Africa Media Review for March 6, 2017

Somalia: 110 Die from Hunger in Last 48 Hours in Just One Region; Drought Threatens Millions
Somalia’s prime minister announced Saturday that 110 people in a single region have died from hunger in the last 48 hours as a severe drought threatens millions of people across the country. It was the first death toll announced by Somalia’s government since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone. Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. secretary-general last month in a $4.4-billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the U.N. chief said. The Los Angeles Times

More Than 100 Million at Risk of Starvation Globally – U.N. Official
The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said. Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said latest studies showed 102 million people faced acute malnutrition – meaning they were on the brink of starvation – in 2016, up almost 30 percent from 80 million in 2015. The hike was mainly driven by deepening crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, where conflict and drought have crippled food production, he said. “Humanitarian assistance has kept many people alive so far but their food security situation has continued to deteriorate,” Burgeon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview. More investment is needed to help people feed themselves by farming crops and livestock, he added. “We come with airplanes, we provide food assistance and we manage to keep them alive but we do not invest enough in the livelihood of these people,” he said. Reuters

Mali: Militants Kill 11 Soldiers Near Burkina Faso Border
Militants attacked a Malian army post near the border of Burkina Faso on Sunday, killing 11 soldiers, a Mali defence ministry spokesman told Reuters. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but Islamist groups including al-Qaeda affiliates have been resurgent in recent months in Mali, attacking army positions beyond their usual strongholds in the north. “The post was attacked between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. in Boulkessi, and there were 11 killed and five wounded,” said defence spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Sidibé. Newsweek

Nigeria Rejected British Offer to Rescue Seized Chibok Schoolgirls
British armed forces offered to attempt to rescue nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, but were rebuffed by Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president at the time, the Observer has learned. In a mission named Operation Turus, the RAF conducted air reconnaissance over northern Nigeria for several months, following the kidnapping of 276 girls from the town of Chibok in April 2014. “The girls were located in the first few weeks of the RAF mission,” a source involved in Operation Turus told the Observer. “We offered to rescue them, but the Nigerian government declined.” The girls were then tracked by the aircraft as they were dispersed into progressively smaller groups over the following months, the source added. Chibok is located in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state. Today 195 of the girls are still missing. Those who have managed to escape from their kidnappers have told of a life of torture, enslavement, rape, and forced marriages in captivity. The Guardian

Pirates in Nigeria Release Russian, Ukrainian Sailors – Agencies
Nigerian pirates have released seven Russian and one Ukrainian sailors after they were captured last month on the cargo ship the BBC Caribbean, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday, citing a human rights activist in Crimea. The sailors were released after talks between the owners of the ship and pirates. Interfax news agency quoted human rights activist Pavel Butsay, in the city of Sevastopol, as saying the sailors were at a Frankfurt airport and planned to return home next week. Butsay told TASS news agency that a ransom was paid but did not reveal the sum. Security experts class West Africa’s waters, especially off Nigeria where many pirates originate, as some of the world’s most dangerous, with attackers often targeting oil tankers and holding hostages for ransom. Reuters

The Oil Deal, the Disgraced Former Minister, and $800m Paid Via a UK Bank
Britain’s commitment to tackling high-end money laundering through the City of London is under serious scrutiny after it emerged that regulators appear to have waved through an $800m bank transfer to a convicted criminal as the proceeds from one of the most corrupt deals in the history of the oil industry. A joint investigation by the Observer and journalists from Finance Uncovered, a non-profit organisation based in London, has discovered that prosecutors in Milan believe two payments of $400m each were wired through JP Morgan in London as the spoils of a huge deal to develop a Nigerian oilfield involving Shell, its joint venture partner the Italian oil giant Eni, and the government in Abuja. More than half the money was converted into bags of bribe cash via bureaux de change in Nigeria, while tens of millions was wired to buy a private jet and armoured cars in the US, according to documents compiled by the prosecutors. But ordinary citizens of Nigeria have not seen a penny from the deal – which, it is alleged, was partly negotiated by two ex-MI6 officers hired by Shell as “business and investment advisers”. The Guardian

UN Report Shows North Korea Using Africa to Slip Sanctions
North Korean weapons barred by U.N. sanctions ended up in the hands of U.N. peacekeepers in Africa, a confidential report says. That incident and others in more than a half-dozen African nations show how North Korea, despite facing its toughest sanctions in decades, continues to avoid them on the world’s most impoverished continent with few repercussions. The annual report by a U.N. panel of experts on North Korea, obtained by The Associated Press, illustrates how Pyongyang evades sanctions imposed for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to cooperate “on a large scale,” including military training and construction, in countries from Angola to Uganda. Among the findings was the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions” against North Korea, with 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades found hidden under iron ore that was destined for Egypt in a cargo vessel heading toward the Suez Canal. The intended destination of the North Korean-made grenades, seized in August, was not clear. The Washington Post

War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart
[…] When South Sudan gained independence, it was churning out 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, generating billions of dollars that were supposed to be spent on schools, roads, playgrounds, health clinics, water treatment facilities, police stations, all the gear of a functioning state. But look around most of South Sudan and you won’t see any of that. The reason? The oil revenue was stolen. Top officials have been accused of amassing fortunes, and they and their families were often spotted in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya next door, driving the snazziest cars — $100,000 Land Rovers and gleaming Humvees that hogged up the road. Back in South Sudan, teachers are paid less than $3 a month, and many said they hadn’t seen even that. Even ambassadors often don’t get paid. A few years ago, the government struck a questionable revenue-sharing plan with Sudan. Instead of insulating themselves from oil shocks, as outside consultants urged, the South Sudanese cut a deal to make as much money as possible when oil prices were high. The New York Times

South Sudan Orders Withdrawal of Humanitarian Agencies from Mayendit
South Sudanese government has ordered the withdrawal of the humanitarian organisations from the famine-hit area of Mayendit in the Unity region in preparation for a major military campaign, sparking fears. A South Sudanese military intelligence officer told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the decision of the government aims to ensure the safety of the humanitarian organisations because the areas in which they operate currently needs to be cleared of the armed opposition groups allied to the former First Vice-President Riek Machar. “The objective of these directives is not to deny the civil population relief assistance. It is to create a safe environment for their operations because these organisations operate in areas which are not safe for them,” a military source said Saturday. “They are the areas in which rebels of Riek Machar have been causing havoc. And so these areas need to be cleared. So these rebels need to be flushed out and this is what we are doing now in Lou Nuer and areas in the greater unity,” he added. Sudan Tribune

War-Torn South Sudan Gold Goes to Dubai: Official
Large quantities of gold from war-torn South Sudan are being illegally siphoned off to other countries, including United Arab Emirates, a senior Ministry of Petroleum and Mining official told Anadolu Agency Friday. “We know much gold is going out but the actual amount, we don’t; illegal buyers are coming in from other countries to purchase gold and send it on to countries like the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai,” the ministry’s Undersecretary Andu Ezbon Adde said in an interview in the capital Juba. Artisanal mining is especially rife in the country’s central, southern and northwestern regions, which in turn finds markets in Uganda and Kenya, Adde said. A total of 60 investment companies which showed interest in gold mining in the country during a 2013 investment conference have not returned, leaving exploitation of gold in the hands of about 60,000 artisanal miners, who are dealing directly with unlicensed gold traders coming in from the East African region, he said. Anadolu Agency

Trade on the Streets, and Off the Books, Keeps Zimbabwe Afloat
[…] Because of the ballooning trade imbalance and widespread hoarding of the greenback, Zimbabwe has experienced a crippling shortage of dollars since last March. Efforts to encourage the use of plastic money — and the introduction, so far, of nearly $100 million into the market of a surrogate currency called bond notes — have helped, though not enough. Customers still stand for hours in long lines outside banks to try to withdraw the few dollars available. With the government now strictly controlling the transfer of dollars outside Zimbabwe, companies dependent on trade are finding it increasingly difficult to import critical goods. Tha Washington Post

Libyan National Army Loses Control of Major Oil Ports to Armed Faction
An armed faction entered two major Libyan oil ports on Friday, pushing back forces that captured and reopened the terminals in September, officials and residents said. The move risks increasing the fighting around the ports and casts new doubt over Libya’s attempt to revive its oil production. The terminals at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf are two of Libya’s largest, with potential combined production capacity of about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd). It was unclear late on Friday to what extent the faction that attacked, the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), had gained control over the area. There was no statement from the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli, which restarted operations at the ports after the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) took them over seven months ago. Since then the LNA’s opponents have launched several unsuccessful attacks against the ports in Libya’s eastern Oil Crescent, in a campaign linked to a broader conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya. The LNA had said the ports were well secured. But it said the BDB had launched a rapid, three-pronged attack early on Friday that pierced its defenses. Al Arabiya

Mozambique: Dhlakama Extends Renamo Truce
Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, on Friday announced a further two month extension of the truce his forces have been observing since late December. Dhlakama is still living at a Renamo base somewhere in the central district of Gorongosa, and has refused to leave, so he communicated by telephone with reporters gathered at the Renamo office in Maputo. He declared “as from zero hours tomorrow, 4 March, a new truce takes effect, lasting until 4 May”. Initially, the truce was only for a week, beginning on December 27. Dhlakama announced the truce after phone conversations with President Filipe Nyusi. In early January the truce was extended by a further two months, to March 4. In the Friday press conference, Dhlakama confirmed that he remains in regular phone contact with Nyusi, and guaranteed that the peace talks “are on a good path”. IOL News

Apple Cracks Down Further on Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists
Apple said it has temporarily stopped buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo while it continues to deal with problems with child labor and harsh work conditions. A Washington Post investigation last year detailed abuses in Congo’s artisanal cobalt supply chain, showing how miners — including children — labored in hazardous, even deadly, conditions. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also have alleged problems. Earlier this week, British broadcaster Sky News published an investigation that alleged continued problems in the cobalt supply chain. The Post connected this troubling trade to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, a Chinese firm that is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in Congo and whose minerals are used in Apple products. Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the technology giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in what is one of the world’s poorest countries. Now, Apple says it has stopped — for now — buying cobalt from artisanal mines. The Washington Post

What Repealing the US Dodd Frank Act Would Mean for DRC
The Dodd-Frank Act, or the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to give it its full name, is a United States federal law that places regulation of the financial industry in the hands of the government. The legislation, which was enacted in July 2010, created financial regulatory processes to limit risk by enforcing transparency and accountability. In this week’s Global Focus, RFI’s Laura Angela Bagnetto takes a look at what effect repealing the Act would have on the Democratic Republic of Congo. This, after newly elected US president, Donald Trump, drew up a draft executive order that could see the Act rescinded if, indeed, he goes ahead and signs the order. RFI

U.S. State Department Criticized over Quiet Release of Human Rights Report
The U.S. State Department released its annual report on human rights around the world on Friday but the release was overshadowed by criticism that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave the report little of the traditional attention or fanfare. Tillerson declined to unveil the report in person, breaking with precedent established during both Democratic and Republican administrations. A senior U.S. official answered reporters’ questions by phone on condition of anonymity rather than appearing on camera, also a break with precedent. “The report speaks for itself,” the official said in response to a question about why Tillerson did not unveil it. “We’re very, very proud of it. The facts should really be the story here.” The report, mandated by Congress, documents human rights conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories and is put together by staff in U.S. embassies. This year’s report was largely completed during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. Reuters

A Dip In Global Prices Creates Cocoa Crisis For Ivory Coast’s Farmers
In all his 50 years, Georges Kouamé Koffi has eaten chocolate once. “Someone gave me a piece to try,” says the cocoa farmer. “It was lovely.” Chocolate bars are on sale at a store in his city of San Pedro, in southwestern Ivory Coast. “But they are too expensive for us,” he says. His family – he has a wife and three children – will eat only grated cassava tonight, as it has on most days since last October when Kouamé Koffi handed a buying agent the first of the 2.8 tons of cocoa he produced this season. All he has to show for his back-breaking work on 12 steamy acres are two receipts – effectively IOUs from a buying agent, who is trying to sell the beans to a wholesaler. Kouamé Koffi is owed just over 3 million CFA francs (about $4,850) for his 2.8 tons, but he is still waiting for his payment. Seventy per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. And in Ivory Coast, the biggest cocoa producer in the world, six million people – a quarter of the population – are estimated to depend on the crop for a living. NPR

New Tunisian-German Immigration Deal Trades Aid for Speedier Deportation
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said at a joint press conference on Friday the deal tackling unauthorized immigration signed Friday would satisfy both Tunisia and Germany. The agreement will allow Germany to deport rejected asylum-seekers back to Tunisia more quickly. Essebsi promised smoother cooperation from Tunisian diplomats in Germany, stating “measures will be taken in the Tunisian consulates in Germany to help in (rejected asylum seekers’) identification.”  As part of the accord, Tunisian officials will clarify any identity verification questions within 30 days. The papers needed for deportation will then be issued within one week. Merkel indicated Germany would assist Tunisia in building the requisite registration system needed for these processes.  Deutsche Welle

Christopher Ross Resigns as UNSG Personal Envoy for Western Sahara
American diplomat, Christopher Ross, has submitted his resignation to the United Nations Secretary General, Antonino Gueterres, according to diplomatic sources in New York cited by Algerian website Tout Sur l’Algerie. The 74-year old diplomat has held the post since January 2009, but was unable to help the parties to the conflict achieve in any progress in the UN-led political process aimed at helping Morocco and the Polisario reach a mutually acceptable political solution to the Western Sahara territorial dispute. Ross was appointed as replacement to former Dutch Peter Van Walsum, who had held this position between 2005 and August 2008. The Van Walsum was forced to submit his resignation after he told the Security Council in 2008 that the establishment of an independent state in the Western Sahara was “unrealistic.” Morocco World News

How Liberian Women Delivered Africa’s First Female President
[…] It was October 2005, the first presidential election after 15 years of a hideous civil war in Liberia. On the ballot was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated global technocrat with so much government experience it practically oozed from her pores, and a group of men, most notably the professional soccer player George Weah. Like many of the 1.5 million women in Liberia who had survived the civil war, Ms. Freeman had personally witnessed acts of violence so brutal she still had nightmares. Soldiers had gutted her 8½-months-pregnant cousin. Drugged-up rebels wearing Halloween masks had murdered her friends. Ms. Freeman herself had knelt in the dirt, praying, while henchmen loyal to the president had chambered rounds of their machine guns on orders to shoot her and the other women praying with her one afternoon. Ms. Freeman had seen it all. But even so, she was unprepared for the sight of the young men laughing nearby as she campaigned for a female president. The boys had taken women’s panties, had smeared the crotches with tomato paste and were waving them at the women — their unsubtle way of saying that a woman could not be president. The New York Times

Wanted: Female Candidates for Algeria’s Parliament Quota
Algerian law requires the next parliament to be made up of 30 percent women — but political parties across the spectrum have struggled to come up with enough female candidates to fill the quota. While universities in this Muslim North African nation are increasingly full of young women, politics is still largely seen as a male domain. A relatively macho culture, especially in the desert and rural heartland, has left many parties short of female options as they sift through thousands of potential candidates to finalize party lists by Sunday for the May 4 election. Parties reached out to journalists, teachers and other female professionals to try to persuade them to join male rivals who are clamoring to run for parliament, notably attracted by the political power and financial privileges of a legislative seat. News 24



Photo: Adam Jones