Africa Media Review for January 9, 2018

Death Toll Reaches 64 after Migrants’ Dinghy Sinks in Mediterranean
At least 64 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this weekend after the overcrowded rubber dinghy they were traveling on sank off the coast of Libya. The group in the dinghy, which migration officials said was aided by smugglers and bound for Italy, became the latest casualties in a continuing crisis. More than 3,000 refugees and migrants died in the Mediterranean last year while trying to make their way to Europe. The deaths on Saturday focused attention on the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing between Libya and Italy, where most of those deaths took place, and they prompted calls from the United Nations migration agency for a comprehensive policy to address the humanitarian crisis. “This is the beginning of the year, and this is quite dramatic after only eight days,” said Flavio Di Giacomo, an agency spokesman. The New York Times

‘Water War’ Escalates between Egypt, Sudan
So far, 2018 has been a negative year for Egyptian-Sudanese relations. On Jan. 4, Sudan recalled its ambassador from Egypt. Without providing further details, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry stated that Ambassador Kamal al-Din Hassan Ali was recalled for consultations. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is weighing how to “take appropriate action.” This diplomatic spat has unfolded in a complicated context in which numerous issues have fueled tensions in bilateral relations for years. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project has contributed to friction in Cairo-Khartoum relations. Egypt sees the project as a major threat to its water interests, while Sudan views it as a valuable opportunity. In November 2017, Cairo officially declared that technical negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia had failed. Al Monitor

Sudan’s Army Chief Visits Ethiopian Capital
Sudanese Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Emad al-Din Mustafa Adawi visited capital Addis Ababa on Monday, just two days after Sudan shut its eastern border with Eritrea, according to state-affiliated FANA broadcasting service. Gen. Adawi met Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the capital. Last year, the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance joint security and military cooperation between the two neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, FANA said. The closure of the border by Sudan came amid reports that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had set up a military camp in Sawa in Eritrea, a northern neighbor to Ethiopia. Eritrea, however, denies giving permission to Egyptian and Emirati military for any such activity. According to some analysts, Egypt might want to use Eritrea as a pawn in its relations with Ethiopia, whose $4.8billion hydro dam project made Egypt uneasy. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan Declares Former Army Chief a Rebel, Accuses Him of Attacks
The South Sudanese government on Monday declared army chief of staff General Paul Malong a rebel and accused him of being behind a series of attacks last week. Malong, who had led President Salva Kiir’s campaign against rebels, has been under house arrest since May after Kiir sacked him following a string of military resignations by senior generals alleging abuses and ethnic bias. Malong initially fled the capital Juba for his home state of Aweil following his dismissal, raising the possibility he might join opposition forces, before returning to Juba. Malong loyalists started joining rebels and in November, Kiir released Malong to exile in Kenya. Reuters

Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Tsvangirai Suggests He May Retire
The leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party hinted Monday at his possible retirement, less than two months after the end of his longtime foe President Robert Mugabe’s almost four-decade rule. “We must recognize the imperative that new hands, with the full blessing of the people, must take this struggle and this country forward,” Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement emailed from the capital, Harare. Mugabe, 93, was deposed in a near-bloodless coup in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 15, with Emmerson Mnangagwa later becoming the southern African nation’s second president since independence in 1980. Tsvangirai, who’s 65 and being treated for cancer, was visited at his Harare home on Jan. 5 by Mnangagwa and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. Bloomberg

Zuma to Face Ouster Bid at South African ANC Meeting
South African President Jacob Zuma will face a fresh bid to force him from office when the ruling African National Congress’s top leadership meets this week for the first time since he relinquished control of the party to his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa. A proposal to order Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 will be discussed at a Wednesday meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee in the southern city of East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma’s scandal-tainted tenure has eroded support for the ANC. The NEC’s 86 voting members are divided into two loose factions — one that backed Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as party leader at the ANC’s national conference last month and another that’s allied to Zuma and favored his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him. Ramaphosa won the contest with just 52 percent of the vote, giving him a tenuous hold over the party, and it remains unclear where exactly the balance of power lies within the panel, which usually takes decisions by consensus. Bloomberg

ANC’s 106th: Ramaphosa’s Push for Unity Continues
Just this weekend past, ANC deputy president David Mabuza paid President Jacob Zuma a visit in KwaZulu-Natal to ask him to resign. Zuma, however, refused, but Mabuza, who has a reputation for micro-management and his ability to execute a campaign with precision, isn’t going to take this lying down. As party leaders dispersed across KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape on the party’s actual 8 January birthday on Monday to mobilise support and celebrate, calls for unity reached a crescendo. This was the sound of Mabuza’s campaign in the run-up to the party’s conference last month at the Nasrec Expo Centre, more than it was of Ramaphosa’s campaign, which centred mainly on the anti-corruption message. Mabuza, who has grown Mpumalanga to become the second-biggest provincial power within the ANC, is arguably the most powerful leader in the ANC right now for the way he engineered his rise. He appeared on failed presidential contender Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s slate even though he refused to take sides in the battle, eventually emerging on a leadership line-up under Ramaphosa. Daily Maverick

Botswana: Asylum-Seekers Accuse Prison Officials of Ill-Treatment and Sexual Assault
One consequence of the asylum-seekers’ lengthy internment is that close to 200 children of school-going age have not seen the inside of a classroom for two years. The government has issued a blanket denial of all the allegations. The permanent secretary for justice, defence and intelligence, Segakweng Tsiane, said the alleged abuses had not been mentioned to the officials who processed the asylum applications. Many of the refugees have fled war and explosive ethnic rivalries in the Great Lakes region, where more than a million people have been displaced over the past two years, according to the International Red Cross. The refugee influx into southern Africa has been particularly spurred by militia-based violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly its eastern most province, Kivu (See sidebar). Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have also swollen refugee numbers. Daily Maverick

Egypt Sets March 26-28 as Presidential Election Date
Egypt will hold a presidential election on March 26-28, with the incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi widely expected to seek a second term in office. Sisi, who won a landslide victory after he led the military overthrow of elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has yet to announce his candidacy. Candidates must submit their official bids to the commission between Jan 20-29. Announcing the date, the national election commission said a run-off would be held on April 24-26 if needed. It will be Egypt’s third election since the 2011 uprising which ended strongman Hosni Mubarak’s long rule. Reuters

Libya Unity Govt Ends Operations near Tunisia Border
Libya’s UN-backed unity government on Monday announced an end of military operations near border with Tunisia. In a statement, the government’s presidential council said it has given orders for taking control of the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Tunisia. It said security measures taken by the government would enforce security in the area, going on to vow to pursue “criminals and lawbreakers by all means”. On Friday, two Libyans were killed in clashes between armed groups loyal to the unity government and Libyan border officials in the town of Ras Ajdir on the Tunisian border. Anadolu Agency

Terror Suspicion Delays Repatriation of Moroccan Migrants from Libya
Terror suspicion has delayed the repatriation of some 330 illegal Moroccan migrants from Libya, local media reported on Sunday. The Moroccan authorities had sent an official delegation to identify the Moroccan nationals stranded in Libya’s detention centers, Hespress.com news site said. It added that the process of identification and background checking is still underway before their repatriation. During the last few years amid the rise of Islamic State (IS) group in Libyan territories, Moroccan security services have busted several cells over recruiting Moroccan sympathizers to join terror groups in Libya. Hundreds of Moroccan migrants, who sought to enter Europe illegally, are stuck in Libyan detention centers. Xinhua

Nigeria Denies Cameroon Separatists’ Claim That Leaders Were Arrested
“At around 7:30 p.m., the gunmen came into the hotel and abducted all of them, including the president,” said Chris Anu, secretary of communications for what Cameroon’s English-speaking separatists have named the “state of Ambazonia.” The separatist leader and six others were said to have been taken away during a meeting at the Neras Hotel in Abuja on Friday, January 5, 2018. While the separatists and a number of local media outlets have claimed that the Nigerian intelligence agency (Department of State Services or DSS) is behind the disappearance, both Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities have refused to comment on the matter. “There is no arrest of their people in Abuja,” a Nigerian intelligence official told the news agency AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official admitted that Nigeria had arrested Cameroonians in late December in the Taraba region which borders Cameroon. Deutsche Welle

Gambian Leader Appoints Cousin as Interior Minister
President Adama Barrow of Gambia on Monday appointed his cousin as the new interior minister. Ebrima Mballow, a banker by profession, had been serving as governor of the country’s most populous region West Coast since March 2017. Mballow was a police officer until he left in the year 2000 after he ran into trouble with former President Yahya Jammeh. He has now replaced Habib Saihou Drammeh as the interior minister after his appointment was questioned by many given his inexperience in security matters. The relieved former interior minister Drammeh has been appointed as the head of the country’s Civil Service to replace Dawda Fadera. Anadolu Agency

29 Killed, 80 000 Affected by Madagascar Cyclone
Twenty-nine people died and more than 80 000 were affected after tropical cyclone Ava tore through Madagascar last week, authorities said on Monday. Seventeen people died on Monday, after a house crumbled following a mudslide in the Ivory suburb, south-east of the capital Antananarivo. “On a national scale, the provisional toll is 29 dead, 22 missing, 17 170 displaced and 83 023 affected,” the National Bureau for Risk and Catastrophe Management said in a statement. The cyclone, which made landfall on Friday morning, lashed the eastern part of the African island off Mozambique with violent winds and heavy rains before moving off the territory on Saturday night. AFP

In Africa, Geneticists Are Hunting Poachers
[…] Poaching has escalated exponentially in the past decade, he noted. More than 7,000 rhinos have been killed in the past ten years. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 20,00 to 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks. Their tusks and horns are trafficked through experienced criminal networks. “You really need sophisticated tools to help solve these crimes,” Mr. Allan said. The rhino project provides “a ‘cold hit’ database,” said Stephen J. O’Brien, referring to the identification of a perpetrator by DNA when there are no other apparent clues. Dr. O’Brien, an expert on DNA fingerprinting and chief scientific officer of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, is co-author of a new paper, published on Monday in Current Biology, describing the anti-poaching effort. A similar attempt to use DNA to convict poachers is led by Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. His group’s focus is African elephants. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones