Africa Media Review for April 25, 2018

Gambia’s Road to Democratic Reform
Since the inauguration of Adama Barrow after 22 years of authoritarian rule, Gambia’s democratic reforms have benefited from political will, national ownership, and international backing. However, the country’s dark legacy continues to pose risks to the process. […] Gambia’s ongoing reforms have benefited from strong political will, national ownership, and enthusiastic regional and international backing. However, Gambia is still deeply divided, as shown by the lukewarm reception of government officials in strongholds of the previous regime. Genuine political dialogue and reconciliation will be required to ease these sentiments. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Gambia to Court-Martial Returnee Jammeh Generals for Deserting Army – Barrow
President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow has confirmed that two generals under the Jammeh regime who sneaked back will be put before court-martial for professional breaches. According to Barrow, he remains concerned about the Gambia’s security situation but stressed that it was a learning curve for the country after over two decades of misrule and dictatorship by exiled former leader Yahya Jammeh. Barrow told the BBC in an interview that the Jammeh generals who reportedly fell out with their former boss and returned home were going to be put before an open court and tried for deserting the army. Africa News

Israel Scraps Plan to Forcibly Deport African Migrants
Israel has scrapped a plan to forcibly deport tens of thousands of illegal African migrants. In a written response to the country’s Supreme Court, the government said forced removal of the migrants “is no longer on the agenda”. However, Israel’s immigration authorities are still seeking ways to deport migrants voluntarily, it said. The fate of Israel’s roughly 30,000 illegal African migrants has become a hugely contentious issue. BBC

Jihadists Gain Strength Even as Troops Arrive in West Africa
As a convoy of United Nations police on a night patrol stopped to chat with residents on the sand-blown streets of the central Malian city of Sevare, Sada Cissoko could no longer hold back his emotions. “There are soldiers from all around the world in Mali, but despite the drones and the resources spent, things are only getting worse,” Cissoko, a 48-year-old counselor at a local school, said visibly agitated. “It just doesn’t make sense.” Once a stable democracy, Mali is now on the front-line of an intensifying push by al-Qaeda- and Islamic State-affiliated militants and the simultaneous deployment of thousands of Western and United Nations troops in the Sahel region. It’s playing out in a wide arid area in West Africa south of the Sahara desert that’s a key gateway for the trafficking of migrants and drugs to Europe. Bloomberg

Congo Presidential Hopeful Rejects Any Deal with Kabila
Congolese opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi rejected suggestions that he might make a deal with President Joseph Kabila, at a rally which passed off peacefully Tuesday. Tshisekedi is one of two main figures expected to seek to run in a delayed election scheduled for December. Exiled businessman Moise Katumbi is the other. Tshisekedi dismissed speculation he might accept the post of prime minister, something Kabila has offered in the past to appease opponents. “There is nothing like any dialogue for a prime ministerial post,” Tshisekedi told the cheering crowd. “The [party] elected me to be presidential candidate, so how can I be lowered to prime minister? Rather, let me be led to the final victory in the presidential election.”  VOA

DRC Main Opposition Set to Hold Key Rally
Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition was on Tuesday set to hold an authorised mass rally for the first time in nearly two years to mark the 28th anniversary of multi-party politics in the country, as tensions grow over veteran President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to quit despite the expiry of his mandate. The government, in a major climb down, has allowed the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party to hold the public event in Kinshasa. The last time it did so was in September 2016. Elections for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s head of state are due to take place on the 23rd of December after two postponements that have stoked fears the sprawling, volatile state could spiral into war. AFP

SADC Leaders ‘Heartened’ by DRC’s Progress towards Elections
Regional leaders are so satisfied with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s progress towards scheduled elections on 23 December 2018 that they have cancelled plans to send a special envoy to the country. They also seemed to have failed once again to tell DRC President Joseph Kabila to announce his resignation. The leaders also decided at a special summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and its security organ in Luanda on Tuesday to send a special envoy to Madagascar where fatal violence erupted at the weekend over new laws to govern elections scheduled for November. DRC expert Stephanie Wolters said it seemed SADC was backpedalling and buying into DRC President Joseph Kabila’s propaganda instead of putting pressure on him to leave office. Despite his constitutionally limited two terms in office having expired at the end of 2016, Kabila has still not announced whether he will run again in December 2018. Daily Maverick

French CEO Bolloré Questioned over West Africa Corruption Allegations
French tycoon Vincent Bolloré was detained for questioning on Tuesday over suspicions of corruption in winning contracts to run ports in the west African countries of Togo and Guinea. The Bolloré group’s share value fell five percent in the morning after the news broke, despite a categorical denial of any wrongdoing. The billionaire was taken in for questioning by police in Nanterre, just outside Paris, on Tuesday in connection with an inquiry that began in 2016 with a raid on the conglomerate’s headquarters in nearby Puteaux. Also detained were former Bolloré executive Gilles Alix and Jean-Philippe Dorent, head of international relations at Bolloré’s advertising and PR company, Havas. RFI

Eighteen Killed in Nigerian Church by Suspected Herdsmen
Two priests were among at least 18 people killed in a dawn attack on a church in central Nigeria, police said on Tuesday. Around 30 suspected herdsmen attacked Mbalom community in the volatile region killing the worshippers and the two priests, said Benue state police commissioner Fatai Owoseni in the state capital of Makurdi. “They attacked the venue of a burial ceremony and also attacked the church where the two reverend fathers were holding mass,” said Owoseni. “We were able to recover 16 bodies from the scene of the attack and those of the two priests.” AFP

Madagascar Protesters Seek President’s Resignation
Hundreds of opposition activists in Madagascar on Tuesday called for the president to step down on a fourth straight day of anti-government protests in which at least two people have died. Seven months ahead of presidential and legislative elections, the opposition accuses the regime of trying to elbow them out of the race through new electoral laws they claim benefit the incumbent. They allege that the new laws could bar some candidates from standing in the presidential election. Crowds gathered at a square in front of the capital Antananarivo’s town hall asking President Hery Rajaonarimampianina to quit. AFP

Tanzania Sets 2-Week Deadline for Bloggers amid Internet Crackdown
Tanzania’s communications regulator has issued a two-week deadline for bloggers to register their platforms under strict new online content rules, amid concerns that the government is cracking down on internet users. The regulations passed in March make it mandatory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as Youtube TV channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a licence. Digital activists said the move was the latest salvo in a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015 and has pledged to speed up economic growth and development. Reuters

South Sudan Leader Rejects Calls to Resign as Part of Peace Deal
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir rejected calls from some opposition groups to resign as part of a deal to end the four-year civil war in the oil-producing African nation. “They want me to sign the agreement and then step down immediately,” Kiir said Tuesday in the capital, Juba, at a gathering to mourn army chief James Ajongo, who died last week after a short illness. “What is my incentive in bringing peace if it is peace that I will bring and then I step aside? Nobody can do it.” Eight of nine opposition and rebel groups that have been in stop-start talks with South Sudan’s government on April 14 issued a statement urging him to resign. “The people who are fighting with us have very unreasonable conditions to make peace,” Kiir said. Bloomberg

Suspected Pirates Board Dutch Cargo Ship off Nigeria, Seize Crew
Suspected pirates have seized 12 crew members of a Dutch-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, the vessel’s managing company confirmed Monday. The 480-foot MV FWN Rapide was attacked on Saturday morning as it was approaching Port Harcourt, Nigeria, according to gCaptain, an industry website. According to the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking, it was bound from Takoradi, Ghana, to Bonny Island, Nigeria, at the time of the attack, gCaptain says. The ship’s manager, ForestWave, issued a statement Monday saying its “main priority is to establish contact with the missing seafarers and secure their earliest and secure return.” NPR

Egypt’s Former Anti-Graft Chief Jailed for 5 Years for Spreading False News
A military court has sentenced Egypt’s former anti-corruption chief to five years in prison on charges of spreading false news harmful to the military, his lawyer said on Tuesday. Hisham Genena ran alongside former military chief-of-staff Sami Anan as a member of his short-lived presidential campaign before the latter was detained in January and accused by the army of running for office without permission, bringing his bid to an end. Genena was arrested and put under investigation by the military prosecutor in February over comments he allegedly made in an interview with the HuffPost Arabi news website. In the interview, Genena said Anan possessed documents that were damning of senior Egyptian officials. He gave no details. Reuters

‘Deals with the Devil Always Unravel’: The UK Blind Spot for Sudan’s Abuses
[…] Farid was one of hundreds imprisoned in Sudan in January following peaceful protests against government austerity measures. While some were released after a few weeks, dozens were detained for nearly three months without charge, including British citizen Sidqi Kaballo. Many were kept in a bitterly cold security centre in Khartoum notorious for interrogations and torture, dubbed “the Hotel” by officials. “We’re going in circles,” says Farid, 36, who co-founded two of the main activist groups, Sudan Change Now and Girifna. “In fact, we’re going backwards. The regime knows the international community will turn a blind eye to these violations because they now rely on its valuable services in the region, such as tackling migration. It has complete impunity.” Politicians, activists, diplomats and NGOs have all voiced concerns about moves by both the UK and EU to normalise relations with Sudan in order to stem migration flows. Sudan is a key transit country for African migrants, and in 2016 was the fifth biggest source of refugees globally. The Guardian

US Postpones UN Vote on Western Sahara
The United States postponed a vote scheduled on Wednesday at the UN Security Council on preparing talks on Western Sahara to allow for more time for negotiations, diplomats said. A draft resolution presented by the United States last week would press Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front to set their sights on a return to the negotiating table to seek a settlement to the decades-old conflict. Diplomats said Russia and Ethiopia had proposed amendments to the text after complaining that it lacked balance, indicating that Morocco’s stance was given more prominence. The US mission told council members on Tuesday that it “needs a bit more time to consider” the proposed changes and planned to circulate a new draft resolution, according to an email message seen by AFP. AFP

Rise of Drones: African Journalists Counter Lies with Tech
Drones and satellites are helping African journalists to expose lies and shed light on underreported issues in regions that are largely inaccessible. But restrictive regulations threaten their reporting. For Nairobi-based journalist Soila Kenya, technology is a tool to unearth the truth. She recounts an attack by terrorist group al-Shabab last year, when militants struck an army base in Kulbiyow, Somalia. Kenya’s defense forces downplayed the damage and claimed they had repelled the attackers. But satellite stills and drone footage told a different tale. Analysts from African Defense Review and research group Bellingcat found militants had in fact overrun the base — and inflicted heavy casualties in the process. Deutsche Welle