Africa Media Review for December 20, 2018

Congo Election Commission Summons Presidential Candidates for Urgent Meeting
Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) has summoned the candidates in Sunday’s presidential election to a meeting at the parliament building amid reports the vote could be delayed. Marie-France Idikayi, a CENI spokeswoman, invited the candidates to an 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) meeting. Her message, which did not specify the reason for the meeting, was sent on Wednesday and seen by Reuters. Idikayi denied media reports on Wednesday that CENI was considering postponing the election by a few days due to delays deploying voting materials to polling stations. CENI president Corneille Nangaa is scheduled to give a news conference at 3 p.m (1400 GMT). Preparations for Sunday’s vote, which has been postponed repeatedly since 2016, were disrupted by a fire last week in the capital Kinshasa, which the commission said destroyed some 80 percent of the city’s voting machines.  Reuters

DR Congo: Election Campaign in Kinshasa Suspended as Electoral Commission Mulls Delay
Election campaigning in Kinshasa was suspended on Wednesday just four days ahead of presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Opposition candidate martin Fayulu was expected in the capital to hold a campaign rally, but was blocked from entering the city with the authorities citing security concerns. A statement signed by André Kimbuta, Kinshasa’s governor, said there had already been “several incidents” and “considerable” damage during the election campaigning. It said intelligence services had information on “extremists” who were preparing for confrontations in the street. Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had been expected in Kinshasa on Wednesday and hundreds of his supporters had gathered at Sainte-Thérèse square in the Ndjili district for a campaign rally. RFI

Both Candidates Claim Victory in Madagascar Presidential Election
Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana — who have each held the top job in the impoverished country before — declared themselves winners in the run-off which analysts warned was likely to draw claims of fraud. “Change is coming tomorrow, and today you can say that ‘Papa’ is elected,” Ravalomanana told supporters on Wednesday night at his headquarters, using his nickname. “Whatever happens, only one thing counts, we will win.” However, his rival Rajoelina said: “I am sure I’m going to win but we’ll wait for the official results.” The contenders, who came a close first and second in November’s first-round election, were both banned from running in the 2013 ballot as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.  France 24

UN Reports ‘Alarming’ Trends in Drug Trafficking in Africa
The U.N. drugs and crime chief says his office is registering “new, alarming trends” in drug trafficking in western and central Africa that are destabilizing the ability to govern, security, economic growth and public health. Yuri Fedotov told the Security Council on Wednesday that criminal networks have expanded their activities from transporting cocaine and heroin through Africa to Europe and other destinations and are now engaged in trafficking other opioids. He said the 2018 report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime which he heads shows 87 percent of pharmaceutical opioids seized globally came from western and central Africa along with North Africa. Fedotov says that “this is largely due to rising use of tramadol, an opioid painkiller that is widely trafficked for non-medical use in the region.” AP

Terrorism Suspected in Morocco Murder of Scandinavian Hikers
Moroccan prosecutors investigating the murder of two female Scandinavian hikers on Wednesday said that the killings were suspected of being an act of Islamist terrorism. The Rabat public prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the one suspect that has been arrested so far has affiliations to a terrorist group, but did not name which one. The women’s bodies were found on Monday in an isolated area near Imlil, on the way to Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak and a popular hiking destination. Three other suspects have also been identified, but are still on the run. “Radical Islam is not ruled out due to the profile of the suspect arrested and of the three men wanted,” the AFP also reported, citing an unnamed police source. The source said that one of the women — identified as 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway — had been beheaded.  France 24

Tunisia Busts Cell Planning Attacks on Security Forces
Tunisian authorities on Wednesday dismantled a cell planning attacks on security forces and seized material for making explosives, the Interior Ministry said. Most of the members of the cell, dubbed the Brigade of Jihad and Unity, were arrested and were being held in prison, the ministry said in a statement. It had pledged allegiance to an unidentified militant group abroad and planned attacks targeting security posts and patrols in the central province of Sidi Bouzid, it said. An explosive belt, grenades and bomb-making material were seized during the operation, it added. Tunisia has been on high security alert since 2015 when Islamic State gunmen killed 38 tourists in a museum in the capital and on a beach in the resort city of Sousse.  Reuters

Mogadishu-Backed Candidate Wins Test-Case Regional Somali Election
Lawmakers in a volatile region of Somalia elected the federal government’s preferred candidate as its leader on Wednesday after a popular former al Shabaab leader was barred from running in the vote seen as test of the country’s political progress. As part of an internationally backed attempt to end decades of lawlessness by spreading power more widely among the multiple clans, states are meant to be more independent of central government, with the authority to select their own leaders. But any sign that that is being subverted in practice or a sense that a leader is being imposed by stealth by the central government could further stoke instability and violence. At least 11 people were killed last week in the South West state capital of Baidoa in clashes that erupted following the arrest of Mukhtar Robow, the former Islamist militant leader who had tried to contest in the thrice-delayed poll. Reuters

430 000 Flee Cameroon’s Restive Anglophone Areas, Says Group
An international refugee agency says that more than 430 000 people have fled violence in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking regions and are hiding in rural areas with few resources. The Norwegian Refugee Council, one of several humanitarian organisations offering support, said on Wednesday it is assisting the displaced by providing shelter and supplies to needy families. David Manan, the Norwegian group’s country director for Cameroon, called for more international aid. He said there are too few agencies on the ground to provide the amount of aid needed. He said many people are hiding in the bush. 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

A Generation of Unschooled Cameroonians, Another Generation of Conflict?
[…] The roots of Cameroon’s anglophone conflict can be traced back to education. The separatists fighting for independence from French-majority Cameroon say the current school system symbolises the marginalisation of the English language and culture. After years of discontent, in November 2016, anglophone teachers began an indefinite strike to protest what they said amounted to systematic discrimination against English-speaking teachers and students. In response, government security forces clamped down on protests, arresting hundreds of demonstrators, including children, killing at least four people and wounding many more. This caused widespread anger across the Southwest and Northwest regions, which a year later led to the rise of the armed separatist groups now fighting for independence and a new English-speaking nation called “Ambazonia”. IRIN

Opposition Leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi Greeted by Thousands upon Return to Sudan
Leading Sudanese opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to Sudan on Wednesday from nearly a year in self-imposed exile and called for a democratic transition before thousands of supporters. Mahdi was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister. He was overthrown in 1989 by an alliance of Islamists and military commanders that still form the nucleus of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s all-powerful National Congress Party. “The regime has failed and there is economic deterioration and erosion of the national currency’s value,” Mahdi, who heads Sudan’s opposition Umma party, said. He was speaking at a public square in Omdurman, which sits across the Nile from Khartoum before 7,000 of his supporters who chanted slogans including: “The people want a new regime” and “No to war, yes to peace”.  Reuters

Large Protests Erupt across Sudan over Price Hikes
Popular protests have erupted Wednesday at a number of the Sudanese states against price hikes and worsening economic conditions. In Atbara town of River Nile State in northeastern Sudan, demonstrators took to the streets to protest against deteriorating living conditions and price hikes as the price of a loaf of bread has increased to 3 Sudanese pounds (the official price is one pound). An eyewitness, Adel Abdel-Latif told Sudan Tribune that Atbara hasn’t seen this type of organized protests since long years, pointing out that elementary, high school and college students took the streets and were joined by dozens of residents. “The situation is very severe and the number of protestors is on the rise … All residents of Atbara are now on the streets” he said He pointed out that the demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Peaceful, Peaceful against the Thieves”, saying the police and army didn’t interfere to disperse or arrest the protestors. Sudan Tribune

Malong Meets IGAD Envoy, Says Ready to Negotiate Peaceful Settlement for S. Sudan’s Conflict
The former South Sudan army chief of staff turned rebel leader Paul Malong agreed to observe the ceasefire agreement and to said willing to seek a peaceful settlement for the armed conflict in South Sudan. Malong sought in the past to join the IGAD mediated peace process but the mediators declined his request pointing he was under international sanctions however sources said that Juba was behind his exclusion from the process. However, the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais held a meeting with the rebel South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF) in Nairobi on Tuesday to explore ways to include the non-signatories groups in the revitalized peace agreement. The statement underscored that the meeting took place in line with the IGAD Council of Ministers Resolution of 16th November 2018 directing the Special Envoy to engage the non-signatory parties to the R-ARCSS. Sudan Tribune

As US ‘Debt-Trap Diplomacy’ Rhetoric Heats up, China-Africa Relations Hold Fast
When U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton rolled out the United States’ new Africa strategy last week, he used the occasion to identify China as an imminent threat to both American and African interests. At different points in prepared remarks delivered at the Heritage Foundation, Bolton characterized China’s presence in Africa as predatory, opportunistic and power-hungry. He focused on Chinese involvement in Djibouti, where Beijing has built its first overseas military base, and Zambia, where rumors have swirled since September that unsustainable debt will force the mineral-rich country to hand its state-owned power company, ZESCO, over to China.  VOA

Tanzania Opposition Vows Fight against Magufuli ‘Dictatorship’
Tanzania’s opposition parties on Wednesday declared they would join forces in a campaign against the “dictatorship” of President John Magufuli. “The government has launched a war against opposition parties,” six groups said in a joint statement issued after a four-day meeting. “We declare the year 2019 will be the year in which we fight for democracy, the year in which we fight to recover our rights which have been trampled upon in breach of the law and the constitution.” The meeting brought together the four opposition parties represented in parliament, and two smaller parties. “It has become customary for the head of state and his supporters to treat opposition leaders or any person critical of the government as agents of foreign powers, as people without patriotism,” the statement said. AFP

Bomb Explosion Kills 10 in Ethiopia
A bomb explosion in the west of Ethiopia has killed at least 10 people travelling in a minibus. The bomb was detonated in the village of Toga close to the border between the regional states of Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz. Benishangul Gumuz’s police commissioner has blamed the attack on rebels of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – a group which recently signed a peace agreement with the Ethiopian government. In recent months dozens of people in that area have been killed in clashes over long-running land disputes. In September, four officials were shot dead as they returned from a peace conference aimed at ending the conflict. The OLF has denied involvement in other recent attacks in the area.  BBC

UN General Assembly Endorses Global Migration Accord
The U.N. General Assembly has endorsed a sweeping accord to ensure safe and orderly migration over opposition from five countries, including the United States and Hungary. The Global Compact for Migration is the first international document dealing with the issue, though it’s not legally binding. It was endorsed Wednesday by a 152-5 vote, with Israel, the Czech Republic and Poland also voting “no” and 12 countries abstaining. The vote in favor of the resolution was lower than the 164 countries that approved the agreement by acclamation at a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier this month. The compact represents a U.N.-led effort to crack down on the often dangerous and illegal movements across borders that have turned people smuggling into a worldwide industry, and give people seeking economic opportunity a chance. VOA

Hunt for Names in Deadly Migrant Shipwreck Yields More Dead
The quest to trace the identities of all the victims of the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant shipwreck has instead revealed that the sinking was far deadlier than anyone knew. One of the two investigators on the project, tracing families and survivors in Africa, has confirmed that the boat that sank on April 18, 2015 carried not 800 migrants as previously believed, but as many as 1,100. That up to 300 people could vanish reflects the hidden toll of migration. At a time when global migration is at a record high, The Associated Press has found in an exclusive tally that at least 62,284 migrants have died or disappeared worldwide since 2014. That’s more than double the only official attempt at a toll, by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration . The discovery also makes it even harder for the investigators to keep Italy’s promise to name all the dead, especially at a time when Europe has turned against migrants. After the boat sank, then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi committed Italy to giving the migrants from the April 2015 shipwreck their identities back. It was a “short period of sunlight,” said Cristina Cattaneo, Italy’s top forensic investigator. AP

Fixing South Africa State Companies Comes Second to Politics
South Africa’s government is facing potentially unpopular decisions needed to fix state companies that are drowning in debt, bleeding cash and fettering the economy, that may alienate voters ahead of next years elections. So far, its shied away from hard choices.Companies such as power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South African Airways and the South African Broadcasting Corp. are reeling after repeated management and strategy bungles and have indicated they need state aid and staff cuts to survive. While President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has replaced boards and top executives, its opposed suggestions of mass firings across the board or privatization and more bailouts at the power utility. Bloomberg

Ivory Coast Calls on France to Return 148 Artworks
Ivory Coast said on Wednesday it had drawn up a list of 148 works of art taken during the colonial period that it wants France to return. Last month, the west African state joined Senegal and Benin in lobbying France, their former colonial power, to hand back cultural treasures. Ivorian Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman told a press conference: “We have compiled a list of 148 works. In 2019, all or part of it will be returned.” Bandaman refused to give details about the list, other than to say that one of the items was a beloved “talking drum” called the Djidji Ayokwe, which is in the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. The drum was “hauled away, confiscated, captured” by the French because its “voice (had) mobilised the Akan people” against the colonial troops, he said.  AFP



Photo: Adam Jones