Africa Media Review for April 17, 2018

Ethiopia’s Web Blackout Ends, Raising Hopes of Reforms under New PM
Internet users in Ethiopia said on Monday the government appeared to have ended a three-month online blackout, raising hopes of a relaxation of restrictions after the arrival of a new prime minister who promised reforms. Mobile and broadband internet services shut down in December in many regions outside the capital that were hit by unrest that threatened the ruling coalition’s tight hold on country. Rights groups accused the government of trying to stop them spreading news online and organizing rallies calling for land rights and other freedoms – charges the government denied. But internet users said they had noticed services returning following the April 2 inauguration of Abiy Ahmed. VOA

Kenyan Electoral Officials Resign amid Commission Crisis
Three Kenyan commissioners have resigned, citing “arbitrary decision making” by the electoral body’s leadership. The electoral commission has been plagued by issues since a botched presidential election in 2017. Three Kenyan commissioners on Monday announced their resignation, deepening a crisis at the country’s electoral commission after a botched presidential election last year. The commissioners said they decided to step down after Ezra Chiloba, chief executive of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), was suspended pending an audit on procurement matters. They claimed that IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati had pushed forward with a vote on the matter despite not having a quorum since not all six commissioners were present. Deutsche Welle

US Africa Command Discusses IS, Boko Haram with Continent’s Top Brass
Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, the Islamic State group in the Sahel region and al-Shabaab in Somalia are all on the agenda of the sixth Africa Land Forces Summit in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, this week. Hosted by US Africa Command and the Nigerian military on 16-19 April, it brings together defence force chiefs from across the continent. The initiative, intended to support African defence forces in their fight against Islamist insurgency, began under former US president Barack Obama in 2010. Since then, under President Donald Trump’s administration, the US has continued to increase its military presence on the African continent. RFI

‘No Amount of Killing Will Stop Us,’ Protester Says after Nigerian Police Open Fire
Nigerian police fired bullets and tear gas to disperse Shi’ite Muslim protesters marching for their leader’s freedom in the capital on Monday, and organizers said at least one demonstrator was killed and several were wounded by gunfire. Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been jailed since December 2015, when security forces killed hundreds of members in a crackdown on a group estimated to have 3 million followers. The violent repression of the group and the detention of its leader have drawn accusations that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is abusing human rights. The IMN, which has held regular peaceful protests in Abuja in recent months, says Zakzaky must be freed after a court ruled his detention without charge illegal. VOA

Video: Embedded with French Troops in Eastern Mali
Just this weekend, seven French troops in Mali were injured and one UN peacekeeper killed in a four-hour rocket, mortar and car bomb attack on their camp at Timbuktu airport. Five years after the French army intervened in Mali to stop an Islamist insurgency, our reporters Claire Paccalin and Fanny Allard have been to the east of the country, which is still far from stabilized. They followed French and Malian soldiers in their operations to fight terrorists and win the trust of the population. France 24

DR Congo Sacks More than 250 ‘Fake’ or Corrupt Judges
The Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday sacked more than 250 magistrates who did not have a law degree or were accused of corruption. President Joseph Kabila has “sanctioned more than 200 individuals who do not fulfil the conditions to function as magistrates,” Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said on public television. Press reports said a total of 256 were either suspended or sacked, two others resigned while another was put on retirement. The sprawling country counts some 4,000 magistrates. “One cannot enter the judiciary with the objective of making money,” the justice minister said, describing the targeted individuals as “adventurers” who entered the judiciary without a law degree or others who took bribes to deliver a favourable ruling. AFP

Niger Ambush Suspect May Be in Custody, Officials Say
More than six months ago, a group of American soldiers rushed to reach a spot in the scrubland of Niger after intelligence officials intercepted a signal from the cellphone of a terrorist known as Doundoun Cheffou. He wasn’t there, but hours later four of the Americans were killed in an ambush that remains under investigation.This month, Nigerien forces apprehended a man who matches the description of Mr. Cheffou, a senior lieutenant of a former affiliate of Al Qaeda that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The Nigerien authorities are working to verify his identity, said a senior Nigerien commander, an account that was confirmed by a retired American counterterrorism official.In an interview on Friday at a Nigerien base outside the city of Agadez, where the United States is building a new drone base, Col. Maj. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the head of the Nigerien Special Forces, said the man suspected of being Mr. Cheffou was seized during an army patrol two weeks ago in the Tillaberi region near the Mali border. The New York Times

Cameroon Will Not Dialogue with Separatists – Minister Atanga Nji Reiterates
The Cameroon government will not dialogue with separatists elements in the country’s Anglophone region, Interior Minister Paul Atanga Nji has stressed. Speaking late last week on state-owned Cameroon Radio Television, he reiterated a position he had advanced in late March that Yaounde will deal with persons advancing the continued unity of the nation. He told host of the political talk show, Actualite Hebdo, that president Paul Biya had placed security as a top priority because without it, Cameroon will not be an ideal investment environment. According to him a thirty day grace period will be opened for separatist elements to lay down their arms, failure to do so, “it is the law that will take its course,” he said. Africa News

Burundi Govt Cracks down on Opponents ahead of Referendum – HRW
The Burundian government and members of the ruling party have been engaged in a violent crackdown on opponents ahead of a controversial referendum planned for May this year, an international rights group has said. According to a recently released report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Bujumbura has over the last few months engaged in killing, beating and intimidating perceived opponents as time nears for a referendum. The May 18 vote has been set to allow Burundians vote on whether or not to allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his tenure in office. The president who is already serving a controversial third-term would rule till 2034 if the vote succeeds. Africa News

Togo: Protests Break out despite Ban
After a break of more than a month, opponents of the regime in Togo called once more for demonstrations over the weekend. Mediation attempts appear on the verge of failure. Adrian Kriesch reports from Lomé. The young man with a towel around his waist in Lomé, Togo, has little idea what’s going on. Just a moment ago he was in the shower — now he feels he is in an action movie. A truck races around the corner, police officers in combat gear climb over a wall and two men are dragged out of the neighboring building. “We don’t know if they were thieves who stole something,” says the young man, “or if they were just demonstrators.” Deutsche Welle

Doctors’ Strike across Mauritania Brings Hospitals to Near Standstill
Doctors across Mauritania on Monday launched a two-day nationwide strike with several demands including the improvement of hospital services and salary increase. So far, concerned authorities have made no comment. The strike comes amid doctors’ failure to make their demands heard despite promises they have received from Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who pledged a month and a half ago to put in place a committee made up of his adviser and the health minister to study all of their requests and asses them. Dr. Mohamed Salem Ould Deweib asserted that the promises made by the president during his meeting with the doctors 45 days ago have not been executed to this day, which might lead them to extend their initial two-day strike to an open one if the current health situation in the country does not take a turn for the best. Al Arabiya

Botswana’s Electoral Disconnect ― and How It Keeps the Ruling Party in Power
On Saturday 31 March, Botswana’s Ian Khama stepped down as the country’s president and a day later Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in. In a region which has seen two of the continent’s longest running presidencies – Robert Mugabe (37 years) and José Eduardo dos Santos (38 years) – Khama’s decision to respect the country’s term limits and bow out after 10 years was widely applauded. Botswana’s ruling party faces an election in just 18 months, so why would the president step down before the election? Incumbents win elections in Africa. When a sitting president faces an opposition challenger, the opposition wins just 12% of the time. But when an opposition challenger competes in an open seat election (after the president has stepped down), the opposition’s success rate increases nearly fourfold to 45%. Mail and Guardian

Rise in Kidnappings Shakes Faith in Uganda’s Police
In a small Ugandan town in February, Juma Nsereko took a panicked call from his wife: their five-year-old twin girls were missing and the mother suspected their neighbour, a jobless man, had kidnapped them. After a frantic three-day search the children were recovered unharmed and the neighbour, who had demanded a ransom of 13 million Ugandan shillings ($3,500), was arrested. Until recently, such kidnappings were rare in the nation of 41 million people. Although still low compared with some other African countries like oil-rich Nigeria, numbers have risen markedly in the last three years. They jumped again in the first two months of this year, according to unpublished police data seen by Reuters, further eroding people’s faith in a police force that opponents of President Yoweri Museveni have accused of serving him and not the state. Reuters

AU Team in Juba for Peace Consultations
The African Union Peace and Security Council delegation Monday met the South Sudan cabinet in Juba ahead of the next round of peace talks in Addis Ababa on April 26. South Sudan Information minister Michael Makuei confirmed the meeting between the cabinet and the 25-member AU delegation. Mr Makuei said members of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) council of ministers were also expected in Juba on Tuesday.  The East African

Libya Investigating Ways to Recover Loans to Africa
Libya’s Presidency Council’s Ministry of Finance and the Libyan Foreign Bank (LFB) are considering various ways the North African country can recover ‘‘faltering’’ loans to African countries. At a meeting last week between the Minister of Finance-designate of the Government of National Accord, Osama Hamad, and the LFB Director General, they discussed and reviewed the financial and legal status of a number of loans granted by the Libyan state to a number of African states, the Libya Herald reported. Legal, diplomatic and other means open to Libya to recover these loans and to protect its rights and interests were also discussed. ANA

Africa Needs a Revolution in Education
While education worldwide, especially for girls, has improved, the gap between Africa and the rest of the world is wide and the continent doesn’t appear to be catching up. In fact, it is falling further behind. From 1960 to 2015, the gap between the average number of years of education obtained by African adults aged 25 and above and that of the rest of the world increased from two to three years. Today African adults have, on average, five years of education while the rest of the world has around eight. Globally the disparities are large. Adults in North America and Europe have 13 and 11 years respectively, while those in South Asia have seven years. Education levels are improving everywhere, but more slowly in Africa than anywhere else. Daily Maverick

Morocco World Cup Bid Masks Homosexuality Ban
A FIFA task force arrived in Morocco on Monday to inspect a World Cup bid that obscures one potential impediment to hosting the 2026 soccer showpiece: Homosexuality is a criminal offense in the north African country. An Associated Press review of 483 pages of documents submitted to FIFA found Morocco failed to declare its anti-LGBT law as a risk factor and provide a remedy, appearing to flout stringent new bidding requirements. “Morocco’s human rights report presented to the FIFA is an intentional silence on an issue that Morocco knows too well is a crime on its soil,” Ahmed El Haij, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told the AP. “It is evident that if Morocco was to host the World Cup, LGBT people coming to watch the games will face a lot of discrimination. The state will not be able to protect them nor will it be able to commit in preventing measures that could be taken against them by both the state and society.”  AP



Photo: Adam Jones