Media Review for May 24, 2016

Kenya Protests Leave Three Dead
Several people have been injured and three have been killed in various parts of Kenya during opposition protests called to push for the resignation of the country’s electoral commission officials. In Kisumu, Homa Bay and Siaya towns in the West of the country, the protests turned violent. Police say the protests are illegal and they tried to stop demonstrators. The opposition says the electoral commission, as it is currently constituted, cannot be trusted to carry out a free and fair election. The commissioners say they have not been found with any wrong doing and will therefore not resign. Outside the electoral commission offices in Nairobi on Monday, police frequently fired tear gas to disperse a handful of protestors who had managed to break off the cordon and gain access into the city centre. SABC

AFRICOM Must Adapt to New Challenges, Outgoing Commander Says
In the early days of U.S. Africa Command, airstrikes against militants in Somalia were guarded secrets, the kind of operations at odds with an image that AFRICOM was a kinder, gentler version of its sister combatant commands. Today, the Pentagon issues press releases when enemy targets are taken out in Somalia or Libya.  For AFRICOM’s spotlight-averse commander, U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the emerging image of AFRICOM as a hard-charging hunter-killer force is a source of frustration, and one he says is at odds with reality. Unilateral strikes are “a very tiny sliver” of what AFRICOM does, which is building up local forces so they can take fight their own battles at home. But the U.S. strikes against insurgents “colors your perception that this is a combatant command that is doing a lot of kinetic activities,” he said during an exit interview at his Stuttgart headquarters. “We have been taking the precise strikes in Somalia for the whole time AFRICOM’s been here,” he said, playing down their significance.  This summer, Rodriguez will hand over leadership to Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, a combat-tested commander who, if confirmed, must confront a tangle of security problems in Africa. While Rodriguez stopped short of saying the military should be more secretive about certain operations, his ambivalence about the command’s new-found attention underlines one of the challenges AFRICOM’s new commander will face: balancing a need for lethal, attention-grabbing U.S. strikes on enemies with the long-term grind of building indigenous forces to do the bulk of the dirty work. Stars and Stripes

Uganda: Four Policemen Shot Dead At DRC Border
Armed men suspected to be soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo ambushed and shot dead four Uganda police officers on Lake Albert in Ntoroko District on Saturday night. The deceased officers, who were responding to an illegal fishing incident at Mulango on the Ugandan border, have been identified as Sergeant Faruk Waiswa, Corporal Biral Opara, Constable Moses Ocen and Constable Bernard Isingoma. The DRC soldiers took the bodies of the four to the DR Congo side and also confiscated the Uganda Police Force speed boat and guns. Police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed the killings of the police officers. “It is a sad incident for the Uganda Police Force to lose four of our officers who were carrying out their duties. Investigations to establish the attackers and their motive are still on on-going,” Mr Enanga said yesterday. Daily Monitor on allAfrica

Fears DRC President’s Push to Keep Power Will Spark Major Violence
Critics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, fear his attempts to cling to power could lead to widespread violence after a key opposition leader was charged with plotting a coup d’état this week. Political tensions in the country escalated when Moïse Katumbi, a provincial powerbroker and former close ally of the president, was charged hours after announcing he would run for president in elections scheduled for later in the year. Critics accuse Kabila, in power since 2001, of manoeuvring to delay the vote and remain in office beyond his constitutionally permitted two terms. Kabila had “deliberately sabotaged the electoral process” and instituted a “policy of chaos and fear”, said Olivier Kamitatu Etsu, a member of Congo’s national assembly and a former minister of planning. The Guardian

EU Urges Congo Authorities to Redouble Election Efforts
The European Union has urged authorities in Congo to breathe new life into the electoral process so that political chaos doesn’t undermine the chances for free, fair and inclusive polls. EU foreign ministers called Monday on authorities to draw up a new calendar for a vote currently scheduled for November and update electoral lists. They said only a government that is “legitimate and democratically elected can bring stability and unite all forces in the country.” Tension is building in Congo as President Joseph Kabila’s maneuvers to avoid a national election and remain in office beyond his constitutionally permitted term, U.S. officials and opposition members say. AP on ABC News

Tunisian Islamic Party Re-elects Moderate Leader
The leader of  Tunisia’s main Islamic political party was re-elected on Monday, winning endorsement for his effort to move the party away from its Islamist roots and stay in tune with the country’s five-year-old democratic revolution. The leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, a  renowned Islamic thinker who spent 22 years in exile during Tunisia’s dictatorship, had tears in his eyes Monday as he embraced his rival in the party vote, which he won with 800 of the 1,058 ballots cast. The vote, a culmination of a three-day party congress here in Tunis, was a victory for Mr. Ghannouchi, 74, and an important turning point for his party, Ennahda, as it seeks to separate the party’s religious and political activities. “One of the most important changes we came to was the independence of the political mission and the political party from social and cultural activities,” Mr. Ghannouchi told reporters. “We were not able to achieve this cause before because of a lack of clarity.” He said the party had matured and the country’s new Constitution — guaranteeing freedom of religion, and calling for a separation of politics from civil society — had made a change in the party’s direction possible. The New York Times

Burundi Exiles Record Forgotten Victims of Political Crisis
By gathering personal testimonies and information on citizen deaths, a project run by Burundians in exile is recording the stories of those killed during the current political crisis. Violence broke out last year when the president, Pierre Nkirunziza, announced plans to run for an unconstitutional third term. Clashes soon escalated, leading to a series of armed rebellions, mass arrests and assassinations. But with independent journalists and media targeted by government forces, organisers of the Enfants du pays (Children of the country) project say the stories of ordinary citizens are in danger of being forgotten. The group has launched a website to publish names and testimonies from family and friends, saying they want to create a “space to tell the story of the victims of Pierre Nkurunziza’s 3rd term, the stories of the people … their hopes, dreams, challenges, shortcomings, and their premature and unjust deaths”.  The Guardian

Nigeria’s Goodluck, Bad Luck Story: Can President Buhari Risk Arresting His Predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan?
Slowly but surely, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive is nabbing his predecessor’s key lieutenants. But what to do with former president Goodluck Jonathan himself? There’s enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that there is a strong case for Jonathan to answer, but it might just be more trouble than it is worth to arrest him. Daily Maverick

Nigeria Heads Toward Recession
Nigeria’s central bank governors are meeting amid a gloomy financial outlook for Africa’s largest economy. Numbers released last week show the country’s economy contracting. Economists blame a shortage of fuel, persistent power outages and a fall in the production of Nigeria’s top moneymaker, oil. Nigeria is heading for a recession. That’s what analysts say after the National Bureau of Statistics announced the economy contracted by about four-tenths of a percent in the first quarter of this year. Africa economist at London-based Capital Economics John Asbhourne said a shortage of fuel and shortage of dollars to pay for imported goods stymied economic growth. He doesn’t expect the second quarter to be much better. “It’s very, very likely the economy will shrink again this quarter, and then we’re in a recession,” said Asbhourne. VOA

Nigerian Villagers Take up Arms after Fulani Attacks
[…] Violence blamed on Fulani herdsmen has given Nigeria’s government another security headache in addition to Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast and militants in the oil-producing south. The worst affected villages in February’s attacks were Okokolo, Adagbo, Akwu, Aila and Odugbeho. Residents told AFP nearly 50 people were killed and more than 1,000 properties ransacked or razed. “The Fulanis killed our kinsmen, burnt or destroyed 327 of our houses in this village and for no just cause,” said Christopher Onah, the chief of Okokolo. Onah picked up spent cartridges from the ground and showed the damage to his rice and yam barns, a motorcycle and generator. His home was ransacked, as were the churches, mosque and schools. “There’s nothing left for us again after the attack,” said Anyebe Peter, a farmer in Adagbo, where seven people were killed and 250 houses were burnt down.  Times Live

World Leaders Meet in Istanbul to Fix “Broken” Humanitarian Aid System
Global leaders met in Istanbul on Monday to tackle a “broken” humanitarian system that has left 130 million people in need of aid, a near insurmountable task for a two-day summit that critics say risks achieving little. Billed as the first of its kind, the United Nations summit aims to develop a better response to what has called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two, mobilise more funds and find agreement on better caring for displaced civilians. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments, businesses and aid groups to commit to halving the number of displaced civilians by 2030. “We are here to shape a different future,” he said in an address at the start of the conference. “I urge you to … find better long-term solutions for refugees and displaced people based on (a) more equal sharing of responsibilities.”  The East African

Can One “Grand Bargain” Fix a Broken Humanitarian Relief System?
Of the many aims of the World Humanitarian Summit, one at the top of the list is reshaping the way aid is funded and delivered. Part of this involves encouraging new actors such as the private sector and non-traditional donors to get involved, but more money alone will not solve the problems facing the humanitarian sector. Arguably the more important aspect of this goal is altering both the way traditional donors fund humanitarian projects and how aid agencies operate in the field. This two-way approach – targeting both donors and service providers – is called the Grand Bargain, and it is driving much of the discussion here in Istanbul. UN Dispatch

An Agenda for Renewal in Zimbabwe (Video)
Tendai Biti, former Minister of Finance in Zimbabwe, shares his reform agenda to advance Zimbabwe’s stability, renewal, and reengagement with the international community. Mr. Biti maintains that Africa must address its legitimacy deficit if the region is to overcome its economic and political constraints.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

EgyptAir: Crashed Flight MS804 ‘Did Not Swerve’
An EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean did not swerve and change direction before disappearing, an Egyptian official says. The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard when it vanished from radar early on Thursday. Greece’s defence minister said the plane turned 90 degrees left and then did a 360-degree turn towards the right before plummeting. But a senior Egyptian aviation official said there was no unusual movement. Ehab Azmy, the head of Egypt’s state-run provider of air navigation services, told Associated Press the plane had been flying at its normal height of 37,000ft (11,280m) before dropping off the radar. Some debris has since been found. BBC

Egypt’s Military Cooperation with US Continues to Move Forward
On 12 May Egypt received the first shipment of armoured vehicles from the US. The US Embassy in Cairo featured an article on its official website on the details of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, designed to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), landmines and other forms of attacks. Thursday’s delivery was “the first batch of a total of 762 MRAP vehicles that the United States is transferring to Egypt,” the article reported. “Originally designed to support United States military operations in Afghanistan, MRAPs provide enhanced levels of protection to soldiers and are proven to save lives.” “The delivery of these MRAPs to Egypt provides a crucial capability needed during these times of regional instability and is part of the continuing strong relationship between the US and Egypt,” said Major General Charles Hooper, the US embassy’s senior defence official in Cairo. Ahram

Pope Meets top Egyptian Cleric, Ending five-year Freeze in Relations
Pope Francis met on Monday the grand imam of Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, looking to heal Vatican relations with the influential centre of Sunni Muslim learning after dialogue was frozen five years ago. The 1,000-year-old mosque and university centre cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults towards Islam from Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict. The decision came just days after Benedict denounced what he called “a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target” following a bomb attack outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 23 people. Since his election in 2013, Francis has put great emphasis on improving inter-faith relations and smiled warmly as he greeted Egypt’s top cleric, Ahmed al-Tayeb. “The message is the meeting,” the pope told reporters. In a subsequent statement, the Vatican said the two men had discussed the problems of violence and terrorism, and the situation of Christians in the Middle East, including how best to protect them. Reuters

S. Sudan Peace Partners to Free Prisoners of War
South Sudan’s Council of Ministers in the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) resolved Friday that all prisoners of war would be released. The country’s information minister said it was agreed, at the meeting that, any person under arrest from both parties should be handed over to the appropriate authorities so that they can be delivered to their respective institutions. The government also resolved to suspend talks over cantonment of forces in South Sudan’s Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions to the next sitting, Makuei told reporters. Sudan Tribune

Somali Elections on Track for August, Despite Opposition
Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, issued a decree Sunday to legalize the 2016 electoral process in Somalia, after the outgoing parliament failed to endorse the election rules. The parliament Saturday delayed a vote to endorse the process, despite warnings from the international community that a failure to act quickly would “jeopardize” the political process and set the county back several years. Bypassing parliament, the president said at a news conference in Mogadishu Sunday the election would take place in August as scheduled and in line with the deal by the national and regional leaders agreed last month. “After seeing that the parliament can’t decide, after seeing that the time is running out, I issued a presidential decree to legalize the electoral model” Mohamoud said. VOA

Ghana: Road Budget Bloated by over 200 Per Cent
A former minister has been accused of demanding a BMW 7 series vehicle to allow him to inspect a 5.7 kilometre road that was under construction, as costs of the project ballooned from 40.4 million cedi to 88 million cedi, the latest case of abuse of office in the West African country. Ghana’s parliamentary public accounts committee (PAC), chaired by an opposition legislature, accused the former roads and highways minister, Joe Gidisu, of demanding the BMW saloon car valued at $160,305 for the inspection of the road contributing to the budget shooting by over 200 per cent. The Africa Report

Simple SMS System Keeps a Close Watch on Rwanda’s Babies
Using an old cellphone, health worker Floride Uwinkesha logs the latest pregnancy in isolated rural areas of Rwanda. She works for a monitoring programme that aims to improve maternal health and has already helped cut infant and maternal mortality rates. Marceline Mwubahamana (31) is three months pregnant and doesn’t have to leave her home to have her details logged into the health ministry’s national database. Uwinkesha, the local officer in charge of maternal health in the rural Nyarukombe district of eastern Rwanda, sends through simple codes on a basic cellphone. The database, known as RapidSMS, was set up in 2009 with the backing of the United Nation’s children’s agency Unicef and underpins a medical monitoring programme for pregnancies and babies aged up to two years. Mail and Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones