Africa Media Review for April 3, 2019

Algerian Leader Bouteflika Resigns under Pressure from Army
The president of Algeria resigned Tuesday night under pressure from the army following weeks of mass protests, closing out the reign of North Africa’s longest-serving leader but not ending a political impasse in a country where the street is demanding revolutionary change. The state news agency said that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is ailing and paralyzed and has not spoken to his countrymen in seven years, had submitted his resignation. His departure followed quickly after a statement from the chief of staff of Algeria’s army, the traditional arbiter of political life in the country, calling for an “immediate” declaration from the constitutional council that Mr. Bouteflika was unfit for office. The New York Times

Algerian Political, Military Leaders Haggle over Bouteflika’s Succession
The political situation in Algeria gets murky as Algeria’s state news agency reports President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told a constitutional body Tuesday he is resigning. Feuding political and military factions appear to be waging a behind-the-scenes tug-of-war to determine the future of the government. Students continued to protest in the capital city, Algiers, against President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika and his government, despite the announcement that he would leave office before his term officially ends April 28. One young man in a track suit told Arab media the apparent decision by the president is not the best way to deal with ongoing protests. He says this is not a satisfactory response to the demands of the people and it is, in fact, an end run to circumvent their demands. VOA

Over 2,000 Civilians Killed in Mali, Niger, Burkina in 5 Months: Researchers
Africa’s Sahel region, which has an influx of military forces including the United Nations, European Union and French troops, has seen a huge surge in civilian deaths in the past five months because of attacks by Islamist militants and ethnic militias, researchers said last week. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which is financed in part by the U.S. State Department, said it had documented 2,151 reported killings in 724 direct attacks targeting civilians between Nov. 1, 2018 and March 23, 2019. The Sahel – the arid region between the Sahara desert to the north and Africa’s savannas and forests to the south – has become increasingly prone to attacks by well-armed jihadists and reprisals by ethnic militia.  Reuters

French Anti-jihadist Force Opens New Base in Mali
The French Barkhane force is building a new base in Gossi, a crossroad in central Mali and former UN mission base. It is a strategic base that will allow French soldiers to gain a foothold in the arid Gourma area. ‘’ Gossi being the economic hub of the region, terrorist armed groups, like everyone else need to get supplies, and so they try to take advantage of everything Gossi has to offer to get supplies, so it is our priority here to stop them ‘’, said Barkhane force soldier, Lieutenant Gauthier.  AFP

French Military Doctor Killed in Mali
A French military doctor was killed in Mali when his armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during an operation against “armed terrorist groups”, the French presidency and army said Tuesday. France’s army for the past year and a half has carried out military operations against jihadists in northeast Mali and into the border area of neighbouring Burkina Faso. Captain Marc Laycuras, who belonged to a medical unit from Mans in western France, died in the Gourma region near the Burkina frontier, army spokesman Patrik Steiger told AFP. He said Laycuras and another wounded soldier “were immediately taken by helicopter” to hospital near Gossi, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Gao where the French Barkhane force is based. AFP

Local Rivalry Sparks Deadly Attack on Burkinabe Village
Eight people have died in eastern Burkina Faso in what a minister described as a struggle between traditional chiefs, a statement said on Tuesday. A group of gunmen from villages along the border with Burkina and Ghana attacked the home of the traditional chief of Zoaga,” said a statement by Simeon Sawadogo, minister for territorial administration. The attack occurred early on Monday in Zoaga, an area which lies on Burkina’s border with Ghana, about 250 kilometres (140 miles) southeast of the capital, Ouagadougou. France 24

Libya’s Haftar Anticipates ‘Unity’ Gov’t within Month
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar has reportedly hinted that a “unity government” could be drawn up “within weeks or a month”. According to a source close to the military commander, Haftar made the assertion on Saturday while addressing young people in the eastern city of Benghazi. Haftar, the source added, had attributed the phenomenon to “the failure of Libyan leaders to provide the country’s young people with adequate employment opportunities”. Officials from Libya’s Tripoli-based government have yet to comment on Haftar’s reported remarks.  Anadolu Agency

Phoenix Express 2019 Opens in Casablanca
Maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States began the 15th iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express 2019, with an opening ceremony held at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center on 29 March. Phoenix Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.  DefenseWeb

AFRICOM, EUCOM Nominees Eye Russia, China as Major Concerns
The nominee to serve as the next head of U.S. European Command said Tuesday he wants more troops on the continent as well as two additional Navy destroyers in the theater and an upgraded logistics network to speed forces east in the event of a conflict with Russia. Another top priority will be to continue improving infrastructure in Eastern Europe, such as rail lines, to “ensure we can close on the enemy at a faster pace,” Gen. Tod Wolters said during Senate testimony. If confirmed by the Senate, Wolters, who leads the Air Force in Europe and Africa, would replace retiring Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti in the dual role of EUCOM boss and NATO supreme allied commander in Europe. Wolters testified alongside Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who is nominated to serve as the next U.S. Africa Command chief. Both generals, whose prospective headquarters will be in Stuttgart, Germany, highlighted Russia as a top concern, along with China. While China has been active in Africa for years, Russia also is expanding efforts with military advisers operating in places like the Central African Republic. Stars and Stripes

South Africa’s Army in Budget Quagmire
Cyclone Idai, which left behind a trail of devastation across Southern Africa, could be a blessing in disguise for South Africa’s army, the region’s most dependable peace-keeper, which could be facing a crisis due to budget problems. The issue is the topic of a lead article in Tuesday’s Mail and Guardian, after it took South Africa’s Air Force up to a week to pull together the resources it needed to launch a rescue operation in nearby Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, where Cyclone Idai killed 700 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. […] Sipho Kings, a senior correspondent with the Johannesburg-based Mail and Guardian and author of an incisive piece about the critical state of decline of the South African defence forces, says that despite its commendable action in dealing with one of the worst natural disasters to hit southern Africa, the SANDF had never found itself in such a financial squeeze. RFI

South Africa’s Politicians Feed Anti-Foreigner Violence
Political figures in South Africa have condemned the latest attacks on foreigners in Durban. At the same time, their anti-migrant rhetoric ahead of elections on May 8 is fueling the country’s simmering xenophobia. […]  On May 8, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is facing what is probably the party’s most competitive national elections since the end of apartheid in 1994. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, already said in September 2018 that immigration would be one of its key campaign issues, arguing that borders needed to be more tightly controlled. Recently, the ANC has also seized on the issue. Speaking at an ANC rally earlier in March, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised a crackdown on undocumented migrants. “Everyone just arrives in our townships and rural areas and sets up businesses without licenses and permits. We are going to bring this to an end. And those who are operating illegally, wherever they come from, must now know,” Ramaphosa said before a cheering crowd. Deutsche Welle

ANC’s Election Candidates List: Ground Zero in the Fight for the Future of SA’s Ruling Party
The NEC’s referral of the ANC’s election candidates list to the party’s Integrity Commission is simply kicking for touch and aimed at delaying this faithful fight for the future of the ruling party to after the election. There now appears to be clear evidence that the process of deciding who will represent the ANC in Parliament and elsewhere has caused serious divisions in the party. In short, this must be the biggest fight and biggest test of strength between the factions since the culmination of Nasrec in December 2017. It is a battle that is happening both under the radar and in plain sight. The reason for this is that the spoils are not only massive but also life-affirming.  Daily Maverick

One of Africa’s Most Fertile Lands Is Struggling to Feed Its Own People
When the Jordanian army went shopping for land in northern Sudan in late 1999, its scouts came across what appeared to be a food-growing paradise. The terrain was vast, flat, and fat with nutrients. The water it could draw from the nearby Nile was almost embarrassingly bountiful. And local officials were bending over backward to offer favorable financial terms. It all seemed like a can’t-miss opportunity to supplement Jordan’s national food supply while turning a tidy profit. The military pension fund snapped up 9,000 acres of backcountry scrub three hours’ drive north of Khartoum, and the farmhands got to work. Soon afterward, as news of potential riches spread, the surrounding land began filling up. A Pakistani company leased a large plot to the south. Syrians began farming to the north. Emiratis, Lebanese, Yemenis, and others acquired 100,000-plus acres apiece. The mad dash has only accelerated in recent years, as Sudanese authorities, desperate for revenue, have resurrected the country’s long-standing dream of becoming an agricultural superpower. Bloomberg

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Appoints 7 New Ministers
The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Monday issued presidential decrees in consultation with the Prime Minister Mohamed Taher Aila appointing 7 ministers. According to the decrees, Rawda al-Haj has been named Minister of Culture, Siddig Amir has been appointed as Minister at the Federal Government Chamber and Abu Huraira Hassan has been named as Minister of Youth and Sports. Also, Muawia Osman Khalid has been appointed as State Foreign Minister, al-Sadig Mohamed Ali has been named State Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ali Omer al-Shareef Al-Hindi has been appointed as State Justice Minister and Ahmed Ali Musa has been named State Minister at the Industry and Commerce Ministry. Sudan Tribune

Senegal’s Macky Sall Starts Second Term with Call for Dialogue
Macky Sall has embarked on his second term as Senegal’s president pledging “constructive” dialogue with the opposition and reforms to spur development. Clad in a navy blue suit, Sall on Tuesday swore “before God and before the nation” to serve the people as several visiting African leaders looked on. The 57-year-old leader chose the new city of Diamniadio, some 32km from the capital, Dakar, and a product of his Emerging Senegal Plan (PSE) launched in 2014, to make his address. He urged optimism, saying “it seems new economic perspectives are opening up for our country”, a reference to Senegal’s plans to enter the hydrocarbons sector in 2021-22 via two ambitious oil and gas developments.  Al Jazeera

U.S. Calls on Burundi to Rescind Decisions against BBC and VOA
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday called on Burundi to rescind its decision to suspend the U.S-funded Voice of America and ban the BBC and to allow journalists to operate freely in the run-up to elections in 2020. “This decision raises serious concerns for the freedom of expression enshrined in Article 31 of Burundi’s constitution, as well as for Burundi’s human rights obligations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters. “We call on the government to rescind its decision and we urge the government of Burundi to allow all journalists to operate in an environment free from intimidation,” he added.  Reuters

African Free Trade Zone Gets Final Needed Approval
With Gambia’s ratification, a massive new African free trade zone is springing into being, said a top African Union official on Tuesday. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) “market is being born and is one step ready for launch of its operational phase in July this year,” Albert Muchanga, African Union commissioner for trade and industry, wrote on Twitter. “The AfCFTA’s work on rules of origin; tariff concessions, payments and settlements; non-tariff barriers; and trade information are the other steps and are also progressing very well for the launch,” he added. The deal will make Africa the world’s largest free trade area created in terms of the number of participating countries since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995. Anadolu Agency

Western Sahara: “No One Even Knows If We’re There or Not.”
Several days of UN-convened informal talks on the Western Sahara late last month appear to have yielded little towards bringing the decades-long conflict to a close. For many young Sahrawi refugees, a lifetime of failed diplomacy has left them hopeless at what they say is a frozen peace process, a glaring lack of opportunity, and a world that seems to have forgotten they exist. […] More than 170,000 Sahrawis now live in the Tindouf camps, the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates — most in mud-brick homes spread across five districts, each bearing the name of a town in Western Sahara. Many people in this expanse of craggy desert are separated from their families in the Moroccan-controlled region and depend on aid for their basic needs. The New Humanitarian

Seeking Justice after Genocide: Long Hunt for Rwanda’s Killers
The houses along the quiet tree-lined street look just like the normal homes found all across the Rwandan capital. But behind the walls of the three adjoining villas in Kigali are the headquarters of a global operation involving investigators and prosecutors who are working to track down the very worst killers of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Inside, French investigators have come to talk to witnesses and to gather evidence. A Norwegian team is also on site. All are supported by Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit (GFTU), a special team created in 2007 to prosecute the architects behind the slaughter of some 800,000 mostly Tutsi victims.  AFP

No Fishing, No Exporting in April: Sierra Leone Authorities Enforce Ban
Authorities in Sierra Leone on Monday started implementing a one-month ban on fishing in the country’s territorial waters, in addition to halting of exports by major fishing companies, in a bid to shore up stocks. The government also decreed an April 1-30 halt to exports by major fishing companies “to protect our fish stock from depletion”, said a statement from the fisheries ministry. “All industrial fishing companies should stock their fish in cold rooms … during the period of closure,” Minister of Fisheries Emma Kowa Jalloh told AFP. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones