Africa Media Review for March 30, 2017

US Envoy Warns of Deep Review of UN Peacekeeping
The council is due to vote in the next few days on whether to extend or to cut back the 19,000-strong UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And US President Donald Trump made it clear in his first budget request to Congress that he hopes to cut America’s funding to the United Nations. US ambassador Nikki Haley will become president of the council for the month of April, and she made it plain that peacekeeping will be under the microscope. “I came to the UN with the goal of showing the American people value for their investment in this institution,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations. Haley insisted that Washington’s aim was to make the missions more effective and with a clear exit strategy, not only to save money. AFP

US Ambassador: UN Aiding ‘Corrupt’ Government in Congo
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday accused the world body of aiding a “corrupt” government in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Haley, speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, said the U.N. peacekeeping mission is “mandated to partner with the government.” “In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this,” she said. Haley’s comments came as Swedish police initiated a murder investigation into the death of a Swedish U.N. expert and an American colleague, whose bodies were found Monday in a shallow grave. VOA

US Warns Against Travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo after UN Investigators Murdered
The United States has issued a travel warning against visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the bodies of two missing UN researchers and their translator were found lying in a shallow grave. Michael Sharp, a 34-year-old from Kansas, and Zaida Catalan, 36, from Sweden, went missing on March 12, having set out to investigate mass graves in the Kasai province. On Monday their bodies were found in a shallow grave, along with that of Bete Tshintela. The Telegraph

To Save Peacekeeping From Trump’s Budget Ax, Will the U.N. Embrace Fighting Terrorism?
[…] Since U.N. peacekeepers deployed to Mali in 2013, they have become enmeshed in an increasingly deadly campaign by jihadis who, with the help of Tuareg separatists, had briefly seized the northern half of the country in 2012. Mandated to stabilize the country and support implementation of a 2015 peace agreement, the peacekeepers have instead become piñatas for disgruntled jihadi groups that were excluded from the accord. At least 118 blue helmets have been killed in the past four years, more than in any other active U.N. mission, prompting the Security Council to strengthen their mandate to take “proactive” steps against “asymmetric” terrorist threats. The mission’s counterterrorism focus has made it the U.N.’s most controversial. Many believe the world body should preserve its impartial status rather than become a party to conflicts. But as the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations stares down potentially debilitating budget cuts proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, what made the Mali mission a lightning rod for criticism could be what ends up saving it — at least for now.  Foreign Policy

S. Sudan Rebel Leader Accuses IGAD of Reneging on Peace Deal
South Sudan’s armed opposition (SPLM/SPLA(IO) leader, Riek Machar has expressed “dismay” and profound “disappointment” on the position taken by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan during its 30th Extra-ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Nairobi, Kenya. IGAD, the body that mediated the 2015 peace deal, condemned “proliferation of armed groups” in the country and confirmed President Salva Kiir’s intention to declare a unilateral ceasefire. A communiqué issued at the sideline meeting Monday, IGAD head of states and governments “condemned the proliferation of armed groups in South Sudan; and called on all armed groups to renounce violence as a means of solving the problems of South Sudan.”  Sudan Tribune

Over 60,000 South Sudanese Refugees Enter Sudan
More than 60,000 South Sudanese have entered Sudan since January, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday. The UN refugee agency said the South Sudanese have been fleeing from famine and war in the world’s youngest nation. Formed after splitting from the north in 2011, South Sudan, has declared a famine in parts of the country where 100,000 people are said to be facing starvation. The UN refugee agency, which was initially expecting 60,000 South Sudanese refugees to arrive in Sudan in the whole of 2017, said the figure has already surpassed their expectations in the first three months. Daily Nation

Struggle for Control of Libya’s Oil Threatens to Deepen Conflicts
A power struggle for control of Libya’s oil is threatening to deepen splits in the country and undermine the fragile authority of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, the GNA. The battle has forced the politically neutral chairman of the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) to warn the GNA that it has overstepped its authority both by closing the oil ministry and by trying to take over some of the NOC’s role. The attack by Libyan oil boss Mustafa Sanalla’s may weaken already fraying international support for the Tripoli-based GNA led by Fayed Al Serraj. In a deeply divided country, Sanalla is one of the few public figures treated with respect by all sides. The Guardian

Sanctions Against Gaddafi’s Daughter Lifted
Aisha Gaddafi, the only daughter of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has had sanctions against her lifted by Europe’s second-highest court, which ruled they were no longer justified. In 2011 Aisha was included on a European Union (EU) list of people subjected to sanctions that included a travel ban and a freeze on their financial assets after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) backed-rebels overthrew her father during the Libyan revolution. In 2014, the EU amended its sanctions, but kept her on the list and rejected her requests to be removed, the BBC reported on Tuesday. She subsequently sued them, postulating there was no reason for the sanctions to remain in place following the fall of her father’s regime and his death. SABC

UN: Malaria Outbreak Kills over 4 000 in Burundi this Year
An outbreak of malaria has killed over 4000 people in Burundi so far this year, the United Nations said on Wednesday, a dramatic rise over the 700 victims the government announced just two weeks ago. There have been over 9 million cases of malaria in the East African nation since January 2016, according to the report by the UN humanitarian office. Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has a population of about 11 million. The malaria cases are “well beyond the epidemic threshold,” the report said, citing World Health Organisation investigators. The outbreak is the latest crisis for Burundi, which has been wracked by deadly political violence since 2015 and faces food shortages that the UN says have left nearly 1 in 10 people severely food insecure. News 24

Fleeing Boko Haram, Thousands Cling to a Road to Nowhere
More than 130,000 people have amassed along this desert highway outside Diffa, Niger — National Route 1. They now call its barren, sandy shoulders home. All of them have been chased from their villages by Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that kidnaps and kills indiscriminately in a campaign of violence that has lasted eight years. […] National Route 1 does not take them anywhere. It is not a path to a distant sanctuary, a better life or even a refugee camp. It is, quite literally, a road to nowhere. It ends abruptly, connecting to nothing but more desert. Begun by a Chinese oil company, construction stopped two years ago after attacks by Boko Haram spiked. Its intended destination — oil fields near the border with Chad — is far away, about 80 miles beyond the choppy lip where the pavement suddenly cuts off, like an interrupted thought. The New York Times

Meningitis Outbreak Kills 269 in Nigeria
Meningitis has killed 269 people in Nigeria in recent weeks, the country’s Center for Disease Control said, as Africa’s most populous country and aid organizations try to tackle the surge in infections. As of Monday, 1,828 suspected cases of meningitis had been reported, with deaths recorded in 15 of the country’s 36 states, the center said late Tuesday on Twitter. The center said on its website that 33 people died of meningitis in 2016. More than 2,000 people died from an outbreak of the disease in Nigeria in 2009, with basic health care limited in rural parts of the country. Most rural residents live on less than $2 a day, despite the country’s huge oil resources. VOA

Uganda Hails Surrender of Senior LRA Commander
Uganda’s army on Wednesday hailed the surrender of a senior commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army who was in charge of communication for leader Joseph Kony. Major Michael Omona returned to his hometown of Gulu in northern Uganda on Monday, 23 years after he was kidnapped by the feared LRA. He handed himself over to US troops in the Central African Republic last month, said army spokesperson Richard Karemire. “Having him weakens the command and control of the LRA because communication is a major component in command and control of the military even if it is a ragtag force like the LRA,” Karemire told AFP. “This surrender is an indication that our psychological operation of dropping leaflets calling on the rebels to renounce banditry and come out of hiding is effective. It shows we (the military) are winning”. News 24

146 Migrants Feared Missing after Boat Capsizes in Med
About 146 migrants are feared missing after their boat capsized after leaving Libya, according to a Gambian man who was rescued following the disaster, the United Nations’ refugee agency said on Wednesday. The man was rescued by a Spanish military ship participating in the EU’s “Operation Sophia” to crack down on smugglers, and then brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The vessel left on Sunday or Monday from Sabratha, northwestern Libya, with five children and several pregnant women among those on board, the Gambian told a member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who met him at a hospital in Lampedusa. Most of the passengers were from Nigeria, Mali and The Gambia, he said. News 24

UN Rejects Report It’s Seeking to Interfere in Zimbabwe Elections
The United Nations chief in Zimbabwe has rejected recent allegations the U.N. is seeking to interfere in the 2018 electoral process. A majority-government-owned newspaper, the Sunday Mail, stirred controversy this month when it published an article accusing the United Nations of plotting to rig upcoming elections to remove President Robert Mugabe from office. Mugabe, who has been in office since independence in 1980, says he will run for another term next year. The Sunday Mail story came just days after an opposition protest in which demonstrators said they had lost confidence in the electoral commission and wanted an international body to run the 2018 polls. VOA

‘Down with Zuma’ Chants at Funeral for Anti-Apartheid Legend Kathrada
After barring President Jacob Zuma from the event, the funeral for renowned anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada on Wednesday turned into a rally against South Africa’s scandal-ridden leader, Jacob Zuma. A longtime African National Congress (ANC) politician, Kathrada had himself called on Zuma to step down in a public letter. Former President Kgalema Motlanthe received resounding applause when he read out extracts from the letter at the memorial in Johannesburg. He said Kathrada had been “deeply disturbed by the current post-Apartheid failure of politics.” “He found current leadership wanting on many fronts… and would not hesitate to call for the resignation of the president of the country with whom the buck stops,” Motlanthe said. Mourners then began to shout “down with Zuma.” Deutsche Welle

Top ANC Leaders Said to Oppose Zuma’s Plan to Fire Gordhan
Three of the top six officials of South Africa’s ruling party told President Jacob Zuma that they opposed his plan to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Zuma told the African National Congress leaders in a meeting on Monday that he wanted to dismiss Gordhan because he was aiming to undermine the president in meetings with investors while on a roadshow in the U.K. and U.S., the person with knowledge of what happened at the gathering said. Earlier that day, Zuma had ordered Gordhan to cancel the roadshow and return home from London, causing the rand to plummet. Bloomberg

US-Led Maritime Exercise Boosts Capabilities of African Navies
An intensive exercise that trains African nations to better protect their waters against pirates, rogue fisherman, human traffickers and other seaborne criminals wraps up Friday in the Gulf of Guinea. The exercise is aimed at curing “sea blindness,” the shortcomings in monitoring waters for unlawful activity and communicating with other countries to catch criminals, said U.S. Navy Capt. Heidi Agle, an officer in this year’s Obangame Express, a 12-day exercise hosted by U.S. African Command. “We all have an investment in the ocean — for the security of trade and for safety in general,” she said. African governments began working with U.S. authorities in 2010 — when maritime attacks in the region had reached record levels — to create joint training exercises that could improve African countries’ ability to protect their seas and their vital shipping trade against pirates and other outlaws. Stars and Stripes

Gbagbo Acquittal in Côte d’Ivoire Brings Accusations of ‘Flawed’ Trial
Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo has been acquitted of war crimes, but international observers of the trial have called the verdict inconclusive. Citing “many irregularities” in the proceedings, Param-PreetSingh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the verdict “leaves unanswered serious questions about her alleged role in brutal crimes committed during the 2011 post-election crisis.” HRW called the trial “flawed.” Mail and Guardian

Tunisian Former PM Jomaa Launches ‘Non-Ideological’ Political Party
Tunisia’s former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa launched a new political party on Wednesday which he said would be non-ideological and could “restore hope for Tunisians” frustrated by the country’s transition. Jomaa led a technocratic government in 2014, a year that ended with free elections and a new constitution seen as key steps following the 2011 overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. For the past two years, Tunisia has been governed by a coalition led by the secularist Nidaa Tounes party and the moderate Islamist party Ennahda. National politics can still be highly polarized, and some of the problems that helped fuel the 2011 protests remain unresolved, including high unemployment and the continued materialization of rural areas. Al Arabiya

Le Pen and France’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy in Africa
[…] Like many other French politicians, Le Pen’s campaign highlights how increased French defence spending and development assistance would lead to a decrease in terror attacks in the Sahel, and fewer migrants. To this she adds sorting out the chaos in Libya – where various terror groups active in the Sahel are based. In her statement made in N’Djamena on 22 March, Le Pen vowed to raise French development aid to Africa to 0.7% of the GDP; higher than it has been under outgoing President François Hollande (0.37% in 2016). This would cover both development and security. According to her statement made to the Chadian National Assembly, the focus would be on security forces, agriculture, infrastructure, education and health. All these areas are already part of the priorities outlined by the legal framework document on development assistance, adopted by the outgoing socialist government. Another element of continuity is that Le Pen also pledged to give this aid to governments, rather than civil society. Her focus, however, is on Francophone Africa – rather than the current larger focus of French development aid to other parts of the continent. ISS



Photo: Adam Jones