Africa Media Review for March 8, 2017

South Africa Revokes ICC Withdrawal After Court Ruling
South Africa has revoked its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the High Court said the move was unconstitutional. It had notified the UN of its intention to leave last October, saying the ICC pursued “regime change”. The opposition Democratic Alliance then argued in court that the government had to first seek parliamentary approval. But it may not be the end of the government’s bid to leave The Hague-based court. Justice Minister Michael Masutha was quoted as saying after the court ruling in February that the government would consider its options. In the meantime, according to a statement on the UN treaties website, the planned pull out has been officially cancelled. BBC

South Sudan Experiencing Ethnic Cleansing, UN Report Says
A new United Nations report describes South Sudan as teetering on the edge of genocide and experiencing ethnic cleansing, a stark portrayal of a nation whose crises now include famine. The seven-month inquiry by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights into South Sudan is the most comprehensive report so far into ethnic cleansing and conditions that could lead to genocide in the nation deep in civil war, according to U.N. officials. The report includes new details on deliberate starvation and bombardment of civilians. It describes the use of hate speech by top officials including President Salva Kiir. “Violations have mainly been committed by government soldiers, members of the National Security Service, police officers and militias aligned with” government forces, the report says. Unless “perpetrators of serious violations are brought to account, the viability of South Sudan as a new nation state will be stymied, if it has not been already.” AP

South Sudan Renegade General Calls for Overthrow of Kiir
A renegade South Sudanese general says President Salva Kiir is destroying the East African nation and must be overthrown. General Thomas Cirillo Swaka spoke to VOA’s South Sudan in Focus from an undisclosed location Monday, soon after announcing the launch of a new rebel group, the National Salvation Front. “Kiir is killing our people, Kiir has betrayed the aspiration, the hope of our people,” he said. “So it is a must for the people of South Sudan … to come out at this historical juncture to see into it that Kiir is not there.” South Sudan has been mired in war since fighting between pro- and anti-Kiir factions broke out at the end of 2013. The war has displaced more than two million people from their homes and triggered ongoing food shortages in many areas. VOA

South Sudan Will Now Charge $10,000 For An Aid Worker Permit. Why?
Late last month, famine was declared in two counties of the civil-war torn East African country of South Sudan. With 100,000 people at risk for dying of starvation in that area alone and millions more on the brink of crisis-level food shortages throughout the country, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir promised “unimpeded access” to humanitarian aid organizations working there. A few days later the South Sudanese government hiked the fee for work permits for foreign aid workers from $100 to $10,000. It’s unclear whether the fee would apply only to newcomers or to those already there as well. Whatever the case, the amount is “absolutely unheard of globally,” said Julien Schopp, director for Humanitarian Practice at InterAction, an alliance of 180 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working around the world. “No organization can afford this, and if NGOs go to their institutional donors to request that extra money, I’m pretty sure that [the donors] will be reluctant to pay this because they will see this to some extent as ransom.” With the South Sudan experiencing a poor economy, the government is seeking revenue “wherever it can find it,” he says. NPR

New DRC Opposition Leader Félix Tshisekedi Appeals for Unity Amidst Criticism
Fresh from being chosen to lead DR Congo’s opposition coalition in crucial negotiations with President Joseph Kabila’s government, Felix Tshisekedi has appealed for unity in the opposition. The remarks follows discontent among sections of the opposition coalition who were not happy with the choice of the younger Tshisekedi as leader, with some openly criticising his lack of senior political experience. “I do not think it is the presence or the absence of Pierre Lumbi in the National Council for the follow-up of the agreement, or my presence or absence at the level of the Presidency of the coalition that poses a problem,” said Tshisekedi, “What is essential are the objectives that have been set by the agreement. So that’s what we need to discuss and not about our ego problems.” Africa News

435 Congo Police, Soldiers Convicted of Sexual Violence
More than 400 policemen and soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were convicted for crimes of sexual violence last year, according to authorities. Military court clerk John Mbwiga told Anadolu Agency that 434 members of the country’s security forces were tried and found guilty of raping girls and women. “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to stop our soldiers from getting involved in harassing girls and women. We will continue to severely punish soldiers and policemen involved in raping women,” he underlined late Monday. According to the office of Congo’s Presidential Adviser on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment, 519 cases of sexual violence — over 390 involving minors — were recorded in 2016. Anadolu Agency

Fighting for Libya’s Oil Raises Questions Over Eastern Strongman  
Libya’s slow-burn conflict swept into two of its most important oil facilities late last week, shutting ports and triggering a drop in crude output in the OPEC nation. The attacks in the oil crescent were a setback to a military commander based in Libya’s east who wants — with the help of allies including Russia and Egypt — to expand his influence all the way to the capital, Tripoli. Here’s a look at why they matter for a country that has collapsed into fiefdoms since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi. The offensive on Es Sider, Libya’s largest export terminal for oil, and Ras Lanuf, its biggest refinery, began March 3 and was led by the Benghazi Defense Brigades. The militia is mainly composed of Islamist-leaning rebels and former army officers who fought to topple Qaddafi and were forced to flee Benghazi as Khalifa Haftar, the eastern strongman, launched an offensive to secure the city in 2014. Bloomberg

Libya’s Eastern Parliament Quits UN Peace Deal with Tripoli
Libya’s eastern parliament voted on Tuesday to withdraw its support for a United Nations peace deal and Government of National Accord, stoking concerns that recent violence in the fractured country could escalate. Abdullah Ablaihig, spokesperson for the Tobruk-based, internationally recognized House of Representatives, said the body voted to annul its previous acceptance of a presidential council and the UN-backed government currently led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli. The decision comes as Libya’s rival power centers are sliding closer to open conflict, with breakaway militias backed by western Libyan factions seizing oil terminals from the east’s strongman general, whose forces have vowed to take them back. The Tobruk body called on all Libyan parties to condemn militias that occupied the two key terminals in what it described as “terrorist attacks,” saying it was suspending its participation in peace talks until they did so. News 24

Fighting Between Libyan Smugglers Kills 22 Migrants: IOM
Fighting between rival people-smuggling gangs on Libya’s Mediterranean coast has killed 22 people, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday. The dead were thought to be migrants rather than smugglers because they were sub-Saharan Africans, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said. More than 100 people were wounded, he told a news briefing in Geneva, citing information from colleagues in Libya. The latest deaths come in addition to the 140 bodies found on Libyan beaches so far this year, while there have been 477 deaths at sea on the route from Libya. So far this year 15,760 migrants have arrived in Italy, up from 9,101 in the same period of 2016, while almost 3,000 migrants have been rescued at sea and brought back to Libya, Millman said. Reuters

Antonio Guterres Raises Alarm as Hunger Crisis Worsens 
The UN chief has urged international support to alleviate Somalia’s worsening hunger crisis during an emergency visit to the country. Antonio Guterres issued the appeal on Tuesday after witnessing the suffering of malnourished Somalis and cholera victims during his first field trip since becoming the UN chief. He said the hunger crisis requires a massive response as six million people, or almost half of the population of the Horn of Africa country, need assistance. “Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it,” Guterres said after seeing skeletal men, women and children in a cholera ward in Baidoa, 243km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Al Jazeera

African Leaders Lament US’ Planned Reductions on Foreign Aid
African parliamentarians have lamented the announcement by the United States government that it will implement major reductions in foreign aid. America is a major financial contributor to peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa. It has given more than R25 billion for aid in South Sudan since the start of the conflict in 2013. President of the Pan African Parliament Bernadette Lahai says, as the continent, the party is concerned that America has announced that they are going to cut aid. “No country is independent from each other. We want fair trade not aid.” On Monday, the African Parliament also lashed out at the South African government for failing to provide them with adequate security. SABC

EU Pledges More Support for New Somalia Government
Somalia’s biggest donor, the European Union, has pledged increased support for the new government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. New EU special envoy to Somalia Veronique Lorenzo told The EastAfrican that the successful outcome of the elections makes relations with Somalia much easier and that their focus will now be on investment, infrastructure development and the delivery of basic services. “The new president represents a fresh beginning with a lot of popular support. We have already held three meetings with him and agreed that he needs to succeed. However, everybody knows that security remains the main challenge because it is not just about putting soldiers on the ground; it is a complex undertaking that needs serious plans for local governance and establishment of local administration to bring about some predictability,” said Ms Lorenzo. The East African

Lesotho King Dissolves Parliament, Elections Expected Soon
Lesotho’s King Letsie has dissolved the mountainous kingdom’s parliament, paving way for an election within three months, BBC Live said on Tuesday. This came less than a week following reports that Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of the Democratic Congress (DC) party lost a confidence vote in parliament. Mosisili had headed a coalition government since a snap election in 2015 that was called in an effort to end the country’s prolonged power struggles. But the coalition was recently fragmented, and parliament voted in favour of replacing Mosisili with Monyane Moleleki, whose Alliance of Democrats party split from the DC last year. News 24

Gambia: Is the Coalition Losing The Plot?
The UDP, GMC, NRP parties have made a clean break from the Coalition to adopt a so-called tactical alliance for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Darboe, the head of this breakaway group, is against the idea of fielding independent candidates for each of the 53 constituencies, branding it as “illogical and ineffective”. Halifa Sallah and the rest of the Coalition members consisting of PPP, PDOIS, GPDP argued for independent candidates in line with the Coalition Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in November 2016. According to the MOU the political parties agreed “to put all differences aside to put a transitional government in place that would initiate constitutional, electoral, institutional, administrative and managerial reforms to create a democratic system which enables each party to seek the mandate of the people in a free, fair and genuine election after a three year transition”. Jollof News

Dlamini Zuma Shuffles Out of Addis, and Into SA’s Cabinet?
Outgoing African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has packed her bags and greeted staff at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. The farewell ceremony, on 1 March, came just over a month after the election of her successor, Chad’s former prime minister, Moussa Faki, on 31 January. The handover to a new Commission – with its chairperson, deputy chairperson and eight commissioners – typically takes three months. This was certainly the case in 2012 – when Dlamini Zuma was elected in July, and officially started work on 1 October. As noted by the Institute for Security Studies’ PSC Report, Smaïl Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security, was the only current commissioner who was  re-elected for another mandate. Since Chergui won’t need a lengthy handover, he’ll be the only member of the old team when the new Commission starts its work on 15 March. ISS

UN Lauds West Africa for Successes in ‘Preventive Diplomacy’
The United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UN DPA) has lauded the efforts of West Africa in the area of preventive diplomacy. According to UN DPA chief, Jeffrey Feltman, the region could serve as a model on how the UN can work with local partners to bring stability to regions or sub-regions. “The situation in West Africa says a lot of the region’s growing capacity to deal with regional problems,” he told reporters at a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York. The transition in the Gambia is “a very clear case of prevention,” in which the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the UN were “all united behind the will of Gambian people.” Africa News

Nigeria to Close Airport in Capital for Six Weeks
Nigeria will close the capital city of Abuja’s airport at the end of Wednesday for six weeks of scheduled runway repairs, an aviation ministry spokesman said, after airlines threatened to stop flying there. Passengers will be diverted to Kaduna airport, about 160 km (100 miles) north of the capital. They will then be transported on guarded buses to Abuja, along a road where kidnappings have taken place in recent years. Kaduna airport has primarily been used for domestic flights, with Abuja airport handling 4,859 domestic flights in December compared with the 171 that flew in or out of Kaduna. The government, which announced plans for the shutdown in December, hopes international carriers will use Kaduna as an alternative during the closure. But on Monday workers were still needing to fit electrics, seating and toilets in the new terminal there. Reuters

Sudan Is Open for Business – for Now
When President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Sudan, went into effect in January, New Yorkers protesting at John F. Kennedy International Airport had more to say about it than the Sudanese government. It fell to Abdel-Ghani al-Naim, Bashir’s undersecretary of foreign affairs, to object — but not too vigorously and only after underscoring Sudan’s keenness to “continue the dialogue and cooperation with the American side at all levels.” There was a clear message being telegraphed through this mild response: While Khartoum considers the travel ban an inconvenience, it does not want it to jeopardize the recent progress it has made towards normalizing its relations with the United States. After more than two decades in the cold, the Sudanese government is intent on shedding its pariah status — so the Sudanese students and green card holders stranded at U.S. airports were forced to look to the American Civil Liberties Union for assistance. Khartoum was not about to make a fuss on their behalf. That’s because prior to Trump’s travel ban, things had been looking up for Bashir, who was indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court in 2009. In the dying hours of his presidency, Barack Obama signed an executive order partially lifting economic sanctions that had been in place since 1997, when Sudan ran afoul of the United States by hosting Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. Foreign Policy

Ethiopia Charges 76 Individuals With Terrorism
As fresh terrorism charges against several individuals surge following the yearlong public protests that led to the current state of emergency, prosecutors in Ethiopia have today charged a group of 76 individuals with various articles of Ethiopia’s infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). […] The charge, which was given to all the accused this morning, also states that the 76 were apprehended in Kafta Humara Woreda of western Tigray zone along with arms including 37 machine guns and hundreds of ammunitions, bombs and various types of military equipment. It further accuses the suspects of killing two security forces; attempt to violently overthrow the constitution; attempt to disrupt the import of oil from neighboring Sudan; attempt to establish a military base in Quwara woreda of western Tigray; and inciting civil servants to participate in recent anti-government protests in northern Ethiopia. Addis Standard

Africa Whistleblowers’ Initiative Launches in Senegal
Lawyers and human rights campaigners launched an initiative for African whistleblowers in Senegal on Tuesday, aimed at providing a secure means of exposing wrongdoing on the continent. African nations such as Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Guinea-Bissau regularly appear at the very bottom of rankings such as Transparency International’s Corruption Index, while none make it into the top 30. The Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) will provide guidance from legal experts, secure submission of information and a hotline for potential informants, according to its founders. The initiative is the brainchild of Spanish superstar lawyer Baltasar Garzon – who has defended Julian Assange of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks – along with French lawyer William Bourdon, who worked on the LuxLeaks case, and Senegalese human rights advocate Alioune Tine. News 24

Why Are African Governments so Worried by Social Media?
Many Kenyan social media users are worried that the government will shut down the internet during August’s general election. Kenya’s Communications Authority has attempted to reassure voters that this is unlikely. However, fears that internet freedoms could be at risk are not unfounded. The Conversation The list of African countries that have blocked access to social media during elections and other politically sensitive periods is growing. Over the past year this included; Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, the Republic of Congo and Uganda. Countries like Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania, have introduced cybercrime legislation that threatens freedom of expression. Elsewhere, social media users, including journalists, have been prosecuted under existing legislation for content they have shared online. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones