MonitorsPublished on May 30, 2017
Africa Monitor | Volume VI; Issue XXXVII

The Continent

Indian PM  pitches for Asia-Africa growth corridor

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 23 pitched for an "Asia-Africa growth corridor" supported by Japan and India and declared Africa is top priority for India's foreign and economic policy. Declaring the 52nd Annual General Meeting of the African Development Bank Group open, which is being held for the first time in India, Modi stressed on stronger ties with African countries and said the continent is a top priority for India. "India is working with Japan to support development in Africa. I recall my conversation with Japanese Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe when I was in Tokyo last year. "In our joint declaration, we mentioned about Asia-Africa growth corridor and proposed further conversation with our brothers and sisters of Africa," the prime minister said in his inaugural speech. The pitch comes close on the heels of China launching its multi-billion dollar One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which aims to connect the Eurasian landmass and Indo-Pacific maritime routes. "India's partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries," PM Modi said while speaking at the 52nd African Development Bank (AfDB) meet in Gujarat's Gandhinagar . "After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India's foreign and economic policy," Modi told the gathering of 3,000 delegates mostly from Africa, which also included heads of state and senior government functionaries. "India has had strong ties with Africa for centuries and the rich Swahili language includes some Hindi words," he added. The Prime Minister also said that the commerce between India and Africa will be of ideas and services. "Africa-India trade multiplied in last 15 years. It doubled in the last five years to reach nearly seventy-two billion US dollars in 2014-15" "I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that hasn't been visited by an Indian minister in the last three years," PM Modi said, adding, "I along with President and Vice-President have together visited 16 African countries in the past." "Indian and Japanese research institutions have come up with a vision document, which was prepared in consultation with think-tanks of Africa. I understand that the vision document will be presented in the board meeting later. "The idea is that India and Japan along with other willing partners work jointly in sectors like skill development, information technology, manufacturing, health and connectivity," Modi said. He said Africa figured on top of India's priority as a growth pole. "India's partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries," Modi said. He said India is the fifth largest investor in Africa as in the last 20 years it has invested USD 54 billion. "Africa-India trade has multiplied in the last 15 years, it has doubled in the last five years to reach near 72 billion dollars in 2014-15," he said. Source: Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Macron vows to step-up fight against Islamists in Africa

France will step up the fight against resurgent Islamist militants in north and west Africa and will work more closely with Germany to help the tinderbox region, President Emmanuel Macron said on his first trip outside Europe late on May 19. Visiting Mali days after taking office, Macron vowed to keep French troops in the Sahel region until there was "no more Islamist terrorism" there. He said operations would be escalated in response to signs that militant groups were regrouping and uniting. "It is vital today that we speed up. Our armed forces are giving their all, but we must speed up" efforts to secure the Sahel, he told a news conference in Gao, Mali, where he held talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and spoke to some of the 1,600 French soldiers based there. Spurring economic development in the impoverished Sahel is also part of his strategy, he said. "We must win the war and win the peace at the same time." Macron's early trip to Mali fulfilled a campaign promise, underlining the importance he places on combating militants in the Sahel whom he said could threaten Europe. France has been particularly hard hit by Islamist militant violence, with more than 230 people killed over the past two years. The Sahel, a politically volatile, mainly desert expanse stretching from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east, hosts a variety of jihadist groups and is seen as a springboard for attacks on European targets. While France would continue to shoulder the military burden of fighting militants in north and west Africa, Macron said Germany and other European nations could do more to help with both military and development aid. He said he had discussed Mali with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on May 15 and the two decided to "strengthen our cooperation further to help the countries of the region. "There is a need for the latest generation helicopters and armored vehicles. It is in that framework that reinforced cooperation with Germany can make us all more effective." Macron said he would take part in the coming weeks in a meeting of the so-called G5 Sahel countries - Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania - all former French colonies. He told French soldiers: "I won't risk your lives for nothing ... but my determination when in action will be total." Macron said later he had promised to give them the equipment they needed. France intervened in 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who seized northern Mali the year before. It has since deployed some 4,000 soldiers, known as the Barkhane force, across the region to hunt down Islamists. That operation paved the way for the United Nations to deploy its more than 10,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping force to the West African state. In January, Germany's cabinet approved the deployment of eight helicopters and 350 extra soldiers to Mali as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, bringing total German strength there to around 1,000 soldiers. However, MINUSMA has lacked equipment and resources, making a political settlement between Tuareg rebels and the government in Mali increasingly fragile and allowing Islamists and people traff. Source: Radio France Internationale

Oulanyah asks EU to help Africa deal with unemployment

The deputy speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah has called on the European Union to assist African countries deal with the ever-rising problems of youth unemployment and underemployment. Oulanyah who is currently in Ljubljana, Slovenia attending the 6th Annual International Conference Africa Day, asked EU states to support programmes in Africa intended at bailing the youth out of poverty, citing the Uganda Youth Livelihood Programme that binds cooperatives of young people that lack capital. At the conference, panel sessions dealt with issues of mobility, youth and job creation; economic and cultural networking in Africa; and Africa-EU common challenges and shared vision. There was a focus on discussing opportunities to enrich cooperation between Africa and the EU, by mobilising and empowering young people in spheres of politics, economy and science. Oulanyah emphasised that the long term solution to the question of youth unemployment will be solved by the way African countries structure their policies, laws and budgets. "Focus must be put on proper health care, education, training and orientation. This will make youth ready for any changing situation and job market," said Oulanyah. Oulanyah urged the European Union to redirect the framework of its cooperation with Africa saying that the current framework is designed to benefit one party (EU) more than the other (Africa). He emphasised that the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP-EU) partnership must emphasise prosperity and security which in turn yields employment, short of which would render the partnership useless. The deputy speaker further raised concerns over Europe framing its politics on the issue of migration. "An African coming to Europe is referred to as an immigrant while a European coming to Africa is referred to as an investor," he said. He said that there's need for a renegotiation of the framework citing Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi who freely migrated to South Africa and built ideas that enabled him change his home country. He added that the African youth should be politically & economically empowered, involved in decision making & their voices heard in existing power structures. Source: The Observer (Kampala)

Central Africa

115 bodies found in CAR's Bangassou: Red Cross

Red Cross on May 17 said its workers had found 115 bodies in the Central African Republic's (CAR) border town of Bangassou after several days of militia attacks, raising by more than four times a previously reported death toll. Antoine Mbao Bogo, the president of the aid group's local branch, told the Reuters news agency that those killed had "died in various ways", including from knives, clubs and bullet wounds. "We found 115 bodies and 34 have been buried," he said from the capital, Bangui. A senior UN official had previously reported 26 civilian deaths. According to the UN refugee agency, the situation in Bangassou sent an estimated 2,750 refugees fleeing across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the weekend. The violence represents a new escalation in a conflict that began in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and removed then-president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from Christian anti-Balaka militias. The UN high commissioner for human rights warned on May 16 the violence in areas previously spared major bloodshed was "highly worrying". "The hard-earned relative calm in Bangui and some of the bigger towns in CAR risks being eclipsed by the descent of some rural areas into increasing sectarian violence, with defenceless civilians - as usual - paying the highest price," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said. In a statement on May 16, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, also said unverifiable figures indicate up to 100 people may have been killed in three days of clashes from May 7 to 9 in the town of Alindao between anti-Balaka fighters and an ex-Seleka group. Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)

Attorney General investigates former minister for alleged militia links in the DRC

The attorney general of the Democratic Republic of the Congo opened an investigation on May 23 into a former government minister's alleged sponsorship of militia violence in the Kasai region. The move follows a newspaper report that two slain U.N. experts were probing the former minister's involvement. Congolese Attorney General Flory Numbi said on May 23 that he was investigating Parliament member Clement Kanku, who was development minister until he lost his job in a government reorganization last week. Possible charges against Kanku include participation in an insurrectional movement, assassination, arson, malicious destruction and associating with criminals. If Kanku is charged, Numbi said he would request that Congo's National Assembly lift Kanku's parliamentary immunity. The investigation follows a New York Times report that Zaida Catalan, one of two U.N. experts killed in March in Congo's Kasai region, had obtained a recording of a telephone conversation between Kanku and an alleged member of a militia known as Kamwina Nsapu. The call reportedly took place last August, as the militia began an insurrection against the government. In the recording, the Times reports, Kanku can be heard speaking positively about the militia burning down a town and asking if rebels have killed the bodyguards of a colonel in the Congolese military. According to the Times article, Catalan had informed Kanku that she was in possession of the recording before she and her American colleague, Michael Sharp, were killed. On April 24, the Congolese government showed reporters a grainy video of Sharp and Catalan being killed by men it claimed were members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia. The government did not disclose how it obtained the footage. Kanku attempted to hold a news conference at a Kinshasa restaurant on May 23 afternoon, but about 20 policemen prevented him from addressing reporters. Later, at his private residence, Kanku and his lawyer spoke to the press. Kanku denied involvement in the criminal activities, saying he was dismayed by the allegations. Kanku's lawyer, Aime Kilolo, said it would be premature to confirm whether or not the recording is authentic, but noted his client's name was not explicitly cited in the audio. The conflict between the Kamwina Nsapu militia and the government is now in its 10th month. The armed group has been condemned for recruiting children, while the military has been criticized for its disproportionate use of force. At least 400 civilians have been killed and more than 1.2 million people have been displaced by the fighting. Source: Voice of America

Bank of Kigali net profit shoots to Rwf5.6 billion

Bank of Kigali(BK) has started the year on a high following a profitable first quarter in which it earned a net income of Rwf5.6 billion. The figure represents a 31.9 per cent quarter to quarter growth and 5.8 per cent in annualised context, according to Nathalie Mpaka, BK's chief finance officer. Mpaka told the media on May 24 that growth was positive across all business indicators. The bank's net interest income increased by 11.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter to Rwf14.2 billion, thanks to an increase in gross loan book which rose by 24.5 per cent on annualised basis. Total assets rose by 3.6 per cent (quarter-on-quarter) and 13.9 per cent (year-on-year) to Rwf661.6 billion ($796.2 million) as of March 31, 2017. Dr Diane Karusisi, the chief executive, attributed the bank's good performance to increased confidence from clients and shareholders, and reiterated commitment to unveil more innovative products that meet customer needs. "We are very pleased to release our results for the first quarter ending March 31, 2017, during which our profit before tax grew by 2.8 per cent year-on-year, while our total assets also increased by 13.9 per cent year-on-year," she said. "We have implemented our new risk-based pricing model, which has seen reduced lending rates to loyal customers and businesses with sound governance." The chief executive of Rwanda's largest financial institution by shares said, as BK celebrates 50 years, it will continue aiming at putting focus on sustainability and innovation to maintain the bank's leadership position in the market. As part of the 50 years celebrations, we have, for instance, launched our 'Urumuri Initiative' in which we are mentoring 50 youth-led start-ups on top of providing Rwf60 million interest-free loan to the top projects," Dr Karusis said.

Increased operational cost

However, the bank's good performance came at a slightly increased operational cost, which rose by 2.3 per cent during the first quarter to Rwf10.6 billion. In spite of that, the lender's profit before tax in the first three months of the year amounted to Rwf7.9 billion, an increase of almost 55.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 2.8 per cent year-on-year. As the economy promises to pick up in 2017 - with a projected growth of 6.2 per cent - Bank of Kigali boosted its lending muscle with total assets reaching Rwf661.6 billion, up by 13.9 per cent year-on-year. The growth in assets was on account of the bank's loan book, which surged by 10.3 per cent to Rw438 billion, with net loans rising by Rw426 billion. The bank's growth is from its retail and corporate customer base, which stood at over 241,30 and 25,100, respectively. "It's a small but reliable base," Karusisi said. "It's also an indication of how much opportunity exists, to tap more Rwandans into formal banking. We intend to deploy new strategies to acquire more customers to grow our base," As opposed to opening new branches, the bank chose to expand its agency network, which stood at 1,321 during the first quarter of the year. The agents, who help take the bank's services to where it has no branch presence, processed over 306,800 transactions worth Rwf15.9 billion. BK boasts 79 branches, 93 ATMs and 1,038 point of sale terminals that accept most international cards, including VISA and MasterCard. The expansive network helped the bank mobilise clients' balances and deposits which increased to Rwf95.0 billion during the period under review, an 8.4 per cent increase year-on-year. In March, the bank unveiled two new subsidiaries; BK General Insurance and BK TecHouse, with the latter expected to help the bank stay ahead of technology by being the engine of innovation. Recently, the bank opened a modern digital service centre at Kigali Heights, a paperless branch aimed at giving the bank's customers a sneak peek into the future. Source: The New Times

North Africa

UN Chief urges all sides in Libya to restore calm

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is deeply concerned about the military escalation at the Brak al-Shati air base in southern Libya and calls on all parties to exercise restraint and restore calm, the UN chief's spokesman said on May 20. " is particularly disturbed by the high number of fatalities as well as reports of summary executions of civilians, which, if confirmed, may constitute war crimes," said a statement from Stéphane Dujarric, which added that the continued insecurity in Libya is a reminder that there is no military solution. News reports suggest that perhaps more than 100 people have died as a result of the May 18 attack on the airbase, mostly soldiers but also civilians. This is the latest flare-up of violence in the North African nation since the civilian uprising in 2011 led to the ouster of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The UN Spokesman said Mr. Guterres urges all key Libyan stakeholders to re-commit to the political dialogue and engage constructively towards that goal. "The Secretary-General appreciates the efforts of a number of regional and neighbouring countries for their contributions aimed at strengthening the dialogue between key stakeholders in support of the overall UN-led process," the statement concluded. In the aftermath of the attack Martin Kobler, the top UN official in Libya and the Head of the UN Support Mission known as UNSMIL, strongly condemned the deadly incident as a "vicious attack undermines political efforts."  "I am outraged by reports of significant numbers of fatalities, including civilians and by reports that summary executions may have taken place. Summary executions and targeting civilians constitute a war crime, which may be prosecuted by the International Criminal court (ICC)," Mr. Kobler said. The Special Representative stressed that this vicious attack must not lead to further, serious conflict. There is no military solution to Libya's problems. "I call upon all parties to condemn this attack and not to allow it to undermine intense efforts to find peaceful political solutions." he added. Source: UN News Service

Mass executions alleged at military base in Libya

Forces aligned with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) attacked a military base and allegedly executed at least 30 captured soldiers, Human Rights Watch said on May 21. A hospital official and an eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers from the 13th Battalion aligned with the GNA Defense Ministry attacked the base in Brak El-Shati, in southern Libya, on May 18, 2017, and executed troops from the 12th Battalion of the Libyan National Army (LNA). The head of the GNA's Presidency Council ordered an investigation and the suspension of his defense minister and the commander of the battalion responsible for the attack. The summary execution of persons who have been captured or who have surrendered constitutes a war crime. "The Government of National Accord should act on its promise to investigate allegations that its troops executed opposing forces who had already been rounded up," said Eric Goldstein, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities need to send a strong message that such crimes will not be tolerated which means that if the allegations are true, they should try those responsible." The LNA does not recognize the authority of the GNA, and instead supports rival authorities based in the east. A senior official in the main hospital in Brak El-Shati told Human Rights Watch by phone that the hospital had received 75 dead as of May 19, all adult men with the exception of 2 boys aged around 15, and that around 30 were military personnel. The official said that all the military dead had died from gunshot wounds, and that all had bullet wounds to their head. He also said that five corpses arrived at the hospital with bound arms, and another six had been disfigured in a way that suggested their heads had been run over by a vehicle. The official said the hospital received no one injured in the attack, nor did it receive any casualties from the 13th Battalion. News reports quoted an LNA spokesperson saying 141 were killed. Human Rights Watch also spoke by phone on May 19 with a member of the LNA's 12th Battalion who survived the attack, a member of the Libyan Red Crescent Society Brak El-Shati, and a spokesperson from the 13th Battalion. Human Rights Watch also reviewed extensive photo and video material related to the clashes. Brak El-Shati military base is under the control of the LNA's 12th Battalion, commanded by General Khalifa Hiftar. Troops from the LNA's 10th Battalion were also present during the clashes. The LNA is allied with the Interim Government and House of Representatives based in the eastern cities of al-Bayda and Tobruk. The interim government is one of the three governments vying for legitimacy, international recognition, and control of territory in Libya. The LNA forces in the south have been engaged in an armed conflict with the 13th Battalion, an alliance of armed groups that includes the Third Force from Misrata, the Benghazi Defense Brigades, and other armed groups from the south. The 13th Battalion is under the command of Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi, the GNA defense minister. The GNA, based in Tripoli, is the only Libyan government recognized by the UN Security Council.  According to the 12th Battalion soldier who witnessed the attack and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, elements of the 13th Battalion based in the nearby Tamenhint airbase, about 60 kilometers away, staged the surprise attack at around 9:30 a.m. The eyewitness said that the heavily-armed attackers, who included Chadian fighters, arrived in a large convoy of black armored vehicles. The LNA soldier, who was at the main gate with around nine other LNA soldiers, said the attackers came out of their cars shooting and fought their way to the interior. The LNA soldiers returned fire but offered little resistance once the attackers had penetrated the base. The 13th Battalion withdrew five or six hours after arriving, taking prisoners. Hiding under an overturned car during the attack, the LNA soldier said he saw nine comrades executed: I saw the attackers catch my nine comrades who had been running with me from the main gate. They were disarmed, lined up in a row, and made to kneel on the ground. The attackers then sprayed them with bullets, and once they were lying on the ground dead, the attackers shot each and every one of them in the head. As they were shooting they were shouting, "You apostates, you enemies of God." The soldier said that there did not seem to be much resistance in the base, but that he could hear intermittent shooting, which he believed to be "executions." He said one or two of his comrades survived by hiding among the dead, but that the attackers killed all the military personnel who did not hide or escape. He said they also killed civilian cooks, workers, and medical personnel. However, they did not harm detainees held by military police at the base. The soldier said that the attackers caused much destruction and looted vehicles, military equipment, and weapons. According to the hospital official, the 75 bodies received included two migrant workers from Niger whose job was to unload food trucks at the base. He said the dead included two civilians unconnected to the base who were killed on the road. He said that relatives who accompanied one victim to the hospital told him the man had been shot in front of his family. The other, a truck driver, had been shot in the head, and both his arms broken. The hospital official said the retreating forces set ablaze the food warehouse and some trucks. He added that the nonmilitary victims were killed by gunfire but unlike the military victims did not have execution-style shots to the head. Human Rights Watch reviewed at least 80 photographs and several videos that seemed to show the May 18 attack; they appeared to corroborate witness statements about the incident. The photographs showed mainly dead men, some in uniform, many with what appears to be a single gunshot wound to the front of the head. One video shows a group of four LNA detainees from the Brak El-Shati airbase in the back of a pickup truck, shackled, handcuffed, and blindfolded while fighters, seemingly from the 13th Battalion, give them water to drink as they talk about the events at the base. Another video, shot from inside a car, shows a convoy driving on a desert road; the passengers say they are from the Benghazi Defense Brigades on their way to attack Brak El-Shati. The video then shows around nine dead men face down as an unidentified person shoots at them and a voice calls them "mercenaries of Hiftar and dogs of Hiftar." Human Rights Watch cannot independently verify the videos or photos. Mohamed Alghiwan, a spokesman for the 13th Battalion, told Human Rights Watch that forces from the battalion had attacked the Brak El-Shati base on May 18 in retaliation for many attacks on their Tamenhint base. Alghiwan denied that forces linked to the battalion had committed summary executions or any other laws-of-war violations during the attack. Alghiwan added that the 13th Battalion suffered no injuries or deaths in the attack and took 14 or 15 prisoners. He said the battalion would release only civilian detainees. All parties to a conflict are required to abide by the laws of war. Certain serious violations of the laws of war, when committed with criminal intent, such as executions of civilians or enemy fighters who had been captured or had surrendered, are war crimes. Anyone who commits, orders, or assists, or has command responsibility for war crimes, can be subject to prosecution by domestic courts or international courts. Commanders may be criminally liable for war crimes of their subordinates if they fail to hand over those responsible for prosecution. "Senior commanders need to understand that they too can be implicated in war crimes unless they act resolutely to stop them and punish those responsible," Goldstein said. Source: Human Rights Watch (Washington D C)

Egypt involved in Darfur attacks: Sudan President

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir officially accused Egypt of involvement in the fighting in areas in North and East Darfur states on May 21. The Sudanese president addressed veterans of the Sudan Armed Forces during the General Command on May 23. He claimed that the attacking forces came from the countries of South Sudan and Libya and drove in Egyptian armoured vehicles. "Egypt has not supported our government for 20 years - neither during the war in southern Sudan, on the pretext that it was an internal affair." He said that 59 armoured vehicles were destroyed out of the 64 vehicles that entered from two sides simultaneously - from South Sudan and from the border with North Darfur. Al Bashir commended the Sudanese army for "achieving victories despite plots and conspiracies" by the rebel movements. Since May 19, fighting has been taking place between Sudanese government forces and combatants of holdout rebel movements in North and East Darfur, with reports of large numbers of casualties on both sides. The Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) and the SLM-Transitional Council are involved in the fighting. The security committee in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, issued orders to strengthen security measures around the city's main gates and to deepen the trench surrounding it, for precautionary measures against renewed fighting. At a press conference in Khartoum on May 22, Dr Amin Hassan Omar, Presidential Envoy for Negotiation and Diplomatic Communication on the Darfur File said that the recent attack aims to delay the permanent lift of U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Sudan. He added it is well known that Egypt supports Libya and South Sudan militarily. The Joint Special Representative of the UN-AU peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid), Jeremiah Mamabolo, has expressed the Mission's deep concerns about the renewed clashes in Darfur. Source: Radio Dabanga (Amsterdam)

Southern Africa

In South Africa, ANC wants the Presidency's power strengthened

The Presidency must be strengthened to ensure it best runs the heart of government, the ANC NEC's legislature and governance subcommittee said on May 21. "Given the scale and complexity of government's delivery across three spheres of government and the SOEs, the strategic centre of power in the Presidency must be strengthened," said the subcommittee in a statement.  The subcommittee noted that "some of the SOEs are plagued by issues of poor governance and allegations of corruption. It said the finalisation of "governance and oversight protocols" for the SOEs was in process. Furthermore the ANC said it was reviewing current systems of traditional leadership, suggesting that the roles and responsibilities of these leaders needed to be fully clear. "Intense engagements and consultations with key role players in the traditional governance system is underway." A conference on the matter was also planned for the future. Source: news24WIRE

Outrage in Zimbabwe as Bona Mugabe to 'censor' public entertainment

President Robert Mugabe's daughter Bona Mugabe-Chikore has been appointed to sit on the new Censorship Board, a move which arts activists said it's a "disaster" meant to "suppress information". The announcement was made by Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on May 23. "The Constitution has a provision for the freedom of artistic expression, cultural beliefs and association and the same constitution empowers the board of censors to ensure that these freedoms do not infringe on other people's rights," said Chombo. Controversial actor and producer, Silvanos Mudzvova, said this was being done to make sure artistic products are "silenced". "They will never approve any work critical of or against the government, ruling party Zanu PF or the First Family. And Bona will never approve any theatrical scripts or material that critic her father," said Mudzvova. He added, "It's a final nail on the artistic freedom of expression but as artists we should just stop sending our products for censorship but take the government head on." Bulawayo-based theatre guru Raisedon Baya said the move showed how serious the government has become about policing freedom of speech, creativity, thoughts and opinions. "Obviously now anything negative about Mugabe or the ZRP will not be able to see light at the end of the day," he said. The new board will be led by former Education Minister, historian and traditional leader Aeneas Shoko Chigwedere. Other members of the board are Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba who is also the police national spokesperson.  Little known Kozani Ncube is the vice chairperson of the new board and father Fidelis Mukonori. Chombo said the new board is expected to regulate public entertainment among other issues. "The board must brace themselves for a challenging term in office in this era of increased internet and social media. There is lot of work for you and the government is willing to fund the board operations to ensure that you carry your mandate responsibly," said the minister. A couple of years ago, President Mugabe complained bitterly about how the online media was critical of his government and the First Family. In 2014, Grace told a rally in Marondera that journalists were taking bribes to write negative reports about the First Family. Source:

Maimane slams Zuma, ANC over silence On Zambia's Hichilema treason trial

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has said that his party would take action to "re-establish South Africa's leading voice on the continent for the entrenchment of democracy and the upholding of human rights". This voice was lost after former president Nelson Mandela left office, he said. Maimane said in a statement he would be travelling to Lusaka, Zambia to attend the treason trial of Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), Zambia's largest opposition party. Hichilema was detained six weeks ago for driving too slowly in front of Zambian President Edgar Lungu's motorcade en route to a ceremony in the Western province of the country. He was initially charged with attempting to block Lungu's motorcade, but it was later amended to treason when it was alleged that Hichilema and 60 others had conspired to declare the opposition leader the president of Zambia. Those charged with treason in Zambia are not allowed bail and the maximum sentence is the death penalty. Lungu was elected president in August 2016 in a close race against Hichilema. Maimane has slammed the South African government's "deafening silence" on the matter, which he described as "an affront to democracy across the region". He said Hichilema's arrest points "clearly to a political motivation". He said the silence of Zuma and the ANC said much "about their disregard for democratic values and principles on the continent". Mailane also slammed the silence of bodies like the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, and said he would call on other opposition leaders on the continent, including Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti, to club together "to establish a plan of action on the way forward in entrenching democratic values and the rule of law in Africa". He added: "We must not cease in our efforts to liberate Africa from the stranglehold of 'big man politics'." Opposition parties had a role to play in this by co-operating, he said. Various opposition parties in the region formed the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change forum a year ago, and Maimane is chairing it. The aim of the forum is to stand up against the perceived abuses of governing parties in the region. Maimane said in his statement that the DA would not be silent. "We will stand up for democracy and the rule of law on the African continent." He called on the Zambian government to drop the treason charges and release Hichilema from prison. "The ANC will be out of government in 2019. Authoritarian leaders in the region must know that South Africa's post-ANC government will stand up for democracy, freedom and the rule of law," he said. Media officials for the department of international relations and co-operation were in an Africa Day event organised by the party on May 25 morning, and did not immediately respond to queries. Source: news24WIRE

East Africa

East Africa on high alert as Ebola hits DRC

Eastern African countries are on high alert following the confirmation of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The move comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an Ebola outbreak in DRC on May 12, following one positive test in a specialised laboratory in Kinshasa, the country's capital. Nine suspected cases including three deaths have been reported in DRC since April 22, while six patients are currently hospitalised. Rwanda and DRC have set up a joint monitoring team that includes doctors and Ebola experts from the WHO and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym MSF). Rwanda has also reinstated Ebola screening at its points of entry especially at the two border posts it shares with DRC - Gisenyi-Goma and Cyangugu-Bukavu.  "We are following the situation in DRC closely and we are more than ready to protect our population," Malick Kayumba, Rwanda's Health ministry spokesperson said on May 17. "Rwandans and everyone in Rwanda should avoid travelling to the DRC, especially to that area where Ebola has been confirmed until the situation is clear," he added. Mr Kayumba said the outbreak is currently confined in a remote area in North DRC and is unlikely to spread widely in the region. "But we shall continue to share information with Rwandans and ensure that they are safe and know how to protect themselves," he said. In Kenya, holding rooms at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi have been re-activated to isolate suspected Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases while awaiting possible transfer to health facilities.  "We have strengthened screening and surveillance of travellers from and through DRC at all points of entry," said director of medical services Jackson Kioko in a statement on May 16. "We wish to assure Kenyans that there is no suspected case of Ebola virus in the country and they should remain vigilant, look out for any such illnesses and report to the nearest health facility without delay for immediate verification and investigation." The cluster of undiagnosed illness and deaths including haemorrhagic symptoms in Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province - North of the DRC, bordering Central African Republic was first reported on April 22. Following the reports, Rwanda's Health minister Diane Gashumba directed all hospital directors to be on high alert and to activate their rapid response teams. All persons with travel history from or through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Rwanda are required to provide a minimum package of information to guide investigations surrounding the Ebola outbreak. This includes, but is not limited to; personal details, exact location of origin or transit, history of contact with potential Ebola virus disease cases, presence of any suggestive signs and symptoms of the disease. Similar instructions have also been given in Kenya. Declaration of contact while in Kenya will also be collected to aid personal risk assessment and daily follow-up for 21 days if they (travellers) will still be residents. DRC has reported eight Ebola outbreaks since 1976 with the last one occurring in 2014 that was quickly contained and killed 49 people. Source: The East African

Over 30,000 Somalis return from conflict-hit Yemen: UNHCR

Some 30,600 Somalis have reportedly returned to Somalia from Yemen since the beginning of war in Yemen in 2015, the UN refugee agency said on May 19. The UNHCR said an increasing number of Somalis are approaching the agency for assistance to support their return, citing safety concerns and limited access to services in Yemen. "UNHCR is now providing some support to those choosing to return on their own," the UN agency said in a statement. "In 2017, UNHCR is able to assist up to 10,000 Somali refugees who have made the choice to return, based on the information received at Return Help Desks on conditions in Somalia and the assistance package that is being offered both in Yemen and Somalia," it said. Yemen has been both a destination and a transit hub for refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa and beyond. The overwhelming majority of refugees in Yemen, 91 percent or some 255,000, are Somali refugees. The UNHCR said its humanitarian operations in Yemen will continue to provide support to refugees who remain in Yemen. It said most Somali refugees registered in Yemen originate from Banadir, Lower Shabelle, Bay, Middle Shabelle and Woqooyi Galbeed regions in Somalia. In Yemen, most reside in Aden, Sana'a and Lahj governorates, the latter of which is where Yemen's only refugee camp, the Kharaz refugee camp, is located. The UNHCR said most refugees opt to return to Mogadishu, in the anticipation that assistance and services will be more accessible and available. Source: Dalsan Radio (Mogadishu)

Tanzanian President sacks Energy Minister

President John Magufuli wants energy and mineral minister Prof Sospeter Muhongo to reconsider his position after he was implicated in the mineral sand saga report. The president was responding to recommendations made to him in the report by a special committee he formed to investigate gold and cooper consentrate in mineral sand. "The minister is my friend but I want him to reconsider his position... I am advising him to step down," said President Magufuli. The president also dissolved the Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMAA) board of directors. He also suspended TMAA Chief Executive Officer. The president also revealed that he sacked Energy and Minerals Permanent Secretary Prof Justin Ntalikwa after he lied to the Parliament over the amount of gold and copper concentrate in mineral sand. Source: The Citizen

Militants attack 14 villages in southern Somalia

Al-Shabab militants have attacked some 14 villages in southern Somalia, in an apparent attempt to disrupt a planned government offensive. Most of the villages that came under attack on May 23 are located near the towns of K50 and Murri, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, Mogadishu. Witnesses said teams of 10 to 12 militants attacked the villages, setting fire to houses, abducting civilians and stealing villagers' livestock. “They took with them around 25 people mainly youngsters and torched many houses to terrorize the civilians and force them to leave their residences,” said Ibrahim Aden Najah, the governor of the Lower Shabelle region. “I think they know about an ongoing military preparation for an offensive by Somali National Army and the African Union to liberate the entire region. They are trying to pre-empt this offensive,” he added.

Assistance requested

Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the president of the South West Administration, sent a request to the federal government and the African Union mission in Somalia.  “These militants continue to victimize residents in this region, who are already suffering from the impact of the drought. We appeal to the Somali government, the African Union mission in Somalia and the international community to take measures to protect these civilians from the ruthless militants and send them urgent aid too,” he told reporters in Baidoa.

Suicide bomber strikes

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber has struck a police checkpoint in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, killing himself, three others and wounding five people. “The attack targeted police forces manning a security checkpoint in a busy junction in Bosasso just after the evening prayer,” said a regional police commander, Abdihakim Yusuf Hussein A suicide bomber strapped with explosives rushed toward the police at the checkpoint before blowing himself up, a witness told VOA. The attack on May 23 is the latest attack in an escalating campaign by al-Shabab in the city. Source: Voice of America

West Africa

Suicide bombers killed in attempt to attack Unimaid female hostel in Nigeria

Three male suicide-bombers were killed while attempting to attack a female hostel in Maiduguri last night. It was gathered that one of the three suicide-bombers carried AK 47 gun. At least two bomb exploded during the attack. A student leader in the university, Comrade Abu Hanifa Babati confirmed that one of the explosion occurred around BOT Hostel which is a female hostel. He said another explosion occurred around the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. On the casualty, an emergency worker involved in the evacuation said that: "Four security men in the university, including volunteers were treated for injury they sustained as no life was lost except the killed suicide bombers. Meanwhile the corpses have been evacuated by workers from NEMA and BOSEMA." Source: VANGUARD

U.S. recognises Liberia's efforts

The United States has hailed Liberia's efforts toward preventing, detecting and responding to infectious disease threats. On behalf of the Trump Administration, Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price, said the US was proud of Liberia's progress in the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. His comments were contained in remarks made at the Roberts International Airport during talks with Health Minister Bernice Dahn. "We are here this week to promote global health security and to express President Trump and his Administration's appreciation for this great work being done here in Liberia," Dr. Price said. "We know that by ensuring that all countries around the world are better prepared to prevent, detect, respond to, and control disease outbreaks at the local level, we can reduce the threat of international health emergencies." He said the US and the Department of Health and Human Services are committed to working with Liberia to address the remaining challenges in Liberia's recovery from the devastating effects of the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Price said, "and we look forward to continuing to work side-by-side to improve disease detection, enhance laboratory services, maintain a rapid and effective emergency response, and develop the health workforce." He also thank President Sirleaf for the opportunity to visit Liberia and for her leadership and kind hospitality. "On behalf of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, we thank you for the work the people of Liberia are doing and for the successful partnership that we have been able to form," he said. "Together we are working to improve the health of Liberians, while helping to maintain the health security of the United States and the entire world." The US health Secretary also thanked US Ambassador, Christine Elder, and her whole embassy team for their continued work to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. "Additionally, I want to recognize and express my deep pride in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff here on the ground in Liberia-including doctors, nurses, public health workers, and experts from across the Department including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and Health Services and Resources Administration," he said. "Your work to promote global health security and your commitment to find and stop disease outbreaks here and around the world-whether they are natural, accidental, or deliberate-keeps Americans and others around the world safe." According to him, the partnership between the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the people of Liberia has been one of mutual cooperation and has had a lasting effect on the stability, health and well-being of Americans and Liberians alike. "Together we have worked hand in hand to fight the tragedy of Ebola, and in the process have succeeded in improving the health system here in Liberia," he said. "Because of the work done during and following the Ebola response, Liberia now has many public health systems and resources that it did not have before - emergency operations centers, laboratories, stronger surveillance systems, and in-country technical support." "These systems, and the people who are now trained to use them, are key to achieving lasting national health security." Source: The New Republic

Attempt to overthrow Buhari will be opposed: APC

Reacting to the statement made by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai that some politicians were approaching soldiers with the aim of usurping power, the All Progressives Congress, APC, through their National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, warned that any attempt to overthrow Buhari will be opposed and rebuffed and plotters will have themselves to blame. Recall that Gen. Buratai had earlier warned that, "Any officer or soldier of Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing with such elements or engaged in unprofessional conducts such as politicking would have himself or herself to blame". In connection with the above the British high Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, equally stated that United Kingdom will not allow any other political system to be practiced in Nigeria. In so far Nigeria was colonized by us 'Britain' no other political system will benefit Nigeria except democracy, he said. According to him, "No other system will work in Nigeria, except democracy, UK believes so much in democracy and that is why we introduced it to Nigeria during the colonial era, we believe so much in democracy. "So, our position is very clear; we stand for democracy, we stand for the democratic process and we stand for change, if that is what the people of Nigeria wants. "It has to be a choice that the people make and not a choice that is imposed upon them." "The British Government believes that democracy is absolutely critical in Nigeria. There is a democratic process here; there are elections. If you are not happy with your leaders, then you should change your leadership process through your leaders and through elections" he finally said. However, Abdullahi while speaking with journalists in Ilorin, explained why the party initially paused to react. According to him, "We have hesitated to react so far because we think that the house belongs to us, so we wanted to wait for Nigerians to react and Nigerians have reacted.  "If there was any such thing in the offing, I think it is clear to everyone that Nigerians will defend their own democracy," he said. Source: VANGUARD

82 rescued Chibok girls reunite with parents in Nigeria

The Federal Government has said that the 82 Chibok school girls rescued from Boko Haram are being rehabilitated and will be properly aligned with their families in due course. Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Jummai Alhassan, who was represented by the Director Planning, Research and Statistics in the ministry, Mrs. Abidemi Aremo, said a group of experts has been put together to address the girls' psycho-social support and medical needs, a statement by press secretary of ministry of Information, Joseph Mutah Said. She said the girls are undergoing Intensive medical attention and as soon as they are done, they will be enrolled into a remedial programme in preparation to their enrollment into school for the next academic session. "For the 21 and 3 that were earlier released, I wish to inform us that their psycho-social counseling is still in progress and of course they have started remedial classes. They are being taught five subjects, which is designed with a view to getting them back to school come the next school session, which is in September this year. They will be settled in various schools and I am sure they will continue their education from there," she said. The Minister, who stated that Federal Government has intensified efforts to rescue the remaining girls in captivity, also expressed appreciation to all those involved in the rescue mission particularly the security agencies, development partners and non-governmental organisations. While responding, Chairman of the parents of the abducted school girls, Yakubu Nkeki appreciated FG for the effort. He said "their joy has no bounds and thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for wiping away their tears". Mr. Nkeki expressed hopes that very soon the remaining girls still in captivity will be rescued. So far a total of 106 Chibok school girls have been rescued. Source: Daily Trust7                       

Liberia hosts Ecowas mid-year statutory meeting

Liberia will host four mid-year statutory meetings of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) beginning Thursday, May 25th which will be climaxed by the 51th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on Sunday, June 4th, 2017. A Foreign Ministry release said, the first in the series of statutory meetings, the 21th Meeting of the ECOWAS Administration and Finance Committee (AFC) takes place at the Monrovia City Hall in Monrovia from Thursday, May 25th - Sunday, May 28th, 2017. This Statutory Committee reviews all the administrative activities, work programs and the budget of the ECOWAS Commission and its Specialized Institutions and make recommendations to the Council of Ministers. Approximately 200 participants are expected to attend the four-day meeting. The second statutory meeting, the Ministerial Ad-Hoc Committee on Institutional Reform takes place at the Farmington Hotel in Robertsfield from Monday, May 29th - Tuesday, May 30th 2017. This Committee, created nearly two years ago, looks at issues arising out of the institutional reforms of ECOWAS, specifically statutory reallocation or institutional reform of the Commission. The Committee will discuss the report of consultant, Maxwell Stamp, aimed at completing the Commission's institutional reforms. Already, phases 1 - 3 of the report are ready and will be discussed by this Committee. Findings are expected to be presented to the Council of Ministers and their approval. The third statutory meeting, the Mediation and Security Council Committee takes place at the Farmington Hotel on Wednesday, May 31st, 2017. This Committee, which includes the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, looks at all the security issues, peacekeeping and diplomacy, in the ECOWAS sub-region; specifically, what can be done to keep the sub-region safe. The 78th Meeting of the Council of Ministers, the meeting that precedes the 51st Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, takes place at the Farmington Hotel from Thursday, June 1st - Friday, June 2nd, 2017. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Madam Marjon Kamara will chair the Meeting of the Council of Ministers. It includes Foreign and Finance Ministers of Member States. This meeting will consider all the decisions taken by the technical and ad hoc committees, commissions, and specialized institutions. This Committee will make recommendations to the 51th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government. Meanwhile, the 51th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government takes place at the Farmington Hotel in Robertsfield, lower Margibi County on Sunday, June 4th, 2017. All sub-regional Heads of State and Government are expected to be in attendance. Other important dignitaries expected to attend the 51st Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority include the Israeli prime minister, His Excellency Mr. Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu; a high-level delegation from the Moroccan Government, a high-level delegation from the European Union; the United Nations Secretary General, AntónioGuterres; and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Mr. MoussaFaki, among others. On the margins of the 51th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, Mano River Union States (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire) will launch the West Africa Power Pool Project which will provide electricity to the countries within the MRU basin. There will also be several bilateral meetings on the margins of the Summit. Source: The New Dawn  This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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