Africa Media Review for December 7, 2018

Rwandan Government Critic Acquitted of ‘Baseless’ Insurrection Charges
A prominent government critic and her mother have been acquitted by Rwanda’s high court of politically motivated charges including inciting insurrection and forging documents. Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline hugged supporters as cheers broke out in the packed courtroom in the capital Kigali while the verdict was read out. A three-judge panel described the charges as “baseless”. Rwigara, 37, was accused of forgery in relation to her unsuccessful attempt to run against the long-time president Paul Kagame. She was arrested in September last year and held in jail for more than a year, until her release on bail in October. She faced 22 years behind bars if convicted. The Rwandan election commission had said that some of the 600 signatures she had submitted – a requirement for aspiring presidential candidates – were forged, and that some of the people on her list were dead. She was not allowed to run and Kagame won a third term with 99% of the vote in the August 2017 elections.  The Guardian

Zambia’s Constitutional Court Approves Pres. Lungu’s Third Term Bid
Zambia’s Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that President Edgar Lungu can stand for the third time as president in 2021. Four political parties had petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking a declaration that President Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest in the 2021 presidential elections. Constitutional Court President Hildah Chibomba said the ruling by the seven judges of the court had been unanimous. “Our answer is that the (Lungu’s first) presidential tenure of office…cannot be considered as a full term,” Chibomba said. Lungu who was first elected in January 2015 after the death of President Michael Sata, served for one year and 6 months during his first term as president. Africa News

EU, France announce $1.5bn aid for African Sahel
The European Union and France have announced 1.3bn euros ($1.5bn) of development funding aimed at combatting armed groups in African Sahel countries, which are struggling with armed groups and lawlessness. The EU has pledged 800m euros to the effort, Neven Mimica, the bloc’s international cooperation and development commissioner, told a conference in Mauritania on Thursday. France for its part “will invest 500m euros to benefit the priorities” of the G5 Sahel, added French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The alliance, made up of Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania, has struggled to contain armed groups in the scarcely populated desert area. Traversing Central and West Africa, the Sahel region is a hotbed of lawlessness, insecurity and impoverishment, with many living a permanent state of neglect.  Al Jazeera

US: Cameroon Separatist Crisis Could Get ‘Much, Much Worse’
The top U.S. diplomat in Africa said Thursday the separatist crisis in Cameroon could get “much, much” worse, saying “the last thing we need” is growing radicalization in response to the actions of security forces. Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the situation in the Central African nation is worsening by the day and “worrying me greatly.” The United States calls for dialogue between Cameroon’s government and the Anglophone separatists who sprang up from peaceful protests two years ago against the alleged marginalization of English-speakers in the largely Francophone country, Nagy said in a conference call with journalists. Fighting between the separatists and Cameroon’s security forces has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing in recent months, with hundreds of people killed in the English-speaking North West and South West regions.  AP

U.S. Military Says Strike Kills Four Militants in Somalia
The U.S military said it killed four militants in an air strike against al Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Awdheegle, Somalia, as part of its operations to support the government’s efforts to weaken the group. The military’s Africa Command (Africom) said the strike was carried out on Dec. 4. “The U.S. airstrike was conducted against militants after U.S. and partner forces came under attack,” Africom said in a statement late on Wednesday. “We currently assess this airstrike killed four (4) militants with no civilians involved.” The United States carries out periodic air strikes in Somalia in support of a U.N.-backed government there, which has been fighting against an al Shabaab insurgency for years. Reuters

Blast Kills 2 Senior Military Commanders in Somalia
Two senior Somali military commanders and several soldiers were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb blast hit their vehicle south of Mogadishu. Officials and witnesses said the generals were traveling with a military convoy near the village of Dhanaane, on the coastal road linking the Somali capital to the port city of Marka, when their pickup truck was targeted. “A heavy blast caused by bombs apparently planted on the side killed the two generals who immediately died and several government soldiers were also killed,” said Abdifitah Hani Abdulle, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region. “The blast was very huge, it looked like it was a cache of bombs planted on the road side. I saw smoke and fire overshadowing the whole area,” said witness Nuure Osman. “We have been told that no suicide bomber or car bomb involved.”  VOA

‘Like a Horror Film’: The Efforts to Contain Ebola in a War Zone
The medical anthropologist was in the shower when she heard the first pops of gunfire. Initially, she thought it might be the action movie she’d left playing on high volume. Then the wall shook. The violence in eastern Congo, which has stymied the international response to a growing Ebola outbreak in the region, had arrived at the guesthouse used by many of those working to prevent the disease’s spread. Terrified, Julienne Anoko dropped to the floor and crawled into the corridor outside her room. She and five others from U.N. agencies, Congo’s health ministry and the World Health Organization, which she works for, hid in another bathroom for three hours until a U.N. peacekeeping force arrived and gave the all-clear. “It was like a horror film,” Anoko said of the Nov. 16 attack in the city of Beni, the epicenter of the outbreak. Attacks by armed groups happen on a daily basis across Congo’s North Kivu province, where the Ebola virus has been spreading since August, infecting almost 500 people and killing more than 270.  The Washington Post

Libya to Vote on Permanent Constitution in January
Libya will hold a referendum on the country’s permanent constitution in January, the electoral commission said Thursday. “The vote will be held in the first half of January,” commission chief Emad al-Sayeh told a press conference in the capital Tripoli. Results of the vote will be announced by the end of February “if things go well”, he added. On Sep. 14, East Libya-based parliament passed a law to vote on a permanent referendum after a year-long deadlock. “The election commission has completed all preparations for holding the referendum,” al-Sayeh said. The commission chief called for “political consensus” regarding the referendum law. Anadolu Agency

Libyan Election Commission Says Has “Zero” Budget to Prepare Polls
Libya’s electoral commission has asked the government for $28.7 million, saying that without funding to boost its “zero” budget it cannot make plans to prepare for a vote on a new constitution and later elections. Western powers and the United Nations hope Libya will hold a national election by June after a referendum on a constitutional framework to chart a way out of a conflict stemming from the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. A French plan, backed by the United Nations, had initially called for a presidential and parliamentary vote on Dec 10. But weeks of fighting in the capital Tripoli between competing groups and almost no progress between the North African country’s two rival parliaments made that impossible.  Reuters

Togo Bans Opposition Protests
Togo’s government has banned a series of planned opposition protests on security grounds, saying the marches posed a security risk. A coalition of 14 opposition parties announced earlier this week that they would boycott a parliamentary election planned for December 20 and instead try to stop the electoral process. But the government said on Wednesday in a letter seen by AFP that they would not be allowed to take to the streets. Government minister Payadowa Boukpessi said the chance of protesters clashing with political parties out campaigning was “very likely”.  AFP

South Sudan Army Accused of ‘Brutal’ Sexual Violence
A group of human rights lawyers has filed a lawsuit against the government of South Sudan for sexual violence on behalf of 30 women and girls who were allegedly raped by members of the army and the presidential guard. Antonia Mulvey, director of Legal Action Worldwide, a nonprofit network of human rights lawyers, said the South Sudan army committed “brutal” sexual violence, including sexual slavery, sexual torture, rape and gang rape against women and girls. Mulvey says the complaint was lodged Thursday in Geneva at the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). “They [CEDAW] will review the complaint and a copy will be sent to the government of South Sudan for comment,” Mulvey said. VOA

Executions in South Sudan Violate International Law, Amnesty Says
Amnesty International urged South Sudan to abolish the death penalty, saying at least seven people, including one who was a child at the time of their crime, were executed in 2018, the most in any year since the war-torn country gained independence. The London-based group also raised concern over 135 people on death row who it said have been rounded up from prisons nationwide and sent to facilities in the capital, Juba, and the northwestern town of Wau that are notorious for executions. A spokesman for South Sudan’s president denied any executions were carried out this year. “It is extremely disturbing that the world’s youngest nation has embraced this outdated, inhuman practice and is executing people, even children, at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning this abhorrent punishment,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty’s director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.  Bloomberg

Sudan, Armed Groups Agree to Resume Talks for Peace in Darfur
Sudanese government and two armed groups in Darfur region signed Thursday a pre-negotiation agreement paving the way for the resumption of peace talks in Qatar next year. The signing of the declaration of principles with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnwi (SLM-MM) took place in Berlin after two years of informal talks facilitated by the German foreign ministry with the support of the Berghof Foundation. The signing ceremony was attended by Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Walter Lindner, Qatari Special Envoy for Combating Terrorism and Conflict Resolution Mutlaq Al Qahtani, Amin Hassan Omer Sudan’s Presidential Envoy for Diplomatic Contact and Negotiation for Darfur Amin Hassan Omer. The Joint Chief Mediator Jeremiah Mamabolo co-signed the deal with the Sudanese government representative Mohamed Mukhtar, Ahmed Tugud JEM Chief Negotiator and Ali Trayo SLM-MM Chief Negotiator.  Sudan Tribune

Aquarius Ship to End Migrant Rescues, Say MSF and SOS Méditerranée
MSF (Médecins sans frontières or Doctors Without Borders) and SOS Méditerranée announced in a joint statement that they had “brought an end” to the ship’s rescue operations. The decision was made to wind up the ship’s missions because the Aquarius itself had become a target, explained Françis Vallat, president of SOS Méditerranée, in an interview with France 24 shortly after the announcement. But he vowed that the NGOs would soon “resume our activities”. The ships have rescued thousands of migrants from the Mediterranean as immigration continues to be a hot-button political issue across the European Union. France 24

Morocco Meeting to Adopt UN Migration Pact despite Withdrawals
Representatives from around the globe are gearing up for a major conference in Morocco to endorse a United Nations migration pact, despite a string of countries shunning the accord. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was finalised at the UN in July following 18 months of negotiations and will be formally adopted at the two-day gathering in Marrakesh starting Monday. The non-binding UN accord, which aims to promote a common approach to growing migrant flows, has become a target for populist politicians who denounce it as an affront to national sovereignty. The United States quit negotiations last December, and was followed by Hungary seven months later. Since then, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia and the Dominican Republic have either publicly disavowed the pact or notified the United Nations they are not participating.  AFP

Morocco’s Treatment of African Migrants Draws Scrutiny
Moroccan authorities are using force and committing human rights violations amid efforts to block migrants from crossing into Europe, migrants and rights groups told Al Jazeera. The backdrop: Almost 50,000 of the 54,922 arrivals into Spain this year have been by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration. More than 2,000 people have died in the Mediterranean trying to reach the European country, with over 550 of them having departed from Morocco. The numbers would have been far greater if Morocco had not prevented nearly 70,000 attempts to cross into Spain this year, authorities in the North African country say. Show less “Since 2004, we’ve aborted 500,000 attempts to cross into Europe, mainly via sea, and dismantled around 3,000 networks. We have around 13,000 guards in the north covering around 1,100km. That patrolling is costing Morocco over 200m euros ($228m) annually,” Khalid Zerouali, Morocco’s border control chief, said.  Axios

Algerian Army Seizes 11 Missiles Near Border with Mali
Algerian military discovered a hideout containing 11 missiles near the border with Mali, the Defense Ministry announced Thursday. “After a search operation in Bordj Badji Mokhtar town, an ammunition cache was found containing 11 anti-tank missiles,” said the ministry without disclosing any further details. The operation comes a day after an operation in the same area in which the army uncovered “an ammunition cache containing 20 mortar rounds and 120 kg of ammonium nitrate that is used in explosive manufacturing”. In November, the ministry also announced a cache containing 41 anti-tank missiles in the same border town was found. In recent years, Algeria has mobilized its troops on its southern border with Mali, Niger and the eastern border with Tunisia and Libya to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups and smuggling of arms. Anadolu Agency

Niger Adopts Law to Protect Displaced People in First for Africa
Niger has adopted Africa’s first national law for the protection and assistance of people fleeing violence, floods and droughts, the government and United Nations said on Thursday. The government says there are about 174,000 displaced people in the West African country, mostly in regions where Islamist violence has spilled over from Mali and Nigeria. That figure excludes others who were forced to leave their homes to search for grazing land or water, said Lawan Magagi, Niger’s minister of humanitarian action and disaster management. “The question of sustainable solutions has really guided us … because internal displacement in Niger is becoming more and more recurrent,” Magagi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  Reuters

Kenyan MPs Delay Bill on More Perks after Kenyatta Said He Won’t Sign
The Kenyan parliament has delayed the passage of Parliamentary Service Bill, 2018 that seeks to enhance the perks that members of parliament get, just a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will not sign it. The bill was supposed to have been passed Thursday before the MPs’ long Christmas recess. However, it was not listed as part of the business that was to be transacted by the house. The proposal will likely be considered in February 2019 when the next session begins. President Kenyatta has, at least twice, told off legislators on their quest to increase perks which include house allowances, car loans and insurance covers. […] If the bill becomes law, all 416 MPs, speakers of both houses and majority leaders in both chambers will each be provided with a rent-free house, a government vehicle, an expanded medical cover, travel allowances and an expanded constituency outreach operation. The legislators, however, are already among the best-paid in the world with a Ksh1.2 million ($11,703) salary.  The East African



Photo: Adam Jones