Africa Media Review for August 10, 2016

Islamist Extremism in East Africa
The growth of Salafist ideology in East Africa has challenged long established norms of tolerance and interfaith cooperation in the region. This is an outcome of a combination of external and internal factors. This includes a decades-long effort by religious foundations in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to promulgate ultraconservative interpretations of Islam throughout East Africa’s mosques, madrassas, and Muslim youth and cultural centers. Rooted within a particular Arab cultural identity, this ideology has fostered more exclusive and polarizing religious relations in the region, which has contributed to an increase in violent attacks. These tensions have been amplified by socioeconomic differences and often heavy-handed government responses that are perceived to punish entire communities for the actions of a few. Redressing these challenges will require sustained strategies to rebuild tolerance and solidarity domestically as well as curb the external influence of extremist ideology and actors. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Zambia’s Election is Too Close to Call
It has been described as an historic but tense vote. For the first time, Zambian voters will have the opportunity to elect their president, vice president, members of parliament, councilors and also the chance to vote yes or no on an amendment to the constitution in a referendum. The two main political parties, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) led by President Edgar Lungu and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), are scheduled to hold last minute rallies in the capital Lusaka on Wednesday as they both seek to woo voters on the eve of polling day. … Neo Simutanyi, a political analyst in Lusaka, told DW that conditions were far from ideal. “The political environment is tense and the people are fearful that there maybe an outbreak of violence,” Simutanyi said. The stakes in this year’s election were very high and that was the reason behind the upsurge in violence. “There are also issues about the fairness and impartiality of the Zambian Electoral Commission, it has taken decisions that have not been acceptable to all the stakeholders,” Simutanyi added. DW

Zambia’s 2016 Elections: Democracy Hovering on the Precipice
When Rupiah Banda conceded defeat to Michael Sata in Zambia’s 2011 elections, many commentators hailed the peaceful transfer of power as a sign that the country’s democracy had matured. … Five years later, the country is preparing to go to the polls again on August 11 to vote on a president, parliamentarians, mayors and a referendum on the Bill of Rights. This time, the entire party system is in flux and electoral violence has been worryingly frequent and extreme. As a consequence, Zambia’s democratic credentials are increasingly in doubt. The 2016 elections therefore represent a critical point in Zambia’s political history. They could herald a complete rupture of the existing party system and a worrying slide towards a competitive authoritarian regime. But they could also simply reflect a minor detour on the country’s road towards democratic consolidation. The Conversation

Libya Getting More US Help in Fight Against Islamic State
Increased U.S. airstrikes in Libya could be the start of an effort to smother the Islamic State terror group as it tries to cling to a key North African stronghold. U.S. Africa Command announced eight new strikes Tuesday against IS positions in Sirte, a key coastal city that has served as a base for the terror group’s operations. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that U.S. special forces are also in the area “doing some coordination,” though the official was unable to elaborate. The U.S. has now carried out a total of 28 airstrikes against IS as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, which began August 1 following a request from Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). VOA

Sierra Leone, Liberia Risk Ebola-like Outbreaks from Poor Sanitation
Sierra Leone and Liberia risk new deadly epidemics akin to the impact of the Ebola virus due to lack of clean water and hygienic conditions in most homes, an NGO warned on Tuesday. WaterAid said the two provisions were the “first line of defence” against infectious diseases but needed to be put into place before outbreaks began. In Sierra Leone, more than 37% of people do not have access to clean water, the British-based group said in a statement. In Liberia, the figure is 24.5%. When it comes to basic sanitation, WaterAid said the figures were even higher—86.7% of people in Sierra Leone and just over 83% in Liberia live without access to it. News24

Not a No-man’s Land: Abuja’s Natives Get Ready to Fight
The indigenous people of Nigeria’s capital say they could take up arms if the government tries to displace them again. … Abuja was designated as the new Nigerian capital in 1976, replacing Lagos, which had become highly congested and over-populated. It was considered an ideal alternative because of its central location and the fact that it did not belong to any of Nigeria’s three largest ethnic groups: Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa-Fulani. As such, it was perceived as a neutral area that wouldn’t cause any unrest. But thousands of the original inhabitants of Abuja were displaced to make way for the construction of Nigeria’s new capital. Many of these people are angry at the way the only home they’ve ever known has been portrayed as a “no-man’s land”. Under Nigerian law, the government can revoke land ownership from its citizens. Abuja indigenes say they are frustrated by what they see as an injustice. Al Jazeera

Sudan Begins Ceasefire Talks after Opposition Signs Roadmap to Peace
Talks to secure a lasting ceasefire in Sudan’s three war-ravaged regions began on Tuesday, a day after an opposition coalition signed on to a roadmap for ending hostilities and achieving political reconciliation. There has been fighting between the Sudanese army and rebels in the southern regions of Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011, when adjacent South Sudan declared independence. Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab-led government based in the capital Khartoum. The roadmap, brokered by the African Union, marks the first time the country’s major opposition groups have signed a deal with the government since regional fighting reignited in 2011. The East African

Clashes around Strategic Yei Town between South Sudanese Rival Forces: Spokesperson
South Sudanese rival forces have clashed around a strategic town, Yei, which is about 160 km south of the national capital, Juba, and towards the Ugandan border. his is after the opposition forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA-IO) under the leadership of the former first vice president, Riek Machar, captured Lasu county, southwest of Yei. Officials of the opposition faction confirmed that fighting erupted around Yei town, the capital of the newly formed Yei River State, when their forces came under attack from forces loyal to President Salva Kiir. Sudan Tribune

More UN Troops Might Not Quell Violence in South Sudan, Inquiry Suggests
A new proposal to add 4,000 troops to the United Nation’s (UN’s) peacekeeping force in South Sudan might not achieve its intended effect of quelling violence, an inquiry on the past performance of UN units suggests. A contingent of Rwandan, Ethiopian and Indian peacekeepers failed “at all levels” to protect civilians from attacks last February likely carried out by South Sudan’s army, the UN said at the weekend. Soldiers and police guarding a civilian-protection site in Malakal did not prevent the deaths of at least 30 South Sudanese due to “a combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage,” a special UN board of inquiry stated in a published summary of its report. The Nation

A Year after Obama’s Visit, Ethiopia is in Turmoil
Just a year ago, Ethiopia was basking in the world’s spotlight after a visit from President Obama and global accolades for its decade of double-digit growth and enviable stability in a dangerous region. Since then, however, this country of nearly 100 million has been hit by a widespread drought that has halved growth, and anti-government protests have spread across two of its most populous regions. … Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, told The Washington Post that an estimated 50 people died in the Oromia region Saturday and 27 were killed Sunday in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region and a major tourist destination. “The government is responding in the same way it has responded to such incidents for the last quarter of the century,” he said by phone from Washington during a visit with the Ethio­pian community there. “They want to rule in the old way, and people are refusing to be ruled in the old way.” Washington Post

Somalia President Appeals for Increased Security During Polls
Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Tuesday appealed to the African Union peacekeeping troops and the local security forces to enhance security during the forthcoming elections. Mr Mohamud said the pan African and Somali troops should work to secure the coming parliamentary and presidential elections beginning next month. The call comes after Somalia’s election commission announced on Sunday that the country’s 2016 presidential election will take place on October 30. … The elections will be a watershed because it will be the first time in more than 40 years that 14,025 electorates will elect the leaders. This will be an increase in representation compared to the last elections in 2012, where a council of 135 elders represented the electorate. The Nation

Tanzania: Chadema: Nothing Can Stop Us from Carrying out Demos
Opposition Chadema has reiterated its resolve to hold countrywide demonstrations from September 1, this year despite a warning by the police. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Chadema secretary general Vicent Mashinji said preparations for the demonstrations were on course. Dr Mashinji also condemned a letter allegedly written to the party by Ethics Secretariat Commissioner Salome Kaganda, summoning the party national chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe and chief lawyer Mr Tundu Lissu, saying the move was undemocratic. He accused the government violating the constitution and democratic rights of opposition parties. The Citizen

DRC Refuses to Renew HRW Researcher’s Visa
The Democratic Republic of Congo refused on Tuesday to renew the visa of a senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, who was to leave the troubled African country shortly. Kinshasa did not give a reason for the decision to effectively expel Ida Sawyer, who has worked for the US rights group in DR Congo since 2008. The government’s immigration service “did not want to renew the visa … That is all,” government spokesperson Lambert Mende told AFP. “Some governments never give justifications” when they refuse visas. “We will not justify ourselves. It’s the principle of reciprocity between states,” he added. Sawyer, who has been based in DR Congo since January 2008—first in Goma, capital of the eastern North Kivu province, then in Kinshasa since 2011—was due to leave Kinshasa later on Tuesday. She has carried out research across the country as well as in parts of neighbouring countries occupied by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. Her work has served as the basis for numerous HRW reports, the group said on its website. News24

South African Ruling Party in Soul-searching after Vote Shock
The ruling African National Congress’ historic losses in South Africa’s local elections have called into question the leadership of President Jacob Zuma as head of the continent’s most industrialised nation. The ANC last week suffered what analysts called a “savage indictment”, garnering less than 54 per cent of ballots cast—an eight-point drop from the last local poll in 2011 and its worst showing since the fall of white-minority rule in 1994. Of the country’s six most populous cities, the ANC won an outright majority in only one: Durban, Zuma’s traditional stronghold. But it suffered embarrassingly in the capital Pretoria where it came second to the main opposition Democratic Alliance, which also scored big in Nelson Mandela Bay, a southern municipality named after the country’s iconic late leader. The election was largely seen as a referendum on President Zuma’s rule, but it also highlighted the declining popularity of the party that led South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. The Nation



Photo: Adam Jones