Africa Media Review for April 4, 2019

Over 60 Killed in Burkina Faso Inter-Community Clashes
More than 60 civilians have been killed in tit-for-tat clashes between communities in northern Burkina Faso in recent days, the government said on Wednesday, the latest in a bout of inter-communal violence afflicting West Africa’s Sahel region. Burkina and neighbouring Mali have seen a spike in ethnic clashes fuelled by Islamist militants as they seek to extend their influence over the Sahel, an arid region between Africa’s northern Sahara desert and its southern savannas. Islamist attacks have risen in recent months, and the violence has reignited long-standing tensions between communities as certain groups are blamed for collaborating with the jihadists. Reuters

Islamic State Claims Killing of Canadian Geologist in Burkina Faso
Islamic State carried out the kidnapping and killing of a Canadian citizen in Burkina Faso in January, the group’s weekly newspaper Al-Naba said, claiming responsibility in its latest issue without providing evidence. Kirk Woodman’s body was found on Jan.16, two days after his abduction by a dozen gunmen at a mining site operated by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals in the northeast of the landlocked West African country. Burkina Faso officials said he had been shot, and his body was dumped in an area that the government says is under growing threat from Islamist militants. Prior to the claim made in the Islamic State newspaper there had been no word on who was responsible. Reuters

ICC Investigates Massacre in Central Mali (Video)
The International Criminal Court is investigating possible crimes against humanity in Mali. This follows attacks on villagers by armed militia in March. Hundreds were killed and dozens injured. Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque reports from Gao, in Northern Mali.  Al Jazeera

Algeria’s President Bouteflika Is Gone. What Happens Now?
For weeks, millions of protesters filling Algeria’s streets have demanded the end of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20-year rule, as well as the “System” of cronyism and corruption he oversaw. On Tuesday night, the wheelchair-bound, 82-year-old president was finally forced from power. The final push came from the army chief of staff, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, a former ally who belatedly came around to the protesters’ view that the president was physically unable to perform his role, and was being used by a tight circle of family members and businessmen to preserve their privileges. The country’s constitutional council ratified the resignation on Wednesday, formally ending the rule of a man who had locked down Algeria’s politics for a generation, but leaving the country on the threshold of new uncertainties. The New York Times

Their President Gone, Algerians Now Want Democracy. Will the Army Allow It?
[…] “The system must go,” many protesters have chanted in the massive demonstrations. Will the army brass, though, allow this? They, after all, are part of what’s collectively known as “le pouvoir” — the power. The last time Algerians tried to bring about a democratic transition, the army felt so threatened that it violently suppressed the uprising. In 1988, thousands of youths revolted across the country to protest rising prices and high unemployment. Security forces killed about 500 people and injured 1,000. The protests eventually led to the fall of the country’s ruling party, and to democratic elections in 1991. To this day, many Algerians call that revolt their Arab Spring moment. The Washington Post

Algeria’s Shake-up Raises Questions about Energy Industry
The man who ruled Algeria for 20 years has resigned under pressure from protesters unhappy about years of economic decline and accusations of corruption. As the future of the country under new leadership remains unclear, questions are swirling about what will happen to its oil and gas industry. Here’s a look at the industry and its outlook. It produced a bit over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2018. By contrast, the United States pumps over 11 million barrels daily, according to U.S. government figures. Almost 60% of Algeria’s oil goes to Europe, mainly France and Britain. The U.S. used to be a big importer from Algeria but has cut those purchases as it ramped up its own domestic production. Algeria also exports about 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, with over 80% of that going to Europe. Italy and Spain are the biggest destinations.  AP

Eastern Libya Forces Move West, Clash with Rivals South of Tripoli
Eastern Libyan military forces have moved to western Libya and are clashing with rival forces south of the capital Tripoli, a spokesman for the eastern force said on Wednesday, in an escalation between rival camps in the troubled oil producer. The advance took diplomats and analysts by surprise, exploiting their focus on neighbouring Algeria where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday after protests, to the relieve of Western countries valuing stability there. Libya — in trouble since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 — is divided between the internationally recognised government in Tripoli and a parallel administration allied to Khalifa Haftar. His forces control the east and recently expanded to southern Libya.  Euronews

Kenya-Somalia Tensions Thaw with Envoys Due Back in Stations
Foreign Ministers of both countries expressed “a strong desire to normalise relations,” with an agreement to allow their respective ambassadors return to their diplomatic postings in Nairobi and Mogadishu following a meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday. According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and her Somalia counterpart Ahmed Issa Awad discussed outstanding issues arising from Somalia’s decision to offer potential oil fields lying in a disputed 62,000 square mile Indian Ocean triangle to foreign investors at a London auction on February 7. Capital FM

S Sudan President, Opposition to Meet at Vatican ‘Retreat’
South Sudan’s president and opposition leader are expected to travel to the Vatican next week for what the Holy See says is a “spiritual retreat” and opposition officials say is an effort to help implement the country’s peace deal. Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti confirmed the visit Wednesday. He said a spiritual retreat was scheduled next week at the Vatican for “the leaders of South Sudan.” He didn’t identify them or cite any political initiative. The meeting comes a month after President Salva Kiir met with Pope Francis to discuss the peace process. A deputy spokesman to opposition leader Riek Machar said Machar and two leaders from the South Sudan Opposition Alliance would attend the meeting with Kiir, and said an audience with the pope is also planned. AP

Magufuli’s Govt Risks Undermining Peace in Tanzania: Rights Groups
Civil society groups have warned that a deterioration in basic rights in Tanzania could undermine peace in the country, explaining that they wanted to raise a red flag over the direction president John Magufuli’s government is taking. The coalition, the Civil Society Organisations Directors Forum, made up of 65 influential rights groups from across the East African nation, called on the government and security forces to protect fundamental human rights. “Democratic rights, freedom of assembly and association is getting worse,” the group said in a joint statement, released late Monday. AFP

Germany Extends African Missions Another Year
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet has approved extending Germany’s military missions in Africa for another year. The dpa news agency reported Wednesday that that includes German troops taking part in a European Union training mission in Mali known as EUTM, and the United Nations “Minusma” peacekeeping force there. Dpa reports the Cabinet also plans to extend Germany’s commitment to the EU’s anti-piracy mission Atalanta that operates off the Horn of Africa, but to reduce its maximum troop numbers from 600 to 400. There are currently 80 troops taking part. Germany currently has some 180 troops involved in the EUTM mission, with a maximum of 350. A further 900 are in Mali and Niger as part of the Minusma force, with a maximum of 1,100.  AP

Italy Rebuffs Ship with 64 Migrants Rescued in Sea off Libya
Italy’s interior minister said Wednesday that he won’t offer safe harbor to 64 migrants rescued off Libya by the German humanitarian group Sea Eye. The people brought to safety from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Zuwarah, west of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, included 10 women, five children and a newborn baby, the group said. Sea Eye said on Twitter that its rescue ship, the Alan Kurdi, picked them up after Libyan authorities couldn’t be reached. Sea Eye is asking Italy or Malta to open a port to the ship. Italy’s anti-migration interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said the Alan Kurdi, like other private rescue ships before it, won’t be welcome in Italy. AP

Eritrea Accuses Sudan, Turkey and Qatar of Supporting Opposition Islamist Groups
Eritrean government Wednesday has accused Qatar, Sudan and Turkey of supporting opposition radical Islamist groups to hamper bilateral relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa. Relations between Khartoum are strained for several years because of Khartoum support to Addis Ababa before the reconciliation between the two countries in July 2018. However, this stunning rapprochement was not followed by a normalization between Eritrea and Sudan as President Isaias Afewerki shunned all attempts made by Addis Ababa saying he wanted to Khartoum to explain why it had accused him of supporting opposition attacks and closed the border in January 2018.  Sudan Tribune

Egypt’s Soap Opera Clampdown Extends el-Sisi’s Iron Grip to TV
In his desire to wield sweeping power, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt has suppressed politics, cowed the media and jailed legions of opponents. Now he is extending his iron grip to a new corner of Egyptian society: the country’s cherished soap operas. Every year during the holy month of Ramadan, Egyptians crowd around their televisions to gorge on big-budget mini-series starring the country’s top actors, including weepy melodramas, police procedurals and sweeping historical epics. The best are exported across the Middle East. But the crop of shows currently in production for Ramadan are being subjected to suffocating controls. Mr. el-Sisi’s officials are dictating scripts and capping wages, directors and actors say. A military-linked production company has taken charge of some of the biggest shows. The New York Times

Ebola, Trade and Security to Be Discussed as DRC’s Tshisekedi Visits US
Democratic Republic of Congo’s president Felix Tshisekedi was on Tuesday welcomed to the United States by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, kicking off what should be an exploration of ways to develop a strong partnership between the two countries. The United States has imposed sanctions on Congolese officials it accuses of manipulating the election that brought Tshisekedi into power. Last week, the spokesperson of the State Department Robert Palladino, said Pompeo and other senior cabinet officials in the Trump administration, would also discuss efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in the violence-plagued eastern region of DRC. Africa News

Belgium to Apologise for Kidnapping of Children from Congo
Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, is to apologise on behalf of the state for the kidnapping of mixed-race children, who were torn from their Congolese mothers at the end of the colonial period. The “métis” children, the product of relationships between settlers and local women, were forcibly taken to Belgium and fostered by Catholic orders, among other institutions, between 1959 and 1962. The children, born in the 1940s and 50s, did not automatically receive Belgian nationality and often remained stateless. A majority of the fathers refused to acknowledge paternity of their children.  The Guardian

How to Avoid Flawed Minerals-for-Infrastructure Deals Like DR Congo and China’s Sicomines Pact
[…] It was confidently billed at the time as the “deal of the century”. The Sino Congolaise des Mines (Sicomines) was the most significant Chinese investment project in Africa when it was agreed in 2007. The infrastructure agreement gave Chinese partners mining rights to cobalt and copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These minerals are used in electric vehicle batteries and electronics, including smartphones and laptops. In exchange, China agreed to build much-needed infrastructure projects such as urban roads, highways and hospitals. […] More than a decade on, the Sicomines deal has not lived up to expectations. There have been infrastructure project delays as well as unexpected costs. There have also been problems associated with poor quality roads and infrastructure and inadequate environment and social impact studies. Quartz

Territory Dispute Clouds $1.1 Billion S. Africa-Morocco Deal
The South African government’s support for a political movement some 4,500 miles away could complicate a $1.1 billion deal. Moroccan billionaire Othman Benjelloun on Tuesday spoke out against South Africa-based Sanlam Ltd.’s acquisition of insurer Saham Finances SA, saying South Africa has chosen the wrong side in a territorial dispute. South Africa supports a group called the Polisario Front, which has been seeking self determination in the Western Sahara territory since 1991. Morocco also claims ownership of that sparsely populated desert region. “We end up with a South African investor, owning a company that was Moroccan, on our own territory,” the financial services tycoon told reporters in Casablanca on Tuesday. “We aren’t going to hide that we have not appreciated this gesture.”  Bloomberg

Global Debt on the Rise, Africa Hit Hardest
Debt has been rising around the world and according to a new report, the trend is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Some African countries are so indebted that they don’t even bother trying to service their debt anymore. The “Debt Report 2019,” presented by Jubilee Germany in Berlin on Wednesday, paints a dark picture of global debt. The organization, which is comprised of civic and church groups, is engaged in efforts to end the problem. The report claims that low interest rates and cheap credit are motivating poorer countries to borrow beyond their means, catching them in a debt trap they will never be able to escape from. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones