Africa Media Review for September 9, 2016

Nigeria Facing ‘A Famine Unlike Any We Have Ever Seen’
The whimpers from skeletally thin babies too weak to cry are a harbinger of worse things to come: A quarter of the children lucky enough to make it to this emergency feeding center are dying. They are the latest victims of Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency. No one knows how many more children are dying of starvation in refugee camps and areas too dangerous to access because of the extremists’ presence, according to Doctors Without Borders, which runs the emergency feeding center. The aid group first sounded the alarm of a humanitarian crisis of “catastrophic” proportion in northeast Nigeria as Boko Haram lost its grip on some areas and its victims began to emerge. “These are kids that basically have been hungry all their lives, and some are so far gone that they die here in the first 24 hours,” said Jean Stowell, an American midwife in charge of the center in Maiduguri, the biggest city in this largely Muslim region. The 110-bed center has quadrupled in size in recent weeks, but each time it expands it rapidly fills. AP on ABC News

Buhari’s Call for Improved Nigerian Behavior Offers Reminder of His Hardliner Past
When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari first took power through a military coup in late 1983, he launched a self-described “war against indiscipline” in a country he claimed desperately needed reorganization. During the aggressive campaign, soldiers at times violently forced civilians into orderly queues outside of bus stops and Buhari’s own subordinates were forced to leapfrog over each other if they were accused of misbehavior. That brief, tough stint as military head of state earned him a reputation as a hardliner; notoriety he spent years trying to shake off in the three times he unsuccessfully ran democratically for office before in 2015 finally wooing over Nigerians, many of whom were hugely frustrated by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s weak administration. But on Thursday, Buhari launched “Change Begins With Me,” a campaign that sounds an awful lot like a softer version of the one inspired by similar frustrations he experienced when he first came to power more than 30 years ago. Foreign Policy

Gabon Election: Jean Ping Challenges Result in Court
Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping has lodged a challenge with the country’s Constitutional Court, contesting the result of a presidential vote whose validity has been questioned at home and abroad. Election results announced last week showed incumbent Ali Bongo beating by a slender margin of fewer than 6,000 votes, sparking days of deadly riots in the capital Libreville. Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, president of Ping’s communication team, said on Thursday that the opposition leader had asked the court to authorise a recount of the votes in a southeastern province, where Bongo won 95.5 percent of the vote. “Ping’s demand is for a recount of the votes in the province of Haut-Ogooue, voting bureau by voting bureau,” Ayi told reporters. Al Jazeera

Gabon Ex-justice Minister: They are Trying to Kill Me
Gabon’s ex-justice minister, Seraphin Moundounga, who resigned from his position earlier this week has made a startling claim that there has been attempts on his life since he made the announcement, BBC Live reports. Moundounga resigned on Monday this week over government’s refusal to recount controversial ballots that saw protests and allegations of fraud after President Ali Bongo was re-elected by a slim margin. The country’s opposition claimed that the ruling party rigged the elections. Moundounga claimed that he now faced threats to his life since his resignation. News 24

Gabon Crisis Underscores Region’s Democratic Challenge
Gabon’s election stalemate continued on Thursday, as the opposition lodged an appeal to the constitutional court over last month’s presidential polls. The disputed reelection of President Ali Bongo has sparked riots that have killed at least six people. It’s a scenario that has been replicated in other countries on the continent. When the results of Gabon’s presidential elections were announced on August 31 — declaring Ali Bongo the winner by a small victory — many citizens held their breath. Instead of providing relief, the verdict confirmed their worst fears: a prolonged conflict and more violence. RFI

France’s Bongo-Bongo Party 
[…] For 42 years until his death in 2009, Omar Bongo ruled over a Gabon that was the heart of La Françafrique. As the nation’s founding father, Bongo sought to create a dynasty rather than a democracy. Instead of giving the Gabonese a true multiparty system, he gave them his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba. (Long rumored to have been born in Nigeria and adopted by the elder Bongo — rumors given a good deal of substance by the French journalist Pierre Péan, who has been a persistent thorn in the younger Bongo’s side.)“Africa without France is like a car without a driver, while France without Africa is like a car without gas.” True to his bon mot, Omar Bongo provided the gas, both literally and metaphorically, for France and its political elite. While the French oil giant Elf Aquitaine exploited the tiny Central African country’s substantial oil reserves — filling a massive slush fund for France’s ruling class as well as for Bongo’s kleptocracy that was uncovered in the 1990s by French investigators — Bongo exploited his equally substantial bank reserves to cultivate ties in Paris. Foreign Policy

US Envoy Opposes Machar’s Return to Office, Faults Kiir’s Actions
South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar should not return to the post of first vice-president, President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Juba told the US Congress on Wednesday. “It is not for us to tell South Sudan who its leaders should be,” Ambassador Donald Booth cautioned, but added: “Given all that has happened we do not believe it would be wise for Machar to return to his previous position in Juba.” Dr Machar is currently staying in Khartoum, Sudan, after fleeing what Mr Booth described as President Salva Kiir’s “egregious action of militarily pursuing his first vice-president out of South Sudan.” The US special envoy went on to present unusually blunt criticisms of South Sudan’s head of state. The East African

S. Sudan Opposition Dismisses US Position on Machar’s Return
South Sudan’s political opposition has dismissed remarks by U.S. officials urging former First Vice President Riek Machar not to return to South Sudan to reclaim his position, saying the opposition leader’s absence is hampering the fragile peace process. Ambassador Donald Booth, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, told members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee Wednesday that Machar, who fled the country in July, should not return to South Sudan because of the continuing instability in the country. In an interview with VOA after the hearing, Booth said the lack of trust between Machar and South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, has created one of the most extreme humanitarian situations in the world. VOA

South Sudan Activists Say Intimidated for Meeting Diplomats
South Sudanese activists say they face government intimidation in retaliation for meeting with the visiting U.N. Security Council last weekend, and some have fled the turbulent country. The reports are the latest sign of hostility by the government toward the international community as this East African country, the world’s youngest, tries to recover from a civil war that threatens to grind on. At least three local organizations have been told by South Sudan’s government they can no longer operate. On Wednesday, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, told Congress the number of blacklisted groups could be as high as 40. The U.N. mission in South Sudan said in a statement Thursday it is “deeply concerned” by reports of harassment and intimidation against some civil society members who met with the diplomats in the capital, Juba. The statement does not mention the source of intimidation. The New York Times

UN Says Hundreds of Machar’s Troops Crossed into DR Congo
United Nations has revealed that hundreds of troops belonging to the South Sudan’s former First Vice President, Riek Machar, have crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with “extremely bad shape.” The fighters were evacuated to health facilities for medical treatment, the United Nations said Wednesday. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations Secretary General, told reporters in New York that the UN was consulting with the governments of Congo and South Sudan “with a view of finding solutions for these combatants.” He said MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping body in the DRC, evacuated the soldiers days after their leader, Machar, was also airlifted into the neighbouring country due to exhaustion and swollen legs. Sudan Tribune

CAR, Chad and Sudan Leaders Discuss Joint Border Force
Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic (CAR) leaders held talks on Wednesday over the deployment of joint border monitoring units. The meeting was held in the capital of North Darfur state El Fasher were on the sidelines of the celebrations to mark the completion of Darfur Document for Peace in Darfur attended. Sudanese Government Spokesperson Ahmed al-Balal, in a press statement Wednesday, said that Presidents Omer al-Bashir, Idriss Déby and Faustin Archange Touadér discussed the implementation of the Sudanese-Chadian experience with the Central African Republic through the deployment of joint forces on the CAR borders with Chad and Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Congo’s President is Preparing for War Against His Own People
In a calm corner of this typically chaotic capital city, the expressionless face of President Joseph Kabila stares down from a billboard urging patience and dialogue. “I launch a final appeal to those who still hesitate to respond to the resounding call of their homeland,” the sign reads in a veiled reference to the country’s dangerous electoral impasse. It might as well be the motto of Kabila’s government, which is widely suspected of delaying electoral preparations as part of an evolving ploy to remain in power. But judging by the government’s own actions, which have grown increasingly paranoid and heavy-handed in recent months, the motto hasn’t resonated much with the Congolese people. A former Belgian colony the size of Western Europe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has never in its history had a peaceful transition of power. The country’s constitution, which was drafted in the wake of a bloody wave of wars between 1996 and 2003, calls for presidential elections in November — and bars Kabila, who has already served two full terms in office, from standing as a candidate. Foreign Policy

Zimbabwe Military Fractures as Divisions Deepen in Ruling Party
Zimbabwe’s military is fracturing along generational lines in a potentially dangerous turn for the southern African nation as President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party splits over who will succeed him. With Mugabe approaching his 93rd birthday and Zimbabwe’s economy imploding, some top military leaders are choosing sides in faction fights of the ruling Zimbabwe-African National Union-Patriotic Front, said four members of the party’s politburo who spoke on condition of anonymity. Veterans of the independence war against the white-minority state of Rhodesia mainly back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa against Mugabe’s wife, Grace, they said. Bloomberg

Child Soldiers in Mali: A Skinny Boy with a Kalashnikov
Abdallah’s war is only a short bus ride away. Mali, Abdallah’s long-suffering country, is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the house where the shy boy is now crouched on the floor. Abdallah was 11 when Tuareg rebels launched an uprising against Mali’s central government in 2012. He fled westward with his family, and they ended up in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauretania, not far from the border. Today, Abdallah is a 15-year-old boy with black curls and a shy, questioning look in his eyes. He has just arrived for the second stay in the giant refugee city in the Mauritanian desert. Before coming back, he had returned to Mali — as a skinny boy with a Kalashnikov around his neck. Abdallah was a child soldier. Friends had told him about the Tuareg’s fight against the government and he returned with them to Mali where, upon reaching his hometown, he joined an armed group. Abdallah had gone to fight in the same war that had prompted his family to flee. Spiegle

East African States Delay Signing of EU Trade Deal
East African heads of state met the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, on Thursday, September 8, to discuss the ratification of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA). Tanzanian president John Magufuli (pictured above), who is also chair of the bloc demanded more time to assess the impact of the agreements before the actual signing takes place. The day-long meeting concentrated on Tanzania’s reluctance in signing the trade deal with the EU. The “Daily News” of Tanzania has quoted Magufuli as saying: “There are a number of questions to be looked upon, why are we signing the agreement while the EU has imposed sanctions on Burundi? Why are we signing while UK has pulled out of the EU?” According to Honnest Prosper Ngowi, an economics lecturer at Mzumbe University in Tanzania, the country needs investment in areas of roads, water and power for it to compete in European markets. Deutsche Welle

Kenyan Reporter Murdered as Colleagues Protest Threats
A Kenyan reporter was murdered on Thursday as hundreds of other journalists protested in the capital against alleged threats and intimidation — particularly from the police. Major roads in Nairobi experienced heavy traffic as journalists demanded the government do more to protect reporters against attacks. Nationwide demonstrations took place as news broke that a journalist — Dennis Otieno from Western Kenya — had been killed at his home in Trans Nzoia county by a gang of unknown assailants. Local police chief Wilfred Mogere said the journalist’s wife had confirmed that Otieno was killed over a photograph in his possession. Details of the photo are not yet known. Anadolu Agency

Bridge Collapse Halts Ivory Coast-Burkina Rail Traffic
Rail traffic between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso has been halted for at least two weeks after a bridge collapsed on the line linking the two countries, the operator has said. The 250-metre iron bridge, built in 1910 across the Nzi river, collapsed dramatically on Tuesday as a freight train was crossing. Nobody was hurt during the incident, which took place near Dimbokro, a town in central Ivory Coast some 250 kilometres (150 miles) north of Abidjan. “We have a single track and this accident means we cannot continue rail operations. There will be a total stoppage (of rail transport) between Abidjan and Ouagadougou,” Noel Kouadio, head of security at operator Sitarail, told AFP at the scene on Wednesday. Times Live

Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe Revive Inter-regional Railway Plan
The governments of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)for the construction of a regional railway line to link Francistown in Botswana to the Mozambican port of Techobanine, through Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe. Once completed, the Port Techobanine Inter-Regional Heavy Haul Railway Project would facilitate inter-regional trade through the movement of passenger rail traffic and up to 12 million tonnes of goods per annum through the three countries. Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Water and Energy, Kitso Mokaila, said the MoU that was signed in Bulawayo last Friday, committed each country to contribute $200 million towards the cost of the project. The rest of the work would be done through Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs), with the private sector taking the lead. SABC

Somalia Khat Ban Angers Growers, Traders and Users
The rattle and honk of trucks carrying bales of the leafy narcotic khat have not been heard in Mogadishu since the government announced a surprise import ban this week. Users, vendors and traders have been left bemused and angry by the unexplained government directive. “You can’t just say khat is banned without giving reasons or offering alternatives for people who depend on the trade,” said Naciimo Abdiweli, a mother of five who sells the herbal stimulant at one of the many stalls dotted around the Somali capital. Khat – also known as miraa – is a red-stemmed, green-leafed plant that has a mildly amphetamine-like effect when chewed, akin to one too many espressos. News 24

Feyisa Lilesa: Ethiopian Protest Runner Lands in the US
Ethiopian Olympian Feyisa Lilesa, who said he wanted to seek asylum after making an anti-government gesture in Rio, has arrived in the US. The marathon runner crossed the line in second place with his arms above his head in solidarity with Oromo activists who are staging protests in Ethiopia. He repeated the gesture later at a press conference, saying his life would be in danger if he returned home. The government has been accused of brutally cracking down on protesters. The country’s Information Minister Getachew Reda told the BBC at the time that he had nothing to fear and would be welcomed home as a hero. BBC

Rage Against the Busted Medical Machines
“Oh, we have a hematology analyzer but it stopped working,” the lab technician said as he pointed to a covered tabletop medical equipment in the corner used to measure blood count levels — an important but simple tool for a community where anemia and infections are prevalent. The busted hematology analyzer, which I encountered during a visit to a hospital in the rural Kono district in Sierra Leone, has plenty of company in the hall of nonfunctional medical equipment. The landscape of the West African countries I’ve worked in — not only Sierra Leone but also Liberia and Nigeria — is strewn with broken machines. Sometimes they bear the name of the nonprofit group or aid agency that made the donation. I’ve seen the same problem during two stints in a rural Nicaraguan hospital in 2005 and 2008. Indeed, the scope of the problem is immense. To start with, WHO estimates that 80 percent of the medical equipment in developing countries is donated. A 2011 study looked at inventory lists from 16 low-income countries and showed the number of nonfunctional medical equipment in that pool is at about 40 percent. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones