Africa Media Review for October 5, 2016

Head of Central African Republic Armed Forces Assassinated
The head of Central African Republic’s armed forces has been shot dead and his teenage son injured in an attack in the capital, Bangui, a family member said. Marcel Mombeka was shot twice in his car in the PK5 neighborhood, said his sister Kevine Mombeka. The mostly Muslim enclave was visited by Pope Francis last year in an effort to urge calm in a country shaken by deadly violence between Christians and Muslims. “Shots rang out, creating panic among the population. I fled like everyone else,” Kevine Mombeka said. “A young man then stopped me to say my older brother had been killed by Muslims.” Marcel Mombaka’s 14-year-old son, who was in the car, was shot and was being treated at a hospital, she said. She had been in the car as well but got out before the attack. The Guardian

Burundi Dismisses Planned U.N. Inquiry Into killings and Torture
Burundi’s government has dismissed a U.N. decision to set up a commission of inquiry to identify perpetrators of killings and torture, saying it was based on a one-sided account of events in the African nation. The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Friday to set up the commission, saying it would build on a report by U.N. experts who looked into the suspected torture and murder of government opponents. The experts have drawn up a list of suspects. 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. Reuters

Guinea Bissau’s Ex-Navy Chief Sentenced in Prison in U.S. Drug Case
A former navy chief of Guinea-Bissau who was arrested three years ago in a U.S. drug sting off the West African coast was sentenced on Tuesday to four years in prison, most of which he has already served, for conspiring to facilitate the shipment of cocaine to the United States. Former Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, 70, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan after pleading guilty in May 2014 to conspiring to import narcotics into the United States. Na Tchuto has been cooperating with authorities in the time since, Berman said, a factor the judge considered in sentencing Guinea-Bissau’s former navy chief of staff, who was a fighter in the country’s 1956-1973 independence war. Reuters

DR Congo’s Kabila Says Presidential Vote May be Postponed
President Joseph Kabila said Tuesday that authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had decided to postpone a presidential vote set for November. Opponents fear Kabila, whose mandate expires in December, may be seeking a third term. “We have decided to delay the elections to avoid locking out a huge number of people – most of them young voters,” Kabila told reporters in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar Es Salaam. “As many as 10 million unregistered voters could miss out on the chance to vote if we proceed with the elections.” France 24

DR Congo Deadline for Removal of South Sudan Fighters
The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been given a week to fly hundreds of South Sudanese fighters out of the country. The men are loyal to South Sudan’s sacked Vice-President Riek Machar and crossed into the country with him in August following intense violence in the South Sudan’s capital, Juba. The 750 men have been disarmed and cared for by the UN mission. But Congolese officials say they are now a security risk. They are being housed in UN camps in the volatile east of DR Congo, near the city of Goma in North Kivu province. BBC

US Partially Lifts Finance Sanctions on Sudan: Minister
The U.S. has lifted sanctions on certain bank transactions to Sudan, the Sudanese finance minister disclosed Monday. Finance Minister Badr El-Din Mahmoud told reporters in Khartoum that the U.S. administration had informed the Sudanese government that it had lifted restrictions on making certain non-commercial bank transactions with Sudan. The move, Mahmoud said, would serve to benefit Sudan’s humanitarian situation and business environment, both of which have been hard-hit by two decades of economic sanctions imposed by Washington. “This decision will turn a new page… and facilitate humanitarian and individual bank transactions,” the minister said. “It will also allow implementation of the commercial transactions permitted by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control,” he added. Anadolu Agency

Mali: 74 UN Peacekeepers Killed in Past 3 Years
At least 74 peacekeepers have been killed in different armed attacks in Mali since the deployment of the UN mission in 2013, Radhia Achouri, the mission’s spokeswoman told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday. Out of the 74 deaths of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), 66 were killed in action and eight from their injuries, according Achouri. The attacks (armed attacks, mortars, explosives) are attributed to “negative forces”, terrorists and drug dealers, mostly in northern Mali since the outbreak of war in 2012, she added. Anadolu Agency

Ethiopia Mourns – But Mourns What, Exactly?
[…] The lives of perceived political opponents are cheap, after all: the death toll from this latest round of political unrest, which began in November 2015, has so far claimed at least 500 lives, and this is a conservative estimate. […] the government is mourning something altogether more precious to it: the precipitous erosion of its authority, which grows more fragile with every new round of demonstrations. Just last year, it was unthinkable that hundreds of Ethiopians could gather in defiance of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s one-party rule, shouting anti-government slogans and crossing their arms above their heads in a gesture of defiance (the same gesture made in front of the world’s television cameras by Feyisa Lilesa as he crossed the finish line at the Rio Olympics). Now, such protests are commonplace. For the first time in a decade, Ethiopia’s opposition movements are emboldened, and seemingly undeterred by the government’s repressive tactics. Daily Maverick

Is Ethiopia Unravelling?
About two million ethnic Oromo had turned up to celebrate a traditional cultural festival. But a deadly stampede ensued after police fired tear gas at protesters who were chanting anti-government slogans and throwing stones and bottles. Ethiopia is going through its most widespread and sustained protests since the ruling Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991. It’s testing the leadership’s grip, and its big idea of a “developmental state” – the implied bargain in which the government delivers economic growth, in exchange for acquiescence over its authoritarianism. Although there has been significant economic growth over the past two decades, it has not kept pace with a “youth bulge”, rising unemployment and growing inequality. The bargain seems to be fraying in the face of increasingly obvious public corruption, disaffection with the suffocation of civil liberties, and localised misrule at the state level. IRIN

Doubts Emerge Over Kenya, Somalia Poll Readiness
After the elections in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda where violence and allegations of an uneven playing field for the candidates and where partisan electoral bodies tainted the outcomes, the focus is now on Somalia, which is holding elections, and Rwanda and Kenya which go to the polls next year. The three elections are already facing challenges of insecurity, a lack of level playing field and poor preparations. Somalia will be holding parliamentary and Senate elections from October 23 that will culminate in the presidential election on November 30, but there are concerns about sabotage by Al Shabaab and fears that clan, money and incumbency are likely to tilt the playground. East African

Quarter of Somalis in Dadaab Refugee Camp ‘Willing’ to Leave
Nearly 70,000 Somalis in the Dadaab refugee complex have indicated a willingness to return home soon, United Nations officials said on Monday. That amounts to about one-quarter of the 284,000 individuals found to be living in the Dadaab camps in the course of a “verification exercise” that the UN refugee agency conducted in July and August. These 70,000 Somalis had responded affirmatively when asked by UN census-takers if they want to return home soon, said Duke Mwancha, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. “This does not mean in any way that the remaining 75 per cent are not interested in returning,” Mr Mwancha cautioned. Africa Review

Zimbabwe Losing $1 Billion a Year to Corruption: Report
Zimbabwe is losing at least $1 billion annually to corruption, with police and local government officials among the worst offenders, Transparency International said in a report on Tuesday. Social media groups like #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka have cited corruption in President Robert Mugabe’s government and police roadblocks where money is taken from motorists as among the main reasons for protests that have rocked the southern African nation in the last few months. Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said the police, local councils, the vehicle inspection department that issues driving licences and the education department were among the most corrupt institutions. “The resulting institutionalisation and systematisation of corruption in Zimbabwean political and economic spheres has been extensive,” TIZ said. Reuters

Why the U.S. Won’t Issue Visas to Gambia’s Government
It has been 15 years since the United States imposed a visa ban on government officials from a sovereign state. In 2001, the ban was imposed upon Guyana, after the South American country delayed on receiving Guyanese deportees from the U.S. Now, the U.S. has enforced the diplomatic measure against members of the Gambian government, following repeated delays by the West African country in repatriating its nationals who are under “final deportation orders.”  The U.S. Embassy in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, announced Monday that visas would also not be issued to family members of government officials, according to AFP. Newsweek

Polisario Front Warns It’s Closer to Conflict With Morocco
The Polisario Front independence movement warned Tuesday that it is closer to resuming confrontation with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara than to peace. Ould Salek, the movement’s foreign relations chief, urgently appealed to the U.N. Security Council to hold the referendum on the future of Western Sahara promised in a 1991 cease-fire agreement with Morocco. He accused France, which has close ties to Morocco, of blocking council action on Western Sahara and expressed hope that the United States and the other permanent council members — Russia, China and Britain — will do more than they have to ensure a referendum is held. AP on ABC News

Has Besigye Become Uganda’s Assange?
Hearings at Uganda’s Supreme Court continue on Wednesday with members of the opposition contesting the recent presidential election results. However, a leading member of Uganda’s opposition is conspicuously absent. Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change party, has been under house arrest for almost four weeks since the announcement of results. “We have now filed a case in the Uganda high court, seeking to enforce my rights,” Besigye told RFI, referring to his continued house arrest. “We have not yet received a hearing date for that application,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Kasangati, just outside of Kampala. RFI

Sierra Leone Slashes Spending in Huge Austerity Drive
Sierra Leone has announced it will slash spending across the board and freeze all government projects to stabilise its finances following a prolonged economic slump. The economic shock of the Ebola crisis and difficulties faced by the country’s key commodities sector have led the government to undertake a seven-month review of its finances. A meeting chaired by President Bai Ernest Koroma on Monday announced measures aimed at addressing a depreciating foreign exchange rate, lower prices of minerals such as iron ore and a poor tax compliance rate. The government aims to slash spending across the board with expected savings of 309 billion leones ($69 million) targeted within six months by cutting into ministry budgets, and enforcing more stringent revenue gathering. News 24

Protesting Students Clash with Police in South Africa
South African police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against students protesting for free education in Johannesburg. Two students were arrested and another and one staff member were injured in the violence on Tuesday at the University of the Witwatersrand, or Wits. Similar unrest has occurred since last month at other financially struggling South African universities, forcing a number, including Wits, to close. The university sought to re-open on Tuesday; the main campus was disrupted, but classes proceeded on other Wits campuses. Al Jazeera

Piracy On the Decrease But Threat Still There – Report
Incidences of Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and Horn of Africa have been decreasing but waters off West Africa remain dangerous and criminal gangs in East Africa are still a lingering threat, according to a new report. These were some of the conclusions from a recent Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) meeting that convened 35 maritime experts to discuss the current state of maritime piracy off the east and west coasts of Africa in the runup to the upcoming African Union Maritime Summit in Lomé, Togo, later this month. The OBP working group meeting noted that the upturn in kidnapping for ransom incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 appears to have been reduced through a combination of increased patrols by the Nigerian Navy, increased use of contracted security and a refocus of attacks away from piracy at sea and more towards inland infrastructure. DefeceWeb

“Unfair” Refugee Distribution Stokes Global Crisis – Amnesty
The burden of the global refugee crisis is being unfairly shared, with just 10 countries hosting the majority of refugees, humanitarian groups said, urging wealthy nations to step up their response. Fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Burundi and South Sudan has pushed the total number of refugees to a record 21.3 million in 2016, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. Fifty eight percent of refugees recognised by UNHCR have found shelter in one of only 10 neighbouring countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The responsibility of protecting refugees is very unequally distributed,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement on Monday. Reuters

How Can Arms Embargoes Be Made More Effective?
Arms embargoes are the most common type of sanction currently applied by the United Nations (UN), and one of the five main types of targeted or smart sanctions (others are diplomatic sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and commodity interdiction). The key aim of smart sanctions is to raise the regime’s costs of non-compliance (with the sanctions) without bringing about the wider suffering often associated with comprehensive sanctions, such as trade bans. How effective these embargoes are in Africa is the subject of much debate; not least because the continent has been subjected to the majority of arms embargoes since the UN’s first stand-alone arms embargo against apartheid South Africa in 1977. Since then, several African countries have faced such embargoes; some repeatedly. Liberia, for example, experienced a series of UN-imposed arms embargoes in varying degrees and forms between 1992 and 2016. Despite this, illicit weapons continued to be trafficked into the country. ISS

Tanzania, Congo to Hold Joint Search for Oil and Gas in Lake Tanganyika
Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to pave the way for joint oil and gas exploration in Lake Tanganyika. The MoU was signed by the Congolese Petroleum and Gas minister Ngoyi Mukena and Tanzania’s Energy and Minerals minister Prof Sospeter Muhongo at State House in Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli and his DR Congo counterpart Joseph Kabila witnessed the signing. “We have already discovered oil in the western parts of Lake Albert, and there’s a great possibility that there’s also oil in Lake Tanganyika, therefore, joint exploration is the way to go for mutual benefits,” said President Kabila. East African



Photo: Adam Jones