Africa Media Review for October 18, 2016

DR Congo’s Top Court Okays Presidential Election Delay
The Constitutional Court in Democratic Republic of Congo said on Monday it had approved a petition by the electoral commission to delay a presidential election set for November, allowing President Joseph Kabila to remain in office until April 2018. Kabila was due to step down in December when his two-term mandate expires and his opponents say they fear he intends to first prolong his term in office and then change the constitution to enable himself to run again. The ruling coalition and part of the opposition say the vote should be held in April 2018 and on Monday their agreement was ratified by delegates at cross-party talks in the capital, one party leader said. France 24

European Union Prepares Sanctions Over Congo Vote Delay
The European Union will prepare economic sanctions on the Democratic Republic of Congo unless it holds its delayed presidential and parliamentary elections next year, foreign ministers agreed on Monday. President Joseph Kabila was due to leave office at the end of his mandate in December but authorities have postponed the votes until April 2018, citing logistical problems. The delay sparked two days of protests in the capital Kinshasa last month that killed dozens of people. “There is a delay to elections that is not acceptable and I hope elections can take place in 2017,” Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters. “We need an inclusive dialogue and not to resort to violence,” said Reynders, whose country is Congo’s former colonial power. Reuters

ICC Sends Mission to DRC to Urge ‘Restraint’
The chief prosecutor of the world’s only permanent war crimes court said on Monday she has sent a team to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to urge restraint after weeks of deadly unrest. More than 50 people died in clashes in the capital Kinshasa in September as the opposition called on President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, to step down. There have been growing fears that Kabila intends to stay in office after his term ends in December. And the European Union on Monday warned the country could face sanctions if it does not hold early elections. “For a number of weeks now, I have been deeply concerned by the critical situation and recent incidents of violence” in the country, said the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. News 24

U.S. Air Strikes Pound Libya’s Sirte to Oust IS Militants
U.S. aircraft hit Islamic State targets with more 30 strikes over the last three days on the Libyan city of Sirte as pro-government forces push into its last militant-held districts, the U.S. military said on Monday. Libyan forces are close to ending a six-month campaign to liberate Sirte from Islamic State, which took over the city more than a year after taking advantage of factional infighting that emerged after the fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Forces mostly from nearby Misrata city are pushing ahead street by street, facing snipers and suicide bombers. They are helped by U.S. air strikes since August and coordination with small teams of Western special forces on the ground. Reuters

South Sudan: At Least 56 Rebels and Four SPLA Soldiers Killed in Clashes
At least 56 rebels and four government soldiers have been killed in heavy clashes in South Sudan, in a worrying new surge of violence. A Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesman, Brig Gen Lul Ruai Koang, said that rebels aligned with the former vice-president, Riek Machar, attacked government troops near the country’s second-largest city of Malakal. Violence between Machar’s supporters and troops loyal to his political foe, President Salva Kiir, has blighted the nation for much of its hard-won independence from Sudan in 2011. “The rebels of Riek Machar attacked us in two places of our defence, that is Wajwok and Lelo, and we heavily impacted on them. The dead bodies of the rebels confirmed after [the] count was 56,” the spokesman said, adding that the clashes began on Friday evening and ended the next day. The Guardian

South Sudan Conflict: Exiled Machar Vows to Return Home
South Sudan’s sacked Vice-President Riek Machar – who fled the country in August – has vowed to return, saying his credibility is intact. Speaking from South Africa, Mr Machar told the BBC that his rebel faction could still negotiate a peace deal with President Salva Kiir. His statement comes despite last week’s heavy fighting in the city of Malakal. Mr Machar, who first fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, is now being treated in Johannesburg. In July, Mr Machar’s bodyguards and President Salva Kiir’s presidential guards fought each other, sparking days of violence. BBC

Congo’s South Sudan Rebel Problem
The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by the acronym MONUSCO, says it registered 755 SPLA-IO fighters who crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July, following clashes in the South Sudanese capital, Juba. The men, loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, were on the losing side of fighting with the soldiers of President Salva Kiir. They escaped with Machar into Garamba, a national park that stretches across a huge swathe of northeastern Congo, where they were rescued by MONUSCO. IRIN

‘Guantánamo Diary’ Writer Is Sent Home to Mauritania
The Pentagon on Monday announced that it had repatriated a prominent Guantánamo detainee who wrote a best-selling memoir recounting his abuse by American interrogators. The transfer reduced the remaining detainee population to 60.The ex-detainee,  Mohamedou Ould Slahi, 45, was transferred to his native Mauritania on Monday, officials said. A parole-like review panel of six agencies recommended his transfer in July […]  Born in Mauritania, Mr. Slahi studied electrical engineering in Germany and then joined Al Qaeda in the early 1990s, when Osama bin Laden’s mujahedeen fighters were helping the anti-Communist resistance in Afghanistan, backed by the United States, after the Soviet invasion. He eventually returned to Germany and later crossed paths with one of the accused plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. By the time of those attacks, Mr. Slahi was back in Mauritania. He was arrested and sent to Jordan, which later transferred him to the custody of the United States. Taken to Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Slahi was subjected in 2003 to a special interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Slahi wrote of sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water and days spent shackled in a freezing cell. The New York Times

Boko Haram Faction Ready to Negotiate Release of 83 More Chibok Girls – Govt
The Islamic State-allied faction of Boko Haram which last week freed 21 of more than 200 Chibok girls kidnapped in April 2014 in northeast Nigeria is willing to negotiate the release of 83 more of the girls, the president’s spokesman said on Sunday. Around 220 girls were taken from their school in 2014 in Chibok in northeastern Borno state, where Boko Haram has waged a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state, killing thousands and displacing more than 2 million people. A faction of the militant group released 21 of the girls on Thursday after the Red Cross and the Swiss government brokered a deal. They were brought from the northeastern city of Maiduguri to the capital Abuja to meet state officials. Reuters

Violence Blamed on Herdsmen Kills 40 in Nigeria, Group Says
A farmers’ organization in northwest Nigeria says 40 people were killed in attacks believed to have been carried out by Fulani herdsmen over the weekend. Solomon Musa, president of the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union, said Monday that some of the victims had been burned beyond recognition in attacks on Saturday and Sunday in Godogodo town, located in Kaduna state. Clashes between local farmers and herdsmen are common in Nigeria, especially in the country’s Middle Belt. Barnabas Bala, Kaduna’s deputy governor, called the violence “unjustifiable” and said authorities were looking to restore calm in the area, where a 24-hour curfew has been imposed. AP on Fox News

Mass Arrests in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region Days after State of Emergency Declared
At least 1,000 people have been arrested in Ethiopia, which declared a nationwide state of emergency on 9 October due to ongoing anti-government protests. The mass arrest occurred in Sebeta town, near the capital Addis Ababa. Those arrested were accused of carrying out violence and damaging properties. Earlier in October, anti-government protesters attacked public buildings, companies and firms, including foreign ones, in Oromia. “Among the detainees, natives of the town are not more than 40 and 50. Majority of the detainees came from other areas of Oromia Regional State,” the Sebeta mayor Ararsa Merdasa, was quoted as saying by the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate. He added that the authorities would release anyone found innocent, but said more arrests were expected. The remarks came as an investors’ peace conference started in Sebeta. Investors expressed concern over recent violence and called on the authorities to ensure long-lasting peace and security. International Business Times

Posting on Facebook is Now a Crime Under Ethiopia’s State of Emergency
A state of emergency declared in Ethiopia last week is growing more draconian by the day. Posting updates on the current status of the country, hit by anti-government protests since last November, is now a crime, the government said over the weekend. Watching Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio, outlets run by the Ethiopian diaspora supportive of the protesters, is also illegal. “The military command will take action on those watching and posting on these social media outlets,” Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia’s minister of defense, said on state television. Those who violate the terms of the state of emergency risk imprisonment of three to five years. Quartz

Ethiopia Limits Diplomats’ Movements, Media Access
Ethiopia has banned access to foreign-based opposition media and restricted foreign diplomats’ travel, in new provisions of a state of emergency. The government declared the six-month state of emergency eight days ago, stepping up its response to an unprecedented wave of protests against its authoritarian rule which has left hundreds dead. New restrictions published in local media on Sunday also include a 50km “red zone” adjacent to the country’s borders in which it is illegal to carry firearms. The areas around several key roads have also been declared red zones. Foreign diplomats are forbidden from travelling more than 40km outside the capital, Addis Ababa, “for their own security”. News 24

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa: Last King of Rwanda Dies
Born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa, King Kigeli V came to power in 1959 but was only king of Rwanda until 1961, when the monarchy was abolished and he was forced into exile. He eventually settled in the US where he set up a charity helping Rwandan refugees and orphans. A 2013 profile in Washingtonian magazine found him living off food stamps in subsidised housing. King Kigeli was the last in a line of monarchs from the minority Tutsi ethnic group, which had dominated Rwandan for many years, but the Belgian former colonial power favoured the majority Hutus and backed a coup. Rwanda was proclaimed a republic in 1961, and a Hutu, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, was made president. BBC

Niger Jihadist Prison Attack ‘Contained’
An attack by Islamist militants on a high-security prison in Niger holding about 100 jihadists has been foiled, government spokesman Marou Amadou says. Fighting at Koutoukale, 50km (31 miles) north-west of the capital, Niamey, was reported at dawn. Mr Amadou told the BBC the attackers were from the Mali-based al-Qaeda splinter group Mujao. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Niger in part to offer security help. The prison is holding jihadists from both the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group and those linked to al-Qaeda. BBC

Equatorial Guinea Seeks to Stop Paris Corruption Trial
The International Court of Justice is holding hearings on demands by Equatorial Guinea that France halt a corruption case against Teodorin Obiang, the vice president of the West African country and son of its longtime president. Obiang, 47, is accused of using public funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle. He has also faced embezzlement charges in the United States. The son of Equatorial Guinea’s hardline president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, has long been known for his jet-set lifestyle and extravagant purchases, including jets and Michael Jackson memorabilia. Among the assets French authorities seized four years ago as they pursued a corruption case against Obiang were luxury cars, famous paintings, cartons of wine and a six-story mansion in a chic neighborhood of Paris. VOA

Somali Government Shuts Down Newspaper, Arrests Editor
Somali security forces shut down a newspaper and arrested an editor, the Somali journalists’ union said on Sunday, the latest crackdown in what reporters say is a climate of intimidation. Intelligence officers stormed the offices of Xog Ogaal, confiscating computers and cameras, and detained an editor, Abdi Adan Guled, on Saturday night, the National Union of Somali Journalists said. “This has all the hallmarks of state security harassment and hounding of a leading independent journalist,” said Omar Faruk Osman, the union’s secretary general. “Abdi Adan Guled is the latest victim in a prevailing situation of persecution of independent voices in the Somali media.” It was unclear why Guled was arrested, but the union said it was the first time the government had acted against the paper, which has been publishing since 1991. The East African

Pakistan/China Thunder Over Africa?
Having successfully developed a number of military aircraft together, the Pakistani/Chinese partnership is now actively courting African countries looking for a modern, budget friendly fighter. Exhibiting for the first time at this year’s 2016 Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition at Air Force Base Waterkloof was the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex – Kamra (PAC). Besides displaying the Super Mushshak light basic piston trainer which undertook daily displays, Chairman of PAC, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, told defenceWeb that together with the Pakistan Air Force, they wanted to impart the knowledge they have gained to other African air forces. The PAC sees AAD as an opportunity to interact with potential customers. DefenceWeb

‘Africa Rising’? ‘Africa Reeling’ May Be More Fitting Now
For decades Africa was eager for a new narrative, and in recent years it got a snappy one. The Economist published a cover story titled “Africa Rising.” A Texas business school professor published a book called “Africa Rising.” And in 2011, The Wall Street Journal ran a series of articles about economic growth on the continent, and guess what that series was called?“Africa Rising.” The rise seemed obvious: You could simply stroll around Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, or many other African capitals, and behold new shopping malls, new hotels, new solar-powered streetlights, sometimes even new Domino’s pizzerias, all buoyed by what appeared to be high economic growth rates sweeping the continent. For so long Africa had been associated with despair and doom, and now the quality of life for many Africans was improving. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were getting clean water for the first time. In Kenya, enrollment in public universities more than doubled from 2007 to 2012. In many countries, life expectancy was increasing, infant mortality decreasing. The New York Times

World’s Biggest Cocoa Grower Is Wiping Out Its Rainforests
After disease ravaged his cocoa farm, Philippe Zongo walked into one of West Africa’s last remaining rainforests to hack out new acreage. Like thousands of young men from Ivory Coast and more arid neighboring countries, Zongo set out to find the best soil to plant new cocoa trees. He found it in the western Cavally forest, an area bigger than Chicago where chimpanzees live under the canopy of trees 100 feet tall. “When I arrived in the forest, the first thing I did was clear the land,” said 23-year-old Zongo. “I burnt down what I could, and I cut off what I couldn’t burn.” Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones