Media Review for July 8, 2016

African Union to Withdraw Troops from Somalia by 2020
The African Union says it plans to withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of 2020 after years of trying to secure the Horn of Africa country against extremist group al-Shabab. The AU’s Peace and Security Council statement issued this week comes after a series of challenges for the 22,000-strong multinational peacekeeping force, including funding issues that left some troops without pay for the past few months. The statement says that under its exit strategy, security responsibilities will be transferred to Somalia’s military gradually between 2018 and December 2020. The decision comes after the council met June 29 on the force known as AMISOM. AP on The Washington Post

Deadly Clashes Between Rival Forces in Juba
Fighting has erupted between South Sudanese army (SPLA) and the opposition forces of the SPLA-IO in the national capital, Juba, this evening. Spokesman of the SPLM-IO’s leader, Riek Machar, said clashes occurred at Lou Clinic on Gudele road when SPLA forces attacked their vehicle carrying soldiers of their protection unit. “Yes, there was fighting at 8:00pm between 10 soldiers of our protection unit and forces loyal to President Salva Kiir. They attacked our vehicle carrying the soldiers. A number of people were killed on their side and one wounded on our side,” said James Gatdet Dak. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan’s Former Rebels Warn of Return to War
Former rebels aligned with Vice President Riek Machar on Wednesday accused the South Sudanese government of arrests and killings they said could drag the country back to civil war. “If the government does not take good care of this case and the arrested opposition members are not released, then this may take us back to war because that’s the only solution for the government to free our soldiers and officials,” spokesman Col. William Gatjiath Deng told journalists. Forces that were led by Machar during South Sudan’s two-year civil war have complained that the security and intelligence have targeted their members for arrest and killing in recent days. They have said 139 have been arrested while off-duty and named Lt. Col. George Gismallah as among those killed at the weekend. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan Economic Woes Threaten New Crisis
Two months after the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity intended to end the civil war in South Sudan, the poor economic situation threatens to plunge the country into another catastrophic crisis. Inflation has surged since the unpegging of the South Sudanese Pound to the US$ in December, which led to a more than tenfold increase in the official exchange rate, yet this was not sufficient to prevent a depletion of foreign reserves, as evidenced by statements by the Central Bank deputy governor on June 23 that the country only had five weeks’ worth of hard currency. Estimates suggest oil is responsible for 90-98% of the country’s budget, and the fall in global prices decimated the government’s finances. While prices have rebounded to approximately $50 per barrel after a slump to $30 in February, an agreement following independence commits Juba to pay over $25 per barrel to Sudan in transport fees, strangling profit when other costs are added. Daily Maverick

Burundi Needs UN force to Stop Human Rights Abuses, HRW Says
The report, released as peace talks resume in neighbouring Tanzania, claims that the government’s Service national de renseignement has used “increasingly vicious” methods to crack down on groups protesting against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term. “Politically motivated torture by the Burundian intelligence services has reached new levels and has become increasingly vicious,” said Daniel Bekele, HRW’s Africa director. Burundi has been wracked by violence with hundreds killed since Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 that he would stand for a third election, which he later won. The UN estimates that at least 350 people have been summarily executed and 651 tortured in Burundi between April 2015 and April 2016. The Africa Report

From Tweets to Streets, Zimbabwe Social Media Anger Erupts into Anti-Mugabe Protests
Organisers of a general strike against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe pledged on Thursday to continue action until he falls, as a spontaneous social media movement has coalesced into the biggest uprising against his rule in nearly a decade. Zimbabweans have been using the Internet in recent weeks to mobilise for street protests against Mugabe’s government, bypassing traditional opposition parties as anger grows over his administration’s handling of a failing economy. Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader at 92, has led the former British colony since independence in 1980. His critics say he has presided over the destruction of a once-promising country with policies such as the seizures of white-owned farms; his government blames foreign powers for sabotaging the economy and stirring unrest. On Wednesday, much of the country was shut down by a “stay away” general strike, organised by a social media movement that complains of poor public services, 85 percent unemployment, widespread corruption and delays in getting state salaries. Reuters

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF Blames Western Embassies for Protests
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party accused western embassies of sponsoring Wednesday’s strike by civil servants over the government’s failure to pay salaries on time. “We know they are being sponsored by the western embassies and some failed political parties,” Ignatius Chombo, secretary for administration in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, told reporters in Harare, the capital. Traffic was normal on roads leading into the capital on Thursday. More than 100 protesters are scheduled to appear in a magistrate’s court on charges of involvement in public violence, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told reporters. The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, which called a three-day stayaway action, said that while some students were returning to schools, most of its members won’t go to work. “By and large most of our members are still on strike despite the intimidation and threats from the authorities,” the association’s secretary-general, John Mulilo, said by phone. Mail and Guardian

Study: Mali Voters Don’t Know What to Expect From Politicians
Raising voter expectations may raise the price of buying a vote in a developing democracy. It’s not a perfect solution to imperfect government. But it’s one way to measure what happens when you teach voters what their elected officials are supposed to be doing. Politicians can get away with poor performance in a developing democracy like Mali because voters don’t know what to expect from them, according to new research. Civics education can lead voters to demand more, the study found, although it’s expensive and time consuming. VOA

UN Warns of Risk of Possible Violence, Instability in DRC
The United Nations is warning that without a serious national political dialogue, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s current political tensions could deteriorate into a severe and possibly violent crisis. “Political tensions are rising ahead of the constitutional envisaged presidential and legislative elections,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson warned Thursday. “Polarization and public discontent are fueled by delays in the electoral process, the debate around respect for the constitution, and increasing restrictions on democratic space.” Fears are high in the country that President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down at the end of the year, will delay elections so that he can continue in his post. A constitutional court ruling in May said the president and members of parliament could remain in office until new office holders assume their duties. VOA

Unmanned Aerial Systems Make MONUSCO More Efficient
MONUSCO’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are now in the third year of operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and their contribution to mission success is in no doubt according to Lieutenant Colonel Tony Kerbey, UAS Chief for the Mission. “Often inaccurately referred to as ‘drones’, these silent observers are remotely controlled by human pilots, situated in ground control stations (GCS), many kilometres away from the aircraft itself,” he writes on the Mission’s website. “Routinely tasked to support the protection of civilians, monitor illegal armed groups and target humanitarian aid, UAS have proven to be part of the solution to an intractable set of problems. Firstly, how does one monitor a huge area of difficult terrain when there are very few roads and secondly, how does MONUSCO employ its limited resources in the right place at the right time? At least part of the answer lies with the efficient, prioritised use of UAS. DefenceWeb

Gambia Sacks 27 Government Officials Accused of Corruption
Authorities in Gambia have sacked 27 government officials including 10 permanent secretaries on suspicion of having fraudulently acquired official cars and other items. The officials are being investigated by the National Intelligence Agency. Nine former senior government officials and a local businessman were arrested and charged two weeks ago as part of ongoing investigations into alleged corruption at the state-owned Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC). President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the small West Africa country for almost two decades since seizing power in a bloodless coup. Last month, while addressing thousands of supporters in Tallinding during his nationwide tour, Jammeh accused the Mandingo people of opposing his regime despite his achievements. Africa News

Gambia Announces 20-Year Jail for Under-18 Marriage
President Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on child marriage during an Eid al-Fitr address. Speaking to Muslim elders after Eid prayers, he said there would be a minimum penalty of 20 years in jail for any man who marries a girl under 18. A girl’s parents could face 21 years imprisonment, he added. “Child marriage is banned in The Gambia and I will place a very hefty sentence against the practice,” Jammeh said. He added: “We are destroying the future of our children, who should be going to school. I will jail even the imam who ties the knot and destroy the marriage. And if anyone knows about this and refuses to report it, we will send you to jail for 10 years.” The President said he would introduce legislation later this month. Anadolu Agency

Car Bomb Kills 11 Soldiers in Libya’s Benghazi
A car bomb killed 11 soldiers in Libya’s second city Benghazi as they held evening prayers on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, a military source said on Thursday. Benghazi has been hit by repeated bombings since troops under the command of controversial General Khalifa Haftar drove Islamist fighters out of most of the city earlier this year. Haftar refuses to recognise a joint military command set by the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, saying he still takes orders from a rival administration based in the far eastern city of Tobruk. Wednesday’s blast follows a car bomb targeting a security chief that killed two people on Sunday and a June 24 bombing that killed four civilians. News 24

German Parliament Extends Naval Ship Patrols off Libya in EU-led Mission ‘Sophia’
Germany’s federal parliament has extended patrols by two naval ships in the EU-led mission “Sophia” off Libya. The decision on Thursday was in line with a UN resolution last month to stop inflows of weapons, especially to so-called “Islamic State” (IS) insurgents. Former rebels remain the main power brokers in oil-rich Libya where three months ago a new UN-backed unity government established a foothold in Tripoli. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition used its majority on Thursday evening to mandate its military to continue patrols within the EU mission until the end of June 2017. Parliament’s mandate endorses the use of up to 950 German military personnel following an EU Council of Ministers’ decison in late June to also train and support Libyan coastguard and navy units. Deutsche Welle

Zambian Opposition Party Leader Endorses Incumbent Lungu
The leader of the opposition Zambians for Empowerment and Development has endorsed incumbent President Edgar Lungu from the ruling Patriotic Front in the August 11 presidential election. In an interview with VOA, Fred Mutesa said Lungu was the best among all the presidential candidates, with the ability to unite the country and improve the living conditions of Zambians. He said his decision followed careful scrutiny of the candidates who will be in this year’s general poll. “We believe President Lungu is the one who has shown the most promise and hope for our nation,” Mutesa said. “He is a man with a good sense of judgment, which can be evidenced in many decisions he has taken since he got into office last year. VOA

Nigeria Backs Bid by Uganda’s Kazibwe to Chair AU Commission
Former Uganda vice president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe’s campaign for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson slot has been bolstered with Nigeria supporting her bid. The West African nation officially wrote to Dr Kazibwe expressing approval of her credentials for the job and confidence in her ability to steer the 54-member state organisation, founded in 1963, then called Organisation of African Unity (OAU) by 32 post colonial African states. In a letter dated June 14, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s senate, Dr Abubaker Bukola Saraki, wrote in a personal note to Dr Wandira: “I wish to assure you that the National Assembly and Senate supports your bid and wishes you all the best in this and all your future endeavours.” This nod from Nigeria, a considerable voice and opinion leader in the western part of the continent’s bloc (Economic Community of West African States), is likely to give cold feet to fellow West African state of Equatorial Guinea, whose foreign affairs minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, 51, is also vying for the same job alongside Botwana’s Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, 65. The East African

Ugandan MP to Petition for Change Allowing Museveni to Run Again
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni may have found a way to run for another term, a move long expected by his critics, who accuse him of seeking a lifetime presidency. A legislator from the ruling party said Thursday that she would petition top party officials to begin the process by which parliament would remove an age limit that now bars Museveni from standing for another term. Ann Maria Nankabirwa, an MP from the National Resistance Movement, told Reuters she had recently met with constituents who asked her to start the process of removing the age limit from the constitution. “These are my constituents telling me,” Nankabirwa said. “I can’t ignore their voices. They want the age limit removed for Museveni to stand again, and I have no choice but to take their petition to the party.” The Washington Post

Indian Prime Minister Kicks off 4-Nation African Visit
India’s prime minister has kicked off a four-nation African tour on a continent where China’s presence has been strong, including countries that haven’t been visited by an Indian leader in more than three decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip is meant to raise India’s profile in energy, trade and investment. He started Thursday in Mozambique, tweeting the news of his arrival in Portuguese, the official language: “Iniciando o meu périplo por África com uma visita a Moçambique.” Modi goes next to South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. India’s foreign ministry has described the four countries on the Indian Ocean as economic gateways to landlocked African states. Mozambique alone receives almost a quarter of India’s investment in Africa, according to India’s government. News 24

Fragile States Index 2016
For 12 years, the Fragile States Index (FSI), created by the Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy, has taken stock of the year’s events, using 12 social, economic, and political indicators to analyze how wars, peace accords, environmental calamities, and political movements have pushed countries toward stability or closer to the brink of collapse. The index then ranks the countries accordingly, from most fragile to least. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones