Africa Media Review for October 3, 2016

50 Ethiopians Killed in Stampede After Confrontation with Police
Several dozen people were killed in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region when police fired teargas and warning shots to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival. The tear gas caused panic and triggered a stampede Sunday that killed at least 50 people. Without giving a specific death toll, the government confirmed several people died and others were injured in chaotic scenes during the annual festival, in which the Oromo community marks the end of the rainy season. Several thousand people had gathered at Lake Harsadi for the annual Irreecha festival of thanksgiving in the town of Bishoftu, about 40 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. Some people from the crowd chanted “We need freedom” and “We need justice” and waved a rebel group’s flag. VOA

EU Observers Were Wiretapped During Gabon Vote: Report
Gabonese intelligence wiretapped EU election observers who voiced grave doubts over the outcome of hotly disputed August 27 polls in the oil-rich central African nation, a French weekly reported Sunday. In what it dubbed Gabon’s “Watergate”, the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) did not say how it had obtained excerpts of around 20 recordings, but said one of the subjects had “formally identified his own voice”. It said the wiretaps of some members of the 73-strong EU observer team “reveal heavy suspicions that the results were rigged”. The announcement that incumbent Ali Bongo won the vote with a razor-thin margin sparked two days of rioting and looting that left three dead in the former French colony, according to the government. France 24

A Week in Post-election Gabon
The banquet at the presidential palace was a formal affair. Men in suits sat on the edges of their seats, holding up their mobile phones as they stretched to get a picture of the man they simply call “Ali”. Surrounded by his family and hundreds of dignitaries, Ali Bongo was being sworn in as the new president of Gabon. As canons were fired from the palace in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, the privileged guests scrolled and pressed on their phones, quickly pausing to choose the right emoji to go with the picture of this historic moment. News 24

US Invests $50m in Niger Drone Base for Counterterrorism
The US is investing at least $50m in a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones. The US already has a presence in the capital Niamey, where it shares an airbase with France’s anti-Islamist force, Operation Barkhane. MQ-9 Reaper drones are stationed there. But the new facility, in the central city of Agadez, will give Washington greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in neighbouring countries like Libya, Mali and Nigeria. A spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Michelle Baldanza, confirmed the US had agreed to pay for a new runway and “associated pavements, facilities and infrastructure”. BBC

UN Rights Forum Launches Burundi Inquiry
The top UN human rights forum agreed on Friday to set up a commission of inquiry to identify perpetrators of killings and torture in Burundi and ensure that they are brought to justice. The panel would build on the work of U.N. experts who looked into the suspected torture and murder of government opponents. They said last week they had drawn up a list of suspects who should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Burundi has been mired in political crisis and sporadic violence for more than a year, triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office, which he secured in a disputed election in July 2015. France 24

Libya: Dutch Journalist Jeroen Oerlemans Dies in Sirte
A Dutch journalist has been killed while covering a government-backed offensive against ISIL in the group’s Libyan stronghold city of Sirte, 450km east of Tripoli. Dr Akram Gliwan, spokesman for a hospital in Misrata where pro-government fighters are treated, told AFP news agency that photographer Jeroen Oerlemans was “shot in the chest by an IS sniper while covering battles in Sirte”, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, also known as ISIS. Gliwan said his body had been transferred to Misrata, 200km west of Sirte. Al Jazeera

Somalia: Deaths As Car Bombing Hits Mogadishu
At least two people have been killed and five others injured after a car loaded with explosives blew up near a restaurant in Mogadishu, according to security official and witnesses. Al-Shabab, an armed group locked in battle against the Somali government and which regularly mounts attacks in Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s bombing, said Reuters news agency. The car was parked in front of the Blue Sky restaurant, near a busy road close to the headquarters of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in a southern district of Mogadishu. Blue Sky is located near a detention centre, known as Jilaow, where captured fighters are often held in underground cells. Al Jazeera

Turkey to Open Military Training Base in Somalia
Turkey has finished its first military base in Somalia and will help train the country’s army to fight the deadly al-Shabaab terror group, a senior Turkish source told Anadolu Agency on Saturday. A Turkish military attache speaking on condition of anonymity said the UN-backed base will be operational by the start of 2017. About 200 Turkish officers will be deployed to the facility in Mogadishu — the Somali capital — to deliver the first stage of training to over 10,000 Somali National Army troops and others soldiers from across Africa, he confirmed. Anadolu Agency

Robert Mugabe Seizes on the Latest Political Threat to His Zimbabwe: WhatsApp
[…] “The government first treated social media with disdain and mockery,” Mr. Mawarire said by phone from the airport in Charlotte, N.C., where he was waiting to catch a flight. “But then, after people started getting galvanized and mobilized, they thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is real.’” Rid of the pastor, the government soon began a wider crackdown on social media. It raised prices on cellphone data, immediately curtailing the ability of opposition parties and activists to organize via social media applications like WhatsApp. And it is pressing ahead with comprehensive legislation that would allow the police to intercept data, seize electronic equipment and arrest people on loosely defined charges of “insurgency” and “terrorism.” Zimbabwe has joined a growing list of African nations that have curbed social media in the last year. The New Ywork Times

Top Congolese Official Blasts Washington for Pulling Embassy Staff’s Family Members
In the aftermath of violent political protests in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa and other major cities this month, Washington has now ordered all family members of government personnel stationed in the country to leave, and has halted most U.S. government travel there. The move came one day after the Department of Treasury slapped sanctions on Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and General John Numbi, two officials in Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s inner circle who the U.S. government says have undermined democracy in the large central African nation.Together, the diplomatic one-two has sparked outrage among Kabila’s allies, who see the sanctions as a personal attack on the president. Critics have accused him of trying to extend his grip on power by refusing to announce a date for presidential elections that initially should have taken place before the end of the year. Foreign Policy

UN Constantly Reviews Contingency Plans for Staff in DRC
The United Nations (UN) says it reviews contingency plans for its staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on a regular basis following a United States (US) travel alert to the country. The State Department alert has halted most official US government travel into the DRC while the family members of government personnel have been ordered to leave the country over increased concerns around election related violence. One of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world operates in the DRC with over 22 000 uniformed personnel, including contingents from South Africa on the ground. SABC

Deja Vu in Congo as President Kabila Clings to Power
Zaire’s President Mobutu Sese Seko shed a tear as he delivered a speech in April 1990 promising his people an end to one-party rule and a future without the man they knew as the Guide. “Understand my emotion,” he said, his distinctive, deep voice cracking. In the seven years that followed, the military dictator acted on few of his promises and Zaire sank into chaos, leading to his overthrow in 1997 and helping trigger a series of conflicts that would kill millions of people. A quarter of a century after Mobutu’s speech, there is a sense of deja vu as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance and fears of civil war grow in Africa’s largest copper producer, now known as Democratic Republic of Congo. Reuters

Companies Respond to Questions About Their Cobalt Supply Chains
Huayou Cobalt, parent company of Congo DongFang Mining, admits to having “insufficient awareness of supply chain management.” It says it did not know that buying artisanal cobalt “would increase directly or indirectly child labor and human rights” risks. It has hired an outside company to conduct supply-chain due diligence, with a report on this topic expected later this year. It is also working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters to develop guidelines for responsible mineral supply chains. The company said that to just avoid artisanal cobalt “is actually an irresponsible business act, which would very possibly aggravate the local poverty in cobalt mining regions and worsen the livelihood of local legal artisanal miners.” The Washington Post

Liberia Passes Law to Create Seats in Parliament for Women
Women’s rights activists in Liberia on Friday welcomed a new law creating parliamentary seats reserved for women, young people and people with disabilities, in a country where women are poorly represented in politics despite having a female leader. Liberia’s House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Equal Representation and Participation Bill, creating five seats for female politicians, one for youths and one for people with disabilities in the nation’s lower house of parliament, according to the United Nations agency U.N. Women. “The long-awaited passage of this bill is great news for women in Liberia,” said Mary Wandia, program manager at the rights group Equality Now. “Liberian women and girls have been failed for too long on several fronts”. VOA

South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda Struggle to Shake Off Ethnic Tensions 
South Sudanese refugee Luganya Francis has reached a refugee camp in Uganda but still isn’t sure he is safe. A member of the Kuku tribe, he fled his country’s capital city, Juba, when fighting in July spread to his neighbourhood. But like many refugees, he is worried that tribal divisions stirred up by the fighting may have followed him across the border. […] Most recently, fighting broke out on the eve of the young country’s fifth independence day between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, of Dinka ethnicity, and forces loyal to First Vice-President Riek Machar, of Nuer ethnicity. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes, many crossing the border into Uganda. CBC

Juba Political, Military Elite Impeding Justice
South Sudan’s political and military elite are frustrating the realisation of justice as the African Union drags its feet in establishing a hybrid court to prosecute those who committed atrocities in the three-year civil war. Experts in South Sudan affairs say that leading politicians in the government as well as military top brass in government and rebels, are strongly opposed to efforts to establish mechanisms for transitional justice as per the August 2015 peace agreement, because they believe they are being targeted by the international community. As a result, there have been behind-the-scenes lobbying by top government officials for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) — which is the guarantor of the peace agreement — to look for ways of amending Chapter 5 that deals with “Transitional Justice, Accountability, Reconciliation and Healing,” in a manner that does not promote retribution.  East African

UN Sees ‘Unparalleled’ Suffering in Africa’s Lake Chad Area
The United Nations warns that conditions in Central Africa’s Lake Chad basin are threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, among them many children. Food is short throughout the region, which has been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. Millions of people living in the basin are in the grip of an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis brought on by violent conflict, abject poverty and climate change. More than 20 million people live in areas around the lake in four countries — Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The United Nations says nearly half of them are in need of emergency aid. Toby Lanzer, U.N. assistant secretary-general and regional humanitarian coordinator of the Sahel, said an estimated 6.5 million people in the region are food insecure — barely surviving on one meal a day. VOA

President Kagame Picks Dream Team to Drive AU Independence
President Paul Kagame has picked a team of eminent persons he will work with as he leads efforts to reform the African Union into a more credible and self-reliant body.   President Kagame was given the assignment at the 27th AU Summit held in Kigali to lead the overhaul of the continental body. Reliable sources say President Kagame has picked Dr Carlos Lopes, outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and former president of the African Development Bank Dr Donald Kaberuka to spearhead the process. The two are said to have met the president earlier this month in Kigali to discuss the way forward. Others are Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa and Cameroon’s Acha Leke, a senior partner at the global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. East African

China Eyes Ending Western Grip on Top U.N. Jobs With Greater Control Over Blue Helmets
China is believed to have its sights on the United Nations’ top peacekeeping job, a position that would place a country with an abysmal human rights record in charge of the world’s second-largest expeditionary force of more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed in hot spots around the world. While the race for a new U.N. secretary-general has for months grabbed most of the attention at Turtle Bay, behind the scenes a fierce political competition is underway to land top posts under the world body’s next chief. The outcome could shatter the monopoly that Western powers have held for decades inside the inner sanctum of U.N. leadership — and push peacekeeping operations in a direction human rights advocates may find worrisome. According to multiple U.N.-based officials, Beijing is angling to run the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, or DPKO, which has been headed by French nationals for nearly 20 years. Moscow, for its part, is said to be hankering after the Department of Political Affairs, or DPA, which former U.S. State Department officials have headed for the past decade. Foreign Policy

Australian Miner Sundance Resources Faces Fresh Bribery Allegations in Congo
Leaked documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal Sundance gifted millions of dollars worth of shares to a company directed by the brother of Republic of Congo mining minister Pierre Oba. The mining minister’s support has been critical for Sundance to progress the firm’s Nabeba Congo iron ore venture, which has the potential to be one of the biggest iron ore projects in Africa. Meanwhile, a research fellow at the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, Elie Smith, has revealed that two Sundance representatives told him in a meeting in the Congo that they had “promised a bribe to [mining minister] Pierre Oba and the family of the President” [Denis Sassou Nguesso] to win government backing for the Australian company. The Sydney Morning Herald‎



Photo: Adam Jones