Africa Media Review for September 13, 2017

Ugandan Lawmakers Vote to Remove Presidential Age Limit
Members of Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement Tuesday voted unanimously in favour of a motion seeking to amend the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit. The move is seen as a significant step towards securing a free run for President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election in 2021. President Museveni, 72, is barred by the current Constitutional from vying again as he will have surpassed the 75-year mark by the next election. The lawmakers’ move is a significant step for a thinly-veiled process that has been playing out in the open without official endorsement. The East African

Togo Postpones Parliament Session on Reforming Constitution
Togo’s parliament suspended its session Tuesday as opposition members protested the lack of a promised discussion of constitutional reforms, while anger grew over the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family. Opposition lawmakers want a discussion on reinstating the country’s 1992 constitution, which included presidential term limits and two rounds of voting to allow the opposition to reassemble behind one candidate. Thousands of people across the small West African nation have been demonstrating for term limits on President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since his father died in 2005. The protests began last month, when security forces killed at least two people and injured several others. The government last week introduced a draft bill on constitutional reform in parliament in an effort to contain the growing anti-government protests that have seen police fire tear gas at a peaceful sit-in as opposition members called for Gnassingbe’s resignation. VOA

US Issues Visa Restrictions to Eritrea, Guinea
The United States will stop issuing certain visas to Eritrean nationals and Guinean officials as of Wednesday, the embassies in those countries announced Tuesday. The new restrictions are aimed at four Asian and African nations that have refused to take back citizens who’ve been deported. Under federal law, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can stop all or specific types of visas from being issued to such nations. The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said in a statement that it will stop issuing business and tourism visas to Eritrean nationals, with “limited exceptions.” Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment. The East African nation is a major source of migrants who say they are fleeing a system of forced military conscription that repeatedly has been criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups. VOA

Central African Republic Defense Minister Sacked amid Growing Violence
Central African Republic president Faustin-Archange Touadera sacked his defence minister on Tuesday evening, according to a state radio broadcast, amid growing violence that threatens to spin the country out of control. The dismissal of Levy Yakete, who was blacklisted by a United Nations Security Council committee in 2014 for his role in a bloody 2013 civil war, was part of a wider Cabinet reshuffle. The statement did not say if his dismissal was related directly to growing violence. Thousands have died and a fifth of Central Africans have fled a conflict that broke out after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias. Although unrest has since subsided, fighting has spiked this year and the United Nations warned this month that ethnic fighting could descend again into a much larger conflict if combatants are not disarmed. Reuters

Kenyan Opposition MPs Boycott Uhuru Kenyatta’s Speech
Opposition MPs in Kenya have boycotted the opening of the new parliament to protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to address it after a court annulled his election win. They say that parliament should not have been convened until after the election re-run slated for 17 October. The MPs instead joined opposition leader Raila Odinga for a campaign rally in the capital, Nairobi. Mr Kenyatta said he still had the power to convene parliament. “The set term of a president is embedded until a new one is sworn in as per the constitution,” he told lawmakers. “I want to assure every Kenyan and the world that every arm of government is in place and operational,” he added. BBC

Observers under Fire for ‘Rubber Stamping’ Kenya Vote
Accused of glossing over flaws in Kenya’s election which later caused the result to be overturned, international observers are under a harsh spotlight ahead of a re-run next month. The August 8 poll, which saw President Uhuru Kenyatta reelected, was annulled by Kenya’s Supreme Court earlier this month on grounds of “irregularities and illegalities”, notably in the transmission of election results. The shock decision put foreign observers in a particularly difficult position, accused by Kenya’s opposition and many media outlets of being too quick to declare the elections were “free and fair” in a preference for the status quo over democracy. But observers themselves — and some analysts — told AFP this characterisation was unfair, saying enthusiastic praise for part of the electoral process was mistaken for endorsement of the whole. AFP

War-Ravaged South Sudan May Scrap Expensive Oil Subsidies
War-ravaged South Sudan is considering scrapping state subsidies on oil because it hasn’t been able to pay civil servants for four months and diplomatic staff abroad are being evicted over unpaid rent, the deputy finance minister said. Ending the subsidies would free up desperately needed cash, Mou Ambrose Thiik told Reuters in an interview. Nearly four years of civil war have destroyed South Sudan’s economy. Inflation was at 165 percent in August, the 21st consecutive month of triple-digit growth. The government depends on oil revenues, but attacks have slashed production to less than a third of pre-war levels. The government expects to receive $820 million from oil this year. Out of that, $453 million will go to neighboring Sudan as payment for using its infrastructure for export; $183 million on the oil subsidy; and $166 million is allocated to the budget, which has a gaping deficit. Reuters

UNHCR Steps up Efforts towards Alternatives to Detention in Libya and Solutions for Vulnerable Refugees
Libya remains one of the most complex mixed migration situations in the world, with refugees traveling alongside migrants through perilous routes, surviving dangerous desert crossings and abuses that include sexual violence, torture, detention in inhumane conditions and abductions for ransom. All this before they even embark on the deadly Central Mediterranean sea crossing, where the risk of dying is one in 39. Libya is also in the middle of a conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. While irregular mixed migration movements may represent challenges for states, detention is not the answer. As a refugee protection agency, UNHCR is opposed to the routine detention of refugees and displaced persons and has been very outspoken, including at the highest level, on the appalling conditions in which refugees and migrants are being held in Libya’s detention centres. During a recent visit to Tripoli, for example, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi met refugees and migrants in detention centres and expressed his “shock at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants are held”, adding that no refugees or asylum seekers should be detained. UNHCR

Somali Army Repels Al Shabaab after Attack, at Least 17 Killed
Somali government forces have regained control of a town on the border with Kenya after al Shabaab militants stormed an army base there on Monday, causing heavy clashes in which at least 17 people died, the military said. Islamist insurgents attacked the base at Balad Hawo early in the morning with a car suicide bombing before entering the compound, both sides said. “We were awoken by a suicide car bomb this morning and then fierce battle followed,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi told Reuters from the town. “We chased al Shabaab out of the town,” he said. Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group’s fighters left the town after releasing 35 prisoners from the local jail. At least 30 soldiers were killed, he said. Reuters

Strong Zuma Supporters Are on Ex-Wife’s Leadership Ticket
Strong supporters of South African President Jacob Zuma are on a provisional list of people who would run for the top positions at the African National Congress’s leadership conference in December on the ticket of his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, according to two people familiar with the matter. A proposed list drawn up at a meeting late Monday includes David Mabuza, the premier of Mpumalanga province, as the choice of ANC deputy president, and Ace Magashule, the head of Free State province, as the party secretary-general, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Jessie Duarte is listed as a candidate for her current position, deputy secretary-general, along with Andile Lungisa, a former ANC youth league deputy president. Dlamini-Zuma, the 68-year-old former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, is a front-runner for the position of ANC president along with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Bloomberg

Report: Egypt Cuts Military Ties with North Korea
Egypt’s defense minister, on a visit to Seoul, announced that his country has cut military ties with North Korea, according to a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. There was no immediate confirmation from the Egyptian government of the agency’s report, but Cairo has come under mounting pressure in recent weeks to sever ties with North Korea as the United States seek to curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop long-range nuclear weapons. Last month Washington cut or delayed nearly $300 million in aid to Egypt over its human rights record and its ties with Pyongyang. In an Aug. 24 briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the Trump administration has had conversations with Egypt about the need to isolate North Korea. AP

Arrests, Long Detentions Mar Efforts to Win over Boko Haram Defectors
Over the last six years, people persuaded by the militant group Boko Haram to sacrifice their lives have killed thousands of civilians in markets, schools and other public places across northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries. In response, the Nigerian government has acknowledged the need to encourage defections and deradicalize former Boko Haram members. The government says it is working with defectors at camps in the northeast, with the aim of reintegrating them into society. But human rights groups question the effectiveness of the efforts, which they say amount to little more than indefinite detention in squalid conditions. VOA

DRC Begins Registering Voters in Turbulent Kasai Provinces
Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission says it has started voter registration in the turbulent Kasai provinces where thousands have been killed in fighting in the past year. Commission spokesperson Jean-Pierre Kalamba said on Tuesday that the delay in registration means a presidential election will not be possible this year. That defies an agreement reached earlier with the opposition to hold the vote in 2017. Voters elsewhere in DRC already have begun registration for the election that was meant to take place last November. The opposition has accused President Joseph Kabila of delaying the vote to stay in power. AP

Fears over Zimbabwe Plan for New Cyber Laws
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has opened parliament for the final time before he seeks re-election next year. Before the next vote, members of his ruling party are hoping to introduce a law to increase cyber security. Mugabe’s opponents and human rights groups fear it will be used to restrict freedom of speech. Al Jazeera

Djibouti Opposition Leader Ahmed Youssouf Houmed Dies in France
The leader of the Djibouti opposition coalition USN, Ahmed Youssouf Houmed died in France on Sunday at the age of 79. The Union for National Salvation (USN) party announced on Tuesday that he died in the western French town of Quimper where he was undergoing medical treatment. Party representative Maki Houbed-Gaba said Youssouf Houmed, who has been in France since August was suffering from cerebral hemorrhage, AFP reports. He was buried on Tuesday morning at the Muslim section of the cemetery in Quimper, Houbed-Gaba added. Africa News

Return of ‘Mr Dirty Work’ Spurs Questions in Algeria
Five years after being removed from the post, three-time Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia is making a surprising comeback. Last month, Ouyahia, nicknamed “Mr Dirty Work” by the Algerian public, was recalled to replace Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who served as housing minister before his surprise appointment as prime minister this past spring. Ouyahia served as prime minister of Algeria on three separate, previous occasions between 1995 and 2012. Although the president’s office has yet to comment on the latest reshuffle, analysts say it is likely a result of Tebboune’s campaign against corruption and corporate influence in politics. Al Jazeera

Switzerland Widens Investigation into Gunvor Congo Republic Deal
Switzerland’s attorney general has widened a bribery investigation into a former employee of commodities trader Gunvor Group in the Republic of Congo to include the company itself, Gunvor said in a statement on Monday. Gunvor said the investigation was expanded to “examine possible organizational shortcomings exploited by the ex-employee to perpetrate alleged acts of bribery of foreign officials”. The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement it has sought assistance from a number of countries and told Gunvor it is under formal investigation. Gunvor said the investigation would include its Swiss entity, Gunvor SA, as well as the Geneva branch of its Netherlands-registered Gunvor International BV. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones