Africa Media Review for February 14, 2019

EU Blacklists Nigeria, Libya over Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing
The European Commission added Saudi Arabia, Panama, Nigeria and other jurisdictions to a blacklist of nations that pose a threat because of lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering, the EU executive said on Wednesday. “The European Commission adopted today a list of 23 third countries with weak rules against money laundering and terrorism financing. I would like first to explain the context and our main objectives. “The EU must not be a destination for illicit money. The EU financial system must not serve as a vehicle for money laundering and must not serve as an instrument for financing crime including terrorism,” said Vera Jourova, EU commissioner for justice and gender equality. Africa News

Sudan Unions Call for March on Presidential Palace
An umbrella of Sudanese independent professional unions is calling on people to march on the presidential palace in the capital, Khartoum, to demand autocratic President Omar Bashir step down. The umbrella, which enjoys the support of opposition parties, says the march will take place on Thursday. Previous marches to the palace witnessed clashes with police who used tear gas and batons to disperse protesters. Sudan’s main opposition groups appeared in a joint press conference on Wednesday, their first since this wave of unrest erupted in December to call for an end to al-Bashir three-decade rule. They called for a four-year transitional government followed by elections. The protests in Sudan began initially over surging prices and a failing economy, but quickly turned into calls for al-Bashir’s resignation.  AP

Activists: Sudan Police Arrest 14 Academics in Protests
Sudan’s security forces arrested more than a dozen academics who joined a protest outside Khartoum University in the Sudanese capital, calling for embattled President Omar al-Bashir to step down, activists said Wednesday. They said police arrested at least 14 academics while protesting Tuesday. Their whereabouts remained unknown, they added. The activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in different Sudanese cities including the capital, Khartoum. Video footage showed demonstrators gathering at intersections chanting “just fall,” and calling for a “people’s revolution.”  AP

Under-Fire Bashir Vows Peace Push for Sudan War Zones
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has faced weeks of protests against his three-decade rule, pledged to promote peace in the country’s war zones in an address to paramilitary units on Wednesday. “I assure you that the year 2019 will be the year of peace in Sudan,” the president told members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a paramilitary unit that has been widely used to fight longstanding rebellions in Darfur and in regions near the South Sudan border. “We want to keep our guns completely silent,” said Bashir, wearing military uniform. His remarks came weeks after he extended ceasefires in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where troops and paramilitaries have been battling rebels with pre-independence links to South Sudan. “We want you to go to the war zones, not for fighting but for building schools and health centres,” Bashir said.  AFP

13 Civilians, 7 Soldiers Killed during Fresh Clashes in South Sudan’s Equatoria: NAS
Clashes between South Sudanese army and National Salvation Front (NAS) fighters resulted in the death of 13 civilians and 7 soldiers, said a statement released by the spokesperson of the rebel group on Tuesday The security situation in the Central Equatoria has now deteriorated to the point that region returned to war as before the signing of the revitalized peace agreement. Repeated clashes have become the rule. As a result of the recent clashes in the Yei River State, some 13000 civilians fled their villages. About 5000 people crossed the border to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo while the 8000 moved to Yei town. In a statement about the fighting during the last five days, NAS’s spokesperson Suba Samuel Manase said the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) attacked their positions around Wudabi and Lujulo in Morobo areas of Yei River State on 8 and 9 February.  Sudan Tribune

Kamto Rebellion Charge Deepens Cameroon Crisis
Cameroon’s main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, has been charged in a military court with rebellion and other offences, his lawyers have said. The former government minister was arrested in Douala on 28 January after his MRC party organised protests contesting last October’s election result. France says it is “worried” by the charges. Kamto faces charges including “hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offense against the president of the republic, destruction of public buildings and goods.” If found guilty, he could face the death penalty, his lawyers said Wednesday. The opposition leader, who says he was cheated out of the presidency in elections last year, was transferred to a prison in the capital Yaounde during the night by a military court. RFI

Cameroon: Thousands of Nigerian Refugees Flee Boko Haram Attacks (video)
Thousands of Nigerian citizens have been forced to flee their homes as radical Islamist group Boko Haram wreak havoc in the northeast of Nigeria. Many have crossed the border, into Cameroon. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking re-election on Saturday 16th February. He came to power in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram.  AFP

Algeria’s Bouteflika Dismisses National Police Chief
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika dismissed national police chief Mustapha Lahbiri on Wednesday, the interior ministry said in a statement that gave no reason for the move. Bouteflika had named Lahbiri to the post in June 2018, replacing Abdelghani Hamel, who had been in the post for eight years and was also fired without reasons provided. Analysts and local media linked Hamel’s removal to the seizure of 701 kg of cocaine at the western port of Oran at the end of May, and the handling of the subsequent investigation. The statement said Abdelkader Kara Bouhadja, hitherto director of the judicial police, would take over from Lahbiri.  Reuters

Nigeria: Deadly Attack on Borno Governor’s Election Convoy
At least four people were on Wednesday reported to have died in the ambush, but state governor Stettima — who is campaigning for a seat in Nigeria’s Senate — escaped the ambush unhurt. Shettima had returned to Borno state’s capital Maiduguri, the French news agency AFP said, although fears remained for numerous abducted supporters. Amaq, Islamic State’s communications channel, claimed a Boko Haram breakaway faction had killed 42 people during Tuesday’s attack near the town of Dikwa, inside Nigeria’s northeastern border with Cameroon. However, government sources on Wednesday put the ambush toll at between four and ten killed, including two soldiers.  Deutsche Welle

Nigeria Tribunal Issues Arrest Warrant for Top Judge before Elections
A tribunal on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for Nigeria’s suspended chief judge for failing to appear for trial over alleged breaches of asset declaration rules, days before Saturday’s presidential election. The ‘code of conduct tribunal’ had ordered chief judge Walter Onnoghen to appear for trial on Wednesday. The tribunal issued the warrant for Onnoghen to appear on Feb. 15. “The inspector general of police is hereby ordered to arrest and bring the defendant to court unfailingly on the next sitting of the court on Friday,” Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Danladi Umar said.  Reuters

Nigeria’s Election: Young Voters, Old Candidates
Two men in their 70s are contesting a Nigerian presidential election in which half the registered voters are aged between 18 and 35. Both are familiar faces. It is the fifth election campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, who was a military ruler in the 1980s, and the fourth for main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, 72, who was vice president from 1999 to 2007. It means Saturday’s vote offers little hope of change for young people in a country where nearly a quarter of the workforce is unemployed – a source of frustration that has the potential to spill over into violence. “I should be happy, but I’m not happy because the two candidates aren’t what I expected,” said Dorcas Nathaniel, a student in the capital, Abuja, who planned to vote for the first time. Reuters

Pollsters Set the Stage for Crucial Nigerian Elections
Undecided voters hold the key to Nigeria’s Presidential elections, according to latest opinion surveys. Polling agencies are painting a rare picture of Nigerian politics as Africa’s largest democracy goes to the polls to elect a President, a Vice President and a National Assembly. Up to four surveys predicting a comfortable win for President Buhari are making headlines in the country’s top dailies. One study sponsored by the ANAP Foundation found out that a solid one-third of the Nigerian electorate nation-wide expressed their intention to back Buhari’s bid for a second term. But the researchers warn the incumbent that while his main challenger Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party is trailing in all the polls, undecided voters are concentrated outside the ruling party’s bastions in the North-East and North-West. RFI

Zimbabwe Gov’t Approves Repeal of Draconian Media Law
The Zimbabwean government has approved the repeal of the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which is seen as one of the relics of a media crackdown by former president Robert Mugabe’s government.Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the highly unpopular AIPPA would be replaced by three legal instruments — the Access to Information Bill, the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Protection of Personal Information/Data Protection Bill. “Cabinet noted that the proposed amendment is in fulfilment of the requirement to align the country’s laws to the Constitution and to deepen the country’s democratic processes and accordingly approved the principles,” Mutsvangwa told journalists during a post-cabinet briefing on Tuesday night. She said the proposed laws to replace AIPPA would be tabled before parliament during the course of the year.  APA

Zim Opposition Welcomes Firmer Stance from US against Army Violence
The Nelson Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Wednesday welcomed the US government’s call for “a neutral third party” to preside over dialogue between Zimbabwe’s political rivals. The US issued a strong statement on Tuesday, in which it condemned the violence that broke out last month and the heavy-handed response from security forces that followed. Deputy government spokesperson Robert Palladino said the US wants soldiers accused of rape and torture during the crackdown to be tried for their crimes. “The US remains seriously concerned about the excessive use of force by government of Zimbabwe security forces since January 14, which has resulted in at least 13 deaths, 600 victims of violence, torture or rape, and more than 1,000 arrests,” he said in a statement.  Times Live

Amisom to Close Somalia Bases, Change Fighting Tactic
The African Union troops in Somalia will close some of their forward operating bases (FoBs) at the end of the month when further reduction of 1,000 soldiers is implemented. The second phase of reduction was supposed to be implemented in December last year on the orders of the UN. The first reduction of the troops was in December 2017. The UN Security Council wants Amisom to gradually handover the national security to the Somali National Army by 2020 but Amisom says the reduction of its troops leaves a security vacuum because the Somali army has not developed capacity to deploy in areas from where they withdraw.  As a result of the impending forces reduction, commanders from countries with troops in Somalia are meeting in Mogadishu to draw a plan called Concept of Operations (CONOPS) on how to maintain their effective presence in the country to stop the al-Shabaab militants from taking advantage. Daily Monitor

Somalia Readies for Oil Exploration, Still Working on Petroleum Law
The Somali government says it will award exploration licenses to foreign oil companies later this year, despite calls from the opposition to wait until laws and regulations governing the oil sector are in place. Seismic surveys conducted by two British companies, Soma Oil & Gas and Spectrum Geo, suggest that Somalia has promising oil reserves along the Indian Ocean coast, between the cities of Garad and Kismayo. Total offshore deposits could be as high as 100 billion barrels. The government says it will accept bids for exploration licenses on November 7, and the winners will be informed immediately. It says production-sharing agreements will be signed on December 9, with the agreements going into effect on January 1, 2020. VOA

Alleged Torture Case Renews Focus on Russian Military Contractors in Central Africa
When a crowd in Bambari, in the Central African Republic, accused Mahamat Nour Mamadou of belonging to a militia group tied to the country’s previous regime, the consequences were swift and harsh. Soldiers whisked Mamadou away to a nearby town hall, where he was questioned, and then to a base, where he was tortured for five days. Mamadou told the AFP news agency that soldiers choked him with a chain, slashed his back with a knife and sliced off one of his fingers. Evidence of the abuse he endured appeared in an internal United Nations report circulated last month. Government-sanctioned torture isn’t unusual in conflict-scarred countries where authoritarian regimes fear popular uprisings and armed rebels. What makes Mamadou’s case unique is the group he says tortured him: Russian soldiers. VOA