Africa Media Review for September 15, 2017

EU: Spot Checks Show Confusion, Not Conspiracy in Kenyan Election
Observers found some technical problems but no evidence of vote-rigging in Kenya’s presidential election last month, the European Union said on Thursday, based on random checks of tallies from polling stations. The finding was announced as Kenya gears up for a re-run of the contest between President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga on Oct. 17, after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s victory citing irregularities in the tallying process. Credible elections would boost Kenya’s role as East Africa’s richest economy and a stable Western ally in a region roiled by conflict. But problems with the vote could spark unrest: 1,200 people died in violence after a disputed 2007 election. Reuters

At Least 32 Killed in Ethiopia’s Oromia, Somali Regions
At least 32 people have been killed in clashes across Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions following clashes between rival ethnic Somali and Oromo forces, a former Ethiopian lawmaker said. Speaking to VOA Somali Service, Boqor Ali Omar Allale said at least 32 ethnic Somalis, including his younger brother, were killed on Monday night in Awaday, a small town between Ethiopia’s most holy Muslim town of Harar and its big eastern city of Dire Dawa. “They were innocent business people sleeping with their children and spouses. They were attacked in their homes and most of them beheaded. Based on the number of burial spaces arranged, we have at least 32 deaths, including my younger” brother, Allale told VOA Somali from Jigjiga, the capital city of the Somali region of Ethiopia. VOA

UN Warns South Sudan against Holding Elections before War Ends
South Sudan should delay elections until the almost four-year civil war ends, the United Nations mission head said, about two weeks after the government indicated it may go ahead with a vote in 2018. “It’s important that we work through the peace process so that we have good conditions on the ground to enable elections to go ahead that can be seen to be free and fair and people can have confidence in them,” David Shearer, who leads the UN mission in the African country, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Juba. The conflict in the oil-producing nation has claimed tens of thousands of lives since December 2013, with fighters loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar both accused of atrocities. A transitional government formed in April 2016 was thrown into turmoil just weeks later, when Machar and his forces were driven from Juba in further violence. Machar was replaced as vice president and Kiir’s government says the peace deal is still being implemented even as fighting has spread to the southern Equatoria region. Bloomberg

UN to Discuss South Sudan Humanitarian Crisis
The United Nations will hold a meeting on the growing humanitarian situation in war-torn South Sudan, official said. The Special Representative of UN Secretary-General to South Sudan, Mr David Shearer, said in a statement on Thursday that the September 20 meeting would assess the current humanitarian situation. The objective of the meeting, the statement explained, was to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and to mobilise international support to mitigate it. A recent report by the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs said the number of people displaced in South Sudan rose to nearly four million during the first half of this year. The East African

Nigeria Announces $5.8 Billion Deal for Record-Breaking Power Project
The government of Nigeria has announced the award of a $5.8 billion contract to build what will be the largest power plant in the country. The 3,050-megawatt Mambila hydroelectric power project in the state of Taraba will be delivered by a consortium of Chinese state-owned construction firms. The megaproject will feature four dams between 50 and 150 meters tall, and take six years to complete, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, told reporters in Abuja. The Chinese Export-Import Bank will finance 85% of the development, with the Nigerian government contributing 15%. Minister Fashola claimed the project will deliver far-reaching benefits. CNN

Boko Haram Defies Buhari with Attacks in Northeast Nigeria
Ten months after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a victory over Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group is stepping up attacks in the far northeast of the country. Boko Haram militants deployed at least 80 children as “human bombs” this year, Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said on Tuesday in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the group’s birthplace. The most spectacular attack occurred in July when the Islamist fighters targeted a state oil company research team, killing 48 people and seizing several hostages. “This is a kind of pattern that’s unlikely to change very much for months to come,” Malte Liewerscheidt, Nigeria analyst at London-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said by phone. “It’s a constant thorn in Buhari’s flesh in the sense that one of his key promises when he was campaigning was that he’d deal with this problem.”  Bloomberg

In the Weeds: How Top Official Got Tangled in Nigerian Aid Scandal
When millions of people in northeast Nigeria faced hunger and attacks by Islamist militant group Boko Haram in March 2016, the government acted: it decided to spend $1.4 million cutting down weeds around the village of Wachakal in order to stop flooding. Six months later, many of the weeds had grown back and 317 million naira (at the time $1.04 million) had been transferred from the company hired to destroy them to a firm founded by the government official in charge of dispensing aid, according to a Nigerian Senate report. The report, written by a committee of lawmakers from Nigeria’s upper chamber of parliament, concluded that companies that received contracts for projects including the weeding from a government body overseen by the official, Babachir Lawal, transferred a total of 500 million naira (worth around $2.2 million) to the firm he set up. Reuters

DR Congo: President’s Allies Reject Transition Proposal
Rebuffing an opposition proposal, allies of Democratic Republic of Congo’s president said Thursday that he must be part of a transition up to the country’s long-delayed elections. “Joseph Kabila has to be part of the transition. He complies with the provisions of the Constitution and the Dec. 31, 2016 agreement for elections in the DRC,” said Andre Alain Atundu Liongo, spokesman for Alliance of the Presidential Majority, a group supporting Kabila, in a statement. This July opposition coalition leader Felix Tshisekedi said that if the elections are not held in December 2017 as agreed to in an agreement last New Year’s Eve, that there should be a six-month transition without Kabila. Although elections are supposed to take place before end of this year, as agreed to by the opposition and government, the electoral commission and government have occasionally warned that due to unavoidable reasons, elections might not be held at the end of this year. Anadolu Agency

EU Sticks to Libya Strategy on Migrants, despite Human Rights Concerns
The European Union is determined to go on preventing migrants setting off from the coast of Libya, interior ministers said on Thursday, despite criticism from rights advocates who say the strategy is aggravating human suffering. After more than two years struggling to stem the flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the EU is now showing signs of optimism that it is finally in control. A 2016 deal with Turkey effectively closed one major migratory route and this year Italy has led the EU’s efforts to curb sea crossings from Libya, supplying money, equipment and training for Libya’s border and coast guard, and striking deals with local groups in control on the ground in a country still largely lawless after the 2011 death of Muammar Gaddafi. Mediterranean crossings have dropped from nearly 28,000 people in June to below 10,000 in August, according to U.N. data. Sources told Reuters late last month a new armed group on Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving. Reuters

SADC to Hold a Double Troika in Pretoria
The Southern African Development Community, SADC, will convene a Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Friday. This comes after recent political and security developments in Lesotho. President Jacob Zuma will chair the summit. Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, says numerous attempts have been made to halt the political instability in the country ahead of the summit. “My coalition government partners and myself have sat, looked back at what has been the source of political conflict in our country… To rescue Lesotho from the downward spiral of lawlessness, conflict, political instability and the stagnation and degradation of democracy.” Despite this, the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt General Motsomotso was assassinated and three other officers killed, creating cause for concern for the region and especially Lesotho Nationals. SABC

Gabon Weighs Amnesty for 400 Jailed after Disputed 2016 Vote
Gabon is weighing amnesty for about 400 prisoners who were jailed for their role in the violence that followed last year’s disputed presidential vote, according to Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet. President Ali Bongo asked the Gabonese government to “consider an amnesty law,” Issoze-Ngondet told reporters on Wednesday in the capital, Libreville. A commission will be set up to review the merits of every case, he said. Violence erupted a year ago in the central African nation after the announcement that Bongo narrowly won a second seven-year term against opposition leader Jean Ping in the closest election in the nation’s history. Protesters burned down shops and the parliament building. The government said seven people died in the unrest while the opposition claimed that security forces killed more than 50 of its supporters. Bloomberg

Group: UN Mishandling Central African Republic Abuse Claims
Leaked case files show “egregious mishandling” of sexual misconduct allegations against U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic, according to a watchdog group that said it had obtained the reports. It is the latest criticism of how sexual abuse has been investigated in Central African Republic, where the U.N. peacekeeping mission had the highest number of misconduct allegations in the world last year. The 14 cases cited by the Code Blue campaign were investigated last year in order to determine whether the allegations could be substantiated. But the group said that in eight of the cases, the alleged victims were not even interviewed. If allegations are found to be credible, it is the responsibility of the alleged perpetrators’ home countries to prosecute them. AP

Mugabe Announces Appointment of Controversial Wife Grace to a Key Post
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has announced the appointment of his controversial wife Grace to a key post within his ruling Zanu-PF party in a move seen by critics as a way of positioning her to a role that would influence the First Family’s wishes in the electoral process. Mugabe named his wife to a key committee that would be responsible for overseeing the running of general elections in 2018. The five-member committee, named the Elections Directorate, will be chaired by Local Government minister Savior Kasukuwere while other members are finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and Zanu PF Youth League secretary Kudzanai Chipanga. All five were linked to a Zanu-PF faction calling itself “Generation 40” that is made up of young Turks and backing Grace to torpedo Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions. Mnangagwa was linked to a faction calling itself “Team Lacoste” that is angling to take over power when Mugabe eventually leaves office. News 24

Tunisia Ends Ban on Muslim Women Marrying Non-Muslims
Tunisia has abolished a decades-old ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslims, the presidency said Thursday. “Congratulations to the women of Tunisia for the enshrinement of the right to the freedom to choose one’s spouse,” presidency spokeswoman Saida Garrach wrote on Facebook. The announcement comes a month after President Beji Caid Essebsi called for the government to scrap the ban dating back to 1973. Until now a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof. France 24

Egyptian, Russian Troops Start Military Exercise
Egyptian and Russian troops started on Thursday a military exercise as part of their mutual military cooperation, state-run MENA news agency reported. As many as 600 fighters participate in the joint drill, dubbed Protectors of Friendship 2, to implement several missions, including troops deployment, joint paratroop operations and military maneuvers to restore control on vital posts and purge it from terrorist elements. The drill targets finding out the tactical characteristics of the weapons, equipment and mechanisms of command and control as well as gaining necessary field skills and tactics used by both sides in implementing various tasks, according to MENA. The Egyptian-Russian war games fall within the two countries’ keenness to boost strategic cooperation ties between their armed forces in many fields. Xinhua

US Museum ‘Storing Remains of Namibian Genocide Victims’
The remains of victims of concentration camps in Namibia which were gathered by a German racialist scientist for use in experiments have been found in the collection of a major US museum, campaigners claim. Representatives of the Herero and Namaqua peoples of Namibia say skulls and skeletons dating to the German occupation of south-west Africa in the decades before the first world war are being held by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Barnabas Veraa Katuuo of the Association of the Ovaherero Genocide said two of the eight human remains in the museum identified as from Namibia were probably those of people who died in concentration camps during an attempt by the German authorities to crush a rebellion by the Herero and Namaqua between 1904 and 1908. The Guardian

The Foreign Invader Costing African Farmers $3 Billion
My brother is a Zimbabwean farmer who has done pretty well for himself, but is now a worried man. Last season he lost a significant amount of his maize crop to a single, voracious pest, and he fears for the worst when the new growing season begins in November. Fall armyworm, or FAW, is new to Africa but has made an immediate impact. The caterpillar, originally from Latin America, was first detected in Nigeria in January 2016. By January 2017 it had reached South Africa – spreading officially to 24 countries within a year on a lightening journey down the continent. It’s a ravenous feeder, with an appetite for more than 80 plant species – including maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, millet, and cotton. If left untreated, it can cause crop losses of up to 50 percent, munching its way through a hectare within 72 hours. IRIN

‘They Should Be Much Bigger’: The Heavy Toll of Hunger on Madagascar’s Children
The children of Ambohijafy, a rural village among the green valleys and sloping hills of Madagascar’s fertile central highlands, are among the poorest in the world. Yet kids in this village of thatched mud huts dream of rising above their circumstances. Rakotonirina, a solemn 10-year-old whose father is a fisherman, loves to read books and wants to be a schoolteacher. Twins Rosel and Michel Roland, seven, don’t want to follow their father into farming. One would like to be a soldier, while the other talks of being a doctor. But half of Madagascar’s children are so chronically malnourished they grow up too small for their age, a condition known as stunting. The odds against these children making it to secondary school, let alone managing an intellectually or physically challenging job, are vertiginous. Research shows that if a child is stunted by the age of two, the damage to their young minds and bodies is virtually irreversible. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones