Africa Media Review for April 5, 2018

Former Civil War Leader Wins Tight Presidential Race in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone elected as president an opposition politician who briefly ruled the West African nation as head of a junta during the civil war in the 1990s. Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party was declared the winner on Wednesday of a presidential run-off by the electoral commission after receiving 51.81 percent of ballots cast against 48.19 percent for his opponent, Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress. Maada Bio, 53, was sworn in almost immediately after the results were announced. He will face the tough challenge of reviving an economy that’s struggling to recover from the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola and an iron-ore slump. Bloomberg

DRC Opposition Leader May Be Barred from Elections over Italian Citizenship
Moïse Katumbi, the most popular opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, may not be eligible to stand in presidential elections scheduled later this year after it was revealed that he had held Italian citizenship from October 2000 until January 2017. The DRC’s attorney general said last week he had opened an investigation into allegations about Katumbi’s Italian nationality, first reported by Paris-based magazine Jeune Afrique. Under Congo’s constitution, its nationals cannot hold dual citizenship and have to petition the government to regain their citizenship if they take up a foreign nationality. The provision, however, is laxly enforced and many prominent politicians are believed to have second citizenships. The Guardian

Rape and Torture Charges for Jihadist Police Chief of Timbuktu
A jihadist fighter from Mali was brought before the International Criminal Court on Wednesday to face charges of rape, torture and sexual slavery, crimes that prosecutors say were perpetrated while he was the head of the police during a jihadist occupation of the ancient city of Timbuktu. At the hearing in The Hague, prosecutors said that Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, 40, had committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2012 and 2013 by abusing, whipping and torturing residents who violated strict religious laws. He forced young women to marry jihadist fighters, “which led to repeated rapes and sexual enslavement of young women and girls,” they said. Officials say girls were forced into marriages, some lasting only a few days or a few weeks, in an attempt to provide a justification for their being forced to have sex. “If a girl ran away, she would be tracked down and brought back,” said a lawyer working on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details. “Children were born from these forced marriages.”  The New York Times

Morocco Warns It May Act against Polisario in Western Sahara
Morocco’s foreign minister is warning that all options are on the table including military action if the United Nations doesn’t act against Polisario Front construction and plans for military posts in U.N.-monitored buffer zones in Western Sahara. Nasser Bourita said at a news conference Wednesday that the 1991 cease-fire is threatened by the recent actions by the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for mineral-rich Western Sahara. Bourita says: “Morocco is saying very clearly that all the options are under consideration. Morocco will not allow a change on the ground. If the U.N., the international community, don’t take their responsibilities, Morocco will take its own responsibility.” The Polisario Front has rejected Morocco’s claims as “unfounded and false.” It says the U.N. force in Western Sahara has not reported any cease-fire violations. AP

With Rwanda out, Israel Says Looking into Other Options for Deportation Destination
[…] On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference that an agreement for Rwanda to absorb migrants from Israel had fallen through, after Rwanda had succumbed to pressure, which the prime minister later blamed on the left-wing NGO the New Israel Fund and elements in the European Union. Rwandan opposition figures have suggested that their government’s engagement with Israel on the matter was driven from economic, military and diplomatic interests. Justin Bahunga, a London-based representative of the United Democratic Forces of Rwanda, told Ynet that Rwanda’s conduct as a dictatorship, its military standing in the region and its need to improve its international image was what led President Paul Kagame’s government to discuss the deal with Israel. According to unofficial reports about the deal, Israel was supposed to pay Rwanda some $5,000 for each migrant it would receive, as well as $3,500 to each migrant, which for thousands of migrants would amount to a large sum. The Jerusalem Post

Crisis Averted in Somalia’s Parliament but Tensions Simmer
A dispute between the speaker of the Somali Parliament and the country’s president briefly threatened on Wednesday to turn violent, the latest development in a complex controversy over the proposed leasing of a major port to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates. Conflict was avoided, partly because of the efforts of an African Union soldier, but the dispute also highlighted the fragility of the federal government under the leadership of its new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known by the nickname Farmajo, who was elected last year in a process marred by corruption. Mr. Mohamed leads a weak federal government that is trying to wield power and influence over six states, while the Shabab, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, regularly challenges its rule with acts of terrorism. Last year, Somaliland, a stable and semiautonomous region in the country’s north, signed a deal with DP World, a port management company based in the Emirates, to operate the port of Berbera. The New York Times

About 3,000 Somalis Killed or Injured by Explosive Devices in 3 Years: UN
At least 3,000 civilians have been either killed or injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Somalia in the past three years, the UN demining agency said on Wednesday. The UN Mine-Action Service (UNMAS) said year 2017 was the deadliest, in large part due to an IED attack on Oct. 14 in Mogadishu which killed more than 500 people and injured over 300 in twin bombings. “Children accounted for three-quarters of all casualties caused by unexploded ordnance last year,” UNMAS said in a statement issued to mark the International Awareness Day which falls on April 4. The demining agency said increasing awareness about explosive hazards can save many lives, adding that the threat of improvised explosive devices in Somalia remains an ever-present source of danger. Xinhua

UN Urges Talks between Burundi Government and Opposition
The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged the government of Burundi to engage in meaningful talks with the opposition ahead of the 2020 elections, saying it was “deeply concerned” about the situation in the African nation. The statement also offered support to the African Union’s efforts to help resolve the Burundi conflict, but called on regional states to “refrain from any interference.” The Council is “deeply concerned over the political situation in Burundi, the slow progress of the inter Burundian dialogue led by the East African Community (EAC), and the lack of engagement” by the Burundi government read the statement adopted by the 15-member Council. AFP

Revealed: Graphic Video Used by Cambridge Analytica to Influence Nigerian Election
Cambridge Analytica sought to influence the Nigerian presidential election in 2015 by using graphically violent imagery to portray a candidate as a supporter of sharia law who would brutally suppress dissenters and negotiate with militant Islamists, a video passed to British MPs reveals. The Guardian has obtained the video, which has graphic scenes of violence from Nigeria’s past. In testimony to the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee last week, the whistleblower Christopher Wylie told MPs: “[The video was distributed] in Nigeria with the sole intent of intimidating voters. It included content where people were being dismembered, where people were having their throats cut and bled to death in a ditch. They were being burned alive. There was incredibly anti-Islamic, threatening messages portraying Muslims as violent.”  The Guardian

Nigeria’s Buhari Approves $1 Billion for Weapons Purchases
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari gave approval to the military to make weapons purchases worth $1 billion to enable Africa’s most populous country to tackle rising insecurity, Defense Minister Mansur Dan Ali said. The decision to acquire new weapons was announced after Buhari met with security chiefs in the capital, Abuja, to review cases of violent unrest and conflicts in different parts of the country, Ali said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. Bloomberg

Cameroon Security Forces Free 18 Hostages from Separatists
Cameroon security forces have freed 18 hostages, including 12 European tourists, who had been seized by separatists fighting for the independence of English-speaking regions, the government said Wednesday. Seven Swiss and five Italian hostages were freed Monday in Manyu in the southwest after heavy exchanges of gunfire, said spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary. Residents helped the military locate the hostages, whose vehicle had been seized while they were visiting a lake in the region several days earlier, he said. “Many hostage-takers were neutralized,” he said. The 12 tourists have been taken to a hospital for treatment and will be handed over to their embassies, Tchiroma said. Six municipal counsellors in Cameroon’s northwest who were kidnapped by separatists also have been freed, the spokesman said. AP

South Africa Is the Most Unequal Country in the World, Says World Bank
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world and its poverty is the “enduring legacy of apartheid”, according to a report by the World Bank. Inequality in the country has increased since the end of the apartheid with black South Africans at the highest risk of poverty, the report found. It added that it was the most unequal of the 149 countries which the World Bank analysed using the Gini Index, an economic tool which looks at consumption and expenditure to measure inequality. It was closely followed by its neighbours Namibia and Botswana. Despite significant poverty reduction in South Africa between the end of apartheid in 1994 and 2011, at least 2.5 million more South Africans have fallen into poverty since 2011, the report found. The Independent

UN’s Guterres Appoints New UNISFA Force Commander
UN Secretary-General António Guterres Wednesday appointed Ethiopian Major General Gebre Adhana Woldezgu as the new Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). “Woldezgu succeeds Major General Tesfay Gidey Hailemichael of Ethiopia who will complete his assignment on 23 April 2018,” reads a statement released by the UN. “The Secretary-General is grateful for his tireless dedication and invaluable service and effective leadership of UNISFA,” it further said. The new UNISFA head, as the director of Ethiopian defence ministry, participated in the border issues with the neighbouring countries and fully involved in force preparations, planning and deployment of Ethiopian forces for international and regional peacekeeping operations. Sudan Tribune

Algeria: Impasse over President’s Plans Muddies 2019 Race
A former Algerian prime minister says a leadership vacuum and uncertainty over whether the North African nation’s ailing president will seek a fifth term has created a political impasse a year before the next election. Ali Benflis, who has sought Algeria’s presidency twice before, is part of an opposition that wants firm democratic guarantees if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika decides to run again after 19 years in office. But like other potential candidates, the former prime minister so far has refused to commit to running. The electoral situation is so opaque in Algeria, a Muslim country that is a Western ally in the war on extremism, they don’t know who their main rival would be, making it hard to plot a win. AP

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia FMs Meet over Nile Dam Impasse
Egyptian Foreign Minister has arrived in Sudan for a two-day visit to discuss a massive dam that Egypt fears will cut into its share of the Nile. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said Sameh Shoukry arrived on Wednesday at the meeting being attended by chiefs of intelligence and ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Zeid says the meeting will attempt to settle contentious issues over the so-called Renaissance Dam that Ethiopia is building over the Blue Nile River. The meeting was scheduled in February but delayed amid anti-government protests in Ethiopia. AP

Libyans to Take Part in Public Consultations to Help End Political Deadlock
Libyan citizens are to be asked for their views on the country’s future in a series of U.N.-backed public consultations aimed at breaking a political stalemate and preparing for new elections after years of conflict and division. The first meetings will be held in the eastern city of Benghazi and the far western city of Zuwara on Thursday. More than 20 open meetings are planned over the next few weeks, including at least five in Libya’s marginalised south. Citizens will be invited to air their opinions on divisive issues such as the spending of oil revenues, the powers of a future central government and the disarming of militias. Their views will feed into a “national conference” process promoted by U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame that is meant to pave the way for elections by the end of 2018. Reuters

Ghana Lost over $900M in Oil Royalties, Taxes – Think Tank
An oil and gas policy think tank, Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Management (CNREM), has alleged that Ghana lost about $902.45 million in the oil sector because some of the oil companies paid less taxes and royalties to the country. According to the centre, although the oil resource is in Ghana, the county makes less than 20% of the revenue from the sector. Speaking further on the issue on the Citi Breakfast Show on Wednesday, the Executive Director of CNREM, Mr Solomon Kwakumey said his outfit had petitioned the Council of State on the matter. He added that a meeting was subsequently scheduled where they presented their argument to the Council and the Petroleum Commission also did a presentation. “At the meeting…the Petroleum Commission presented a report to the Council of State that Ghana had a $359 million for the six years of operation.”  GhanaWeb

Every Day, 170 Young People Are Infected with HIV in West and Central Africa, and Many Can’t Afford Treatment
[…] Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 86% of the world’s HIV-positive children and adolescents. And in West and Central Africa, 80% of infected children are not receiving antiretroviral therapy, making it the region with the world’s lowest rate of access to that type of treatment. According to the most recent UNICEF and UNAIDS research, the crisis there is becoming more fatal for young people: The number of 15- to 19-year-olds dying of AIDS in West and Central Africa increased by 35% between 2010 and 2016, even while it fell elsewhere across the continent. The rate of new infections is falling but at a slower rate: In the same age group, 170 people are infected with HIV in the region every day. The regional differences reflect a disparity in funding. In recent years, almost five times as much money was invested in HIV/AIDS response in eastern and southern Africa than in West and Central Africa, creating a disparity that has left West and Central Africa lagging behind on both treatment and prevention. Many young people now dying of AIDS in the region may have been born HIV-positive but have not had the resources to diagnose and treat the virus before it was too late. Los Angeles Times



Photo: Adam Jones