Africa Media Review for August 21, 2019

Sudan Forms 11-Member Sovereign Council, Headed by Al-Burhan
Sudan’s generals and protest leaders have announced a joint ruling body, formally disbanding the military council that took power after the toppling of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April in the wake of relentless protests against his rule. The new, 11-member Sovereign Council is to rule Sudan for a little over three years until elections can be held. A spokesman for the now-defunct Transitional Military Council (TMC) announced the names of the members of the joint body in a televised address late on Tuesday. The council includes six civilians and five soldiers. It will be headed for 21 months by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who headed the TMC. A civilian leader appointed by the protest movement is to follow Burhan for the remaining 18 months. Both sides agreed on the appointment of a Coptic Christian judge as the 11th member of the council. Al Jazeera

UN Sees Drop in Violence against Aid Workers in South Sudan
Violence against aid workers in conflict-torn South Sudan has reduced significantly, thanks to the September 2018 peace deal, a UN official said on Monday. Speaking during an occasion making the World Humanitarian Day, Alain Noudehou, humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan said there has been improvement in security for aid workers in the past one year. “We are grateful that since the start of year 2019, we have not experienced any loss of life in the humanitarian community,” Noudehou said. He urged the parties to the peace agreement to implement it and bring lasting stability to the world’s youngest nation. … At least 112 humanitarian workers have been killed since South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, said Manasseh Lomole, chairperson of the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. Xinhua

Egyptian Security Forces Kill 11 Suspected Militants in Sinai
Egyptian security forces have killed 11 suspected militants in a gun battle during a raid on their hideout in Al-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, the ministry of interior said on Tuesday. A ministry statement said the suspects used their hideout as a base to launch “hostile operations” and weapons and explosives were found at the scene. … Egypt has long been fighting Islamist militants, who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents, in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. A Reuters investigation in April found that Egyptian security forces had shot dead hundreds of suspected militants in what the Interior Ministry said were gun battles, but which bereaved families said were extrajudicial executions. Reuters

UN Postpones Anti-torture Conference in Cairo after Backlash
The UN has postponed an anti-torture conference due to take place in Cairo, following an outcry from human rights activists who accused the organisation of “whitewashing” the Egyptian government’s abuses. The conference on “defining and criminalising torture in the Arab region” was scheduled for 4 and 5 September. A draft copy of the agenda listed participants including the UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, as leading discussions on the prohibition of torture alongside Egyptian government officials. News of the UN’s choice of location for the conference sparked outrage from Egyptian human rights campaigners, who said the conference was simply a cover-up of the Egyptian government’s record on torture. … Egyptian observers were outraged by the UN’s decision to hold the conference in a place where torture is rampant. Human Rights Watch has stated that the overwhelming rise in enforced disappearances and torture in Egypt likely amounts to crimes against humanity. The Guardian

UN Agency: Rival Tribes Clash in Southern Libya; 90 Killed
A U.N. humanitarian agency says at least 90 people have died this month in southern Libya amid fighting between rival tribes. The fighting pits the Arab Alzway tribe against the sub-Saharan African Tabu tribe that inhabits a wide area stretching across Chad, Libya, Sudan and Niger and that often crosses into Libya. The clashes are centered in and around the town of Murzuq, located about 800 kilometers, or 500 miles, south of the capital, Tripoli. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday the clashes have displaced 6,400 people. It says the dead include 45 killed in an Aug. 4 airstrike in the town. That strike has been blamed on the self-styled Libyan National Army, which is fighting to capture Tripoli and which supports Alzway tribesmen. AP

Moderate Islamists Make New Power Quest in Tunisia
Tunisia’s moderate Islamists are hoping the genial Beethoven fan they have nominated to run in next month’s presidential elections will break the mould in the Arab world by turning success at the ballot box into uncontested rule. Abdelfattah Mourou is a lawyer who has distanced himself from the more socially conservative positions of his Ennahda party in the past, has friendly relations with opponents and is known for a jokey manner. His aim, he says, is to unite Tunisians via the election to be held on Sept 15 in which he will face 25 other candidates, including prominent secularists such as Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, his Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi and a TV tycoon. “If I am elected I will be president of all Tunisians, not president for Ennahda supporters,” Mourou, 71, told reporters when he submitted his application earlier this month. Reuters

Southern Somali State Shutters Main City, Airport Ahead of Election – Senior Local Official
The southern Somali state of Jubbaland has blocked access to the capital city Kismayo and its main airport ahead of Thursday’s vote to elect a president of the semi-autonomous region, a senior regional official said on Tuesday. The move underscores escalating tensions between Jubbaland authorities and the federal Somali government in Mogadishu, which has been seeking to exert control over the election process in the last month. “We have closed all the approaches to Kismayo to prevent the Somali federal government, which is using all possible ways including Ethiopian forces, to disrupt the Jubbaland election,” Mohamud Sayid Aden, vice president of Jubbland, told Reuters. On Saturday the Somali government said it would not recognise the result of the election in Jubbaland, a key battleground state for counter-terrorism operations, saying the candidate selection process violated the national constitution. Reuters

Kenya’s Protest Note Underlines Discomfort with Addis’s Role in Somalia
Kenya is rejecting the position held by the United Nations on Somalia’s Jubbaland presidential election, lifting the veil on its discomfort with the emerging role of Ethiopia in Somalia politics. Ahead of the presidential election in Jubbaland, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) has recently been vocal in demanding more time for registration of candidates and discussions to relax some of the conditions to run. … Kenya and Ethiopia have contributed troops to Amisom, both of who operate in Jubbaland in Sector II and Sector VI. The complaint comes as reports emerge that Ethiopia is siding with Mogadishu to front some candidates in Jubbaland. Officially, Somalia’s federal government says it only wants a legitimate process. An Ethiopian diplomat in Somalia told The EastAfrican that his government would only be involved through the federal government in Somalia, to help stabilise the country. Kenya says delays on the election date and making demands on the JIEBC could create a leadership vacuum and an opportunity for Al-Shabaab to re-emerge. The East African

Qatar to Build New Port in Somalia’s Hobyo
Qatar plans to build a new seaport at Somalia’s Hobyo, a potentially strategic investment in an area of East Africa fiercely contested by Gulf rivals. Hobyo, in the central region of Mudug, is an important Somali port owing to its proximity to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which is one of the most important sea crossing points in the world, with the potential for access to international markets. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are locked in a protracted dispute with fellow Gulf Arab state Qatar, have been competing along with Doha’s ally Turkey for a foothold in the Horn of Africa, located on key shipping routes. Al Jazeera

Burundi’s Humanitarian Crisis: An Inconvenient Truth for the Ruling Party
With less than a year to Burundi’s presidential election, aid workers and political analysts say the ruling party is intent on projecting an image of stability, while downplaying the extent of a malaria outbreak, food shortages, and growing political violence. Burundi was emerging from more than a decade of civil war before it plunged into crisis in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term. More than 1,200 people were killed in a government crackdown on protesters and 350,000 people currently shelter in neighbouring countries. Although Nkurunziza has said he won’t run for a fourth term, a referendum last year approved changing the constitution to extend presidential term limits, clearing the legal hurdle to him staying in power until 2034. The New Humanitarian

Final Handshake? Museveni Off to Angola to Meet Kagame over Tensions
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday morning left for the Angolan capital Luanda for a quadripartite summit, whose top agenda is to normalise the frosty relations between Kampala and Kigali. “The summit is part of the continuation of the dialoguing process aimed at finding a lasting solution to the different regional issues, ” the Ugandan presidency tweeted. The meeting is on an invitation by Angolan President João Lourenço, who has been leading negotiations between the two countries. Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso and DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi are also expected to attend the meeting. The East African

Burkina Faso Leader Laments “Dark Stain” after Attack Kills 24 Soldiers
Gunmen killed 24 soldiers in an attack on an army unit in Burkina Faso, the deadliest yet in the West African nation’s fight against Islamist militants, which the president on Tuesday called a “dark stain” on the country’s history. Seven other soldiers were wounded in the attack on Monday and five are still missing, the military and President Roch Marc Kabore said in separate statements. The army, which earlier put the death toll at 10, said it had launched a land and air operation in response to the attack in Koutougou, in northern Burkina Faso’s Soum province…. Once a pocket of relative calm in the Sahel, Burkina has suffered a homegrown insurgency for the past three years, which has been amplified by a spillover of jihadist violence and criminality from its chaotic neighbour Mali. Reuters

Islamist Militants Are Targeting Christians in Burkina Faso: ‘They Are Planting Seeds of a Religious Conflict’
One evening in late June, gunmen stormed a village in northern Burkina Faso and ordered people who had been chatting outside to lie down. Then the armed strangers checked everyone’s necks, searching for jewelry. They found four men wearing crucifixes – Christians. They executed them. The murders in Beni, reported by Catholic leadership in the region, followed attacks on churches in the West African nation that have left at least two dozen people dead since February, according to local news reports. It was the second time in as many months that militants singled out worshipers wearing Christian imagery. A spreading Islamist insurgency has transformed Burkina Faso from a peaceful country known for farming, a celebrated film festival and religious tolerance into a hotbed of extremism. Washington Post

Critics Condemn Life Sentences for Cameroon Separatist Leaders
A military tribunal in Cameroon has sentenced 10 leaders of the country’s Anglophone separatist movement to life in prison, which critics say will hurt efforts to end the separatist crisis through dialogue. Julius Ayuk Tabe, president of the self-declared Republic of Ambazonia, and nine of his collaborators were sentenced Tuesday by Colonel Misse Njone Jacques after a heated court session in Yaounde that was boycotted by defense lawyers. Jacques found the defendants guilty of secession, terrorism and hostility against the state of Cameroon, and ordered them to pay a $50 million fine. Immediately, observers voiced concern the ruling will derail efforts to end the crisis in the North West and South West regions. Armed groups in the two mostly English-speaking regions want to break away from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority and form a separate nation. VOA

South African Court Sets Aside Arms Deal Commission Findings
A South African court set aside the findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry, which spent four years investigating allegations of corruption linked to about 46.7 billion rand’s ($3.1 billion) worth of weapons and equipment purchased in the late 1990s and found no evidence of wrongdoing by politicians or government officials. Handing down judgment on Wednesday, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said in the High Court in Pretoria the commission failed to inquire fully into the matters that it had to investigate. Bloomberg

Islamic State, Al-Qaeda Hunker Down to Rebuild in Weaker Nations
Islamic State has been battered in Iraq and Syria and declared defeated by President Donald Trump. But the terrorist group and its predecessor, al-Qaeda, are finding ample room to rebuild in other places with weak central governments, officials and analysts warn. As an attack Saturday that killed 63 people in Afghanistan underscored, Islamic State affiliates have proven they can carry out deadly strikes, gain support and establish footholds from Sri Lanka to Nigeria. As its leadership goes deeper underground and spends millions of dollars to expand, Western security officials are looking for new ways to disrupt its operations. Bloomberg

Slavery’s 400-Year Anniversary Brings Tourist Boom to Ghana
In a clearing at the turnoff to Assin Manso, a billboard depicts two African slaves in loincloths, their arms and legs in chains. Beside them are the words, “Never Again!” This is “slave river,” where captured Ghanaians submitted to a final bath before being shipped across the Atlantic into slavery centuries ago, never to return to the land of their birth. Today, it is a place of somber homecoming for the descendants of those who spent their lives as someone else’s property. The popularity of the site has swelled this year, 400 years after the trade in Africans to the English colonies of America began. This month’s anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in Virginia has caused a rush of interest in ancestral tourism, with people from the United States, the Caribbean and Europe seeking out their roots in West Africa. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones