Africa Media Review for October 4, 2017

State Crackdown Fuels Independence Push in Anglophone Cameroon
A once-fringe separatist movement in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions is gaining ground after a year of state repression that has undermined moderate voices and raised concerns the majority French-speaking nation may face a prolonged period of violence. Soldiers shot dead at least eight people and wounded others in the two English-speaking regions on Sunday, the anniversary of Anglophone Cameroon’s independence from Britain. Amnesty International said on Monday at least 17 people had died in the clashes. The growing influence of the separatists, who include armed radical elements, is one of the most serious threats to stability in the central African oil producer since President Paul Biya took power 35 years ago. “Last year, separatists couldn’t rally people on the streets. But people have seen family members arrested and killed, and they have switched over,” said Tapang Ivo Tanku, an Anglophone activist based in the United States. Reuters

DR Congo Violence Drives Thousands into Zambia
More than 3,000 people have fled to Zambia in the past month to escape escalating violence in Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), according to the United Nations. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement on Tuesday that unrest in parts of southeastern Congo has driven more than 3,360 refugees into northern Zambia since 30 August – the largest influx of its kind in the past five years. People “are escaping inter-ethnic clashes, as well as fighting between Congolese security forces and militia groups”, Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesman, told reporters in Geneva. Those arriving in Zambia described escaping “extreme brutality, with civilians being killed, women raped, property looted, and houses set alight”, he said. Al Jazeera

UN Chief Antonio Guterres Warns against More Cuts to DR Congo Mission
With a dangerous political standoff over elections still unresolved in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is urging caution over further cuts to the UN peacekeeping mission there, according to a confidential report. Guterres told the Security Council that more cost-cutting could hamstring the 18,000-strong MONUSCO force in its efforts to prevent a collapse of the vast, mineral-rich African country. In a 27-page strategic review of MONUSCO, the UN’s largest and most expensive mission, Guterres said the force was streamlining operations after the peacekeeping budget was cut. “I am confident that the changes under way in MONUSCO will yield efficiencies. Yet, member-states should exercise caution in making further cuts to the mission’s budget that may compromise its ability to deliver on its core priorities,” Guterres wrote. AFP

Fighting Flares in South Sudan as Regional Bloc Touts Talks
South Sudanese government forces and rebels clashed in a northeastern state with both sides claiming victory, as East African countries attempt to restart talks aimed at ending the four-year civil war. Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said by phone that clashes around Waat town in Bieh state have claimed the lives of four soldiers and 91 rebels. Rebel spokesman Mabior Garang Mabior accused government forces of breaching a cease fire and said the ongoing fighting made it impossible to give casualty figures. Another rebel official, William Gatjiath Deng, claimed in a statement that 200 government soldiers were killed and 210 injured in a rebel attempt to retake Waat that began Oct. 1. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the violence. Bloomberg

Dutch Defense Minister Resigns over Peacekeepers’ Deaths in Mali
Dutch caretaker Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis said on Tuesday she was resigning after a report highlighted serious failures by her department during a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. The Safety Board last week issued its findings about an incident on June 6, 2016, when a mortar killed two soldiers and gravely injured a third. It concluded that the ministry had let safety and medical standards slip in favor of pursuing strategic goals. Hennis announced her resignation during a parliamentary debate just days before the caretaker government is due to be replaced by a new coalition under Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Hennis said General Tom Middendorp, head of the armed forces of the Netherlands, would also resign in response to the Saftey Board’s harsh finding. Reuters

University of Nairobi Closes after Violent Clashes
The University of Nairobi has closed following a series of violent clashes between the administration, students and police. The top Kenyan university, with more than 84,000 people enrolled, announced that students had until 9am on Tuesday to leave their residence halls. This meant students had less than 12 hours to move out. Many of them refused to leave until they got their fees back. Students took to social media to complain about the university’s closure, fearful of the consequences on their studies. Al Jazeera

Bible-Bashing for Votes in Kenya
[…] Presidential elections in Kenya have become a complex affair. In the past it was enough to shout yourself hoarse on campaign platforms, lock up or silence your critics, change the constitution at will, distribute a few goodies to supporters and you would wake up at State House. Now you need a multi-million dollar budget to hire helicopters, control the media, buy out political parties, patrol the digital space viciously and consult the best traditional herbalists. In addition, you have to know your Bible well in the search for special anointing. And so Mr Odinga – the presidential candidate of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) – has carefully studied the Book of Joshua and cast himself in the role of the famous hero who succeeded Moses, and led the fight to liberate enemy territory and settle the Israelites in the new land. Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who are seeking re-election, must be suffering from sore knees, as they have moved from church to church kneeling before men of God, who lay hands on them and give them the anointing. BBC

Trump: Sudan Must Show Commitment before Sanctions Are Lifted
US President Donald Trump has reassured Congress that he will not lift economic sanctions imposed on Sudan without making sure that Khartoum is committed to implementing the agreed terms. Trump pledged to press Khartoum to improve its record on human rights and religious freedoms and to bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). “The Sudanese government knows that my administration will hold them responsible for any breach of obligations which came through strong bilateral ties and effective monitoring,” Trump said in a letter dated 25 September to Congressman Jim McGovern. The White House is expected to issue a resolution within two weeks on the US sanctions imposed on Sudan for nearly two decades ago. Middle East Monitor

Egypt Steps up Crackdown on Homosexuals, Arrests 27
Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on people suspected of homosexuality, arresting a total of 27 in a little more than a week, security officials said Tuesday. They said the 27 include a man and a woman picked up by police on Monday and all have been charged with “debauchery.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media. On Monday, Amnesty International called for the “immediate” and “unconditional” release of all people arrested since a Sept 22 concert in Cairo in which an LGBT flag was raised, an incident that sparked the ongoing crackdown. In a statement, Amnesty said at least five of those arrested were subjected to anal examinations to determine whether they were engaged in same-sex sexual relations, a practice it said amounted to torture and was scientifically unsound. AP

Somalia Gets New Saudi Aid but Stays Neutral in Gulf Crisis
Somalia has received $50 million in new aid from Saudi Arabia but the gesture does not change the central government’s decision to remain neutral in Riyadh’s dispute with fellow Gulf state Qatar, a senior Somali official said on Tuesday. The money follows a visit to Riyadh last week by Somalia’s president and a string of declarations of support for the Saudi side in the Gulf crisis from Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions, into which Riyadh and its Gulf Arab allies have poured money Somali Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman, announcing the $50 million in Saudi aid, told Reuters that the government appreciated Saudi financial support and called the bilateral relationship “brotherly…and deep”. Reuters

Turkish Base Key to Building Strong Somali Army
One year from now, if all goes according to plan, the African Union mission in Somalia will withdraw 1,500 soldiers from the country, in a crucial first step toward Somalia shedding its reliance on outside troops to maintain security and fight off Islamist militant group al-Shabab. But the plan depends on Somali government forces being ready to protect the government and civilians from the al-Qaida-linked militants. Last month, Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abukar Osman, told the U.N. Security Council that “the Somali National Army is not ready to take over the security of the country.” Premature withdrawal of AMISOM, he said, might be a “recipe for disaster.”  Al Jazeera

Tension Grips Nigerian City as Separatist Leader Goes Missing
A secessionist leader seeking independence from Nigeria has been missing since an alleged military raid more than two weeks ago left his house in the city of Umuahia riddled with bullet holes, its windows smashed and doors hanging off hinges. The disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu, after the raid the army says did not happen, threatens to ignite separatist unrest capable of destabilising southeastern Nigeria, a region where a million people died in a 1967-70 civil war over the short-lived Republic of Biafra. Kingsley Kanu, 48, said he was with his older brother Nnamdi, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, at their family home on the evening of Sept. 14 when soldiers stormed in. “They were shooting everything they saw,” he said, pointing to bullet holes in walls and windows. Reuters

Nigeria’s Central Bank Is Printing Money to Keep the Government Afloat and Alarms Are Ringing
For a while now, economists and finance types who follow the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been sounding a low intensity alarm about the CBN’s direct funding of the Nigerian government. Between December 2013 and April 2017 for instance, the CBN’s “claims on the federal government” went from 678 billion naira to 6.5 trillion naira ($1.8 billion to $17.3 billion)—an almost 10-fold rise. These “claims” are made up of overdrafts, treasury bills, converted bonds and other such lending. For the most part, the issue has remained an obscure one that receives hardly any attention from local media. But then, a couple of weeks ago, the CBN finally published the personal statements of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members from the July meeting and suddenly the alarm bells started ringing. The personal statement of Dr. Doyin Salami, a well-regarded member of the MPC noted for his straight talking, said the CBN was providing a “piggy-bank” service to the federal government. Quartz

Northeast Nigeria Recovering from Islamist Violence, UNICEF Says
Northeastern Nigeria is beginning to recover from the devastation caused by an almost decade-long Islamist insurgency as famine is averted, more people access aid and children return to school, although huge challenges remain, the United Nations Children’s Fund said. Bloomberg

Mugabe Raises Spectre of SA-Zimbabwe Clampdown on ‘Bad Guys’ behind Cyber Attacks
Advanced South African digital technology is likely to be used by the Zimbabwean government to track down the identities of people who allegedly posted messages on social media last week which President Robert Mugabe blames for panic buying and a crash in Zimbabwe’s currency. Mugabe’s remarks have raised the disturbing spectre of a clampdown by his government on social media – and South African assistance to him would raise serious questions about its commitment to freedom of expression. Addressing the second South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-national Commission meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mugabe said cyber-technology had been abused in both Zimbabwe and South Africa “to undermine our economies”. He proposed that the two countries work together to protect themselves “against those who would destroy us using information and communication technology”. Daily Maverick

South Africa DoD Outlines 2017 Defence Priorities
The South African Department of Defence (DoD) has detailed its priorities for the 2017/18 financial year, which include border safeguarding, peacekeeping operations, cyber warfare and expanded maritime security. These priorities were outlined in its 2017 Annual Performance Plan. General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), stated that “notwithstanding the challenges it faces with regard to persistent budget cuts and ageing equipment [the SANDF] will still be involved in, amongst others, peace support operations in the African continent; continue to contribute to Border Safeguarding; endeavour to improve its landward and maritime defence capabilities particularly in terms of mobility and embark in a process that will help Arrest the Decline of our capabilities as indicated in the Defence Review 2015.” DefenseWeb



Photo: Adam Jones