Africa Media Review for May 17, 2018

Burundi Votes in Referendum on the President’s Power
Burundi is voting Thursday in a referendum proposing constitutional changes that could extend the president’s rule until 2034. Five million people are registered to vote in the referendum amid fears of violence because of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s efforts to prolong his stay in power despite widespread opposition. This east African country descended into violence in 2015 when Nkurunziza sought a disputed third term, sparking angry street protests that the authorities violently put down. In Bujumbura, the capital, there are long lines of voters and the security forces have been deployed across the city.  AP

Mass Grave of Alleged Victims of Former President Jammeh Found in the Gambia
A mass grave containing the bodies of 12 west Africans allegedly killed by a paramilitary force controlled by the former president Yahya Jammeh has been identified near the Gambian capital, Banjul. The “Junglers”, a notorious hit squad that answered only to Jammeh, executed 54 people who were trying to make their way to Spain by sea in 2005, suspecting them of being mercenaries trying to overthrow the government, according to human rights groups that interviewed 30 Gambian officials. The only survivor of the massacre told the Guardian that he and his friends were arrested at sea and tortured before being driven to a forest, where they were killed. The Guardian

Congo Warns of ‘New Phase’ in Ebola Outbreak after First Urban Case
Congo’s Ebola outbreak has entered “a new phase” after a case of the deadly virus was detected for the first time in the northwest city of Mbandaka, with a population of about 1 million people, the health minister said late on Wednesday. So far, the 23 deaths believed to have been caused by Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus. The first urban case to be announced threatens to change that. The World Health Organization, which on Wednesday deployed the first experimental vaccines in the vast central African country, had expressed concern about the disease reaching Mbandaka, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle. Reuters

Congo Receives First Doses of Ebola Vaccine amid Outbreak
The first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak suspected to have killed 20 people arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Wednesday, said a Reuters witness at the airport. The Health Ministry said vaccinations would start on the weekend, the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago. The vaccine, developed by Merck and sent from Europe by the World Health Organization, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016. Reuters

Migrant Crisis Emerges in Sahara Desert on Algeria-Niger Border, IOM Says
Dozens of migrants have died in the searing heat of the Sahara Desert and thousands more are stuck there amid a wave of expulsions by Algeria. The United Nations migration agency, IOM, says it is providing shelter for 3,500 migrants in neighboring Niger, a landlocked nation that has become a crossroads on the trail toward Europe and a hotspot for human traffickers. Algeria last year launched a crackdown on illegal immigration across its southern border, and has stepped up patrols along the largely unmarked desert frontier. Reuters

Somalia: Puntland, Somaliland Forces Clash outside Tukaraq
A heavy fighting between Puntland and Somaliland forces broke out Tuesday, May 15 on the outskirts of Tukaraq town in Sool region, north of Somalia, Garowe Online reports. The battle erupted after Puntland troops at frontline came under ambush assault from the breakaway Somaliland soldiers early in the morning, according to the local residents. It’s not yet clear the exact figures of the casualties on both warring sides, but, Puntland’s Minister of Information, Abdi Hersi Ali “Qarjab” said the state troops managed to repel the attack and push back Somaliland armed forces. Garowe Online

Kenya Approves Controversial Cybercrimes Law
Kenya has approved a controversial new cybercrimes law that threatens heavy penalties for people who abuse others via social media – and that some critics contend could be used to stifle freedom of expression. Among other things, the computer and cybercrimes legislation – which President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law on Wednesday – makes it a crime to publish so-called false information, with hefty fines and prison terms for those found guilty. The law does not spell out what considers false information, saying only that it’s a criminal offense to intentionally publish false, misleading or fictitious data, or to intentionally misinform. Violators could face fines of up to almost $50,000 or two years in prison, or both. VOA

‘Vicious Cycle’ as Conflict Uproots Millions in Africa
Violence and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa forced 15,000 people from their homes every day in 2017, double the previous year’s figure, an international monitoring centre said on Wednesday, urging more help for those displaced within their own countries. The region accounted for nearly half the 11.8 million people worldwide who were displaced within their countries by conflict last year, according to a report from the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Internal displacement is often a precursor to cross-border movement and can lead to further conflict as host communities struggle to accommodate newcomers, said Alexandra Bilak, director of IDMC. “It’s a vicious cycle of vulnerability,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Reuters

ANC Battles Threaten Ramaphosa’s Drive to Transform South Africa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa may have won the battle to lead the African National Congress, but the war to fully control the ruling party is threatening his drive for structural policy change.Ramaphosas shaky hold over the party became clear when he had to use his government authority this month to take control of North West province after the ANC failed to force Premier Supra Mahumapelo from office following protests in the region. While Mahumapelo took a leave of absence, faction fighting is also rampant in areas such as KwaZulu-Natal, where Jacob Zuma enjoys widespread support following his February resignation as president. Bloomberg

Amnesty Says Europe Complicit in Libyan Abuse of Migrants
An international rights group says European countries share responsibility for hundreds of migrants intercepted by Libyan authorities and sent to “squalid detention centers.” Amnesty International said Wednesday that in the past two months at least 2,600 migrants have been transferred to such centers, where it says they face torture and extortion. European countries have backed Libyan efforts to stem the tide of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Amnesty says that makes the Europeans responsible for abuses carried out by Libyan forces. AP

Egypt Adds 241 Members of IS-Affiliated Group to Terrorist List
An Egyptian court on Wednesday added 241 members of Wilayat Sinai terrorist group, which is loyal to the Islamic State (IS) group, on terrorist list for five years. These people face charges of murder and attempted murder against army forces and police personnel in Egypt’s North Sinai province, according to official MENA news agency. They are also accused of forming 43 terror cells and committing 63 terrorist operations in collaboration with other 314 people of the militant group. The ruling was made by the Cairo Criminal Court, MENA reported. Xinhua

S. Sudan’s Machar Declines IGAD Offer to Move Him out of South Africa
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader Riek Machar has declined the decision of the IGAD to move him to another country, reiterating his demand to allow him to circulate freely, said the Sudanese acting foreign ministry. On Tuesday a delegation from the IGAD Council of Ministers led by the Ethiopian State Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirut Zemene met with Machar to discuss their decision of last March to lift his confinement in Pretoria and to move him to any country out of the IGAD countries and not a neighbour to South Sudan. In a statement released in Khartoum, the spokesperson of the Sudanese foreign ministry Gharib Allah Khidir said the delegation which included Sudan’s Ambassador to Pretoria listened to Machar’s ideas on the structure of the government institutions, the parliament and the number of states in South Sudan. Sudan Tribune

UN Urges International Help for South Sudan Civil War Victims
The United Nations is appealing for international help for victims of the civil war in South Sudan. The five-year-long war has killed tens of thousands and forced 3 million from their homes. Mark Lowcock, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has visited camps for displaced people in Kordofan. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Lowcock said aid groups need the security backing of the government to do a more efficient job in the region. Al Jazeera

Liberian Refugees Languish in Guinea
It is alleged that the reported maltreatment came in the wake of the Liberian refugees’ refusal to return home since war ended. The NewDawn’s Bong County correspondent who visited Guinea over the weekend says the living condition of Liberian refugees in Guinea is very poor. Over 3,000 Liberians are still in Guinea and wanting to return home, but they seem to be having difficulties due the lack of transportation.Our correspondent says Liberian refugees in Guinea are living by either begging or doing labor jobs for Guineans. Sometimes it is even difficult to pay for what they work for, this paper has gathered. Since the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) left, their living conditions have become worse, evidenced by the structure of their homes and very discouraging health conditions. The New Dawn Liberia

Swaziland: EU Money Pays for Lavish Swazi King
European Union taxpayers’ money is being used to finance the lavish lifestyle of Swaziland’s Royal Family, an investigation has revealed. This happens while seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty. Money given to develop Swaziland’s sugar industry ends up in the pocket of King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million. The report from Danish NGO Afrika Kontakt (Africa Contact) called The European Union in Swaziland: In support of an Authoritarian King? says EU money ‘benefits the Royal Family greatly’ and undermines democratic forces in Swaziland. Swazi Media



Photo: Adam Jones