Africa Media Review for April 12, 2019

Sudan Coup: Protesters Defy Curfew after Military Ousts Bashir
Thousands of protesters have vowed to stay on the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in defiance of a curfew imposed by the country’s new military council. Long-time President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown and arrested on Thursday after months of street protests. But demonstrators say the military council is part of the same regime. The fresh stand-off has raised fears of a violent confrontation between protesters and the army. There is also a real danger that different elements of the security forces and militia could turn their guns on each other. BBC

Leader of Sudan Coup on US Sanction List for Darfur Genocide
Sudan’s defense minister, who led the overthrow Thursday of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir, has had his assets blocked by the U.S. Treasury since 2007 for supporting and managing militias accused of carrying out genocide in the country’s Darfur conflict. In a televised statement, Gen. Awad ibn Ouf declared that the military had removed and arrested al-Bashir and that it will rule the country for the next two years as part of a transitional council along with the powerful security and intelligence agencies. His appearance made him the face of military rule, and the general is likely to become the country’s formal leader, though the makeup of the council has not yet been announced. That has stunned and angered protesters who have been holding rallies for months demanding al-Bashir’s ouster and the establishment of civilian-led democracy. AP

Sudan’s Diaspora Has Played a Crucial Role in Supporting the Anti-Bashir Protests
Widespread anti-government demonstrations have rocked Sudan since December. Protests against high bread prices have turned into calls for an end to president Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year reign. The government has responded with force, and in February, it declared a year-long state of emergency. Sudanese officials say that 33 have died in the protests, but activists and international human rights groups say the number is higher. The international community has been slow to react, as al-Bashir has successfully tied himself to several regional alliances, and global powers fear chaos and a repetition of a Libya or Yemen-like scenario. But one group that has made its support loud and clear to end to Bashir’s rule is Sudan’s diaspora. Nearly 5 million Sudanese live abroad, according to Sudanese government estimates, distributed mainly between the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Australia. Many have shown active support to the protests in different ways. Quartz

Sudan Security Agency Frees All Political Detainees: State Media
Sudan’s powerful intelligence service announced Thursday it was freeing all the country’s political detainees, state media said. “The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said. The announcement came as huge crowds of people thronged central Khartoum after the state television said that the army is set to make an “important announcement soon.” But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, protesters stormed NISS buildings after the releases failed to materialise, witnesses said.  AFP

Algerians March Anew as Anger Mounts at Army, Interim Leader
Police are deployed around Algeria’s capital to deter protesters arriving for an eighth straight Friday of demonstrations against the country’s leadership. Protest organizers are encouraging Algerians to come out in Algiers or other cities to show that they’re not satisfied with the departure of longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and want wholesale political change. Anger is mounting over military chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was instrumental in Bouteflika’s departure but then threw his support behind interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, seen as part of the old regime. Bensalah was named interim president this week and announced new elections for July 4. Protest appeals online call for both Bensalah and the military chief to step down. AP

Nigeria Evacuates Whole Town to Screen for Boko Haram Members
Nigerian soldiers have evacuated the entire population of a town in the north-eastern insurgency-hit state of Borno without warning. The military said people were evacuated ahead of operations, but residents of Jakana said they were taken to a camp this week in the state capital Maiduguri to check whether they were members of the extremist group Boko Haram. Jakana is home to about 10,000 people. The UN said residents were not allowed to collect any belongings, with some even arriving without shoes. It called for them to be given humanitarian aid immediately. The Guardian

Libya: At Least 56 Dead in Haftar Tripoli Offensive, as UN Calls for Ceasefire
At least 56 people have been killed and 266 wounded in Libya’s capital Tripoli, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday. UN chief Antonio Guterres has also warned of “a very dangerous situation” following an offensive to take Tripoli launched by military strongman Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). “We fear that prolonged conflict will lead to more casualties,” said Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO’s representative in Libya. The WHO said it had sent emergency teams to assist frontline hospitals, warning that thousands of people had fled their homes. RFI

Italy, France Spar over Escalating Conflict in Libya
France and Italy wrangled on Thursday over how best to tackle renewed conflict in Libya as a bid by eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli stalled in the face of strong resistance on the capital’s southern outskirts. The United Nations said the fighting between Haftar’s forces and troops under the internationally-backed Tripoli government had killed at least 56 people and forced 8,000 to flee their homes in the city in the last week. A Reuters reporter heard occasional heavy gunfire and explosions as the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) faced off with forces of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s government around the ex-international airport and the Ain Zara district. VOA

Fight for Tripoli Escalates as UN Prepares to Meet
Fighting between rival Libyan governments for control of Tripoli worsened Wednesday as the United Nations Security Council gets ready to meet on the crisis. General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army has set up an administration in the east. His forces are battling troops belonging to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and his internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli in the west. Fighting Wednesday centered in the suburbs south of the capital, with thousands of civilians fleeing their homes for safety. Residents in the city report LNA warplanes were buzzing neighborhoods and firing at them. Fighting was also reported at what had been the country’s international airport. VOA

Pope Kisses Feet of South Sudan Leaders, Urging Them to Keep the Peace
Pope Francis, in a dramatic gesture after an unprecedented retreat at the Vatican, knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders on Thursday as he urged them to not return to a civil war. He appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed and commit to forming a unity government next month. “I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems,” Francis said in improvised remarks. The leaders appeared to be stunned as the 82-year-old pope, who suffers from chronic leg pain, was helped by aides as he knelt with difficulty to kiss the shoes of the two main opposing leaders and several other people in the room.  Reuters

S. Sudan Frets over Whether Sudan Coup Could Derail Fragile Peace Deal
Thursday’s military coup in Sudan sparked anxiety in neighboring South Sudan that the toppling of longtime President Omar al-Bashir could scupper a fragile peace deal that ended South Sudan’s five-year civil war. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal last year that calls on them to form a unity government on May 12. But key requirements — including integrating their forces — have not been met. The deal was guaranteed by Sudan and the ouster of Bashir transfers much more responsibility for the success of the agreement to former archenemies Kiir and Machar, said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group. VOA

Zimbabwe ‘Foils Plot’ to Unseat Botswana President
Zimbabwe’s intelligence agency has disrupted a secret meeting of a faction from Botswana’s ruling party aimed at bringing down their president Mokgweetsi Masisi, according Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper. Zimbabwe’s intelligence agency reportedly stopped former Botswana President Ian Khama and Pelonomi Moitoi, a key rival to incumbent Masisi, along with a South African tycoon, from holding a secret meeting at Victoria Falls border town. Zimbabwe’s well-informed state-owned Herald reports that the South African billionaire was transporting a whopping 90 million Botswana Pula (5.5 million dollars).  RFI

Amid Criticism of the Government Response to Cyclone Idai, Zimbabweans Pitch In and Self-Help
Cyclone Idai has claimed 344 lives in Zimbabwe, with 300 people still missing and more than 100,000 displaced. The storm has also added to the country’s long-running economic difficulties. Nearly 5.3 million people – more than half the population – are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of drought and skyrocketing inflation. There have been crippling fuel shortages, and earlier this year petrol prices jumped by more than 150 percent. […] Zimbabweans of all races and religions have come together in response to Idai, which also battered Malawi and Mozambique. More than 1,000 people have died in the region, including at least seven recent deaths from cholera. In Mozambique alone, there have been nearly more than 4,000 cases of the disease. Diaspora Zimbabweans have also been involved. Freeman Chari, a Zimbabwean refugee in Bethel, Ohio, started a Zimbabwe Cyclone Relief GoFundMe on 16 March and has raised more than $100,000.  The New Humanitarian

African Union: High-Speed Rail Network on Track
Plans are on track for a high-speed rail network connecting the continent’s borders by 2063, the African Union’s Development Agency says. The ambitious multibillion-dollar project aims to ease the movement of goods and people across African borders, but the AU warns that corruption could derail that goal. Road, rail, and air traffic connections are so poor between some African countries that it is better to transit through Europe than to travel directly between neighbors. Intra-African trade is less than 15% of total trade, says Adama Deen, the head of infrastructure at the AU’s Development Agency. VOA

The Growing Fight in South Africa over Land and Identity
[…] This divide is part of a bitter battle in South Africa. It all revolves around a controversial governmental proposal to seize land from white farmers without paying for it — land expropriation without compensation, as it’s known. “What it means is essentially ‘take land from the white people.’ That’s all that it means,” said Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman at the South African Institute of International Affairs. Since the end of apartheid — once South Africa’s system of legal segregation — the nation’s leading political party, the African National Congress, has followed a “willing seller, willing buyer” model whereby the government buys white-owned farms for redistribution to black farmers. Now, the ANC is proposing a constitutional amendment to institutionalize this model. It has been a long and drawn out process, going through several sessions of public review throughout the country, as well as parliamentary hearings. ABC News

IMF Warns Nigeria about Chinese Debt
The IMF has urged Nigeria to curb its large appetite for Chinese loans as the country struggles with a €70 billion  debt burden. That’s up from €62 billion in 2017, representing a year-on-year growth of 12.25 per cent. Nigeria’s Nation newspaper leads with disturbing revelations the global lender at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington that loans from China were contracted under concessional terms without consideration of Paris Club debt servicing arrangements. Vanguard quotes Nigeria’s Debt Management Office as saying that Nigeria’s external loans obtained from China currently stand at 8.5 per cent of its total debt burden. Daily Trust for its part said Abuja was last year, negotiating an additional €5.3 billionacility from China’s EXIM Bank to fund the construction of the Ibadan-Kano rail line project.  RFI

African Nations Could Lose $420 Million in a No-Deal Brexit
Morocco, Ghana and Tunisia are among African nations that would lose the most if the U.K. doesn’t negotiate a deal by the time it has to exit the European Union, according to a study by a United Nations agency. Total export losses from 20 African countries could be as much as $420 million, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. The study shows 11 nations on the continent would boost their exports by a total of $3.66 billion, led by South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana. Some African countries stand to gain from a no-deal Brexit, others not. Bloomberg

Currency Chaos That Felled Sudan Leader Is Lesson for Maduro
For autocratic leaders seeking lessons from the toppling of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, avoiding a currency crisis may be the key to survival. It’s the same problem that did for long-standing rulers from Angola to Zimbabwe and may yet claim Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. Al-Bashir, who the military ousted on Thursday to end 30 years of rule, faced months of protests against the government’s economic mismanagement, repression and corruption. One of the root causes of the 75-year-old’s downfall was his inability to manage a shortage of foreign exchange that sent inflation soaring and hammered living standards. Sudan’s woes can be traced back to the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which saw it lose almost all its oil fields and 60 percent of fiscal revenue, according to the Institute of International Finance. But the government’s decision to ramp up spending while pegging its currency only exacerbated the situation. […] Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out of power this month, faced his own currency problems. The 2014 crash in oil and gas prices crimped the Arab nation’s dollar earnings.   Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones