Africa Media Review for June 2, 2017

Al Shabaab Overtook Boko Haram as Africa’s Most Deadly Terror Group in 2016
Waging war from a corner in the Horn of Africa, Al Shabaab has grown to become the most deadly terror group on the continent. Last year, the group killed more people than any other terrorist sect on the continent, including the deadly Boko Haram. Data collected by Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED) and analyzed by Africa Center for Strategic Studies shows Al Shabaab attacks resulted in over 4,00o deaths in 2016. The Somali terrorist group has become deadly in its operations, relentlessly attacking both civilian and military outposts. In its attempt to topple the weak Somali government, Al Shabaab has specifically carried out deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu, targeting the presidential palace, the parliament, and supreme court offices. And as the country revives from a two-decade war, the group has staged numerous attacks on hotels, parks, and beachside restaurants—symbols of hope in a country bedeviled by scars of its civil war. Quartz

Almost 4,000,000 Sudanese Displaced by Fighting
Almost 4,000,000 Sudanese have been forced from their homes in 14 years of tribal violence and battles between government and opposition fighters, the Norwegian Refugee Council says. The aid group listed Sudan as number three in its latest report, The World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises, saying almost five million Sudanese were now dependent on humanitarian aid, with three million of those living in the war-scarred region of Darfur. “Hundreds of thousands of people do not receive the lifesaving help they need because of challenges in accessing communities,” the council said before blaming “a 40 percent shortage in funding and a lack of international media attention to the crisis”. Al Jazeera

S. Sudan’s Machar Calls to End His “Confinement and Detention” in S. Africa
South Sudan former First Vice President and rebel leader Riek Machar has called on the UN Security Council to end in order his forced exile in South Africa and to allow him to engage in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. “We [SPLM in Opposition] are calling on the UN to end the international policy of isolating the SPLM(IO) including my release from the confinement and detention so as to enable our full engagement in finding a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” said Machar in a written statement extended to Sudan Tribune. In October 2016 Machar left Khartoum to Pretoria officially for medical treatment. But in fact, his travel had been decided in a common agreement between the IGAD countries. Washington was involved in the decision. Sudan Tribune

Will the Lesotho Army Accept a Thabane Victory?
What will it take to cure the chronic instability of Lesotho’s politics? This perennial question looms large once again as the tiny mountain kingdom entirely surrounded by South Africa goes to the polls for general legislative elections on Saturday. Despite almost three years of intense regional intervention aimed at restoring stability, the country remains gripped by fears that the election could spark a military coup. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), which has been meddling in Lesotho’s politics for decades, is showing signs of wanting to deny former prime minister Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) victory. Though many parties are in the field, the election seems to be essentially a two-horse race between the ABC and the bloc comprising Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). Thabane’s ABC seems to have the edge, after the major splits in the DC and LCD which enabled him to win a vote of no confidence against Mosisili’s government in March. ISS

Dwindling Options for Opposition Candidates in Rwanda
Recent elections in Rwanda have had a familiar outcome: overwhelming support for the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), amid a dearth of opposition candidates. President Paul Kagame won the 2003 presidential elections with more than 95 percent of the vote, and garnered 93 percent in 2010. The RPF won the 2008 parliamentary elections with about 79 percent, and took 76 percent of the 2013 vote. The 2015 referendum allowing President Kagame to stay in power until 2034 passed with 98.4 percent of the vote. As the RPF secured one victory after another, opposition leaders and supporters alleged that political opponents have been killed, forcibly disappeared, imprisoned, or stymied by bureaucratic hurdles. President Kagame will run for a third term in the August election. One opposition party is registered, and only three individuals have expressed an interest in challenging Kagame and the RPF. Human Rights Watch

Botched Vaccinations Leave 15 Children Dead in South Sudan
Fifteen young children have died in a botched measles vaccination campaign that saw people as young as 12 years old administering the vaccines, South Sudan’s government said Friday. The health ministry blamed the deaths on human error. One syringe was used for all the children, and the vaccine was not stored properly. The government said all of the children who died were younger than 5. It is setting up a commission to determine who is responsible and whether victims’ families will be compensated. VOA

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Top Military Adviser to Congo’s Kabila
The U.S. imposed sanctions on a senior military adviser of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, raising pressure on the government for a peaceful transition of power. The U.S. froze the assets of Francois Olenga, the head of the Military House of the President, for actions that threatened “the peace, security or stability of the DRC,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. Olenga oversaw security operations on behalf of Kabila to quash political dissent and supported the redeployment of senior military offices believed to have “pro-opposition” leanings, according to Treasury. Safari Beach, a resort on the outskirts of Congo’s capital Kinshasa which is owned or controlled by Olenga, was also placed on the sanctions list, it said. Bloomberg

The Kasai Region of the Congo Could Become Africa’s Next Hotspot
[…] Kamwina Nsapu was mobilized to fight against the government last summer. The instigating events appear to have been the central government’s appointment of representatives close to Kinshasa in important local government posts rather than local leaders, and frustrations over the splitting of Kasai into five provinces in 2015. In the last presidential election, the Kasai region came out strongly in support of the political opposition, and Kamwina Nsapu emerged to fight for more autonomy and local power in Kasai. Violence escalated after the August 2016 assassination by security forces of Jean-Pierre Mpandi, a customary authority whose appointment the state refused to recognize. Mpandi’s tribal name was Kamwina Nsapu; the militia he led took his name. According to New Vision, “Before he was killed, Mpandi had called on his militia to fight anyone representing the government, posting an audio appeal online for the ‘liberation of Congo.’” UN Dispatch

French Soldiers Wounded in Attack on Timbuktu Military Base
Several French soldiers were wounded on Thursday, one of them seriously, when a military compound in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu came under attack by mortar fire. The Timbuktu compound houses soldiers from the UN mission (MINUSMA), the Malian army and France’s Operation Barkhane. Several mortar shells were fired into the base but only one exploded near the French soldiers, said Anthony Fouchard, FRANCE 24’s Mali correspondent. Soldiers immediately deployed to pursue the assailants. France 24

Liberia’s Political Parties Enter Peace Accord Ahead of Elections
Political parties in Liberia have entered an accord to uphold peace during the general elections in the country later this year. All 22 registered parties signed the agreement at a ceremony held in the nation’s capital Monrovia, according to a statement by the National Elections Commission on Wednesday. The political parties presented their agreement to the head of the local electoral body, the statement said. The peace accord by the political parties “signifies that the 2017 elections will be successful and peaceful,” said electoral chief Jerome George Korkoya. Xinhua

Gunmen Kill 6 Niger Security Agents Near Mali Border
Gunmen killed six security agents in southwestern Niger, a security source and local resident said, in an area near the Malian border where jihadists have been increasingly active. The attackers opened fire on a security post in the town of Abala, about 150 km (90 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey, at around 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, killing four national guard troops and two gendarmes, a security source told Reuters. “Just when everyone was preparing to break the Ramadan fast, we heard shots in the town. The exchange of fire lasted almost two hours,” a school teacher in Abala told Anafi, a local radio station. VOA

After Boko Haram terror, Cameroon’s ‘ghost towns’ come back to Life
Hundreds of buyers and sellers are assembled at the Kolofata market, close to Cameroon’s border with north-eastern Nigeria and a hotspot for cross-border trade. Livestock and cotton are destined for Nigerian markets while food products bought for resale at other markets in Cameroon. Police officer Jules Ngonde says for the past one month, the weekly market has been receiving so many traders and visitors that authorities are now dealing with a new form of insecurity. “There are so many young pickpocketers,” Ngonde told DW. “This man just seized a handbag, keys and the sum of five thousand francs ( $9), according to what the lady victim has told us.” When this happens, the police organize controls in the market to try and recuperate stolen items. And they’re investigating the rise in this sort of crime. “We’ve discovered that they operate in groups and later regroup to share their loot,” he says. Deutsche Welle

CAR Tops List of ‘World’s Most Neglected’ Crises
The conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is the world’s most neglected displacement crisis, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. Unveiling its annual index, the aid agency said on Thursday that the world pays the least attention to humanitarian crises when they force Africans from their homes, dashing hopes of peace and raising the risk of escalated conflict. In the NRC’s list of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises, CAR was followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Palestine, Ukraine, Myanmar and Somalia. “The fact that most of these people do not turn up at our doorsteps gives us no right to close our eyes to their suffering, and does not remove our responsibility to assist,” Jan Egeland, the NRC’s secretary general, said in a statement. Al Jazeera

South African Leaked Emails Heap More Pressure on Zuma
Leaked documents released by the South African media on Thursday alleging improper dealings in government contracts opened President Jacob Zuma up to renewed scrutiny and may deepen divisions within the ruling African National Congress. Zuma has survived calls to resign from within the usually united ANC in recent weeks due to disputes over political appointments and his friendship with the Indian-born Gupta family, wealthy businessmen whose companies have contracts with state-owned firms. Investigative journalists at AmaBhungane, a non-profit group that has a strong track record of exposing what it says are government corruption scandals, released some of more than 100,000 leaked emails and documents. Reuters

The Gentleman’s Agreement That Could Break Apart Nigeria
Regardless of the severity of his illness, Buhari’s extended absence risks igniting an ugly power struggle that would threaten not just the political fortunes of his ruling party but also a long observed gentleman’s agreement that has been critical to maintaining the stability of the countr. The unwritten power-sharing agreement obliges the country’s major parties to alternate the presidency between northern and southern officeholders every eight years. It was consolidated during Nigeria’s first two democratic transfers of power — in 1999 and 2007 — and it alleviated the southern secessionist pressures that had festered under decades of military rule by dictators from the north. For a time, this mechanism for alternating power helped keep the peace in a country with hundreds of different ethnic groups and more than 500 different languages. But it was never intended to be permanent, and as Buhari’s illness demonstrates, it has increasingly become a source of tension rather than consensus. Foreign Policy

EU Helping Force Refugees Back to ‘Hell on Earth’ in Push to Stop Boat Crossings from Libya, Report Finds
A new report has accused the EU of disregarding human rights and international law in its desperation to slow refugee boat crossings across the Mediterranean Sea. The bloc has pledged tens of millions of euros in funding for authorities in Libya, despite the country’s ongoing civil war and allegations of torture, rape and killings earning it the moniker “hell on Earth” among migrants. Research by the US-based Refugees International (RI) group warned that the EU’s push to prevent boats leaving the Libyan coast – now the main departure point towards Europe – could fuel horrific abuses. The Independent

Spain Bears Brunt of New Migrant Route
The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Spain has more than tripled this year, according to the United Nations, making it the fastestgrowing sea route into Europe. More than 3,300 migrants landed on Spanish shores in the first four months of 2017, up from 1,063 in the same period last year, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said. The report followed a surge in boat arrivals over the past week. Yesterday, the Spanish coastguard rescued more than 100 migrants from three boats near Alborán, a rocky island outpost halfway between Spain and Morocco. In the past week, more than 200 people, including a number of pregnant women, were picked up along the Andalusian coastline in half a dozen boats, more than half of them on Saturday alone. The Telegraph

Mugabe, 93, to Rally Zimbabwe Youth
Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe is due to begin a series of rallies across the country in a bid to win the support of youth ahead of elections next year. Hundreds are already gathered for the rally in a stadium at Marondera, a small town east of Harare, the official Herald newspaper reports. It will be the first of 10 rallies Mr Mugabe is expected to address before he runs for re-election in 2018. Mr Mugabe has been in power since 1980. BBC

Should African Presidents Have Immunity From Prosecution?
Human rights groups see two pivotal moments in the mounting of resistance to the International Criminal Court in Africa. Both involve the indictments of sitting heads of state. “If you look at the history of the pushback of the ICC by the AU (African Union), it dates back to the time the arrest warrant was issued for Omar al-Bashir and then subsequently on the Kenyan officials,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa director of research and advocacy for Amnesty International. “We believe there is no legal or normative reason to support the impunity of heads of state of governments, especially when it comes to crimes against humanity,” Belay added. VOA

Hunting for Ebola Among the Bats of the Congo
[…] The men are listening for the short, hoarse barking of the hammer-headed fruit bat. Every night, dozens of males of that species congregate in this patch of rainforest in the northern part of the Republic of the Congo, vying for females with their calls. With a wingspan of up to 1 meter, they are Africa’s biggest bats. And they could be the answer to one of virology’s dark mysteries: Where does the deadly Ebola virus lurk? The question has obsessed researchers for more than 40 years. In 1976, the virus emerged suddenly from the jungle a few hundred kilometers northwest of here close to the Ebola River. The then-unknown pathogen tore through a small mission hospital in Yambuku, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and surrounding villages. Victims suffered at first from sore throat, fever, headache, and abdominal pain. Then they began bleeding from the eyes, nose, and other orifices. They died within days. The virus infected 318 people, killing 90% of those before vanishing. Science

Millions of Bed Nets Delivered to Fight Malaria in West Africa
Millions of insecticide-treated bed nets are being delivered to protect people from malaria in the West African nations of Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, where the mosquito-borne disease is one of the biggest killers, aid agencies said on Thursday. The countries’ health ministries are working with United Nations agencies and local partners in a drive to ensure every household receives at least one bed net in the coming weeks. “This is not just a distribution drive but also a mass information campaign,” said John James, representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sierra Leone. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones