Africa Media Review for August 16, 2019

Protesters, Police Clash in Zimbabwe’s Capital
Police are clashing with a few hundred anti-government protesters who gathered in central Harare. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd at Africa Unity Square but many protesters moved into nearby streets. The square is engulfed in tear gas. Police are chasing demonstrators and arresting some. One woman was beaten by police and is lying on the street. … Zimbabwe’s High Court has upheld the police ban on the opposition demonstration planned for Friday. The court rejected the application from the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, to declare the planned protest action to be legal. … Police in riot gear and with water cannons maintained a heavy presence in downtown Harare and in residential areas across Harare early Friday morning. Police cordoned off central Africa Unity Square, where the demonstrators had planned to gather. Police and government officials warned that the demonstration would be illegal and protesters would “rot in jail.” … The opposition party had planned what it said would be a peaceful protest to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa to set up a transitional authority to address economic problems and organize credible elections. The protests will spread to other cities next week, the opposition said. AP

Activists ‘Abducted’ Ahead of Zimbabwe Protests: Rights Groups
At least six opposition and rights activists were abducted and tortured by unidentified assailants in Zimbabwe ahead of planned protests against worsening economic problems, rights groups charged Thursday. “We note with regret that six people so far were abducted by suspected state agents in the evening of 13 and 14 August 2019, and they have been severely tortured and left for dead,” said a statement released by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of 21 human rights groups. … MDC youth leader Obey Sithole told a press conference Wednesday that after the party said it was organising protest actions, the government went into “panic” and “some of the tactics they are employing are to abduct people”. In an apparent rebuttal of the accusations, government spokesman Nick Mangwana said it “noted with concern and distress reports of alleged abductions and torture of citizens by unknown assailants. “These allegations and any other will be professionally investigated to their final conclusion and the outcomes shared with the public,” Mangwana said. AFP

Top Economist Nominated as Sudan’s Transitional PM
Sudan’s main opposition coalition has nominated former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok to be prime minister during the country’s three-year transition. Mr Hamdok, an economist, stepped down last year as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa. The ruling military council and the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC) are expected to sign a final power-sharing agreement on Saturday, after which the transition period is to start. A sovereign council, consisting of six civilians and five generals, will be formed the next day – a body that will oversee the transition. The prime minister will then be appointed not long after that. Last year, Mr Hamdok was nominated by then-President Omar al-Bashir to the job of finance minister, but he turned it down, the AFP news agency reports. BBC

Amnesty Urges Sudan’s Military to Extradite Ousted al-Bashir
Amnesty International is urging Sudan’s military rulers to hand over longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict. Amnesty’s statement on Friday – just two days before al-Bashir is to go on trial on corruption charges before a Khartoum court – says the former president “has evaded justice for far too long.” The ICC first issued an arrest warrant for him a decade ago. The statement quotes Amnesty’s Joan Nyanyuki as saying that while al-Bashir’s trial in Khartoum “is a positive step … he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people.” Al-Bashir was overthrown in April but Sudan’s military rulers have said he would not be extradited to the ICC in The Hague. AP

UN Probe Finds Sudan Staff Member Solicited Bribes from Refugees
An internal UN refugee agency investigation into allegations of corruption in its Sudan resettlement operations has determined that a staff member abused their power by soliciting bribes from refugees. UNHCR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told The New Humanitarian in an email that the probe, which began early last year, has now concluded and that the staff member in question has been on administrative leave without pay since 15 March. … Witnesses who gave testimony during the investigation told TNH this week that they believe UNHCR’s conclusion downplays the pervasiveness of corruption within the Khartoum office. All of the witnesses asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. … The number of resettlement places available for refugees greatly outstrips demand, due to a lack of countries offering spaces. Of the estimated 1.2 million refugees who required resettlement globally in 2018, only 55,692 were actually moved – less than five percent, according to UNHCR figures. Corruption among staff of the UNHCR and the Sudanese government’s Commission for Refugees, which it partners with, is one of the reasons refugees told TNH they preferred to head to neighbouring Libya, before trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The New Humanitarian

UN: Over 37 Health-Related Attacks in Libya since Offensive
More than 37 attacks have been reported against health workers, health facilities and ambulances in Libya since the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive in early April to capture the capital of Tripoli, the United Nations said Thursday. The U.N. political mission in Libya said in a statement that the “deplorable attacks” impacted at least 19 hospitals and 19 civilian and military ambulances, resulting in 11 deaths and more than 33 injuries, though the actual number may be significantly higher. Ghassan Salame, the U.N. envoy for Libya, condemned what he called a clear pattern of ruthless attacks. AP

Kenya, Somalia Trade Threats in Indian Ocean Dispute
Analysts warn that tension could rise as a U.N. hearing nears on a Kenyan-Somali territorial argument. Kenya’s parliament recently called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to send troops to the Indian Ocean to protect the country’s territory from what it calls Somalia’s aggression. … The threat by Kenya comes less than a month before the U.N.’s International Court of Justice holds a hearing on the dispute. Somali lawmaker Mohamed Omar Talha told VOA that his country would counter Kenya by sending troops of its own to the 100,000-square-kilometer (38,600-square-mile) area. … The neighbors’ maritime dispute began in 2014 when Somalia filed a complaint against Kenya in the International Court of Justice saying it had exhausted all other avenues of finding a resolution. Kenya wants negotiations with Somalia, while Somalia insists the court process must stop before negotiations take place. Security expert Mwachofi Singo said a conflict between the countries would benefit the al-Shabab terrorist group. VOA

International Community Delegates Meet Madobe to Discuss Jubbaland Election Process
Jubbaland State president Ahmed Mohamed Islam has today received delegates from the International Community led by the United Nations Special Representative to Somalia James Swan accompanied by IGAD officials, African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM Force Commanders and other members. The Jubbaland president Ahmed Madobe was also accompanied in the meeting by his Vice President and the Ministers of Interior and Security of Jubbaland state. The meeting discussed the Jubbaland election process and how to hold a free and fair election to avoid anything that causes chaos and insecurity in the region. United Nations envoy to Somalia James Swan asked the Jubbaland government to allow opposition candidates to register and participate in the elections and to amend the criteria for candidates running for the Jubbaland presidency. Goobjoog News

Ethiopians Abandoned after Deportation from Saudi Arabia: HRW
Ethiopian migrants who braved death-defying land and sea journeys to find work in Saudi Arabia are being deported en masse with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. A report based on interviews with deportees in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa documents exploitation, trafficking and violence that begins from the moment the migrants set off across the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden to reach the Arabian Peninsula. It says officials in Ethiopia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have done little to protect migrants from abuses at the hands of traffickers and security forces. And it says they have failed to ease the return of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians caught up in a large-scale Saudi deportation campaign that began in November 2017. … Around 10,000 Ethiopians on average were deported monthly between May 2017 and March 2019, and Human Rights Watch says deportations have continued. AFP

Group Urges Nigerian Govt to Reconsider Nuclear Energy Plan after Russia Accident
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has warned that Nigeria’s decision to build nuclear power plants to augment the poor power situation in the country will result in mishaps similar to the Arkhangelsk region explosion in Russia last week which led to a spike in radiation levels and mass evacuation of communities near the facility. Last week, Russian scientists were working on miniaturised sources of nuclear energy when a rocket engine exploded. The explosion killed five people and caused radiation readings in neighbouring cities to spike to 20 times above their normal level in half an hour. While the Russian defence ministry said that the explosion took place during testing of a rocket engine, the country’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, countered in its report that the incident happened during testing of an isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system. Rosatom is the corporation that the Nigerian government is partnering with to add nuclear energy to the nation’s energy mix. Premium Times

Rwandan Opposition Member Missing for 30 Days
The wife of a Rwandan opposition party member who disappeared 30 days ago has told the BBC she has lost hope of finding her husband. Joselyne Mwiseneza said she does not know whether her husband, Eugène Ndereyimana, is dead or alive. The politician, who represented the opposition FDU-Inkingi party in the east of the country, went missing on 15 July. Mrs Mwiseneza said the authorities have not given her any news about him. … Victoire Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi, says that Habarugira Jean Damascène who held the same position as Mr Ndereyimana, also went missing in 2016. His body was later discovered. Mrs Ingabire, a vocal critic of the Rwandan government, has previously condemned the killing of opposition members. BBC

Malawi: Attack on Mtambo’s Property a Clear Act of Intimidation – Amnesty
Amnesty International has described the petrol-bomb attack on Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Timothy Mtambo’s property as a clear act of intimidation, designed to deter him from carrying out his human rights work. The rights body said this yesterday after thugs threw three petrol bombs into Mtambo’s compound. One bomb hit and torched Mtambo’s car, a second was thrown at the gate and the last narrowly missed the house. … Apart from being chairperson of the HRDC, Mtambo is also the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) as well as the vice chairperson of Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network. The activist has been instrumental in leading post-election protests following the 21 May election, calling for the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah to resign from her position over allegations of mismanaging the election. Earlier this week, the HRDC said the next protests will take place at the country’s border and airports. Malawi 24

Lesotho: Report: Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee Seamstresses Harassed, Abused
Women sewing blue jeans for Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee and The Children’s Place faced sexual harassment and gender-based violence and some were coerced into having sex with supervisors to keep their jobs in African factories, labor rights groups say. In response to the revelations, the brands have agreed to bring in outside oversight and enforcement for more than 10,000 workers at five Lesotho factories, according to a report from the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium released on Thursday. The labor rights group investigated Taiwan-based Nien Hsing Textile factories in Lesotho – a poor, mountainous kingdom encircled by South Africa – after hearing from a number of sources that women who sew, sand, wash and add rivets to blue jeans and other clothes were facing gender-based violence. AP

Lender’s Remorse? China Finds Africa Projects Require a Growing Wave of Debt Forgiveness
Perhaps yielding to growing criticism over its lending practices in Africa, China is writing off or restructuring debt for an increasing number of African countries in financial distress. China’s embassy in Kenya said that Beijing was ready to help heavily indebted African countries ease their debt burdens. “If some African countries encounter difficulties to repay Chinese loans, we will have bilateral consultations with them and take flexible measures according to international practice and market principles,” the embassy said. Critics warn that Beijing may be ensnaring nations with unsustainable debts through its signature trillion-dollar infrastructure and development programme, the Belt and Road Initiative. South China Morning Post

African Countries Are Opening Their Borders. What Does This Mean for Security, Identity and Trade?
On July 10, authorities from Niger and Burkina Faso signed an accord to ease interstate cooperation on issues of counterterrorism, economic development and natural resource management. “There will be a border but we will act as though there really isn’t one,” explained Burkinabè diplomat Alpha Barry. It’s a significant step between two countries with a history of disputed borderlands. In 2010, Nigerien and Burkinabè delegates asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle a decades-old territorial dispute. The ICJ’s 2013 ruling delimited a new international boundary between Niger and Burkina Faso to replace the vague line on French colonial maps. As part of that resolution, people living near the border got to choose their citizenship. But our research suggests that people in the borderland still strongly cling to their national identities, even when government officials seek to minimize the divide between nations. According to surveys that we conducted in the border zone in 2016, few Nigeriens jumped at the opportunity to become Burkinabè, finding the thought of switching nationalities preposterous. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones