Africa Media Review for May 18, 2017

Red Cross Finds 115 Bodies in CAR Diamond-Mining Town
Red Cross workers have found 115 bodies in Central African Republic’s diamond-mining town of Bangassou after several days of militia attacks, the president of the aid group’s local branch said on Wednesday. The battle for control of the town marks a new escalation in a conflict that began in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from Christian militias. Recent clashes have centred on diamond-rich central and southern areas of the country, with rival militias battling among themselves to control them, aid workers say. Reuters

UN Sends Troops to Central African Republic Diamond-Mining Town
The United Nations said it plans to deploy more peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic diamond-mining town of Bangassou to stem a recent wave of violence. Almost three quarters of the 35,000 inhabitants of the southeastern town need humanitarian assistance following the unrest, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The additional forces are being deployed to “neutralize attackers, protect civilians and facilitate critical humanitarian support to the population,” Dujarric said. Bloomberg

Watch: Rarely Seen Footage from the Conflict in the Central African Republic
“The hard-earned relative calm in [the capital] Bangui and some of the bigger towns in CAR risks being eclipsed by the descent of some rural areas into increasing sectarian violence, with defenceless civilians – as usual – paying the highest price,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the top UN human rights official said. Marcus Bleasdale is an award winning photojournalist who has traveled extensively through the Central African Republic to document the conflict there. You can see his photos in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic. He also took hours of video footage as the conflict was erupting and National Geographic has just posted this short documentary which offers a “view into the daily lives of the people trapped in the chaotic disintegration of their country and their determination to survive and rebuild.” UN Dispatch

UN to Deploy ‘Rapid Intervention Force’ in Central Mali
A rapid intervention force of Senegalese troops will soon be deployed in central Mali, which has seen an increase in jihadist attacks and communal violence since 2015, the new UN peacekeeping chief said. “We are awaiting the upcoming deployment in the centre (of Mali), by Senegal, of a rapid intervention force to deal with the situation of insecurity,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, told reporters on his first visit to the west African country since taking office. “In light of the security situation,” the UN’s Mali mission (MINUSMA) had a “robust mandate but, despite its efforts, there was a lack of capacity,” Lacroix said Wednesday. News 24

Somalia Needs More Action, Less Lip Service
Drought, a lack of security and inclusive politics, unemployment and poverty, piracy and the terror group al-Shabaab continue to plague Somalia. And while there has been progress in addressing these challenges, it isn’t enough. To this end a New Partnership for Somalia (NPS) and a Security Pact were unveiled at the 11 May London Conference where representatives from over 40 organisations and nations gathered to measure progress and reaffirm international commitments in pursuit of a stable and secure Somalia. The NPS outlines the relationship between the international community and Somalia over the next four years, and the Security Pact sets out a vision for Somalia-led security institutions, building on last month’s agreement between the Somali Federal Government and its Federal Member States (FMS) on the nation’s National Security Architecture. ISS

How a Trump Order on Abortion Could Hurt the Fight Against AIDS in Africa
A Trump administration order took effect this week barring U.S. aid for global health organizations that discuss or provide referrals for abortion. But the new policy put another program in the crosshairs: America’s global HIV/AIDS effort. Since 2003, the U.S. government has spent more than $70 billion to combat the global epidemic, with tremendous results. The annual number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by more than 40 percent. Under President Trump’s expansion of the so-called global gag rule, however, many HIV/AIDS organizations funded by the United States stand to lose their funding, putting at risk the possibility of eliminating the epidemic by 2030, a commitment established at the U.N. General Assembly last year. About $6 billion in U.S. HIV/AIDS funding could be affected. “Reaching those ambitious targets could now be placed in real jeopardy,” said Divya Bajpai, the director of programs at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. The Washington Post

Invitation to Sudan’s Al-Bashir Sparks Controversy over Trump, Saudi Summit
As President Donald Trump of the United States plans his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, word that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir also has been invited to attend has sparked diplomatic controversy – and a swift response from the American Embassy in Khartoum. Bashir will travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday, according to a spokesman speaking with Reuters, but it remains unclear if the leader – who faces warrants by the International Criminal Court – will be meeting with Trump. Trump plans to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit with some 55 Arab and Islamic leaders, and is expected to deliver a speech on Islam and discuss plans for cooperation among nations. The weekend summit consists of three distinct meetings, including one with an America-Saudi Arabia focus, and another with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. However, the American Embassy in Khartoum was quick to issue a press release that clarified their opposition to Bashir’s travel plans. Africa Times

Zuma Risks Showdown With Own Party in South Africa Power Play
After months of attacks by opposition parties, labor unions and the courts, South African President Jacob Zuma now appears to be on a collision course with a more dangerous adversary: his own ruling African National Congress. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said this week that the party told Zuma’s administration to rescind a decision to reappoint Brian Molefe, who’d been implicated in a graft probe, as the head of the state power utility. Last month three of the party’s top six leaders slated the president’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move that cost the nation its investment-grade credit rating from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. The faction fighting is pushing the ANC across a line that threatens its integrity as a coherent political force, said Aubrey Matshiqi, an independent political analyst. “It is a line beyond which an organization such as the ANC becomes a snake that starts eating itself from the tail,” he said. Bloomberg

Bodies of 29 Illegal Miners Pulled From South African Shaft
South African police say the bodies of at least 29 illegal miners have been recovered from a shaft where an underground explosion occurred. The Times of South Africa reported Wednesday that survivors of last week’s blast say more bodies are still underground. Most of the dead are from neighboring countries including Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The mine where the illegal miners were working had been owned by the Harmony Gold company and then closed. It is near the town of Welkom in Free State province. AP

23 Sentenced in Ethiopia for al-Qaida, al-Shabab Links
A court in Ethiopia has sentenced 23 people to up to 15 years in prison for establishing links to the al-Qaida and al-Shabab extremist groups. The Ethiopian Federal High Court says they had been accused of planning to carry out terror attacks inside the East African country. The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate quotes the court ruling as saying three of those sentenced had been planning to establish an Islamic state. Court officials say the defendants were active between 2010 and 2014 in six cities including the capital, Addis Ababa. AP

Malawi Plans to Take Lake Dispute with Tanzania to Hague Court
Malawi is planning to take its dispute with Tanzania over Lake Malawi, with its potentially massive reserves of oil and gas, to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the foreign affairs minister said on Wednesday. Malawi, at the west of Africa’s third-largest lake, claims the entire northern half of the lake while Tanzania, to the east, says it owns half of the northern area. The southern half is shared between Malawi and Mozambique. Gas finds in the region have made the 50-year-old row over territory between Tanzania and Malawi more intense. VOA

Angola Opposition Party Requests Report on President’s Health
Angola’s main opposition party asked the government for official information about President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s health after he left in a private trip to Spain more than two weeks ago. “There are many rumors about the health of the president and there is a need to officially provide clarification about what is happening,” Alcides Sakala, a spokesman for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, said by phone from Luanda, the capital. “While this is a society that is very fertile when it comes to rumors, there is no official information available about the president’s health.” Dos Santos’s daughter, Isabel, said on her Instagram account that reports that her father had died were fake and aimed at causing turmoil in Angolan politics. The 74-year-old Dos Santos, Africa’s second-longest serving ruler, traveled to Barcelona on May 1, Angola’s state-owned news agency Angop reported. Bloomberg

SADEC, North Africa Call for Rotational PAP Presidency
The highly contested presidency of the Pan African Parliament continues to be a source of concern by members of the body. The term of office for the current president, Roger Nkodo Dang of Cameroon is coming to an end soon. And members from the SADEC and North Africa are now calling for a rotation of the presidency to avoid another Francophone member taking over. Since the establishment of the African Union legislative body in 2004, its presidency has never seen SADEC and North Africa at its helm. Members from the block now want to see change. They wish to see a rotation of one term, a proposal vehemently opposed by the French speaking MPs. Tensions rise every time the matter is brought for debate. SABC

East Africa on High alert as Ebola Hits DRC
Eastern African countries are on high alert following the confirmation of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The move comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an Ebola outbreak in DRC on Friday, following one positive test in a specialised laboratory in Kinshasa, the country’s capital. Nine suspected cases including three deaths have been reported in DRC since April 22, while six patients are currently hospitalised. Tehe East African

Rebels Attack South Sudan’s Yei, Four Soldiers Dead: Governor
Rebels attacked the South Sudanese town of Yei on Tuesday, killing at least four government soldiers, the state governor said. Rebel forces in the country’s three-year-old civil war said the death count was higher and told civilians to leave the southwest town close to the border with Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. “What the rebels are doing here is destruction and creating a situation where civilians suffer,” David Lokonga Moses, the governor of surrounding Yei River State, told Reuters. South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 then plunged into civil war two years later after President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, sacked his deputy and long-time rival Riek Machar, a Nuer. Reuters

Russia Set For Rocket Fire Off Libya Coast, U.S. FAA Warns
Russian warships are planning to carry out live rocket tests in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya later this month, prompting the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to warn aircraft passing through the airspace of the war-torn north African nation. The FAA has warned that the tests could be carried out by the Russian navy at anytime between May 24-27. […] Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean has typically been rotated from the country’s nearby fleets, but since its intervention in Syria in 2015 Moscow has periodically reinforced its deployments with vessels such as the Admiral Kuznetsov air carrier. Russia controls a port in the Syrian port of Tartus that allows it to permanently station vessels in Mediterranean waters. Newsweek

OPEC Wild Cards: Libya, Nigeria oil Output Stokes Concern, But Geopolitical Risks Still Simmer
Rising oil production in Libya and Nigeria is raising concerns about OPEC’s ability to boost crude prices, but conflicts in the two nations may still keep a lid on their output. Both OPEC members are exempt from the cartel’s deal to remove 1.2 million barrels a day from the oil market in the first six months of this year. But with OPEC poised to extend the agreement at least through the rest of 2017, the conflicts that sidelined Libyan and Nigerian crude supplies appear to be easing. Libya’s output rose above 800,000 barrels a day for the first time since 2014, when a second civil war broke out, the country’s National Oil Corp. reported last week. Meanwhile, Nigeria is restoring major infrastructure damaged in militant attacks that nearly halved its output last year. CNBC

UNICEF: 300,000 Children Migrating Solo – Up Nearly Fivefold
Authorities have documented more than 300,000 children migrating alone worldwide over a two-year period, marking a dramatic escalation of a trend that has forced many young refugees into slavery and prostitution, the UN children’s agency said on Wednesday. UNICEF said 170,000 of those children sought asylum in Europe in 2015-2016, many after making the treacherous trip across the Mediterranean Sea where hundreds of children are estimated to have drowned last year. Nearly 92 percent of the boys and girls arriving by boat in Italy in 2016 and early 2017 came unaccompanied or had been separated from their relatives along the way, the report said. They came mainly from the African nations of Eritrea, Gambia, Nigeria, Egypt and Guinea, UNICEF said. The Telegraph

Wealth of 5 Richest Nigerians Can End Extreme Poverty in Nigeria – Oxfam
The Inequality report released by Oxfam International on Wednesday, revealed that the combined wealth of five richest Nigerians, put at $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country. The report, entitled ‘Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers’ and obtained in Abuja, exposed the large and growing gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria. It revealed that the benefits of the nation’s economic growth had been captured by a few wealthy elite at the expense of the ordinary Nigerians. According to the report, the economic inequality is a key factor in the conflict in the north-eastern states of the country. Oxfam International also disclosed that Nigeria’s richest man earned 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian would spend on basic needs in a year. Premium Times