Africa Media Review for December 20, 2019

Genocide, Gold and Foreign Wars: Sudan’s Most Feared Commander Speaks Out
The messaging was clear as soon as Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo entered the room. Clad in a traditional white jalabiya, or tunic, and headdress, Sudan’s most powerful man known “as Hemedti” looked more like the camel trader he once was, rather than the chief of a paramilitary force accused of raping and killing protesters in Khartoum and committing genocidal violence in Darfur. It was a careful shift from past appearances both before and after the April revolution which ousted his boss, Sudan’s former president Omar Bashir. Gone were his signature military fatigues and khaki baseball cap. Gone too were his offices overlooking the base of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) he commands. Instead, this rare interview took place within Hemedti’s residence in the capital, where he sat on a tiffany-blue gilt sofa of nail-salon decadence. From there he was quick to urge Britain to form a partnership with the RSF, citing the militia’s supposed efforts to combat illegal migration to Europe. … This year the billionaire militiaman made the unlikely transition from Bashir’s close confidante, who jokingly nicknamed Hemedti “Hemayti,” meaning my protector, to a leader of the very security apparatus that toppled the president. Independent

The Year That Changed Sudan Began with a Matchstick

As charred as the despised building it torched, the matchstick used to light the fire that fuelled a Sudanese uprising is rumoured to still sit in the pocket of the protester who struck it. It has even travelled the country, from the northern steel city of Atbara to the capital Khartoum, where news of the famed matchstick’s presence spread by word of mouth among protesters. A year ago, on 19 December 2018, the image of the gutted offices of Sudan’s ruling party in Atbara spread like wildfire through social media, feeding public anger over the rising cost of living, igniting far deeper grievances against President Omar al-Bashir and his 30-year rule. Protests spread through that night, and in the days and weeks that followed, until Bashir finally stepped down on 11 April. The past year has been an historic one for Sudan, long stifled by corruption and sanctions and torn apart by the government’s many wars, as many Sudanese hope 2020 will mark a transition towards a civilian government. Middle East Eye

Algeria Swears In New President as Opposition Debates Response

Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been sworn in as the president of Algeria, as the Hirak protest movement debated its response to his offer of dialogue to end a months-long political crisis. Mounted guards in traditional red tunics, white turbans and hooded cloaks lined the way into the Palais des Nations on Thursday as Tebboune entered, Algeria’s flag fluttering overhead. Tebboune, a former prime minister who casts himself as a reformer, was elected last week in a vote the opposition regarded as a charade intended to keep the ruling elite in power. … Since the election, the weekly Friday and Tuesday protests have gone ahead as usual, though there were widespread reports of police arresting many demonstrators in the western city of Oran. Among the leaderless protest movement, where debate over goals and strategy takes place on social media or during demonstrations, there were mixed reactions to the offer of dialogue and a new constitution that Tebboune made last week. “We are not against dialogue and negotiations to end the crisis, but we cannot shake Tebboune’s hand if he doesn’t first free the detainees,” said Abdeljabar, a student protester. Reuters

Libyan Government Activates Cooperation Accord with Turkey

The UN-recognised Libyan government has agreed to activate a military cooperation agreement with Turkey, bringing closer the possible dispatch of Turkish advisory troops to help defend the capital, Tripoli, from an attack by forces supported by the United Arab Emirates and Russia. The announcement by the Government of National Accord (GNA) followed high-level military meetings designed to assess the imminent threat to Tripoli posed by forces from eastern Libya under the command of the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Turkey and Libya signed a military memorandum of understanding on 27 November that has already been presented to the Turkish parliament. It provides for Turkish troops to be sent to Libya at the request of the GNA. The short GNA statement activating the memorandum is seen as equivalent to a request, but it seems unlikely Turkey would send troops in the near future since the size of any force would have to be agreed with the Turkish parliament. … Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is likely to tread carefully since Turkey is still trying to explore a possible agreement over Libya’s future with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The Guardian

Empty Libyan Migrant Camps, Pope Urges

The pope called for migrant detention centres in Libya to be cleared on Thursday, saying it was a “sin” to remain indifferent to the abuses suffered by refugees. Pope Francis, who has made the plight of migrants a central theme during his pontificate, railed against indifference shown to those who face abuse in detention camps, spurring them to risk the dangerous voyage to Europe by sea. He spoke before a group of migrants recently brought to Italy from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. “How can we fail to hear the desperate cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a stormy sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery?”, the Catholic pontiff said, visibly moved. … Echoing calls made by the United Nations and humanitarian groups, the Argentine pope said the insalubrious and overcrowded Libyan camps — where over 50 migrants were killed by an airstrike in July — should be cleared and traffickers punished. … “We must denounce and prosecute traffickers who exploit and abuse migrants,” Francis added, saying the migrant crisis “won’t be solved by preventing them from landing.” AFP

African Migrant Flows Reshaping Security Challenges in Africa

The dynamism of clandestine African migration flows continues to present criminal and violent extremist groups opportunities for exploitation. An average of 78,000 African migrants per year were intercepted on Europe’s southern shores between 2014 and 2019, while roughly 1 million African economic migrants annually moved to other parts of the continent during the same period. Whether they are transiting to Europe or other parts of Africa, African migrants who cannot move through legal channels travel clandestinely and are more likely than not to experience some form of abuse on their journey and at their destination. Clandestine migration in Africa has created a lucrative market for human smuggling-estimated to be worth $765 million annually along the Trans-Sahara route alone. A significant share of this flows to criminal and violent extremist groups, who use the funds to undermine and destabilize governments. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Uganda’s Refugee Farmers Sow Seeds of Change

Uganda has been widely praised for its open-door policy towards refugees. The country has about 1.4 million refugees, estimates the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the third highest number in the world after Turkey and Pakistan. The government allocates new arrivals a plot of land big enough to build a mud-brick house and plant a small vegetable garden, gives them freedom of movement – they live in settlements, not camps – and the right to work. But like many host countries, it is struggling. The South Sudanese who make up the bulk of the refugees in Uganda look unlikely to return any time soon, with a peace deal signed more than a year ago yet to be implemented. … Although Uganda’s refugees live relatively harmoniously with the host population, there are tensions over resources such as firewood. Last week the UNHCR said two refugees and two Ugandans had been killed in clashes in Nyumanzi, a settlement near Bidi Bidi. It was not clear what sparked the violence. Uganda’s minister for disaster relief and preparedness, Musa Ecweru, said his country needed more funds to help refugees develop new skills and farm better. Reuters

UN Reduces Soldiers, Increases Police in DRC Mission

The UN Security Council on Thursday approved a one-year extension of its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, decreasing the number of soldiers and increasing the size of its police contingent. The French-drafted resolution, which also referred to the need for an exit strategy from the country, was unanimously adopted by the 15-member council. The Monusco mission’s troop reduction is modest in relation to the 15 900 currently deployed, cutting the maximum authorized ceiling from 16 875 to 14 660. It is above all a “political signal” in light of the changes that have occurred in the country with the installation of a new government and the improvement of security in many areas, a diplomat said. The police component of Monusco will temporarily gain 360 additional personnel. In the text, the Security Council “invites the (UN) Secretariat to consider further reduction of Monusco’s level of military deployment and area of operations based on the positive evolution of the situation on the ground, in particular in the regions where the threat posed by armed groups is no longer significant.” AFP

Guinea President Announces Controversial New Draft Constitution

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde on Thursday announced a new draft constitution despite mass demonstrations over concerns he intends to pursue a third term. In a televised address, Conde once again avoided stating whether he intended to run for president again when his second term ends in 2020. The draft constitution published on Thursday evening by the presidency stated that the president is elected for a mandate of six years, renewable once. The presidential term is currently five years. … The draft constitution will be “widely disseminated before its adoption” by the people, Conde said, hinting at a possible referendum. Guineans took to the streets en masse on December 10, in the latest round of mass anti-government protests to hit the fragile West African state. … At least 20 civilians have been killed since protests began, and one gendarme has also been killed. Scores of people have also been arrested and detained in the unrest. AFP

Weah Critic Arrives in Liberia before Planned Anti-Gov’t Protests

A prominent critic of Liberian President George Weah has landed in the country before anti-government protests planned for later this month. Hundreds of cheering supporters welcomed Henry Costa after his arrival on Thursday. The host of a popular radio show, Costa frequently criticised Weah before authorities closed his station in October. … Costa is also one of the leaders of the Council of Patriots, an opposition group that organised mass protests against Weah, a former international football star, in June. Another protest is planned for December 30. However, the Liberian Ministry of Justice refused to authorise the rally last month, labelling calls for the president to step down unconstitutional. Weah, who was sworn in as Liberia’s president in January 2018, is under growing pressure over his management of a financial crisis in his impoverished country. … Still traumatised by back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, Liberia is struggling to revive its flatlining economy. Inflation is rampant, according to the World Bank, and civil servants regularly go unpaid. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Ex-Attorney General Held by Financial Crimes Agency over $1.3 Billion Oil Deal

Nigeria’s former attorney general was detained by the country’s financial crimes agency upon his return home on Thursday, the commission said in a statement, as part of an investigation into one of the oil industry’s biggest suspected corruption scandals. Mohammed Adoke was arrested by Interpol in November after travelling to Dubai for a medical appointment. He voluntarily flew back to the West African country on Thursday, his lawyer said. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation relates to the $1.3 billion sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011. Eni SpA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by former petroleum minister Dan Etete. The sale of the oil field has spawned legal cases across several countries, involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives from Eni and Royal Dutch Shell. … Adoke served as attorney general from 2010 to 2015. Reuters

Ethiopia Joins African Nations with Satellites in Space

Ethiopia on Friday launched its first satellite into space, joining the list of sub-Saharan African nations striving to develop space programs to advance their development goals and encourage scientific innovation. Before dawn on Friday, senior officials and citizens gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Centre just north of the capital Addis Ababa to watch a live broadcast of the satellite’s launch from a space station in China. “This will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity,” deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen said in a speech at the launch event broadcast on state television. The satellite was designed by Chinese and Ethiopian engineers and the Chinese government paid about $6 million of the more than $7 million manufacturing costs, Solomon Belay, director general of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, told Reuters. “Space is food, space is job creation, a tool for technology …sovereignty, to reduce poverty, everything for Ethiopian to achieve universal and sustainable development,” he said. The satellite will be used for weather forecast and crop monitoring, officials said. Reuters

New York of Africa: Rental Rates in Chad’s Capital Soar

Chad is one of the world’s poorest countries, but in its capital, Ndjamena, rent rates rival those of New York or London at upwards of $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom flat in the city centre. The dusty city on the edge of the Sahara was ranked the most expensive in Africa and 11th in the world this year by global consulting firm Mercer, which bases its annual index on the average cost of living for employees working abroad. … Chad’s landlocked location, oil-dependent economy and lack of infrastructure all contribute to the high prices, according to researchers. Nearly everything from food to clothing to furniture is imported and often by plane. Although Ndjamena is at the far end of the spectrum on the cost of living, it also exemplifies a problem across the continent, said Shohei Nakamura, an economist at the World Bank focusing on poverty and equity. In a study published this year, Nakamura and colleagues found that African cities are on average at least 20 percent more expensive than cities in other parts of the world with similar income levels. Goods and services such as transport, communications and housing are especially pricey, he said – mainly because the supply of decent housing and infrastructure falls far behind demand. Al Jazeera

A Year in the Life of the Mail & Guardian

All these stories have taken their toll on our newsroom. Good journalism requires that you spend time with people, talking through their trauma and trying to find out why abuses of power happened. This is taxing on reporters, who deal with the worst of our country so that they can better inform the public – you. In part, because you have said that reporting on how bad things are can become overwhelming, we also started our Good News edition this year. Although it isn’t the “sunshine journalism” forced on the SABC, it is an acknowledgement that this country is still here because of the tireless work of some incredible people. From journalists and Eskom engineers to nongovernmental organisation workers and the people cleaning campuses, people wake up each day to make South Africa work. We will report more on these people. Even if we don’t have power. M&G

The South African Songbook: Jazz Musicians Who Stayed during Apartheid

Twenty-five years have passed since South Africa ended the cruel social experiment of apartheid, which divided its citizens, locked up its people of color and brought decades of havoc and pain. South Africa’s jazz musicians were at the center of the conflict. They symbolized everything the white nationalist regime hated: freedom, thinking and racial mixing. Jazz Night in America has already told the story of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and trumpeter Hugh Masekela, prominent South African artists who went into exile, seeking refuge overseas. This episode focuses on the musicians who stayed. We’ll learn about the legacy of saxophonist Winston Mankunku Ngozi, who turned down touring opportunities with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock to fight for freedom on his home turf, and pianist Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, who was hailed as a bright new hope for the music before his untimely and unsolved death at age 27. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones