Africa Media Review for August 22, 2019

President of Somali State of Jubbaland Re-elected in Divisive Vote

The president of the southern Somali state of Jubbaland, Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, won another term in office on Thursday, the parliamentary speaker said, after a divisive election. Madobe won 56 of the 74 votes cast by lawmakers in the regional parliament, speaker Sheikh Cabdi Maxamed Abdirahmaan, said. The central government in Mogadishu said on Saturday it would not recognise the vote’s result, saying the candidate selection process had violated the national constitution. It has accused Madobe of interfering in the process and had backed opposition candidates, who were rejected by the electoral commission when they attempted to register. Reuters

Somalia Security Remains a Concern, Head of UN Mission Warns Security Council
Despite “encouraging” developments, insecurity across Somalia remains a serious concern, James Swan, head of the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), warned the Security Council, in his first briefing to the world body since taking office. Mr. Swan noted the effectiveness of the collaboration between the UN and international partners, and the Somali Security Forces working with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has seen areas near the capital Mogadishu taken back from terror group al-Shabab, and stabilized. However, Mr. Swan noted that terrorism remains a threat to progress, citing the deadly al-Shabab attack on the offices of the mayor of Mogadishu in July, which killed and injured several Government officials. Looking ahead to the crucial 2020 election cycle, Mr. Swan described the upcoming poll as an opportunity to advance democracy in the country, noting that preparations for the one-person-one-vote poll, including a draft electoral law, are underway. UN News

Suspected Jihadists Kill Five Malian Troops in Ambush

Suspected jihadists killed five Malian soldiers on Wednesday in an ambush in the West African country’s volatile centre, the army said, the latest in a string of attacks targeting local security forces in the Sahel region. The statement said the soldiers were travelling between the towns of Hombori and Boni, about 100 km north of the Burkina Faso border, when they fell into an ambush. It came days after gunmen killed 24 soldiers in an attack on an army unit in neighbouring Burkina Faso. “FAMA (Malian armed forces) deplores the killing of five people, which also destroyed military equipment,” the statement said. “Reinforcements have been sent back there.” Reuters

Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda Sign Pact to Ease Tensions

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, have signed a pact in Angola aimed at ending months of tensions that saw the two neighbours accusing each other of espionage, political killings and attacks on trade. The two leaders were once close allies but have recently faced off in a series of disputes that many feared could threaten regional stability and economic integration. The enmity led to the closure of an important commercial crossing in February. According to a statement issued after Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Luanda, the two presidents agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty and that “of the neighbouring countries”. … The bad blood between Rwanda and Uganda had grown in recent months, prompting fears that the row would threaten regional commerce and ensnare neighbouring countries. Al Jazeera

Uganda Confirms Use of Huawei Facial Recognition Cameras

Ugandan police have confirmed that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is rolling out a massive surveillance system that uses facial recognition and other artificial intelligence software to fight crime in the central African country. The police force made the statement on Tuesday in response to a report by the Wall Street Journal that Huawei technicians had helped intelligence officials in Uganda to spy on their political opponents. Spokesperson Fred Enanga denied that the police force was using Huawei’s technology to monitor opposition figures but confirmed that a new surveillance system was in use. … “Given the history of Chinese surveillance, this should be concerning to every Ugandan. This is part of a wider surveillance in public spaces,” said Dorothy Mukasa, executive director of Unwanted Witness, a non-profit body that advocates for uncensored online platforms in Uganda. FT

Huawei Used Code Names for Syria, Sudan Activities, U.S. Alleges

Huawei Technologies Co. used code names and secret subsidiaries to conduct business in Syria, Sudan and Iran, the U.S. alleged in the extradition case related to sanctions violations against the company’s chief financial officer. The Chinese networking giant allegedly operated a de facto unit called DirectPoint in Sudan and Canicula in Syria, according to documents released this week by a Canadian court. In internal spreadsheets, Huawei also used the code “A5” to refer to Sudan and “A7” to Syria, the U.S. said in the documents submitted to the Canadian government in support of its request for the extradition of company CFO Meng Wanzhou. … “The motivation for these misrepresentations stemmed from Huawei’s need to move money out of countries that are subject to U.S. or EU sanctions — such as Iran, Syria, or Sudan — through the international banking system,” the Justice Department said in its request for Canada to arrest Meng as she arrived at Vancouver’s airport last December. Bloomberg

Djibouti Beats About-Turn in UN Security Council Seat Race

The Djiboutian government on Thursday appeared to rescind its earlier decision to respect the African Union’s vote to endorse Kenya’s candidature for the UN Security Council seat, signalling lack of faith in a process it took part in three times. Djibouti’s Permanent Representative to the UN Mohamed Siad Doualeh said his country will continue to vie for the non-permanent seat, by taking the campaign directly to the UN member states. “Djibouti reaffirms its decision to continue its bid to secure a seat at the Security Council for the period 2021-2022. We thank all UN member states that have formally expressed to support Djibouti,” the envoy tweeted, contradicting his colleagues in Addis Ababa. The contest between Djibouti and Kenya, both members of regional bloc Igad, reached the African Union vote after the two failed to agree by consensus who should be Africa’s candidate. The East African

New Ruling Body Ushers In Sudan’s Complex Shift to Civilian Rule

Abdalla Hamdok, who was chosen by the protest movement to be prime minister, took the oath of office late on Wednesday in the capital, Khartoum. Hamdok has 21 days to name a 20-member cabinet, excluding the interior and defence ministers. The pair will be chosen by the soldiers on the sovereign council. “With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis,” Hamdok declared after being sworn in. … Luka Kuol, professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in the United States, described the swearing in of the sovereign council as a “big victory” for the Sudanese people. There were many challenges ahead, he said. “You have about 30 years of misrule by the regime of al-Bashir. It will take a long time for you to clean the system in order to deliver. You are likely to have a very high expectations of the citizens … [but] the capacity for you to deliver will be limited because it’s the old system [that] is still there. Managing the people’s expectations will be one of the real challenges of this government.” Al Jazeera

Stalemate in Algeria Six Months after Start of Protests That Ousted Leader

Six months after a wave of protests began in Algeria, people are still demonstrating and the military-backed government appears determined to keep its grip on power. The demonstrations have gained a familiar rhythm since tens of thousands of Algerians first took to the streets on 22 February. Thousands of students turn out on Tuesdays and there are larger protests each Friday. “We didn’t come to negotiate, we came to kick you out,” read one placard brandished last Friday. On Tuesday this week the number of demonstrators swelled as older Algerians joined students in the heat, defiant in the face of government efforts to curb the protests by closing off areas of the capital and introducing new rules for demonstrations. The movement that unseated the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika is now locked in a stalemate with a regime bent on showing it can keep the upper hand and outlast the protests. Weeks of mass demonstrations forced the 82-year-old Bouteflika to resign in April, and the protesters pressured the authorities to cancel presidential elections originally scheduled for 4 July. Since then, the opaque coalition of political and military figures considered the country’s true power, known as le pouvoir, has been reluctant to make any further concessions. The Guardian

Cameroon Separatists Attack over Leader’s Life Sentence

Cameroon’s Anglophone separatists have attacked towns and villages in protest after a military tribunal gave their leader and 9 supporters life sentences. Cameroon’s military says at least two people were killed in Bamenda and six wounded in a shoot-out with separatists. Food seller Donatus Ngwa, 24, fled fighting Wednesday in the northwestern English-speaking town of Bamenda to French-speaking Mbouda. He says separatist fighters started chasing people off Bamenda’s streets on Tuesday night. Wednesday, they were shooting indiscriminately in the air, Ngwa says, assaulting those who disobeyed them and ordering everyone to leave the streets. Nearly 100 Cameroonians have fled to Mbouda since Tuesday, when a Yaounde military tribunal found separatist leader Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine supporters guilty of secession, terrorism and hostility against Cameroon. All 10 were given lifetime prison sentences and ordered to pay a fine of $50 million. VOA

Nigeria’s President Unveils New Cabinet to Push Reforms

Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled a cabinet dominated by politically connected loyalists, in a sign that Nigeria’s president intends to push harder on a series of reforms that are widely regarded as overdue. Mr Buhari was easily re-elected in February despite what critics regarded as a lacklustre first term in which his cabinet, his office and the legislature often seemed out of step. The Senate confirmed all 43 ministerial nominees last month, including many of the former governors, ministers and legislators who helped the president secure his second four-year term. But it has taken until now for the ministers to be sworn in and assigned portfolios. Mr Buhari has earned the nickname “Baba Go Slow” for his deliberative approach to governing. FT

US, EU Caution Liberia against Jeopardizing Post-war Progress

Two of Liberia’s strongest allies have issued a word of caution in the wake of last weekend’s electoral violence in District 15, Montserrado County. In a joint statement this week, the United States and the EU-Member States -France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) expressed concerns about recent incidents of violence after the by-elections in Montserrado County. “We condemn the violence that took place on Saturday, 17 August, between supporters of the Coalition for Democratic Change and supporters of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties, including the reported violent attacks against the opposition candidate in the District #15 Representative by-election,” the statement warned. Front Page Africa

Zimbabwe’s Rights Abuses May Dent Hope of Lifting Sanctions

Activists and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe say the country is not ready for the end of U.S. and European sanctions, accusing the government of continued human rights violations. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sympathizers say lifting sanctions will help country’s ailing economy, but economists disagree. Tatenda Mombeyarara, the leader of the activist group Citizens Manifesto, opposes planned protests by regional leaders to demand the end of Western sanctions imposed on former President Robert Mugabe and his allies in 2002 for election rigging and human rights abuses. Mombeyarara – speaking while recovering in a private hospital after being abducted by about 10 armed men who he suspects were members of the security forces – said the recent crackdowns by security forces on protesters and a spate of abductions showed that Zimbabwe’s rights record hasn’t improved. VOA

South African Court Restricts Displays of Apartheid-Era Flag

South Africa’s Equality Court on Wednesday restricted the display of the country’s old apartheid-era flag, ruling that its gratuitous use amounts to hate speech and racial discrimination. Judge Phineas Mojapelo said the ruling was not a complete ban, saying use of the flag is protected by law for artistic, academic, journalistic or other purposes deemed in the public interest. The judge criticized those who continued to wave the apartheid-era flag. “Those who display the old flag choose deliberately to not only display the old flag, but also consciously and deliberately choose to not display the new, multiracial flag,” said Mojapelo. “They choose oppression over liberation.” … The Nelson Mandela Foundation, the custodian of former president Nelson Mandela’s archives and legacy, asked the court to rule that displays of the old flag constitute hate speech and discrimination based on race. AP

‘Major Milestone’: Africa on Brink of Eliminating Polio

Africa is on the verge of being declared polio free, after three years without any recorded cases of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nigeria marked three years without a wild polio case on Wednesday, a “major milestone”. If no more incidences emerge in the next few months, Africa could officially be declared polio free in 2020. The last case was recorded in Borno state in August 2016. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: “We are confident that soon we will be trumpeting the certification that countries have, once and for all, kicked polio out of Africa.” She added that stopping the disease has not been easy and praised the “monumental effort” of health workers “on an unprecedented scale”. She said exhaustive surveillance of people on the move was a significant factor in the progress. The Guardian

Sierra Leone’s Thumbprint Breakthrough to Sign Up Unbanked

Sierra Leoneans will be able to sign up for bank accounts with a press of their thumbs, thanks to a blockchain-based financial inclusion programme that could serve as a model for countries with large unbanked populations across the developing world. The Kiva Protocol, launched on Wednesday by the Sierra Leonean government and Kiva, the Silicon Valley microloan company, is a biometric system that links a person’s thumbprint with their identity. It will allow the west African country to create a universal credit bureau for the first time, with its backers hoping it will spur lending by banks reluctant to loan to people without credit histories. Further benefits identified include allowing the government to reach more people with its services, cutting costs for mobile operators and start-ups and bringing thousands of small businesses into the formal economy. FT



Photo: Adam Jones