Africa Media Review for December 5, 2016

Gambia: Yahya Jammeh Concedes Loss to Adama Barrow
Yahya Jammeh, the longtime president of The Gambia, has conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow, accepting that the people have “decided that I should take the back seat”. Jammeh, who came to power in 1994 as a 29-year-old army officer following a military coup, had won four previous polls. Speaking to the public on Gambian television late on Friday, Jammeh congratulated Barrow for his “clear victory”, saying: “I wish him all the best and I wish all Gambians the best.” He said: “If [Barrow] wants to work with us also, I have no problem with that. I will help him work towards the transition,” he said, confirming that he would not contest the result. Al Jazeera

Adama Barrow: From Argos Security Guard to President of the Gambia
The Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, is a real-estate agent and former Argos security guard who wooed voters with promises of a new start for one of Africa’s poorest countries. The 51-year-old was born in a riverside village far inland, on the eve of Gambian independence. He won a scholarship to high school in the capital, Banjul, then rose through the ranks of local firms. He was working as sales manager at a gas company when he decided to travel to London to study and save up funds to start his own company. He is proud of an experience that included working as a security guard in an Argos store in Holloway Road, north London. “Life is a process, and the UK helped helped me to become the person I am today. Working 15 hours a day builds a man,” Barrow told Le Monde during the election campaign. The Guardian

Kerry Congratulates Barrow, Gambia on Successful Election
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday congratulated Gambia and its new president-elect, Adama Barrow, on the country’s first democratic presidential election, calling it “a new era in The Gambia.” Barrow handily defeated Gambia’s president of more than 22 years, Yahya Jammeh, in the election Thursday, and Jammeh vowed to relinquish his position peacefully, calling the election results “a clear victory” for Barrow. Kerry commended Jammeh for his willingness to respect the results and said he was grateful to the electoral commission for its transparent handling of the election. “We call for unity and calm during this transition period, and urge the Gambian government to respect the rights of citizens to freely assemble and express their views on the election results,” Kerry said in a statement. VOA

Why Jammeh Lost: Gambian Leader’s Downfall in Five Points
But why did Gambians turn against Jammeh after 22 years in power? A triple blow has been dealt to the Gambian economy in the last three years, making life close to unbearable for many and sending thousands across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe. A 2013 drought was followed by the region’s Ebola crisis, which despite never actually touching The Gambia itself scared off tourists who account for 20 percent of the country’s GDP. This year the Gambian authorities slapped a huge increase on customs fees for trucks entering its territory from Senegal, causing a blockade and cutting the country off from vital supplies for months. The word heard most often on the streets in connection with Jammeh was “tired”. Gambians were weary of their country’s descent into isolation due to their leader’s unpredictable behaviour, including the declaration of an Islamic republic in a country with a history of religious tolerance, and its withdrawal from the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court. AFP on Times Live

The Gambia’s Poll Shock Offers Rare Hope on the Continent
[…] Adding to the sense that change could be in the air, the Angolan president, Eduardo Dos Santos, who has ruled for more than three decades, announced just hours after Jammeh’s concession that he plans to step down next year. And last week the 92-year-old Mugabe is said to have hinted to a group of war veterans that he would retire “properly”, without explaining what that might mean. For some countries, such as Gabon, the Gambia’s change has come too late to inspire much hope. An August election saw Ali Bongo extend his family’s 50-year rule, with several people killed and about 1,000 arrested in violence after polls closed. The past few years have also seen a spate of leaders changing constitutions and rigging elections to allow them to stay in power. But the continent has more positive historical examples to follow. In Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda lost power via the ballot box in 1991; in Malawi, Hastings Banda lost in 1994 and then Joyce Banda lost in 2014; and in Madagascar, such transitions have happened three times. And though it took years of huge international pressure, South Africa’s apartheid government eventually agreed to make way for democracy. The Guardian

Has Ghana’s Electoral Commission Undermined Its Own Elections?
Next week, Ghana, a relatively stable West African democracy, heads once again to the polls to elect a president. How have things been going in the lead up to the election? Not well. This week, Nana Akufo-Addo, leader of the New Patriotic Party and President John Mahama’s main opposition, skipped the only presidential debate (aides apparently said that this was because he decided to keep campaign commitments; he was not, apparently, committed to the debate.) On Thursday, early voting took place, and some names seemed to be missing from the voter register. On Friday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace flagged just what to watch for in elections in Ghana. High on the list: Ghana’s Electoral Commission, which was criticized in 2012 for failing to protect the elections from irregularities such as “over voting,” is still a politicized entity, and has been unable to quell concern over the clearly problematic voter register. The New Patriotic Party wants the register overhauled entirely. Foreign Policy

DRC Political Talks Break Down
Political talks mediated by the Catholic Church have suffered a major setback with the withdrawal of the president’s supporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For more than a month, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, the influential body with represents the Catholic Church, has been working to avoid a crisis in the DRC. The institution, known as CENCO, has been mediating between the presidential majority, President Joseph Kabila’s political alliance, and the Rassemblement, a large coalition of opposition groups. CENCO is hoping to facilitate an agreement between the parties that will reduce the chances of unrest on December 19, the last day of Kabila’s second term and the date on which the Rassemblement says the president should leave office. On December 2, however, the presidential majority announced that CENCO’s efforts have been “a failure,” blaming “flagrant contradictions within” the Rassemblement. The two parties had not met face to face during CENCO’s weeks of mediating. VOA

Can the Catholic Church Save Congo?
When Pope Francis received Congolese president Joseph Kabila at the Vatican on September 26, the meeting did not take place in the reception room where the pontiff usually meets visiting heads of state. Instead, the pope greeted Kabila in his library before holding a brief 20-minute meeting conducted through interpreters, in which he raised concerns about the killing of scores of protesters in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, who were demonstrating against expected delays to elections originally slated for November. Francis, unsurprisingly, did not indicate that the breach of protocol was intentional. But according to DRC expert Phil Clark, the choice of venue echoed the Catholic Church’s position in opposing Kabila’s apparent attempts to delay elections and stay in power beyond his term in Congo, one of Africa’s most promising yet fragile countries. Newsweek

Bangladesh Troops Replace Kenyans Pulled from S. Sudan
A troop battalion from Bangladesh is replacing Kenyan peacekeepers who were being withdrawn from South Sudan, the United Nations officials confirmed. The deployment of 850 Bangladeshi soldiers comes in response to a UN request that followed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision last month to end Kenya’s participation in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). President Kenyatta acted after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sacked the Kenyan general in command of the UNMISS peacekeeping force. A special UN investigative team blamed Lt Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki for the failure of a UNMISS unit in Juba to respond to pleas for help from a nearby civilian compound under attack by South Sudan government soldiers in July. The East African

Somalia Security Forces and IS Fighters Directly Clash for First Time
Somali regional forces in Puntland have clashed with pro-Islamic State militants in the country’s northeast in the first-ever military confrontation between security forces and pro-Islamic State fighters. Local sources told VOA that today’s fighting occurred near Bashashin village, just 50km west of Qandala after the regional troops were halted by landmines. Governor of Puntland’s Bari region Yusuf Mohamed Dhedo who is leading the offensive against Qandala confirmed the fighting to VOA Somali in an exclusive interview via satellite phone. Dhedo said that his forces were attacked by IS fighters while they were dismantling the landmines. “They planted a landmine in a narrow road where vehicles do not have a space to move off the road,” he said. VOA

Kenya Completes Border Fence with Somalia
The fencing of three kilometres of the Kenya-Somalia border is complete after the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) took over its construction over two months ago. The project, initiated by the Ministry of Interior in 2015 as a wall project, has since been switched to wire fencing along the porous border. Concrete poles joined with barbed wire, wire mesh and razor wire have been erected on the three-kilometre stretch. The project, initiated after the April terror attack on Garissa University College, stalled after the National Youth Service (NYS) personnel working on it downed their tools, saying they had not been paid for their work. Daily Nation

Pakistan, Russia to Sell Warplanes to Nigeria, Air Force Chief Says
Nigeria is expecting the arrival of warplanes and helicopters it ordered from Pakistan and Russia, its latest effort to counter terrorist and militant activities, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said on Sunday. Nigeria is battling jihadist group Boko Haram, which has waged a seven-year insurgency in the northern part of the country aimed at creating an Islamic state. Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million displaced. It also faces threats in its crude-producing heartland in the southern Niger Delta, where militants have been blowing up oil pipelines. The subsequent loss of crude oil output has hurt government revenues. The air force chief said it was assisting the army and navy in countering activities of terrorists and militants. Nigeria’s foreign minister said in May the government hoped the United States would sell it aircraft to fight Boko Haram militants, because its human rights record had improved enough for a blockade on arms deals to be lifted. Reuters

In Nigeria, Schoolboys Turned Killers and Came after Their Ex-teachers and Students
The killers came hunting their former teachers, gunning them down in their offices and in their classrooms: At the top of Boko Haram’ kill list: head teachers, examiners, primary school staff and science and geography teachers, whose curriculum contradicted the group’s flat-Earth ideology. The gunmen headed straight to the office of headmaster Yaya Buba Jam and shot him dead. They killed another teacher, Al Haji Modu, in his classroom. In Boko Haram’s savage campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in western Africa, education is a primary target. The war on learning has robbed children of years of schooling, a deficit some may never make up and perpetuate lliteracy and poverty in one of the poorest and least educated corners of Nigeria. Nigeria’s teachers union estimates that since 2009 Boko Haram has assassinated 611 teachers, burned down 910 schools and forced the closure of at least 1,500 others. More than 19,000 teachers and almost 1 million school-age children have fled the violence. Los Ageles Times

Nigeria and Morocco Sign Gas Pipeline Deal to Link Africa to Europe
Nigeria and Morocco have signed a joint venture to construct a gas pipeline that will connect the two nations as well as some other African countries to Europe, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs said on Saturday. The agreement was reached during a visit by the Morocco’s King Mohammed to the Nigerian capital Abuja, Geoffrey Onyema, the minister, said, adding that the pipeline project would be designed with the participation of all stakeholders. “In this agreement both countries agreed to study and take concrete steps toward the promotion of a regional gas pipeline project that will connect Nigeria’s gas resources, those of several West African countries and Morocco,” Onyema told reporters in Abuja.  Onyema said the project aimed to create a competitive regional electricity market with the potential to be connected to the European energy markets. Reuters

Unity Call As Race for AU’s Top Job Hots Up
With the race hotting up to replace Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as AU chairwoman next month, one of the five hopeful candidates – Professor Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal – has criss-crossed the continent passing through Morocco, Madagascar and Mozambique before landing in South Africa. His message is simple: “Africa must unite to overcome perennial problems of joblessness and poverty.” The professor obviously knows what he’s talking about – he has taught African history at universities for four decades and has been a UN diplomat, foreign minister, MP and leader of a leftist political party in his country. Speaking to the African News Agency in Joburg, Bathily, who comes across as unassuming, boldly stated: “I am African first before being a Senegalese.” AFP on IOL News

Libya’s Tripoli Sees Worst Militias Clashes in 2 Years
Clashes continued for the second day among heavily-armed militias in the Libyan capital Tripoli, vying for power and control over the city, with one dislodging another in at least two posts, a five-star hotel and a barracks, in what appears to be the worst outbreak of violence the city has seen in two years. Competing militias have chopped Tripoli up into fiefdoms and power centers after longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s ruler for 42 years, was ousted and killed in an uprising in 2011.They maintain what observers describe as a “balance of terror.” Witnesses in Tripoli said Friday that gun battles rocked the southeastern Nasr Forest district and adjacent neighborhoods as residents were advised by a local emergency body affiliated with the Interior Ministry to remain home and away from windows. The clashes started Thursday and have reportedly killed at least eight, according to state news agency LANA. During a lull in the violence late Thursday night, panicked residents could be seen lining up outside gas stations to stock up on fuel. AP on ABC News

Angola Coup Trial Opens with 35 Accused
An Angolan court was on Friday shown automatic weapons allegedly used in a coup attempt against long-ruling President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in January. The 35 accused men, said to be former fighters from the Unita opposition group, appeared in court dressed in brown uniform on the first day of their trial in Luanda. Two other men are still being sought by police. An indictment read out by judge Joao Carlos Eduardo Agostinho said the men were arrested on January 30 and 31 close to the presidential palace and the public television and radio station. It said they had eight guns, as well as knives and bayonets. News 24

OPEC Deal Is No Remedy for Poorest Members
A sustained oil-price rally driven by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ production-cut agreement could provide relief for the cartel’s poorest members but won’t reverse the dramatic economic declines caused by the two-year crude-market slump. Poorer OPEC members such as Angola, Nigeria and Venezuela are desperate for higher government revenue and economic growth that rising oil prices could bring. Fallen revenues have taken a steep human toll, with food shortages in Nigeria and political unrest in Venezuela. […] In Angola, a rise in the price of oil to $55 a barrel on average would boost government revenues by 9% in 2017, while $50 oil would lift it by 4%, according to analysts at Eaglestone Securities. Prices were as low as $28 a barrel this year and were under $50 for sustained periods. But even if the rally sticks, government revenues will remain far off the levels seen in 2012 and 2013, when Brent crude averaged above $100 a barrel. Angola, Nigeria and Venezuela don’t have the deep pockets that helped temper market turbulence in other OPEC states such as Saudi Arabia. The Wall Street Journal

Is Egypt Officially Turning Down Its Former Ally Saudi Arabia?
Bilateral relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia were significantly strained over the past few weeks, after Egypt deviated from its loyalty to the oil-rich country and took stances that did not comply with Saudi Arabia’s plans. Despite pouring tens of millions of US dollars into Egypt following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, the two countries have opted for different paths in their relations and their foreign policies. Officials from both countries repeatedly insisted that relations are not affected following Egypt’s odd moves that explicitly opposed its unspoken deal with Saudi Arabia. However, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ended his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prior to the arrival of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud—a step Al-Sisi would have never taken two months ago. Daily News Egypt

Mobsters ran a fake U.S. embassy in Ghana for 10 years, flying the flag and issuing visas for $6,000
For a decade, an American flag flew outside a battered pink building in Ghana’s capital city, welcoming out of town visitors who, once inside, found a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama hanging on the wall. Signs confirmed to travelers — who had been bused in from the most remote parts of West Africa — that they’d arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. The “consular officers” working there were not Americans, but spoke English and Dutch and issued official-looking visas and identification papers. They charged their customers $6,000. Billboards and flyers advertised the official services. But there was nothing official about them. The real U.S. Embassy in Accra is white, not pink, and it sits on a large piece of land inside security fences in one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. The battered building with the flag and Obama picture was a fake — ran by Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “For about a decade it operated unhindered,” the statement said. “The criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored.”  The Washington Post

 



Photo: Adam Jones