Africa Media Review for June 29, 2017

Under US Pressure, UN Agrees Deep Cuts to Peacekeeping
A tentative deal to cut nearly US$600 million from the UN peacekeeping budget was reached on Wednesday (Jun 28), capping weeks of tough negotiations over US demands for a sharp reduction in costs, UN diplomats said. Under the deal agreed by a budget committee of the General Assembly, the United Nations will spend US$7.3 billion on peacekeeping in the coming year, down from the current US$7.87 billion – roughly a seven per cent cut – according to diplomats familiar with the negotiations. The United States, the biggest financial contributor to the peacekeeping budget, had sought a nearly US$1 billion cut to the bill and the European Union had also pushed for savings to bring costs down to US$7.3 billion. Hardest hit by the cuts will be the UN missions in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two costliest operations with budgets that run over US$1 billion. AFP

Power Struggle in South Africa’s ANC Eclipses Key Policy Talks
South Africa’s African National Congress gathers this week to review and revamp its policies at a meeting that will be overshadowed by a power struggle to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the ruling party. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the African Union Commission, are leading the field of contenders to be elected head of the ANC in December and probably president in 2019. Dlamini-Zuma has backed her ex-husband’s call for “radical economic transformation” to increase the black majority’s share of wealth, while Ramaphosa has put more emphasis on inclusive growth and a clamp-down on corruption. The leadership contest won’t feature on the agenda of the six-day ANC policy conference that starts Friday in Johannesburg, but divisions between the competing power blocs will play out in the debates over issues such as land redistribution and ownership of banks and mines. Bloomberg

U.S. Trafficking Report Finds No African Nation in Compliance with Standards
The United States has released its 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which ranks the world’s nations in terms of their efforts in combating human trafficking, in an effort to hold governments accountable for gaps in protecting the human rights of their citizens and prosecuting violations. Countries are assigned tiered rankings from Tier 1 – meaning full compliance with minimum standards of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) – to Tier 3, which identifies countries not in compliance and making no effort to do so. No African nations are listed in the Tier 1 group, while 12 of them, including Burundi and South Sudan, are listed in the Tier 3 group. In between is Tier 2, which acknowledges national efforts to improve despite failing to achieve Tier 1 minimums, and the Tier 2 Watch List, which lists countries in that group but with additional red flags on human trafficking. Tier 3 status means a country may be subject to sanctions that affect trade status, development aid and other consequences. Africa Times

AU Summit 29: Securing Funds for Peace Operations
Africa’s crises are not abating – and at a time when it’s needed the most, major funders such as the United States are expected to reduce their support of peace operations on the continent. For this reason, predictable funding, and more specifically the Peace Fund, will top the African Union’s (AU) agenda at its 29th summit on 3 and 4 July. The summit is a critical opportunity for AU member states to show their commitment to peace and security in Africa. It is also AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat’s first opportunity to assert his views of the AU under his leadership. And it’s a chance for assembled heads of state and government to take stock of their commitments in the past year regarding funding and reforms, and to demonstrate their future commitment to the AU’s peace support operations. These operations have been the AU’s major response to crises since its inception, and their effectiveness could be under threat if its financing models are not improved. ISS

Militants Withdraw Threat to Attack Niger Delta Oil Industry
A militant group in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Niger Delta has withdrawn its threat to launch attacks on oil facilities beginning this week. Early in June, the New Delta Avengers, a previously unheard of group, issued a statement saying it would fight for a greater share of proceeds from crude oil sales to go to the impoverished region. But in an open letter, the group withdrew its threat Wednesday. “NDA has decided to shelve our planned attack on major oil facilities in the region from June 30, 2017,” said the group. “We have decided to give peace a chance,” it said, stating that its decision was made to help local community leader Edwin Clark continue efforts to end regional violence. VOA

They Fled Boko Haram and Famine — and Then They Were Forced Back
[…] Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, ratified by 145 countries — including Cameroon — victims of war or persecution should not be returned to nations where they will face serious threats. But that edict is being ignored, according to human rights groups. “Poorer countries hosting huge numbers of refugees for many years, such as Kenya, Pakistan and Turkey, have recently pushed back hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Gerry Simpson, a migration expert at Human Rights Watch. “They seem to be taking their lead from richer countries, such as Australia, the E.U. and the U.S., who are pulling out all the stops to limit refugee arrivals.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has sought to reach agreements with countries that are sending refugees home, to ensure that only voluntary repatriations occur. But the agency’s assistance came too late for thousands of Nigerians in Cameroon. The Washington Post

Militants Blocking Aid to Starving Children in Somalia, Charity Says
Lack of access to hungry parts of Somalia controlled by Islamist militants is threatening the lives of tens of thousands of malnourished children, a charity said on Thursday, as the war-torn nation risks falling back into famine. Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), often fatal without medical care, has “skyrocketed” to more than three times the emergency threshold of two percent in Hiraan region’s Mataban District, a survey by Save the Children found. “Scaling up to provide services to everyone affected is a challenge because we have around two million people living in al Shabaab controlled areas,” said Hassan Noor Saadi, Save the Children’s Somalia country director. “Getting aid to them is not easy.”  Reuters

Without Aid, Who Will Pay for African Healthcare?
In Kigali, at the World Health Organisation’s first ever Africa Health Forum, delegates have given themselves one not-so-simple task: to provide universal health care to all Africans. But even should the assembled diplomats, medical practitioners, policy wonks and conference junkies figure out how to deliver on this ambitious goal, an even bigger question hangs over proceedings: who is going to pay for it all? We know who is not going to pay for it. Western donors have funded many of Africa’s health initiatives over the years, including government-provided healthcare, but the aid is beginning to dry up, or be diverted to causes closer to home, such as Europe’s own refugee crisis. Somehow, African countries are going to have to start footing their own medical bills. Mail and Guardian

Ethiopia Asks for Extension of Saudi Amnesty Deadline 
Thousands of Ethiopians are still stuck in Saudi Arabia after a 90-day amnesty for undocumented migrants expired on Tuesday without all of them leaving , the Ethiopian government has said. Communications Minister Negeri Lencho told the BBC that the government has asked for the amnesty to be extended. He said more than 45,000 citizens had so far returned but there were many more waiting to go back home. Ethiopians have been employed in Saudi Arabia in building and domestic work. Mr Negeri said that the government was expecting “a positive response” from the Saudi authorities for its request to extend the amnesty. BBC

Migrant Crisis: Italy Threatens to Shut Ports
Italy has threatened to stop vessels of other countries from bringing migrants to its ports. The warning came as Italy’s EU representative, Maurizio Massari, warned in a letter to the bloc the situation had become “unsustainable”. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has accused other European nations of “looking the other way”. An estimated 10,000 people are believed to have attempted the journey from North Africa in the past four days. More than 73,000 migrants have landed in Italy this year, an increase of 14% on the same period last year. BBC

Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Get Rid of African Refugees
They were promised asylum somewhere closer to home. Then they were discarded — often in a war zone. […] By the time Benjamin Netanyahu secured a third term as prime minister in 2013, the tensions had hardened into outright hostility. That year, Israel sealed off its border with Egypt and implemented a raft of policies aimed at making life more difficult for asylum-seekers already in Israel. Then it began secretly pressuring Eritreans and Sudanese to leave for unnamed third countries, a shadowy relocation effort in which Semene and thousands like him are now ensnared. Israeli officials have kept nearly everything else about this effort secret, even deflecting requests for more information from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. But a year-long investigation by Foreign Policy that included interviews with multiple Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers as well as people involved at various stages of the relocation process — including one person who admitted to helping coordinate illegal border crossings — reveals an opaque system of shuffling asylum-seekers from Israel, via Rwanda or Uganda, into third countries, where they are no longer anyone’s responsibility. Foreign Policy

Travel Ban a Blow to Sudan Refugees Awaiting US Resettlement
Dozens of Sudanese activists living in Egypt as refugees, many of whom fled fundamentalist Islamic militias and were close to approval for resettlement in the United States, now face legal limbo after the Supreme Court partially reinstated President Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim nations, including Sudan. Many said they are not safe in Egypt because Sudanese agents operating in the country under tacit Egyptian approval regularly threaten them and their families, sometimes targeting them with violence. Tayeb Ibrahim, who has worked to expose Sudanese government abuses in areas it controls in the country’s volatile South Kordofan province, was partially blinded after being attacked with acid by Sudanese government agents, and narrowly escaped being brought back to Sudan after being kidnapped in Egypt. “I’m totally depressed. I was approved over a year ago for resettlement, just passed my medical exam last week and was hoping to see family living in Iowa. But instead I’ll be stuck here worried about my physical safety,” said the 40-year-old Ibrahim, who like many Sudanese refugees has no travel documents and thus cannot leave Egypt. AP

Egypt Accuses Qatar of Financing Terrorists in Libya
An Egyptian delegation at UN meeting in New York accused Qatar of financing terrorists in turmoil-stricken Libya, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. At a meeting of an anti-terror committee of the UN Security Council held on Tuesday night, Tarek al-Quni, Egypt’s assistant foreign minister for Arab affairs, said that the oil-rich Gulf state provides support to militants in Libya, which poses a threat to the Egyptian national security particularly at the western borders with neighboring Libya. “Terrorist groups and organizations in Libya receive support particularly from Qatar and other states in the region,” said Quni while reading Egypt’s statement before the committee. “Libya has become a safe haven for terrorists,” the statement warned, stressing the necessity for reaching a political settlement in Libya and urging the UN to intensify efforts to ensure implementation of political agreement in the the country. Xinhua

South Sudan Pulls Top Envoys From 7 Nations
South Sudan is recalling its top diplomats from seven countries, but says the recalls have nothing to do with the country’s economic crisis. The crisis, sparked by three and a half years of civil war, has left South Sudan’s government strapped for cash, and most of the country’s envoys around the world have not received salaries for up to six months. A letter dated June 14, signed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Deng Alor, gave 60 days’ notice to ambassadors in Britain, Sudan and Uganda, as well as the heads of missions in Germany, India, Eritrea and Egypt to report back to Juba. The ministry’s spokesman, Mawein Makol Ariik, confirmed the government is recalling some of its envoys but denies the decision is connected to economic problems. VOA

As South Sudan’s Civil War Rages, Cholera Takes Deadly Toll
[…] Since this outbreak began one year ago, over 11,000 cases have been reported, including at least 190 deaths, according to the World Health Organization and South Sudan’s government. WHO says 2017 shows a slight increase in cases, which coincides with the recent surge of displaced people across the country as civil war moves well into its fourth year. The fast-developing, highly contagious infection can spread in areas without clean drinking water and with poor sanitation. It can result in death through dehydration if left untreated. […] Due to fighting between South Sudan’s government and opposition forces in surrounding areas, Pieri’s population has tripled since February. Once a town of roughly 15,000 inhabitants, it now hosts an additional 30,000 displaced people. “People don’t have soap, enough water or utensils to cook with,” says Pieri’s commissioner, Tot Thinkel. The situation will only get worse without consistent humanitarian access, says Doctors Without Borders, the only foreign aid organization with a presence in Pieri. The Washington Post

Kenyan Parties Launch Election Campaign
Kenya’s ruling Jubilee coalition and main opposition coalition have launched their campaign platforms for the August elections. Launching their campaign pledges the ruling Jubilee party and opposition coalition National Super Alliance have promised to transform the country and Kenyan’s lives. Both sides pledged to improve education, health, infrastructure to foster economic growth, and to create jobs for millions of Kenyan youth. They also promise to fight corruption. The Jubilee party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to win a second term in office. The party is campaigning on a platform featuring development projects like a passenger and cargo railway to win voters in the August polls. VOA

Kenyans Are First in Africa to Get Generic of Latest Aids Drug
Kenya is the first African country to start using a generic version of the latest AIDS drug that can improve and prolong the lives of tens of thousands of people who suffer severe side effects and resistance to other treatments. A generic of Dolutegravir (DTG), first approved in the United States in 2013, is being given to 20,000 patients in Kenya before being rolled out in Nigeria and Uganda later this year, with the backing of the health agency UNITAID. DTG is the drug of choice for people with HIV in high-income countries who have never taken antiretroviral therapy before and for those who have developed resistance to other treatment. Reuters

Why Morocco’s Street Protests Are Growing More Dangerous
[…] The protests’ persistence signals that the expiration date is approaching on Mohammed’s tactics for defusing and diverting Moroccans’ demands for democratic, uncorrupt government. If Mohammed is to maintain the “Moroccan exception”—his nation’s relative stability in the turbulent Arab world—he can no longer offer merely symbolic changes that preserve authoritarian rule. Moroccans’ insistence on real change, and the dangers of violent upheaval if they are ignored, are growing. With them grows the danger that extreme and violent Islamist movements, which so far have been contained in Morocco, will spread in an increasingly frustrated young population. Here’s the problem: Mohammed may be unable to produce the real democratization and transparency that protesters demand, because that would risk exposing the steady growth of systemic corruption under his rule. The United States, which routinely acknowledges corruption’s corrosive effect on Morocco’s governance, will not press Mohammed on the issue. Newsweek

$800 Million Later, Joseph Kony Is Still a Threat
Last month, the Pentagon declared mission accomplished on its six-year, $800 million hunt for Joseph Kony. Though it failed to kill or capture the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). […]  Fewer than 80 armed fighters remain, down from 2,500 at the height of the LRA’s murderous rampage in the late 1990s. They are scattered across remote parts of three countries, where their primary objective is not to topple the Ugandan government but to survive another day. But while it does not “currently threaten U.S. or Western interests in the region,” as Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said in recent congressional testimony, the LRA is not an entirely spent force. It has found a lifeline in wildlife poaching and other criminal activity, and its core leadership, including Kony’s two sons, who were both born into the group, has proved remarkably resilient over the years. In a region with little government presence and no effective national armies, the LRA could easily regroup. That possibility is made more likely by the U.S. military’s premature exit, which comes as its main partner in the hunt for Kony, the Ugandan military, is also picking up and leaving. Foreign Policy

Pope Francis Announces Five New Cardinals, Including First from Mali
Pope Francis gave the Catholic church five new cardinals Wednesday, sombrery instructing them to act as servants and not “princes” in a world where innocents are dying from wars and terrorism, slavery persists and refugee camps often are living hells. Reflecting Francis’ attention to the poor, three of the five cardinals hail from developing nations and regions: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Laos; Bamako Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Mali; and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, who continued working as a parish priest while serving as San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop. The other two elevated churchmen are Barcelona Archbishop Juan Jose Omella, who early in his clerical career worked as a missionary in Zaire; and Stockholm Bishop Anders Arborelius. The Swedish prelate last year welcomed Francis to his country, where Lutherans are the majority Christian group. The Guardian

How Kenya’s Lake Turkana Is Shrinking
In the north-east of Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest lakes is shrinking. Lake Turkana is being described as the “Aral Sea of east Africa” after the inland a sea in central Asian that has almost completely disappeared. As Lake Turkana shrinks, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are at risk. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones