Africa Media Review for May 3, 2017

Eight Malian Soldiers Killed in Military Convoy Ambush
At least eight Malian soldiers have been killed in an ambush on a military convoy in the country’s west-central region, according to an army spokesman. Armed assailants attacked the troops’ vehicle on Tuesday after it hit a mine near the town of Nampala in the restive Segou province. “The provisional toll is eight dead and some people wounded,” army spokesman Colonel Diaran Kone told the Reuters news agency, holding unspecified groups responsible. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but rebel groups – some linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – have stepped up a series of attacks in recent months in a campaign against the Malian government and its international allies. Al Jazeera

Britain Sending 400 Troops to Join UN’s S Sudan Force
About 400 British soldiers will join the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan in the next weeks in one of Britain’s largest operational deployments worldwide, the force said Tuesday. A statement said the first of the British troops, “proudly wearing their distinctive blue UN berets, arrives in Juba today to join the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.” The British contingent, the first to join the 13 000-member UNMISS force since it was set up in 2011, is made up of medics and military engineers. The engineers will be deployed at UN camps housing displaced civilians in Bentiu and Malakal in the north, where they will help improve routes, security and drainage. News 24

Scores Killed in Central African Republic Ethnic Clashes
The violence pitted the ethnic Fulani Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) against the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (FPRC). Both groups are fighting for control of the Ouaka central province, located at the border between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. “Armed groups are targeting civilians for revenge killings in the central part of the country,” said Lewis Mudge, a researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “As factions vie for power in the Central African Republic, civilians on all sides are exposed to their deadly attacks.” The violence in the Central African Republic began in 2013, when a mainly Muslim rebel coalition called the Seleka toppled President Francois Bozize and went on looting and killing raids, prompting Christians to form the self-defense militias, known as anti-Balaka. Deutsche Welle

Rifts Deepen in South Africa’s Ruling Alliance
South African President Jacob Zuma was booed off the stage Monday as he tried to address a meeting of the country’s largest labor union. Analysts see evidence of deepening rifts in the ruling African National Congress and Zuma’s increasing isolation. When President Zuma arrived at the main event of the May Day celebrations in Bloemnfontein, Free State Province to deliver his speech to thousands of workers, a section cheered him. But a larger group sang and chanted anti-Zuma slogans. Zuma left the event without uttering a word. Organizers aborted the rally. VOA

Pravin Gordhan: From Freedom Fighter to Finance Minister to ‘Accidental Hero’
A month ago, South Africa was shaken to the core by President Jacob Zuma’s late-night Cabinet shake-up, which included the axing of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas. The events of that week triggered mass public protests, an explosion of the divisions within the ANC and the alliance, and the intensification of efforts by opposition parties and civil society to remove Zuma from office. In an extensive interview at his Pretoria home, Gordhan spoke to Ranjeni Munusamy about the events of that fateful week, his relationship with Zuma and his former Cabinet colleagues, the impact of the reshuffle on the National Treasury and why he supports the call for a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Daily Maverick

Bid to Topple Zuma Leaves South African Opposition in Catch 22
South African opposition parties trying to get Jacob Zuma to resign are in a conundrum: if they bring down an unpopular president they may lose their best chance to win the next election. “I suspect opposition leaders are eternally torn on the subject,” said Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “A lot of them may genuinely want Zuma to go and they may hope that his going spawns a kind of chaos and division in the ruling party that they could benefit from. It is also undeniable that Zuma is something of an electoral asset to opposition parties.” Since he took power in May 2009, Zuma, 75, has been dogged by scandal, and is on his fourth finance minister in less than two years, with S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. cutting South Africa’s credit rating to junk. The ruling African National Congress suffered its worst-ever electoral performance since the end of apartheid in a municipal vote in August that saw it lose control of Pretoria, the capital, and Johannesburg, the economic hub. Bloomberg

SANDF Troops Gearing Up for DRC Rotation
Around 700 soldiers from 5 South African Infantry (SAI) Battalion are in the Port St Johns area of the Eastern Cape for jungle warfare training ahead of their deployment with the United Nation’s Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After completing their jungle warfare training in Port St Johns, the soldiers will be sent to Bloemfontein for final training before a few weeks of leave and then deployment to the DRC at the beginning of June. The 5 SAI soldiers have been in Port St Johns since the beginning of April. Spokesperson, Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen, said that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) must, in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations, supply forces for deployment under the UN flag in the DRC. DefenceWeb

As Oil Prices Dip, African Countries Spend Less on Military
African military expenditures have finally slowed down after more than a decade of steady increases, according to a new report on global defense spending. The main reason, the report found, is a drop in oil prices. “The sharp decreases in oil prices has affected quite a number of African countries, namely South Sudan and Angola. This has kind of driven almost the entire regional trend,” said Nan Tian, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Arms and Military Expenditure Program, the organization that authored the report. The SIPRI report found military spending in Africa in 2016 was down by 1.3 percent from the previous year and totaled about $37.9 billion. VOA

UAE Says ‘Significant Breakthrough’ Reached in Libya Talks
The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday said talks between two rival Libyan leaders led to a “significant breakthrough” in efforts to end years of chaos that have gripped the North African nation since its 2011 uprising. A Foreign Ministry statement marked the first official word on the talks the day before between Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter and Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, who had refused to meet for months. The statement offered no specifics. Libya TV said Tuesday the two agreed on holding presidential and parliamentary elections next year, but it’s unclear how such a vote would be carried out in the fractured country. On Tuesday, Libya’s armed forces posted a Facebook photo of Hifter, a powerful general who lived for years in the U.S., and Fayez, the prime minister of the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. While the two were known to be traveling to the UAE’s oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi, their face-to-face meeting came as a surprise. AP

Libya Has Become a Hub for Online Arms trading, Report Says
Since 2011, Libya has become a hot spot of illicit weapons sales, many of which occur through messaging applications and social media networks, according to a report released Tuesday. The report — which tracks more than 1,300 attempted online sales from 2014 to 2015 — was published by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, and uses data collected and analyzed by the group Armament Research Services. Although its authors say that the data set is only a small fraction of illicit arms sales in Libya, the report highlights trends in the growing trade. Weapons from 26 countries, including the United States, China, Belgium and Turkey, were found in the 1,346 tracked sales, according to the report. Although most of the small arms were for self-defense and sporting purposes, some of the people involved in the transfers had ties to Libyan militia groups. The Washington Post

Piracy Attacks Off West Africa Nearly Doubled in 2016
Pirate attacks off West Africa almost doubled in 2016, with the majority of incidents occurring off Nigeria’s coast, a new report said Tuesday. Incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea off West Africa increased from 54 in 2015 to 95 in 2016, according to the Oceans Beyond Piracy maritime project. Pirates in the region are increasingly using kidnapping for ransom, the report said. “The model offers financial gain with less risk to the perpetrators than hijacking for cargo theft,” said Maisie Pigeon, a lead author of the report. “Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks appear to have continued into 2017.” AP

Ethiopia’s Bloggers Face Detention, Restrictions 
Ethiopia’s state of emergency has seen thousands of people detained, allegedly in connection with the unrest last year in the Oromia region. Those arrested have included journalists and bloggers. VOA sat down with three of them in Addis Ababa ahead of World Press Freedom Day (May 3). University lecturer and commentator Seyoum Teshome was arrested in October and detained for two months after he gave a radio interview to Deutsche Welle in which he criticized the government. Since his release, Seyoum has continued to post several times a week on various political blogs and social media about current affairs. “I got so many warnings from the local officials, from the command post, from the security officials. It’s very, very risky. If you stop, that means you are surrendering to that fear. And to confront that fear you have to keep writing, so I’m going to keep writing to challenge the fear that they want to sustain in the country,” Seyoum said. VOA

Journalists ‘Suffocating’ in Magufuli’s Tanzania
Press freedom in Tanzania is being squeezed under President John Magufuli, leaving journalists fearful. France-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym, RSF) ranked Tanzania 83rd out of 180 countries in its latest annual press freedom report. The east African country was down a dozen places from the previous year, representing the second-largest decline in the world, after Nicaragua. Magufuli, nicknamed “tingatinga” – meaning “bulldozer” in Swahili – was elected in October 2015. His talent for publicity-grabbing stunts that bolster his reputation as a no-nonsense, corruption-busting man of the people, have made him wildly popular among some. VOA

150 Journalists Banned from Algeria
Algeria is preparing a list of some 150 Arab and foreign journalists which it is planning to ban from entry into the country due to their “unethical” coverage of the country’s affairs, Al-Resalah news site reported. Sources revealed that the majority of the journalists were Moroccan. Their names have been included on the list have been chosen because of their coverage of the plight of the 55 Syrian refugees which have been stranded at the Algeria-Morocco border. Egyptian media workers make up the second most represented nationality. Sources revealed the list would be sent to all Algerian diplomatic missions and the journalists would be denied entry by air, land and sea. Some of the blacklisted journalists are working for global news networks such as Al Jazeera.  Middle East Monitor

A Desperate Plea for Help as Four African Nations Near a Famine Crisis
The UN Refugee Agency is issuing an urgent warning: The risk of mass deaths from starvation in the Horn of Africa is growing, making the humanitarian crisis inevitable. ABC News anchor David Muir and his team traveled with Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, as the organization sent out mobile clinics to isolated villages deep in the deserts of Somaliland. There, they found a little boy, so weak he could not stand. A band was placed on his arm to measure his level of malnutrition. His result was in the red measurement, signaling severe acute malnutrition. “It’s one of the worst crises that we’ve seen since World War II,” Miles said. “I don’t think the world has really woken up to this disaster at this point. They haven’t realized what’s happening: the possibility of four famines at once.” ABC News

Protests to End Slavery in Mauritania
Hundreds of Mauritanians marched on Saturday against slavery and to denounce the injustice against them. Despite slavery being abolished in the West African nation in 1981, it is still a fabric of social life. People took to the streets in the capital Nouakchott to mark the fourth anniversary of the creation of a group calling for the rights of slaves and former slaves called Haratine Charter. Light-skinned Berber and Arab Moors traditionally enslaved local black populations after settling in Mauritania centuries ago. “This has become an annual tradition and it is now attracting more and more participation from the social elite, indicating that there is popular support for our demands,” Samba Ould Yahya an activist told the New Arab. Middle East Monitor

ISIS Militant Reportedly Burned Alive in Act of Revenge by Members of Bedouin Tribe in Egypt’s Sinai
Members of the Tarabin Bedouin tribe in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula set an ISIS militant on fire and called on other tribes in the area to join them in their fight against the extremist group, Al Arabiya reported on Friday.  According to the report, the attack was caught on camera, along with a warning to other ISIS members that they would suffer the same fate in retaliation for a threat made by the group to conspire with the army and police against the tribe. One of the tribe’s members was cited by Al Arabiya as saying that the man they had burned was a top ISIS figure who had set alight and killed three people and a police officer. Haaretz

Is Egypt Using Passports to Punish Its Opponents?
Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s former vice president, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former head of the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency, has said there should be “no confusion between citizenship rights and state policies”. He is accusing the government of delaying issuing his passport for political reasons – and it is not just him. Opposition figures and journalists say they are unable to renew their passports abroad. The foreign ministry says Egyptians living in other countries need to return to Cairo for a renewal, but opposition figures say that could mean their immediate arrest. Have passports become a political tool against Egypt’s opposition? Al Jazeera

Zambia: Africa’s Silence Encourages Lungu’s Bad Behaviour
Zambians pride themselves on their reputation as a peaceful nation, and a peaceful people. It’s a well-deserved reputation. In decades of independence – as almost all their neighbours struggled through civil war and chronic instability – Zambia remained an island of calm; a beacon of relatively good democratic governance on a continent that’s not exactly known for it. That doesn’t mean that anyone should take Zambia’s stability for granted. ‘It’s not that Zambians themselves are more or less peaceful than anyone else. It’s that we have created conditions that are conducive to peace,’ said Laura Miti, a political analyst. But those conditions are beginning to look a little fragile. This, from the president of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a sign of just how worried Zambians are: ‘Our country is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship; and if it is not yet, then we are not far from it.’ Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu made this unprecedented statement ahead of Sunday mass on 23 April. ISS

Mission Accomplished – UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire
After 13 years, the United Nations is wrapping up the peacekeeping phase of its engagement with Cote d’Ivoire, after helping the country restore peace and stability following the post-2010 election crisis. When the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) closes its doors on June 30 this year, it will mark the most recent successful completion of a peacekeeping operation in West Africa since the UN mission in Sierra Leone in 2005. This milestone was made possible thanks to a significantly improved security situation in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the extension of State authority, deployment of public services, strengthening of democratic institutions, progress in security sector reform and steady economic development. DefenceWeb

Burundi Refugees Still Streaming into Rwanda
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted that there has been a steady flow of Burundian refugees into Rwanda. The UNHCR said the situation is worrying, as it had been believed that the political situation in Burundi was stabilising. “Burundian refugees continue to arrive in Rwanda at a slow, steady pace as the Burundi crisis passes the two-year mark,” the UN agency said on Thursday. Some media outlets in Rwanda reported last week that over 10,000 Burundian refugees fled to Rwanda in April alone, but the UNHCR said this number was exaggerated. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones