Africa Media Review for December 12, 2019

More than 70 Soldiers Killed in Attack on Military Base in Western Niger
A caravan of gunmen ambushed a military post in the West African nation of Niger, killing 71 soldiers in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Islamist groups operating in the region, the country’s defense ministry said Wednesday. Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou cut short a trip abroad because of the “tragedy,” his office said in a tweet, calling attention to the continent’s rapid spread of extremists with ties to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. … Assailants in cars and on motorbikes stormed the army base Tuesday night with explosives, RFI Afrique reported, leaving several wounded and others missing. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack. … Niger has worked with French forces and troops from bordering countries in recent years to contain the unrest that has left thousands dead and forced nearly a million people from their homes, by the United Nations’ latest count. … Islamist militant violence in the Sahel region has doubled every year since 2015, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank that tracks the death toll. The Washington Post

Algeria Stages Presidential Vote amid Fierce Protests
Police and demonstrators have clashed in Algeria as polls opened in a tense presidential election. The Hirak opposition movement, which emerged this year from weekly demonstrations against the former French colony’s political establishment, has said the poll cannot be considered free or fair while the ruling elite, including the military, stay in power and has called for a boycott. Demonstrators faced off with riot police in Algiers, the capital, and some other major cities in the north African country. Dozens of arrests were reported amid baton charges to disperse protesters. Five candidates are in the running, all of them widely rejected by protesters as “children of the regime” of the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was ousted in April after two decades in office. Turnout is expected to be extremely low after major demonstrations against the vote on the eve of the polls. … The 61,000 polling stations are scheduled to close at 7pm local time and the result may not be announced until Friday. Whoever wins will struggle to be accepted by the electorate in Algeria, where many see the military-backed regime as inept, corrupt and unable to manage the flagging economy. The Guardian

Algeria Election: ‘Why I Give Up My Weekends to Protest’
Amina Boumaraf, 19, and Yanis Cherrou, 23, are not your typical students. Every week since February they have been taking part in demonstrations in Algeria. The protests led to long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigning in April – but they are opposed to Thursday’s elections to choose his successor, and the protests are still going on. … “Before the revolution, if we wanted to improve or change the situation, it was impossible. “There are people with money and connections who can do whatever they want, and we have nothing.” … “In the beginning there was a lot of anger, people were really fed up,” he says. “But after maybe the third protest the mood became more joyful and we started calling the movement ‘The smiling revolution’. … “The revolution isn’t just against a president, it’s against a system. We want a radical change,” says Ms Boumaraf. “I’m not against elections per se but I am against organising elections in these conditions,” says the young woman. “We need to have an independent justice system, freedom of expression.” … “They’re making fun of us with these candidates. It’s just a renewal of the same system,” says Mr Cherrou. “We won’t be able to change the system if we have a president that doesn’t represent us, a president that will be illegitimate,” says Ms Boumaraf. “It’s going to be very difficult.” BBC

Universities to Track Atrocities in Anglophone Cameroon
The University of Toronto in Canada has partnered with universities in Africa and the world to set up the database. Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the Washington-based non-profit National Democratic Institute. Fomunyoh spoke to DW’s Mimi Mefo. … DW: Why now, after years of conflict in which thousands have been killed? … Dr Christopher Fomunyoh: This is a very welcome initiative by the University of Toronto in Canada and many other universities, including the University of California Berkeley, the University of Essex, the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The fact that these renowned universities are beginning to pay attention to the crisis in Cameroon and are determined to also document the atrocities that are being committed and to secure evidence of these atrocities, is a wonderful development. I think it shows that this crisis is being internalized and that ultimately those who commit atrocities will be held accountable. The evidence is being gathered now, not just by parties to the conflict, individuals, NGOs or church groups, and human rights groups on the ground, but internationally by academic institutions. It will make sure that impunity doesn’t reign, and perpetrators will be called to account. DW

AU Trains 80 Somali Officials on Rehabilitation of Former Al-Shaabab Combatants
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) said Wednesday it has trained some 80 government officials involved in the management and rehabilitation of ex-combatants. Simon Mulongo, deputy head of Amisom, expressed the AU mission’s commitment to supporting the government to rehabilitate former combatants. “It should be in the national interest to end violence,” Mulongo said in a statement issued in Mogadishu. The government officials drawn from Somali state agencies that handle rehabilitation of former combatants attended the two-day training program aimed at sharing best practices and challenges of the rehabilitation program and how to forge ahead. Mohamed Ali Hussein, director of the defector rehabilitation program in the Ministry of Internal Security, said the program complements the government’s stand to offer amnesty to those that renounce violence. “The national rehabilitation program gives a second chance to ex-combatants from extremist groups like al-Shabab, enabling them to be remorseful and seek forgiveness,” said Hussein. Xinhua

CAR Suspected Militia Leaders to Face War Crimes Trial: ICC
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said two alleged leaders of a predominantly Christian militia accused of atrocities against Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) must face trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom are accused of involvement in the crimes in their roles as senior leaders in the anti-Balaka militia as the country descended into war in 2013 to 2014. They have not entered pleas. Following a hearing in September to decide whether there was enough evidence against the pair, judges made a “unanimous decision partially confirming the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity … and committed them to trial.” Judges said on Wednesday there were “substantial grounds” to accuse them of crimes including directing attacks against civilians, murder, rape, forcible displacement, pillaging, cruel treatment, torture and persecution. The court “declined to confirm the remaining charges that were not supported by the evidence presented by the prosecutor.” No trial date was immediately set. Al Jazeera

Tanzania Is Pressing Burundi Refugees to Leave, Says Report
Human Rights Watch says tens of thousands of Burundian refugees face mounting pressure to involuntarily leave Tanzania amid efforts by authorities there to reduce the number of Burundians in the country. The rights group in a statement Thursday charged that the fear of violence, arrest and deportation from Tanzania is driving many of the 163,000 Burundians out of the country. Some of the refugees have since sought shelter in neighboring Uganda. Burundi fell into instability in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a disputed third term. The election was marked by violence and allegations of rigging. Nearly 350,000 of Burundi’s 11 million people fled. Tanzanian authorities have expressed frustration over what they say is the U.N.’s slow pace in repatriating refugees back to Burundi. More than 70,000 refugees have returned to Burundi since December 2017, and rights groups say it is hard to tell how many of those returned voluntarily. AP

Botswana’s Khama Hits Out over Corruption Allegations
After a decade in power, Khama, 66, dramatically resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in May — which has held power since 1966 — and backed a small splinter party, shaking up the politics of one of Africa’s most stable democracies. He has renounced his hand-picked successor Mokgweetsi Masisi and accused his former deputy of autocracy in a deepening conflict between the two men. Just before an October 23 election won by Masisi’s party, an anti-corruption official accused Khama and several close associates of embezzling 100 billion pula (8 billion euros). Investigator Jako Hubona, with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime — an intelligence unit that probes state graft — accused Khama, former intelligence chief Isaac Kgosi and another senior intelligence officer, Weleminah Maswabi, of transferring some of the funds to HSBC Bank in Hong Kong and leading South African banks. … So far, only Maswabi has been charged and is facing three counts of financing terrorism, possession of unexplained property and false declaration for passport. … No charges against Khama have been filed in the court. AFP

ECOWAS Court Rejects Nnamdi Kanu’s Reliefs against Nigeria
The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, filed against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, alleging that he was tortured, assaulted and subjected to inhuman treatment by security operatives when he was arrested in 2015. The regional court, in its judgement that was read by Justice Dupe Atoki, held that the IPOB leader failed to prove its allegations against FG, saying it had no reason to conclude that his arrest and detention were unlawful and arbitrary as claimed. The three member panel of the Court also dismissed Kanu’s request for monetary compensation. Though the Court acknowledged that the IPOB leader had the legal capacity to approach it to seek redress for any violation of his human rights, it however held that without a mandate, he lacked the legal personality to represent the IPOB before the Court. Vanguard

First Men Go on Trial under Nigeria’s Anti-Homosexuality Laws
Forty-seven men went on trial in Nigeria on Wednesday for public displays of affection with members of the same sex, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term in the country. The men were among 57 arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the impoverished Egbeda district of the commercial capital, Lagos, in 2018. They pleaded innocent at a hearing last month. Campaigners say the case is an important test of a law banning gay marriage and same-sex “amorous relationships,” which came into force five years ago. Xeenarh Mohammed, the executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), said the law had historically been used to harass and blackmail gay people but there had not been any convictions. “People have been detained, men and women, at different gatherings but no cases had ever gone before a judge. We have to establish that people have a right to meet that shouldn’t be a crime under any law in any country,” said Mohammed. The Guardian

IMF Poised to Approve Landmark $3Bn Loan for Ethiopia
The IMF is poised to approve a $3bn loan for Ethiopia as part of a programme to provide balance of payments support for the cash-strapped economy as well as technical assistance for the government’s liberalisation agenda. The loan, which still needs IMF board approval, has been agreed by staff after the fund opened a representative office in Addis Ababa earlier this year, according to Ethiopia’s state minister of finance, Eyob Tolina. The east African country of 105m people has enjoyed more than a decade of high growth but recently run into capacity constraints and chronic shortages of foreign exchange, a by-product of its tightly state-controlled economy. Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister, took office in 2018, promising to overhaul the economy. He has spoken frequently about the limits of Ethiopia’s Asian-style state-led development model, which has produced 15 years of near double-digit growth, and he has pledged to nudge Ethiopia towards a more open, market-oriented system. In September, Mr Abiy, who received the Nobel peace prize on Tuesday, announced a so-called “homegrown economic reform” agenda, which he said would include opening various sectors to foreign investment for the first time. Financial Times

After Floods, an Early ‘Lean Season’ Awaits South Sudan
Aid groups are predicting a sharp increase in food insecurity in South Sudan after weeks of torrential rain destroyed thousands of acres of cropland, washed away livestock and grazing pasture, and disrupted markets and trade. South Sudan’s lean season, or hunger gap – the period between harvests when households run out of stored food – typically falls between March and August. But after the substantial crop losses, it is now expected to come as early as January. Food distributions will need to be stepped up in the coming weeks and months to cope with the almost one million people affected, Meshack Malo, country representative at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told The New Humanitarian. More than 420,000 people have been displaced by the unusually heavy rains – many in areas where humanitarian needs were already sky-high following five years of conflict. Aid groups say fragile gains made since a September 2018 ceasefire deal risk being reversed, with the rains forecast to continue through December. The New Humanitarian

Africa Makes Notable Strides in Human Development – UNDP Report
Africa has experienced one of the most significant improvements in human development since 1990 during which life expectancy increased by more than 11 years, the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report stated. The report revealed that African countries have made significant strides in advancing human development and gaining ground on primary education and health while a new generation of inequalities that threaten to undermine further progress opens up. The report was launched on Tuesday under the theme “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st century.” … New inequalities are, however, becoming more pronounced, particularly around tertiary education, and seismic effects of technology and the climate crisis, the report stated, stressing that “inequality is not beyond solution.” According to the report, “African countries find themselves at crossroads, facing the dual challenge of ensuring that those furthest behind make progress while paving the way for those further ahead to keep pace with the emerging requirements of today’s world.” Journal du Cameroon

Bobi Wine, Live in Concert
It is not clear what this event is. It could be a campaign rally, complete with merchandise stalls, banners (“Ugandan President 2021”) and seated lines of dignitaries on the stage. It could also be the hottest hip-hop concert in town, with a 1000-strong crowd ready to sing along to one of East Africa’s most famous musicians. It is both of those things, of course; but the cognitive dissonance is not lost on Bobi Wine as he gets on stage and, briefly, takes his seat next to the besuited elders. He’s wearing jeans and a beige blazer – hardly rockstar attire -along with his signature red beret. He fidgets uncomfortably in his chair and then he can’t take it anymore. “I just want to jump on stage now and start the show,” he says quietly. And then, shouting: “START THE SHOW!” And so he does. … The government has done everything in its power to prevent Bobi Wine from performing his music in Uganda. His concerts have effectively been banned, although he keeps finding inventive ways to defy the authorities. … For a born entertainer, being prevented from taking the stage may be the biggest sacrifice of all. “Of course I missed it, I missed the stage as an artist,” he said as made his way to the front of the hall. “It feels amazing. It feels amazing to be able to perform.” The crowd is almost exclusively Ugandans living in South Africa. They have driven here from all over Gauteng and some have flown up from Durban and Cape Town. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones