Africa Media Review for June 23, 2017

7 Dead in Suicide Blast at Police Station in Somalia Capital
At least seven people are dead and a dozen wounded after a suicide car bomb blast at a police station in Somalia’s capital, police and an ambulance service said Thursday. The bomber was trying to drive into the Waberi district’s police station gate but detonated against the wall instead, Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press. Ambulance sirens echoed across Mogadishu, with dozens of soldiers at the scene. Aamin Ambulance Service said it had transported seven bodies and 12 wounded. The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 15 people had been killed including a minister, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors such groups. AP

‘I Feel Betrayed’: the Somali Refugees Sent from Safety into a War Zone
Families repatriated to Somalia from Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya say they feel abandoned and let down by the UN after officials used small cash payments to encourage them to return home, where a hunger and security crisis awaited. Many traveled back to Somalia only to find themselves in a far worse position than they had been in the refugee camp, with no access to food, shelter or medicines. Having lost their legal refugee status by crossing the border, they were no longer entitled to any help. Sacdiya Noor, 38, a mother of three children, said she felt betrayed by UN aid workers and the Kenyan authorities, who told her it was safe to go back to Mogadishu in 2015. “There was no security in the city, no free services and nothing special [to help] returnees,” she said. “There are explosions every day. Food is expensive; you have to pay for everything, even if you are sick.” The Guardian

Nigeria Deploys Troops Amid Ethnic Violence in Taraba
The Nigerian government on Thursday deployed troops to the northeastern state of Taraba where clashes between local farmers and herdsmen have resulted in multiple deaths and displacements. “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo condoles with the victims of the recent violent attacks in a number of communities in Taraba State, where deaths have been reported,” presidential spokesman Laolu Akande said in a statement. “Acting President Osinbajo has therefore ordered the deployment of an extra military battalion, police reinforcements and also a deployment of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps to the areas affected,” the statement added. This came hours after Fulani communities wrote to the president alleging genocidal killings and calling for more security. Anadolu Agency

At Least 12 Killed in Heavy Fighting in Northeastern Congo
At least 12 people were killed in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in heavy firefights between the army and militia fighters on Thursday, and several students sitting exams were wounded in an explosion at a school, local activists said. The fighting in and around the city of Beni between Congo’s army and what is believed to be a new coalition of armed groups, the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR), killed at least eight militiamen and four soldiers, said activist Teddy Kataliko. The clashes, some of which occurred near the mayor’s office, broke out early Thursday morning but the army had driven back the militias by mid-afternoon, he added. Reuters

Raped Then Rejected, Stigma Drives Former Girl Soldiers Back into Congo’s Militias
Stigma and rejection from their communities after returning home from armed groups are driving former girl soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo back into the militias, where they are prey to violence and sexual abuse, a charity said this week. For many girls in the conflict-ravaged east of the country, the pain of being spurned by their families and friends as survivors of rape was worse than the violence itself, according to a report by Britain-based Child Soldiers International (CSI). “It is better to die there than come home and be rejected,” said one of the 150 former girl soldiers interviewed by CSI. Eastern Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups that menace civilians and exploit mineral reserves. About a third of child soldiers are estimated to be girls, who are often married off to militants, abused and raped, activists say. VOA

UN Extends and Expands Sanctions on Congo
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has extended and expanded its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) until July 1, 2018 as bloody ethnic and religious violence, and reports of the indiscriminate murders of hundreds of civilians, continue to surface. The expanded sanctions will cover individuals and entities engaging in or providing support for acts that include planning, directing, sponsoring or participating in attacks against the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) peacekeepers or United Nations personnel, including members of the Group of Experts. Unanimously adopting resolution 2360 (2017) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council on Wednesday extended the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee through to August 1, 2018. SABC

Is the Force Intervention Brigade Still Justifying Its Existence?
The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the sharp end of MONUSCO – the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – earned its stripes in 2013 when it helped the DRC’s army defeat the powerful Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in the east of the country. But not a lot has been heard about the FIB since, though it has remained deployed in the eastern part of the country for four years. What has it been doing? The unit of some 3 000 troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi has a more muscular mission than the rest of MONUSCO to use necessary force to ‘neutralise’ all the ‘negative’ armed rebel groups in eastern DRC. Its second target was supposed to be the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the armed group founded in the mid-1990s by Rwandan Hutus who fled the country after the genocide against the Tutsis. ISS

Libya’s Shifting Sands: Derna
A rare look at the fight against ISIL in the eastern Libyan city of Derna in the constant flux of the post-Gaddafi era. The 2011 Arab Spring saw the fall of heads of government in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. A series of internationally recognised but unstable governments in Tripoli failed to unify the country or revive the economy. Amid the chaos, weak border controls and a lack of effective government, ISIL started to gain a foothold in the eastern coastal city of Derna during 2012; and then in Sirte during 2014. In 2015, a United Nations peace deal proposed a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya, seen as the best way to combat the increasing threat of ISIL. A coalition of Islamist armed groups emerged in Derna under the banner of the shura council, heavily opposed to ISIL. Al Jazeera

EU Leans on Libyan Military to Stop Migrants
Summer offers perfect conditions for migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. Aid organizations are trying to prevent them from drowning, but the EU has partnered with Libya to stop them. […] The EU does not want these people. The refugee problem is politically explosive for the Union, in part because Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic do not want to take any in, leaving Italy to deal with the problem alone. As a result, the European Commission initiated proceedings against those three countries last week. But Europe can’t hold the refugees back either. While more than 181,000 migrants made it to Italy last year, over 4,500 died on the way. So far this year, many more than 40,000 have already made it with over 1,000 thought to have drowned trying. Spiegle

Ghana Court Rejects Resettlement of Guantánamo Bay Detainees
The Supreme Court of Ghana ruled Thursday that the government’s decision to allow two former Guantánamo Bay detainees to live in the country was unconstitutional. Last year, Ghana signed an agreement with the United States to allow the two detainees, Khalid Mohammed Salih al-Dhuby and Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef, both citizens of Yemen, to resettle in Ghana. The two were captured by Afghan forces in late 2001 and turned over to the United States, and detained at the American prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants for 14 years, accused of being members of Al Qaeda. On Thursday, the Supreme Court justices ruled that Ghana’s government, then led by President John Dramani Mahama, erred in approving the detainees’ transfer, saying that the agreement with the United States was an international one that required approval by members of Parliament. Two Ghanaian citizens had brought the case before the court, accusing the government of illegally allowing the men to enter Ghana. AP

Portuguese Judge Rules Angola’s Vice President Must Stand Trial for Corruption 
A Portuguese judge has ruled that corruption and money laundering charges brought by prosecutors against Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente were valid and all suspects in the case, which has angered Angolan authorities, should stand trial. The former Portuguese colony, where corruption is endemic and most people live in poverty despite its vast oil wealth, has branded the charges as “a serious attack” that threatens relations between the two countries. State-run media called the investigation “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism”. Reuters

South Sudan: a Rare Look at Both Sides of the Civil War
The brutal civil war in South Sudan is now well into its fourth year and shows no sign of ending. After violent clashes between government and opposition forces in the capital last July, the unrest has now spread to the previously peaceful Equatoria region, close to Uganda. A peace deal signed between President Kiir and the rebels hangs in the balance, with opposition leader Machar forced into exile. France 24 reports exclusively from both government and rebel-controlled parts of Equatoria. France 24

U.S. Should Lift Sanctions on Sudan, Urge Reform, Group Says
The U.S. should permanently lift trade sanctions on Sudan to boost Washington’s leverage to push for political reforms, even if the African country has only made limited progress in improving aid access and ceasing hostilities against rebels, the International Crisis Group said. Under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in January, the temporary easing of some sanctions will become permanent if Sudan’s government sustains progress in key areas, including helping the U.S. in the fight against terror and stopping internal conflict. President Donald Trump’s administration is due to decide on the next step by July 12. Bloomberg

Nigeria Rolls out $2 Billion Brazil-Like Social-Welfare Plan
Nigeria is rolling out its first national social-welfare program modeled partly on Brazil’s Bolsa Familia in a bid to boost a weak economy and curb poverty by giving cash to its poorest citizens and ensuring their children go to school. The government of Africa’s most-populous nation is investing 500 billion naira ($1.5 billion) in the initiative this year and is talking to the World Bank about a $500 million loan, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed said in an interview in the capital, Abuja. Launched in December, the program is initially targeting about 1 million households starting in eight of Nigeria’s 36 states. The government expects that reducing poverty will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the economy, she said. Bloomberg

Why Ex-Combatants Pose a Threat to Côte d’Ivoire’s Stability
Dissatisfied ex-combatants who aren’t serving in Côte d’Ivoire’s formal military structures pose the biggest long-term threat to the stability of the country. This is particularly true in regions where groups of these men were present during the civil wars. At least 42,564 ex-combatants emerged out of Côte d’Ivoire’s first civil war which stretched from 2002 to 2007. By the end of the second civil war, which started in 2010 and ended in 2011, the number of ex-combatants had risen to 74,000. The Ivorian government set out to integrate only about 8,400 ex-combatants into the national army. The majority of ex-combatants were supposed to go through a regular disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme. The programme was designed to remove weapons from combatants and take them out of military structures by helping them to integrate socially and economically into society. Mail and Guardian

Egypt Extends State of Emergency
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extended a state of emergency declared after twin church bombings in April by jihadists, in a decree issued in the official gazette on Thursday. The renewed three-month state of emergency will start on July 10, according to the decree. Parliament approved the initial state of emergency in April after the two church bombings claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group that killed at least 45 people. The jihadist group said it was behind the bombings in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and it threatened further attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. Jihadists also claimed a Cairo church bombing in December that killed 29 people. News 24

Zimbabwe Begins Mass Transfer of Animals to Mozambique
The animals won’t travel two-by-two, but thousands of safari stalwarts will soon begin their journeys from Zimbabwe to Mozambique in one of Africa’s largest ever wildlife transfers. Fifty elephants, 100 giraffes, 200 zebras and 200 buffaloes will be among the several thousand animals that will be transferred between the two neighbours, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) told AFP on Thursday. They will travel 600km on dusty roads from the Save Valley Conservancy to Zimbabwe’s eastern neighbour in an effort to replenish animal numbers that were devastated during Mozambique’s bloody 15-year civil war. “Zimbabwe approved the translocation of wildlife from the Sango Ranch in the Save Valley Conservancy to Zinave National Park in Mozambique,” said PWMA spokesperson Simukai Nyasha. News 24

U.N. Asks International Court to Weigh in on Britain-Mauritius Dispute
Britain suffered a diplomatic blow on Thursday as the United Nations General Assembly voted to refer London’s territorial claim to one of its last colonial outposts to an international tribunal for its opinion on the dispute. Notably, in the wake of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, many countries of the bloc did not side with Britain. The United States did. At issue is whether Britain has a claim to a strategically important Indian Ocean archipelago, known as the Chagos Islands. One of the islands, Diego Garcia, is the site of a British-American military base. Mauritius, a former British colony that gained independence in 1968, says the islands are part of its territory and wants the International Court of Justice to offer its opinion. It casts the British claim as part of an unfinished struggle to free Mauritius from colonial rule. The New York Times

Magufuli Ban on Pregnant Schoolgirls Angers Tanzanians
Many Tanzanians have condemned President John Magufuli’s comments that schoolgirls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school. An online petition has been set up to get the president to reverse his comments. Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: “After getting pregnant, you are done.” A law passed in 2002 allows for expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls. The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”. BBC

Red Palm Weevils Wreak Havoc on Palm Plantations across the Globe
[…] For farmers across East Asia, North Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the red palm weevil evokes serious anxiety. These pests, which attack 40 different species of palm, have caused economic losses in the millions of dollars annually worldwide. That’s why in March, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization invited scientists, pest control experts, agricultural ministers and farmers from around the world to Rome, to develop an international action plan against the weevil. And this month, the U.S. State Department and the Tunisian agriculture department held another conference with the same aim — to stop the pest that could thrust Tunisia, the world’s leading date exporter, into an economic crisis. There’s good reason for all the panic, says Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside. “Red palm weevils are notoriously difficult to detect — until it’s too late,” he says. One female weevil can lay up to 300 eggs — hiding them inside holes and cavities in the trunk of a palm. Once they hatch, “the larvae burrow deep inside the palms,” munching their way through the tree, and destroying it from the inside. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones