Africa Media Review for December 18, 2019

At Geneva Refugee Forum, African Nations Hope for Support
African governments and refugee activists hope a ground-breaking refugee forum will deliver much-needed funding and voice to a region whose challenges are often eclipsed by more headline-grabbing crises. Two decades ago, John Bolinga fled his hometown of Goma, in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive northeast. “Rebels came and attacked our home so my father was shot dead. So I had to run to Uganda,” Bolinga said. He started out destitute, but eventually launched his own NGO in Kampala, which today helps women and children who like himself, were uprooted by violence. He is sharing his story in Geneva, where countries are meeting for a first-ever global refugee forum. Here and elsewhere, Bolinga says, giving refugees a voice and active role in decisions that affect their lives is critical. … [African refugees] count among the millions making perilous journeys across the Sahara and Mediterranean for a better life in Europe … But Africa also shelters more than one-quarter of the world’s displaced people. VOA

Somalia Races to Beat Time Ahead of Planned Polls
Somalia could this month know if the much-awaited universal suffrage elections could go ahead, even as sceptics cited time constraints and security nightmare. Often known as the one-person-one-vote (1P1V), Somalia plans to hold the historic elections by end of next year. But whatever happens this December in the Somali Federal Parliament’s two houses (House of the People and the Senate) could determine whether that is possible. An electoral bill meant to clarify the voting procedure and participation was tabled on the floor of the House and could, by Christmas, be the actual determinant on the polls. On Thursday, the Somali Federal Government insisted the 1P1V will be the surest way to lock out Al-Shabaab sympathisers because of the planned tighter controls on candidates. … Somalia had never held elections on home soil since 1967, until 2009, when Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was voted in through a clan delegate system known as 4.5. Since then, there have been two successive, but similar, elections. Daily Nation

Ethiopia’s Surveillance Network Crumbles, Meaning Less Fear and Less Control
Rahmat Hussein once inspired fear and respect for the watchful eye she cast over her Ethiopian neighborhood, keeping files on residents and recommending who should get a loan or be arrested. Now she is mocked and ignored. Her fall – from being the eyes and ears of one of Africa’s most repressive governments to a neighborhood punchline – illustrates how Ethiopia’s once ubiquitous surveillance network has crumbled. “My work is harder now,” she said, wistfully. “People don’t listen anymore.” Rahmat worked for a system set up by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition in the early 2000s, officially to help implement central policies across the country of 105 million people. But the system, which detractors say was twisted into a tool to silence government critics, began to unravel with the outbreak of deadly protests in 2015 which undermined the EPRDF’s authority. The election of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has vowed to make society more open and took office in April 2018, has accelerated its decline. That has been welcomed by many. Reuters

South Sudan’s Kiir, Machar Agree (Again) to Form Unity Government
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have agreed to form a transitional unity government by a February deadline even if they don’t resolve key political disputes by that time. The two leaders, who signed a peace deal in September 2018 under heavy pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional bloc IGAD, previously missed two deadlines to form the government. One deadline was in May and the most recent was in November. Last month, the deadline was pushed back to February, prompting the U.S. to recall its ambassador and heightening fears that the country may return to civil war. South Sudan’s five-year conflict left hundreds of thousands of people dead and forced millions to flee to other countries or U.N.-run protection sites within the nation. A power struggle between the two men led to the conflict. Kiir and his former deputy held three days of talks in the capital, Juba, this week with little tangible progress reported. The two emerged from an hour-long meeting Tuesday at the State House to say they agreed to uphold an ongoing cease-fire. VOA

Sudan: How Water Is Helping to End ‘The First Climate Change War’
In the arid lands that have seen one of the most brutal wars of the 21st century so far, green shoots of peace may finally be appearing. In the hot Darfur fields farmed by Adam Ali Mohammed, these green shoots are alternating rows of lentils and melons. “We tried lentils before, but there was not enough water,” the farmer says. Here in the Sahel, water is the key to life, but there is precious little of it – just 20cm of rain a year – and it is the source of much of the conflict. The climate crisis is making marginal existences even more fragile. It is no future threat here, with the Sahara marching southwards, temperatures rising and precious annual rains becoming ever more erratic. But a new approach is bearing fruit. The seasonal river that runs by El Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state, has been transformed by community-built weirs. These slow the flow of the rainy season downpours, spreading water and allowing it to seep into the land. Before, just 150 farmers could make a living here: now, 4,000 work the land by the Sail Gedaim weir. Crucially, the weirs are not just promising a more bountiful future, but a more peaceful one. The Guardian

100 Days of Sudan’s Transitional Government: Now What?
In September, the first ministerial cabinet since the removal of the country’s longtime President Omar al-Bashir took its oath amid high hopes and expectations. The cabinet had a good idea of what it was facing. The economy was in such a crisis it triggered protests that quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations last December. … The cabinet set its 200th day as evaluation time, after announcing that achieving peace in conflict areas in Sudan and improving the economy were among its top priorities. Wednesday marks 100 days since the swearing-in… On the 100th day since the swearing-in of the executive ministerial cabinet, and for the first time since the war started in Blue Nile in 2011, humanitarian aid reached Yabous, an area controlled by the armed opposition Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu. … But what set this apart from the previous mission is that, for the first time in more than eight years, humanitarians facilitating the operation were able to fly in from Sudan’s capital Khartoum to an opposition-held territory. Al Jazeera

US Software Giant Signs Deal with Sudan Bank
The agreement between Oracle, Sudan’s Central Trading Company, Nile Bank, and other local partners will improve efficiency and compliance for Nile Bank. It will also make lending to small business and rural customers cheaper and more streamlined, which is a potential boon to the Sudanese economy. The signing ceremony was attended by the US embassy acting Deputy Chief of Mission Keith Hughes. He said that the deal was an example of the changes Sudan has achieved, not only in the political sphere but in the economy too. The entry of Oracle Corporation into the Sudanese financial services solutions market is considered an important step on the path towards the normalisation of Sudan’s economic relations with the rest of the world. It follows the recent efforts of the Sudanese government to showcase the new Sudan and to invite global corporations to do business with, and invest in, Sudan. Radio Dabanga

India Says 20 Crew Kidnapped from Tanker off Togo
India’s foreign ministry has said that 20 of its nationals had been kidnapped from an oil tanker in West African waters, where piracy has been on the rise. “Our Mission in Abuja has taken up the matter with the Nigerian authorities, as also with the authorities of the neighbouring countries,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday. The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, Duke, was attacked by pirates about 115 nautical miles (about 213km) southeast of the coast of Lome, the capital of Togo, according to the website. The ship’s operator, Union Maritime, wrote on its website that the craft was “attacked and boarded” while carrying fuel oil to the Togolese capital Lome from Angola and that the company was working with relevant authorities to resolve the incident. The shipping industry has warned in recent months about increased incidents of piracy and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria. Al Jazeera

Cameroon Military Seizes, Destroys Illegal Guns in North
Cameroon’s military has arrested several dozen men and destroyed hundreds of locally made guns and weapons the men allegedly circulated on the central African state’s northern border with Chad and Nigeria. A military compactor crushes more than 2,500 locally made guns, ammunition and other weapons the military says it seized over the past three weeks from smugglers, hostage takers, poachers and suspected Boko Haram fighters. Among those watching the destruction is Regine Esseneme, head of Cameroon’s department of justice in the northern town of Garoua. … ean Abate Edii, governor of Cameroon’s North region, says the weapons were seized after several raids on neighborhoods and villages suspected to be the hideouts of criminals operating in Cameroon and surrounding countries. The six-nation regional bloc CEMAC has frequently blamed the proliferation of small arms and light weapons for the armed conflicts, criminal and terrorist activities taking place in west-central Africa. VOA

10,000 Families to Be Moved from DR Congo Cobalt Site – Provincial Governor
DR Congo authorities are to pay some 10,000 families to move away from a south-eastern town sitting atop billions of dollars worth of cobalt, a provincial governor said Tuesday. “If the state determines that it is in the interest of the entire nation, it can relocate and compensate the inhabitants,” said Richard Muyej, governor of Lualaba province and a former interior minister. He said the relocation plan would cost some $800 million. Impoverished but mineral-rich DR Congo is the world’s largest producer of the rare metal, which is crucial for making batteries used in mobile phones and electric vehicles. … The cobalt reserves at Kasulo are estimated to be worth $100 billion, Muyej said, adding that prices for the mineral are bound to rise. The announcement comes as it emerged that five US tech giants including Apple, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet have been named in a lawsuit over the death of child labourers in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. … Demand for cobalt is soaring, with world prices tripling in the four years up to 2018. The Democratic Republic of Congo produced two-thirds of the world’s cobalt in 2017. AFP

Zimbabwe’s Ruling Zanu-PF Braces for Purge as Economy Worsens
The chairperson of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, Oppah Muchinguri, has vowed to kick out high-profile members whom she accuses of getting rich on the back of the party and the people at the party’s annual conference in Harare. … “She’s a very close ally to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and her remarks constitute a signal to people believed to be aligned to a faction opposed to his rule and pushing a different agenda within Zanu-PF,” says Xolisane Ncube, senior political affairs correspondent with Zimbabwe’s Standard newspaper. … Also, the admission by the Zanu-PF chief that some of its elites are involved in mine invasions and sponsoring machete wars for their own benefit are said to have contributed to eroding the confidence entrusted in Mnangagwa after the army ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule. … Those building a power base around Chiwenga are considered by President Mnangagwa’s supporters as responsible for the economic meltdown that has fueled crippling strikes over better living conditions across the country, says Ncube. … Ncube points to frustrations within the military, especially young soldiers who pushed Mugabe out of power, who are now struggling with worthless wages. RFI

Drought and Mounting Debt Leaves Zambia and Zimbabwe in the Dark
Drought has plunged millions of Zambians and Zimbabweans into darkness as hydro-power dams drain, and their governments’ debt is making matters worse. Rolling electricity blackouts lasting 18 hours a day have choked the two economies. Ballooning debt has left them unable to afford to import enough power to help cushion shortages. Even if they could, the region’s biggest supplier, Eskom, doesn’t have enough capacity to keep the lights on in South Africa. The power crises in the three countries has exacerbated economic strain. Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product is expected to shrink this year, Zambia is on course for the slowest expansion in more than two decades and South Africa is staring down a second recession in as many years. … Historically, the two countries have relied on cheap electricity from Kariba. As populations have grown and more people are connected to the grid, governments didn’t raise tariffs enough to afford to build new production capacity. Borrowing more to pay for plants will be difficult. Zambia’s sovereign debt will reach 96% of gross domestic product next year, while Zimbabwe can’t take on more debt until it settles its arrears with international lenders. Bloomberg

China to Support Kenya UN Bid
China has said it will support Kenya’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in elections scheduled for June next year. Speaking Monday during a courtesy call on President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special envoy Wang Yong said the Asian country believes Kenya is better placed to voice Africa’s interests at the key UN body. “We firmly support the reforms of the UN Security Council and believe that Kenya will help to increase the voice of African countries at the UN Security Council,” Mr Wang said. The Chinese special envoy, who is in the country to attend the launch of the Standard Gauge Railway freight service from Nairobi to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot, congratulated Kenya following its endorsement by the African Union (AU) to vie for the UNSC non-permanent seat. Following endorsement by the AU, beating Djibouti, Kenya has been lobbying for support from different partner states and diplomats in hopes of clinching the coveted seat. Daily Nation

The NBA is building a basketball ecosystem in Africa and this month’s scouting combine in New York was an integral step in its inaugural season. Basketball Africa League, slated to start in March 2020, is the NBA’s first league collaboration with FIBA to operate outside of North America. Earlier this month, BAL held its first-ever scouting combine at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) Training Center – the official practice facility of the Nets – in Brooklyn, New York. This two-day combine, which brought in players, scouts, coaches, and executives from 20 different African countries, featured a roster of 56 athletes from around the world. … “This is by no means an exercise of coming in and plucking away talent,” Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall told USA TODAY Sports. “We do not want to just see African talent only being exported because there is no viable league for young players to participate at a high level. This ultimately led to the formation of the African basketball league.” … Fall said the goal of creating this league in Africa is not only to expose and invest in the local talent there but to create an entire system that allows a league to run efficiently from the ground up. It will also create jobs within the countries. It’s been decades in the making. USA Today