Africa Media Review for December 3, 2018

Stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo beyond the Elections
Instability and uncertainty loom as the Democratic Republic of the Congo readies for its December 23 presidential elections. President Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down when his term expired in December 2016 plunged the DRC into its worst political crisis since the Second Congo Civil War of 1998 to 2003. Since then, at least 1,200 citizens have been killed, many in extrajudicial killings by Congolese security forces for suspicion of participating in demonstrations. This has been accompanied by a 40 percent increase in human rights violations as a result of the disproportionate use of force by security forces during anti-Kabila protests. The unrest created by the political crisis has galvanized many of the estimated 70 armed groups in the DRC, some of which openly stated that they would “liberate the Congo” from a leader with no legitimacy. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Burkina Faso: Four Police among Five Dead in IED Blast
Five people including four police officers have been killed by an explosive device left on a road in eastern Burkina Faso, reports say. Friday’s blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) took place in Boungou, an area that has seen a series of attacks attributed to jihadist militants. The police officers were providing an escort to goldmine workers, said AFP. A similar attack killed five police officers in the area in August. Both attacks took place on the route between Boungou and Fada N’Gourma, one of the main towns in the country’s eastern region. BBC

Somalia: US Military Says Attack Kills Nine Al-Shabab Fighters
The United States military said it killed nine fighters in an air attack targeting al-Shabab fighters in Lebede, Somalia, as part of its operations to support the government’s efforts to weaken the armed group. The military’s Africa Command (Africom) said the attack was carried out on Friday. “We currently assess this air strike killed nine militants with no civilians involved,” Africom said in a statement late on Saturday. The statement gave no details on those killed. US military involvement in Somalia has grown since President Donald Trump approved expanded operations against al-Shabab early in his term. Washington currently has about 500 military personnel in the Horn of Africa nation and carries out periodic air raids in support of the UN-backed government there. Al Jazeera

Short of Time, Somalia Delays Landmark Regional Vote as Tensions Rise
Somalia’s South West state will delay a key presidential vote for the third time because it is not sufficiently prepared, the semi-autonomous region’s election committee said on Saturday. Tensions between the federal government and state authorities have mounted in recent weeks after Mogadishu tried to block the candidacy of former al Shabaab Islamist militant Mukhtar Robow. “After the committee evaluated the many activities awaiting, available time and the incomplete tasks to be completed within a short time frame…, (it) decided the election date will be 19 December,” a committee statement said. The original date for the election was Nov. 17 before its initial postponement to Nov. 28 and then to Dec. 5. South West is slated to be the first of Somalia’s seven semi-autonomous regions to hold presidential elections in the coming months, a critical juncture in a growing power struggle between the central government in Mogadishu and the states.  Reuters

Bush’s Somalia Mission to Save ‘Innocents’ Echoes Today
In the final days of his presidency, George H.W. Bush committed the U.S. military to a mission many would later regret, ordering more than 20,000 troops into Somalia to “save thousands of innocents from death.” Within months, the image of dead U.S. soldiers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu profoundly changed the way the U.S. approached Africa. And yet it is barely mentioned in the explorations of Bush’s legacy since his death. Only now, under President Donald Trump, is the U.S. returning regular troops to Somalia as much of the military’s work across Africa is conducted in far smaller doses, with drones and special operations forces and little fanfare of the past. The death of a U.S. soldier in Africa, as seen in Niger a year ago when four special operations were killed, brings sharp questions back home about “what we’re doing over there.”  VOA

125 Women and Girls Seeking Food Were Raped and Whipped in South Sudan
One hundred and twenty-five women and girls have been raped, whipped and clubbed in attacks so shocking that some aid workers in South Sudan say they are left speechless. Doctors Without Borders on Saturday said the “dramatic increase” in sexual violence occurred over 10 days, between Nov. 19 and Thursday, as the women and girls walked to a food distribution site in Bentiu in Unity state. By contrast, the medical charity’s Bentiu clinic treated 104 survivors of sexual assault in the first 10 months of this year. Sexual violence has been widespread in South Sudan’s civil war, and even under a recent peace deal humanitarians have warned of higher rates of sexual assault as growing numbers of desperate people try to reach aid. A midwife with Doctors Without Borders who treated some of the survivors said those targeted include pregnant and elderly women and girls as young as 10.  AP

UN Experts: South Sudan Beset by ‘Alarming’ Sexual Violence
South Sudan is beset by “alarming levels” of sexual and gender-based violence and a desperate humanitarian situation, including severe food shortages, as it attempts to implement the latest peace agreement in a climate of “deep distrust,” U.N. experts said. The panel of experts said in a report to the Security Council that the world’s newest nation must deal with the fragmentation of armed groups “and grave human rights abuses, including against children,” in addition to the “profound deficit of trust” among almost all signatories to the September peace deal. But most important, they said, is whether implementing the peace agreement improves the lives of the civilians, many of whom expressed to the experts “profound cynicism and distrust of a high-level political process that appears increasingly removed from their suffering.”  VOA

Cameroon Has Been Stripped of Rights to Host Africa’s Biggest Sports Event
Cameroon’s ongoing insecurity crisis continues to come at a cost. The Confederation of African Football (CAF), the continent’s soccer governing body, has stripped Cameroon of its right to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)—the continent’s biggest sports event. The tournament is due to kick off in June 2019 following a shift from its usual January-February dates. Cameroon was originally awarded hosting rights in January 2014. At a meeting in Accra, Ghana today (Nov. 30), CAF cited Cameroon’s lack of adequate stadium infrastructure and its pressing insecurity issues as factor for its decision. Peaceful protests in Cameroon’s Anglophone-speaking regions over a lack of representation in the French-led national government have escalated over the past two years. Indeed, Cameroon’s brutal military crackdown on separatist movement in Anglophone regions have resulted in claims of genocide—and fears of a civil war. Cameroon also continues to grapple with the enduring threat of Boko Haram attacks as the terrorist sect remains operative in the country’s far north. Quartz

Mozambique’s Opposition Renamo to Elect Leader in January
Mozambique’s main opposition party Renamo will elect its leader at a congress next January, official confirmed. The VOA Radio quoted the party’s spokesman, Mr José Manteigas, as saying the decision was made on Friday after the Renamo gathering in Gorongosa in central Mozambique. “Renamo’s National Congress has deliberated on the creation of an electoral office to receive candidates,” VOA Radio quoted Mr Manteigas as saying. The Renamo National Congress, Mr Manteigas further said, would be held between 15-17. Renamo’s founder Afonso Dhlakama died last May 3, with his party saying he succumbed to an unconfirmed heart attack. The East African

Italian Foreign Minister Summons Egyptian Ambassador over Regeni Murder
Italy’s foreign minister summoned Egypt’s ambassador on Friday and urged Cairo to respect its commitment to move quickly and bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Giulio Regeni, a statement said. Regeni, a 28-year-old PhD student, was killed in Cairo in January 2016. Despite months of cooperation between Egyptian and Italian prosecutors, nobody has been arrested or charged over the killing. “Minister (Enzo) Moavero expressed Italy’s need to see concrete investigative developments,” said the foreign ministry statement. It added that there was “strong disquiet” in Rome over the way the case was being handled. The statement said the Egyptian ambassador had assured Moavero that Cairo’s determination to “shed light on the case cannot be questioned”. The envoy added that investigators in Egypt were committed to pursuing their probe “despite the difficulties encountered”, the ministry said.  Reuters

Burundi Warned after Ex-President Buyoya Arrest Warrant
The African Union (AU) has warned Burundi against moves to jeopardise peace efforts after an international arrest warrant was issued for ex-leader Pierre Buyoya and 16 other officials. They are accused of being behind the 1993 assassination of the country’s first elected Hutu president. The killing of Melchior Ndadaye triggered a brutal ethnic civil war. Mr Buyoya, an ethnic Tutsi, says it is a ploy to stir up divisions and shift attention from the current crisis. More than 300,000 people died in a 12-year civil war between the minority Tutsi-dominated army and mainly Hutu rebel groups. BBC

New Law Aims to End Political Handouts in Malawi
Malawi has passed a law that will ban politicians using cash payments and other incentives to buy support ahead of key elections due in May next year. The Political Parties Act, which came into force on Saturday December 1, will see candidates convicted of improperly swaying the electorate face fines of up to 10m kwacha (almost R190,000) or five years in prison. Campaign materials including posters, leaflets and clothing will be exempt from the new law. Malawi goes to the polls in presidential, parliamentary and council elections on May 21 next year and candidates at every level have typically used cash payments and gifts to secure support in advance of past votes.  AFP

Envoy Says US Aiming for Warmer Ties with Eritrea
The United States wants better ties with Eritrea following this month’s lifting of UN sanctions against the Horn of Africa nation, Washington’s top Africa diplomat said on Friday. The UN Security Council sanctioned Eritrea in 2009 for supporting Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia but lifted the restrictions following the July signing of a peace deal that ended 20 years of conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia. Relations between Washington and Eritrea have long been frosty but US Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy told journalists ahead of a trip to the capital Asmara that he hopes that will change. “We would like to have the same type of positive relations with Eritrea as we do with Ethiopia,” a key ally Nagy said during a visit to its capital Addis Ababa.  AFP

Nigeria’s Buhari Rattled by Boko Haram Attacks as Polls Loom
As Nigeria prepares for general elections in February, a series of attacks by Boko Haram has focused attention on the security situation in the country. The armed group appears to have regained ground in the country’s northeast in 2018, pushing into towns and villages it had previously lost to the Nigerian military. With an escalation of attacks in recent months, the Nigerian government’s claims of victory against Boko Haram appear premature. The nine-year conflict with Boko Haram, that has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced two million others from their homes in Nigeria, has also spread to neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Al Jazeera

‘It’s the Real Me’: Nigerian President Denies He Died and Was Replaced by a Clone
All politicians are subject to rumors and recrimination. But few have had to answer for the sort of tall tales being told about the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who over the weekend denied claims that he had died and been replaced by a Sudanese impostor. “It’s the real me, I assure you,” Buhari said in a town hall on Sunday in Poland, where he was attending a United Nations climate conference. “I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong.” With that declaration, Buhari broke his silence about a rumor that had taken root on social media last year, when he was away in London being treated for an undisclosed illness. The theory went that the president, who is running for reelection in February 2019, had been swapped out with a look-alike from Sudan named Jubril — even that he was “cloned,” as he put it in relaying the rumor to his nearly 2 million followers on Twitter.  The Washington Post

Inside the Chaos and Corruption of Tripoli, Where Militias Rule the Streets
The drive through the southern outskirts of Tripoli takes frightened travellers past the devastation caused by the latest battle between the militias over the wreckage of Libya’s civil war. There are smashed homes and rubble-strewn streets left by the blasts of tank and rocket fire during fighting in September. Some compare militia-dominated Tripoli with Al Capone’s Chicago but the comparison is false: Al Capone never had access to heavy artillery. Meeting opponents of Libya’s government these days is no easy matter. Doing so means slipping past the official minder assigned to me in a Tripoli hotel, getting out into the street and into a car parked discreetly around the corner. From there, it is a long and elliptical drive through the city’s backstreets, the driver performing cutbacks and sudden turns to shake off a tail.  The Guardian

Gambians Embrace New Freedoms with Environment Activism
Hundreds of Gambians were grateful for the jobs created by a Chinese-run fish processing plant that arrived in 2014. Then they were shocked when dead fish began washing up on a nearby shore. Residents of the coastal town of Gunjur reported chemical residue on their skin after swimming that made them itch. Environmental activists blamed the Chinese-owned company, Golden Lead Import & Export. After activists said the company had failed to remove a pipe accused of spewing toxic waste into the sea, local youth issued an ultimatum: Dig the pipe up, or we will. In March they did, storming the beach. “We’ll be willing to face any charges in defence of our community,” their leader, Amadou Scattred Janneh, told The Associated Press. He is now out on bail facing criminal trespass charges. For more than two decades, few in this tiny West African nation dared to speak out under the dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh. Opposing voices were silenced by arrests and killings during his dictatorship. AP

As Tanzania’s LGBT Fear for Their Lives, HIV Will Thrive
In one day, everything changed. One day, she could walk down the street like anyone else. People still stared and often judged but in their own minds — not out loud. But before she knew it, she was dodging abuse and stones thrown at her by strangers, as well as familiar faces. “Since the announcement was made, things got worse,” said the 23-year-old trans woman from Tanzania, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety. She was called derogatory names for being trans and one night was slapped by two men who had been following her, but she managed to run home fast enough to prevent further abuse, she says. “The feeling is unexplainable,” she said. She began questioning the world, her life and who she was. “You start thinking, ‘what species am I? Where do I belong?’ ”  CNN



Photo: Adam Jones