Africa Media Review for March 17, 2017

31 Somali Refugees Killed in Helicopter Attack off Yemen Coast
Thirty-one Somali refugees were reportedly killed off the coast of Yemen late on Thursday when a helicopter attacked the boat they were travelling in, a coastguard in the Houthi-controlled Hudaydah area has said. Mohamed al-Alay said the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were travelling from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab el-Mandeb strait. A sailor who had been operating the boat, Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, said 80 refugees had been rescued after the incident. While the identity of the helicopter was not immediately clear, Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition in the war in Yemen, has US-built Apache A-64 Longbow attack helicopters. The Guardian

UN: Risky Sea Crossings Fuel Sharp Rise in Migrant Deaths
A U.N. agency says migrant deaths rose sharply last year, particularly in the Mediterranean, as smugglers made ever-riskier attempts to ferry asylum seekers and refugees on increasingly unseaworthy vessels. The International Organization for Migration documented 7,763 migrant deaths in 2016 worldwide, 27 percent more than the 6,107 recorded in 2015. The report released Friday said two-thirds of the deaths took place in the Mediterranean, where 5,098 people lost their lives trying to make the trip from North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East to Europe, according to information collected by the IOM’s Data Analysis Center in Berlin. The number of Mediterranean casualties last year was 35 percent higher than in 2015, despite more organized rescue efforts and fewer people trying to make the perilous journey. AP

Somali Pirates Release Oil Tanker, Crew Without Ransom
Somali pirates on Thursday released a hijacked oil tanker and its eight-man Sri Lankan crew without any conditions or ransom payments. The release followed a gunfight earlier in the day between the pirates and a marine force, and then intensive negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and the pirates. Two people in the Somali town of Haabo were wounded as naval forces traded fire with men trying to ferry supplies to the tanker. Witnesses told VOA’s Somali service that the navy of Somalia’s Puntland region intercepted a boat it thought was taking food to the gunmen holding the Aris 13 and its crew. VOA

Face to Face With the Eritrean Exodus Into Ethiopia
Under the early morning sun in the most northern region of Ethiopia a motley group of Eritrean men, women and children arrive dusty and tired at the end of a journey – and at the start of another. After crossing the border under cover of darkness (leaving Eritrea without authorisation is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail), they are found by Ethiopian soldiers and taken to Adinbried – a compound of modest buildings at one of the 12 so-called “entry points” dotted along this barren 910-kilometre border. This is where their long asylum process will begin. “It took us four days travelling from Asmara,” a 31-year-old man tells IRIN of his trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80 kilometres north of the border. “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.” With him are another three men, three women, six girls and four small boys. The smuggler who guided them charged $2,500 each. IRIN

Many Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Boko Haram Attack: Official
The deputy governor of Nigeria’s Borno state says many soldiers may have been killed after Boko Haram extremists attacked and burned down a military base. Usman Mamman Durkwa spoke to journalists on Thursday after visiting the scene of Wednesday night’s attack in Magumeri town. Durkwa says at first officials heard two soldiers had died. But he said “when we got there today, we discovered the number of lives lost was far beyond that.” He says he can’t give a specific death toll. His account contradicts Nigerian army spokesperson Sani Kukasheka Usman, who had said soldiers in Magumeri succeeded in repelling an attack on the town. News 24

Nigeria: Ex-chief of State Oil Corp Charged With Fraud
Nigeria Thursday arraigned a former chief of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on a six-count charge of fraud and false declaration of assets. The arraignment followed recovery last month of $9.8 million and £74,000 ($91,000) from an underground bunker in the residence of the former official, Andrew Yakubu. He was subsequently arrested, questioned, and detained over the recovery. The country’s anti-corruption agency said Yakubu did not declare the funds in his assets declaration in 2015. The agency also accused him of moving the vast sum without passing them through financial institutions as required by law. “Sometime between 2012 and 2014 in Abuja … you transported at various times … the aggregate sum of $9,772,800 only when you knew or reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of some form of unlawful activities,” said one of the state charges. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan Gunmen Attack Aid Convoy, Kill Two
The International Organisation for Migration said Thursday that two people were killed when gunmen attacked an aid convoy in South Sudan, where chronic violence has led to famine. The aid organisation said the convoy was attacked on Tuesday as it was returning from the central town of Yirol where staff and health workers had been assisting communities affected by a deadly outbreak of cholera. One of the vehicles was ambushed by gunmen who shot dead two people — a civilian and a person “involved in the health response”, according to the IOM. Three others were injured, including an IOM health officer, the organisation said in a statement. “This tragic attack on aid workers and civilians is appalling,” said IOM director general William Lacy Swing. The East African

Eight Jihadists Arrested in Mali’s Restive North
Eight jihadists have been arrested in nothern Mali. According to a Malian security official, the arrests were made by French forces in the Timbuktu region. The official who spoke on condition of anonymity added that seven of the jihadists were arrested on Monday near Foum El Alba and identified themselves as fighters with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. While the eighth was arrested by the same patrol while on his motorcylce. Such arrests in Mali’s north are frequent, with 600 suspected Islamist extremists detained since 2013 . Africa News

Rwandan President Paul Kagame to Speak at AIPAC’s Annual Conference
For the first time ever, the leader of an African country will speak at the annual conference of AIPAC, the influential pro-Israeli lobby. On Thursday, AIPAC published a list of confirmed speakers for the conference, which will take place next weekend in Washington, D.C., and one of those featured on the list is Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Haaretz has learned that Kagame, who is expected to appear in person before the conference crowd, will be the first African national leader to speak before the conference. Kagame, who has been ruling Rwanda since the year 2000, is known as a strong ally of Israel, who has visited the Jewish state multiple times, and also hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu on a state visit to his country last July. Haaretz

Banned Muslim Brotherhood Not Pardoned by Egypt President
Imprisoned members of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB) have failed to make the list of over 200 political prisoners pardoned by presidential decree. Following a decision by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi on Monday to pardon 201 political prisoners for protest-related “offences”, Egypt’s official gazette on Wednesday released details of the prisoners, including classifying them for the first time ever. The prisoners were divided into two groups in relation to the mass protests which rocked the North African country in 2013 prior-to and after the military coup which ousted the country’s first-ever democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, paving the way for the inauguration of Sisi. IOL News

Will Egypt Put Term Limits on Al-Azhar Grand Imam?
New sources of friction keep heating up the conflict between Al-Azhar University and those outside the school seeking to influence the way it’s run. Yasser Kouraa, assistant to the Wafd Party’s head of political and parliamentary affairs, recently suggested amending the university’s internal regulations. His proposals would affect the way senior scholars — including Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb — are selected and dismissed, in the name of renewing religious discourse. The proposals have sparked debate and angered Al-Azhar scholars, who see it as an attempt to undermine their roles. Al Monitor

Which Countries Could Suffer as Trump Puts Aid on Chopping Block?
Staying true to promise, it appears President Donald Trump really is putting America first with his call for slashing foreign aid. The administration’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal — entitled “America First” — calls for “deep cuts” to foreign assistance, such as a 28.5 percent funding reduction from fiscal 2016 for international programs, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The president’s initial spending requests to Congress were released on Thursday. While the so-called “skinny budget” affirms America’s commitment to U.S. ally Israel and pledges to maintain funding for certain global health initiatives in “low-resource” countries, it’s otherwise scant on details as to how the U.S. may geographically or thematically shift resources. That said, it’s worth taking a look at which parts of the world currently receive — and may therefore stand to lose — the most in U.S. assistance under Trump’s proposed cuts. Bloomberg

Kenya Counter-Terror Work Creates Abuses, Rights Group Says
Kenya’s security agencies are violating privacy rights in counter-terrorism operations and the information acquired is used to commit human rights abuses, including targeted killings, an international human rights group says. Information gathered from phone intercepts and other means is carried out essentially without oversight, contravening procedures required by law, the London-based Privacy International said in a report released Wednesday. The National Intelligence Service makes phone intercepts and provides the information to police, who obtain clearance to monitor targets. Information obtained through surveillance is central to the identification, pursuit and “neutralization,” or killing, of suspects, the report says. “Telecommunications operators end up handing over their customers’ data because they largely feel that they cannot decline agencies’ requests, in part due to the vagueness in the law,” the report says. AP

Interview: Gambia Urging Deployment of More Senegalese Troops, Says President Barrow
The Gambian government has requested that Senegal deploy an extra 1,000 soldiers as part of the regional military force in the country, Gambian President Adama Barrow told RFI in an interview on Wednesday. Barrow met with French President Francois Hollande during a two-day visit to Paris this week that focused on obtaining financial support for Gambia. “We are demanding 1,000 soldiers from Senegal to increase the numbers to make sure we are in a secure position,” said President Barrow, in reference to a security treaty the two neighbouring countries recently signed. AP

Dlamini-Zuma Tipped for Top Job in South Africa Cabinet
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma may soon return to government in South Africa after she handed over reigns of the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship. Dr Dlamini-Zuma is being tipped for a Cabinet position in President Jacob Zuma’s administration in what sources say would ease her path to succeed him as national leader. President Zuma is expected reshuffle the Cabinet in mid-April with top government sources saying he will appoint her. Dr Dlamini-Zuma returned home on Wednesday after completing her AUC tenure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was welcomed at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg by ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth and women leagues, who said they believe she has a big role to play in government. The East African

South Africa to Compensate Marikana Victims
The South African government has set aside $92 million dollars to compensate victims of the widely publicized Marikana mine massacre. In 2012, police gunned down 34 miners during a mine workers’ strike. On the August 16, 2012, hundreds of mine workers who had been on strike gathered on a small hill outside the Lonmin platinum mine singing and dancing. As they came down the hill, the police warned them to stop. When they did not stop, police opened fire at them with live ammunition killing 34 miners and wounding 78. Deutsche Welle

South African Opposition Figure Probed By Own Party After Colonialism Tweet
Former South African main opposition leader Helen Zille will face a disciplinary process by her Democratic Alliance (DA) party after saying on Twitter on Thursday that the legacy of colonialism was not all negative. The incident caused a public outcry, with critics saying Zille’s comments risked fanning the racial tensions that endure more than two decades after the end of apartheid rule. The ruling ANC denounced her words as reckless. “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc,” Zille, a white South African, said on Twitter. “Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please,” she said in a later tweet. Reuters

Americans Visit Sub-Saharan Africa in Reciprocal Program
One of the enduring legacies of the Barack Obama presidency will be the relationship built between the United States and young Africans. As part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), each year 1,000 young people from sub-Saharan Africa travel to the United States to spend six weeks at a U.S. college or university. The program will continue this summer. But building enduring relationships is a two-way street, and many in Africa want to see Americans coming to their continent as well. That’s what 26 Americans selected to participate in a Reciprocal Exchange program, a new component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, are now planning to do. The U.S. Department of State partnered with IREX, a nonprofit organization focusing on international education and research, to help continue collaboration between 27 Mandela Washington Fellows and 26 American professionals. The program will take the U.S. citizens to 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa during March. VOA

Namibia Tribes Lodge Case Against Germany Over Genocide
Lawyers representing two indigenous Namibian tribes are meeting for a pre-trial conference in New York on Thursday following a lawsuit filed earlier this year that demands compensation for the descendants of people massacred in the 20th century’s first genocide. Between 1904 and 1908 around 100,000 Herero and Nama people were killed by German colonial leaders in South West Africa, now known as Namibia, when the territory was a German colony. German settlers, with the explicit consent of German colonial authorities, seized about one-quarter of Ovaherero and Nama lands between 1885 to 1903. Tensions eventually boiled over and in early 1904 the Ovaherero and Nama rose up – only to have their rebellion crushed by German imperial troops. Al Jazeera

Dipole: The ‘Indian Niño’ That Has Brought Devastating Drought to East Africa
A severe drought threatens millions of people in East Africa. Crop harvests are well below normal and the price of food has doubled across much of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and nearby countries. The last major drought in the region, in 2011, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. They are becoming more frequent and more intense — and each has a disastrous impact on the economies of nations and livelihoods of people. So what is causing these droughts? And why are they becoming more common? At least part of the explanation lies with a climate phenomenon known as the “Indian Ocean Dipole”. The dipole, often called the Indian Niño due to its similarity with El Niño, is not as well known as its Pacific equivalent. Indeed, it was only properly identified by a team of Japanese researchers in the late 1990s. CNN

Head of Powerful Muslim Order in Senegal Dies
The head of one of Senegal’s influential Muslim orders has died after a life spent promoting an open interpretation of Islam in a region battling jihadist influence, local media reported on Thursday. Serigne Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Sy headed the Tijaniyya, one of four Sufi brotherhoods that dominate religious life in Senegal, where around 95% of the population are Muslim. Known as the “caliph” and spiritual guide of the Tijaniyya, Sy was buried on Wednesday night in Tivaouane, a stronghold of the brotherhood about 90km from the capital, Dakar, after dying aged 91. Sufism is an offshoot of mainstream Islam which focuses on meditation, inner purity and finding a mystical pathway towards God. News 24

CAF: Issa Hayatou Toppled After Three Decades as Head of African Football
African football has a new president for the first time in 29 years after Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad won a surprise victory in Thursday’s election. Issa Hayatou’s seven-term reign as head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ended when the challenger won by 34-20 as delegates voted in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. “When you try to do something, you mean that you can do it,” Ahmad said after becoming CAF’s seventh leader, and the first since Hayatou came to power in 1988. “If I can’t do it, I never stand,” added the 57-year-old, who had campaigned on the basis of bringing about meaningful change. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones