Africa Media Review for June 1, 2017

Seven Kenyan Police, Civilian Killed by IED: Police
Seven police officers and a civilian were killed when an armoured vehicle drove over a roadside bomb in southeastern Kenya, a week after 14 others died in similar attacks claimed by Shabaab Islamists, a police source said on Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate, we lost all the seven officers who were in the vehicle,” a senior police officer in the coastal Lamu district near the Somali border, told AFP. “All the bodies were found scattered in the thicket possibly thrown out on impact.” A police report seen by AFP noted that “seven administration police officers and one civilian died” as a result of the explosion. It was not clear whether the civilian was in or near the vehicle at the time of the explosion. News 24

AMISOM Needs a Mandate for Peace and Development
The mandate of the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officially expires today, 31 May. Although the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) extended the mission’s role until 30 November, its future, lies in the hands of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). A joint AU-UN strategic review of the 10-year mission – which has been both praised for its good work done under challenging circumstances and criticised for not having done enough – will influence the UNSC’s decision. UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted both in March, and again this month at the London Conference on Somalia, that AMISOM ‘is under-equipped in relation to the needs … but it has been doing remarkable work in very precarious conditions’, and it has been ‘fighting to protect our global security … under a Security Council mandate, without enough support and with unpredictable funding’. ISS

Kenya’s Ambitious New Railway Raises Cost Concerns
Kenya on Wednesday unveiled the first section of its 12-billion-euro railway. The standard gauge railway (SGR) will link Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa, and eventually to cities in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Billed as the most ambitious project since Kenya’s independence in 1963, it’s also controversial. Are Kenyans getting good value for their money? That’s the overriding question being asked about the SGR. “I was among a group of people who wrote a letter to the president [Uhuru Kenyatta], specifically with regards to the value for money proposition,” political analyst Tom Mboya told RFI on Tuesday. At a staggering cost of nearly four billion euros–almost entirely funded by China’s Export Import bank– just for the first phase linking the capital Nairobi to the port city Mombasa, there is reason to be concerned, reckons economist Aly-Khan Satchu. “Morocco and Ethiopia both built similar railways and it didn’t cost a fortune,” he told RFI. RFI

People Smugglers Make $35 Bln a Year on Migrant Crisis: IOM Head
People smugglers make about $35 billion a year worldwide and they are driving the tragedy of migrants who die trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told Reuters on Wednesday. Increasing numbers of desperate migrants fleeing from Africa and elsewhere due to conflicts and humanitarian crises are dying as they attempt to reach Europe via Libya, coaxed to do so by smugglers as they wait in detention centers. The death toll of people crossing the Mediterranean has reached 1,700 so far this year before the summer when many more often make the journey, compared to 3,700 for all of 2015 and 5,000 last year, said IOM head William Lacy Swing. Reuters

Over 40 Migrants Reported Dead in Sahara After Truck Breakdown
More than 40 West African migrants died in the Sahara desert this week after their truck broke down in arid northern Niger, the Red Cross told Reuters on Wednesday. Six survivors walked to a remote village where they said that 44 people, mostly from Ghana and Nigeria and including three babies and two other children, died of thirst, said Lawal Taher, the department head for the Red Cross in the Bilma region. Reuters and the authorities in Niger were unable to immediately confirm their account, but Taher said the Red Cross had told officials and that a search for the bodies was underway. The number of migrants who cross the Sahara has increased in recent years as impoverished West Africans risk their lives to try to reach Europe. Reuters

Lawmakers: US Urgently Needs More Engagement in Africa
The U.S. must remain active in Africa, which is in the midst of three famines and ongoing political instability, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said during a recent hearing in Washington. “Our engagement in Africa is in the strategic interest of the U.S. not only to address urgent humanitarian aid, but also to advance economic, political and security interests,” Congressman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, said. “Now is not the time to pull back.” Africa, with some of the fastest-growing economies in the world and nearly a billion consumers, offers huge potential as a U.S. trading partner, Royce said. The California congressman, a Republican, added: “With three famines looming on the African continent and ongoing political instability in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, the U.S. must remain active and engaged.” The top Democrat on Royce’s committee, Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, said he is worried that after “robust engagement” for 16 years, during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, “U.S. policy toward Africa is suddenly gone adrift.”  VOA

U.S. Warns Tanzania on Deteriorating Human Rights, Rule of Law
A top US diplomat has expressed concern about “discouraging signs” of backtracking on transparency, human rights and the rule of law in Tanzania, which if unchecked could undermine business and the country’s place as a key player in regional security. Ms Virginia Blaser, the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Tanzania and the East African Community (EAC), spoke on Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Citizen, ostensibly her last before the end of her four-year tour of duty in the country. She said while the government should be applauded for the positive path it had taken in fighting corruption, it should also sincerely take stock of its record on transparency and the rule of law, and pay attention to some worrying retrogressive signs, especially on the private sector. The Citizen

S. Sudan’s National Dialogue to Include “Armed Opposition”: Official
The steering committee for the South Sudan’s national dialogue said all stakeholders, including the armed opposition, will be consulted for the process in all parts of the young nation. Abraham Awolich, a coordinator at the steering committee secretariat said the initiation steps would take more than a month. “In the next five weeks, the steering committee for the national dialogue will discuss with a number of stakeholders, including civil society, media, women, youth, political parties, armed groups and even the organized forces to physically solicit ideas about what people want to talk about in the national dialogue, what should be items on the agenda and how it should be approached,” he told reporters in the capital, Juba Tuesday. Sudan Tribune

UN Seeks to Raise over 800 mln USD for Refugees, Displaced People in Sudan in 2017
The United Nations asked the international community on Wednesday to donate 804 million U.S. dollars in 2017 for the displaced people and South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. The humanitarian community in Sudan launched on Wednesday the Multi-Year Humanitarian Strategy (MYHS) for 2017-2019 and the Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2017 to address humanitarian needs in Sudan, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan (OCHA). “In 2017, the total funding sought for humanitarian projects through HRP is 804 million dollars, to benefit some 4 million people,” OCHA said. “Developed in close consultation with the government of Sudan, MYHS is the first of its kind in Sudan and recognizes that Sudan has both new and long-term humanitarian needs which require different types of interventions,” it noted. Xinhua

Covering the World’s Biggest Hunger Crises, I Saw People with Nothing Give Everything to Save a Life
The old man’s house had become a camp for the displaced. In the back yard, groups of women boiled water for rice. Small children skittered across the dirt, running into the bedroom, where they swirled around the long, skinny legs of Elijah Karama. “Because of the conditions, they are mine to take care of,” said Karama, 57, more tired than proud. By conditions, he meant Boko Haram’s destruction of vast areas of northeastern Nigeria, and the hunger crisis that has followed. This city of about 1 million has absorbed an additional 1 million people who fled the Islamist militants who burned their villages and kidnapped hundreds of children. In Maiduguri, the vast majority of the displaced aren’t living in U.N. camps. Instead, they are eating and sleeping and praying in private homes, whose residents have opened their doors to the newly homeless — the poor housing the poorer. Over the past few months I’ve reported from Somalia, South ­Sudan and Nigeria, sites of the three largest hunger crises in sub-Saharan Africa. In each country, overstretched humanitarian organizations have failed to raise sufficient funds to feed and house all of those in need. An untold number of people, most of them children, have died of malnutrition and preventable diseases. The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, and says the other two nations are in danger of suffering the same tragedy. The Washington Post

Egypt: 3 Officers, 1 Soldier Dead in Western Desert
Egypt’s military says that three officers and one soldier were killed when a suicide belt went off as forces were sweeping a militant hub in the Bahariya Oasis in Egypt’s western desert. Military spokesperson Tamer el-Refaie said on his Facebook page Wednesday that the incident took place during ongoing military operations in the western desert bordering Libya. Egypt’s western desert has been the scene of numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, including an attack on a border guard post in 2014 which left at least 21 troops dead. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi blamed Libya-trained terrorists for the recent attack on a bus carrying Christians in Upper Egypt, which killed 29. Egypt has a long, porous border with Libya, which officials say is a route for smuggling in arms and fighters. AP

Is Egypt Bombing the Right Militants in Libya?
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was quick to launch air strikes on militants in Libya in response to a deadly attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt – but the attacks do not seem to be targeting those responsible. The response was popular with many Egyptians. The country’s state-owned and private news media celebrated it as swift justice, but the president has been vague about exactly who he is attacking. The strikes have been directed at Islamist groups other than Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre of dozens in the southern province of Minya, and seem to be intended to shore up Sisi’s allies in eastern Libya. “The attacks in Minya were claimed by Islamic State, and there are Islamic State elements active in Libya, but the reports coming indicate Cairo is targeting other groups,” said H.A. Hellyer, senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. Reuters

U.S. Senators Criticise Egypt’s NGO Law as Crackdown on Rights
Three U.S. Republican senators on Wednesday criticized a law enacted by Egypt to regulate the work of non-governmental organizations as a sign of a “draconian” crackdown on human rights. The measure, issued on Monday after being ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, restricts NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduces jail terms of up to five years for non-compliance. Egyptian Lawmakers said the law was necessary to protect national security. The government has long accused human rights groups of taking foreign funds to sow chaos and several are facing investigation over their funding. Reuters

Aides of Ivory Coast Parliament Speaker Questioned About Arms Cache
Authorities in Ivory Coast have questioned two senior military officers close to parliamentary speaker Guillaume Soro, one of his spokesmen said Wednesday, after an arms cache was found recently in the home of an aide. The weapons were seized from a house in Bouake owned by Soro ally Souleymane Kamarate Kone — known locally as “Soul to Soul” — by mutinous soldiers during a four-day revolt over bonus payments. Unrest within the ranks of the army this year has tarnished the image of the world’s top cocoa grower, which has emerged from a 2011 civil war as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. VOA

Senegal’s Opposition Coalition Splits into 3 Factions
Senegal’s opposition coalition Manko-Thakao, which means save Senegal in the local wolof dialect, has split after failing to agree on a leader for the coming elections. The disagreement led to the split of the coalition into three factions. The opposition parties had formed this anti-government coalition ahead of elections scheduled for July to unseat President Macky Sall’s Alliance for the Republic party. The three new factions are: the Coalition Wattu Senegal headed by the main opposition Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of Karim Wade, son of the former president Abdoulaye Wade; the Mankoo Yeessal Senegal Coalition headed by Modou Diagne Fada’s Democratic Reformers; and a third headed by jailed opposition mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall. Anadolu Agency

Lesotho Veterans Lead Race to Be Prime Minister
Two veteran former prime ministers lead the field ahead of Lesotho’s election on Saturday, in a vote likely to result in another coalition government for the landlocked mountain kingdom. The country’s political landscape has been dominated for years by party splits and fragile coalitions. News 24

Thousands Rally for Release of Protest Leader Zefzafi
Several thousand people took to the streets of Morocco’s northern Rif region to demand the release of the leader of a protest movement. Nasser Zefzafi, 39, who had been on the run since Friday, was taken into custody on Monday “along with other individuals” and transferred to Casablanca. His arrest was ordered after he allegedly interrupted a preacher at a mosque on Friday and called for further demonstrations. Protestors came out near the centre of the northern city of Al Hoceima for a fifth straight night on Tuesday, shouting slogans including “we are all Zefzafi” and “end militarisation”. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia Turns Off Internet Nationwide as Students Sit Exams
Ethiopia has shut off internet access to its citizens, according to reports from inside the country, apparently due leaked exam papers for the nation’s grade 10 examinations. Outbound traffic from Ethiopia was shutdown around 4pm UK time on Tuesday, according to Google’s transparency report, which registered Ethiopian visits to the company’s sites plummeting over the evening. By Wednesday afternoon, access still had not been restored. Last year, activists leaked the papers for the country’s 12th grade national exams, calling for the postponement of the papers due to a school shutdown in the regional state of Oromia. Now, the government appears to have taken the move to shut down internet access as a preventative measure. The Guardian

Almost All Internet Searches in Africa Bring Up Only Results from the US and France
A Google search for “Accra,” the capital of Ghana, returns its Wikipedia entry, travel advice from Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor, and a few news websites like the Guardian. Almost none of the search results come from pages hosted in Ghana, and though results come from six different countries, five of them are in the global north, as opposed to in Africa. Only eight countries in Africa have a majority of content that is locally produced. Most content comes from the United States and to a lesser extent, France, according to a new study published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers. In Africa, only South Africa and Madagascar ranked high in terms of local content. Even capitals or large cities like Lagos see little local content in Google search results. Quartz

Uganda Probes Chinese Diplomats over Ivory Trafficking
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered an investigation into possible collusion between the country’s wildlife agency and two Chinese diplomats in the trafficking of ivory. Poaching has risen sharply in recent years across Africa, fueled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as a traditional medicine and a status symbol. Uganda is a major transit country for the illegal trade. The Chinese embassy officials are suspected of colluding in the movement of ivory from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, using Uganda as a transit point, a government official said. News 24

7 Tons of African Pangolin Scales Seized in Hong Kong
A conservation group says the seizure of seven tons of pangolin scales in Hong Kong this week indicates that the heavily poached creature “could soon vanish for good” if urgent steps are not taken to protect it. The International Fund for Animal Welfare said Wednesday that the size of the seized shipment from Nigeria was 10 times bigger than a confiscation of pangolin scales in Malaysia three weeks earlier. In February, conservationists said almost three tons of scales were seized in Thailand. IFAW wants China and other countries to take steps to curb the demand for pangolins, whose scales are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. A U.N. wildlife conference last year approved a ban on trade in all eight species of Asian and African pangolins. AP



Photo: Adam Jones