Africa Media Review for September 29, 2016

Sudan government accused of using chemical weapons in Darfur
Dozens of children in Darfur have allegedly been killed by chemical weapons dropped on them by their own government, it is claimed. Amnesty International say the children are among more than 200 people estimated to have been killed by the banned weapons since January. Those affected by the “poisonous smoke” vomit blood, struggle to breathe and watch as their skin falls off. The Sudanese government has said the allegations are baseless. “The allegations of use of chemical weapons by Sudanese Armed Forces is baseless and fabricated,” Sudan’s UN Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed said, quoted by Reuters. “The ultimate objective of such wild accusation, is to steer confusion in the ongoing processes aimed at deepening peace and stability and enhancing economic development and social cohesion in Sudan.” The government in Khartoum and rebels have been fighting in Darfur for 13 years. BBC

UN report says Sudan violates Darfur sanctions
The Sudanese government continues to violate sanctions imposed by the Security Council over their actions in Darfur, according to a UN report. The report, written by a panel of experts found violations of the arms embargo, the use of cluster bombs by the Sudanese government and the illegal transfer of intrusion software with electronic intelligence capability among other things. The panel also documented numerous human rights violations attributable to the government, the financing of armed groups within the country which act as proxy forces and possible violations and a travel ban and an asset freeze on militia leader Sheik Musa Hilal Abdallah Alnsiem. Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar said the report demonstrated that the sanctions “now exist in name only”. News 24

U.S. condemns South Sudan opposition leader’s call for renewed war 
The State Department on Wednesday strongly condemned comments by South Sudan’s opposition leader calling for a return to war against the government, saying it was “inexcusable” and showed a lack of concern for the well-being of the people. Riek Machar, the country’s former first vice president, and his allies ordered their forces to reorganize for “armed resistance” to the South Sudan government after talks over the weekend in Khartoum. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington had seen Machar’s statements and “strongly condemned” them, saying the violence of the past few years had proven fighting would not resolve the country’s underlying conflict. Reuters

South Sudan VP Blames Former Rebel Leader for Unrest
In July, former South Sudanese rebel leader and one-time vice president Riek Machar fled the capital city of Juba, saying he feared for his life if he remained. Fighting had broken out between Machar’s troops and those loyal to his longtime rival, President Salva Kiir. Now, one of Machar’s former allies, who controversially replaced him as first vice president in South Sudan’s government, says Machar is perpetuating the country’s internecine conflict from afar. Taban Deng Gai, the chief opposition negotiator for the August 2015 peace deal, says that Machar and his associates are encouraging displaced people to stay in United Nations camps in South Sudan instead of returning home, where they could help rebuild the shattered state. “He is encouraging them to remain in those places,” Deng told Foreign Policy in an interview at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Wednesday. “Those people are not afraid to leave; they are told to stay.” Deng suggested that a “Riek Machar mafia” is holding displaced people at the camps, which he said ends up prolonging the civil war that has plagued South Sudan since 2013. Foreign Policy

US accused of killing 22 in misdirected Somalia air strike
An air strike in northern Somalia left as many as 22 soldiers dead overnight, local officials said on Wednesday, and one region said the United States had been duped into attacking its troops. Galmudug’s Security Minister Osman Issa said 22 of his region’s soldiers had been killed in the strike, adding that the rival neighbouring region of Puntland had requested it on the pretext that the men were al Shabaab Islamist militants. “Puntland misinformed the United States and thus our forces were bombed,” he told Reuters. A U.S. Defense Department official told Reuters Washington had conducted “a self-defense air strike” against al Shabaab. “The air strike was called in after Somali troops faced fire from militants,” the official said. No evidence had been seen that the attack killed civilians or anyone other than al Shabaab militants, the official added. Reuters

At least 17 Somali soldiers killed in inter-regional fighting -officials
At least 17 soldiers were killed in clashes overnight between forces from two semi-autonomous regions of northern Somalia, local officials said on Wednesday. Soldiers in Puntland and Galmudug have clashed repeatedly over territory and political rivalries in recent years. As well as fighting in a civil war that began in 1991, national forces, loyal to the Western-backed Mogadishu-based government, and regional militias are battling an Islamist insurgency. The militias sometimes also attack each other. Puntland said it had killed Islamist militants in an air raid but Galmudug said its soldiers were targeted. “This [story of] killing militants is propaganda. Seventeen of our soldiers were killed and two of our military vehicles were destroyed by the air strike,” Abdi Hussein, the deputy governor of Galkayo, the capital of the Galmudug region, told Reuters by phone.  Reuters

US imposes sanctions on top DRC officials after election delay
The United States has imposed sanctions on two senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an apparent warning to President Joseph Kabila to respect the constitution of the vast, unstable African country and call elections later this year. The DRC has suffered repeated bouts of unrest since Kabila, 45, announced that the polls would be delayed. Last week about 50 people died in clashes between security forces and protesters angered by what opposition groups charge is Kabila’s plan to retain power unlawfully through the indefinite postponement of a vote. Supporters of Kabila, whose second term in office expires in December, say logistical and financial constraints mean it is impossible to hold fair polls as planned. The Guardian

Congo’s Bemba appeals ICC conviction
Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, jailed for 18 years for war crimes, has formally appealed against his conviction by the International Criminal Court, arguing his trial was “flawed,” his lawyers said Wednesday. Bemba last week “filed an appeal against his conviction”, his defence team said in a statement sent to AFP, adding that his rights had been violated to the point that “the Bemba trial, in fact, was a mistrial”. The former militia leader was sentenced in June to 18 years in jail after being found guilty at the ICC on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The East African

Nigeria Trying to Muzzle Dissenting Voices, Amnesty Says
Amnesty International says Nigeria is trying to muzzle dissent by arresting and intimidating journalists and protesters. The London-based rights group cites examples of police blocking peaceful protests. Those protests include activists demanding the government rescue more than 200 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, Shiite Muslims demanding the release of their long-detained leader and separatists calling for an independent Biafra in the southeast. The statement Wednesday says Amnesty has documented cases of enforced disappearances and killings of pro-Biafra supporters by security forces. It also cites the detention of several journalists critical of officials in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. AP on ABC News

Kenya Olympic chief charged with stealing $250,000 in Rio
Kenya’s Olympic team leader has denied stealing thousands meant for athletes’ and officials’ accommodation in Rio. Stephen Arap Soi, the country’s chef de mission, is facing five charges related to the theft of 25.6m Kenyan shillings ($256,000, £197,000). Two other top officials denied charges of stealing team uniforms provided by sponsor Nike. Team Kenya, which won 13 medals at the Games, were dogged by allegations of mismanagement and corruption in Rio. BBC

In Egypt’s Guantanamo ‘abuse is systematic’
Egyptian authorities at the notorious al-Aqrab (Scorpion) prison in Cairo have been abusing inmates in ways that may have led to their death, a new Human Rights Watch report said. The 80-page report, released on Wednesday, is based on interviews with 20 of the prisoners’ relatives, lawyers, a former prisoner and other medical files and photographs. It is estimated that thousands are being held in the prison, mainly political prisoners and critics of the regime. “Staff at Scorpion Prison beat inmates severely, isolate them in cramped ‘discipline’ cells, cut off access to families and lawyers, and interfere with medical treatment,” the report says, adding testimonies of “cruel and inhuman treatment by officers of Egypt’s Interior Ministry that probably amounts to torture in some cases and violates basic international norms for the treatment of prisoners”. Al Jazeera

French policy shift leaves Gabon’s Bongo out in the cold
In the heyday of former President Omar Bongo, Gabon and its oil wealth were a central pillar of “La Francafrique”, a shadowy network that enabled France’s troops to defend African autocrats in exchange for juicy contracts for French companies. Thanks partly to this web of diplomacy and trade backed by French firepower, Bongo stayed in office for 42 years before his death in 2009. France’s energy firms, meanwhile, had undisputed claims to some of the continent’s richest oil fields. But the days of France throwing its weight behind a leader for commercial favours may be numbered, which presents a challenge for French businesses in West Africa, a largely Francophone region because of its colonial past. Ali Bongo, the son of the late president, was inaugurated for a second term on Tuesday after an election whose credibility EU observers seriously called into question. France’s position has been clear since the August 27 poll: it has “doubts” about its credibility, so it won’t endorse Bongo as the winner against his main opponent Jean Ping – a clear message that Bongo’s half-century family dynasty can no longer count on support from Gabon’s former colonial master. SABC

US extradites Rwandan academic to face genocide charges
A Rwandan academic who is accused of participating in the 1994 genocide arrived in the country on Wednesday following his extradition from the United States. Leopold Munyakazi, 65, was handed over to Rwandan police by U.S. officials at Kigali International Airport. Richard Muhumuza, Rwanda’s prosecutor-general, said the suspect is considered one of the key ideologues of the genocide, in which over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists. AP on Stars and Stripes

Activists Seek Release of Eritrean Journalist Jailed 15 Years
Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye has been missing for 15 years. Human Rights Watch would like to see that he is not forgotten. As part of its Free Them campaign to highlight political prisoners around the globe, the rights group is focusing attention on Seyoum, the former head of Eritrean state television, who was taken from his Asmara home by government agents on September 21, 2001, and has not been seen or heard from since. Seyoum was part of a group of Eritrean journalists rounded up in a crackdown on independent media. Using the hashtag #FreeThem, Human Rights Watch is encouraging people to share Seyoum’s story, hold events and tweet to world leaders asking for his release. VOA

Japan navy steps up war on Somalia piracy with base in Djibouti
Japan in collaboration with the international community is intensifying war on piracy to enable safe transportation of cargo and passengers in the Indian Ocean. Japanese ambassador to Kenya Toshitsugu Uesawa said his government has set up a defence force base in Djibouti in a bid to maintain surveillance off Somalia Coast to contain piracy. Due to increased surveillance, he said attacks had in recent years dropped drastically in the key shipping route that had been hit hard leading to increase in global shipping costs a few years back. “Our major goal is to secure the sea so that ships can safely transport passengers and goods to various ports on the African continent,” he said. Mr Uesawa was confident the maritime industry in Africa could register significant growth if pirate attacks are brought to an end. He also reaffirmed the Japanese government’s commitment to fostering relations between the Japanese and the Kenya navy to make the Indian Ocean safe for sea transport. The East African

How Kenyan and Tanzanian medicine producers deserve a shot in the arm
Despite major improvement in access to HIV/Aids and TB treatment most people living in Africa still lack access to reliable and appropriate medicines. They continue to struggle with the worst health status in the world. Why is this happening? What can be done? Unexpectedly, part of the explanation can be found in the state of Africa’s own pharmaceutical industry. Far too little is heard about the industry in debates about access to medicines. And it’s often said that Africa has no pharmaceutical industry . But this simply isn’t true. We set out to discover what was happening to local pharmaceutical production in Kenya and Tanzania. We also wanted to explore the extent to which more local production of medicines could improve access for those countries’ populations. It’s a timely question. Both countries have an established pharmaceutical industry with scope for expansion into a huge and expanding regional market that is largely served by imports. Mail and Guardian

Cameroon goes it alone with controversial EU trade deal, angers regional partners
Regional integration in Central Africa hangs in the balance following Cameroon’s unilateral decision to agree a trade deal with the European Union last month. Despite protests from the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), Cameroon agreed to an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe at the start of August, allegedly in violation of CEMAC rules. The EPA is intended to succeed the Cotonou Agreement under which African countries were able to export goods to the EU duty free. Negotiations over the details of the new deal – under which several preferential features for African countries will no longer stand – have been ongoing since 2003, with the Central African states bargaining as a regional bloc. These talks have continually faced deadlocks, however, and the deadline to agree and ratify the new deal was pushed back from October 2014 to August 2016. As this second deadline approached – after which preferential treatment to European markets would be suspended – most regional leaders were still unhappy with the proposals and agreed to hold out for a better deal. African Arguments

Trade ban approved for the pangolin — the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal
The pangolin is described as the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world. The nocturnal, ant-eating animal got a much-needed boost Wednesday at a U.N. wildlife conference that approved a ban on trade in all eight species of Asian and African pangolins. The small creature is heavily poached for its meat and scales that are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. There is also a market for pangolin products in Africa. Delegates approved a ban on trade in seven pangolin species by consensus at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. LA Times

Special Investigation: Inside the Deadly Rhino Horn Trade
[…] South Africa is home to nearly 70 percent of the 29,500 rhinos left on Earth, down from several hundred thousand in Africa before the 1800s, when the European imprint on the land intensified. They’re spread across two continents and five species: the white rhino, with some 20,400 remaining; the black, with 5,250; the greater one-horned; the Sumatran; and the Javan. According to South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association, 6,200 of the country’s rhinos are in private hands and are used commercially for photographic safaris, legal hunting, horn production, and breeding. […] A single bull rhino carrying 22 pounds of horn might buy a new life for a Mozambican poacher who slips over the border into Kruger National Park with an AK-47, but that poacher himself is likely to be exploited by the men who supplied his weapon. That poacher also may be shot by authorities, as were 500 Mozambican poachers in Kruger from 2010 to 2015. National Geographic



Photo: Adam Jones