Africa Media Review for March 13, 2017

Deadly Car Bomb Hits Somalia’s Capital Mogadishu in Suspected Al-Shabaab Attack
Between six and 10 people have been killed in Somalia after a car bomb exploded near a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicions are likely to fall on terror group Al-Shabaab, which carries out similar attacks in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya. The attack occurred after hundreds of Somali soldiers took part in protests at the weekend over unpaid salaries. The new Somalian president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced a $100,000 (£80,000) reward for information on anyone planning attacks in the country. The leader made the announcement after visiting survivors of a suicide bombing that killed at least 39 people in Mogadishu on 19 February. International Business Times

Chief: African Union Needs Troop Surge in Somalia
The head of the African Union mission in Somalia is seeking a surge in troops to help the country’s military control areas won back from extremist group al-Shabab, saying the Somali National Army has been unable to take charge as expected. Francisco Caetano Madeira’s request for an unspecified number of extra AU troops comes amid widespread concern that Somalia’s military won’t be ready to take over the country’s security as the 22,000-strong AU force prepares to withdraw by the end of 2020. Al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere. Its attacks on military bases in the past two years have slowed joint AU-Somali offensives against the group. VOA

The U.N.’s New Leader is Taking on An Impossible Job
[…] uterres is a rare combination, supporters say — a negotiator skilled at working the halls of foreign ministries and a devoted humanitarian who spends as much time as possible on the front lines of crises such as Somalia’s. He will now have to tread a fine line between speaking against U.S. policies that he sees as inhumane (he issued an implicit criticism of President Trump’s travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries) and not alienating a critical source of funding. One member of Guterres’s staff half-joked that his goal was “to stay off Trump’s Twitter feed.” Among Guterres’s biggest concerns is that the increasing curbs on immigration and refu­gee resettlement in the United States and Europe will be replicated across the world. Guterres noted that the majority of the world’s refugees live in developing countries, including millions in sub-Saharan Africa. “It is difficult to explain to a country like Kenya that has more than 500,000 refugees that they should go on accepting this large number of refugees, seeing the kind of measures that the United States or that several European countries are taking,” Guterres said Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post the day after his Somalia visit. The Washington Post

Gabon Opposition Rejects President’s Call for Talks to Ease Tensions
Gabonese President Ali Bongo has offered to hold talks with opposition parties in an apparent bid to ease tensions over his contested re-election last year, but his main political rival swiftly rejected the call for dialogue. Responding to a presidency statement issued late on Friday, opposition leader Jean Ping branded the proposal for talks starting on March 28 as a “masquerade” and said he would not participate. Ping, a former African Union chairman, accuses Bongo of cheating in order to win re-election in the August 2016 election and of using security forces to violently suppress protests in the weeks that followed. Gabon’s Constitutional Court rejected his allegations of vote-rigging, but international observers have also criticized the poll and the European Parliament in February called the results “extremely doubtful” though stopped short of imposing sanctions. Reuters

Congo Accused of ‘Gross’ Human Rights Violations by the United States
The U.S. State Department has said there were gross human rights violations in the Republic of Congo in 2016. The claim is contained in a recent report published by the department where it suggests that almost all the fundamental rights protected by the Congolese constitution, the code of criminal procedure and international treaties have been violated. It added that authorities also kept aid away and denied access to observers and journalists, adding political prisoners were kept in the process. The 40-page report lists violations ranging from forced disappearance to torture and rape, all of which are attributed to Congolese state agents. Africa News

Kenya Starts Mass Sacking of Striking Doctors
The Kenyan government Friday started cracking the whip on striking doctors by firing them en masse for missing work without reason and taking part in an illegal strike. After the government withdrew a 50 percent pay raise offer among other benefits meant to woo doctors back from their three-month nationwide strike, it warned the doctors that it will not “succumb to threats and intimidation” and ordered them to resume work or face disciplinary action. According to the Nairobi county government, more than 120 doctors have already been dismissed from work for taking part in the illegal strike and staying out of work without reason. Anadolu Agency

Ethiopia Rubbish Landslide Kills 48 in Addis Ababa
At least 48 people have been killed in a landslide at a vast rubbish dump on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, officials say. They say dozens of people are still missing since the landslide on Saturday night at the Koshe landfill. A resident said 150 people were there at the time. A number of makeshift houses are now buried under tonnes of waste. The area has been a dumping ground for Addis Ababa’s rubbish for more than five decades. A city spokeswoman told AP news agency that many children were among the dead. There are fears the death toll could rise further. BBC

Ethiopia: Court Denies Bail to Opposition Leader
An Ethiopian court Friday rejected the bail request of a prominent opposition leader detained for three months on suspicion of inciting violence and terrorism. Wondimu Ibsa, the lawyer for opposition leader Dr. Merera Gudina, told Anadolu Agency that they will appeal the ruling, starting at the next hearing on April 24. According to Ibsa, Gudina “expressed deep sorrow over the court’s decision to deny him bail, a right which is granted to any ordinary criminal.” Prosecutors have argued the charges he faced were too serious to consider bail. According to the charges, property worth $43.9 million was destroyed in protests he “incited”. Anadolu Agency

Deadly Attack on Security Forces in Southern Tunisia
Four attackers on motorcycle attacked on Sunday a security checkpoint in the southern Tunisian city of Kebili, killing one guard, according to the country’s interior ministry. Two attackers were killed in the ensuing shootout. “There was a terrorist attack on a checkpoint just outside Kebili. Four alleged terrorists on two motorcycles that were armed with explosives arrived on the scene. They killed one of the security agents. There were only three of them present manning the checkpoint,” Sarah Souli, a freelance journalist in Tunis, told FRANCE 24. Two attackers out of four were then killed by security forces. A third attacker was wounded and is now in hospital. The fourth one was arrested Sunday evening, according to an Interior Ministry statement. The identity of the attackers have not been revealed. France 24

The Hidden Opportunity of the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
While the Boko Haram-sparked humanitarian crisis raging in the Lake Chad Basin has largely been overlooked outside of the region, recent high-level efforts have sought to change that. On 24 February, a conference organised by Norway, Germany and Nigeria brought together major donors in Oslo to raise the approximately US$1.5 billion needed for humanitarian actors to continue to fund their response in 2017. US$458 million was raised, or approximately one-third of the required total (along with another US$214 million already earmarked for 2018). This was followed by a visit from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) early this month to all four Lake Chad Basin nations (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria), to assess the crisis. British Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft (Britain is currently chairing the UNSC), explained: ‘We came in order to show this will no longer be a neglected crisis.’ His counterpart, Senegalese Ambassador Fodé Seck, went further, urging that, ‘when we go back to New York, we must not sit idle … this visit must have follow up.’ ISS

Uprooted by War, Threatened by Boko Haram and Desperate to Go Home
The military and the government have proclaimed that the countryside outside Maiduguri, the busy Borno State capital where Boko Haram was born, is mostly safe now. They’ve said it’s time for most of the nearly two million displaced people — many of them farmers and fishermen fighting to stave off hunger — to go home. But the soldiers were guiding the throngs of people into a future that was no more certain, and potentially just as dangerous, as the past they had fled. President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly declared the war with Boko Haram over. The military has chased the insurgents from hiding places in the forest. But the radical Islamist terrorist group is still waging deadly attacks across the countryside. And in some camps for displaced people, new arrivals fleeing the militants are moving in even as others are moving back home. Caught in the middle are people like Idi Hassan and his wife, who were in the convoy with six of their young children in his truck bed. The Hassans had been living for two years in the squalid camp in Maiduguri, relying on food handouts and eager to get back to their farm north of here, where they hoped to make a living.“The area has been liberated, and we’re going home,” Mr. Hassan said, sitting behind the wheel as his wife breast-fed their infant in the passenger’s seat. The New York Times

Nigeria’s Succession Jitters With Ill President: QuickTake Q&A
[…] Because Nigeria is divided between a mostly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south, there’s been an unwritten agreement among the political elite since the end of military rule in 1999 that the presidency is rotated every election or two. So if Buhari dies or steps down and is succeeded by Osinbajo — as the constitution dictates — many in the north would probably feel shortchanged. They might insist that Osinbajo promise to step aside at the next elections in 2019 and allow his deputy — who would probably be a Muslim from the north — to run instead. Osinbajo has denied rumors that he’s under pressure from northern politicians to quit rather than be elevated to president. In such a scenario, Senate President Bukola Saraki, a Muslim, would take over, but only as a caretaker president until fresh elections are organized. That would give the north a shot at winning the presidency. Bloomberg

Dlamini-Zuma to Officially Handover AU Chairmanship to Mahamat
Outgoing chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is expected to officially handover to the incoming chairperson Faki Mahamat this week. Dlamini-Zuma, was the first ever woman to head the continental organisation. At her farewell function in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dlamini-Zuma was commended for the work she has done at the AU. Five years at the helm of the continental body, now the outgoing chairperson is preparing to come home. For those who worked with her at the AU, it was time to bid her farewell. Dr Dlamini Zuma has a wealth of experience in diplomacy – as former foreign affairs minister in South Africa and as former AU Commission Chair. Many believe that she will not be lost to the continent, because of her knowledge of foreign policy and international relations. SABC

Somaliland to Trump: Take Us Off Your Travel Ban
Somaliland can’t catch a break. Its arranged marriage to Somalia fell apart more than a quarter century ago, yet the world refuses to recognize the divorce. Now Somalilanders find themselves temporarily barred from the United States under President Trump’s new travel ban, and they’re not happy about it. “Somaliland should not be mixed with Somalia. We are two different states,” says Saad Ali Shire, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland. Somalia is a hotbed of terrorist activity, particularly for the extremist Islamist group al-Shabab. The U.S. State Department strongly warns American citizens against visiting any part of Somalia — and Somaliland as well — saying they face a serious threat of kidnapping. Things have gotten so bad in parts of Somalia that Washington also has banned U.S. planes from entering Somali airspace and urges Americans to avoid sailing “near the coast of Somalia due to the risk of pirate attacks.” NPR

Liberia Asks As UN Leaves: Who Will Pursue War’s Atrocities?
The skeletal remains of 27 people were all that was left of a massacre, one of many in this West African nation’s back-to-back civil wars more than a decade ago. When the United Nations handed over the bones to the government last month, it was an invitation to investigate. Instead the remains were buried quickly, without ceremony, in a site intended for victims of the Ebola virus. The incident left many Liberians feeling as though the government wanted to bury the past, too. As the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission prepares to leave Liberia with the country’s return to stability, questions remain about who must take responsibility for the atrocities over 14 years that left some 250,000 dead. Unlike neighboring Sierra Leone, which also suffered from the fighting that spilled over the border, Liberia has yet to deal with perpetrators of the killings, many carried out by drugged and under-age fighters, overseen by people who may now be in power. AP

The Gambia: Coping with Dictatorship’s Legacy
After dictator Yahya Jammeh took power in a coup 23 years ago, he ordered the NIA secret service, the police and paramilitary to systematically repress critics, perceived enemies of the regime. They included journalists, gay, lesbian and transgender people and political opponents. Jammeh believed that these individuals violated The Gambia’s traditional cultural and religious norms. They often only had one option, which was to flee the country and live in exile. The Gambia had one of the world’s highest migration rates, measured as a percentage of the total population, which in The Gambia amounts to 1.5 million. Many refugees on their arrival in a third country reported that they had been tortured in Jammeh’s prisons. Within Gambia itself, people were careful what they said and to whom. They had a lot to lose if they made an unguarded political remark. Deutsche Welle

Madagascar Cyclone Death Toll Rises to 38: Official
At least 38 people have been killed by Cyclone Enawo that struck Madagascar this week, according to an official of the country’s disaster management department. “The damage is enormous wherever the cyclone has gone,” Thierry Venty, executive secretary of the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management, said late on Friday on national television. He said 38 people had been killed countrywide by the cyclone, including a family who died in a landslide, while an estimated 153,000 people have been displaced by storm waters. Enawo hit Madagascar’s vanilla-producing northeastern coast on Tuesday morning, destroying roads and cutting off communications with Antalaha district, which has a population of 230,000 people. Reuters

Hundreds of Millions of British Aid ‘Wasted’ on Overseas Climate Change Projects
Serious questions are raised today over hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money being ‘wasted’ on climate change projects such as an Ethiopian wind farm and Kenyan solar power plant. A Telegraph investigation shows little benefit so far from a £2 billion foreign aid programme to tackle climate change that was established eight years ago. One scheme, costing £260m of UK taxpayers’ money, has produced only enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of just 100 British households – about the size of a typical street. Projects including solar parks in Kenya and Mali, a rubbish-burning power plant in the Maldives and wind farmer project in Ethiopia are all earmarked for funding from the scheme. The Telegraph investigation raises major concerns over the use of international aid money to fund complex renewable energy schemes in some of the world’s poorest countries. The Telegraph

Despite Poaching, South Africa Plans for Rhino Horn Trade
South Africa’s government is moving ahead with plans to allow a domestic trade and limited export of rhino horns, alarming many international conservationists who believe rhinos will be more vulnerable to poachers who have killed record numbers in the past decade. Draft regulations would allow a foreigner with permits to export “for personal purposes” a maximum of two rhino horns. Critics argue that any exported horns would be hard to monitor and likely would end up on the commercial market, defying global agreements to protect threatened rhino populations. Most of the world’s rhinos live in South Africa. An international ban on trade in rhino horns has been in place since 1977, and South Africa imposed a moratorium on the domestic trade in 2009, when rhino poaching was accelerating to meet growing demand for horns in parts of Asia, especially Vietnam. AP



Photo: Adam Jones