Africa Media Review for September 18, 2017

Constitutional Term Limits for African Leaders
African leaders’ adherence to constitutional term limits is a key component of institutionalizing predictable norms of democratic succession. Progress toward establishing this norm has been mixed, however. While a number of African countries have succeeded in upholding term limits over the past two decades, leaders in more than 20 countries effectively do not face restrictions on their time in power. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

DR Congo Forces Kill at Least 36 Burundi Refugees
Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have killed at least 36 Burundian refugees during clashes over plans to send some of them home. Maman Sidikou, the head of MONUSCO, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, said in a statement on Saturday that at least 36 refugees had been reported killed and more than 100 injured. He called for a swift investigation and urged Congo’s security forces to use force as a last resort only. Josue Boji, a Democratic Republic of Congo interior ministry official, said troops had tried to disperse the refugees by “firing in the air, but were overwhelmed” when the group responded by throwing stones during Friday’s confrontation. Police and soldiers opened fire as the refugees protested over the resettlement plan and tried to free some of their arrested compatriots in the town of Kamanyola in eastern Congo, sources told the Reuters news agency.  Al Jazeera

UN Seeks More Peacekeepers for Central African Republic
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic is requesting about 750 more troops to help fill a “security vacuum” worsened by the withdrawal of US special forces as violence surges again, according to a confidential cable obtained by The Associated Press. The additional troops are needed in the southeast after the withdrawal this year of U.S. and Ugandan troops hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, according to the message from mission head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga to the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations in New York. Hundreds of people have been killed since May and more than half a million people have been displaced as largely sectarian violence moves into parts of Central African Republic that were spared the worst of the fighting that began in 2013. International observers warn that the country is approaching the levels of violence seen at the height of the conflict in 2014. AP

Half-Million People Flee Central African Republic’s Violence
The U.N. refugee agency says Central African Republic is seeing the highest number of people fleeing deadly violence since the beginning of the country’s conflict four years ago. The agency told reporters in Geneva on Friday that more than half a million people have fled the impoverished country as violence surges to levels similar to those at the height of the fighting in 2014. Another 600,000 people are displaced inside the country. Hundreds of people have been killed since largely sectarian fighting erupted in May in areas that previously had been spared. Thousands of Muslims have been sheltering in churches in some areas, while others in Central African Republic have reported rapes and killings. AP

Egypt Court Upholds Life Sentence for Mursi in Qatar Case
A top court has upheld a life sentence against Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Mursi on charges stemming from a trial over spying for Qatar, a judicial official and his lawyer said. The court of cassation upheld a life sentence first passed in June 2016 on the charge of leading an illegal group but threw out a 15-year sentence on the charge of having stolen secret documents, said his lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud. A life sentence in Egypt amounts to 25 years in prison, and the court’s rulings cannot be appealed. Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was overthrown by the military in July 2013 following mass protests against his one-year rule. AFP

Rwanda Genocide: France Keeps 1990s Archives Secret
France’s top constitutional authority says presidential archives on Rwanda should remain secret, thwarting a genocide researcher. In 1994 France backed Rwanda’s ethnic Hutu leaders at the time of the genocide by Hutu militias. Some 800,000 people – mostly Tutsis – were killed. The Constitutional Council says a 25-year block on ex-president François Mitterrand’s documents is legitimate. A researcher, François Graner, had sought permission to study them. He argued that the rule keeping many government documents under wraps violated the public right of access to official archives – a right dating back to the 1789 French Revolution. He said he is prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. BBC

ECOWAS’ Mediation Headache: The Gambia unlike Togo
The west African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appears to have been or has been the most vibrant political bloc from late 2016 to early 2017. Then led by outgoing Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the body played an active role in averting a political crisis in the Gambia. A post-election dispute involving longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh had put the country on edge. With a looming security and humanitarian crisis, Sirleaf along with a number of African leaders moved in – twice meeting with Jammeh in Banjul before ECOWAS met in Abuja to make firm pronouncements on respecting the will of the Gambian people…. The Togolese president who is at the receiving end of the protests, Faure Gnassingbe, was in July elected Chairman of the bloc – a rotating position. In effect, the man supposed to call for ‘mediation’ and or ‘intervention’ as did Sirleaf in the case of the Gambia, is the one having to sort himself out. The United Nations office in West Africa and the Sahel, has meanwhile, met with President Gnassingbe. Africa News

Africa’s Ties to North Korea Extend beyond Isolated Military Deals
As the U.N. investigates at least seven African countries for possible violations of United Nations sanctions on North Korea, many other countries across the continent have, in recent years, deepened their economic ties to the reclusive Asian regime. From 2000 to 2015, exports from North Korea to Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Zambia increased by an average annual growth rate of 1.58 percent. Imports from Benin, Senegal and Mozambique saw an average annual growth rate of 1.84 percent during the same period. Across Africa, goods traded with North Korea span an array of sectors and amount to more than $100 million annually. VOA

Al-Shabaab Kills 4 Soldiers in Central Somalia
At least four soldiers were killed and three others injured early Sunday when al-Shabaab militants attacked an army checkpoint in central Somalia, according to a police official. Hiiran Police Commander Col. Issak Ali Abdulle said the attack occurred in Kalabayr, a strategic road junction some 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) away from Beledweyne town and about 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from Fer-Fer, a town at the border between Ethiopia and Somalia. Al-Shabaab claimed it killed six troops in the attack. The injured soldiers were taken to Beledweyne town for treatment, the police commander added. Since last week, al-Shabaab has briefly overrun army checkpoints in Bulagudud, Beled-Hawo, El-wak and Kalabayr. Anadolu Agency

Nine Killed in Fighting between Different Branches of Somali Government Forces -Police
Fighting between the military and police backed by intelligence forces killed nine people in the Somali capital on Saturday, police said. “It seems they mistook the Somali national army for (clan) militias. The death toll is nine people including a civilian,” Major Abdullahi Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters. He said the fighting occurred because police were wrongly informed that there were armed militias in the area. “Accidents happen,” he said. Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator then turned against each other. Reuters

Ethiopia: 55,000 People Displaced amid Ethnic Clashes
More than 55,000 ethnic Oromos have been displaced from Ethiopia’s Somali region after a week of clashes with Somalis in which dozens were killed, the regional government of Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region said on Sunday. The statement from the Oromia government follows claims by Somali regional officials earlier this week that more than 50 people were killed in an attack against ethnic Somalis in Aweday town. “More than 55,000 Oromos were displaced from the Somali region after the recent incident and are now sheltered in makeshift camps,” Addisu Arega, Oromia region’s spokesman, said in the statement. “Overall, some 416,807 Oromos have been displaced this year alone in fear of attacks by the Somali region’s Special Police Force.” Oromia officials say only 18 people were killed and that Oromos have been moving out of Somali towns and villages in fear of reprisals. AP

Italy, Going It Alone, Stalls the Flow of Migrants. But at What Cost?
As they scrambled to curb the flow of migrants, Europe’s leaders wrestled with a vexing question: How to stop the ruthless Libyan militias that control the human-trafficking trade from dispatching countless boats across the Mediterranean? Now Italy, after striking out on its own, appears to have found a solution — one that, though wildly successful for the moment, is provoking questions about its methods and the humanitarian costs. Arrivals of migrants in Italy have plunged in recent months. In August alone, they fell 85 percent, leading some to charge that Italy was paying off Libya’s most rapacious warlords at the risk of further destabilizing the fractured North African country, while condemning migrants to misery. Human rights activists liken the grimy conditions at militant-run detention centers inside Libya to concentration camps, while the top United Nations human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, recently warned that the Italian-led tactics were “very thin on the protection of the human rights of migrants inside Libya and on the boats.”  The New York Times

IOM: Refugees Dying at Quicker Rate in Mediterranean
Refugees and migrants are dying in the Mediterranean at a quicker rate than last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported, as rights groups raise alarm over abusive conditions in Libya – now the main country of departure. While fewer refugees have drowned so far in 2017 compared with the same period a year ago, the number of arrivals has fallen drastically – meaning that those who do set off from the Libyan coast have a greater chance of dying. At least 2,550 refugees and migrants died from January 1 to September 13, 2017, compared with 3,262 from the same period in 2016, the IOM said – a drop of 22 percent. However, arrivals to Europe have fallen much more sharply from 293,806 to 128,863 – a year-on-year decrease of 57 percent. At this year’s rate, one refugee dies for every 50 who make it to Europe. Last year, one person died for every 90 who safely reached Europe. Al Jazeera

SANDF Sent to Help Stabilize Lesotho
The South African National Defence Force has re-assured the public that its soldiers are well equipped to be dispatched and work anywhere, including conflict zones. This comes after regional body SADC, including South Africa, resolved to send a contingent of military and other personnel to help stabilise Lesotho, where the army chief was recently assassinated. The SANDF had 15 soldiers killed while taking part in a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic in 2013. General Khaya Makina says, “The defence force works hand in hand with the civilian population, we are able to work with each other in cases where there is disaster in the area.” SABC

What the Violent ‘Uber Wars’ Tell Us about Zuma’s South Africa
Defying accusations of cronyism, nepotism and facilitating state capture, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, recently survived his eighth parliamentary vote of no confidence – and immediately afterwards, the rand took a further dive, dropping to a one-month low. Clearly the country’s troubled leadership and struggling economy are as entwined as ever. Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) continues to pay lip service to radical economic transformation, but little has been done to bolster the economy or equitably distribute national resources, radically or otherwise. Instead, under Zuma’s leadership, the public sector wage bill has skyrocketed, the economy is stagnant, and unemployment has risen to 28 per cent. All the while, state institutions are being repurposed to consolidate power for Zuma and his ANC party loyalists. Many in South Africa now see the ANC leadership as part of a corrupt power elite, and are losing confidence in the structures of government. The Independent

Zimbabwe Opposition Chief Tsvangirai Suddenly Ill, Airlifted to Hospital: Source
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai suffered severe vomiting after a party meeting and was airlifted to a Johannesburg hospital, a senior party source said on Saturday. Tsvangirai – who is due to challenge President Robert Mugabe in elections next year – was stable, the source said, dismissing reports in the media that he was dangerously sick. The 65-year-old’s symptoms came on suddenly at a meeting of his opposition coalition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), on Thursday evening in Kadoma, a city around 160 km (100 miles) southwest of the capital Harare, the source said. Two other Zimbabwean political sources confirmed the details of his sudden illness and airlift on Friday to South Africa. But the MDC said in an official statement that Tsvangirai was in South Africa for a routine medical procedure. Reuters

BBC Launches Services for Ethiopia and Eritrea
The BBC World Service has launched three websites for Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea as part of its biggest expansion since the 1940s. The sites would be a “source of truth” in a region with limited independent media, said BBC editor Will Ross. The Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya sites’ launch will be followed in a few months by the launch of radio programmes in the three languages. The UK government announced a funding boost for the World Service in 2015. It paved the way for the expansion drive in Africa and Asia. “We know that there is a great deal of hunger for audiences in Ethiopia and Eritrea to access a broad range of high quality content in Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya,” said Ross, head of the new services. BBC

Hundreds of Millions of Children ‘Lack Any Record of Their Birth’
[…] In the developed world, birth certificates are often a bureaucratic certainty. However, across vast swaths of Africa and South Asia, tens of millions of children never get them, with potentially dire consequences in regard to education, health care, job prospects and legal rights. Young people without IDs are vulnerable to being coerced into early marriage, military service or the labor market before the legal age. In adulthood, they may struggle to assert their right to vote, inherit property or obtain a passport. With the encouragement of UNICEF and various non-governmental organisations, many of the worst-affected countries have been striving to improve their birth registration rates. In Uganda, volunteers go house to house in targeted villages, looking for unregistered children. Many babies are born at home, with grandmothers acting as midwives, so they miss out on the registration procedures that are being modernized at hospitals and health centers. The Independent

It’s Been 50 Years since Britain Left. Why Are So Many African Judges Still Wearing Wigs?
The British gave up their last colonies in Africa half a century ago. But they left their wigs behind. Not just any wigs. They are the long, white, horsehair locks worn by high court judges (and King George III). They are so old-fashioned and so uncomfortable, that even British barristers have stopped wearing them. But in former British colonies — Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi and others — they live on, worn by judges and lawyers. Now, a new generation of African jurists is asking: Why are the continent’s most prominent legal minds still wearing the trappings of the colonizers? It’s not just a question of aesthetics. The wigs and robes are perhaps the most glaring symbol of colonial inheritance at a time when that history is being dredged up in all sorts of ways. This year, Tanzanian President John Magufuli described a proposed free-trade agreement with Europe as a “form of colonialism.” In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe still refers to the British as “thieving colonialists.”  The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones