Africa Media Review for December 19, 2018

More than 100 Killed in Congo Clashes Days before Vote
More than 100 people have died in clashes between rival ethnic groups in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo this week, local activists said on Wednesday. The fighting in Mai-Ndombe province is some of the worst to hit the normally peaceful area in years and comes days before Sunday’s long-delayed presidential, legislative and provincial elections, which many fear could turn violent. The fighting between the Batende and Banunu ethnic groups broke out on Sunday over the disputed location of a Banunu chief’s burial, said Jules Bango, an activist in the town of Yumbi, on the banks of the Congo River. “Today we have identified almost 120 deaths, and there are 71 others wounded in the hospital,” Bango told Reuters. Many people had fled across the river into neighboring Congo Republic, he added.  Reuters

UN Urges Sides to Reject Violence Ahead of DRC Vote
The U.N. Security Council Tuesday urged all parties to reject violence five days before the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least six people have been killed in violence in the run-up to the December 23 election, which will see the conflict-ridden central African country emerge from President Joseph Kabila’s 17-year rule. Kinshasa denies any link between the bloodshed and campaigning. The Security Council asked all sides “to continue to reject violence of any kind, exercise maximum restraint in their actions and … refrain from provocations such as violence and violent speeches and to address their differences peacefully,” a U.N. statement said. The members also underscored the importance of ensuring the safety and security of candidates and voters during the campaign period.  VOA

DRC’s New Electronic Machines ‘Could Help Rig Election’
More than 40 million voters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo go to the polls on Sunday, they will be using electronic voting machines for the first time. The electoral commission says the devices will cut costs and speed up the voting and counting process. But the opposition, civil society groups and some observers fear the machines could be used to rig an election.  Al Jazeera

Elections in the Time of Ebola: Congo Votes amid Disease
What’s an election campaign without shaking hands with potential voters? Congolese candidates in the thick of an Ebola outbreak, now the second deadliest in history, are finding out in uncomfortable ways. Jaribu Muliwavyo seeks another term as provincial deputy in North Kivu, the restless center of the outbreak. He’s sad when he arrives in communities and isn’t permitted to greet traditional chiefs properly, with a warm clasp of hands. “They take that as an insult,” Muliwavyo told The Associated Press. This election, he mused, is “a real puzzle.” The current Ebola outbreak is like no other, and it promises trouble for Congo’s presidential election on Sunday. Unrest by dozens of rebel groups in this Central African nation with 40 million voters already posed a challenge to the long-delayed vote. Then Ebola, a deadly virus spread via contact with infected bodily fluids, emerged in a part of eastern Congo that had never seen it before. Congolese officials have openly worried about the risks of holding an election in a densely populated, highly mobile border area where health officials are fighting to bring Ebola under control amid rebel attacks. Nearly 550 cases of the virus have been reported so far.  AP

Madagascar Holds Presidential Runoff Vote
Voters in Madagascar are casting their ballots in a presidential runoff election between two former presidents and bitter rivals. Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana were the top two vote-getters in November’s first round of voting, with Rajoelina receiving 39 percent and Ravalomanana winning 35 percent. President Hery Rajaonarimampianina finished well behind his predecessors in the November vote. Ravalomanana was president of the Indian Ocean island nation from 2002 to 2009, until he was forced out of office in violent street protests led by Rajoelina, who was then serving as mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. Rajoelina was installed by the army and ruled until 2014. VOA

Grace Mugabe Faces South Africa Arrest Warrant
South African prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Zimbabwe’s ex-first lady, Grace Mugabe, for allegedly assaulting a model in 2017, police say. The move comes after a court annulled her diplomatic immunity in July. South Africa’s government was criticised for letting Mrs Mugabe leave the country after the alleged assault. Gabriella Engels accused Mrs Mugabe of beating the “hell out of me” with an electric extension cord in a hotel room in Johannesburg. Mrs Mugabe said at the time that she had acted in self-defence after the “intoxicated and unhinged” model attacked her in the room where her two sons lived. Reuters quoted police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo as saying on Wednesday: “I can confirm that a warrant for the arrest of Grace Mugabe was issued last Thursday.”  BBC

Zimbabwe Army Used ‘Unjustifiable’ Force in Post-Election Clashes
Zimbabwe’s military used “unjustifiable” force against opposition protesters in the wake of this year’s presidential election, an inquiry has found. Six people were killed after troops intervened to curb protests in the capital, Harare, on 1 August. The independent commission said the army had acted disproportionately when it fired on fleeing demonstrators. But it blamed some opposition figures for inciting the violence. The army and police clashed with demonstrators who took to the streets amid allegations that the ruling Zanu-PF party had rigged the 30 July vote. “The commission’s finding is that the deaths of those six people arose from the action of the military and the police,” a summary of the final report reads. BBC

Tension Soars in Togo Ahead of Parliamentary Election
Togo on Thursday votes in legislative elections that are being boycotted by the main opposition after a year of political upheaval which saw demonstrators demanding President Faure Gnassingbe step down. A coalition of 14 opposition parties has said it will not take part, citing “irregularities” in preparations for the vote and calling for an overhaul of the electoral commission. It has also called for more transparency and constitutional reforms to limit the number of presidential terms. Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after succeeding his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country with an iron first for 38 years.  AFP

Mali: Militias Kill Over 75 Civilians
Ethnic militias in Mali killed at least 75 civilians during a one-week period in early December 2018. Malian authorities began investigations into the incidents and made some arrests, and should appropriately prosecute militia members and their leaders implicated in the killings. Among those who should be investigated is Youssouf Toloba, head of Dan Na Ambassagou, an ethnic Dogon militia, whose forces have been implicated in many killings in 2018. In central Mali, ethnic Dogon militia killed at least 34 ethnic Peuhl civilians in three attacks in the Bankass administrative region, on December 5, 12 and 13. In northern Mali, armed Peuhl men attacked two Tuareg nomadic camps on December 12, leaving over 45 dead. The attacks followed many others in the past year arising from longstanding competition over land and water and the recent presence of Islamist armed groups. “Militia killings of civilians in central and northern Mali are spiraling out of control,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to take prompt and effective action against the militias if they are going to bring the cycles of killings and reprisals to an end.”  ReliefWeb

Herders Vs. Farmers: A Deadly Year In Nigeria
Deadly conflicts between farmers and cattle herders in central Nigeria over land and natural resources reached a high point in 2018, according to a new report from Amnesty International. In 2018, more than 2,000 people were killed in such conflicts, the report found. That’s more than the previous two years combined, and hundreds more than were killed by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The death toll this year, the report found, was exacerbated by the government’s failure to keep the peace and investigate and prosecute the attackers. Overall, the report — which details three years of clashes — paints a picture of a conflict in which both farmers and pastoralists across Nigeria’s Middle Belt region have lost confidence in the rule of law and feel empowered to retaliate against their neighbors with impunity. NPR

Nigeria’s Former Defence Chief Killed amid Growing Insecurity
Nigeria’s former chief of defence Air Marshall Alex Badeh, who was facing trial for alleged fraud, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, has been killed by unknown gunmen. Badeh was shot dead on Tuesday on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja, further highlighting worsening security problems in the country. Badeh died “from gunshot wounds sustained when his vehicle was attacked while returning from his farm along the Abuja-Keffi road”, a statement by Nigeria’s air force read.‬ Security analysts say the government is overwhelmed by the increasing violence. “The Abuja-Keffi road on which Badeh was killed has become a security nightmare with robberies happening almost on daily basis,” Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera.  Al Jazeera

UN: South Sudan Still Fragile but There’s a Chance for Peace
The U.N. peacekeeping chief said Tuesday there is a chance for peace in South Sudan, with more progress since the warring sides signed a new peace deal in September than at any time since the conflict erupted five years ago. But Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the U.N. Security Council that “the peace process is not yet assessed as fully sustainable and irreversible and will need positive engagement and compromise from the parties if it is to deliver genuine hope and relief to the suffering South Sudanese populations.” While there has been “a significant improvement in the general security situation of the country” since the peace agreement was signed, sporadic clashes have taken place “indicating that the improvements remain fragile,” Lacroix said. He said the responsibility to sustain “momentum” in implementing the agreement “lies solely with the parties.”  AP

Cameroon Military Says It Killed 7 Suspected Separatists
Cameroon’s military says it has killed seven suspected English-speaking separatist rebels in Bamenda in the North West region. A health worker said four soldiers were rushed to the local hospital but the military has not reported any dead. The region’s army commander, Gen. Agha Robinson, said the military is finding it difficult to battle the rebels because they hide among civilians. The fighting in Cameroon’s restive region erupted just days after President Paul Biya freed 289 suspected separatists, many of whom later urged the government to free their leaders who remain in jail. Cameroon’s English-speaking separatists have been protesting since 2016 against what they claim is discrimination by the French-speaking majority. Their protests were initially peaceful, but in response to a government crackdown some separatists are waging a violent campaign.  AP

Cameroon: Catholic Church Caught in the Crossfire of Worsening Anglophone Crisis
The Catholic Church is increasingly caught in the middle of an escalating crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions with priests shot dead, property destroyed and frequent detentions by armed separatists, according to a high-ranking church official. “They threatened that they’re going to kill us,” said Bishop Michael Bibi of the Bamenda archdiocese, following a recent detention by armed separatists. Bibi was detained twice this month by armed groups. On 5 December he attempted to travel from Bamenda, the capital of the North West region, to Kumba, 170 kilometres to the south west, intending to celebrate mass. However, on the road near Batibo his car was stopped and held up by a group describing itself as the “Amba Boys”. RFI

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Asserts Continued Participation in Yemen War
The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Tuesday has stressed his country’s continued participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The Sudanese army has been participating in the Saudi-led military coalition since 2015 in a regional effort to back the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels. Following al-Bashir’s surprising visit to Syria on Sunday, there have been widespread reports that Sudan intends to withdraw its army from Yemen. However, during a meeting between al-Bashir and the visiting Chief of the General Staff of the Saudi Armed Forces, Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili, in Khartoum on Tuesday, the Sudanese President stressed continued participation in Yemen war. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Leader Visit Seen as Effort to Reintegrate Syria into Arab Fold
Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir traveled to Damascus on Sunday, catching many observers by surprise. According to Arab media, the visit is part of a Russian strategy to rehabilitate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and reintegrate his government into mainstream Arab politics. It was the first visit by an Arab head of state to the Syrian capital since the Assad government was expelled from the Arab League in 2011. Saudi-owned Asharqalawsat newspaper reports the main purpose of the visit was to deliver a message that major Arab nations are willing to allow Damascus to rejoin the Cairo-based Arab League. The fact that Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, traveled to Syria on board a Russian plane suggests some measure of Russian eagerness to rehabilitate both Bashir and Assad, who has been ostracized by most Western leaders.  VOA

Comoros Court Jails Another 20 Opposition Figures
A court in Comoros has sentenced a top opposition figure to seven years behind bars for assault during a controversial referendum on changes to the constitution. It was the latest in a string of sentences handed down to political figures who opposed a series of constitutional reforms enabling President Azali Assoumani to extend his term in office. In a ruling late Monday, the security court sentenced Ahmed el-Barwane, secretary-general of the opposition Juwa party, for ordering an attack on a soldier during a July referendum on the reforms. It also handed 20 years jail time to another Juwa MP, Tocha Johar, who was also on trial alongside another 20 or so people accused of attacking a policeman.  AFP

Libya’s NOC Declares Force Majeure on El Sharara Oilfield
Libya’s state oil company NOC has declared force majeure at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after announcing a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters. El Sharara, which produces 315,000 barrels per day (bpd) for the OPEC member, was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds. Officials in the North African country have been unable to persuade the groups to leave the partly unsecured site amid disagreements on how best to proceed, workers at the field said. Some officials favor offering quick cash payments to the occupiers, but NOC officials have warned that would set encourage more blockades, El Sharara workers said.  Reuters