Africa Media Review for September 28, 2017

 

Rebels Close in on East Congo City amid Gunfire
Rebels in eastern Congo advanced to the outskirts of the city of Uvira near the Burundi border on Wednesday, residents said, sowing panic and confining thousands of civilians to their homes. The fighting between the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia and the army was the latest example of mounting insecurity in Democratic Republic of Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired last December. The violence in eastern and central Congo has displaced over 1.5 million in the past year and revived fears of civil war in a country where conflicts from 1996-2003 killed millions and spawned dozens of armed groups that continue to prey on local populations and exploit natural resources. Reuters

EU and US Critical of African Bid to Halt Burundi Atrocities Probe
African countries launched an initiative at the United Nations on Wednesday which critics said was an 11th-hour spoiler to try to save Burundi from further investigations into alleged crimes against humanity. The U.N. Human Rights Council had been expected to back a European Union resolution on Thursday extending the mandate of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry that has said top-level Burundian officials should be held accountable for atrocities. But the African group of countries, led by Tunisia, called its own meeting on Wednesday and unveiled a rival resolution that praised Burundi for wishing to engage in dialogue and cooperate with the U.N., with no mention of renewing the U.N. inquiry. Burundi’s Ambassador Renovat Tabu said the U.N. inquiry was biased and its reports of violence and atrocities did not reflect reality.  Reuters

Boko Haram Kills 3, Burns down at Least 150 Homes in NE Nigeria
Boko Haram killed three people and set fire to scores of homes in a raid targeting vulnerable rural communities in northeast Nigeria, a local official said on Thursday. Modu Ganamani, information officer for the Guzamala local government area in northern Borno state, said the attack happened at about 15:00 on Wednesday. “Boko Haram insurgents came in large numbers in trucks and on motorcycles and attacked Goram and two neighbouring villages, Lingis and Ajidari,” he told AFP by telephone. “They killed three people and burned around 150 homes. They looted foodstores and set them on fire.” It was not immediately clear which faction of Boko Haram was responsible for the attack. AFP

Cameroon ‘Has Forcibly Returned 100,000 Nigerian Refugees’
Cameroon has forcibly returned 100,000 Nigerian refugees in breach of international agreements, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The rights group accused soldiers of deporting refugees escaping Islamist violence, as well as attacking and sexually exploiting them. Cameroon is “punishing” refugees for Boko Haram attacks, HRW said. Cameroon has rejected similar accusations previously, saying Nigerians have returned willingly. “Since early 2015, the Cameroonian authorities have summarily deported at least 100,000 Nigerians living in remote border areas back to war, displacement and destitution in Nigeria’s Borno state,” HRW said in a report. “In carrying out these deportations, Cameroonian soldiers have frequently used extreme physical violence.”  BBC

Libya Bans Entry of U.S. Citizens in Retaliation
Libya’s interim government on Wednesday announced it would ban entry of U.S. citizens into Libyan territory in response to a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend the entry of Libyans. The eastern government called in a statement the move by the United States a “serious escalation” targeting Libyans, accusing the United States of placing Libyans “in the same place with terrorists, whom the Libyan armed forces are fighting with the help of the Libyan people.” It added that the escalation by the United States leaves one choice to the interim government to apply reciprocity by banning the entry of U.S. citizens into Libyan territory. The U.S. Embassy to Libya on Monday announced that entry of Libyan nationals to the United States has been suspended for security reasons. Xinhua

Libyan Rights Groups Accuse UAE of War Crimes
Human rights groups in Libya have accused the United Arab Emirates of committing war crimes in the country, including killing hundreds of civilians. The rights groups said on Tuesday that the UAE committed these crimes through direct air strikes on Libya and by the renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The findings of alleged crimes were presented on Tuesday at a conference for human rights on the sidelines of a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. At the forum, Libyan witnesses spoke of extrajudicial killings, forced hunger and displacement that they or their family members experienced under Haftar in Derna and Ganfouda, provinces in eastern Libya. Al Jazeera

Haftar in Italy to Discuss Terrorism and Smuggling
Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar held talks in Rome this week to discuss military issues including possible cooperation in fighting terrorism and people smuggling in the North African country. Haftar met with Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, Italian chief of defence staff General Claudio Graziano and Interior Minister Marco Minniti. The Libyan military leader arrived in Rome yesterday in an air force plane and was received with full military honours. He was accompanied by his son Saddam. Middle East Monitor

Libyan Ex-Militiamen Were Once Linked to Al-Qaeda. Now They Wield Power in a New Order
Abdulhakim Belhadj has shed his combat fatigues for gray sports jackets and crisp white shirts. He has given up his AK-47 rifle for an election ballot. Once a jihadist and revolutionary commander, he is now a globe-trotting Islamist politician and businessman. “My thinking of that time is not a reflection of the way I think now,” the compact 51-year-old said, referring to his fighting days in Libya. But in a war-divided nation, penetrated by the Islamic State and struggling to forge a new identity, Libyans have not forgotten who Belhadj once was. They remember that he fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. They remember that he led the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an obscure, al-Qaeda-linked militia that the United States branded a terrorist organization. Belhadj was considered so dangerous that he was arrested and interrogated at a secret CIA rendition site in Asia after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Later, he was tortured in a Libyan prison. Today, as key players in the contest between Islamists and secularists for the soul of the new Libya, Belhadj and his comrades represent a rare instance of former militants associated with al-Qaeda achieving not just legitimacy, but the ability to shape the course of a nation. The Washington Post

Libya Threatens to Seize NGO Migrant Rescue Boats
Libya’s navy warned it will seize activists’ boats on migrant rescue missions that enter its waters unauthorised, after a run-in on Wednesday with a German vessel during which a warning shot was fired. “This time we avoided an escalation. In future, we will seize the boats of NGOs that do not respect Libya’s sovereignty,” said navy spokesman General Ayub Kacem. The Libyan coastguard earlier boarded a boat operated by Germany’s “Mission Lifeline” which had picked up 52 migrants at sea. “You are not welcome here,” a coastguard official said in a videotape posted on the internet by the NGO.  AFP

EU Seeks to Resettle More Refugees from North Africa
The European Union unveiled a new plan Wednesday to resettle at least 50,000 refugees, the majority of them from northern Africa. The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, said it has set aside 500 million euros ($587 million) for the effort. It wants refugees in Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia to be the focus. Libya is the main jumping-off point for many people willing to brave potentially perilous sea voyages across the Mediterranean in search of better lives in Europe. Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Niger — one of the main migrant transit countries in Africa — all border Libya. Most of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean probably would not qualify for asylum in Europe, but the EU wants to make sure that genuine refugees do not have to face the dangerous sea crossing. AP

Ugandan Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Extend President’s Rule
A government-backed Ugandan lawmaker introduced a measure Wednesday to extend the long-time president’s rule, following a fight in which opposition lawmakers were forcibly evicted from the legislative chamber. The evictions came after the parliamentary speaker, a member of the ruling party, accused some lawmakers of obstructing proceedings in a riotous session Tuesday during which legislators brawled over efforts to introduce legislation to remove the presidential age limit of 75 from Uganda’s constitution. Footage from the legislative chamber showed some opposition members of parliament being physically manhandled and dragged out by plainclothes security officials. The leader of the opposition, after complaining that special forces had been used to evict her colleagues, later led her team in walking out. President Yoweri Museveni, who is 73 and has ruled Uganda since taking power by force in 1986, is ineligible to run again in 2021 if the age barrier stays. AP

President’s Elite Forces Evict MPs from Uganda House
The elite protection force of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni violently removed opposition MPs from parliament as a motion to remove the presidential age caps started its formal legislative journey on Wednesday. The Special Forces Command (SFC) stormed into parliament as the House descended into unprecedented chaos after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ordered the suspension of 25 MPs. The 25 were accused of causing chaos during a previous sitting of the House, which was due to receive the motion by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi. Africa Review

Uganda Bans Some Broadcasts Ahead of Debate on Letting President Run Again
Ugandan authorities told broadcasters to stop airing some live coverage as the East African nation nears a parliamentary debate on a constitutional amendment that would let President Yoweri Museveni attempt to extend his three-decade rule. The Uganda Communications Commission directed all broadcasters to refrain from airing “live feeds which are in breach of the minimum broadcasting standards,” according to a statement published on Twitter by NBS Television, a local channel. The commission said it “noted with concern” that radio and TV stations are relaying broadcasts that “are inciting the public, discriminating, stirring up hatred, promoting a culture of violence” and “likely to create public insecurity or violence.” The UCC didn’t identify specific broadcasts, although channels regularly carry feeds from Uganda’s parliament, where the ruling National Resistance Movement is backing the removal of a clause in the constitution that sets a 75-year age limit for presidential candidates. Such a change, which needs to be debated in parliament and passed by a lawmakers’ vote, would allow Museveni, 73, to run for re-election. Bloomberg

Biafra: Nigerian Govt Speaks on Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB, US Position on Proscription
Nigerian government has insisted that Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu are terrorists. Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, said this during an interview on BBC Focus Africa on Wednesday. He expressed regret that the United States does not share the same view with Nigeria about IPOB, a situation he described as “unfortunate”. “The acts and utterances of IPOB were acts and utterances of terrorists. For instance Nnamdi Kanu was caught on tape saying that they want Biafra and not peacefully but by force and that if they don’t get Biafra, Somalia will be a paradise with the kind of mayhem. “This is also the same man who opens a safe for arms and the same man who set up his own Biafra national gathering, his own Biafra secret service and the same man who actually attacked army formations”. Daily Post – Nigeria

Ex-S. Sudan Army Chief Was a Threat to President Kiir: Aide
General Paul Malong Awan, the former South Sudanese army chief who was sacked in May, had proved to be a threat to President Salva Kiir, a close aide revealed. “The way Gen. Paul Malong was conducting himself was quite astonishing. He had reached a point he could not listen to President Salva Kiir himself. He saw himself as more powerful that he forgot he was appointed into the position by the president and the president has the power to remove him from power the same way he appointed him”, the presidential aide, familiar to circumstances which led to Awan’s removal, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday. Sudan Tribune

Angola Opposition Leader Quits Following Poll Defeat
The leader of Angola’s main opposition party Unita said on Wednesday he would quit following defeat in last month’s election, which he alleges was rigged in the ruling party’s favour. Isaias Samakuva, 71, took over Unita after longtime rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in 2002, a death that marked the beginning of the end of Angola’s bloody 27-year civil war. “I told Angolans before and during the election campaign that after the vote I would give up the role as president of Unita, and I confirm this decision,” Samakuva told reporters. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) secured 26 percent of the vote in the August elections, coming a distant second to the ruling MPLA party. AFP

South African Unions Protest Corruption, Jacob Zuma’s Rule
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South Africa’s largest union group, had called for the protest marches to be held across cities in South Africa, citing rampant corruption in President Jacob Zuma’s government as well as several businesses affiliated with the influential Gupta family. In Johannesburg alone, roughly 2,000 members of COSATU took to the streets, waving placards reading “Zuma must go — corruption is a crime against humanity.” Deutsche Welle

Everyone Wants Cobalt, but Few Want to Get Tangled up in the World’s Largest Producing Nation
For too long, the Democratic Republic of Congo has known no competition in the cobalt market, to its detriment. The metal, which used to be just a byproduct of nickel and copper mining, is fast becoming one of the core ingredients of our technology-driven lifestyles. The instability in the DR Congo, however, is driving some investors to look to much smaller but more reliable cobalt sources. Earlier this year, Canada began to notice the makings of a cobalt rush, starting in the town of Cobalt, Ontario—named for the mineral that was discovered there. More than a century ago, the region was the site of an old-fashioned silver rush, but its resources were soon eclipsed by Africa’s offering. Prospectors are again returning to the town of Cobalt: By May this year, more than a dozen mining companies had staked their claim in the Canadian town, the Northern Prospectors Association told Canada’s CBC . One of those is First Cobalt, a Toronto mining company. In mid-September, the company said it would be pulling out of DR Congo just months after it signed a deal over copper and cobalt prospecting in the country. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones