Africa Media Review for August 9, 2019

Malawi’s Top Court Hears Presidential Election Result Challenge
Malawi’s constitutional court has begun hearing an opposition application to overturn the results of the country’s presidential election held nearly three months ago. The hearing on Thursday in the capital, Lilongwe, came after the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Transformation Movement (UTM) lodged complaints of alleged fraud in the May 21 vote. President Peter Mutharika, leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, was re-elected after narrowly defeating Lazarus Chakwera of the MCP. … The judges said the case will take a maximum of 12 days to complete and will conclude no later than August 20. The case has gripped Malawians, with many on Thursday glued to their phones as they listened intently the radio broadcasting of the court proceedings – on the streets, in the workplace, and near the court premises. … On Tuesday, a peaceful demonstration in Lilongwe calling for electoral accountability later turned violent as protesters and the police clashed, with the latter once again using tear gas to disperse the crowd. Al Jazeera

Zambia Urged to Declare Emergency after Worst Drought since 1981
The British government urged Zambia to declare a food emergency to allow donors to provide assistance after the worst drought in nearly four decades hit farm output and left millions of people facing hunger. A Southern Africa Development Community report last month forecast 2.3 million Zambians will be food insecure by March, after large parts of the southern and western areas of the country received the lowest rainfall since at least 1981. Over the same period, the report forecast Zambia would have an 888,000-ton cereal deficit. Bloomberg

Togo Passes New Law to Clamp Down on Protests
MPs in Togo have passed a law which puts further restrictions on demonstrations following a wave of opposition rallies. The government says the law is to make the country safer but the opposition sees it as an effort to stifle growing dissent fuelled by the fact that one family has held the presidency since 1967. Under the new law, no protests will be allowed on main roads, in city centres or near government buildings. They can not take place before 11:00 or after 18:00. As has happened in recent years, the Togolese authorities may ban them anyway for other reasons. The threat from terrorists is the reason the government has given for the new law. But there is clearly an effort to keep a lid on growing dissent. BBC

In Sierra Leone’s Fight against Rape, a Reminder That Law Is Not Enough
The walls of the Rainbo Center are painted a bright, cheery yellow. But on the hardwood seats lined along its narrow waiting area, a heavy silence hovers, occasionally broken by voices escaping closed doors. “Number 10!” Mamanama Massaquoi announces, leading a young woman to a room marked “Counsellor.” Ms. Massaquoi is head administrator here at Rainbo, tucked into a maternity hospital north of Freetown: a nonprofit center providing free care to survivors of rape and sexual assault. Sierra Leone, on the coast of West Africa, has recorded high levels of sexual violence for decades. Its 7 million people still grapple with the aftermath of an 11-year civil war in which rape was a widespread weapon. As many as 257,000 women may have suffered sexual violence during the conflict, which ended in 2002. But the fight against rape has seemed nearly invisible – until this winter. The Christian Science Monitor

Under Secretary Hale: USA Will Stand by Sudan during Transition
The US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Hale affirmed on Wednesday that the USA will stand by the Sudanese people during the transitional period. Hale said during a press conference in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, concluding a tour of the region which has also taken him to Somalia and Kenya, that his country is focused on helping the Sudanese people during the transitional period that will start in the coming days. “America is fully committed to helping Sudan transition to a civilian-led government that reflects the will of the people,” Hale said. … Hale cautioned that his country still needs to settle some issues with Sudan before considering removing it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism: “There are a number of things that we look forward to engaging with a civilian-led government in Sudan,” he said, adding that these included human rights, religious freedom, and counter-terrorism efforts, as well as “promoting internal peace, political stability and economic recovery in Sudan”. During his visit to Khartoum, Hale met with representatives from the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), along with civil society actors, including women and youth, who were in the forefront demanding change in Sudan. Radio Dabanga

Central African Republic Sees Sharp Decline in Violence
Central African Republic may be getting safer, according to new figures from the United Nations that show a sharp drop in the number of attacks and human rights abuses since last year. The head of human rights for the UN mission in the country said a peace deal between the government and 14 armed groups in February appeared to have allowed for a relative respite, but was hesitant to declare it a success. The UN peacekeeping mission, called Minusca, recorded 565 incidents of abuse or human rights violations from January through June, compared to 1,674 in the same period of 2018 and 1,097 the year before. These include rapes, attacks and the recruitment of children to armed groups. Of 1,082 victims, 403 were women and children. Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when mainly Muslim rebels ousted the former president, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. Reuters

The Controversial Role of Private Military and Security Companies in Africa
Private military and security companies have been regular fixtures in conflicts across the globe. For Africa, these corporations became increasingly visible with their role in civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone. More recently, reports in 2015 indicated the Nigerian government contracted a number of companies to aid in counterinsurgency efforts targeting Boko Haram. And a Russian contractor, the Wagner Group, has been actively involved in Sudan and the Central African Republic. Its involvement has included signing contracts that grant it access to potential diamond and gold deposits. Such agreements have been typical of private military and security companies, particularly in Africa. This was the case with Executive Outcomes’ deal with Sierra Leone’s government in the early 1990s. But understanding when and why these corporations are able to deliver effective services to clients has remained an elusive task. Quartz Africa

Boko Haram: Nigeria Moves to Deradicalize Former Fighters
The Nigerian government has developed an action plan for the total deradicalization and rehabilitation of former Boko Haram insurgents in a bid to find a lasting solution to the persistent Islamic extremism crisis in the country’s north-east. The initiative was first proposed at the Nigerian National Security Council (NSC) meeting in September 2015, after which repentant Boko Haram members were encouraged to surrender and embrace peace. Hundreds of former insurgents, who either surrendered or were captured during clashes with Nigerian security forces, are currently undergoing the process of deradicalization in line with the government’s Operation Safe Corridor. … Following their release from rehabilitation centers, the ex-insurgents are issued certificates confirming their ‘psychosocial normalcy’ before they return to live in local communities. Treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy, art therapy and psycho-spiritual counseling. Boko Haram’s extremist narrative is also broken down by imams, who hold lectures aimed at shifting the participants’ simplistic worldview by offering alternative interpretations of Islamic texts and values. DW visited the Bulumkutu Rehabilitation Center in Borno State’s capital Maiduguri where 151 former Boko Haram members were formally handed over to the state government. DW

Nigerian Court Allows 45-Day Detention of ‘Revolution Now’ Organizer
A court in Nigeria has granted the state spy agency a request to hold a publisher and politician detained last weekend over a banned protest known as “Revolution Now.” Omoyele Sowore, who is publisher of the Sahara Reporters news portal, is to be held in detention by the Department of State Services, DSS; for a period of 45 days. DSS had asked the court for 90 day detention. Reports indicate that he is set to be charged with terrorism, a charge that a leading legal expert in Nigeria, Femi Falana, has insisted will fall flat when trial opens. Africa News

Victims of Hissein Habre’s Dictatorship in Chad Demand Justice
In Chad, victims of the crimes of former President Hussein Habré’s regime are demanding the execution of the March 2015 ruling of the Special Criminal Court. A judgment condemning former security agents and the Security Directorate, for assassinations, torture, kidnappings, arbitrary detentions and other acts of crimes committed during the reign of Hissein Habré from 1982 to 1990. For more than 4 months, these victims have been organizing daily peaceful protests calling on the Chadian authorities to implement the court’s judgement four years on. Africa News

Eritrean Students Forced into Indefinite Military, Govt Jobs: HRW
Eritrea’s education system continues to force students into indefinite military or government jobs, a new report says, before adding that for many, fleeing the country is the only way to avoid it. An 87-page report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday portrays Eritrean secondary education as a conscription machine that subjects students to forced labour and physical abuse as they are groomed for indefinite government service. Despite a peace deal with Ethiopia in July 2018, which inspired hope for reform, the government – headed by President Isaias Afwerki since 1993 – has not enacted meaningful changes in the system, the report said. The Horn of Africa country, home to nearly 4.5 million people, has previously been condemned by the United Nations for abuses that include extrajudicial killings, torture and slave-like conditions for citizens. The Global Slavery Index estimates that 93 out of every 1,000 citizens are living in a form of modern slavery in Eritrea, which it ranked second-worst in the world. Al Jazeera

UK, US Urge Tanzania to Respect ‘Due Process’ after Journalist Arrested
Britain and the United States urged Tanzania on Friday to guarantee due process of law for a journalist arrested on charges that his lawyer and rights groups called politically motivated. Erick Kabendera was charged on Monday with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime. He was arrested the previous week over what police said were issues concerning his citizenship. Press freedom in Tanzania has deteriorated since President John Magufuli was elected in 2015, rights groups say. His administration has shut down newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and activists and restricted political rallies. The government rejects charges that its policies are authoritarian. “The irregular handling of the arrest, detention, and indictment of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, including the fact that he was denied access to a lawyer in the early stages of his detention, (is) contrary to the Criminal Procedures Act,” the US and British said in a joint statement. Reuters

The New Head of AFRICOM Visits Somalia as Pressure on Al-Shabaab Increases
Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the new commander of U.S. Africa Command, visited Somalia on Wednesday and pledged to continue pressuring violent extremists such as al-Shabab. Townsend is now on his first trip to the African continent since he took charge of AFRICOMJuly 26. He met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre in the capital city of Mogadishu, as well as U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto and senior Somali military leadership, AFRICOM said in a release. AFRICOM said Townsend’s trip allowed him to assess the situation in Somalia, and reinforce AFRICOM’s commitments to the region’s security. … “We’re in the business of protecting our country from these threats,” Townsend said. “Degrading the capability of terrorists who operate here makes the entire region safer and prevents its export to other places. This is important work for our country, the Somalis and our allies.” In a sign of how American involvement in Somalia is increasing, the Air Force carried out as many airstrikes in the nation in the first seven months of 2019 as it did for the entirety of 2018. According to statistics from AFRICOM last month, the Air Force carried out its 47th airstrike in Somalia on July 27 to target suspected Islamic State militants in the Golis Mountain region, which is a reputed terrorist hotbed. Air Force Times

Push in US to Stop Kenya’s Bid for UN Sanctions on Shabaab
Kenya’s move to have the Al Shabaab militants blacklisted by United Nations as a terrorist group could curtail relief efforts in Somalia, rights activists warn. The group of former top US State Department officials, joined humanitarian figures on Wednesday in urging the United States to block Kenya’s bid at the UN Security Council. The 16 signatories of letters to the Trump administration, Cabinet members and leading members of Congress warned that the Kenyan proposal could cripple life-saving relief efforts in Somalia. “We are deeply concerned by a Kenyan government proposal to include al-Shabaab in the separate UN sanctions regime applicable to al-Qaeda, ISIL and their affiliates, which does not provide the same type of exemption for humanitarian assistance,” the critics wrote. They noted that al-Shabaab is already included in a different UN sanctions programme that provides an exemption for humanitarian aid. The East African

The South Asian Women Trafficked to Kenya’s Bollywood-Style Bars
An increasing number of women and girls are leaving South Asian nations such as Nepal, India and Pakistan to work in Bollywood-style dance bars in Kenya’s adult entertainment industry – many illegally – according to anti-trafficking activists and police. There is no official data on the numbers but the results of police raids, combined with figures on the repatriation of rescued women, suggest scores of women and underage girls are victims of organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya. … The so-called mujra dance bars are common in India. Here, young women dance to Bollywood music for money from male patrons. These bars have mushroomed in cities including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, where there are countless Kenyans of South Asian descent. Police and anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that some of these private clubs are used as a front to ensnare women and girls, some in sex slavery, with women forced to pay off loans by erotic dancing or having sex with clients. Al Jazeera

Police in South Africa Arrest 560 ‘Undocumented’ Foreigners in Raid
Nearly 600 foreigners were arrested in a police raid on a business district in Johannesburg, South Africa, police and government officials said Thursday. The operation involving immigration officials and customs in the commercial hub on Wednesday was to rid the area of counterfeit businesses and crime, South African Police Service said. “Over 560 undocumented foreign nationals were taken in for processing,” South Africa police said in the statement and added that authorities would check their immigration status and criminal records. The police did not state the nationalities of those arrested in operation. Police said it found unlicensed firearms in a raid called “Operation O Kae Molao” (A Sesotho phrase meaning Operation Where’s the Law?) launched in 2018. Seven policemen, including four officers who were caught selling the confiscated items to traders were arrested during the raid. CNN

South Africa’s ‘Moral Compromise’: Why More than 300 Apartheid-Era Atrocities Remain Unsolved
Nokuthula Simelane, a bright and ambitious 23-year-old anti-apartheid activist, was just two weeks away from graduating from college when she disappeared without a trace in September 1983. … “I was distraught. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep,” Simelane’s mother, Ernestine, 79, recalled last week, sitting in the meticulously tidy brick bungalow where Simelane grew up as the eldest of four children. The family later learned that Simelane had been abducted and subjected to weeks of brutal torture by members of apartheid’s notorious security police. Her family never saw her again. … The Simelanes want closure, and they are not alone in their quest. More than 300 apartheid-era political killings and atrocities remain before the state’s National Prosecution Authority – as they have for more than 15 years, since South Africa’s lauded Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended further investigation and possible prosecution in the cases. Victims’ families say the prosecution authority routinely rebuffed requests for more information and progress on the cases. Officials blame political obstacles and have alleged that the country’s ruling African National Congress party (ANC) has obstructed their work, fearing that party members could face indictment or be exposed as apartheid informants. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones