Africa Media Review for March 15, 2018

Eritrea Arrests Hundreds of Perceived Opponents: U.N.
Eritrean authorities detained hundreds of perceived opponents this month after a school director who defied government orders died in custody, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Most of those arrested were males and some were as young as 13, Sheila B. Keetharuth, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Eritrea told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. The leaders of the country in the Horn of Africa should be tried for crimes against humanity including torture, rape, murder and enslaving hundreds of thousands of people, a U.N. investigation set up by the Council said in 2016. President Isaias Afwerki has led Eritrea since independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and his government operates a policy of compulsory military service that thousands each month flee the country to escape, according the United Nations. Reuters

Kenya Red Cross Says 8,500 Asylum-Seekers Flee Ethiopia
The Kenya Red Cross says more than 8,500 Ethiopians have crossed the border into Kenyan territory seeking asylum from conflict after government troops mistakenly killed civilians. The Red Cross said in a statement Wednesday that the number may keep increasing in the coming days. The civilians fled after Ethiopian security forces mistakenly killed nine civilians in Moyale, located on the country’s southern border with Kenya, according to a command post established to oversee Ethiopia’s state of emergency. Ethiopia imposed the state of emergency following months of unrest in some parts of the country that tarnished the country’s image as one of Africa’s best performing economies. AP

Victims of Political Violence Want More than Handshake from Kenyan Leaders
[…] The men promised to work together for national unity, releasing a lengthy statement that has drawn international praise. But those who say they were victimized by police aggression during the protracted presidential election season say they feel forgotten and betrayed. “People were sacrificed,” said Ernest Ngesa, 31, who lives in Kibera, a Nairobi neighborhood. “You can’t just come and make us a promise that there will be changes. People have lost a lot.” Mr. Ngesa knows what that loss means. The last time widespread violence followed a contested election, in 2007, more than 1,100 people were killed — including his 9-year-old daughter. “I was fighting very hard this year for something more,” Mr. Ngesa said. “We say we’ve come together in spite of our differences, but this is the second time we’re hurting.” […] “The country needs to have a dialogue, but the voice of the ordinary people hasn’t been raised,” said Rachael Mwikali of the National Coalition of Grassroots Human Rights Defenders. “Sometimes, I feel when they’re calling for reconciliation, it’s only about their interests. And these are two men who are supposed to be looking after the country.” The New York Times

In Guinea, Wave of Protests Leaves at Least 11 Dead
A wave of unrest in the West African nation of Guinea has left at least 11 people dead as protesters have poured into the streets nearly every day over several weeks to demand raises for teachers and the results of long-awaited municipal elections. Thousands have turned out for demonstrations in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, and other major cities, and security forces have responded with tear gas and tanks. Violence has broken out at several rallies, and several journalists and news media outlets have been attacked. The 11 victims include a police officer, Amnesty International said. Some people died of gunshot wounds, according to local news media reports, and the police officer was killed after being hit in the head with a rock. Despite being a major exporter of iron ore, Guinea remains among the poorest nations in the world. It was one of a handful of West African countries hit in 2014 by the Ebola virus, which killed more than 2,500 people there. The economy has been crippled by poor governing and corruption. The New York Times

Nigeria’s Buhari Says No Rest until Last Kidnapped Girl Released
Nigeria will not rest until the last girl kidnapped by Islamist militants has been released, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday. Buhari was speaking on a visit to Yobe, the northeastern state where some 110 girls were kidnapped from their school in the town of Dapchi by suspected members of Boko Haram last month, the most high-profile mass abduction since the 2014 kidnap of more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok. “There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok and Dapchi, is released. The girls, like all our citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations,” Buhari said in a tweet from the presidency. Buhari, the 75-year-old former military ruler who made security the cornerstone of his 2015 election run, was in Yobe as part of a tour of areas beset by violence and crime. Reuters

At Least 25 Killed in Fresh Clashes in Central Nigeria: Police
Herders are believed to have killed 25 villagers in central Nigeria’s Plateau state, police said on Wednesday, in the latest violence linked to land, water and grazing rights. The killings happened on Monday in the Bassa area of Plateau state, just a few days after at least five people were killed in the area. “The people were returning to Zirechi (village) from Dundun when they were attacked by gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen,” state police commissioner Undie Adie told AFP. “I can confirm that 25 villagers were killed while two were injured. A number of houses were also burnt down by the attackers,” he said. News 24

Libya’s Top Prosecutor Says Groups Smuggling Fuel to Europe
Libya’s top prosecutor says criminal groups are smuggling Libyan fuel on board fishing vessels to Europe. Al-Sadiq al-Sour told reporters on Wednesday their investigations revealed that smugglers use sea routes to move subsidized fuel from the western coastal cities of Zuwara and Zawiya to Malta, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Greece. He says hundreds of fuel stations are involved in the smuggling of their portions of subsidized diesel and that smugglers have made at least $100 million in the past three years. Since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammer Gadhafi, the oil-rich Libya has plunged into chaos. AP

Cameroon’s Private Media Defy Ban on Political Debate
Cameroon has ordered the suspension of radio and TV broadcasts of political debates ahead of elections on March 25. Private media are ignoring the ban saying it’s an attack on press freedom. At Magic FM, a radio station in the capital, Yaounde, a signature tune announces the beginning of the political discussion program, Magic Attitude. Alima Mbarga, a communication officer with the Social Democratic Front, the main opposition party, is one of the studio guests talking calls from listeners. He appreciates the radio station’s decision to ignore a suspension on political debate and call-in programs, he told DW. “The ban on political discussion is uncalled for because it’s an election year,” said Mbarga, referring to polls for Cameroon’s senate, which will be held on March 25. “Enough space needs to be given to political parties to express themselves and people to express their opinions so that Cameroonians know what the parties and their candidates are developing.” Deutsche Welle

UN Set to Threaten Arms Embargo on South Sudan
The U.N. Security Council is expected to adopt on Thursday a U.S.-drafted resolution that threatens to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against those blocking efforts to end one of Africa’s worst wars. The strongly-worded text is aimed at piling pressure on South Sudan’s warring sides as they head into a new round of peace talks in Ethiopia next month to end the four-year war. The council “expresses its intention to consider all measures, including an arms embargo, as appropriate, to deprive the parties of the means to continue fighting,” according to a final draft resolution. Demanding an end to the fighting, the council will “consider all appropriate measures … against those who take actions that undermine the peace, stability, and security of South Sudan,” said the text seen by AFP on Wednesday. VOA

South Sudan President Admits Treasury Runs Out of Cash
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has openly admitted his country has run out of cash and there was nothing that could be done to fix the economy unless war stops for peace and stability to return to the country in order for investors and other money-generating activities to resume. The South Sudanese leader attributed the cause of being a cash-strapped nation to the war sparked by the power struggle which resulted into a more than four-year conflict with no resolution in sight despite global and regional efforts to salvage the situation. Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of the new finance minister following the sacking of the predecessor Stephen Dhieu Dau on Monday, Kiir said nothing could be done to salvage the loss value of the local currency. Sudan Tribune

China’s Military Footprint Grows alongside Economic Interests in Africa
[…] Offscreen, China’s security footprint in Africa has been expanding quietly alongside its deepening economic interests across the continent. Experts disagree about whether China might, in the future, protect its interests through force. But they see its presence in Africa as a testing ground for a new kind of multilayered engagement around the world. Historically, China exerted its security presence in Africa through contributions to United Nations peacekeeping missions, Fabricius said. However, it has long used its U.N. involvement to protect its interests, he added. For instance, in South Sudan, where China has significant oil interests, the country has contributed a 700-troop infantry battalion to the U.N. mission, UNMISS. In the Democratic Republic of Congo — a major supplier of copper and cobalt to the Chinese economy — China has contributed 220 troops to the U.N. mission, MONUSCO. But recently, China has shown a willingness to take direct military action in Africa. Its navy has monitored and captured Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, and last year China opened its first overseas logistics and military base, a naval resupply facility in Djibouti. VOA

Madagascar: Rogue Mayors, Gangster Politics
In southern Africa, Madagascar, still chafing from a major broil in 2009, is set to have a presidential election in November. The principal contenders in 2009, former president Marc Ravalomanana and arch-rival Andry Rajoelina, an ex-mayor of Antananarivo and the Island’s military-backed ruler from 2009 to 2013, are set for a re-match. It was Rajoelina who forced Ravalomanana out in protests in which more than 100 people died. Trouble began in 2008 when a youthful Rajoelina was elected mayor of Antananarivo and openly challenged president Ravalomanana’s policies, among them the controversial and unpopular 99-year lease for 1,300,000 hectares (13,000 km2) – half of Madagascar’s arable land – that he had signed with South Korean multinational, Daewoo. Daewoo’s plan was to use the land to produce corn and palm oil for export to South Korea on a promise to create 45,000 jobs for locals. The East African

South Africa Criticises Australian Plan to Fast-Track White Farmer Visas
South Africa has criticised Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s offer to fast-track the visas of its white African farmers, saying his comments on the supposed threat to their lives and land were “sad” and “regrettable”. A spokesperson for international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said: “There is no need to fear … we want to say to the world that we are engaged in a process of land redistribution which is very important to address the imbalances of the past. But it is going to be done legally, and with due consideration of the economic impact and impact on individuals.” On Wednesday, Dutton said white farmers deserved “special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances” of land seizures and violence. It follows recent reports in Australian media of “numerous and increasing cases of rape and torture carried out on white farmers” and “a white minority in South Africa being murdered and tortured off their farms”. The Guardian

Moroccan Protesters Clash with Police in Poor Mining Town
Moroccan protesters on Wednesday clashed with security forces in a poor mining town where residents have been demanding government help to tackle poverty, officials and activists said. The town of Jerada in the remote northeast has seen protests since two artisan miners were killed in an accident in December but demonstrations calling for state aid and alternative jobs had remained peaceful until now. On Wednesday, protesters set five police cars on fire and clashed with police, a local official said. An unspecified number of policemen were wounded and brought to a hospital in Oujda, the main city in the northeast, a statement said. Nine persons had been detained, officials said. An activist in Jerada said residents had staged a sit-in against a statement by interior ministry on Tuesday that had warned it was ready to act decisively unless the protests stopped. Reuters

African Arms Imports Down
Over the last decade, African arms imports dropped by 22 per cent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), but Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria continued to order large quantities of weapons and equipment. In its Trends in International Arms Transfers 2017 fact sheet released this week, SIPRI said that African arms sales dropped 22% between 2008-12 and 2013-17. Much of the hardware that was supplied went to Algeria (52% of African arms imports), Morocco (12%) and Nigeria (5.1%). “Major arms play an important role in the military operations by sub-Saharan African states, although, due to lack of resources, procurement typically involves small numbers of mainly relatively low-end weapons,” SIPRI said. DefenceWeb

Cobalt a “Strategic” Metal under New Congo Mining Code
Cobalt will be designated as a “strategic” metal under the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new mining code, clearing the way for royalties on the metal to rise as much as fivefold to 10 per cent, according to the prime minister. The country’s new mining code was signed into law by President Joseph Kabila on March 9 over the strong objections of international mining companies. “If we look at the situation today, cobalt — where a tonne cost $30,000 in 2007 and now goes for $85,000 per tonne — is a metal that is both rare and strategic, so the state wants to extract profit,” Bruno Tshibala, the prime minister, told the Financial Times in an interview. Cobalt is a key component in computer chips, mobile phones and lithium-ion batteries, demand for which is surging as vehicle makers ramp up production of electric cars. Congo is the world’s number one producer of the metal, accounting for more than half of known reserves. Financial Times

Commonwealth Africa Summit Focuses on Youth, Gender Equality
Delegates from across Africa are attending the Commonwealth Africa Summit in London – where the theme this year is the ‘Common Good’. Topics under discussion include climate change and improving gender equality. The Commonwealth has its origins in the British Empire – most members were former colonies – and Britain is hoping to rekindle those ties as it leaves the European Union. Nineteen African countries are members of the Commonwealth – an organization that encompasses one-third of the world’s population. The opening summit address was given by Maria Fernandez De La Vega, president of the Women for Africa Foundation. She said that “in the face of the ever-greater tolerance of inequality, we have to continue to cry out for equality.” She said “the combination of young people and women together will allow us to take a new look at Africa.” Issues like gender equality are being tackled by other institutions like the United Nations and the African Union. So what is the point of the Commonwealth?  VOA



Photo: Adam Jones