Africa Media Review for September 30, 2016

ICC Opens Preliminary Probe Into Gabon Unrest
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday she was opening an initial probe into the deadly unrest in Gabon triggered by disputed elections. The news came only days after President Ali Bongo, re-elected by a wafer-thin margin in the August 27 vote over his rival Jean Ping, vowed to form “an inclusive government” for the oil-rich central African country. Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Libreville had referred the violence to her office on September 21, asking it “to open an investigation without delay.”  France 24

Jean Ping Rejects Bongo’s Dialogue, Announces Formation of ‘New Gabon’
Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping has rejected President Ali Bongo’s national dialogue proposition and announced the formation of a “new Gabon” after a rival inclusive national dialogue. Jean Ping made the remark during a press conference at his home in Libreville on Thursday insisting he is the president-elect of Gabon and he will not recognise the authority of Ali Bongo. “I call on the people to prepare for an inclusive national dialogue at my initiative … This inclusive national dialogue will be an opportunity for the new government chosen after the August 27 election and the Gabonese people to put in place the foundations of a new republic,” Ping said. Africa News

Gabon’s New PM to Oversee Implementation of New Unity Govt
Gabon President Ali Bongo has appointed his former minister of foreign affairs, Franck Emmanuel Issoze Ngondent as Prime Minister to lead a new unity government, BBC reports. Ngondent was appointed three days after President Bongo took the oath of office to serve his second term as elected leader of the country after “controversially” winning the presidential elections. The new prime minister was tasked with delivering on the president’s electoral manifesto, with him also expected to address the country’s many social issues such as the high youth unemployment rate and poor infrastructure. News 24

Rise in Nigerian Sex Slavery in Italy Fueled By Violence and ‘Juju’ Magic
When Nigerian teenager Beauty arrived in Sicily after crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa last year, she had only hours to phone the man who trafficked her – or risk lethal repercussions for family members back home. Before her journey through Niger to Libya, a spiritual priest practicing a form of black magic known in Nigeria as “juju” had forced her to swear an oath of obedience to her trafficker. The threat of a “curse” if she broke her oath and the possibility of violence by her traffickers at home in Benin City, a southern Nigerian hub for human trafficking, were enough to trap her into sex slavery. “If I had reported him to the police, my family would have been in great danger,” said Beauty, 19, fiddling with black-and-blond braids as she recalled the events of last summer. Reuters

Has Algeria Taken an Anti-IS Vaccine?
At first, it seems surprising. Algeria, the largest country in Africa and home to 40 million people, knows extremism well. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Algerians were among the first to join the newly formed mujahideen. Then, during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s – known locally as the “black decade” – Islamist groups established a presence across the country. Attacks and bombings, followed by counter-offensives from the government, led to the deaths of more than 150,000 people and the disappearances of another 7,000. Only in 2001 was the conflict finally brought to an end. Fifteen years later, radicalism appears to hold relatively little appeal in Algeria. There could, of course, be a spectacular attack tomorrow and statistics don’t tell the whole story, but in terms of IS’s recent recruitment of foreign fighters, Algeria lags far behind other countries in North Africa. IRIN

Fears for Missing Rwandan Activist: Rights Group
A Rwandan opposition activist missing for six months may have been “forcibly disappeared” and could have died in custody, a human rights group said Thursday. Illuminee Iragena was last seen on the evening of March 26 when she left her house on the outskirts of the capital Kigali, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement. “The Rwandan government should step up efforts to find out what happened to Illuminee Iragena,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW. “If she is in detention, the authorities should reveal her whereabouts and either promptly charge and try her, or release her. If she has died, they should make public the circumstances of her death.” The East African

EU Rolls Over Burundi Sanctions
The EU on Thursday rolled over travel ban and asset freeze sanctions against four prominent Burundi figures for another year amid continued turmoil in the east African country. In March, the European Union, Burundi’s biggest aid donor, suspended all funding to the government over its human rights record and for failing to halt violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term last year which the opposition said was illegal. The European Council of EU member states said the sanctions targeted four individuals “deemed to be undermining democracy or obstructing the search for a political solution to the crisis in Burundi.” News 24

Burundi Opposition Party Leader Arrested, Linked to ‘Armed Gangs’
The head of one of Burundi’s opposition parties has been arrested and accused of collaborating with armed gangs, police said Thursday. Gervais Niyongabo, chairman of FEDES-SANGIRA, was detained in the southern Makamba region Wednesday, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye wrote on his Twitter account. Niyongabo had been one of the few opposition leaders still working inside the central African nation. Many others have fled to neighboring states and Europe. Burundi has been mired in political crisis and sporadic violence for more than a year, triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, which he secured in a disputed election in July 2015. VOA

Kenya Moves to Replace Election Officials
Kenya’s government said on Tuesday it was taking steps to replace all its electoral commissioners under a deal with the opposition to resolve a row that has led to protests and violence. Rivals in parliament have held talks to end the dispute over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which critics said was biased and not fit to oversee elections scheduled for August 2017. A government statement said a committee representing several government agencies “will lead negotiations with the IEBC commissioners to facilitate the orderly and dignified exit of current commissioners and ensure a seamless transition”. Violence has often been a feature of Kenyan elections. After the 2007 vote, ethnic fighting left 1,200 people dead. Reuters

UN: Ethiopia Faces New Wave of South Sudanese Refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operation in Ethiopia said on Thursday it is bracing itself for a new influx of South Sudanese after some 30,000 arrived earlier this month. Kisut Gebreegziabher of the UNHCR’s Ethiopia office told Anadolu Agency the number of new arrivals in September had surpassed the agency’s expectations. “Following the peace deal between the warring factions of South Sudan, we were hoping for a marked decrease in the flow of refugees,” he said. According to him, fears of war, food shortages and the overall situation in the country have forced more South Sudanese to cross into Ethiopia in record numbers since Sept. 3. Anadolu Agency

UN, Congo Seek to Relocate South Sudanese Fighters
The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the Congolese government are looking at possibilities to relocate South Sudanese rebels to other countries, officials told Anadolu Agency on Thursday. ”Those fighters entered DRC following the fighting in South Sudan between government troops and fighters royal to [opposition leader] Riek Machar. “It was at the request of the Congolese authorities that MONUSCO intervened on purely humanitarian grounds to pick the mostly injured fighters and took them to where they could get first aid,” MONUSCO spokesman Felix Prosper Basse said. South Sudanese and Congolese authorities should come up with appropriate solutions to relocate those fighters to other countries, he added. Anadolu Agency

Somalia Demands Explanation for US Airstrike
Somalia’s government is demanding an explanation from the United States for Wednesday’s deadly airstrike in central Somalia. The Pentagon said in news release Thursday that its forces launched a “self-defense” strike against al-Shabab near the town of Galkayo, killing at least nine militants. However, Galmudug state vice-president Mohamed Hashi Abdi told VOA’s Somali service that the U.S. airstrike killed 13 members of Galmudug forces. VOA

CAR President Wants Arms Embargo Lifted
The president of the Central African Republic says he wants the United Nations to lift the arms embargo on his country. In an interview Wednesday with VOA’s French to Africa service, Faustin-Archange Touadera said the embargo, imposed in 2013, was once justified but argued, “It is no longer the case.” “There have been elections, a legitimate government was formed, as [was] the National Assembly,” he said. “We are putting in place democratic institutions and we cannot have an army without weapons.” VOA

Botswana at 50: There Are Reasons to Question the Country’s Fragility
[…] Botswana has done well for a large land-locked nation of few – 2.6 million people – who live in a semi-desert. Since independence from British colonial rule in 1966, it has served as an inspiration first as the antithesis-in-the-flesh of apartheid, showing the world that southern-Africa, or rather Africa at large, need not nor should not be ruled by white supremacists or colonial masters. It has made great strides in building a more diverse economy, away from subsistence farming, ranching and small scale mining in the 1960’s. Rolling out an impressive education and health system accessible to many. Its economic growth figures, though decreasing, have been impressive and have impacted many lives. However, weaknesses remain. Twenty percent of its economy remains dependent on diamond mining, a finite resource, which its government is acutely aware of. Mineral resource extraction is per definition a finite contribution to an economy. Mail and Guardian

Ghana’s President Found in Breach of Gift Laws Over $100,000 Car
Ghana’s president, John Dramani Mahama, breached the country’s gift policy in accepting a car from a Burkinabe contractor four years ago, a constitutional body has found. The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) however concluded in its preliminary report that the president’s action did not breach the bribery, corruption or conflict of interest laws in the country. Part of its ruling said, ‘‘The Commission is satisfied that the gift in question forms part of gifts prohibited under the Gift Policy under the Code of Conduct. ‘‘Although the evidence shows that the respondent (President Mahama) subsequently surrendered the gift to the State, the action nonetheless contravened the gift policy.’‘ Africa News

To Curb Migration, EU Must Solve Sahel Population Boom, UN Says
The European Union should help countries in Africa’s Sahel region tackle a population boom if it wants to keep more migrants from coming to its shores, a senior U.N. official said. Toby Lanzer, humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, said governments there are struggling to provide jobs, schools and food to the growing numbers that, the United Nations estimates, could triple to more 300 million by 2050. “The challenge across the region is gigantic,” Lanzer said in an interview Wednesday. “In the coming 10-20 years we will see an ever-increasing number of migrants until the countries of Europe … have a very frank conversation … about demography,” he said, adding that the EU should also discuss trade and security to curb migration. VOA

UN Calls for Human Rights Abuses to Be Documented in Libya
Senior UN officials have called for an independent body to document human rights abuses in Libya and efforts by the authority to bring perpetrators to account. Kate Gilmore, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva yesterday on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, said the human rights situation in Libya is “depressing, with little hope of resolution in immediate sight.” The UN’s special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, further added that the UN Security Mission in Libya would fully cooperate with any new system that would seek to improve and protect human rights and its promotion in Libya. Middle East Monitor

Egypt Is Building a New Capital — and China Is Bankrolling It
The Egyptian government is determined to build a new capital in the desert 28 miles southeast of this iconic city — and it’s no longer a mirage now that China is bankrolling most of the $45 billion project. Work has already begun on a 270-square-mile tract of army-owned land that would house as many as 5 million people when completed in 2021. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is pushing the project, has his skeptics, who wonder how cash-strapped Egypt can afford such an ambitious development. Enter the Chinese. On Sunday, China Fortune Land Development announced it would invest $20 billion in the still-unnamed capital. That comes on top of a $15 billion agreement by China’s state-owned construction company to finance 14 government buildings, a zone for trade fairs and a 5,000-seat conference center that would be the largest in Africa.  USA Today

A Huge Hedge Fund Just Settled Bribery Charges With the Feds for $200 Million
Och-Ziff Capital Management has agreed to settle charges of bribery, paying nearly $200 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission. […] Och-Ziff was accused of illegally paying “the Libyan Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund to invest in Och-Ziff managed funds. Other bribes were paid to secure mining rights and corruptly influence government officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the SEC said.  Business Insider

Captured and Cut: FGM Returns to Sierra Leone Despite Official Ban 
Khadija Balayma Allieu sits on her hospital bed, grimacing at every movement of her legs. It has been five days since she was forcibly genitally mutilated, she says. As she receives treatment in the eastern Sierra Leonean town of Kenema, Khadija, 28, recounts what she went through at the hands of five cutters. She is now in hiding because the soweis – as the cutters are known locally – are looking for her. Khadija says she was blindfolded and held by five or six women. “They gagged me as I shouted. Then [one of them] started cutting. They held my head down. I started bleeding profusely. I tried screaming but there was cloth inside my mouth.” The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones