Africa Media Review for July 20, 2018

Eritrean Troops Withdraw from Ethiopian Border -Eritrean Press Agency
Eritrea has pulled troops back from its heavily militarised border with Ethiopia as a “gesture of reconciliation”, the pro-government Eritrean Press agency said on its Facebook page. There was no immediate confirmation from the government in Asmara, but the move would be consistent with rapidly improving ties between the Horn of Africa neighbours, whose 1998 war killed tens of thousands and led to two decades of military stalemate. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki signed an agreement in Asmara on July 9 to restore ties and have since taken steps to put it into practice including reopening embassies in each others countries. Reuters

Ethiopia Names First Ambassador to Eritrea in 20 Years
Ethiopia has appointed an ambassador to Eritrea for the first time in 20 years, state-affiliated media reported Thursday, the latest in a series of dizzying peace moves between the neighbours. The announcement follows a flurry of diplomacy between the former enemies that included visits between their leaders and the first commercial flights between their capitals in two decades. “Redwan Hussein has been appointed as Ethiopia’s ambassador to Eritrea — the first for 20 years, the foreign ministry said,” according to Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki reopened his country’s embassy in Ethiopia on Monday during a three-day official visit to Addis Ababa. France 24

DRC Leader Still Coy on Role in Long-Delayed Election
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila in a national address says the long-delayed December election is “a matter of sovereignty” but he still doesn’t say what role he will play. Kabila’s speech to the National Assembly and Senate had been widely anticipated as the opposition worries he will try to stay in power. The president confirmed the December 23 election date, adding that “our commitment to respect the Constitution remains unequivocal.” Kabila, upset by what his government has described as meddling by outsiders, said DRC must remain in control of its destiny and will fully fund the elections itself. DRC is “not willing to receive lessons in democracy, especially not of those who murdered democracy in this country and elsewhere,” he said. AP

South Sudan’s President Kiir Says Ready to Accept Peace Deal
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said he is ready to accept a peace deal to end a civil war and set up an inclusive new government. The deal being negotiated in Sudan would give the country five vice presidents and also covers security and power sharing. “The people of South Sudan are looking for peace and if that arrangement can bring about peace to the people of South Sudan, I am ready to take it,” said Kiir late on Wednesday at a swearing-in ceremony for his foreign minister. “People talk about exclusivity, nobody is to be left out of the government. I accept it,” he said. Reuters

U.S. Lets Somali Immigrants Stay 18 More Months
The Trump administration said on Thursday it would allow some 500 Somalis to remain in the United States for at least another 18 months under protected status given violence in their home county. Somalis in the United States with Temporary Protected Status will be able to re-register for an extension of their status through March 17, 2020, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. The status grants beneficiaries the ability to legally work while they are in the United States. After carefully reviewing conditions in Somalia with interagency partners, (DHS) Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen determined the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Somalias current designation for TPS continue to exist, the statement said. Reuters

Cameroon Military, Separatists Blamed for ‘Grave Abuses’
Violent tensions between Cameroon’s government and Anglophone separatists have forced more than 180,000 people from their homes since December, Human Rights Watch said Thursday in a new report that blames both sides for “grave abuses” against civilians. Warnings about Cameroon’s crisis are growing as the Central African nation faces an October election in which 85-year-old President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, says he will run again. The human rights situation in the largely French-speaking country where Anglophone separatists seek an independent state has taken a deadly turn since late 2016 and “could still get much worse,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “International action is needed to ensure that both sides protect civilians and ensure justice for crimes against them.”  AP

U.S. Intelligence Documents on Nelson Mandela Made Public
Thousands of pages of U.S. intelligence documents on Nelson Mandela were made public on Wednesday, revealing that Washington continued to monitor the South African anti-apartheid hero as a potential Communist menace even after he was released from prison, a group that sued to obtain the papers said. The Washington-based group Property of the People released the papers to mark the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth. It said it obtained them after years of litigation. “The documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 60s with Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the U.S. and South African anti-apartheid movements as Communist plots imperiling American security,” the group’s president Ryan Shapiro said in a statement. Reuters

Official: Niger Is Facing Existential Threat From Militants
A senior defense official from Niger has told VOA that different militant groups operating along the country’s borders are threatening the security of the state and the region. Niger Minister of Defense Kalla Mountari told VOA that the militant groups associated with Islamic State and al-Qaida pose a serious threat to Niger and could infiltrate the country if preemptive measures are not taken against them by regional powers. “Certainly, this is an existential threat to us. Even though they may look weak now, terror groups are still strong in some areas [around us] and their stated intention is to establish a caliphate and bring our countries onto their knees,” Mountari said. Deutsche Welle

Senegal Convicts 13 Suspected Boko Haram Fighters
Senegal’s criminal court sentenced 13 people to prison for attempting to establish a homegrown cell modelled after Boko Haram in the West Africa country. One of those jailed by the Dakar court on Thursday was Makhtar Diokhane, described as the ringleader of the group. He was handed a 20-year prison term. “The court was very heavy-handed in sentencing our client and we are going to appeal,” Diokane’s lawyer Alassane Cisse told Reuters news agency. Fourteen people, including two of Diokhane’s wives, were acquitted. Al Jazeera

Gambian Govt Condemns Ex-President’s ‘Shocking’ Return Pledge
Banjul on Thursday condemned former president Yahya Jammeh’s pledge to come back to the West African country in a leaked phone call that went viral on social media. “Neither man nor (spirit) can stop me from coming back to The Gambia,” Jammeh said in the leaked tape, comments the current government subsequently called “shocking and subversive”. It said that in light of Jammeh’s record of “state-orchestrated disappearances, kidnappings, murders,” it would act accordingly and decisively, without further elaborating. “The leaked tape… revealed in significant detail the former President’s desperate efforts to stay politically relevant in The Gambia even as his trail of terror and economic crimes are being cased for potential criminal prosecution,” the government said in a statement. VOA

Somalia and Tunisia Join Comesa
The membership COMESA has risen to 21 following the admission of Tunisia and Somalia at the 20th Summit of the Heads of State and Government that had concluded today in Lusaka, Zambia. Tunisia was admitted as the 20th member while Somalia followed as 21st member of COMESA after having fulfilled the COMESA terms and conditions of accession to the COMESA Treaty. Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. In February 2016, the country formally wrote to the Secretary General making enquiries on joining. Somalia was formerly a full member of the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA), the predecessor to COMESA. However, it failed to make the transition due to lack of government following a long civil war. Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. Daily Monitor

Burundi Boycotts Comesa Summit in Zambia
The Burundian government has boycotted the 20th summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) that kicked off Wednesday in the Zambian capital Lusaka, calling it “illegal”, Burundian media reported Wednesday. The Comesa summit was relocated to Lusaka from Burundian capital Bujumbura without sound reasons, Radio Isanganiro Wednesday quoted Alain Diomede Nzeyimana, deputy-spokesman of the Burundian president, as saying. “The relocation should have been decided by three presidents of Burundi, Ethiopia and Madagascar, members of the Bureau of the Comesa heads of state summit, but it had not been the case,” he said. Nzeyimana underlined that participants in the two-day summit went to Lusaka for their “personal” interests as the Comesa gets over 50 percent of its funding from the European Union (EU). The East African

Boat with 160 African Migrants Reportedly Capsizes off Yemen
Yemeni security officials and tribal leaders say a boat carrying more than 160 African migrants has capsized off the southern province of Shabwa. It is not immediately clear if there have been any fatalities or if any migrants have been rescued. The authorities and tribal leaders said Thursday that the boat departed from the port of Bosaso in Somalia carrying 100 Somalis and 60 Ethiopians, including women and children. The officials insisted on speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to brief the media and the tribal leaders for fear of reprisals. Although Yemen is wracked by conflict, African migrants continue to arrive in the war-torn country where there is no central authority to prevent them from travelling onward to oil-rich Gulf countries. AP

Migrants in Libya Face Rising Threat from ‘Stronger’ Gangs and Traffickers
Migrants in Libya face the greatest danger in years of being trafficked, exploited or enslaved by armed groups and criminal gangs – which are becoming stronger – as Europe clamps down on migration, the United Nations and analysts said on Tuesday. Rising numbers of migrants trapped in Libya are prey to smugglers and traffickers and sold for labour, said the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM), amid a security vacuum created by the 2011 toppling of leader Muammar Gaddafi. Of the more than 650,000 migrants in Libya, at least 9,000 are in detention centres – a number that has doubled in recent months due to increased coastguard returns – while the IOM estimates that thousands more are at the mercy of smugglers. Reuters

Libya Rejects EU Plans for Migrant Centers on Its Territory
Libya rejects a European Union’s plan to establish migrant centers there to stop asylum seekers arriving in western Europe and it will not be swayed by financial inducements, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said.  Italy last month proposed reception and identification centers for migrant processing in Africa as a means of resolve divisions among European governments over how to handle an influx of more than 1 million migrants since 2015. Libya is a main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe often on flimsy inflatable boats provided by smugglers that often spring leaks or break down. “We are absolutely opposed to Europe officially wanting us to accommodate illegal immigrants the EU does not want to take in,” Sarraj told German mass-selling daily Bild in an interview published on Friday. Reuters

Kagame to Host Leaders from Mozambique, China and India
President Paul Kagame will in the next five days host three successive state visits, the Presidency has announced. President Kagame will host leaders from Mozambique, China and India to discuss bilateral investment and mutual partnerships. “These important events will serve to celebrate and deepen the close ties that exist between Rwanda and these three friendly nations,” the presidency said. The talks will also focus on African Union issues, which President Kagame chairs. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi on Thursday arrived in Kigali for a three-day State visit. China’s Xi Jinping will arrive on Sunday and leave on Monday. It will be the first time ever a Chinese leader is visiting Rwanda. The East African

Sudan Blocks World Media from Covering Al-Sisi Visit
Sudanese authorities have banned the international media from covering the visit of Egypt’s president to Sudan set to start on Thursday. Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is due to arrive for a two-day visit to Khartoum today to meet his Sudanese counterpart Omer al-Bashir. Correspondents working for international media got a message from the Sudanese Information Ministry ordering them not to cover the visit, explaining that the move is parallel to Egyptian authorities’ treatment during Bashir’s visit this March. “As we adopt the similar treatment conducted by Egyptian authorities during the visit of President Bashir to Cairo, we announce that coverage of the visit of Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is only allowed for state and local media outlets,” the message said. Anadolu Agency

Kenya to Get First Deployment of Internet Balloons from Google Parent
The first commercial deployment for Project Loon — the “balloon-powered internet” being developed by Google parent Alphabet — is headed for Kenya, the US tech giant said Thursday. In a collaboration with Telkom Kenya, Loon will provide internet service from high-altitude balloons whose paths across the sky are choreographed to maintain coverage, according to Loon, the newly independent business unit within Alphabet. Loon-enabled internet service will be provided to portions of central Kenya starting next year, according to Loon chief executive Alastair Westgarth who said the company’s goal was to “connect people everywhere.”  The Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones