Africa Media Review for June 21, 2017

 ’50 Killed’ in CAR Town a Day after Ceasefire Deal
Around 50 people have been killed in Bria, the Central African Republic, when clashes broke out between rival armed factions despite the signing a day earlier of a truce deal, the mayor of the town has said. Bodies lay in the streets of Bria, around 580km northeast of the capital, Bangui, and dozens more people were treated for shotgun wounds after fighting erupted out at dawn on Tuesday. “I can say there are around 50 dead. There are 42 bodies that were taken to the hospital. There are also bodies in the neighbourhoods that have not been picked up yet,” Maurice Belikoussou, Bria mayor, told the Reuters news agency. Al Jazeera

Fighting Kills More Than 3,000 in Congo’s Kasai Region: Catholic Church
Congolese security forces and a militia fighting them have killed at least 3,383 people in the central Kasai region since October, the Catholic church said on Tuesday, in the most detailed report to date on the violence. Church officials, citing their own sources in the remote territory bordering Angola, said the army had destroyed 10 villages as it sought to stamp out an insurrection. They also accused the Kamuina Nsapu militia of killing hundreds of people, destroying four villages and attacking church property in a campaign to drive out central government troops. No one was immediately available to comment from the militia or Democratic Republic of Congo’s army, which has dismissed accusations of excessive force in the past. Reuters

Govt-Backed DRC Militia Shot Babies, Hacked Toddlers: UN
The UN accused Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday of backing a militia that has mutilated toddlers and hacked pregnant women in the troubled Kasai region as the Catholic Church put the death toll there at more than 3 300. “I am appalled by the creation and arming of a militia, the Bana Mura, allegedly to support the authorities in fighting the Kamwina Nsapu (rebels),” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The new group “has carried out horrific attacks against civilians from the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups,” Zeid said. “My team saw children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off. Many babies had machete wounds and severe burns … At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.” News 24

UN to Send Congo Peacekeepers Home over Sex Abuse Claims
More than 600 troops from Congo Republic serving as UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic will be returning home following allegations of sex abuse and other misconduct, UN officials said Monday. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will announce the withdrawal Tuesday during a news conference at the United Nations, officials told AFP. The decision follows a report by the UN commander of the MINUSCA force who warned that Brazzaville should either take steps to rein in the troops or be forced to repatriate them. France 24

15 Killed in al-Shabaab Attack on Somali Government Building
At least 15 people were killed and scores of others injured in a bomb explosion that hit the Wadajir district headquarters in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday. Internal Security Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud said a vehicle loaded with explosives exploded inside the headquarters and also destroyed houses nearby. “There are heavy casualties and the death toll could rise,” Mohamud told journalists in Mogadishu. Among the injured is Wadajir district commissioner who was inside the building at the time of the attack. Ambulances rushed to the scene and carried away the wounded to nearby hospitals for treatment. An eye witness Guled Isse told Xinhua he saw bodies strewn on the floor minutes after the explosion. Xinhua

New Report Blames South Sudan Military for Civilian Deaths
Albin Koolekheh watched his 4-year-old son die in his arms. He and his family were among tens of thousands of people who escaped a wave of fighting in South Sudan’s civil war, only to find themselves living in a filthy camp near the border with Sudan. A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands like Koolekheh from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee. “Even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility,” the mass displacement was shocking, the report says. As South Sudan faces its fourth year of civil war, the fighting shows no signs of ending. Both government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes including mass rape and targeted killings, while the United Nations warns of ethnic violence. While the focus has been on ethnic tensions between the Dinka of President Salva Kiir and the Nuer of rebel leader Riek Machar, the new report highlights the threat to others caught in the crossfire. AP

France, US Agree UN Draft on Anti-Jihadist Sahel Force
France and the United States have reached an agreement on a draft UN resolution that would pave the way for the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region, diplomats said Tuesday. A vote at the UN Security Council could take place as early as Wednesday on the draft resolution that welcomes the deployment but does not give it full UN authorisation, according to the agreed text seen by AFP. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – which make up the G5 – agreed in March to set up a special counter-terrorism operation of 5 000 troops for the Sahel region. France had requested that the Security Council authorise the force in a first draft text circulated two weeks ago that would have given the G5 troops a UN mandate to “use all necessary means” to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling. News 24

Counterterror Force for West Africa Hurt by U.S.-France Feud
France wants to bolster efforts to fight terrorism in West Africa through a United Nations-backed force. The U.S. doesn’t want to get stuck with the bill. France circulated a draft UN resolution on June 6 authorizing the deployment of a five-country African military force that would “use all necessary means” to combat terrorist organizations in the Sahel, a semiarid region stretching along the southern end of the Sahara from the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea that has become a haven for groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Usually France, the U.S. and the U.K. team up to persuade Russia and China — the other members of the veto-wielding Security Council — to support their initiatives, but this time it’s two historic allies struggling to agree. The French goal conflicts with a key Trump administration objective: scaling back UN deployments as part of a broader effort to rein in spending. The U.S. pays about 28 percent of the UN’s $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. Bloomberg

The Boys From Baga
The four children, from a fishing village in Nigeria, were among thousands abducted by Boko Haram and trained as soldiers. They learned to survive, but only by forgetting who they were. […] Boko Haram grew bolder, and their words more threatening. They began abducting and killing innocent people in other towns — Muslim clerics, traditional rulers, Christians and teachers, anyone who opposed their ideology. The chatter on the riverside changed as well. Whatever hope the villagers had in the organization was washed away. Ah, there’s no sincerity in this thing, the people said. Then one April day in 2013, the insurgents killed a Nigerian soldier in Baga. The Army retaliated by setting fire to the village. This had become a common military strategy — collective retribution and scorched earth — but no one had ever seen it on a scale like this. For two days, the earth shook and the land burned; many boys and their families hid along the riverside. When they came back, they learned some 200 people had been killed and 2,400 structures were destroyed — homes and market stalls turned to soot and ash. Villagers swore they saw soldiers throwing children into the flames. The people of Baga had no choice but to rebuild, but they no longer trusted the military, and they didn’t trust the insurgents. The boys learned to live in the between. The New York Times

Tanzania Has Banned a Newspaper for Two Years as It Tightens Its Media Clampdown
The ban of a weekly newspaper in Tanzania has heightened concerns among observers that the government of president John Magufuli is intent on exerting pressure on journalists and stifling freedom of expression. The privately-owned Mawio paper was banned for 24 months on June 15, with the government suspending both its print edition and online platforms. Tanzania’s information minister Harrison Mwakyembe said in a statement (in Kiswahili) that the paper was suspended for publishing the photos of two former presidents—Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete—on its June 15-21 edition and linking them to a government probe into allegations of misconduct in the mining sector. A recent government committee estimated that the UK-listed Acacia Mining underpaid Tanzania tens of billions of dollars in gold and copper exports since 1998—but stopped short of mentioning the former presidents. Quartz

Uganda May Be Best Place in the World to Be a Refugee – but That Could Change without More Money
[…] Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the pressure from South Sudan is gradually pushing the country’s refugee-friendly policy to its limits. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, has said it needs $569 million to support refugees in Uganda. It has received less than one-quarter of that so far. The $445 million funding gap means it is taking months to finish major infrastructure projects, including permanent shelters. At Bidi Bidi, children go to schools in large tents that have been shredded by high winds and leak when it rains. There’s no electricity, even at health clinics that treat dozens of patients per day. Last month the World Food Program had to cut monthly food rations in half, forcing adults to eat the amount of grains usually prescribed for active children. “There’s no anything,” said John Alakyi, 29, a refugee from South Sudan who lives in Bidi Bidi. “Even something when you need to eat, this is not there.” The Washington Post

Egypt Kills 12 Militants in North Sinai Air Strike
Egyptian jets bombed a gathering site of Sinai-based Islamist militants, killing 12 and destroying several four-wheel-drive vehicles, the military said on Tuesday. An Islamist insurgency in the rugged, thinly populated Sinai Peninsula has gained pace since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. The air strikes “resulted in the killing of 12 highly dangerous … leaders of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis”, the military said in a statement. It did not say when the aerial bombing took place. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt’s most active militant group, swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 and adopted the name Sinai Province. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen in attacks since then. The group has turned its guns on Egyptian Christians in recent months, killing around 100 in bombings at Coptic churches. Reuters

Administrative Court Annuls Egypt-Saudi Islands’ Deal
Egypt’s high administrative court has defended an earlier decision to annul the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, local media and judicial sources said. The ruling on Tuesday came two months after the court for urgent matters in Cairo had invalidated a verdict by the administrative court that went against the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir islands. According to the country’s constitution, the high administrative court is the highest judicial entity to settle administrative disputes. “The ruling (on Tuesday) signifies that the land is Egyptian,” said Khaled Ali, a lawyer who argued in the administrative court that the islands belonged to Egypt. But the latest ruling comes days after the Egyptian parliament voted to ratify a 2016 agreement under which Cairo would transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera

Qatar’s Conflict with Neighbours Can Set Horn of Africa Alight
[…] Qatar had been a generous donor to Eritrea. It had also played a key mediating role in Eritrea’s border conflict with Djibouti, which flared in April 2008. The origins of the disputed border lie buried in the sands of colonial history and would never be easily resolved. The fighting left a number of Djibouti troops as prisoners of war in Eritrea and Qatar did their best to resolve this issue by mediation. Indeed, so close were the ties that when UN monitors met the political advisor to the President of Eritrea, Yemane Gebreab, in January 2013 and enquired about the Djiboutian prisoners of war, he responded that all matters concerning the resolution of the conflict with Djibouti could only be addressed through the mediation of Qatar, and that no other intermediary was necessary. Qatar went further, deploying some 200 of its own troops along the Eritrea-Djibouti border in an attempt to reduce the tension. The Qatari peacekeeping force only supervised a small sector of the border near Ras Dumeira. It was therefore not in a position to observe or interdict cross-border movements further to the south, but its presence was symbolically important. SABC

UN, AU Call for Restraint along Eritrea-Djibouti Border
The U.N. Security Council is calling on Eritrea and Djibouti to peacefully resolve a land dispute along their border. Djibouti accused Eritrea of deploying troops to occupy the contested area, known as Ras Doumeira, after a contingent of 450 Qatari peacekeepers departed last week. If true, the move could threaten a return to war for the first time since the countries fought over the land in 2008. In a news conference Monday, Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, the permanent representative of the president of the U.N. Security Council, said that council members supported an African Union initiative to deploy a fact-finding mission to the border and that all parties should work to “maintain an atmosphere of calm and restraint.” VOA

Bandits, Cows and Bullets: the Gangs Turning to Guns in Kenya
[…] The reservists are tasked with carrying out the work that Kenya’s police and armed forces have been unable to do: fighting off armed bandits who are terrorising Baringo county and other parts of central Kenya as they steal livestock and shoot anyone who gets in their way. Theft of livestock has been going on for thousands of years, but in recent decades the practice has increasingly involved the use of modern-day firearms. In Kenya, some of these weapons are smuggled in from neighbouring countries, but many have been passed down from one generation to the next, or resold. A study by the Small Arms Survey (pdf) in western Kenya found that those questioned “indicated gun ownership was part of tradition”. In northern Turkana county, there is a “motivation to rustle for pride and dowry”, the study says. Herders carrying rifles as they move their livestock across dry landscapes has become a common sight. Sometimes the line between herder and rustler becomes blurred as pastoralists take up arms for defence or for retribution. With weapons and ammunition, raids that might otherwise net just a handful of cows now capture hundreds. And the arms race is cyclical, the study shows. The Guardian

Malawi Tightens Grip on Internet Usage
Civil society organizations in Malawi have said that a law criminalizing the act of knowingly receiving and sharing unauthorized data was meant to silence people on the social media ahead of elections in 2019. The new law, the first of its kind in the southeastern African nation, stipulates that a person found sharing or receiving such information is committing a crime liable to a $2,500 fine and imprisonment of up to five years. Similarly, it is also a crime for any person to willfully and repeatedly use electronic communication to attempt to disturb the peace or right of privacy of any person. According to a notice in the official government gazette published Tuesday, the new law has been in effect from June 1. In an interview via telephone on Tuesday, Malawi Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi confirmed to Anadolu Agency that the law, which was enacted in November last year, was now fully operational. Anadolu Agency

Tensions in Togo despite Release of Student Protestors
University students in Togo on Tuesday vowed to continue their protests for better teaching conditions, after three days of demonstrations and clashes with police that saw eight arrested. Seven of the students who were detained after campus protests at the University of Lome turned violent last week were released from custody on Monday evening. They were accused of “rebelliousness and destruction of public property” and appeared before a court in the capital Lome. “The judge ruled that they were not guilty because there was no material evidence and released them,” one of the students’ lawyers, Dodji Apevon, told AFP. But the eighth student who led the protests, Folly Satchivi, did not attend the hearing on health grounds. His case will be heard on June 26. News 24

U.S. to Review Trade Benefits to East Africa after Clothes Ban Complaint
The U.S. Trade Representative said on Tuesday it was reviewing trade benefits to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after a complaint by U.S. interests about an East African ban on imports of used clothing. USTR said the “out-of-cycle” review was in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), which complained that the ban “imposed significant hardship” on the U.S. used-clothing industry and violated AGOA rules. “Through the out-of-cycle review, USTR and trade-related agencies will assess the allegations contained within the SMART petition and review whether Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are adhering to AGOA’s eligibility requirements,” USTR said in a statement. The move follows a decision by the six-nation East African Community – Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan – to fully ban imported second-hand clothes and shoes by 2019, arguing it would help member countries boost domestic clothes manufacturing. Reuters

Tanzania Banks on Dar Port Upgrade to Eclipse Mombasa
Tanzania has signed a $154 million port expansion contract with a Chinese firm as part of plans to transform it into the region’s transport and trade hub. State-run China Harbour Engineering Company will expand the main port in Dar es Salaam, repositioning it as a serious competitor to Kenya’s Mombasa port. The latter has also undergone a major upgrade in the past three years to improve efficiency and give it a competitive edge. In his 2017/18 budget proposal read last week, Tanzania Finance Minister Philip Mpango scrapped value added tax on transit goods from its main ports. The move is intended to win back importers from landlocked countries who saw this as an additional cost to their business. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones