Africa Media Review for March 27, 2017

Congolese Militia Decapitates More Than 40 Policemen as Violence Grows
A Congolese militia group has decapitated 42 policemen after ambushing them in an increasingly violent region where the United Nations is searching for missing American and Swedish investigators, according to a local official. Members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia staged the attack between the cities of Tshikapa and Kananga on Friday, according to the provincial assembly president Francois Kalamba. The militia members freed six policemen because they spoke the local Tshiluba language, he said. The governor of Kasai Central province, Alexis Nkande Myopompa, said investigations were under way. Large-scale violence erupted in the Kasai region in August when security forces killed the militia’s leader. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the UN. The Guardian

US to End Operations Against Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa
US military operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa are “coming to an end,” a top American general said on Friday, even though its brutal leader Joseph Kony has not been captured. “This operation, although not achieving the ability to get to Kony himself, has essentially taken that group off the battlefield,” said General Thomas Waldhauser, head of the US military’s Africa Command. The LRA has killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped 60,000 children in a three-decade-long rebellion spanning northern Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. The militant Christian group seeks to implement the Ten Commandments and has been accused of multiple human rights abuses, including mutilation, rape, child abduction and use of child soldiers. Deutsche Welle

ICC Awards Congo War Crimes Victims a Symbolic $250 Each
The International Criminal Court has awarded symbolic reparations of $250 each to nearly 300 people who lost relatives, property or livestock or suffered psychological harm in a deadly attack on a Congolese village in 2003. Friday’s award followed the conviction in 2014 of Germaine Katanga for crimes committed in the attack on Bogoro in the Ituri region of Congo. The court estimated the “extent of the physical, material and psychological harm suffered by the victims” amounted to more than $3.7 million and said Katanga was responsible for $1 million. But it added that he is considered “indigent” and unlikely to be able to pay. France 24

Six Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan, U.N Calls for Investigation
Six aid workers were on Saturday ambushed and killed in South Sudan, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the war-torn nation, said. The incident, Eugene Owusu said, occurred as the aid workers travelled from the country’s capital, Juba to Pibor town in Jonglei state. The staffs from a national non-governmental organisation were reportedly ambushed in their vehicle in a government-controlled area on the Juba-Pibor road Saturday morning and their bodies were found on the road by others members of the convoy who were some way behind. “These attacks against aid workers and aid assets are utterly reprehensible,” said Owusu. “They not only put the lives of aid workers at risk, they also threaten the lives of thousands of South Sudanese who rely on our assistance for their survival,” he added. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Opens New Humanitarian Corridor to Deliver Aid to South Sudan
The Sudanese government on Sunday said it would open a new humanitarian corridor to deliver food assistance to the needy population in South Sudan. Famine was recently declared in Mayendit, a village in South Sudan’s Unity state, the latest crisis in the country’s three-year civil war. About 100 000 people are said to be at risk, and aid groups are pleading for access. At least 5 million people or more than 40% of the nation’s population need urgent assistance, aid agencies say. In July 2014, Juba and Khartoum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to open a humanitarian corridor to deliver food assistance to vulnerable South Sudanese through the River Nile or by road. Last January, the agreement was extended for a six month period. Sudan Tribune

More Aggressive Approach in Somalia Favored, AFRICOM Chief Says
Vowing he won’t turn Somalia into a “free fire zone,”; the commander of U.S. Africa Command said Friday he wants greater authority to conduct airstrikes and use military forces in the African country to allow the U.S. to strike al-Qaida-linked militants more quickly. Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said the White House hasn’t yet approved the request. But he told reporters at the Pentagon the greater flexibility would help U.S. and Somali fighters combat al-Shabab extremists. Last month, The Associated Press reported that senior defense leaders recommended the expanded authorities to the White House. The proposed changes would allow U.S. special operations forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army, even if that puts U.S. forces closer to the fight. “It’s very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process,” Waldhauser said, saying the increased authorities would give the U.S. greater ability to strike al-Shabab and weaken the group. Stars and Stripes

Call to Repatriate Somalia Refugees
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta Saturday appealed for action to fully bring back Somalia into the fold of the international community. He said said the recent presidential elections in Somalia was the latest indication that the country was on the right track, thanks to the determination of its people, the commitment by the African Union and the support of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad). “Indeed, the recent election of President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed (Farmajo) is the latest and clearest indication of the progressive success of our collective efforts, alongside the brave people of Somalia,” President Kenyatta said. President Kenyatta spoke in Nairobi when he hosted a special Igad summit whose agenda was to find a lasting solution to return Somali refugees back to their homes, the first summit of its kind to address the refugee problem. The East African

Drought and War Heighten Threat of Not Just 1 Famine, but 4
One powerful lesson from in Somalia, just six years ago, was that famines were not simply about food. They are about something even more elemental: water. If there was any doubt, the recent news from Somalia or Nigeria should erase it. Once again, a lack of clean water and proper hygiene is setting off an outbreak of killer diseases in displaced persons camps. So the race is on to dig more latrines, get swimming-pool quantities of clean water into the camps, and pass out more soap, more water-treatment tablets and more plastic buckets — decidedly low-tech supplies that could save many lives. “We underestimated the role of water and its contribution to mortality in the last famine,” said Ann Thomas, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist for Unicef. “It gets overshadowed by the food.” The famines are coming as a drought sweeps across Africa and several different wars seal off extremely needy areas.  United Nations officials say they need a huge infusion of cash to respond. So far, they are not just millions of dollars short, but billions. At the same time, President Trump is urging Congress to cut foreign aid and assistance to the United Nations, which aid officials fear could multiply the deaths. The United States traditionally provides more disaster relief than anyone else. The New York Times

Emboldened Somali Pirates Hijack Second Boat in a Month ‘to Use as Mothership’
Pirates have seized control of a Somali fishing boat to use as a base from which to attack larger ships, police said on Friday, a week after Somali pirates hijacked their first commercial vessel since 2012. Ten Yemeni crew aboard the boat were dumped on shore, officials told Reuters. “We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean,” said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland. “They dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain and engineer,” he told Reuters. The Independent

East African Bloc: Members to Allow Somali Refugees to Work
East Africa’s regional bloc said on Saturday it gradually will allow the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees sheltering in its countries to work and will include them in planning efforts. It is a step forward for nations like Kenya, which hosts the world’s largest refugee camp and where refugees are not allowed to work, but it’s not enough, said an Amnesty International expert on refugees, Victor Nyamori. “It must be backed up by concrete action,” he said. East African countries already are signatories of UN treaties that say refugees should be allowed to work but that has not been put into practice, he said. Only Uganda seems to have progressive legislation to let refugees work and settle, he said. News 24

US Troops to Stay in Libya to Monitor Islamic State, AFRICOM Chief Says
Fewer than 200 Islamic State fighters remain in Libya but pose enough of a threat that the United States intends to retain a small special operations force in the troubled nation indefinitely, the U.S. Africa Command chief said Friday. In the months since American B-2 Spirit stealth bombers pulverized the terrorist group’s desert encampments south of the coastal city of Sirte on Jan. 18, Islamic State fighters have scattered farther into the desert, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser told reporters Friday at the Pentagon. Small groups of the militants have maintained communication lines with one another, but they have not gathered in large groups since that assault, which the Pentagon estimated killed about 80 of them. “They have not left,” the general said of the Islamic State group. “We continue to watch, we continue to observe to develop the intelligence, and if requested by … the Government of National Accord for assistance, we’ll help them with that.” Stars and Stripes

Tuareg Factions to Boycott Mali Peace Conference
Mali’s main Tuareg factions say they will boycott talks with the government next week on implementing a 2015 peace agreement, dimming hopes of attaining peace in the West African country. The main separatist groups in northern Mali – the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and Platform, a coalition of pro-government Tuareg – said they could not take part in the conference, explaining that it was not sufficiently inclusive. “We cannot take part in a conference which, far from uniting, risks being divisive,” the groups said in a statement on Saturday. The 2015 peace accord was meant to draw a line under a conflict that has pitted nomadic Tuaregs in the north against the government in the south. Al Jazeera

3 Soldiers Dead as Armed Men Attack Northern Mali Army Base
Local officials in Mali say three soldiers have been killed and four others injured in an attack by armed men on a military post in the country’s north. One official said on Saturday that Friday night’s attack took place in the village of Almoustarat, about 150km north of Gao. Another official confirmed the toll of dead and injured, saying the attackers left with military vehicles and weapons. He said French forces deployed to the area. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their security. The area where Almoustarat is located is frequented by drug traffickers and jihadist groups, notably al-Mourabitoun. News 24

Canada Won’t Be Rushed into Military Peace Mission, Trudeau Says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t be rushed into a peacekeeping deployment despite concerns from the United Nations that the Liberals’ promised commitment “hasn’t materialized.” But Trudeau still holds out the possibility that his government’s vow to reengage in peacekeeping could become a reality with a deployment this year, hinting that troops could be headed to Africa, as the Star has previously reported. “We have a difficult history in Africa as peacekeepers and we need to make sure that when we embark on any mission, military mission, we make the right decisions about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, and the kind of impact we’re going to have on the ground and on Canadians,” Trudeau said Saturday on Parliament Hill, where he was attending a caucus meeting. “And that’s a decision we’re not going too fast track. We’re making it responsibly and thoughtfully.”  The Toronto Star

Niger Frees 15 Accused of Complicity in Coup Attempt
A court in Niger has freed fifteen civilians accused of complicity in an attempted putsch against President Mahamadou Issoufou, their lawyer said on Saturday. In December 2015, the government said it had foiled a coup and arrested people who planned to use aerial firepower to seize control of the West African country, a major Uranium producer and Western ally in the fight against Islamists in the Sahara. The fifteen were freed on Friday. Nine military officers including the alleged ringleader General Salou Souleymane, are still behind bars awaiting trial. “From the start we were convinced our clients are innocent,” lawyer Ali Kadri said on private local TV station Bonferey. “There was no (evidence) … to suggest that they were implicated in this affair,” he said. Reuters

Six Months After Election, Moroccan Government Forms
Moroccan Prime Minster Saad Eddine El Othmani said Saturday he had agreed to form a coalition government with five other parties, breaking nearly six months of post-election deadlock. Othmani, from the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), was appointed as premier last week by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. He replaced PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane, whose efforts to form a government following October elections had been frustrated. “The next steps will be deciding on government structure and ministerial appointments,” Othmani told reporters, surrounded by the leaders of the five other parties. “We need to move beyond previous obstacles.” Othmani said the government’s priorities would include reinforcing stability, justice reform, education, rural development and energy. VOA

Sudan’s al-Bashir to Attend Jordan Summit Despite Warrant
Sudan’s official news agency says President Omar al-Bashir will attend Wednesday’s Arab Summit in Jordan, despite a long-standing warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide. The international group Human Rights Watch urged Jordan to deny entry to al-Bashir or arrest him, citing its obligations as an ICC member. Jordan says that as an Arab League member, Sudan has the right to attend the annual meeting of Arab leaders. Al-Bashir was charged in connection with alleged atrocities in the country’s Darfur region. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died there and 2.7 million have fled their homes. Sudan’s news agency SUNA reported Sunday that he would attend the summit. He has traveled frequently since his indictment but is careful where he goes. AP

Ivory Coast Boosts Port Security over Attack Threat
Ivory Coast has ordered an increase of security levels at its ports of Abidjan and San Pedro due to information indicating “probable terrorist attacks” on its national territory, according to a transportation ministry document. The document, which was seen by Reuters on Sunday and verified as authentic by a senior Ivorian maritime security official, did not give further details regarding the specific nature of the threats. Reuters

Crop-Destroying Armyworm Caterpillars Spread to Uganda
A plague of crop-destroying fall armyworm caterpillars has spread to East Africa where officials confirmed their presence for the first time in Uganda on Friday. An outbreak of the caterpillars in several southern African nations has already raised alarm with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warning they pose “a huge threat to food security”. Uganda’s Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said the presence of the innocuous looking but hugely destructive brown caterpillar had been confirmed in over 20 districts of the country. “This will negatively impact on the nation’s food and nutrition security,” Ssempijja told a press conference in Kampala. An estimated 10.9 million people already don’t have enough to eat in Uganda, according to a UN report on food insecurity released last month. AFP

Zambians Debate ICC Membership
Zambia has opened public discussions on whether or not to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). “The Ministry of Justice has launched the consultative process on Zambia’s position on the country’s membership to the International Criminal Court -ICC,” reported state TV. The consultations, to be conducted in 30 districts, will start next Monday, it said. The influence for Zambia to leave ICC could be coming from “outside” as the country had no formidable reason to campaign for its departure, analysts say They believe the process was being politically driven. Africa Review



Photo: Adam Jones