Africa Media Review for September 23, 2016

Tense Gabon Awaits Court Verdict on Disputed Presidential Vote
Gabon’s constitutional court is due to rule as early as Friday on who will be the country’s next president, ending weeks of uncertainty after disputed polls sparked a political crisis and violent protests. Incumbent President Ali Bongo, the son of late autocratic ruler Omar Bongo, was declared the winner of the August 27 election by a margin of fewer than 6,000 votes. But rival Jean Ping, a career diplomat and former head of the African Union, filed a legal challenge and demanded a recount, saying that the vote was fraudulent. France 24

New Kenya Army Commander Robert Kibochi Sworn In
Newly appointed Kenya Army Commander, Lietutenant General Robert Kibochi, was sworn in at State House in Nairobi on Thursday. Kibochi was promoted in July to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed the Kenya Army commander replacing Lt-Gen Leonard Ngondi. Ngondi who was posted to the National Defence College as commandant. President Uhuru Kenyatta witnessed the ceremony that was conducted by Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. Uhuru congratulated Kibochi on his appointment and asked him to “continue in that well-treaded path of commitment and dedicated service to the nation”. The Star

U.N. Criticizes Congo for Response to Deadly Unrest
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights blamed the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday for using excessive force during political demonstrations and riots this week that may have killed more than 50 people. The deadly unrest convulsed Kinshasa, the capital, as the country slides into a period of dangerous political uncertainty. The president, Joseph Kabila, is required by the Constitution to step down in December, but he has shown no inclination to do so, and his government has not announced when the next election might be. For the first time in days, most stores reopened on Thursday and a beat of normal life returned to Kinshasa. The streets were plugged with traffic, and moving markets of thousands of women selling soda, bananas, vegetables and baguettes from their atop their heads streamed by. The New York Times

As DRC Tensions Rise, Central Africa Region Watches
[…] leaders’ attempts to extend their grip on power have led to violence in fragile, underdeveloped nations that can ill afford the accompanying economic shocks. Burundi was the most recent example, with its president sparking deadly protests, a coup attempt and an exodus of refugees when he said the constitution allowed him a third shot in office in 2015. Richard Moncrieff, central Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, says the DRC has been torn apart by civil conflict in the past, and this crisis is about more than just leadership — it’s about a document that captures the nation’s soul. “The constitution of 2006, for them, is how they got out of the civil war,” he said. “So it’s not just a constitution; it embodies a peace agreement, and it embodies the desire of the Congolese to live peacefully together. So when we see the president try to undo that constitution for his own narrow ends, it’s fairly natural and understandable that people are upset and angry about that.” VOA

Suspected Ugandan Rebels Kill 7 People in DR Congo
At least 7 people were killed and 12 homes were set ablaze Thursday morning by suspected ADF rebels in a village located in the north eastern part of DR Congo. According to a senior police officer of Beni city, Ambrose Mboki, the attackers are suspected ADF rebels who for some years have been attacking villages neighboring the forests where they have bases. Mboki said the suspected rebels shot dead those who tried to escape and killed others who couldn’t flee with machetes. Anadolu Agency

Boko Haram Rages in Nigeria, But the World’s Eyes Are Elsewhere
Despite the continuing tragedy, the world appears to have moved on to other terrible events. Television cameras capture emergency room doctors treating bloodied Syrian children wounded in bombings, and American mothers who have lost sons in shootings by the police. For the West, Boko Haram’s victims are easy to overlook. The militants target some of the poorest people on the planet. In rural Borno State, proper emergency rooms do not exist to treat the injured. Here, mothers mourn sons who have either been killed by insurgents or, left with no other choice, have joined them. Most of the victims live in such poverty that, even without the challenges of the insurgency, their lives would play out on the margins, scraping by for survival. Last month,  Bono, the Irish musician and the lead singer of U2, came to Maiduguri hoping to retrain the international spotlight on Boko Haram-induced problems, which, by most measures, are on track to get worse. The New York Times

Nigerian Military Rejects Complaint About Incident That Killed 380 Muslims
The Nigerian Human Rights Commission has accused the military of using disproportionate force in Zaria, in the country’s north, where at least 380 Shiite Muslims were killed in 2015. In a report released Thursday in the capital, Abuja, the human rights organization said the victims were members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria sect, led by Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who is now in prison. The country’s director of defense information, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, told VOA he expects the charges to be deemed false. The accusations, he said, are unfair and regrettable. VOA

Nigeria Says It Is Owed $12.7bn in Undeclared Oil Exports
Nigeria has said it is owed a total of $12.7bn by more than a dozen companies for allegedly not declaring exports of crude oil to the United States between 2011 and 2014, according to court documents seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The documents are part of a lawsuit the Nigerian government filed on June 7 against one of the companies – Nigerian AGIP Oil Company, a subsidiary of Italy’s ENI and it was not immediately clear from the documents exactly how many of the companies Nigeria is suing. Reached late Wednesday, Garba Shehu, a government spokesman, declined to comment. The suit alleges that companies exported a total of 57m barrels oil crude oil to the United States over the period and did not declare all of this to Nigerian government as required by law, according to the documents. The Africa Report

Shabaab Militants Storm Kenya Police Post
Islamist gunmen launched an overnight attack on a police camp in Kenya’s north-east, close to the Somali border, police and militants said Thursday. “Over 50 terrorists attacked the police patrol base in two Land Cruisers but the officers in the camp managed to repulse them amid a fierce exchange of fire,” Kenya police spokesman George Kinoti said in a statement. The raid on the police post in the town of Liboi began shortly after midnight. Kinoti said the attackers were initially repulsed but “later returned in a bigger number”. He said one police officer who suffered gunshot wounds was airlifted to a hospital in the capital Nairobi, while three others who sustained light injuries were being treated in nearby Dadaab. AFP on Al Arabiya

How African Governments Are Increasingly Clamping Down on the Internet to Control Their Citizenry
African governments are increasingly clamping down on the internet, especially social media, as well as messaging applications, in an attempt to silence democratic opposition, civil society and activists mobilising against poor governance. Technology has made it increasingly possible for Africans across the continent to distribute and receive alternative sources of information to government propaganda and disinformation and has made secrecy more difficult. Since independence, most African governments have monopolised old media, such as newspapers and public broadcasters, to give their versions of what is happening in their countries. Many autocrats have manipulated the flow of information, either through propaganda on state-owned media or by withholding information that would show citizens the true extent of their incompetence, misrule and corruption. Government critics, opposition and civil society groups are often prevented from giving the full picture or alternative perspectives on state-owned media. Mail and Guardian

‘Fees Must Fall’: Anatomy of the Student Protests in South Africa 
University students protested in South Africa for at least a second day this week over plans to increase fees at the country’s colleges in 2017. The protests, which erupted in September, have turned violent as students have clashed with the police. On Wednesday, at least two students were injured after the police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up protests at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, university and student representatives said. How did the protests flare up? On Sept. 19, the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, announced that the country’s universities were facing serious funding challenges at the same time that South Africans were having trouble affording tuition. So the minister proposed that universities set their own fee increases for 2017. But he recommended that the increases be no more than 8 percent. For some categories of needy students, there will be no increase, he added. The New York Times

Is South Africa’s ANC Tearing Itself Apart?
South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is under pressure. It experienced its worst set of election results in August’s local government elections. Now some within the party are wondering how to restore its fortunes.  BBC

UNCTAD Annual Report Shows Mixed Bag in African Trade
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, has released its annual report, which this year looks at issues concerning the export of African raw materials to developed countries. Raw materials make up more than half of exports from Africa. Across the continent, there is a small, yet growing manufacturing sector, but most countries export their manufactured goods to neighbouring countries, not to the West. In fact, intraregional trade has increased up to 20 percent of exports. So with the continent sending away its riches to the West instead of using them to create their own products, anything from refined oil to chocolate bars, African countries too often lose out. RFI

Ethiopian PM Blames Olympic Protest on U.S.-based Dissenters
When Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa held his arms in an “X” as he crossed the finish line for a silver medal last month at the Rio Olympics, he says he was culminating a political protest he’d planned for months. But top Ethiopian officials say he was put up to the stunt by U.S.-based opposition groups in order to protest the government’s crackdown on demonstrations and further fuel controversial secessionist movements at home and in neighboring Eritrea. Speaking to Foreign Policy in an exclusive interview from the living room of his suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he strongly believes that groups of anti-government Ethiopians based in the United States convinced the athlete to use the Summer Games as a protest venue. He also figures they helped get him from a Rio hotel to Washington, D.C. in time for a televised press conference last week. Chicago Tribune

Uganda’s Jobless Brotherhood:  Protesting Against Porky politicians
[…] Graft in Uganda made headlines in 2012 when it emerged that $12.7m in donor funds had been siphoned from the Office of the Prime Minister, prompting a number of European nations to suspend aid. Pig protests are a form of dissent that is also used in neighbouring Kenya, which is also under the microscope amid allegations of corruption. Both countries are seen as equally crooked by foreign investors: they are tied at 139th out of 167 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (where number 1 is the cleanest country). The Brotherhood, which claims to have 5,000 members, blames graft and cronyism for Uganda’s high rate of underemployment. Norman Tumuhimbise, one of the group’s founders, angrily recalls being turned down for a job as a policeman after finishing six months of training because better-connected Ugandans were hired instead. The official unemployment rate in Uganda is only 1.4%. But there is a catch: some 90% of Ugandan workers have informal jobs, says Gemma Ahaibwe of the Economic Policy Research Centre in Kampala. Those jobs are often ill-paid and unproductive. The Economist

US Court Rules USS Cole Victims Can Get Sudan Assets
Banks must turn over Sudanese funds to victims of al Qaeda’s 2000 bombing of the USS Cole who had won a $314.7 million (£240.5 million) judgement, a US appeals court ruled, as it rejected US arguments that this could interfere with treaties and its dealings with foreign governments. By a 3-0 vote on Thursday, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York refused requests by Sudan and the United States to reconsider its 23 September, 2015 ruling ordering the turnover. Circuit Judge Denny Chin expressed “some reluctance” to reject the US position, but said “the State Department’s views are not conclusive.” Christopher Curran, a lawyer representing Sudan, declined to comment. The US Department of Justice declined to provide immediate comment. The Middle East Monitor

West African States Urged to Protect Whistle-blowers
An ambassador serving in West Africa’s 15-member regional bloc pressed home the importance of fully implementing whistle-blower legislation to better fight corruption in the region. “Fighting corruption is everybody’s business, but we need to put in place appropriate legislation,” said Tunde Ajisomo, the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) ambassador to Liberia, late Wednesday at the close of a weeklong major anti-corruption meeting in the capital Monrovia including 13 West African countries, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Arms, and international partners. “In this regard that I am calling on the House of Representatives and the Senate of Liberia to endeavor and domesticate and ratify the whistle-blower protection legislation that I am aware the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission has submitted.” Anadolu Agency



Photo: Adam Jones