Africa Media Review for February 15, 2019

‘It’s Not Getting Better’: Nigeria Braces for Election Day as Frustrations Boil
The seven sewing machines were quiet at Diamonds Empire on a recent morning. The blades of a standing fan were still. Adama Daniel sat behind the front desk of the dark, stuffy tailor shop and moped. The blackout in the neighborhood not far from the capital had started nearly 28 hours earlier. Customers were waiting on suits, dresses and a tiger-print miniskirt. Mr. Daniel was contemplating firing up his generator, but that would cut into his profit margins. In 2015 when he cast a ballot for president, Mr. Daniel, who is 29, thought he would be in a better place by now. He had bounded into a polling station to throw his support behind Muhammadu Buhari, who seemed bursting with ideas to grow the country’s lackluster economy. Mr. Daniel was elated when his candidate won. Finally, he thought, the country was on the right path. Adama Daniel, right, with a customer at his Diamond Empire store. He had four years and couldn’t do anything, said Mr. Daniel of the president. Another four years won’t make a difference. Now, with a presidential election set for Saturday, any economic gains of the past four years are far from evident in Mr. Daniel’s daily life.  The New York Times

In Nigeria, Election Spectacle at Odds with Rampant Poverty
[…] On the eve of Nigeria’s election on Saturday, the spectacle of campaign expenditure is at odds with the rampant poverty afflicting many. The lack of campaigning in this impoverished area contrasts with the election-time bustle of downtown Abuja, where the capital’s tree-lined streets are adorned with colorful posters of presidential candidates and where their followers are ferried in buses to boisterous events. It also highlights the frustration many of Nigeria’s poor feel amid an election campaign said to be one of the country’s most expensive ever as incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari tries to shake off the challenge of his billionaire rival, Atiku Abubakar. Although there are legal limits to how much a presidential candidate can spend — one billion naira, or about $2.7 million — the campaigns of Buhari and Abubakar are widely believed to have spent far in excess of that, often with the support of groups that donate huge amounts of cash as well as gifts.  AP

Nigeria ‘Delta Avengers’ Militants Vow to Cripple Economy If Buhari Re-Elected
A militant group in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Niger Delta threatened on Thursday to cripple Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy if President Muhammadu Buhari is re-elected in a vote due to be held on Saturday. The Niger Delta Avengers – who have been demanding a greater share of the oil revenue produced in the impoverished southern region – said in a statement they hoped to end Buhari’s rule through elections and that opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar was their preferred choice for president. Buhari faces a tight contest against Atiku, a business and ex-vice president, in Saturday’s election in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest democracy.  Reuters

Nigeria: The Challenges of Registering to Vote
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has three administrative building complexes in the capital Abuja. Everybody working there is very busy. Next month, 84 million Nigerians are called upon to elect a new president and parliament. State parliaments and gubernatorial elections will take place two weeks later. Sitting in his office in the capital, INEC’s deputy spokesperson Aliyu M. Bello is happy with the way things are going. “The commission is ready. It has been engaging with critical stakeholders and prepared the voters’ list. So far arrangements for everything pertaining to the 2019 election are excellent,” Bello told DW. Preparations for the elections are an enormous logistical challenge. The number of registered voters is the highest ever. 774 districts will host almost 120,000 polling stations. All of them will have to be provided with material and personnel in time for election day.  Deutsche Welle

Facebook Allowed Fake News Ads Ahead of Nigeria Vote
Facebook’s automated ad approval system can be tricked fairly easily, making it possible to buy ads to spread misinformation and fake news in advance of the Nigeria elections, an Al Jazeera investigation has found. Last month, Facebook said it would temporarily disallow political ads targeting Nigeria from being purchased outside the country in an attempt to prevent foreign influence in the February 16 elections. The ads Al Jazeera was able to get Facebook to approve included a false claim that armed group Boko Haram would take part in the elections. Other claims included US President Donald Trump voicing his support for opposition leader Atiku Abubakar, the deadline for collection of personal voter cards in Nigeria being extended by a week, and thousands of Nigerian refugees getting a voting extension after the February 16 election date.  Al Jazeera

Egyptian MPs Back Changes That Could Keep Sisi in Power until 2034
The Egyptian parliament on Thursday approved in principle proposed constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2034 and boost his control of the judiciary. Parliament Speaker Ali Abdelaal said that 485 MPs of the 596-seat assembly voted in favour of the changes, comprising more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass the amendments. The proposed changes will now go for a review in a parliamentary committee and then return to parliament for a second vote before they are presented for a national referendum expected before the middle of the year.  Reuters

Is Uganda’s Museveni Grooming His Son to Be Commander-in-Chief?
Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni last week promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba to the rank of Lieutenant General, which is the second highest rank in the country’s army. Muhoozi’s promotion from the rank of Major General, which he had held for nearly three years, was part of over 2,000 promotions confirmed by the president, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). “The President and Commander in Chief of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces has confirmed the promotions of 2,031 UPDF personnel to various ranks,’‘ read part of a statement issued by the defence spokesperson. Africa News

More than 1,200 Killed in Mali Last Year, Says Report
A political party in Mali that monitors security says more than 1,200 people died in violence last year. Tiebile Drame, head of the Parena party, released the 2018 figures Thursday adding that among the dead were 697 civilians, 85 Malian soldiers and four soldiers from international forces. The spokesman for Mali’s Minister of Internal Security, Amadou Sangho, disputed the figures, saying they were exaggerated although many had died. Mali’s extremist violence started in the north and since 2015 has spread to central Mali, a hotbed of tension where Mali’s army is facing attacks by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida. Insecurity since 2017 has also grown to include intercommunal conflict. Ethnic groups including the Fulani are accused of supporting extremists, while others are believed to be loyal to Mali’s army. AP

Libya Dreams of Mega Port in History-Laden East
A white foundation stone next to a deserted beach near the soporific Libyan port of Susah is all to show for a seven-year dream to build one of North Africa’s biggest ports. Yet officials say Libya is now in final talks to award a U.S. firm a $1.5 billion (1.17 billion pounds) deal to set up a “mega port” intended to transform the picturesque coast where families go for picnics into a vast container hub. Texas-based security firm Guidry Group confirmed to Reuters it planned to sign a 35-year deal to build and operate the project in a region once occupied by the ancient Greeks, before handing it back to the local authority.  Reuters

Map: Interference with Humanitarian Work in South Sudan
A total of 35 access incidents were recorded in South Sudan in January, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) involved violence against aid workers and assets, a UN agency said. This represents a reduction in incidents as compared to the 2018 monthly average of 52 per cent. A map published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), available for download below, shows that the majority of access incidents occurred in Ulang, Yei, Wau, Juba, Rubkona, Fangak and Nasir areas.  “State civilian authorities and criminals or unknown perpetrators were responsible for half of all access incidents, “the UN agency said. OCHA further said 11 incidents were significant in severity, including the detention and relocation of staff, commandeering of vehicles and convoy blockages. Radio Tamazuj

Sudan: Media Coverage of Protests Stifled by Arrests and Targeting of Newspapers
A crackdown on the media in Sudan is hitting press coverage of the continuing protests against President Omar al-Bashir and his government, according to Reporters Without Borders. The press freedom watchdog said on Wednesday that almost 80 journalists have been arrested since the start of protests in December and the authorities are increasingly confiscating newspapers in order to financially cripple publishers. “The ultimate objective is evidently to economically stifle the press,” said Arnaud Froger, head of the Africa programme at Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Confiscating newspapers is not only part of a strategy to limit coverage of the demonstrations against Bashir, but is intended to further suffocate the media financially, according to Froger. Some 63 newspapers have been confiscated by the Sudanese security forces since the start of the protests in December, he said, referring to both copies of newspapers being confiscated and action to stop newspapers going to the printing presses in the first place.  RFI

Can France Ever Leave Africa? Airstrikes in Chad Raise an Old Question
[…] French analysts have been sharply critical of the intervention in Chad.“How can we convince the Europeans to have a decent policy in Africa, when we do this in Chad?” asked Roland Marchal, a leading expert on the country at Sciences Po university.“France is promoting this discourse on jihadist movements, that they spring from bad governance and human rights violations. But if you look at Chad, you have exactly the same thing,” Mr. Marchal said. “With such good friends, why do you need enemies?”Every French president for decades has repeatedly proclaimed the end of French interference in Africa, referred to with disdain by critics as “Francafrique,” a hydra-headed entanglement of commercial, military and political interests, with France pulling the strings. Mr. Macron is no exception. His government was outraged recently when Italy’s populist leaders mocked France for what they called the perpetuation of its colonial relationship with Africa. France, Mr. Macron declared to bemused students in a landmark speech in Burkina Faso in 2017, “no longer has an Africa policy.” The New York Times

Kenyan Court Sentences Police Officer to Death for Killing Detainee
A Kenyan court on Thursday sentenced a former senior police officer to death for killing a detainee in his custody, one of the harshest punishments over widespread police brutality in the East African country. Activists have long accused Kenyan police of using excessive force with little risk of being charged or convicted. A police oversight authority set up in 2011 ended virtual police impunity and fostered prosecutions for abuses. Nahashon Mutua, a former senior police officer, was convicted on Dec. 13 of the murder of Martin Koome, who was found dead in a cell at a Nairobi police station where Mutua was in charge back in 2013. […] The baby’s parents said the infant was teargassed and clubbed by police who invaded their home in Kisumu hunting for protesters after a disputed presidential election in August. Reuters

The Fight between Miners and African Governments Is Just Getting Started
Standing before hundreds of mining investors and executives last week, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo issued a firm warning: stop expecting supercharged profits from Africa’s mineral riches. Its a theme that has simmered for years, as governments across the continent seek a bigger share of benefits from their natural resources. The debate ratcheted up in 2018, with countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, the continents No. 1 and 2 copper producers becoming increasingly insistent that producers must pay up. There’s also been a backlash against the terms under which foreign companies agreed to invest in the first place. Many mining codes, investment pacts and joint ventures were drawn up based on lower commodity prices and by previous regimes. In his Cape Town speech, Akufo-Addo said African nations shouldn’t be expected to give special financial incentives to secure investment that producers wouldn’t get in other parts of the world.  Bloomberg

The Heartbreaking Plight of Zimbabwe’s Doctors
It seems like gloves, needles, painkillers and water should be standard stock in any hospital. But they’re not in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s hopes for economic change after the November 2017 ouster of President Robert Mugabe, followed by the swearing-in of the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, have not been realized. With an annual inflation rate of 290 percent, Zimbabwe’s economy continues to decline, and the tremors are felt everywhere: Long lines outside banks and fuel stations mark the urban landscape as people wait for money and gas, and health care facilities are not able to stock what they need. Doctors have been pressing the government for change — including through strikes — demanding better salaries, needed supplies and functioning medical equipment. In public hospitals, doctors are working in arduous conditions, forcing some to operate with their bare hands, at worst, and nonsterile gloves, at best, when essential supplies run out. NPR

Cameroon’s Biya Turns 86; Critics Say It’s Time for Change
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya Wednesday celebrated his 86th birthday with supporters organizing lavish parties and opponents calling on him to resign. Biya is the oldest president in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the longest-serving, but critics say his long rule has put the country in a bad position. Supporters of Biya wished him a happy birthday Wednesday at a party attended by thousands in the capital, Yaounde. Fadimatou Iyawa Ousmanou, president of Cameroon’s National Youth Council, said they bussed in Biya’s young supporters from all over the country to show respect and gratitude.  VOA

Nearly 1,000 Madagascar Children Dead of Measles since October – WHO
At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite a huge emergency vaccination programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. The number of deaths is based on official numbers, but these are likely to be very incomplete, as is the current total of infections, at 66,000, Dr. Katrina Kretsinger of WHO’s expanded programme on immunisation told a news briefing. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause complications including blindness and brain swelling and increase susceptibility to other diseases. The Indian Ocean island is among Africa’s poorest countries, and in 2017 only 58 percent of the population had been vaccinated against measles. The lack of a big outbreak since 2003 also means many have had no chance to develop immunity.  Reuters

Nuclear Tests in Algeria Sahara Desert: France Called upon to Assume Its Responsibilities
[…] The conference was organized by the El-Moudjahid daily forum, in coordination with the “Machaâl Echahid” Association, on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the French nuclear tests in Algeria. Head of the Association of 13 February 1960, El-Hamel Bounaama called for the “immediate and serious treatment of the waste resulting from these nuclear tests,” adding that this “responsibility falls on France’s shoulders which still keeps the maps of these tests” he dubbed a “human continuing tragedy.” The speaker also called for “scientific surveys” to be conducted so to determine the illnesses and diseases caused by those tests. Those surveys would “enable the doctors to look for appropriate therapies, notably the registration of “cases with different types of cancer” and “the difficult diagnosis of many other diseases caused by those tests.” Historian Zeghidi Mohamed Lahcene lectured the conference about the French tests which are according to him the “most important tests the world has ever experienced.”  Algeria Press Service



Photo: Adam Jones