Africa Media Review for August 15, 2018

Ituri Becomes Congo’s Latest Flashpoint
Confrontations between Hema and Lendu youth in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern province of Ituri erupted in December 2017 and escalated into tit-for-tat attacks that quickly spread throughout the province. More than 70 villages have been destroyed, and an estimated 350,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring Uganda or been internally displaced. In July 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said its teams had heard reports of armed groups conducting mass killings and razing entire villages. This outbreak of violence mirrors growing instability observed in various parts of the DRC since President Joseph Kabila controversially extended his stay in office past the constitutional mandate of December 2016. It has also shattered the peace settlement created by the Ituri Pacification Committee in 2003 that was once seen as a model for peacebuilding in the DRC. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Congo Opposition Will Back Single Presidential Candidate in Vote
Opposition politicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo said they’ll back a single presidential candidate in this year’s election to maximize their chances of defeating the long-serving head of state’s chosen successor. Such an outcome would increase the prospect of opponents of President Joseph Kabila defeating his anointed replacement. The Dec. 23 vote is a one-round contest and multiple candidates would split the opposition vote. “The leaders of the opposition are continuing consultations in order to designate a joint candidate around a common program,” according to a statement signed by six opposition leaders and emailed from the capital, Kinshasa, on Monday. Five of the politicians have registered independently to compete for the presidency.  Bloomberg

Mali President Claims Election Win Amid Fraud Accusations
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has won re-election “comfortably” based on his campaign’s vote count, his spokesman said on Tuesday, dismissing claims from the opposition that they won. With official results not expected for a few days, the two sides have been swapping counterclaims and accusations since Monday’s second-round run-off. The ballot pitted Keita, who is seeking a second term to rule the West African gold- and cotton-producing country, against opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, who said on Monday that the vote was fraudulent and that he was victor. Cisse has not provided concrete evidence for his accusations and Keita has denied any wrongdoing.  VOA

EU Observers Saw Irregularities but No Fraud during Mali Vote
European Union observers said on Tuesday they saw irregularities but not fraud during Mali’s presidential run-off, despite opposition accusations that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s camp cheated. Results from Sunday’s second round between Keita and opposition leader Soumaila Cisse have not yet been released but Cisse called on his supporters on Monday to challenge Keita’s expected victory. Cisse has not provided concrete evidence for his accusations and Keita has denied any wrongdoing. Cisse also said fraud marred last month’s first round, but the constitutional court upheld the results. Mali is a major concern for Western powers due to the presence of militant groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Reuters

In Heart of West Africa, Burkina Faso Faces Rising Extremism
Election observers in Mali on Monday said voters stayed away in droves from the country’s run-off presidential election due to fears over security and apathy. However, they said the voting process was generally fair despite a number of incidents. Mali’s security minister, Salif Traore addressed a news conference on Monday saying some polling stations could not open because they were inaccessible. “The association at 8hrs-00 gives us 490 polling stations that could not open. I repeat we were at 871 last time and this time we are at 490 stations that could not open. Unfortunately, once more the region of Mopti comes in the lead with around 440 stations that could not open and out of the 440 a minimum of 100 stations that could not open because they were inaccessible”, Traore said. Africa News

US, Human Rights Watchdog Urge Hybrid Court for South Sudan
The United States has joined calls for South Sudan to set up a hybrid court to try those who have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. The calls have gained traction after President Salva Kiir granted amnesty, last week, to “those who waged war against the government” in the largely ethnic conflict that began in December 2013. The US State Department has urged the Juba government to set up the hybrid court to ensure justice is served for those who have carried out such mass killings of civilians. The Human Rights Watch has also made similar calls. “The United States is deeply concerned by the lack of accountability for human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan,” a State Department official said in response to a query by The EastAfrican. The East African

Sanctions Prove Key to Ending South Sudan’s Civil War
Cautious optimism surrounds efforts to end the brutal five-year civil war in South Sudan. Recent progress in the peace process has led to a permanent ceasefire and power-sharing agreements among parties to the conflict, including the two main rivals – President Salva Kiir’s government and Riek Machar’s rebel group. Kiir has also offered amnesty to all those who have “waged war against the government”. The progress is largely due to pressure on the country’s armed groups by the international community. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) threatened serious measures in May, and after continued violations of peace agreements, it imposed sanctions on 13 July. Measures included an arms embargo to prevent the supply, sale and transfer of arms and related military support to the country. It also included a travel ban and asset freezes on selected individuals. Daily Maverick

Zambians Protest Introduction of Tax on Internet Calls
Zambians are protesting the implementation of a 30 Ngwe ($0.1) levy on internet calls over platforms like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber. The resolution to implement the new tariff was passed by Zambia’s cabinet chaired by president Edgar Lungu on Monday. Journalists were told that the new tariff was designed to protect the telecommunications industry and jobs in such companies, following the ‘rise in the use of internet phone calls at the expense of traditional phone calls.’ […] Zambians including bloggers, opposition politicians and ordinary citizens have since cried foul over the new tariff, arguing that mobile subscribers acquire data bundles from the telecommunications companies, in order to access the platforms in question. The Bloggers of Zambia issued a statement on Tuesday, calling on the government to withdraw the tariff and the other Cyber laws that are in the pipeline. “We are concerned about the proposed tariff of 30 Ngwe per day because it is a major threat to freedom of expression, access to information, media rights, freedom of assembly online an affront to the enjoyment of digital rights,” the bloggers said in a join statement issued with MISA Zambia.

SADC/Russia MOU on Military Technical Cooperation
Expect to see more Russian military uniforms across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in years to come. This will probably be the most visible outcome of a recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) entered into by the regional bloc and the Russian Federation in the field of military technical co-operation. The agreement was signed by SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax and Dmirty Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Co-operation, on the sidelines of the recent BRICS summit in South Africa. An SADC publication has it that the MOU will promote co-operation between the regional bloc and Russia and enhance capacity to participate in and contribute to the maintenance of regional and international peace and security. DefenceWeb

As Forgiveness Sweeps Ethiopia, Some Wonder about Justice
Ethiopia has released thousands of prisoners as a new prime minister reverses decades of security abuses. No-one knows how many were tortured. But some of those torture victims are now talking openly – to the media, to their relatives and to their friends – about what happened to them after they were jailed, in many cases for protesting against the government. Their stories raise a hard question for the government: how will it address the injustices committed by security forces behind prison walls? Since coming to power in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 41, has made peace with Eritrea, ended a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and announced plans to sell shares in state-owned firms to promote growth and create jobs.  Reuters

Uganda Police Arrest Three MP’s after Stones Thrown at Museveni’s Convoy
Ugandan police arrested three opposition lawmakers and scores of others after stones were thrown at the convoy of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986. Supporters of independent candidate Kasiano Wadri obstructed and attacked Museveni’s convoy in the northern town of Arua late on Monday and one vehicle bearing the presidential coat of arms had its rear windscreen shattered, police spokesman Emirian Kayima said. “Security officers intervened to contain the situation and they indeed halted it from further escalation by use teargas and shooting,” Kayima told a news conference, adding that scores of suspects had been arrested. Those arrested included Robert Kyagulanyi, an independent lawmaker and musician who has gained popularity since he joined parliament last year through scathing criticism of Museveni’s government, sometimes expressed through music.

Workers Won’t Vote for ANC If State Job Cuts Go Ahead
Labour federation Cosatu has threatened to not vote for the ANC in the 2019 national elections if government goes ahead with public sector job cuts and privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In a statement released following its central executive committee (CEC) meeting in Johannesburg, Cosatu’s general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said, “The special [CEC] has instructed the national office bearers of Cosatu to request an urgent meeting with the ANC top six to communicate a clear and unambiguous message to them that workers will not vote against their interests in the upcoming national elections.” “We view the plans to retrench workers as an act of ultimate betrayal, especially after the government’s decision to increase VAT after promising not to do so. This makes a mockery of the [tripartite] alliance,” Ntshalintshali added. Daily Maverick

Nigeria’s Acting President Orders Overhaul of Controversial Police Unit
Nigeria’s acting president has ordered the overhaul of a police unit following allegations of human rights violations, his spokesman said Tuesday, as the government seeks to burnish its security record ahead of February’s presidential election. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is temporarily head of state while President Muhammadu Buhari, who plans to stand for re-election, takes a 10-day holiday in Britain. Buhari came to power in 2015 on pledges to make Nigeria safer but violent crime remains endemic, a jihadist insurgency continues in the northeast, and security forces are regularly accused of acting with impunity. Osinbajo instructed the head of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to reform the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and ordered an independent investigation after “persistent complaints and reports” that bordered on “allegations of human rights violations,” a presidency statement said. VOA

Burundi Rights Activist Handed Five-Year Term
A Burundian activist has been jailed for five years accused of preparing reports on human rights abuses for a banned organisation, militant and legal sources said on Tuesday. Nestor Nibitanga, who was convicted and sentenced on Monday, “long ran our office in Gitega” in central Burundi, said Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, the exiled president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODEH). This association was the main rights movement in the country until the regime shut it down after a political crisis erupted in 2015. “He was sentenced on Monday morning by the Mukaza high court (in the capital Bujumbura) to five years of penal servitude for having continued to submit reports on human rights once APRODEH had been struck off by the government,” Mbonimpa told AFP.  AFP

US Puts New Limits on Foreign Aid Funded through the UN
The rule change, previously unreported, takes aim at USAID’s funding for Public International Organizations (PIOs), a category that includes UN agencies like UNICEF as well as the World Bank and the African Union. According to the new rules, any PIO grant over $5 million must now be vetted at the very top, in the office of USAID Administrator Mark Green. The threshold for Green to have to vet any other types of grant is $40 million. Former USAID officials say the low limit for PIOs will slow approval of UN financing, could create backlogs, and may leave funding more vulnerable to political interference. The move comes as Trump’s administration is cutting UN funding in Iraq to redirect it to Christians and other minorities, and as it announces a new religious freedom initiative. Green has been directed by US Vice-President Mike Pence to prioritise earmarking for such causes.  IRIN

Rabaa Massacre: Five Years on Egypt Struggles with Legacy of Single Biggest Killing of Protesters in Modern History
[…] Around 900 people were killed in Rabaa and nearby al Nahda square on 14 August 2013, a massacre Human Rights Watch says is the largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history. To Egyptians, it also marks the day former military general – and now president – Abdul Fattah al Sisi showed he was willing to go to any length to suppress support for the recently deposed Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi. Ibrahim was arrested at another protest two days after the killings. Despite his status as a foreign national and high profile campaigns for his release from rights groups and the Irish government, he remained in jail until last October. During his incarceration, which robbed him of four years of his youth, President Sisi has maintained a “zero-tolerance policy towards dissent” and the state’s respect for human rights has eroded, Human Rights Watch says. The Independent

Congo’s Health Ministry Says Ebola Spreads to 2nd Province
Congo’s latest deadly Ebola outbreak has spread into a neighboring province, the health ministry said Tuesday, as health workers began using an experimental treatment for the disease. Health officials are hoping the mAb114 therapy, isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in 1995, will be effective in this outbreak that so far has 30 confirmed cases including 14 deaths. Five patients have been given the treatment, said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Four other experimental treatments have been approved for use, he said. The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province in Congo’s turbulent northeast when a man who had been treated for heart problems in Mangina, where the outbreak was declared Aug. 1, returned home, the health ministry said. He has since died and tests confirmed he had Ebola. AP

Aquarius Migrant Rescue Ship Allowed to Dock in Malta
The Aquarius migrant rescue ship has been allowed to dock in Malta after five EU countries agreed to take in its passengers, ending a standoff over who should accept the vessel. The Aquarius had been drifting in the central Mediterranean since rescuing 141 people on Friday, after Italy refused to allow it to dock in its ports. The passengers’ fate had been uncertain until Malta’s government announced on Tuesday that several EU member states had “agreed on a responsibility-sharing exercise” for the people on board, who are mostly from Eritrea and Somalia and include 67 unaccompanied children. “Malta will be making a concession allowing the vessel to enter its ports, despite having no legal obligation to do so,” the Maltese government said in a statement. “Malta will serve as a logistical base and all of the reportedly 141 migrants on board will be distributed amongst France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.” The Guardian

 



Photo: Adam Jones