Africa Media Review for March 3, 2017

3 Mali Islamic Extremist Groups Merge, Pledge to al-Qaida
Three Islamic extremist factions in Mali announced that they have merged into one group and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida’s leader, according to a group that monitors jihadist websites. Leaders from Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb made the official declaration in a video distributed Thursday, according to SITE Intelligence Group. The merged group is now called “Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen,” which in English translates to “Support of Islam and Muslims,” the monitoring group said. Iyad Ag Ghaly, the former leader of Ansar Dine who is a native of the Kidal region, is leading the combined group, SITE Intelligence Group said. Ag Ghaly said in the video that the three factions were inspired by the unification of factions in Syria. Stars and Stripes

AMISOM: 57 al-Shabab Fighters Killed in Juba Raid
At least 57 al-Shabab fighters were killed after African Union (AU) and Somali forces attacked one of the armed group’s camps in the southern region of Juba, according to the AU’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM). In a post on Twitter, AMISOM said that vehicles and equipment were destroyed in Thursday’s morning assault on the al-Shabab base outside Afmadow, a town about 100km inland from the Somali port of Kismayo. The AU force said “a large cache of weapons” had also been captured in the operation, which was backed by helicopter gunships. Al Jazeera

Dadaab Camp Closure on Target, Says UN
The United Nations has said its repatriation programme in Kenya’s Dadaab camp is “on target” with an average of nearly 2,000 refugees per week returning voluntarily to Somalia. The population of the refugee complex was reported to be 265,034 as of February 15 — a decrease of about 10,000 residents since December and about 60,000 since last May. At its peak, Dadaab hosted more than 500,000 Somalis who had fled violence and hunger. The rate of return during the first six weeks of this year indicates “we are on target for reducing the population” of Dadaab, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Julien Navier told The EastAfrican on Wednesday. An agreement signed in 2013 by the UN agency and the governments of Kenya and Somalia calls for the phase-out of the refugee camp established in 1991 following the overthrow of the government in Mogadishu and the consequent civil war of more than two decades. The East African

The Fate of Fragile Somalia is Now in the Hands of a Remarkably Young, Diverse Parliament
On March 1, Somalia’s parliament approved the appointment of new prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire, a political newcomer. The 49-year-old Somali-Norwegian is a former humanitarian worker and oil executive. Khaire isn’t the only novice to have entered the fray of Somali politics. The newly elected parliament is filled with entrepreneurs, media managers, civil society members, fashion designers, and even university students. Many members are young, hold dual citizenships, and hail from diverse backgrounds. Almost 60% of the 275 elected members of the lower house of parliament—the country’s 10th parliament was sworn in at the end of December—were between the ages of 25 and 50, according to the United Nations Development Programme, which supported the electoral process. Almost half the 54 members of the upper house of parliament were under the age of 50. Quartz

Fighting to Survive Hunger in Somalia
A week after his inauguration, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared a state of disaster in his drought-stricken country of Somalia, where the lives of 6.2 million people are now at risk. Even as the ongoing war against al-Shabab continues and African Union forces (AMISOM) fight to assist the fragile government, the looming famine has become a priority. The drought will be a trial for all those involved in Somalia’s struggles. It will test the international community’s response, the government’s ability to assist, and the strength of security provided by the African Union forces. In the far north of Somalia, three years with little rain has had increasingly disastrous effects for a population reliant on the land. The parched earth has failed to produce food for the camels and goats that the people depend on for their income, meat, and milk for their children. Local leaders in Puntland estimate the pastoralists have already lost 65 percent of their animals. While the men accompany the remaining livestock in the hunt for grazing land, the women and children are migrating towards towns on main roads in search of alternative sources of food. Al Jazzera

Late Congo Opposition Leader’s Son Named as Successor
Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest opposition party said it had named the son of its late leader Etienne Tshisekedi to succeed him on Thursday, but some within the opposition rejected the choice. Felix Tshisekedi was chosen to lead the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), which was thrown into crisis by the death of his father in Brussels last month, aged 84. Tshisekedi led Congo’s main opposition bloc during negotiations in December that resulted in a deal obliging President Joseph Kabila to step down after elections that must happen this year. His death sparked clashes between supporters and security forces in the capital Kinshasa, but it also left opposition to Kabila divided, which has played into his hands. VOA

French National Kidnapped Alongside Four Colleagues by Militia in DR Congo
Armed kidnappers have taken hostage five gold mine workers, including a Frenchman, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the French foreign ministry said Thursday. The kidnapping victims work for Banro, a Canadian gold mining corporation that runs two mines in DR Congo and is exploring for the mineral elsewhere in the vast, resource-rich nation. “We confirm the presence of a French national among the people kidnapped on March 1 in the east of DR Congo,” the ministry said in a statement. The local media had earlier reported the kidnapping, adding that it had taken place in the Kabambare area of Maniema province in the east of the country. France 24

Aid Agencies Struggling to Provide Food to South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda
Uganda has taken about half of the more than 1.5 million South Sudanese who have fled into neighboring countries, as South Sudan has become Africa’s largest refugee crisis, resulting from more than three years of civil war. As the refugees flee conflict, sexual violence, looting, and food insecurity — highlighted by the recent announcement of famine in two counties of Unity State — they’re finding that aid agencies are struggling to provide them with enough food in the Ugandan refugee settlements. Charlie Yaxley, the spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency in Uganda, says resource constraints meant food rations had to be cut in half last year for all refugees who arrived in Uganda prior to mid-2015. He noted that exceptions were made for those who were considered vulnerable. VOA

Mubarak Acquitted in Final Ruling on Egypt’s Arab Spring Deaths
Egypt’s top appeals court has found Hosni Mubarak innocent of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, marking the final ruling in a landmark case. Mubarak was the first of the leaders toppled in a wave of Arab uprisings to face trial. In scenes that captivated Egyptians, he appeared in a courtroom cage on charges ranging from corruption to complicity in the murder of protesters. The case has traced the trajectory of Egypt’s Arab spring, with Mubarak originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt – an uprising that sowed chaos and created a security vacuum but also inspired hope for an era of democracy and social justice. But an appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against the former president and his senior officials being dropped. An appeal by the public prosecution led to Thursday’s final retrial by the court of cassation. The Guardian

Egypt’s Sisi, Germany’s Merkel Discuss Illegal Migration, Terrorism
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks in Cairo on Thursday, discussing various issues including illegal migration, terrorism and the latest developments in Libya and Syria. In a joint press conference after the meeting, Sisi praised the development of the Egyptian-German relations in various fields and the participation of German firms in mega development projects in the Arab country. “During the talks, I also updated the chancellor with the measures taken by Egypt over the past three years to achieve political stability and economic development,” Sisi told reporters, commending German support for Egypt’s economic reform program and for the loan deal between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Suffering economic slowdown over the past few years due to political turmoil and relevant security issues, Egypt started a three-year strict economic reform program including austerity measures, energy subsidy cuts and a floating exchange rate encouraged by a 12 billion U.S. dollars loan from the IMF, whose first batch of 2.75 billion dollars was handed to Egypt earlier in November 2016. Xinhua

Who’s Running Nigeria?
Sitting on the pavement outside the Lagos state government secretariat, Empero flicks through newspapers, looking for jobs. “We are smiling and we are dying,” says the 36-year-old, a town planner by trade. Nigerians are known for their dramatic turn of phrase. But recent events may justify such rhetoric. The economy shrank by 1.5% in 2016. Inflation has more than doubled to 18.7% in 12 months. Meanwhile, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, has been out of the country since January 19th, receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. There could hardly be a worse time for the 74-year-old former military dictator to be incapacitated. But much of the blame for Nigeria’s current economic troubles can be laid at his door. Mr Buhari was elected in March 2015 promising to defeat Boko Haram, the jihadist group terrorising the country’s north-east, and to tackle endemic corruption. He had on his side a wave of hope; he was the first Nigerian opposition leader to oust an incumbent peacefully at the ballot box, despite his authoritarian past. The Economist

UN Security Council Begins Africa Trip Focused on Boko Haram
The U.N. Security Council on Friday kicked off a visit to spotlight Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis as millions face hunger amid the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. “We came in order to show that this will no longer be a neglected crisis,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters. One question in the aid response is the United States, which pledged no funding for the Nigeria crisis at an international conference in Oslo last week co-hosted by the United Nations. The U.S. is the world’s largest humanitarian donor, but U.S. officials have said the Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent cut to diplomacy and foreign aid budgets to help pay for increased military spending. AP

Tanzania Civil Society Urges Government to Respect Basic Freedoms
Tanzanian civil society organisations have launched a year-long campaign calling on the government to respect freedom of expression and assembly. Launched on Wednesday, the campaign “seeks to safeguard the freedoms of assembly and expression,” said a statement from Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Centre, one of the eight organisations behind the move. “Without freedom of expression and freedom of assembly there can be no development,” they said of the campaign which involves putting on seminars, discussions and debates. Since taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli has been accused of heavy-handed and authoritarian rule and of passing laws limiting fundamental rights. One such law is the 2016 Media Services Act which restricts the activities of journalists, bloggers and users of social media, which is currently being challenged in court, with civil society groups saying it undermines press freedom and free speech. Daily Nation

US Lawmakers Say S Sudan Peace Deal Failed, Urge Trump to Appoint Envoy
US Congressmen including senators said the signed peace agreement in South Sudan has failed, urging President Donald Trump to appoint a high-level special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. In a joint letter dated 24 February, the lawmakers said: “The assaults on civilians carried out during the course of the fighting in July 2016 between government and opposition forces shocked the conscience of the world, and served to demonstrate that the August 2015 peace agreement has failed.” The letter urged President Donald Trump to appoint a high-level special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan with the international stature to bring urgently needed diplomatic leadership to international efforts to achieve a sustainable peace in and between the two countries. They accused the government of South Sudan of obstructing the deployment of the additional 4000 peacekeepers to protect civilians in Juba. Radio Tamazuj

Voluntary Return Home for Nigerian Refugees in Cameroon Under UNHCR Deal
Cameroon, Nigeria and the UN refugee agency UNHCR have signed an agreement for the return home of 85,000 Nigerians who fled to Cameroon to escape attacks from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. “The agreement lays out the legal framework for the eventual voluntary return of Nigerian refugees who are living in the far north of Cameroon,” Roselin Okoro, the UNHCR’s deputy representative in Cameroon told DW. Okoro said the signing of the agreement does not mean that refugees would start returning automatically. Boko Haram is still seen as a threat to Nigeria, despite claims by the military that it has reclaimed territory it once occupied and cleared some of its bases. The International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday that an estimated 4,449 people had fled from the town of Chibok “seeking safety following attacks or the threat of attacks” since February 25. Chibok become a global symbol of the insurgency after Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 200 teenage girls from their school in the town in April 2014. Deutsche Welle

Kony 2017: From Guerrilla Marketing to Guerrilla Warfare
[…] It has been nearly five years since the San Diego-based NGO Invisible Children uploaded “Kony 2012” onto YouTube and watched it rack up more than 120 million views in a single week. The 30-minute viral video sought to make the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and his crimes “famous” among young Americans. It was swiftly condemned for oversimplifying the conflict, and critics denounced the group’s co-founder, Jason Russell, as suffering from “white savior complex.” He had a public mental breakdown 10 days later, and his organization soon faded from view. Since then, Invisible Children has quietly, but profoundly, transformed itself. With seed funding from a Texas hedge fund that financed a broader military effort against the LRA, it now runs a daring program to supply civilians with high-frequency radios to track rebel movements across a 61,000-square-mile expanse of Congo and the Central African Republic. The group cooperates closely with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), and United Nations peacekeepers, all of whom rely on the radio program’s data in the hunt for Kony. Once dismissed as a group of amateur click-activists, Invisible Children is now on the front line of a covert war against the LRA. Foreign Policy

Gambia’s Barrow Visits ‘New Ally’ Senegal
The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow on Thursday arrived in Senegal, which played a key role in his rise to power by helping force his predecessor Yahya Jammeh from office, an AFP journalist said. The visit, which is due to run until on Saturday, is Barrow’s first official trip abroad as president. Barrow won his nation’s presidential election in December, but for six weeks Jammeh refused to concede defeat following 22 years of rule. Fearing for his safety, Barrow took refuge in Dakar from January 15, as Senegal and west African regional bloc Ecowas launched a diplomatic and military drive aimed at ensuring that Jammeh would step down. Barrow was then sworn in as The Gambia’s president at his tiny nation’s embassy in Dakar on January 19, while he was officially inaugurated on home soil on February 18. News 24

Zimbabwe: Protesters Vow to Shut Zimbabwe Down
Zimbabwe’s impoverished civil servants will join the social movement in a massive industrial action set to bring the country into a standstill on Monday. The civil servants are protesting non-payment of salaries while the civil society organiations are aggrieved by the worsening social and economic meltdown blamed on the beleaguered administration of President Robert Mugabe and ZANU (PF). Companies are shutting daily as a result of the economic meltdown, which has seen government considering paying civil servants with residential stands. On the other hand, On the other hand, government has embarked on a crackdown against critics of the administration as elections scheduled for 2018 approach. Corruption is rampant, with revenue from diamonds, valued $15 billion (about R240 billion), unaccounted for in the state coffers, a development leaving disillusioned Zimbabweans taking to the streets. National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe leader, Sten Zvorwadza, one of the organizers of the mass action, welcomed the response by Zimbabweans to the call to protest. allAfrica

African Countries Urged to Give to ICC Victims Fund
African members of the International Criminal Court were urged Wednesday to contribute money to a trust fund for hundreds of thousands of victims of civil war and other violence. “We would like to invite all ICC member states including in the African continent, to contribute up to their measure of means to the trust fund to show solidarity with the victims.” Scott Bertell, the fund’s regional program manager, told a press conference. Out of 34 African countries that are court member states, only three — South Africa, Namibia and Senegal — have made donations, he said. The International Criminal Court and the Trust Fund for Victims both date to 2002, and the fund tries to ensure the rights of victims and families of crimes under ICC jurisdiction through providing reparations and assistance. The Trust Fund has been working in both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2008, according to the ICC. In Uganda over 42,000 war victims get direct support and over 61,000 in the DRC. The fund also benefits over 350,000 war victims indirectly in both countries. Anadolu Agency

Air Force Versus ‘Armyworms’ in Zambia
Southern Africa has suffered extensively from a widespread drought in recent years, but in the last few months a new threat to the region’s agriculture has emerged – a plague of “armyworms”. Zambia is one of the countries most affected, with the armyworms devastating maize crops and threatening farmers’ livelihoods. BBC