Africa Media Review for March 23, 2018

At Least 14 Killed outside Busy Hotel in Mogadishu Car Bombing
At least 14 people died and several others were wounded Thursday when a car packed with explosives blew up in front of a popular Mogadishu hotel, a government spokesman and witnesses said. “There was a heavy blast here and the number of casualties we have so far is 14 killed and a number of others wounded,” said Abdiazis Ali Ibrahim, a spokesman for the security ministry. “The toll could be higher,” he added. Witnesses said the explosion was caused by a car bomb on one of the capital’s busiest streets that was packed with people heading home from work. “The blast was so huge, a vehicle containing explosives went off near a teashop in front of Weheliye hotel, leaving more than 10 people dead. I saw people being rushed to hospital and some of them were already dead,” said witness Abdulahi Moalim. AFP

Lone Nigerian Captive Refused to Convert for Boko Haram
The mother of the only Nigerian schoolgirl still in Boko Haram captivity after the extremists released 104 classmates said Thursday her daughter was blocked from boarding the vehicle to freedom and told to convert to Islam. Fifteen-year-old Leah refused, Rebecca Sharibu told The Associated Press. “She was about to board the vehicle that was to bring them back. Then Boko Haram said she should convert,” the mother said. “Her friends said they tried to convince her but she said she will not convert to Islam. Boko Haram said since she will not convert to Islam she should remain behind. That was how they left her. She is alone.” AP

UN Security Council Voices Concern over Humanitarian Situation in DRC
The Security Council on Thursday expressed great concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), saying the situation has reached catastrophic levels in some parts of the country. In a press statement, the council also expressed concern over the very high number of internally displaced persons in the country, which has more than doubled in the last year to more than 4.49 million, and the 540,000 refugees within the country, as well as the more than 714,000 refugees from the DRC in neighboring countries as a result of ongoing hostilities. In this regard, the Security Council emphasized the need to address the presence of armed groups in the country and reiterated its call for transparent, credible, and inclusive elections, which are crucial for lasting peace and security in the DRC. Xinhua

Congolese Refugees Fleeing to Uganda Recount Horrors
The wave of ethnic violence sweeping through northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes. Nearly 50,000 have crossed into Uganda. The waters of Lake Albert look beautiful and even inviting, but they can also be dangerous. The U.N. says several Congolese refugees have died this year making the five-hour crossing to Uganda in rickety boats. More continue to arrive every day. They are fleeing communal violence in Congo’s Ituri Province. Tam Daniel Rogers is the UNHCR field officer at Sebagoro landing site. “And some are even taking cattle, like goats, like chicken and like cows. So one of the boats that capsized was apparently carrying 27 cows. All the cows died, but the human beings were rescued,” said Rogers. VOA

UN Peacekeeper Camp Attacked in Mali’s Kidal before PM’s Visit
A U.N. peacekeepers’ camp near Kidal in Mali came under rocket fire on Thursday, the U.N. mission said, shortly before a visit by the prime minister, the first to the northern city by a top government official for four years. Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and eight of his ministers are due in Kidal as part of a nine-stop national tour. The city and the province of the same name, the country’s most rebellious, have been under Tuareg control since an uprising in 2012. “I am headed to Kidal,” Maiga said on Twitter before his departure, giving no scheduled arrival time. The West African country, which is mostly desert, is due to hold a presidential election on July 29, but there are concerns that widespread security problems will prevent the vote from going ahead. Reuters

Burkina Coup Trial Suspended Again
The next hearing of Burkina Faso’s coup trial which resumed on Wednesday has been suspended again on Thursday.It will resume next Monday to allow the head of the military tribunal, Seydou Ouedraogo to examine the applications of the respondents. The trial which resumed Thursday morning at the Ouaga 2000 banquet hall was suspended a few moments later. The day’s proceedings focused on the case filed by defense lawyers challenging the unconstitutionality of the court to hear it. 66 soldiers and 18 civilians are accused of roles in the failed putsch of 2015. APA

Zambian Opposition Files Motion to Impeach President Lungu
Zambia’s main opposition party filed a motion in parliament to impeach President Edgar Lungu, saying he violated the constitution. The proposal comes up for debate March 28, according to a copy of the document seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by Gary Nkombo, the whip for the United Party for National Development who filed the motion and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s deputy press secretary, Brian Mwiinga. Lungu’s spokesman, Amos Chanda, didn’t respond to calls or a text message seeking comment outside normal business hours. The UPND got the signatures of one-third of Zambia’s lawmakers in support of the motion, according to the document. Zambia’s constitutions requires the support of two-thirds of members of parliament for a motion to succeed. Bloomberg

Russia’s Putin Accepts Bashir Invitation to Sudan
Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted an invitation from his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir to visit the North African country, Sudan’s state news agency said on Thursday. Putin, fresh from an election victory granting him his fourth term and extending his leadership of Russia by six years, called Bashir on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations, SUNA said. Bashir congratulated Putin who affirmed his country’s commitment to investing in Sudan’s energy, oil, gas, and gold mining sectors. Africa News

Ethiopia Peaceful for Peace Talks – South Sudan Govt Slams Alarmists
The South Sudanese government has dispelled reports that it wanted the venue of peace talks with the opposition to be changed from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The talks are led by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with the aim to revive a 2015 peace deal that parties have repeatedly failed to respect. Reports emerged earlier this week that the South Sudan was considering a change in venue because Ethiopia was not conducive giving ongoing political tensions there. Africa News

‘Fight for Democracy in Ethiopia Continues’ – U.S. Congress to Vote on H. Res. 128
The United States Congress will finally vote on a human rights resolution against the Ethiopian government in the second week of April, a Congressman deeply involved in the process has announced. According to Rep. Mike Coffman who represents Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, the vote is a sign that “The fight for respect of human rights & inclusive governance in Ethiopia continues.” In a tweet of March 21, 2018; he said the bi-partisan House Resolution 128 was scheduled to be voted upon in the week of April 9 after months of work by all involved. In October 2017, a pro-democracy group, Freedom House, accused Ethiopia of literally blackmailing the U.S. Congress with a threat to withhold counter-terrorism cooperation if the vote went ahead. Freedom House quoted Republican Congressman Mike Coffman as confirming that Ethiopia’s position was relayed by its ambassador in Washington who said the country will “stop counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States if Congress went ahead with a planned vote on a resolution calling for human rights protections and inclusive governance in the country (H. Res. 128).”  Africa News

African Union to Send Observers to Monitor Egypt Poll
The Addis Ababa-based African Union will send 40 observers to monitor next week’s presidential election in Egypt, according to Egyptian state media. Led by Abdoulaye Diop, the former foreign minister of Mali, the observers are expected to arrive in Cairo this Saturday. Slated for March 26 to 28, the polls will see incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi face off against Musa Mustafa Musa, the leader of a small liberal party. Most observers expect al-Sisi to win by a landslide. Anadolu Agency

Sierra Leone: Election Body Says Police Obstructing Their Work, Police Say Investigating Fraud
Sierra Leonean police are obstructing the work of the electoral commission in organising the country’s presidential second round runoff election, according to the National Electoral Commission (NEC). However, the police have denied they intimidated the electoral commission, saying they are investigating election irregularities. Voters are expected to go to the polls on 27 March to choose between opposition leader Julius Maada Bio and the ruling party’s Samura Kamara. “Police officers have unwarrantedly entered NEC premises, unannounced, at random, interrogating NEC staff,” Albert Massaquoi, a spokesperson for NEC, told RFI. “The work of the commission is being obstructed, especially when staff are doing their daily duties.” RFI

Resistance Continues to End Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria
In a village in northern Nigeria, teen wives gather on mats spread out in the dirt just outside the chief imam’s home. They talk about their initial reactions to getting married. “I had no interest in it at the time. I was just doing my own thing. Marriage was not on my mind until when God wished it was time,” says 16-year-old Fadilah Bello. She’s the boldest of them, talking freely and coaxing on the others. “Well, of course you would be nervous or scared. You cry on your way to your new home because you are leaving your parents and you don’t know where you will be taken to,” said Sahura Misbahu. She got married three years ago. She thinks she’s 15; she doesn’t know her husband’s age. VOA

How Somalia’s Charcoal Trade Is Fuelling the Acacia’s Demise
The Acacia bussei, a slow-growing hardwood, has long been the backbone of Somalia’s multimillion-dollar trade in charcoal. For decades, the country struggled to implement a 1969 ban on charcoal and firewood exports. The gradual erosion of state institutions, which resulted in complete lawlessness and an outbreak of a full-fledged civil war in 1991, only further undermined the initiative. The production and export of charcoal – an economic activity that dates to pre-colonial times – has long served to meet local and regional energy requirements as well as provide livelihoods opportunities for many families. Horseed Media

Benin President Taps China for Controversial Railway
Benin’s President Patrice Talon has asked local firm Petrolin and French giant Bollore to “withdraw” from a major rail infrastructure project to make way for China, in the latest development of the controversial scheme. In an interview published on Thursday in the French magazine Challenges, Talon asked the two companies to “withdraw amicably from the project”, which links Benin to Niger to the north, promising they will be “compensated fairly”. “A private investor cannot finance the railway we want alone,” the head of state was quoted as saying, describing Bollore’s offer as “lower-end”. “China has the necessary financial means” to support work estimated to cost around $4bn, said Talon. AFP

African States Target Bigger Mining Share
One by one, the biggest names in African mining are getting squeezed. The tactics might be blunt, but the message is clear: the countries where they operate want a bigger share of the proceeds. The collapse in commodities through 2015 hobbled some of Africa’s biggest resource economies, stunting growth and leaving budgets short. Since then a recovery in prices has sent the continent’s biggest miners soaring, boosted profits and rewarded shareholders with bumper payouts. But a lack of returns to governments is drawing a backlash from Mali to Tanzania. Zambia is the latest flashpoint. Africa’s second biggest copper producer slapped a $7.9bn tax assessment on First Quantum Minerals and said it was planning an audit of other miners in the country. Firms operating in Zambia include units of Glencore and Vedanta Resources. Business Day

Jimmy Carter Defeats Mortal Enemy in South Sudan
Yesterday, the minister of health for the country of South Sudan announced that they had successfully put a stop to transmission of Guinea Worm Disease. This means that they have achieved a 15-month period of no reported cases of Guinea Worm. Since the Guinea Worm has a lifecycle of about twelve months, fifteen months with no cases means that the disease isn’t coming back unless it is reintroduced from the outside. Guinea Worm Disease, also known as dracunculiasis, has been infecting people for as long as we have a historical record. It is mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts, and in the Hebrew Bible. It is rarely fatal, but it is excruciatingly painful and disabling. Its economic and social impact drags down economies and reduces educational attainment in the countries affected by the disease. UN Dispatch