Africa Media Review for March 1, 2017

What’s Next for Africa and the International Criminal Court?
The African Union’s adoption of a non-binding resolution calling for African countries to abandon the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the regional body’s annual summit in January 2017 garnered headlines around the world. African countries seemed to be signaling a collective vote of no confidence for the global community’s most prominent organization authorized with curbing the impunity of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The African Union resolution came on the heels of moves by the governments of Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa in 2016 to withdraw from the ICC. Talk of a continent-wide pull out from the ICC has been a recurring theme since June 2009 when the AU resolved that it would not cooperate with the Court’s demands to hand over Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to be tried for alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur. The anti-ICC sentiment increased in 2013 when Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto were indicted for alleged war crimes in connection with Kenya’s 2007–08 post-election violence. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

African Leadership Prize Fails to Find a Winner: Again 
Sudanese telecoms magnate Mo Ibrahim failed to award a $5 million African political leadership prize on Tuesday, the second year running the gong designed to foster regional democracy has gone begging due to a lack of suitable candidates. Since its launch in 2006, the Ibrahim Prize has only been awarded four times – to Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano, Botswana’s Festus Mogae, Cape Verde’s Pedro De Verona Rodrigues Pires and Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2014. Candidates have to be democratically elected African heads of state or government who have left office in the previous three years at the end of their constitutional terms. Although such figures are becoming less rare on a continent infamous for its coups and gerontocrats, a peaceful departure after years of plunder does not guarantee the prize as the hopeful’s record while in office is also considered. Reuters

Somalia Declares ‘National Disaster’ over Drought
Somalia’s new leader has declared a national disaster for a prolonged drought that has forced about half of the country’s population to seek urgent food assistance and sparked fears of a potential famine. The announcement on Tuesday by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s office came a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that Somalia was at risk of its third famine in 25 years – the last one in 2011 killed some 260,000 people. “The president has appealed to the international community to urgently respond to the calamity in order to help families and individuals to recover from the effects of the drought disaster to avoid humanitarian tragedy,” read a statement from the presidency. Al Jazeera

Tuareg Rebels Join Mali Army in Operation Against Extremists
Malian soldiers and former Tuareg rebels have staged their first joint patrol in northern Mali, a key step in a 2015 peace agreement meant to help calm a region under threat from multiple extremist and other armed groups. As helicopters with the U.N. peacekeeping mission hovered overhead last week, 50 men in distinctive turbans started to patrol the city of Gao, a target of attacks by Islamic extremists, including one in January that killed 54. The joint battalion of 600 people is the first to formally combine Malian soldiers with the rebels from armed independent groups of the Azawad region that signed the peace deal. The patrols are aimed at “building confidence and curtailing insecurity in northern Mali pending the full restoration of state authority,” the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, said Friday. VOA

UK Inquiry Slams Tunisian Police’s ‘Cowardly’ Response to Beach Attack
“Cowardly” Tunisian security forces let down the victims of a shooting at a beach hotel, making “deliberate and unjustifiable” delays in their journey to the scene, a UK inquiry found on Tuesday. A gunman killed 30 Britons and eight others on a Tunisian resort in June 2015, having walked nearly two miles on his killing spree before being shot dead by security forces. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility. Summing up after a six-week inquest, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith severely criticised the security forces, saying that their response had been “at best shambolic and at worst cowardly”. An inquest by Tunisian authorities was also critical of local security forces’ response. Loraine-Smith did however praise the “conspicuous personal courage” showed by some staff and guests and said neither the tour operator nor the hotel had been neglectful in the unlawful killings. France 24

Algerian Troops Kill Nine Islamist Militants East of Algiers – Ministry
Algerian troops on Tuesday killed nine Islamist militants in an operation in a mountainous region east of the capital that was once the stronghold of al Qaeda, the Defence Ministry said. Troops recovered Kalashnikovs, rifles and ammunition in the raid, the ministry said in a statement on APS state news agency. The operation in Azeffoun, in the Tizi Ouzou region, 60 miles (100 km) east of Algiers, came a day after a militant bomber was shot trying to detonate his explosive belt in a police station in the northeastern city of Constantine. Militant attacks and bombings have become less common in Algeria since the end of the North African country’s 1990s war against armed Islamists in which more than 200,000 people died. But al Qaeda’s North Africa branch, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and small brigades of Islamic State-allied militants are still active, mostly in remote mountains and the desert south near the country’s frontiers. Reuters

Fighting Rising Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
‘The Gulf of Guinea, which has been Africa’s main maritime piracy hotspot since 2011, could become the world’s most piracy-affected area.’ This was a key observation made by American and African experts at a workshop organised by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Abidjan from 14 to 17 February. This finding and others depicted a rather disheartening picture of maritime security in Africa. Indeed, the Gulf saw a significant rise in violence at sea in 2016. In contrast, global figures of piracy and armed robbery had declined significantly to 191 cases, the lowest level since 1998 (which saw 203 incidents). In that year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 55 attacks or attempted attacks in West and Central Africa – including 36 for Nigeria. The Gulf of Guinea accounts for more than half of the kidnappings for ransom in 2016, with 34 seafarers kidnapped out of a total of 62 worldwide. ISS

Burundi Rejects New UN Report
The Burundian government on Tuesday rejected a new report recently submitted to the UN Security Council on the political and security crisis in the country. “The report evokes unproven facts,” the government said in a statement. The report referred to a possible fourth mandate for which President Pierre Nkurunziza allegedly intends to run — a reference the government deemed incomprehensible and in line with the opposition’s stance criticizing the president’s third term bid in July 2015. Burundi has been the target of a series of international reports denouncing the political and humanitarian situation in the country. Unrest in Burundi crisis started in April 2015 when Nkurunziza announced his candidacy for a controversial third term. The constitution allows two. The crisis has led to the deaths of about 1,000 people and forced more than 300,000 to flee the country in the past two years, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Federation of Human Rights. Anadolu Agency

‘Fake News’ Fuelled Civil War in Burundi. Now It’s Being Used Again
As a journalist, it is Aline’s job to report on her country and president, but she doesn’t know how to without getting killed. Pierre Nkurunziza is Burundi’s fearsome, undemocratic president who stands accused of inciting ethnic tensions while dismissing any negative stories on him as lies. Intimidation of the press is a professional operation, according to Aline, who says a member of the president’s communications team regularly sends her WhatsApp messages telling her to stop writing and reporting. “I know him – he used to be my friend,” she adds. Since Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a third term in April 2015, Burundi has been plunged into chaos, with many warning of a return to civil war. The president, his party and the police have been accused by orchestrating a campaign of violence and intimidation, where targeted assassinations, torture and sexual violence are daily occurrences. Underpinning this has been a war on independent media. Following a failed coup attempt in May 2015, Nkurunziza declared journalists were “fighting the government” and marked them as an enemy of the people. Journalists were detained and killed, newspaper offices and radio stations were set on fire and radio signals were cut. The Guardian

‘They Told Us They Were Here to Help Us.’ Then Came Slaughter.
A wheelbarrow saved his life. Sprawled across it, Babagana felt every bump, moaning in pain from four bullet wounds. Covered in his blood, his pregnant wife helped roll him across the Nigerian countryside to a hospital. Somehow, Babagana survived the makeshift ambulance ride. More than 80 men from his village had been shot to death, he said, all of them forced to strip to the waist and lie face down. The gunmen then burned their small farming village before speeding away. The attack fit the pattern of rampages by Boko Haram, the terrorist group that has killed poor people in this region for years. But Babagana and multiple witnesses to the attack in June, as well as another one days before in a neighboring village, say the radicals were not to blame this time. Instead, they say, the massacres were carried out by the Nigerian military. “They told us they were here to help us,” said a resident, Falmata, 20, adding that soldiers in uniform shouted for villagers to point out the Boko Haram members among them. When none were identified, the killings began, she and other witnesses said. Continue reading the main story In recent months, the Nigerian military has made great headway in its war against Boko Haram, the radical Islamist militants terrorizing northeast Nigeria. The New York Times

South Sudan Claims U.S. Supports National Dialogue
South Sudanese government has commended the position of the new United States administration which has rejected attempts pushing for a new political initiative to resuscitate the faltering peace agreement. A high-ranking presidential aide told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration Trump has pledged to support the national dialogue process led by President Salva Kiir and shows no interest in supporting a new political initiate to renegotiate the agreement signed in August 2015. “We have been getting positive signals and assurances of support for national dialogue from the new administration of President Donald Trump. There have been high-level engagements over the past days between the office of the president and officials from U.S. State Department,” a presidential aide said on Tuesday. Sudan Tribune

Gambia Scraps Age Limit for Presidential Candidates
The Gambian parliament on Tuesday scrapped the constitutional age limit on presidential election candidates after new President Adama Barrow faced questions over his deputy’s eligibility due to her age. Anyone over 65 has been barred from running for The Gambia’s highest office under a constitutional amendment that came into force in the west African country in 1997. The new change comes after Barrow – who took office on February 18 after 22 years of iron-fisted rule by his predecessor Yahya Jammeh – faced criticism over his decision to nominate 68-year-old Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang as his vice president. According to the constitution, the vice president must fulfill the qualifications required for a president – which made Tambajang overage. Tambajang was last week named women’s minister instead, with a mandate to oversee the vice-presidency. News 24

General Says U.S. Wants to Resume Major Military Exercise With Egypt
The top commander of American military operations in the Middle East said during a visit here on Sunday that the United States wanted to resume a major military exercise with Egypt that President Barack Obama canceled in 2013 to protest the killings of hundreds of civilian protesters. “It is my goal to get that exercise back on track and try to re-establish that as another key part of our military relationship,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the United States Central Command, told an Egyptian television interviewer. General Votel’s comments were made shortly after he met with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and top Egyptian military and Defense Ministry officials. It also comes amid a general warming of relations between Mr. Sisi and President Trump, who has hailed the Egyptian president as a “fantastic guy.” Even before Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Obama had agreed to resume the provision of major weapons systems, including F-16 fighter planes, M1A1 Abrams tanks and Harpoon missiles. The delivery of those systems by Mr. Obama was suspended in 2013 after the Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The New York Times

MSF Report: Eritrean Refugees Dying En Route to Europe
Thousands of people trying to flee Eritrea are suffering from inhumane, violent, and deadly treatment as the European Union increasingly collaborates with the governments of Eritrea, Libya, Sudan, and Ethiopia to stop them from reaching European shores, according to a new report by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The report, Dying to Reach Europe: Eritreans in search of safety, is based on the testimonies of more than 100 Eritrean refugees rescued by MSF from overcrowded boats in the central Mediterranean. Fleeing indefinite, forced conscription in Eritrea—a situation which many compare to slavery—many Eritreans have legitimate claims to asylum, which is borne out by those who are fortunate enough to reach Europe and have their claims heard. “Ninety percent of Eritreans who manage to reach Europe over land and sea are granted asylum,” said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF general director. “European governments recognize their claims as genuine, but despite this are doing all they can to prevent them and others seeking asylum from reaching European shores.” Doctors Without Border

Africa’s Jobless Youth Cast a Shadow over Economic Growth 
African governments are confronting unemployment in many different ways. In Senegal, with 200,000 Senegalese joining the labour market each year, President Macky Sall launched a programme in February 2013 to create 30,000 jobs within a year and possibly 300,000 by 2017. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is financing some of Senegal’s self-employment programmes for youth and women. Youths account for 60% of all of Africa’s jobless, according to the World Bank. In North Africa, the youth unemployment rate is 25% but is even greater in Botswana, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and South Africa, among others. With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the largest population of young people in the world. In most African countries, youth unemployment “occurs at a rate more than twice that for adults,” notes the African Development Bank. Young women feel the sting of unemployment even more sharply than young men. The AfDB found that in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa and all of those in North Africa, it is easier for men to get jobs than it is for women, even if they have equivalent skills and experience. The Zimbabwe Daily

The Condom Divide in Sudan 
Islamists and secularists are virtually at war in Sudan over a recent newspaper article on the condom usage and the concept of the faithfulness among couples. And the author of the article, Ms Shamail Alnour, is in deep trouble. Radical Islamists, led by cleric Mohamed Ali Al-Gizoli, want her charged with apostasy.  The crime is punishable by a death sentence in Sudan. Ms Alnour’s article had explained how condom use could help stem the rising cases of HIV/Aids infections in the predominantly Muslim state. Ms Alnour works for the Al-Tayar, a privately-owneddaily newspaper. Radical Sudanese Muslims are totally opposed to the distribution of condoms for protective sex, despite the fact that close to 80 per cent of the HIV/Aids infections in the country were through sexual intercourse. On Ms Alnour’s defence are fellow journalists, human rights activists and the opposition parties. The East African

Reshuffle Catch-22: Would a Cabinet Shakeup Help Zuma or Backfire Against Him?
For as long as the danger of a Cabinet reshuffle hangs over the country, particularly if it targets the finance ministry, President Jacob Zuma has enormous power. But as soon as Zuma announces the much-anticipated changes to the Cabinet, he loses his leverage – and possibly his usefulness to those in his political and business circle. Including the ANC’s spanking new MP, Brian Molefe, into Cabinet would be yielding to pressure from this faction but it could also precipitate a massive political, and perhaps economic, crisis – depending on his post. And what happens to Zuma then? Surely this is something he should consider before taking the plunge. Daily Maverick

Rural Zimbabwe Empties as Mugabe’s Land Reform Policy Unravels
Forests engulf fields that used to produce some of the world’s best tobacco around the northern Zimbabwean town of Banket, while barns that once stored the leaf stand empty, their corrugated iron roofs ripped off and sold for scrap. Most of the farm workers have left. “We are 15 here now, from roughly 50,” said 25-year-old Bruce Mahenya, who lives in a mud-and-grass hut behind a defunct trading store on a farm about 95 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, Harare. “My mother, father and brother have gone. I said I would remain alone in case things get better, but it’s hard.” It’s a familiar story across vast tracts of Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s goal of transforming the countryside through the seizure of about 4,500 white-owned commercial farms remains illusive. Some of the best acreage fell into ruin because senior ruling party officials who took it over had no farming expertise. Other farms also failed because they were given to small producers with no money to pay for fertilizer and equipment. In recent years, the crisis has been compounded by drought followed by torrential rains. Bloomberg

Cameroon Citizens Urged to Cooperate with Justice System
As incidents of street justice grow in Cameroon, judicial authorities are urging the population to cooperate with the justice process instead of taking the law into their own hands. Hardly a day goes by in Cameroon without reports of what is known locally as “jungle justice.” Local media report landlords who remove doors of tenants’ homes because they have not paid rent or workers who block traffic because they are angry with their bosses. Cases of people attacking police stations to free suspects have also been reported in several regions. Barrister Jackson Ngnie Kamga, the president of the Cameroon Bar Council, sees an erosion of law and order. He says private justice is gaining ground because the population lacks confidence in the justice system and does not think the system is working. VOA

South Africa is Starting to Save Rhinos from Poaching by Taking on International Crime Networks 
After years of carnage, the number of rhinos killed by poachers is decreasing in South Africa. The dip is thanks to the sharp increase in arrests, according to the Dept. of Environmental Affairs’ Feb. 27 statistics update. The intensity with which the department approached rhino poaching is turning into something of a master class in how to fight complex crime webs. In a multi-pronged approach, the department is using an anti-poaching air wing and a canine unit. They have established an Environmental Crime Investigation unit within the police, and trained elite ranger units. They also trained 905 border officials spotting the trafficking of endangered species. Diplomacy also came into play. South Africa’s most significant park, the Kruger National Park, stretches across the Mozambican border into the Parque Nacional do Limpopo. The two countries are collaborating on a number of broad social programs, including training young people who live near the parks in conservation. Most of the rhino horn obtained in southern Africa is shipped to Asia and Vietnam is one of the main markets. Pretoria is working hard to convince Hanoi to introduce stronger penalties for illegal possession of the horn, according to the minister’s statement. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones