Media Review for October 21, 2015

Congo Brazzaville is in an Uproar Against its Would-be President-for-Life
[…] Defying a ban on demonstrations issued yesterday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital city, Brazzaville, where they burned tires, set up barricades, and waved banners that read “Sassou get out” and “Sassou, enough.” (The hashtag #sassoufit has started to trend on social media.)   Presidents-for-life are hardly a new phenomenon in Africa, but Congo joins a list of countries whose leaders have recently been extending their hold on power. Earlier this month, Rwanda’s supreme court ruled that president Paul Kagame should be allowed to seek a third term, after moves by parliament to ban term limits. In July, Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza’s run for a third term sparked months of protests and an attempted coup. Quartz Bullets, Tear Gas in Brazzaville Ahead of Vote on Term Limits
Security forces opened fire in the Republic of Congo Tuesday as they clashed with protesters who oppose a bid by President Denis Sassou N’guesso to extend his rule. The French news agency reports that at least six people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after confrontations in the capital, Brazzaville. On Sunday, Congo will vote on proposed constitutional reforms that would abolish a two-term limit for presidents and an age limit of 70 for presidential candidates. Tsomambet Anaclet, a spokesman for opponents of the referendum, told VOA  that Tuesday’s clashes began when police dispersed demonstrators as they tried to assemble. Witnesses say police fired tear gas in addition to live rounds. VOA

Four Killed in Protest over Plan to Extend Congo Republic President’s Rule
At least four people demonstrating against plans to lift presidential term limits in Congo Republic were killed when police opened fire when the crowd refused to disperse, protesters said. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets against Sunday’s planned referendum on removing constitutional term limits for President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled the oil producer for all but five years since 1979. Marchers, waving banners reading “Sassou get out” and “No to the referendum”, scattered after the police fired warning shots and teargas but remained on the streets, burning tyres and erecting barricades.  Reuters

Congo Opposition Leader Makes ‘Peaceful Uprising’ Call
An opposition leader in Congo-Brazzaville has called for a “peaceful uprising” ahead of Sunday’s referendum on whether the president can run for office again, AFP news agency reports. The call comes after at least four people were killed in clashes between police and protesters. Pascal Tsaty Mabiala of the PanAfrican Union for Social Democracy wants to stop Sunday’s vote going ahead. President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1997.  BBC
Sudan to Send 10,000 Troops to Join Arab forces in Yemen: Report
A new batch of Sudanese soldiers was deployed to Yemen on Monday to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels who controlled most of the country including the capital Sana’a last year. The UAE-based Sky News TV quoted sources in the 4th military region in Aden as saying that 450 Sudanese soldiers arrived in the coastal city today “as part of operations to strengthen security”.  Sudan Tribune

Sudanese President to Fly to India on Tuesday
Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bahsir on Tuesday will lead his country’s delegation to participate in the third India-Africa summit which will be held in New Delhi from 26 to October 29, October. Bashir’s visit is his first to the south-eastern nation since his indictment by ICC in 2009. More than 50 African head of states are expected to take part in the convention scheduled for late October which is aimed at strengthening economic relations between the Indian sub-continent and African countries.  Sudan Tribune

5 Things you Should Know About Guinea’s (Peaceful!) Election
Guinea held a presidential election on Oct. 11. The results of which were announced on Saturday. Which Guinea, you ask? There are 4 countries whose name includes “Guinea” (named for the Guinea region in West Africa), including Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea), Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea), and Papua New Guinea (in Oceania rather than Africa – a Spanish explorer apparently thought the natives resembled people he had seen on the Guinea coast of Africa). The country that had the election a week and a half ago was just plain “Guinea,” officially “the Republic of Guinea,” formerly known as “French Guinea,” and sometimes referred to as “Guinea-Conakry” (Conakry is the capital) to differentiate it from the other Guineas. What is special about Sunday’s election? The Washington Post

Amnesty Urges Restraint in DRC Clashes
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the security forces in the Republic of Congo to refrain from using excessive force against protesters. In a statement, AMnesty said five people were reported to have been killed as reports emerged that police used live ammunition against protesters who had gathered to demonstrate against proposed changes to the country’s constitution ahead of Sunday’s referendum. “A heavy-handed response by security forces not only violates the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but may enflame an already tense situation,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher. IOL News

Congo’s Government Backtracks on Banning Explosive Documentary About Rape
Last month, shortly before a documentary about a Congolese gynecologist who has operated on thousands of rape victims was set to premiere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government banned it, claiming the film had “a clear intent to harm and sully the image” of the national army. But on Monday, after more than a month of pressure from the United Nations and leading international human rights groups, the DRC’s government backed down, according to Naama Haviv, executive director of the Panzi Foundation, who works with Dr. Denis Mukwege, the famed gynecologist, at Panzi Hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu. On Monday, the government even broadcast the documentary on national television. The nearly two-hour film — which is at times so graphic that Monday’s audience shielded their eyes over and over again — is a shattering visualization of a community traumatized by decades of rape, with near-total impunity for the perpetrators. Directed by Belgian filmmaker Thierry Michel, The Man Who Mends Women tells the story of Mukwege’s decades-long career repairing the broken bodies of women and children sexually brutalized by rebel militias, Congolese soldiers, and others in the country’s war-torn east. Foreign Policy

Four Years On, Gaddafi’s Legacy Plagues Chaotic Libya
Exactly four years after Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed in his hometown, his legacy of misrule lives on in his unruly nation. Only now, it’s worse with seemingly no political solution in sight. On Monday, Libya’s internationally recognised parliament rejected a UN power-sharing proposal despite international calls on the country’s rival administrations to “immediately approve” the agreement. Ignoring the exhortations, the parliament based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk refused to sign the deal, noting that the UN had refused to exclude amendments added by the Islamist authorities based in Tripoli. On the western side of Libya’s coastal highway, the Islamist-led government in the Libyan capital issued a statement declaring the deal “would lead to further complications”.  France 24

Warplanes Hit Libyan City of Sirte, Target ISIS – Witness
Warplanes carried out air strikes on the Libyan city of Sirte targeting areas controlled by fighters loyal to Islamic State militants, a witness in the city said on Tuesday. There was no immediate report of casualties or damage from the strikes on Monday. Forces from Libya’s internationally recognised government have bombed Islamist militants in the past. But an official was not immediately available to comment on the Sirte attack. Islamic State has made Sirte its base in Libya, where fighting between two rival governments and their armed allies has allowed Islamist militants to gain ground in the chaos. News 24

Hollywood Benghazi Film Sparking Controversy Inside Libya
Even before the film’s release, Hollywood director Michael Bay’s new action movie is stirring controversy among government officials and residents of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the birthplace of the uprising against longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The film, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” depicts the events of the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J.Christopher Stevens. It is set to be released in January 2016. Based only on the trailer, which has recently made rounds on Libya’s social media, Benghazi locals and officials slammed “Transformers” director Bay for his unreleased film, calling it an “insult” to the north African nation. AP on ABC News

Central African Republic Attacks May be War Crimes
The UN Security Council is condemning the recent upsurge of violence and instability in Central African Republic and says some attacks may constitute war crimes. Central African Republic erupted into widespread sectarian violence after the Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the president in 2013 and the Christian anti-Balaka militiamen formed to combat them. Sectarian clashes between rival Christian and Muslim militias have flared in recent weeks. The Security Council said those responsible for all abuses and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be held accountable, and reiterated its intention to impose sanctions on those responsible for the latest violence. News 24

UN Condemns Uganda Police Brutality Ahead of Polls
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda (OHCHR) has condemned what it called use of excessive force and degrading treatment by police ahead of the 2016 elections. Citing a recent incident where a woman was publicly stripped as police tried to arrest opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party members who were heading to Rukungiri district for political mobilisation, OHCHR country representative Uchenna Emelonye, in a statement issued on Tuesday urged government to “promptly launch an independent investigation and to hold accountable any officer or officers who may have used excessive force of subjected individuals to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, in line with the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012.” According to Mr Emelonye, OHCHR is currently monitoring and following up the incident. The East African

UN: 27 Million in Southern Africa Face Food Shortages
The United Nations estimates more than 27 million people in southern Africa may not have enough to eat over the next six months because of poor harvests.  The situation could get worse as El Nino weather patterns affect rainfall and crop production. Two U.N. agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) – say drought and flooding over the last growing season are to blame for the current food shortages in southern Africa. The threat is most severe for Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Chimimba David Phiri, FAO coordinator for southern Africa, says the number of food-insecure people has increased 13 percent compared to a year ago. He says the severe El Nino weather patterns forecast for the region won’t help matters.    VOA

Terrorist Groups Are Poaching Elephants In Northern Mali, Warns UN
Terrorist groups in northern Mali are among those poaching the region’s shrinking herd of desert elephants, according to the United Nations, part of a global wildlife trafficking trade that helps fund armed groups and fuel conflict. “We strongly suspect there is a link between the poachers and the armed terrorists, who could be relying on the illegal ivory trade to finance some of their activities,” said Sophie Raviers, the UN’s environment representative in Mali. A joint report last year by the UN’s environment programme UNEP and international police force Interpol estimated that around 90 percent of elephants killed in Africa each year (numbering 20,000-25,000) are killed by non-state armed groups, in or near conflict zones.  VICE

The Myth of the African Land Grab
Over the past few years, the media has breathlessly chronicled an African land rush of mind-boggling scale and audacity. Highlights have included the handover of over 300,000 hectares of Ethiopia to a single Indian company and a notorious incident in which Madagascar announced the transfer of nearly half of its arable land to a South Korean conglomerate, free of charge. Not all of the headline deals have been agricultural — there’s also the 370,000-hectare safari park for Dubai royalty near Tanzania’s Serengeti, and a secret bid by foreign logging companies to clear-cut a quarter of Liberia’s surface area. But by far the greatest attention has gone to farming ventures. According to one estimate, in the space of just a few years, international investors have snapped up the equivalent of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy’s farmland combined in the developing world. New data compiled by researchers in Senegal suggests, however, that such dramatic figures, which are usually compiled and reported by activist groups who are opposed to large-scale land deals, are vastly overblown.   Foreign Policy

South African University Protests Spread
Students in South Africa are threatening to close all the country’s universities as protests over tuition fees spread to more institutions. Student bodies have rejected a government offer to cap tuition fee increases at 6% for 2016. Proposed tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% have sparked protests at universities across the country. Protesters have complained that higher fees may exclude poorer black students. At least 10 institutions have so far been affected with some closing until the situation is resolved.  BBC

Many in the West Fear Chinese ‘Aid’ to Africa. They’re Wrong. Here’s Why
Western pundits have a narrative about China’s activities in Africa. It usually goes something like this: China now provides as much, if not more, aid to Africa as the United States. Much of this aid goes to corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Beijing’s main goal is to buy the loyalty of Africa’s governing elites and secure access to the continent’s rich natural resources. U.S. and European policymakers have seized on this narrative. For instance, during a July 2015 trip to Africa, President Obama mentioned that China has “been able to funnel an awful lot of money into Africa, basically in exchange for raw materials that are being extracted from Africa.” He sought to differentiate the United States from China, noting that “economic relationships can’t simply be about building countries’ infrastructure with foreign labor or extracting Africa’s natural resources.” But is this narrative true?  The Washington Post

‘No Africans Please’,Says Marrakech Rental Agent
If you’re black, it’s no easy task to rent an apartment in Morocco. Our Observer, a Senegalese student in Marrakech, sent us a recording of a call he made to a rental agent. The agent tells him very bluntly that the landlords he works for just won’t rent to black people.  Racism toward sub-Saharan Africans is a major problem in Morocco. Many of them come to Morocco to try to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, in order to enter Europe. They face widespread racism and sometimes violence from locals, who accuse them of squatting in and damaging apartments. Last December, journalists from the France 24 Observers filmed a report in Boukhalef, a neighbourhood in Tangiers, on the tense cohabitation between Moroccans and African migrants.  France 24



Photo: Adam Jones