Africa Media Review for September 6, 2018

U.N. Inquiry Says Burundi Still Committing Crimes against Humanity
More crimes against humanity were committed in Burundi in 2017 and 2018, whipped up by rhetoric from top officials including President Pierre Nkurunziza, a U.N. human rights report said on Wednesday. Burundi has tried and failed to stop the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2016, and refuses to cooperate with it. The commission said last year that officials at the highest level were responsible for crimes against humanity. “The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity continue to be committed in Burundi,” the Commission’s latest report said. “These crimes include murder, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity, and persecution on political grounds.” Reuters

Blast Kills Two Soldiers in Tense Burkina Region
Two soldiers died and six were wounded on Wednesday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in eastern Burkina Faso, a poor Sahel state where Islamist unrest is gaining ground, security sources said. The attack in Kabonga was the latest using an improvised explosive device against soldiers or police, and came as a senior police official warned of rising unrest in the country’s east. A similar strike a week ago killed seven people, soldiers and gendarmes sent to reinforce a police station that had come under attack in the restive town of Pama. A security source said the latest blast targeted a mine clearance team that was also headed for Pama to “search for and neutralise” explosive devices planted by jihadists who have infiltrated the area in recent months. News24/AFP

US Puts Mali Al-Qaida Affiliate on Terrorism Blacklist
The Trump administration has put al-Qaida affiliate in the west African nation of Mali on its terrorism blacklist. The State Department said Wednesday it had added Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The step freezes any assets it may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars American from doing business with it or providing the group with any material support. Mali has faced a wave of violence by groups linked to al-Qaida and Tuareg separatist rebels since 2012, and JNIM has emerged as a leader of extremist violence since it was formed in 2017. AP

Hundreds of African Migrants Rescued from Niger Desert
More than 400 people from across West Africa have been rescued from the desert in northern Niger in two days, the International Organisation for Migration said, in the latest recovery of migrants from the frontier region near Algeria. Search and rescue teams found the migrants in two groups at the desert border town of Assamaka, IOM said, without specifying whether they had been pushed back across the border from Algeria – following previous claims by rights groups that migrants were dumped in the remote region. Niger is a transit country for thousands of migrants heading to Libya and Algeria, key hubs for migrants trying to reach Europe. News24/AFP

South Sudan Court Jails 10 Soldiers for Rape and Murder
A South Sudanese military court has handed out jail sentences to 10 soldiers for rape of foreign aid workers and murder of a local journalist in 2016. Eleven soldiers were on trial but one was set free due to the lack of charges against him. In Thursday’s ruling, where the length of the sentences ranged from seven years to life, the court also ordered the government to pay damages to the victims. The case was widely seen as a test of will by President Salva Kiir’s government to bring accountability in the military that has long drawn accusations of widespread rights violations and a culture of impunity. Al Jazeera

Eastern Congo Has New Ebola Case in City of 1.4 Million
Congo health officials say that a case of Ebola has been discovered in Butembo, a city of 1.4 million people in the country’s northeast. Jessica Ilunga, a Ministry of Health communication officer, said Wednesday that Congo’s government and the U.N. World Health Organization are taking immediate steps to contain the new Ebola case in the urban area. Butembo is the largest city in Congo’s North Kivu province and health experts worry that the contagious Ebola could spread rapidly among its dense population. The city’s mayor, Sylvain Kanyamanda, urged residents to be calm and to maintain hygienic conditions. Since August 1 the current Ebola outbreak has seen 93 confirmed cases which have caused 54 deaths. AP

CSOs Call for a Strong Human Rights Mandate on Sudan
In advance of the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, more than 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the members of the council to adopt a strong monitoring and reporting mandate on Sudan. The UNHRC should mandate a special rapporteur “to monitor, verify and report on ongoing human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law, recommend concrete ways to end them, and urge the Government of Sudan to implement the recommendations made to it by UN human rights bodies and mechanisms,” 32 Sudanese and international civil society organisations wrote in an open letter to the Council. Dabanga

Mauritanian Women Face Prosecution for Reporting Rape: NGO
Women and girls in Mauritania who are raped are often unwilling to report the crime out of fear that they themselves will be jailed for breaking the west African nation’s strict laws on sex outside marriage, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. In a report based on interviews with dozens of rape victims as well as NGOs and government officials, the rights group said Mauritanian law as well as family and police hostility strongly discouraged them from denouncing their attackers. The country’s legal code does not define rape or address the notion of consent, HRW said, and victims who cannot prove the assault risk being charged with “zina”, or sex outside marriage. If convicted, the women face long prison terms and banishment by their family or community in Mauritania, one of the poorest countries in the world. News24

Uganda: Tempers Flare as MPs Debate Torture
Parliament was yesterday locked in debate as lawmakers clashed over a report by an ad hoc committee that investigated the brutality from the Arua by-election and blamed security operatives for torturing Opposition legislators and their supporters. The run-up to debating the report became contentious after President Museveni met NRM MPs on August 27 and warned them that any discussions relating to the report would offend the law on sub-judice rule because four MPs and 31 supporters are facing treason charges. Mr Museveni reiterated his position in his August 31 letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, in which he insisted that the word “torture” should not be used in debating the health situation of bed-ridden legislators and other Opposition supporters that were injured, until an inquiry by the Chief of Defence Forces and Inspector General of Police establishes what happened. Daily Monitor

Ethiopia Reopens Embassy in Eritrea as Relations Warm
Ethiopia reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital on Thursday, state media reported, the latest step in restoring ties after the two nations ended decades of conflict. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a peace pact in July, ending the hostilities that began with a two-year border war in 1998 and degenerated into 18 years of stalemated relations. Abiy had arrived in Eritrea on Wednesday for his second visit since taking office, inspecting the Red Sea nation’s two main ports before travelling to the capital Asmara. “Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki reopened the embassy in a brief ceremony,” Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported on Thursday. Mail & Guardian

Lost Childhood: Boko Haram Victims Gripped by Thoughts of Revenge
[…] Across the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram’s campaign is approaching its tenth year, a generation of young people are dreaming of becoming soldiers, nurturing their hopes of inflicting bloody vengeance on the group for its atrocities, which includes killing at least 30,000 people, kidnapping thousands and setting ablaze untold numbers of villages. Operating on its manifesto that condemns Western education, Boko Haram has destroyed nearly 1,400 Western-style schools, killed more than 2,000 teachers and caused $9bn worth of destruction. … Boko Haram’s campaign has had an acute impact on children. Some of the nine-year-old students have been hearing the words Boko Haram ever since they were born. Out of the 2.6 million people who fled their homes in fear of Boko Haram, 1.4 million of them were children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The agency also reports that nearly one out of four suicide bombers is a child. Al Jazeera

New Term, Same Old Foes for Mali’s Keita
As he was sworn in to start a second term this week, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita promised to address insecurity in the northern and central parts of the country, caused by a continued Islamist insurgency. “I chose to place the re-establishment of peace and security at an absolute level of priority,” the president told hundreds of supporters and diplomats during the inauguration ceremony in Bamako, the capital. But while the president may be starting a new term, the old foes that dogged him throughout his first term seem to be getting bolder. In June, gunmen attacked the headquarters of the G5 Sahel Force in Sevare, killing six people. In July, a French military patrol was ambushed in the northern city of Gao; four civilians were killed in a shootout. VOA

At China-Africa Summit, Officials Dismiss Debt Criticism
Chinese and African officials have rejected criticism of Beijing’s development projects on the continent as they ended a summit that included a $60bn pledge for more aid to the continent. President Xi Jinping hosted leaders from across Africa amid questions about whether his country’s Belt and Road global trade infrastructure initiative is worsening debt problems in some countries. “Everything we do with China is perfectly under control, including on the financial and debt side,” Senegal’s President Macky Sall said on Tuesday at the end of the two-day summit. … On the opening day of the summit on Monday, Xi offered $60bn in financial support to African countries over the next three years. He said the debt of the continent’s poorest nations will be written off. … Xi’s cherished Belt and Road project has already seen China loan billions of dollars to countries in Asia and Africa for roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure projects. Critics have warned that the Chinese leader’s pet project is burying some countries under massive debt. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones