Africa Media Review for April 1, 2019

Report Says Algeria’s President Is Preparing to Resign
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria is preparing to announce his resignation, a privately owned Algerian TV network said on Sunday, following weeks of mass protests and the army chief of staff’s call to have the president declared unfit for office. Citing unnamed political sources, the network, Ennahar TV, reported that Mr. Bouteflika might announce his resignation on Tuesday, according to Reuters. Also on Sunday night, Algerian national television announced that Mr. Bouteflika and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui had named a new government, and that it would keep Gen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah as the army chief of staff and vice defense minister. General Gaïd Salah shocked the nation with his call last week for the Constitutional Council to set in motion a process to end Mr. Bouteflika’s 20-year presidency. AP

More than a Million Take to Algiers Streets for Sixth Week of Protests
At least one million people have marched in Algiers for a sixth straight Friday to demand the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to Algerian police. The huge protest comes after the military this week called for the ailing leader to be declared unfit for office. Some demonstrators called for Algeria’s entire political elite to go, saying that while they were against Bouteflika they also rejected the army’s intervention in civilian political life. The army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, on Tuesday asked the constitutional council to rule whether the Bouteflika, who is 82 and has been largely out of the public eye since he had a stroke in 2013, is fit for office.  RFI

Algerian President Names New Government, Keeps Army Chief
Algeria’s powerful army chief retained his post in a newly-named government despite his call to have ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared unfit for office. Algerian national television announced Sunday night that Bouteflika and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui named a new government after weeks of mass protests and political tensions in this gas-rich North African country. The new government notably keeps Ahmed Gaid Salah as army chief of staff and vice defense minister. Gaid Salah shocked the nation with his call last week for the constitutional council to set in motion a process to end Bouteflika’s 20-year presidency. Critics accused Gaid Salah of trying to orchestrate a coup, and the army chief suggested Saturday that unnamed figures were plotting against him as a result of his stand against Bouteflika’s presidency.  AP

Congo President Allows Senators to Take Office, Ending Feud with Predecessor’s Camp
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has lifted a ban on the installation of new senators, walking back a decision that had put him at odds with his predecessor Joseph Kabila, whose allies won an overwhelming majority of seats. Tshisekedi blocked the newly elected senators from taking office earlier this month, citing allegations that provincial assembly members, who elect senators, had demanded bribes of tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for their votes. That move was seen by many Congolese as an effort by Tshisekedi, who took power in January, to assert his independence from Kabila, whose parliamentary majorities and grip on the security services after 18 years in power raise questions about Tshisekedi’s ability to govern freely.  Reuters

Delayed Congo Legislative Vote Begins in Ebola-Hit Areas
Voters who were not given the chance to take part in Congo’s presidential election because of the Ebola epidemic and violence cast legislative ballots Sunday amid continuing resentment. Residents in eastern Congo’s cities of Beni and Butembo were not included in the January presidential vote. At the time government officials said the decision was made because of Ebola, although the current outbreak remains a threat, with the number of cases still increasing this past week. Voters had to wash their hands before entering polling stations Sunday in an effort to prevent disease transmission. Ebola, a highly deadly virus, is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of sick people. AP

Army Gen. Stephen Townsend Is Nominated to Lead AFRICOM
Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who for the past year has been the commander in charge of Army training, has been nominated to serve as the next leader of U.S. Africa Command. The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Friday that Townsend was slated to testify Tuesday before lawmakers as the prospective AFRICOM chief, a job that requires Senate approval. Since March 2018, Townsend has led the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. If confirmed, he will replace Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who has commanded AFRICOM since 2016. Waldhauser has led the command during a period of tumult for military operations in Africa, most notably the 2017 ambush of special operations forces in Niger that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers. The incident brought intense public scrutiny to previously obscure military operations in Africa, and raised questions about the military’s expanding mission on the continent. Stars and Stripes

Russia’s Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa
Russia has been steadily expanding its military influence across Africa, alarming Western officials with increasing arms sales, security agreements and training programs for unstable countries or autocratic leaders. In the Central African Republic, where a Russian has been installed as the president’s national security adviser, the government is selling mining rights for gold and diamonds at a fraction of their worth to hire trainers and buy arms from Moscow. Russia is seeking to ensconce itself on NATO’s southern flank by helping a former general in Libya fight for control over his government and vast oil market. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, brought in Russian mercenaries in January to help shore up his rule against nationwide protests. And last spring, five sub-Saharan African countries — Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — appealed to Moscow to help their overtaxed militaries and security services combat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.  The New York Times

Al-Shabab Says It Executed 4 Accused Spies in Somalia
Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist group says it has executed four men accused of spying for the British, Djibouti and Somali intelligence agencies. Al-Shabab announced the killings on its Andalus radio station on Sunday, saying they were carried out by a firing squad in a public square in Kamsuma, a town in the Lower Jubba region. The group’s spokesman said its recent spate of attacks on hotels in the capital, Mogadishu, have been part of its drive against Somali intelligence agents and other government officials who he said were staying at the hotels. “We don’t attack every hotel in Mogadishu, but those specific ones (hotels) attacked by Mujahideen fighters have got specific features meriting them for attacks,” said Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, on the rebels’ radio station. AP

African Court Slams Benin’s Treatment of ‘Chicken King’ Ajavon
An African human-rights court slammed Benin’s treatment of former presidential candidate Sebastien Ajavon, who lives in exile in France after being sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking charges.Civil-society groups in Benin said the government has become more authoritarian since the 2016 election of Patrice Talon as president. Ajavon, who came in third, was tried by a newly created economic-crimes court last year even though he was acquitted two years earlier. Known as the chicken king, 54-year-old Ajavon became a multi-millionaire by selling frozen poultry. After losing the vote, he was arrested following the discovery of 18 kilograms of cocaine in a container with turkey gizzards imported from Brazil by one of his companies. Hes said the charges were meant to oust him from politics.  Bloomberg

African Union to Host Libya ‘Reconciliation’ Conference
The African Union will host a “reconciliation” conference in July aimed at uniting Libya’s political rivals, AU commission chief Moussa Faki said late Saturday. “It’s an opportunity for the Libyans,” Faki said during a press conference in Tunis, on the sidelines of an Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital. The announcement of the July talks in Addis Ababa followed a meeting on Libya which included Faki, UN chief Antonio Guterres and the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini. “It’s high time that the (political) actors discuss the fate of their country,” Faki said. Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi and a series of international efforts have so far failed to unite the country. AFP

Hoping for Peace, Preparing for War: Libya on Brink of Tripoli Showdown
After taking large areas of southern Libya and two key oil facilities earlier this year, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, operating under Libya’s eastern-based government, has pulled his Libyan National Army (LNA) forces back from the south towards western Libya, in a move widely seen as paving the way for an assault on Tripoli. A military build-up of LNA forces south of Sirte in recent weeks has prompted previously quiet factions in other western Libyan towns to openly pledge support to Haftar, threatening Tripoli from several directions. Even while the international community is still trying to broker a peaceful solution, Tripoli militias are preparing to defend the capital. Middle East Eye

Sudan’s Ruling Party Postpones Its General Conference
The parliament of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the Shura Council, has postponed the party’s general conference which was supposed to be held next April. For the first time since the NCP establishment in 1998, Saturday’s meeting of the Shura (consultative) Council was held without President Omar al-Bashir who abandoned the party’s leadership to Ahmed Haroun. The General Conference, which was adjourned without assigning a day for a future meeting, was expected to determine the party’s candidate for 2020 elections. On February 22, Bashir declared the state of emergency and said he would be at the same distance from all the political forces as the leader of the whole nation. Also, he directed the parliament to postpone consideration of constitutional amendments to allow him to run for president again. Sudan Tribune

UN Chief Appeals for Better Troops, Gear for Peacekeeping
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging the international community to step up its commitment to the organization’s peacekeeping operations, particularly in improving its specialized equipment and troop needs. “As conflicts become more complex and high-risk, our operations must keep pace,” Guterres on Friday told more than 100 defense ministers, foreign ministers and diplomats. The U.N. chief appealed for critical capabilities, including armored personnel carriers to protect peacekeepers in Mali and medical evacuation helicopters for its mission in the Central African Republic.  VOA

Burundi Extends Bans on VOA, BBC, Deepening Media Crackdown
Burundi will continue to block broadcasts from two international media organizations and expand restrictions on their operations, the government announced Friday. At a meeting in Bujumbura, the president of the National Council of Communication, Nestor Bankumukunzi, said the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Voice of America are no longer allowed to broadcast, effective immediately. The ban is indefinite and extends to journalists, both foreign and domestic, who provide information to either broadcaster. “We are alarmed that reporters in Burundi are now forbidden to communicate with VOA and believe these continuing threats to our journalists undermine press freedom in the country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said. “We stand with the people of Burundi against those who are restricting their access to accurate and reliable news and information.” VOA

Niger President Serves Quit Notice, Party Elects Candidate for 2021 Polls
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou has given a strong signal that he is ready to leave office in 2021 when his current term of office expires. Issoufou became president in 2011 and secured re-election in 2016. The ruling Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism, PNDS, over the weekend elected interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, as its presidential candidate with two clear years to the next polls. The nomination and selection of Bazoum which took place at the Palais des Congrès in the capital, Niamey, was broadcast by several television stations, in front of thousands of activists from the 50 or so parties under the ruling coalition.  AFP

In Morocco, Pope Francis Decries Rise of Anti-Migrant Politics and Its ‘Fear of Others’
Visiting a country used as a launch point for Africans and others trying to reach Europe, Pope Francis took aim Saturday at the world’s hardening anti-migrant sentiments and said problems could never be solved by “raising barriers” or “fomenting fear of others.” Morocco has a minuscule Roman Catholic population, but the North African country — separated from Spain by a mere eight-mile-wide strip of water — served as a fitting stage for Francis’s emphasis on migration. For Francis, it has become a personal priority that has gained more urgency amid shut-the-door political movements in the United States and across Europe. Francis also used the visit to highlight Morocco as a moderate example of Islam, and made a case for Christian-Muslim cooperation just two weeks after hate-fueled mosque shootings in New Zealand that claimed 50 lives. The Washington Post

Xenophobic Attacks Spark South African Response
South Africa’s foreign minister has called an urgent meeting with ambassadors following attacks against foreigners in Durban. Last Monday, three people died amid protests targeting shops, many of which are foreign-owned. Around 50 people sought shelter at a police station when a group of unemployed South Africans forced them out of their homes in the night. Foreigners are targeted by people who accuse them of taking jobs from locals. About 100 people attacked small food shops on Sunday night and into Monday morning, looting and burning the buildings.  BBC

New Book Lays Bare Ace Magashule’s Free State Fiefdom
Corruption allegations have long trailed ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, but nothing has ever seemed to stick. In Daily Maverick journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book “Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture”, Magashule is dramatically exposed. Through meticulous investigative work, Myburgh details how the ANC’s secretary general established a network of corruption in his home of the Free State which drained the coffers of provincial government funds and left local communities further impoverished. The book should detonate like a hand-grenade.  Daily Maverick

Chinese to Return to Zimbabwe’s Diamond Fields
The Zimbabwean government has brought back the Chinese to the Chiadzwa diamond fields, three years after former president Robert Mugabe drove them out on allegations of looting. Chinese-owned Anjin was expelled by government on February 22 2016, along with Mbada Diamonds, on grounds that their special grant licences had expired. Prior to that, Mugabe had accused them of massive leakages and smuggling the gems out of the country. Now under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Anjin and Russian diamond mining company Alrosa will spearhead the government’s target of raising at least US$400m in revenue by the end of 2019. They will form partnerships with the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).  Times Live

So … Does American TV Ever Mention Africa?
This year, the University of Southern California (USC) released new research showing Africa is mostly invisible to American television viewers. But while the rulers of Black Panther’s mythical homeland intentionally shield Wakanda from the outside world, Hollywood extends a veil of obscurity to the entire continent. Combing through 700,000 hours of U.S. television news and entertainment programming and commercials for an entire month, the USC researchers found that Africa and Africans rarely get star billing. On scripted shows, there were just 25 major storylines about Africa during that period. Across entertainment programs, news and advertising, the total number of mentions of Africa or one of the 50-plus African countries was much higher at 134,000. But there were 7 times as many references to Europe or European countries.  NPR



Photo: Adam Jones