Media Review for May 26, 2016

UN Lifts Last of Liberia Sanctions
The U.N. Security Council has lifted the last international sanctions against Liberia. The council has been progressively terminating the targeted measures that were imposed at the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003. In 2009, a ban on timber exports, which along with diamonds had helped finance the conflict, was lifted. In September, the council ended a travel ban and asset freeze on designated individuals and entities. On Wednesday, it took the final step, unanimously voting to lift an arms embargo on non-state actors. “Targeted sanctions in the context of Liberia have been very constructive,” the country’s U.N. Charge d’Affaires George S.W. Patten Sr. told the council. “The sanctions regime contributed, in large measure, to stabilization of the country and also stimulated post-conflict economic recovery.” U.S. Envoy David Pressman said the sanctions targeting Liberia’s natural resources were “well tailored” and addressed unconventional sources of conflict financing. VOA

Top Liberia Politician Arrested in Corruption Scandal
Varney Sherman, often described as Liberia’s best connected lawyer, was taken in by police after young party activists blockaded his home on Monday when officers attempted to raid it. “He was arrested early this morning at his residence because he refused to cooperate with the taskforce set up by the president,” a security source told AFP. Sherman was the Liberian legal fixer for London-based Sable Mining, co-founded by former England international cricketer Phil Edmonds, between 2010 and 2012. The party chairman is accused of organising a vast system of patronage, channelling handouts to help win Sable iron ore concessions, and inserting favourable representatives to key posts with responsibility for licences and tenders. Times Live

Liberia, America’s Outpost of Financial Secrecy
An investigation by Finance Uncovered has exposed a little-known offshore business registry that has created tens of thousands of anonymous companies and registered them to a non-existent address in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. Although these companies are technically a creation of Liberian law, management of the registry is based in the United States and appears to have the support of the US government. The companies, which can be purchased online, offer near-total anonymity to their clients, allowing them to hide assets without fear of being caught by law enforcement or revenue authorities. Among other things, Finance Uncovered’s investigation, supported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and amaBhungane, discovered over half a billion pounds of high-value London property registered to Liberian offshore companies. And there have been allegations that revenues from the registry were used to fund arms purchases during Liberia’s terrible civil war. Daily Maverick

Major Opposition Rally Banned in Congo After Kabila Ruling
Public demonstrations have been banned in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said Tuesday, ahead of a planned opposition rally to denounce a controversial court ruling allowing President Joseph Kabila to remain in power beyond his mandate. Protests were prohibited in North Kivu province in the east and the second city of Lubumbashi after the alliance called for nationwide protests following the Constitutional Court decision this month to let Kabila remain in a caretaker capacity after the expiry of his term in December. Julien Paluku, governor of violence-wracked North Kivu, said no public rallies would be permitted in the province, according to a press conference broadcast online. Africa Review

Zimbabwe’s One Million Man March: ‘a Ridiculous Partisan Project’
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took part in the march through the capital, Harare, in support of veteran President Robert Mugabe. The marchers, many of whom were transported to the city by bus, sang songs praising Mugabe and wore t-shirts displaying his image as they gathered at a central square to hear him address the crowds. Mugabe, 92, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. He has vowed to stand again as president in elections due in 2018. The march in the southern African nation took place while many Africans across the continent were commemorating the foundation of the former Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU). In an interview with DW, the chairperson of the movement Occupy Africa Unity Square (OAUS), Dirk Frey, called on Zimbabweans to raise their voices against the current regime. Deutsche Welle

Subcommittee Hearing: Tunisia’s Struggle for Stability, Security, and Democracy
Mr. John Desrocher Deputy Assistant Secretary for Egypt and Maghreb Affairs Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State [full text of statement] Ms. Maria Longi Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for the Middle East U.S. Agency for International Development [full text of statement] . Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa

Tight Security for Tunisia Jewish Pilgrimage
An annual Jewish pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue got under way on Wednesday in Tunisia where security forces were deployed heavily to ward off potential jihadist attacks. Small groups of pilgrims began arriving in the searing heat at the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba in southern Tunisia for the Lag BaOmer festival. Organisers expect up to 2 000 people to visit over two days, despite heightened worries about security following a string of jihadist attacks in the North African country. Police and soldiers were out in force while a helicopter flew overhead. The island’s Jewish district Hara Kbira was cordoned off and visitors were required to undergo searches. The number of pilgrims visiting the synagogue has fallen sharply since a 2002 suicide truck bombing claimed by Al-Qaeda that killed 21. News 24

Verdict Expected Monday in Former Chadian Ruler’s Trial
A court in Senegal is scheduled to deliver a verdict Monday in the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre. Habre was tried on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes before a special tribunal in Dakar, the Extraordinary African Chambers. The verdict could mark the end of a battle to bring Habre to justice in Senegal, to which he fled and where he has lived since being overthrown in a coup in 1990. “It took 25 years of relentless campaigning by Hissene Habre’s victims to make this trial happen,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. The tribunal indicted the former Chadian leader in 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges said there was sufficient evidence to bring Habre to trial. VOA

Latest Promotion of Ugandan Leader’s Son Sparks Talk of Succession Conspiracy
The head of the special command forces in Uganda — who is also a son of the president — was officially promoted to major general Wednesday, a move that has drawn condemnation on social media and has stirred allegations of a succession scheme. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, was decorated following his promotion from brigadier during a ceremony at Ministry of Defense headquarters in Kampala. The special command forces are in charge of protecting the president, as well as the country’s oil and other institutions. Kainerugaba, the first son of President Yoweri Museveni, was promoted alongside many other officers. But critics allege Kainerugaba’s elevation is part of a plan by Museveni to install his son as his successor. Renegade Army General David Sejusa, a former coordinator for Uganda’s intelligence agencies at the president’s office, made the allegation to VOA. Sejusa has demanded an investigation. He said the alleged plan involves a plot to assassinate senior administration officials opposed to Museveni’s succession arrangement. VOA

Senegal-Gambia Border Reopens
Senegal’s border with the Gambia has reopened to commercial traffic after a three-month blockade caused by Senegalese truckers, multiple sources told AFP on Wednesday. The blockade, which had created shortages of essential daily items on both sides of the frontier, followed the Gambia’s decision to slap a hundred-fold hike on fees for trucks entering its territory in February. It has since reversed the charge. Vehicles have been crossing Senegal’s six border posts with the Gambia normally since Tuesday, said Pape Seydou Dianko, a high-profile figure among Senegal’s militant transport unions, speaking to AFP by phone from the border town of Karang. “We are a republic. We talked about it with our government. We hope that our grievances will be addressed in the negotiations with the Gambia,” Dianko added. News 24

Mozambique Heads for Default After Missing Loan Repayment Deadline
Mozambique was heading toward a default on Monday after the government failed to honour a sovereign guarantee behind a $535 million loan taken out by a state-run company to build shipyards that have not materialised, a Finance Ministry source said. The repayment crisis in what was once one of the continent’s brightest economic prospects is likely to trigger a reappraisal of the wave of commercial lending to African governments during the past decade of relatively strong regional growth. The state firm, Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), was unable to make the $178 million payment and the government – which last month admitted to $1.35 billion of secret foreign borrowing – also failed to come up with the cash, the source said. Foreign creditors behind the loan, organised by Russia’s VTB Bank, had rejected the war-scarred Southern African country’s initial proposals to renegotiate payments, but were still in talks to try to reach a deal, the source added. Reuters

Mozambique’s Hidden Conflict: Fear has Taken Hold
Two decades after the end of Mozambique’s bloody civil war, residents of one region are living in fear and uncertainty once again. Security forces are trying to quell a conflict with fighters in Gorongosa region believed to be linked to Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo), the rebel group that fought a 16-year war against the state that ended with a peace treaty in 1992 and later became an opposition party.. Last year, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama claimed that the October 2014 general elections, in which the ruling Frelimo party won an easy victory, were rigged and went into hiding in the mountains of Gorongosa. Soon after fighters believed to be linked to him started shooting at cars – killing civilians. Al Jazeera

Kenyan Army Says kills 21 Shabaab Militants in Somalia
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops have killed 21 Al-Shabaab militants in Hawina, Somalia, on Monday. The dead include a junior-level commander Salad Bart, who is believed to have been in charge of the group. KDF said in a statement that its troops were en-route to Tabda from Dobley, while approaching Hawina at 8.23am when a lone Al-Shabaab militant shot at them and fled the scene. The troops then started patrolling the area before engaging the militants who had attempted an ambush along the road to Tabda, KDF spokesman Col David Obonyo said. “The fire fight that ensued resulted in the killing of the 21 terrorists with no casualties on KDF,” Col Obonyo said. About 17 AK-47 rifles, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five RPGs and assorted ammunition were recovered after the incident. The East African

Kenya Tells UK to Resettle Somali Refugees Living in Dadaab 
Kenya says it plans to expel hundreds of thousands of refugees within six months, and argues the international community is partly to blame for leaving it to deal with so many refugees for so long. The deputy president, William Ruto, said it is now up to the developed world to mitigate the fallout, suggesting that other countries including the UK should resettle the refugees who could soon be kicked out of Kenya. Ruto’s comments follow Kenya’s announcement that it intends to close its refugee camps and shut down its refugee ministry, putting the future of 600,000 mainly Somali and South Sudanese people in doubt. Kenya says the camps have become hotbeds for Islamist extremism, and claims several recent terrorist attacks were planned from Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The Guardian

Kenyan Politics: Where Have all the Women Gone?
Worldwide, many advances have been made to improve gender equality in political, economic and social spheres. In Kenya, however, women continue to be discriminated against in many areas of society. Although women comprise 52% of the Kenyan population and 60% of the country’s registered voters, political representation is heavily skewed in favour of men. From 2007 to 2013, the number of women parliamentarians remained low – at 9.8%. Some progress has since been made in the current Parliament, with women members of Parliament (MPs) now comprising 19.5%. Nevertheless, this percentage still falls short of the target set out in Article 81 of Kenya’s Constitution, which states that ‘not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender’. It also goes against the United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security, and the recently launched Kenya Action Plan, which also calls for active women’s representation and participation in decision-making and political processes. ISS

US Inspectors in Kenya for Direct Flights Audit
US government officials have arrived in Kenya for a two-week audit of the safety systems and management at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as the country prepares to introduce direct flights to the world’s largest economy. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) safety inspectors, who arrived in the country on Monday, will conduct a comprehensive audit of the JKIA to ascertain its compliance with the FAA requirements on safety. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director general Gilbert Kibe says the audit follows a visit by the Kenyan delegation to the US last week led by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia that met officials from the department of transport in America to discuss the same. “The officials are now in the country conducting a comprehensive audit on Kenya’s compliance with the requirements for direct flights to the US,” said Mr Kibe. Mr Kibe said that the US department of transport has given its assurance with regard to giving JKIA a Category One status that would allow for direct flights between Nairobi and Washington. The East African

El Nino Wreaks Havoc in Africa
Extreme drought followed by massive rainfall: the weather phenomenon El Nino is at the root of famine and floods in many African countries. While nations in southern Africa are suffering from the lowest rainfall in 35 years, the east of the continent is experiencing massive floods. Epidemics of cholera, malaria, measles and scabies follow. The UN World Food Program has raised the alarm: more than 20 million people in East Africa, and 14 million in the southern part of the continent, lack food. Will the international community be able to cope with this catastrophe? This was one of the central issues up for debate at the World Summit for Humanitarian Aid in Istanbul, on May 23 and 24. Here is an overview of the situation in the worst affected countries. Deutsche Welle

British Special Forces ‘Blew up Isis Suicide Truck in Libya’
British special forces reportedly blew up an Islamic State suicide truck in Libya earlier this month, a military commander there has said. The strike apparently came when a vehicle, acting as a bomb, approached a bridge leading towards the city of Misrata in the north-west of the country. UK forces appeared ready for the attack and fired a single missile during the incident on 12 May, Commander Mohammed Durat told the Times. Describing the scene as the truck sped forward he said: “Our British friends seemed quite calm about it that day.” Durat, of Misrata’s Third Force, said the special forces had plotted the coordinates and ranges required for a successful strike, telling the paper: “It blew up the suicide truck with a huge explosion, the biggest we have seen yet. Not one of our own forces was killed.”  The Guardian

Africa Envoys’ Anger over Delhi Killing
A group of African embassies in Delhi have requested India to postpone a cultural event following last week’s killing of a student from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Masunda Kitada Oliver was beaten to death by a group of Indian men last Friday after an argument in Delhi. Two men have been arrested in the case. The embassies said they did not want to participate in Africa Day celebrations on Thursday because of repeated attacks on African students in India. “This [the decision to not participate in Africa Day celebrations] is because the African community in India, including students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slain African students in the last few years, including Mr Oliver,” said Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, Dean of African Group of Heads of Mission. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICRC) has planned to celebrate Africa Day on Thursday to showcase African culture, food and literature. BBC

Talking Trump and War Crimes With South Sudan’s Rebel Leader
[…] It took more than three hours to get face to face with Machar, one of the men at the center of a fragile U.S.-backed effort to end his country’s bloody civil war. While I was waiting, one young advisor wearing a navy blue suit sat with me and spoke at length about Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party nomination in the United States’ presidential election. At one point, he suggested that a leader like Trump could solve South Sudan’s ongoing debate over an attempt by Machar’s rival, President Salva Kiir, to change the country from 10 states to 28. The opposition claims it is a clear violation of the shaky August peace deal designed to end a conflict that has killed more than 50,000 people since December 2013. “We need Donald Trump to solve that problem,” the staffer said with a laugh. […] Machar pulled no punches in the interview about what he derided as Washington’s hands-off approach to the conflict in South Sudan, which broke out after rumors swirled in 2013 that Machar planned to overthrow Kiir in a coup. Repeating a charge made to me in October, he angrily claimed that the United States is now delaying his country’s already fragile peace process by refusing to provide tents and food to his forces to encourage them to come home from the bush. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones