Africa Media Review for November 17, 2016

The Role of Civil Society in Averting Instability in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in danger of sliding toward chaos in what appears to be an attempt by Joseph Kabila to hang on to office after his term expires. In October, the Constitutional Court postponed elections originally scheduled for November 2016 to April 2018. The main opposition coalition has rejected the decision and called for protests to continue. It has also accused the Constitutional Court and the National Independent Electoral Commission of partisan bias. A review of the DRC’s nascent institutional checks and balances shows them to be too weak to curb executive overreach. The experience of democratic transitions elsewhere has shown that when state institutions are compromised, reform must come from outside the state. An organized and resilient civil society is one such actor vital to the process of creating genuine democratic change and averting violence. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Congo’s President Warns Against Foreign Interference
President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday warned against foreign “interference” in the political upheaval shaking the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Addressing parliament, Kabila appeared to be responding to the comments of UN diplomats about potential changes to the constitution that would allow him to run for office again when his term expires on Dec. 19. “The Congolese have shown that they can responsibly resolve their differences,” he told lawmakers. He added: “I warn against and denounce all interference in Congolese affairs… our country is entitled, like all the member states of the United Nations, to respect for its independence.” Anadolu Agency

Rights Group Raises Red Flag over $880 Million DR Congo Mining Deal
Cash from a lucrative mining deal in DR Congo could be diverted towards President Joseph Kabila’s operations, a London based rights organisation has warned. In its latest report, Global Witness revealed the DRC government last year signed over royalty rights in a company operated by giant London-listed commodities trader Glencore. Global Witness estimates that royalties to an anonymous Cayman Islands company called Africa Horizons Investment Limited, could generate as much as $880 million– more than Congo’s annual health spending. The anonymous company is part of Dan Gertler’s Fleurette Group, an Israeli billionaire mining magnate and close friend of Congolese President Joseph Kabila. He was the DR Congo partner of US hedge fund Och-Ziff in deals for which it was later charged by US authorities for foreign corruption, eventually paying out over $400 million in a settlement. The East African

President ‘Pardons’ South Sudan Rebels
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has granted an amnesty to at least 750 troops of rebel leader Riek Machar who crossed to the DR Congo when fighting broke out in Juba in July. Defence minister Kuol Manyang Juk disclosed that Juba was ready to welcome the disarmed combatants currently residing in refugee camps in Goma should they accept the amnesty offer. The minister was quoted by the government affiliated Dawn daily newspaper in Juba as saying: “The President of the Republic made an amnesty for those who will be ready to come back and this is the message we were carrying to the authorities in DRC.” Africa Review

UN Warns Mass Atrocities Real Risk in South Sudan
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that there is a real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, following a sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement. In a report to the Security Council released Wednesday, Ban said that U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan lack the manpower and capability to stop mass atrocities should they occur. “There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, in particular following the sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement in recent weeks,” the report states. “While the secretariat will continue to make every effort to implement the mandated task of protecting civilians through the use of ‘all necessary means,’ it must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate reach, manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities.” The Washington Post

Nigeria: Militant Surge Blamed on Weather and Weapons
Fresh high-profile losses in Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram militants are leading to analysis of the resurgence, with some chalking it up to weapons shortfalls as well as that bugbear of armies throughout history, the weather – or in this case, the dry season. Late Monday Nigeria lost another senior army officer in an ambush by Boko Haram militants, barely two weeks after one of the country’s most celebrated military commanders, Col. Muhammadu Abu-Ali, and five other soldiers were felled by insurgents’ bullets. Quoting military sources on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, local media say Lt. Col. B.U. Umar, the commanding officer of the 114 army special task force battalion, was killed in an ambush by militants in the Bita area of the northeast Borno state. A few other soldiers were reported injured in the incident. Anadolu Agency

60 % of Boko Haram Now Not Nigerians, Buratai Says
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Wednesday, said that judging by the current activities of the Boko Haram terrorists, 60 percent of them are not Nigerians. Buratai said this in Maiduguri when he received the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, at the headquarters of the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole at the Maimalari Cantonment. “Your Excellency, I want to bring to your attention that while the Boko Haram (insurgency) can be said to have started in Nigeria, by and large as at today, I can say that almost 60 per cent of the insurgents are from our neighbouring countries. The Guardian

Boko Haram Militants Seen Weakening in Cameroon: ICG
Boko Haram has dramatically scaled back attacks in Cameroon in recent months, analysts said on Wednesday, suggesting a regional security force is gaining ground against the militants. The Islamist movement – which controlled an area the size of Belgium in northeast Nigeria last year and raided Cameroon and other neighbours to expand its “caliphate” – had since suffered a string of defeats, International Crisis Group (ICG) said. The report came days after security and U.N. sources said hundreds of Boko Haram fighters and their families had surrendered on another frontline in Chad. There was no comment from any of the factions of Boko Haram which is still seen as one of the main security threats in West Africa. Reuters

Nigeria Militants ‘Bomb’ Oil Pipelines in Niger Delta
A militant group in Nigeria says it has bombed three pipelines in the south of the country in the latest attack on the country’s crucial oil industry. The claim by the Niger Delta Avengers has not been independently confirmed. The NDA, the latest militant group to emerge in Nigeria, is demanding that a greater share of oil wealth be spent on ending poverty in local communities. Attacks resumed earlier this year after funding for former militants was slashed. Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil exporters and it is the country’s main export earner. BBC

Senate Rejects Nigerian Leader’s Nominations for Ambassadors
Nigeria’s Senate has rejected all 47 nominees for ambassador posts presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it is besieged by complaints. The rejection, apparently based on lack of consultation, came in a motion on Tuesday moved by Senate leader Ali Ndume and seconded by minority leader Godswill Akpabio. The senate received more than 250 petitions against the proposed political appointees. Nigeria has been without ambassadors in places like Washington, London, Beijing and Brussels for more than a year. News 24

‘Don’t go!’ ICC Officials Appeal to African Defectors
“Don’t go!” That was the heartfelt appeal to African nations as the International Criminal Court opened its annual meeting Wednesday under the cloud of a wave of unprecedented defections. Gambia on Monday formally notified the United Nations that it was withdrawing from the court, following in the wake of South Africa and Burundi. “Don’t go,” pleaded Senegalese politician Sidiki Kaba, the president of the ICC’s Assembly of State Parties meeting in The Hague. “In a world criss-crossed by violent extremism… it is urgent and necessary to defend the ideal of justice for all,” he said. News 24

Internet Freedom in Ethiopia is the Fourth Worst in the World
Ethiopia’s internet is among the least free in the world. According to a new index released by the nonprofit Freedom House, Ethiopia ranked ahead of only Iran, Syria, and China, out of 65 countries in terms of access to the internet, censorship, and freedom of information. It ranked the worst of any country in Africa. Anti-government protests have gripped the country over the last year, gaining extra global attention when Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa held his hands up, crossed at the wrist– an anti-government gesture used by protesters– at the Olympics. In response, Ethiopian authorities have intermittently shut down mobile phone and internet connections. They have also blocked social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Quartz

More Than 240 Migrants Feared Dead in Mediterranean this Week
More than 240 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean this week, humanitarian groups said on Wednesday, as another 580 people were pulled from overcrowded boats. On Monday a rubber boat ripped and flipped over with about 150 on board, U.N. refugee agency spokesman Iosta Ibba quoted some of the 15 survivors as saying when they arrived in Catania on Sicily’s east coast. “The survivors made it by hanging on to the pieces of the boat that stayed afloat,” Ibba said. “They were in the water for several hours, some said about 10 hours, before an oil tanker picked them up.” On Tuesday, 23 people were brought to safety by another tanker after a rubber dinghy carrying about 122 deflated, said SOS Mediterranee, which operates rescue ship Aquarius. Four bodies were recovered. Reuters

Reprieve But No Solution for Kenya’s Dadaab Refugees
The international community appears to have given up on a search for an alternative to closing Dadaab, even though the mass returns promised by Kenya, starting in just four months’ time, are likely to generate a humanitarian crisis. The donors also been slow to provide promised funding to Somalia to help improve conditions for returns to a country that is already struggling to cope with 1.1 million internally displaced people. Joseph Nkaissery, cabinet secretary for the interior, told a media briefing on Wednesday that insecurity in Somalia and the country’s upcoming elections, were creating a “delicate situation”, which required an extension of the government’s end of November deadline. IRIN

Burundi Exodus Fueling African Refugee Crisis, Charity Says
A fivefold surge in Burundians fleeing to Tanzania to escape political violence in their troubled central African homeland is creating one of Africa’s biggest refugee crises, a charity said Wednesday, amid warnings from activists of genocide threats. Some 10,000 Burundians have arrived in neighboring Tanzania each month since August, increasing the population in three overcrowded northwestern camps to almost 250,000 people, said Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials, MSF. “This is rapidly becoming one of Africa’s biggest refugee crises,” David Nash, MSF’s Tanzanian head of mission, said in a statement. “Unrest in Burundi [is] showing no signs of abating.” VOA

WFP: Up to 600,000 People Short of Food in Burundi
Some 600,000 people are short of food in Burundi due to drought and flooding in the past year and the number could rise to 700,000 by next year, a World Food Program official said. Most of those affected are in five provinces in the north and east of the central African country where around 65,000 people are reported to have fled their villages. It adds to the challenges experienced by the country of 11 million people that has been in a political crisis and witnessed sporadic violence for more than a year. VOA

Morocco Hosts African Summit As it Bids to Rejoin Bloc
Morocco is to host an African summit later on Wednesday as the kingdom presses a bid to rejoin the continental bloc 32 years after walking out in protest at its position on the Western Sahara. At least 30 leaders are due to take part, including those of English-speaking states like Kenya and Nigeria as well as Morocco’s traditional allies among French-speaking West African nations. The summit is being held on the sidelines of annual climate change talks and the calls of African leaders for more funding from developed nations to cut fossil fuel emissions and take contingency measures will also loom large. News 24

On Calm in Gabon: ‘Wear Your Glasses, Scratch a Little Bit,’ Says Opposition Head
A potential civil war is brewing in Gabon, and could be avoided if the international community rejects President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the contested August elections that empowered him, the nation’s top opposition leader told Foreign Policy on Wednesday. Opposition leader Jean Ping of the Union of Forces for Change party, who accuses Ali Bongo of being a “cheater” after falling fewer than 6,000 ballots short in the hotly-contested vote, conceded Gabon has returned to relative calm following post-election violence that, according to authorities, killed three, wounded 105, and saw over 800 arrested But in a 40-minute interview, Ping said he has helped foster peace and is now turning to the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations to sustain it by recognizing his victory. Foreign Policy

Zim Ex-freedom Fighters ‘Demand $500 000 Each’
Zimbabwe’s war veterans have demanded to be paid at least $500 000 each, which could cost the country up to $17bn – about five times the nation’s 2016 National budget of $3.6bn, a report has said. According to NewsDay, they were about 34 000 registered war veterans remaining in the country. The former freedom fighters’ demand came as President Robert Mugabe’s government was struggling to pay civil servants’ salaries. Apart from the money, the war veterans also demanded diplomatic passports so that they would not be subjected to “rigorous checks at border posts”. They said this during a meeting last weekend, which was attended by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and War Veterans Minister retired Colonel Tshinga Dube. News 24

African Countries Commit to Sustainable Palm Oil Production
Seven African countries on Wednesday pledge to protect their rain forests by moving to sustainable palm oil production. In a statement from the World Economic Forum, (WEF) it said that the seven governments had agreed to “protect over 70% of Africa’s tropical forests” from unsustainable palm oil practices. The Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone were due to sign a joint declaration at the COP22 climate change talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Wednesday. According to the statement, the seven countries represent over 250 million hectares of tropical forest, 13% of the world’s total and 70% of the total rain forest in Africa. SABC



Photo: Adam Jones