Africa Media Review for May 22, 2017

The Illicit Superhighway: Transnational Organized Crime in Africa 
The distinction between legitimate and illicit business in Africa is fluid due to the significant size of informal trade on the continent. At the same time, globalization has allowed organized criminal groups to link up with international networks, including violent extremists. The distinction between legitimate business and illicit activity is fluid in Africa due to the significant size of informal and unregulated trade on the continent. The rapid pace of globalization has allowed organized criminal groups to link up with international networks, expanding markets, access to new technologies, and improved methods of communication. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Video: Scores of Nigeria’s Chibok Schoolgirls Reunited With Their Families
The 82 Nigerian schoolgirls recently released after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity were reunited with their families for the first time Saturday in the Nigerian capital Abuja. Images from the scene showed brightly dressed families rushing through the crowd and embracing outdoors. One small group sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church. Others were in tears, as anxious parents looked for signs of how deeply the extremists had changed their daughters’ lives. France 24

East African Leaders Press EU to Lift Burundi Sanctions
The presidents of Tanzania and Uganda called Saturday on the EU to lift sanctions on Burundi, but a diplomatic for the European bloc dismissed the appeal. The joint plea, by Yoweri Museveni and John Magufuli came at a meeting of the East African Community (EAC) — which also includes Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan — in Dar es Salaam. “This is our problem. We don’t want the European Union to take measures against a member state without discussions with us,” said Uganda’s Museveni, who is EAC president and lead mediator in Burundi’s seemingly intractable two-year-old political crisis. Tanzania’s president said Europe should be focused on its own issues. AFP

EU Should Deal with Brexit Headache and Leave Burundi Alone – Magufuli
Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda launched a presidential campaign calling on the European Union (EU) to lift sanctions against neighbouring Burundi. Tanzania’s Magufuli and Uganda’s Museveni spoke on Saturday in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, where leaders of the East Africa Community (EAC) met for the 18th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State. The Ugandan leader who was voted new chair of the EAC said in his speech that the summit had tasked him to lead a delegation to Brussels – seat of the EU – to discuss the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and ‘‘the matter of sanctions over Burundi.’‘ Africa News

Conflict ‘Displaces More in DR Congo than Syria’
Conflict, violence and disasters caused 31.1 million new internal displacements in 2016, according to a new report released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). In 2016, one person every second was forced to flee their home inside their own country. Internally displaced people now outnumber refugees by two to one. It is urgent to put internal displacement back on the global agenda,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the NRC. Of the 6.9 million new internal displacements caused by conflict in 2016, 2.6 million took place in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Report on Internal Displacement. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was the country worst affected, with a spike of 922,000 new displacements during the year alone. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

For 2 Experts Killed in Congo, U.N. Provided Little Training and No Protection
[…] A grainy cellphone video shows what happened next: A cluster of men with rifles and red bandannas lead Ms. Catalán, a 36-year-old Swedish-Chilean, into a grove with her American colleague, Michael J. Sharp, 34. The two investigators are barefoot. Mr. Sharp starts arguing. He and Ms. Catalán are forced onto the ground. Suddenly, shots are fired, hitting Mr. Sharp first. Ms. Catalán screams and tries to run for cover. She is shot twice. Their bodies were discovered weeks later in a shallow grave, laid out carefully, side by side, in opposite directions. Ms. Catalán had been decapitated. Her head had been taken. Their deaths raise tough questions about the United Nations and its work in the most dangerous places in the world. Almost two months passed before the United Nations even assembled a panel to look into what went wrong. The United Nations Security Council could go further and order a more formal investigation, but more than two months after the murders, it has taken no steps in that direction. The New York Times

Macron Vows to Step-Up Fight Against Islamists in Africa
France will step up the fight against resurgent Islamist militants in north and west Africa and will work more closely with Germany to help the tinderbox region, President Emmanuel Macron said on his first trip outside Europe late yesterday, Friday. Visiting Mali days after taking office, Macron vowed to keep French troops in the Sahel region until there was “no more Islamist terrorism” there. He said operations would be escalated in response to signs that militant groups were regrouping and uniting. “It is vital today that we speed up. Our armed forces are giving their all, but we must speed up” efforts to secure the Sahel, he told a news conference in Gao, Mali, where he held talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and spoke to some of the 1,600 French soldiers based there. Spurring economic development in the impoverished Sahel is also part of his strategy, he said. “We must win the war and win the peace at the same time.” RFI

Over 30,000 Somalis Return From Conflict-Hit Yemen – UNHCR
Some 30,600 Somalis have reportedly returned to Somalia from Yemen since the beginning of war in Yemen in 2015, the UN refugee agency said on Friday. The UNHCR said an increasing number of Somalis are approaching the agency for assistance to support their return, citing safety concerns and limited access to services in Yemen. “UNHCR is now providing some support to those choosing to return on their own,” the UN agency said in a statement. “In 2017, UNHCR is able to assist up to 10,000 Somali refugees who have made the choice to return, based on the information received at Return Help Desks on conditions in Somalia and the assistance package that is being offered both in Yemen and Somalia,” it said. allAfrica

Unburdening, Uncapturing: SACC and SACP Take Leadership While ANC Dithers
With 36 member churches and organisations representing millions of Christians, the SA Council of Churches (SACC) is arguably the biggest organised formation in the country. A pastoral letter to be issued across congregations reflecting on state capture and the report of their Unburdening Panel could have massive political consequences. The ANC had the opportunity to “unburden” itself of state capture and did not. So for the first time since the height of apartheid, the church is intervening to take on “a government that has lost its moral legitimacy”. The SACP, meanwhile, is convening “progressive forces” in the country for a national imbizo that could set the agenda for the big political conferences coming up. Daily Maverick

After 37 Years, Angola Will Get a New President. Can Joao Lourenco Reduce Widespread Corruption?
After nearly four decades in power, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, the second-longest serving leader in Africa, has announced that he will leave office this year. He has talked of stepping down in the past, but this time the ailing dos Santos, who has received medical treatment in Spain, is following through. The heir apparent is the country’s 62-year-old defense minister João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who will run in August on the ruling party’s ticket. The choice surprised many Angolans who thought dos Santos would try to hand over power to one of his children. Lourenço was just in Washington, where on Wednesday he signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pentagon about future sales of military equipment, security cooperation and what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called “a strategic partnership.” Mattis praised Angolan assistance in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The Washington Post

Strapped UN Health Agency Spends Big on Travel
The World Health Organization routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel — far more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health including AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press. As the cash-strapped U.N. health agency pleads for more money to fund its responses to health crises worldwide, it has also been struggling to get its own travel costs under control. Despite introducing new rules to try to curb its expansive travel budget, senior officials have complained internally that U.N. staffers are breaking the rules by booking perks like business class airplane tickets and rooms in five-star hotels. Last year, WHO spent about $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis. On malaria, it spent $61 million. And to slow tuberculosis, WHO invested $59 million. Still, some health programs do get exceptional funding — the agency spends about $450 million trying to wipe out polio every year. AP

Death Toll Rises in Southern Libya Attack, Defence Minister Suspended
A spokesman for east Libyan armed forces said on Friday that as many as 141 people had been killed a day earlier in an attack on a southern air base, and the head of Libya’s United Nations-backed government suspended his defence minister pending an investigation into the incident. The attack at Brak Al-Shati air base shattered a truce in the area, which in recent months had become a flashpoint between military alliances based in eastern and western Libya. It risks a major escalation in a stop-start conflict between eastern-based factions and rivals loosely aligned with current and former governments in the capital, Tripoli. Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said 103 of those killed in the attack at the air base were LNA troops, most of them from the 12th Brigade stationed there. Reuters

Libya: Mass Executions Alleged at Military Base
Forces aligned with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) attacked a military base and allegedly executed at least 30 captured soldiers, Human Rights Watch said today. A hospital official and an eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers from the 13th Battalion aligned with the GNA Defense Ministry attacked the base in Brak El-Shati, in southern Libya, on May 18, 2017, and executed troops from the 12th Battalion of the Libyan National Army (LNA).  The head of the GNA’s Presidency Council ordered an investigation and the suspension of his defense minister and the commander of the battalion responsible for the attack. The summary execution of persons who have been captured or who have surrendered constitutes a war crime. Human Rights Watch

Libya Must Release Refugees Held in Detention Centers, Says UNHCR Chief
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on Sunday called on Libyan authorities to release asylum seekers and refugees held in detention centers, saying he was “shocked” by conditions at the facilities. During his trip to the Libyan capital Tripoli, Grandi visited detention centers where thousands of refugees and asylum seekers have been held, many of them for attempting to cross the central Mediterranean on their journey to Europe. “I was shocked at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants are held, generally due to lack of resources,” Grandi said in a statement. “Children, women and men who have suffered so much already should not have to endure such hardship.” Deutsche Welle

Trump Praises Sisi, Says He hopes to Visit Egypt
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he hoped to visit Cairo soon, praising President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after a meeting in Saudi Arabia and declaring that “safety seems to be very strong” in Egypt. Speaking through a translator, Sisi described Trump as “a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.” Trump said he was having “very, very important talks” with Sisi. “We’ve really been through a lot together positively,” said Trump, who is on his first foreign visit since taking office. “I will get to Egypt. We will absolutely be putting that on the list very soon,” he said. Sisi had “done a tremendous job under trying circumstance”. Reuters

Egypt Refers 48 to Court over Coptic Church Bombings
Egypt’s public prosecutor says 48 suspected members of so-called Islamic State (IS) have been referred to a military court in connection with three bombings of Coptic churches. Thirty-one of the suspects are in custody while the others are still at large. More than 70 people died in suicide attacks against churches in Cairo in December and in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria in April. IS said it carried out the bombings. In a statement on Sunday, public prosecutor Nabil Sadek said some of the suspects were leaders within IS and had formed cells in Cairo and the southern province of Qena to carry out the church attacks. BBC

Sudanese army, SLM-MM in fierce fighting in Darfur
Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) led by Minni Minnawi have exchanged accusations over renewed fighting in North and East Darfur. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune Saturday, SAF’s spokesperson Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami pointed out that the armed forces and the security services have been closely monitoring the movements of armed groups “mercenaries” in South Sudan and Libya. He said these rebel groups have been preparing to “abort peace and stability that have been achieved across Sudan and particularly in Darfur states”, pointing that clashes are still ongoing. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: More Than One Million on Brink of Starvation
It has been three months since famine, which has been caused by a long-standing conflict between the government and rebels groups, was declared in some parts of South Sudan. But areas outside the famine zones are also suffering from severe food shortages. More than a million people in the country are on the brink of starvation. Some of them are trying to flee to neighbouring Sudan for relief. Al Jazeera

Africa body seeks urgent help against Lord’s Resistance Army
The African Union says the rebel group led by one of the world’s most wanted fugitives could roar back to life if countries don’t “urgently” fill the void as the United States and Uganda give up the pursuit. A statement Friday by the continental body’s Peace and Security Council says the Lord’s Resistance Army has not yet been eliminated and could “rejuvenate itself.” The group is led by Joseph Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He is accused of killing thousands and kidnapping children to become soldiers and sex slaves in Central Africa. The U.S. military has said the rebel group’s active membership is now less than 100, and Uganda’s military has said the group has been neutralized. But Kony remains on the run. AP

Tunisia Protesters Close Second Oil Pump Station in South
Tunisian protesters demanding jobs and a share in energy wealth have closed down another oil pumping station in defiance of government efforts to protect oil and gasfields with troops and negotiate an end to unrest. Protesters peacefully shut a pumping station at Faouar in southern Kebili province, where French oil company Perenco operates, according to TAP state news agency and Mosaique FM and Shems FM radio stations. It is the second pumping station closed by protests in the southern provinces, where for weeks groups of unemployed men have been holding sit-ins and threatening to blockade oil and gas production to demand more for their marginalised regions. “We shut down the pumping station for Perenco, where we are carrying out our sit-in protest. We had no problem with the army. We are just demanding jobs, and more transparency about where the oil wealth goes,” Faker Ajmi, one of the protesters told Reuters by telephone. Reuters

Morocco Cracks Down on Fighters Returning from IS
For the last two years, Moroccan authorities have been cracking down on Islamic State (IS) fighters’ returning from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. While they have been accused of turning a blind eye to the departure of hundreds of volunteers to jihad in the early days of the conflict in 2012, authorities are now arresting returnees, fearing they would get involved in terrorist activities at home. This zero tolerance policy on returnees has prevented many from coming back to Morocco, with some remaining in Turkey, according to sources close to Salafists Al-Monitor spoke with. Khalil Idrissi, a lawyer who has defended several returnees, draws attention to their motivations to return home. Many had been lured with promises of money, he told Al-Monitor, while others dreamed of living under their own interpretation of Islam and came back to their country disappointed with their experience with IS. Al Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones