Africa Media Review for March 28, 2017

South African Anti-Apartheid Leader Kathrada Dies
South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who spent many years imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 87. Kathrada’s foundation announced Tuesday he died at a Johannesburg hospital after a short illness following brain surgery. His activism against white-minority rule in South Africa led to his 1964 conviction in a trial that sent Kathrada to prison along with a group of African National Congress figures that included Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki. Kathrada spent more than 26 years behind bars, including 18 years at the notorious Robben Island prison. In 2013, he led then-U.S. President Barack Obama on a tour of the site. VOA

Kenya Says Its Army Killed 31 Extremists in Somalia
Kenya’s military says it has killed 31 al-Shabab extremists in a raid in Baadhade district in southern Somalia, but the Islamic militant group denies it. The Kenyan military said Monday that its ground troops were supported in the Sunday raid by helicopter gunships and artillery fire to strike two al-Shabab bases. However, al-Shabab later denied the Kenyan military’s report. Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Musab, the military spokesman of al-Shabab said that no attack was carried out on al-Shabab bases, calling the Kenyan military’s claims a “fabrication.” Kenya’s military is part of the African Union Mission in Somalia bolstering the government against an Insurgency by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab. More than 22,000 peacekeepers are deployed in Somalia in the multinational African Union force. AP

South Sudan President Accepts Unilateral Ceasefire, says AU
South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, has accepted to declare a unilateral ceasefire, raising hope that such a move would allow the international community to demand the armed opposition also to cease hostilities in order to create the needed security conditions for aid workers to reach civilians in the famine-hit areas in the country. According to a communiqué by the African Union, President Kiir made the assurance on the margins of the recent IGAD Summit on Somalia in a meeting with, the chairperson for the African Union Commission (AUC) Moussa Faki Mahamat. Mahamat discussed the security situation in the country and the national dialogue initiative launched by President Kiir as well as the disastrous humanitarian crisis. Sudan Tribune

UN Opens New Relief Corridor to South Sudan
The United Nations has opened a new humanitarian corridor through Sudan to save thousands of people facing famine in South Sudan. The development follows an agreement signed on Sunday between the UN and Khartoum, allowing the flow of aid to South Sudan’s border Unity State, considered one of the areas most affected by war and famine in the young state. Unity State boasts of rich oil reserves but has witnessed the bloodiest battles between the South Sudan warring factions since December 2013. The route runs from El-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan State, through Heglig to Rebcona, then Bentiu in Unity State. The Sudanese Aid Commissioner, Ahmed Mohamed Adam said: “We invited you today to announce the acceptance of the Sudanese government to open a new corridor from El-Obeid, Heglig, Rebcona and Bentiu in order to deliver aid to Unity State and to the greater Bahr al-Ghazal, which are among the most affected areas by the famine.” The East African

AU Blames Juba over Killing of Six Aid Workers
The African Union has faulted South Sudan over the killing of six aid workers in an ambush on March 25. The six were travelling to the town of Pibor, more than 300km away to the north east of Juba. The AU Commission chairman Mousa Faki Mahamat, said that the killing was a great violation of international humanitarian laws, adding that the government has a responsibility to protect aid workers. “I condemn in the strongest terms possible the killing of six aid workers in South Sudan on Saturday,” he said. “The government should protect aid workers to perform their duty in a secure environment.” Thousands of South Sudanese rely on humanitarian assistance for their survival as a result of a conflict that has crippled the economy. The conflict broke out in 2013 when government and opposition forces clashed. The East African

South Sudan Attack ‘Could Hinder Aid Deliveries’
Aid agencies say the “shocking” killing of six aid workers in South Sudan on Saturday is causing them to re-assess how and when they can deliver supplies. The victims were ambushed by unknown attackers when travelling between Juba and the town of Pibor to the northeast. Oxfam said the attack “demonstrates how dangerous it is here” and was leading agencies to re-evaluate “what is mission-critical and what is not”. Aid deliveries would continue but could be delayed, it said. The latest fatal attack on humanitarian workers came a month after famine was declared in parts of Unity state in northern South Sudan. BBC

Uganda’s Open-Door Policy Sags Amid Crush of Refugees from South Sudan
Two of her five children died as Pauline Nyaluok navigated her way from war-torn South Sudan to this refugee camp in northern Uganda where she expected to be welcomed with open arms. Uganda is celebrated around the world for its generosity toward those desperately fleeing violence. Unlike other East African nations like Kenya, where refugees are restricted to camps, Uganda in the past gave refugees land to farm and build a home, plus free health care and education. But a three-year civil war has sent 700,000 South Sudanese refugees fleeing, many to their southern neighbor. Refugees also are escaping violence in nearby countries such as Burundi. That is putting pressure on camps in Uganda, which can’t provide enough shelter, food, water and medical care, leaving the most vulnerable struggling to survive. USA Today

Burkina Faso Pulls Out of UNAMID in Darfur: FM
Burkina Faso has decided to implement a decision it took earlier to withdraw its troops from the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said Sudan’s Foreign Minister. On Monday, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré concluded a two-day visit to Khartoum where he participated in the joint talks between the two countries. In press statements at Khartoum airport following the departure of the visiting president. On Monday, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said: “Burkina Faso will withdraw its troops from Darfur”, pointing that Sudan will bear the financial cost for the transfer of the troops. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese Intelligence Chief Meets CIA and FBI Leaders
The head of the National Intelligence and Security Services, Mohamed Atta, has visited Washington, DC, in response to an invitation extended by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Mike Pompeo. According to a statement extended to a few number of local newspapers in Khartoum on Sunday and seen by Sudan Tribune, Atta met Pompeo and the FBI Director James Comey as well as a number of Congressmen. The statement didn’t specify when he arrived in the American capital. But it said the visiting Sudanese official discussed security, political and humanitarian issues in the region. Sudan is under economic sanctions since twenty years, the east African country is also on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993. Sudan Tribune

Worst Humanitarian Crisis Hits as Trump Slashes Foreign Aid
The world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world’s top emergency donor. If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa’s current crisis, experts warn that the continent’s growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups. The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months. AP

Kenyans Protest Magufuli Order to Deport Foreigners, Block Namanga Border
Kenyans in Namanga demonstrated against Tanzanian leader John Magufuli on Monday saying he had deported their counterparts. They paralysed transport by blocking the Kenya-Tanzania border road at Namanga and stormed businesses owned by Tanzanians. They rounded the foreigners up and frog-marched them across the border to their country. Many from Magufuli’s country claimed they lost their stock and money. Tanzanian barmaids working in Kenyan clubs were roughed up and their mobile phones taken away. Businesses on the Kenyan side remained closed until after midday. The Star reported in January that Tanzanian authorities were targeting Kenyans living in their country illegally. The Star

As Cholera Spreads, Somalia Begins Vaccination Campaign
Somalia, which has been hit by a series of crises that sound like a page from the Book of Job, is starting a major effort to vaccinate 450,000 people against its latest plague: cholera. […] Making matters worse, cholera is spreading, attacking people already weakened by. “Ever since the drying up of the Shabelle and Juba Rivers, people have been forced to move out to seek water and food in unfamiliar places,” said Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar, a cholera expert in the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program and leader of the campaign to deploy 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine supplied by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The two rivers, both originating in Ethiopia, are normally Somalia’s only perennial streams, and the flood plain between them is the country’s breadbasket. Many wells have run dry, Dr. Abubakar added, so people drink from whatever puddles they can find, which may be contaminated by feces-borne diseases, including cholera. In 2015, the country had 15,619 known cholera cases and 548 deaths; this year it has already had over 13,000 cases and 333 deaths, Dr. Abubakar said. The New York Times

Moroccan PM Says He Has Agreed Coalition with Five other Parties
Moroccan Prime Minster Saad Eddine El Othmani said on 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. Before Othmani’s appointment, negotiations had stalled largely over the insistence by the National Rally of Independents (RNI) party on including the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) in a coalition. Reuters

Morocco Provokes Crisis By Refusing to Allow Western Sahara in AU Meeting
As the meeting between the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) was set to start in Dakar, Senegal, Morocco called on Friday for the exclusion of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic from the conference citing that it is not a UN member state. The meeting was supposed to prepare for the arrival of African ministers of economy on 27 and 28 March. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or Western Sahara, is part of the AU but not part of the ECA and Morocco refuses to recognise SADR as a sovereign country. The ECA and the AU announced on Saturday that as a consequence they had to postpone the ministerial meeting because the “conditions for the meeting not being met”. The representatives of the 54 African countries as well as partner countries and organisations who were there had not even begun looking at the issues. Middle East Eye

Rand Tumbles after Finance Minister Ordered to Return to South Africa
The rand dropped sharply on Monday morning after South African President Jacob Zuma recalled his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, from investor trips to London and New York at the last minute, amid speculation that he is about to reshuffle his cabinet including the Treasury post. In a statement, the president’s office said that he had instructed Mr Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, “to cancel the international investment promotion roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States and return to South Africa immediately.” No reason was given for the recall by the presidency. The South African Treasury could not be reached for comment. The rand plunged almost 2 per cent in less than half an hour after the decision was first reported, only moments after it had risen to its highest level since July 2015. Financial Times

Gao Between Fear and Hope
A unity conference began in Mali’s capital, Bamako, to kick-start reconciliation as mandated by a peace accord signed in 2015. It’s a step towards stabilizing the whole country. But what do Malians in the north hope for? Under the scorching heat, young people gather in a backyard in the center of the northern Malian town of Gao. A small television set on mute is airing a Brazilian soap-opera. Some of the youth have their eyes on the screen. Others nap in the afternoon heat. One of them is Issa Boncana. He is a member of the Civilian Resistance Movement, formed in the middle of the crisis in 2012. Instead of fleeing the region, its members tried to help the population and resisted the bandits with peaceful means, he told DW. But now these young adults have nothing to do anymore: “There are no factories. Nobody can find any work,” Boncana said, pointing to his friends. The man in the red t-shirt still hoped that his government would be able to start a few projects to create jobs. But he was very skeptical. Deutsche Welle

Libyan Court Suspends Deal Struck with Italy Aiming to Reduce Refugee Boat Crossings over Mediterranean Sea

A Libyan court has suspended an agreement struck with Italy aiming to reduce refugee boat crossings across the Mediterranean Sea. A document released by the justice ministry in Tripoli did not give a reason for the move, which comes as an increasing numbers of migrants are launched by smugglers towards Europe with the arrival of spring. “The justice ministry of the Government of National Accord (GNA) confirms that the court is still examining the issue in order pending a ruling, and that no final judgement has been issued,” it said. The GNA is not recognised by Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament, which backs a rival administration in eastern regions where a powerful Russian-backed warlord holds sway. The Independent

NATO Voices Concern over Russian Interference in Libya
NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said Saturday the Alliance is looking for ways to stabilize Libya amid concerns over Russia’s interference in the country. “Let me mention that we have received a request from the Prime Minister in Libya to go there and to begin NATO training. So I think NATO is looking for ways to help in Libya and we will look to develop capacity there,” she told the plenary session of Brussels Forum. “The trouble that I have with what’s going on with Russia right now and Libya. I am very concerned about Russian forces seemingly gathering to influence the situation there. It troubles me very, very much,” said the NATO official. On his part, US Senator Ron Johnson said: “I think Libya is just another example of what happens when, you know, if you break it you own it.” He was speaking at the same session on “Transatlantic security,” on the final day of the three-day 12th Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund. Kuwait News Agency

US Wants Quarter Cut to UN Congo Troop Cap, Others Warn Wrong Time
The United States wants to cut by a quarter the troop cap for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, said diplomats, despite warnings by France and others against drastic changes to the world body’s largest and most expensive operation. The mandate for the $1.2 billion mission in the central African state, known as MONUSCO, expires on Friday. The confidential Security Council negotiations on its renewal are taking place amid U.N. warnings that violence is spreading across Congo ahead of planned elections before the end of 2017. The United States wants the troop cap to be cut to 15,000, diplomats said, and despite a request by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to add two extra police units – 320 officers – Washington does not want to change the current total of 1050. VOA

Benin’s Defence Minister Quits over Constitutional Reform
Benin’s defence minister announced his resignation on Monday to protest President Patrice Talon’s plans to overhaul the constitution. Candide Armand-Marie Azannai wrote on his Facebook page that he had decided to quit because of “recent developments in this country’s politics”. Businessman Talon, who was elected last year, has proposed amending the constitution to limit presidents to a single term of office in the tiny west African nation, which is dwarfed by its giant neighbour Nigeria to the east. They can currently serve a maximum of two. Such a measure, if passed, would be in direct contrast to a number of other African countries where leaders have sought to remain in power at all costs.  News 24

African Countries Are Wasting Money on an Outdated Method of Infrastructure Investment
In a remarkable feat of engineering earlier this month, Glasgow Airport‘s runway was resurfaced with new high-tech material, all at night while Scotland slept. This was in sharp contrast with the decision by Nigeria to close down Abuja Airport for repairs to its runway. Passengers fly to the northern city of Kaduna from where they are transported 190km by rail or in guarded buses to the federal capital and second busiest airport. The two examples are not about differences between the two countries’ stages of economic development but really the difference between a batch and continuous approach to infrastructure management. It is not uncommon for nations to wait until there is total or near collapse before decisions are made to finance critical infrastructure. In the US, for example, political wrangling has put off decisions to renew the nation’s infrastructure for decades. Inadequate investment in maintenance has resulted in the degradation of existing facilities, requiring many of them to be totally replaced. The high costs of starting afresh are often associated with paying for construction and deferring maintenance costs into the future. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones