Media Review for March 4, 2016

Thanks to Poachers, More African Elephants Are Being Killed than Born
Elephant poaching in Africa reached an all-time high in 2011, with illegal hunters responsible for 75 percent of elephants’ deaths on the continent. Since then, and despite surveillance programs and other massive efforts to curb poaching, the overall population of African elephants has continued to shrink. A report Thursday by the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species put deaths by poacher at more than 14,000 in 2015, making up 60 percent of overall recorded elephant deaths on the continent. Other monitoring groups claim upwards of 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory last year. Poachers have gone to extreme lengths to protect their illegal practice: In January, Tanzanian poachers killed a British pilot by shooting down his helicopter while he was flying over the Maswa game reserve to search for hunters targeting elephants there. Since 2011, the wild elephant population in Tanzania alone has been cut nearly by half, from 110,000 to around 43,000 today. According to Thursday’s report, Kruger National Park in South Africa has experienced one of the most worrisome spikes, with more than double the number of poacher-related killings taking place last year than in 2014. South Africa will host a conference in September to address how countries around the world can better handle the challenges posed by poachers. Foreign Policy

Obama Says that Urgent Action is Needed to Save elephants From Going Extinct
Barack Obama has said that urgent action is needed to save elephants from becoming extinct in the wild, adding that failure to do so would be an “unpardonable loss for humanity and the natural world”. The president said that the US has made “unprecedented progress” in protecting wildlife domestically and helping combat the poaching trade that is decimating elephant numbers in Africa, but that he was concerned that that the trunked beasts could still be wiped out. “We currently face the risk of losing wild elephants during my lifetime,” Obama said. “It’s an unbelievable statement. It’d be an unpardonable loss for humanity and the natural world. “There’s no question: we need to take urgent action to save one of the planet’s most majestic species and address the security threat posed by insurgency groups and dangerous criminal networks whose trade in ivory and other resources funds their activities.” The Guardian

South Sudan Wildlife Slaughter Alarms
All sides in South Sudan’s civil war have slaughtered wildlife including elephant, giraffe and antelope, conservationists said Thursday, warning huge efforts must be made to protect the surviving animal population. In a report released on World Wildlife Day, conservationists said gunmen had devastated one of Africa’s largest animal migrations, becoming yet another victim of an ongoing civil war marked by atrocities in which tens of thousands of people have been killed. The US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which backs government efforts to protect its natural resources, warned of an “alarming expansion of illegal exploitation and trafficking”. It said there had been a “sharp rise” in recent months of commercial bush meat poaching of antelopes, elephant killing, ivory smuggling, logging of trees, charcoal production and gold mining, damaging formerly pristine forests. News 24

Opposition has High Hopes for New Tanzanian Facilitator in Burundi Mediation
Burundi’s opposition has welcomed the announcement of a new facilitator in mediation efforts to end the country’s crisis, sparked by the controversial third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Tanzania’s former president Benjamin Mkapa was named as facilitator during an East African Community summit on Wednesday. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni remains the main mediator.  RFI

Seeking Refuge in UN-run Camps, Burundians Feel Long Arm of Regime
Jean-Francois Ntije sits on the ground outside the national refugee agency. A recent arrival from Burundi, he is here to face-off with the head of the agency for the third time. His complaint? That neither the Congolese nor the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have been able to protect Burundian refugees from pro-regime enforcers that, for months, have been coming here to intimidate and attack opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Mr. Ntije – not his real name – was attacked after he fled here in late 2015, having taken part in mass protests over the president’s controversial bid for a third term. CS Monitor

Robert Mugabe to Nationalise Zimbabwe’s Diamond Industry
The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has said his government will take possession of all diamond operations because existing miners had robbed the country of its wealth. Mugabe made his comments a week after the ministry of mines ordered all mining companies to halt work and leave the Marange fields, saying they had not renewed their licences. At the time it denied it was seizing the mines. “The state will now own all the diamonds in the country,” Mugabe said during a two-hour interview with state broadcaster ZBC TV. “Companies that have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth, that is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly,” Mugabe said. The largest diamond mine in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, sued the government at the high court on Monday and was allowed to take control of its mining assets. The Guardian

U.S. Dispatches Emergency Aid for Ethiopian Drought
The Obama administration is sending disaster response teams to northern Ethiopia to try to address a humanitarian emergency and avoid a national security risk to the U.S. should the drought there spiral out of control. Experts are predicting northern Ethiopia will experience the worst drought in generations, one that will surpass the 1984 famine that killed one million men, women and children and galvanized stars like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen to record the 1985 charity song “We are the World.” The Ethiopian government — a major partner in U.S. counterterrorism efforts — estimates that 10.2 million people will need food assistance, on top of about 8 million people who are chronically food insecure, and up to 2 million people will need safe drinking water. The United Nations estimates that as many as 15 million Ethiopians could suffer acute malnutrition or worse unless more help is found. CNN

Journalist Turned al Shabaab Commander Sentenced to Death in Somalia for Murdering Reporters
A former media officer for the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab who arranged news conferences in the years when the militants controlled the capital Mogadishu was sentenced to death on Thursday for the murder of six local journalists. Hasan Ali, chairman of the Somali military court, told reporters that Hassan Hanafi had admitted to killing one reporter and had been found guilty of killing five others. Several local journalists sat through the court proceedings, with the verdict welcome in a country where many feel those targeting journalists have not been held accountable. “He will be put to death as soon as possible,” Ali said. Hanafi, 30, has said he joined al Shabaab in 2008 when he was working as a journalist for a local Somali broadcaster. He was arrested in neighboring Kenya last year and then returned to Somalia for trial. He had been promoted to commander in 2009. The following year, he was seriously injured in fighting.  VICE

East Africa’s Shebab ‘Can Survive for 30 Years’
The heavy losses inflicted on the Burundians in Lego, the Ugandans in Janale and Kenyans in El-Adde have cowed AMISOM, which has retreated from some areas and hunkered down in others. “Since AMISOM is not in an offensive posture, Shebab has plenty of space to think, plan and prepare,” said Bryden. Hitting AMISOM makes sense for Shebab because in the absence of a functioning national army, the 22,000-strong force is the only protector of the internationally-backed government the jihadists are committed to overthrowing. Similarly, the killing of civilians serves to undermine confidence in the government. “They are attacking signs of normality,” said Hansen by shooting up a beachside restaurant, turning a public garden into a slaughter ground or blowing up football fans. The message is clear, said Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa director at the International Crisis Group research organisation: “Shebab is saying, ‘There is no normality, no security, it’s not Somalia Rising, who are you trying to kid?’” AFP on Yahoo News

Joseph Kony’s LRA Abducts Scores of Child Soldiers in New Wave of Attacks
Rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have dramatically escalated their attacks, abducting more than 200 people – including 54 children – in the first two months of this year. The LRA carried out twice as many raids in January and February alone as during the whole of 2015, according to “LRA Crisis Tracker”. The rebel movement founded by Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord, had been seen as a vanquished force after high-level defections and an offensive by African armies, backed by US Special Forces. The LRA had been reduced to as few as 120 fighters and 100 accompanying women and children. Kony himself was thought to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, an area of South Sudan under the de facto control of the army of neighbouring Sudan. He was keeping his fighters supplied with ammunition and basic supplies by trading poached ivory with the Sudanese military. The Telegraph

UN Report: Peacekeepers from 21 Nations Accused of Sexual Abuse
The United Nations is reporting a “deeply concerning” increase in allegations of sex abuse by its peacekeepers, with 69 claims last year against troops from 21 countries. A much-awaited report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon obtained by AFP on Thursday provides, for the first time, the nationalities of the troops facing the allegations. First on the “name and shame” list was the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose troops faced seven allegations, followed by Morocco and South Africa, each hit with four accusations. Most of the allegations involved troops from African countries: Cameroon, Congo, Tanzania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. AFP on Yahoo News

Zambia: Former Defence Minister Released on Bail
Zambia’s former defence minister Geoffrey Mwamba has been released on bail after an arrest on Wednesday afternoon. Mwamba, also popularly known as GBM, has linked his arrest to political persecution from president Edgar Lungu. He had been arrested for alleged unlawful drilling. Sources said he was released with the help of sureties from close friends and will likely appear in court again on March 10, 2016. Mwamba served as minister under late president Michael Sata although they fell apart. His efforts to replace the late president Sata had been futile and he later left the ruling party after the rise of Lungu. Africa News

Three Aid Workers Kidnapped in Congo
Three employees of international charity Save the Children were kidnapped on Wednesday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the organisation said on Thursday, as insecurity in the region continues to hamper humanitarian efforts. The Congolese staff members were taken at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) in North Kivu province, Save the Children said. It declined to comment further or share the identity of the abductees, but said it was working to resolve the situation quickly. North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, was ravaged by regional wars that killed millions between 1996 and 2003. Dozens of armed groups remain there, often preying on locals, exploiting the area’s natural resources and stopping key aid from reaching the region. At least 175 people were kidnapped for ransom in eastern Congo last year, according to Human Rights Watch. Many of the kidnappings appeared to be carried out by former and current members of armed groups. Congo ranks 176 out 188 countries on the UN Human Development Index and is heavily dependent on aid from non-governmental organisations and UN agencies. Reuters

Nigeria to Break up Loss-making State Oil Firm NNPC
Nigeria’s loss-making state oil giant is to be broken up into 30 “profit-making” companies, the government says. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been mired in corruption allegations and losing money for many years. Despite pressure to sell it off, the government says that it can transform the NNPC into a profitable enterprise. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but the economy has suffered because of the declining oil price. BBC

UN chief  Expresses Concern About Extremism in Sahel Region
The United Nations secretary-general said Thursday he is deeply concerned by attacks by Islamic extremists in Burkina Faso and West Africa, urging a global response. Ban Ki-moon spoke after meeting with Burkina Faso’s president in the capital, Ouagadougou. Extremists in January attacked a cafe and hotel here, killing at least 30 people in the first such attack in the capital. The violence closely mirrored the siege of an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that killed 20 people. “The response to terrorism must be global and conducted in strict compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law,” Ban said, expressing condolences to the families of the victims of the attack. Burkina Faso is a part of a group of five countries working together to combat extremist violence in the Sahel, the region below the Sahara Desert. “The Sahel countries need to focus on the root causes of instability: poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, discrimination and impunity,” he said. AP on US News and World Report

Does Africa Have an Alternative to the ICC?
Yes, we know about the existence of this court, but it’s doing very little to protect human rights in Africa. That’s the essence of comments by DW’s Facebook followers who were asked what they thought of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR). Established by the African Union (AU) in 2004, the court is based in Arusha, Tanzania, which until recently also hosted the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The court and its 11 judges have the task of hearing complaints by individuals, NGOs or the AU itself against its member states after all other legal options have been exhausted. Its basis: the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which covers everything from the right to education, to the right to freedom of movement or participation in government. In 2014, for instance, the court ruled that Tanzania’s ban on independent candidates was undemocratic. Tanzania had previously required all political candidates to run on a party ticket. As Ottilia Maunganidze, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa told DW, this was one of the court’s most successful cases, which now only remains to be implemented. Deutsche Welle

UN Renews Sanctions on Rival S. Sudanese Military Generals
The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday renewed until 15 April 2016 its sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze, to those blocking South Sudan’s peace process. The decision, the UN said in a statement, comes in the wake of South Sudan’s situation, which remains a threat to regional peace and security. Speaking after adoption of the resolution, Petr Iliichev from the Russian Federation, said its technical character was a reflection of the lack of unity on the Council regarding the sanctions regime. At the same time, the text emphasized the importance of resolving the armed conflict in South Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Italians kidnapped in Libya may have been killed
Two Italian construction workers who were kidnapped in Libya last July may have been killed in the North African country during a clash between militants from the Islamic State group (ISIS) and local militias fighting them, Italian authorities and Libyan officials said on Thursday. Photographs of the nine killed in the clash, including the two possible Italians, were posted online after the gunfight, which took place on Wednesday near the Libyan city of Sabratha. Their identity has not been definitively confirmed yet. The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the families of Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla have been informed that their loved ones “could” be the two victims. The ministry said it couldn’t confirm the identities because officials do not have access to the bodies. News 24

Magufuli Extends Austerity, Anti-graft Drive to EAC
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who has won citizens’ praise for his tough stance against government inefficiencies and corruption, has warned the Arusha-based East African Community (EAC) Secretariat that he will watch keenly how the institution carries out its activities. Tanzania’s term as chair of the EAC was extended at the just concluded regional heads of State Summit in Arusha, where he lashed out at the Secretariat on its lavish spending on meetings and travels, accusing it of reaping off the region’s poor instead of working for them. “The budget the Secretariat is spending per head in this hotel [Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge] to host us for this Summit could have been saved to do other important things for the poor people in the EAC,” said President Magufuli, adding that “the Secretariat could have saved at least $20 per head if the Summit was held at the EAC headquarters.” He also accused the regional office of only drafting positive proposals to make money and not those that benefit the poor people in EAC. The East African

Soldiers Plotting to Destabilise G. Bissau Will ‘Pay with Life’: Army Chief
The army chief of coup-plagued Guinea-Bissau warned Thursday that any soldier involved in a plot to destabilise the west Africa nation would be put to death. General Biague Na Ntam said during a public address that there would be “zero tolerance in the barracks”, while soldiers found “taking money to attempt a subversive act will pay with their life”. Guinea-Bissau has been hit by a series of coups since independence from Portugal in 1974, but the rule of law has been largely reintroduced since the election of President Jose Mario Vaz last year. “Any soldier who fires so much as a shot (against Guinea-Bissau) will be killed. There will be no prison for him. I ask the heads of various units to kill anyone who fires a single shot,” the general said during a ceremony to mark his involvement in peace efforts. “Peace must reign in this country, and it is the army’s job to ensure this happens.” AFP on Yahoo News

South Africa: Agoa Deal – First Shipment of U.S. Chicken Arrives
Government has concluded negotiations on poultry, beef and pork with the United States, a move that brings to a close months of discussions with the US on the terms required for South Africa to secure its position in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) said the first shipment of poultry (frozen chicken legs) arrived at the Port of Durban and was cleared by the Port Health Authorities. This will allow the products to be placed on South African retail shelves before the 15 March 2016 deadline. According to the Dti, US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman has communicated his satisfaction to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. Froman said he will recommend that US President Barack Obama lift the threat of suspension of South Africa’s agricultural concessions under AGOA. SA News on allAfrica

Kinshasa – a Dysfunctional Megapolis of 12 Million Souls Undergoing Super-charged Growth
Christian tends to both the living and the dead. His workplace is the cemetery of Kinsuka, on the western edges of Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, over the last 25 years, he has buried thousands of people, placing many of the tombstones himself. On top of the graves, which sprout among the tall grass, Christian shaves the heads and beards of the living – part of a sideline hustle he needs to make ends meet. IRIN

Here are the Most and Least Tolerant Countries in Africa
Africans are more tolerant of differences in ethnicity, religion and nationality than many familiar narratives would indicate, yet nearly eight out of ten do not want LGBT neighbors, according to a new report from Afrobarometer, a public opinion research organization set up by Africanist scholars. The report was released to coincide with the United Nations’ Zero Discrimination Day on March 1st, and it has been designed to add much needed data points to ongoing discussions of ethnicity, religion, and immigration in African contexts, as well as the rights of the LGBT community and people living with HIV. Africa is often discussed in terms of conflict driven by ethnic and religious differences. However, in a continent that Afrobarometer says “has become synonymous” with conflict driven by differences, the organization found after the completion of 50,000 interviews across 33 African countries that nine out of ten respondents said they would welcome or accept neighbors with a different ethnic background to themselves. Furthermore, 87% of Africans exhibited tolerance for those from a different religion. UN Dispatch

The rise of Africa’s super-rich
The millionaires’ club is growing in Africa. At the end of 2014 there were 169,000 millionaires in the continent — a number expected to rise by 53% over the next 10 years, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2015. In addition, the total wealth held by Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, or UHNWIs – those with a net worth of at least $30 million – was $200 billion. Wealth advisers expect their UHNWIs in Africa to spend more on luxury goods than the previous year as a result. But it’s not just the super-wealthy with money to burn. Sections of Africa’s rising middle class are increasingly finding themselves with greater spending power — although debate remains about how to define Africa’s middle class and whether it is resilient as middle classes elsewhere in the world. CNN

Niger: Sleepwalking into Huge Population Growth
Niger is a landlocked West African country and 80 percent of its territory is covered by the Sahara Desert. With a growing population, more young people will be looking for employment. Better economic performance is needed to supply more formal sector jobs. But there are too few apprenticeships or training schemes for the young. There is also a lack of hospitals, schools and affordable housing. The increase in Niger’s population should be at the top of the country’s political agenda. A run-off in the presidential elections is due on March 20. But both the incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou and his rival Hama Amadou are ignoring the issue. There is no indication that the state is preparing for a massive population growth. “Niger is a poor country. That’s why it is so difficult to find a solution,” said Hamidou. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones