Africa Media Review for December 30, 2019

Somalia Bombing Kills Dozens; Airstrikes Target Militants
A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Saturday morning, killing at least 78 people including many students, authorities said. It was the worst attack in Mogadishu since the devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds. The explosion ripped through rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend. At least 125 people were wounded, Aamin Ambulance service director Abdiqadir Abdulrahman said, and hundreds of Mogadishu residents donated blood in response to desperate appeals. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack as a “heinous act of terror” and blamed the local al-Shabab extremist group, which is linked to al-Qaida and whose reach has extended to deadly attacks on luxury malls and schools in neighboring Kenya. On Sunday, U.S. military officials said three airstrikes conducted against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia had killed four militants. The airstrikes came in coordination with the Somali government and, according to a U.S. military statement, targeted al-Shabaab militants responsible for “terrorist acts against innocent Somali citizens.” … The truck bombing on Saturday targeted a tax collection center, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said, as a large plume of smoke rose above the capital. AP

Guinea-Bissau Tallies Votes from Run-Off to Choose New President
Guinea-Bissau began counting ballots on Sunday after a calm day of voting in a run-off presidential election between two former prime ministers who both promise to bring stability to the turbulent West African nation. African observers said voting went smoothly in the election to succeed incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, though one of the candidates accused authorities of stuffing ballot boxes, without providing evidence. Poll workers began tallying votes in the capital Bissau soon after 1700 GMT. The electoral commission is expected to announce the provisional result on Wednesday. The ruling PAIGC party’s Domingos Simoes Pereira, 56, is seen as the front-runner after winning the first round on Nov. 24 with 40% of the vote. His opponent, Umaro Cissoko Embalo, 47, is a brigadier general who came second with 28%, and political analysts say the result could be close. Both candidates say that if elected they will work to overcome a long-running political impasse and modernise the country of 1.6 million people, which has suffered nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. Reuters

Zimbabwe Journalists Suffer as Regime Tightens Grip
Fanuel Mapfumo has been unable to lift heavy objects since a Zimbabwe police officer fractured his left arm as he was covering a story last August. The 28-year-old journalist was filming a banned protest in the capital Harare when it happened. Opposition supporters were voicing their discontent with the country’s ailing economy when police descended on the crowd with batons. Mapfumo, who works for the Zim Morning Post, said they ordered him to stop filming. “I identified myself as a journalist,” he said. “But the next thing I remember is being dragged into a group of police officers who beat me all over my body.” Rights groups have accused Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa of persistently violating human rights since he took office in 2018. … And as Mnangagwa has tightened his stance on dissent, journalists have also suffered repercussions. “We documented 18 cases of abuse of members of the media this year,” said Tabani Moyo, who heads the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – up from only one case in 2018. Most of the incidents involved police officers, he added. AFP

Turkey Speeds Up Libya Troop Deployment Deal to Prevent Slide into ‘Chaos’
Turkey’s foreign minister warned that the Libyan conflict risks sliding into chaos and becoming the next Syria, as he sought to speed up legislation to allow it to send troops to the North African country. Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has been struggling to fend off General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which have been supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan. … Last week, President Tayyip Erdogan announced his government’s decision to seek a parliamentary consent to send troops to Libya to defend the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli against General Khalifa Haftar forces which receives military support from Russia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates. … Last month, Ankara signed two separate accords with the GNA, led by Fayez al-Serraj, one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. The GNA said on Sunday that a video circulating online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya were false. It claimed the recording, which shows a number of men in military fatigues beside a fence, was actually shot in the Syrian province of Idlib. Reuters

Algeria Reviews Security as Turkey Readies Libya Intervention
Algeria’s newly elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has chaired a rare meeting of the country’s top security body to discuss contingency plans for a threatened Turkish military intervention in neighbouring Libya. The High Security Council met on Thursday and “discussed the situation in the region, particularly on the borders with Libya and Mali”, the president’s office said in a statement. “It decided on a battery of measures to boost the protection of our borders and national territory, and to revitalise Algeria’s role on the international stage, particularly concerning these two issues.” The statement did not elaborate on the measures to be taken but said the council would meet again “periodically and whenever necessary.” … Turkey and its regional ally Qatar have already supplied an array of weapons to the Tripoli government, including drones, but is now threatening a sharp escalation. Libya’s eastern neighbour Egypt supports Haftar’s forces and also serves as a staging post for arms deliveries to the strongman from Qatar’s Gulf rival the United Arab Emirates. AFP

Algeria’s President Appoints Academic, Former Diplomat as New PM
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has appointed a little-known academic and retired diplomat as the country’s new prime minister, who promised to win back people’s trust after months of street protests. Abdelaziz Djerad, 65, was asked by Tebboune on Saturday to form Algeria’s next government, according to the official APS news agency. In his first public statement, Djerad said it was crucial that authorities work to “win back people’s trust” and pledged to bring Algerians together to meet “social-economic challenges and pull ourselves out of this delicate period.” He previously served as general secretary of the presidency in the mid-1990s and held the same position at the foreign ministry from 2001-2003. … Since the protests first erupted, Djerad, a political science professor, has emerged as a vocal critic of Algeria’s political elite. His appearances on political talk shows multiplied in the weeks before Bouteflika was removed. However, he also spoke out against holding the presidential vote that brought Tebboune to power, saying that root-and-branch reforms needed to be enacted before any such vote could be held. Al Jazeera

Sudan Sentences 27 to Death for Torturing, Killing Protester
A court in Sudan on Monday sentenced 27 members of the country’s security forces to death for torturing and killing a detained protester during the uprising against Sudan’s longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir earlier this year. The death of protester Ahmed al-Khair, a school teacher, while in detention in February was a crucial point in the uprising that eventually led to the military’s ouster of al-Bashir. Last December, the first rally was held in Sudan to protest the soaring cost of bread, marking the beginning of a pro-democracy movement that convulsed the large African country. That led, in April, to the toppling by the country’s military of al-Bashir, and ultimately to the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has committed to rebuilding the country and promises elections in three years. AP

Sudan to Lift Fuel Subsidies, Double Public Sector Wages in 2020
Sudan’s finance minister on Friday said the country’s transitional government plans to remove fuel subsidies gradually in 2020 and double public sector salaries to ease the effect of galloping inflation. The new civilian government is trying, with the help of donors, to launch a series of economic and political reforms after veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir was deposed in April. Since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has been in crisis, losing two-thirds of its oil production. Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi did not say how the 2020 budget would be funded or what the government is forecasting for revenue and expenditure. Elbadawi told reporters subsidies for petrol and gasoline would be gradually lifted next year while subsidies for wheat and cooking gas would be kept in place to help the poor. Subsidies are a major burden on the government’s finances. To alleviate the impact of inflation and poverty, the government wants to double civil service pay and raise the minimum wage to 1,000 Sudanese pounds ($22), up from 425 pounds ($9.40), he said. Reuters

Ivory Coast Presidential Candidate Soro Rejects Coup Allegations
Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro dismissed an arrest warrant issued against him as baseless and said he would pursue his campaign as a presidential candidate from overseas, according to comments published Sunday in a French newspaper. Ivory Coast’s public prosecutor issued the warrant for Soro on Monday as part of an investigation into an alleged coup plot, forcing him to call off a planned homecoming ahead of the October 2020 election. … The case involving Soro, who retains the loyalty of many former rebel commanders who now hold senior positions in the army, could significantly increase tensions ahead of the election, which is seen as a test of Ivory Coast’s stability. On Saturday, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said Soro was not above the law and would face justice for allegedly seeking to destabilize the country. That came after a group of Ivory Coast opposition parties accused state authorities on Friday of trying to intimidate them before the presidential election, and denounced the warrant against Soro. Reuters

Nigeria Launches Appeal to Safeguard Elephants in Warzone
Authorities in Nigeria’s Borno State have launched an appeal for assistance from international wildlife conservation experts to safeguard a herd of around 250 elephants sighted in an area where Boko Haram fighters are operating. … The herd was photographed from a helicopter on 19 December during a humanitarian mission to Kala Balge. It is the first reported sighting of elephants in Borno State for over a decade when the Boko Haram insurgency began. “We need to partner with international conservationists to advise us how to protect these elephants,” says Kabiru Wanori, Borno State environment commissioner and continues. “We do not have the equipment or expertise because it has been a long time since we had elephants in the state.” … undreds of elephants used to migrate through the region up until a decade ago at around the time Boko Haram began fighting to establish an Islamic state. In 2014, Abubakar Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram set up camp in the Sambisa Forest that was formerly a game reserve that is 75 kilometres south of Kala Balge. Three major elephant migration routes passed through the Sambisa Forest. RFI

Germany Ponders Bigger Troop Mandate in Africa’s Sahel
Germany should consider expanding its troop mandate in Africa’s Sahel region, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Sunday. “We will need to consider and decide whether we want to ensure stability on the ground out of our own interests, and whether the Bundeswehr needs a more robust training mandate alongside our allies,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The Sahel spans numerous countries, including parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Mauritania. France, the former colonial power in the region, has already deployed around 4,500 troops in the region to fight Islamist terrorism. Germany’s allies, however, have been “asking ever more urgently whether this division of work could be maintained,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said. There are currently has around 1,100 German soldiers stationed in Mali taking part in a UN mission in the region, as well as an EU military training mission. DW

Africa’s Fake News of the Year
At the height of the most recent xenophobic violence in South Africa, WhatsApp messages, announcing dates on which foreigners would be attacked and killed if they did not leave the country, circulated. Consequently, attacks on shops owned by people from other parts of Africa spread to different areas.The fact-checking organization Africa Check debunked some of the false posts. Amongst them was a post of a burning four-story building, which people believed was in Johannesburg. It had been viewed over 189,000 times. Using Google image searches, Africa Check revealed that the video was in fact from a fire that broke out a few months earlier in Gujarat, India. Nigerian singer Burna Boy inflamed tensions when he posted a video showing violence that South Africans denounced as fake. Cameroon has similarly had its share of misleading news stories. The violent separatist struggle in country’s English-speaking regions, coupled with heavy government regulation of the media, has made it difficult for journalists to operate freely in Cameroon. As a result, blogs and social media platforms have proven to be both a necessary but also unreliable source of information. DW

Fraud Fighters and Bamboo Bikes: The African Innovators Driving Change
The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa prize, now in its sixth year, is the continent’s biggest award for engineering innovation. Sixteen African inventors from six countries – including, for the first time, Malawi – have been shortlisted to receive funding, training and mentoring for projects intended to revolutionise sectors ranging from agriculture and banking to women’s health. The winner will be awarded £25,000 and the three runners-up will receive £10,000 each. This year’s inventions include facial recognition software to prevent financial fraud, a low-cost digital microscope to speed up cervical cancer diagnosis, and two separate innovations made from water hyacinth plants. Four inventors spoke to the Guardian about their innovations and their plans to change Africa for the better. Identity fraud and cybercrime are big business in Ghana, where financial institutions spend about $400m (£306m) a year verifying their customers. For Ivory Coast tech entrepreneur Charlette N’Guessan, 25, who led research into what technology Ghanaian banks were using to prevent fraud, the cost was far too high. The Guardian