Africa Media Review for December 21, 2018

Derailed by Fire and Disarray, Congo Delays Presidential Election — Again
Three days before voters were finally to cast their ballots for president, authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared something that’s become familiar: another delay. The electoral commission announced Thursday that elections to replace President Joseph Kabila already two years behind schedule, have been postponed to Dec. 30. The commission, known as CENI, revealed the delay during a private meeting with the presidential candidates — including opposition candidate Seth Kikuni, who tweeted afterward that CENI is “technically unable to organize the elections this Sunday.” Commission officials formally announced the move later Thursday at a news conference in the capital, Kinshasa. The decision comes just one week after suspected arson destroyed nearly 80 percent of the city’s voting machines in a massive blaze.  NPR

Congo Wanted an Election. This Isn’t What It Meant.
[…] Residents waited in red, yellow, and blue plastic chairs arranged in a semicircle under a sprawling mango tree. An electrical extension cord snaked through the sand from the generator to a plastic table where the officials placed the voting machine, a large-screened tablet propped up on a stand. Unripe mangoes dangled overhead. The crowd watched intently as an official called up a volunteer to demonstrate the voting process. They waited as the machine malfunctioned and had to be restarted. Finally, the man fed his paper ballot into a slot in the tablet, and a series of options appeared on the screen: provincial assembly, national assembly, and presidential candidates. He touched the image of his preferred candidate for each race, and the tablet spit out his marked ballot, which he deposited into a waist-high transparent plastic bin. As more would-be voters stepped up to try the machine, the election official reassured them that the machine was a safe way to vote. It was basically just a printer, he told them. But a din grew, and soon the crowd drowned him out with shouts. “We don’t want this machine! It’s a trick! Trick! Take it away! You’re thieves!”  Foreign Policy

Rajoelina Leads in Madagascar Election: Partial Results
Former president Andry Rajoelina on Friday took an early lead in Madagascar’s election count with a clear advantage over his rival Marc Ravalomanana, according to partial official results. With about one-third of polling stations counted, Rajoelina had 54.85% of the vote and Ravalomanana had 45.15% after the head-to-head election on Wednesday. Both camps have claimed victory and alleged fraud, raising fears of a disputed result and the risk of a new political crisis in the Indian Ocean island which has a history of coups and unrest. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, both former presidents and long-time rivals, are locked in a duel for power after they came a close first and second in the preliminary election in November. With a turnout was about 47%, Rajoelina’s early lead was still seen as inconclusive.  AFP

EAC Heads of State Summit in Arusha Cancelled, Again
Signs of widening cracks among East African Community (EAC) member states have emerged after a heads of state summit was cancelled for the second time in three weeks. The meeting of the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, which was slated for December 27 in Arusha, has been pushed to a later date. “It is now official. The summit will not take place on December 27,” Mr Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC deputy secretary-general in charge of production and social sectors, told The Citizen. He said the date and venue of the twice postponed 20th summit will be communicated to partner states at a later date.  The East African

French Airstrike in Mali Kills Six ‘Terrorists’ Near Niger Border
At least six suspected members of a jihadist group were killed overnight in a French air strike in southeastern Mali, a French military spokesperson said on Thursday, December 20. A surveillance drone followed eight “members of an armed terrorist group” as they crossed the border on motorcycles from Niger into Mali, Colonel Patrik Steiger said. A French fighter jet struck the group, with ground forces then intervening, in an operation that claimed the lives of at least six militants, he added. French Army in a Thursday Facebook post said that motorcycles were detected in Niger on Wednesday evening. They were monitored as they crossed into Mali and the military determined the “terrorist character of this group.” At around 20:50 Paris time, air assets struck the group and then commandos seized the position. The army said the result of the operation was still being determined, but that at that stage six motorbikes were destroyed and five “terrorists” were “put out of action.”  The Defense Post

US Self-Defense Airstrikes in Somalia Kill 11 Al-Shabab
The U.S. military says it has killed 11 al-Shabab extremists with a pair of airstrikes outside Somalia’s capital. The U.S. Africa Command statement says Wednesday’s airstrikes were in self-defense after al-Shabab fighters attacked forces with the Somali military and the African Union peacekeeping mission. The statement says U.S. personnel were present “in an advisory capacity” and that no U.S., Somali or AU member was harmed. The U.S. says the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has been using the Beled Amin South area about 40 kilometers (24 miles) northwest of Mogadishu to plan attacks on the capital. The raid was meant to “clear known al-Shabab facilities.”  VOA

At Least Six Killed as Thousands Take to Streets in Anti-Government Protests across Sudan
Violent anti-government protests broke out on Thursday for the second consecutive day across Sudan, including the capital Khartoum where police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters and an eastern city where at least six protesters are said to have died in clashes with police. In the same eastern city, Qadaref, demonstrators surrounded the office of a local governor, forcing him to flee the scene in a speeding car under a hail of rocks. In Dongola, north of Khartoum, protesters torched the headquarters of the President Omar Bashir’s ruling National Congress party, The protests have been sparked by a steep rise in the price of bread that deepened the struggle of most Sudanese to make ends meet in the face of steady price increases and shortages of basic food items and fuel. The Telegraph

Somalia’s Parliament Drops Impeachment of President
Weeks of bickering and negotiation in Somalia’s parliament have stopped an effort to remove President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo though impeachment. Opponents and supporters of the president agreed in writing that the impeachment motion was “invalid” on Thursday. Analysts said the letter from parliament was a political lifeline for the besieged president. Farmajo was accused of violating the constitution by signing what his opponents said were secret commercial deals with Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as unilaterally appointing judges and army commanders.  VOA

Russia Has a Plan for Libya—Another Qaddafi
Russia switched strategy on Libya last year, according to the diplomats. As well as supporting Haftar, Moscow put a lot of effort into courting the rival UN-backed government in Tripoli and other power centers, including the western region of Misrata, they said. Haftar has been a frequent visitor to Moscow since 2016, but Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarrajand other top Libyan officials are also regularly in the Russian capital. The Kremlins strategy appears to be paying off. Russia is in talks with Libya on restarting a 2.2 billion euro ($2.5 billion) contract to build a high-speed rail line from Benghazi to Sirte, suspended since Qaddafi’s demise. Russian defense manufacturers that lost $4 billion in arms deals in Libya also stand to gain. Libya is meanwhile buying 1 million tons of Russian wheat for $700 million. Bloomberg

UN Report: Majority of Female Migrants Faced Gang Rape in Libya
The “overwhelming majority” of women and older girls who passed through Libya as migrants reported being gang-raped by traffickers or witnessed others taken away to be abused, according to a UN report based on hundreds of interviews. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a statement published on Thursday that its report, along with the United Nations support mission in Libya, turned up “unimaginable horrors” among migrants who sought to reach Europe through the largely lawless country. The 61-page report covers the period between January 2017 to August 2018.  Al Jazeera

Guinea-Bissau Legislative Polls Slated for March 2019 – Presidency
Delayed legislative polls in Guinea-Bissau have finally been scheduled for March 10 next year according to a presidential decree issued on Thursday. The vote is seen as a key solution to a political crisis has beset the government amid a political standoff dating back to 2015. The regional bloc, ECOWAS, has been at the heart of trying to broker a deal for the country. The tiny West African country has been going through the crisis since August 2015 when President Jose Mario Vaz fired the then Prime Minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira, who is also leader of the ruling party. An agreement to end the crisis was reached on 14 April, 2018 in Lomé at an extraordinary ECOWAS summit, and resulted in the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister, Aristide Gomes, to lead the country to the legislative elections.  Africa News

Belgium PM Resigns after Signing UN Migration Deal in Morocco
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel resigned from his post on Tuesday after losing the backing of his main coalition partner for signing the UN migration deal in Marrakesh last week. The right-wing, nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) quit Michel’s coalition after the prime minister attempted to secure the support of parliament for the new UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The first UN deal of its kind, the pact promotes a global approach to migration flows, but “reaffirms the sovereign rights of states to determine their national migration policy” and asserts the “fundamental” importance of legal migration. However the largest party in the coalition, N-VA claimed that signing the non-binding agreement would lead to more migrants entering the country, which would impact the availability of jobs and the provision of public services. The Middle East Monitor

Talk about Digital Economy Hijacked by Migration Debate
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz convened a high-level forum between African and European leaders to talk about business partnerships through the digital economy, but the subtext really was migration. Many leaders are, however, still sore about his far-right government’s position on this topic. […] The summit was touted as talks between the two continents on how to leverage off the digital economy in order to develop a relationship as equals, but the subtext was that this would stop migration. In a September report about the planning of the forum (then punted as an EU-Africa summit), the migration issue was an important reason why European leaders wanted to see more development in Africa – ostensibly so young Africans could find more reasons to stay in the continent. In his opening speech, Kurz said: “We now have to change the way we look at Africa. We must not think exclusively of poverty, the threat of migration and a lack of respect for human rights. What is required now are encounters of an honest partnership.”  Daily Maverick

After Mugabe, Zimbabwe Still Enforces a Law against Insulting the President
Terrence Mkhwananzi feels trapped and unsafe in what is now regarded as the new Zimbabwe. Bailed out from remand prison, the 32-year-old activist makes weekly visits to the police station while state prosecutors deliberate over a date to start his court hearing. He’s on trial for pointing at a presidential portrait at a public hearing in the city of Bulawayo. In front of the Commission of Inquiry, an independent body mandated to investigate the Aug. 1 post-election violence, Mkhwananzi accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of being responsible for his father’s death. A year since Mnangagwa seized power from his former mentor Robert Mugabe, and declared the beginning of a new era of freedom, it is still a crime in Zimbabwe to criticize the head of state. NPR

‘Breaking Bad’ Nigeria? Fear of a New Narco-State
In the early hours of a humid November morning, a 16-car convoy rolled into Obinugwu village in southeast Nigeria and stopped outside the iron gates of a non-descript house. More than 50 drug enforcement officials crept through the compound and surrounded the methamphetamine lab hidden by overgrown jungle behind the property. The bust happened just before daybreak. Dozens were arrested, including the suspected kingpin at his mansion in the nearby city of Owerri. “It took one year of surveillance,” a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officer, who was involved in the raid, told AFP. “They were all sleeping. We took them by surprise.”  AFP

Senegal: Opposition Leaders Get Creative to Win Votes
Opposition parties in Senegal are preparing to demonstrate ahead of next year’s presidential election. Critics accuse President Macky Sall of eliminating challengers so he can retain power. Earlier this year, he sacked the mayor of Dakar, a potential opponent who has been jailed for corruption. But Senegal’s opposition leaders are forced to get creative to win votes. Al Jazeera

Mombasa Port at Risk as Audit Finds It Was Used to Secure SGR Loan
The Kenyan government used the Mombasa port to secure the multibillion-shilling loan it took from China Exim Bank to build the standard gauge railway (SGR), leaving the cash-flush Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) exposed to seizure by the Chinese in the event of a default. A leaked report by the Auditor-General’s office shows that the Kenyan government had in 2013 waived the port’s sovereign immunity in order to use it as a security for the Chinese loan. Auditor-General Edward Ouko refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the document, which was widely circulated on digital platforms, insisting that his reports are officially submitted to Parliament and not to the public through social media.  The East African

Kenya Airways Launches Direct Flights to Somalia
Kenya Airways on Tuesday launched direct flights to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. KQ’s Chief Executive, Sebastian Mikosz said, “I’m very happy that we started this route! I believe that we’ll quickly increase our presence in Mogadishu.” Mikosz observed that the new route will ease travel for thousands of Somalis who live in Kenya as well as those from the diaspora traveling to their native country. Kenya airways had halted plans of direct flights to Mogadishu that was expected to begin on December 5, for the second time. Standard Media

The Quest for a Moral Diamond
The Peace Diamond, and the miner who found it, are at the center of a new push to redeem African diamond mining. […] His name is Emmanuel Momoh, and by general consensus, he’s the luckiest man in Sierra Leone. Until last year, Momoh, 44, wasn’t much different from anyone else in a country where more than 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. He cobbled together his living by selling peanut butter to stores in Kono District, a remote and mostly rural region in the country’s east, and by preaching at an outpost of the Deeper Life Bible Church. The village he called home, Koryardu, consists of 47 cinder block and mud houses, and its where hes headed now.Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions oozed across the riverine valley’s of eastern Sierra Leone, embedding diamonds into the soil. This geological endowment, first identified in 1930, has since generated billions of dollars in international sales. […] “If you have a shovel, you have a chance” that’s the mindset. In Koryardu almost all able-bodied residents have spent years digging, washing, and sifting sand and gravel. The World Bank reports that the artisanal mining sector is the country.s second-largest employer, after agriculture, providing work for between 300,000 and 400,000 people. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones