Africa Media Review for April 8, 2019

‘Just Fall, That’s All’ — Sudan Protests Seeking Al-Bashir’s Ouster Gain Momentum
Protests in Sudan reached a new stage over the weekend, as tens of thousands of people demonstrated in front of army headquarters in Khartoum to demand the departure of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has wielded authoritarian power for three decades. In what may signal a significant development, some soldiers appeared to be supporting the demonstration by protecting protesters from other security forces intent on dispersing them, one protester recounted Sunday afternoon in an interview. The rallies began in December amid food shortages and rising prices and quickly emerged as a mass movement across the country united by the demand that Mr. al-Bashir step down. They now seem to be gaining momentum, and on Sunday the region was bracing for Mr. al-Bashir’s response. The New York Times

Sudan Protest: Clashes among Armed Forces at Khartoum Sit-In
Elements of Sudan’s military have acted to protect protesters in Khartoum after security forces fired tear gas to break up a mass sit-in, eyewitnesses say. Soldiers tried to chase away pick-up trucks firing tear gas, on the second night of a sit-in protest calling for President Omar al-Bashir to resign. Protesters sought shelter in a navy facility, a witness said, as tension among the armed forces was laid bare. Mr Bashir has so far refused demands to make way for a transitional government. […] The Sudanese state has numerous armed groups and there are signs of tensions between them. The demonstrators accuse the NISS and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of attempting to drive them away from the protest. The RSF is a militia loyal to President Bashir which is made up of former members of the Janjaweed, the fighters accused of carrying out many atrocities in Darfur. Over the past 48 hours, several protesters have told the BBC that members of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have protected them from the NISS and RSF.  BBC

Libya Edges Closer to Full-Blown Civil War as Fighting Nears Tripoli
Libya edged closer to full-blown civil war on Friday as forces of an eastern commander clashed with pro-government ­militias near the capital, Tripoli, and an effort by the U.N. chief failed to stop the offensive. A battle for control of Tripoli would mark the most significant escalation of violence in oil- and gas-rich Libya since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011 following a populist rebellion backed by NATO bombings. After meeting Friday with the renegade warlord, Khalifa Hifter, in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a tweet that he was leaving Libya “with a heavy heart and deeply concerned.” Hifter reportedly told Guterres that his offensive on Tripoli will continue, according to the al-Arabiya television network. The Washington Post

Rival Libyan Forces Say They Have Captured Tripoli Airport
Forces loyal to rival Libyan army commander Khalifa Hifter said Saturday they seized control of the main airport in Libya’s capital Tripoli, two days after Hifter ordered his forces to seize the seat of Libya’s U.N.-backed government. Hifter’s media office said in a post online that they took full control of the Tripoli international airport and were working to secure the facility. They posted photos of troops apparently inside the airport, saying “we are standing at the heart of the Tripoli international airport.” Hifter’s offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country is governed by rival authorities: The internationally backed government in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Hifter is aligned with. Each is backed by an array of militias.  AP

U.S. Military Pulls Out of Libyan Capital as Rival Militias Battle
The United States military evacuated its small contingent of troops from the Libyan capital on Sunday as rival militias raced to stop the forces of an aspiring strongman, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, from taking control of the city. Forces under the command of General Hifter made a surprise advance on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday, setting up a battle with a coalition of armed factions from the region around the city — the grand prize in a chaotic eight-year fight for control after the ouster of the dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi during the Arab Spring revolts. Tripoli is the northern African country’s financial hub, receiving the income from sales of Libyan oil, housing the central bank and paying the salaries of soldiers and other public employees across the country. By Sunday morning, both sides had begun attacking from the air, using the small and primitive air forces at their command, but the exact targets and extent of the damage could not be immediately determined.  The New York Times

Thousands Rally in Mali to Protest against Ethnic Violence
Thousands of people have rallied in Mali’s capital, Bamako, to protest against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s failure to stem a surge of intercommunal violence in the centre of the country. The demonstration on Friday was called for by Muslim religious leaders, opposition parties and civil society groups, including organisations representing the majority-Muslim Fulani herding community. Organisers said 15,000 people were part of the march and a mass prayer ceremony, which came nearly two weeks after last month’s massacre of at least 153 people in the Fulani village of Ogossagou, near the town of Mopti in central Mali.  Al Jazeera

Tunisia President Essebsi Says He Does Not Want to Run for a Second Term
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Saturday he did not want to run for a second term in presidential elections expected this year, despite his party’s calls for the 93-year-old to stand. Mass protests that toppled ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria have stirred the opposition in Tunisia, and social media campaigns have begun rejecting a second term for Essebsi. The Tunisian constitution adopted by parliament in 2014 gives him the right to run for two terms. “I will say frankly that I do not want to present for a second term because Tunisia has a lot of talents,” Essebsi said at a meeting of his party Nidaa Tounes in Monastir. Reuters

Algeria’s Parliament to Elect New Interim President on Tuesday-Agency
Algeria’s parliament on Tuesday will elect a new interim president, state news agency APS said on Saturday, after veteran ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned following mass protests. Bouteflika ended 20 years in power on Tuesday after a final nudge by the military, following six weeks of protests calling for democratic reforms after almost 60 years of monolithic rule by veterans of the 1954-62 independence war against France. Under the constitution, both chambers of the assembly need to formally confirm the vacancy of the presidency and elect an upper house president to run the country on an interim basis for three months until elections. The current upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah stands to become interim president as of now. Reuters

Is Oil Money Fuelling War in South Sudan?
[…] In February 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report describing what it believes is funding the war: the country’s rich oil industry. It says that the state-owned Nilepet oil company “has diverted oil revenues which should be shared with states into the coffers of elites in the government,” and that its operations “have been characterised by a total lack of transparency and independent oversight.” According to the report, “oil revenues and income from other natural resources have continued to fund the war, enabling its continuation and the resulting human rights violations.” The country’s oil sector is supervised by the minister of petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, who denies the UN’s allegations and others.  Al Jazeera

US Acknowledges Civilian Deaths in Somalia Drone Strike
The US has admitted that a woman and child were killed by an American drone strike in Somalia last April. It marks the first time America has admitted to causing civilian casualties during its air campaign in Somalia. Only weeks ago, the US had denied claims by rights group Amnesty International that 14 civilians were killed in five separate raids. The US began an air war against al-Shabab militants in 2011 under the direction of President Obama. Since the election of Donald Trump, the number of strikes has risen sharply.  BBC

How Did US and Ethiopia Become So Close?
A high-level US delegation just returned from Ethiopia, which is arguably America’s closest ally on the continent of Africa. How did these two countries become so close? t’s noticeable soon after you land in Washington – the city is full of Ethiopians. Their ubiquitous presence – behind the counter at Starbucks or the wheels of taxis – in the bastion of American government symbolises the two pillars of this alliance. The Ethiopian diaspora across America – the second largest community after Nigerians – has played an enormous role in influencing ongoing political reforms that have rocked Ethiopia since the beginning of 2018. These have included the opening of borders, the freeing of political prisoners, the lifting of restrictions on media, and the opening of political space to previously banned groups, as well as a significant redistribution of power within the ruling coalition government.  BBC

On the Ground in Chimanimani: System Failure amid the Devastating Deadly Force of Cyclone Idai
More than two weeks after Tropical Cyclone Idai devastated the Chimanimani District in Zimbabwe, Edina Kabayanjiri has still not heard the whereabouts of her two-year old daughter who was swept away without trace. In Chimanimani alone, 169 people died, 328 are still missing, 164 were injured with 2,251 houses destroyed, leaving 4,073 people in need of shelter. Residents are anxious to know where they go from here and whether anticipated rehabilitation projects will see the light of day any time soon. Sitting on the floor with her hands clasped on her chin at Chimanimani hotel, Edina Kabayanjiri narrates how the tropical cyclone destroyed her home and took her two-year-old daughter away with no trace of her whereabouts to date. Daily Maverick

25 Years after Genocide, Rwanda Commemorates Those Killed — but Omits One Group That Was Almost Wiped Out
Twenty-five years ago this month, extremists from the Hutu ethnic group in Rwanda mounted a genocide that killed 800,000 people in 100 days, tearing the country apart. Rwanda’s leader has spun the story of the genocide as a sort of national origin myth: The Hutu were the killers and the Tutsi were the victims, but now Rwandans are united, and ethnic division is a thing of the past. But written out of that story entirely is Rwanda’s third and smallest ethnic group, the Twa, who were killed in even greater proportion than the Tutsi during the genocide, and who cannot commemorate their dead because they fear being arrested for “ethnic divisionism.” The Washington Post

Macron Wants France to Commemorate Rwanda Genocide
President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Sunday that he wanted to create a national day of commemoration for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which has been a longstanding source of tension between the two countries. Mr. Macron said in a statement that he wanted to create a national day of remembrance on April 7, the date 25 years ago that Rwanda’s Hutu majority began systematically massacring members of the Tutsi minority, leaving an estimated 800,000 to one million people dead. “On this day of commemoration for the 25th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the president of the republic expresses his solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion for the victims and their families,” the statement said. The New York Times

Ivory Coast Leader Edges Closer to Decision on Third Mandate
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said he’s almost made up his mind whether to seek a third term in next year’s presidential election. “I have a few friends that I’ll get in touch with before coming to my final decision, but I have almost taken that decision,” Ouattara told the audience at the Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend in the commercial capital Abidjan late Saturday. Ouattara, 77, is considering another term as his ruling coalition Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace is set to face stronger competition. Ivory Coast has a limit of two five-year terms, but Ouattara has said a new constitution adopted in 2016 would allow him to run again, a claim that has angered his opponents. “Common sense would dictate that at some point we’re not able to provide as much to our country,” Ouattara told prominent Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim during a conversation at the upscale Hotel Ivoire. “Even if the constitution allows you to run, you must transfer power to the next generation.” The new constitution also removed the age limit for candidates.  Bloomberg

Did Russia Meddle in Madagascar’s Election?
A BBC investigation has revealed that at least six candidates were offered money by Russians in the lead up to last year’s presidential elections in Madagascar. The presence of Russian political strategists with close ties to the Kremlin, posing as tourists with the alleged aim of helping to control the tightly fought race, has raised questions whether democracy in the former French colony has been fatally compromised. Gaelle Borgia reports from Antananarivo. BBC

Djibouti Needed Help, China Had Money, and Now the U.S. and France Are Worried
[…] China’s grip was tightening as Djibouti’s debts were soaring. In a 2017 report, the International Monetary Fund said Djibouti’s public debt—the lion’s share of it owed to China—rose from 50 percent to 85 percent of GDP over the previous two years. In December the IMF criticized the government for falling deeper and deeper into debt. “The Djiboutian authorities’ strategy of investing in infrastructure to transform the economy and position the country as a logistics and commercial hub offers great opportunities for economic growth and development,” the IMF said. “However, the financing of this strategy through a buildup of debt has resulted in debt distress, which poses significant risks. Public and publicly guaranteed debt is expected to be around 104 percent of GDP at end-2018.”  The government here takes a different view. Dawaleh says the IMF shouldn’t include the debts of Djiboutian state enterprises in its assessment because those enterprises “are overperforming or have the capacity to overperform.” Bloomberg

How Two Bloggers Exposed a Property Ponzi Scheme Linked to Mauritania’s President
[…] For seven years, a property scam went unchallenged affecting 7,000 Mauritanian families in a widespread Ponzi scheme. At the top of was Sheikj Rada al-Saidy, a holy man who claimed to work miracles. Al-Saidy used his religious sway to fraudulently flip properties to an extent that it affected Mauritania’s national property market. So wide was the scheme that president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz allegedly benefitted from the scam that defrauded thousands of citizens. […] Police gathering evidence meant to question the bloggers for their information on the alleged fraud, but ended up confiscating their IDs and passports in early March, according to Human Rights Watch. On Mar. 22, police again summoned Weddady and Jiddou to their headquarters, but this time they arrested them. Quartz

Zimbabwe Spent Thousands of Dollars on Judges’ Wigs – and People Aren’t Happy
The Zimbabwe government has come under fire after it emerged that it spent thousands of dollars on importing legal wigs from the UK for local judges, with critics lambasting the purchase as a colonial hang-up and a waste of money. The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that the country’s Judiciary Service Commission placed an order for 64 horse-hair wigs from Stanley Ley Legal Outfitters in London, at a cost of £1,850 ($2,428) per wig and totaling £118,400 ($155,000). Wigs from the outfitter range in price from £457.50 ($599) for a standard barrister’s wig, to £2,495.83 ($3,265) for a judge’s ceremonial wig.  CNN



Photo: Adam Jones