Africa Media Review for September 27, 2016

EU Monitors: Gabon’s Court Failed to Rectify ‘Anomalies’ in Presidential Poll
EU monitors have said that Gabon’s top court failed to rectify vote-counting “anomalies” in fiercely-disputed elections in which President Ali Bongo extended his family’s rule in the oil-rich nation into a fifth decade. The European Union’s electoral observer mission said it “regretted” that Gabon’s Constitutional Court, which on Saturday ruled against opposition demands for a recount, “had been unable to satisfactorily rectify anomalies observed during the count”. Opposition leader Jean Ping had filed a legal challenge after Bongo was declared the winner by a mere 6,000 votes in the August 27 election. Ping, a career diplomat and a former top official at the African Union, had asked for a recount in Haut-Ogooue province, a stronghold of the Bongo family where the president was declared to have won more than 95 percent of the vote, with turnout at more than 99 percent. AFP on Al Arabiya

Next Step Unclear for Gabon’s Jean Ping
Gabon’s president Ali Bongo is due to be sworn in on Tuesday after the country’s highest court validated his re-election Friday. Opposition leader Jean Ping rejected the court’s ruling and said he “will not retreat” but his next steps are unclear. Bongo has called for political dialogue after this month’s contentious election. Ping also claimed to have won the August 27 poll. He called the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Friday “a miscarriage of justice.” But his options now are limited, says Paul Melly, West and Central Africa analyst at London-based Chatham House. “Jean Ping is probably realistic. He knows that in the normal constitutional process, it is highly unlikely that there is any possibility for the election results being reversed…So I think what Jean Ping is trying to do is to maintain the political pressure on Ali Bongo,” he said. VOA

Pope Meets Congo’s Kabila, But Vatican Displeasure Evident
Pope Francis has met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, with the Vatican insisting that Congo’s government use respectful dialogue to end violent clashes with opposition forces over delayed elections. The audience Monday was a brief 20 minutes, with interpreters. The pope didn’t greet Kabila in the reception room where, according to Vatican protocol, Francis would normally greet a visiting head of state. Rather, a glum-looking Francis waited for Kabila in his library. Clashes have erupted between security forces and demonstrators after Congo’s electoral commission said November’s presidential vote wouldn’t be possible, and a court determined Kabila could stay in power until another election is organized. VOA

Death in the Morning: Why Amisom Soldiers Had Little Fighting Chance in Janaale
The explosion went off at around 5:25am. Daylight was breaking in Janaale, a sleepy town in the southeastern Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, about 90 kilometres from the capital Mogadishu. Through the fast-clearing early morning darkness, two soldiers were on guard duty at the Quarter Guard, were the first to spot the suicide bomber as he raced an explosive-laden vehicle into the tree log contraption that served as a gate to the detachment. The two soldiers fired at the old truck, which veered off sharply, away from the Quarter Guard, towards a building that housed the second-in-command of the detachment, before exploding in an orange fireball of deadly shrapnel. Almost immediately, the skies above opened with the angry roar of death, the tracer bullets whizzing like angry fireflies in the dim light, stinging like bees when they met flesh. Fighters from Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin—commonly known as al Shabaab— had launched an attack on a detachment of Ugandan soldiers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). The East African

The U.N. Is Sending Thousands of Refugees Back Into a War Zone
[…] Since December 2014, UNHCR has facilitated the return of more than 24,000 refugees to Somalia, all of whom it says went willingly. But as the agency has accelerated the repatriation process to keep pace with Kenyan efforts to close Dadaab, the line between voluntary and involuntary seems to have collapsed. UNHCR now appears to be managing a process that violates the cardinal rule of refugee protection: that refugees and asylum-seekers shall not be returned against their will to any country where they face a threat of persecution. The principle of non-refoulement, as it is known, is enshrined within the 2013 “tripartite” agreement between UNHCR and the Kenyan and Somali governments that governs the current repatriation process, as well as the 1969 African refugee convention, to which Kenya is a signatory. Evidence that Kenya is subverting these agreements — and that UNHCR is enabling it to do so — has mounted in recent months as rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have documented incidents of intimidation in Dadaab. But interviews conducted by Foreign Policy in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo offer the first concrete evidence that refugees have been sent back against their will, confirming that a campaign of forced repatriation is underway. Foreign Policy

Somali Protesters Urge India to Release 119 ‘Pirates’
Somali protesters have expressed outrage over reports emerging in India that 50 out of 119 detained Somalis suspected of being pirates could face the death penalty at the end of an ongoing trial. The Times of India reported on Friday that 119 Somali pirates nabbed by the Indian coast guard and navy between 2011 and 12 had pleaded guilty to offences brought against them. “This comes at the fag end of the trial that commenced in late 2012 with 70 witnesses deposing and difficulties caused by the absence of several foreign national witnesses. About 50 pirates, booked for murder, could face the death sentence,” Times of India said in its report. Hundreds of people in Somali towns of Galkio and El Buur in central Mudug region held peaceful protests against the Indian government and condemned the possible death sentences. Anadolu Agency

Angola, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan Receiving Russian Attack, Transport Helicopters
Over the next year, Russian Helicopters will deliver Mi-8/17 transport and Mi-24/35 attack helicopters to Nigeria, Mali, Angola and Sudan. This is according to Yury Demchenko, Rosoboronexport delegation head for the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, which took place at Air Force Base Waterkloof between 14 and 18 September. He said that Russia exported helicopters to Angola, Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda over the last five years. “In 2016-2017, we plan to continue exporting these helicopters to Angola, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria. Our position in the African helicopter market is solid, so we are optimistic about the prospects of cultivating it further.” DefenceWeb

Aid Workers Pulled Out of Volatile South Sudan Region
Nearly 40 aid workers have been evacuated from a northern area of South Sudan due to deteriorating security, the U.N. food agency said on Monday. The World Food Programme (WFP) said 38 people from three U.N. agencies and three aid organisations were flown out of Jazeera and Nhialdu in Unity State last week amid signs that fighting was imminent. Fighting erupted in South Sudan at the end of 2013 between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing his former deputy Riek Machar. A peace deal signed in 2015 proved shaky and fresh clashes flared in the capital, Juba, in July, raising fears the young nation could slide back into civil war. The conflict has helped fuel a hunger crisis, affecting an estimated 4.8 million people. Reuters

70% of Zimbabweans Live in Poverty
More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and the government requires about $2.7 billion to implement its Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy in the next two years, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Monday. Speaking at the launch of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in Harare, Chinamasa said this was despite the fact that poverty reduction had always remained government’s top priority. “Poverty eradication strategies and interventions have always been embedded in all the economic reform programmes government has been implementing since the attainment of independence in 1980,” Chinamasa said. “While over the years government has succeeded in halving the population in extreme poverty from 44 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 2012, however, poverty levels as measured by the Total Consumption Poverty Line has remained high at over 70 percent.” IOL News

Inside Eritrea’s Exodus
Today, the atmosphere in Asmara is markedly different than it was at the dawn of Eritrea’s independence. A bloody border war with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000 inflicted massive human and economic damage to the country. The threat of renewed conflict hangs heavily over the government in Asmara. Buses, bicycles and ageing European cars dot the roads of the capital. Its well-preserved Italian colonial heritage can be seen everywhere: from the espresso-sipping patrons lounging on terraces to the world-famous art deco architecture. More than a dozen people interviewed on the streets of Asmara said they are desperately gathering cash to pay for sigre dob (a border crossing). Eritrea is now in the throes of a migration crisis. Gaim Kibreab, a professor of refugee studies at London’s South Bank University, says Eritrea is the world’s “fastest-emptying nation”. About 400,000 people are estimated to have left Eritrea in the past decade. The United Nations (UN) and human rights activists estimate that as many as 5,000 Eritreans flee the country illegally every month. The Eritrean government says the real number is closer to 1,000 per month because Ethiopians often pretend to be Eritrean when seeking asylum abroad. The African Report

Following the Money: On the Trail of African Migrant Smugglers
He is the most wanted migrant smuggler in the world but there are no photos of him, only an artist’s rendering that investigators produced. It depicts a heavyset man with short hair. He is thought to be an Ethiopian in his early 40s and is suspected of having been in the business for the last 10 years. […] His name is Ermias Ghermay. Since that “day of tears,” as Pope Francis called it, around 10,000 more refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean — an average of one every three hours. During the same period, almost 500,000 people survived the journey to the coast of Italy — all of which has translated into several billions of euros in earnings for criminal African migrant smugglers over the last three years. The rules of this murderous business are dictated by Ethiopians, Sudanese and Libyans, but particularly by men from Eritrea. Their homeland is one of the poorest countries in the world, a single-party dictatorship referred to by Human Rights Watch as a “gigantic prison.” More than a million Eritreans have fled abroad, representing a huge market for Eritrean migrant smugglers, who are increasingly using the central route across the Mediterranean. Spiegle

Is Libya the Answer To the Refugee Crisis in Europe?
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has described the arrival of refugees in Europe as “poison” and criticised the European Union’s immigration policies. So far, the 28 EU countries have failed to agree on how to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to reach northern Europe. Orban has particularly attacked the open-door policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is also vehemently opposed to the EU’s mandatory quota system for countries to take a share of refugees. The Hungarian government has built a razor-wired fence to keep refugees out. Now Orban has a new idea and Libya is key. Could the plan work? Al Jazeera

Khartoum Says Won’t Serve As Launching Pad for Armed S. Sudanese Opposition
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour on Monday has said that his country wouldn’t serve as a launching pad for any armed opposition activities against South Sudan. In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday, Ghandour said “Sudan is a key member of the tripartite committee set up by the regional block IGAD to follow up the implementation of South Sudan’s peace agreement”. “Sudan wouldn’t allow any armed opposition to be launched from its territory against South Sudan,” he said, pointing his country continued to play an essential and active role in all regional and international initiatives aiming to achieve peace in the newborn nation. Sudan’s top diplomat underscored his country’s keenness to achieve peace in South Sudan, saying peace can’t be achieved in the two Sudans unless it was achieved in the other country. Sudan Tribune

Egypt’s President Defends Military’s Economic Role
Egypt’s president on Monday rejected criticism that the military’s growing economic involvement was distracting it from its core duties, an issue that recently moved center stage when the armed forces said it would intervene to end shortages of baby formula. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a former general who led the 2013 military ouster of an elected Islamist president, also dismissed suggestions of military mismanagement, saying he and the defense minister personally approve all spending. “There is a ferocious campaign against the state and the armed forces,” el-Sissi said in his first public comments on the subject. “This is your army, the army of your country. Your sons. It is not anyone else’s army.” AP on Seattle Times

Mali Islamist Jailed for Shrine Attacks
An Islamist who destroyed ancient shrines in Timbuktu has been jailed by the International Criminal Court for nine years. Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi admitted to leading rebel forces who destroyed historic mausoleums at the world heritage site in Mali in 2012. Judges at the court in The Hague found he had shown “remorse and empathy” for the crime. It is the first sentence based on cultural destruction as a war crime. BBC

South African Mining Union Backs Ramaphosa to Be ANC’s President
South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers said it will back Cyril Ramaphosa to be president of the country’s ruling African National Congress after Jacob Zuma. “This is not only based on the tradition of the ANC, but also on the suitability of the of the candidate,” NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi told reporters in Johannesburg Monday. “Zuma must serve his term.” Ramaphosa, 63, co-founded the NUM in the 1980s. Zuma, 74, is scheduled to depart as the ANC’s leader in 2017 and as the nation’s president in 2019. The contest to replace Zuma is intensifying as calls mount from ANC veterans, civil-rights groups and church officials for him to quit or be fired after he was implicated in a series of scandals. The nation’s next leader will probably come from the party since it’s won every parliamentary vote since the end of apartheid 22 years ago by more than 60 percent. Bloomberg

At 50, Botswana Discovers Diamonds Are Not Forever
When David Magang opened Botswana’s first domestic law firm shortly after independence in 1966, he and his country were starting from scratch. Since then, both he and the former British protectorate, which celebrates its 50th birthday this week, have travelled a huge distance based largely on Botswana’s vast diamond wealth. With those riches running low, the outlook is less rosy. Trained in London, Magang was one of only two local lawyers – the rest being British or South African – while Botswana, an expanse of arid scrubland the size of France, had just 7 km (4 miles) of tarred road and a capital that amounted to little more than a railway station. “On the face of it Botswana was very poor – good for hunting and not much else. It was basically an agrarian, subsistence society,” Magang told Reuters. “All we had was a railway, and that was owned by South Africa and Rhodesia.” Reuters

Vietnam, the Biggest Hub for Illegal Rhino Horn Trafficking, Has Done Little to Stop It
Vietnam has become the biggest hub in the world for trafficking in horns and other body parts of the rhinoceros, a critically endangered species which is being killed by poachers in South Africa at the rate of one every eight hours. An estimated 1,300 rhinos are slaughtered for their horns across Africa annually—up from just 100 in 2008—with the bulk of rhino horn smuggled by criminal gangs into Vietnam, according to surveys by international wildlife trade experts. Yet Vietnam hasn’t launched a single successful high-level prosecution against illegal rhino horn traders. The standing committee of CITES, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, meeting this week in South Africa, has warned Vietnam that the body will not tolerate the country’s failure to enforce bans on the rhino horn trade. The warning suggests that possible trade sanctions could be in the offing as early as next year. LA Times

Uganda’s Masaka-Kampala Highway: Is This the World’s Most Dangerous Road?
More people have died in the first nine months of 2016 on a single highway in Uganda than die on average each year on Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road”, begging the question – is this the most dangerous road in the world? According to local officials, more than 200 people have died since January on the Masaka-Kampala highway, which skirts Lake Victoria and connects traffic from Kenya’s coast all the way through Uganda to Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo beyond. On 2 July, a single accident claimed 21 lives, including that of a six-year-old child, when a trailer truck slammed into two full minibuses. The Independent

Traveling While African and Trying to Appease the Visa Gods
[…] The Nigerian writer Elnathan John, who was a Caine Prize finalist, captured it well in a recent series of tweets. “A good African traveler is one who returns. One who leaves Europe or America quickly. The embassies love them. Good African doesn’t move.” I have been a ‘Good African.’ Back in 2005, I went to the US on a student visa. I graduated with a degree in finance and moved back home after graduation, driven by a passion to work in my own country. I came. I did what I had to do. I was thankful for the opportunity to stay within your borders and when the time to leave came, I left. So, why is it that every time I want to come back, you still doubt I will leave? Have I not yet proven I have no long-term intentions in your countries? And what if I did? Am I a criminal for wanting to live elsewhere? Or is it my muddy feet you fear will dirtify your white couches? I will clean them at the door. “It has become like a criminal act for an African to openly admit planning to move to another country,” says Elnathan John. “We are made to swear we won’t stay. When a European or American wants to move to ‘Africa,’ they don’t apologize. They say it with pride.” Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones