Africa Media Review for May 1, 2017

French Forces Kill or Capture 20 Militant Fighters Near Mali-Burkina Faso Border
In a weekend operation involving airstrikes, French forces have reported killing or capturing 20 jihadists hiding in a forest near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso. A French soldier had been killed last month. A statement from the French regional force in Mali said the operation involved air and ground forces but it did not identify which militant group had been attacked. Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel semi-arid region. The militants were targeted in a forest in the southwest of Gao province in an operation which began on Saturday, Colonel Patrik Steiger, a military spokesman told AFP on Sunday. The operation began with air strikes by Mirage 2000 jets on supply depots which had been located in an earlier operation. Deutsche Welle

Mali Extends State of Emergency in Bid to Quell Islamist Attacks
Mali’s National Assembly has voted to extend a state of emergency by six months in a bid to quell an upsurge in attacks by Islamist militants based in the desert north of the West African country. On Saturday, Zoumana N’dji Doumbia, president of the National Assembly’s legal commission, announced Friday’s vote that gives security forces extra powers of arrest and detention. It is the latest extension of an emergency first imposed in November 2015. Deteriorating security threatens to return Mali to the chaos that nearly tore it to pieces in 2012 when Islamists hijacked an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north, before French forces pushed them back the following year. Reuters

Pope’s Timely Egypt Visit Comforts Grief-Stricken Christians
Pope Francis wrapped up a brief but deeply symbolic visit to Egypt on Saturday with an open-air Mass for the country’s tiny Catholic community, defying security concerns to show his support for the Christians of this Muslim majority Arab nation who have increasingly become targeted by Islamic militants. Military helicopters flew overhead and police fanned out in force as Francis zoomed around the soccer stadium in suburban Cairo where Mass was held, using an open-topped golf cart and waving to members of the congregation, evidence of his hallmark desire to be close to his flock at all costs. The crowd cheered him wildly, waving Egyptian and Holy See flags and swaying to hymns sung by church choirs. The military-run stadium has a capacity of 25,000, but only about 15,000 people attended — a reflection that Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people. But the relatively modest number and the draconian security did not dampen their jubilant mood. Francis engaged the crowd with waves and smiles, and gave his blessings to the children hoisted up by their parents. Stars and Stripes

South Sudan Armed Opposition Rejects Declaring Unilateral Ceasefire
The military command of armed opposition faction loyal to the exiled former First Vice President Riek Machar has dismissed as “nonsense” voices calling for a declaration of unilateral ceasefire between the warring parties in South Sudan conflict. Lt. General Wesley Welebe Samson, the SPLM/A-IO Deputy Chief of Staff for Training said in a statement released on Sunday that the basis of declaring ceasefire would be determined by the situation after the leader of the opposition is allowed to return to the headquarters. “There will be no unilateral ceasefire from the side of the SPLM in Opposition if Dr Riek Machar, the leader of the largest armed movement in South Sudan is not relocated to his Pagak GHQs to convince his forces the logic behind the so-called ceasefire that President Salva Kiir always violates to the letter,” said Gen Samson. Sudan Tribune

Kiir Reaches Out to Opposition to Revive National Dialogue
South Sudan President Salva Kiir is reaching out to the opposition after intense pressure from the international community to prove that the National Dialogue he initiated last December is real and is capable of saving the country from the escalating violence. President Kiir last Tuesday appointed John Garang’s widow Rebecca Garang and two of her allies in the group of former detainees, John Luke and former finance minister Kosti Manibe members of the National Dialogue committee. The East African

Can Funding Uncertainty Improve Peacekeeping in Africa?
At the end of April, the United States (US) may cut a substantial amount of its development support budgets, including up to 40% of its contribution to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping, and 30% of its overall foreign aid. Whether or not the US Congress approves the proposed budget cuts, this has put organisations like the UN and the African Union (AU) on high alert. The US is a large funder of both AU and UN peace operations. It contributed around US$2 billion to the UN peacekeeping budget in 2016; and has funded hundreds of millions of dollars to AU missions like the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Decreasing funding to such vital global mechanisms can reduce the ability of international organisations to deploy peacekeeping operations, and even to sustain existing missions. ISS

DR Congo: UN Peacekeepers Face Fresh Sexual Abuse Claims
A UN peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been suspended over allegations that he fathered a child with an underage girl. Under Congolese law, anyone under 18 is considered a minor. The Romanian military observer is among five peacekeepers accused of acts of sexual abuse and exploitation in the first three months of 2017, a senior UN official told the BBC. UN peacekeeping missions have been hit by a raft of child sex abuse scandals. BBC

Libya Seizes Oil Tankers after Shootout at Sea
Libya’s coastguard has seized two foreign-flagged tankers and detained their crews for allegedly smuggling oil after an hours-long gun battle off the west coast. The coastguard spotted the vessels on Thursday night about 2km off Sidi Said near Zuwara, a town on the central coast, authorities said. “The Libyan coastguard boarded the two tankers, one flying the Ukrainian flag, the Ruta, and the other, the Stark, flying the Congolese flag,” said General Ayoub Qassem. “The coastguards had monitored them from afar and waited until Friday morning to act,” he told AFP news agency on Sunday. Qassem said the oil traffickers were heavily armed and were supported by small boats. Al Jazeera

Sudan’s al-Bashir Calls on Opposition to Join New Govt
In the run-up to the formation of a transitional government in Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir on Friday called on the country’s opposition to join the process. The “consensus” government is being drawn up based on recommendations issued by the government’s “national dialogue” initiative with the opposition. The initiative, launched by al-Bashir three years ago, ended in 2016 with a number of recommendations. These recommendations included the formation of a new government; finalizing the peace process with rebel groups; allowing wider participation by opposition parties; and drawing up a new constitution to guarantee public freedoms. Anadolu Agency

Who Wants to Be a President? A Dummy’s Guide to the 2017 ANC Leadership Race
President Jacob Zuma is perturbed that so many people are competing for his job as ANC leader. “Where have you ever seen a situation where all of us want to become president?”, Zuma asked at an ANC event at Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend. He claimed this was due to foreign forces trying to take control of the ANC. There is a rather crowded field at present, though this is probably due to the multiple factions at play. It could also be a sign of healthy competition in the ANC. So who are the players and how do they line up? Daily Maverick

Sacked S.Africa Finance Minister Warns of ANC Meltdown
South Africa’s former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who was dramatically fired by President Jacob Zuma, has warned that the ruling ANC party could lose power in the next election. Gordhan — widely seen as a bulwark against government corruption in South Africa — also appeared to back deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma. “I think there are many of us who are extremely worried that if we continue as we are in the African National Congress (ANC), we are likely to lose the 2019 elections,” Gordhan told CNN late Thursday. “If we, like any business organisation or political organisation, fail to muster the right leadership, stick by the right kind of values and do the right thing… then of course we will, as an organisation, fail.” The party slipped to 55 percent of the vote in last year’s local elections — its worst-ever result. The ANC will hold a conference in December to pick a new party leader who will be its candidate for the 2019 elections — and Gordhan gave his clearest indication yet that he will back Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma. Daily Monitor

The ANC is Mandela’s Legacy. Now His Granddaughter Has Renounced South Africa’s Ruling Party
She was the eldest grandchild of Nelson Mandela, and that meant politics were woven into her life. As a child, it meant visiting her grandfather in prison as he served time for fighting apartheid. Later, it meant celebrating in the presidential office as the racist system fell. And always, it meant that Ndileka Mandela was an exalted member of the African National Congress (ANC), the organization led by her grandfather. More than a party, it had long been synonymous with the black majority’s struggle for justice under white rule — and with Mandela himself. But last month, Ndileka, 52, opened Facebook on her computer and posted a picture of herself voting with her grandfather in 2011. Then she swallowed hard and began to type: “I will no longer vote for the ANC.” The Washington Post

UAE’s Battle-Hardened Military Expands into Africa, Mideast
The United Arab Emirates is better known for its skyscrapers and pampered luxuries, but its small size belies a quiet expansion of its battle-hardened military into Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East. The seven-state federation ranks as one of Washington’s most prominent Arab allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, hosting some 5,000 American military personnel, fighter jets and drones. But the practice gunfire echoing through the deserts near bases outside of Dubai and recent military demonstrations in the capital of Abu Dhabi show a country increasingly willing to flex its own muscle amid its suspicions about Iran. Already, the UAE has landed expeditionary forces in Afghanistan and Yemen. Its new overseas bases on the African continent show this country, which U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calls “Little Sparta,” has even larger ambitions. Reuters

UN Security Council Backs New Western Sahara Talks Push
The United Nations Security Council unanimously backed attempts to restart talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the Western Sahara conflict, and extended its peacekeeping mission there for another year. The resolution came after the U.N. mission confirmed the Polisario had withdrawn troops from the Guerguerat area of the territory, a vast swath of desert bordering the Atlantic Ocean that has been contested since 1975. They had faced off in Guerguerat since 2016 with Morocco, which pulled its forces back earlier this year. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month called for Morocco and the Polisario Front, which fought a war over the region until a 1991 ceasefire, to enter new negotiations that would include proposals from both sides. Reuters

Tanzania’s President Magufuli Sacks 10,000 over Fake Certificates 
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has sacked nearly 10,000 civil servants for having fake education certificates. He was responding to the release of a government report into fraudulent qualifications in the public sector. The education minister said that some had been using their relatives’ school certificates, while others did not appear on official records at all. President Magufuli has given those on the list until 15 May to resign or face legal action. BBC

UN Airlifts Aid Into Angola for DRC Asylum Seekers
The United Nations’ refugee agency on Sunday airlifted its first batch of relief supplies to the more than 11,000 people on Angola’s northern border fleeing the latest violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The U.N. said that more than a million civilians have been displaced inside the DRC since a brutal conflict broke out in the Kasai region in mid-2016, with about 25,000 asylum seekers crossing into Angola. “Arrivals are in urgent need of life-saving assistance, including food, water, shelter and medical services,” the U.N. Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) southern Africa representative, Sharon Cooper, said in a statement. VOA

Tunisia Forces Kill Fighters Planning Ramadan Attack
A senior commander in an armed group blew himself up and another was shot dead during a raid by Tunisian security forces on Sunday. The men – suspected of having links with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch (AQIM) – were planning attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, according to a spokesman for Tunisia’s national guard. The raid took place in Sidi Bouzid, a town 200km southwest of the capital, Tunis. Another three people were detained and security forces were hunting for other suspects. The group had been under surveillance for weeks after communications about a possible attack were intercepted, National Guard spokesman Colonel-Major Khelifa Chibani said. Al Jazeera

My Life Is in Danger, Says Burundi Opposition Leader
Burundi’s main opposition leader and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Agathon Rwasa has claimed his life is in danger following attacks of several of his supporters by unknown people. He said the attacks and a plot to assassinate him are linked to the coming elections in 2020. Mr Rwasa pointed an accusing finger at members of the ruling party, Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Restoration of Democracy, CNDD-FDD, and the police. Mr Rwasa is one of the few opposition leaders who have remained critical of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. Several of his supporters have lately been killed and others kidnapped and he says these incidents have left him fearing for his life. But the government has dismissed the claims, saying he had not even made an official complaint. The East African

Yoweri Museveni: A Five Times-Elected Dictator? 
He’s ruled Uganda for 31 years. With five presidential terms in office, Yoweri Museveni is surrounded by controversies related to freedom of speech, human rights, allegations of nepotism, and even the killing of Ugandan citizens. But President Museveni claims Uganda is one of the most democratic countries in the world and that he is leading his people out of poverty and to an even better future. At 72, though, he’s three years away from the constitutional age limit to serve as president. But there is already speculation he will try to change that limit so he can get around it. As he visited the State of Qatar, Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, talked to Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

China’s Appetite Leaves Nets Empty
[…] Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidised by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them. Increasingly, China’s growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels is heading to the waters of West Africa, drawn by corruption and weak enforcement by local governments. West Africa, experts say, now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleet. And by some estimates, as many as two-thirds of those boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws. China’s distant-water fishing fleet has grown to nearly 2,600 vessels (the U.S. has fewer than one-tenth as many), with 400 boats coming into service between 2014 and 2016 alone. The Hindu

‘Jihadists Were Going to Burn It All’: The Amazing Story of Timbuktu’s Book Smugglers
In 2012, ​tens of ​thousands of ​artefacts from the golden age of Timbuktu were at risk in Mali’s civil war. This exclusive extract describes the race to save them​ from the flames – and how lethal attacks could still threaten the town’s treasures. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones