Africa Media Review for December 17, 2018

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo Falling Short of Credible
The December 23 presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, being held two years past the end of President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated second term in office, face serious credibility challenges. Hoped-for improvements in security and stability that could be realized with the election of a legitimate government, therefore, are at risk. As the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, located in the heart of continent, growing instability in the DRC has tangible security implications for all nine of its neighbors.[…] Kabila has been setting the stage to maintain his influence and ensure a favorable outcome for this election for years. Just before the 2011 elections, the rules were changed to a single round format, enabling a candidate to win with only a plurality of votes—and allowing Kabila to claimed victory. This system is likely to be pivotal again in 2018 given ongoing divisions within the opposition, which is fielding 19 candidates. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

U.S. Orders Non-Emergency Staff Out of Congo before Election
The U.S. State Department said on Saturday it had ordered non-emergency government staff and family members of government employees to leave Democratic Republic of Congo a week before a presidential election that it fears could turn violent. Campaigning for the long-delayed Dec. 23 poll to choose President Joseph Kabila’s successor had been mostly peaceful until this week, when security forces opened fire to disperse opposition gatherings, killing at least four people. A fire in the capital Kinshasa also destroyed thousands of voting machines and ballot boxes early on Thursday morning, and Kabila’s ruling coalition and opposition candidates traded blame for the incident. The State Department also said in an e-mailed advisory to citizens that it had “limited ability to provide emergency services” to U.S. citizens located outside Kinshasa, especially in the east and the central Kasai provinces.  Reuters

Conditions Improving for a US Return to Libya, Marine Commander Says
The commander of a special Marine Corps task force said Friday that conditions on the ground are improving for the return a U.S. diplomatic mission to Libya, six years after a devastating attack on the American consulate in Benghazi left four Americans dead. Col. Adam Chalkley, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa — the unit created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans — said he spent much of his time on a recent six-month deployment helping to ensure there would be no repeat of that tragedy. “There were indications that … recent improvements in the landscape and the operating environment of Libya were suggestive that a reintroduction a diplomatic mission was on the near horizon,” Chalkley said during a presentation at the Virginia-based Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

US Says New Airstrike in Somalia Kills 8 Al-Shabaab Fighters
The US military says it has killed eight members of the al-Shabaab extremist group with an airstrike south of Somalia’s capital. The US Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Gandarshe, a coastal community. The statement says no civilians were involved. The US military has carried out at least 40 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab, Africa’s most active Islamic extremist group. It controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to stage deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities. The US airstrikes have picked up dramatically since President Donald Trump took office and approved expanded military operations in the Horn of Africa nation. Airstrikes also target a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group. AP

Nigeria Says Soldiers Who Killed Marchers Were Provoked. Video Shows Otherwise.
The message sent on Twitter was clear: When Nigerian soldiers opened fire on rock-throwing protesters in late October, Nigerian officials swiftly defended them, saying their forces had simply done what President Trump told American soldiers to do in the same situation. Nigeria’s defense came after its soldiers had shot at protesters — members of a minority Shiite organization — marching on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja. The military insisted that the soldiers had taken action only after being provoked by the protesters, who hurdled rocks at them. Ten soldiers were injured in the melee, it said. The military also said a total of six protesters were killed during marches. But a close review of video from the largest and most deadly of the protests, as well as interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, clearly shows the military opening fire on unarmed demonstrators, sometimes shooting indiscriminately into the crowd at close range as people turned and tried to flee.Photos and videos recorded that day show at least 26 bodies. The group said it had collected a total of 49 bodies during four days of protests.  The New York Times

At Least 12 Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Fighting with Islamists -Sources
At least 12 Nigerian soldiers were killed and dozens of others are missing after fighting with Islamists in the northeastern state of Borno, three military sources said on Sunday, one of the largest known losses of life by the army in the last month. An army spokesman said the death toll stated by the sources was not true. The fighting followed an attack on Friday by insurgents in Gudumbali local government area – a part of Borno where Boko Haram breakaway group Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) is influential. The sources said the poor communication network in the remote area delayed details of the attack being relayed. The attack, which the sources say was carried out on a military base and a nearby community in the Gudumbali local government area, comes as President Muhammadu Buhari’s security record has become a campaign issue two months ahead of an election in which he is seeking a second term. Reuters

Nigeria Army Lifts Ban on UNICEF amid Spying Allegations
The Nigerian military has lifted a ban on UNICEF in the northeast of the country, hours after accusing the staff of the United Nations agency of “spying” for Boko Haram. Earlier on Friday, the Nigerian military said UNICEF had been training people to sabotage its counterinsurgency efforts by reporting alleged human rights abuses by soldiers. Nigeria’s northeast has been torn apart by a decade-long armed campaign by Boko Haram and its splinter groups. More than 30,000 people have been killed and many more driven from their homes. With millions displaced, the northeast is largely dependent on international aid. In its statement, the Nigerian military said UNICEF staff “train and deploy spies who support the insurgents and their sympathisers”. Al Jazeera

Children among Thousands ‘Slaughtered’ in Clashes between Herders and Farmers in Nigeria, Warns Amnesty
Children have been “slaughtered” and people burnt to death in violent clashes between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers in Nigeria, according to Amnesty International. At least 3,641 people have died over the last three years and thousands more have been displaced, the human rights charity said in a report on the growing conflict. “My wife was slaughtered, they opened her stomach and brought out the baby and slaughtered it,” one man who witnessed one of the deadliest attacks on the Fulani herder communities in Taraba state told Amnesty. Recalling the attack, which began on 17 June 2017 and lasted for four days, he added: “My kids were slaughtered also. I was with their dead bodies for three days in the bush before the soldiers came. “My father was burnt in front of the mosque where he prayed. They killed him there and burnt him.”  The Independent

Mali to Create Border Guard Corps, Send Reinforcements to Timbuktu Region
Mali announced it will be sending reinforcements to the northern Timbuktu region and will create a new border guard corps amid growing concerns about security. A total of 350 police officers, paramilitary gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed, Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga told reporters in Bamako on Saturday, December 15, after he returned from a visit to the area, AFP reported. He did not specify when the reinforcements would arrive, but his office said they would be deployed at the beginning of 2019. Maiga said the government would also set up a new border guard corps next year, and increase logistical support for the security forces. The Defense Post

2 Killed in Attack in Rwanda, Near Border with Burundi
At least two Rwandan civilians were killed and eight injured when attackers set fire to three passenger vehicles in the southern Nyamagabe district, which borders Burundi, said a Rwandan army official. “We have been watching the situation in this area for some time now and have a good idea of who is behind today’s incident. We are in pursuit of the attackers and action will be taken against those responsible,” army spokesperson Innocent Munyengango said in a statement. He said the army is pursuing the attackers who retreated into Nyungwe Forest, a mountain rainforest area that is home to wild chimpanzees. The attack highlights continuing tensions between Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi and Democratic republic of Congo. Just two days earlier, President Paul Kagame said two or three Rwandan army soldiers were killed by rebels who had crossed the border from DRC.  AP

Ugandan Pop Star MP Bobi Wine ‘In Hiding after Police Raid’
The Ugandan pop star turned opposition MP Bobi Wine is in hiding after police raided a hotel he was staying in before a concert, his lawyer has said. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, had been due to perform at a concert in Jinja, about 50 miles east of the capital, Kampala, on Saturday night. However, he and his lawyer said police had launched a raid on his hotel, forcing him into hiding. Wine “has been forced to seek refuge from an unlawful midnight raid by police which has seen many of his supporters and colleagues swept up and detained while others were reportedly beaten”, said a statement from his London-based lawyer Robert Amsterdam. Wine said on Twitter on Saturday night that police had arrested some of his team. “So police has raided city hotel where we were resting ahead of the show tonight, arrested many of our team members. As we speak, the police is surrounding the entire neighborhood looking for me!” he wrote.  The Guardian

In Cameroon, Journalists Are Being Jailed on Charges of ‘Fake News’
In Cameroon, where English-speaking separatists are fighting the largely French-speaking government to establish a new nation, journalists covering the violence are increasingly finding themselves behind bars on a surprising charge: fake news. The latest case centers on the killing of an American missionary from Indiana, who was shot dead 12 days after his family moved to this central African country in October. In the immediate aftermath of his death, in one of the country’s unstable regions, Cameroonian journalist Mimi Mefo Takambou sought to find out who killed him. But after she cited social media reports that claimed the Cameroonian military had shot Charles Wesco, she was accused of publishing fake news online and later arrested. Mefo, who works for Equinoxe TV, is one of more than a dozen journalists who have been jailed or questioned this year in Cameroon, a once-peaceful country that is spiraling into civil war in its English-speaking regions.  The Washington Post

Israel Ex-General under US Sanctions Denies Arming S. Sudan War
A retired Israeli army general hit by U.S. sanctions for alleged involvement in the South Sudan conflict denied the charges on Sunday, saying they were based on false information and that he was available for investigation by the Trump administration. The U.S. Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls, accusing him of using an agricultural consultancy as cover for weapons sales worth $150 million to the Juba government while also arming the opposition. “He (Ziv) has also reportedly planned to organise attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve,” a Treasury statement said. Interviewed by Israel’s Army Radio, Ziv said he had never trafficked in weaponry and called the charges against him “ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality”.  Reuters

Could China Squeeze the U.S. Out of Its Only Permanent Military Base in Africa?
When unveiling the Trump administration’s new Africa policy on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton made a point to speak about a single container port in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti. Officials say the Doraleh Container Terminal is critical for resupplying the only permanent U.S. base in Africa, and Bolton said China could take control of this port. While Djibouti is slightly smaller than New Jersey and has a population of less than 1 million, its strategic location gives it an outsize influence. At the southern end of the Red Sea, Djibouti is on the shipping route between Asia and the Suez Canal. Every day an estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil transit the Bab el-Mandab strait adjacent to Djibouti. Djibouti’s proximity to terrorist havens in Yemen and Somalia also made it an ideal location for the U.S. military. Camp Lemonnier, a former French foreign legion base, became an expeditionary base for counterterrorism operations after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The base, which shares a runway with Djibouti’s only international airport, has grown significantly over the years.  The Washington Post

China’s $20 Billion New Egypt Capital Project Talks Fall Through
Talks between Egypt and Chinese builder CFLD for a $20 billion development in the new administrative capital have fallen through over disagreements on how to share revenue from the project, Egyptian officials said. Two years of tough negotiations came to an end after Egyptian authorities sent a response to the final proposal by the Shanghai-listed China Fortune Land Development Co. on developing 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) over 25 years in the new capital east of Cairo. “We didn’t hear back,” Ahmed Zaki Abdeen, who heads the company created to oversee the construction of the new capital, told Bloomberg News. “The talks have stopped.” Failure to reach an agreement will likely raise questions over Egypt’s ability to attract crucial foreign direct investments to propel economic growth. It may not, however, deter state-owned Chinese companies from pursuing other opportunities in the Arab country, thanks to strong ties between the two governments. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF to Revive Infamous ‘Green Bombers’
Zimbabwean youths intending to go into government employ or attend state tertiary institutions will from as early as next year have to go through the controversial national youth service. This was one of numerous resolutions passed at Zanu PF’s 17th annual people’s conference held in Esigodini 49km outside Bulawayo. The youth service was initially introduced in 2000 by the late Border Gezi, who at the time was minister for gender, youth and employment. Its stated purpose was to “transform and empower youths for nation building through life skills training and leadership development”. However, instead of sticking to teaching life skills, the project became a training ground for the infamous Zanu PF youth brigade that came to be known as the “green bombers”. The green bombers, along with state security departments such as the police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), were used to crack down on opposition politicians. Times Live

Sudanese President Makes Surprise Visit to Syria
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir paid a surprise visit to Damascus on Sunday, expressing readiness to improve bilateral relation with the isolated Arab country. The one-day visit was the first since the imposition of Arab sanctions against Damascus as a result of the repressive campaign of the Syrian uprising against the al-Assad regime started in March 2011. Al-Bashir is the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. “President al-Assad and President al-Bashir affirmed that the circumstances and crises experienced by many Arab countries require new approaches for Arab action based on respecting the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs,” said a statement released by the Sudanese and Syrian official news agencies. The statement further said that these approaches, “should improve inter-Arab relations and serve the interests of the Arab people”.  Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia Jails Soldiers Who Protested for Better Pay
An Ethiopian court has jailed 66 soldiers over a rare protest in the capital in October demanding better pay, state media reported on Saturday. The Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) reported that the soldiers would be jailed from five to 14 years each. In October, hundreds of elite soldiers staged a protest in Addis Ababa over “inadequate” salary and benefits, briefly blocking a road around the national palace and marching on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office. Mobile and WiFi internet connections were cut for several hours as confusion and panic gripped the capital. The Ethiopian army, one of the strongest and largest in Africa, is known for strict discipline, and protests by soldiers are practically unheard of. AFP

Ethnic Violence in Southern Ethiopia Kills and Wounds Dozens
At least 21 people have been killed in two days of intense fighting between ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia amid escalating violence that has sent hundreds fleeing across the border to neighbouring Kenya. The violence broke out on Thursday and Friday near the town of Moyale, on the border with Kenya, in a region claimed by both the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country, and the Somali ethnic group. The fighting also wounded 61 others, the state-affiliated Fana radio reported, citing the Oromia regional state communication office. Outbreaks of violence in the south between Oromos and other groups escalated since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – the first Oromo leader in Ethiopia’s modern history – assumed office in April. Al Jazeera

Cambodia’s Largest Ivory Bust Sees Tons of Elephant Tusks Seized
Cambodia has seized more than 3.2 tons of elephant tusks that were smuggled into the country from Mozambique. Some 1,206 tusks were hidden inside an abandoned shipping container when the authorities made Cambodia’s biggest-ever ivory bust. “The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, told the AFP news agency. The official said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique and it arrived in Cambodia last year. He also said the owner of the shipment did not show up to collect the cargo. Officials said the tusks were discovered after a tip-off from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. It was unclear whether the smuggled ivory was destined for markets other than Cambodia’s.  Deutsche Welle