Africa Media Review for December 4, 2018

Army Clashes Kill 18 in East DRC as Election Tensions Rise
Clashes between the army and rebels loyal to a renegade former general in eastern DR Congo have killed 18 people, military sources said on Monday, in the latest violence before crucial elections to replace President Joseph Kabila this month. Fighting killed 14 rebels and four soldiers in Fizi, a region of South Kivu, a mineral-rich province which is prone to ethnic tensions, the sources said. The sources said one soldier and two rebels were killed early Monday in fighting. Earlier, army spokesman Captain Dieudonne Kaserek, told AFP 12 rebel fighters were killed including a deputy commander known as Alida. He said three of the soldiers drowned in a river during combat. VOA

U.S. to Reopen Congo Embassy after ‘Terrorist Threat’
The U.S. State Department said it will reopen its embassy in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, more than a week after it closed because of a “terrorist threat”. The embassy and other facilities in the capital Kinshasa have been shut since Nov. 26 and U.S. citizens were advised to “keep a low profile”. U.S. officials have remained tight-lipped in public about the nature of the threat, but have informed foreign diplomats that the embassy closure is due to the arrest last month of a cell of Tanzanian jihadists from a Ugandan Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), two diplomats told Reuters. Congo is on edge ahead of a long delayed presidential election in December to find a successor to president Joseph Kabila who has publicly agreed to step down after holding on to power two years beyond his allotted mandate.  Reuters

Gabon President Appears in Video after Long Medical Absence
Gabon President Ali Bongo on Monday made his first appearance since falling ill nearly six weeks ago, in a video shared by the presidency from his medical leave in Morocco. Bongo suffered a stroke while at a conference in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 24, sources told Reuters. The presidency initially said he was struggling with severe fatigue and later said he had some “bleeding” that required medical attention. Bongo’s wife last week said he was traveling to Morocco to continue his recovery. No one, however, has shared specific details on Bongo’s condition. With his exact condition and whereabouts unknown, unsubstantiated rumors have swirled that he was incapacitated or dead. Reuters

Burundi: Inside the Secret Killing House (Video)
Burundi’s security services are running secret torture and detention sites to silence dissent, former government intelligence agents have told BBC Africa Eye. Using cutting edge reconstruction techniques BBC Africa Eye examines one house in particular, which was filmed in a video posted on social media in 2016. A red liquid, which looked like blood, was seen pouring from its gutter. We ask if Burundi’s repression of opponents has now gone underground? The government has always denied any human rights violations, and declined to comment for this report. BBC

In Somalia, Businesses Face ‘Taxation’ by Militants
Al-Shabab and pro-Islamic State militants in Somalia are engaged in an economic war, and it is the country’s business sector that is getting cut down in the crossfire. Somali businessmen and analysts say the rival Islamist groups are targeting companies to an unprecedented degree with demands for so-called taxes. Al-Shabab has already strong-armed business owners for years to finance its war against the Somali government and African peacekeepers who protect it. Now, al-Shabab is stepping up its demands, and pro-IS groups are apparently trying to fund its own activities by copying Shabab’s tactics of pay up-or-pay the consequences. The groups are leaving a trail of bodies as a warning to those who don’t cooperate. Somali intelligence sources say IS militants killed telecommunications official Abdullahi Ali Omar in Bosaso on August 7 for not paying up, and that they’re also behind the more recent shootings of at least eight employees of Hormuud, the country’s largest telecommunications company. VOA

Rwanda Tells US to Keep off Rwigara Trial
Rwanda has told American politicians not to interfere with the Diane Rwigara trial and let local courts do their job. Ms Rwigara, a fierce government critic, has received significant backing from American politicians much to the chagrin of Rwanda, ahead of the verdict on December 6. She faces at least 22 years in jail if convicted of inciting insurrection against the government and forgery of electoral documents, charges brought up after she was disqualified from the presidential race in 2017. Her mother, Adeline Rwigara, faces charges of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism. Several US Senators and Congressional human-rights bodies have called on the Rwandan government to drop the charges on the grounds that they are in violation of her freedom of expression, but Kigali has pushed back, urging them to respect the country’s judicial system.  The East African

Ethiopia Deploys Federal Forces over Insecurity; Protests, Arrests in Oromia
The Ethiopian government last Saturday stated that federal forces were being deployed to secure parts of the country rocked by deadly violence. A statement from the office of the Prime Minister said the move followed a decision by the National Security council. The deployments were specifically to western Ethiopia along the border between Oromia and the Benishangul Gumuz regional states. “The decision was made based on requests from the two regions to ensure the safety of citizens and enforce the law. “Tens of thousands have been displaced & more than 100 people, including 11 Oromia police officers, have been killed in the conflict that started more than 2 months ago,” the Oromia region’s OBN network reported. Africa News

Egypt, France Begin War Games in Red Sea
Egypt and France began a joint military drill in the Red Sea on Sunday, according to the Egyptian military. In a statement, the army said naval forces from both countries carried out a naval training in the Red Sea with the participation of a French warship and a number of Egyptian navy vessels. “The military exercise aims to enhance the combat capability of both countries to deal with naval threats, including the protection of important shipments and counter-terrorism,” the statement said. The Red Sea is a strategic route for the Gulf oil to Europe and the U.S. through Egypt’s Suez Canal. Last month, the Egyptian army conducted joint naval exercises with French military forces in the northern Mediterranean Sea. Anadolu Agency

Giulio Regeni Murder: Egypt Rejects Naming of Its Agents as Suspects
Egypt has rejected the addition of members of its security services to an Italian list of suspects in the murder of the student Giulio Regeni, in a statement that spelled his name incorrectly. “Egyptian law does not recognise what is called ‘the record of suspects’,” the state information service (SIS) said, citing an anonymous member of the judiciary. The statement was titled “Julio [sic] Regini’s case: charges should be based on evidence and not suspicions.” Regeni’s mutilated corpse was found on a desert road outside Cairo nine days after he disappeared, on 25 January 2016. His parents could identify him only from “the tip of his nose”, his mother has said. There have been longstanding suspicions – denied by Egypt – that Egyptian authorities were responsible for his death. The Guardian

Bouteflika, Citing Flu, Scraps Talks with Saudi Crown Prince
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s planned meeting with Abdelaziz Bouteflika was canceled on Monday because the Algerian president is sick. Bouteflika’s office said in a statement that the ailing 81-year-old was confined to bed with an “acute flu” as the Saudi prince arrived for his two-day trip to Algeria. The crown prince attended the Group of 20 summit and has been visiting friendly Arab nations over the past week on his first international tour since Saudi agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2. U.S. intelligence assessments and experts have said the crown prince, who controls all levers of power in Saudi Arabia, likely ordered or at least knew about the killing. Saudi authorities say those who killed Khashoggi exceeded their authority, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five people allegedly involved in the killing. AP

Migrant Deaths Highlight African Ills That US-Led Coalition Aims to Tackle
The 76 migrants from Libya who drowned in June when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean represent the human trafficking, corruption and political instability in parts of Africa that require international cooperation to overcome, the Navy’s top commander in Europe and Africa said Monday. Human traffickers take advantage of illegal immigration and corrupt African officials who take bribes to look the other way, which is why 117 migrants made a perilous crossing in a faulty boat that sank, said Adm. James Foggo, commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa, at a seminar on how to strengthen Africa’s maritime security. “They all had tragic stories to tell, particularly the women, about the way they were treated along the way,” Foggo said, referring to survivors’ stories about their experiences. “The problem is broader than somebody paying money to get on a boat and try to get safe haven in Europe. It’s about the smugglers and traffickers facilitating this.” It’s also a failure of their governments to protect them and provide them with a means to feed their families, he said. Stars and Stripes

Doctors Strike over Pay and Poor Conditions in Zimbabwe’s Hospitals
Doctors at state-run hospitals in Zimbabwe have gone on strike over low pay and poor working conditions. The strike comes at a time of rising prices and fuel shortages. Staff at several hospitals throughout the country began a go-slow over the weekend and the action escalated on Monday. “On social media, there’s been some public sympathy towards the doctors and their plight,” said RFI correspondent Ryan Truscott. “They’re having to do their work without decent equipment or drugs to treat their patients. “Doctors, like other Zimbabweans, are having to queue for fuel for hours on end to get to work and that’s affecting their ability to report for duty.”  RFI

Togo Opposition Urges Shutdown as Election Campaign Starts
Togo’s opposition coalition has called for workers across the country to stay at home on Tuesday as campaigning starts for parliamentary elections later this month. The West African nation’s main opposition has vowed to boycott elections over alleged fraud and is demanding President Faure Gnassingbe resign after more than a decade in power. “We don’t want fraudulent elections in this country,” coalition coordinator Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson said in a video published on social media on Sunday evening. “The next step is a shutdown on December 4,” she said, calling the start of campaigning “a day of shame for those who still believe they can do what they want with people’s futures”. AFP

Morocco-Polisario Western Sahara Talks an ‘Ice-Breaker’
A UN envoy is set to host an “initial round-table” in Geneva this week between Morocco and the Polisario Front in a bid to kick-start dialogue on the disputed Western Sahara region. “It is time to open a new chapter in the political process”, said UN envoy Horst Koehler in an October invitation letter. Six years after direct talks broke down, the meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday and Thursday, with neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania also attending. A former Spanish colony, phosphate-rich Western Sahara sits on the western edge of the vast eponymous desert, stretching around 1 000 kilometres along the fish-abundant Atlantic coastline. AFP

UN: New Information Could Shed Light on Hammarskjold Crash
New information has been received that could shed light on the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold on a peace mission to then newly independent Congo, the U.N. legal chief said Monday. Miguel de Serpa Soares told the General Assembly that a preliminary review of the information — from intelligence, security and defense archives and other sources — showed it could add to knowledge about “the context and surrounding events of 1961.” He said it could also add to knowledge about “the presence of foreign paramilitary and intelligence personnel in and around the Congo, and the capacity of armed forces present in and around the region at that time.” Serpa Soares was briefing the General Assembly on the interim report by former Tanzanian chief justice Mohamed Chande Othman, who has been reviewing new information on the crash of Hammarskjold’s chartered DC-6.  AP

Guinea-Bissau Naturalizes Senegalese Refugees
Senegalese refugees in Guinea-Bissau are getting identification cards after years — and, for some, decades — of living in a state of limbo. Ibrahima Ingo has lived in Pelundo, near Guinea-Bissau’s border with Senegal, since 1992 when he fled southern Senegal due to unrest in the country’s Casamance region. Today marks the first time he will register to receive his national identification card as a Guinea-Bissau citizen. He says the documents are important because they will allow him to move about the country freely without having to pay small bribes to the police — a tax often applied to foreigners. This year, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, began registering the nearly 10,000 Senegalese refugees living in the country, after Guinea-Bissau announced it would grant citizenship to all Senegalese refugees within its borders.  VOA

Senegal Rep Elected 2019 President for UN Human Rights Council
Senegal’s representative on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, UN HRC, has been elected president of the body for the year 2019. The HRC Secretariat announced on Monday that Coly Seck, had been elected and was to be assisted by two vice-presidents – Ms. Vesna Batistić Kos of Croatia and Mr. Harald Aspelund of Iceland. The election was conducted during an organizational session to elect its leadership and to discuss its programme of work for next year. It also considered a draft statement on ways to enhance the efficiency of the Council. The body recently elected a new set of representatives to serve three-year terms. In all, 18 countries were elected across the world. Africa News

Global Citizens Pledge $7.3B to End Poverty in Africa
The Global Citizen Festival held in Johannesburg on Sunday raised 100 billion rand ($7.3 billion) in pledges from world leaders and organizations to end extreme poverty in Africa. The festival — which marked late President Nelson Mandela’s centenary — brought together several world leaders and a group of talented artists and influencers. Organizers said Mandela’s commitment to a better world motivated them to challenge world leaders to raise funds for improving education, fighting disease and extreme poverty. “Dr. Jim Kim, on behalf of the World Bank Group, made a significant commitment of an additional $1 billion next year for the health and education in Africa,” organizers said in a statement on Monday. The Global Citizen Festival is an annual music festival organized by the Global Poverty Project to end extreme poverty by 2030, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Anadolu Agency

With a Dozen Elections in 2019, African Democracy Will Face Some of Its Biggest Tests
More than a dozen national elections will be held across Africa next year. All 55 members of the African Union (AU) are obligated to hold regular and ostensibly democratic elections. They must also invite teams of AU election observers to publicly monitor, assess and report the results. Is all this electoral activity helping to entrench democracy as the foundation for national and regional security, development and integration? Or have elections become the means for demagogues to grab power—or, more typically, for powerful elites and authoritarian rulers to entrench themselves? Democratic theory prescribes credible elections as a necessary, but insufficient means, to consolidate real democracy. Real democracy typically abets peace and security. National circumstances vary. But three additional conditions are also vital. They are freedom of expression, the right of assembly, and an independent nonpartisan judiciary to resolve disputes and ensure the rule of law predominates.  Quartz

Public Transport Crisis Looms in Nairobi
A road transport crisis loomed large in Kenya’s capital Nairobi with Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators vowing to defy an order to keep off the central business district (CBD) starting Monday. The directive by the Nairobi county government is aimed at decongesting the CBD. The PSVs’ Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman, Mr Simon Kimutai, said the new stages proposed for them could not hold their more than 16,000 vehicles serving the Nairobi residents daily. “We have over 1,000 vehicles coming into the city centre on Waiyaki Way and another 2,000 on Jogoo Road. We can’t go there because there will be a serious traffic congestion in the city,” said Mr Kimutai. The East African