Africa Media Review for May 9, 2018

DRC: At Least 17 People Dead in Confirmed Ebola Outbreak
At least 17 people have died in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where health officials have confirmed an outbreak of Ebola, the health ministry has said. It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and the outbreak comes less than a year after one that killed eight people. The health ministry said: “Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an international public health emergency. “We still dispose of the well-trained human resources that were able to rapidly control previous epidemics.” Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying, as they infect other animals with which they share trees, such as monkeys. Ebola often spreads to humans via infected bushmeat. The Guardian

U.S. Initiates Review of South Sudan Aid
The U.S. is beginning a comprehensive review of its aid programs to South Sudan over the country’s lack of progress toward resolving in its ongoing civil war. The White House on Tuesday cited South Sudan’s elevation of officials sanctioned by the U.N. and exile of others who signed a 2015 peace accord for initiating the review. “The Government of South Sudan has lost credibility, and the United States is losing patience,” the White House declared in a statement. The U.S. is South Sudan’s largest donor of humanitarian assistance, but it has grown frustrated with the worsening crisis in the world’s newest country. It imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan in February, and has sanctioned leading individuals and oil-linked entities multiple times. Politico

UN Boss Recommends More Sanctions against South Sudan
South Sudan risks being slapped with fresh sanctions by the United Nations Security Council following a report by a top UN official, saying leaders in the country are still ‘bent on armed confrontation’. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under Secretary – General for peacekeeping operations told the security council that despite work done by the regional trading bloc, IGAD to facilitate an agreement on a permanent ceasefire, the ‘parties remain far apart on the issues’. He also highlighted the scale of sexual violence and increasing cases of aggression against humanitarian agencies and their staff. Africa News

South Sudan President Asks SPLM to Forgive Machar
Ahead of a high-level forum on South Sudan next week, President Salva Kiir is urging SPLM ruling party officials to forgive his former deputy, Riek Machar, and said the rebel leader should return home. “You bring Riek Machar to Juba here. I guarantee his safety and I will protect him with the national army. If you don’t believe me, the RPF [Regional Protection Force] is here. You bring the RPF to take charge of the security of Riek Machar in Juba. This is where we will be meeting him and so that we talk to him,” Kiir told party members attending a National Liberation Council meeting late last week in Juba. The council is a legislative body of the SPLM. Kiir said he also wants all former detainees, including former SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum, to return to Juba in accordance with a reunification agreement signed in 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania. VOA

Aid Workers Targeted in Battle against Famine in South Sudan
Lying facedown, a rebel fighter jabbing a rifle barrel into the back of his head, the aid worker was sure his bid to save his fellow South Sudanese from famine was about to end in his own death. The driver’s ordeal in the country’s north cost him his money, watch and mobile phone, but he was left alive, asking not to be identified for fear of retribution. Others weren’t so lucky: more than 100 aid workers have been killed by armed groups during South Sudan’s over four-year civil war. Now a fresh wave of attacks and intimidation by fighters from both sides is imperiling efforts to prevent the nation’s second famine since early 2017. Bloomberg

Al Qaeda Branch Threatens Attacks on Western Companies in Africa
An al Qaeda affiliate threatened attacks on Western companies operations across North and West Africa on Tuesday, calling them legitimate targets and urging Muslims to boycott them. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has launched raids on installations in the past, in particular in Algeria where it carried out a major assault on a gas plant in 2013 that killed dozens of workers. Its fighters have also carried out high-profile attacks on hotels frequented by foreigners in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.This statement calls to boycott all Western companies and foundations that operate in the Islamic Maghreb and the countries of the Sahel, and gives a warning to them that they are legitimate target for the mujahideen, it said. The statement, which was circulated on social media and translated by the extremism watchdog SITE, singled out France – the former colonial power in much of North and West Africa – and its allies in the region. The New York Times

Political Tension, Intrigue and Conspiracy Theories in the Congo
The international community is watching the evolving situation in the DRC very closely. The continuing flow of Congolese refugees across the eastern and southeastern borders, and the growing number of internally displaced people fleeing armed conflict, are not grounds for optimism. The Kabila administration continues to insist loudly that the DRC will hold an election on December 23, 2018. Even if we are to take the regime at its word – past promises of elections have not held up – there are reasons to believe Kabila will not really relinquish power. And as this date draws closer, political circles are full of hypothetical scenarios as to how President Joseph Kabila may still find a way to circumvent the two-mandate limit in the constitution. Daily Maverick

Nigeria’s President Draws Criticism for Seeking Medical Care Abroad
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, who has urged politicians not to go abroad to seek medical care, has traveled to Britain on his fifth official trip to see a doctor there. Mr. Buhari, 75, left for London on Monday for a four-day visit, setting off renewed concerns about his health. His trip also comes after three weeks of strikes by health care professionals who are calling for better working conditions and more funding.For nearly two years, Mr. Buhari has been receiving treatment for an unspecified illness, which he has repeatedly refused to discuss. The president is scheduled to return to Nigeria on Saturday, at which point he will have spent more than 170 days in London on official medical leave since becoming president in 2015.Mr. Buhari recently declared his intention to run for a second term next year, but many people in Nigeria, including some former presidents, have called on him to step down because of concerns about his health. The New York Times

Death Toll Rises to 71 in Nigeria Militia, Bandit Clash
The death toll from a bloody clash between armed bandits and militiamen over the weekend in northern Nigeria has risen to 71, a traditional ruler told AFP on Tuesday. More bodies were recovered after bandits overran a local militia protecting the village of Gwaska in Kaduna state on Saturday, putting the spotlight on the increasing violence in West Africa’s largest economy ahead of presidential polls next year. “The death toll now is 71 with more bodies being evacuated,” said the Emir of Birnin Gwari Malam Zubair Jibril Mai Gwari II. “We hope that the security measures being taken will curb the issue.” In a statement on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack, calling for those responsible to be “swiftly brought to justice”. AFP

As Risks Rise in Burundi, Refuge in Tanzania Is No Longer Secure
A political almanac, a miniature desk flag, a poster of presidents past and present: symbols of Tanzania, the country that has given her refuge since she fled violence in neighbouring Burundi in 1972, dot the home of Magreth Lameck Mtema in the town of Kigoma, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. By rights, these symbols should now represent Mtema’s own nationality but, like tens of thousands of her compatriots, she’s still waiting for the promise of naturalisation – first issued to her more than a decade ago – to be made good, in the form of a certificate of citizenship. But even for the many former Burundian refugees who have received such documents, life in Tanzania remains full of uncertainty and restrictions, buffeted by the policy changes of the government and its uneasy relations with international partners. IRIN

E Guinea Court Upholds Opposition Ban, Jail Terms
Equatorial Guinea’s paramount court on Monday confirmed the dissolution of the country’s main opposition and upheld 30-year jail terms handed to 21 of its members. A former Spanish colony of 1.2 million people, awash with oil but mired in poverty and a reputation for corruption, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled with an iron fist by Teodoro Obiang Nguema since 1979. “In the name of the Head of the State, we reject the appeal,” the President of the Supreme Court, Juan Carlos Ondo Angue, announced. The Citizens for Innovation (CI) party had been dissolved by a court in Mongomo on February 26. It also sentenced 21 activists, including the party’s only MP, Jesus Mitogo, to 30 years in jail for “sedition, public disorder, attacks on authority and serious bodily harm”. AFP

Ugandan Government Plans Tax on Social Media
Uganda plans to introduce a new tax on social media users from July, prompting concerns that President Yoweri Museveni is attempting to crack down on opposition to his 32-year-rule. The move is unlikely to go down well in a country where more than 40 percent of people use the internet. Finance Minister Matia Kasaija told Reuters that the tax will levy 200 Ugandan shillings (US$0.027) per day on each mobile phone subscriber using platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. “We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more of social media, more often, more frequently,” he said. France 24

Kenya’s Bid for UN Office Angers Uganda
A bid by Nairobi to host a high profile United Nations field missions co-ordination office that is presently located in Entebbe, Uganda, has sparked a diplomatic row with Kampala terming it an “unfair” gesture from one of two “friendly neighbours”. United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres is said to have shortlisted Nairobi to host the UN Regional Service Centre in Africa, triggering Kampala’s rage. The UN office provides support for UN field missions in Africa. These include administrative, logistical, information and communications technology services to 13 client missions in Africa; representing over 73 per cent of all United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions worldwide. Business Daily

Can the Catholic Church Mediate in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis?
The unrest in Cameroon’s English-speaking areas continues as separatists attack government officials and soldiers burn villages. DW’s Adrian Kriesch reports many are now looking to the Catholic Church for help. […] In 2016, the Catholic bishops wrote the president a letter detailing the Anglophone Cameroonians’ worries but the government accused the bishops of fueling the conflict. Moreover, even the Francophone and the Anglophone bishops don’t see eye to eye. “We trust the Catholic Church in the Anglophone areas, but not the bishops in the French-speaking areas,” an activist who supports the separatists told DW. The Francophone bishops are regarded loyal to the government he added: “Before the crisis, both chose sides.” Whether or not the church can act as mediator will depend on whether the bishops can agree. If they can’t, the conflict threatens to escalate further. Separatists have told DW they would do everything in their power to prevent presidential elections scheduled for October — hoping to force the government to the negotiating table. Deutsche Welle

Italy Sued over Migrant ‘Push Back’ Deal with Libya after 20 Migrants Drown in Mediterranean
Survivors of a boat that sank in the Mediterranean are suing Italy over its collaboration with the Libyan coastguard. At least 20 migrants died when a dinghy carrying 130 people sank on 6 November 2017. The parents of two children who drowned in the incident are among the 17 people to file the application in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). According to the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, which made the application, the migrants died after the Libyan coast guard interfered in rescue efforts by humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 3. The filing states Italy supplied the dinghy to the Libyan coast guard months before the mass drowning. The Independent

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia Fail to Agree on Nile Dispute
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have failed again to make progress on their Nile dispute as Ethiopia works to complete a massive upstream dam, an Egyptian official said on Tuesday. Egypt fears the Renaissance Dam will cut into its share of the river, which provides virtually all the freshwater for the arid country of 100 million people. Ethiopia, which has the same sized population, says the dam is essential for its economic development. Technical talks among irrigation ministers of the three countries in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last week ended with no deal, Hossam el-Emam, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry, told The Associated Press. Ethiopia and Sudan still insist on modifications to a technical report by a French firm commissioned to assess the dam’s impact, he said. AP

Swahili Makes History as First African Language Recognized by Twitter
Most African languages for the past decade and over of social media platform Twitter’s existence have been referred to as Indonesian in terms of translation. That has changed with Twitter’s official recognition of Swahili as a language. It became the first African language to achieve that accomplishment. Swahili is however yet to be added in the language settings of Twitter. The network now recognizes Swahili words and offers translation of the widely spoken and written East and Southern African language. Since last week, Twitter kick started detection of the language in tweets and subsequently offers a close to perfect translation as with most other foreign languages. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones