Media Review for June 10, 2016

DRC Opposition Gathers in Historic Brussels Meeting to Muster Momentum for Ousting Joseph Kabila
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opposition leaders gathered on the outskirts of Brussels on Thursday (9 June) in an unprecedented attempt to agree on a strategy for ousting President Joseph Kabila. The so-called “Conclave” was launched by Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), as the political crisis in the country continues to deepen. Speaking to IBTimes UK at the historic gathering in Belgium, Olivier Kamitatu, former Planning Minister and G7 member, said: “The first point of agreement is respect for the constitution. The second point is the fact that we want our freedom to be respected and that political prisoners and young activists … are freed. What unites us is that we want legal proceedings to be dropped, to reinstate freedom of the press, which was taken away, and finally, for the elections to be held on time as per the constitution.” IBTimes

Libya Unity Govt Forces Enter ISIS Bastion
Fighting raged for control of the Islamic State group’s Libya stronghold of Sirte after unity government forces battled their way into the centre of the city. The United States confirmed the advance on Sirte, the hometown of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddhafi that has also been in the sights of forces of a rival authority in eastern Libya. The loss of Sirte would amount to a huge setback for ISIS, which is also faced with battlefield reverses in Syria and Iraq.  “The armed forces entered Sirte. They are currently in the centre, where clashes continue with Daesh,” said Mohamad Ghassri, spokesperson for the forces of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). “The operation will not last much longer. I think we’ll be able to announce the liberation of Sirte in another two or three days,” he said. News24

Fears Grow Over ISIL Recruitment of Tunisia Women
Hundreds are thought to have fled and joined armed group, leaving behind distraught families and a worried government.  About 700 women and girls are among the 5,000 Tunisians who have been recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups. As they travel to countries such as neighbouring Libya, they leave behind their families who quickly become distraught about their loss. …  In May, Tunisian police arrested three girls from a school in Sidi Bouzid who had been planning to travel to Libya. They were held for almost a week, and then released. The government would not comment on the arrests to Al Jazeera, but Neji Jalloul, Tunisia’s education minister, said that it is “doing everything it can to counter the message of recruiters, including offering classes on culture”.

US Sees No Major Islamic State Links to Boko Haram, Despite Claims
After Boko Haram killed more than two dozen soldiers in Niger last week, it claimed the attack in the name of Islamic State-West Africa Province – a title meant to tell the world it is an arm of the Syria-based extremist group. But U.S. officials tell Reuters they see no evidence that Boko Haram has received significant operational support or financing from Islamic State, more than a year after the brutal West African group’s pledge of allegiance to it. That assessment, detailed by multiple U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggests Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge has so far mostly been a branding exercise designed to boost its international jihadi credentials, attract recruits, and appeal to the IS leadership for assistance. VOA

Nigerian Militant Group Says Niger Delta Could Break Away: Statement
A Nigerian militant group, which has claimed a string of attacks on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta, said on Thursday the region might break away. “We want our resources back to restore the essence of human life in our region for generations to come because Nigeria has failed to do that,” the Niger Delta Avengers group said on its website. “The world should not wait until we go the (way of) Sudan,” it said, referring to South Sudan’s secession in 2011. Reuters

Nigerian Army Denies Killing Unarmed Pro-Biafrans as Amnesty Urges Probe
The Nigerian army has denied allegations by a humanitarian campaign group that it killed unarmed people during celebrations to commemorate millions who died during the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran war. Amnesty International carried out an on-the-spot investigation at morgues and hospitals in Anambra state and claimed the Nigerian military opened fire on members of the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB), supporters and bystanders at three locations in Onitsha town, between 29 and 30 May 2016. The army, however, said in a statement that Ipob members “engaged in violent protests which were featured with outright disregard for law and order”, a claim Ipob strongly denies. IBTimes

US Embassy in Gambia Closed After Police Guards Removed
The US embassy in Banjul was closed for all but essential services on Thursday after Gambian authorities removed its police protection. It was not immediately clear why President Yahya Jammeh’s government had taken this step, but Washington has criticised its rights record. A State Department official in Washington told AFP the United States had “registered concern” with Gambia over the withdrawal of the officers. “We will continue to closely monitor and assess the situation as events unfold,” he said. “The US embassy sent a security message to citizens to alert them to the embassy closure.” An AFP reporter in Banjul who visited the US mission confirmed that the Police Intervention Unit officers normally deployed there were gone. News24

International Inaction Encourages Sudan’s Bashir to Defy ICC: Bensouda
The lack of international action against President Omer al-Bashir emboldened him to defy the international Justice and to travel around the world, said International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Thursday. President al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed during a counterinsurgency campaign carried out by the army and government militias in Darfur region after the outbreak of rebellion in 2003. She further said that Council’s failure to act has “equally emboldened states, both parties as well as certain non-parties to the Rome Statute, not only to facilitate Mr Al Bashir’s travels to their territories but to invite and host him”. She emphasized that such an evolving trend risked setting an “ominous precedent,” which, unless redirected, will not bode well for similar genuine efforts aimed at bringing those responsible for mass atrocities to justice. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Arrested the Right Suspect of Human Trafficking: Police
The Sudanese police Thursday has denied reports casting doubts on the identity of an Eritrea man arrested and sent to Italy as “one of the world’s most-wanted people smugglers”, saying they are sure he is the right suspect searched by the Italian police. … High ranking security officials from the Sudanese police and other security apparatuses involved in the operation Thursday held a meeting with the British and Italian Ambassadors to Khartoum to discuss the issue. Reached by Sudan Tribune after the meeting, a police official who is not authorized to speak to the media stressed that nothing proves that the arrested man is not the one who is searched for smuggling of illegal immigrants and the death of many thousands in the Mediterranean. The official further said that the arrested man is one of a wide human trafficking network, adding “he may not be the head of the network but he is one of its most prominent members”. Sudan Tribune

President Kiir’s Office Admits Responsibility for Controversial Anti-Justice Article
President Salva Kiir’s office has finally revealed that it was responsible for the controversial article which found itself to The New York Times, proposing to scrap from the peace agreement justice and accountability clauses over crimes committed during the war. hey also insisted that the article, published by The New York Times on Tuesday and later on by some other media outlets, was written in the office of the President with the agreement of the First Vice President, Riek Machar. Sudan Tribune

Most of Abducted Ethiopian Children Rescued from South Sudan
Eighty-eight Ethiopian children abducted in April by South Sudanese gunmen have been released and returned home, the UN children’s agency Unicef said Thursday. At least 216 people were killed and 136 children abducted in the cross-border raid into Ethiopia’s south-western Gambella region on April 15. “The majority of the children are between three and five years old. Many looked very distraught and dazed,” said Sacha Westerbeek of Unicef Ethiopia. “They have seen people killed in front of their eyes. You can see the fear in the eyes.” … The Murle, a tribe from South Sudan based in the eastern Jonglei region close to the Ethiopian border, often stages raids to steal cattle and abduct children but rarely on such a large or deadly scale. The East African

Kenyan Political Unrest Raises Fears of New Flare-Up in 2017 Vote
Kenyan politics is already taking a deadly toll more than a year before elections likely to pit rival dynasties against each other, raising fears of a new crisis less than a decade after ethnic violence killed 1,200 people. With Kenya a valuable ally to the West in fighting militant Islam and a vital economic partner for neighbouring nations, the government insists it can deliver a smooth poll and avoid a repeat of the bloodshed after the 2007 presidential election. But police in Nairobi, sometimes pelted by rocks, have beaten and kicked protesters who have taken to the streets since late April to demand the scrapping of an election oversight body that they accuse of pro-government bias, a charge it denies. In west Kenya, an opposition stronghold, at least four people have died, including a protester shot dead on Monday in Kisumu, a city still scarred by the post-2007 vote violence. Reuters

Kenya Fires 302 Police Officers as it Fights Corruption
A national commission in Kenya announced Thursday it has fired 302 police officers who refused to be vetted as part of reforms of the police force. The reforms are aimed at restoring public confidence in an institution repeatedly implicated in endemic corruption and human rights abuses. …  Kenya is vetting all its police officers as part of a reform package the government agreed to undertake after adopting a new constitution in 2010. So far at least 3,000 officers have been vetted with close to 100 fired. The adoption of the new constitution and police reforms were part of an agreement that ended post-election violence following a flawed presidential poll in December 2007 that left more than 1,000 people dead. Kenya’s police force was accused of taking sides during the violence. AP

Somalia Attack: ‘It’s Impossible to Know the Real Numbers’
The militants attacked the military base in the early morning hours of Thursday by igniting a car bomb at the gates of the complex. The AMISOM base in the western Somali town of Halgan was manned by Ethiopian peacekeeping troops. Al-Shabab initially claimed that they had killed 60 soldiers, while Ethiopia’s government spokesman told DW that these numbers were “entirely fabricated.” Instead, he said that the peacekeepers had foiled the attack, killing 101 al-Shabab fighters. AMISOM, the African Union’s peacekeeping mission to Somalia has been in the country for almost 10 years to support Somalia’s government troops in the fight against al-Shabab. The peacekeeping mission is made up of 22,000 soldiers from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi. DW spoke to Horn of Africa expert Tim Glawion about the latest attack. DW

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Says “Surrogate Currency” Will Prevent Dollar Outflow
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Thursday the introduction of local bank notes by the central bank later this year, which he called a “surrogate currency”, would help prevent foreigners taking greenbacks out of the country. He also said the shortage of U.S. dollars in the economy would be overcome soon, although he did not elaborate. In the grip of its worst drought in a quarter century that has left 4 million people facing food shortages, the southern African nation is also running out of cash, forcing the central bank to impose limits on imports and withdrawals from banks. But Zimbabweans are worried that the central bank’s plan to introduce banknotes, or “bond notes”, in October to ease the dollar shortage could open the door to rampant money printing, as happened in 2008 when inflation hit 500 billion percent, wiping out people’s savings and pensions. Reuters

Zambia’s Ruling Party Denies Reports of Lungu’s Poor Health
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu is still campaigning for re-election, contrary to local media reports that poor health forced him to seek medical attention in neighboring South Africa, a ruling party official said. Frank Bwalya, deputy campaign manager for the governing Patriotic Front, said the reports of the president’s poor health were a ploy by his detractors to undermine Lungu’s efforts to win another term in the August 11 general election. Lungu participated Thursday in a live television show carried by the Zambia Broadcasting Corporation, a state broadcaster. VOA

From War to Wildlife: Fighting for Angola’s Future
At dusk in southern Angola, former civil war soldier Elias Kawina leads a drill parade for 30 rangers who fight armed poachers in the country’s vast, little-explored interior. Kawina, 38, rose to the rank of lieutenant in government forces during the bloody, 27-year conflict that finally ended in 2002. Now he battles illegal hunting that threatens the fragile recovery of Angola’s wildlife, which was decimated during the war but is today seen a potential tourism draw.  “I was a soldier but, after peace, I was demobilised and now we are rangers—as we call it ‘nature soldiers’,” Kawina told AFP at a new training centre in the remote province of Cuando Cubango. “We are dealing with poachers who have firearms. When we find them, we fight them. “It is not an easy job, but I have my weapon, so I am not concerned.” Angola’s government has vowed to revive wild animal numbers—particularly elephants—by ending poaching and ivory trafficking. The country is also a major trafficking route from Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with ivory trinkets openly sold at markets in the capital Luanda targeting Chinese buyers. Daily Mail

Namibia’s Secret Ivory Business
Namibia is known for its extremely dry climate and desert landscape, but Zambezi is an exception. With the Zambezi River and its tributaries flowing through lush wetlands, it is home to nearly 10,000 resident elephants and thousands of migratory elephants, according to MET. Poachers take advantage of this. Since 2011, more than 230 elephants have been reported poached in Namibia, more than 90 percent of them killed in Zambezi. In the southwest of the country, more than 100 black rhinos have been poached. In addition to these two iconic species, poaching of other animals such as lions and pangolins is also on the rise. There are indications that Chinese are the buyers behind some of the cases. Despite the anti-poaching messages that can be seen at many places in Namibia, I was frequently approached by locals for illegal deals while I was traveling there. China File

South Africa Summons US Envoy Over Terror Alert
The recently-released terror threat alerts by the US, British and Australian missions have sparked diplomatic tensions with the South African government reprimanding the three countries. In a strong show of diplomatic displeasure, the South African government has summoned the US ambassador to the International Relations Department to explain the circumstances surrounding the issuing of a terror alert. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and State Security Agency said government was displeased with the manner in which the alerts were passed, adding the information was very sketchy. DIRCO’s spokesman Clayson Monyela said the US embassy’s source lacked credibility. “Alerts of those nature have the unintended consequences of causing panic and we have a responsibility to ensure that the information that we rely on, at the very least, has to be credible,” he said. Daily Nation

The African Union’s Panel of the Wise and Conflict Prevention
The Panel of the Wise is the AU’s most high-profile structure for preventing conflict, conducting on-the-ground fact-finding, presenting policy options, and brokering agreements. It is composed of five “highly respected African personalities who employ their experience and moral persuasion to foster peace” and who represent each of Africa’s five regions. It has undertaken several missions since it was established in 2007. … While the approach varies in each case depending on the type of conflict, temperament of the parties, and background of the mediators, the region’s institutional efforts at conflict prevention and mediation have proved instrumental at realizing negotiated settlements. Africa Center



Photo: Adam Jones