Africa Media Review for April 20, 2018

Swaziland King Renames Country Kingdom of eSwatini
The king of Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has announced that his country has changed its name to the Kingdom of eSwatini to mark 50 years since independence from British rule. Meaning “place of the Swazi”, eSwatini is the Swazi language name for the tiny state landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique. Unlike some countries, Swaziland did not change its name when it gained independence in 1968 after being a British protectorate for more than 60 years. King Mswati III declared the name change during independence day celebrations at a packed sports stadium in the second city of Manzini. “I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name,” he said, wearing red military uniform. The Guardian

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Fires Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour
Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir relieved his foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour said the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) on Thursday evening. In a very short wire, SUNA reported that al-Bashir issued a presidential decree removing Ghandour from his position. Also, the decision was announced in less than three hours after the return of the president from Saudi Arabia where he participated in the 29th Arab League summit. Observers in Khartoum believe that the decision comes after Ghandour statements on Wednesday before the lawmakers where he said certain circles have delayed the salaries of Sudanese diplomats since seven months. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Says Military Chief Has Died during Egypt Visit
South Sudan says its military chief has died during a visit to Egypt and after a “short illness.” Gen. James Ajongo had taken over the role a year ago after Paul Malong was fired and put under house arrest. The death comes ahead of a new round of peace talks expected in May as a regional bloc seeks an end to the country’s five-year civil war. Conflict analysts say the death will put pressure on South Sudan President Salva Kiir to make critical decisions regarding his fragile ruling coalition. Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst for Small Arms Survey, says Kiir has pushed out former allies in recent months as he “concentrates power in fewer and fewer hands.”  AP

Ethiopian Premier Puts Ally in Defense to Address Insecurity
Ethiopia’s new prime minister named a political ally as defense minister as he seeks to address two years of insecurity that prompted his predecessor’s resignation two months ago. Motuma Mekessa’s switch to the defense portfolio from the petroleum ministry was among 16 changes Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made to his cabinet on Thursday. The reshuffle signifies the government’s desire to “solve people’s complaints” and combat corruption, Abiy said in a speech broadcast on state television in the capital, Addis Ababa. Like Abiy, Motuma is a member of the ethnic Oromo community and the executive committee of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, one of four regional parties that make up the ruling coalition. As defense minister, he’ll head up a so-called command post administering a state of emergency introduced when former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down in February. Bloomberg

Egypt FM Warn Ethiopia over Nile River Dam
Egypt’s foreign minister has delivered a warning to Ethiopia over a dam it is building on a Nile River tributary. Sameh Shoukry says in TV comments aired Thursday that all parties “should know that Egypt will not accept the status quo … and continues to defend the interests of its people regarding the Nile by several means.” He did not elaborate. Earlier in April, the foreign ministers of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia met in Khartoum but talks ended with no deal on the lingering dispute of access to the Nile’s waters. Egypt has called for another meeting in Cairo. AP

Why Haftar’s Absence Could Tip Libya into Further Chaos
Conflicting reports over Khalifa Haftar’s health have sparked a flurry of rumours over his role as the head of the Libyan National Army, and thus also Libya’s future. Experts say his potential departure could spark major disarray. On Friday, a spokesman for Haftar finally confirmed reports that the Libyan strongman was receiving treatment in a Paris hospital after falling ill during a trip. Prior to that, Haftar had been conspicuous by his absence, having made no public appearances since the beginning of April. France 24

Libya’s Most Powerful Military Leader Might Be Dead and That Could Impact Oil Markets
Libya’s most powerful military leader reportedly suffered a stroke this week — and no one can confirm whether he is dead or alive. Local media has reported General Khalifa Haftar’s death, while sources close to him insist he is recovering. If the former is true, it could mean a renewal of violence and a power struggle that could hit the OPEC country’s oil output and create new opportunities for extremist groups like the Islamic State militant group. Often described as the oil-rich state’s “most powerful warlord,” Khaftar, who heads the powerful but internally fractured Libyan National Army (LNA), has been a stabilizing force in a country wracked by civil war since longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Many fear that his absence could usher in the kind of power vacuum and chaos that followed Gaddafi’s death. CNBC

Congo Park Rangers Are Being Killed Trying to Stop an Illegal Charcoal Trade
Virunga National Park is home to one of the two remaining populations of critically endangered mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it’s also become more dangerous recently as armed groups plumb its resources. On April 9, violent militias operating in the illegal charcoal trade killed five young Virunga park rangers, all in their 20s, trying to protect the gorillas. Charcoal operations are a lucrative source of income for paramilitary groups, because most of the Congo relies on wood-fuels for cooking. But producing charcoal often means destroying the very ecosystems that species like the mountain gorilla call home. In the past 20 years, 175 Virunga Park rangers have been killed in the line of duty. But this last attack was the deadliest yet. VICE News met with some of the Virunga Park rangers several months ago. Vice News

Refugees Are Boko Haram’s Latest Soft Target
Boko Haram has since 2009 proven a highly adaptable foe, routinely changing tactics to suit shifting circumstances. The terror group increasingly focuses on soft targets, including refugees and internally displaced people. In 2017, the Global Terrorism Index labelled Boko Haram the world’s third deadliest terrorist group. Although exact numbers are unknown, conservative estimates indicate that since 2009 its reign of terror has killed more than 20 000 people and displaced more than two-million across Nigeria, while also spreading into Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram remains a substantial threat and has conducted a string of violent attacks so far in 2018, including the high-profile kidnapping and subsequent release of 110 school girls. Attacks by the extremist group were initially mostly aimed at security forces and it minimised civilian casualties. But its violence has escalated over time and the group’s definition of legitimate targets has expanded. Daily Maverick

UN Security Council Mourns Death of Ivory Coast Ambassador
The Security Council bid farewell Thursday to veteran diplomat Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue, the Ivory Coast’s ambassador to the United Nations who died just months after starting a two-year term on the U.N.’s most powerful body. Council members opened their meeting by standing in silent tribute to their 67-year-old colleague, who diplomats said became ill Tuesday and was taken to a hospital where he died Wednesday. Peruvian Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, the current council president, said the Security Council “with great shock and profound sadness acknowledges the sudden passing yesterday of our dear colleague and friend.” AP

Ramaphosa Leaves London Meeting to Address South Africa Protests
President Cyril Ramaphosa left a Commonwealth leaders meeting in London to return to South Africa Thursday following clashes between protesters and police in the Northwest Province, his spokesman said. “To pay attention to the situation in the North West, the president has decided to cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London,” Khusela Diko said in an emailed statement. Demonstrators opposed to North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo set fire to buses and looted shops in the provincial capital, Mmabatho, TimesLive reported on Thursday, citing police spokesperson Adele Myburgh. South Africa’s special police unit known as the Hawks said it raided Mahumaphelo’s offices last month in connection with alleged maladministration, fraud and corruption amounting to about 160 million rand ($13 million). Bloomberg

South Africa Rhino Poaching: ‘Web of Corruption’ Blamed
Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and conservationist Jane Goodall have joined a list of famous names who have signed an open letter to South Africa’s government calling for an end to rhino poaching. More than 1,000 rhinos were killed across the country in 2017 for the fifth year running. The international monitoring group Traffic says nearly 5,500 rhinos have been killed over a five-year period. Only 20,000 or so rhinos remain in South Africa – the vast majority of the 25,000 animals left across the whole continent, says Traffic. BBC

Senegal Clamps Down on Protests over Plan to Amend Electoral Law
Senegal’s plan to amend its electoral law ahead of presidential elections in 2019 has sparked a series of protests. Human rights campaigners say the government’s response is a cause for concern. Police in the capital Dakar on Thursday used teargas to disperse about 100 people protesting proposed amendments to the electoral code ahead of next year’s presidential election. Two members of the opposition were among several people reported to have been arrested at the demonstration. Some protesters pelted police with stones. Protesters also gathered in other parts of the country as parliament began debating the bill that raises to one percent of the electorate the number of signatures a presidential candidate needs in order to be eligible to take part in the poll. Deutsche Welle

Villages Burn as Cameroon Troops Clash with Separatists
In Cameroon, officials say eight villages in the English-speaking northwest have been torched and hundreds of residents have fled amid clashes this week between security forces and separatist rebels. Terence Fukah, a 33-year-old pig farmer, told VOA he fled his village of Ajin on Tuesday as the military responded to an attack by armed men. “It was around five o’clock in the morning. I saw dead people lying down. I had to cross on top of them and run for my dear life,” Fukah said. “I don’t even know where my children are. I don’t even know where my wife is. I don’t know how the pigs are doing, how many have died. I don’t know if my own house has been burned. I am crying, crying for the government to do something.”  VOA

South Africa Must Tame Zambia’s “Brutal Regime”, Opposition Leader Says
Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichelema accused President Edgar Lungu’s government on Thursday of political killings, rights abuses and rampant corruption, calling on South Africa to intervene to restore calm. Hichilema, who spent four months in jail last year on a treason charge, said regional allies needed to apply pressure on Lungu or risk Zambia descending into the economic disarray seen in neighbouring Zimbabwe under former President Robert Mugabe. Zambia, Africa’s second largest copper producer, has been criticised by rights groups for an increase in political arrests under Lungu and concerns about corruption following reports of billions of dollars in undisclosed borrowing. The East African

George Weah: Don’t Forget about Liberia
I grew up in the Gibraltar area of Clara Town, a slum in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Sport was my passport out of poverty. A combination of luck and hard work enabled me to make my improbable journey from the dusty football fields of Clara Town to glamorous stadiums in Europe. I played professional football for the biggest clubs in the world and was honored to be the first African named FIFA World Player of the Year.On Jan. 22, I returned to the Samuel Doe football stadium in Monrovia — a beloved venue where I had played numerous games — to take the oath of office as the president of Liberia. It was the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in almost 75 years. I stood in the stadium proud and aware of the great responsibility of leading Team Liberia.Growing up as a poor child, I intimately saw and experienced the hardships an ordinary Liberian faced. I know the difficulties and horrors our people suffered before and during the crippling conflicts that tore Liberia apart from 1989 to 2003. In the mid- and the late ’90s, I often returned home as a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund to help draw attention to my people’s plight and to work to disarm child soldiers. The New York Times

Morocco Acquires US-Made Weaponry, Unsettles Algiers-Backed Separatist Front
The chief of Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces, General Abdelfattah Louarak, is currently paying a working visit to the U.S. Mr. Louarak, who is leading an important military delegation, was received on Tuesday at the Pentagon by his American counterparts, for discussions centering strengthening the dynamic security collaboration between the two countries. The visit, coming just days after the start of the bilateral US-Morocco-sponsored African Lion exercise in the North African kingdom, showcases the strong strategic and inter-operational framework driving the U.S-Morocco military partnership. Amidst the vital national security-related topics discussed, there was a pointed emphasis on Morocco’s recent steps to reshuffle its military equipment. According to Assabah, for example, the Moroccan Army’s chief and his American counterparts at the Pentagon had intensive talks about Morocco’s desire to acquire the U.S-made F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft. Morocco World News



Photo: Adam Jones