Africa Media Review for March 23, 2017

Egypt Says Fighting in Central Sinai Leaves 10 Soldiers Dead
The Egyptian army says it has lost 10 soldiers in fighting with Islamic extremists in central Sinai, following a raid launched against militants. The army said in a Thursday statement that its troops killed 15 extremists and took seven prisoners in the raid, but that three officers and seven enlisted men were killed by roadside bombs while in pursuit of fighters. Egypt has been battling an insurgency in northern Sinai for years, mainly by militants from an Islamic State affiliate. The army has been increasingly saying it is taking the fight deeper into the peninsula’s sparsely populated desert and mountainous areas such as Jebel Halal, targeting insurgent weapons depots. The army says troops destroyed a large amount of explosives in the raid and seized other weapons and equipment. AP

Yemen and Somalia ‘Months Away’ from Famine
The world has as little as three months to save millions of people from famine in Yemen and Somalia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday. The medical charity needs $300m to bring emergency assistance to a total of five million people in Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria, as well as areas of South Sudan where famine has already been declared. The funds will ensure that five of the 20 million people at risk of famine and starvation receive immediate and essential aid, said Red Cross director of operations Dominik Stillhart. “Food, water, shelter, and healthcare is required immediately,” he said. “We are on the ground and delivering aid in all four countries. We witness the massive suffering. Millions of people are denied the very basics to survive.” Al Jazeera

Somalia Food Crisis: Has al-Shabab Adopted New Approach to Food Aid?
[…] The UN has appealed for $863m (£700m) for the country and in an echo of the past, state-owned Radio Mogadishu recently accused the group of hindering relief efforts. Could al-Shabab have learned from its past mistakes? There are some signs that it has. The militants now want their efforts recognised favourably but they are still contemptuous of Western humanitarian organisations. Al-Shabab says it has established drought committees to coordinate relief operations in six administrative regions. It constructed canals for farmers in some regions, as reported in September by the pro-al-Shabab radio, Al-Furqaan. A new leader has taken over al-Shabab since Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a US airstrike in 2014. While Godane was from the north, the majority of al-Shabab fighters are known to be southerners, with clan and family links to areas where the drought has hit hardest. BBC

Drought, Political Maneuvering Blamed for Central Kenya’s Unrest
The smell of rotting animals permeates the air in parts of central Kenya’s Laikipia area, as lurking vultures and hyenas seem to be the only ones benefiting from the drought. Dead elephants, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, cattle, sheep and goats dot the landscape. While some died from the drought, some of the wildlife was shot or speared to death by armed herders in search of pasture and water for their tens of thousands of cattle, sheep and goats. Ranch and conservancy owners say these herders are invading their private property — breaking fences, stealing cattle, using grass and water meant for their livestock and their neighbors’ livestock, cutting down olive trees for the leaves, even killing the owner of Sosian ranch in March when he went to check on burned houses. About 35 people have died in the unrest. “This is not the first dry season we’ve had,” said Martin Evans, chairman of the Laikipia Farmers’ Association and the owner of Ol Maisor farm. “And when this thing happened, it wasn’t a matter of drought. It was a normal rainy season when they came in. This is a politically instigated invasion, as far as we can see. They’re using the cattle as a tool, as a battering ram, to just take over private property.” VOA

Barriers to Bridges: Kenya and Ethiopia’s Vision for Border Peace, Development
Consider this. The communities around the Kenya-Ethiopia border in Moyale-Borona area, have long been associated with internecine violence, extreme poverty, and environmental stress. These have led to disastrous societal consequences, including displacement, criminality and violent extremism. The 2012-2013 intercommunal clashes in Moyale town, claimed the lives of more than 200 people and destroyed thousands of properties including schools and other social amenities. The region has been viewed as largely peripheral, both economically and politically, and therefore attracted limited public and private resources. However, an innovative, comprehensive and integrated cross-border programme initiated by the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations (UN) is changing this narrative. During the recent visit to Kenya by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, President Uhuru Kenyatta specifically mentioned the Kenya-Ethiopia cross-border programme and noted the importance of this innovative area-based development programme, which he said has the potential of being replicated elsewhere. The Star

Deterioration of DRC Security Raises Concerns
The deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a source of major concern while violence and threats to civilians are no longer concentrated in the east of the country. That was the message delivered to the UN Security Council by the Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the Peacekeeping mission to that country, who warned that the uncertain political situation was exacerbating a resurgence of violence, often along ethnic lines. The implementation of a December 31 political agreement on a transitional government ahead of elections by the end of 2017 had also stalled. A political agreement signed between the major parties late last year envisioned a period of transition followed by elections before the end of 2017, allowing incumbent President Joseph Kabila to stay in power. SABC

Global Court Gives Congo’s Bemba an Extra Year for Witness Bribing
Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday added a year to Jean-Pierre Bemba’s 18-year jail term following the former Congolese vice president’s conviction for attempting to bribe witnesses during his war crimes trial. After a second trial on the separate charges, Bemba, who was vice president of Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003 to 2006, was also ordered to pay a 300,000 euro ($323,670.00) fine to the court’s fund supporting victims of atrocities. Several of the court’s cases against prominent and powerful politicians have been weakened by witness bribery. Prosecutors blamed the collapse of a post-election violence case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on threats against witnesses. The decision to bring bribery charges against Bemba and four members of his legal team was seen by criminal law experts as a sign that prosecutors had decided to get tough on a practice that threatened their ability to prosecute the gravest crimes. Reuters

Sanctioned and Shunned, North Korea Finds Arms Deals in Africa
Despite international sanctions, North Korea has found partners across Africa willing to buy arms and make defense deals, says the head of a U.N. panel of experts that investigated the transactions. According to a U.N. report released last month, North Korea has used a number of methods to avoid detection and has forged agreements with at least seven African nations to train soldiers, build infrastructure and sell a wide range of weapons and vehicles. The deals violate U.N. sanctions banning transactions with North Korea involving weapons or military equipment and prohibiting the hosting of any North Korean trainers or advisers. Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on North Korea, told VOA these sanctions are being flouted in some parts of Africa. VOA

Hunt for Joseph Kony, No Longer Seen as a Threat, May Shrink
The Pentagon is poised to significantly scale back a decade-long mission to capture or kill Joseph Kony, one of Africa’s most notorious warlords, in a sign that the United States and its African allies no longer see him as a regional threat. Mr. Kony and his violent guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, gained worldwide attention after the social media video “Kony 2012” was viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube. The L.R.A. is notorious for its use of child soldiers but has also carried out massacres, sexual violence, mutilations, pillage and abductions. The Pentagon’s Africa Command now wants to shift from a counterinsurgency operation against the guerrilla group to building African defense institutions and a more narrow pursuit of Mr. Kony, whose fighting force has dwindled to about 100 soldiers from a peak of 3,000. That change could free up perhaps dozens of the approximately 150 United States troops now assigned to the effort, allowing them to undertake other Special Operations missions. A decision on renewing the mission for six more months is scheduled for April, but the Trump administration, even before taking office, signaled its desire for change in a series of questions from its transition team to the State Department. The New York Times

UN Worried About Forced Return of Nigerian Refugees from Cameroon
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday it is concerned about Cameroon forcing thousands of refugees to return to northeast Nigeria, an area struggling with insurgency and facing a potential famine. UNHCR teams in Nigeria have heard and documented accounts of Cameroonian troops returning refugees against their will, despite an agreement between the two countries that any such returns should be voluntary. UNHCR Spokesman, Babar Baloch told a press briefing the agency was “particularly concerned” that more than 2 600 refugees, many of whom had fled militant group Boko Haram, had been sent back to Nigerian border villages since the start of the year. “UNHCR calls on the government of Cameroon to honour its obligations under international and regional refugee protection instruments, as well as Cameroonian law,” he said. SABC

Anglophone Versus Francophone Tension Continues in Cameroon
Some activists in the northwest and southwest provinces, traditional bastions of opposition to the regime of long-time President Paul Biya, are calling for an independent state of Southern Cameroon. The region was once called that in British colonial times. But according to analysts, a vast majority of the Anglophone population prefers a federation, believing it to be the best way to address what they perceive as their political and economic marginalization. Ben Shepherd of the London-based think-tank Chatham House, who has been to the region, believes that the Anglophone population, which makes up for about 20 percent of a total of 22 million, has a point. “They have not had representation, development aid and support to the degree that they feel they should have. I know a lot of English-speaking Cameroonian civil society and political organizations. They have been systematically marginalized over a very long period of time,” he told DW. Deutsche Welle

Africa Offers a Point of Co-Operation for Xi and Trump
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump will meet for the first time at Trump’s opulent Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida in early April. There’s no indication yet that they will discuss Africa. But both major powers have extensive and often complementary interests that are of benefit to the continent. A familiar list of more intractable economic and security issues will likely be on the table. It could be a positive counterpoint if both Beijing and Washington affirm a willingness to explore trilateral cooperation with African governments. Trump has shown little awareness so far of the history of cooperation between China, the US and Africa. He also seems unaware of the extraordinary degree of bi-partisan support for US engagement in Africa and Sino-American cooperation. But if he’s the consummate dealmaker he purports to be then low risk, high returns of greater US-China-Africa cooperation should be irresistible. Mail and Guardian

French Prosecutors Want CAR Child-Rape Case Dropped
Prosecutors in Paris have called for the case to be dropped against French soldiers facing allegations they raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission. What happens next is up to investigating judges in France, but as no one has been charged a trial appears unlikely. France opened a first probe into the child rape allegations in 2014 concerning French soldiers deployed in Central African Republic to restore security after months of violence between rebels and militia fighters. The prosecutor believes sexual abuse may have occurred during the 2013-2014 deployment but “differences in the testimonies” meant it was not possible to establish guilt among the French troops, a source close to the case told French news agency AFP. RFI

Armed Groups Occupy Central African Republic Schools
The armed group took over the school little by little. One day when a fighter came to collect and burn the students’ desks, teacher Thiernd Ouronfei decided he’d had enough. “I said he must put the kids’ desks down. They hit me in the head with a knife and I was sent to the hospital for at least a week,” he said. Even now, after the school in Central African Republic was liberated, parents are scared to send their children, he told The Associated Press. Some 20 percent of schools in Central African Republic are not functioning, and students’ and teachers’ lives are threatened as armed groups have looted, occupied and damaged the properties in the conflict-torn country, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Thursday. An education is a rare opportunity for children in the impoverished country to get ahead. “We’re talking about a lost generation. These are students aren’t going to get those years back,” said Lewis Mudge, the group’s Africa researcher and co-author of the report. “Many rebels have also been quite open that they are going to reoccupy schools during the upcoming rainy season.”  AP

Le Pen Visit to Chad Causes Outcry
French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has caused controversy with her visit to Chad in the final weeks of her presidential campaign. In a bid to show her support for France’s anti-terrorism military operations in the Sahel region of Africa, Le Pen met Tuesday with Chad president Idriss Deby and planned to tour the French military base in N’Djamena on Wednesday. The central African country’s leading opposition party, however, sharply condemned the visit. The leader of the National Union for Democracy and Renewal (UNDR), Saleh Kebzabo, said he was “categorically opposed to her visit” because of her “racist and xenophobic” politics. He was referring to Le Pen’s political platform which promises to curb both legal and illegal immigration into France and ban fundamentalist Muslim organizations. Deutsche Welle

46 People Killed in March Ethnic Clashes in Nigeria: Police
At least 46 people were killed and almost 100 others wounded in clashes between rival ethnic groups in southwest Nigeria earlier this month, police said on Wednesday. Special forces were deployed to the city of Ile-Ife in Osun state following two days of violence that broke out between local Yoruba and Hausa people on March 7, Nigeria’s national police spokesperson Moshood Jimoh told AFP. “The casualty figures are 46 dead and 96 wounded in the violence in Ile-Ife. Of those injured, 81 had been treated while 15 are still in the hospital,” Jimoh said. Police arrested 20 suspects following the violence, Jimoh said, adding that they would be prosecuted after thorough investigations. News 24

Kenya Revenue Authority ‘Lost $39m to Hacker’
An IT expert has been charged with hacking into Kenya’s Revenue Authority and stealing $39m (£31m). Alex Mutungi Mutuku, 28, is accused of electronic fraud but he denies any wrongdoing. The prosecution says he is part of an international network stealing money from several state bodies. The government says there is a ring involving expatriates from the United States and other countries, along with police officers and civil servants. A thorough background check on state employees is now being conducted, government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe told the BBC. Other state agencies affected by the alleged hacking include the e-citizen online payment portal where users pay for government services. BBC

ANC’s Policy Document on Home Affairs: When Big Brother Met Monopoly Capitalist
With a focus on the “security and authority of the state”, the ANC’s peace and stability policy discussion document proposes revamping Home Affairs from a “misunderstood administrative department” into one “fully integrated into the security cluster”. But the proposition of the department being able to sell personal information to raise its own funds is just one example of the contradictory policy approaches of the governing ANC: asserting its prerogative to govern, but then outsourcing key functions. The move of the Department of Home Affairs into the security apparatus of the state is already under way. A year ago, Cabinet decided to move Home Affairs from its traditional place in the governance cluster to the justice, crime prevention and security cluster. Daily Maverick

Zimbabwe Opposition Call for ‘Biased’ Electoral Body to Be Scrapped
A coalition of Zimbabwean opposition parties on Wednesday staged a protest ahead of next year’s polls, demanding the disbanding of the state-appointed electoral commission they accuse of hindering free-and-fair elections. A group of around 200 protesters gathered at an open space outside the central business district after police banned a planned street march to the electoral commission head office. “Having failed the fundamental test of impartiality and independence required of an election management board, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must forthwith be disbanded and dismantled,” the parties said in a petition Riot police armed with truncheons and water cannons patrolled the central business district to prevent the protest march that had been organised by a loose coalition of more than 10 parties that are demanding electoral reforms in the run up to next year’s general election. News 24

Uganda Says Seeking $500 Million Loan from China for Roads in Oil Area
Uganda says it has asked China for a $500 million loan to help build almost 600 km (360 miles) of roads in the country’s oil-rich west, amid criticism over heavy borrowing that has ballooned the country’s debt. Uganda has discovered an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude reserves on its Albertine rift basin along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, lack of infrastructure, such as roads and an export pipeline, as well as disagreements between the government and international oil companies over taxes, have repeatedly delayed production. The Uganda National Roads Authority needs the money to build 580 kilometres of roads around the area, said Mark Ssali, head of public and corporate affairs at the state-run UNRA. “There have been some contacts with Exim Bank (of China) for the loan,” he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. “But we are currently procuring a Chinese contractor, which is a precondition for any concrete talks with Exim.” Reuters

Lagos Wants to Be a Modern Mega City So It’s Forcing Thousands of Slum Dwellers from Their Homes

[…] As Lagos has grown rapidly over the last few decades to become Africa’s fifth largest economy, it has also seemingly grappled with its push to achieve the status of a 21st century mega-city. One of its key limitations is land space as it’s Nigeria’s smallest state with more 21 million people squeezed into 3,345 square kilometers. The state’s poorest people, who make up 70% of the population, often find themselves the victims of Lagos’ progress. Over the decades, as hundreds of thousands of Nigerians move to Lagos every year in search of jobs, house builds have not kept up with population growth. So even in some of Lagos’ most underserved neighborhoods, accommodation is incredibly crowded and expensive for those that have to resort to living there. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones