Africa Media Review for March 31, 2017

Ghana’s Peaceful Transition of Power: The Effect of Building Trust and Accountability
On January 7, 2017, Ghana held its seventh presidential inauguration, a practice that has occurred regularly every four years since 1992. It marked the third time the party in power has changed—an unusual event in Africa, where nearly all countries hold elections, but the parties in power almost always remain the same. Among the continent’s 54 countries, only 19 African incumbent leaders from 11 countries have been voted out of office since the end of colonialism. These two feats alone—holding regular elections and changing the party in power—have helped institutionalize Ghana’s process of political transition through elections. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Trump Authorizes More Aggressive Airstrikes Against al-Shabab in Somalia
President Donald Trump has authorized the military to target al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia more aggressively, the Pentagon said Thursday. The new authorization will allow the United States to conduct offensive counterterrorism airstrikes against al-Shabab in the east African nation without seeking prior presidential approval, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. The United States has for years backed Somalian and African Union troops with special operations advisers and armed drones, but the drones were only allowed to carry out strikes to defend those forces if they were attacked. “This authority is consistent with our approach of developing capable Somali security forces and supporting regional partners in their efforts to combat al-Shabab,” Davis said. “Somali and [African Union Mission in Somalia] forces have already achieved significant success in recapturing territory from al-Shabab, and additional U.S. support will help them increase pressure on al-Shabab and reduce the risk to our partner forces when they conduct operations.”  Stars and Stripes

Trump Eases Combat Rules in Somalia Intended to Protect Civilians
[…] Under the new guidelines, Africa Command may treat Somalia under less-restrictive battlefield rules: Without interagency vetting, commanders may strike people thought to be Shabab fighters based only on that status, without any reason to think that the individual target poses a particular and specific threat to Americans. In addition, some civilian bystander deaths would be permitted if deemed necessary and proportionate. Mr. Trump’s decision to exempt much of Somalia from the 2013 rules follows a similar decision he made for parts of Yemen shortly after taking office. The new directive for Somalia is another example of how the American military is accelerating the ways it carries out combat missions under the Trump administration, reducing constraints on the use of force imposed by the Obama administration. The New York Times

UN Seeks to Trim Congo Peacekeeping Effort Criticized by U.S.
The United Nations may trim personnel and spending on its most expensive peacekeeping mission as the global body faces increasing pressure from the Trump administration and from other nations to rein in costs. The UN Security Council will consider an 18 percent cut to the $1.2 billion budget of its peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a draft resolution shared with Bloomberg News by diplomats from two nations on the council. If approved, the UN would lower the mission’s troop ceiling to 16,215 from a current cap of 19,815. The U.S. had sought a steeper cut — to 15,000 troops — according to one of the diplomats. The 15-member body will vote Friday on the resolution, which would also renew the UN’s mission in the country, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal discussions. Bloomberg

In DRC, Political Uncertainty after Bishops Withdraw from Peace Talks
Political unrest and uncertainty about the future have grown in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the Catholic bishops’ withdrawal from mediation talks aimed to resolve national political tensions. “We think that there’s no longer anything to do,” Msgr. Donatien Nshole, secretary general of the Congolese bishops’ conference, told Reuters on Tuesday. “We have given all our time and all our energy.” The bishops’ conference helped negotiate a Dec. 31 agreement that aimed to avoid political crisis through securing a 2017 election that would choose the successor of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war. After the bishops’ latest announcement, the president’s opposition announced a nationwide protest for April 10. The largest party in the opposition coalition, UDPS, called on its supporters to hold “a big, peaceful march” and to “resist the dictatorship taking root.” Catholic News Agency

DRC Opposition Calls ‘Ghost Town’ Protest as Crisis Grows
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition have called for a stay-home stoppage for Monday to force President Joseph Kabila to implement a deal on sharing power. In a statement issued on Wednesday, an umbrella group of opposition parties said they would stage a “ghost town” operation bringing cities to a standstill across the country. The alliance, called Rassemblement (“Rally”), condemned “the chaos” that it said had been caused by Kabila’s failure to implement a power-sharing deal signed on December 31. Kabila first took power in 2001 to replace his assassinated father as war ravaged the country. His unwillingness to step down and enable elections at the end of his constitutional mandate last year led to protests in which at least 17 people were killed. News 24

Jacob Zuma Sacks Finance Minister in Attempt to Control Succession
South African president Jacob Zuma sacked his respected finance minister and made 10 new cabinet appointments late on Thursday in a dramatic reshuffle that could split the ruling ANC party. The move was widely seen as an attempt to control the selection of his successor. The ruling ANC party, which led the fight against apartheid and came to power under Nelson Mandela in 1994, was rocked by the clear-out of senior figures including finance minister Pravin Gordhan. The late-night move caused a sharp drop in the value of rand as investors reacted to concerns that Zuma, whose term in office has been tainted by corruption scandals, would now have a free hand over government finances. The Guardian

Will Zuma’s Attempts to Zanufy South Africa Backfire?
‘The ANC is using the Zanu-PF tactics of remaining in power,’ South Africa’s Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) declared this week. ‘When Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF realised that it was likely to lose power, as it was perpetually becoming unpopular among the Zimbabweans, they took the land from the dispossessor to the dispossessed.’ Now the African National Congress (ANC) was doing the same, the PAC said, because it was seeing its own popularity fade. The PAC said this in a statement in which it otherwise welcomed the ANC’s decision – at its national executive committee meeting last weekend – to work with other former liberation movements to redistribute the country’s land to the ‘dispossessed black majority’. The ANC was finally coming to its senses about land, said the PAC, which broke away from it 58 years ago precisely over this question. ISS

Zuma’s Night of Long Knives Risks ANC Split, Credit Rating
South African President Jacob Zuma fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and eight other cabinet members in a high-stakes power play that may threaten his own presidency and place the nation’s investment grade credit rating at risk. Gordhan was replaced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who has no financial or business experience, while lawmaker Sfiso Buthelezi takes over from Mcebisi Jonas as deputy finance minister. The cabinet overhaul came in a late-night move that threatens to split the 105-year-old ruling African National Congress and trigger a revolt against the president. The rand extended losses, heading for its worst week in more than a year. “Those walking into the Treasury tomorrow will not reassure anyone that the top institution protecting South Africa’s fiscal stability is in safe hands,” said Anne Fruhauf, vice president at New York-based risk adviser Teneo Intelligence. “The move invites a massive backlash from the anti-Zuma faction.” Bloomberg

South African President Jacob Zuma ‘May Step Down Early’ in 2018
Jacob Zuma is considering offering to step down next year, at least 12 months before his term as South African president ends, under a deal with opponents in his ruling party that would see finance minister Pravin Gordhan leave office now, two senior party sources said. Zuma is due to be replaced as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) at a party conference in December after serving his allocated two terms, but was expected to remain the country’s president until elections in 2019. His spokesman did not respond to calls for comment. Zuma’s offer would allow him a dignified exit, as there remains a possibility that he could be removed by the ANC before next year. Who becomes the next leader of the ANC is key for Zuma, given that he could yet face corruption charges, analysts say. The Guardian

Uganda Vows to Keep Hunting for LRA Leader
Richard Karemire, Ugandan military spokesman, said on Thursday that his country was thankful for the support offered by the US in efforts to arrest and defeat Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. In 2011, the US deployed around 100 Special Forces as advisors to the Ugandan army. However, the US Africa Command has now issued a statement saying it will end its participation in the mission because in its view, the LRA had been weakened to irrelevance. The US said it will instead transition to “broader scope security and stability activities that continue the success of our African partners.” Deutsch Welle

Sierra Leone’s Parliamentary Majority Leader Sacked
Sierra Leone’s parliamentary majority leader has been sacked in the latest episode of a power struggle in the governing All People’s Congress (APC). Ibrahim Bundu was replaced by his deputy in an announcement yesterday by Speaker Sheku Dumbuya. Dumbuya said he was acting “on the instruction” of President Ernest Bai Koroma. The Speaker said the President acted in his capacity as “leader and chairman” of the party and had found that Bundu could no longer be fair in his role as head of the House. Majority Leader in parliament since 2014, Bundu was one of the over a dozen aspirants for the APC’s presidential ticket in next year’s General Election. He has been in parliament since 2002 and as the majority leader, he was the most senior parliamentary official after the Speaker. According to the Speaker, who is also an APC member, the party no longer had confidence in Bundu to serve fairly. Daily Nation

Ethiopia Extends State of Emergency by Four Months
The Ethiopian parliament has extended by four months a state of emergency it declared six months ago after almost a year of often violent anti-government demonstrations. The widely expected extension comes amid reports of continued violence and anti-government activities in some rural areas. At least 500 people were killed by security forces during the year of protests, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch group – a figure the government later echoed. “We still have some anti-peace elements that are active and want to capitalise on disputes that arise among regional states in the country,” Ethiopia’s defence minister, Siraj Fegessa, told MPs when he called on them to approve the extension on Thursday. Al Jazeera

Somalia: Will Decimated Fish Stocks Force Desperate Fishers Into Piracy Again?
The long, jagged Somali coast is home to one of the richest fish stocks in the world. It is teeming with schools of tuna, sardines and mackerel, and there’s plenty of lucrative lobster too. In the late 1980s, word began to spread about this extraordinary piscine bounty. Soon Somali fishermen no longer had their coast to themselves. Trawlers from the Arabian Gulf, from India, from as far afield as Japan, South Korea and Spain, were descending on the Gulf of Aden with their massive nets and advanced techniques. By the mid-2000s, that bounty wasn’t quite so plentiful. Somali fishermen, some from families who had fished these waters for centuries, could no longer compete. Their nets were empty. Enter the pirates. In research into what precipitated the rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia, Oceans Beyond Piracy were told a consistent story by local communities. “One additional, overriding driver of piracy was pointed to by every single respondent, and generally characterised as the fundamental grievance: illegal fishing. Daily Maverick

Some South Sudan IDPs Call for Peace Monitor’s Ouster
Some residents of a South Sudanese displaced persons’ camp say the head of the group that monitors the country’s 2015 peace deal should be fired. The residents accuse Festus Mogae, who chairs the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, or JMEC, of failing to speak up about government violations of the cease-fire, including alleged killings, rapes and torture committed by soldiers against civilians. JMEC has reported on cease-fire violations and placed the blame on both sides in South Sudan’s civil war. But internally displaced people (IDPs) say Mogae is not accurately describing the situation faced by hundreds of thousands of civilians forced from their homes and into United Nations-run camps since the start of South Sudan’s civil war. VOA

Hundreds Missing in Boko Haram’s Biggest Abduction of Kids
Hundreds of children remain missing while officials refuse to acknowledge the largest-ever mass abduction of Nigerian schoolchildren by Boko Haram Islamic extremists, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of children in the northeastern town of Damasak on November 24, 2014, the New York-based organization said in a dispatch from researcher Mausi Segun. She quoted traditional leaders as saying they submitted a list of 501 missing children to police and local government officials in April 2015, when the town was briefly freed from Boko Haram, but have never received a response. International outrage met the separate April 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a school in Chibok. News 24

Libya Asks EU for Ships and Radars to Stop Migrants: Sources
Libya has asked the European Union to provide it with ships and radars to help its forces stop the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean, sources in Brussels said. They said EU foreign ministers would review the “shopping list” at a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, but would not be able to meet all the requests. The bloc is supporting the government of Prime Minister Fayez Seraj in the hope it can gain control over the whole country after years of chaos and fighting. In exchange, it wants his help on preventing African refugees and migrants from embarking from the coast of Libya for Europe. “We have received a formal request and it’s under consideration,” a senior EU diplomat said. “We need it to be linked to the work we are doing on borders to ensure it is going to be used effectively.”  Reuters

Gambia: Jammeh Victims Seek Justice
A group of Gambians who suffered torture or lost relatives under the country’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh have formed a victims’ committee to seek justice. The groups’ leader presented the organization to the Gambian media on Thursday. Ousainou Mbenga told Anadolu Agency their ultimate goal is for Jammeh — who ruled for more than two decades — and his accomplices to be tried and punished. Under Jammeh, thousands of journalists, political opponents and ordinary citizens were jailed without trial or simply disappeared. Thursday’s launch venue was full of people who had lost loved ones. Many fought back tears as they told their stories.  Anadolu Agency

Swapping Guns for Motorbikes in Cameroon
In Cameroon’s Korup National Park, groups are seeking to overcome the “conservation or communities” conundrum by promoting sustainable forestry and wildlife management. But it’s no easy task. Deutsch Welle



Photo: Adam Jones