Africa Media Review for December 31, 2018

Vote Counting Begins in DRC Long-Delayed Presidential Election
Ballot counting is underway in Sunday’s long-delayed presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo that could mark the country’s first peaceful transition of power after nearly six decades of independence. The vote was marred by disorganization at many polling stations, including missing voter rolls and malfunctioning electronic voting machines that pushed the vote well into nighttime hours, forcing election officials to conduct their activities by flashlight. A election observer mission set up by the Catholic Church said it had received at least 544 reports of malfunctioning voting machines. Violence also overshadowed Sunday’s vote, with four people killed in eastern South Kivu, including a police officer and an election official, over accusations of voter fraud. VOA

Voters in Congo Face Suppression, Irregularities and Flooding in Historic Election
After more than two years of delays, Congo went to the polls Sunday in an election that holds both the promise of a democratic transition and the potential for large-scale violence should the results be seen as unfair. But by the time most polls closed, alarming irregularities were reported from across the country. Millions of voters were met with nonexistent voter rolls and hundreds of malfunctioning or missing voting machines, and hundreds of cases of election observers saying they were barred from polling stations. Vote counting began late Sunday night. The election commission says provisional results will be announced within a week and definitive ones by Jan. 15. … Outside Kinshasa, reports flowed in Sunday of polling stations that lacked various materials, from the voting machines that are in use for the first time to ballots and voter rolls. Congo’s election commission has not responded publicly about the absence of material. The Catholic Church’s election observer mission said it received 544 reports of malfunctioning voting machines, 115 cases of election observers being kicked out of polling centers or not being allowed access, and 44 cases of vote-buying or corruption. Washington Post

4 Killed in Eastern DRC Province: Tshisekedi Campaign
Four people including a police officer and an electoral official were killed on Sunday in eastern South-Kivu province as the Democratic Republic of Congo voted in presidential elections, the campaign of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi said. The officer and official were killed along with two civilians during clashes at a polling station in the Walungu area, campaign director Vital Kamerhe told AFP. He said the violence broke out after the electoral official was accused of trying to rig the vote in favour of Emmanuel Ramazini Shadary, the candidate championed by President Joseph Kabila in power for 17 years. “An agitated crowd started fighting with police. An officer was killed, which we deeply regret,” said Kamerhe, a former president of the National Assembly who is from South-Kivu. The mob “then attacked the electoral official who died. Two civilians were also killed.” AFP

Ebola, Violence-Weary DRC Region Proudly Stages Unofficial Vote
Thousands of voters, weary from frequent armed attacks and an ongoing Ebola outbreak, proudly cast ballots in a northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo — even though they will count for nothing. Citing security and health fears, the country’s national electoral commission (CENI) blocked the cities of Beni and Butembo from taking part in Sunday’s presidential, legislative and provincial elections. But determined to have a taste of much-delayed democracy in the troubled country, many turned out at makeshift polling stations for a staged vote. … Old and young wrote their choices on blank pieces of paper, collected in plastic bags by mock poll booth operators dressed in official uniforms.The voters even had their left thumbs marked with ink to avoid fraud, as in the neighbouring provinces where the elections were going ahead for real. “We have taken all necessary measures of protection,” said Beni resident Kitonga Benshirak, referring to the highly infectious virus Ebola. … While there was an air of joy at the symbolic effort, many remained angry that more than one million voters had been cut off from the rest of the country, and joined an opposition protest. AFP

UN Experts Accuse DRC Warlord of Mass Rape
UN experts are accusing a warlord in the Democratic Republic of Congo of leading horrific gang rapes in South Kivu during which women were held captive in a cave and treated like sex slaves, according to a confidential report obtained by AFP on Friday. The group of experts on the DRC said in the report to the Security Council that the overall situation was “volatile” as the country held an elections to be on Sunday. … Based on interviews with victims, a witness, local authorities and other sources, the experts found that the Raia Mutomboki Kokodikoko faction had gang-raped 17 women in September and subjected them to torture and sexual slavery. “The group concluded that Masudi Alimasi Kokodikoko, leader of a Raia Mutomboki faction in Shabunda territory, was a lead perpetrator of the gang rapes of at least 17 women in September 2018,” said the report. The armed group abducted the women, aged between 15 and 70, during raids on villages in the Lubila region of South Kivu on September 8-9, the report said. … South Kivu has been wracked by sexual violence in the decades of conflict involving armed groups in the eastern DRC. Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year for helping women recover from the trauma of rape. AFP

Hundreds Flee Islamist Attacks in Northeast Nigeria to Seek Refuge in Maiduguri
Hundreds of people in northeast Nigeria who fled a town targeted by militants linked with Islamic State have sought refuge in capital of Borno state, Reuters witnesses said on Saturday. An uptick in attacks by Islamists and the resulting upheaval in the region comes in the run up to an election in which President Muhammadu Buhari will seek a second term. Security has become a campaign issue following a series of attacks. A faction of Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from the insurgency in 2016 claimed responsibility for an attack on a military base in Baga, a town in eastern Borno state, which the Nigerian army said took place on Wednesday evening. The fight to control Baga – a strategic town as it borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon – forced hundreds to seek safety in Maiduguri, some 200 km (124 miles) to the south. Reuters

Somalia: At Least 8 Government Soldiers, 14 Militants Killed in Fighting
Fighting between Somali regional troops and al-Shabab militants Saturday left at least 22 people dead, witnesses and officials said. The fighting in South Western Somalia started after heavily armed al-Shabab militants tried to overrun a military base in the Bay region. A Somali government official told VOA Somali that the soldiers engaged in a fierce battle for more than six hours with the militants, who attacked the base from four directions. “They attacked us from four directions with the aim of running over our base at around 7 a.m. local time, after five hours of fierce battle we finally warded them off and forced them to flee,” said Col. Osman Nurow. Nurow said government army forces sent from a nearby Baidoa town to reinforce the base immediately joined the battle, killing at least 14 militants. VOA

French, Niger Troops Kill Islamist Insurgents in Joint Operation
French and Nigerien troops killed around 15 Islamist militants in a joint air and ground operation in south west Niger on Dec. 27, France’s armed forces and defence ministry said on Sunday. The air raid and ground assault took place near Tongo Tongo, a village close to the border with Mali and some 175 kilometres (109 miles) north of Niamey. Tongo Tongo was where, in October 2017, militants killed four U.S. soldiers and four local soldiers in an ambush on their joint patrol. Islamist militants in Niger are part of a regional insurgency in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of West Africa’s Sahel. Reuters

Opposition Protests over Madagascar Vote Result
Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets in the capital of Madagascar on Saturday to protest against the victory of ex-president Andry Rajoelina in last week’s elections. Around 2 000 supporters of defeated candidate Marc Ravalomanana gathered in the May 13 Square in the heart of Antananarivo, demanding a recount of the vote in the Indian Ocean island state. The protest, the first in a series of planned demonstrations, came as the country’s top court reviews a petition filed by Ravalomanana challenging Rajoelina’s win because of fraud allegations. Opposition lawmaker Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, told the crowd gathered in the square that if there’s a vote recount “you will find that our candidate Marc Ravalomanana won this election”. AFP

Anger over Dictatorship, Not Bread, Fueling Sudan Uprising
The protest wave sweeping across Sudan was never about bread; it is a nation fed up with a decades-old military dictatorship, say human rights activists and experts. People took to the streets in the town of Atbara in the northeast on December 19 to voice their grievances, spawning similar protests in the streets of other towns and the capital, Khartoum. The protesters are calling for freedom, peace, justice and a change in leadership in the northeast African country. … “In most of Sudan’s almost 170 cities and big towns, someone has been shot. In some of them, more than 15 people have been shot. The shooting is happening through unofficial types of militia that the regime is using,” says Khansaa Al Kaarib, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist. “For 30 years, this is what the Sudanese people have been getting from Bashir: killing, killing, killing and more killing. People are simply fed up with this and they want to change this regime. … There’s been a lot of talk in the media to say that these protests have been triggered by fuel prices and economic problems. The protesters have been repeating a call for freedom, peace and justice – and for the regime to go. Nobody was talking about bread since day one,” says Al Kaarib. DW

Sudan Unions Call for 2nd March on Bashir’s Palace
An umbrella of independent professional unions is calling on people to march on the presidential palace in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to demand that autocratic President Omar Bashir step down. It’s the second time that the umbrella, which enjoys the support of opposition parties, has called for the march. On Christmas Day, thousands attempted to reach the Nile-side palace, clashing with police that used tear gas and batons to disperse them. This time, the call, which came in a statement Sunday, is for the march to take place Monday, with the unions urging protesters to stay on the streets until they usher in 2019 after midnight. It also called on people outside Khartoum to stage street protests. The proposed protests would be the latest in anti-government demonstrations that began Dec. 19. VOA

On the Front Line of the Saudi War in Yemen: Child Soldiers From Darfur
The civil war in Darfur robbed Hager Shomo Ahmed of almost any hope. Raiders had stolen his family’s cattle, and a dozen years of bloodshed had left his parents destitute. Then, around the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia offered a lifeline: The kingdom would pay as much as $10,000 if Hager joined its forces fighting 1,200 miles away in Yemen. … “Families know that the only way their lives will change is if their sons join the war and bring them back money,” Hager said in an interview last week in the capital, Khartoum, a few days after his 16th birthday. … At any time for nearly four years as many as 14,000 Sudanese militiamen have been fighting in Yemen in tandem with the local militia aligned with the Saudis, according to several Sudanese fighters who have returned and Sudanese lawmakers who are attempting to track it. Hundreds, at least, have died there. Almost all the Sudanese fighters appear to come from the battle-scarred and impoverished region of Darfur, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during a dozen years of conflict over diminishing arable land and other scarce resources. Most belong to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a tribal militia previously known as the Janjaweed. New York Times

South Sudan Army Colonel Quits, Cites Discontent
A South Sudanese military officer has resigned, citing discontent with government policies, according to a letter seen by Radio Tamazuj on Sunday. Colonel Dickson Gatluak Jock, who was previously aligned to the country’s first vice president Taban Deng Gai, said he resigned over what he called non-procedural integration of their SPLA-IO faction into the army. Dickson is the first army officer to resign in protest since First Vice President Taban Deng Gai dissolved his faction and joined the ranks of the SPLM party led by President Salva Kiir in March. In the statement, Dickson said “transitional security arrangements stipulated in the 2015 peace deal were not implemented fully”. Dickson called for the establishment of a new organisation to challenge President Salva Kiir’s SPLM party and steer the country to federalism, accusing the current government of looting the country’s resources. … Dickson had served as military spokesman of the defunct SPLA-IO faction in Juba. Radio Tamazuj

Uganda: We’ll Continue Blocking Bobi Wine Concerts – Gen Tumwine
Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine has said singer Bobi Wine will continue having his shows blocked as long as he continues with his ‘defiance’ attitude. The Kyadondo East MP, popularly known as Bobi Wine has seen several of several shows blocked over what police says is failure on his part to meet the requirements. On Boxing Day, police blocked Bobi Wine’s concert at One Love beach in Busalaba, Makindye division on grounds that the artist did not get clearance from police. In November, police also blocked his Kyarenga concert that was meant to happen at the Mandela national stadium, Namboole, forcing the artist to move it to One Love beach. On Thursday some Kampala youths took to the streets burning old car tyres and blocking the road in protest of Bobi Wine’s cancelled concerts. Now Gen Tumwine says Bobi Wine has not been listening to security on matters of venue, estimation of crowd, and all the other requirements of the Public Order Management Act. … Tumwine says, by blocking his concerts, security is simply responding to how Bobi Wine has been behaving, adding that anybody who wants to frustrate others will also be frustrated. He says Bobi Wine’s only way is to follow everything security wants to the dot if he wants to continue performing. The Observer

Egypt Police Kill 40 ‘Terrorists’ after Giza Bus Attack: Ministry
Egyptian police killed 40 “terrorists” in separate raids early on Saturday, a day after a roadside bomb near the Giza pyramids killed three Vietnamese tourists and their guide, the interior ministry said. Two raids in the Giza governorate killed 30 “terrorists”, while the remaining 10 were killed in the restive North Sinai, the ministry said in a statement. It said authorities acted after receiving information the suspects were preparing a series of attacks against state and tourist institutions and churches. “Information was received by the national security that a group of terrorists were planning to carry out a series of aggressive attacks targeting state institutions, particularly economic ones, as well as tourism, armed forces, police and Christian places of worship,” the statement said. AFP

Amal Fathy: Egypt Court Imposes Jail Term over Harassment Video
An Egyptian appeals court has imposed a two-year prison sentence against the women’s rights activist Amal Fathy, who criticised the authorities for failing to tackle sexual harassment. Fathy was charged with “spreading fake news” in May after posting a video in which she recounted her experiences. She was handed a two-year jail term by a lower court in September, but it was suspended pending an appeal. The appeal ruling came days after she was freed on bail over a separate case. Her husband Mohamed Lotfy, head of the independent Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said she could be taken back into detention at “any time”. Fathy, a 34-year-old mother-of-one, is a former activist in the April 6 youth movement that was at the forefront of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. She was arrested in Cairo two days after posting a 12-minute video on Facebook in which she described how she had been sexually harassed twice in one day and condemned the government’s failure to protect women. She also criticised deteriorating human rights, socio-economic conditions and public services. BBC

Donors Cut Aid to Tanzania after Rights Crackdown
Tanzania’s tough-talking president John Magufuli has earned respect by fighting corruption, but international donors are now concerned by crackdowns on human rights. The European Union, Tanzania’s biggest development partner, and the World Bank have recently taken measures to sanction repressive policies. Magufuli’s reputation was boosted when he battled corruption after winning election in 2015. But accusations of repression are growing and donors and former allies are increasingly frustrated at what they say are moves that stifle dissent and create obstacles for journalists and rights activists. “The European Union and some of its member countries, as well as the United States, have repeatedly drawn the attention of the government to the human rights situation,” said a European diplomat in Dar es Salaam on condition of anonymity. “Even so, the situation continues to deteriorate, so we have had to move up a gear.” AFP

Gambia’s Journalists, Free from Dictator, Work to Win Trust
Journalists in Gambia have launched a self-regulatory body they hope will offer legitimacy, and far more freedom, to media emerging from a dictatorship that ruled the tiny West African nation for more than two decades. During the 22 years of former President Yahya Jammeh’s rule, journalists were regularly abducted, tortured and killed. The new government has vowed new freedoms after he fled into exile in early 2017 following a surprise election defeat. Outdated sedition laws are still on the books, however, and the public is urged to bring any complaints about journalists to the new Media Council of The Gambia instead of to the courts. There is a need to promote higher professional standards, said Saikou Jammeh, the secretary-general of the Gambia Press Union, which oversees the new body. He is not related to the former president. “We also set it up to keep the government far away from any attempts to regulate the media,” he said. “It’s not their business and it shouldn’t be their business.” Under the former regime, many journalists “had to switch on survival mode and they would not publish anything that would get them in trouble,” Jammeh said. “The relationship of the media and the public was characterized by paranoia and mistrust.” … The new government has promised support. AP



Photo: Adam Jones