Africa Media Review for March 7, 2017

Suspected Extremists Kill at Least 5 Gendarmes in Niger
Niger’s defense ministry says at least five gendarmes have been killed in an attack near the country’s western border with Mali. The ministry says the attack by armed suspected extremists early Monday in Wanzarbe in the Bankilare department also left one gendarme wounded. The ministry says on television that forces are in the zone to combat any suspected extremists still there. No further details have been released. Two weeks ago Islamic extremists killed at least 15 soldiers along that border in the Tillaberi region. The attacks follow a February agreement among the presidents of five countries in Africa’s vast Sahel region to set up a joint counterterrorism force. Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad have been targeted by numerous extremist groups, including Boko Haram and others linked to al-Qaida. AP

No Repatriation of Etienne Tshisekedi in Kinshasa in Days to Come
The body of Etienne Tshisekedi, the leader of the Congolese opposition, who died at the beginning of February in Brussels, will not be repatriated this week in Kinshasa. His family nevertheless flagged up the date of Saturday March 11th for his return to his native country but this timescale will not be kept to. The deceased’s younger brother, Bishop Gérard Mulumba, has indicated this to RTBF today (Monday). Moreover, this information was confirmed to the Belga press agency by André Kabanda, the Belgium spokesman for Tshisekedi’s party, the UDPS. No new date has yet been fixed for the repatriation of his body. The Brussels Times

Like Father, Like Son: Who is Felix Tshisekedi, and Can He Keep Congo’s Opposition Together?
As 2016 slid into 2017, things weren’t going well, exactly, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they weren’t going as badly as they might have, either. The bloodbath that some analysts had expected on December 19 – when President Joseph Kabila’s term officially expired – never materialised, and the government and opposition had reached a landmark deal to hold new elections by the end of this year. In addition, the main opposition coalition had agreed to participate in a transitional government until those elections took place, with Kabila remaining president and veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi slated for prime minister. And then, on a cold Wednesday in Brussels on February 1, the 84-year-old Tshisekedi died. Death is rarely convenient, but his timing was exceptionally poor. Suddenly, just when the DRC seemed to have found some answers, there were more difficult questions: Who would succeed Tshisekedi as party leader? Can the “Rassemblement” opposition coalition hold in his absence? Is the deal with Kabila still valid, and who will be prime minister? Daily Maverick

DR Congo Catholic Church Calls for Patience Amid Stalled Dialogue Process
Democratic Republic of Congo’s Catholic Church that has been the force behind mediation talks between the government and opposition, has called for patience before resumption of the talks over a power-sharing agreement The secretary general of the Congo’s National Episcopal Conference (CENCO) Abbot Nshole, told AFP, “We are not yet at the plenary stage of the talks.” Adding that the Church elders recommend all the parties to work together in order to make progress. The talks focus on a power-sharing plan agreed on December 31, which calls for president Joseph Kabila to leave power after the next election supposed to be held before the end of this year. However, there is already doubt whether the polls will take place as the country’s budget minister, Pierre Kangudia, said in mid-February that state coffers were empty and it would be difficult to gather the $1.8 billion needed to hold elections. Africa News

EU Warns DR Congo of More Sanctions
The European Union on Monday warned the Democratic Republic of Congo it faces more EU sanctions if political and military leaders block a deal with the opposition on the country’s future. European Union foreign ministers discussed DR Congo amid growing frustration with President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to stand aside at the end of his term late last year. “The EU reminds political leaders and members of the security forces that it is ready to adopt new restrictive measures,” said the text of DR Congo conclusions prepared for the meeting. The asset freeze and travel ban sanctions would target those “responsible for grave human rights violations, for inciting violence or obstructing a peaceful resolution of the crisis which respects the aspirations of the Congolese people to elect their representatives,” it said. Capital FM

Ex-South Sudan Army General Forms New Rebel Movement
South Sudan’s former deputy chief of staff for logistics, Lt. General Thomas Cirillo Swaka has formed a new rebel group, seeking to against the Juba regime under President Salva Kiir. Swaka, who now heads the National Salvation Front (NAS), quit the military, accusing its leadership of running the army on ethnic lines. “The National Salvation Front (NAS) is convinced that to restore sanity and normalcy in our country, Kiir must go, he must vacate the office without further bloodshed,” he wrote on Monday. The former army official vowed to ensure all means are used to restore law, order and ensure respect for human rights in the country. Sudan Tribune

Up to 55 ‘Missing’ After Gunmen Attack in South Sudan
Up to 55 people including women and children remain missing after being abducted Sunday by an armed group in the northeastern Boma State, a local official said Monday. “There was an attack on Koschar village on Sunday night. We suspect the armed group to be from the neighboring Jonglei state,” Boma State Information Minister Achon John Giro told Anadolu Agency on the phone. Achon said that about 10,000 well-armed men were dressed in military uniform when they attacked the village. “The attackers are wearing South Sudan army uniforms, and are heavily armed with military artillery and other big machine guns,” Achon said. Anadolu Agency

Party of Business: The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s Business Empire
Rwanda has a reputation for enterprise. Its government has largely stamped out small-scale corruption and trimmed regulations, making the country the second-best place in Africa to do business, according to the World Bank’s widely-followed ranking. But the dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate. Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets. Its expansion is aided by the fact that its chief rival is Horizon, a similar group that is accountable to the ministry of defence, with interests in construction and logistics. Critics argue that Crystal Ventures and Horizon both get cushy government deals which mask the failures of their enterprises, several of which are said to be loss-making. Firms like ISCO and Inyange Industries, a dairy-products and drinks firm, dominate the Rwandan market. “They monopolise but they don’t deliver on development,” says David Himbara, a former presidential adviser who lives in exile. The Economist

Burundi’s Flirtation with SADC Exposes East Africa’s Political Skeletons
Burundi’s attempt to join the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is not necessarily a blow to the East African Community but it is a reminder of the tensions that remain in the regional grouping, especially over politics and governance arrangements. On the face of it, there is nothing exceptional about Burundi’s application to SADC; Tanzania, a key founding member of the EAC is also a member of the southern bloc, as is its neighbour to the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Beneath the surface, however, Burundi’s move represents a hedging of geopolitical bets by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government against what it sees as hostility from some EAC members, in particular Rwanda. Relations between the two countries have been sour since Bujumbura accused Kigali of supporting some of the groups that emerged to oppose President Nkurunziza after he stood for a third term of office in 2015 in what critics said was a violation of the Arusha Agreements that ended the country’s civil war. Rwanda has denied any involvement in the political instability that has ensued in Burundi but President Paul Kagame has publicly criticised his counterpart’s regime and accused it of massacres. The Standard

Libya Militias Who Seized Oil Terminals Aim to Take Benghazi
Libyan militias that occupied two key oil terminals last week said Monday they intend to take the eastern city of Benghazi and unseat Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, who controls the area. Col. Mustafa Alsharksi, leader of the so-called Benghazi Defense Brigades, said more than 3,000 men are poised to continue eastward now that they have taken over the oil terminals of al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf. The move threatens to escalate the conflict between Libya’s two competing parliaments and governments, each backed by a set of militias, tribes and political factions, and potentially damage the contested oil installations. AP

Armed Groups Prevent Mali Interim Govt Installing in Timbuktu
Armed groups took over parts of Timbuktu on Monday to prevent Malian interim authorities from being installed there under a peace pact meant to end years of lawlessness, the defence ministry said. The return of state authority to northern Mali was supposed to fill a vacuum that has rendered it a launch pad for regional jihadi attacks across the region. Reuters

EU Approves Joint Military Headquarters
The European Union approved a controversial new headquarters for joint military operations abroad on Monday. Some member states have been highly skeptical of the plan, saying it undermines the importance of NATO in defense cooperation. EU Foreign Affairs Minister Federica Mogherini rejected this criticism, however, saying all 28 foreign and defense ministers had “unanimously” supported the project. “Today we decided to establish a MPCC (Military Planning Conduct and Capability facility) which will command the EU’s non-executive military missions,” Mogherini told the press. The initial responsibilities of the facility will be to orchestrate military training missions in Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic. Mogherini stressed that they will not involve the use of force except in cases of self-defense. Deutsche Welle

Boko Haram Caused $9 Billion Damage in Nigeria’s North, UN Says
Islamist militant group Boko Haram has caused $9 billion of damage in Nigeria’s northeast since 2009, destroying homes, schools, bridges and roads, according to the United Nations. Borno state alone suffered losses worth $6.2 billion, Matthew Rycroft, the president of the UN Security Council, told reporters Sunday on a visit to its main city of Maiduguri. The global body is stepping up support to the region as many who fled Boko Haram violence are now facing a humanitarian crisis even as attacks on their communities abate, he said. “The number of displaced is shocking, the number of children suffering from malnutrition is alarming,” Rycroft said. “It is like suffering twice.” Boko Haram has waged an eight-year campaign, capturing towns and razing villages in a bid to impose its version of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous country of more than 180 million people. Nigeria is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. Bloomberg

Nigeria Seeks U.S. Immigration Clarity, Advises Against Non-Urgent Travel
Nigeria has advised its citizens against any non-urgent travel to the United States until Washington clarifies its immigration policy, after several incidents in which people with valid visas were denied entry, a presidential aide said on Monday. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, said no reasons were given for the cases over recent weeks in which Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S. visas had been denied entry and sent back to Nigeria. The West African country is not among a group of Muslim-majority countries from which President Donald Trump wants to suspend travel to the United States on security grounds. About half of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim, and half Christian. Trump is expected to sign a new executive order on Monday to implement the travel ban, after his first attempt in January was blocked in the courts. Reuters

‘Deep regret and Discontent’ over New US Travel Ban: Sudan
Sudan expressed “deep regret and discontent” on Tuesday over US President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban barring its citizens from travelling to the United States. “The ministry of foreign affairs expresses its deep regret and discontent over the executive order issued by the American president,” a statement said. On Monday, Trump signed a revised ban on refugee admissions and new visas for travellers from six Muslim-majority nations, among them Sudan. It came after a first ban was frozen by US federal courts. The new executive order suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and halts new visas for travellers from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. Iraqis who had been targeted by the original ban were not included. News 24

Conflict in Somalia Impacts Future Drought Resistance
This is not Somalia’s first drought and it likely won’t be its last. The government announced Saturday that 110 people had died in a two-day period due to drought-induced famine, particularly in the Bay and Bakol regions, highlighting the need not just for rapid emergency response to this crisis, but also long-term solutions to prevent food insecurity. And some aid groups say ongoing conflict in Somalia has left it more vulnerable as long-term resilience programs are more challenging to properly implement there. Daniel O’Malley, deputy head of the Somalia delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross, argues that Kenya and Ethiopia are also suffering from drought, but in those countries there is a social safety net. VOA

Drought Emergency Spirals in Ethiopia Amid Major Aid Shortages 
Millions of drought-stricken Ethiopians needing food, water and emergency medical care are not receiving it due to funding shortages, the United Nations said, warning the crisis will worsen if spring rains fail as predicted. Some 5.6 million people need food aid in the Horn of Africa nation, which has been hit by a series of back-to-back droughts. “The needs relating to the developing emergency exceed resources available to date,” the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday. “Each day without food assistance exponentially increases human suffering, lengthens the recovery period of affected people, puts increasing pressure on humanitarian and development systems, and the interventions become that much more expensive.” It is three times cheaper to treat children who are moderately, rather than severely, malnourished, it said. But it takes at least four months to procure, ship and deliver emergency supplies to Ethiopia, it said. Reuters

Zambians Seeking Food Aid Killed in Stampede
At least eight people were killed in a stampede as thousands of Zambians, who have been affected by a humanitarian crisis caused by a prolonged and severe drought in southern Africa, scrambled for food handouts, police said. The stampede on Monday in the capital Lusaka took place at a public sports centre where a church was donating food to about 35,000 people, mostly from the city’s slums. “Eight people died while 28 others were injured in a stampede which happened at the Olympic Youth Development Centre around 0400GMT today as a crowd jostled to enter the premises,” police said in a statement. “The victims are among the 35,000 which the group had invited for prayers.” Al Jazeera

Museveni’s Visit to Dar Rescues Oil Pipeline Deal, Sets Project Timelines
President Yoweri Museveni’s recent state visit to Tanzania was to rescue the crude oil pipeline project after Dar officials pushed to revise the low tariff that lured Uganda to prefer the southern route to the one through Kenya. When President Museveni flew to Dar es Salaam on February 25 on the invitation of his counterpart John Pombe Magufuli to hold bilateral discussions, top on his list of priorities was the issue of harmonising the tariff that Uganda will pay for its oil to be transported through the port of Tanga in northern Tanzania. Energy and Mineral Development Minister Irene Muloni was guarded, only saying that discussions between the presidents were around “issues of intergovernmental agreements to conclude” after “discussions with our partners about the incentive of the Tanzania route.” But sources said the discussions in Dar es Salaam revolved around the tariff, and President Museveni returned to Kampala with a major victory after his visit ensured “the only impediment” that was still facing the $3.5 billion oil pipeline was removed. The East African

Magufuli Directs Tanesco to Cut Power Supply to Zanzibar over Debt
President John Magufuli Sunday directed Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) to disconnect power to all defaulters owing huge sums, including the Zanzibar government. The president said all public institutions should clear their debts or be disconnected. He said the government of the semi-autonomous archipelago, through Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (Zeco), owes Tanesco Tsh121 billion ($54.1 million). “Don’t be scared… you should cut supply to any institution which is not paying its bills. I want to tell the Minister (of Energy and Minerals) Prof Sospeter Muhongo that power should be disconnected even to State House. If I sleep in the dark, then the State House official who didn’t pay the bill will be in for it, not you. You have my assurance on this. Money to clear debts is usually allocated to our ministries but it is instead channelled elsewhere. The East African

Zim Declares State of Disaster Following Floods
Zimbabwean authorities have declared a national disaster and appealed to international donors for $100 million to help flood-stricken areas. Almost all of the country’s 10 provinces have been affected. The southern parts of the country have borne the brunt. Severe flooding and lightning strikes have killed more than 200 people and left close to 2 000 homeless since October. “The cumulative statistics on damages from October 2016 to date are as follows two thousand five hundred and seventy nine households have been damaged, 1579 people have been marooned, 246 human lives have been lost and 128 people injured,” said minister of local government Saviour Kasukuwere. The rainy season is expected to continue until the end of March. More than 800 people have been displaced and are now housed at Sipepa Transit Camp. SABC



Photo: Adam Jones