Africa Media Review for December 13, 2018

Protests Grow ahead of Togo Term Limit Referendum
For two years, tens of thousands of Togolese citizens have taken to the streets to call for government reforms. One of their central demands is the establishment of presidential term limits that would force President Faure Gnassingbé out of office at the end of his current term in 2020. The issue is at the center of a controversial referendum to be held on December 16. Faure was installed by the military in 2005 after the death of his father, General Gnassingbé Eyadema, who ruled the former French colony for 38 years. Two months after he took over the office, Faure won an election marred by fraud allegations and protests that left hundreds dead. In the aftermath, Faure promised to move forward with a comprehensive set of reforms that would guarantee free and fair elections. Faure won re-election in 2010 and 2015 amid similar accusations of fraud, and his pledge has yet to come to fruition. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

US Seeks to Counter Growing Chinese Influence in Africa
The Trump administration wants to see an increase in U.S. investment and trade in Africa as part of a new strategy aimed at countering China’s growing influence on the continent National security adviser John Bolton is expected to lay out priorities Thursday for what the administration calls “the continent of the future” during remarks at the Heritage Foundation. Critics are skeptical because it has taken so long into the presidency to announce the initiative and Trump has made disparaging remarks about a region that is home to 1.2 billion people. Addressing members of Congress on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy warned of China’s increasing economic, military and political influence in Africa, a continent with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and trillions of dollars’ worth of natural resources. “One of the things that really, really irritated me during my trips to Africa is you go to an African city and there is a stadium invariably built by the Chinese,” Nagy told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  AP

Central African Republic Militia Leader Arrested in France for War Crimes
French authorities on Wednesday arrested Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a suspected senior leader of a Central African Republic militia, on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Hague-based court said. The ICC said Ngaissona was the “most senior leader” and the “National General Coordinator” of the anti-Balaka, a mainly Christian militia accused of systematic attacks on the African country’s Muslim population in 2013-14. The court issued the arrest warrant in December for “alleged criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the western part of the Central African Republic.” The charges include murder, extermination, deportation, persecution, torture, attacking civilians and recruiting child soldiers. Deutsche Welle

AQIM Emir Confirms Death of Jihadist Commander in Mali
In a new audio message released yesterday, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud confirmed the death of an important commander. Almansour Ag Kassam, a veteran jihadist, had worked with several al Qaeda groups, including the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM) in Mali. While most of Wadoud’s statement focused on his criticisms of France, Kassam’s demise was so significant that the AQIM head felt compelled to mention it. “We would also like to express our condolences to the Muslim Ummah for the martyrdom of the lion, the great brother, the master of the martyrs Almansour Ag Kassam…who was martyred in a Crusader airstrike along with six of this brothers weeks ago,” Wadoud said. (Kassam’s name is also sometimes rendered as Almansour Ag Alkassoum, Mansour Agh al-Qasim.) On Nov. 15, France said that it killed seven jihadists, including Kassam, in an operation in the Gourma area of Mali’s Timbuktu region. Wadoud confirmed the events reported by the French Ministry of Defense, including the use of airstrikes and the number of jihadists killed.  Long War Journal

Jihadists Deny Mali Leader Killed in French-Led Attack
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Tuesday denied that Malian jihadist leader Amadou Koufa had been killed during a November raid by French forces, according to a statement released by the Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar. International media reported that Koufa was killed along with 34 others but he was not at the site and he was neither killed nor wounded, AQIM chief Abdelmalek Droukdel said, according to the transcript of an audio recording translated into English and broadcast by Alakhbar, which frequently publishes statements attributed to extremist groups. Malian and French authorities had said Amadou Koufa was killed in a raid led by French troops in the centre of the country. Koufa, a radical preacher, surfaced three years ago and was blamed for several violent attacks and for stoking sectarian conflict.  AFP

Jitters in Region as Kagame Fires Military Action Warning
President Paul Kagame has warned ‘enemies of Rwanda’ that they will be dealt with decisively. The warning comes at a time the East African region was simmering with tensions. In a rare appearance in military fatigues on Tuesday, President Kagame, while presiding over the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) drill dubbed “Exercise Hard Punch III” at Gabiro Combat Training Centre in the Eastern Province, said that while Kigali would not attack anybody, the military has the skills and capabilities to deal with the enemy whenever necessary. “What you have showed us here today is proof of what you can do, what you can use, whenever it is necessary, in real life, not just a training exercise. It is proof of what you are capable of doing to deal with those who provoke Rwanda, those who wish ill to our nation. The East African

Congo Police Fire Live Rounds to Disperse Opposition Candidate Supporters
Police in Democratic Republic of Congo fired teargas and live bullets for a second day on Wednesday to disperse supporters of opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, killing at least one person, local activists said. Campaigning over the past three weeks for the long-delayed Dec. 23 election has been mostly peaceful, but the flare-ups in the southeastern Katanga region have raised concerns about a repeat of the violence that plagued the 2006 and 2011 votes. Police in the town of Kalemie blocked the convoy of vehicles transporting Fayulu to a rally and started shooting into the air, said David Ngoy Luhaka, a priest and member of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace. One woman was hit by a bullet and later died, he said. Reuters

Fire Destroys Thousands of Congo Voting Machines in Capital
An early-morning fire in Congo’s capital destroyed thousands of voting machines just 10 days before the presidential election, officials said Thursday, saying the blaze appeared to be criminal in nature but vowing that it would not disrupt the vote. Congo’s first use of voting machines on Dec. 23, a rarity in Africa, has caused concerns among the opposition, diplomats and experts about possible manipulation in favor of President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor. Kabila is stepping aside after taking power in 2001. The electoral commission said the fire broke out at a warehouse in Kinshasa, adding that it was too early to declare the cause or the extent of the damage. Kabila’s chief adviser said the fire was a criminal one and that some 7,000 voting machines and polling booths were burned. “The enemies of democracy have stepped it up a gear,” Barnabe Kikaya said.  AP

Scandal Embroils South Africa’s Self-Styled Party of the Poor
The top leaders of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters, famous for abrasive politics and brawling in parliament, have become embroiled in a string of scandals that has dented the party’s efforts to portray itself as a voice of the poor ahead of elections in May. Deputy party leader Floyd Shivambu allegedly secured funds looted from the failed VBS Mutual Bank, a probe commissioned by the central bank and reports by the AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism show. Party president Julius Malema and Shivambu also unduly benefited from municipal vehicle fleet contracts worth 1 billion rand ($69 million), according to another AmaBhungane report. The EFF says there’s no proof its officials did anything wrong. Yet its public relations woes are good news for the ruling African National Congress, which hemorrhaged support during former President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred tenure and is trying to rebuild its image under new leader Cyril Ramaphosa.  Bloomberg

Tanzania Dam: Power Plant Planned in Selous Game Reserve
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has signed a deal for the construction of a hydro-electric power plant in one of East Africa’s best-known game reserves, amid criticism from environmentalists. The deal, worth $3bn (£2.4bn), envisages the construction of a dam on the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve, a Unesco World Heritage site. Tanzania says the project will double its total power supply. But conservationists warn that it will destroy wildlife habitat. The deal was signed with two Egyptian construction firms. The reservoir created by the dam is expected to be the largest in east Africa, inundating 1,200 sq km (463 sq miles) of land in an area known as Stiegler’s Gorge. BBC

China Sends 100 Peacekeepers to Darfur
A Chinese peacekeeping force including 100 blue helmets on Tuesday has travelled to Sudan to take part in a one-year peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region, said China’s Ministry of National Defence. According to China’s official news agency Xinhua, the Defence Ministry said this is the first group of a peacekeeping team including 225 blue helmets, pointing out that the rest of the team would head to Darfur next Tuesday. It added the Chinese blue helmets would be tasked “with maintaining supplies and engineering projects, restoring buildings, and constructing and repairing houses, roads and airports”. It is noteworthy that China had previously sent an engineering team including 109 peacekeepers to Darfur to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission for one year. Sudan Tribune

Tunisia’s ‘Truth Commission’ Winds Up 4-Year Mission
After four years working “under fire” and interviewing almost 50 000 witnesses, Tunisia’s commission tasked with serving justice to victims of half a century of dictatorship is poised to submit its recommendations. Set up in 2014 following the 2011 revolution and in the wake of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, the Truth and Dignity Institute has a mission to “reveal the truth about the human rights violations” in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013. In its final act, the commission will submit its recommendations to Tunisia’s leadership. The first version is to be delivered at a public event on Friday and Saturday, before the full report is submitted by December 31. The government, with the assistance of a parliamentary follow-up committee, will have one year to draw up an action plan based on the recommendations. AFP

Uhuru Sets Kenyans on the Corrupt
The noose is tightening on graft lords, and the corrupt have nowhere to hide, President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared. On the back of dozens of high profile arrests and prosecutions, the President also pointed at recent agreements with foreign nations to seize ill-gotten wealth stashed in banks abroad to demonstrate his “unshakeable resolve” and challenged Kenyans “to show me yours.” “All arms of Government must work together to ensure our nation gets rid of this menace. To those engaging in fraud and abuse of office, please listen to me keenly: You can run, but you cannot hide,” Uhuru said yesterday when he officiated the 55th Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi. He continued: “We will catch up with you, and make you pay dearly for every coin stolen from Kenyans.”  The Standard

Game-Changing Clinical Trials for Ebola Treatment in Congo
Ground-breaking treatments against the Ebola virus are taking the fight against the haemorrhagic disease to the next level with the start of clinical trials in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Four experimental drugs will be administered to patients in the first such study during a deadly epidemic, raising hopes that scientific research will soon be able to offer both a vaccine and treatment for Ebola. “What’s exciting is the fact that there’s finally something to offer patients whose life is in danger,” says David Heymann, an expert in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that this has been tried for such a complex trial during an outbreak situation.”  RFI

EU Court Rejects Mubarak Bid to End European Sanctions
An EU court on Wednesday rejected a bid by Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak to lift a freeze on his assets in Europe that followed his ouster in the 2011 revolution. European Union member countries imposed the sanctions on Mubarak and his family in March 2011 based on lawsuits filed against them in Egypt for alleged embezzlement of state funds. After those countries – grouped in the European Council – renewed the sanctions in 2017 and 2018, Mubarak asked the EU’s General Court to annul them. “In today’s judgment, the General Court dismisses the action and upholds the Council’s 2017 and 2018 decisions to renew the freezing of assets,” the Luxembourg-based court said. AFP

Somalia: China Gets Fishing Rights in Somalia
Somali’s government has granted 31 fishing licenses to China. This is the first time that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s government has given fishing rights to foreigners since taking office last year. The China Overseas Fisheries Association, which represents 150 companies, will be allowed to fish for tuna in Somali waters. The move has raised concern that fishing stocks could be depleted, and the livelihoods of local fishermen threatened. However, Somali fisheries ministry adviser Abdirahman Ahmed said up to 24 nautical miles (44km) off the coast are reserved for local fishermen. The Daily Trust

Chinese Fishing Deal Makes Waves Ahead of Madagascar Polls
In Anakao, a traditional fishing community in southwest Madagascar, the community known as Vezo – which means “rowing strength” – has fished for generations. But the arrival last year of six fishing trawlers off the coast, and a subsequent deal between a local private body that promotes Madagascan businesses and Chinese investors, have stirred anger in recent months, at a time when the country is going to the polls in presidential elections. “If this carries on, we’ll be eating sand,” warned Fulgence, a fisherman in Anakao. He does not dare venture out when the six Chinese vessels are at sea, claiming that a number of his nets have been cut. “The Chinese take everything and chuck the little dead fish back into the sea,” complained Marco Randrianjaka, echoing the grievances of many of his fellow seafarers. “Without the small ones, they won’t be able to reproduce down the line.”  AFP

Kenya Is Starting to Track Its Valuable Stolen Artifacts Worldwide—with German Help
At a recent event discussing Kenyan cultural objects held in institutions across the world, the coordinator of public programs at the National Museums of Kenya Juma Ondeng’ posed a question to the audience. The queen of England wears a crown, he said, so “What do you think will happen to any African country if we could sneak in, pick that crown, and come back home with it?” There was a pregnant pause, followed by a comment that an invasion would ensue or that the UK and other European nations might withhold development aid in retribution. “That crown signifies lots of things and is part of their identity,” Ondeng’ went on. “And so the moment you steal it and run away with it, you are also denying them that identity.” Perhaps for the first time in Kenya’s history, there’s a movement to investigate the cultural artifacts stolen and kept outside the country’s borders. The discussions surround how certain objects were bundled or bequeathed from the East African nation, exploring where in the West they are actually housed, who holds the agency to demand their repatriation, and how their historical and cultural legacy can be harnessed for sustainable and creative development. Quartz

Ethiopia: Khat Farming Threatens Food Security, Biodiversity, Women, and Agroforestry
Southern Ethiopia has long been a stronghold of an ecologically sound version of agriculture, agroforestry, which yields food and medicine crops year round while benefiting a diversity of wild species. In recent decades farmers have moved toward growing only khat, a drug banned in most countries but still legal in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, on their small farms. The transition has led to greater farmer incomes but also declines in food security, biodiversity, soil health, and women’s empowerment. Researchers and activists are advocating for returning such farms at least to modified agroforestry systems of khat intercropped with food crops in the event of a massive crop failure or outright ban of the drug. Mongabay.org



Photo: Adam Jones