Africa Media Review for May 25, 2017

Past as Prologue in Kenya’s Elections?
How well is Kenya prepared for elections on August 8, 2017? The electoral commission and the ruling party say that planning is on track. The opposition and some independent observers, however, have raised concerns over the possibility of peace at the polls. In an interview with the Africa Center, Kenyan academic and commentator Dr. Peter Kagwanja reflects on the history of Kenya’s democracy and examines the dynamics of the current political situation. Dr. Kagwanja is the chief executive of the Africa Policy Institute, a Nairobi-based think tank. He has advised the Kenyan and South African governments, African Union, and International Crisis Group, among others.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

8 Police Officers Killed by Separate Bomb Blasts in Kenya
Eight Kenyan police officers were killed when their vehicles ran over improvised bombs in two separate incidents near the border with Somalia, officials said on Wednesday. The dead included a personal bodyguard for a local governor whose convoy was targeted. The deaths came a day after Kenya’s police chief Joseph Boinnet announced that al-Shabaab extremists based in Somalia were stepping up attacks inside the country. He said al-Shabaab is under pressure from African Union troops supporting Somalia’s government, which recently declared a new offensive against the extremist group.  News 24

Somalis Are Fleeing Famine — Only to Find Death in a Place of Refuge
[…] The drought and the looming specter of a famine have brought nearly 160,000 people to Baidoa from the baked countryside. They have come to save themselves from almost certain starvation. But an outbreak of cholera is spreading death through this place of refuge. The exodus to Baidoa began in November, when stores of food began to run out following two years of limited rains. More than 55,000 people arrived in April alone. Whole villages have relocated here. Somalia is no stranger to famine. Between late 2010 and early 2012, about 260,000 people perished, mostly around Baidoa, about 120 miles northwest of Mogadishu. Then, as now, the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which controls almost all of rural southwestern Somalia and is hostile to aid agencies, made it nearly impossible for lifesaving food and water to be delivered anywhere but to the few cities under government control. The Washington Post

How Burundi Crisis Has hit Kenya’s Trade Ambitions
Kenya’s hopes of having neighbours sign the much-needed economic partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) now depends on how soon the bloc will lift sanctions on Burundi. At a recent Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam, the East African Community (EAC) resolved to hold any further discussions on the agreement only if Burundi’s situation is discussed in the same forum. “The Heads of State noted that the remaining partner states that have not signed the EU-EAC economic partnership agreement (EPA) are not in a position to do so pending clarification of issues they have identified in the agreement,” says the communique issued after the leaders met in the Tanzanian port city. Daily Nation

South Sudan President Orders Army to Stop Attacks on Rebel Positions
South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday directed the army to not attack the position of armed opposition forces after declaring a unilateral ceasefire, saying it was time to proof the world who was looking for peace and who are instead in war. ” I know they will be attacking your positions after learning declaration of the ceasefire. They will be provoking you but do not respond, don’t move out of your positions. This is the message you need to deliver to the division commanders and the brigade commanders. tell this is the message from me and they should comply,” President Salva Kiir told the chief of defence staff on Wednesday. The president congratulated the military officers whom he has given new assignments after restructuring the army, telling it was time to work together as one body and cohesive command. Susan Tribune

U.S., Britain, U.N. Wary of South Sudan Ceasefire Announcement
The United States, Britain and the United Nations were skeptical on Wednesday of South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, noting that it coincides with the start of the rainy season that traditionally lessens fighting. Kiir also said on Monday he would release political prisoners, but with no sign of a political deal with rebels it was not clear whether a ceasefire would take hold.  U.N. South Sudan envoy David Shearer welcomed the announcements, but warned they would be closely scrutinized. U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. “The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating,” Shearer told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. Reuters

Sudan Accused of Bypassing Arms Embargo to Import Weapons
A UK-based campaign group, Conflict Armament Research (CAR) has said in a new report that Sudan has been able to bypass international sanctions and arms embargoes to import weapons. The report which comes days after heavy fighting broke out in Darfur, indicated that heavy weaponry were mainly imported from China and the Russian Federation. The Sudanese government, CAR said, continues to “benefit from relatively unrestricted access to military imports” in spite of a European Union (EU) arms embargo imposed since 1994 and a United Nations arms embargo on the Sudanese state of Darfur since 2005. Africa News

UN Envoy: South Sudan Seeing Military Action as Rains Arrive
South Sudan is experiencing significant military action and a last push to position combatant forces because the rainy season has arrived and roads will soon become unpassable for about four months, the U.N. envoy for the conflict-wracked African country said Wednesday. David Shearer told the U.N. Security Council that while the rains may bring a respite to large-scale military maneuvers, they greatly complicate the delivery of humanitarian aid and bring “the inevitable specter of cholera,” with 7,700 cases already reported. There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But the country plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who is a Nuer. AP

Libya Arrests Brother, Father of Manchester Bombing Suspect
Libya has arrested a brother and the father of the man suspected of carrying out the bombing in the British city of Manchester, a relative and security sources said on Wednesday. The family source, asking not to be identified, said intelligence services had arrested Hashem Abedi, who like his older brother Salman was born in Britain, on Tuesday. One of the forces that supports the GNA posted a picture on its Facebook page of Hashem Abedi after detaining him. “The father, Ramadan Abedi, has also just been arrested,” said Ahmed bin Salem, a spokesperson for the police of Libya’s Government of National Accord. News 24

Egypt Blocks 21 Websites, Including Al Jazeera: State News Agency
Egypt has banned 21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based al Jazeera television, for “supporting terrorism”, state news agency MENA and security sources said on Wednesday. Reuters tried to access five websites named by local Egyptian newspapers and broadcasters, including the Al Jazeera website, and found them all inaccessible. There was no immediate official comment available. An official from the National Telecom Regulatory Authority could not confirm or deny the news, but said: “So what if it is true? It should not be a problem.” MENA cited a senior security source as saying the websites, which also included some Egypt-focused websites hosted abroad such as Masr Al Arabiya that the government says are financed by Qatar, were blocked because they supported terrorism. Reuters

Mugabe Appoints Daughter to Censorship Board
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s daughter has been appointed to the country’s censorship board. The 27-year-old Bona Mugabe now will be part of an agency that polices what Zimbabweans can watch on their televisions or in public. This is her first active government job. The censorship board has been known for banning films, documentaries and art perceived too sexually explicit or critical of the government. Its new chairman is a 78-year-old former cabinet minister currently in court after being accused by his son of using “bizarre” blood rituals to bewitch the family. Bona Mugabe rarely speaks at public functions but has traveled with her 93-year-old father to Japan for a meeting with the prime minister in 2015. She also has accompanied him for medical check-ups in Singapore. AP

Gambia Court Issues Arrest Warrant in Journalist’s Killing
A Gambian court has issued an arrest warrant for two former army officers suspected in the 2004 shooting death of a journalist. The warrant is for Sanna Manjang and Kawsu Camara, who are reportedly out of the West African country. Deyda Hydara was co-founder and managing editor of The Point newspaper and a correspondent for Agence France Presse and Reporters without Borders. He was killed just outside Banjul, the capital. Human rights groups have called it a well-planned killing. Gambia’s information minister earlier this month said there will be no amnesty for crimes committed under former President Yahya Jammeh’s two-decade rule. AP

U.N. Says Trump Budget Cuts Would ‘Make It Impossible’ to Do Its Job
The United Nations said on Wednesday that the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts would “simply make it impossible” for the global organization to maintain essential operations. The statement, by a United Nations spokesman, added to the growing criticism of a budget submission for the 2018 fiscal year that would reduce funding of the State Department by roughly a third and cut foreign assistance by about 29 percent. The spending proposal, which was released on Tuesday, would reduce American financial support for the United Nations, including for its peacekeeping operations and international aid programs. The United States is the organization’s biggest single donor. The New York Times

Africa Day Commemorates Formation of OAU
Africa Day will be commemorated across the continent on the 25th May. It’s a historic day in which the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963. The continental body which is now called the African Union was created to promote unity and solidarity among African states. The Day is celebrated annually across the continent and beyond. It’s a proud moment which is celebrated with song and dance including the display of traditional arts and crafts in bustling African marketplaces. South Africa is the only country where it’s not a public holiday. But some political parties like the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) are pushing for it to become one. SABC

Can Former Liberators Lead Africa into the Future?
During a debate in Johannesburg earlier this month, economist Moeletsi Mbeki – brother of former South African president Thabo Mbeki – said he thought the African National Congress (ANC) had done its bit for South Africa but was now largely a spent force. Africa Day this week celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963. One of the main aims of the OAU was to fight for the liberation of the rest of Africa from colonialism and apartheid. Liberation movements like the ANC across many parts of the continent – from Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau to Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique – were supported by the OAU and its members in the struggle against oppression. But can these movements lead the continent into a new era? ISS

More Than 30 Migrants, Mostly Toddlers, Drown Off Libya -Rescuers
More than 30 migrants, mostly toddlers, drowned on Wednesday when about 200 people without life jackets fell from a boat into the sea off the Libyan coast before they could be hauled into waiting rescue boats. The boat was near a rescue vessel when it suddenly listed and many migrants tumbled into the Mediterranean, Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro told Reuters. “At least 20 dead bodies were spotted in the water,” he said. The rescue group MOAS, which also had a ship nearby, said it had already recovered more than 30 bodies. “Most are toddlers,” the group’s co-founder Chris Catrambone said on Twitter. Reuters

High Noon for President Zuma as Key ANC Leaders Seek His Ouster
South African President Jacob Zuma faces a key battle for his political survival this weekend when senior members of his ruling party say they’ll push for its decision-making national executive committee to order him to step down. Zuma goes into the meeting of the committee facing an unprecedented level of opposition from within the African National Congress and its labor and communist supporters following a series of scandals he’s faced since he took office in 2009. His vice president, Cyril Ramaphosa, echoed the South African Council of Churches on Sunday by saying the nation is at risk of becoming a “mafia state.” Bloomberg

Africa ‘Subsidises’ the Rest of the World by $41bn a Year, Campaigners Say
Africa ‘subsidises’ the rest of the world to the tune of $41bn (£32bn) a year, according to a new analysis of the amount of money flowing in and out of the continent. The Honest Accounts 2017 report by Global Justice Now, the Jubilee Debt Campaign and other groups estimated the total amount going into sub-Saharan Africa at $161.6bn, while the total amount going out was put at $202.9bn. The outflows included debt repayments by governments and the private sector, multinational company profits, the ‘brain drain’ effect, illegal logging, fishing and poaching, and costs associated with climate change, a problem largely caused by Europe, America and other developed countries. “Africa is rich – in potential mineral wealth, skilled workers, booming new businesses and biodiversity. Its people should thrive, its economies prosper,” the report said. The Independent

African Union, UN Seek Political Solution for South Sudan
The African Union and the United Nations are seeking a political solution to the South Sudan crisis, after the August 2015 peace agreement failed and the East African region appeared to lose interest in the peace process. African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have now taken the lead in lobbying the world to help South Sudan, where the war that started in 2013 has morphed into multiple inter-ethnic conflicts. Since taking over the chairmanship in March, Mr Faki has been in talks with the AU High Representative for South Sudan, former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare, on a new initiative that would involve Igad and the UN. The East African

Tebboune Replaces Key Bouteflika Ally Sellal as Algeria’s New PM
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has appointed Abdelmadjid Tebboune as new prime minister to replace his confidant Abdelmalek Sellal The decision comes following parliamentary elections. Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) and its ruling coalition won majority in the May 4 polls. The win was however overshadowed by low turnout in what many saw as a protest over the declining levels of the economy. Tebboune, 71, was housing minister in the outgoing government, and will replace Sellal. Africa News

Benin’s Talon Vows to Push for Constitutional Review Despite Rejection
Benin’s President Patrice Talon has vowed to push for a constitutional review despite its unanimous rejection by the legislature in March this year. He defended his decision in an exclusive interview with Africanews’ journalist Afolake Oyinloye on the sidelines of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Ahmadabad, India. “Never in Benin has one been able to hold a former government official accountable. This is not favorable for any country’s development because Africa needs to reform its governance, this is why it was necessary for us to review the constitution,” he said. “I’m waiting for the right time to restart this battle because the constitutional review is indispensable to reshape politics in Benin,” Talon added. Africa News

Waiting for Take-Off in West Africa
Flying between the West African capitals of Freetown and Banjul should take about an hour. But as the BBC’s Umaru Fofana found out, because of the region’s poor air connections, it can be quicker and easier to fly via Morocco or Belgium, although that could take a day, or even three. Several African countries established national airlines after independence, mainly focusing on flights to destinations outside the continent. Many of these carriers were propped up financially and protected by regulation, stifling competition and leaving domestic and regional routes undeveloped for a long time. Safety has also been an issue because of comparatively high accident rates, and regulators outside Africa have imposed heavy restrictions. Even some African airlines with good safety records are blocked from flying to the European Union (EU) airports because of a lack of confidence in African safety regulators. Another factor is that some African countries have still not opened up their skies to each other – allowed other countries’ carries to use their airports – yet they have opened up to carriers from other continents. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones