Africa Media Review for March 15, 2017

Humanitarian Need and Displacement in South Sudan
A spike in political violence in South Sudan since mid-2016 has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in that country since its decades-long civil war with Sudan. Millions have been driven from their homes, and violence against civilians and aid workers has prevented humanitarian assistance from reaching those most in need. Farmland lies fallow as nearly five million people are experiencing severe food insecurity. This includes more than 100,000 who are in a state of famine and another million on the brink of starvation. According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, serious human rights violations and ethnically targeted violence have been committed by the government, bringing the country to the edge of genocide. The man-made humanitarian disaster sees no signs of abating without concerted regional and international action. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Sudan, African Union Stalling on Human Rights Court: UN
The African Union and South Sudan are failing in their joint responsibility to set up a court to prosecute atrocities in the central African country and are not cooperating with a United Nations inquiry, a U.N. investigator said on Tuesday. “There is no reason to think that a robust hybrid court will be set up any time soon by the African Union, if ever. Indeed some senior officials have told us that it will never happen,” Kenneth Scott, a member of the U.N. commission on human rights in South Sudan, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “We’ve requested the draft documents that we understand exist – a draft statute, a draft memorandum of understanding – but they have declined to provide it to the commission.” Reuters

S. Sudan Wants Rebel Machar Considered a Terrorist
South Sudan government has urged the regional states to consider rebel leader Riek Machar as a terrorist following the kidnapping of two Indian aid workers in his Upper Nile stronghold. Information minister Michael Makuei told the media in Juba that the captors were Dr Machar loyalists and were demanding $1 million ransom from the government. “The rebels are demanding a ransom of $1 million for their release,” said Mr Makuei. Mr Ambrose Edward and Mr Midhum Ganesh were kidnapped last Wednesday at 11am (local time) from Adhar oilfield, while they were on duty. Africa Review

Gen Malong: I Do Not Hold President Kiir to Ransom
South Sudan’s Chief of General Staff, Gen Paul Malong Awan, is a man under intense focus both locally and internationally following a series of defections of senior military commanders from the national army. Gen Malong —who took over the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA) leadership in April 2014— is perceived as the “real” power behind President Salva Kiir by working closely with the Jieng Council of Elders, the Dinka cultural association, to control the government and thereby alienate other communities from the country’s leadership. Since February, four top military and government officials have resigned accusing the populous Dinka community of nepotism, corruption and perpetuating ethnic cleansing in various part of the country. On March 7, former deputy chief of staff in charge of logistics, Lieutenant General Thomas Cirilo Swaka announced that he is forming a new rebel group, The National Salvation Front (NSF) to liberate the country from the grip of ethnic Dinka. The East African

Aid Workers Released from Detention in South Sudan
Seven staff members for U.S.-based Christian humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse were released from their detention by “armed personnel” Tuesday in South Sudan’s famine- stricken area of Mayendit, and have been flown from Unity State to a safe location. Samaritan’s Purse vice president of programs and government relations Ken Isaacs says local officials arrested them Monday. “So I think there was some local dynamic involved, and we do not have all the those details right now, but what I can tell you very happily is that all of the staff has been released, and they are safe, that bit we know. But they have been released,” said Isaacs. VOA

Cameroon Claims to Have Freed 5,000 Boko Haram Captives
Cameroon says it has killed at least 60 Boko Haram fighters and destroyed a stronghold for the militant group, as well as a huge stock of seized weapons, in fighting along its northern border. Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon minister of communication and a government spokesperson, said, since January 26, thousands of Cameroon soldiers, supported by Nigerian troops, have launched raids on Boko Haram strongholds in the Mandara mountains, freeing more than 5,000 people, including women and children, from captivity. Issa Tchiroma said at least 60 terrorists have been killed since the offensive began in late January. VOA

Boko Haram Splinter Group Leader Charged with Murder
A Nigerian court on Tuesday charged the leader of a Boko Haram splinter group with the murder of several foreigners. Nigerian High Court documents obtained by The Associated Press say Khalid al-Barnawi and six others face charges that include hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit terrorism. They pleaded not guilty at the court in the capital, Abuja. The judge ordered that they be remanded to Kuje prison in the capital. Al-Barnawi is accused of kidnapping and killing British national Christopher McManus and others working in Nigeria. McManus, a construction worker, was killed in March 2012 as Nigerian and British forces attempted a rescue operation. Also killed was Franco Lamolinara of Italy. They had been held for almost a year. AP

Somali Pirates Demand Ransom for Oil Tanker, EU Force Says
Armed men are demanding a ransom for the release of an oil tanker they have seized off the coast of Somalia and the crew is being held captive, the European Union anti-piracy operation in the region announced late Tuesday. An EU Naval Force statement said the operation had finally made contact with the ship’s master, who confirmed that armed men were aboard the Comoros-flagged tanker Aris 13. Monday’s hijacking was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel off Somalia since 2012. It came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as patrols by the navies of Nato countries, as well as China, India and Iran, had suppressed Somali pirate hijackings for several years. News 24

Somali Pirates Hijack Merchant Ship For First Time in Five Years
[…] The global cost of piracy in 2011 was estimated at $7 billion, according to maritime security watchdog group Oceans Beyond Piracy. By the end of 2010, pirates around the world held some 600 seafarers from 18 countries, OBP found. The Horn of Africa was the epicenter of this threat. But the number of raids in the region dropped dramatically in recent years. Commercial shipping companies stationed private security contractors on their ships and governments boosted their naval presence, including deploying a NATO and EU mission to the region to ward off attacks. Since then, shipping companies and governments have pulled back their efforts. NATO ended its Horn of Africa mission, Operation Ocean Shield, in December, 2016 due to the sharp decline in piracy. NATO’s decision was “completely premature,” said Dr. Assis Malaquias, a maritime security expert with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “The equation is pretty straightforward: with no naval presence, the attacks will continue,” he told FP. Foreign Policy

US Accuses Moscow of Aiding Warlord in Battle for Libya Oil Ports
The fighting between Haftar’s forces and militias from western Libya is focused on Sidra, Libya’s biggest oil port, and nearby Ras Lanuf, its key refinery. Together they form the gateway to the vast Oil Crescent, a series of oilfields stretching hundreds of miles through the Sahara containing Africa’s largest reserves. Haftar’s forces have launched airstrikes against militias around the oil ports themselves, with social media showing pictures of corpses and burning vehicles. No casualty figures have yet been released. Capturing the glittering prize of the Oil Crescent has become the focus of a bitter civil war now in its third year and US officials fear that Russia has now entered the conflict, with Haftar the likely beneficiary. In testimony to the Senate’s foreign relations committee on Thursday, the chief of the Pentagon’s Africa command, General Thomas D Waldhauser, said: “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya.” Asked by Senator Lindsey Graham whether Russia was “trying to do in Libya what they are doing in Syria”, Waldhauser said: “Yes, that’s a good way to characterise it.” The Guardian

Kenya Doctors End Strike After Signing Government Deal
Doctors in Kenya have agreed to end a 100-day strike that has paralysed the country’s public health system. Union officials representing thousands of striking medical workers have signed an agreement with government officials in the capital, Nairobi. The doctors are to receive increased allowances as negotiations over other issues continue. The doctors have been demanding higher wages and better working conditions and say more doctors need to be hired. About 2,500 public health institutions were affected by the strike. A number of patients are reported to have died from a lack of medical care during the walkout. “We are grateful that this dark page in the history of our country has come to an end,” Health Minister Cleopa Mailu said at the signing of the deal. BBC

Mozambique Cholera Outbreak Spreading, More Than 1,200 Infected
A cholera outbreak in parts of Mozambique has infected more than 1,200 people, killing two this month after heavy rains, and will spread further if no action is taken, a health ministry official said on Tuesday. The disease, which is usually contracted from infected water, has already spread from the capital Maputo to another three of Mozambique’s 13 provinces since the start of this year, deputy director of public health Benigna Matsinhe told Reuters. “But there are 19 more districts on the verge of seeing outbreaks of cholera in the coming days if nothing is done to prevent the spread of the disease. It is a situation that is of concern to the Ministry of Health,” said Matsinhe. One of the deaths this month occurred in Maputo, while the other fatality was recorded in the northwestern province of Tete four days ago, the official said. Reuters

Haftar’s Army Says Key Libyan Oil Ports Back Under Its Control
Forces controlled by Libya’s eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar said they had retaken two of the country’s major oil terminals, after more than a week of fighting that curbed production and heightened tensions in the holder of Africa’s largest crude reserves. The ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, a petrochemicals factory and the nearby Harouge storage tanks had all been recaptured on Tuesday in a land, air and sea offensive, said Miftah Al Magaraif, head of a Petroleum Facilities Guard faction loyal to Haftar. His Libyan National Army announced its full control of the ports on its official Facebook page. The installations were seized from Haftar earlier this month by a rival group, which later said it handed them to the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. Bloomberg

Africans Have More Faith in Religious Leaders Than in Courts
For many Africans, access to justice remains out of reach. While just over half of people on the continent have faith in the integrity of judges and their local courts, Africans are more trusting of religious and traditional leaders, says a survey from Afrobarometer, which collects samples from respondents across 36 African countries. Respondents reported similar problems with their judicial systems across the continent, including delays in handling or resolving court cases. In Nigeria, where only 38% of respondents trust courts, severe delays in court processes have resulted in the current reality where up to three-quarters of the country’s entire prison population are serving time without a sentence. Quartz

Boris Johnson in Somalia for Surprise Visit Amid Drought
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has arrived for a surprise visit to Somalia and is holding talks with the country’s new president, a Somali presidential aide confirmed Wednesday. The aide insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Johnson was meeting at the airport with Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who was elected last month. The British foreign office did not immediately comment. Britain is appealing for aid for Somalia’s drought, which has been declared a national disaster amid warnings of a full-blown famine. VOA

White House Demands Deep Cuts to State, UN Funds
The White House has instructed the State Department and the US mission to the United Nations to cut their budgets for UN programs nearly in half, including US peacekeeping and development assistance, two senior US officials told CNN on Monday. The dramatic cuts, which include a 37%, or $20 billion, slash in funding for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, reflect a desire by the Trump administration to reduce US commitments to international organizations. US diplomats in New York had warned their UN counterparts about the likely “steep” cuts to US funding for the UN, one Western diplomat said, but not provided any details. The White House wants to cut the programs funded out of the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs by half, the US officials said. While the cuts would impact UN programs the most, the White House also wants to reduce US dues to other international organizations and ask other member states to pick up the slack. CNN

Sudan Appoints New Military Attaché in Washington
Sudan has appointed a new military attaché at its embassy in Washington, the first since over twenty-eight years ago, the foreign ministry announced Tuesday. Colonel Abuzar Dafa Allah will serve as the military attaché at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, said Gharib Allah Khidir the spokesperson of the foreign ministry. “This step indicates the resumption of military cooperation, even in a symbolic manner, but enhances the normalisation of relations between the two countries,” he further told Sudan Tribune. The appointment of a Sudanese military attaché in Washington comes after the arrival to Khartoum of the American military attaché who is here since several weeks. He met with the Sudanese defence minister and other high-ranking military officers. Sudan Tribune

Chad’s Faki Assumes African Union Leadership, Pledges Reform
Chad’s former foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat assumed office as head of the African Union Commission on Tuesday, pledging to reform the institution and tackle the continent’s many crises. Faki takes over leadership of the 54-country continental bloc days after the United Nations announced that the food emergencies in four countries, including Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, constituted the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. “The famine that ravages vast areas of Africa these days is a real humiliation for us,” Faki told delegates at the commission’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. “The immense potential of our continent and the enviable rate of economic growth of many member states of the union leave us no justification for this hideous human tragedy”. News 24

Bow Down Before the President King – The Future According to the ANC
The African National Congress on Sunday presented the party faithful (and, by extension, the media) with a “road map” to the National Policy Conference, which will be held in June 2017. They dumped nine hefty policy discussion documents on their beleaguered comrades, the upshot of which was: the president does not have enough power. And so the first act of a monster movie unfolds, during which the nutty National Executive Committee crosses a crocodile with an Airbus A380, and mayhem ensues. Daily Maverick

Tanzania’s Power Play
For nearly four decades now, Tanzania has maintained a blockade of ­Bologonja, a border crossing between the Maasai Mara and Serengeti. It claims access for mass tourism could harm the ecosystem of the world heritage site, which “harbors the largest remaining unaltered animal migration in the world,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. But ever keen to do business and tap its tourism potential, Kenya sees this differently. It argues that its southern neighbor is out to make business unsustainable for Kenyan tour operators who ferry curious visitors eager to witness wildebeests on the march. What you are witnessing are age-old rivalries, so bitter they have defied a wave of economic integration slowly sweeping across the continent. And they are just two of many regional disputes involving Tanzania that have earned the country a reputation as a spiky neighbor. The Africa Report

Khat in the Horn of Africa: A Scourge or Blessing?
Throughout a Sunday afternoon in the Ethiopian capital, Yemeni émigré men in their fifties and sixties arrive at a traditional Yemeni-styled mafraj room clutching bundles of green, leafy stalks: khat. As the hours pass they animatedly discuss economics, politics, history, life and more while chewing the leaves. The gathering is a picture of civility. But in many countries khat has a bad reputation, with it either being banned or prompting calls for it to be banned. Understanding khat—or as it is also known and spelt: jima, mira, qat, chat, cat; and whose leaves when chewed act as a psychotropic stimulant with what some would call amphetamine effects—is far from straightforward. This innocuous-looking plant has experts variously claiming it is as mild as tea or as addictive as cocaine. Hence a few years ago khat’s international reputation presented a particularly conflicting picture: it was legal in Britain, banned in the US, celebrated in Yemen and vilified in Saudi Arabia. IPS



Photo: Adam Jones