Africa Media Review for April 9, 2018

Despite Millions of Displaced People, Congo Rejects U.N. Aid Effort
When the United Nations hosts a donor conference next week to raise $1.7 billion for the violence-racked Democratic Republic of Congo, one important country will not attend: Congo itself. The government of President Joseph Kabila has said that it will boycott the gathering, denying that his central African nation faces a humanitarian crisis at all. The move, which took some diplomats by surprise, was another sign of the increasing isolation of the government of Mr. Kabila, who has faced internal rebellion and international criticism for holding on to power in defiance of constitutional term limits. The government’s increasingly bellicose stance comes as it has been blasting what it calls international “meddling” in the country’s politics. Under intense international pressure, Mr. Kabila’s government will hold new elections in December, but it has rejected any outside assistance with the poll. The New York Times

Uganda Court Hears Challenge to Presidential Age-Limit Move 
The High Court in Uganda is hearing an opposition attempt to annul a constitutional amendment which removes presidential age limits. MPs voted overwhelmingly last year to scrap the age limit of 75. It meant 73-year-old President Yoweri Museveni, in power for more than 30 years, could seek re-election in 2021. Opposition lawyers argued that the amendment was “smuggled” into law, and parliament had not followed proper procedures when adopting it. Security has been increased at the court in the eastern city of Mbale, and some roads have been shut to prevent any unrest. BBC

Houthi Rebels Kill Dozens of Sudanese Troops in Yemen Ambush 
A rebel ambush in Yemen killed dozens of Sudanese soldiers belonging to a Saudi-led coalition fighting on the side of the government, military sources and the rebels said on Saturday. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels hit the Sudanese military convoy in the northern province of Hajjah before dawn on Friday, according to military sources. The losses were reported to be the heaviest suffered by Sudanese troops in Yemen since they were deployed in the war-torn country in 2015. “The Sudanese soldiers were lured into a trap by the rebels” who allowed them to advance into areas where they were waiting to attack them, a Yemeni military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.  Middle East Eye

Ghana Will Not Offer Military Base to US: President 
Ghana will not sign an agreement with Washington to set up a military base, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Thursday. The president confirmed in a television address that the two countries would ink a defence cooperation agreement, but was emphatic that “Ghana has not offered a military base, and will not offer a military base to the United States of America”. His comments come after hundreds of people took to the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital, last Wednesday to protest against a controversial military deal with Washington which was passed by parliament last week. The protesters have served notice they will take the demonstration to other parts of the country if the president signs the deal. Critics say the agreement undermines the country’s sovereignty. News 24

Somalia: Double Car Bomb Attacks Kill 3 in Mogadishu 
At least three people were killed and three wounded in a double suicide car bomb attack in the Somali capital on Friday, officials said. Abdifatah Omar Halle, spokesman for the Banadir region administration, told Anadolu Agency that the first attack was a suicide car bomb blast targeting a security checkpoint near the KM4 intersection in Mogadishu, killing one civilian and wounding three soldiers. “Seconds later another attack took place at KM5 Street, and one attacker and one soldier were killed,” Halle said. The second attack was also a suicide car bomber, but preceded by gunfire between the soldiers and the attacker. Anadolu Agency

Talks in Sudan over Controversial Nile Dam Fail 
A new round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in the Sudanese capital Khartoum over Addis Ababa’s massive hydroelectric dam project along the Nile have failed to achieve a breakthrough, Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs said early Friday. Addressing the media after more than 12 hours of meetings, Ibrahim Ghandur admitted that the three countries had failed to achieve any significant results, adding that the ministries of irrigation in the three countries will meet to look into the technical disagreements. “We sat for long hours, discussing many issues, but we failed to reach any consistency to make a joint decision regarding our differences,” the top Sudanese diplomat disclosed. However, he declined to elaborate on the areas of the technical disputes. Anadolu Agency

Is the Jonglei Canal the Way Out of the Nile Talks? 
Egyptian politicians are said to be lobbying the government to negotiate with Juba to resume the digging of the controversial Jonglei Canal in South Sudan as an alternative plan as discussions on the use of the Nile waters aborted. Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour on Friday announced suspension of the tripartite talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia without reaching a consensual solution regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Samir Faraj, former governor of Luxor region along River Nile is among those pushing for the revival of Jonglei Canal project, arguing that the canal would enable Egypt to get additional 4.7 billion cubic metres of water annually from the White Nile. The East African

Ailing Algerian Leader’s Backers Urge Him to Seek 5th Term 
Algeria’s governing party is urging President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term even though the 81-year-old has been debilitated by a stroke for years. The head of the FLN party, Djamel Ould Abbas, formally asked Bouteflika to run in the May 2019 election in a speech Saturday to party lawmakers. Ould Abbas added that “the last word remains with him, of course.” Bouteflika is barely seen in public even now and it’s not clear whether he is still really in charge of Africa’s largest country. Ould Abbas praised Bouteflika’s record as a leader since winning the presidency in 1999 and bringing a cautious peace to a North African country riven by years of insurgency. AP

Mali Prisoner Killings Decried as ‘Summary Executions’ 
Fourteen suspected jihadists killed during an alleged escape attempt by Mali troops were “summarily executed,” community leaders told AFP on Sunday. “This was in no way an escape attempt. Our sources are certain. These people were victims of summary executions,” Nouhoum Sarr of Tabital Pulaaku, the main association of Mali’s Dogon community, told AFP. “We have the names of these people,” added Sarr, saying the group were detained on April 5 near the central town of Dioura. On Friday, a Malian army statement said the 14 were killed during an escape bid on April 6 after they were taken in for questioning the previous day. “It is not normal for soldiers tasked with protecting the population to kill civilians,” said Sarr, who said Defence Minister Tiena Coulibaly had personally assured him that he would “shed light” on the circumstances surrounding the deaths. AFP

Mugabe Family Faces Zimbabwe Police Probe over Ivory Smuggling 
Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has called in police to investigate allegations of ivory smuggling by former President Robert Mugabe’s family, a spokesman said. The investigation began after Al Jazeera television broadcast images of stockpiled ivory provided by an Australian photographer. While trade in ivory is legal within Zimbabwe, exports are banned. Mugabe ruled the southern African nation from 1980 until November when he was ousted after a military intervention. “We’ve submitted all the relevant information to the police with regards to suspected smuggling of ivory by the office of the former first family,” wildlife management authority spokesman Tinashe Farawo said Friday by phone from the capital, Harare. Bloomberg

South African Court Adjourns Zuma’s Graft Case until June 
Former South African President Jacob Zuma’s corruption case was adjourned until June 8, signaling that a criminal trial may be delayed until at least the end of the year. Zuma, 75, is facing 16 charges brought by the National Prosecuting Authority that range from corruption to racketeering related to bribes he allegedly took in the 1990s from weapons dealers including French arms maker Thales SA, which is also a defendant. Judge Themba Sishi announced the adjournment that was proposed by the state and supported by the defense Friday at the High Court in Durban. The case signals a dramatic turnaround in South Africa where Zuma held a tight grip on power for almost a decade before his former deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, won the leadership of the ruling African National Congress in December and took over as president in February. His downfall and Ramaphosa’s rise have boosted confidence in the economy, with Moody’s Investors Service last month removing its threat of a junk credit rating. Bloomberg

Sierra Leone’s New President Promises Civil Servants ‘No Witchhunt’
Sierra Leone’s new president, Julius Maada Bio, on Friday promised civil servants they need not fear a purge despite a historic shift in the country’s politics. Bio, whose election has ended decade-long rule in Sierra Leone by the All People’s Congress (APC), praised state workers and “gave them assurance and expressed commitment to work with them,” the spokesman for his SLPP party said. “The meeting between the president and civil servants went well today and the president assured them that there will be no witch-hunting of workers,” spokesman Alie Kabba told AFP. Bio also called for Sierra Leone whose 1991-2002 civil war claimed around 120,000 lives to turn its back on “tribalism and regionalism”. France 24

Tiny Djibouti Aiming to Be Global Military, Shipping Center 
Two fighter jets took off and roared over the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, a sprawling complex in this tiny African nation that is quickly becoming a strategic military and shipping outpost for the world. Not far away, a massive U.S. flag waved over transport planes parked in front of America’s only permanent military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, home to about 4,000 personnel. Djibouti, an arid Horn of Africa nation with less than 1 million inhabitants, also has become a military outpost for China, France, Italy and Japan, with that nation’s first overseas base since World War II. Other powers including Saudi Arabia have expressed interest in the key location across the Bab el-Mandeb strait from the Arabian Peninsula and on one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors. On the chaotic streets of what has been called the “Singapore of Africa,” the jostling between the United States and China for influence is plainly seen. AP

Mauritania-Senegal Tension over Fishing Territories Heating 
Disputes over fishing territories between Senegal and Mauritania are threatening plans to exploit a giant offshore gas field. The Mauritanian coastguard shot and killed a Senegalese fisherman, and this has led to violent retaliation ashore. Al Jazeera reports from the city of Saint Louis. Al Jazeera

Zambia’s ‘Unknown’ Debts Face Scrutiny after Mozambique Scandal 
Zambia is facing tough questions over its foreign-debt levels from investors who think the real number may be more than double what the government says it is. Lenders including Nomura Holdings Inc. believe the state hasn’t come completely clean on how much external borrowing it’s undertaken. This is raising concern the southern African nation may be headed for a similar situation to neighboring Mozambique, where hidden debts led to default and the government is seeking to restructure. “Zambia is in somewhat of a serious predicament of having politically connected additional ‘unknown’ loans,” Peter Attard Montalto, head of emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa economics at Nomura International in London, said in an emailed note March 27. “The hidden-loan problem, in our view, is likely one of short-term external debt that is at least as big as known external loans and external bonds combined.”  Bloomberg

Africa Misses Out on Taiwan’s Development Aid Due to ‘One China’ Policy 
Taiwan says it regrets that the “one China” policy insisted on by Beijing prevents it from providing much needed development aid to most countries in Africa. Taiwan was in a relatively good diplomatic position in Africa several years ago. Taiwan’s Deputy Secretary-General for International Cooperation and Development, Pai-po Lee, says this made it possible for those countries that had diplomatic relations with Taiwan to benefit from his agency’s aid projects. “Previously, we have over nine countries with Taiwan. For instance, Senegal, the Gambia, Chad, Niger, Liberia, Central Africa — also Sao Tome Principe… Six years ago, they still have relations with Taiwan. But, then they shifted to China,” said Pai-po Lee. VOA

Surgery Lit by Cellphone: Togo Doctors Strike over Deplorable Hospitals 
[…] As they have done half a dozen times since the beginning of the year, doctors and nurses again went on strike in late March, walking out of the central hospital, blocking new patients from entering and encouraging existing patients to seek private treatment elsewhere. “When you accept to work in these conditions, you might be complicit in a situation that could cause death. You are responsible,” said Dr. David Dosseh, a surgeon at the central hospital who helped organize the strikes. “So at a certain moment, you have to ask if it’s better to just stop working.” Critics say the pervasive problems in Togo’s medical system — where equipment frequently malfunctions, electricity and water supplies are unreliable and new doctors earn less than taxi drivers — are the result of government corruption and ineptitude. But the current unrest in Togo extends far beyond the nation’s troubled health care system. Dr. Dosseh and his colleagues said their frustrations with the government were aligned with those of university students, public schoolteachers, and others who have led a recent wave of protests against President Faure Gnassingbé, whose family has ruled Togo for 50 years. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones