Africa Media Review for December 23, 2019

Algerian Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah Dies
Algeria’s powerful army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah has died, state television reported. Algerian government radio said he died on Monday morning in an Algiers military hospital after a heart attack. Gaid Salah, 79, was seen as Algeria’s de facto strongman since a pro-democracy movement with his backing pushed out the country’s longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April. He played a key role pushing through the December 12 presidential elections in the face of stiff opposition on the streets. Gaid Salah was present at the inauguration of this gas-rich country’s new president last week. The new president, Abdelmajid Tabboune, declared an exceptional full week of mourning, in an indication of Gaid Salah’s importance. President Tebboune announced that the head of land forces, General Said Chengriha, would take over as acting chief of staff of the armed forces. The army’s prominent role was underlined last week at Tebboune’s inauguration, during which he embraced Gaid Salah and presented him with an order of merit immediately after his own swearing-in. Al Jazeera

Sudan to Investigate Darfur Atrocities under Ousted Leader
Sudan has kick-started investigations into the long, bloody suppression of the Darfur region under the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a move aimed at ending years of impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice amid a fragile political transition. The Sudanese attorney general, Taj al-Sir al-Hibir, said Sunday that the government would look into atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur beginning in 2003, in the first indication that Mr. al-Bashir and some of his allies could face charges related to human rights abuses in Sudan. … His rule came to an end in April after a months-long uprising and just over a week ago, the 75-year-old former leader was found guilty of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency and sentenced to two years of detention. … After Mr. al-Bashir was sentenced last week, human rights agencies called on the transitional government to take concrete measures against perpetrators of violence in Darfur. But delivering that justice may prove easier said than done, given that some of Mr. al-Bashir’s most trusted confidants continue to hold prominent positions in government. The New York Times

‘It’s Our Biggest Employer’: How a Lucrative War in Yemen Fuels Conflict in Darfur 2,000km Away
You can earn more money fighting in Yemen for six months than in a lifetime. This adage rages through the streets of Darfur, Sudan’s conflict-ridden western region, where a ruinous war more than 2,000km away in Yemen has become the country’s “biggest local employer.” Everyone knows someone who has signed up. For nearly five years the Gulf has hired members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a feared paramilitary group, and the Sudanese military to fight alongside Yemeni government troops against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. And so, despite the dangers, the promises of unimaginable riches have driven tens of thousands of Darfur’s men, and boys, to the RSF’s recruitment centres. … But residents now say five years of wealthy, armed and trained fighters returning from Yemen has only ratcheted up tensions in Darfur, a region that has been ripped apart by at least 16 years of civil conflict. Independent

Sudan Peace Talks: Hope for a Comprehensive Peace Grows despite Obstacles
On Friday, members of the government delegation and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance reached an understanding on most of the issues concerning the central Sudan track. The talks between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) proceeded less smoothly, as the group adheres to its long-standing position regarding a secular state. The ongoing peace talks in the South Sudanese capital of Juba consist of five tracks: Darfur, the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile state) eastern Sudan, northern Sudan and central Sudan. The five teams formed for each track will work to resolve issues within a national framework while respecting the specificity of each region. The central Sudan track team, headed by SRF leader El Tom Hajo, met with the government delegation headed by Sovereign Council member Gen Yasir El Atta on Friday. After the meeting, El Atta told reporters in Juba that the two parties reached an understanding on most of the issues raised. He expressed his optimism that an agreement on the central Sudan track will be signed within the next two days. “This positive development might encourage the negotiations on the other tracks,” he said. Radio Dabanga

In Libya, Cheap, Powerful Drones Kill Civilians and Increasingly Fuel the War
In the predawn darkness, the missile smashed through the cement wall. It shattered the leg of a mother, burned the feet of her 12-year-old daughter and forced the family from their home. The weapon that tore their lives apart wasn’t launched by a fighter jet, tank or mortar – once the main culprits in Libya’s long history of conflicts. It was fired by a Chinese-made drone. Eight months into Libya’s worst spasm of violence in eight years, the conflict is being fought increasingly by weaponized drones – and civilian casualties are mounting. The United Nations blames airstrikes for the deaths of more than 60 percent of the 284 civilians killed since the eastern warlord Khalifa Hifter started his offensive to oust the U.N.-installed government from Tripoli in April. Recent drone attacks killed 12 members of a family, including 10 children, in southern Libya, and at least 10 people, mostly African migrants, in a biscuit factory in Tripoli, according to U.N. and Libyan officials. The assaults, U.N. officials and human rights activists say, could constitute war crimes. The Washington Post

Libya Govt Urges Military Aid from ‘Friendly’ Countries
Libya’s UN-recognised unity government on Friday urged five “friendly countries” to implement military deals as it seeks to repel the forces of an eastern-based strongman fighting to seize the capital. The call came a day after the Government of National Accord (GNA) approved the activation of such a deal with Ankara, paving the way for a bigger Turkish role eight months into Haftar’s offensive. Mired in chaos since the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi eight years ago, the North African country has become split between bitterly opposed administrations in the east and west — each backed by outside powers. Tripoli-based GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj sent letters to the leaders of the United States, Britain, Italy, Algeria and Turkey, urging them to “activate security cooperation deals,” his office said in a statement. The aim is to help the GNA “face aggression against the Libyan capital… by any armed group operating outside the legitimacy of the state, to preserve social peace and achieve stability in Libya,” he said. AFP

Macron Wraps Up a Trip to West Africa Focusing on Security
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute Sunday to the victims of Niger’s largest extremist attack in recent memory while on the last stop of a three-day visit to West Africa. Macron visited the cemetery where 71 Nigerien soldiers were interred after the Dec. 10 attack on a remote army camp. He also met in the capital of Niamey with President Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss the rising extremist violence in the Sahel; a summit gathering the five countries of the region is scheduled for mid-January in France. “We need to define much more clearly the military, political and development objectives for the next six, 12 and 18 months,” Macron said. Issoufou said he hoped the summit would be the occasion to launch a joint call for more international solidarity “so that the Sahel and France are not alone in that fight anymore.” The summit in the French southern town of Pau was initially scheduled to take place this month this month but it was postponed after the deadly attack by an Islamic State affiliate in Niger. Earlier Sunday, Macron paid tribute in Ivory Coast to the victims of a 2004 bombing during the country’s civil war that killed nine French soldiers and an American civilian. AP

France’s Macron Says 33 ‘Terrorists’ Killed in Mali Operation
French President Emmanuel Macron has said 33 “terrorists” have been “neutralised” in an operation by his country’s forces in the West African nation of Mali. In a speech to the French community in Ivory Coast on Saturday, Macron said that French soldiers also released two Malian gendarmes being held by the fighters in central Mali’s city of Mopti. … French forces onboard helicopters used a drone to guide them to a target in a forest-covered zone where Katiba Macina, a group linked to al-Qaeda, operates, French army command said. It was the same forest where France wrongly claimed it had killed Katiba Macina leader Amadou Koufa a year ago. A spokesman for the French army’s chief of staff declined to say at this stage whether Koufa was the target again this time. It was not the same area of Mali where 13 French soldiers died last month in a helicopter crash. Al Jazeera

W. Africa Monetary Union to Reform CFA Franc, Keep Euro Peg
The West African Economic and Monetary Union has agreed with France to a number of changes to the CFA franc currency, including a new name, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said Saturday, as the West African bloc inches closer to a split from the French-backed currency. The monetary union will keep its euro peg while moving its currency reserve from France, the former colonial power, Outtara said Saturday in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan. France will no longer have a representative on the board of the central bank, Ouattara told reporters during a two-day visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. “This decision shows our determination to create an integrated and dynamic regional market, a source of prosperity for us and for future generations,” Ouattara said. The reforms constitute a key step in the modernization of long-standing arrangements between the West African Economic and Monetary Union and France. For the countries who have used the CFA franc since independence almost 60 years ago, the changes mark a significant shift in economic outlook from one focused on France to seeking regional opportunities for growth. Bloomberg

Security Tops Agenda as West African Leaders Meet in Abuja
Heads of state and governments across West Africa met on Saturday in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, for the latest round of discussions on pressing matters in the bloc, including regional integration and a concerted effort to tackling armed rebellions. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the summit of 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), urging his fellow leaders to forge a stronger partnership in addressing the region’s security challenges. Security in the Lake Chad region and the wider Sahel was on top of the agenda at the day-long summit. … In September, ECOWAS convened an extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Some of the bloc’s members have now called for a swift implementation of the resolutions agreed to at that summit. “Our region has been hard hit by terrorist attacks every passing day, threatening almost all the national and regional achievements we have made,” said Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou. … Also featuring on the agenda was the presidential election in Guinea Bissau and the matter of a common currency for the region. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso’s Rapid Descent Catches Emergency Response off Guard
A surge in violence by jihadists, local militias, and militants – along with spiralling inter-communal attacks – has created in Burkina Faso one of the fastest-growing displacement crises in Africa, according to the United Nations. The rapid escalation this year, in a West African nation not long ago held up as an example of peaceful religious and ethnic coexistence, has caught aid groups and the government by surprise. The slow shift by donors and the government away from a focus on development projects to addressing emergency needs has held back the response, aid workers and officials told The New Humanitarian earlier this month, during visits to the north and east of the country to report on the expanding violence and its impact on Burkinabes and those trying to respond. More than half a million people are internally displaced, a 544 percent increase since the start of the year. Almost 2,000 people have been killed since January, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which collects and analyses conflict information. … No formal internal displacement camps exist, and tens of thousands of people forced from their homes due to violence are sheltering with relatives or friends. The New Humanitarian

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 6 in Central Somalia
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside a hotel hosting senior military officials in central Somalia, killing at least six people Saturday evening, say police. The powerful blast shattered the windows of the Global Hotel in Galkayo town and destroyed several cars, said Col. Ahmed Bishar. The hotel accommodates Somalia’s land forces commanders and other military officials who escaped unhurt, Bishar said. At least 10 people were also injured in the blast in the town which has rarely experienced similar attacks. No group has yet claimed the responsibility for the attack. However, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, often carries out car bombs attacks on hotels. AP

Five Arrested for Attack on Mosques in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region
Five people suspected of burning down four mosques in Ethiopia’s Amhara region have been arrested, a regional spokesman has said, as rising intercommunal and ethnic violence threatens political reforms initiated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. … State-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported on Saturday that a number of mosques were attacked and that “other properties were destroyed” in Mota town, more than 350 kilometres (217 miles) north of the capital, Addis Ababa. “Attempts by extremists to breakdown our rich history of religious tolerance and coexistence have no place in the new prosperity focused Ethiopia,” Abiy, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in a statement posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. “I condemn such acts of cowardice and call upon all peace loving Ethiopians to draw upon our deep knowledge of coexistence and our reservoir of respect,” the statement added. … Muslims make up about one-third of Ethiopia’s population of 110 million, second only to Orthodox Christians at 40 percent, according to the last census which was conducted in 2007. Al Jazeera

Pirates Kill One, Kidnap Four in Gabon Capital Attack
A Gabonese captain was killed and four Chinese sailors abducted on Saturday in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, following an attack by pirates in the city’s harbour, the government has said. “Pirate attacks were perpetrated … against four ships,” government spokesman Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou said on Sunday. Pirate attacks are unusual in the harbour, but extremely frequent in the surrounding Gulf of Guinea. The West African country’s defence and security forces were deployed “to secure the area and track down the perpetrators with the cooperation of Interpol and sub-regional bodies,” Miyakou said. Two of the ships were fishing vessels belonging to Sigapeche, a Sino-Gabonese company which employs the four Chinese sailors. The third ship belongs to the maritime transport company Satram, based in Port-Gentil, Gabon, while the fourth is a cargo vessel flying a Panamanian flag. AFP

Cameroon Separatists Dismiss ‘Anglophone Special Status,’ Insist on Independence
Armed separatist movements in Cameroon have dismissed the approval of a spacial status to Anglophone regions by the country’s parliament, insisting that only independence would satisfy them. Parliament on Friday granted special status to the North West and South West English-speaking regions to try to calm a separatist insurgency that has killed 2,000 people. The law, passed in a special session of parliament, says the Anglophone regions “benefit from a special status founded on their linguistic particularity and historic heritage.” … But Jean-Michel Nintcheu, a congressman from the main opposition party, said he did not believe the law would solve the crisis. “The Anglophones, even the moderate ones, want a federal state. This law is not the result of a dialogue.. we were against it,” he said. The reforms were recommended at the end of national talks organised by Biya in October to chart a way out of the conflict. But separatists boycotted that dialogue, saying they would negotiate only if the government released all political prisoners and withdrew the military from the Northwest and Southwest. Reuters

Burundi President Nkurunziza Says He Won’t Run Again
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Saturday reaffirmed he will not contest next year’s election, despite scepticism from the opposition, and the ruling party yet to name another candidate less than six months from polling day. The long-serving President sought and won a controversial third term in office in 2015, defying constitutional limits, and plunging the country into a deadly political crisis and economic recession. But the 56-year-old leader — whose tenure has been marked by allegations of grave rights abuses and a crackdown on political freedoms — announced in June 2018 he would not run in elections set for May 2020. Just a month earlier, constitutional changes in Burundi had extended presidential terms, and many believed Nkurunziza had backed the amendments allowing him to stay in office until 2034. But in an end-of-year address Saturday to the army and police, Nkurunziza — who has ruled since 2005 — again signalled he would stand down when his term expires next year. AFP

Former President Bozize Makes a Return to Central African Republic
Thousands of well-wishers turned out on Saturday to welcome former Central African Republic president Francois Bozize on his return from exile. Bozize, who was ousted in a 2013 coup, was making his first public appearance nearly a week after returning to the country following six years away. Bozize climbed on to the back of a pick-up truck to address members of his KNK party, although most of his speech was drowned by cheers and shouts of support from the crowd, an AFP correspondent said. … A former armed forces chief, Bozize seized power in CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, in March 2003. He held office for a decade before being overthrown by a coalition of mainly Muslim armed groups, the Seleka. His lawyers and supporters had long campaigned for the government to allow him to return, but earlier this week a government spokesman expressed scepticism that he was back in the country. Bozize faces an international arrest warrant, initiated by the CAR in 2013, for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide. Africa News with AP

eSwatini Police Arrest Opposition Leaders, Activists: Parties
Police in eSwatini – formerly known as Swaziland – have arrested the head of the southern African country’s largest opposition party and several other politicians and activists in raids on their houses, their parties said. The operations on Friday took place as people’s anger against King Mswati III, an absolute monarch, has swelled in the past year. Police Commissioner William Dlamini told reporters the police had “invited some individuals to assist us in our enquiries pertaining to state security information,” but denied that any of them been arrested or detained. A spate of anti-monarchy demonstrations have taken place across eSwatini this year. Some have turned violent with police using tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse stone-throwing protesters. Demonstrators say the king drains public coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle while most of his 1.5 million subjects eke out a living toiling in maize or sugarcane fields. AFP

After 20 Years of Misery as Refugees, a One-Way Ticket to the ‘Miracle’ of Resettlement
Although they spent 20 years living in a refugee camp in Uganda, Jean-Pierre Ntegyeye and Isaiah Bahati never gave up hope of leaving for a better life. Today, with help from the UN migration agency, IOM, their dream has come true, but they haven’t forgotten the plight of those left behind. Their story is told in a new movie, One Way Ticket, screened as part of the Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF). In an interview with UN News, Mr. Bahati and Mr. Ntegyeye explained that they were forced to leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1996, due to conflict, to live in the camp where, says Mr. Bahati, life was extremely difficult. … In 2014, they started the long, but ultimately successful resettlement process, with help from IOM, which eventually led to them taking the “one-way ticket” of the title, to live in the US. The contrast between the Ugandan camp and their current situation (they live in Chicago and Pennsylvania) is described by Mr. Ntegyeye as “a kind of miracle”: “We are the lucky ones. It’s like you have been living in boiling water, or a fire, and then someone lifts you out. …” UN News

Best African Songs of 2019 – Part 1
In 2019, African artists continued to make major strides by signing big deals, winning top awards, releasing memorable hits and collaborating with renowned musicians around the world. A number of African musicians amassed millions of YouTube views and gained new international fans on streaming platforms, earning much needed exposure. Like 2018, 2019 has been a great year for Africa artists in terms of collaborations, although divisions were seen after the September xenophobic attacks in South Africa, with a number of local and foreign musicians cancelling shows in the country and abroad. Nonetheless, 2019, the final year of the decade, can still be marked down as a successful one, as the African music industry continued to gain momentum. Music In Africa has complied a playlist of the top popular songs that defined the year. The below two-part playlist has been divided into Africa’s five geographic regions with the help of our regional editorial teams in Lagos, Dakar, Kinshasa, Nairobi and Johannesburg. Music in Africa



Photo: Adam Jones