Africa Media Review for July 27, 2017

Legal Reforms Aim to Prevent Electoral Violence in Kenya
Since Kenya began its transition to a multiparty democratic system in 1990, cyclical electoral violence has been a feature of all but one election. This has often been a result of Kenyan politicians mobilizing their supporters along ethnic lines to enhance their political advantage. The most searing case of electoral violence was during the 2007–08 electoral cycle when a disputed presidential election resulted in an estimated 1,300 deaths and over 600,000 displacements, which the International Criminal Court ruled amounted to crimes against humanity. Soul searching triggered by Kenya’s 2007–08 electoral violence galvanized legal reforms aimed at mitigating future violence. Will they be effective in the August elections?  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Will They Shut down the Internet during Kenyan Poll?
Will our access to the Internet be shut down during the post-polling period? If so, will it be a full or partial shutdown, and how? What are the likely costs and trade-offs? We are increasingly agitated about these questions given that we’re not getting clear signals from the Communications Authority about its intentions. At the National Elections Conference, it (sort of) said it wouldn’t. More recently, it (sort of) said it may. There’s no doubt that sensible people are worried about the sentiments flying around social media platforms in this electoral season. Under the guise of political partisanship, outrageously sexist and xenophobic slurs have become the norm. Even though everybody and their dog publicly condemns “hate speech,” there doesn’t seem to be a legal and public consensus on what it actually is. Is it speech that propagates prejudices and stereotypes of people are based on their gender or ethnicity or religion?  The East African

Wanted Congolese Warlord Surrenders to UN Forces
One of Democratic Republic of Congo’s most notorious warlords, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, wanted for alleged crimes against humanity, surrendered to UN peacekeepers on Wednesday, the UN mission in Congo (Monusco) said. Sheka’s militia, Mai-Mai Sheka, is one of a patchwork of armed groups in eastern Congo regularly accused by the United Nations and rights groups of using rape as a weapon of war. After six years on the run, Sheka surrendered to UN forces in the town of Mutongo in Walikale territory and was transferred to the eastern city of Goma, said Monusco spokeswoman Fabienne Pompey. It was not immediately clear why he had turned himself in but his forces have been locked in a losing combat in recent years with a rival militia led by a former lieutenant. “He will be handed over to DRC authorities after the regular procedure and checking is done by Monusco,” Pompey told Reuters. Reuters

UN Urges DRC to Hold Elections by Dec 31 Deadline
The UN Security Council urged Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Wednesday to swiftly implement an agreement to hold presidential elections by the end of the year, warning that failure to do so will increase the risk of insecurity and instability in the country and the region. The head of DRC’s electoral commission announced on July 7 that it would not be possible to organise a presidential ballot by the December 31 deadline. DRC law bars President Joseph Kabila from seeking another term but allows him to remain in power until another election can be held. A presidential statement approved by all 15 council nations insists that the deadline be kept and urges key players “to organise peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections” leading to a peaceful transfer of power. News 24

German Army Helicopter Crashes in Mali on UN Mission, Two Dead
The Tiger type army combat helicopter with two pilots onboard crashed for unknown reasons around 12:20 GMT/UTC about 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of Gao in eastern Mali, the Bundeswehr said on Wednesday. “On board the helicopter were two service members, who died in the crash,” the Bundeswehr said in a statement. The German soldiers were taking part in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The German military said UN forces had been dispatched to the crash site to carry out an investigation. UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said that the helicopter had been monitoring ground “confrontations,” which means the site of the accident must be secured before MINUSMA teams can access it. Deutsche Welle

Gambia’s Barrow Does Not Rule out Jammeh’s Extradition
Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow has told Anadolu Agency that his government will not hesitate to seek the extradition of the country’s former autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh, former military ruler who governed the small nation with an iron fist from 1994 to 2016, has been accused by right groups and opponents of widespread killings and torture during his reign. “Every atrocity and human rights abuse in the past 22 years will be investigated and people who are responsible will be prosecuted. We will not compromise that without any doubt,” Barrow said in an interview with Anadolu Agency on Wednesday. About two months ago, Gambia’s High Court issued an arrest warrant for over a dozen former soldiers believed to be part of Jammeh’s hit squad but their extradition from Guinea Bissau and Mauritania, where they are reportedly based, has not yet been secured. Anadolu Agency

From Boko Haram Captivity to the Classroom, 42 Chibok Girls Graduate
Forty-two girls out of the first 56 girls who escaped Boko Haram captivity have graduated from secondary school on Tuesday. The girls were sponsored to attend two private schools by the Borno State Government and a non-profit humanitarian organization, Girl Child Concern. The schools are the Bethel International Christian Academy for Christian students and Ulul-Albab Science Secondary School for Muslim students in the Katsina and Plateau states respectively. Governor Kashim Shettima attended the graduation ceremony where there were 34 other girls who are yet to graduate. These girls were abducted on April 14, 2014, by the militant group Boko Haram from their secondary school in Chibok during a final examination. Africa News

Nigerian Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Power of Presidency
Nigeria’s upper house of parliament voted on Wednesday to weaken the power of the presidency and strengthen the legislature. The move came with approval of a series of amendments to the country’s constitution. If approved by the lower house and signed by the president, it would be only the second time the 1999 document has been changed. The first was in 2011 under former president Goodluck Jonathan. Major amendments passed by the upper house include providing certain legal immunity to members of the legislature, reducing the president’s ability to withhold assent for a bill passed by parliament, and removing law-making powers from the executive. Bloomberg

More Warnings over Precarious State of SANDF
Defence experts, academics and the Department of Defence (DoD) are issuing warnings over the precarious state of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and how a lack of funding is compromising its capabilities. Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube said earlier this month that “We’re in a difficult situation now whereby we no longer have adequate funding to ensure that we have the necessary numbers of soldiers to defend our country’s borders. Our borders continue to remain porous.” With the defence budget standing at .8% of GDP and shrinking in real terms, and an effective R5 billion reduction looming over the next five years, Gulube said “The resources available to the SANDF are no longer adequate to ensure that the territorial integrity of our country is adequately secured.”  DefenceWeb

Election Campaigns Kick off in Angola
Jose Eduardo dos Santos is, after Equatorial Guinea’s longtime leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest serving president. He came to power almost four decades ago in 1979 when Angola had been independent for just four years. A civil war was raging between the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party and two other liberation movements, UNITA and FNLA. Elections only took place in 1992. They were won – like all those which followed – by dos Santos and his party. The opposition may criticise irregularities and bemoan a lack of equal opportunities but every time international observers recognize the results. Mail and Guardian

‘We Will Deal with Extremists with Weapons’ Says Libya’s Haftar
There will be no dialogue with extremist groups in Libya, the country’s eastern commander General Khalifa Haftar vowed in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on Wednesday, saying that only “military solutions” could be used to defeat such groups. Haftar was speaking a day after he signed a landmark deal with Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Paris in which the two agreed to a ceasefire and to work towards holding elections in the heavily divided country. However, Haftar, whose forces control much of the east of the country and have spearheaded the fight against Islamist groups such as the Islamic State group in the region, said no similar deal would be struck with “extremists”. France 24

France to Conduct Asylum Seeker Checks in Libya: Macron
France will set up processing centres this summer in Libya for asylum seekers trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday. “The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they are not all eligible for asylum. We’ll go to them,” he said during a visit to a refugee shelter in central France, adding the plan would be put in place “this summer”. Macron’s announcement came two days after he brokered talks in Paris between the leaders of the two rival authorities in war-torn Libya, who agreed to a conditional ceasefire. The lawless country is the main launchpad for African migrants trying to reach Europe in rickety boats operated by smugglers that frequently sink. Macron had said Tuesday he hoped the agreement to try to end five years of chaos in Libya would check the flow of migrants. AFP

Italy Loses Patience with France’s Macron over Migrants, Libya
[…] Tensions have crept into diplomatic relations between France and the government of Paolo Gentiloni, prompted by Macron’s response to Italian pleas for more European assistance with the mainly sub-Saharan migrants crossing the Mediterranean in record numbers and his largely uncoordinated diplomatic intervention this week in the Libya crisis. The meeting between the head of the U.N.-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, which has failed to assert authority, even in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and General Khalifa Haftar, a warlord who largely controls the east of the lawless country, was not coordinated with the Italian government. Gentiloni’s ministers took the unusual step of openly criticizing the French president this week, voicing their frustration with Macron’s efforts, which they argue distract from a coordinated U.N. and European Union effort to engineer a political deal in Libya between three rival governments and dozens of militias. “There are too many open formats in Libya, too many mediators, too many initiatives,” Italy’s foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. VOA

Libya Asks Italy for Naval Support to Stem Migrant Flow
Libya has asked for Italian naval support in its battle against human smugglers operating in its territorial waters, a move that Rome has long considered vital to stemming the wave of migration from north Africa to Europe.  After meeting Fayez al-Serraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s prime minister, said the request was being weighed by the Italian defence ministry.  “It is very relevant news in the fight against human trafficking in Libya, if we respond positively. I believe this is necessary,” said Mr Gentiloni.  More than 94,000 migrants from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa have made the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean to Italy this year, a 7 per cent increase on the same period in 2016. Financial Times

Rebel Leader Excluded from South Sudan Peace Process
Civil society activists say a move to exclude South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar from a regional peace process will ensure that South Sudan remains engulfed in war. Ministers of the East African bloc IGAD said Monday that Machar will not be invited to the next meeting for the peace process, which is aimed at revitalizing a 2015 peace agreement between the rebels and South Sudanese government. “We already agreed that the process, all opposition groups including Riek Machar’s ideas, the representatives of Riek Machar, can be involved in this process. For the time being, physically we are not inviting Riek Machar,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said at the end of the ministers’ meeting in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Machar, a former South Sudanese vice president, currently lives in exile in South Africa, where he fled after an outbreak of violence in Juba in July 2016 killed nearly 300 people. VOA

Drought, Conflict Displace 800,000 in Somalia: IOM
Somalia is suffering from a renewed displacement crisis as people flee drought and conflict, particularly in the country’s southern region. Gerard Waite, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration Somalia, told VOA that about 800,000 people have fled their homes in response to the drought over the past seven months. That is in addition to the 1.1 million people who were previously displaced in the country. “We have a displacement crisis on top of a drought crisis,” Waite said. “The 800,000 new IDPs [internally displaced persons] that have resulted from the drought have put incredible pressure on the existing camps. The formation of new camps has developed, [and] these camps are, by and large, not very well managed. They are normally on private land in very cramped conditions. They do not have the basic services in these camps.”  VOA

Tanzania’s President Urges Increased Control of Mineral Wealth
Tanzanians are being cheated out of the country’s mineral wealth and should take more control of their natural resources, President John Magufuli said. Investors in Tanzania’s mining industry have “stolen” from the country by failing to distribute a fair share of the revenue they generate from gold and other minerals, Magufuli said in a speech in the central region of Singida on Tuesday. “We are surrounded by wealth; we have to stand up and protect it,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen that we have all this wealth, sit on it, while others come and benefit from it by cheating us.” Magufuli is overhauling the country’s mining industry as the government targets doubling its contribution to gross domestic product to 10 percent by 2025. Bloomberg

Robots Are Set to Take Africa’s Manufacturing Jobs Even before It Has Enough
It was supposed to be Africa’s century, then the robots arrived. The dawning of the fourth industrial revolution offered African countries the opportunity to take advantage of technological gains, leapfrogging their developed counterparts. As China did at the end of the last century, Africa could have taken advantage of relatively cheap, semi-skilled labor in its youthful population, finally diversifying the continent’s economies into manufacturing and services as engines for growth. Instead, everything African workers could have done, robots can do better and faster. Industrial robots and artificial intelligence are increasingly threatening manufacturing in emerging markets. Economist Dani Rodrik calls this missed opportunity “premature deindustrialization” (pdf). As African populations urbanize, seeking work in factories in the city, unlike Europe and North America’s industrialization, those jobs may already have been taken over by robots and other forms of technology, Rodrik posits. And it’s not just in factories, in service sectors, automation has created call-center jobs but it may also take them away, as the World Bank’s Digital Dividends study pointed out. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones