Africa Media Review for March 10, 2017

Nigeria Leader Buhari Back Home ‘To Rest’ after Medical Leave
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will “continue to rest” after returning home from seven weeks of medical leave in the UK. Speaking to dignitaries in the capital, Abuja, he said Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will remain in charge. The 74-year-old flew into an air force base in the northern city of Kaduna from London on Friday morning. Details of his condition have not been disclosed, prompting calls from the opposition for greater transparency. The president said he was “feeling much better now” but added that further medical checks would be required.  BBC

DR Congo Opposition in Disarray
The Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi continues to spark debate even after his death. The remains of the politician, who died in Belgium at the beginning of February at the age of 84, will now not be transferred to his homeland as had been planned. The family refused to accept the burial site the government had set aside for him. Tshisekedi’s body was to be laid in state at the Palais Du Peuple, the seat of the National Assembly, and later interred in a mausoleum at the La Gombe Cemetery near the government quarter. However, his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), wants him to be laid to rest at party headquarters. “The Tshisekedi family is very concerned about the wishes of both the population and the party,” said Augustin Kabuya, a member of UDPS. “We have asked the governor to stop work [on the burial] because it cannot continue when there are protests. The burial seems to have been postponed indefinitely.” Deutsche Welle

UN Urges Probe of DR Congo Violence
The UN’s top rights official on Wednesday called for a high-level investigation into abuses committed against civilians in the violence-wracked Democratic Republic of Congo following the discovery of mass graves. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein praised the DR Congo government for quickly investigating the killings and other severe human rights violations in the isolated Kasai and Lomani provinces, but said a UN probe was also needed. “I commend the swift action taken by the government to begin processes of investigation and accountability in some of the alleged killings attributed to soldiers, and offer the assistance of my office,” Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council. But, he continued, “in light of recurrent reports of grave violations and the recent discovery of three more mass graves, I urge the council to establish a Commission of Inquiry to look into these allegations.” AP

UN: Burundian Authorities Shutting Doors of Engagement on Crisis
The United Nations says that nearly two years since the election crisis in Burundi, the country is still at risk of intensifying its problems. Speaking Thursday to the U.N. Security Council, the secretary-general’s special adviser, Jamal Benomar, reported that Burundi was still struggling with a fragile security environment; soaring unemployment, especially among youth; and deterioration of the humanitarian situation. He also underscored that the political impasse had only deepened in the two years since President Pierre Nkurunziza sought what many viewed as an unconstitutional third term in office. Perhaps most troubling, he said, is the worsening human rights situation. “Many Burundians live in fear as a result of widespread repression and increasing intimidation by the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth militia,” Benomar said. “Members of opposition political parties, as well as perceived opponents, reportedly continue to be victims of arbitrary arrest, detention, ill treatment and enforced disappearances.” VOA

Burundian Peace Activist Barred from UN Meeting
A briefing by a Burundian activist to the United Nations Security Council was cancelled at the last minute on Thursday after Russia objected to her participation, diplomats said. Rights activist Carine Kaneza was scheduled to brief the Council on the devastating crisis in her homeland as it discussed a damning report by the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on the situation in Burundi.  Diplomatic sources told FRANCE 24 that Russia objected to her participation and her intervention was cancelled. The report by Guterres, which is his first on Burundi, states that the political impasse in the country has deepened, while the population is terrorised by a regime of serious and systematic human rights abuses, almost two years after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term, sparking mass protests and a failed coup. France 24

Will Gambia’s Opposition Continue to Stick Together?
West African think tank, the Open Society Initiative says African leaders have a lot to learn from what happened in The Gambia, adding that the continent should build strong democratic institutions. The Gambia was thrown into political chaos when long-time leader Yahya Jammeh refused to bow out after losing a December 1 poll. He, however, reluctantly left office on January 22, following international pressure, thus, paving the way for Adama Barrow to take over as president. In a telephone interview with News24, Open Society Initiative’s political governance programme manager, Mathias Hounkpe said there was need for Africa regional bodies to build strong democratic institution to enforce the will of the people. He said that following the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas)’s intervention in The Gambia, it was essential for other regional bodies to find solutions facing member states, and uplift democratic processes. News 24

Remains of Opposition Activist Solo Sandeng Exhumed
Police in The Gambia say they have discovered the body of opposition activist Solo Sandeng, who died in custody during former President Yahya Jammeh’s rule last year. Sandeng led a peaceful opposition march for political reform on April 14, 2016, but died in detention shortly after his arrest by state security agents, unleashing a wave of anger among many in the country who voted out Jammeh eight months later. His body was found near the western coastal village of Tanji and will undergo forensic investigation at a hospital in the capital, Banjul, police spokesman Foday Conta said on Thursday, adding that his remains were exhumed on Saturday. The police discovered the burial site based on testimonies by detained national intelligence agency officials, who had worked under Jammeh, according to Conta. Al Jazeera

President Kiir Sacks Head of S. Sudan Police Service
South Sudan president Salva Kiir has issued decrees sacking the head of the police service, promoting and appointing new officers. President Kiir, the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Cooperation announced, removed General Makur Marol from being inspector general of police and replaced him with Syed Chawul Lom, who was the police commissioner of Jubek state. It was, however, not immediately clear what prompted Kiir to make new changes. Police sources attributed the cause to an internal pressure within the police service in which the former inspector was heavily criticized for not getting a grip on near daily violence carried out by armed criminals, prompting his opponents in service to call for a shake-up in the security services. Sudan Tribune

Former Rebel Chief Joins National Salvation Front in South Sudan
The chairman of the South Sudan Democratic Movement, also known as the Cobra Faction, has joined the newly formed National Salvation Front headed by General Thomas Cirillo Swaka. General Khalid Butrus Bora told VOA in an exclusive interview in Arabic from an undisclosed location that he was putting weight behind Swaka to fight the government of President Salva Kiir. “We in the Cobra Faction have seen that the only movement which can unite South Sudanese people at the moment is the Salvation Front movement under the leadership of General Thomas Cirillo,” he said. VOA

US General: Terrorist Threat in Africa Goes Beyond Ideology
Even if extremist groups in Africa were wiped out militarily, the continent’s massive population of young people would continue to be susceptible to terror groups because of a lack of economic opportunity, the general in charge of U.S. military operations there said Thursday. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said the economic crisis confronting African youth was “the biggest challenge” on the continent. “We could knock off all the ISIL and Boko Haram this afternoon, [but] by the end of the week, so to speak, those ranks would be filled,” Waldhauser said. ISIL is the U.S. military’s acronym for the Islamic State group. Young people in Africa joined extremist groups because “they needed a job, they needed a livelihood,” he added. “It’s not, for the most part in those regions, about ideology.” VOA

AFRICOM: Resource Constraints Add Risk for US forces in Africa
Inadequate surveillance, poor supply chain networks and an inefficient personnel-rescue system are putting U.S. forces in Africa at increased risk, U.S. Africa Command warned Thursday. “These constraints risk our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians executing activities on the African continent,” AFRICOM’s Gen. Thomas Waldhasuer said in an annual posture statement to Congress. Perhaps the biggest problem is AFRICOM’s ability to respond to potential crises at embassies in Africa, where a lack of manpower and the “tyranny of distance” forces the command to take on added risk. “Our capability constraints are most profound in our support to the Department of State-led mission to protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” AFRICOM’s posture statement said.  Star and Stripes

Subcommittee Hearing: Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia
Chairman Smith on the hearing: “Ethiopia has long been an important ally, providing effective peacekeepers and collaborating in the War on Terror. However, increasingly repressive policies have diminished political space and threaten to radicalize not only the political opposition but also civil society by frustrating their ability to exercise their rights under law. This hearing will examine the current situation in Ethiopia with an eye toward developing policies to help this nation to reverse an increasingly tense situation in the troubled Horn of Africa.” House Foreign Affairs Committee

Nigeria’s Debt Rose 38% to 17.4 Trln Naira in 2016
Nigeria’s total debt rose to17.36 trillion naira ($56 billion) as of December 2016 from 12.60 trillion naira a year earlier. The Debt Management Office stated this, as the country grappled with its first recession in a quarter of century caused by low oil prices. Africa’s biggest economy expects a budget deficit of 2.36 trillion naira for 2017, with half of it funded through domestic borrowing. It has been selling bonds and bills this year at yields below rising inflation to curb borrowing cost as it battles to kick-start the economy this year. Foreign bonds and loans stood at $11.40 billion at the end of December, the debt office said on its website, equivalent to about 20% of total debt and up from $10.7 billion at the end of 2015. Local debt spiked to 13.88 trillion naira last year, up from 8.83 trillion naira in 2015 and is set to rise further. SABC

Piracy in Nigeria People: The Rise of Piracy in the Oil-rich Niger Delta Region (video)
[…] if the problem [piracy] is now slowly coming under control in Somalia, the same cannot be said for other parts of the world where piracy is on the increase. Lawlessness, desperation, poverty, greed and even political radicalism have brought the phenomenon to the waters of South America, Asia and, perhaps most aggressively, to West Africa. In an effort to understand the reasons why, Bertrand Monnet, a French academic and filmmaker, has been travelling to piracy hot spots around the coast of Africa. In an extraordinary and very tense series of encounters, he came to face to face with heavily armed pirate gangs operating in and around the Niger Delta, where Nigeria’s huge offshore oil industry, which employs thousands of expatriates, offers rich ransom pickings. It gradually became clear that piracy in West Africa has many of the same root causes as piracy in Somalia and elsewhere, not least of which is that those who don’t share in the benefits and profits of global trade have ever fewer reasons these days to respect the security of those who do. Al Jazeera

Libya: Will Losing Oil Ports End Haftar’s Power?
The seizure of key oil ports in Libya’s oil crescent by the Benghazi Brigade this week has been a major blow to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, Libyan analysts said. They say that losing control over the key oil ports weakens Haftar’s position as a negotiator in possible future political talks. On Tuesday, the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB) handed over the oil refineries to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The balance could shift in GNA’s favour and strengthen the position of prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Following months of failed attempts to gain ground in the area, the BDB managed to capture the two key oil ports [Ras Lanuf and Es Sidr] on Friday after launching a surprise attack on forces loyal to Haftar. Haftar gained control of the refineries last September after dislodging military units of the Petroleum Facilities Guard and their commander Ibrahim Jadhran, an ally of the GNA. Al Jazeera

UK-Funded Camps in Libya ‘Indefinitely Detaining Asylum Seekers’
British-funded refugee camps in Libya are implementing the indiscriminate and indefinite detention of asylum seekers in the conflict-riven country, the UK government’s official aid watchdog has warned. In a report published on Friday, the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact expresses concern that UK aid to Libya risks causing unintended harm to migrants and could prevent them from reaching a place of safety. It also criticises ministers for apparently decided on the funding plan without studying the human rights implications in a country struggling to contain its long-running civil war. “In Libya, where the operating environment severely constrains choices, the UK has identified some programming options with the potential to improve some of the conditions for migrants in detention,” it finds. “However, we are concerned about the risk that UK aid is contributing to a system that prevents refugees from reaching a place of safe asylum.” The Guardian

Canadian Officials Have Made Repeated Trips to Mali to Assess Peace Mission Possibilities 
Canadian aid and foreign affairs officials have made repeated visits to Mali — including one visit just last week — as politicians continue to consider a long-awaited peace operation, the Star has learned. While cabinet ministers insist that no location has been picked for the coming deployment, Mali has been the destination of choice for bureaucrats attempting to scout locations and determine how personnel, combined with millions of dollars in aid and development funding, can be best put to use. Those “non-stop” visits to the African country over recent months have involved personnel from the Defence Department, Foreign Affairs, Aid and Development, a source told the Star. The most recent visit came last week when officials attached to the newly formed Peace and Stabilization Operations Program in Global Affairs Canada spent several days in the Malian capital of Bamako. The Toronto Star

Kenya’s Very Own ‘Arms Deal’ Scandal
On his very last day in office, in January 2017, former US President Barack Obama approved a $418-million sale of border patrol planes to Kenya. This is the biggest arms deal in Kenyan history. The 14 planes, effectively weaponised crop-dusters, are supposed to help Kenya in its fight against Somali militant group al-Shabaab. But before the deal can be finalised, US congressional approval is required. And at least one congressman is not happy. “My office has received credible allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud and unfair treatment surrounding this sale,” said Ted Budd, Republican representative for North Carolina’s 13th district. Budd went on to claim that Kenya was paying way over the odds, and that he knew a company that could provide the same planes for just $237-million – around 43% less, or a saving of a staggering $181-million. Daily Maverick

Besieged: A 360º Experience in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
It’s the dry season in the Nuba Mountains, a time when the Sudanese government usually renews its offensive against the rebels holed up in the rocky fastness. This season though, despite sporadic clashes, a ceasefire seems to be holding. For Khartoum, there is an incentive to keeping the peace. The outgoing US administration of Barack Obama lifted economic sanctions in January, and a key condition of the six-month probation period until their permanent removal is a cessation of hostilities. The rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) also have a point to make. They are keen to demonstrate to the international community their commitment to talks, and to the clearing of obstacles to aid access to the impoverished South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Peace can’t come soon enough for the people of the Nuba Mountains. The conflict has disrupted farming in rebel-held areas, and, along with poor rains, has resulted in sharply reduced harvests. Food prices are sky-rocketing, and the crisis is forcing more and more people from their homes in search of aid. IRIN



Photo: Adam Jones