Africa Media Review for October 14, 2016

Reports: Chibok Girls Swapped for Detainees, Ransom or Both?
Conflicting reports emerged Friday about whether the first negotiated release of some Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014 involved a ransom payment, a prisoner swap for Islamic extremist commanders, or both. A Nigerian hostage negotiator who was not involved in Thursday’s release told The Associated Press a “handsome ransom” in the millions of dollars was paid by Switzerland’s government on behalf of Nigerian authorities. He said the Swiss would recoup the money from some $321 million it had said it would repatriate to Nigeria this year from frozen funds looted under former military dictator Sani Abacha. Swiss officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment after confirming Thursday that they had played a neutral, humanitarian role in the operation. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it had received 21 Chibok girls from Boko Haram and handed them over to Nigerian authorities. AP on ABC News

More Chibok Schoolgirls Likely to Be Freed Soon, Nigeria Says
Nigerian defence officials say they believe more schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram will be released in the coming weeks, raising the prospect of a swift end to one of the most high-profile kidnappings perpetrated by a terrorist group in recent years. Twenty-one of the 276 schoolgirls taken from their hostel in a government boarding school in the town of Chibok by the Islamic militant group in April 2014, were freed early on Thursday morning in a deal brokered by international mediators. The kidnapping of the girls led to the global campaign #BringBackOurGirls, with public figures including the US first lady, Michelle Obama, taking part. The Guardian

They Survived Boko Haram. Now, Millions in Nigeria Face a New Threat: Starvation.
They survived Boko Haram. Now many of them are on the brink of starvation. Across the northeastern corner of this country, more than 3 million people displaced and isolated by the militants are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned. About a million and a half of the victims have fled the Islamist extremists and are living in makeshift camps, bombed-out buildings and host communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations. An additional 2 million people, according to the United Nations, are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas. The New York Times

Nigeria: In the Creeks of Lagos
The streets of Isawo are eerily quiet. Around one in every three shops is closed. Many people have fled to nearby Lagos to escape a wave of violence that has engulfed several communities in Ikorodu, a poor district to the north-east of the Lagos lagoon. The violence was ignited by the emergence of rival groups fighting to control the lucrative trade in oil tapped illegally from pipelines laid beneath the swamps. The different armed groups can be roughly distinguished along ethnic lines. During the tenure of former president Goodluck Jonathan, his Ijaw tribesmen began laying claim to resources in this swampy part of Yorubaland. Ajani Owoseni, Lagos State police commissioner, explains: “They are taking advantage of the swampy nature of forests to vandalise pipelines there. And later, when they were not able to do that, they began engaging in other illegal activities.” The African Report

Ethiopia Has Finally Admitted to the Deaths of More Than 500 Anti-government Protestors
After almost a year of anti-government protests, Ethiopia on Tuesday (Oct. 11) admitted that the death toll from police crackdowns and deadly stampedes could exceed more than 500 people. The admission came a few days after the government declared a country-wide six-month state of emergency, and blamed external forces for trying to break up the nation of over 100 million people. Hailemariam Desalegn, the country’s prime minister, said that the death toll in Oromia region had been at least 170, while another 120 died in Amhara since the demonstrations began. But “when you add it up it could be more than 500,” he said. Activists and opposition groups have disputed these numbers in the past, arguing that more people died when security officers dispersed demonstrations. Quartz

4 Killed as Convoy Ambushed in Central Mali, Army Says 
A Mali army spokesman says four soldiers have been killed and nine wounded when armed men attacked a convoy in the central Segou region. Col. Abdoulaye Sidibe said an army vehicle hit a land mine Thursday, and assailants then shot at the convoy traveling between Diabaly and Nampala. He said three of nine wounded soldiers are in serious condition. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though it is similar to others by the Macina Liberation Front, which has attacked security forces in Mali’s Segou and Mopti regions. It has ties to the al-Qaida-linked Ansar Dine extremist group. The New York Times

UN Urges Burundi to Restore Ties with Rights Office
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Burundi to reverse its decision to break ties with the UN rights office following a report warning of a risk of genocide. The United Nations also reminded Bujumbura that it must still co-operate with ongoing investigations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) despite its decision to pull out of the treaty setting up the world court. “We are very disappointed to learn of the government’s decision to cease co-operation with the office of the high commissioner for human rights,” the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters. The office with its 51 staffers will remain open in Burundi “pending further discussion”, said Dujarric. News 24

Burkina Faso ‘Wants France to Release Sankara Archives’
Burkina Faso has asked France to declassify military documents about the killing of ex-president Thomas Sankara, a lawyer for his family has said. A judge had made the request because efforts to get them through “political channels” had failed, the lawyer said. France, the former colonial power, has not yet commented on the request. Mr Sankara’s widow and supporters have repeatedly accused France of masterminding his 1987 killing because he was a Marxist revolutionary. He was killed by soldiers in a hail of bullets shortly before a meeting of his cabinet in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. BBC

America’s Tough Conditions for Financial Aid to South Sudan
The US has revived calls to suspend financial aid to the South Sudan government over massive corruption and gross human rights violations. A statement released by the US embassy in Juba on Thursday disclosed that the American law currently prohibits new assistance to Juba until the government takes effective steps to end hostilities and pursue good faith negotiations for a political settlement of the current conflict. The other conditions for the US financial aid include providing access for humanitarian organisations; ending the use of child soldiers; protecting freedoms of expression, association and assembly; reducing corruption related to the extraction and sale of oil and gas; and establishing strong democratic institutions. The East African

US F-16s in Djibouti for Possible Crisis Response in South Sudan
U.S. Air Force F-16s and KC 135s were quietly deployed in July to the U.S. military’s counterterrorism hub in east Africa, where they remain on standby amid concerns over threats to Americans in South Sudan. F-16s based out of Aviano Air Base in Italy and KC-135’s out of RAF Mildenhall, along with airmen in support, were deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, U.S. Africa Command said. The move was a “precautionary measure in order to protect Americans and American interests in South Sudan if required,” AFRICOM said in a statement. The deployment came at the request of the State Department and embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, where violent unrest posed a risk to U.S. personnel and facilities, AFRICOM said. Stars and Stripes

Kenyan Lawmakers Considering Sanctions on S. Sudan Leaders
Members of the Kenyan parliament are considering a motion to sanction politicians “perpetrating” the violence in war-torn South Sudan. The chairman of Kenya’s security committee in Parliament, Asman Kamama and his counterpart in the defence and foreign relations committee, Ndugu’u Githinji both told in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi that the motion would be considered next week. “There are South Sudanese leaders who live and invest in Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Khartoum and yet they are perpetrators of war in Juba, that is why we want to bring a motion to impose sanction on such people to ensure their assets are frozen,” said Githinji. The world youngest nation descended into a conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar in 2013. A peace agreement signed in August 2015 is at a verge of collapse after fighting resumed in July, forcing Machar to flee Juba, months after formation of a transitional national unity government . Sudan Tribune

AMISOM Troops Struggle to Counter IED Threat in Somalia
A platoon of African Union soldiers patrol a village outside Mogadishu. They walk on foot ahead of three armored vehicles in order to sweep for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by al-Shabab insurgents. The goal is to find and defuse any bombs before they go off. Over the last five years, the African Union (AU) troops, called AMISOM, forced al-Shabab from most major towns, but the rebels have regrouped with IEDs as their weapon of choice. The insurgents have developed a sophisticated IED building network, regularly targeting both soldiers and civilians in ever larger attacks which have managed to slow AMISOM’s advance. VOA

Details Emerge of Turkish Military Base in Somalia
More details about Turkey’s first military facility in Somalia emerged on Thursday with the construction firm behind the project confirming the base will be able to train hundreds of local soldiers. Istanbul Mogadishu General Construction Company Director Ebubekir Sahin told Anadolu Agency the $50-million base will open near the Somali capital Mogadishu in January 2017. It will occupy 400 hectares and house three military schools, dormitories and depots. The facility, whose construction began in March 2015, will be used to train troops from Somalia and other African countries, Sahin added. It will have the capacity to train 500 soldiers at a time. Anadolu Agency

Zuma trip: Kenyans Left with ‘Bitter Taste in Mouth’
Issues relating to regional stability reportedly took centre stage during President Jabo Zuma’s just ended state visit to kenya. According to a statement by the presidency, Zuma reiterated his commitment to peace and security in the eastern region of the continent, particularly where terror was concerned. Zuma and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta also discussed various other issues of importance while heightening bilateral and economic relations between the nations. The horn of Africa, has for years been battling the issue of terrorism, with al-Qaeda aligned Islamist group al-Shabaab carrying endless attacks in Somalia and Kenya. News 24

Stateless Makonde People to Get Kenyan Citizenship
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday directed that all eligible Makonde people to be issued with national identity cards by December. The president further ordered responsible government departments to ensure the eligible members of the community were issued with land title deeds. The Makonde live in Kwale County at the coast, but originally came from northern Mozambique in the 1940s. They have for decades been denied the Kenyan citizenship. President Kenyatta spoke when he hosted a delegation of 300 members of the community at State House, Nairobi. “I seek your apology on behalf of other Kenyans because Kenya has taken too long to consider you as our brothers and sisters,” he said. The East African

Most Dadaab Refugees Unwilling to Return to Somalia, MSF Says
More than 85 per cent of Somali refugees surveyed at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya do not want to return to their homeland, Doctors Without Borders said on Thursday. The charity group, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), says main concerns cited by respondents include fear of forced recruitment into armed groups, the threat of sexual violence and the absence of health care in Somalia. MSF said its findings raise doubts about the voluntary nature of the repatriation programme being carried out by the Kenyan government and the United Nations refugee agency. “It is unacceptable that, without any other solution being offered, thousands are essentially being pushed back into conflict and acute crisis — the very conditions they fled,” said Liesbeth Aelbrecht, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Kenya. The East African

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma Seeks to Block Graft Probe
South African President Jacob Zuma has taken steps to prevent the release of a report into the alleged political interference by him and his supporters. The public protector is due to release her preliminary findings on Friday. She has been examining allegations that Mr Zuma allowed a business family undue influence over his administration. The president denies any wrongdoing. In March a court ruled that he had failed to repay taxpayers’ money used to upgrade his private residence. BBC

More of the Same? Elections in Morocco
At his final rally before Moroccans went to the polls on October 7th, Abdelilah Benkirane, the incumbent prime minister, took a moment from lauding the economy to attack his rivals. The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) were bandits, he said, and drug dealers. He questioned whether they loved their children and taunted the monarchy-controlled press who’d backed them from the start. He had good reasons to be upset. Mr Benkirane’s ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) claims to have encountered big obstacles in the run up to the election. The press was plainly skewed in favour of the opposition while the king himself seemed to many to be pulling strings in an election he is supposed, as a constitutional monarch, to stay out of. The Ministry of the Interior, run by a close friend of the king’s, was also forced to deny it had organised an anti-PJD rally. The Economist

Africa’s Population Boom Fuels ‘Unstoppable’ Migration to Europe
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured three African nations this week for talks on curbing migration to Europe, the leader of the world’s poorest country, Niger, suggested it would take a “Marshall Plan” of massive aid to stop people coming. Merkel politely declined the request, expressing concern about how well the aid would be spent and noting that, at a summit in Malta last year, the European Union had already earmarked 1.8 billion euros for a trust fund to train and resettle migrants. But Niger’s President Mahatma Issoufou also proposed something perhaps more significant, in the long run, than a development package – bringing Niger’s population growth down from 3.9 percent, the highest in the world. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones