Africa Media Review for November 22, 2016

Japan’s First Gun-toting Troops Since WWII Have Deployed — To South Sudan
Last year, in the middle of the night, tens of thousands of Japanese protesters gathered outside their country’s parliament. Inside, legislators were engaged in a melee, as members of Japan’s biggest opposition party tried to grab a microphone from the chairman of a special parliamentary committee. The dissenters had the support of the protesters outside. With control of the microphone, the chairman could initiate a vote on a question that has divided Japan since its defeat in World War II: Should Japan reinstate its army’s ability to use force in conflicts abroad? Eventually, lawmakers from the governing party formed a protective cordon around the chairman, and the ensuing vote at least nominally brought Japan’s decades of pacifism to an end. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe successfully argued that Japan needed to flex its muscles, given North Korea’s persistent belligerence and unpredictability, as well as neighboring China’s intimidatingly large army. The Washington Post

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Says He Will Retire
For the first time, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 91, has said he will retire. He did not put a time line on when he would go, but he said Zimbabwe was in a (financial) crisis and that he would retire, but would do it “properly”. It was not clear what he meant by “properly”. Robert Mugabe has always maintained he would never retire and would die in office. He was speaking at the weekend to a group of people involved in the 1970s war against minority white rule and who claim they are owed money by the state which can neither fund them nor pay civil servants on time. Mugabe told the “war collaborators” that he believed he had now “defeated… the British and Americans…” and that he understood times were difficult in Zimbabwe. SABC

African States Fail to Stop Work of UN Gay Rights Investigator
African states failed on Monday to halt the work of the first UN independent investigator appointed to help protect gay and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination. The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, created the position in June and in September appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who has a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. In an unusual move, African states put forward a draft resolution in the 193-member UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with human rights, calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate. They said the work of the investigator should be suspended. France 24

Veteran Algerian Jihadist’s Wife Arrested in Libya: Officials
Authorities in eastern Libya say they have arrested a woman believed to be the wife of veteran Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar after she traveled from southern Libya to the city of Derna to give birth. East Libya’s counter-terrorism department said the woman, named as Tunisian Asma Kadoussi, had told investigators that Belmokhtar was alive and living in southern Libya. A spokesman for the department, Sami al-Matrih, told Reuters on Monday that Kadoussi had given birth to a girl 40 days ago. Belmokhtar, leader of the al-Mourabitoun group, has long been a major militant figure in the Sahel with deep connections across the region. He has repeatedly been pronounced dead by authorities before resurfacing to plot attacks or kidnappings, including a raid on an Algerian gas plant that killed 40 workers in 2013. Reuters

Egypt Court Quashes Mohammed Morsi Life Sentence
Egypt’s highest appeal court has overturned a life sentence handed down to ousted President Mohammed Morsi. The Court of Cassation ordered that the 65-year-old be retried on the charge of conspiring to commit terrorist acts with foreign organisations. Last week, the court quashed a death sentence handed to Morsi in a separate case revolving around a mass prison break during the 2011 revolution. But he is still serving lengthy sentences related to two other cases. Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, but he was removed by the military a year later after mass protests against his rule. BBC

Egypt Refers Militants Charged in Sisi Death Plot to Military Judiciary
Egypt’s public prosecutor has brought before the military judiciary 292 suspected Islamic State militants, some of whom are accused of plotting to assassinate President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The suspects are accused of belonging to 22 cells and carrying out 19 attacks in total, including the assassination of three judges who were overseeing a parliamentary election in restive northern Sinai, which borders Gaza, Israel and the Suez Canal, judicial sources and state media said. They are accused of belonging to Sinai Province, Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, which operates out of northern Sinai. Of the 292 suspects, 151 are in custody, seven are out on bail, and the rest on the run. Reuters

Egypt’s Food Shortage a Bitter Blow to All Social Classes
Egypt could be plunging into a food crisis or at least this is how it seems. Complaints about a shortage of basic goods have been echoing across the country and reached their peak with the lack of sugar supplies in many stores. Such complaints varied according to social class for while the upper middle class is affected by the remarkable decrease of imported goods, which might seem a luxury for average citizens, the working class is voicing its discontent about the soaring prices of local foodstuffs. True, coconut milk, chocolate chip cookies, and salmon are not in any way comparable to food needed for survival, but the wide-ranging effect of the crisis across different echelons of the Egyptian society denotes a serious problem. Added to that is the fact that the relatively affluent are also starting to complain about food prices, which had always been unlikely to happen. Al Arabiya

How Far Will Egypt Go in Attacking Media Freedoms?
Egypt has faced numerous challenges since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. Many have criticised the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for its continued crackdown on dissent and the media. And now a court has sentenced Yahia Kallash, the head of Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, and two other board members to two years in prison. They were found guilty of harbouring what the government calls “fugitives” and of spreading false news. Critics of President Sisi have called that decision unconstitutional and lacking in transparency. But the authorities insist the journalists broke the law and should be punished. Al Jazeera

Does the Islamic State Threaten al-Shabaab’s Hegemony in Somalia?
In late October, a faction of Somali militants aligned to the Islamic State and led by long-time cleric Abdulkadir Mumin walked into the town of Qandala along Somalia’s northern coast in the Bari region of Puntland, meeting little resistance. Whether or not they subsequently retreated to the town’s outskirts is unclear, but a naval attack by Puntland’s forces on November 10 confirmed the militants’ continued occupation of the area. The development is worrying for a number of reasons. It’s the first attempt by militants aligned to the Islamic State to hold territory in Somalia, a key criteria for pledged groups like Mumin’s to gain official acceptance as a full wilayat (province) in the Islamic State’s global caliphate. Second, Qandala’s strategic location is underscored by its proximity to Yemen, and specifically the port city of Al Mukalla, long rumoured to be a source of weapon imports. Daily Maverick

US Forces in Somalia Take on More Risk as Advisory Mission Expands
U.S. special operations forces working with Somali troops are facing increased risk in an advisory mission that has shifted from basic soldiering to complex battlefield missions, U.S. Africa Command’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said. “When you get into that phase of (troops) accompanying that should tell you that the units you’re working with are at a point where the military operations they undertake become a little more complex and a little more dangerous,” Waldhauser said in an interview at his Stuttgart headquarters. The forward presence of U.S. forces combined with a spike in airstrikes against the al-Shabab insurgent group is the most significant sign of escalation in the country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993. In 2016, at least 14 strikes or raids have been carried out in the country, compared with only a handful a year earlier. Stars and Stripes

DRC: Controversy over New PM’s Dual Citizenship
Newly appointed Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo Samy Badibanga is at the centre of controversy, after it emerged that he holds both Belgian and Congolese nationalities. According to a document published on the internet by a member of the opposition, Badibanga attained Belgian citizenship through naturalization in 1992. The country’s Minister for Parliament Affairs Tryphon Kin-Kiey said that dual citizenship poses legal and moral issues, according to RFI. He said: “The Prime Minister’s appointment is perhaps the right choice for those in the presidential majority camp. He is a friend, an affable man but there was a problem.” […] The Congolese Constitution stipulates that Congolese nationality “can not be held concurrently with any other nationality” and that to occupy an official position in government, one has to be a Congolese citizen. Africa News

Landslide Kills 13 As Diggers Invade Freeport Mine in Congo: Governor
A landslide killed at least 13 people last week in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo after thousands of artisanal miners began invading a copper mine controlled by Freeport-McMoRan Inc, the provincial governor said on Monday. Between 5,000 and 10,000 illegal miners have descended on the Tenke copper mine, one of the world’s largest, since last week, Richard Muyej, governor of Lualaba province, told U.N.-sponsored Radio Okapi. “The Tenke Fungurume site is overrun by clandestine miners who organize incursions into the heart of the private concession,” Muyej said. “The report I received indicated that 13 bodies were taken from the site.” It was not immediately clear what accounted for the surge in artisanal miners on site. Freeport did not immediately respond to a request for comment. SABC

Malian Soldiers Killed in Election-related Violence
Alleged jihadists killed five Malian soldiers transporting ballot boxes while a civilian also died in separate attacks aimed at sabotaging Mali’s municipal elections, security sources told AFP on Monday. Mali voted Sunday in its first elections since 2013, with turnout low as security jitters remained elevated despite an international military intervention. “After the voting on Sunday, an army convoy taking the ballot boxes for counting was attacked in the north by jihadists. Five Malian soldiers were killed,” the security source said. Another Malian security source said the assailants were unable to make off with the ballots, but confirmed the jihadists “wanted to sabotage the elections”. France 24

Donors Pledge $2.2 bn for Central African Republic Recovery Plan
International donors Thursday pledged $2.2 billion in aid for strife-torn Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, officials said. “The positive response you have given … will galvanise our efforts and make sure our recovery plans bear fruit,” Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera said after a donors’ conference in Brussels. The pledges topped the $1.6 billion Touadera had wanted over three years to kick-start the devastated economy but were short of the $3.0 billion targeted for the five-year programme. “I have noted some of you have reservations about our ability to implement our recovery plan but I hope I can reassure you,” the president said, stressing his commitment to ensure all funds were properly accounted for. Times Live

Economic Inequalities, Race Disparities Fuelling Varsity Riots in South Africa
Images of violent battles in university campuses in South Africa as students protest under the hash tag #FeesMustFall have dominated the news in the past couple of months. The riots, which started in October, call for a decolonised curriculum and an end to racism. Protesters have voiced their demands to university councils, ANC’s headquarters, parliament and the president’s office. However, some of the rioters have destroyed property and torched cars. At the University of KwaZulu-Natal the destruction of property cost the institution R80 million ($5.7 million). Scores of student leaders were arrested for public violence and one of them, Lukhanyo Banda Mtshingana — who spent 31 days behind bars — was scheduled to appear in court, while another leader, Shaeera Kalla, is still recovering after being shot 13 times with rubber bullets. Journalists have also been victims of police brutality. The East African

Nigeria: Presidency Begins Job Scheme for 500,000 Unemployed Graduates
The Authorities in Nigeria on Sunday said all is now set for deployment of 200,000 unemployed graduates selected in the first batch of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s plan to hire half a million Nigerians. Media aide to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, in a statement said the 200,000 have been selected about two weeks ago. He noted that their names have been sent to state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who would deploy them to their specific programme assignments. Africa News

Fool Nigeria Once, Shame on You. Fool Nigeria Twice …
t’s been a tough year for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The mood in Africa’s most populous nation is a far cry from the euphoria that greeted his historic 2015 election — the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition candidate unseated an incumbent president in a democratic election. For weeks and even months after the vote, Buhari was a media darling, praised at home and extoled abroad. Since then, the cheers have turned to jeers — even from members of the president’s own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Meanwhile, his administration cowers under attacks from a disillusioned electorate, members of the opposition, and even Buhari’s wife, Aisha, who said she might not vote for him in 2019, when he is up for re-election. Foreign Policy

Mauritania Anti Slavery Activists Released
An appeals court in Mauritania has overturned the convictions of three anti-slavery activists and reduced the sentences of 10 others for their alleged role in a riot in June. A tribunal had sentenced the 13 members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in August to up to 15 years in prison after a protest against eviction by residents of a slum in the capital Nouakchott, many of whom are themselves former slaves. U.N. experts said the activists’ trial was marred by serious rights violations, citing reports of torture in detention and irregularities during the court proceedings. In addition to the three whose convictions were overturned, seven others are now to be released on time served, Amnesty International said in a statement. Africa News

Telling Mosquitoes Apart With a Cellphone
Simple cellphones can tell one type of mosquito from another by their hums, which may be useful in fighting mosquito-borne diseases, according to new research from Stanford University. Calling their project “Shazam for Mosquitoes,” after the phone app that identifies music, students from the university’s Bio-X institute showed that common cellphones could record mosquito wing beats accurately enough to distinguish, for example, Culex mosquitoes, which spread West Nile virus, from Aedes mosquitoes, which spread Zika. Even older flip phones, which are still used in parts of Africa, are sensitive enough to do the job. The students envision a crowdsourcing initiative in which phone users around the world send in sound samples of mosquitoes landing on them, which could be sorted by the embedded GPS and time coordinates to build a worldwide mosquito distribution map. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones