Africa Media Review for June 8, 2018

Ethiopia Appoints New Army Chief after Peace Overture to Eritrea
Ethiopia’s prime minister appointed a new army chief of staff with a specialist’s background on Eritrea, days after authorities said they’d implement a peace deal with their Horn of Africa neighbor and long-standing foe. The appointment of Seare Mekonnen marks the first change at the top in 17 years in Ethiopia’s army, which plays a dominant role in the country that has Africa’s biggest population after Nigeria. He belongs to the Tigrayan ethnic group that’s largely held the top ranks of the military, security and intelligence services since the then-rebel Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front seized power. His appointment was announced late Thursday by Fana Broadcasting Corp., which is funded by the ruling party. Named one of three deputy chiefs of staff earlier this year, Seare also previously headed the military’s northern command, whose jurisdiction covers areas bordering Eritrea. Bloomberg

Burundi President Surprises with Vow to Step Down in 2020
In a surprise move, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said Thursday he would step down in 2020, despite widespread belief that he backed a new constitution extending term limits in a bid to cling to power. His announcement came shortly after he signed into law a new constitution, passed in a May referendum, that in theory allows him to seek another two terms in office. “Our mandate ends in 2020,” Nkurunziza said in a speech to supporters and diplomats in the central city of Gitega. France 24

Suspected Jihadists Kill at Least 5 with Knives and Machetes in Mozambique
Suspected jihadists killed five people using knives and machetes in an area of Mozambique that has been rocked by a spate of attacks blamed on radical Islamists, police said on Thursday. Cabo Delgado, a northern province expected to become the centre of a natural gas industry after several promising discoveries, has seen a string of assaults on security forces and civilians since October. “There was one more attack (by) the same group that has been attacking the neighbouring villages, (it) attacked a village on Wednesday around 21:00 and killed five and destroyed houses and left running,” a police source told AFP. The attackers targeted Namaluco village in the Quissanga district of Cabo Delgado. AFP

Sudan to Host Kiir and Machar Peace Talks
Khartoum has convinced South Sudan President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar to attend peace talks in the neighbouring state, official disclosed. Sudanese Foreign ministry said in statement that President Kiir had accepted to meet Dr Machar in Khartoum, courtesy of the latter’s intervention. “South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has accepted to meet his opposition leader Riek Machar in the capital Khartoum,” the statement pointed out, without mentioning the date of the meeting. The East African

U.S. Says It Killed Four IS Militants in Libya Strike
The United States said on Wednesday it had conducted a precision air strike near the Libyan town of Bani Walid, killing four Islamic State militants. The strike was carried out in coordination with the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, a statement from U.S. Africa Command said. “At this time, we assess no civilians were killed in this strike,” the statement said. It gave no information on the identity of those targeted. Reuters

Egypt’s Sisi Orders Housing Minister to Form New Gov’t
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday instructed Housing Minister Mustafa Madbouli to draw up a new government to succeed that of Sharif Ismail, who stepped down earlier this week. According to Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency, al-Sisi — only days after being sworn in for a second presidential term — commissioned Madbouli to draw up a new cabinet. On Tuesday, Ismail tendered his resignation, after which al-Sisi asked Ismail’s cabinet to act as caretaker until a new government could be formed. Anadolu Agency

UN Adds 6 Traffickers and Smugglers to Libya Sanctions List
The Security Council imposed sanctions on six leaders of criminal networks engaged in human trafficking and migrant smuggling from Libya on Thursday, which the Netherlands said was the first time ever that these human rights violators have been targeted by the U.N.’s most powerful body. The travel ban and asset freeze were imposed after Russia informed the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya that it decided “to lift the hold” it had placed on adding the six men to the sanctions blacklist. Netherlands Foreign Minister Stef Blok said his country, which led efforts to list the six men, wants to use its Security Council seat “to improve the lives of refugees and migrants in Libya and prevent them from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.”  AP

UN Warns That Somalia’s Political Unity at Risk
The U.N. Security Council warned Thursday that “internal and external pressures risk undermining Somalia’s political unity” and expressed serious concern at the ongoing threats posed by the al-Shabab Islamic extremist group. A presidential statement approved by the 15-member council calls for stepped-up efforts “to prevent destabilizing effects of regional crises and disputes from spilling over into Somalia” and to support the country’s federal system and institutions. Somalia, which borders restive Kenya and lies across the Gulf of Aden from conflict-wracked Yemen, began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and attacks by al-Shabab, along with famine, shattered the country of some 12 million people. It has been trying to rebuild since establishing its first functioning transitional government in 2012. AP

Somalia: Al-Shabab Shuts Down Football Pitches in Mogadishu
It’s late on Wednesday afternoon, and the Shiirkole football pitch in the Somali capital should be teeming with life. Usually, there are uniformed players and crowds wearing colourful jerseys supporting their favourite teams. That’s how it’s been for the past 20 years in Mogadishu during the holy month of Ramadan. Football tournaments were held on this playground in the heart of the seaside city – even during the height of the brutal civil war that engulfed Somalia for decades – every Ramadan. Despite the guns falling silent in Mogadishu, things are different this year. Aside from a bird perched on a rusty goalpost, there is no sign of life at the Shiirkoole football pitch. Al Jazeera

African Countries Top List of Neglected Crises – NGO
Six of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises are in Africa, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. The charity makes the annual list based on lack of political will, media coverage and aid.  The Democratic Republic of Congo, where decades of conflict has left more than five million people displaced, topped this year’s list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Thursday. Other African displacement crises making the annual list were in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi, Ethiopia and Nigeria. The NRC compiles the list each year based on three criteria: lack of political and diplomatic will to end conflicts, insufficient media attention and inadequate aid. “The crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland. Deutsche Welle

9 Aid Group Compounds Looted As Conflict Worsens In Central African Republic
Armed men first subdued the compound’s guards – then went room by room, seizing cash, computers, radios and more from terrified aid workers. At least nine humanitarian compounds have been looted in recent weeks amid a new wave of violence in the Central African Republic’s second-largest city of Bambari – prompting many NGOs to temporarily suspend or curtail assistance to an already-struggling civilian population. “We reduced hugely the operations,” said Baptiste Hanquart, spokesman for a coalition of international NGOs in CAR. “The situation is really bad.” The retreat of humanitarian aid risks creating further deprivation and hardship for one of the world’s poorest countries. NPR

Broke Zimbabwe Plans Spending Spree as Elections Approach
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged to spend money his government doesn’t have on increasing its 350,000 workers’ salaries as the country gears up for next month’s elections. Civil servants, who account for most formal jobs in the southern African country, will get 15 percent raises, while veterans of Zimbabwe’s war against white-minority rule will be awarded improved benefits, Mnangagwa said last month. His willingness to spend taxpayer money to bolster his support undermines his pledge to ensure a free and fair vote and bring an end to an era of contested results under former President Robert Mugabe. Bloomberg

Land Reform Isn’t Threat, S. Africa’s Ramaphosa Tells White Afrikaners
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the white Afrikaner community on Thursday that it should not view his government’s land reform plans as a threat, but as a way to harness the country’s economic potential and heal divisions from the past. Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February, has promised to redistribute land to the black majority to address the deep racial inequality that persists more than two decades after the end of apartheid. He has been at pains to dispel fears among some white South Africans that they could face violent land seizures if the government’s land reform program is bungled. VOA

‘I Don’t Know Where My Family Is’: Cameroon’s Refugees Flee Brutality
A deadly conflict in Cameroon sparked by increasing tensions between English and French-speaking populations has driven tens of thousands from their homes. At least 160,000 people are displaced inside Cameroon, and more than 21,000 have fled to Nigeria to escape what has been described by bishops as “blind, inhuman, monstrous violence”. Most have settled in Cross River State. Some people are staying with family in Nigeria, but most are sleeping rough in abandoned buildings, or out in the open. What began as a request for English to be used in the courtrooms and public schools of the country’s two anglophone regions has escalated into this crisis. If the situation is not defused through dialogue, the entire country could be destabilised before October’s elections, according to the International Crisis Group. The Guardian

Egypt Repatriates Stolen Ancient Artifacts from France
Egypt says it has repatriated nine illegally smuggled artifacts, including statuary and coffins, from France. Thursday’s statement by the Foreign Ministry says French authorities had seized the artifacts at a train station in Paris in 2012. The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry says the artifacts include parts of five coffins, two statues of cats, a depiction of a human head made of basalt, and a pharaonic mask made of wood. Egypt has drastically stepped up efforts in recent years to stop the trafficking of its antiquities. It has warned foreign museums that it will not help them mount exhibits on ancient Egyptian sites unless they return smuggled artifacts. AP

Ghana to Shut Down Football Association after Graft Claims
Ghana on Thursday said it would dissolve the country’s football association after explosive revelations of bribe-taking by referees and kickbacks to top officials that have shocked the football-mad nation. Information minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid said the government had “decided to take immediate steps to have the GFA (Ghana Football Association) dissolved” because of the “widespread nature of the apparent rot”. The GFA had earlier pledged to tackle corruption in the wake of a long-awaited undercover documentary unveiled in Accra on Wednesday night, just over a week before the start of the World Cup finals. Daily Maverick

Ghana: Football Bribes Documentary Sends Shockwaves through West Africa
A much-awaited 90-minute film produced by acclaimed Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas has uncovered the extent of bribes used in Ghanaian football. A team of undercover reporters posing as fans and officials secretly filmed meetings over two years in which they bribed officials of the game, including Kwesi Nyantakyi — the Ghana Football Association (GFA) president, FIFA Council member and Confederation of African Football (CAF) vice president — to fix matches or secure contracts or sponsorships and even visas for trips. Nyantakyi is shown taking what reporters say was 65,000 dollars (55,000 euros) from them during a meeting over a so-called “sponsorship deal.” The football boss tells the undercover reporters — who are wearing hidden cameras — that he can help bribe Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, as well as the vice president and government ministers to secure contracts in exchange for millions. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones