Africa Media Review for October 10, 2017

Liberia Votes to Replace Africa’s 1st Female Leader
Liberians gathered in masses under the bright sun Tuesday to vote in an election that for the first time in more than 70 years will see one democratically elected government hand power to another. As Africa’s first female president prepares to step aside, many called for peaceful and fair elections. There are fears that if the results aren’t accepted the tensions and violence of Liberia’s past could rise again. Liberia’s health system was decimated by the Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians in 2014-2015 and posed the biggest challenge for Nobel Prize-winning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has led Libera’s transition from a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 after killing more than 250,000 people. Many residents are calling for a president who delivers on promises to improve the economy, increase employment and improve access to electricity. AP

The Tearing down of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will leave office in January as one of the most celebrated African leaders of recent memory — outside of Liberia, that is. The first woman elected to lead a government in Africa, she has presided over a period of peace and economic revival, secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief, and looks set to do something that hasn’t been done in Liberia in seven decades: peacefully transfer power to another elected leader. But while Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and darling of the development world, can expect a warm welcome at Davos or the Concordia Summit, she is surprisingly unpopular at home. So disliked is she that on the eve of Liberia’s Oct. 10 general election, her own vice president, Joseph Boakai — who is vying with 19 other candidates to succeed her — has tried to distance himself from Sirleaf on the campaign trail. “If you park a race car in the garage for 12 years, it gets rusty,” Boakai said at a recent presidential debate. Left unsaid was the fact that he’s been parked right there beside the president for all 12 of those years. Few would have anticipated such a fall from grace in 2005, when Sirleaf’s historic election seemed to promise a new beginning for a country all but destroyed by more than a decade of civil war. But crucial aspects of Liberia remain much as they were back then: Most people are mired in poverty, the health care and education systems are in shambles, and roads and electrical grids are only starting to be rebuilt. Foreign Policy

Pentagon Identifies Fourth US Soldier Killed in Niger
The Defense Department has identified the fourth service member killed in an ambush in Niger on Wednesday as 25-year-old Army Sgt. La David Johnson. Johnson was killed by enemy fire in the ambush, the Pentagon said. His body was recovered by US personnel Friday in a remote area of the northwestern African country by Nigerian troops nearly 48 hours after he was discovered missing in the wake of the attack, US officials told CNN on Friday. Johnson’s group was attacked near the Niger-Mali border by up to 50 fighters thought to be affiliated with ISIS, a US official said. The 12-member US team was leaving a meeting in unarmored pick-up trucks when they began taking fire from small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a US defense official. CNN

US Ends 20 Years of Sanctions on Sudan
The United States has lifted decades-old economic sanctions against Sudan even though it still considers the country a state sponsor of terrorism and despite the fact Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir still faces arrest on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. In July, Washington said a decision on whether to do away with the sanctions, which Barack Obama had suspended shortly before leaving the White House, would be delayed for three months. Khartoum’s recent move to end its support for North Korea seems to have tipped the balance in its favour and Donald Trump’s administration said there was now enough evidence of progress to justify the move. The sanctions were imposed in 1997 when then-president Bill Clinton issued an executive order citing Sudan’s “continued support for international terrorism, ongoing efforts to destabilise neighbouring governments, and the prevalence of human rights violations.” IRIN

8 Killed in Suspected Al-Shabaab Ambush at N. Somalia Police Checkpoint
At least eight people, among them a senior police officer, were killed Monday in a suspected Al-Shabaab ambush at a police checkpoint in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia. An official who did not want to be named for security reasons told Xinhua by phone that the attackers ambushed the checkpoint in the outskirts of Bosaso town at around 2 a.m. local time. “The fighters laid ambush at the police checkpoint and killed eight people. One of them was a police commander while a majority where civilians living nearby who were caught in the crossfire,” the source said. Other sources said women were among the civilians killed. Xinhua

Not All Amnesty Deals Are Made the Same
In early April, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed issued a 60-day amnesty for al-Shabab fighters willing to lay down their arms. To help complete the deal, the U.S. government even removed a bounty of $5 million on one of the group’s founding members, Mukhtar Robow, who is also known as Abu Mansoor. The agreement had mixed results. Some 50 fighters, including high-level individuals, surrendered to the Somali government. But the al-Shabab leadership retaliated by organizing assassination attempts of nominated political delegates and conducting sustained attacks on soldiers and civilians in Somalia’s Puntland and Kenya’s Boni Forest regions.The Somali government may have been surprised at this outcome, but the problems were entirely predictable. The history and legal applicability of amnesty proposals reveals the conditions under which they are most likely to succeed — or to fail. Foreign Policy

Ugandan Rebel Group Massacres 22 in Congo
Rebels from an Islamist militant group killed 22 people in an ambush in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on Saturday night, the authorities said. The killings, which came amid fighting that began on Friday night, were carried out by members of the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with origins in neighboring Uganda that is accused of killing hundreds of people over the past three years. There were 10 survivors, according to Balyesima Kadokima, a member of Parliament. Many victims of the attack, in the Beni region of North Kivu Province, were state officials who were coming from the border city of Nobili to spend the weekend, said Teddy Kataliko, a local activist. The rebels, armed with machetes and guns, ambushed a group of nine motorcycles traveling on the road from Nobili to Beni, said Omar Kavota, a member of North Kivu Civil Society, a nongovernmental organization. The New York Times

UN Says 2 Peacekeepers Killed, Others Hurt in Eastern Congo
Two U.N. peacekeepers were killed and several more wounded in an attack Monday in eastern Congo by suspected Ugandan rebels of the ADF group, said a U.N. spokesman. “Initial reports suggest two peacekeepers are dead and several more have been wounded,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, adding that the injured have been evacuated to Goma. “The mission deployed attack helicopters as well as the force intervention brigade in support of operations as well as to reinforce presence,” he said, adding that mission forces are also deployed to restore order and protect the population. The suspected rebels attacked early Monday near a U.N. base in Mamundioma, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Beni, U.N. Congo mission spokeswoman Florence Marchal said early Monday. She said about a dozen peacekeepers were wounded. AP

Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis Isn’t about Language, but Economic Deprivation
The protracted crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, which has largely grounded schools and courts in the affected areas since November 2016, and threatened tip into full-scale conflict, seems to have no end in sight. In recent weeks, there have been deadly clashes between government forces and local protesters. Mass arrests in the Anglophone North West and South West regions have also been affected, leaving detention facilities overwhelmed with detainees. Government and activists have called for dialogue to resolve the crisis. But neither side has taken the required steps to initiate one. The crisis which erupted last year following industrial strike actions by lawyers and teachers against the imposition of the French language in English courts and schools has its roots in the country’s fragmented colonial history, which started with Germany in the 19th century, and ultimately ended up with Britain and France until independence in the early 1960s. Quartz

Kenya: At Least 37 People Were Killed in Election Violence
At least 37 people, including three children, were killed in the protests that followed the announcement of the elections result in Kenya, a local human rights group said. Some of the deaths were caused by “police using live bullets” while others were killed by police “bludgeoning using clubs”, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said in a report on Monday. Among the dead was a six-month-old baby girl who was “clobbered by armed security agents whilst under the care of its mother in Kisumu County”, the report said. Almost all the victims of the violence were killed in opposition strongholds in the slums of the capital, Nairobi, or the western part of the country. Al Jazeera

Secret Trials of Thousands of Boko Haram Suspects to Start in Nigeria
More than 2,300 suspected Islamist militants are expected to appear in court in Nigeria from Monday in an unprecedented series of mass trials that local authorities hope will be seen as evidence of progress in the fight against Boko Haram, one of Africa’s most resilient insurgencies. All the defendants have been detained since Boko Haram, which means “no to western education”, launched its campaign eight years ago. The conflict has left at least 20,000 dead in the country’s remote north-east and destabilised a swath of west Africa, displacing millions of people. But analysts say the trials – which will be held in secret and will see four judges deal with hundreds of cases each – raise serious concerns and could undermine the fight against the group. The Guardian

Cameroonian Troops Deploy Heavily along Nigeria Border
Cameroon’s military said that it had stopped hundreds of Nigerian fighters attempting to enter its territory to join separatist groups in English speaking regions – that are demanding for independence. Additionally, the military has intensified arrests of activists despite calls from the United Nations and the international community. Most recently Catholic bishops denounced “barbarism” and “irresponsible use” of force against demonstrators in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon’s minister of communication and government spokesperson warned local residents from the two English speaking regions in the northwest and southwest of the country, to be ware of armed fighters from neighboring Nigeria – who either sympathize, or have been hired by separatists groups to fight for the independence of the state of the so-called “Ambazonia.” Deutsche Welle

New Witness Emerges over Rwandan Genocide: French Legal Source
French judges have heard from a new witness who claims to have seen missiles allegedly used to kill former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death sparked genocide in 1994, a source close to the case told AFP on Monday. The witness says he saw two surface-to-air missiles at the headquarters of the Tutsi militia headed by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame which were later used to take down Habyarimana’s plane. The missile strike near the airport in the capital Kigali sparked 100 days of slaughter of the Tutsi ethnic minority by members of Habyarimana’s Hutu ethnic group, leaving an estimated 800,000 people dead. The French judiciary, who are acting on a complaint from the families of French citizens killed aboard Habyarimana’s plane, decided in October 2016 to re-open its investigation into the assassination. AFP

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Names New Finance Minister amid Currency Crunch
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has replaced Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa — who will lead a new Security Ministry — with Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo in a cabinet reshuffle, the government said in a statement Monday. The move comes against the backdrop of a severe hard currency shortage that has dealt a fresh blow to confidence and investment in the southern African economy, which uses the U.S. dollar. Chinamasa was appointed finance minister in 2013 after Mugabe was re-elected and his move to head a newly created ministry of cybersecurity, threat detection and mitigation was unexpected. Chombo, who does not have a finance background, is a staunch Mugabe supporter who comes from the 93-year-old leader’s rural home district. He was a surprise choice for minister of finance. VOA

U.N. Assisting Thousands of Migrants Stranded in Libyan Smuggling Hub
The U.N. migration agency said on Monday it was trying to provide assistance to large numbers of migrants who had been held in the smuggling hub of Sabratha as rival factions battled for control of the city. At least 4,000 migrants, including pregnant women, newborn babies and unaccompanied children, have been transferred from informal camps and dormitories to a hangar in the city since the clashes ended on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. Sabratha has been the most common point of departure for mostly sub-Saharan African migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean by boat from Libya. But the number of crossings dropped sharply in July after an armed group struck a deal with officials from the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli to block departures, under pressure from Italy and other European Union member states. Reuters

Tensions Flare as Food Rations to Refugees Slashed by Half in Uganda
The flood of people fleeing South Sudan, coupled with delays and constraints on funding, has lead to food rations to refugees being slashed by half. According to agencies working on the ground in Uganda, where most of the refugees have been arriving from the conflict across the border, food supply lines are being shut down and distribution of aid becoming increasing irregular. The UN’s World Food Programme said it was forced to cut the amount of grain it was handing out due to delayed payments. “When the funding comes late it takes a bit longer to secure the cereals. It means that you have to go to the markets to procure, transport, store and distribute,” said El Khidir Daloum, WFP director for Uganda. The Guardian

France to Grant Asylum to Niger, Chad Migrants
French President Emmanuel Macron says that the first operations to allow migrants to come legally to France from Niger and Chad will start in the coming weeks. Macron said upcoming missions will be led by France’s refugee protection office, following a meeting Monday with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi at the Elysee Palace. In a Paris summit in August, leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain agreed to carry out “protection missions” in the African nations in cooperation with the United Nations’ refugee and migration agencies. The process would allow vulnerable migrants to be granted asylum and come legally to Europe if they are on an eligibility list provided by the U.N. refugee agency and registered with authorities in Niger and Chad. AP

Nigeria Population at 182 Million, With Widening Youth Bulge
Nigeria’s population reached 182 million this year with more than half its people under 30 years of age, putting a severe strain on a nation suffering from a slowing economy and declining revenue to provide enough schools and health facilities. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones