Africa Media Review for June 5, 2017

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe is new ECOWAS chairperson
Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe has been named the new chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. He takes over the rotational role from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who faced a tough task in her 12-month tenure. This was announced at the 51st ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State held for the first time in Liberia on Sunday, June 4, 2017. In attendance was the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu who congratulated the incoming chairperson and invited the West African leaders to the Africa-Israel summit to be held in Togo in October. Faure Gnassingbe will face a less tedious task as chairperson compared to President Sirleaf who was faced with the electoral crisis in The Gambia. Africa News

Former PM Leads Lesotho Election
Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was on Sunday night leading the race to become Lesotho’s next leader after fraught weekend elections in which the outgoing government deployed soldiers at polling stations, a move widely condemned by the opposition and the country’s electoral body, which had not sanctioned it, as an attempt to intimidate voters. The perennially unstable kingdom, wholly surrounded by South Africa, held snap elections at the weekend, its third in five years, after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili lost a no confidence vote in Parliament on March 1 2017, and responded by dissolving Parliament and calling for fresh elections. Official Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) tallies showed former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) leading with 26 in the 80 directly contested constituencies by last night when announcement of results was adjourned. IOL News

Sudan, Egypt Talk But Make Little Headway to Defuse Tensions
Officials from Sudan and Egypt on Saturday held “honest” and “transparent” discussions following months of tension between the two Afro-Arab neighbors, but appeared to make little headway to patch up their differences, primarily over a border region held by Cairo and claimed by Khartoum. Sudan’s visiting foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, spoke of the “holy” relations binding the two Nile-Basin nations, but reported no tangible progress in a joint news conference they held in the Egyptian capital after talks. “There are deeply entrenched relations capable of overcoming whatever is inflicted upon them,” Shoukry said, striking a positive note. “We are working toward a frank dialogue capable of removing misunderstandings and confusion.” AP

Satellite Images Used to Track Food Insecurity in South Sudan
The world is watching closely as food shortages grip parts of Africa and the Middle East. As humanitarian groups respond to the crisis, they have to solve a major problem: how to track food security in areas that are simply too remote or too dangerous to access. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) has come up with an innovative answer. The U.S.-funded organization is working with DigitalGlobe, a Colorado satellite company, to crowdsource analysis of satellite imagery of South Sudan. The effort will rely on thousands of volunteers — normal people with no subject matter expertise — to scour satellite images looking for things like livestock herds, temporary dwellings and permanent dwellings. The group has selected an area of 18,000 square kilometers across five counties in South Sudan to analyze. VOA

East Libyan Forces Take Desert Air Base as They Push West
Libyan forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said they had taken the strategic military base of Jufra on Saturday after rival factions withdrew. The move consolidates control for Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) over the central desert regions of Jufra and Sabha, where they have recently taken a string of towns and bases. It could also be a key step in the LNA’s stated goal of moving towards the capital, Tripoli. On Friday, after the LNA entered towns just south of Jufra military base, its spokesman said its forces would gradually move towards the town of Bani Walid, nearly 350 km (215 miles) northwest of Jufra. Jufra is just over 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Benghazi, and about the same distance southeast of Tripoli. Reuters

Cameroonian Soldiers Block Highway, Call for Wages to Be Paid
About fifty armed Cameroonian soldiers demanding unpaid salaries briefly blocked off a major highway in the north of Cameroon on Sunday morning, an army source and the government said. The soldiers, who were at the end of a tour near the border with Chad in Cameroon’s Far North region, demanded two years’ worth of salaries and expenses that they said they were owed. “Soldiers from the air force…took up arms against the advice of their military hierarchy and blocked national route 1 after dismantling their posts at the frontier,” said an army source in the regional capital of Maroua. The soldiers returned to barracks later on Sunday after discussions took place with army generals, said the army source. It was not clear how much money the soldiers demanded. Reuters

West Africa Seeking 50 mln Euros from EU for Anti-Islamist Force
The countries of West Africa’s Sahel region are requesting 50 million euros ($56 million) from the European Union to help set up a multinational force to take on Islamist militant groups, Mali’s military chief said on Saturday. The vast, arid zone has in recent years become a breeding ground for jihadist groups – some linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State – that European nations, particularly France, fear could menace Europe if left unchecked. Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania – the so-called G5 Sahel countries – have proposed a regional task force designed to tackle the cross-border threat. But implementation of the plan has lagged, partly due to funding obstacles. Reuters

French Soldiers Kill 20 Jihadis in Mali Near Burkina Faso
Officials say that French soldiers deployed to Mali to fight against Islamic extremists have killed at least 20 jihadis at the country’s border with Burkina Faso. French Operation Barkhane said Friday that activities carried out by soldiers from Sunday to Thursday in the Serma forest left 20 jihadis “out of combat.” It said the operation began with airstrikes followed by soldiers on land, but it didn’t specify how the jihadis were killed. A resident says various Islamic extremists are active in the forest, including Macina Liberation Front members, jihadis from Burkina Faso and Islamic State group members. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. Stars and Stripes

Gabon’s Ping Calls for International Mediation to End Impasse
Gabon’s main opposition leader, who rejected his defeat in last year’s elections, called for the international community to mediate and help end the Central African nation’s political crisis. Jean Ping, who lost August’s disputed vote to President Ali Bongo by a narrow margin, said foreign mediation can “re-establish the truth of the ballot boxes,” a move he claimed would prove he won. He addressed supporters and the press Friday in the capital, Libreville. Ping also said that Bongo should step down. “Solutions that aim at keeping Ali Bongo at the head of the country won’t bring sustainable peace,” he said. Bloomberg

Congo President Joseph Kabila: ‘I’m Not Going to Commit Suicide’
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, whose term in office should have ended by now, doesn’t appear to want to step down. In a SPIEGEL interview, he discusses delays in elections and does not rule out the possibility of a third term. Spiegel

UN Chief to Name Ex-German President as Western Sahara Envoy
The head of the United Nations will name former German president Horst Koehler as his new envoy for Western Sahara, in charge of restarting talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the disputed territory. The United Nations Security Council in April backed attempts to re-enter negotiations over Western Sahara, which has been contested since 1975 and where Morocco and Polisario fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire. “Following the usual consultations, I intend to appoint Horst Koehler of Germany as my personal envoy for Western Sahara,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a letter to the Security Council released by the U.N. on Friday. VOA

The U.N. Asked for Billions to Avert Four Hunger Crises. The Money Didn’t Arrive.
At the beginning of this year, the United Nations made one of its boldest requests ever for funding. It needed billions of dollars to fund a humanitarian response, said Secretary General António Guterres, or as many as 20 million people might starve to death. Five months later, the results of that appeal are dismal. The United Nations has raised about a third of its goal, and there’s little reason to believe that much more is coming. The funding is for four countries facing massive hunger crises: South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. Of the $6.1 billion requested for those countries, only $2.2 billion, or 36 percent, has been pledged. In each crisis, according to aid officials, the lack of funding has led to a reduction in food assistance for those in need. It remains unclear how many lives have been lost because of the lack of funding, but the United Nations has recently unveiled stark statistics about the unmet need. The Washington Post

Britain Charges Ex-Wife of Charles Taylor with Torture
Agnes Reeves Taylor, an ex-wife of former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s, was charged last week in the United Kingdom with torture during her country’s civil war. Taylor, who has an address in east London, faces four allegations dating back to December 1989, when forces loyal to Charles Taylor launched their first attack on Liberian territory. She was arrested on Thursday by the United Kingdom’s war crimes team. Taylor reportedly shook her head repeatedly as the prosecutor read out a summary of the case. She will formally enter a plea later this month. Charles Taylor was Liberia’s president from 1997 and 2003. He was convicted in The Hague in 2012 of war crimes, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers. He is serving a 50-year prison sentence in the United Kingdom. Deutsche Welle

Israel Says Relations Restored with Senegal after Spat
Israel says it will return its ambassador to Senegal following a diplomatic spat with the West African nation over a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ties were restored after he met with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Liberia on the sidelines of the Economic Community of West African States summit. It said Israel will immediately return its ambassador to Senegal, which will support Israel’s nomination for observer status at the African Union. AP

South Africa Opposition Party Suspends Helen Zille over Colonialism Tweets
South Africa’s main opposition party has suspended its former leader after she tweeted that colonialism was not all bad. The leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) said Helen Zille’s remarks undermined its reconciliation project. The party is holding a disciplinary hearing on the case. The anti-Apartheid activist could face expulsion. Her tweets led to a storm of criticism in March. It is feared they have affected the party’s electoral chances. Ms Zille, a major political figure in South Africa, has not yet commented on the decision. BBC

S. Africa’s Anti-Graft Watchdog to Probe Dlamini-Zuma’s Protection Detail
South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog will investigate the government’s providing of protection services to former African Union (AU) Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, its spokesman said on Sunday. Dlamini-Zuma, once married to President Jacob Zuma and seen as a front-runner to succeed him, in March concluded her five-year tenure as AU Commission chairwoman and has made several public appearances in South Africa since. An investigation into Dlamini-Zuma, seen as Zuma’s preferred candidate by political analysts, is bad news for the scandal-plagued president who survived a no-confidence vote by his own party’s highest body last week. VOA

Mugabe to Kick Out All Remaining White Farmers, Says Zimbabweans Need Land
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, has threatened to embark on fresh land grabs targeting the few white commercial farmers still remaining in the country. Addressing thousands of his ruling Zanu-PF party supporters in the farming town of Marondera on Friday, about 80km east of the capital Harare, the nonagenarian said white commercial agronomists who still remained on the farms should be removed from their properties because most Zimbabweans were in need of land. “We told (former British premier) Tony Blair to keep his England and we keep our Zimbabwe because land is our heritage. We have discovered that in Mashonaland East province alone where Ray Kaukonde was the resident minister, there are 73 white commercial farmers who are still occupying some farms when our people do not have land,” said Mugabe speaking in the local Shona language. News 24

Mugabe Off to NY for OCEANS Summit… But Zimbabwe Is Landlocked
Zimbabwe is landlocked – but that hasn’t stopped President Robert Mugabe flying off to attend a UN summit on oceans in New York. In news that’s been greeted with disbelief by some in Zimbabwe where there is strong criticism of the 93-year-old’s frequent foreign trips, the state ZBC broadcaster confirmed the 93-year-old’s departure on Saturday. Said ZBC: “The conference in New York will be co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden at the United Nations headquarters in New York, from Monday to the 9th of this month.” This trip will be seen as even less relevant to Zimbabwe than last week’s trip to Mexico for a conference on disaster risk reduction. As with that trip to Cancun, Mugabe is accompanied by a high-level delegation including his wife Grace and two cabinet ministers. That means costs will not be insignificant – just as Zimbabwe wallows in cash shortages. News 24

Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, Ivory Coast elected to UN Security Council
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly elected Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland to the U.N. Security Council on Friday for a two-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2018. The Netherlands was elected for a one-year term after reaching a deal with Italy last year to split a two-year term. Voting between the pair was deadlocked last year so they agreed that Italy would serve on the council for 2017 and then step down to allow the Netherlands to be elected for 2018. While all the countries were running unopposed, they still needed more than two-thirds of the overall vote to win a seat. Ivory Coast received 189 votes, Equatorial Guinea got 185, Kuwait received 188, Peru won 186, Poland got 190, and the Netherlands received 184 votes. Reuters

China’s Ivory Ban Sparks Dramatic Drop in Prices Across Asia
The price of raw ivory in Asia has fallen dramatically since the Chinese government announced plans to ban its domestic legal ivory trade, according to new research seen by the Guardian. Poaching, however, is not dropping in parallel. Undercover investigators from the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) have been visiting traders in Hanoi over the last three years. In 2015 they were being offered raw ivory for an average of US$1322/kg in 2015, but by October 2016 that price had dropped to $750/kg, and by February this year prices were as much as 50% lower overall, at $660/kg. Traders complain that the ivory business has become very “difficult and unprofitable”, and are saying they want to get rid of their stock, according to the unpublished report seen by the Guardian. Worryingly, however, others are stockpiling waiting for prices to go up again. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones