Africa Media Review for September 1, 2016

Protesters in Gabon Burn Parliament Building Amid Allegations of Stolen Election
Protesters in Gabon set alight the country’s National Assembly building Wednesday night after a day of protests against what they see as a rigged election. The small central African country has been governed by one family, the Bongos, since 1967. Ali Bongo, who took over from his father in 2009, was announced midday Wednesday as the winner in the election by a razor-thin margin, after the release of the results were delayed by one day. Bongo received 49.8 percent of the vote, and his main rival, Jean Ping, received 48.2 percent, according to Gabon’s Interior Ministry. While nationwide turnout was 59.6 percent, turnout in Bongo’s home region of Haut-Ogooué was reported at 99.3 percent, prompting many to question the veracity of the results. The Washington Post

Gabon Election: Security Forces Storm Opposition HQ after Disputed Result
Gabonese security forces have stormed the headquarters of the defeated presidential candidate, Jean Ping, after they accused “armed criminals” of torching the parliament. Mr Ping said two people had been killed as live shots were fired. His supporters had been staging protests after official results gave President Ali Bongo a narrow victory in Saturday’s presidential election. They accused the government of stealing the election. The election result, announced on Wednesday afternoon, gave Mr Bongo a second seven-year term with 49.8% of the vote to Mr Ping’s 48.2% – a margin of 5,594 votes. But Mr Ping disputes the result in one province which show a 99.93% turnout with 95% voting for Ali Bongo. EU election monitor spokesperson Sarah Crozier told BBC Newsday “it’s not a very common result, that’s for sure”. BBC

US ‘Deeply Concerned’ About Gabon Poll
The United States expressed deep concern over Gabon’s disputed election Wednesday and added its voice to calls for results from individual polling stations to be revealed. Official provisional results suggest Ali Bongo has been re-elected president of the oil-rich central African nation, but the tallies were close and opposition challenger Jean Ping has cried foul. Angry protests have erupted in the former French colony and the parliament building was on fire in the capital Libreville. “Elections must credibly reflect the will of the people,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said, urging the security forces to respect citizens’ rights and protesters to remain calm. AFP on Yahoo News

Tunisia: 3 Dead in Border Operation Against Extremists
Tunisian authorities say three people have been killed in a clash near the Algerian border between security forces and extremists suspected of plotting an attack. A 16-year-old civilian boy was killed by the extremists, and two suspected jihadis were killed by police and army forces in the “preventive” operation in the Kasserine region, according to Interior Ministry spokesperson Yasser Mosbah. He didn’t elaborate on the alleged attack plot. Radio Mosaique reported that one of the killed extremists was involved in a recent attack on soldiers claimed by al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch. News 24

Calm Seas, Libya’s Lawless State Open Door for Migrant Flows
Calmer seas and Libya’s lawlessness have again opened the way for smugglers to ship thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean in days, in a striking reminder of how far Europe is from ending the migrant crisis. In just three days, Italy’s coastguard and European vessels pulled more than 10,000 migrants from packed wooden boats and rubber dinghies crossing from Libya’s coast through the Strait of Sicily, one of the shortest routes from North Africa. Images from rescue vessels showed migrants crammed into fragile boats, some in orange life jackets, others jumping into the water to swim as rescuers shouted for them to stop. Many were women and children, most of them Subsaharan Africans. Around 3,000 migrants were saved in 30 separate rescue missions on Tuesday, 6,600 on Monday, 1,600 on Sunday and 500 on Saturday, according to Italy’s coastguard, which coordinates sea rescues between Libya and Italy.  Reuters

Migrants’ Last Hope: A Rescue on the Mediterranean Sea
More than 106,000 migrants have attempted to make the perilous boat crossing from Libya to Italy this year. Had it not been for a multi-national rescue effort made up of international navies, humanitarian aid agencies, commercial vessels and various coast guards, most of them would have perished in the Mediterranean. As it is, at least 2,726 have died this year already, more than the total for all of 2015. Unscrupulous Libyan smugglers stuff the migrants, coming from the warzones, refugee camps, and impoverished villages of the Middle East and Africa, into unseaworthy dinghies and send them out to sea with barely enough fuel to make it into international waters. Abandoned, alone and in most cases unable to swim, the migrants depend on this network of search and rescue operations to save their lives and bring them safely to European shores. Time

Sudan Says it is Combating Illegal Migration “on Behalf of Europe”
Senior Sudanese security officials have said that Khartoum is carrying the burden of fighting illegal migration on behalf of Europe and pointed to significant difficulties that obstruct efforts to combat human trafficking. On Tuesday, senior officials from the Sudanese army, police and security services held a press conference at Sudan’s Defence Ministry premises in Khartoum government efforts to fight against human trafficking and cross-border crime. They sent messages urging Europe to appreciate Sudan’s efforts and provide the necessary support to encourage the government continue these efforts, saying that Sudan is not affected by illegal migration because it is considered as a country of transit. VOA

Nigerian Army Commander: Only Weeks Left for Boko Haram
Nigeria’s army expects to seize Boko Haram’s last few strongholds in the northeast over the next few weeks, the commander in charge of crushing the jihadist group’s seven-year insurgency said on Wednesday. The army missed a December deadline set by President Muhammadu Buhari to wipe out the group, which wants to set up an Islamic caliphate in the area around Lake Chad, but has retaken most of its territory – at one point the size of Belgium. Major General Lucky Irabor, commander of the operation, said the jihadists were now holed up in a few pockets of the Sambisa forest – where more than 200 girls kidnapped from the town of Chibok in 2014 are believed to be held – and two areas near Lake Chad and would be flushed out “within weeks”. Despite the set-backs, Boko Haram still manages to stage regular suicide bombings in Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Since 2009, more than 15,000 people have been killed, 2.3 million displaced and the local economy decimated. Reuters

Daesh-Linked Somalia Militant Named Terrorist by US
The head of a Somali armed group of Daesh-linked militants in East Africa, Somalia in particular, was designated a global terrorist by the U.S State Department Wednesday, a move which makes him subject to economic sanctions. “Abdiqadir Mumin is the head of a group of ISIL-linked individuals in East Africa,” said a State Department statement. “Mumin, a former al-Shabaab recruiter and spokesman, pledged allegiance to ISIL [Daesh], along with around 20 of his followers, in October 2015, and has set up a base in Puntland, Somalia. Since then, Mumin has expanded his cell of ISIL supporters by kidnapping young boys aged 10 to 15, indoctrinating them, and forcing them to take up militant activity.” Mumin belonged to al-Shabaab for at least four years before pledging allegiance to Daesh, even rising to the position of commander based in the Galgala hills in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland regional administration. Anadolu Agency

How Kenya’s al-Shabab Amnesty is a Loaded Gun
Part of the lure was a government amnesty for those who renounced violence, and the promise of support to settle back into his Majengo neighbourhood, a low-income suburb of the capital, Nairobi. Rashid, 40, saw it as a chance to restart his life. But first there was the nerve-shredding step of making his presence known to the authorities, effectively surrendering, and then trusting that the amnesty would apply to him and be fairly implemented. In January, he went to a police station close to Majengo, along with a cousin who had similarly joined and then quit al-Shabab.   According to Rashid’s sister, Sawiya, who accompanied them as a witness, the station commander confirmed they were eligible for a pardon and advised the two men to go home. IRIN

Kenya’s Top Anti-corruption Official Resigns
Kenya’s top anti-corruption official said Wednesday he has resigned after his family business was mentioned as a company that did business with a ministry implicated in corruption. Since its inception in 1997, all five heads of the country’s corruption watchdog have resigned or been forced out of office in what analysts say is a result of deeply entrenched corruption in the country. Philip Kinisu said in a statement that it had become impractical to serve as Chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission because of negative deliberations in public about the dealings of his family’s company and the Ministry of Devolution and National Planning. “I maintain that the company and I are innocent of the allegations that have been made. At the same time significant resources and attention are being expended by the state and public on deliberating these matters instead of fighting corruption,” Kinisu said. The Washington Post

Zimbabwe Facing Most Intense Unrest in Almost a Decade – Video Report
Zimbabwe is in the midst of intense unrest as protests have broken out against president Robert Mugabe in recent weeks. Zimbabwean police have responded with tear gas, water cannon and sometimes violence, prompting many to flee the country following the security crackdown. Protesters, angry about the state of the economy and widespread shortages of food, are calling for electoral reform ahead of the next election. 92-year-old Mugabe has led the country since independence in 1980. The Guardian

Dodging Tear Gas in Zimbabwe’s Riot-torn Capital
Daily riots against the government of Robert Mugabe are forcing Harare’s residents to plan each day well in advance. Just getting to or from work is a problem. “How is the city today? Which roads are safe? Where is the tear gas convoy heading tomorrow?” are WhatsApp messages doing the rounds on Zimbabwean cellphones daily. “The city’s security situation is like a malaria patient whose blood pressure must be monitored hourly,” says one message. “One cannot simply catch a taxi into the city in the morning without knowing which Harare roads are clear of police water cannons. It would be deadly,” says Tawanda. He scratches his arm to numb the pain where blue water from police cannon discoloured his skin and left an itch. Daily Maverick

Why a Modest Pastor With a Flag is So Threatening to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
The Zimbabwean flag in Evan Mawarire’s office seemed to taunt him. He was a humiliated father. His children’s monthly school fees were due, but he had no money. In another country, he would have those fees, he thought. He would get the things his wife, Samantha, and his two daughters needed. Why, at the age of 39, he’d even have a house by now. He hunched over his webcam that April evening and poured out a visceral howl of frustration for Zimbabwe, the flag with its garish yellow, red, green and black stripes draped around his neck. The Baptist pastor was hours away from launching the first grass-roots protest movement his troubled country has seen in years. LA Times

Poaching Drives Huge 30% Decline in Africa’s Savannah Elephants
Poaching has driven a huge decline in Africa’s savannah elephants with almost a third (30%) wiped out between 2007 and 2014, the first ever continent-wide survey of the species has found. Around 144,000 animals were lost over a seven-year period in 15 African countries, declining at a rate of 8% a year. The population across those countries today stands at 352,271 elephants. The biggest drops in numbers were recorded in Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania, with surprisingly low numbers found in north-eastern DRC, northern Cameroon and south-west Zambia.  The Guardian

Ottawa Sends Fact-finding Mission to Mali to Study Peacekeeping Operations
The federal government is sending a “reconnaissance mission” to take a closer look at the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Mali. Officials insist the fact-finding mission, a small group of diplomats, military personnel and RCMP officers, does not mean the government has decided to send Canadian peacekeepers to the west African country. But one expert says it does suggest that, despite its dangers, Mali is at the top of the list of peacekeeping missions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could announce as early as mid-September. The Liberal government said last week that it will make up to 600 troops available for UN peacekeeping operations, including specialized units and equipment such as engineers, medical personnel and military aircraft. The Globe and Mail

Morocco, Polisario Standoff Escalates Western Sahara Tensions
U.N. peacekeepers have deployed to monitor a standoff between Moroccan forces and Western Sahara’s Polisario Front that risks escalating into one of the worst flare-ups in the disputed region since a 1991 ceasefire. Polisario, which declared an independent republic in the desert land in the 1970s, accuses Morocco, which claims sovereignty of the region, of breaking the terms of the ceasefire by building a road in a U.N. buffer zone. U.N. peace-keeping observers are watching Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie personnel and a unit of Polisario fighters face off in a narrow patch of no-man’s land in the far south where Morocco has begun what it calls “clearing operations” to stop smuggling and other criminality. Reuters

Morocco and Mauritania’s Rocky Relations
Following a meeting of the government on August 18, Mohammed Lamine Oueld Cheikh, spokesman of the Mauritanian government, denied that there was any diplomatic tension with Morocco. While this statement can be understood as an attempt to defuse the tension between Morocco and Mauritania, the facts suggest otherwise. The unprecedented latent tension between Morocco and Mauritania has caught the attention of observers in recent years amid the almost total absence of channels of dialogue at the highest level. The latest sign of this discord emerged in recent months when Mauritania raised its flag in Lagouira last December. Because Lagouira is regarded as a symbol of Morocco’s full territorial integrity, this action marked an increase in tension between the two countries. Al Jazeera

Egypt Parliament Adopts Discriminatory Law on Churches
The Egyptian parliament on Tuesday adopted a law on regulating the construction of churches, despite opposition by some members of the Christian community which complains of discrimination. Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, have long struggled to obtain official permission to build places of worship. They find it especially difficult to erect churches south of Cairo, where even the rumour of Christians building one can spark mob violence. “The parliament adopted the bill presented by the government for the construction and restoration of churches by a two-thirds majority,” the parliament’s website reported. News 24

Meat for Mecca: Somaliland Exports Livestock for the Hajj
Every year, the breakaway republic of Somaliland, in east Africa, exports millions of livestock to Saudi Arabia to feed the millions of Muslim faithful making the pilgrimage to Mecca. From the hinterlands to the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, millions of sheep and goats are on the move in the small Horn of Africa republic. The animals are en route to Saudi Arabia for use as sacrificial offerings for millions of Muslims making the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj. The livestock trade to the Middle East accounts for 60 percent of Somaliland’s gross domestic product and 70 percent of its jobs. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones