Africa Media Review for July 22, 2016

South Sudan’s Kiir Urges Rival to Return to Juba
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir appealed on Thursday to his rival Riek Machar to return to the capital and help rebuild the peace after a wave of deadly gun battles threatened to plunge the country back into civil war. The whereabouts of Machar, the rebel leader who was reappointed vice president as part of a peace deal to end almost two years of bitter conflict, are not known. “I am appealing to Dr Riek Machar to return back to Juba so that we can continue with the implementation of the peace agreement [which] … needs the two of us to implement,” Kiir said in a statement. He said he pledged his “100% commitment” to ensuring Machar’s security while in Juba, following the intense fighting that erupted between rival troops just as the two men were meeting in the capital on July 8. News 24

Key Opposition Leaders Back Kiir Rejection of AU Troop Deployment
Key senior members of the opposition faction led by Vice President Riek Machar have pledged allegiance to President Salva Kiir and rejected a AU recent approval of additional foreign troops to be deployed in South Sudan. Taban Deng Gai, former opposition chief negotiator and Mining minister in the unity government declared that they have agreed to back President Kiir’s stance and oppose the foreign military intervention. “We are in control of our affairs. There is no need for a call for trusteeship of the country, because any intervention of foreign forces will not lead to a smooth running of state affairs,” General Taban was quoted saying by the independent Eye Radio in Juba. “We have seen the repercussions and the consequences of intervention in other countries like Somalia and Libya. We don’t need this in South Sudan,” he said. The East African

UN Bans 12 European Peacekeepers From South Sudan Mission
A dozen police officers from Britain, Germany and Sweden have been banned from returning to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan after they left during recent fighting without consulting mission chiefs, U.N. officials said Thursday. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that their sudden departure affected “the operational capability of the mission and the morale of staff.” He said U.N. peacekeeping has therefore decided “to disinvite” the officers to return to South Sudan and informed the three countries. U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said two British, three Swedish and seven German police officers were evacuated by their governments during the fighting. That left about 1,200 police in the mission, which has a total of about 13,500 peacekeepers. AP on The New York Times

Mutual Mistrust Reopens Wounds of Civil War in South Sudan
Mr. Machar’s troops have been driven out of Juba, leaving Mr. Kiir’s forces in control of the capital. Since then, some opposition members — while serving as ministers in the transitional government — have faced intimidation and, in at least one case, assault. “The transitional government cannot operate under the current situation of intimidation,” Mr. Machar said. “People are fearing for their lives, and the president cannot protect me. After all, it was started by me being targeted.” With its leader in hiding, the opposition has become increasingly fractured. Some of those loyal to Mr. Machar have accused Mr. Kiir’s government of trying to unilaterally appoint the mining minister, Taban Deng Gai, who had represented Mr. Machar during last year’s peace negotiations, as the new head of the opposition. “The idea of unity of command has always been a fictitious idea in the context of South Sudan; that applies to Riek Machar and to Salva Kiir as well,” said Harry Verhoeven, a South Sudan expert and professor of government at Georgetown University. “As we saw during the war, sometimes their generals take command on their own. That’s one of the big problems in general with the peace process.”  The New York Times

S. Sudan Unveil Options to Avoid Armed Confrontations
South Sudan government has unveiled two alternative as options to address armed confrontation between the rival forces in the country, arguing that the proposed deployment of foreign troops to back up the fighting and protection capacity of the United Nations mission in South Sudan will not resolve the volatile situation. Nhial Deng Nhial, an advisor to President Salva Kiir, who led a high level government delegation to the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda, likened the deployment of troops from the region to “trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer”. Nhial, accompanied by foreign minister, Deng Alor Kuol, led a government delegation that represented South Sudan in Kigali. Sudan Tribune

Khartoum Supports South Sudan Demand to Join Arab League
State Minister for Foreign Affairs on Thursday reiterated Sudan’s support to South Sudan’s request to join Arab League (AL) as special observer, which is expected to be discussed during the upcoming summit in Nouakchott on 26-27 July. Last June, South Sudan Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol told Middle East News Agency that his country is considering joining the Arab League as observer. However during a visit to Khartoum last week, the new AL Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said that the organization’s charter does not allow this kind of membership. But he added he is trying to convince Arab countries to give South Sudan the status of “special observer”. Sudan Tribune

Pro-Government Militia Takes Control of Northern Malian City
A pro-government Taureg militia group was reported Thursday to be taking control of Mali’s northern city of Kidal, after fighting broke out between the militia and a coalition chiefly made up of former Taureg rebels. A witness told VOA’s French-to-Africa service that Gatia militia fighters were combing the town to weed out any rebels who might still be hiding. But the situation in Kidal remained generally confused and unsettled, and it was unclear whether there are any casualties. Ambeyri Ag Rissa, a leader of the Taureg coalition, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, told VOA that officials had just finished meeting on a truce signed Sunday that called for sharing control of the city when gunfire broke out. Machine guns could be heard in the background as he spoke. VOA

Fighting Erupts Between Rival Factions over Northern Mali Town
Fighting broke out in the town of Kidal in Mali’s desert north on Thursday between pro-government militia fighters and Tuareg rebels, a town resident and a fighter said. “Everyone is hiding inside. We are hearing the sounds of gunfire. There’s small arms and heavy weapons fire,” one resident told Reuters, asking not to be named out of fear of reprisals. Tensions have been building for several days in Kidal, one of northern Mali’s main towns, between the Tuareg-dominated Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and rival Gatia militia fighters, leading to sporadic clashes. A peace agreement signed last year by the government, its militia allies and the Tuareg separatists was intended to ease tensions between armed groups in the north and allow the army to concentrate on fighting Islamist militants. Reuters

Nigerian Military Rescues 80 Children, Women from Boko Haram
Nigeria’s military says it has rescued 80 children and women held captive by the Boko Haram extremist group in a remote northeastern village. Army spokesperson Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman says they were freed on Tuesday by troops who attacked a gathering of the Islamic fighters at Gangere village in Borno state. He says 42 extremists were killed and troops released 42 children and 38 women. The military has reported freeing as many as 10 000 Boko Haram captives this year but none of the 219 girls from Chibok school. News 24

Nigeria’s Buhari Says Government Talking to Niger Delta Militants: Statement
The Nigerian government is talking to militants in the Niger Delta to end a wave of attacks on oil and gas facilities which have cut oil production by 700,000 barrels a day, top officials said on Thursday. But the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks, said it was not aware of any talks, saying there would be no dialogue without involving the international community The government was using oil companies and security agencies to talk to the militants “to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region”, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement. Buhari also said his government was reviewing an amnesty program for former militants, which offers cash and job training, after initially slashing the scheme’s budget by two-thirds and angering militants. Reuters

French Warplane Bombed Libya Militias After French Deaths
A French warplane bombed Islamic militia positions outside the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi this week after the killings of French officers in the area, two Libyan officials said Thursday. A member of the militia said that the bombings took place Wednesday and killed least 16 militiamen and destroyed their weapons. The two military officials gave no casualty figures. All three spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The killings of the French, which took place on Sunday and which were first reported by the AP, prompted the French Defense Ministry to confirm on Wednesday that it lost three officers in eastern Libya. It was the first time France has said its forces operate in eastern Libya. AP on ABC News

Libyan Unity Govt Slams French ‘Violation’ of Its Sovereignty
Libya’s UN-backed government has criticised the presence of French troops in the country after officials in Paris confirmed the deaths of three French soldiers near the eastern city of Benghazi. French President François Hollande said Wednesday the three soldiers had died in a helicopter crash during “dangerous intelligence operations”, marking the first official confirmation that French personnel is deployed in the conflict-ridden country. French government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll acknowledged that special forces were operating in Libya, saying: “Special forces are there, of course, to help and to make sure France is present everywhere in the struggle against terrorists.” France 24

Libyan Forces Launch New Assault to Oust Islamic State from Sirte
Forces aligned with Libya’s U.N.-backed government fought fierce exchanges with Islamic State militants in Sirte on Thursday in which 13 of their fighters were killed and more than 110 wounded, officials said. The government-backed forces have pinned militants back to a small area in the center of the coastal city after advancing on the Islamic State stronghold in May. But they have faced stiff resistance from the several hundred militants thought to be still holed up in Sirte, suffering casualties from snipers and explosive devices. On Thursday the government-backed forces said in statements that they were advancing on two fronts after bombarding Islamic State positions from the air and the ground at dawn. They said there was heavy fighting in the Dollar neighborhood and around the port. Reuters

Ghana to Hold Elections on Dec7: Electoral Commission
Ghana’s presidential election will now be held on Dec.7, after parliament voted against an amendment to push the vote forward by one month, the electoral commission said on Friday. Lawmakers late on Thursday rejected a bill seeking to change the date for the polls from Dec.7 to the first Monday of November for every election year. “Despite the demonstration of our preparedness to deliver a credible and world-class elections on the proposed Nov.7 date, parliament in its wisdom has decided not to pass the amendment,” the electoral commission said in a statement. “The outcome of the voting therefore sets Dec.7, 2016 as the day for our presidential and parliamentary elections,” it added. The electoral body said the change in date would not affect its “commitment to deliver a free, fair, transparent and credible elections this year.” The Gulf Today

Algerian PM Rejects Morocco Demands over Western Sahara
Ejecting Western Sahara from the African Union is “impossible”, Algeria’s prime minister said Thursday after his country’s arch-rival Morocco urged the bloc to rethink its position on the “phantom state”. Morocco quit the AU in protest in 1984 after the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was accepted as a member, but its monarch said Sunday that it hopes to rejoin the bloc. Morocco regards the former Spanish colony as its sovereign territory, but a local independence movement — backed by Algeria — has long fought for self-determination. On Sunday Morocco’s King Mohammed VI told AU leaders his country wants to rejoin the union, but said recognition of a “pseudo state” is “hard for the Moroccan people to accept”.

U.N. Demands Release of Political Prisoners in Congo
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Thursday for the release of people he considers political prisoners in Democratic Republic of Congo as the government cracks down on dissent ahead of a contentious electoral period. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in an interview in the capital Kinshasa he would submit to the government in the coming days a list of people he believes should be released immediately. Political tensions are high in Congo before a scheduled November presidential election. President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, is required by the constitution to step down this year but the government says logistical and budgetary constraints make it unrealistic to hold the election on time. “Until we are convinced that there are merits for their detention, we believe that they need to be released promptly,” Zeid said. Reuters

African Union to Raise Funds for Peace Support Ops Via a Levy
The African Union (AU) plans to operationalise its Peace Fund to the tune of over $320 million a year through a levy on what it terms “eligible imports” to fund its peace and security operations on the continent. The move has been welcomed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said it was part of steps toward self-reliance being undertaken by the continental body, particularly as far as its peace and security budget was concerned. Outgoing AU Commission chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, welcomed what has been called “a ground-breaking decision” by the AU Assembly to institute the 0.2% levy. DefenceWeb

Veterans Condemn Robert Mugabe in Surprise Backlash
Veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war made a significant break with President Robert Mugabe for the first time, calling him dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric. The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association has been a pillar of support for the 92-year-old leader for decades, but on Thursday it released a statement criticising the man it had long been quick to defend. The veterans are known for unleashing violence on those who oppose the government. The surprise revolt by Mugabe’s ageing corps of loyalists comes after nationwide anti-government protests organised via social media. Many in Zimbabwe are frustrated by its rapidly deteriorating economy, a currency crisis and alleged corruption. The Guardian

Zimbabwe to Pay Army Next Week, Teachers in August
Zimbabwe will pay July salaries for the army on Monday, more than a week late, but teachers will only receive their wages next month, a union official said, as the government grapples with an acute currency shortage. President Robert Mugabe’s government is facing its biggest financial squeeze since it dumped its own hyperinflation-hit currency in 2009 and adopted the U.S. dollar. Continued salary delays could fuel political tensions in the troubled southern African nation, which has been hit by drought, a drop in mineral prices and chronic cash shortages — all factors behind this month’s protests against 92-year-old Mugabe. “We have been informed of the new pay dates by the government today,” Cecilia Alexander, chairwoman of the Apex Council civil service union, told Reuters. VOA

What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About Zimbabwe’s #ThisFlag Movement
[…] The events in Zimbabwe have captured the attention of the world. But commentators have persistently failed to identify the essence of the movement’s significance. Prevailing sentiment makes two main errors: Analysts either dismiss #ThisFlag as no more than a social media campaign or assert that it is calling for an Arab Spring-like revolution to remove President Mugabe. Both perspectives miss the point: This citizen-led movement is neither restricted to social media, nor is it calling for a revolution. Instead, it aims to mobilize citizens to hold the government accountable for the “poverty, corruption, and injustice” that plague Zimbabwe. Although it began online, #ThisFlag has long since moved beyond the confines of the internet. In June, the movement organized a public debate with the Reserve Bank Governor to air citizen discontent about the forthcoming “bond notes” — Zimbabwe’s proposed “own version” of the U.S. dollar. Public engagement of this sort in Zimbabwe is rare, as officials are loath to place themselves in the firing line of disgruntled citizens. Foreign Policy

HRW: Rwandan Security Forces Rounding up ‘Undesirables’
Members of Rwanda’s security forces are arresting beggars, street children, sex workers and other “undesirables” who are arbitrarily detained in centres described as harsh and inhuman, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. Its new report raises questions about the central African country that is often praised by the international community for its organised appearance but challenged by rights groups amid concerns over authoritarian actions. Human Rights Watch said it had received information about several people who died during or just after their detention in a “transit centre” in Rubavu in Western Province as a result of injuries from beatings, poor conditions and lack of medical care. News 24

Refugee Boat Found with 22 Dead Bodies off Libya Coast
The bodies of 21 women and one man have been found “in a pool of fuel” at the bottom of a rubber dinghy adrift near the Libyan coast, just hours after they had set sail for Italy, according to the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (MSF). An MSF ship patrolling the central Mediterranean Sea came to the rescue of two dinghies that were sailing close together and managed to pull 209 people, including 50 children, to safety on Wednesday. However, 22 people were found dead at the bottom of the first dinghy. “When our team approached the first dinghy, they saw dead bodies lying at the bottom of the boat in a pool of fuel,” said Jens Pagotto, MSF head of mission for search and rescue operations. Al Jazeera