Africa Media Review for July 3, 2017

African Union Summit Opens with Financing High on the Agenda
Hot on the heels of the G5 Sahel meeting in Bamako, leaders from across Africa travel to Addis Ababa for the 29th Summit of the African Union (AU). The stakes of the meeting include how to finance an organisation which gets 80 percent of its budget from western donations. The solution which has been proposed is a 0.2 percent levy which would be imposed on all eligible imports which enter a member state from outside the AU. While the proposal has its supporters, some fear an ‘AU tax’ would be difficult to implement. There have even been suggestions, from reticent members that the move would contravene world trade rules. “The idea of this tax is to make the organisation independent and self-sufficient,” says the Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyema. RFI

Al-Qaida-Linked Mali Extremists Release Hostage Video
An al-Qaida-linked group in Mali has released a proof-of-life video showing six foreign hostages, a group that monitors jihadist communications says, shortly before the French president’s arrival in the West African country for an anti-terror summit. The recently formed Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen issued the video Saturday on Telegram, the SITE Intelligence Group said. The video shows Stephen McGowan of South Africa, Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia and Sophie Petronin of France. “No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children,” a narrator says. The narrator also mentions the recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron, saying that Petronin “is hoping that the new French president will come to her rescue.” VOA

France’s Macron Returns to Mali to Boost Regional Anti-Terrorism Force
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a security summit in Mali on Sunday to boost support for the creation of a regional counter-terror force. But while he may be hoping for an exit strategy for French troops, that prospect still seems far off. This will be Macron’s second trip to Mali, where France has been militarily engaged since 2013, since he took office barely two months ago: His initial visit, made during the first week of his presidency, was an important symbol as it was his first visit outside of Europe as France’s president. This weekend, Macron will return to Mali to attend a summit hosted by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta with leaders from neighbouring countries Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – a group known as the G5 Sahel. They will be talking about a joint force that could equal the deployment of about 5,000 regional troops into the vast, arid Sahel region that remains a breeding ground for human traffickers as well as arms and drugs smugglers. France 24

Ebola Outbreak in DRC Is Over, Who Says
The World Health Organization declared an end to the most recent outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, marking the latest key milestone in the fight against the deadly disease. The announcement comes 42 days, or the equivalent of two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus, after the last confirmed patient in the affected Bas-Uele province tested negative for Ebola. “With the end of this epidemic, DRC has once again proved to the world that we can control the very deadly Ebola virus if we respond early in a coordinated and efficient way,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the newly appointed WHO director-general, who is a native of Ethiopia and the first African to head the agency. CNN

Twin Suicide Blasts Kill 3 near N. Cameroon Mosque 
At least three people, including two suicide bombers, were killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack near a mosque in Kerawa city of Cameroon’s Far North region on Friday. “Two women suicide bombers wanted to enter Kerawa mosque, where Muslims were gathered for morning prayers. The bombers blew themselves up when they noticed that members of a vigilance committee had spotted them,” Mohamed Bamsi, an Imam of the mosque said. “The bombers died in the explosion, while a faithful, who was about to enter the mosque, was also killed,” Bamsi added. A military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to media, said security forces were expecting an attack from Boko Haram — a Nigerian militant group. Anadolu Agency

South Africa Delays Zuma No-Confidence Vote as ANC Ramps up Support for Its Leader
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma will face a no-confidence vote on August 8, five days later than originally planned because of a scheduling clash with a cabinet meeting, the national legislature said on Sunday. At the same time the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ramped-up its support for Zuma, saying members of its parliamentary caucus who defied the party line were “suicide bombers” who would face punishment if they voted with the opposition. Zuma has survived four no-confidence votes during his eight years in power owing to loyal voting by ANC lawmakers, who form a strong parliamentary majority, although cracks in unity have begun to appear with a number of allies threatening to break ranks. The assembly’s speaker has yet to decide whether the latest ballot will be held in secret after the country’s top court ruled in June that secret votes may be held for motions of no confidence. Reuters

Infighting Plagues South Africa’s Ruling ANC as Elections Loom
Infighting and scandal are threatening the stranglehold South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has held on power since the end of apartheid. The parlous state of Africa’s oldest political movement, once revered for its role in ending white-minority rule, was laid bare in a report presented by its secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, at a party policy conference that’s being held in Johannesburg. Officials intent on securing positions and state resources have alienated voters and tarred the ANC as a corrupt organization, it admits. While Mantashe sidestepped a question as to whether the ANC may lose the outright majority it’s held since 1994 in elections due to be held in two years, that risk has been raised by other senior officials and party veterans. In municipal elections last year, its share of the national vote plummeted to 54 percent, from 62 percent in 2014, and it lost control of three of the biggest cities. President Jacob Zuma, 75, who’s been implicated in a series of scandals since taking office in 2009, has been a lightening rod for the public’s disaffection. Bloomberg

South Africa: Diverted Funds Puts Soldiers at Risk
South Africa’s peacekeepers are being short-changed — and potentially put at risk — by an arrangement that channels vital peacekeeping funds away from the military to the  treasury. South Africa deploys peacekeepers in several African countries, but they operate on a shoestring budget. Things are so bad that the army usually relies on vehicles and equipment left to them in their country of operation, and the air force must regularly must charter aircraft to ferry men and heavy equipment. Nowhere was the severe funding shortfall more apparent than during the 2013 Battle of Bangui in the Central African Republic, where 15 soldiers died fending off a rebel offensive. The troops lacked heavy weapons and the capacity for reinforcements, and evacuating the wounded was left to chartered aircraft. […] Although the United Nations compensates every troop-contributing country, in South Africa’s case the money returned rarely finds its way back to the defence force — leaving the SANDF’s overstretched budget bearing all additional costs associated with its peacekeeping effort. Mail and Guardian

Egyptian Court Sentences 20 to Death for Killing Policemen
An Egyptian court on Sunday upheld the death penalty for 20 men charged with killing policemen in the violence that followed the military’s ousting of an Islamist president in 2013, while changing the sentence for many others to hefty prison terms. The verdicts can again be appealed. The case involves 156 people on trial and is known as the “Kerdasa incident” in reference to the pro-Muslim Brotherhood neighbourhood where the violence took place in the Giza province adjacent to Cairo. Islamist gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades at a police station in Kerdasa on Aug. 14, 2013, and slit a policeman’s throat before burning the building down, hours after security forces violently dispersed two protest camps, killing hundreds. Reuters

Aid Workers Warn of ‘Devastating’ Cholera Outbreak in South Sudan
Doctors, aid workers and officials in South Sudan are warning of a “devastating” outbreak of cholera that could kill thousands of people in a country where millions are already threatened by famine. More than 2,500 cases of the disease have been registered since April, a sharp increase over previous months. The total over the last year has now risen to 8,000, with about 250 confirmed deaths. Experts say this is likely to be only a fraction of overall toll. With no sign that conflict in the world’s youngest country will abate soon, and with the population weakened by years of displacement and malnutrition, there are fears that cholera could spread out of control.  Medical staff fear an outbreak in hospitals. There are few functioning medical institutions in South Sudan and these often care for three or four times the number of patients they were designed to accommodate. The Guardian

UN Peacekeepers Hit by New Allegations of Sex Abuse
At least 55 UN peacekeepers are accused of sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians across UN missions around the globe since January 2017, new UN data show. Data released late on Friday night also showed a new case of sexual exploitation was registered against Republic of Congo peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), less than 10 days after the United Nations announced the withdrawal of Congolese troops from the UN’s mission over a string of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. On Saturday, a UN spokesperson confirmed that a new allegation had been registered against the Congolese but declined to clarify if the recorded case of sexual exploitation took place before or after the stated withdrawal of the battalion. Al Jazeera

Italy Calls on European Countries to Take Migrant Ships as Country Struggles with Record Numbers
Italy’s interior minister on Sunday called on European countries to open their ports to migrant rescue ships as he met for crisis talks with his French and German counterparts. Italy has threatened to close its ports to charity ships that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean if other EU states do not agree to take some of the growing number of refugees onto their shores. “We are under enormous pressure,” Marco Minniti said in Paris before the talks, which are taking place ahead of an EU summit in Tallinn this week. Italian media reports said Rome was likely to call for a European code of conduct to be drawn up for the privately-run aid boats, with the Corriere della Sera saying vessels that did not comply could be “seized”. Over the past week alone, around 10,000 migrants have been ferried to Italy after being rescued from overcrowded, rickety boats travelling from Libya. The Telegraph

French Judge Probes Gabon Post-Election Violence
A French judge will investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed in Gabon during post-election violence last year. Violence continued for several days after President Ali Bongo was declared reelected at the end of August. Clashes broke out shortly after the announcement that Bongo had beaten opposition leader Jean Ping and the opposition said more than 50 people were killed by the security forces. The investigation in France started in April 2017, following a legal complaint by a French-Gabonese citizen in September 2016. He was arrested on the night of 31 August 2016 when masked men attacked Ping’s headquarters and claims there was a “night of horror” during which dozens of people were wounded or killed. The inquiry was not originally into charges of crimes against humanity but into alleged arbitrary arrest, torture, acts of barbarism and attempted assassination. RFI

Riyadh Urges Khartoum to Take “Clear Stance” on Gulf Crisis
The Saudi Ambassador to Khartoum Ali bin Hassan Jaafar has urged Sudan to take “clear stance” on the ongoing Gulf crisis, accusing Qatar of seeking the backing of two states with regional ambitions, Turkey and Iran. Last month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar over allegations that the country funds “terrorism”, an accusation that Qatar denies. They presented Qatar with a list of demands to end the crisis that has roiled the Gulf, giving Doha 10 days ultimatum. The 13-point list includes shutting the Al-Jazeera TV network, cutting back diplomatic ties with Iran, severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and ending Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. However, Doha on Saturday rejected the demands, saying “the world is not governed by ultimatums”. Sudan is among the Arab states that refused to take part in the ongoing diplomatic crisis and declared its support for the Kuwaiti efforts to settle the rift. Sudan Tribune

‘Broke’ Mugabe Govt ‘Buys 300 Top of the Range Cars’ for Military Bosses – Report
President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government has reportedly bought several top of the range vehicles to “appease military top brass” ahead of the crunch 2018 elections. According to The Zimbabwe Independent, unnamed sources claimed that the cash strapped Mugabe government bought more than 300 cars for the military bosses. The cars were to be allocated to various army units that included the Air Force of Zimbabwe wing commanders and Zimbabwe National Army lieutenants-colonels, the sources said. Two months ago, the CIO took delivery of new Datsun vehicles, while top-of-the-range vehicles were given to intelligence bosses, added the report. News 24

A New Frontier for Diamond Mining: the Ocean
Deep beneath this frigid stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, some of the world’s most valuable diamonds are scattered like lost change. The discovery of such gems has sparked a revolution in one of the world’s most storied industries, sending mining companies on a race for precious stones buried just under the seafloor. For over a century, open-pit diamond mines have been some of the most valuable real estate on Earth, with small swaths of southern Africa producing billions of dollars of wealth. But those mines are gradually being exhausted. Experts predict that the output of existing onshore mines will decline by around 2 percent annually in coming years. By 2050, production might cease. Now, some of the first “floating mines” could offer hope for the world’s most mythologized gemstone, and extend a lifeline to countries like Namibia whose economies depend on diamonds. Last year, mining companies extracted $600 million worth of diamonds off the Namibian coast, sucking them up in giant vacuum-like hoses. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones