Africa Media Review for July 20, 2017

ICC Judges Ordered to Review Laurent Gbagbo’s Detention
International Criminal Court (ICC) appeals judges have ordered a review into whether Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivory Coast president, should be released from detention while his long-running trial continues on crimes-against-humanity charges. Presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski on Wednesday struck down a decision by trial judges denying the 72-year-old Gbagbo interim release. Gbagbo has been in The Hague-based ICC’s detention unit since late 2011 and will remain jailed pending the review. Both Gbagbo and his former militia leader Charles Ble Goude, 45, have pleaded not guilty to four charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, and persecution in five months of bloodshed that wracked the Ivory Coast. Al Jazeera

Gunfire Erupts Near Police Bases in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Gunfire erupted near several police installations across Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan late on Wednesday, witnesses and a police source said, in what appeared to be a renewed bout of insecurity following months of military mutinies. Shooting broke out at around 9.30 p.m. (2130 GMT) in the Cocody neighborhood near the national police and gendarmes academies and lasted for around an hour, according to one Reuters witness. A second Reuters reporter later heard sustained gunfire near the base of the police anti-riot brigade in the Yopougon neighborhood in northern Abidjan. A local resident also said shooting broke out near a police station in another part of Yopougon. VOA

Ivory Coast Reshuffles Cabinet, Replaces Key Ministers
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara replaced ministers in charge of defence, budget and the interior on Wednesday in a reshuffle of key cabinet positions, a government official announced in a statement. The world’s top cocoa producer has endured successive waves of army mutinies this year that have cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in pay-outs to soldiers and tarnished Ivory Coast’s image as a post-war success story. Hamed Bakayoko, who had been serving as Interior Minister, took over the defence post, according to the statement read to reporters by Patrick Achi, the secretary-general of the presidency, before the start to a cabinet meeting. Meanwhile Sidiki Diakite, the prefect of Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan, was named Interior Minister. Reuters

Cameroon Tortures Suspects at Base Used by U.S., French Troops: Amnesty
Cameroonian forces have been torturing suspects in their campaign against Islamist group Boko Haram, with much of the torture happening at a base that has also been used by American and French troops, Amnesty International said on Thursday. Amnesty’s report documented 101 cases of arbitrary arrest and torture by Cameroonian troops charged with fighting the insurgents between 2013 and 2017. Some of the victims were tortured to death, it said. The Nigerian militant group has been fighting for the past eight years to create a medieval Islamic caliphate around Lake Chad, where Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad meet. Boko Haram attacks have killed more than 20,000 people and displaced 2.7 million in the region, according to aid agency figures. Atrocities such as the kidnapping of more than 200 school girls from the Nigerian village of Chibok in 2014 persuaded Western countries, especially the United States and France, to provide counter-insurgency assistance to some of the countries affected, including intelligence and training. Reuters

US Criticizes Africa for ‘Failure’ on Famine Threat
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is sharply criticizing African nations for what she calls their “collective failure” to respond to the threat of famine facing over 14 million people. Ambassador Nikki Haley is also critical of Congo’s nomination for a seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body despite major rights violations. Haley said Wednesday that famines in northeast Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan are primarily caused by armed conflict. In her words they represent “a tragic example” of failure by governments to address the causes, and by combatants to allow access to alleviate suffering. She reiterated to a U.N. Security Council meeting on Africa that rights violations and conflict are related. She said when Congo is nominated for the Human Rights Council, “it adds to the conflict.” AP

US Opposes Seat for DRC at UN Rights Council
The United States on Wednesday berated African countries for backing a bid by the Democratic Republic of Congo to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, saying the move would fuel the conflict in the African country. The Geneva-based rights council is investigating atrocities allegedly committed by the DRCongo’s forces and militias in the Kasai region, where more than 80 mass graves have been uncovered. US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the decision to put forward the DRCongo as a candidate was “an inexcusable failure” to promote human rights by African countries. “When the nations of the Africa Group put forward a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a member of the Human Rights Council, it does more than just weaken that body – it adds to the conflict that is causing so much suffering on that continent,” Haley told a debate at the UN Security Council. News 24

South Sudan Peace Hopes Fade as War Fragments, Alliances Shift
When rebel leader Riek Machar fled the South Sudanese capital Juba last year, General Saki James Palaoko helped him escape government air strikes, evade the national army and slip into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Palaoko had played only a small part in the world’s youngest nation’s civil war until then but helped keep Machar’s rebellion alive when it was near defeat. Frustrated by what he sees as Machar’s poor leadership, Palaoko switched allegiance again this month and joined the National Salvation Front, a nascent rebel faction led by the army’s former deputy chief of staff, Thomas Cirillo Swaka. Reuters

Kenyan Leaders Steer Clear of Hate Speech before Vote, but Monitors Wary
Kenyan politicians are steering clear of inflammatory rhetoric at large public rallies before next month’s vote, but there are fears that hate speech is still spreading online and at smaller meetings out of sight of authorities, monitors said. This year’s campaigning stands in sharp contrast to Kenya’s disputed 2007 election, when some candidates were accused of using speeches and broadcasts to fuel ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,200 people. The change is a welcome development, says the government’s own hate speech monitor, and partly the result of a handful of lawsuits against lawmakers and others charged with incitement and other offences. The cases are still grinding their way through the courts. But the public reserve doesn’t mean Kenyan politics has rid itself of its reliance on ethnic loyalties, with some politicians seeking to exploit tribal rivalries or promising patronage in return for votes. Reuters

Egypt’s Poorest Risk Death for Promise of Work in Libya
In a bare room with nothing but a small pillow, a few pots, and a sheet to cover the dusty floor, Youssef Abdullah’s family was living in an impoverished Upper Egyptian village when they were told he died in the Libyan desert. Abdullah was one of at least 22 Egyptians found dead this month, perishing from heat and starvation after trekking through the Libyan desert by foot in search of jobs they could not secure at home.”Youssef’s circumstances were very bad. If he found work here he wouldn’t have traveled. I wish I had stopped him but I wasn’t able to … he traveled without me knowing,” his father, Abdullah Mahmoud, told Reuters. The Libyan Red Crescent said the bodies were found in the Jaghbub desert, some 400 km (250 miles) south of Tobruk. Many of them came from villages in Minya, an impoverished province south of Cairo, where residents say poverty and unemployment have been driving villagers to put their lives at risk to find work of any kind, even if it means contending with the lawless chaos of Libya’s civil war. Reuters

Some Former Sisi Allies Turn Critics as Egypt Election Nears
Some of the people who helped propel Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power are calling for his replacement in an election next year, a sign of a shift in the still widespread view that he is a force for stability. Although the former military commander has yet to declare he will run in the June election, only two people have aired the idea of challenging him and even they say Sisi is likely to win, aided by a crackdown on his opponents that is gathering pace. But the criticism in recent months from several of Sisi’s staunchest former allies of his handling of the economy, security and a territorial dispute is striking in a country where fear of turmoil is another factor stifling dissent. Reuters

To Observe or Not to Observe Angola Elections: EU yet to Decide
A decision on whether the EU will observe the Angolan elections will be made in the coming days, RFI learnt on Wednesday. The Angolan government earlier this week reportedly rejected demands by the EU election observer mission for unrestricted access to polling stations. “The EU is in contact with the authorities of Angola to ensure that the necessary conditions are in place regarding both observers’ access to all actors involved and to all stages of the electoral process as well as the security and safety of observers,” an EU official told RFI. “On this basis a decision will be made on the possible deployment of an Election Observation Mission in the coming days,” said the official, who did not wish to be identified. Angolans go to the polls on 23 August to elect a new president to replace President Eduardo Jose Dos Santos who has ruled the country since 1979. RFI

Eritrea Accused of Manipulating Orthodox Church Leader’s Reappearance
Eritrean authorities have stage-managed the first public appearance in 10 years of Patriarch Abune Antonios, rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has told RFI. The former head of the country’s Orthodox Church had been under house arrest for opposing the government’s attempts to control one of the country’s largest Christian denominations. “Everything points to trying to manage a narrative because of international pressure,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Khataza Gondwe, referring to Antonios’s appearance during mass at a cathedral in Asmara on Sunday. RFI

UN Chief Urges More International Cooperation on Africa
The U.N. secretary-general urged the international community Wednesday to, in his words, “change the narrative” about Africa. Antonio Guterres said countries should cooperate more with the continent to recognize its vast potential and prevent and manage conflicts there. Guterres told a Security Council debate about enhancing peace and security in Africa that the African Union and the United Nations have a shared interest in neutralizing conflicts before they escalate and managing them effectively when they do happen. “Enhancing African capacities is essentially both in the context of our collective response to international peace and security challenges as well as for the self-reliance of the African continent,” said Guterres, who noted the challenge posed by terrorism and extremist groups, including Somalia-based al-Shabab. VOA

Saudi Arabia Convinces Sudan to Resume Talks with US 
Sudan has agreed to resume talks on sanctions with the US under the mediation of Saudi Arabia. The Sudanese Foreign ministry said in a press release that Khartoum would resume the positive engagement with the US regarding the sanctions. “In response to the request of the Saudi leadership, the President agreed to continue to communicate positively with the US Administration and its official agencies in the coming period, in order to ensure the permanent lifting of sanctions on Sudan,” the statement states. The announcement follows a meeting between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, where the former is on a visit. President Bashir last week ordered a freeze on the talks with the US after President Donald Trump extended the sanctions imposed on Sudan by three more months. The Sudanese leader said the negotiations with the US would be suspended for three months. The East African

Morocco’s Al-Hoceima Gears up for ‘Million-Man March’
Protesters in the Moroccan city of al-Hoceima are gearing up for what they hope to be a million-man march on Thursday, in the latest chapter of a steadily growing popular movement known simply as “Hirak” in the country’s northern Rif region. Spurred into action after the murder of a fishmonger crushed to death by local security forces in late October, the Rif-based popular movement has come to symbolise resentment towards a history of state neglect and violence in the poor coastal area. Among Hirak’s demands are calls for a serious inquiry into the death of Mohcine Fikri, the fish seller, a release of political prisoners and the construction of universities, hospitals and libraries in Morocco’s Rif. Al Jazeera

Sahrawis Sentenced to Jail over Western Sahara Killings
A Morocco court has sentenced 23 civilians to prison terms ranging from two years to life over the killing of 11 members of the Moroccan security forces in contested Western Sahara. A verdict was delivered at dawn on Wednesday by the Court of Appeals in Sale near Rabat, the official news agency MAP reported. The defendants and lawyers have boycotted court proceedings since May, announcing they would no longer attend what they said was a “mock trial”. The killings took place in November 2010 as Moroccan forces moved to dismantle a camp in Gdim Izik camp where thousands of displaced Western Saharans, known as Sahrawis, were living. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones