Africa Media Review for August 22, 2018

Pushing Further into Africa, Russia Signs a New Military Accord
Just three weeks after three Russian journalists were murdered while investigating the role of Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic, Moscow and the turbulent African country signed an agreement on Tuesday to expand military cooperation.Details of the agreement were not announced but it seemed to relate to Russian military trainers, 175 of whom are already present in the Central African Republic and who were the focus of a daring investigation last month by the Russian journalists. All three, Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko, died in mysterious circumstances on July 31 in what Russia and the Central African Republic insist was a roadside ambush by unidentified robbers near the town of Sibut. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch who funds a media organization that sponsored their trip to Africa, has described the official version as “totally unsustainable.”  The New York Times

Detained Academic Jok Madut Released from Juba Prison
South Sudan’s prominent academic Dr Jok Madut Jok has been released by authorities this afternoon after spending one day in the Central Prison in Juba. Jok confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that he has been released by the country’s authorities. “We will go to court on Thursday. They are saying that my brother who is having a court case should come,” he said. He pointed out that the Attorney General intervened and ordered his release after realizing that proper procedures were not followed in the arrest. The South Sudanese intellectual further said he will not be allowed to leave the country before the accused returns to Juba. Radio Tamazuj

Mali’s Keita Reaches Out to Opposition as He Seeks to Mend Divisions
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the official winner of the presidential election, reached out to the opposition for his second term starting in September in a country still facing the threat of jihadi violence despite five years of international military intervention. During a hearing broadcast on public television ORTM, the constitutional court rejected all the arguments of the opposition candidate, Soumaïla Cissé, finding them inadmissible or unfounded for lack of evidence, thereby confirming Keita’s victory. Africa News

SA Defence Minister Criticises UN Plans to Reduce Force Intervention Brigade in DRC
The South African government is opposing UN plans to reduce the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because Pretoria fears that could weaken it and make South African and other regional troops more vulnerable to increasingly aggressive rebel forces. “It is my responsibility as minister of defence to ensure no bodybags come back to South Africa,” SA Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula bluntly told the Dirco in-house news agency last week. “We must ensure decisions taken as regards the FIB do not disrupt or disadvantage the force and make sure it doesn’t suffer casualties. “By deploying (troops) you are not saying people should go and die.”  Daily Maverick

US Military Airstrike in Somalia against Al-Shabab Kills 2
The U.S. military says it has carried out an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabab extremists, killing two fighters. The U.S. Africa Command statement says the strike was carried out on Tuesday about 46 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of the port city of Kismayo. The U.S. has carried out 20 such strikes this year against the Somalia-based al-Shabab. The al-Qaida-linked group is the deadliest Islamic extremist organization in sub-Saharan Africa and it often targets Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, with deadly attacks. The U.S. since late last year also has carried out a number of drone strikes against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State organization in the northern part of the Horn of Africa nation. AP

Zimbabwe Says “Hostility of the West” Putting Off Renewed Investment
Western hostility towards Zimbabwe is deterring investment, the presidency spokesman said on Tuesday, comments in sharp contrast with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s previous efforts to woo Western governments. Mnangagwa has made progress in improving Zimbabwe’s relations with Western states before and after he won a July 30 presidential election, the first since the removal of long-time leader Robert Mugabe in a de facto coup last November. But with a violent crackdown on opposition protesters by security forces after the election – a reminder to many of the repressive Mugabe era, the remarks by Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba signalled that his charm offensive towards the West may already be unravelling.  Reuters

Zimbabwe War Vets Demand Mugabe’s ‘Dirty’ Name Be Removed from Airport
Zimbabwe’s war veterans have asked that government renames the country’s main airport, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, in Harare. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Secretary General of the group Victor Matemadanda said the deposed president had shown traits of traitor in the run up to the July 30 elections. “We are going to demand the removal of Robert Mugabe’s name from the international airport in Harare. Tomorrow we are going to Harare international airport to demand the removal of Mugabe’s dirty name. Airport cannot be named after a last minute traitor.”  Africa News

UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur ‘Motivated to Redouble Efforts’ as UNAMID Prepares for Exit
The head of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid) Jeremiah Mamabolo has affirmed that as his mission prepared to exit Darfur, it is “motivated to redouble our efforts ensuring that the people of Darfur are on a firm path to lasting peace and stability”. In a message to mark Eid El Adha, Mamabolo wishes the people and the government of Sudan a peaceful and joyous Eid Al-Adha. “This year’s Eid Al-Adha is being celebrated as Darfur transitions to a phase of stabilization and development while Unamid draws down and prepares to exit. For Unamid, the transition is an opportunity to work hardest for sustainable peace and development for the people of Darfur in the spirit of the key symbolic messages of peace and sacrifice during Eid Al-Adha. We remain motivated to redouble our efforts ensuring that the people of Darfur are on a firm path to lasting peace and stability,” Mamabolo says. Radio Dabanga

Morocco King Pardons 188 People Linked to Hirak Protests
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has pardoned a total of 188 people linked to the “Hirak” protest movement on the occasion of Islam’s Eid al-Adha religious feast, the National Council on Human Rights said on Tuesday. The council initially reported that royal pardons had been granted to 11 activists serving sentences of two to three years in prison for their part in the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or “Popular Movement” whose protests rocked the northern Rif region in 2016-2017. The other pardons concern people sentenced in connection with the demonstrations in the disadvantaged region, according to the Moroccan press. It was not immediately possible to get confirmation from the justice ministry, which published the list of people granted royal pardons. AFP

Morocco Restoring Military Service
Morocco’s government is moving to restore military service, with men and women between the ages of 19 and 25 expected to serve a year in the army, navy or air force. King Mohammed VI’s ministerial council on Monday approved the draft law that is expected to comfortably win lawmakers’ backing when tabled for parliamentary debate in October. The council said the aim is “to strengthen the sense of citizenship among young people.” The plan provoked an immediate outcry on social media. Critics argued that the government wants to turn young Moroccans, among the hardest hit by unemployment, into brainwashed patriots.  AP

Uganda Police Lock up over 100 in Bobi Wine Protests
Ugandan police and army have arrested and locked up more than 100 people in crackdown on protests against detention of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. The protesters were rounded up on Monday in the capital Kampala and its outskirts. However, police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said only 45 suspects were being held in different police stations. “Fortunately, police with sister security agencies stopped the protests. We want to ask Ugandans, mostly people in Kampala, to desist from these acts. Protests are criminal. We ask you to express your emotions in a manner that does not contravene the law,” Mr Kayima said.  The East African

Bobi Wine Protests: Uganda Army Sorry over Beating Journalists
Uganda’s army has made a rare apology after soldiers were caught on film beating up a journalist who was covering a demonstration supporting detained MP Bobi Wine on Monday. Other journalists were also beaten as they were reporting on the protests. An army statement described the soldiers’ conduct as “unprofessional” and said they would be arrested. There has been political tension in Uganda after Wine, and four opposition MPs, were arrested last week. Wine, who was a well-known musician before being elected an independent MP last year, is leading possibly the first major popular movement against President Yoweri Museveni by young people, says the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga.  BBC

Sudan Offers Amnesty for Rebel Groups, Calls on Opposition to Join National Dialogue
The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has reiterated the call for the holdout groups to join the national dialogue in order to contribute to nation building. In a speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha celebration on Tuesday, al-Bashir renewed amnesty for arms bearers who accept to lay down arms and join the peace process. He expressed full commitment to implement the National Document, stressing adherence to peace and dialogue as a means to overcome all differences and obstacles. Al-Bashir also pointed out that the external challenges facing the country have directly contributed to the economic situation, saying the government and the Sudanese people would join hands to overcome these challenges and achieve security, peace and stability. Sudan Tribune

Ex-Comoros President Charged with Graft in Connection to Passports Scheme
Ex-Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi has been formally charged with corruption and embezzling public funds in connection with a scheme to sell his country’s passports, according to the prosecutor and court documents. Sambi, who had previously been questioned and placed under house arrest, will also be officially detained to prevent him from fleeing the country or undermining investigations by communicating with others accused of involvement in the scheme. A lawyer for Sambi said he was being held in “prison-like” conditions. The ex-president, who was in power from 2006-2011, has previously denied all allegations against him.  Reuters

46 Candidates Bid to Contest Madagascar Presidency
A total of 46 candidates including the incumbent president and his two predecessors are seeking to contest Madagascar’s presidential polls at the end of the year, the Constitutional Court said on Tuesday. The court will now assess the candidates’ eligibility and confirm by Sunday which ones will be allowed to stand in the first round of the elections. The vote scheduled for November 7 comes after an outbreak of protests that forced President Heri Rajaonarimampianina to accept the formation of a “consensus” government tasked with organising a fresh poll. If no candidate receives more than 50% in the first round, a second round of voting will be held on December 19. AFP

Tanker Missing off Gabon with 17 Sailors Onboard
A tanker is missing off the coast of Gabon with 17 Georgian sailors on board, officials said on Tuesday. The ship “disappeared” from tracking screens on August 14, the source said, while regional military officials said the potential search area was between the Gabonese coast and the Sao Tome and Principe archipelago. Specialist websites list the 121-metre ship, the Pantelena, as a 7 000-tonne, 12-year-old dual-purpose oil or chemical tanker. The vessel is Panamanian-flagged and owned by a Greek company, Lotus Shipping Co. Ltd. The Georgian foreign ministry in Tbilissi, in a statement issued last Friday, said there were concerns for 17 Georgian sailors onboard and a search operation was being conducted with the help of the British maritime authorities. AFP

‘We Cannot Afford This’: Malaysia Pushes Back against China’s Vision
In the world’s most vital maritime chokepoint, through which much of Asian trade passes, a Chinese power company is investing in a deepwater port large enough to host an aircraft carrier. Another state-owned Chinese company is revamping a harbor along the fiercely contested South China Sea.Nearby, a rail network mostly financed by a Chinese government bank is being built to speed Chinese goods along a new Silk Road. And a Chinese developer is creating four artificial islands that could become home to nearly three-quarters of a million people and are being heavily marketed to Chinese citizens. Each of these projects is being built in Malaysia, a Southeast Asian democracy at the heart of China’s effort to gain global influence. But where Malaysia once led the pack in courting Chinese investment, it is now on the front edge of a new phenomenon: a pushback against Beijing as nations fear becoming overly indebted for projects that are neither viable nor necessary — except in their strategic value to China or use in propping up friendly strongmen. At the end of a five-day visit in Beijing, Malaysia’s new leader, Mahathir Mohamad, said on Tuesday that he was halting two major Chinese-linked projects, worth more than $22 billion, amid accusations that his predecessor’s government knowingly signed bad deals with China to bail out a graft-plagued state investment fund and bankroll his continuing grip on power.  The New York Times