Africa Media Review for September 21, 2016

Risk of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity in Burundi – UN Probe
Burundi’s government is behind systematic human rights violations, including executions and torture, UN investigators said Tuesday, warning of possible crimes against humanity and the looming risk of “genocide”. “Gross human rights violations have and are taking place, committed primarily by state agents and those linked to them,” the investigators concluded in a report, adding that “impunity is pervasive”. The report said the experts could “not exclude that some instances of these gross human rights violations amount to crimes against humanity.” “Given the country’s history, the danger of the crime of genocide also looms large,” it warned. The three independent experts were tasked by the UN Human Rights Council in January with probing the extent of rights abuses in Burundi since it descended into violence in April 2015, over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to run for a third term — a vote he won in July. The East African

Burundi Killings Could Ignite Wider African Crisis, U.N. Report Warns
“I could be your child; I beg you, save me,” the 16-year-old pleaded to police officers in Burundi. Seconds later, an officer put two bullets in his head. The killing of the teenager, Jean Nepo, during an antigovernment protest on the streets of Bujumbura, the capital, was one of hundreds of summary killings cited by United Nations investigators in a report issued on Tuesday. The report documented serious abuses during the last 18 months that could amount to crimes against humanity. “The responsibility for the vast majority of these violations should be laid at the door of the government,” the investigators wrote, urging international action to contain a crisis they said threatened the peace and security of the surrounding region in Central Africa. The report documented 564 summary killings in Burundi from April 2015 to the end of August, but the report’s three authors wrote that “this is clearly a conservative estimate.” Their inquiry began in December and included two visits to Burundi. The New York Times

U.N. Inquiry Says Has List of Suspects over Burundi Atrocities
Independent U.N. investigators said on Tuesday they had drawn up a list of suspects who should be prosecuted for possible crimes against humanity in Burundi. Sporadic violence has gripped the central African nation since April 2015 when incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term, prompting protests and leading to often deadly clashes with police. The investigators said it was impossible to know the full extent of the crimes, but they had evidence of rapes, murders, disappearances, mass arrests and torture, and there were likely many thousands of victims. Reuters

Gabon’s Disputed Presidential Election is Getting a Recount after Weeks of Unrest 
The results of Gabon’s disputed presidential elections will officially go to the Constitutional Court for a recount after President Ali Bongo’s narrow win in August sparked daily demonstrations and violence, with the new government bowing to opposition calls for a transparent process. Gabon’s Ambassador to the US Michael Moussa-Adamo announced the development in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times on Monday, writing that the winner will be declared through “a recount would be completed by the Constitutional Court.” “The State Department and the African Union stated that any challenge to the election results conform to Gabonese election law,” Moussa-Adamo wrote. “The Constitutional Court’s review will also conform to the law.” VICE

Ping or Bongo? Gabon Leader’s Sister Caught Up in the Middle
Pascaline Bongo, sister to incumbent President Ali Bongo finds herself caught in the middle of Gabon’s post-electoral crisis as she declines to pledge her allegiances to either her brother or her ex-lover, Opposition leader Jean Ping, BBC reports. As Gabon descended into political violence, with opposition supporters clashing with security forces, Pascaline, who has a child with Jean Ping, has decided to publicly refrain from the difficult decision of supporting either candidate. Pascaline according to French publication, Jeune Afrique has staunchly remained silent in public on the matter as she remains loyal to Ping who is the father of her child. News 24

Several Killed in Second Day of DRC Unrest
Several people died in a second day of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, with three opposition HQ buildings torched in a fresh bout of clashes between police and opponents of President Joseph Kabila. The renewed violence came after a bloody day on Monday during which opposition groups said more than 50 people had died in protests calling for Kabila’s resignation. The national secretary of the main opposition group blamed a “commando” unit from the regime for torching the opposition headquarters buildings. “Does a normal state respond with reprisals?” said Felix Tshisekedi from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). News 24

DRC Dialogue Further Threatened as Catholic Church Suspends Participation
The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) has announced that due to the violent events of Monday September 19, it has suspended its participation in the national dialogue called by President Joseph Kabila. The influential Catholic Church said in a statement on Tuesday that it had opted out of the dialogue in order to “mourn” after the deadly events of the past two days in the country. The Church has yet to state when they will return to the dialogue. CENCO’s statement said the church had arrived at the decision out of respect for ‘‘our brothers and sisters who paid to respect for the Constitution,’‘ adding that their next move was to reach a broader consensus going forward. Africa News

Hearing: South Sudan: Options in Crisis (Video)
Dr. Jok Madut Jok; Co-Founder And Executive Director The Sudd Institute, Los Angeles, CA  – The Honorable Kate Almquist Knopf;  Director Africa Center For Strategic Studies U.S. Department of Defense, Washington , D.C. –  Dr. Luka Biong Deng Kuol; Global Fellow Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway – Mr. Peter Yeo President, Better World Campaign; Vice President, Public Policy And Advocacy United Nations Foundation Washington , D.C. U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Sudanese, U.S. Officials to Discuss Normalization of Ties in New York
Senior Sudanese and U.S. officials on Thursday will meet in New York to continue discussions on bilateral relations. According to Al-Sudani newspaper on Monday, a ministerial team formed by President Omer al-Bashir to follow up on relations with Washington, would discuss with U.S. officials ways to normalize ties between the two countries and possibilities for implementing partial lifting of sanctions especially with regard to banking wire transfers. The Sudanese team is headed by foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour and it includes representatives from the Defence Ministry, Finance Ministry, Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS), Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Sudan Tribune

Air Strike Kills Civilians in Central Libya: Doctor, Eyewitness
At least eight civilians including women and children were killed in an air strike near an oasis town in central Libya on Tuesday, a hospital doctor and an eyewitness said. The identity of the war planes that carried out the strike near Houn could not be confirmed. Armed groups loyal to factions based in eastern and western Libya operate in the area. At least 20 people were wounded in the strike and all victims were brought to the hospital in Houn, a doctor there said. An eyewitness said residents had heard war planes overhead before learning that civilians had been hit. He went to the hospital to try to offer help and described the situation there as “chaotic.” Earlier, a military source said six people had been killed when a military helicopter operated by armed forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government crashed late on Monday.  Reuters on Al Arabiya

Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute: Whose Sea Is It Anyway?
[…] “African states have not really had a presence at sea, they haven’t had ships which control their waters, so to now have a state effectively owning parts of the sea, which it can divide up into blocks for oil and gas is very lucrative. But it creates a sense of grievance if you feel those boundaries haven’t been correctly drawn.” Kenya wants to draw the line straight out into the Indian Ocean, whereas the Somali government wants to draw it perpendicular to the coast line. The case at the Hague may have been avoided had Somalia’s coordinates and documents not been lost during the collapse of government in the 1990s. A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the two neighbours in 2009,which for Kenya, had settled the matter. “The feeling among Somalis is that this was a rushed process,” explains Walker. RFI

Somalia’s Presidential Election for 14,000 People
The proliferation of billboards and glossy campaign fliers, plastered across windshields and storefronts here, gives the impression of a hard-fought battle for Somali votes. But the coming parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled to take place over the next six weeks, won’t be decided by a democratic ballot. They’ll be decided behind closed doors, by coalitions of powerful clan and militia leaders, often greased with illicit funds from abroad. This year’s election was supposed to mark the culmination of Somalia’s democratic transition after more than a quarter-century of civil war. Instead it will be only slightly more inclusive than the last one, in 2012, when just 135 clan elders selected the Parliament that in turn voted on a president. It also may be tarnished, U.N. officials and opposition candidates say, by a surge in harassment of political activists and journalists by Somali security services.[…] After months of tortured negotiations, officials finally agreed that 14,025 “electors” representing the clans will select the members of the lower house of Parliament while the country’s recently formed state governments will nominate members of the upper house. Together, the two houses will elect a new president.  Foreign Policy

What’s Next for the Central African Republic?
[…] “The main difficulty is trying to negotiate a deal between the government and the armed groups so that a program to de-escalate, disarm and reintegrate fighters can be instated. But we are far away from any such agreement,” said Thierry Vircoulon, an expert on CAR at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris. According to Vircoulon, the militias are looking to join the government and be absorbed into the regular army, a move he thinks would not be a good idea. “The international community and the UN are pushing for a deal between the government and the militias because they do not have the capacity to neutralize the armed groups,” he added. Deutsche Welle

Making Sense of Boko Haram’s Different Factions: Who, How and Why?
The Islamist militant group Jamaat Ahlis Sunna liDawatti wal Jihad – known as “Boko Haram” – has never been a monolithic organisation. It has always been made up of several factions, and recently these divisions may have become sharper. The clearest rift is between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Shekau became Boko Haram’s leader back at the time of the launch of the insurgency in 2009 and is still its most recognisable figure both within and outside Nigeria. However, on 3 August this year, Islamic State (IS) – to which Boko Haram pledged allegiance in 2015, becoming its “West Africa Province” – announced the insurgency had a new leader in al-Barnawi. Just hours after this announcement, Shekau issued an audio claiming he was still in charge, but was reverting to his former title as “imam”.  A few days later on 7 August, Shekau then accused al-Barnawi of “manipulating” IS into replacing him. In the video, he also claimed IS leader Abubakar al-Baghdadi had yet to respond to his accusation that al-Barnawi was guilty of “great polytheism” and of not being “authentically salafist”. African Arguments

Elite Nigerian Police Unit Sllegedly ‘Strings Up Suspects Like Cattle, Tortures Them – and Gets Rich Doing It’
A specialist police unit that was set up to tackle Nigeria’s alarming rise in violent crime has instead become a hotbed for alleged corruption, where suspects are claimed to be detained in horrific conditions and tortured until they or their relatives can pay for their freedom, according to a damning new report. Amnesty International said it had investigated facilities run by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and found multiple cases where “confessions” were allegedly obtained through torture, where people who had not been charged with any crime were  claimed to be beaten and starved, and where suspects were detained for months longer than the maximum 48 hours defined in Nigeria’s constitution. SARS was set up with a specific remit to investigate serious violent crime, predominantly armed robberies and kidnappings. Nigerian officials deny allegations of torture or any intentional ill-treatment of detainees at SARS stations, saying thet SARS officers receive training in human rights. The Independent

Want to Make or Use a Zimbabwean Flag? You’ll Need Official Government Permission.
“Members of the public who participate in any action or activity involving the national flag or bring the national flag into disrepute are warned they are liable to prosecution,” justice minister Virginia Mabhiza said in a statement. She said offenders faced up to a year in jail or a $200 fine — or both. The national flag became a symbol of anti-government protests after evangelical pastor Evan Mawarire posted a video in April in which he appeared with the flag wound around his neck as he bemoaned the country’s worsening economic crisis. Mabhiza said she was “concerned with increasing incidences whereby members of the public have been using the national flag in a manner that is prohibited by the constitution”. PRI

Ugandans Driven to Despair by Spending on MPs’ Cars as Basic Services Suffer
[…] The government wants to allocate some 64bn shillings (£14m) for legislators to buy cars, which, they say, will allow them to work more efficiently in their constituencies. However, Ugandans say the country is too poor to afford such a huge cost. Uganda, with a population of 37 million, has more than 400 MPs. In this parliament, each MP will receive an extra 47m shillings to buy a car. MPs can also claim mileage costs and are entitled to a medical allowance for treatment abroad and a retirement package – among other perks. The move has angered Ugandans, many of whom are struggling to put food on the table or access affordable healthcare. One has even gone to court to block the move, although some analysts said it is unlikely to succeed. The Guardian

UN Alarm as Egypt Freezes Assets of Key Rights Activists
The UN on Tuesday said it was “extremely concerned” about a Cairo court’s decision to freeze the assets of five prominent human rights activists and three NGOs. The decision, which was taken on Saturday, has been widely criticised by global rights groups, and stoked fears of an intensified crackdown on Egyptian civil society. “We are extremely concerned by the recent decision of a Cairo Criminal Court to freeze the assets of five prominent human rights activists,” UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters. The rights activists are Hossam Bahgat, who founded the leading Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights NGO, Gamal Eid, Bahey el-Din Hassan, Mostafa al-Hassan and Abdel Hafez al-Tayel. News 24



Photo: Adam Jones