Africa Media Review for May 5, 2017

Mozambique Rebel Movement Renamo Extends Truce Indefinitely
The leader of Mozambique’s Renamo opposition party and rebel movement said on Thursday he was extending a ceasefire indefinitely, part of an agreement reached in talks with the government to end violence since a disputed 2014 election. Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party fought on opposing sides of a civil war from 1976 to 1992 in which a million people died before a peace accord ended the fighting. But fighting has sporadically flared since Renamo challenged results of the southern African nation’s 2014 elections. Till now, Renamo had renewed the ceasefire each 60 days during peace talks. Thursday was the latest deadline. “This truce will be different from those we announced in the past. I am now declaring a truce without deadline,” Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama told reporters during a conference call from his hideout in the Gorongosa area of central Mozambique. Reuters

Aid Groups in Central African Republic Retreat amid Threats
The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator says four international aid groups will temporarily withdraw their workers from parts of northern Central African Republic because of increasing attacks targeting them. Spokesman Jens Laerke says the country is one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult for humanitarian work, particularly in the northern province of Ouham. Speaking Friday to reporters in Geneva, Laerke declined to specify the international NGOs but said they would move to the capital, Bangui, because threats against aid workers “have reached a climax.” UNICEF said Central African Republic faces sporadic violence and instability after years of sectarian fighting, with some 890,000 people displaced inside the country and into neighboring Cameroon. AP

South Sudan: ‘They Are Killing Civilians House to House’: Crowded UN Camp Filled with Horror Stories
It looks like something out of a science fiction film: a post-apocalyptic hell that is both prison and sanctuary rolled into one. The people who live inside the dry and dusty labyrinth of scarecrow tents sometimes hang their laundry out on the barbed wire that rings the camp and is punctuated by guard towers manned by soldiers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS. It’s what’s known as a “protection of civilians” site and lies in the old slave-traders city of Wau, capital of the northwestern state of the same name. More than 40,000 people have sought refuge here from a brutal civil war increasingly described as tribal or ethnic in nature. CBC

South Sudan President Wants Home-Grown Solutions
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Wednesday has voiced his rejection of external interventions to end the over three-year conflict and indicated his preference for a home-grown solution saying it remains the best approach. “We have seen what international interventions can do. Wherever there was an international intervention, it leads to the dismantling of the central government and gives rise to sectarian strife, prolonged civilian unrest and the emergence of little enclaves controlled by extremists and similar groups. It is clear that international intervention is not always the correct choice,” said President Kiir. He made these remarks during a meeting with high-ranking military officers just hours before convening a high-level leadership with members of the political bureau of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The meeting was part of presidential initiatives and attempts to persuade military leaders to support the national dialogue process. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese Party to End Almost 20 Years in Opposition
founded by late Islamic leader Hassan Alturabi — has said it would participate in a new “consensus” government after almost two decades in opposition. PCP Secretary-General Ali Alhaji told reporters on Wednesday that the party was prepared to play a “symbolic” role in the incoming government with a view to encouraging national unity and dialogue. In 1999, the party founded by Alturbi fell out with the ruling National Congress Party of President Omar al-Bashir and has remained in opposition ever since. “We are prepared to accept posts in the consensus government in order to ease the challenges the new government will undoubtedly face,” Alhaji said. Anadolu Agency

Votes Counted in Algeria Parliamentary Elections
The ruling National Liberation Front (FNL) is expected to retain its majority despite deep economic problems and uncertainty over the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The 80-year-old leader voted from a wheelchair in Algiers, in a rare public appearance since a 2013 stroke. Observers say there is little sign of enthusiasm among voters. Officials results are expected on Friday. More than 23m people were eligible to vote for 11,334 candidates from 50 different political parties, including opposition Islamist alliances, in Thursday’s elections. BBC

Algerians Vote in Parliamentary Poll Marked by Apathy
Algerians headed to the polls on Thursday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by a deepening financial crisis and predictions of a low turnout. Voting was extended by an hour in 42 of the 48 electoral districts, closing at 8pm (19:00 GMT), with the first results expected late on Friday morning. More than 12,000 candidates are competing for the 462 seats of the People’s National Assembly. The election was the first since Algerian politicians amended the country’s constitutional law, giving more power to the legislature. Al Jazeera

For Uganda and Ethiopia, It’s $200m Less in US Aid
Uganda and Ethiopia will be the biggest losers in the region in the US President Donald Trump administration proposal to do away with all funding through the development assistance account, instead channelling these monies towards economic assistance. According to a State Department budget document seen by The EastAfrican, the 2017/18 budget proposes a 30.8 per cent cut to overall foreign aid. In Africa, Washington is looking at saving $777.1 million from the proposed budget cuts prepared early this month. The East African

Surviving Against All Odds – And Court Judgments: How Jacob Zuma Does It
President Jacob Zuma suffered yet another blow on Thursday when he was ordered by the North Gauteng High Court to provide reasons for his firing of Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas from the Cabinet – and pay the costs of the application. You would think that these numerous losses in the courts, as well as being booed, mass protests and mounting calls to step down, would eventually break the president’s obstinacy. But Zuma remains impervious. “I am not leaving the office right now,” he casually told journalists at the World Economic Forum in Durban this week. Zuma’s resilience is related to how the ANC failed to hold him accountable and his ability to manipulate and manoeuvre behind the scenes. Daily Maverick

Zuma Told by South African Court to Explain Cabinet Changes
A South African High Court ordered President Jacob Zuma to explain why he made changes to his cabinet that included firing Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in March, a move that sparked street demonstrations and a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating to junk. The president initially told the top six leaders of the ruling African National Congress that an intelligence report said Gordhan was aiming to undermine his government. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe later said the relationship between the two had reached the point of “irretrievable breakdown.” “The president is in a bind — he will in terms of the court order have to provide the intelligence report,” said Pierre De Vos, a law professor at the University of Cape Town. “If he denies it, that then means he lied to his fellow top six members. A lot of interesting political, more than legal, consequences will flow from that.” Bloomberg

He’s a Real Contender to Lead Congo, if Only He Could Get In
Moïse Katumbi, the opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has everything a presidential candidate needs: money, a strong record in government, nationwide recognition and, to top it all off, a wildly popular soccer club. Yet Mr. Katumbi lacks one vital element: He has not set foot in the country for a year — and is threatened with arrest, or worse, should he try to return. President Joseph Kabila, who has run the country for 16 years and is reluctant to leave power, regards him as his greatest threat. So Mr. Katumbi, who faces prison time for what he says are politically motivated charges against him, has been playing a drawn-out guessing game with his supporters, who are growing impatient over when exactly he plans to return. Since he left the country last May, Mr. Katumbi has been living in exile in Brussels, between vacations in Athens and stays in luxury hotels in London. The New York Times

Millions of Nigerians Face Hunger in Wasteland Recaptured from Fighters
When he heard that the Nigerian army had declared his family’s home town of Banki free from Boko Haram militants and safe to return, Bukar Abdulkadir did all he could to bring his family back to the place they had fled three years ago. It took nine months of hunger, selling most of the food rations they received at their refugee camp in Cameroon, to save up for the cost of a two-day journey in a lorry container back across the border into northern Nigeria. But instead of returning to till the familiar fields of home, they came back to a desolate wasteland littered with the rubble of destroyed buildings and burnt cars, where they were herded into a crowded camp by soldiers. Reuters

Boko Haram: Nigeria Winning the Battle But Losing the War?
[…] Boko Haram’s membership is broad. Within its ranks are educated ideologues, opportunists looking for power or money, and the men and women who have been kidnapped and coerced. In Locos, as in other parts of the city they once controlled, they killed and extorted under the noses of the security forces, imposing a tax “for breathing” on anyone they chose. But when they knocked at Abakyari’s door, his wife stood her ground. As he hid in the shower, she denied he was home and refused them entry. When the gunmen finally left, she collapsed in the doorway and he couldn’t revive her. “She protected me,” he tells IRIN. This is a war that has killed more than 20,000 people, driven over 1.8 million from their homes and left two million hungry. But what has been a spectacularly grisly conflict now seems to be entering a new and uncertain phase. IRIN

No Amnesty For Crimes Under Former Gambian President – Govt
The minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure Demba Ali Jawo has stated that there would be no blank amnesty for those that were greater responsible for some of the atrocity been committed against the people. “Reconciliation certainly is a priority of the government, but I can assure you it will not happen at the expense of justice for our colleagues who were victims during the former regime; which include the late Dayda Hydara, Chief Manneh and Omar Barrow and all journalists who were subjected to torture in the hand of agents of the former regime,” he assured. The government, he said, is in the process of setting up a Truth and National Reconciliation Committee. The Daily Observer (Banjul)

Migrants Who Survive Sahara Face New Torture in Libyan Oasis Town
In his quest to reach Europe, 22-year old Gambian Mafu Hydara spent six days with little food or water crossing the Sahara before he reached the Libyan oasis town of Sabha. There, he says he was kidnapped and beaten by a smuggling gang to elicit a ransom from his family and frequently forced to work for no pay during his seven months in the town. Today, Hydara is back in his Gambian home town of Brikama, where he has no job and sleeps on a mattress on the floor of a sparse shack. Of the more than 300,000 migrants that crossed the desert and sea to Europe last year, thousands did not survive the treacherous journey and thousands more end up stranded in Libya or back in their countries, often without the small amounts of money they gathered to make their initial trip. Reuters

Boris Johnson Meets Rivals for Power in Libya
The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, flew to Tripoli on Thursday to give his personal support for the fledgling peace process in Libya by meeting the Libyan prime minister, Fayez al-Serraj, and his rival Khalifa Haftar. Johnson had planned the trip for some time but, by good fortune, the visit came the day after Serraj had met Haftar in Abu Dhabi where the two men agreed to work towards fresh presidential elections by March next year. It had been the first time the two sides had met for more than a year and was a coup for Egyptian diplomacy in its efforts to persuade the heads of the institutions in the east and west of the country to work together. Serraj has been running a UN-backed government from Tripoli largely representing the west of the country, while Haftar heads the Libyan National Army that dominates eastern areas of the country. He has become the standard bearer of forces encamped in the Tobruk-based Libyan parliament, the House of Representatives. The Guardian

Société Générale to Pay $1.1 Billion to Settle Dispute With Libya Fund
Societe Generale SA agreed to pay 963 million euros ($1.05 billion) to settle a legal dispute with the Libyan Investment Authority over alleged bribery, averting a trial and prompting a surprise drop in profit. The French bank and LIA reached a deal to resolve “all matters between both parties” related to five transactions between 2007 and 2009, SocGen said in a statement on Thursday. The court case, following allegations of corruption and bribery, was scheduled to start in London today. A similar lawsuit against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — that dealt with allegations of undue influence instead of bribery — was thrown out six months ago. The bank apologized to the LIA and and said it regrets the “lack of caution” of some of its employees, booking a 350 million-euro provision in the first quarter related to the case. Bloomberg

How African Governments Use Advertising as a Weapon Against Media Freedom
National governments remain the single largest source of revenue for news organisations in Africa. In Rwanda, for example, a staggering 85-90% of advertising revenue comes from the public sector. In Kenya, it’s estimated that 30% of newspaper revenue comes from government advertising. In 2013, the government spent Ksh40 million in two weeks just to publish congratulatory messages for the new President Uhuru Kenyatta. But with a general election coming up this year in August, the Kenyan government has decided to stop advertising in local commercial media. In a memo, reportedly sent to all government accounting officers, the directive was given that state departments and agencies would only advertise in My.Gov – a government newspaper and online portal. Mail and Guardian

Complacency Warned Amid Piracy Hijackings off Somali Coast
A global maritime body on Thursday urged foreign vessels not to be complacent as they transit the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden amid new hijackings off the coast of Somalia after a five-year lull. The latest report by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned that Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks against foreign vessels. IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said recent attacks in which Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a dhow, both within their territorial waters, should serve as a warning against complacency. “IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the Best Management Practices for Protection (BMP4) recommendations,” said Mukundan. Xinhua

Kenya Election Plans Include Dispute Resolution
Logistical challenges and disputes during Kenya’s primaries last month have raised concerns about the nationwide polls in August and how best to avoid a repeat of the deadly post-election violence in 2007. When poll results are contested, the final decision often lies with the courts. “Electoral cases cannot be treated in the same way as other matters that come before the courts, because of their inherent political sensitivity, the high public interest in their outcomes, the intense bursts in which electoral petitions are filed and the short time limits within which they have to be dispensed,” said Irene Khan, the director general of the International Development Law Organization. The IDLO, along with Kenya’s judiciary, released recommendations ahead of the August elections, in which Kenyans will be voting in local, parliamentary, gubernatorial and presidential races. VOA

Ex-Guinea Minister Convicted of Laundering Bribes
A former UBS banker who served as Guinea’s mining minister faces years in a US jail after being convicted of laundering what prosecutors said were $8.5m of bribes from a secretive Chinese conglomerate at the heart of Beijing’s quest for Africa’s natural resources. A jury in New York on Wednesday found Mahmoud Thiam guilty of channelling bribes into plush real estate and private school fees for his children. Each of the two counts of money-laundering carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. […] Thiam, a Guinea-born US citizen who had made a career in investment banking, was appointed mining minister under a military junta that seized power in late 2008 and ruled for two years over a west African nation whose great mineral riches have exacerbated a sorry history of dictatorship and penury. Thiam stoked a dramatic struggle for Guinea’s treasure between billionaires, wildcatters and leading mining houses including Rio Tinto. But the most remarkable offer came from a little-known conglomerate that researchers who traced its opaque dealings dubbed the Queensway Group, after the address of its Hong Kong headquarters. Led by its mercurial frontman — a dealmaker with links to China’s intelligence agencies who goes by at least seven names and is best known as Sam Pa. Financial Times



Photo: Adam Jones