Africa Media Review for May 24, 2017

South Africa’s Democracy Is Put to the Test
Few African countries have the same depth of institutional checks and balances as South Africa. Yet, these have been put to the test by President Zuma’s efforts to expand executive privilege. This review assesses how well South Africa’s accountability structures are faring. Throughout his time in office, President Jacob Zuma has presented unique challenges for South Africa’s democracy. He has faced a steady stream of allegations involving patronage, money laundering, racketeering, misuse of state resources, obstruction of justice, and the abuse of power. A total of 783 charges have been levied against him in the courts. Moreover, at times, he has attempted to sidestep the institutional checks on executive power that define democracies—effectively challenging the very nature of South Africa’s political system. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Africa’s ANC Dismisses Zuma Removal Report as “Fabrication”
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress dismissed a media report on Tuesday that President Jacob Zuma’s removal would be discussed at an ANC meeting this weekend as untrue. Analysts also poured water on the likelihood of Zuma being ousted or stepping down before his term as ANC head ends in December. Zuma faces a no-confidence vote in parliament that analysts said is likely to fail due to the broad support and control he enjoys over the ruling party and the economy. Opposition to Zuma inside the ANC and from opposition parties and civil society groups, however, has swelled since he axed respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in late March, triggering credit downgrades to “junk” by two rating agencies. Reuters

Suicide Bomber Kills Five in Somalia’s Northern Puntland Region
A suicide bomber killed five people, including a policeman, and injured 12 others on Tuesday at a police checkpoint in Somalia’s northern Puntland region, a local governor said, the first such attack in three years. Although suicide bombings are common in the capital of Mogadishu, they are relatively rare in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, where the security forces are relatively regularly paid and receive substantial U.S. assistance. “The bomber seemed suspicious as he walked and when he was ordered to stop, he blew himself up,” said Yusuf Mohamed, governor of Bari region in Puntland. The al Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist insurgency, al Shabaab, which claims responsibility for most attacks, told Reuters they were not behind the bombing. Reuters

3 Police Officers Killed, 2 Injured by Bomb Blast in Kenya
Three police officers were killed and two others injured when their vehicle ran over an improvised bomb near Kenya’s eastern border with Somalia, a Kenyan official said Wednesday. The police vehicle was moving from Kula Police Post toward the Liboi border town, North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh said. He said three other officers have been unhurt. The incident came a day after police chief Joseph Boinnet announced al-Shabab extremists were stepping up attacks on Kenya. Boinnet said al-Shabab is under pressure from African Union troops supporting Somalia’s weak government against al-Shabab’s insurgency. In the last two weeks, attacks by the group in Garissa and Mandera counties have increased after a lull. Last week, an improvised bomb killed four people in a vehicle, including a minor. AP

Militants Attack 14 Villages in Southern Somalia
Al-Shabab militants have attacked some 14 villages in southern Somalia, in an apparent attempt to disrupt a planned government offensive. Most of the villages that came under attack Tuesday are located near the towns of K50 and Murri, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, Mogadishu. Witnesses said teams of 10 to 12 militants attacked the villages, setting fire to houses, abducting civilians and stealing villagers’ livestock. “They took with them around 25 people mainly youngsters and torched many houses to terrorize the civilians and force them to leave their residences,” said Ibrahim Aden Najah, the governor of the Lower Shabelle region. VOA

2 UN Peacekeepers Killed in Ambush in Northern Mali
Authorities say two United Nations peacekeepers from Chad have been killed when their foot patrol was ambushed in the Kidal region of northern Mali. The UN mission known as MINUSMA said in a statement they were killed early on Tuesday outside Aguelhok. A third peacekeeper was wounded. There is no immediate claim of responsibility, though jihadists are active in the area and religious extremism is also mounting. Last week, an unmarried couple accused of having an affair was stoned to death in the region, according to witnesses. News 24

UN Questions DRC Probe of Experts’ Murder
The United Nations raised questions on Tuesday about the Democratic Republic of Congo’s probe of the murder of two UN experts investigating mass graves, saying it appeared to have been done in haste. Congolese authorities on Saturday said they had completed a 10-week investigation and that two men will face trial for the murders in March of American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalan in central Kasai province. “That seems to have been done with quite a bit of rapidity,” said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, adding that the Kinshasa government had yet to share the findings of their investigation with the United Nations. The UN Security Council met behind closed doors, at the request of the UN secretariat, to discuss the death of the two members of the UN panel of experts investigating mass graves in Kasai. News 24

DRC Attorney General Investigates Former Minister for Alleged Militia Links
The attorney general of the Democratic Republic of the Congo opened an investigation Tuesday into a former government minister’s alleged sponsorship of militia violence in the Kasai region. The move follows a newspaper report that two slain U.N. experts were probing the former minister’s involvement. Congolese Attorney General Flory Numbi said Tuesday that he was investigating Parliament member Clement Kanku, who was development minister until he lost his job in a government reorganization last week. Possible charges against Kanku include participation in an insurrectional movement, assassination, arson, malicious destruction and associating with criminals. If Kanku is charged, Numbi said he would request that Congo’s National Assembly lift Kanku’s parliamentary immunity. VOA

Instability, Abuse Force Thousands of Burundians to Flee Country
The United Nations refugee agency reports thousands of Burundians are fleeing instability and abuse in their country as funding to support growing numbers of refugees dries up. The UNHRC warns deteriorating political and human rights conditions in Burundi are forcing increasing numbers of refugees to flee to neighboring countries in search of asylum. The agency reports more than 410,000 refugees have fled across borders over the past two years. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says the number is expected to increase dramatically by the end of the year. “Arriving refugees continue to cite human rights abuses, fear of persecution and sexual and gender-based violence as reasons for fleeing,” he said. “With no sign of improvement of the political situation, the total refugee population from Burundi is expected to grow to over half a million by the end of 2017.” VOA

Up to 6.6m Migrants Waiting to Cross to Europe from Africa: Report
Europe could face a new wave of migrant arrivals this summer, a leaked German government report has warned. Up to 6.6m people are waiting in countries around the Mediterranean to cross into Europe, according to details of the classified report leaked to Bild newspaper. They include more than 2.5m in North Africa waiting to attempt the perilous crossing by boat. Angela Merkel’s government has not commented on the report, which the newspaper says was marked for internal use only. There are fears of a dramatic rise in arrivals as the summer weather turns favourable for sea crossings. Growing numbers of migrants are known to be attempting to reach Europe by boat in the wake of the closure of the Balkan land route last year. The Telegraph

Cuts to AIDS Treatment Programs Could Cost a Million Lives
At least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, researchers and advocates said on Tuesday, if funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration to global public health programs are enacted. The United States currently spends more than $6 billion annually on programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Trump administration has proposed slashing those programs by at least $1.1 billion — nearly a fifth of their current funding, said Jen Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “These are lifesaving interventions, and these levels of reductions will significantly curtail service delivery,” Ms. Kates said. In a briefing for reporters, Hari Sastry, director of the State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, said that everyone now receiving drug treatments under the programs would be allowed to continue, even if the funding cuts were approved. The New York Times

Sudan Accuses Egypt of backing Rebels Ahead of Foreign Minister’s Trip
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused Egypt on Tuesday of supporting rebels at war with Khartoum, a week ahead of a visit to Cairo by Sudan’s foreign minister aimed at easing tensions between the neighbouring states. Egypt and Sudan have been at odds in recent months over a litany of issues ranging from disputed land in Egypt’s south to trade restrictions and burdensome visa requirements that have threatened trade ties between the two countries. In a speech to Sudanese armed forces on Tuesday, Bashir said Sudan’s military had seized Egyptian armoured vehicles from rebels in the country’s war-torn southern Darfur region. Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, has been at war with various rebel factions in three southern regions for years. AFP

Likely Presidential Candidate in Egypt Ordered Detained
Egyptian prosecutors on Tuesday ordered the detention for one day of an opposition leader widely tipped to challenge President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2018 elections following a complaint that he made an obscene finger gesture on the street outside a Cairo courtroom in January, according to one of his lawyers. Rights lawyer Khaled Ali, 44, unsuccessfully contested presidential elections in 2012. He did not run in the 2014 elections which el-Sissi won in a landslide, but told The Associated Press in February he was considering running next year. Lawyer Negad Borai told the AP that Ali was summoned by prosecutors for questioning in connection with the complaint, but he refused to answer questions until he reviewed evidence brought against him. Ali was ordered detained until Wednesday when he would be shown the evidence, including a video clip, according to Borai, who was among several lawyers who accompanied Ali to the prosecution’s offices. AP

Nigeria Hopes for Oil Upturn after Economy Shrinks Again
Nigeria’s economy stayed in recession in the first quarter and shrank more sharply than thought at the end of last year, data showed on Tuesday, as signs of growth in the oil sector fuelled hopes of an upturn in coming months. The economy shrank by 1.5 percent in 2016 for its first annual drop in 25 years, hit by a shortage of hard currency and lower revenues from its dominant oil sector as world crude prices stayed under pressure. Gross domestic product shrank a further 0.52 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday, also revising the fourth quarter contraction to 1.73 percent from 1.30 percent. The central bank holds a monetary policy meeting on Tuesday and is expected to hold benchmark interest rates at 14 percent, analysts said prior to Tuesday’s GDP readings. Reuters

US Chooses Nigeria for Next Army Chiefs Summit Despite Human Rights Concern
As the African Land Forces Summit ended recently in this southern African nation whose tiny military specializes in peacekeeping, plans were already being laid for next year’s meeting in a location at the center of some of the continent’s most pressing problems. The sixth ALF summit will be in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation — despite persistent concerns over human rights violations by its military. Its military has been battling a vicious Islamist insurgency throughout this decade. The choice to hold the next conference in West Africa’s economic powerhouse and hegemon was a considered one, said Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, commander of U.S. Army Africa, which sponsors the annual event. “Frankly, it is in our national interest to partner with the Nigerian army in order to assist them as they strive to improve and professionalize, while fighting violent extremist organizations, to be the stable institution that the country and region needs,” he said. That assessment was shared by many at the conference. Stars and Stripes

Cameroon, Nigeria Collaborate Against Piracy
The Gulf of Guinea remains a global hot spot for piracy, with reported attacks concentrated off the coast of Nigeria. Regional naval coordination has been a challenge, as the gulf touches 17 countries along West and Central Africa. Cameroon and Nigeria, however, are now reporting some success. Nigerian navy officials recently received Cameroon’s warship Le Ntem after it made it through rough seas to arrive off the coast of Calabar. VOA

S. Sudan’s Main Rebel Group Declines to Join National Dialogue
South Sudan’s largest rebel movement (SPLM-IO) have declined to participate in the national dialogue initiative launched by the South Sudanese leader on Monday, a spokesman for the rebel group told Xinhua on Tuesday. Lam Paul Gabriel, deputy spokesman of the SPLM-IO said they will not send its representatives to the national dialogue because of safety concerns and denial of their leader from being part of the initiative. Gabriel argued that the national dialogue would be meaningless without inclusion of all armed groups and disgruntled South Sudanese communities. “This so called national dialogue is nothing but a pretense to show the blind regional bloc and the international community that the Juba regime means business while they continue to loot resources and kill innocent civilians,” Gabriel said. Xinhua

South Sudan’s Rival Forces Clash Despite Ceasefire Declaration
South Sudan’s rival forces clashed in Imatong, one of the country’s newly created states, a day after President Salva Kiir openly declared a unilateral ceasefire with the country’s rebels. The rebel’s military spokesperson, William Gatjiath Deng claimed pro-government militias allied to the army attacked their Imatong base. “The Juba regime movements and aggressions also followed a recent meeting in Juba between General Salva Kiir Mayardit and Lt. Gen J.J Okot at which Col Lotara was ordered to lead brutal and merciless Mathiang Anyor operations against the remaining civilian population of Ayaci county,” he told Sudan Tribune Tuesday. Sudan Tribune

‘In Turmoil Again’: Central African Republic Unrest Spreads
No soldiers or police patrol this remote town in the far southeast of Central African Republic, where armed groups have attacked several times in the past few months. A company of U.N. peacekeepers in town ventures no more than three miles (5 kilometers) from their base. Local authorities’ requests for more help to secure the area have gone unanswered as Central African Republic’s deadly sectarian violence moves closer to the region along raw dirt roads. The town of 10,000 people feels increasingly unsafe, said community leader Pierre Yakanza. “With just the U.N., it’s not enough. It can’t secure the people 100 percent,” he said. “We don’t know what’s coming.” Some people have fled to Congo, a few kilometers’ walk away. The U.N. peacekeeping force commander in Central African Republic, Lt. Gen. Balla Keita, told The Associated Press he is constantly moving forces around the impoverished country to stop the violence after hundreds have died over the past month in areas far from the capital, Bangui. AP

WHO Elects First Ever African Director-General after Tense Vote
The World Health Organisation has its first ever director-general from Africa, after the election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the former Ethiopian health minister. Dr Tedros, as he is known, beat the British candidate, Dr David Nabarro, after three tense rounds of voting on Tuesday. Third was Pakistan’s Dr Sania Nishtar. The decision by member states came at the World Health Assembly in Geneva after a fraught campaign. Dr Tedros was well-regarded, particularly by aid donors, for his stewardship of health in the Ethiopian government from 2005 to 2012. In the latter stages of the campaign, however, there were allegations about the human rights record and lack of transparency of the government of which he was a member. One US academic accused him of trying to hide a cholera epidemic that occurred in Ethiopia on his watch. The Guardian

Sub-Saharan Africans Trade Europe for Morocco
Morocco is a transit country for many sub-Saharan Africans on their way to Europe. But some now prefer not to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea, opting instead for a new life in Morocco itself. In the last four years, thousands of sub-Saharan Africans have acquired Moroccan residency papers, following two migrant legalization initiatives led by the government. Richard is one of nearly 20,000 migrants currently waiting for their papers to be processed. He has many friends and relatives who have cone to Europe. Not all of their stories had a happy ending. “It’s very, very difficult.Some lose their lives, some succeed,” Richard said. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones