Africa Media Review for February 22, 2019

Withdrawal of 1,000 Burundian Soldiers from Somalia Begins
An official in Burundi says the withdrawal of 1,000 Burundian soldiers from the African Union regional force in Somalia has begun. The military official in Burundi, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said Thursday that about 200 soldiers boarded a flight from Somalia to Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, in the afternoon. More soldiers are expected to be flown back from Burundi in the coming weeks. The African Union says it plans to withdraw the 21,500 troops that it has in Somalia by the end of 2020. The AU force, made up of soldiers from several African countries, has for years tried to secure the Horn of Africa country against the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab.  AP

Nigeria Rallies Disillusioned Voters after Postponed Polls
Nigerian politicians and businesses have begun introducing measures to encourage people to vote in this weekend’s rescheduled presidential and parliamentary elections. The country’s electoral commission delayed the vote just five hours before polls were due to open across Nigeria last Saturday, citing “logistical reasons.” Nigerians can only cast their ballots at polling units in the area where they initially registered, and as a result, there have been concerns over low voter turnout because people who traveled last week may be unwilling (or able to afford) to make another trip to their polling unit after a wasted journey last week. The Nigerian government has declared the eve of the elections a public holiday, with the exception of bankers and essential service providers. The holiday is to enable citizens prepare for the election, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement Wednesday, according to local media reports.  CNN

Dozens Killed in Clashes between Nigeria Villagers and ‘Bandits’
At least 59 “bandits” were killed by a civilian defence force when they attacked a village in northwest Nigeria, security officials and locals said. Local reports said the death toll could be even higher, after a local government official said 15 other bandits were killed in the nearby village of Danmarke, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday. “We killed 59 of the bandits and we lost seven men in the fight, which lasted for almost four hours,” Bube Shehu, a resident of Danjibga village in Zamfara state, said of the clashes on Wednesday. Shehu’s account was backed by a military officer in the state but there was no immediate corroboration from police.  Al Jazeera

Guns, Religion and Climate Change Intensify Nigeria’s Deadly Farmer-Herder Clashes
The fragile security in Nigeria, set to become the world’s third-most populous country by 2050, has been a central theme in the run-up to national elections scheduled for Feb. 23 after a weeklong delay. President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani former military leader who was elected in 2015, has failed to stop the violence in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt, a swath of states riven by the long-simmering conflict between farmers and herders. Nor has he stamped out the Islamist Boko Haram group that still stages regular attacks in the northeast — a broken election promise that critics, including his chief opponent in the presidential race, Atiku Abubakar, often point out. In the farmer-herder conflict, nearly 2,000 people were killed last year alone in attacks and counter-attacks, according to Amnesty International. Farmers and cattle herders have clashed over land for as long as most people can remember in Kaduna. But they’re coming into increased proximity due to climate change.  Los Angeles Times

Senegal’s Jobless Youth Voice Grievances Ahead of Presidential Vote (Video)
With one in two job seekers aged under 35, youth unemployment has emerged as a sensitive issue in Senegal’s election campaign. Economic growth has risen threefold under incumbent President Macky Sall, who is seeking a second term in Sunday’s vote. But many young voters say growth has failed to translate into work prospects. And, surprisingly, the hardest hit are often the most qualified. Young voters feature prominently in the campaign pledges put forward by Sall and his four challengers, all of whom have vowed to slash youth unemployment. In the last of five reports on Senegal’s election, FRANCE 24’s Sarah Sakho and William de Lesseux visit the northern city of Saint-Louis and the University of Dakar, in the Senegalese capital, to take young voters’ pulse ahead of the election.  France 24

Congo Police Executed 27 in Anti-Gang Operation – Human Rights Watch
An international rights group on Thursday accused Congolese police of summarily executing at least 27 people, some of whom were bound, strangled and mutilated in a crackdown on gangs in the capital Kinshasa last year. Police in Democratic Republic of Congo denied the allegations in a report by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report, based on interviews with nearly 80 witnesses, victims’ family members, security officials and others, adds to allegation that Kinshasa police executed suspected gang members. President Felix Tshisekedi, who was sworn in last month, has vowed to clean up human rights abuses by Congo’s security forces that he frequently criticised during the tenure of his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.  Reuters

Amnesty Jabs Cameroon Govt: Military Trial of Civilians ‘Horrifying’
International Rights group, Amnesty International, AI, have described the insurrection charge slapped on Cameroon opposition chief as horrifying, accusing Yaounde of being less tolerant of criticism. In a statement issued today (February 21), AI stressed that it was a clear violation of basic human rights to continue putting civilians before military courts. Kamto appeared before the Yaounde court today, his second appearance since he was arrested in late January 2019. Reports indicate that the case has been adjourned till February 26. “It is horrifying that the Cameroonian authorities are considering sentencing Maurice Kamto to death simply for daring to participate in a peaceful protest. “He is one of many people who have been caught up in a wave of mass arrests as authorities attempt to silence their critics,” said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa regional director.  Africa News

UN: Central African Republic Peace Deal May Be Turning Point
The peace agreement signed earlier this month by the Central African Republic’s government and 14 rebel groups “could be a turning point” in the history of the conflict-torn country despite persistent dangers, the U.N. envoy for the impoverished nation said Thursday. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga told the U.N. Security Council that there is reason “to rejoice” at the first agreement reached in face-to-face negotiations, but cautioned “we must be vigilant because the situation remains grave.” “We all know — Central Africans first and foremost — that this is just a first step,” he said. “The most difficult lies before us. The true test will be the comprehensive, implementation in good faith of the agreement.” Onanga-Anyanga, in his last briefing to the council before stepping down, urged all parties “to scrupulously honor all their commitments” and engage in dialogue — not violence.  AP

Kenya Says Somalia Misleading World in Offshore Oil Row
Kenya said Somalia is misleading prospective investors by offering to sell four offshore oil blocks in an area that is subject to court proceedings in an ownership dispute between the two countries.The horn-of-Africa country had earlier denied the allegations. It said while maps it presented at a conference in London last week included territory that Somalia claims, its government wont take any unilateral action on the area pending a ruling on the matter it took to the United Nations International Court of Justice in 2014. The presentations had critical dates and schedule for the process to be concluded in September, Kenya Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Monica Juma told reporters Thursday in the capital, Nairobi. The federal government of Somalia is deliberately misleading the world, she said.  Bloomberg

Sudan Government Arrests Opposition Leaders Ahead of Protest
A Sudanese opposition party says more than 10 opposition leaders have been arrested ahead of the latest day of protests urging President Omar al-Bashir to resign. In a statement, the Sudanese Congress Party says security forces “pre-empted” demonstrations by arresting the deputy head of the Umma Party, Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi; the party’s Secretary-General Sara Naqdallah; Communist Party leader Mokhtar al-Khatib, and others. Later, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds who had gathered to march, near the Arab Market area in Khartoum. Sudan has been rocked by a wave of protests since December calling on al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, to step down. Activists say at least 57 people have been killed, but the government tally stands at 30. VOA

A Sign of Thaw in Uganda, Rwanda Relations?
Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Oliver Wonekha, paid a courtesy call on Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Richard Sezibera in Kigali on Thursday, a move seen to signal the intent to ease tension that has threatened to severe relations. Ties between the two neighbouring countries have soared in recent years with both Kampala and Kigali accusing each other of espionage. A recent United Nations report citing Uganda as harbouring rebels opposed to President Paul Kagame’s government put further strain. Rwanda has also accused Uganda of harassing its nationals through arrests and torture, a claim denied by Kampala saying those detained are individuals suspected of spying. In the half-hour meeting on Thursday morning at Dr Sezibera’s office, sources said, the two envoys did not discuss the differences. The East African

China Tightens Grip on East African Port
A Chinese port operator is tightening its grip on a strategic container terminal in East Africa, resetting operations and infrastructure at a site crucial to Beijing’s push to control seagoing trade lanes between Asia and Europe. China Merchants Port Holdings is asserting control of operations at Djibouti’s Doraleh Container Terminal, maritime officials say, while state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. and China State Construction Engineering Corp. have built a multipurpose cargo facility next door to handle cars, livestock, steel and other goods. Crew members of ships that recently docked at Djibouti said the new port resembles other Chinese-managed ports around the world. “At the multipurpose port it’s the same cranes, the same silos for grain, fertilizers and other commodities, it’s very Chinese,” said Apolinario Bautista, executive officer of a dry-bulk ship that docked in Djibouti in late January.  The Wall Street Journal

US May Be Denied Extradition Request for Mozambican Suspect
South Africa plans to hand over Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, to his own government and not to the United States, which seeks Chang’s extradition for alleged financial crimes, according to a South African official. Chang, 63, is scheduled for an extradition hearing Tuesday in Johannesburg. He has been jailed there since he was arrested Dec. 29 while preparing to fly to Dubai. He faces competing U.S. and Mozambican extradition requests for his alleged role in a $2 billion secret loan scandal that nearly bankrupted Mozambique and ensnared at least 18 individuals on both sides of the Atlantic. South Africa’s foreign minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, told the country’s Daily Maverick newspaper in an interview published Thursday that her government had agreed to extradite Chang to face charges in Mozambique.  VOA

Media Barred from Insurgent Region in Mozambique
Journalists covering conflict involving an armed Islamist group in in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, have been detained. Amade Abubacar, a journalist who was interviewing villagers displaced by insurgents, was held by the military and prohibited from having outside contact for 13 days last month. Abubacar was later released and handed over for civilian prosecution. “The Mozambican government’s actions to silence the media in Cabo Delgado obstruct public scrutiny of the military operations and alleged abuses,” Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga said. Abubacar was arrested on January 5 and held at a military barracks in Mueda District where soldiers allegedly beat him and treated him badly. He was also denied access to a lawyer or family members while in captivity.  News 24

Shutting Down the Internet Doesn’t Work—but Governments Keep Doing It
As the internet continues to gain considerable power and agency around the world, many governments have moved to regulate it. And where regulation fails, some states resort to internet shutdowns or deliberate disruptions. The statistics are staggering. In India alone, there were 154 internet shutdowns between January 2016 and May 2018. This is the most of any country in the world. But similar shutdowns are becoming common on the African continent. Already in 2019 there have been shutdowns in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Last year there were 21 such shutdowns on the continent. This was the case in Togo, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Ethiopia, among others. The justifications for such shutdowns are usually relatively predictable. Governments often claim that internet access is blocked in the interest of public security and order. In some instances, however, their reasoning borders on the curious if not downright absurd, like the case of Ethiopia in 2017 and Algeria in 2018 when the internet was shut down apparently to curb cheating in national examinations. Quartz

Where Libya’s Revolution Began, Many Now Yearn for a Strong Hand
Sitting in his cafe near the spot where the protests against Muammar Gaddafi touched off the Libyan revolution eight years ago, Miftah Atluba is not sorry the dictator has gone. Yet like many in Benghazi, who are tired after three years of street fighting that flattened whole districts, the 45-year-old thinks it’s time to return to the old way of running things. “Muammar needed to go but democracy hasn’t worked out in Libya,” he said, sipping coffee in one of the few buildings still standing in a city center where from 2014 to 2017 war raged between the forces of Khalifa Haftar, a general who turned against Gaddafi, and his mainly Islamist opponents. Atluba’s cafe was damaged. But the building survived, unlike the courthouse next door where the families of political prisoners gathered to demand their release in February 2011, triggering the uprising that toppled Gaddafi.  Reuters

From 5% Growth to a $4.9 Billion Bailout: What Went Wrong?
The sorry state of South Africa’s state power utility starkly illustrates just how far the country slipped during former President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred rule and the enormity of the task of rebuilding the nations stricken finances.From the heady days of the 2000s, when growth topped 5 percent a year, the economy has struggled through two recessions, and debt ratios have tripled. There have been almost daily revelations of state corruption, the nations final investment-grade rating is hanging by a thread and budget surpluses have turned to ever-widening shortfalls.And then there’s Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which supplies 95 percent of the nations power. Driven to the brink of collapse, it secured a record 69-billion rand ($4.9-billion) bailout in the national budget Wednesday, an allocation that will force the government to break its expenditure ceiling. Company chairman Jabu Mabuza said even that might not be enough. The utility had wanted 100 billion rand to help service its mountain of debt, pay its bloated workforce and maintain an aging fleet of power plants that intermittently trip and cause rolling blackouts.  Bloomberg

‘Two Is Enough,’ Egypt Tells Poor Families as Population Booms
Nesma Ghanem is hoping for a fourth child even though her doctor says her body can’t handle a pregnancy at the moment. She has three daughters and would like them to have a brother. “In the future he could support his father and the girls,” said Ghanem, 27, who lives in a village in Sohag, an area with one of Egypt’s highest fertility rates. The family depends on her husband’s income from a local cafe. “If I have a son people, here in the village can say that he will carry on his father’s name,” she said. As Egypt’s population heads towards 100 million, the government is trying to change the minds of people like Ghanem. “Two Is Enough” is the government’s first family-planning campaign aiming to challenge traditions of large families in rural Egypt. But Ghanem’s wish to have a son shows how hard that could be.  Reuters

One of Africa’s Most Influential Film Festivals Has Survived DVDs and Now Terrorism
One of Africa’s oldest film festivals will celebrate its 50th anniversary, in spite of the new threat of terrorism in the Sahel. The Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television, known by its French acronym FESPACO, first launched in 1969 Ouagadougou, the capital of what was then Upper Volta. Since then, the biennial festival has become a Mecca of African storytelling in a city that practically exalts cinema. Burkina Faso boasts the Filmmakers’ Square, along Filmmakers Avenue with the statue of the father of African film, Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène. The city also hosts the African Film Library of Ouagadougou. It’s this history and love of cinema that the 50th anniversary will celebrate, but it will also grapple with the very real challenges facing filmmakers in Africa. In a series of workshops, filmmakers gathered in Ouagadougou will discuss how the industry has changed, how to win back audiences and how to make a living from film and create the financial autonomy of the festival itself. The 26th edition will run from Feb. 23 to Mar. 2.  Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones