President Kagame has signalled that he will run. If he runs, he will surely win, though no one should completely dismiss the opposition,” said Dr Venuste Karambizi, a professor of political science at Kigali Independent University. The East African

Mixed Reactions to Possible Fourth Term for Burundian President
Asked by a presenter on national radio whether he will run for another term in 2020, President Pierre Nkurunziza used the well-worn pretext “it’s up to the people to decide” to signal his interest in staying on. DW went out into the streets of the capital Bujumbura, to ask Burundians what they think of the president’s implied plans. Most citizens asked not to be identified, fearing repercussions. Reactions were mixed. One man, for instance, said that a new term for Nkurunziza was not necessarily a bad thing: “If the citizens decide that the constitution should be changed, and that this or that person should be allowed to run, then that person is not breaking the law of betraying the people.” Other Burundians in the capital told DW that they felt disappointment on hearing the president’s statements, since they remembered his promise not to run again in 2020. Deutsch Welle

Algeria: Renewed Clashes Between Protesters, Police
Algerian Minister of Interior Noureddine Badawi threatened to “strike with an iron fist whoever tries to destabilize the country’s security.” The Minister’s warnings came after protestors carried out serious acts of riot, burning and vandalism in many cities and streets as a reaction following the implementation of compelling economic and social measures based on a stringent austerity plan adopted by the government to cope with the drop in oil prices. “Whoever dares to destabilize Algeria’s security better lookout because he will be faced by the Republic’s laws,” Badawi said in Guelma on Tuesday, noting the turbulence witnessed in some of the country’s cities starting from Monday. The main reason behind these protests was obviously the 2017 Budget, which included charges and taxes and increased prices of major consumption products and materials such as electricity, gasoline and necessary food products. In this regard Badawi said that the Finance Law did not affect the purchasing power of citizens. A Sharq Al Awsat

Lesotho Political Crisis Continues to Threaten Its Democracy
Will a motion of no confidence unseat Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili or will he call for elections. This is the issue on the minds of many Basotho as they start the new year. The country’s government is also facing opposition resistance on how it is handling Southern African Development Community (SAD) recommended constitutional and security reforms. The Democratic Congress (DC) NEC suspended its leader and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, and Mosisili suspended the NEC and called a special conference to endorse his decision. Both parties went to court and the high court ruled in favour of Mosisili. Mosisili says: “The special conference has expelled them from the NEC and elected new members of the NEC and suspended them from the party.” SABC