Africa Media Review for May 2, 2018

More than 60 Killed in NE Nigeria Suicide Blasts
Suicide bombers killed more than 60 people at a mosque and a market in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, in a twin attack bearing the hallmarks of Boko Haram and a day after US President Donald Trump pledged greater support to fight the Islamist militants. The blasts, said to have been carried out by young boys, happened shortly after 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) in Mubi, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the Adamawa state capital, Yola. Imam Garki, from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said a joint assessment with the police and Red Cross found that 26 people were killed and 56 were injured, 11 of them critically. They were transferred to the Federal Medical Centre in Yola for treatment. AFP

At Least 15 Dead after Church Attack in Central African Republic
At least 15 people including a priest were killed and scores wounded in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on Tuesday when unidentified gunmen attacked a church, a morgue official and rights groups said. The attack occurred on the border of the predominantly Muslim PK 5 neighborhood where 21 people were killed last month when a joint mission by U.N. peacekeepers and local security forces to disarm criminal gangs descended into open fighting. Witnesses said Notre Dame de Fatima church was attacked with gunfire and grenades during a morning service, forcing trapped churchgoers to escape through a hole made in the church wall by police. VOA

Burundi Kicks off Campaign for Controversial Referendum
Burundi on Tuesday launched the official campaign for a referendum on constitutional change that could enable President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power for another 16 years. Twenty-six parties, most of them aligned with the ruling CNDD-FDD party, have been authorised to campaign for the May 17 plebiscite in the politically tense central African nation. The vote is taking place in tightly-controlled conditions, and parties which advise electors to abstain — rather than cast a Yes or No ballot — risk up to three years’ jail. Burundi’s exiled opposition, gathered in an alliance called CNARED, has called for a boycott of the referendum, which it describes as the “death knell” to a 2000 agreement that helped end a bloody civil war. AFP

U.S. Denounces Burundi Political Violence Ahead of Vote
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday denounced recent political violence in Burundi ahead of the country’s May 17 referendum to amend its constitution and expressed concerns that the vote to extend its president’s term in office could hurt its democratic institutions. “We denounce the numerous instances of violence, intimidation, and harassment committed against perceived opponents of the referendum,” it said in a statement. “We call on the government to respect Burundi’s international legal obligations regarding the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.” Burundi courts on Monday sentenced an official in the country’s ruling party to three years in jail for pushing to have opponents of the referendum thrown into a lake. Nearly 430,000 people, including opposition politicians, have fled the East African nation of 10.5 million people since President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in a 2015 election that led to violent clashes. Reuters

ICC Prosecutor in DR Congo to Probe Alleged Crimes against Humanity
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday, the ICC said, following requests to investigate deadly violence in DR Congo. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is due to meet with government officials and judicial institutions and hold a press conference on Thursday, the court said. In January, a European Parliament resolution urged “the ICC and the UN to investigate allegations” of crimes against humanity in Kasai in the centre of the Democratic Republic of Congo. On March 1, the Congolese citizen movement Debout (Arise) also asked the ICC to investigate the crackdown on peaceful protests. AFP

Opposition Activists Held in DRC
Police in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday carried out arrests among opposition campaigners as they sought to rally, including a leader who had received a prominent US award, the group said. Ten people were arrested in the eastern city of Goma, the Struggle for Change (Lucha) group said on Twitter, while Lucha member Ghislain Muhiwa said “a total of 27 people” had been detained. Those arrested included Rebecca Kavugho, 23, who received an International Woman of Courage award from the US State Department last year, Muhiwa said. A police commander, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said “about 20 people” had been arrested for “disturbing public order.” “They will be questioned and then prosecuted,” he said. AFP

DRC Security Services Hampering Probe of Murdered UN Experts: Report
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s security agencies are interfering in an investigation into the murder of two UN experts, preventing a UN team from questioning key witnesses and suspects, according to a confidential report. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has sent the UN investigators to the DRC to help authorities find those responsible for the murder last year of American Michael Sharp and Swede Zaida Catalan in the Kasai region. Led by Robert Petit of Canada, the team has since November been working with a Congolese military prosecutor in the Kasai city of Kananga, but progress has been slow, said the report sent to the Security Council two weeks ago. “Several key arrests have taken place, but progress in the investigation continues to be hampered by the continued interference of the security apparatus,” said the report obtained by AFP on Tuesday. AFP

Volatile Oil Prices Prompt Algerian Agricultural Drive
Algerian farmer Hassen Miri trudges through mud to inspect his durum wheat field, helping the oil-producing nation in its efforts to boost agricultural output and reduce food imports. “Things are moving slowly but better than in past years,” said Miri, who has fields of cereals and vegetables in Bourkika, about 80 km (50 miles) south of the capital Algiers. “I’m optimistic,” he said, after weeks of heavy rain relieved a long period of drought in the North African country. Algeria, a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has long neglected its farmers and focused on its oil and gas industry that generates about 60 percent of state revenues. AFP

Morocco Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Iran over Western Sahara Feud
Morocco has announced it will cut diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s support for the Polisario Front, a Western Saharan independence movement. Morocco’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it will close its embassy in Tehran and expel the Iranian ambassador in Rabat over Iran’s support for Polisario. Rabat accuses Tehran and Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of training and arming Polisario Front fighters. Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, Nasser Bourita, told Al Jazeera that Rabat has evidence that incriminates the Iranian government, which assisted Hezbollah in providing financial as well as logistical support to Polisario through its embassy in Algiers. Al Jazeera

Egyptian Army Amasses Forces on Israel Border for Extensive Campaign against ISIS
The Egyptian military informed Israel it was preparing to launch a significant attack in the area bordering on Gaza, Israel and Sinai. Egyptian forces were amassing near the border with Israel, near Rafah. The area has been scene to a widespread operation against the Islamic State group affiliate in Sinai, Egypt’s restive desert peninsula that shares a border with Israel and Gaza. ISIS in Sinai has grown substantially stronger as the group in Syria and Iraq collapses. Many ISIS fighters have arrived in Sinai and are locked in a daily war with Egypt. The Egyptian offensive is coordinated with the Israeli army. The area is considered very sensitive and important to both Egypt and Israel, making coordination between them key. Haaretz

Germany a Growing Arms Supplier to Egypt
The US administration is changing its attitude towards Egypt as a defence partner and this is forcing Cairo to seek weapons from other sources. In the US there are voices calling for a re-assessment of the foreign military financing (FMF) provided to Egypt. This is based on the benefit to the US from the FMF grants and the type of threats faced by Egypt which are now more in the anti-terror field. While the US is re assessing the level of FMF grants to Egypt, Cairo is looking for new sources of advanced weapons. Germany is emerging as one of the new suppliers of military systems to Egypt, along with Russia and France. The German press has quoted members of the opposition and a Swedish monitoring body that have pointed to the growing role of Germany equipping Egypt with modern systems. DefenceWeb

Harbouring Ambitions: Gulf States Scramble for Somalia
A battle for access to seaports is underway in one of the world’s unlikeliest places: Somalia, now caught up in a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, with Qatar backed by Turkey on the other. At stake: not just the busy waters off the Somali coast but the future stability of the country itself. Somalia has been at war for decades and until the last few years it has struggled to attract foreign investment. But rivalries in the nearby Arabian peninsula are resulting in serious inflows into Somalia. A year ago, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government signed a $336 million contract to expand the port of Bosaso, north of Mogadishu in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland. Reuters

Canada Denies Visa to Angolan Anti-Corruption Crusader
Rafael Marques de Morais, the multi-award winning investigative journalist and human rights defender from Angola, was last week denied a visa to Canada – which has been accused of undermining the fight against corruption in Angola. Marques was planning to visit his teenage son, a Canadian citizen who studies at a high school in Toronto. But the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria, which handles visa applications from Angola, had other ideas. According to the Globe & Mail, which broke the story, Canadian officials were not convinced that Marques would return to Angola. In addition, “outstanding criminal charges” against Marques counted against him – even though those charges are widely considered to be politically motivated, and a direct consequence of his hard-hitting journalism, which has exposed corruption at the highest levels of the Angolan government. Mail and Guardian

Malawi Pushes New Biometric Voter Registration, despite Doubts
Malawi has always relied on paper registration for voters, but electoral authorities say that hasn’t worked so well. “We used to have a lot of problems in the past” with the passports and driver’s licenses used for registration “because photographs may fall off” or names may get misspelled, said Yahya Mmadi, a member of the Malawi Electoral Commission. But the southeast African country’s recently unveiled biometric system, being put in place before the 2019 general elections, “will be 100 percent correct,” he said. It relies on unique markers such as fingerprints. VOA

Somalia Floods Displace Thousands: Ethiopia, Djibouti Troops Help in Evacuation
Central Somalia has experienced heavy rains which have flooded parts of the country. The resultant effect has been the displacement of thousands. The United Nations estimates that almost half a million people are affected. While the Federal Government and other allies continue to work around containing the situation, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is contributing its fair share to alleviating the humanitarian situation. According to AMISOM’s Sector 4 Commander Colonel Mohamed Barkhad Aden, troops from Ethiopia and Djibouti had evacuated some 10,000 people from flooded areas in Beledweyne located in Central Somalia. Africa News

Ethiopia to Acquire Portion of Djibouti Port
The Djibouti governments has agreed to Ethiopia’s proposal for acquiring a share of the former’s port. The agreement comes after Djibouti unilaterally annulled a contract with the United Arab Emirates’ giant Dubai Ports World (DP) two months ago. Ethiopia Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed secured the agreement on his first foreign visit as head of state to Djibouti over the weekend. Mr Abiy held talks with the host President Ismail Omar Guelleh and also addressed the Djibouti parliament. Ethiopian government spokesman Ahmed Shide said the percentage apportioned was yet to be determined by experts after assessing the value and profit margins of the port. The East African

Sowing Peanuts, Reaping Ammo in Uganda
Just after dawn, Patrick Ogik placed a wooden yoke over the bulging necks of his two oxen and attached a metal plow behind them, the ropes, fraying from wear, tied to the animals. The 44-year-old farmer guided the oxen to a fallow field, where he was preparing to plant peanuts in a tiny patch of land he owns outside Paicho, a village in northern Uganda. As the metal plow drove through the soil, it struck something hard. Mr. Ogik reached down and pulled the metal casing of a mortar shell from clumps of soil. He wiped the surface with his hand. This one was spent, he explained, though he has sometimes come across live ammunition. He tossed it aside and continued his work. A brutal war once ravaged this place — and altered Mr. Ogik’s life. Reminders of the violence are everywhere, even lying just below the surface of the earth. Continue reading the main story Northern Uganda was the battleground of a decades-long conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group, or L.R.A., and the Ugandan government. The village of Paicho was at the center of the fighting. The New York Times

Nigeria Bans Cough Syrup with Codeine after Addiction Outcry
Nigeria has announced a ban on the production and import of cough syrup containing codeine after a BBC investigation into its role in an addiction epidemic. A health ministry spokesman told the BBC remaining stocks in shops could be sold with a prescription. The BBC investigation showed the syrup being sold on the black market to be used by young Nigerians to get high. It recorded a number of pharmaceutical figures selling the drug illegally. The joint probe by the BBC’s new investigation unit, Africa Eye, and BBC Pidgin prompted a swift response from people across the country, including Nigeria’s first lady, Aisha Buhari, who said in an Instagram post she was “deeply saddened” by the rise of the problem, especially in the north of Nigeria. BBC