Media Review for April 6, 2016

International Criminal Court Abandons Case Against William Ruto
The International criminal court has abandoned its prosecution of Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, who had been accused of orchestrating the post-electoral violence in 2007 that killed more than 1,300 people. The controversial proceedings were declared by the court’s presiding judge, Chile Eboe-Osuji, to be a mistrial due to a “troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling”. The Hague-based tribunal also dropped identical charges of crimes against humanity – involving murder, persecution and forcible transfer of populations – that had been brought against the Kenyan broadcaster Joshua Sang. The rulings reflect the frustration of senior lawyers in obtaining reliable evidence against high-ranking officials accused of committing atrocities.  The Guardian

Libya’s Tripoli Authorities Back Unity Government
Libya’s unrecognised government, which is based in the capital, Tripoli, has announced in a statement that it is ceding power to a UN-backed unity government to avoid further sectarian clashes. The statement was released on Tuesday, almost a week after prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj arrived in Tripoli to assert the unity government’s authority. “We inform you that we are ceasing the activities entrusted to us as an executive power,” the announcement said. The statement, bearing the logo of the so-called National Salvation Government headed by Khalifa Ghweil, said the Tripoli prime minister, his deputy premiers and cabinet ministers were all stepping aside. It added that the Tripoli officials decided to exit as they were committed to “preserve the higher interests of the country and prevent bloodshed and divisions” in the North African country.  Al Jazeera

Gun Battles Kill 17 in Congo Capital
At least 17 people have been killed in a gun battle between former militiamen and security forces in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. A government spokesman said three police officers, two civilians and 12 attackers were killed Monday. The shooting came weeks after President Denis Sassou Nguesso won a disputed re-election bid for his third term. Police say former members of an anti-Nguesso militia called “The Ninjas” raided local police, military and government offices and set them on fire. Witnesses said gunfire erupted before dawn in the capital’s southern neighborhoods, a stronghold for the opposition party, and continued into early afternoon, when troops flooded the city streets. VOA

Army Fans Out in Restive Brazzaville
Congolese troops deployed across parts of the capital Brazzaville on Tuesday as business slowed to a trickle a day after heavy fighting in opposition bastions that sent thousands fleeing for safety. After heavy gun battles that began before dawn on Monday and raged through the morning in the city’s southern districts, sporadic gunfire continued until sunset but petered out overnight. There was no immediate toll from the fighting, which comes on the heels of a disputed presidential election and was blamed by the government on a rebel group known as “The Ninjas”. Troops deployed at key points throughout the city and manned roadblocks, searching the few cars and people out on the streets during the morning.  News 24

Congo-Brazzaville: Who Are the ‘Ninja’ Militiamen Fighting Government Forces?
Believed to have been established to serve as the private armies of Congo’s three main political leaders in the early 1990s, Ninja armed elements who fought against Sassou Nguesso’s ‘Cobra’ militia and the first democratically-elected president of the Republic of the Congo Pascal Lissouba’s ‘Cocoye’ militia. The fighters were originally loyal to the former opposition leader, Bernard Kolelas – a former mayor of Brazzaville – and said to be linked to the Bakongo group, the largest ethnic group in the Republic of Congo. Such alliances have resulted in deep chasms between regional groups based on ethnic or regional lines. A number of reports established that the Ninja belonged to a kind of messianic religious group who believed that the apocalypse was near. International Business Times

VOA’s Zimbabwe Service Partners with ICIJ on Panama Papers
Zimbabwe’s leading platinum-mining firm, Zimplats Holdings, allegedly used an offshore company to pay salaries for senior managers in violation of exchange control laws, according to documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm. The allegations are part of a wide-ranging investigation into the global use of offshore tax havens that has led to calls for “an urgent full investigation” by Zimplats majority shareholder, the South African firm Implats. The so-called Panama Papers were first provided to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. That group coordinated a comprehensive review with reporting partners from 76 nations, including VOA’s Zimbabwe Service. The documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca indicate that accountants Northern Wychwood used Mossack Fonseca to register a company named HR Consultancy in the Isle of Man to handle payments for senior managers of Zimplats Holdings limited. VOA

Panama Papers: The DRC’s Gold Standard
Despite international laws stipulating disclosure of the origins of gold, a tranche of leaked documents points to unsavoury behaviour by tax havens trading in commodities. The law was hailed as the first step toward ending the trade of so-called “blood minerals” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act does not require divestment from potential conflict areas, but it does compel companies to disclose the origins of gold and the 3Ts (tin, tantalum and tungsten). The reputational risk of being identified financing “blood minerals” was supposed to be enough to sway multinationals into extensive due diligence. But the process has only led to new strategies of deniability, especially in the gold industry, and has created opportunities for banks and refineries to wash clean the histories of conflict minerals. Times Live

Will Leaked Panama Papers Rock Kenya’s Judiciary?
The revelations in the leaked Panama Papers about Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and her involvement in four offshore companies could lead to an investigation, according to the head of Law Society of Kenya. But a possible probe into one of Kenya’s top judges depends on evidence of an offshore bank account and whether Rawal declared her interest in the offshore entities. “Questions will be asked, no doubt,” said Isaac Okero, president, Law Society of Kenya. “The judge would have had to prepare declarations for the purposes of the Public Officers Ethics Act. “The relevant authorities would be looking at it, to determine whether those declarations were comprehensive or whether they were deficient,” Okero told RFI in a telephone interview. The revelations published by Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper point to involvement in four companies registered by Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).  RFI

Ugandan Opposition Leader Arrested as Post-election Tensions Linger
Ugandan police arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Tuesday amid clashes with his supporters, highlighting lingering tensions after a disputed presidential election. Veteran President Yoweri Museveni was declared winner of the Feb. 18 election with 60 percent of the vote, although Besigye and other candidates rejected the results as fraudulent. Besigye, who came second with 35 percent, said widespread rigging, intimidation by security personnel, ballot stuffing and other irregularities had made the vote invalid. That criticism was echoed by independent monitors from the European Union and the Commonwealth who said Uganda’s electoral body lacked independence and transparency and that the poll had been conducted in an intimidating atmosphere.  Reuters

Zimbabwe: Arrests Soar as Mugabe Regime Cracks Down on Social Media
Zimbabwe’s government is strengthening its crackdown on social media platforms and has been arresting users for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe, who turned 92 in February. In the African nation, citizens can face charges of undermining the authority of, or insulting Mugabe under Section 33 (b) of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23. While jokes about the world’s oldest head of state’s age are common, the regime – cited for widespread human rights abuses – has recently cranked up its clampdown on hundreds of critics who have allegedly insulted the president verbally or on social media networks. International Business Times

AU Says 6 Al-Shabaab Commanders Killed in Somalia, Militants Hit Back with Attack in Mogadishu on Lawmaker
Somalia’s army and African Union forces said they killed at least six al-Qaeda-linked militant commanders in the country’s southern Lower Shabelle region amid an upsurge in fighting. The dead al-Shabaab members included a judge in Janaale town and a Yemeni explosives specialist, the African Union mission in Somalia, or Amisom, said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties. “Operations to open the main supply route to the town of Janaale and clear improvised explosive devices continue and have now extended into the town,” Amisom said. “The clearance activities are meant to ease the movement of the population and goods.” Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation since 2006 in a bid to impose a strict version of Islamic law. While the group has lost ground since being driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by government and Amisom forces, it continues to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks. Mail and Guardian

Despite Several Blows to Shabab, Worries Persist About Their Resilience
The Shabab are not having a good week. On Tuesday, African Union forces said they had killed six commanders of the Shabab, the powerful Islamic insurgent group that has terrorized Somalia for years. Among the six killed in the Janale area, the African Union said, were a Yemeni explosives expert and a Kenyan trainer. This followed the announcement on Monday that the Pentagon had killed Hassan Ali Dhoore, a senior member of the Shabab’s security and intelligence wing, in an airstrike. And a few days before that, the African Union said that allied forces — which include the African Union troops, Somali security services and American air power — had killed more than 20 “terrorists.” Still, analysts question how effective this strategy is. Just like in other battle zones, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, Somalia’s militants have proved resilient in the face of superior firepower.  The New York Times

What Africa Tells us About the Fight Against Jihadist Terrorism
[…] From Boko Haram to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to al Shabab, a proliferation of jihadist groups afflicts Africa from east to west. Moreover, the new Islamic State beachhead in northern Libya offers a pernicious fulcrum that could connect militants in the Middle East with terrorist aspirants in Africa. In addition to being a launchpad for attacks into Europe, Libya could also emerge as a way station on a jihadist superhighway, expanding the recruitment and reach of the prevailing constellation of jihadi groups in Africa. Amid these evolving and proliferating terrorist threats, counterterrorism experts and policymakers are engaged in ongoing strategic debates over several fundamental questions. These include: How global a threat does violent jihadism pose? How much command and control do the Islamic State and al Qaeda exert over their respective franchises and affiliates? Is the Islamic State or al Qaeda a bigger threat to the United States? In what ways do jihadist groups learn from each other and adapt operational tactics? Should Africa be a bigger priority in the war on jihadism, or remain a tertiary front? Foreign Policy

NGOs Free to Leave, Says Sudanese Leader
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday said Khartoum does not need aid organisations or what he called “the remnants of food tables that they present”. “We say to the World Food Programme and others that we don’t need you. Find somewhere else with your aid,” said President al-Bashir when addressing a mass rally at Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur State. “Take your aid to needy and poor people other than us. Sudan, with its bounties, does not need you. We are the one who aid others, and it is not likely for the organisations to bring us the remnants of food tables from America and others,” he noted. Hundreds of foreign organisations are operating in the Darfur region that has been suffering from a civil war since 2003, where the conflict has displaced nearly two million people along with thousands of refugees to neighbouring Chad. The UN and other international organisations earlier complained about “significant restrictions” by Sudan’s government on their movements, while the Sudanese government is accusing the organisations of surpassing their mandates and exercising other tasks including spying and providing support for the rebels. The Herald

Russia Blocks UN Report on Darfur Militia Mining
Russia is blocking the release of a confidential UN report showing that pro-government militias in Sudan’s Darfur region rake in $54 million per year in gold mining, it emerged on Tuesday. The annual report by the panel of experts was presented in December to a UN sanctions committee, but it has not been made public due to objections from Russia, which has friendly ties with the Khartoum regime. “We don’t want it to be released because we have been saying since the beginning that the experts are not behaving like they are required to,” Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev told reporters. Iliichev argued that the panel’s mandate does not include monitoring “natural resources.”  France 24

Seychelles votes to limit presidential term Limits
Seychelles parliament voted on Tuesday to amend the archipelago’s constitution and limit presidents to two five-year terms in office, officials said, in contrast to wider Africa where many presidents have sought to extend term limits. The Indian Ocean island nation of 92,000 people elected James Michel as president in December 2015, giving him a third term in office, but among the promises he made during his campaign was to ensure the change in the law. The amendment required two thirds of the 32 lawmakers to vote in favour but all sitting members are from the ruling party except opposition leader David Pierre, who also supported the change. “This amendment will give a chance to younger politicians to have the chance to wait 10 years instead of 15, to take over the reins of power, and contribute to the development of this country,” Pierre said. Reuters

South Africa’s Zuma Survives Impeachment Vote
South African President Jacob Zuma easily survived an impeachment vote Tuesday after a stormy session of parliament over a court ruling that he had violated the country’s post-apartheid constitution. Lawmakers from Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) rallied to his defence, defeating the motion by 233 votes to 143 despite growing pressure for him to resign over the scandal. During the debate, Zuma was likened by the leader of the main opposition party to a “large and malignant tumour” on the ANC, which came to power in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela and the end of white-minority rule.  France 24

Grave Foreign Policy Gaffe
If the president did bludgeon Dlamini Zuma’s path to Addis Ababa for his own political ends back home, he abused SA’s highest priority, writes Peter Fabricius. When Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma lost the first round in the elections for the chair of the AU Commission (AUC) at the AU summit in January 2012, she cheered and said “Now I can go home!” Or so one of her top officials at the time attests. But it was not to be. President Jacob Zuma insisted she kept fighting and eventually she was elected to Africa’s top job at the next AU summit in July that year after several more bruising rounds of voting. Whatever one might think of her performance in Addis Ababa – and there are sharply conflicting opinions on this – it was shabby of President Zuma to insist on forcing her into that post in the first place. The Star on IOL News

SANDF Again Warns Sandu Against Provocation
Not content with the country’s top soldier condemning the SA National Defence Union’s (Sandu) attempts to bring the military into the possible downfall of President Jacob Zuma, the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) senior communicator has also issued a statement in similar vein. Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga starts out by “strongly” condemning the Sandu statement calling on soldiers to support – in their private capacity and time – any lawful campaigns aimed at recalling or removing the president from office. “The SANDF wants to confirm and assure all South Africans it is a non-partisan institution established and managed in accordance to (sic) the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, as amended. DefenceWeb

Cameroon: Joint Forces Arrest 300 Boko Haram Fighters
Cameroon says multinational forces fighting Boko Haram have arrested over 300 Islamic extremists and freed at least 2,000 people from their strongholds along Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad borders. Cameroon’s commander of the joint forces, Bouba Dobekreo, said Tuesday that during the three-day operation, forces also destroyed a Boko Haram training and logistic base about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the Nigerian town of Kumshe. The governor of Cameroon’s Far North province, Midjiyawa Bakari, has asked that all displaced people be directed by the military to the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon to be better tracked.  AP on Stars and Stripes

International Force Frees 2,000 Boko Haram Captives
Cameroon says a regional force arrested more than 300 Boko Haram fighters and freed at least 2,000 people in the first five days of an operation to flush the terrorists from their remaining hideouts along the borders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. A thousand soldiers from the regional force, composed of fighters from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, returned from the Walasah area in Nigeria to their base at Mora, Cameroon. Cameroon General Bouba Dobekreo, one of the commanders, said Tuesday that 17 villages had been freed. He said soldiers destroyed a Boko Haram logistics base and training center, plus vehicles, and had seized huge stocks of weapons and other materiel. He said they were ready to go farther into the hinterlands and do away with Boko Haram. Dobekreo said people freed from Boko Haram strongholds had been handed over to the Nigerian army or had left the area with the soldiers’ protection. VOA

Alive or Dead?  Hidden Justice for Boko Haram in Cameroon
A military court in Cameroon last month sentenced to death 89 men on terrorism charges related to Boko Haram violence. A reporting blackout made it unclear if the sentences had been carried out or, if not, where those convicted were being held. I was determined to find out more. At the Ministry of Defence, the communications division said it wasn’t allowed to discuss the verdict, delivered on 16 March under a controversial December 2014 anti-terrorism law. “Even here, we don’t talk about it,” explained Tar Tar, presenter of ‘Honour and Loyalty’, a weekly programme on state radio for the armed forces. The information was still “classified”, so he pushed me up the chain of command. “Go on, the colonel is in his office.”  IRIN

From Sex Slaves to Social Outcasts: What Happens When ‘Boko Haram Wives’ are Freed
For months, they were kept in tiny thatched huts in the middle of the forest, waiting with dread each evening for their rapists to return. During the almost intolerable violence, the young women’s minds drifted to escape or death. The victims were as young as 8. At the heart of Boko Haram’s self-proclaimed caliphate in northeastern Nigeria was a savage campaign of rape and sexual slavery that has only recently been uncovered. Thousands of girls and women were held against their will, subject to forced marriages and relentless indoctrination. Those who resisted were often shot. Now, many of the women are suddenly free — rescued in a series of Nigerian military operations over the past year that dislodged the extremist Islamist group from most of the territory it controlled. But there have been few joyous family reunions for the victims. The Independent

Never Mind Zika and Ebola: It’s Yellow Fever We Should be Worried About
There is no medical reason why anyone should contract Yellow Fever today. But although an effective vaccine exists, a deadly new outbreak in Angola – 178 people have died, and counting – shows that not enough people are getting it in time. If we’re not careful, and if we don’t act quickly, this could be the beginning of a public health emergency on a par with Ebola or the Zika virus.  Daily Maverick

The Congo’s Civil War is Wiping Out Gorilla Populations
The population of a gorilla subspecies living in Central Africa is in steep decline, largely due to civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a new report. Fewer than 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas still live in the wild—down 77% from 17,000 in 1998, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing a report published by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature. The civil war, the establishment of mining camps and the growth of hunting to feed miners have all contributed to the population decline of the endangered animal. The report recommends regulating mining sites, disarming miners and creating new protected areas, among other solutions. Time

Nigeria: Lagos, Maximum City
Though it caters to the powerful and rich, Lagos will rise faster if it takes everyone along for the ride. Will new governor Ambode nudge the city down the right track? Welcome to Lagos, the city that chops superlatives for breakfast. The biggest and fastest-growing city in Africa’s largest economy, with a new arrival every minute according to the UN. The best estimates of today’s population in Lagos State suggest it has more than 20 million people. The UN predicts that Lagos will be the world’s third-largest city by 2025. The Global Cities Institute predicts a population of 77 million by 2100. Nigeria’s epicentre of power and money is a terrain ripe for all types of fantasy, demographic or otherwise. Some see in Lagos slick playboys and ’subsidy billionaires’ with private jets and yachts. Others see dystopian visions of environmental apartheid, with the 1% pulling up the drawbridge to offshore housing developments such as Eko Atlantic City while the majority of Lagosians languish outside in crime-infested suburbs. The Africa Report



Photo: Adam Jones