Africa Media Review for December 6, 2019

Malawians Await Ruling on Contested Presidential Poll

Over the past four months, voters in Malawi have eagerly followed live broadcasts of witnesses presenting evidence to judges of alleged rigging in an election narrowly won by President Peter Mutharika. For the first time in the southeast African nation’s history, the court proceedings were aired on private radio stations. The testimonies, which ended on Friday, challenge the credibility of the May elections that saw Mutharika narrowly secure a second term with 38.5 percent of the vote. Runner-up Lazarus Chakwera alleges he was robbed of victory in the ballot, which he lost by just 159,000 votes. His Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the opposition United Transformation Movement (UTM) have petitioned courts to annul the poll. Presidential election results have never been challenged in court since Malawi’s independence from Britain in 1964. … Gospel Kazako, the owner of Malawi’s Zodiak Broadcasting station – the biggest in the country – told AFP news agency that the broadcasts had spurred political engagement. … The constitutional court has 45 days to hand down its verdict. If judges uphold the fraud allegations, fresh polls could be called within a matter of days, according to a former attorney general. AFP

Nigeria: After Invading Court Premises, Armed SSS Officials Rearrest Sowore

Officials of the State Security Service (SSS) have rearrested an activist, Omoyele Sowore. Premium Times earlier reported how armed SSS officials stormed the premises of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to forcefully rearrest Mr Sowore. The situation caused pandemonium at the court with videos emerging of SSS officials, inside a court room, physically assaulting Mr Sowore in a bid to arrest him. Mr Sowore was only released Thursday night on the orders of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu. Mrs Ojukwu criticised the SSS for refusing to obey her earlier order to release the activist after meeting his bail conditions. She ordered the SSS to release the Sahara Reporters publisher within 24 hours and also pay him N100,000 for improper legal conduct. The SSS complied with the directives Thursday night but rearrested Mr Sowore Friday morning. After the commotion during the arrest, the SSS officials allowed Mr Sowore to be driven to their office by his lawyer, Femi Falana, under the armed escort of SSS vehicles and officials. No reason has been given for the rearrest. Premium Times

Fleeing Conflict but Finding Hunger in Northwestern Nigeria

Most families here, like Safiya and Inno, have fled the crisis in the northwest of Nigeria, where attacks between indigenous Hausa farmers and Fulani bandits have killed and displaced thousands of people in Zamfara since 2016. In response, the Nigerian government intervened with two military operations between 2017 and 2019. But these failed to address the banditry crisis or curtail attacks, and killings and kidnappings have continued. In July, the state government negotiated another peace deal with the bandits but analysts say it is a temporary solution to the complex crisis in Zamfara. A handful of bandit groups also shunned the peace negotiations and have clashed with the military. As a result of the violence, some 60,000 people are internally displaced in Zamfara, according to a recent UNICEF assessment. In addition, the International Organization of Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix found over 160,000 IDPs across the three northwestern states of Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina – all affected by banditry. The displacements have also spilled into neighbouring Niger, where the UN refugee agency, UNHCR caters to 40,000 Nigerians fleeing the crisis. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Buhari Inaugurates 2019 National Security Strategy, Vows to Enhance Social Security

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday inaugurated the reviewed National Security Strategy 2019 with a commitment to enhancing the social security of Nigerians as a means of improving their physical security. Speaking at the event shortly before the commencement of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, the president said the numerous security challenges confronting the nation made it necessary to come up with articulated, comprehensive and coordinated response that involved all segments of the society. He expressed delight that the National Security Strategy 2019 was a product of painstaking and rigorous deliberations by relevant stakeholders committed with the task of safeguarding the nation from internal and external threats. He said the strategy represents a thoughtful, strategic and practical expression of his administration’s resolve to make Nigeria safe for development, investment, growth and prosperity for everybody. … He, therefore, called on all stakeholders including heads of ministries, departments and agencies to see themselves as partners in the onerous task of securing “our people and to demonstrate unity of purpose in implementing this strategy.” Premium Times

Sudan Says It Captured Six Boko Haram Suspects

Sudan’s army said on Thursday it had caught six Chadians accused of belonging to Boko Haram, in the country’s first such arrests of suspected members of the jihadist group which originated in Nigeria. “Sudanese army intelligence captured six members of the Boko Horam terrorist group inside Sudanese territory,” the army said in a statement. “They are Chadian nationals and since there is a security agreement between the two countries, Sudanese authorities handed them to Chadian authorities.” It did not specify when the alleged jihadists were arrested or handed over. It is the first time that Sudanese authorities have reported the arrest of suspected Boko Haram jihadists inside the country. Chad, a vast and mostly desert nation with more than 200 ethnic groups, shares a long border with Sudan. [Chad] is part of a West African coalition fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, and a member of the French-backed G5 Sahel anti-terror alliance, which also includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. AFP

UN Counterterrorism Chief Commends Sudan for Initiative in Detection, Interdiction of Terrorists

In a statement today at the end of a three-day visit to Khartoum by a multi-agency UN delegation to assess Sudan’s current capability to use passenger data to detect and interdict foreign terrorist fighters in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2396 (2017), Gregorian said: “The Sudanese authorities are to be commended for inviting this mission and arranging for all relevant stakeholders to participate actively in the assessment. They gave consistent and strong expressions of commitment.” Gregorian noted that “when implemented properly, the UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme can help Sudan meet its obligations under UN Security Council resolution 2396 and demonstrate its willingness to be a credible and reliable partner in countering international terrorism,” He added that “having such a system in place can also help Sudan preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity while making it possible to facilitate legitimate travel and boost the economy.” Radio Dabanga

How Sudan’s Women Brought Down a President

On a warm evening in April in Khartoum, a young woman swathed in white stood atop a car, her finger raised, leading a crowd in songs of protest. “Thawra,” they chanted, their upturned mobile phones recording the moment. “Revolution.” The 22-year-old student, Alaa Salah, was one of thousands who had taken to the streets across Sudan to protest against the regime of Omar al-Bashir. Just days later, the president of 30 years would be forced to step down and the image of Salah standing above the protesters in traditional garb became an icon of Sudanese people power – and of the role that women played in the president’s ouster. “Alaa was not the first woman that we saw being vocal on the street in this revolution, or in past ones,” said Sara Elhassan, a Sudanese writer who helped disseminate activists’ social-media messages from her US base throughout the uprising. “But the image highlighted the fact that as Sudanese women, we are not voiceless, and that we were active participants and integral to the revolution.” Financial Times

South Sudan Creates Tribunal to Try Security Operatives

South Sudan’s government has opened a special tribunal to try National Security Service (NSS) operatives accused of committing crimes. The head of the NSS legal directorate said Thursday the tribunal is an attempt to end impunity and restore the image of the service, damaged by numerous reports of human rights abuses. Five years ago President Salva Kiir signed into law the controversial National Security Service Act, which gave security agents the right to arbitrarily arrest, detain and investigate citizens or confiscate the property of any suspect deemed to be a threat to national security. However, a section of the act provides for the creation of special court to try NSS officers suspected of committing crimes. Jalpal Ubwech, NSS director of legal affairs, said the tribunal will prosecute hundreds of its officers accused of criminal offenses. … Eujin Endoara, director of the human rights division at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, says he hopes the court will be a turning point for the National Security Service. … The National Security Service tribunal is composed of five members, including a high court judge. VOA

Ceasefire Monitors Lament Lack of Progress in South Sudan Force Unification

South Sudan’s ceasefire monitors on Thursday said three weeks had passed without progress made since the parties agreed to extend the pre-transitional period by an additional 100 days to implement security arrangements as stipulated in a September 2018 deal. Desta Abiche Ageno, chairperson of the ceasefire and transitional security arrangements monitoring and verification mechanism, said unification of about 83,000 security personnel remains far from complete. He urged the parties to the revitalised agreement to screen and register forces for cantonment in an effort to support the implementation of the 100-day extension. At a security stakeholders’ meeting in Juba, Ageno urged the National Pre-transitional Committee, a national body tasked to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement, to release sufficient resources for cantonment to progress. “Cantonment is the foundation for the security arrangements and without sufficient resources, the cantonment process will fail,” he said. … President Salva Kiir and ex-rebel leader Riek Machar agreed last month to delay the formation of a unity government by more than three months. Xinhua

Burundi Ruling Party Militia Forcing Citizens to Fund 2020 Vote: Rights Group

Burundi’s ruling party youth league is forcing citizens to donate money to fund next year’s election, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, as fears of abuses and renewed violence grow ahead of the vote. For years, the Imbonerakure, the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s youth wing, have beat, tortured and executed activists, suspected opponents and journalists, according to United Nations investigations. The government dismisses those allegations, saying the group is purely political. Human Right Watch said in its report that youth league members are extorting citizens for cash and food ranging in value from the equivalent of $1 to more than $500. The young men often use violence and intimidation and block roads and access to services to collect funds, the report found. … Hundreds of Burundians have died since the 2015 election crisis in clashes with security forces. Elections are scheduled for May 2020. Nkurunziza won a referendum last year on term limits, enabling him to stay in office until 2034. Reuters

TB, Armed Guards, Lack of Food at UN Migrant Center in Libya

The United Nations center in Libya was opened as an “alternative to detention,” a last, safe stop for migrants before they were resettled in other countries. Now, just a year later, it looks increasingly like the notorious Libyan lockups it was supposed to replace. The facility is jam-packed with nearly 1,200 migrants – about twice the number it was built for – including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Dozens of patients with tuberculosis languish in a room crammed with mattresses. Sewage is overflowing, and armed guards from a local militia have effectively turned the center into a prison. Unable to cope, the U.N. last week offered migrants the equivalent of $112 each to leave, and warned that food, already down to emergency rations, would be cut off on Jan. 1 for unapproved arrivals. “This is very dangerous because among us there are people who are malnourished,” said a 27-year-old Sudanese man who arrived at the center in July. “If they cut food, they won’t be able to stand it.” He, like the rest of the nearly dozen migrants who spoke with The Associated Press from the compound, asked to withhold his name because of fears of retaliation. Libyan security officials and U.N. and other aid workers confirmed that the U.N. had lost control of the facility. AP

US, Ethiopian Defense Officials Meet at Pentagon

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Pete Marocco and Ethiopian Defense Minister Lemma Megersa co-chaired the 9th annual U.S.-Ethiopia Bilateral Defense Committee meeting in Washington on December 04. During the visit, the defense leaders shared views on regional security, peacekeeping, intelligence and military relations, with the goal of strengthening their security partnership, a defense official said in a readout following the meeting. … The Bilateral Defense Committee enables the U.S. and Ethiopia to identify new opportunities for collaboration in areas such as counterterrorism and intelligence, which enhances an already robust partnership between the two countries, the defense official said, and helps bring peace and security to East Africa. Ethiopia plays a critical and significant leadership role in East Africa, the official said. “Its willingness and capability to develop security throughout the region furthers our mutual goals and shared security interests,” the defense official added. Ethiopia has the third-largest military in Africa and is the world’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions, the official said. Addis Standard

South African Airways to Be Placed in Bankruptcy Protection

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s battle to salvage South Africa’s troubled state-owned enterprises reached a turning point on Thursday as the nation’s flag carrier, South African Airways, was forced to seek bankruptcy protection. SAA, which last turned a profit in 2011, has been plagued by corruption and cronyism and long relied on state bailouts to survive. As a recent strike worsened its finances it sought more state support but finally met the limits of the government’s ability to protect it. The airline, once Africa’s biggest, said on Thursday that it plans to apply for business rescue, a local bankruptcy alternative to avert liquidation, “at the earliest opportunity.” … [T]he business rescue has come after a lengthy hesitation by Mr Ramaphosa’s government about whether SAA should be saved at all, given the pressing need to save national resources for more critical state companies. South Africa’s finances are badly stretched after a decade of stagnant growth, leaving the country on the brink of losing its only remaining investment-grade debt rating. Financial Times

Diary of a Drought

“Drought in Africa leaves 45 million in need across 14 countries.” That was the headline of a June TNH article. It left us wondering about the lives behind such huge numbers: how do families living on the front lines of a changing environment experience drought? How do they cope with the economic impact of crop failure and rising food prices? So, for the next six months, six urban and rural families in three drought-affected countries – Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe – will share their day-to-day as they juggle priorities to make ends meet. Each family will contribute a monthly diary that tracks their household news and updates a shopping basket of basic commodities, offering a window on real market prices and what it means to navigate rising living costs as an impact of a changing climate. Meet the families and read their first diary instalments below. As many as 2.6 million people are food insecure this year. The hardest hit are pastoralist areas like Marsabit County, on the northern border with Ethiopia. Urban families are also struggling – with annual food inflation in August running at over seven percent. The New Humanitarian



Photo: Adam Jones