Africa Media Review for December 28, 2018

Boko Haram Sacks Two Military Bases in Northeast Nigeria
Boko Haram sacked two military bases in northeast Nigeria overnight as the jihadist fighters battle for control of a strategic town on Lake Chad, military sources said Thursday. Jihadists from the IS-supported Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) overran a naval base and a multinational joint task force (MNJTF) post in the fishing town of Baga after a fierce battle, the sources told AFP. Boko Haram has repeatedly struck military outposts in the region in recent months. Fighters in several vehicles stormed Baga and engaged troops in intense fighting at the MNJTF base which hosts units from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The insurgents also sacked a naval base in Mile 3 which lies five kilometres from Baga, a military source who asked not to be identified told AFP. “The troops were overpowered and forced to withdraw,” the source, adding that “the terrorists carted away guntrucks, ammunition and multiple rocket launchers from the base.” AFP

10 Burkina Faso Police Officers Killed in Ambush
Ten police officers were killed and three wounded in an ambush Thursday in northwestern Burkina Faso, the west African country’s security ministry said. “The toll is 10 officers who have lost their lives and three wounded,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that a police convoy from the Toeni region and reinforcements from the Dedougou area had been ambushed. The officers were attacked while heading to the village of Loroni, near the border with Mali, after a school there had been attacked and textbooks torched by armed assailants, a security source told AFP. The wounded, including two in serious condition, were taken to a hospital in Dedougou, the source added. Burkina Faso has been increasingly hit by deadly attacks over the last three years. They began in the north of the country but have since spread to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin. VOA

Congo Opposition Leader Fayulu Takes Clear Lead ahead of Sunday’s Election
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has become the clear favourite to win Democratic Republic of Congo’s long-delayed election on Sunday, with the government-backed candidate trailing in third place, according to a new poll. Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, was little known when he was picked as the joint candidate of an opposition coalition in November, but extensive campaigning, including in Ebola-hit eastern regions, has since boosted his profile. The latest election poll by a New York-based research group showed Fayulu leapfrogging from third place in October to the top spot with 44 percent support. He was ahead of the former frontrunner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, on 23 percent, and the ruling party’s Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary on 18 percent. “The polls reveal an electorate eager for change. A large majority supports the opposition,” Congo Research Group (CRG), which commissioned the polling on which the survey was based, said in a statement5. “Fayulu … is the clear favorite to win elections if they are free and fair.” Reuters

Regional Blocs Denounce Violence in DRC ahead of Poll
Regional blocs ICGLR and SADC have denounced the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against civilians and the United Nations Observation Mission. The message is contained in the final communiqué of the heads of state of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) summit in the Republic of Congo on Wednesday. The joint Brazzaville meeting, called to review the situation in the regional with a particular focus on the DR Congo, resolved to send a delegation to meet the outgoing President Joseph Kabila ahead of the General Election. … The regional leaders appealed to the Kinshasa government to safeguard the security of the election contenders and reaffirmed their faith that the polls would be just, free, democratic and transparent. They also appealed to the civil society and the political class to make efforts to guarantee a peaceful environment ahead of the elections. The East African

DR Congo Election: Protesters Attack Ebola Centre in Beni
Protesters angry with the postponement of Sunday’s presidential election in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked a clinic where possible Ebola cases are assessed.The attack happened in the eastern city of Beni, one of three opposition areas where the vote has been postponed. The electoral commission has cited the current Ebola outbreak as one of the reasons behind the postponement. But opposition parties have accused the authorities of seeking to rig the vote. Along with Beni, voting has been postponed until March in Butembo, also in the east and in Yumbi, which is in the west. With President Joseph Kabila’s successor due to be sworn in next month, it appears the votes of more than a million people could be discounted. BBC

EU Slams ‘Unjustified’ DR Congo Decision to Expel Envoy
The European Union on Thursday lashed out at DR Congo’s decision to expel its ambassador, calling the move “completely unjustified”, just three days before crucial elections in the vast central African country. DR Congo Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu earlier told the EU it had 48 hours to withdraw its representative in retaliation for sanctions against 14 officials, including President Joseph Kabila’s handpicked candidate for the long-delayed vote. An EU spokesman told AFP the bloc “regrets this decision and considers it as completely unjustified”. “On the eve of very challenging elections in DRC, such a decision can only be considered counterproductive.” On December 10, EU foreign ministers extended a travel ban and asset freeze on 14 figures over “the obstruction of the electoral process and the related human rights violations”. That included Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister chosen by Kabila to be the candidate for his succession in Sunday’s presidential election. AFP

AP Interview: Congo Leader Says Nothing Can Prevent Election
Congo’s leader says “there is no further reason” to prevent Sunday’s presidential election after two years of delays, but he blames a deadly Ebola outbreak for the last-minute decision to keep an estimated 1 million voters from the polls. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Joseph Kabila says it would be a “disaster” if people vote Sunday in two large communities in the Ebola outbreak zone, asserting that “a single person” could infect scores or hundreds of others. His comments Thursday evening contradict those of his own health officials, who have said precautions had been made in collaboration with electoral authorities so people could vote. World Health Organization also has said precautions were in place, including tons of hand sanitizer and screening of all voters entering polling stations. … In a separate AP interview on Thursday, opposition candidate Martin Fayulu alleged that up to 5 million of Congo’s 40 million voters won’t be able to cast ballots on Sunday, claiming that voting machines had yet to be delivered to some areas. One election official has said machines have to be carried on the heads of porters through almost impenetrable bush to some polling stations. The opposition coalition called for a nationwide “ghost town” strike on Friday but urged supporters to remain calm. AP

Sudan Detains Nine Opposition Leaders ahead of Planned Protest
Authorities in Sudan have arrested at least nine opposition leaders and activists, a group of civil society groups said on Friday, ahead of fresh anti-government protests expected after weekly Muslim prayers. The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests. Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis. At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. … Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis that began in 2011 after the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output. The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement. Reuters

Sudanese Professionals Association Calls for More Protests Today
Protests against hunger, skyrocketing prices, and the government of President Al Bashir continued across Sudan yesterday. Further mass demonstrations are expected today. The second week of protests witnessed demonstrations at Wad Nubawi in Omdurman, Bazura in southern El Gedaref, and Shabasha in the White Nile state demanding the step down of Al Bashir. Activists from Shabasha said the security forces used batons and fired in the air to disperse the protesters. Security agents beat-up and held three young men: Bireir Dafallah, Mohamed El Tayeb, and Makki Siddig. Dr Mohamed El Mustafa, leading member of the Sudanese Professionals Association called on “all professionals and all sectors of society in the country” to participate in the demonstrations which will begin today at squares in various towns after Friday prayers to demand the ending of the current regime and ouster of Al Bashir. … He said that “the coming hours a ‘unified centre’ for managing the intifada will be announced. … He told Radio Dabanga that the centre will coordinate efforts with activists in the states to organise demonstrations and peaceful protests and take steps to expedite the overthrow of the regime. Radio Dabanga

British MPs Condemn Sudan’s ‘Disproportionate and Deadly Response’ to Mass Protests
The British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG*) for Sudan and South Sudan has condemned the “disproportionate and deadly response” by the Sudanese government to widespread public mass protests that have occurred across Sudan for more than a week. In a statement yesterday, David Drew MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG, said: “The APPG unreservedly condemns the government of Sudan’s disproportionate and deadly response to peaceful protest by tens of thousands of Sudanese people. “The government of Sudan must now engage constructively with the legitimate grievances raised by a diverse range of demonstrators across the country.” … Last week, the Troika (the USA, Norway and the United Kingdom) and Canada issued a joint statement expressing “concern about the violence occurring during recent protests in Sudan, including credible reports of the use of live fire by the government of Sudan and of multiple deaths during several protests.” The Troika statement reaffirms “the right of the Sudanese people to peacefully protest to express their legitimate grievances”. Radio Dabanga

Libya’s Chaos Continues to Feed Jihadist Threat
Two years after the Islamic State group lost the Libyan city of Sirte – its last stronghold in the country – the jihadists continues to launch attacks, including in the heart of the capital, profiting from government weakness and general chaos. The last attack claimed by ISIS targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings. … ISIS has “benefitted from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime falling in 2011, Fitouri noted. Libya is divided between several rival entities, chief among them an internationally-recognised Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and a parallel administration in the east loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar. The political chaos and insecurity benefits jihadist groups, which have carried out numerous attacks in recent years, including more than 20 in 2018 against institutions linked to the GNA and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army. AFP

Armed Chadian Group Attacks Forces Loyal to Haftar in Southern Libya
A Chadian armed group attacked a military camp of forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar in southern Libya on Thursday, killing one fighter, a local official and a spokesman for Haftar said. After the toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, fighters from neighbouring Chad and Sudan joined the ensuing turmoil. Competing Libyan armed factions frequently accuse each other of deploying mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa. Thirteen people were also wounded in the attack, which took place near Traghen, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Tripoli and about 400 kilometers north of the border with Chad, a spokesman for the Traghen municipality said. Reuters

Madagascar Presidential Candidate’s Team Cries Foul after Rival Declared Winner
Madagascar presidential election candidate Marc Ravalomanana’s campaign team said they had filed a formal complaint on Thursday after the electoral commission declared Andry Rajoelina the winner. … The commission said Rajoelina had won 55.66 percent of the vote compared with 44.34 percent for Ravalomanana and turnout was just over 48 percent. The results were little changed from initial figures announced on Sunday. The EU observer mission said last week that the runoff election held on Dec. 19 had been calm and that observers had not witnessed fraud. Reuters

Burundi Acquits Rights Activists Sentenced to 10-Year Terms
A Burundian court has acquitted three civil rights activists who had been handed 10-year jail terms for undermining state security, their organisation said on Thursday. The decision is a rare victory for rights activists in the troubled nation. Emmanuel Nshimirimana, Aime Constant Gatore and Marius Nizigiyimana, members of the campaign group Parcem, had been planning a human rights workshop when they were arrested in June 2017. The men were not present during their trial in March, when the prosecution said they were found in possession of documents about the rights workshop – which included comments from opposition activists but not government officials. Burundi has been in a serious political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely-contested third term in office. The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation. “We demand that all Burundians who are in prison for their opinions be released,” Ndikumana said. News24

Eritrea Closes Border Crossings to Ethiopian Travelers
Eritrea has partially closed two border crossings with Ethiopia that opened this year after the former East African rivals made peace and restored relations, an Ethiopian official said Friday. Thousands of people have crossed the border that had been closed for two decades, with traders pursuing brisk business and families reuniting after years apart. The crossings opened with fanfare in September as both countries said they would remove their troops. It was not clear why Eritrea closed the crossings to Ethiopians, spokeswoman Liya Kassa with Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region told The Associated Press. She said Eritreans were still crossing freely. … Eritrean border officials are now asking Ethiopian travelers to provide a travel document issued by federal authorities, she said. “We have communicated the issue with the federal government and we were told they don’t have any information about it,” she added. “Only Ethiopians are facing the restrictions.” Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment. AP