Africa Media Review for May 8, 2017

82 Chibok Schoolgirls Freed in Exchange for Five Boko Haram Leaders
Months of negotiations involving participants across two continents has resulted in a deal in which 82 Chibok schoolgirls – who were seized from their dormitories in April 2014 and held captive for more than three years by the Islamist group Boko Haram – have been released in exchange for five militant leaders. But joy at their freedom was quickly followed by concern for their privacy and fears that the thousands of other less high-profile prisoners still held captive by the extremists would be forgotten. The deal was negotiated by Mustapha Zanna, a barrister who is currently the proprietor of an orphanage in Maiduguri, but who was once the lawyer of the late founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. It also involved the Swiss government and the Red Cross. The Guardian

US, UK Say Boko Haram Wants to Kidnap Foreigners in Nigeria
The United States and British governments are warning that the Boko Haram extremist group is actively planning to kidnap foreigners in northeast Nigeria. The British warning says the extremists are targeting Western foreign workers in the Bama area of Borno state, close to the Cameroon border. The Nigeria-based Boko Haram has been pushed out of strongholds by military efforts but continues to control parts of the country’s northeast. That has challenged aid groups’ efforts to address a hunger crisis that the United Nations says has left 4.7 million people in urgent need of food aid. Reuters

Nine Chadian Soldiers Killed in Boko Haram Attack on Camp – Army
Boko Haram militants killed nine Chadian soldiers in an attack on a military camp on Friday in the north of the Central African country close to the Nigerian border, an army spokesman said on Saturday. “On our side, there are nine dead and 28 wounded,” Colonel Azem Bermandoua told Reuters, adding that 28 militants were killed. The army said that Boko Haram carried out the attack. Over the last seven years, Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million in its bid to create an Islamic state in Nigeria. A regional force that includes troops from Chad has retaken much of its territory in the last two years. The group has largely focused its attacks on northeast Nigeria, neighbouring Cameroon and Niger, with attacks in Chad less frequent. Reuters

Nigeria Leader Leaves for Medical Checkups amid Health Fears
Nigeria’s president was departing Sunday night for further medical checkups in London, renewing fears over his health after he spent weeks overseas on medical leave earlier this year and said he’d never been so sick in his life. The announcement came shortly after 74-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari met at his official residence with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed this weekend from three years of captivity by Boko Haram extremists. The latest medical leave startled Africa’s most populous nation even as it rejoiced in the schoolgirls’ return. Buhari has missed three straight Cabinet meetings and is said to spend most of his time working from home. On Friday, the government released images of his first public appearance in a week as he attended Friday prayers. The Washington Post

Nigeria Boosts Funds to Protect Oil Facilities
Nigeria has almost tripled its budget for an amnesty program for militants in its oil-producing heartland, the presidency said Saturday, a key factor in maintaining a tenuous peace in the Niger Delta and supporting crude production. In a statement, the presidency said 30 billion naira ($98.47 million) would be released for the former militants and an extra 5 billion naira added at some later stage. Until 2016 the annual budget was 20 billion naira. Funding of former militants under the 2009 amnesty is key to maintaining the relative stability in the Delta and stopping attacks on oil facilities, as it was last year by militants who cut crude output by as much as a third. Under the amnesty program, each former militant is entitled to 65,000 naira a month plus job training. But in March a special adviser to Nigeria’s president said the program was facing a cash crunch. VOA

Regional al-Shabab Leader Killed in Somali Raid
The United States and British governments are warning that the Boko Haram extremist group is actively planning to kidnap foreigners in northeast Nigeria. The British warning says the extremists are targeting Western foreign workers in the Bama area of Borno state, close to the Cameroon border. The Nigeria-based Boko Haram has been pushed out of strongholds by military efforts but continues to control parts of the country’s northeast. That has challenged aid groups’ efforts to address a hunger crisis that the United Nations says has left 4.7 million people in urgent need of food aid. VOA

Navy SEAL Killed in Somalia in First U.S. Combat Death There Since 1993
A member of the Navy SEALs was killed and two other American service members were wounded in a raid in Somalia on Friday, the first American combat fatality there since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle. The combat death was another milestone in the United States’ escalating involvement in a war against Islamist militants called the Shabab and showed the difficulty of fighting in the Horn of Africa country, where drought and famine have heightened chaos. Yet the episode highlighted a deepening anomaly: The United States Africa Command, which oversees American military operations in Somalia, has yet to act on new authority from President Trump freeing it from Obama-era constraints on strikes against the Shabab. The commando’s death came during a Somali military operation, not an American one.  The New York Times

Kidnapped Frenchman Freed in Rescue Mission in Sudan’s Darfur
A Frenchman who was kidnapped in Chad in March and taken to the Darfur area of Sudan has been rescued in a raid organised by France, Chad and Sudan and was handed over to French authorities on Sunday, Sudanese officials said. They said the kidnappers had demanded an undisclosed ransom for Thierry Frezier, an employee of a French mining company operating in Chad. He was abducted south of Abeche, a mining area about 800 km (500 miles) east of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, and 150 km from the border with Sudan. Frezier arrived on Sunday morning in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where he was handed over to French embassy officials at the airport. Reuters

West Africa to Assemble Military Force to Fight Militants
West African nations are preparing to set up a regional force to cope with increased Islamist attacks at their borders, Mali’s defense minister said. Mali will provide 1,000 troops to the force that’s meant to number about 4,000 men, Defense Minister Tiena Coulibaly said on Friday. Mali and Niger will be the biggest contributors to the force, which will get soldiers from Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad, Coulibaly said in an interview in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan. “A new terrorism is emerging at the borders,” Coulibaly said. “Terrorists can cross borders, carry out raids and withdraw. This is what’s happening at the border between Mali and Burkina Faso.” Bloomberg

South Sudan Famine Could Spread, Report Says
Famine is at risk of spreading to a third county in South Sudan in the absence of food aid, a new report from a U.S.-backed monitoring group says, with the United Nations warning on Sunday that hundreds of thousands of children could die without assistance. The report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network says starvation is likely to occur in Koch county in the absence of humanitarian aid. In February, the UN and South Sudan’s government officially declared a famine in Leer and Mayendit counties, with a million people said to be at risk. CBC

Renegade General Cirillo Says Ready to Enter South Sudan’s Civil War
Thomas Cirillo Swaka, known as Cirillo, resigned as deputy chief of staff of South Sudan’s military in February, citing rights abuses in a war that has split the world’s youngest nation, often along ethnic lines, since 2013. Since then, the army’s most high-profile defector said he has put together a force of several thousand fighters, but declined to identify their exact plans or locations. The scarred guerrilla veteran told Reuters that before he quit he had seen evidence of a government programme to recruit fighters and procure arms for militias from Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group that included secret orders for weapons bypassing military supply lines. The assertions from Cirillo, a member of the smaller Bari ethnic group, were dismissed by the presidency. “It is very unfortunate that Cirillo is getting out of his mind. This is completely rubbish,” said presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny. Angop

Former Burkina Faso President Named UN Burundi Envoy
Former Burkina Faso president, Michel Kafando, has been appointed the new UN envoy for Burundi, where efforts to end a political crisis over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule have stalled. Kafando, 74, has “more than three decades of extensive experience in high-level international diplomacy and politics”, the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday in announcing the appointment. A former foreign minister and UN ambassador, Kafando was president from November 2014 to December 2015 during Burkina Faso’s transition to civilian rule following a military takeover and the resignation of long-serving leader Blaise Compaore. News 24

Why do Tunisia’s Islamists Support an Unpopular Law Forgiving Corruption?
This past weekend, Tunisians protested their parliament’s decision to reconsider a controversial measure offering conditional amnesty to corrupt business executives and old regime officials. President Beji Caid Essebsi introduced the measure — now in its third draft — in 2015 as a way to reintegrate businesspeople sidelined by the revolution. Civil society leaders want to bury the bill, but it has reappeared, haunting post-revolutionary progress toward transparency and accountability. Many Tunisians are dismayed that the country’s largest party, Ennahda, hasn’t done more to scuttle the bill. Before the revolution, Ennahda’s supporters were blacklisted from employment, jailed by the tens of thousands, tortured, raped and forced into exile. Its base would prefer laws that hold regime figures accountable. Yet party leaders, while opposing language in the legislation’s current iteration, are supporting its core principle: economic amnesty.  The Washington Post

Uhuru Endorsed: Kenyatta Receives Support from Affiliate Parties
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been endorsed as the presidential candidate by his Jubilee Party and four other affiliate parties. Jubilee Party’s National Delegates Convention (NDC) endorsed President Kenyatta to run for a second term on Saturday, May 6, at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. Upon being endorsed by the party, President Kenyatta – who was presented with the nomination certificate by the party Secretary General, Raphael Tuju, proceeded to nominate his deputy, William Ruto, as his running mate in the August 8, 2017 General Election. Standard Media

Algeria’s Ruling FLN, Allies Win Majority in Parliament: Ministry
Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front party and its main allies won a majority in a parliamentary election overshadowed by the financial crunch from lower oil prices and questions over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s health. Turnout was only 38.25 percent, lower than 43 percent in the last election in 2012, reflecting general distrust among Algerians that a weak parliament can bring any change in a system dominated since 1962 independence by the FLN. The FLN, with its roots in the war against colonial France, won 164 seats in the 462-seat National Assembly, but it lost considerable ground from the election five years ago when it won 221 seats, the interior minister said announcing results. Coalition allies, the National Rally for Democracy or RND, won 97 seats, gaining from around 70 seats five years ago. Reuters

Italian Coastguard: 3,000 Rescued in Mediterranean Sea
About 3,000 people have been saved in the Mediterranean Sea in a single day while trying to make the journey from northern Africa to Europe, according to the Italian coastguard. They were picked up in more than 20 separate rescue operations on Saturday, involving the Italian coastguard and navy, the EU’s EUNAVFOR mission in the Mediterranean, European Union border agency Frontex, NGOs, and merchant ships. The coastguard gave no details of the nationalities of those rescued. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), so far this year 43,490 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea as of April 26. Al Jazeera

UN Alarmed by Congolese Refugee Influx in Angola
The United Nations is raising the alarm over the rising number of DR Congo refugees in Angola. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the number of new arrivals had risen to at least 16,000. It attributed the influx to the rising violence in the DR Congo central Kasai region. The UN agency put the daily arrivals at between 300 and 400 people. The Kasai violence erupted when government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader Kamwina Nsapu. Nsapu was leading a rebellion against President Joseph Kabila, whose stay in power beyond the mandatory two-five year term limit has been contested by other parties. The East African

Tanzania School Bus Crash Kills Dozens
More than 30 people – almost all of them schoolchildren – have been killed in a bus crash in northern Tanzania, officials say. They say the bus plunged off the road in a steep ravine near the town of Karatu. A number of people were hurt. Officials later tried to remove survivors and dead bodies from the vehicle. The students from a primary school in Arusha were travelling to another school to sit an exam. The final year pupils from the Lucky Vincent school – believed to be aged between 12 and 14 – were on their way to take mock exams when the accident happened on Saturday morning. BBC

Mozambique’s Gas Boom Dream Under Threat
The small, palm-fringed fishing town of Palma was meant to become a symbol of Mozambique’s glittering future, transformed by one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas projects. But construction has fallen far behind schedule and the town’s fate is uncertain after gas prices fell and the government became engulfed in a $2 billion debt scandal. Tucked between the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean and thick tropical forests, Palma remains a sleepy village of 3,000 people, still waiting for the promised arrival of new jobs and infrastructure. The discovery of gas reserves in 2010, estimated at 180 trillion cubic feet (five trillion cubic metres) in the surrounding Rovuma Basin, was the biggest natural gas find in recent decades. SABC

In a Fight for Land, a Women’s Movement Shakes Morocco
[…] After King Mohammed VI succeeded his father in 1999, one of his hallmark achievements was the promotion of women’s rights, as the country has tried to position itself as a regional leader. In 2004, a new family code guaranteed women more rights in marriage and divorce, raising the minimum age for marriage and restricting polygamy. In 2011, after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the country adopted a new Constitution that established gender equality. Even so, women’s rights advocates say, women are significantly absent from the work force and, in legal matters, often at a strong disadvantage to men. While Morocco has been liberalizing its economy since the 1990s, selling off government assets and reducing barriers to foreign investment, the threat to the communal lands intensified in 2004 when it signed the Morocco Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The agreement increased the economic incentive to privatize and develop traditional lands. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones