Africa Media Review for June 22, 2017

UN Security Council Backs W. Africa Force to Fight Sahel Militants
The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously backed a West African force to combat militant groups as well as arms, drug and human trafficking in the Sahel region after diplomats said France softened the resolution’s language to secure the support of the United States. The vast, arid region has in recent years become a breeding ground for jihadist groups – some linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State – that European countries, particularly France, fear could threaten Europe if left unchecked. Last year, the nations of the Sahel – Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – proposed establishing specially-trained units of around 100 soldiers each, which would be deployed in areas where jihadist groups are known to operate. VOA

Clashes Kill 100 in Central African Republic as Ceasefire Crumbles
At least 100 people have been killed following violent clashes between armed groups in the Central African Republic. The bloodshed in the town of Bria erupted hours after the country’s government signed a truce with rebel factions. Mayor Maurice Belikoussou has said the number of dead is certain to rise – with dozens of people wounded and Red Cross teams warning it is too dangerous to collect bodies. “There are still dead lying in the neighbourhoods, in the road and in the bush,” the mayor told the Reuters news agency. A local clergyman added: “Witnesses coming from different neighbourhoods say they have had to climb over dozens of bodies that now litter the ground.” Sky News

UN: Republic of Congo to Pull Troops from Central African Republic
The United Nations announced Wednesday that the Republic of Congo is withdrawing its peacekeeping troops from conflict-torn Central African Republic following allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. A statement from the U.N. Secretariat said a review of the country’s deployment pointed to “systemic problems in command and control” of the peacekeepers, compounded by issues related to their preparedness and discipline and the maintenance of their equipment. The U.N. said the outcome of the review was shared with Republic of Congo authorities who decided to withdraw their military personnel, numbering nearly 650, according to the U.N. peacekeeping department. It said “failures identified with the military contingent are not reflected in the performance of the police contingent” from the Republic of Congo, which will remain in Central African Republic. The U.N. says about 140 police from Republic of Congo are in the country. AP

More South Sudanese Go Hungry but Worst of Famine Eases -U.N
More South Sudanese people are going hungry and 45,000 are still living in famine-like conditions even though South Sudan is no longer classified as being in famine, a U.N.-backed food security report said on Wednesday. An estimated 6 million people, half the population, were expected to be in a “crisis, emergency or catastrophe situation” this month and next, 500,000 more than in May, the report by government and U.N. officials said. “I do urge caution, as this does not mean we have turned the corner on averting famine,” U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told a U.N. meeting in Geneva. “Across South Sudan, more people are on the brink of famine today than were in February.” The report, using a globally recognised system for classifying food security crises, said famine in the north had been halted by a swift influx of aid since March but there were now concerns about a region in the east bordering Ethiopia. Reuters

UN: Despite Cease-fire, ‘Hostilities Have Persisted’ in South Sudan
The U.N.’s peacekeeping chief said Wednesday that a unilateral cease-fire declared by the government of South Sudan had not materialized, and that the country remained unstable. “Hostilities have persisted well after the cease-fire commitment made by President Salva Kiir and continue to unfold in various parts of the country,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the U.N. Security Council. He said that in the north, South Sudan’s army had dislodged opposition forces from their strongholds on the west bank of the Nile River. In the east, it has taken towns in northern Greater Jonglei, while in the west, there have been clashes between government and opposition forces in Wau. In the south, fighting has left towns in the Equatorias virtually deserted by their residents. VOA

S. Sudan President Says Not Stepping down by Force
South Sudan President Salva Kiir said he will not accept being forced to step down by force, insisting it would set a bad precedent for the country. Kiir made these remarks during a meeting with Akobo state governor, Johnson Gony Biliu, who was in Juba to brief him on the current security and humanitarian situation in the area. Biliu was accompanied to the South Sudan capital by his Bieh state counterpart, Moses Majok. “You need to talk to your communities, to local leadership, chiefs and you about the importance of the national dialogue which has started the process. They have set up committees. Some will go to those in the diaspora and to refugee camps in countries in the region to where people have gone. Other committees will go to states and different places within the country,” said Kiir. Sudan Tribune

Five Killed in Boko Haram Mine Blast, Ambush
Five people have been killed in a landmine explosion and a roadside ambush in northeast Nigeria blamed on Boko Haram , the civilian militia and police said on Wednesday. In the first incident, at least three loggers were killed when their truck ran over a landmine outside Abbari village in the Konduga district of Borno state on Tuesday. “The truck hit the landmine at about 1530 GMT and went up in flames, killed all three loggers on board,” said Ibrahim Liman, from the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). Babakura Kolo, Another member of the CJTF in Maiduguri, confirmed the incident, adding: “The mine was obviously placed by Boko Haram terrorists operating in the area.” News 24

Riding with the Nigerian Soldiers Fighting Boko Haram
This year, I spent most of the month of January in northeastern Nigeria on a reporting trip for The Times Magazine with the writer Sarah Topol to tell the story of boys abducted by Boko Haram and forced to become child soldiers. During this time, I was also able to photograph parts of the conflict that are rarely seen, including a night patrol with Nigerian soldiers and a road that was attacked by Boko Haram the day before. The war against Boko Haram is one of the biggest and most underreported conflicts raging in our world. Around three million displaced people have fled the conflict between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. These images tell the story of the high human cost and the geopolitical stakes in the battle against Islamic extremism in Africa. The New York Times

World Leaders Converge in Uganda for First Refugee Solidarity Summit
Uganda is hosting the first Refugee Solidarity Summit backed by the United Nations to find support for the over 1.3 million refugees in the country for the next four years. Opening on Thursday in Kampala, the two-day summit aims to raise $2 billion for the second largest refugee hosting country globally after Turkey and to showcase Uganda’s celebrated refugee model. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is in Uganda to co-chair the Summit together with President Yoweri Museveni. Africa News

‘The Refugees Are like Our Brothers’: Uganda’s Example to the World – in Pictures 
With a refugee population of 1.25 million – and more new arrivals each day than any other country – Uganda has earned a reputation as a haven for those fleeing violence. In Refugee Week, few countries merit greater recognition The civil war that began in South Sudan in December 2013 – and escalating violence since July 2016 – has prompted unprecedented numbers of people to flee to Uganda, leaving the country struggling to cope. New settlements are springing up around the north, including Imvepi, in the Arua district, which is home to more than 55,700 people. The Guardian

Will South Africa Be at the 29th AU Summit?
The 29th African Union (AU) summit that takes place in Addis Ababa from 27 June to 4 July is likely to be the first in many years without a South African president in attendance. If President Jacob Zuma doesn’t turn up for the heads of state meeting on 3 and 4 July, it will be because of timing; the summit coincides with the crucial African National Congress (ANC) policy conference from 30 June to 5 July – an event the embattled Zuma can’t afford to miss. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is also unlikely to attend the AU summit in Zuma’s place – as one of the frontrunners to replace Zuma as ANC leader in December, the policy conference is equally important for him. New rules adopted by the AU compelling countries to be represented at the bi-annual summits by either the head of state, prime minister or deputy president complicate things for South Africa. Some may sympathise with a more inward-looking South Africa at a time of internal strife within the ruling party, but a no-show could be damaging for its image. ISS

South Africa Court Allows Secret Zuma No-Confidence Vote
South Africa’s highest court has ruled that a vote of no-confidence against President Jacob Zuma can be held in secret. The constitutional court said that the Speaker of parliament had the right to order such a move. She has previously said she did not have the power. Opposition parties believe that under a secret ballot, MPs from Mr Zuma’s ANC party would vote against him. He has survived several previous votes of no-confidence. Mr Zuma has been under constant pressure over everything from corruption allegations to a controversial cabinet reshuffle that saw his widely respected finance minister fired. BBC

EU Takes Lead in Campaign to Prevent Gender-based Violence
The European Union is assuming the leadership of a global initiative to prevent gender-based violence during humanitarian crises. Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. The United Nations and many human rights organizations have documented tens of thousands of cases of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and other places of conflict. Violence during times of war and natural disasters also affects men and boys. So, the European Union’s Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence is inclusive of both sexes and all ages. The EU says its mission is to strengthen awareness and encourage the humanitarian community to take stronger action to protect women, men, girls and boys in crisis zones. VOA

Mali Delays Constitutional Referendum to Cool Tensions
Mali on Wednesday delayed a constitutional referendum due to be held on July 9 in the face of heavy political opposition and street protests. The vote was aimed at enshrining elements of a 2015 peace deal into the charter and establishing a senate in parliament, but came under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The cabinet “has decided to delay the referendum initially planned for July 9 to a future date,” a statement issued by the government said, without providing a reason or a new date for the vote. The referendum faced opposition from those who say it gives President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita excessive powers. Detractors also said such a vote could not be held safely in the troubled north, which remains wracked by insecurity, jihadist activity, and a near absence of the state. News 24

Raila Odinga Drags Military into Election Rigging Claims
A fresh battle front between the National Super Alliance and Jubilee Party was opened on Tuesday after the main opposition flag bearer, Raila Odinga, dragged the military into an alleged government plot to rig the August elections. Mr Odinga claimed the Kenya Defence Forces, National Police Service, regional coordinators and county commanders have been mobilised and are being trained at Nairobi’s Embakasi Barracks to help tilt the elections outcome in favour of the Jubilee Party. But Deputy President William Ruto quickly hit back at the opposition, accusing Nasa leaders of  engaging in “unnecessary noise” over elections to scare Kenyans from turning out on August 8. Daily Nation

Something Is Happening in Congo-Brazzaville
On 11 June, citizens in the Republic of Congo lost access to the internet. President Denis Sassou Nguesso, in power for all but five years since 1979, blamed “technical difficulties”. A fishing vessel off the coast of Pointe-Noire, his spokesman claimed, snapped a fibre optic cable, separating Congo from the West Africa Cable System (WACS). Repairs will take anywhere between two and seven weeks. Although the official explanation has been repeated by MTN Congo, the country’s largest provider, and several Sassou Nguesso-sponsored media outlets, the government has offered no evidence to corroborate the account. It is unclear which “fishing vessel” caused the break, who operated it, or precisely where it occurred. Citizens doubt the government’s explanation, and not simply because of the wave of recent internet shutdowns across Central Africa. Rather, the blackout comes at a time when the crisis that’s engulfed the country since the October 2015 constitutional referendum is intensifying. And with legislative elections scheduled for 16 July, opposition leaders are again moving to harness citizen frustrations and force democratic change. African Arguments

The Rehabilitation of Africa’s Most Isolated Dictatorship
Two recent and seemingly incongruous events may one day be seen as symbolic turning points for Eritrea, an authoritarian, one-party state often referred to as Africa’s hermit kingdom. The first was a bloody clash on Eritrea’s border with Ethiopia in June 2016, which left hundreds of people dead and brought back memories of the devastating 1998-2000 war between the two archenemies. The second was an academic conference in the Eritrean capital of Asmara in July, the first of its kind in 15 years. Visiting academics were shocked by the relative freedom for debate — on everything from women’s rights to foreign policy — in the notoriously repressive state. “It was as much a political event as an academic event,” said Harry Verhoeven, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar who attended the conference. “It was remarkable — by regional standards and certainly by Eritrean standards.” Foreign Policy

Mugabe to Temper Wife’s Ambitions Amid Zimbabwe Army Anger
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has moved to rein in his wife’s ambition to succeed him after the nation’s intelligence chief warned that her campaign may stoke political violence and faces opposition from within the military, three members of the ruling party’s politburo said. Mugabe asked his wife Grace, 51, to tone down her public criticism of veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war who’ve supported the president since he took power in 1980 and back her main rival, Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 74, according to the politburo members, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Bloomberg

African Leader Son’s Multimillion-Euro Splurge on $80,000 a Year
The son of Equatorial Guinea’s president bought real estate, a Bugatti Veyron, a Cartier watch and bottles of prestigious Romanee Conti wine on his $80,000-a-year position as a government minister. French prosecutors are demanding he account in court for these and other purchases, which total more than 100 million euros ($112 million). Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, agriculture minister for more than a decade, is accused of amassing real estate and pieces from Europe’s biggest-ever art auction by using ill-gotten gains including state funds and payments for administrative permits from the state forestry company, according to a French indictment for his trial, which started Monday at the Paris criminal court.  Bloomberg

The Abolitionist Fighting to Free Mauritania’s Slaves
A modest office block squeezed between a doctor’s surgery and a south London housing project is an unlikely setting to find a man described on Time’s most recent 100 List as “an inspiration to thousands.” Yet there is much about Biram Dah Abeid, a prominent anti-slavery activist from the North African nation of Mauritania, that confounds convention. In recent years Abeid has run for president of his home nation, founded a mass anti-slavery movement and been feted internationally for his work as an abolitionist. Last year, former US Secretary of State John Kerry presented Abeid and fellow activist Brahim Ramdhane with a Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes Award. Abeid also received the UN Human Rights Prize in 2013, an honor previously bestowed upon the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. CNN

Selling Miracles in Zambia
The Christian nation of Zambia has a proliferation of churches led by foreign and local pastors, popularly known as prophets. They take advantage of people’s credulity to make good money. On a recent Sunday morning in Chibolya Secondary School, in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, more than ten churches conducted services in several classrooms. The noise made it hard to concentrate on any sermon. Hundreds of people flocked to the area to hear a so-called prophetic word. This refers to a prophecy tailored to serve one individual at a particular time. It is a foretelling of personal events and the congregants loved it. The most popular prophecies are about marriage, jobs, wealth and money miraculously appearing in bank accounts. But prophecies are only one of the items on sale at these churches. The list includes anointed underwear, water, brooms and hand wash. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones