Africa Media Review for September 19, 2017

Double Suicide Attack Kills 15 People in Nigeria
At least 15 people were killed on Monday when two female suicide bombers attacked an aid distribution point in northeastern Nigeria. A rescue worker said the first blast happened at 11:10am local time (10:10 GMT) in Mashalari village of the Konduga area, about 40km from Borno state capital Maiduguri. “[It] killed 15 people and left 43 others injured,” he told AFP news agency. “It happened during aid distribution by an NGO, when people had gathered to receive donations.” Al Jazeera

Kenya: Election Re-Run in Doubt amid Technology Issues and High Court Hearings
Insiders at Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) say there is a possibility that the country’s presidential election do-over could be moved from October 17 to either the 26th or 27th, owing to issues with voting technology. French-supplied voting software known as the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) needs to be reconfigured before voting takes place. It is expected to be used in more than 250 parliamentary, senatorial and gubernatorial petitions filed in numerous Kenyan courts by losing candidates who wish to challenge the election’s victor. Workers at IEBC point out that the 41,883 polling stations throughout Kenya will require at least 42,000 reconfigured kits. In addition to this, there will likely be a need for extra standby kits in case technical issues occur. Deutsche Welle

Locked in Power Struggle, Congo Army and Militia Massacred Hundreds: Report
Congolese army commanders orchestrated a wave of massacres that killed hundreds of people between 2014-2016 as they vied for influence with anti-government insurgents in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a new report said on Monday. The report by the Congo Research Group (CRG) at New York University is the most comprehensive to date on the killings of more than 800 people and the first to offer a definite theory of the perpetrators’ motives. It is based on 249 interviews with perpetrators, eyewitnesses and victims as well as internal U.N. reports and arrest records that document participation in the killings. Millions died in eastern Congo between 1996-2003 in regional conflicts and dozens of militia groups continue to operate there. But the massacres around the town of Beni were the most macabre and mysterious in recent memory. Reuters

What the UN’s Belt-Tightening Means for Peacekeeping in Congo
On June 29, Maman Sidikou, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, received a cable from headquarters in New York in which his bosses laid out in no uncertain terms that the world’s largest peacekeeping mission had to make cuts, and fast. Facing an 8%, or $93m, budget cut for 2017-18, Sidikou was told to revise staffing, slash fuel costs by 10% and streamline aircraft use — all without compromising the mission’s mandate, according to the cable seen by Reuters. The mission in Congo, known as Monusco, must work out how to juggle those demands with the need to respond to a growing political and humanitarian crisis in the central African giant — and it is not alone. Belt-tightening at Monusco, which has about 18,000 uniformed personnel, is part of a broader push by the US, the biggest UN contributor, to cut costs. In June, the 193 UN member states agreed to a total $600m in cuts to more than a dozen missions for the year ending June 30 2018.  Business Day

UNAMID to Complete Phase One of Withdrawal by End of September
The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said seven more team sites will be closed by the end of the month as part of phase one of the Mission’s reconfiguration. Earlier this month, the Mission said four team sites have been closed to date including Malha, Mellit and Um Kadada, North Darfur, and Muhajeria, East Darfur, pointing seven team sites are yet to be closed. In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune Monday, the Mission said UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, on Thursday briefed the United Nations Security Council in New York about the situation in Darfur. Sudan Tribune

New Misconduct Allegations Hang over UN Meeting on Sex Abuse
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said sexual abuse is a problem that goes beyond peacekeeping missions and plagues the entire United Nations, pledging Monday to root out the problem “once and for all.” The leaders of 57 countries joined a group established by Guterres to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, the centerpiece of a high-level meeting to showcase the world body’s commitment to fighting a scourge that has darkened the reputation of peacekeeping missions around the world. They included many of the countries whose military personnel have been accused of sex crimes while serving on U.N. peacekeeping missions. Some of the nations have yet to punish any alleged perpetrators. AP

US Forces Increase Somalia Airstrikes amid Uncertainty over Future
An intensifying U.S. airstrike campaign against Somalia is unlikely by itself to defeat a resilient band of al-Qaida-aligned militants, a fact that could tempt the U.S. to wade deeper into a country faced with the departure of an African force that has offered protection for a decade. The uptick in U.S. strikes against al-Shabab targets — 13 different attacks since June — is part of a hurried effort to degrade the long-running insurgency and buy time for Somalia’s fledgling military. The vexing questions now are the country’s fate after the withdrawal of the African Union Mission to Somalia, set to begin next year and conclude by 2020: How much territory could be lost to al-Shabab, and how fast? “The group (Al-Shabab) would most likely retake some lost territory should AMISOM forces withdraw before the (Somalia National Army) is capable of effective independent operations against the group,” said Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command. “That being said, at this time it’s too early to determine what, if any, additional support will be required from the international community when AMISOM departs.” Stars and Stripes

Togo Ruling Party Calls Rally to Drown out Opposition
Togo’s ruling presidential party on Monday urged supporters to take to the streets to coincide with planned opposition demonstrations against the slow pace of political reform. Georges Kwawu Aidam, the first vice-president of the Union for the Republic (UNIR) told AFP there would be marches on Wednesday and Thursday in support of a controversial constitutional reform bill which the opposition see as not going far enough. A parliamentary panel last Friday approved the bill to revamp the constitution and introduce a presidential term limit after days of protests against the regime of Faure Gnassingbe, the scion of one of Africa’s oldest political dynasties. But the panel rejected wholesale 48 amendments proposed by opposition parties. AFP

What Is behind Clashes in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali Regions?
Thousands of people have fled Ethiopia’s Somali region following deadly clashes in recent days between ethnic Somalis and Oromos. The BBC’s Kalkidan Yibeltal looks at the cause of the conflict and whether it can be stopped. Dozens of people are reported to have died in clashes across Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions in recent days. According to Adisu Arega, Oromia government’s spokesperson, 18 people have been killed. Twelve of those victims are ethnic Somalis, Mr Adisu told the BBC. The figures are however disputed by the Somali regional government, which says that more than 30 ethnic Somalis have been killed in the Oromia town of Awaday. BBC

Britain Will Stop Funding Some UN Programmes Unless There Is Reform, Priti Patel to Say
Britain will today threaten to stop funding United Nations programmes unless they can demonstrate value for money. In a hard-hitting speech at the UN general assembly in New York, Priti Patel, the International Development secretary, will urge other nations to “put their money where their mouths are”. Ms Patel, a free market Tory, will tell delegates that Britain will link a third of its funding for UN agencies to results and reform. The speech will come a day before Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is also set to urge the UN to reform in her speech to the general assembly. Ms Patel will say that unless the UK sees reform in the way it is run, and measurable results, it will hold back funding for UN programmes. The Telegraph

Egypt Mass Trial Sees Hundreds Imprisoned over 2013 Protests
Forty-three people have been sentenced to life in prison after a mass trial in Egypt that also saw years-long sentences given to hundreds of others. Almost 500 people were charged with crimes over the violence which erupted following the removal of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Three hundred of those on trial received sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Fifty-four people were acquitted, including Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa. Mr Halawa was aged 17 when he was arrested and says he was tortured during his more than four-year imprisonment. BBC

Can Ex-Wife Help South Africa’s Zuma Avoid Corruption Charges?
President Jacob Zuma is due to step down as African National Congress (ANC) leader at a key national party conference in mid-December. The new party leader usually succeeds the country’s president at the subsequent national poll. Current front runners for the post of ANC leader are Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former head of the African Union (AU) who was married to Zuma from 1982 to 1998, and Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s deputy in the presidency and the ANC. While Dlamini-Zuma is thought to be largely sympathetic to her ex-husband, Ramaphosa, is a Zuma critic. The former trade unionist and stalwart of black economic empowerment is today a wealthy businessman and has voiced strong criticism over Jacob Zuma’s latest corruption cases. According to political analysts, Zuma is preoccupied with installing a successor sympathetic to him. If not, it is almost certain that he would have to answer to old and new corruption charges. Deutsche Welle

Lesotho Opposition: Political Violence Unleashes ‘Reign of Terror’
The June 2017 elections were supposed to soothe the troubled politics of Lesotho, a tiny enclave surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It was the third poll in five years, after two successive coalitions collapsed amid vicious infighting and meddling from the army. The third time was supposed to be the charm, as incoming prime minister Tom Thabane promised to swiftly enact reforms to loosen the military’s stranglehold on politics. But last week’s killing of the army chief by two of his subordinates has raised concerns that more instability is ahead. The recent arrest of a journalist who criticized the government and the shutdown of his radio station has made the situation more dire, critics of the government say. VOA

Voter Listing Offers Hope for Peace in DR Congo
After more than a year of bloodshed, faint hopes of peace are starting to stir in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the vast region of Kasai, the authorities are now starting to register voters — an outwardly banal operation that is nonetheless key to securing the country’s stability. “It’s telling proof that peace has returned to the greater Kasai area,” Mr Bernard Kambala Kamilolo, the acting governor of Kasai Central Province, said as the registration got underway. Mired in poverty and with a reputation for corruption, DR Congo — a country nearly twice the area of Britain, France and Germany combined — has a long history of violence, especially in its volatile east. The diamond-rich Kasai region was deemed a relative haven until August 2016, when a tribal chieftain known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila’s regime in Kinshasa and its local representatives, was killed. The East African

Congo Ban on Non-Biometric Passports Sparks Outcry
A sudden decision forcing all Congolese nationals to travel on biometric passports from next month has provoked a backlash from lawmakers already vexed by revelations about the documents’ high cost. Even though Democratic Republic of Congo sits near the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index, the passports it introduced in 2015 are among the world’s most expensive. A Reuters investigation in April showed that $60 of their $185 purchase price goes to a company registered in the United Arab Emirates whose owner is believed to be a close relative of Congo President Joseph Kabila. Reuters

Guinea Bauxite Mining Companies Resume Operations after Riots
Bauxite production in the Guinean mining hub of Boke resumed on Monday after deadly riots over electricity cuts had interrupted deliveries since Friday, companies and government officials said. Two people were killed and dozens injured during riots last week in Boke, which has seen waves of unrest this year spurred by a perceived failure of the mining industry to raise living standards in the poor West African country. Operations of the Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB), owned by China’s Winning Shipping Ltd and Shandong Weiqiao, UMS International Ltd and the Guinean state, resumed on Monday after riots interrupted deliveries at its three sites on Friday, General Manager Frederic Bouzigues told Reuters. SMB is one of two major bauxite miners in Guinea and produces around 15 million tonnes of the aluminium ore annually, nearly half of national production. Reuters

Urgent Action under Way to Prevent Spread of Cholera in West Africa
An emergency vaccination campaign is getting under way in northeastern Nigeria to prevent a deadly cholera outbreak from spreading to other countries. The World Health Organization reports the potentially devastating cholera situation is emerging in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. During the past few months, it says 2,600 suspected cases of this fatal disease, including 48 deaths, have occurred in this former stronghold of Boko Haram. The militant group has been waging war to establish an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria. Dominique Legros is cholera coordinator for WHO’s department for pandemic and epidemic diseases. He says the outbreak, which is centered in camps for internally displaced people, is spreading to other areas of northeastern Nigeria, toward Chad and northern Cameroon. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones