Africa Media Review for September 7, 2018

US Wants Fast Track Hybrid Court in South Sudan
The United States on Thursday called on South Sudan government to expedite the process of forming a hybrid court to try perpetrators of rights abuses in the war-torn country. The setting up of the hybrid court is part of the terms of the 2015 peace deal President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed following intense pressure from the international community. Thousands have been killed in the fighting. In a statement issued on Thursday, the US embassy in Juba said South Sudan government should move immediately to conclude the Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union on the establishment of the Hybrid Court to deliver accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including those that involve sexual and gender-based violence. Radio Tamazuj

West Africa: U.S. to Begin Drone Attacks on Sahel Militants – Report
American forces in Africa will soon escalate their war against militants in the Sahel by using armed drones to attack them, reports an American news website on global affairs. The attacks will be launched in the coming months from new facilities which the United States Air Force is building at Agadez in central Niger, says the Washington-based Foreign Policy news service. The U.S. military has killed al Shabaab militants in drone strikes in Somalia for some time. But Foreign Policy reports that in the Sahel, the drones have until recently been based in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, and used only to collect intelligence. The service says the government of Niger asked the U.S. to deploy armed drones after an ambush last November in which militants claiming to be from “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” killed five Nigerien and four American troops. The deaths of American Special Forces soldiers in a little-publicised war in which they were not assigned to combat roles led to an extensive inquiry in Washington. AllAfrica

Mali Peace Deal Jeopardised by Armed Groups Linked to Terrorism, UN Warns
Armed groups in Mali are undermining a peace agreement signed with the government three years ago because of their links to drug smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism, according to a UN report. Despite $286m (£220m) spent implementing the agreement between June 2015 and June 2018, the humanitarian situation in Mali remains “grave, precarious, dire and volatile”, driven by terrorism and organised crime, the security council committee found. The level of need in the arid west African country, one of the poorest in the world, is higher now than at any point since the beginning of the security crisis in 2012, with 5.2 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, up from 3.8 million in 2017. Unusually, the panel named individual members of the signatory armed groups and splinter groups whom the experts says are involved in attacks against Malian security and armed forces, and in organised crime. The Guardian

US Should Suspend Military Aid to Uganda – Bobi Wine’s Lawyer
The United States should suspend military aid to Uganda over the government’s human rights record, the US lawyer for a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday. The call broadened criticism of the government by opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, a musician known by his stage name Bobi Wine. Authorities charged Kyagulanyi with treason last month over the suspected stoning of Museveni’s convoy. He denies the charge and says he was tortured in detention. He arrived in Washington on Saturday for medical treatment for his injuries. … “We want the American taxpayer to know that the American taxpayer is funding this. The military equipment we are supplying to Uganda is being used in a war of terror against Uganda’s citizens,” lawyer Robert Amsterdam, flanked by Kyagulanyi, told a news conference in Washington. “We call on the US government to immediately suspend military funding to Uganda,” he said. Reuters

Ebola Death Toll Rises to 88 in DRC
The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has risen to 88, the health ministry said on Thursday, as the virus spread to the city of Butembo, an important commercial hub of one million people. The first confirmed cases in Butembo were a woman and one of the medical staff who had been treating her, it added. The woman died on Tuesday after fleeing nearby Beni and had “refused to cooperate with the health authorities after falling ill”. The current outbreak is the 10th to strike DR Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country. News24

UN: Human Rights Defenders in Malawi Under Threat
The U.N. human rights office warns human rights defenders and activists in Malawi are under increasing threat as pre-electoral politicking heats up before next year’s general election. The run-up to next May’s presidential, parliamentary and council elections is becoming nastier and more dangerous for those trying to hold authorities in Malawi to account. The U.N. human rights office reports thugs attacked the offices of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in the capital Lilongwe last week. Reports say the attackers viciously beat up a guard and threw a gasoline bomb at the center’s offices causing an extensive fire. Human rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said over the past few weeks, an increasing number of human rights defenders have been intimidated and threatened. She said one activist received death threats after issuing an anti-corruption press statement. When he went to the police, she said the police ignored his complaint and did not provide him with any protection. VOA

Zimbabwe Cash Crisis Likely to Fuel Severe Basic Goods Crisis – Report
Zimbabwe’s protracted cash shortages were likely driving the Southern African country into the start of a broader basic commodity crisis, despite assurances from the reserve bank chief, according to a report. The privately-owned Daily News reported that the cash shortages have driven businesses to issue a stern warning about a looming full-blown crisis, similar to the 2008 hyperinflation crisis. President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Denford Mutashu, has urged the newly-elected government to act fast to avoid a basic commodity crisis, the report stated. … The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has also warned of a possible bread scarcity if current wheat shortages were not addressed, after it emerged that the Southern African country’s reserve bank failed to pay a supplier. News24

Djibouti Hails ‘New Era’ of Ties with Foe Eritrea
Djibouti on Thursday hailed a new era in its relations with rival Eritrea, whose foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the country as part of a regional bid to soothe tensions between the neighbours. The two small Horn of Africa nations have been at loggerheads for decades over the disputed border region of Doumeira, and clashes erupted in 2008. Qatar brokered a peace deal in 2010 but relations have remained strained. Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh was visiting to “open a new era in relations between our two countries. Now it is the time for peace”. AFP

Gambia President Tells China Previous Taiwan Ties a “Huge Mistake”
Gambian President Adama Barrow told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday that his country’s previous ties with self-ruled Taiwan had been a “huge mistake”, and he thanked China for all the help it had given subsequently, China said. China resumed ties with Gambia in 2016, after it ended formal relations with Taiwan, claimed by China as a wayward province with no right to diplomatic relations. Two other African countries have since followed suit, São Tomé and Príncipe and Burkina Faso. China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan’s remaining allies – now down to just 17, most of them poor countries in the Pacific and Central America – as it seeks to limit the democratic island’s international footprint. Reuters

China Offers Debt Relief, But Most African Countries Borrow Elsewhere
Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Monday to cancel debt for some of Africa’s least-developed countries. Erasing debt tied to interest-free loans has long been a part of China’s policies in Africa. But the announcement, made at Xi’s opening speech at the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, comes amid growing concern over China’s lending practices, which some have deemed “debt-trap diplomacy.” Yet Chinese loans make up just a small portion of Africa’s debt, W. Gyude Moore, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, told VOA. Moore is Liberia’s former minister of public works and focuses on infrastructure financing in Africa. He put the continent’s total debt burden at about $6 trillion, most of which is owed to organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club of mostly Western creditor countries. He said Chinese loans make up just two percent of all Africa debt. Debt forgiveness is a small part of a much larger package announced at this year’s FOCAC, and details about affected countries aren’t known, Moore said. “Because it is unclear what the conditions are to qualify for debt relief, we can’t say for sure what countries will benefit from it,” he said. VOA

France, Benelux to Propose EU Aid for Africa in Return for Migrant Help
France and the three Benelux countries on Thursday launched a plan to offer EU funds to African countries in return for help stemming the flow of migrants to Europe. With the issue of immigration fuelling populist movements across Europe, the EU is under pressure to come up with ways to stop the arrival of illegal migrants, many of whom risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats. French President Emmanuel Macron and the prime ministers of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands said they had agreed on “concrete” proposals to put forward at a meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, later this month. … Over the last year the bloc has been stepping up its efforts to support African countries with aid and investment in a bid to reduce the incentives for people to leave their home countries to seek a better life in Europe. “The European Union must deploy a form of Marshall Plan for Africa, with a concrete operational ambition with African partners”, said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. AFP

Militia Leader: ‘Sudan No Longer Combats Human Trafficking’
The commander of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan (aka Hemeti), announced that his government has stopped dealing with illegal immigration and combating human trafficking and smuggling “because the Western countries have not responded to Khartoum’s efforts in this regard”. He said in an interview with Sudan National Television: “There is no international response, so we have stopped fighting human trafficking and illegal immigration”. He pointed out that Sudan is a major crossing point, dealing with 65 per cent of illegal immigration to Europe. Dabanga

The Tebu: The Little-Known Community at the Heart of Libya’s People Smuggling Trade
If you’re a migrant who has made your way into Libya, chances are you’ve met a Tebu. Nearly all the smugglers plying the busiest migration route from Agadez in Niger to the outskirts of the Libyan people smuggling hub of Sebha belong to this indigenous Saharan ethnic group, which since 2011 has become one of Libya’s most marginalised minorities. Although increasingly ashamed of the role their young men now play in illegal immigration and desperate to improve their situation, community leaders insist people smuggling will not stop unless there is significant local and regional development to help improve the dire economic situation in southern Libya and offer other opportunities. “Given that the bulk of illegal immigrants are being brought in by Tebu people smugglers, if Italy and the EU really want to reduce the flow, they must tackle the roots of the problem and work closely with municipalities in the south, where the influx of migrants arrive at the border,” said Libyan journalist Jamal Adel, who is Tebu. IRIN



Photo: Adam Jones