Africa Media Review for May 4, 2017

Somali President Visits Ethiopia … At Last
Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, was to visit Ethiopia on Wednesday in a much-anticipated meeting aimed at smoothing over decades of mistrust. Farmajo has been criticised for waiting three months before going to Addis Ababa. The Ethiopia trip is by far the most important visit abroad that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will make and it is also the most difficult, says Gérard Prunier, a French historian specialising in the Horn of Africa. Farmajo has visited five other countries, including Kenya, beforehand. “He didn’t have the guts to go there first,” Prunier told RFI by phone on Tuesday. RFI

Somali, African Union Forces Recapture Central District
Government and Ethiopian soldiers Wednesday recaptured a district in south-central Somalia from al-Shabaab fighters. Somalia troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers serving with an African Union force took the Halgan district in the Hiiraan province, according to residents and officials. Halgan district commissioner Guhaad Abdi Hassan said there was no fighting when the troops entered the district. He added that al-Shabaab fighters fled the district before the troops arrived. Anadolu Agency

Somali Minister Shot Dead in Car After Being Mistaken for Militant: Police
Somali security forces shot dead a minister for public works in his car in the capital Mogadishu on Wednesday after mistaking him for an Islamist militant, officials said. Mogadishu mayoral spokesman Abdifatah Omar Halane said the minister, Abbas Abdullahi Sheikh Siraji, who was also a lawmaker, was killed “by mistake – they opened fire on his car accidentally. May God rest his soul”. Police Major Nur Hussein told Reuters that security forces on patrol encountered a car blocking the street and, believing it was being driven by militants, opened fire. Al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab militants often carry out attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere in their campaign to topple Somalia’s government and drive out African Union peacekeeping troops out of the Horn of Africa country. AP

At Least Six Journalists Arrested in Uganda on Press Freedom Day
Ugandan police arrested at least six journalists as they marched in the capital Kampala to commemorate World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, local media reported. The journalists, part of the Ugandan Journalists Association (UJA), staged the march following a disagreement among members of the UJA executive council on where to hold World Press Day celebrations, according to local news site ChimpReports. While one group decided to hold celebrations at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, 25 members organized parallel celebrations at the Emerald Hotel as well as a march in the capital. Newsweek

South Sudan ‘Suspends’ Al Jazeera English: Report
South Sudan’s government has banned Al Jazeera English staff from working in the country, press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday in a statement condemning the move. The government’s Media Authority decided on 1 May “to suspend the activities of the Al-Jazeera English bureau in Juba until further notice”, the organisation, known by its French acronym RSF, said in a press release condemning the decision and issued on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May. However, Elijah Alier Kuai, managing director of the Media Authority, denied the Qatari state broadcaster had been suspended saying there was simply “an administrative issue” but did not explain what he meant. News 24

Crisis-hit South Sudan Hikes Fees to Register Aid Agencies
South Sudan’s government has increased registration fees nearly six-fold for international aid groups seeking to operate in the war-torn nation, an official told Reuters. Two years after emerging as an independent state, the oil-rich country was plunged into conflict in December 2013 as rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his then-vice president, Riek Machar, exploded into violence. The new order will require an international non-governmental organization (NGO) seeking to work in South Sudan to pay $3,500, up from $600. Local groups will pay $500, up from $450. VOA

Libya’s Rivals Eye ‘Strategy’ for ‘Unified Army’
Libya’s rivals have called for efforts to end crisis, the head of UN-backed unity government and a rival military commander said Wednesday, with the former adding that the two agreed on a “strategy” to “form a unified army.” The breakthrough came after the government of National Accord (GNA) leader Fayez al-Sarraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control most of eastern Libya including key oil ports, held rare talks Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates. On Wednesday, they called for a resolution to Libya’s political and economic crisis and for joint efforts to battle extremist groups in separate statements. During the talks, the issue of how to form a new Libyan army also loomed large. Al Arabiya

Child Soldiers Reloaded: The Privatisation of War (Video)
As armies and war increasingly become ‘outsourced’, private military companies have taken on a wider increasing range of responsibilities, from security and intelligence analysis to training and combat roles. “The private military industry is a part of how the countries fight wars today … The US government doesn’t track the number of contractors used in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. We know it’s a lot, we don’t know exactly how many,” says Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University who used to work for a private military company. […] Aegis employed many mercenaries from Sierra Leone and Uganda to work in Iraq because they were cheaper than other options. “The Sierra Leonean war has been fought mainly by young combatants. If you’re looking for young men to perform military jobs, the chances are quite good that they have also been child soldiers,” says Maya Mynster Christensen, anthropologist, Royal Danish Defence College. She explains that “from a Sierra Leone government perspective, the Iraq recruitment was considered a quite good deal, in the sense that they could actually take local troublemakers, sending them away to Iraq for a couple of years, and then returning them after two years with money earned from their overseas deployment. This could serve to stabilise security in Sierra Leone.” Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Ailing President Buhari Misses Third Cabinet Meeting
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has missed his third cabinet meeting in a row amid ongoing questions about the state of his health. There are concerns about a leadership vacuum as one of Africa’s largest economies struggles to pulls itself out of recession, correspondents say. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Mr Buhari “needed to rest”. In March, Mr Buhari returned from seven weeks of sick leave in the UK where he was treated for an undisclosed illness. When he returned home he said he had never been so ill in his life. BBC

Boko Haram Leader Shekau ‘Injured in Air Strike’
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has been injured and one of his deputies killed in an air strike in northeast Nigeria, civilian and security sources told AFP on Wednesday. Two Nigerian Air Force jets bombarded fighters who had gathered for prayers in Balla village, some 40km from Damboa, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest, last Friday. “Shekau was wounded in the bombings and is believed to be receiving treatment near the Nigerian border with Cameroon around Kolofata,” said one source with contacts within Boko Haram. “His deputy, Abba Mustapha, alias Malam Abba, was killed in the attack along with another key lieutenant, Abubakar Gashua, alias Abu Aisha,” he added. News 24

Africa’s Inequality Stifles Growth, Says Report
Africa is experiencing higher levels of poverty than previously thought because decades of economic growth have only benefited a small wealthy elite, says a report released by the British aid group Oxfam at the World Economic Forum Africa which started in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban on Wednesday. Inequality is rife in Africa, which has seven of the 20 most unequal countries in the world, and a further 250 to 350 million Africans could be living in extreme poverty within the next 15 years, the report says. “Inequality in Africa is fueling poverty, fracturing our societies and stifling the potential of millions of people,” Winnie Byanyima, the co-chair of WEF Africa 2017 said. AP

Algeria Parliament Poll looms, But Voters Busy Watching France
Algeria is holding legislative elections on May 4, but voters are far more curious about France’s presidential race. Algerians worry that a victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen could be disastrous for family members living abroad. Both Algeria and France will hold election this week. Voters in the oil-rich North African country are being called on to pick a new parliament, but they are far more concerned about who will be the next leader in the Elysée presidential palace. France 24

Media Freedom in Africa ‘Not Great’
Media watchdogs are voicing concern about curbs on press freedom. DW looks at the media in Africa where restrictions range from subtle forms of censorship to imprisonment for journalists just doing their jobs. Deutsche Welle

Rocket Attack on UN Camp in Mali Kills 1, Wounds 9
One person was killed and nine were wounded Wednesday when suspected Islamic extremists fired rockets into a U.N peacekeeping camp in Mali. The nationality of the person killed was not known. The wounded included a Swedish peacekeeper and Liberian soldiers. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on the camp in Timbuktu, but the U.N. mission called it a terrorist incident. Al-Qaida-linked militants were behind another rocket attack on the camp last year. VOA

Can African Leaders Stop Money Laundering?
Heads of states, business leaders and more than 1,000 participants are in the South African city of Durban. Many of the officials attending this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa come from countries with crippling unemployment and inflation. And even the host country is in the middle of economic and political upheaval. Corruption is one of the biggest factors contributing to South Africa’s deteriorating economy and President Jacob Zuma, who has been repeatedly accused of it, has been under pressure to do something about that. Zuma signed a new law this week that aims to curb money laundering. Al Jazeera

What to Know About Zambia: Hichilema’s Treason Trial Sheds Light on Political Tensions
Tensions between the government and the opposition in Zambia have been running high since opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested and charged with treason earlier in April. Zambian police arrested Hichilema, who heads the United Party for National Development (UPND), during a raid at his house in the capital Lusaka on April 11, Reuters reported. Police accused Hichilema of endangering President Edgar Lungu’s life when his convoy allegedly refused to make way for a presidential motorcade on April 9. The two convoys were on their way to an official ceremony when they met on the same road in the Mongu district, outside Lusaka. Newsweek

Health Overtakes Democracy as US Spending in East Africa Drops
United States government assistance intended to grow democracy in the region has dropped in favour of health projects, resulting in a drop in its spending in the region by half — from $2.97 billion in 2015 to $1.55 billion last year. This comes as the US is proposing a 30.8 per cent cut to its overall foreign aid budget, according to a State Department budget document seen by The EastAfrican. The budget proposal eliminates all funding through the development assistance account in all the countries in the region, a vote that has benefited education and water projects. According to data from Foreign Assistance, a US government agency that tracks its development aid, US aid to the region has dropped over the past three years despite its planned spending remaining high. This year, Washington plans to spend $3.06 billion in the region, a drop from $3.75 billion two years ago, even though what it actually spent was lower. The East African

US Congress Rejects Trump’s Cuts in Aid to Africa
The US Congress is expected to vote soon in support of a budget deal that preserves most Africa assistance programmes and provides nearly $1 billion to respond to current and threatened famines. The pending agreement announced on Monday rejects many of the aid cuts sought by Republican President Donald Trump. That outcome results from the unwillingness of key Republicans in Congress to slash funding for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAid). The most ardent congressional supporters of Mr Trump’s proposed cuts were sidelined as a result of Republican leaders’ decision to seek compromises with the Democratic Party minority. President Trump thus suffered a significant setback for his effort to “put American first” at the expense of poor countries. But the president has nevertheless said he will accept Congress’ version of the federal government spending plan. Daily Nation

Tanzania Extradites to US Suspected Drug Kingpin
Tanzania has extradited to the United States a blacklisted drug kingpin Ali Khatib Haji Hassan commonly known as Shkuba along with two others to face charges on illicit narcotic trafficking. Principal Resident Magistrate Cyprian Mkeha issued the order at the Kisutu court in Dar es Salaam last month. The three – Shkuba, Idd Salehe Mfuru and Lwitiko Samson Adam – were handed over to the American authorities on Monday despite a pending appeal against their extradition. When reached for comment, Shkuba’s lawyers termed the move as a violation of the country’s law. The East African

Morocco Phosphate Ship Held in South Africa Port over Western Sahara Claim
A Moroccan phosphate ship has been held in a South African port by a complaint from Western Sahara Polisario movement that it transported cargo unlawfully from the disputed territory, a lawyer and Polisario said on Wednesday. The seizure of the vessel, carrying 50,000 tonnes of phosphate to New Zealand, may be a test for the Polisario’s use of a European court decision last year that ruled Western Sahara should not be considered part of the Moroccan kingdom in EU and Moroccan deals. Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975 when Morocco claimed it and the Polisario movement fought a guerilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence there. A ceasefire in 1991 split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern Sahara and an area controlled by Polisario. Reuters

Eight Chinese Vessels Detained off West Africa for Illegal Fishing
West African countries have detained eight Chinese ships for fishing illegally and the boats’ owners could be subject to millions of dollars in fines, environmental group Greenpeace and government officials said. Inspectors from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau boarded the ships off their coasts which they found to be violating regulations on catching protected fish and using nets with small holes to facilitate bigger hauls. The arrests came after a two-month regional patrol on a Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza which carried inspectors from the West African countries, in a bid to supplement national efforts, which are often hamstrung by budget and technology constraints. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones