Africa Media Review for February 20, 2019

Uganda’s Ruling Party Endorses Museveni for Sixth-Term Run
Uganda’s ruling party has endorsed President Yoweri Museveni, 74, as its candidate in 2021 elections, which could see him seek re-election for a sixth term, a party resolution said Wednesday. The National Resistance Movement (NRM) called for Museveni to “continue leading the movement and the state in 2021 and beyond to eliminate bottlenecks to transformation.” The resolution was adopted at a retreat for top party officials chaired by Museveni. The move comes after a bill was signed in December 2017 scrapping a presidential age limit of 75, which would have blocked Museveni from running again, sparking demonstrations and an outcry from the opposition which accused the president of seeking to rule for life.  AFP

Death Toll in Last Week’s Nigeria Attack Doubles to 130
The death toll from an attack last week by gunmen in northwestern Nigeria has doubled to more than 130, the Kaduna state governor has said. The attack appeared to have been a deliberate plan to “wipe out certain communities”, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said on Tuesday, without elaborating. Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Abuja, said the increase in death toll was “expected from the beginning” as 130 people had been marked as missing in the aftermath of the attack. Religious unrest key concern in run-up to Nigeria election “The security forces have been combing the area, looking for survivors as well as bodies. They said they found most of the bodies burnt beyond recognition in a ravine,” he said. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Candidates Blame Each Other in Surprise Vote Delay
Nigeria’s top candidates on Saturday condemned the surprise last-minute decision to delay the presidential election for a week until Feb. 23, blaming each other but appealing to Africa’s largest democracy for calm. The decision, announced five hours before polls were to open, is a costly one, with analysts at SBM Intelligence estimating an economic hit of $2 billion, plus a blow to the country’s reputation. Authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched. Electoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu told observers, diplomats and others that the delay had nothing to do with insecurity or political influence. He blamed “very trying circumstances” including bad weather affecting flights and the fires at three commission offices in an apparent “attempt to sabotage our preparations.”  AP

After Buhari’s Ruthless Order, Nigeria Army Uncovers ‘Unholy’ Political Plan
Barely 24-hours after Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said he had given orders for the security forces to be ruthless on ballot box snatchers, the army said on Tuesday that it had uncovered a plot to disrupt the process. “Credible intelligence available to HQ 6 Div NA has uncovered an unholy plan by some political actors within its AOR to arm and sponsor miscreants in addition to using military-like fatigue dress for deception to cause pandemonium at polling stations for their political gain,” the military said on social media. The statement noted that the said incident was in the Niger Delta region. It said there were efforts to track the source of weapons being used in the said operation. Officials were also cautioned against active politicking which was against service rules. Africa News

Nigeria’s Opposition Urges Military to Stay Away from Vote
Nigeria’s top opposition candidate urged the military not to be involved in the upcoming presidential election, saying the army “has no role to play in the conduct” of the poll. Speaking on national television on Tuesday, Atiku Abubakar criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier remarks in which he ordered Nigeria’s security forces to be “ruthless” with those found interfering with the voting process. Buhari warned that anyone who tries to disturb the vote “will do so at the expense of his own life”. Charging that the president’s remarks were “a painful reminder of the era of dictatorship and military rule,” Abubakar on Tuesday also urged the electoral commission “to remain impartial arbiters” of the vote. AP

In Latest Blow to Press Freedom, Egypt Bars, Then Deports New York Times Reporter
Egyptian officials placed a New York Times correspondent in custody after he landed in Cairo on Monday, detaining him for hours without food or water, and then ordered him onto a flight to London, the paper said Tuesday. The expulsion of David D. Kirkpatrick is part of a growing crackdown on journalists by the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who is presiding over what critics describe as the most authoritarian era in Egypt’s modern history. It was unclear why Egyptian security officials barred entry to Kirkpatrick. The paper reported that the government provided no explanation. Kirkpatrick, 48, was the New York Times Cairo bureau chief from 2011 to 2015 and recently wrote a book about Egypt, “Into the Hands of the Soldiers,” that was considered critical of the government.  The Washington Post

Beninese Opposition Demands New Electoral Code
Benin’s opposition has called on Beninese President, Patrice Talon to amend the country’s electoral code before legislative elections in April. The opposition has denounced the complexity of procedures to submit files for candidates. It accuses the government of organizing a charade and called for an immediate meeting of the political class to review electoral laws. At a press conference, the opposition led by former presidents Boni Yayi and Nicéphore Solgo explained that it is difficult to obtain a tax clearance certificate less than three years as part of conditions to submit a file for a candidate. Africa News

Security Forces Free Mali Official from Jihadists
A senior government official in Mali, abducted by suspected jihadists last May, has been freed in a security operation, an official source told AFP Tuesday. Makan Doumbia, the prefect of Tenenkou — a commune in central Mali — “was freed Monday thanks to an action by state security”, or Mali’s intelligence service, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Doumbia, the most senior government representative in the commune, was abducted in the Mopti region on May 8 last year. He is now receiving intensive care in the capital Bamako, said the source, who refused to comment on claims that Doumbia was freed under a prisoner exchange. A son of the official, who declined to give his full name, also confirmed the prefect had been released. VOA

Senegal’s Modernising President Leads Field in Upcoming Election
President Macky Sall is the strong favourite to win Senegal’s election on Sunday, boosted by a modernising first term that propelled economic growth although critics accuse him of jailing his rivals for political gain. Sall, 57, is facing only four contenders in the first round of voting – the smallest presidential field since 1988 – after two of Senegal’s best-known opposition figures were ruled out because of corruption convictions. Rights groups say this represents a crackdown on dissent in a country long seen as West Africa’s most stable democracy, which has seen peaceful transitions of power via the ballot box since independence from France in 1960. But many voters and foreign backers applaud Sall for boosting economic growth to over six percent, one of the highest rates in Africa last year. Reuters

Lack of Oversight at Senegal’s Arabic Schools Raises Radicalisation Concerns (Video)
While Senegal has so far successfully shielded itself from the threat of Islamist extremism, experts warn that gaps remain in the country’s security strategy, most notably in the field of education. Last July, the trial of 30 suspected terrorists shocked the nation and showed that the country is not free of jihadist influence, particularly among youths. In the second of five reports ahead of the country’s presidential election, FRANCE 24’s Sarah Sakho and William de Lesseux report from the northern city of Saint-Louis, where the development of Koranic schools signals the emergence of a more conservative brand of Islam than is usually practised in Senegal. Activists and researchers warn that the lack of oversight of private schooling in Arabic means moderate Muslim groups are being threatened by Salafist undercurrents. France 24

As the UK Debates What to Do with Isis Suspects, One Country Has Taken Back 1,000 ‘Terrorists’
More than 1,000 “terrorists” have returned from conflict zones to Tunisia, according to one of the country’s top security officials. Mokhtar Ben Nasr, head the national counterterrorism commission, said the figure accounts for the number of jihadi suspects who have come back since 2011, according to Mosaique FM radio. The news comes as the UK and other European countries debate how to deal with its citizens who were captured abroad on suspicion of being members of Isis. […] Tunisia has also struggled to find a solution to the issue. The country’s already overcrowded prisons are filling up with convicted terrorists. The president, Beji Caid Essebsi, has in the past floated the idea of a pardon for returning jihadists, but the idea was met with fierce opposition and protests. Following the return earlier this month of four ”extremely dangerous terrorists” – in the words of a court spokesperson – security officials have been forced to defend the policy of bringing them home.  The Independent

UN: Fighting, Instability Have Displaced 100,000 in Burkina Faso
More than 100,000 people have been displaced by factional fighting and lawlessness in Burkina Faso, most within the past two months, according to a U.N. report published Tuesday. “Burkina Faso is, for the first time in its history, facing massive internal displacement,” the report said. “Repeated raids by armed groups and insecurity in the regions of Centre-Nord, Nord and Sahel have also triggered an unprecedented humanitarian emergency.” The government and humanitarian groups had begun a $100 million aid plan to help 900,000 people, it said. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa that borders the Sahel region countries of Niger and Mali to the north where militant groups, some linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State, have carried out attacks for years.  VOA

South Sudan to Deduct from Civil Servants’ Salaries — but Salaries Aren’t Being Paid
The government of South Sudan says that beginning in March, it will deduct one day’s salary from civil servants’ paychecks each month to help pay for implementation of the peace deal aimed at ending the country’s civil war. Some observers are skeptical about how that will work, however. Most civil servants haven’t been paid for months. Garang De Mabior Garang, a senior member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO), a group that signed the peace deal, says the government’s announcement mocks the public’s intelligence. “As we all know, workers are not paid on time as the situation currently stands, with government workers going more than six months without salaries and many of our foreign missions facing eviction. It begs the question; what salaries does the regime intend to cut?” Mabior asked in a statement. VOA

DR Congo Charges Key ‘Witness’ over UN Experts’ Murder
Military prosecutors in DR Congo say they have charged a key “witness” with conspiracy to murder over the 2017 killing of two UN experts in the war-torn central Kasai region. The experts – Zaida Catalan, a 36-year-old Swedish-Chilean national, and American Michael Sharp, 34 – were investigating mass graves associated with a rebellion on behalf of the UN Security Council when they were abducted and killed on March 12. Kinshasa initially blamed the murder on members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia, who embarked upon a campaign of armed violence after troops killed their leader in August 2016. But there have been growing questions about the possible role of state agents in organising the attack, which have intensified with the arrest and indictment of Jean Bosco Mukanda, a local teacher who used to be a militia leader. AFP

Burundi Calls for Urgent Summit over Amisom Troops Pullout
President Pierre Nkurunziza has called for the African Union to urgently convene a meeting of the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to review the decision to withdrawal its soldiers. The President made the remarks after a closed door meeting between President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia at State House Bujumbura on Tuesday. President Farmajo was in Burundi for a two-day State visit accompanied by a delegation that included his minister of defence and the Somalia National Army (SNA) chief of staff. “There is a decision which was taken by the peace and security council of AU which we Burundians didn’t welcome and we know Somalia wasn’t pleased with it. That’s why we have called for an urgent summit so as the decision can be reconsidered,” President Nkurunziza said during a press briefing. The East African

Millers: Zimbabwe to Run Out of Bread in One Week
Zimbabwe could run out of bread in a week after flour stocks dwindled due to the country’s failure to pay for imported wheat, according to a confidential letter written to bakers by the country’s grain millers’ group on Monday. The southern African nation is in the grip of a severe shortage of U.S. dollars that has sapped supplies of fuel and drugs, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa struggles to live up to pre-election promises to quickly revive the troubled economy. Zimbabwe imports wheat, which it blends with its local crop to make flour for bread, the country’s second major staple after maize meal. The Grain Millers Association (GMAZ) general manager Lynette Veremu wrote to the National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) to tell them the country not pay for 55,000 tons of wheat in bonded warehouses in Mozambique and Harare. VOA

Zimbabwe Gets a Reprieve as EU Decides on No Further Sanctions – for Now
A council meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers on Monday resolved not to extend sanctions against any individuals in Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. However, a spokesperson for the EU said, the decision could be reviewed should the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorate any further. “This decision was taken in light of our objective to encourage the rule of law as set out in Zimbabwe’s constitution. We have seen a crackdown against demonstrators in January and the disproportionate use of force by the authorities, that called into question this commitment. The key question is to understand whether the old system has been dismantled … or it remains in place under a different leadership. “All decisions on listings including new listings can be swiftly adopted if the situation requires it. We are monitoring the situation very closely and stand ready to adjust our decision,” said the EU spokesperson. Times Live

In Libya, Hard Economic Times Force Migrant Workers to Look Elsewhere
The well-worn description of migrants in Libya is of desperate people trapped in hellish detention centres trying to get to Europe. But many come for work, and some return multiple times despite the dangers posed by people smugglers, armed gangs, or merciless employers. After years of civil conflict and political mismanagement, oil-rich Libya is on the verge of economic collapse. It can hardly look after its own financially struggling citizens, let alone its migrant workforce, who have become vulnerable to extortion, kidnapping, and other abuses. Philip Badou, a Ghanaian pastor who has lived in Tripoli for the past 25 years and has a mostly migrant congregation there, said Libya’s downward spiral has made life so bad for migrant workers that some longtime residents of the capital are leaving. IRIN

Mozambique Scrambles to Contain Debt Fallout as Vote Looms
Mozambique’s government is scrambling to contain the fallout from a U.S. investigation into the country’s $2 billion hidden-debt scandal, ordering a series of high-profile arrests in the past week. The detentions signal concern among Mozambican authorities that the U.S. probe may reveal more corruption by ruling Frelimo party officials as they prepare to compete in general elections in October. Those arraigned so far include the ex-head of intelligence and a son of former president and high-ranking Frelimo official Armando Guebuza. The investigation and prosecution by the U.S. attorney general is the biggest crisis for Frelimo since multiparty elections started in 1994, Darias Jonker, Africa director at Eurasia Group, said by email. Although it is unlikely that former President Armando Guebuza will himself be arrested and prosecuted, the detention of his son shows how desperate Frelimo is to contain the crisis.  Bloomberg

Uganda’s Social Media Tax Has Led to a Drop in Internet and Mobile Money Users
Uganda’s social media tax has proved to be detrimental to both its internet and mobile money sectors. In the three months following the introduction of the levy in July 2018, there was a noted decline in the number of internet users, total revenues collected, as well as mobile money transactions. In a series of tweets, the Uganda Communications Commission noted internet subscription declined by more than 2.5 million users, while the sum of taxpayers from over-the-top (OTT) media services decreased by more than 1.2 million users. The value of mobile money transactions also fell by 4.5 trillion Ugandan shillings ($1.2 million). “The decline in the amount of business could partly be explained by the introduction of mobile money tax,” the regulator said. Quartz

Tanzania Jails Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ for 15 Years
A Dar es Salaam court on Tuesday sentenced a Chinese woman dubbed the “Ivory Queen” to 15 years in prison for her role in illegal ivory trade. Yang Fenglan, 69, was convicted for trafficking 706 elephant tusks worth $2.5 million between 2000 and 2014. She has been sentenced alongside two Tanzanian men – Salvius Matembo and Philemon Manase. Ms Fenglan had been charged with leading one of Africa’s biggest ivory smuggling rings, responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of elephants. “The prosecution proved the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Huruma Shaidi told the court. Wildlife campaigners have called it one of the most important cases for several years.  AP



Photo: Adam Jones