Africa Media Review for September 15, 2016

A Looming Calamity in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo appears to be on a slow-motion path to tragedy. After 15 years in office, President Joseph Kabila will fulfill his term limits in November. Constitutionally, it will be time for a democratically elected successor to take his place. The United Nations, African Union, European Union, France, United Kingdom, and United States all support holding elections. Yet Kabila has avoided organizing them and instead seems intent on holding onto power indefinitely. The Congolese people are actively demonstrating to secure their right to elect a new head of state (see chart). These protests have at times been met by violence by security forces resulting in dozens of deaths and disappearances. Media outlets have been closed. Opposition candidates, journalists, and human rights advocates continue to face harassment, abuse, and unlawful detention. Kabila, moreover, has attempted to avert his departure by eroding the country’s legal checks and balances and denying the opposition from any platform from which they could challenge his authority. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Controversial Libyan General Promoted
Controversial Libyan General Khalifa Haftar was promoted to field marshal last night by parliamentarians in the east of the country. This comes days after his forces took over four oil fields in eastern Libya from a rival militia force allied to the UN-backed unity government in the capital, Tripoli. Field Marshal Haftar is one of the most powerful military figures in Libya and he refuses to recognise the authority of the Tripoli unity administration. He has cast himself as the main opponent of the Islamist militias and has the backing of the rival government in Tobruk. The BBC’s North Africa correspondent Rana Jawad says his promotion is likely to be viewed as a provocative move by the UN-backed authorities, diplomats and rival militia forces in the west of Libya. BBC

Khalifa Haftar Forces Seize Oil Port Brega in Libya
Forces opposed to Libya’s unity government have seized a fourth oil port, Brega, completing their takeover of vital installations in the North African country’s “oil crescent”, according to military sources. The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli is struggling to assert its authority and has faced staunch resistance from a rival administration based in Libya’s remote east. Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general, on Sunday launched an offensive on Libya’s “oil crescent” along the northern coast. Al Jazeera

Video: Oil Field Seizures by Renegade Libyan General Undermine Tripoli Government
The capture of all four export terminals in Libya’s so-called oil crescent by troops loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar threatens to undermine the internationally recognised government in Tripoli and has renewed fears of a new civil war. The seizure of the oil plants by Haftar’s men is a major blow to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, which is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues for its income. Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, leading to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group in the country, with little hope of a return to political and economic stability in the short term. France 24

UN Says South Sudan Arms Embargo Possible
The U.N. Security Council called on South Sudan to honor commitments to allow a regional protection force into the country and grant peacekeepers freedom of movement or face a possible arms embargo. New Zealand Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, whose country currently holds the rotating Security Council presidency, said Wednesday that council members were concerned by statements by certain members of the South Sudan government contradicting those commitments. “The members will assess next steps on the basis of actions not words and we expect the government to rapidly implement its commitments,” van Bohemen said. The council met with President Salva Kiir on Sept. 4 and emerged with a joint statement accepting the new U.N.-mandated force but the next day, Cabinet Minister Martin Elia Lomuro told reporters the government must still agree on the number of troops, the countries they come from and the arms they carry. AP on Stars and Stripes

US Threatens South Sudan Arms Embargo
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says her country will support an arms embargo on South Sudan if the government there continues to prevent peacekeepers from moving around freely to protect civilians. Samantha Power said Wednesday she hoped the U.N. would be able to achieve consensus on how to hold the government of South Sudan to the commitments it made during a recent visit by the Security Council. Power spoke to reporters ahead of a closed-door Security Council meeting to discuss the situation in the world’s youngest country that has been wracked by civil war for much of its short existence. She said the visit left council members feeling the situation was far worse than they had imagined. AP on Fox News

US Condemns Corruption in South Sudan
The United States on Wednesday accused South Sudan’s leaders of “pillaging government coffers,” as Washington endorsed a report on the corruption fuelling the country’s civil war. On Monday, Hollywood actor George Clooney and rights activist John Prendergast released detailed research on South Sudanese corruption compiled by their watchdog group The Sentry. Later, the pair met with President Barack Obama at the White House to share their concerns and on Wednesday the State Department endorsed the report and warned that Washington could take action. “The Department of State is pursuing measures it can take to deter corruption by South Sudanese officials,” its spokesperson Mark Toner said. News 24

S Sudan Paper Shut Down as It Headlines Govt Corruption
The South Sudan government has shut down the country’s main English-language daily, which headlined news on a war profiteering report commissioned by actor George Clooney, the paper’s editor told AFP on Wednesday. Nation Mirror editor Simon Aurelious said officials from the National Security Service gave no clear reason for the closure, simply saying “the paper is indulging in activities incompatible with its status”. “We were called today to the office of the National Security and after reaching there they showed us an order. The order is instructing us to close down,” Aurelious said. The paper’s headlines on Wednesday and Tuesday focused on a report released in Washington this week about the alleged implication of President Salva Kiir, rebel chief Riek Machar and the country’s army chiefs in corruption during the nation’s three-year civil war. News 24

South Sudan: Surviving on Goat Bones and Water Lilies
Tens of thousands of people in South Sudan are on the brink of starvation with many living in swamps and surviving on water lilies and goat bones. A hunger crisis affecting an estimated 4.8 million people could turn catastrophic unless humanitarian relief is urgently stepped up, Mercy Corps country director Deepmala Mahla warned. “The situation is dire,” she said. Mahla said the worst of the hunger is in the south of Unity State, where people have moved deep into swamp areas. “People have been surviving for weeks, maybe months, just eating water lilies. People are also cooking goat skin and bones because there is nothing else,” she said, adding about 40,000 people are at risk of dying unless swift action is taken. Al Jazeera

The Military Mammoth on Egypt’s Streets
[…] The Egyptian army was always an inseparable part of Egypt’s economy. Unofficial estimates suggest that it controls around 40 percent of it, with other estimates showing it responsible for 20 percent of the annual gross domestic product. A year ago, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said in an interview that the army controls only 2 percent of the Egyptian economy. It’s hard to relate to this figure seriously, with the army in charge of building neighborhoods and paving major highways, while controlling some 80 percent of the land, according to some estimates. There is hardly any branch of Egypt’s economy in which the department of national services at the Ministry of Defense is not involved. Since Sissi took over in 2013, he has significantly expanded the army’s involvement in the economy, granting it extensive-ranging licenses in communications, housing, water and civil administration, and particularly control over thousands of acres of government land for the purpose of building commercial centers. Haaretz

Uganda Sliding Towards ‘Electoral Dictatorship’ – Human Rights Watch
International rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), says Uganda is gradually sliding into a state where elections are held but to ensure that the same politicians remain in power. Their position comes on the back of the arrest of 25 women who gathered in the capital Kampala, to present a petition to the speaker of parliament. The petition was to oppose a proposed scrap on age limits for judges and term limits for top election officials. According to political watchers in the East African country, the current move is likely to result in scrapping term limits off the presidency. A situation that would allow incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to stay in power beyond 2021. Africa News

AU Plans to Send Observers to Gabon Election Appeal
The African Union says it plans to send observers to help Gabon’s Constitutional Court with a legal complaint lodged by opposition leader Jean Ping, who accuses President Ali Bongo of cheating to secure victory in an election last month. The dispute has led to riots that killed at least six people and brought unwelcome international scrutiny for Bongo, whose family has ruled the central African OPEC member for nearly 50 years. Ping, who officially lost by fewer than 6,000 votes, last week applied to the court to authorise a recount in the Haut-Ogooue province, Bongo’s stronghold, where the president won 95 percent of the votes on a 99.9 percent turnout. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union requested that its executive branch deploy observers from other French-speaking African countries “to assist the Constitutional Court of Gabon”, it said in a statement late on Tuesday. Reuters

Obama Lifts Economic Sanctions from Ivory Coast, Citing Progress
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday lifted economic sanctions that were placed on Ivory Coast more than 10 years ago during a civil war, citing a successful presidential election last year and progress on fighting illegal trafficking of natural resources. “Côte d’Ivoire has taken important steps to strengthen its governing and economic institutions and reconcile the differences that led to war,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. (Reporting by Roberta Rampto  Reuters

Boko Haram Releases New Video Without Embattled Leader Shekau
The jihadist group Boko Haram has released a new video without its embattled leader Abubakar Shekau, lending weight to claims by the Nigerian army he had been gravely wounded in an air strike. The 13-minute video posted on YouTube late Tuesday shows an unidentified man in a flowing white robe and a sword dangling by his side presiding over Eid prayers in a mosque. Hundreds of poorly fed villagers and children, who are apparently Boko Haram supporters, are seen in the video filmed on Monday. The man says he is representing Shekau, who had allegedly been ousted by the Islamic State to which Boko Haram pledged allegiance in March 2015. France 24

How Boko Haram is Keeping Polio Alive in Nigeria
Nigeria has to get rid of polio — again. Last year, the World Health Organization declared the country to be “polio-free.” That milestone meant the disease was gone from the entire continent of Africa, a major triumph in the multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate the disease. But that declaration of “polio-free” turned out to be premature. Three new cases of polio have been confirmed in areas liberated from Boko Haram militants, prompting health officials to launch a massive campaign to vaccinate millions of children across four countries in West and Central Africa. Before the cases were found, the world appeared extremely close to making polio the second human disease after smallpox to be eradicated. There had been fewer than two dozen polio cases in 2016, clustered in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  NPR

Former Nigerian 1st Lady Claims Frozen Accounts Worth $31.5m
Former Nigerian first lady Patience Jonathan is claiming ownership of bank accounts allegedly worth $31.5 million that have been frozen in a corruption investigation, prompting anti-corruption groups to demand her prosecution. The wife of former president Goodluck Jonathan filed suit asking the Federal High Court in Lagos to unfreeze five US dollar accounts at Nigeria’s Skye Bank. They were frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in July. Separately, her lawyer sent a letter to the commission saying $15 million of the money was a government payment for medical bills she incurred in London in 2013. News 24

Who Could Be Zimbabwe’s Next President?
At 92, Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for longer than most Zimbabweans have been alive, taking office in 1980 after a brutal war and negotiated peace deal. In his early years in power, Mugabe was hailed as a visionary leader who reconciled with former colonial rulers and promoted one of the most impressive education systems on the continent. But he has since presided over an economic meltdown, violent suppression of dissent, and a regime frequently accused of corruption, and suppressing human rights.  CNN

UN Extends Liberia Peacekeeping Mission
The U.N. Security Council has extended its peacekeeping mission in Liberia for three more months. The council voted unanimously on Wednesday to extend the mission while reaffirming its readiness to consider withdrawing pending a proposed review of the situation in mid-November. In June, Liberia assumed responsibility for its security for the first time since civil war ended in the West African country 13 years ago, leaving behind a reduced U.N. force of about 1,200 troops in a supporting role. The peacekeeping force was deployed in 2003 to help stabilize Liberia after a four-year civil war. That conflict and a previous civil war are said to have killed more than 250,000. AP on Stars and Stripes

Hearing: Eritrea: A Neglected Regional Threat (video)
The Honorable Linda Thomas–Greenfield Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs U.S. Department of State. Father Habtu Ghebre-Ab Director of External Relations Canonical Eritrean Orthodox Church in Diaspora. Khaled Beshir, Ph.D. Board Member Awate Foundation. Ms. Bronwyn Bruton Deputy Director Africa Center Atlantic Council. House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Middle East’s Leaders Cross the Red Sea to Woo East Africa
For Nairobi’s commuters, summer has brought more woes than usual. Along with the demonstrations, road accidents and downpours that frequently cause gridlock in Kenya’s capital, there has been an almost weekly shutdown as foreign VIPs fly in. “Of course people are annoyed … but some rather like it. We are getting the feeling that we are finally returning to centre stage,” said Charles Onyango-Obbo, a publisher and journalist. Many of the visitors have been from the US, China and other nations long seen as players in the region, but an increasing number are from the Middle East, their visits underlining a dramatic twist in the centuries-old battle between foreign powers for influence, trade, resources and military assets in a strategically sensitive part of the world. In five weeks over June and July, Kenya received Iranian ministers, delegations from Gulf monarchies and the leaders of both Turkey and Israel. Other states in east Africa have seen a similar flow of high-level officials. The Guardian

Central African Republic: Inside the Cholera Epidemic
The little mud house is surrounded by four fresh graves. Actually, they can hardly be called graves. They are just mounds of earth, hastily built when the family members started dying of a then unknown disease. […] “Cholera is also commonly called ‘the dirty hands disease’,” says Mohamed Malick Fall, Unicef CAR Representative. “With our partners, we are doing everything we can to provide clean water to the population, and we also have to educate them: cholera can be prevented by using clean water, but also by washing hands with soap.” Partner NGOs have deployed social mobilisers to the village; they use drawings and pictures to explain that cholera is not a curse, not an act of witchcraft, but a preventable disease. Daily Maverick

How Much Does It Cost for Somalia to Ban Khat for a Week? Millions.
Every day, Kenyan and Ethiopian farmers pick a huge amount of fresh khat leaves — the herbal stimulant chewed to achieve a high similar to the effects of amphetamines and sell it to traders who package it up and send it off to Somalia by truck and plane. According to anti-khat campaigners, the drug trade in Kenya brings in upwards of $400,000 a day, thanks to healthy demand for khat in Somalia, where it is legal to chew the leaves but not to grow them. Some 15 cargo planes full of khat arrive in Somalia each day, where the leaves, which are also known as miraa, are promptly sold before they lose their potency after around 24 hours. That means that the thousands of Kenyans who participate in the trade collectively lost millions of dollars when Somalia abruptly banned the trade last week, ahead of a regional meeting of African leaders in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Foreign Policy

Where African Countries Stand in Pursuit of a Visa-free Continent
You have just finalised your travel plans: Done your budget, reserved the tickets and accommodation and confirmed your passport is up to date. Then it hits you: You don’t have any information on a visa for the African country you are visiting. You assume it will be easy to get a visa as everything has been taken care of. But should you? Have you been to the embassy, filled out the forms, paid the fee and waited for the visa to be processed? Take visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo or Nigeria, for instance. If you have journalist under “Occupation,” you must get a written approval from the Ministry of Information in Kinshasa or Abuja, before the embassy in Nairobi issues you with a visa. This will cost you $200, on top of the $50 visa fee. The East African

A Solar Project Worth Watching in Morocco
The rugged landscape around Ouarzazate, a city in south-central Morocco on the edge of the vast Sahara, is known to some as a filming location for movies such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and television shows like “Game of Thrones.” Now, the sparsely populated area is getting attention for something else: solar power. The first phase of a $9 billion solar-power project that has been under construction since 2013 opened earlier this year, making use of vast arrays of mirrors, rather than the more widely used photovoltaic panels, to produce electricity from sunlight. When it is finished in 2018, the Noor Solar Power station will cover more than 5,000 acres and have a generating capacity of 580 megawatts, enough to meet the electricity needs of 1.1 million Moroccans, according to the World Bank, which is helping to fund the project. It will be one of the largest solar power plants in the world, rivaling BHE Renewables Solar Star project in Southern California, which claims a capacity of 586 megawatts. The Wall Street Journal



Photo: Adam Jones