Africa Media Review for March 14, 2017

Dismantling the Arusha Accords as the Burundi Crisis Rages On
Two years after Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to pursue a contested third term as President, the Burundi crisis continues to spiral. The February 2017 report of UN Secretary General António Guterres on Burundi warned that killings, enforced disappearances, gender-based violence, and the discovery of dead bodies continues at an escalating rate. Between October 2016 and February 2017, more than 200 disappearances were reported to the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, compared to 77 between April and October 2016. There is also an upward trend in the discovery of dead bodies, including 22 that were discovered in January alone. Many of these violations have been blamed on the Imbonerakure, a youth militia sponsored by the ruling CNDD-FDD party that operates outside the military chain of command and an increasingly central instrument to the regime’s power. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

UN ‘Disturbed’ by Reports of Torture, Forced Disappearances and Killings in Burundi
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has once again “expressed their deep concern over the political situation”, describing the “lack of engagement by the government of Burundi” with regards to the implementation of a resolution stipulating a UN police force should be sent to the African nation. On 9 March, members of the UNSC met to discuss the situation in Burundi. The bloody crisis that has killed thousands, pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those who say that his re-election in July 2015 for a third term violated the nation’s constitution. Council president Matthew Rycroft, from the United Kingdom, noted that, while the security situation in the country “has remained generally calm”, member states “were alarmed by the increasing numbers of refugees leaving the country and disturbed by reports of torture, forced disappearances and killings”. International Business Times

Mutilated Bodies Discovered Amid Political Violence in Burundi, UN Inquiry Says 
Mutilated bodies are being found once again in Burundi where politically-motivated violence will soon enter its third year, according to a U.N. human rights inquiry. The central African nation has been in chaos since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza sparked widespread protests and an attempt to overthrow him by saying he would seek a third term. The U.N. Human Rights Council set up a three-person commission of inquiry in September last year to identify perpetrators of killings and torture and ensure they were brought to justice. “On the basis of a first set of interviews that we have conducted with various sources, it’s clear that the trends that were observed in 2015 and 2016 still exist,” the commission’s chairman Fatsah Ouguergouz told the Council. Reuters

Burundi Declares Malaria Epidemic
Burundi has declared a malaria epidemic after more than nine million cases were recorded since last year. According to the Burundi’s Health minister Dr Josiane Nijimbere, more than 3,700 people have died from the mosquito-borne disease since 2016. “There is an increase of 13 per cent of the cases related to malaria,” she said adding that this “is why we have decided to declare the disease as an epidemic.” She singled out Kirundo, Muyinga and Kayanza in northern Burundi and Cankuzo in the east as the areas in which an increase in the number of people suffering from the disease have been reported. The situation is further compounded by climate change and prolonged drought leading to people going without food, she said. The East African

Somali Pirates Suspected of First Ship Hijacking Since 2012
A number of suspected pirates boarded the Sri Lankan-flagged vessel off the country’s northern coast on Monday, residents and officials say. A spokesperson for the European Union Naval Force, which runs anti-piracy operations in the area, said it was too early to confirm pirate involvement. If confirmed, it would be the first hijacking of a commercial ship by Somali pirates since 2012. The EU Naval Force told the BBC: “We became aware of this yesterday evening [Monday], and a military maritime patrol aircraft has been sent at first light today to investigate.” John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy, speaking to Reuters news agency, said, “The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon. Then it disappeared.” BBC

Mubarak To Be Released from Prison after Acquittal in Protester Deaths
Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak is to be released this week, his lawyer said on Monday, after an appeals court acquitted him of involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him. An Egyptian prosecutor allowed Monday for Hosni Mubarak to be released, his lawyer said, after an appeals court acquitted the ex-president of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising. “He can go home now when the doctors decide he is able to,” Farid al-Deeb said, adding that Mubarak is banned from leaving Egypt pending an ongoing graft investigation. Mubarak, 88, has been in detention at a military hospital in Cairo, where he has spent most of his time since his arrest in 2011. France 24

How Egypt’s Activists Became ‘Generation Jail’
[…] It was just six years ago that Maher was celebrated around the world as a symbol of freedom and democracy. In January 2011, as the leader of a social-media-savvy network of young activists called the April 6 Youth Movement, Maher mobilized hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and across the country that took down President Hosni Mubarak. The movement was considered for a Nobel Peace Prize, and Maher traveled across Europe and the United States talking about the Arab Spring and Egypt’s future with the likes of Ban Ki-moon and Lech Walesa. But the hopes that were raised by the revolution dissolved into sectarianism and chaos, and Maher’s aspirations were extinguished within two years. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the defense minister and commander in chief of the armed forces, seized power in July 2013 and outlawed protests. Five months later, a judge found Maher guilty of illegal demonstration, rioting and “thuggery” and sentenced him to three years in jail. Another judge added six months to Maher’s sentence for “verbally assaulting a public officer while on duty” after he demanded that the police remove his handcuffs while in court for a 2014 appeal. Maher spent almost all of that period sealed in a small cell in a solitary-confinement wing at Tora Prison, a notorious complex on the outskirts of Cairo, built during British rule, that houses about 2,500 political prisoners and common criminals. The New York Times

Russia Appears to Deploy Forces in Egypt, Eyes on Libya Role – Sources
Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow’s deepening role in Libya. The U.S. and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces. The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border. Reuters

East Libyan Forces Suffer Losses as Lengthy Benghazi Battle Resumes
Fierce clashes resumed on Monday at a tower block complex in southwest Benghazi where forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government have been battling for weeks to dislodge rival fighters, a security official said. A spokesman for the special forces of the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), Milad al-Zwai, said jets had bombed the buildings and three special forces soldiers had been killed and three wounded in clashes. Eastern-based LNA commander Khalifa Haftar has been waging a military campaign for nearly three years in Benghazi against Islamists and other opponents. Over the past year the LNA has made major gains in Libya’s second city, securing several districts and pushing back militants linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda. Reuters

Death Toll Rises to 65 in Addis Ababa Rubbish Landslide
Bereaved families scuffled with rescue workers on Tuesday at a rubbish dump in the Ethiopian capital where a landslide killed at least 65 people this weekend. Relatives pushed and shoved emergency workers, angrily accusing them of delays and saying dozens of people were still missing after Saturday’s disaster at the Reppi dump. “Nobody is helping us. We are doing all the digging ourselves. It is shameful,” Kaleab Tsegaye, a relative of one victim, told the Reuters news agency. The disaster late on Saturday destroyed 49 makeshift homes inside the landfill site on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, city spokesman Amare Mekonen said. Over the past few days, a few rescuers have used bulldozers to move piles of rubbish as hundreds of people have gathered at the scene, weeping and praying. Some dug through the garbage with their hands. Al Jazeera

Lesotho Goes to Polls in 3 Months
Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission says three months is the shortest time that it has ever had to prepare for elections, and it needs the budget and relaxation of procurement requirements approved soon, but it is determined to make the country’s June 3 poll a success. The mountain kingdom is going to elections after a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The IEC has published its elections timetable saying it has to double its efforts. Lesotho is going to the polls on June 3 for the third time in 5 years. The last two elections also came prematurely. In 2012, it was two months early. In 2015, it was two years early but at least the IEC had five months to prepare. This time elections are three years early. SABC

Buhari Resumes Duty after Medical Vacation
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has resumed duty after returning from London on Friday from 51 days of medical vacation. President Buhari took over from his vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in Abuja on Monday. The president signed a letter formally conveying his resumption of duty to the National Assembly. President Buhari entered his office at around 11.15am (local time), according to his Media and Publicity aide Garba Shehu. Mr Shehu said the president would later hold a meeting with Prof Osinbajo. Senior Special Adviser on Media Femi Adesina had also said on his Twitter handle that President Buhari would submit a letter to the National Assembly indicating his resumption of work. The East African

Xenophobia: Nigeria Sends High Level Delegation to SA
A high level delegation from Nigeria is expected in South Africa on Tuesday to discuss diplomatic relations between the two countries, following recent xenophobic violence. A statement issued by Parliament said: “The Nigerian Parliament has proposed the visit for the two sister legislative institutions to discuss matters of mutual interest and to strengthen existing diplomatic relations between the two countries, particularly in the context of recent tensions between certain members of some communities and some foreign nationals.” The discussions will be led by Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli and his Nigerian counterpart, the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, the statement said. News 24

Congo Says American, Swedish Officials with UN Kidnapped
Two United Nations officials, one American and one Swedish, have been kidnapped along with four Congolese in the country’s Kasai Central province, Congo’s government said Monday. Michael Sharp of the United States and Zahida Katalan of Sweden were abducted with three Congolese drivers and a translator while traveling by motorcycle through the region, government spokesman Lambert Mende said. . It was not clear when the kidnapping occurred on a bridge near the village of Ngombe, Mende said, adding that the kidnappers have not yet been identified. Judicial authorities in the province have opened an investigation and are working with the U.N. mission in Congo to free the people held. AP

Aid Workers Detained as South Sudan Military Accuses Rebels
Armed personnel have detained South Sudanese staffers with the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, the group said Monday, while rebels dismissed as “propaganda” the government’s claim of a kidnapping. “Local staff working for Samaritan’s Purse were recovered by our forces in Mayendit this morning after heavy fighting with enemy forces,” opposition spokesman Mabior Garang told The Associated Press. It was not immediately clear why the aid workers were being held. The U.S.-based aid group said in a statement that no ransom had been demanded. “We have been in contact with them and they have not been harmed,” it said. The statement did not say how many staffers were detained. South Sudan military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang claimed that rebels on Saturday abducted eight workers with Samaritan’s Purse. AP

Ex-Guinea Military Head Extradited over Stadium Massacre
A former Guinean military leader arrested in Senegal in connection with a 2009 stadium massacre that killed more than 150 people has been extradited back home, his lawyer said Monday. Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite left Dakar on Sunday night, lawyer Baba Diop said. Diop called the extradition an excessive use of power and essentially a “kidnapping,” given that a judgment was still pending on an appeal filed in January against it. Diakite led the presidential guard at the time of the September 2009 massacre against protesters demanding the resignation of coup leader Moussa “Dadis” Camara. An investigative commission later determined he was to blame for ordering the violence, which also included at least 109 victims of sexual assault. An Interpol notice was issued for him five years ago. Diakite had been living in Senegal under a fake name and was arrested in December. AP

Niger Opposition Leader in Court Probe over Baby Trafficking
Niger’s opposition leader Hama Amadou, who was forced to run his campaign for the presidency from a prison cell, is being investigated for baby trafficking. Some suspect political intrigue. It is a criminal case loaded with political dynamite. Thirty people from Niger’s political establishment, its business community and the military were set to appear in court on Monday on charges related to baby trafficking. The investigative proceedings will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to send the defendants to trial. A few years ago, Niger’s elite went through a baby boom. Women who had been childless for years were suddenly celebrating the birth of their first child. There is a stigma attached to childlessness in Niger. “Couples in which the woman couldn’t conceive would look for a baby to buy in Nigeria. The babies were then transported to Niger or Benin,” Klaas van Walraven from the Center for Africa Studies at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, told DW. Deutsche Welle

Mugabe Gives More Land to Ex-freedom Fighters Ahead of 2018 Vote
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is promising to give more land to the country’s former freedom fighters, telling those who have not yet benefitted from his land programme to “indicate” which farms they prefer, ahead of next year’s elections. War collaborators, former political detainees and restrictees are also set to benefit. Critics are adamant the Zanu-PF strong-man faces his most defining moment next year, as his party is ravaged by factionalism over uncertainty on who will succeed him. Zimbabwe polls are tentatively due in July 2018 but information obtained by News24 suggests Mugabe is already “oiling” his election campaign machinations amid concerns by the opposition the nonagenarian intends “stealing” yet another vote, as he seeks a fifth term at the helm of the republic. News 24

Cocoa Plunge, Mutinous Army May Widen Ivory Coast Deficit
Tumbling cocoa prices and unscheduled payments to civil servants and mutinous soldiers in the past two months could widen Ivory Coast’s budget deficit and curb growth this year. Cocoa prices have fallen by more than a third after reaching a six-year high in July, denting revenue for the world’s biggest producer of the chocolate ingredient. This year the West African country’s government has tried to defuse military and social unrest by agreeing to pay bonuses to soldiers and making some concessions to civil servants who led a strike earlier this year. The budget deficit will probably widen to 5 percent of gross domestic product this year compared with government estimates of 3.9 percent for 2016, said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at London-based Renaissance Capital. The International Monetary Fund will on March 22 start a review of the three-year program agreed on last year and may adapt the $670 million deal depending on the impact of the combination of lower revenue and increased spending, according to Alain Feler, the lender’s representative in the country. Bloomberg

Health Scare Fuels Talk About Algeria’s Bouteflika
Weeks after Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika abruptly called off a visit by Angela Merkel, renewed health rumors are fuelling speculation over the future of an octogenarian leader in power for nearly two decades. The rumors spiked when Algeria’s envoy to Lebanon publicly denied a local report that Bouteflika had died and a private TV channel close to the presidency chimed in to say he was fine and ready to meet Spanish and Iranian delegations. Four years after he suffered a debilitating stroke, details of Bouteflika’s health are closely guarded. But any transition may come at a sensitive time for the North African OPEC member, as it faces low oil prices, regional instability and pressure for reforms to its socialist-style economy. Reuters

Are Morocco and EU Heading Towards a Political Impasse?
In a span of three days, almost 900 people crossed the Ceuta border, leaving the small Spanish city’s immigration centre at almost three times capacity. In the entire previous year, around 1,000 people crossed the fences in Ceuta and fellow enclave city Melilla combined, according to the EU border agency Frontex. The sudden influx of migrants was likely Morocco sending its European neighbours a message, according to Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero. “[The sudden migrant influx] was a reminder,” Cembrero told Al Jazeera. “A way for Morocco to show that it controls immigration and holds the migrant pipeline in its hands.” EU-Morocco free-trade deals have come under attack from the Polisario Front, which lodged a series of lawsuits contesting the deals. In December 2016, the European Court of Justice nominally sided with Morocco, upholding agricultural accords. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones