Media Review for July 18, 2016

Morocco Seeks to Rejoin African Union after 32 Years
Morocco has formally announced its wish to rejoin the African Union, 32 years after leaving the organisation. In a message to the AU summit in Rwanda, the Moroccan King Mohammed VI said the time had come for his country to retake its place within its institutional family. Morocco left the AU in 1984, after the organisation recognised the independence of Western Sahara. Moroccans describe Western Sahara as their country’s “southern provinces”. For more than three decades, Morocco has refused to be part of the organisation. In March, it threatened to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions because of the dispute. BBC

UN staff  Returning to Western Sahara Following Spat
United Nations civilian staff have begun returning to the peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara, signaling the apparent end of a dispute sparked by the U.N. chief’s use of the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s annexation of the territory in 1975. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday the first batch of civilian peacekeepers landed in Morocco on Wednesday evening and that additional staff would be returning in the coming days. So far, four staff members have returned to Morocco, according to an official with the U.N. peacekeeping department who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak with the press. AP

First Round of AU Elections Fails to Produce Dlamini-Zuma Successor
Voting for African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s successor has failed to produce a two-thirds majority for any of the three candidates that were up for nomination. Heads of state cast their votes for the most important position on the continental body on Monday morning. The session was suspended and is awaiting the advice of legal counsel. AU spokespeople, however, said this meant the elections would be postponed to the January summit. It is believed that fifteen heads of states abstained from voting when the first round of votes were cast, and 20 during the second round, which an insider said was a “no vote of confidence” in all the candidates. It is believed that the high number of abstentions is being considered by legal advisers in plotting the way forward. News 24

Sudan’s al-Bashir Lands in Rwanda, Defying ICC
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Rwanda on Saturday to attend a summit of African leaders, defying an international warrant for his arrest after public assurances from Rwandan leaders that he would not be arrested. The African Union summit on Sunday is expected to discuss the continent’s uneasy relationship with the International Criminal Court, which some say unfairly targets Africans. Ahead of the summit, some African countries renewed efforts to quit the ICC en masse despite the opposition of some countries like Botswana. Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast have been pushing back as well in recent days. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has led growing criticism of the ICC, calling it “useless” during his inauguration in May, an event that al-Bashir attended. News 24

African Blocs Fail to Agree on Free Trade Area
Twenty-six African countries have failed to agree on how traders would access a market of more than 600 million people through the proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), blurring expansion plans by companies. The EAC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have differed on the kind of preferential treatment sensitive goods and services from one bloc would be offered in another. The 12-month period for negotiations expired on June 30. “We were to complete this work by last month (June) but we did not reach an agreement. There are still challenges,” said Mark Ogot, a senior assistant director in-charge of economic affairs at Kenya’s Ministry of East African Affairs. The East African

West Must Foot Security Bills as Africa Slides Into Turmoil
African Union presidents gathering in Rwanda this weekend will discuss how member states can fund peacekeeping operations on the continent. Western backers will still end up picking up most of the tab. More than a decade after the continental body adopted the maxim “African solutions to African problems,” it’s still unable to fund operations needed to quell violence including political conflicts from South Sudan to Libya, and Islamist insurgencies from Nigeria to Somalia. A proposal to compel the organization’s 53-member states to provide a quarter of the funding required over the next five years is being discussed at a summit that kicks off Friday in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui said in an interview. If agreed, it will allow the body to receive United Nations funding for the balance, he said. Bloomberg

Nigeria Finds a National Crisis in Every Direction It Turns
Militants are roaming oil-soaked creeks in the south, blowing up pipelines and decimating the nation’s oil production. Islamist extremists have killed thousands in the north. Deadly land battles are shaking the nation’s center. And a decades-old separatist movement at the heart of a devastating civil war is brewing again. On their own, any one of these would be a national emergency. But here in Nigeria, they are all happening at the same time, tearing at the country from almost every angle. “Nigeria is the only country we have,” President Muhammadu Buhari implored in a recent speech. “We have to stay here and salvage it together.” Mr. Buhari took office a year ago, promising to stamp out terrorism in the north and to rebuild the nation’s economy. But he has been knocked off course by a series of crises across the country, forcing him to toggle between emergencies. Beyond low prices for the nation’s oil, the source of more than 70 percent of the government’s revenue, Nigerian officials have been tormented by a new band of militants claiming to be on a quest to free the oil-producing south from oppression. They call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. The New York Times

South Sudan Leaders to Meet for Talks, IGAD to Deploy 14,000 Troops
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar have agreed to meet and deliberate on the way forward to restore peace following the armed conflict that broke out in recent days, an official said. According to Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) chairman Festus Mogae, who met Kiir and spoke to Machar over the phone, the two leaders have agreed to talks to prevent a new bout of bloodletting that would shatter South Sudan. “The president gave us his version of what led to this regrettable confrontation while the vice president on his part also expressed a willingness to meet with the president, provided his security was assured,” Mogae said. The two South Sudan leaders had to ensure strict adherence by their respective forces to the cessation of hostilities and ceasefire and start full implementation of the agreement and transitional security arrangement provisions, he said. SABC

South Sudan Fighting Tops African Union Summit Agenda
Renewed fighting in South Sudan that has claimed more than 300 lives dominated discussions at an African Union summit that opened Sunday in the Rwandan capital Kigali. A shaky ceasefire has held since late Monday following the fighting that raged for four days in Juba, leaving hundreds dead and forcing 40,000 to flee their homes. The violence in the South Sudan capital echoed the fighting that triggered the civil war and marks a fresh blow to last year’s deal to end the bitter conflict that began when President Salva Kiir accused ex-rebel and now Vice President Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The unrest has also plunged into doubt a peace deal struck in August 2015 between the two sides. France 24

Ethiopia Suggests Military Intervention in South Sudan
Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia are preparing a military force to intervene in South Sudan, an Ethiopian official said Friday. South Sudan was hit by renewed violence between government forces and former rebel troops that left hundreds dead earlier this week, leading to fears that the country’s two-year civil war could be reignited. A four-day cease-fire is currently holding. Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s communications affairs minister, said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-nation African trade bloc, would meet to discuss restoring peace to South Sudan. The body set up to oversee a peace deal signed last August between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar — the former vice president who has now been restored to his role in a unity government — has made a similar suggestion. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan President Could Replace Riek Machar with Taban Deng: Official
South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, has given his first deputy, Riek Machar, ultimatum to return to the national capital, Juba, and resume his duties or risk being replaced with someone from his faction, an official told Sudan Tribune on Sunday. Machar fled from Juba on Monday, 11 July, following a deadly armed confrontation at the presidential palace, resulting to the death of more than 300 rival soldiers and civilians, with 37 soldiers reportedly from Machar’s side. President Kiir, according to a presidential source, said he started consultations with some of his confidants and some officials from Machar’s faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in unity government about the matter. Sudan Tribune

Major Police Operation, Backed by INTERPOL, Targets African Transnational Crimes
An operation across Eastern and Southern Africa targeting transnational crimes including human, drug and arms trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism, car theft and environmental crime has resulted in close to 4 500 arrests. To address the wide-ranging yet often interlinked types of crime across the region, about 1 500 officers were deployed across 22 countries as part of Operation Usalama III. Led by the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (EAPCCO) and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) with support from INTERPOL, the two-day (June 29 and 30) operation involved officers from police, customs, immigration, wildlife agencies, counter terrorism units and mining authorities. DefenceWeb

Libyan Forces Battling Islamic State in Sirte Suffer Losses in Push to Advance
Forces aligned with Libya’s U.N.-backed government suffered losses from snipers and mines on Friday as they battled Islamic State to win control of a strategic conference centre in the coastal city of Sirte. Islamic State is clinging on in the centre of Sirte in the face of a two-month campaign by brigades mainly composed of fighters from the western city of Misrata. Their progress has been slowed by resistance from militants holed up in a 5 km area in central Sirte. Losing Sirte would represent a major setback for Islamic State, which established its most important base outside Syria and Iraq in the Libyan city. Sirte had been under the militant group’s control since last year, and it had extended its presence along about 250 km (155 miles) of coastline. Reuters

‘Unified’ Libyan Army on Table at Tunis Meeting
The UN are set to host a second day of talks in Libya Sunday with the aim of creating a “unified” army in a country wracked by internal divisions and a extremist threat. The organization brokered a power-sharing deal last year to form a Government of National Accord (GNA), but the body is still struggling to assert its authority. “All Libya’s problems today are tied up to the security issue,” said Martin Kobler, head of the UN’s support mission in the country. The goal of the talks would be “a unified Libyan army under the command of the presidential council,” he said Saturday, according to an Arabic translation. “Libya cannot be united as long as it has several armies,” he said at the end of the first day’s meeting, which also touched on humanitarian issues. Ap on Al Arabiya

U.N. Security Council Mulls Sending Up to 228 Police to Burundi
The United Nations Security Council is considering whether to send up to 228 U.N. police to Burundi to monitor the security and human rights situation in the East African country, where deadly political violence has simmered for more than a year. France circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member council on Friday, seen by Reuters, that would deploy police for one year and ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report immediately on grave security incidents or human rights abuses. Burundi’s U.N. ambassador, Albert Shingiro, said on Friday his country would only accept up to 50 unarmed U.N. police, adding that “the sovereignty of Burundi must be fully respected.” More than 450 people have been killed since President Pierre Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term last year, a move that his opponents say violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2005. Reuters

Cameroon Hostages Freed from Captivity in Central African Republic
Eleven hostages from Cameroon were freed on Sunday following 16 months of captivity, after having been abducted by a militia group from the Central African Republic, a statement from the Cameroonian presidency said. The hostages included a local mayor, Mama Abakai, and 12 others, but two died in captivity, said President Paul Biya in the statement, adding that the crime would not go unpunished. It was not clear which militia abducted them or how they were freed. They were kidnapped in March 2015 by heavily armed men while returning from a funeral in Cameroon’s northern Gbabio district, and taken over the nearby border to the Central African Republic. Reuters

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Says Sanctions to Blame for Cash Crunch
Zimbabwe’s finance minister blamed international sanctions on Sunday for a cash crunch that has forced the government to delay wages to soldiers and civil servants as President Robert Mugabe faces rare popular protests. Western countries imposed sanctions in 2001 on Mugabe’s government over allegations of vote-rigging and human rights abuses, which he rejects, while lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have frozen financial aid since Harare defaulted in 1999. Zimbabwe failed to pay the army on time for the second straight month, military sources said on Friday, and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the sanctions were hurting the government’s ability to meet its obligations. “Sanctions crippled our capacity to own our international obligations (debt payment),” Chinamasa told Reuters when asked about the wage-payment delays during an African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda. He did not say specifically which international obligations had been affected. Reuters

Report: Al-Qaida Reports Death of Tunisian Commander in Mali
A group that monitors online extremist activity says al-Qaida’s North Africa branch has reported the death of a commander in Mali. The SITE Intelligence Group on Sunday quoted a statement from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb saying Abu Bakr al-Shinqiti was killed during a raid on a Malian army barracks near the border with Burkina Faso. SITE said he was Tunisian. The statement did not specify the date or location of the raid, nor did it report any Malian casualties. On July 10, an official in Mali’s Koro region near the Burkina Faso border said unidentified gunmen had killed two Malian soldiers in a raid on a military checkpoint. Northern Mali was occupied in 2012 by al-Qaida and other jihadist groups before a French-led military operation drove them from cities and towns. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nice Attacker Confirmed as Tunisian
The driver of a lorry that killed 84 people in an attack in the French city of Nice has been confirmed as Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31. Ten of the dead were children. Some 202 people were injured; 52 are critical, of whom 25 are on life support. Prosecutors said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had driven the lorry 2km (1.2 miles) along the famous Promenade des Anglais and fired at police before being shot dead. The attack happened as thousands in Nice marked Bastille Day on Thursday. Other weapons found inside the lorry were replicas or fake. BBC

Kenya’s Ruling Party Accused of ‘Buying’ Opposition Members
Kenya’s general elections are set for August 8, 2017. With little more than a year to go, the election mood is already sweeping through the country as a strategic political realignment takes place. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – a member of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) – both led by the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has been facing a major shake-up as key party officials step down. This has been described as a Jubilee-orchestrated plan. In an interview with DW, Brian Singoro Wanyama, a political analyst said, “The allegations stem from the fact that the Jubilee alliance party have made it a motive to try and woo people from other parties for the merger that wants one joint vehicle for the 2017 elections.” Deutsche Welle

Kenya: Cop Goes Rogue, Raising Flags about Security
The trigger happy policeman, identified as Abdihakim Maslah, went berserk and opened fire on his seven colleagues, including his boss, Vitalis Ochidi. A statement from the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinett had earlier indicated that the station was under attack from Al Shabaab militants. “The gunman … turned out to be a local police officer who, for yet unknown reasons, went berserk and grabbed a firearm,” police spokesman George Kinoti said in a statement released to the press on Thursday evening. According to the report, Maslah, a station guard, came back to the station in the wee hours of Thursday morning only a few hours after finishing his Wednesday shift and for unknown reasons started shooting his colleagues. Daily Maverick

Germany Finally Apologizes for Its Other Genocide—More than a Century Later
Germany will finally apologize for its other genocide. In a landmark admission of historical guilt, chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will formally recognize and apologize for the systematic murder of Namibia’s Herero people more than a century ago. Germany’s federal government is in talks with the Namibian government to finalize a common language and policy around the hitherto almost ignored mass killing, the chancellor’s office said this week according to AFP. Still, Merkel’s government was clear that there would be no reparations, but rather targeted development projects. “On the question of whether there could be reparations or legal consequences, there are none. The apology does not come with any consequences on how we deal with the history and portray it,” Sawsan Chebli, Merkel’s spokeswoman, told reporters. Quartz

Why a Hashtag Isn’t Enough for a Revolution in Zimbabwe
[…] The influential role social media has played underlines the vast spread of internet use in Zimbabwe, primarily on mobile smartphones. It’s a phenomenon reminiscent of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, when social media was critical to inspiring and coordinating movements against dictatorship, corruption, poverty, and inequality. Some have even referred to the toppling of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as the “Facebook Revolution.” Some Zimbabwean activists, buoyed by their recent successes in mobilizing protests, are already proclaiming the dawn of a social media-assisted revolution. This, in turn, is prompting many pro-democracy commentators and journalists to declare that Mugabe’s rule is in its final days. These predictions of Mugabe’s imminent downfall are wrong. The reason is quite simple: the angry urban social media activists and pro-democracy pundits have failed to absorb two key lessons of the Arab Spring. The first is that the role of the military in times of civil unrest is pivotal. The second is that social media activism can never substitute for organized political activity on the ground. Foreign Policy

How China’s Trawlers are Emptying Guinea’s Oceans
Chinese fishing vessels operate illegally off the coast of Guinea, depleting its fish population and destroying marine life. Despite the economic and social consequences of illegal fishing, the Guinean government has failed to police its waters because it doesn’t have money to operate surveillance equipment, as the BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones