Africa Media Review for June 13, 2017

Egypt Bans Scores of News Websites in Growing Censorship Crackdown
An often fiery government critic, Egyptian journalist Khaled al-Balshi has been arrested, had his operations monitored, and staff harassed by police for years. Yet his website Al-Bedaiah, a rare dissident voice in Egypt, had never been touched. On Sunday that changed when it suddenly went blank with no warning after being blocked, part of what Balshi called an unprecedented and far-reaching state crackdown on scores of news websites in recent weeks. “Let’s be clear, the Egyptian websites going through this are dealing with a long-term shutdown — this is not short term,” said Balshi from his downtown Cairo office, where four work stations sat idle, because staff feared coming to work in case of arrest. SABC

UN Approves EU Ships To Seize Illegal Arms Off Libya
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the European Union’s maritime force to seize illegal weapons off Libya’s coast for another year, a move aimed at helping restore peace to the deeply divided north African nation. The British-drafted resolution authorizes EU ships in Operation Sophia to stop vessels on the high seas off Libya’s coast suspected of smuggling arms in violation of a U.N. arms embargo. Operation Sophia is also charged with seizing migrant-smuggling vessels. Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vincenzo Amendola told the council after the vote that by speaking with one voice the members again showed their “strong commitment to the stability and security of Libya.” He said the council also “emphasized the importance of working together to protect the country from the threat posed by the combination of terrorism and proliferation of weapons.” Bloomberg

Libya Claims NGO Boats in the Mediterranean are ‘Migrant Taxis’
Libya has accused NGOs operating in the Mediterranean of being complicit in the exodus of tens of thousands of migrants, claiming the humanitarian organisations are in direct contact with traffickers along the lawless coast of the North African country. Humanitarian groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres vehemently denied the allegations, as the deadly crossing claimed yet more lives at the weekend. At least 10 migrants drowned after their boat capsized and up to 100 others were missing. Eight bodies were found in a partially deflated rubber dinghy that was found drifting north of the Libyan coast, near the town of Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli. The Telegraph

Manchester Bombing Was Planned for Months, Libya Says
The bomb attack in Manchester last month which killed 22 people was being planned since December, security officials in Libya have told the BBC. Salman Abedi was being watched in Libya more than a month before the attack. Officials in Tripoli have complained about poor security co-operation with the UK, which they say must be improved to prevent further attacks. Abedi spent a quiet month with his family in Tripoli before returning to Britain to carry out mass murder. Libyan officials have told the BBC’s Orla Guerin that from the time of his arrival in the country he was under surveillance, along with his brother Hashem and father Ramadan. BBC

‘Freed’ Gaddafi’s Son Still Wanted by Libya Court: Prosecutor
Libyan authorities said on Monday that Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, reportedly set free by a militia at the weekend, was still wanted by a Tripoli court for a 2015 conviction. Seif al-Islam, the second son and heir apparent of the late deposed Libyan dictator, was said to have been released on Friday by a militia group that controls the town of Zintan in western Libya. The group, which had held Seif al-Islam for more than five years, said he had been set free under an amnesty law promulgated by the parliament based in the country’s east during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But the prosecutor general’s office in Tripoli, where a rival UN-backed administration is based, said the amnesty could not apply to Seif al-Islam because of the severity of his crimes. News 24

Africa Leaders Push South Sudan Sides to Revive Peace, Delay Vote
East African leaders said late on Monday they would try and push South Sudan’s warring sides to revive collapsed peace efforts and delay elections currently scheduled for August next year to a more realistic date. Heads of state meeting in Ethiopia said they would set up a forum where the rivals could discuss ways of restoring a ceasefire more than three years into an ethnically-charged civil war that has plunged districts into famine. The forum would be set up urgently, leaders from the East African bloc IGAD said, without specifying when or what form it would take. Fighting broke out at the end of 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his rival Riek Machar as vice president, just two years after South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. Reuters

Global Lobby in Push for AU, UN To Take over South Sudan Peace Process
International experts are urging the African Union and the United Nations to lead the peace process in South Sudan, saying that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development has failed to end the war in the young nation. In a statement released Monday morning, the founding director of international lobby Enough Project John Prendergast said that Igad’s approach towards the spiralling conflict is inadequate. “Igad is currently charged with mediating but its approach is inadequate in the face of multiplying armed actors and a dying peace agreement from 2015,” said Mr Prendergast. The East African

A Woman’s World for South Sudanese Refugees
An estimated 86% of the more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are women and children, says the UN. Massive numbers have streamed in since the brutal civil war at home reignited last July. The flight from violence and chaos, often without time to plan, has left many families separated. Mothers and children run alone. Husbands and fathers are either staying behind to work, fighting, missing or presumed dead. As a result, many women are leading their extended households and communities in Uganda’s refugee settlements. With the support of each other, the authorities and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), they are trying to build a life. They didn’t plan it, but they now find themselves living in a woman’s world. BBC

UN Says a Fourth Peacekeeper from Guinea Was Killed in Mali
The United Nations says a fourth peacekeeper from the West African nation of Guinea was killed in an attack by jihadists last week on a UN camp in northern Mali. UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Monday the peacekeeper was missing after last Thursday’s attack on the camp east of the city of Kidal and his body was found on Saturday. SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terror groups, said al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Mali claimed responsibility. Haq said eight peacekeepers injured in the attack have been treated in the UN hospital in Kidal and are in stable condition. He said the United Nations extends condolences to the victims’ families and to the government and people of Guinea. News 24

Nigeria Army Says It Killed Boko Haram Leader, Frees 9 Kids
A top Boko Haram commander was among many insurgents killed Sunday as soldiers fought to rescue nine children being trained at a secret camp, a Nigerian official said Monday. Soldiers on their way to an Islamic extremist camp in Jarawa village in Borno State, ran into an ambush by Boko Haram fighters, said Nigerian army spokesman Brig. Gen. Sani Usman. The soldiers then killed a large number of Boko Haram insurgents, including one of its commanders Abu Nazir, who was on the military’s wanted list, Usman said. Soldiers also rescued nine abducted children, who are now being given preliminary humanitarian assistance. They will then go to a displaced persons camp in Kala Balge, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, the army spokesman said. Boko Haram sometimes uses kidnapped girls and boys to carry out suicide attacks. AP

Surge in Suspected Boko Haram Attacks Hits Northern Cameroon
Suicide bombers attacked two border towns and a military base in northern Cameroon over the weekend, according to local officials. The violence is part of a recent string of attacks in the border area attributed to militant group Boko Haram. Five suicide bombers crossed from Nigeria into the Mayo Sava division of northern Cameroon on Saturday, said Babila Akao, the most senior government official in that area. He told VOA by phone that the bombers were targeting the towns of Mora and Kolofata, but only two were able to detonate their vests. During an emergency security meeting the day before the attack, Akao said, soldiers and members of the local self-defense groups had been deployed to control the northern entrance to Mora from Nigeria and seal all entrances into the towns and surrounding villages, if necessary. He said the blasts claimed no victims aside from the two bombers, but many self-defense group members were wounded. VOA

Somalia Turns Down $80m To Cut Ties with Qatar
Somali President, Mohammed Abdullah Farmajo, has been offered $80 million in exchange for his agreement to sever diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar, the New Khalij news outlet reported a prominent journalist has revealed. “After two hours of enticement, Farmajo rejected the tempting offer,” journalist Jaber Al-Harimi said. Yesterday, the newspaper Somalia Today quoted unnamed sources saying “there was pressure put on the Somali government by Saudi Arabia to reverse Somalia’s decision to stay neutral in the siege imposed by some Arab governments on the State of Qatar.”  Middle East Monitor

Gulf Crisis Engulfs Africa
Senegal was first to recall its ambassador from Qatar’s capital Doha. Chad and Mauritania followed suit, and over the weekend Niger announced it was doing the same. More and more African Muslim majority countries are severing ties with Qatar citing solidarity with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. The two main Arab powerhouses were joined by Egypt and Bahrain to cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the tiny oil and gas-rich nation of sponsoring terrorism. Doha has rejected the accusations and says it is being punished for its progressive stance. The diplomatic spat which has threatened the stability of the Gulf is one of the worst in decades, experts have warned. “The Muslim majority nations in Africa feel that they need to make a decision for or against Qatar,” Annette Weber, an expert on the Middle East and Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told DW. Deutsche Welle

Niger Recalls Ambassador to Qatar in Solidarity with Arab States 
Niger said on Saturday it had recalled its ambassador to Qatar in solidarity with Arab countries that have cut ties with Doha over allegations it sponsors Islamist militants and Iran. Some African countries have cautiously come out in support of attempts to isolate Qatar. Mauritania, an Arab League member, cut ties on Tuesday and central African oil producer Gabon condemned Qatar for failing “on counter-terrorism..” Senegal has said it would recall its ambassador in Qatar and expressed its “active solidarity.” Mali, a majority Muslim country that has borne the brunt of Islamist militant activity in West Africa, put out a statement on Saturday that declined to take sides. Arab News

Gambia: Whistle-Blower Arrested Amid Corruption Claims
Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow is under fire after the state intelligence institution arrested a whistle-blower who exposed “high-level corruption” at the institution. The arrest of Bubacarr Badjie, a legal adviser at the agency, was confirmed Sunday, on accusations of breaking the country’s security secrets and code of conduct for intelligence officers. Badjie, who leaked a copy of a letter he wrote to Barrow to the media and the Gambia Bar Association, accused the agency of having a workforce 60 percent of which is “functionally illiterate” and can neither read nor understand English. He claimed that a large percentage of the staff, many of them close to former strongman President Yahya Jammeh, were recruited into the agency by past and present directors, former army generals, and Jammeh’s cousin, Pa Bojang. Anadolu Agency

African, Asian Investigators Break Up Ivory Smuggling Syndicate
Seven smugglers involved in the illegal ivory trade from Uganda to Singapore have been arrested as a result of an 18-month investigation by African and Asian law enforcement officials, a counter-trafficking organisation said. The operation netted a top Kenyan customs officer and shipping agents who facilitated the covert ivory pipeline, highlighting progress in Africa on cross-border collaboration by law enforcement agencies, Freeland, the anti-trafficking organisation that supported the operation, said. Tens of thousands of African elephants are killed for their tusks every year, leading to drop of 20-30 percent in their numbers on the continent over the last decade. However, environmentalists say law enforcement agencies are increasingly disrupting smuggling networks. “These arrests reveal how the smuggling has been orchestrated,” Freeland chairman Kraisak Choonhavan, a prominent Thai politician, said in a statement released over the weekend. AP

S. Africa ANC Military Vets Wing Backs Dlamini-Zuma, Times Says
The military-veterans wing of South Africa’s ruling party endorsed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over the leadership of the African National Congress in December, the Johannesburg-based Times newspaper reported. The newspaper cited Kebby Maphatsoe, the chairman of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association. The ANC will elect new leaders in December. Zuma has indicated that he favors Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and the former head of the African Union commission, to succeed him, while his opponents are rallying around Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Bloomberg

Sudan, U.S., Norway Discuss Progress on Five-Track Engagement, South Sudan Crisis
A tripartite meeting between Sudan, United States and Norway Monday has discussed the Sudanese-American relations and the situation in South Sudan, said Sudan’s Foreign Ministry In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gharib Allah Khidir said Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has met in Oslo with the representative of the Office of the U.S. Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Paul Steven and the Norwegian Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Erling Skojonsberg. According to Khidir, the meeting discussed “the course of Sudan-US relations regarding the five-track engagement between the two sides besides some regional issues, especially the situation South Sudan”. On 13 January, former U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to ease the 19-year sanctions against Sudan enabling trade and investment transactions to resume with the east African nation. Sudan Tribune

UN Resettles Albino Refugees Due to Threats in Malawi
Since June of last year, the U.N. refugee agency in Malawi has been resettling albino refugees to North America, amid continued threats to people living with albinism in the southern African country. The agency says albino refugees in Malawi are reporting harassment, such as one refugee, now resettled to Canada, who said people kept trying to cut his hair. People with albinism — an absence of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes — are attacked in Malawi and other parts of Africa because of false beliefs that potions made from their body parts bring good luck and wealth. The UNHCR says at least 20 people with albinism have been killed in the country since 2014. More than 100 other albino individuals, including children, have faced rights violations including abductions and grave exhumations. VOA

Falling Cocoa Prices Threaten Child Labor Spike in Ghana, Ivory Coast
A drop in global cocoa prices threatens to undermine efforts to stamp out child labor in Ghana and Ivory Coast, the world’s two biggest growers, as falling incomes could force farmers to send their children to work, charities said on Monday. More than two million children are estimated to work in the cocoa industry across the two West African nations, where they carry heavy loads, spray pesticides and fell trees using sharp tools, according to the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI). The countries’ governments, civil society groups and some of the world’s top chocolate producers have in recent years ramped up efforts to tackle child labor in supply chains, invest in cocoa growing communities, and get more children into school. VOA

Tanzania May Have Lost $30b in Mining Revenue, Probe Team Says
Tanzania may have lost more than Tsh68.6 trillion ($30 billion) in revenue through creative accounting by mining companies. While presenting its report to President John Magufuli, a second committee set up to probe earnings in the sector said mining companies, colluding with government officials underreported the export of mineral concentrates in order to dodge taxes. The committee was tasked to look into the economic and legal aspects involved in the export of mineral concentrates from 1998 to 2017. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones