Africa Media Review for September 22, 2017

Rival Tuareg Groups in Mali Sign New Ceasefire Agreement
Rival Tuareg groups say they have signed a cease-fire agreement in northern Mali, a deal which could bolster a fragile peace accord between the government and other armed groups. Fahad Ag Al Mahmoud, a leader in a third Tuareg group, said Thursday that the Coordination of the Movements of Azawad and the pro-government Platforme group signed the deal Wednesday. The cease-fire comes after several months of fighting in Mali’s north. Ag Al Mahmoud says it will allow people to move more freely in the Gao and Kidal regions of Mali, and that both groups will release their respective captives. The United Nations mission in Mali says both groups are responsible for human rights violations. Since 2014, the groups have signed other agreements and broken them with fighting over politics and territory. AP

US Boosts Aid for War Famines by $575M
The United States said on Thursday it will spend another $575m to help the millions facing starvation and violence amid wars and unrest in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia. “This additional funding brings the total US humanitarian assistance to nearly $2.5bm for these four crises since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017,” the US Agency for International Development announced. Mark Green, head of USAID, announced the new funds at the UN General Assembly in New York, where envoys and world leaders have heard about the extraordinary suffering in states stricken by war. “Tens of millions of people are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the man-made crises in South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen, all of which are driven by conflict, and Somalia, where ongoing conflict is exacerbating the effects of a severe drought,” it said. AFP

WhatsApp’s Role as a Government Protest Tool Is in the Spotlight Again as Togo Blocks It
The internet has been intermittent in Togo with the government blocking access to social media networks and shutting down mobile messaging, activists in the country have confirmed to Quartz. The slowdown started on Tuesday night (Sept. 19) after opposition members boycotted a parliamentary session that proposed changes to presidential term limits and called for protests on Wednesday and Thursday. Anti-government protests have spread across Togo in recent weeks calling for president Faure Gnassingbé to step down and allow constitutional reforms. […] Emmanuel Agbenonwossi, an internet policy researcher in the capital Lomé, said WhatsApp was blocked on all mobile networks. Most users, he said, were using virtual private networks (VPN) like Turbo and Cyberghost to circumvent the block and stay connected. Agbenonwossi noted the block was most likely linked to the protests and that neither the government nor telecom companies have provided an explanation as to the reduced bandwidth or SMS block. Quartz

Kenya Election: Poll Body Delays Re-Run by Nine Days
Kenya’s new presidential election has been delayed to 26 October, after the country’s polls commission sought more time to reform voting processes. The re-run had originally been scheduled for 17 October. The move came as President Uhuru Kenyatta accused the country’s Supreme Court, which annulled the first vote, of staging a “coup” against the people. Observers fear Kenya’s political temperature is rising, reviving fears of political violence. Around 1,200 people died in clashes after a disputed 2007 presidential vote. BBC

Kenyan President Says Supreme Court Election Ruling Was “Coup”
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Thursday the country’s Supreme Court staged a “coup” against the will of the people when it annulled last month’s presidential election that he won. “A coup in Kenya has just been done by the four people in the Supreme Court,” Kenyatta said in a live, televised speech delivered mostly in Kiswahili. “(The court is saying) ‘numbers don’t matter, it is processes that matter.’” The court’s decision on Sept. 1 was the first time a judicial body has cancelled the election of an African president and the ruling sent shockwaves through the country and beyond. Reuters

Almost 90 Missing, at Least 8 Dead in Libya Migrant Shipwreck
At least eight migrants drowned and almost 90 others went missing after a shipwreck off Libya, a local official citing survivors who had clung onto the sinking vessel for days said on Thursday. The Libyan navy said the shipwreck occurred off the coast of Sabratha, a town west of Tripoli that is a hub for illegal migration to Europe and from where the vessel had set off. Eight bodies were found and 35 migrants rescued on Tuesday and Wednesday, Seddik al-Jayach, an official in Zuwara, further west, told AFP. Survivors had clung onto the sinking vessel for five days before it ran aground on a beach near his town, he said. AFP

Trump Poised to Drop Some Limits on Drone Strikes and Commando Raids
The Trump administration is preparing to dismantle key Obama-era limits on drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefields, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. The changes would lay the groundwork for possible counterterrorism missions in countries where Islamic militants are active but the United States has not previously tried to kill or capture them. President Trump’s top national security advisers have proposed relaxing two rules, the officials said. First, the targets of kill missions by the military and the C.I.A., now generally limited to high-level militants deemed to pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to Americans, would be expanded to include foot-soldier jihadists with no special skills or leadership roles. And second, proposed drone attacks and raids would no longer undergo high-level vetting. But administration officials have also agreed that they should keep in place one important constraint for such attacks: a requirement of “near certainty” that no civilian bystanders will be killed. The proposal to overhaul the rules has quietly taken shape over months of debate among administration officials and awaits Mr. Trump’s expected signature. Despite the preservation of the protections for civilians, the other changes seemed likely to draw criticism from human rights groups. The New York Times

Machar Says IGAD No Longer Qualified to Mediate South Sudan Peace
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar expressed his frustration with the peace process led by the eastern African regional block saying they are no longer qualified to play this role and called for a new process aiming to end the war. In a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on 14 September seen by Sudan Tribune, the exiled former first vice president was referring to the criticism against the IGAD countries which are accused of using the crisis to achieve national interests in the young nation of South Sudan. More particularly, Machar pointed to a statement by the IGAD Council of Ministers meeting held in Juba on 24 July saying it declared that the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) for South Sudan Peace Process “is not for renegotiation and the opposition is not invited”. Sudan Tribune

Facing Crime Wave, Residents in South Sudan Capital Pay Police for Protection
Residents of South Sudan’s capital say they are collecting cash to pay police unofficially to patrol their neighborhoods, amid a crime wave and a cash crunch that means authorities often cannot pay their wages. Robbers killed more than 60 people last month in Juba, twice as many as in July, according to the Community Empowerment of Progress Organization, a civil society organization in Juba that tallies violent incidents. In one incident this month, around 50 gunmen in army uniforms attacked homes. Armed residents repulsed them and there were no known casualties, the organization said. It was unclear whether the attackers were members of the security forces. VOA

Somalia Rebukes Its States for Breaking with Qatar
Somalia’s government rebuked its three semi-autonomous regions on Thursday for cutting ties with Qatar, saying it was determined to stay neutral in the Gulf nation’s dispute with other Arab states. The region of Galmudug issued a statement on Wednesday saying it stood with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the regional row, followed similar declarations last month by the regions of Puntland and Hirshabelle. Somalia’s federal government responded by saying only it had the authority to speak on foreign affairs. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut political and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism and their arch-foe Iran – charges that Doha denies. The spat about it in volatile but strategically located Somalia illustrated how far the political ripples from Qatar’s dispute have spread. Reuters

Qatar’s Withdrawal from Horn of Africa Was Retaliatory
Qatar’s withdrawal of its peacekeepers on June 14 from the Djibouti-Eritrea border was a form of punishment to the disputing countries which supported the quartet of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt according to a senior researcher at a US Department of Defense think tank. “Punishing Djibouti and Eritrea for breaking relations with Qatar was one reason for the withdraw of Qatari peacekeepers,” said Joseph Siegle, director of research for DOD funded African Center for Strategic Studies. Qatar responded almost immediately after the two embattled countries announced support and removed nearly 500 troops it had kept since 2010 in a border. Eritrea, which is larger and better armed than Djibouti, quickly moved into the disputed territories of Dumeira mountain and Dumeira Island. Although no shots were fired, tensions have increased dramatically in the area. Al Arabiya

As Congo Refugees Pour over Border, Angola’s Backing for Kabila in Doubt
Captured by militia and accused of being married to a Congolese government official, Kimpanga Caro could smell the fire she was told would be used to burn her decapitated head to ash. Caro, whose husband is a pastor not an official, was freed when one of the militiamen recognised her. She raced back home to find her husband in their ransacked village. They fled south, on foot with their five children, towards a country they heard was safe: Angola. Thirty thousand of her compatriots have made the same journey so far, among 1.4 million people driven from their homes in a year of violence in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are signs that the refugee crisis is causing Angola — a powerful regional ally that helped sustain Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his father in power for two decades — to question its support for the leader of its volatile neighbour. Reuters

Ugandan Parliament Defers Age Limit Debate Due to Heavy Security Deployment
Ugandan parliament speaker Jacob Oulanyah has deferred the presidential age limit debate to next week over heavy police deployment around the House, the capital Kampala and some parts of the country. The speaker’s decision follows a motion for adjournment filed by the leader of opposition Winnie Kiizahas who described the action by the police as a “parliamentary coup” and a siege to humiliate members. There was tension Thursday morning when police arrested five Makerere University students and the Mayor of the capital city Kampala Erias Lukwago, while offices of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were sealed off to stop planned protests against the removal of presidential age limits. Africa News

Trump to ‘Consider’ Resuming Military Aid to Egypt
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signaled he would consider resuming military aid to Egypt which had been frozen because of concerns over its human rights record. “We’re going to certainly consider it,” Trump said as he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Egypt had been furious over the US decision to freeze $195 million in military aid in response to Egypt’s poor record on democracy and civil liberties. The decision, made earlier this year, came as a surprise because Trump had pledge strong ties with the key US ally after they deteriorated under Barack Obama. AFP

UN Peacekeepers: Congo Leads World in Sex Abuse Allegations
The girl was only 11 when the first peacekeeper raped her, luring her with bread and a banana as she was leaving school in her village in northeastern Congo. “It was the first man who ever touched me,” said Bora, who asked that only her first name be used because she is a rape victim. The rape left her pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. She was 13 when the second peacekeeper raped her. She once again got pregnant, and became a mother twice over while she was still a child herself. Bora’s case is grimly emblematic of the underbelly of U.N. peacekeeping, and the organization as a whole: In a yearlong investigation, the AP found that despite promises of reform for more than a decade, the U.N. failed to meet many of its pledges to stop the abuse or help victims, some of whom have been lost to a sprawling bureaucracy. Cases have disappeared, or have been handed off to the peacekeepers’ home countries — which often do nothing with them. AP

The Long Arm of Ethiopia Reaches for Those Who Fled
“Wako” fled Ethiopia for Kenya in 2012, after his release from prison. He had been locked up for two years after campaigning for the Oromo People’s Congress, an opposition party that has often been targeted by the government. In Kenya, he hoped to be safe. But six months later Ethiopian officials kidnapped him in Nairobi and brought him to Ethiopia’s notorious Ziway prison, where he was mistreated and tortured, before being released. He fled to Kenya a second time. […] In private, some Kenyan police told us that Ethiopian Embassy officials in Nairobi have offered them cash to arrest Ethiopians. Ethiopian refugees said Ethiopian officials tried to recruit them to inform on others, promising land, protection, money, and resettlement to the US or elsewhere. […] High-profile opposition figures with foreign citizenship have also been handed to Ethiopian authorities without a legal process, including a British citizen detained in Yemen, a Norwegian citizen in South Sudan, and a Somali national handed over last month by Somalia’s government. Human Rights Watch

UN Study Finds Government Action a Main Factor of Extremism in Africa
Many African leaders used their speeches at the U.N. General Assembly this week to express concerns about the growing threat of violent extremism in Africa. Several leaders from the continent called upon the international community to help better equip regional anti-terror forces to combat terrorism, especially at a time when jihadists, defeated in Middle East as Islamic State loses strength and territory there, will return to their African home countries. “We want an Africa in peace and security; an Africa that does not serve as a sanctuary for terrorist groups fought and defeated elsewhere,” President Macky Sall of Senegal told world leaders at the 72nd annual U.N. assembly Wednesday. But a study conducted by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) this month has found that measures deployed by African governments to combat terrorism actually impel more people to join violent groups. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones