Africa Media Review for February 26, 2019

Security Priorities for the New Nigerian Government
On February 23, 2019, Nigerians voted in their sixth presidential election since the transition to civilian rule in 1999. Many see the progress it has made in institutionalizing democratic norms as a bellwether for other African countries. At the same time, Nigeria faces an array of security challenges that have caused thousands of deaths and led to the displacement of 2 million people while inhibiting the country’s economic development. Regardless of who emerges as the next leader, Nigeria’s security landscape will demand significant executive attention and political capital. To provide some perspective on the host of security challenges facing the new government, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies spoke with five Nigeria experts for their assessments. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Nigeria’s Buhari Takes Election Lead; Opposition Rejects Results
Early results from Nigeria’s presidential election show incumbent Muhammahu Buhari in the lead, but the main opposition party is rejecting the vote counts, calling them “incorrect and unacceptable.” Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said Monday Buhari had won the vote in at least six states, with main challenger Atiku Abubakar winning in the Federal Capital Territory. The chairman of Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, said the party has discovered “irregularities” in Nasarawa state and the capital. Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, he alleged the Buhari administration has colluded with INEC to manipulate results from polling units across the country. Secondus said the PDP has what he called the “original results” from polling stations around the country. VOA

Senegal Election: President Macky Sall ‘Heading for Victory’
Senegalese President Macky Sall is headed towards a second term in office, his prime minister has alleged. Mohammed Dionne said preliminary results suggested Mr Sall had secured about 57% of the vote in Sunday’s elections, but an official result will take days. But rival candidates warned against declaring the result prematurely. Mr Sall faced four challengers in the vote, but was accused of preventing his main rivals from running. Two well-known opposition figures were barred from taking part, after being deemed ineligible because of corruption convictions.  BBC

Senegal Election Commission Warns against Early Calls
Senegal’s electoral commission on Monday urged presidential candidates and their supporters to avoid making premature declarations about the outcome of Sunday’s vote. The call came after Senegal’s prime minister claimed that the party’s unofficial results showed incumbent president Macky Sall had won re-election. That declaration was rejected however by two opposition candidates who asserted the vote would go to a runoff. Senegal’s electoral commission said that the Feb. 24 elections went generally well nationwide and abroad, adding that vote counting continued Monday and results are being collected by “authorized structures.” “It is the Constitutional Council that will carry out the final proclamation of the results,” it said, once all votes are tallied and properly transmitted.  VOA

UN Court Rejects UK’s Claim of Sovereignty over Chagos Islands
The UK has been ordered to hand back the Chagos Islands to Mauritius “as rapidly as possible” after the United Nations’ highest court ruled that continued British occupation of the remote Indian Ocean archipelago is illegal. Although the majority decision by the international court of justice in The Hague is only advisory, the unambiguous clarity of the judges’ pronouncement is a humiliating blow to Britain’s prestige on the world stage. The case was referred to the court, which hears legal submissions over international boundary disputes, after an overwhelming vote in 2017 in the UN assembly in the face of fierce opposition from a largely isolated UK. Delivering judgment, the president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the detachment of the Chagos archipelago in 1965 from Mauritius had not been based on a “free and genuine expression of the people concerned”. The Guardian

Sudan’s Bashir Bans Protests, Regulates Foreign Currency Trade
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir banned public gatherings and protests in a series of emergency decrees issued on Monday as he faces the most sustained anti-government street unrest of his 30-year rule. In a statement issued by the presidential palace, Bashir also announced a ban on trading or hoarding subsidised fuel products, as well as new regulations on trading and transporting foreign currency and gold. In his decrees, Bashir authorised the public prosecutor to revoke any suspect’s immunity if they have it and set up new courts to deal with cases related to the state of emergency. Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, on Friday declared a year-long nationwide state of emergency to rein in the protest campaign. Al Jazeera

Pentagon: US Strike in Somalia Kills 35 Terrorists
U.S. forces have conducted an airstrike in Somalia that killed 35 al-Shabab militants, officials said Monday, in the latest in a string of attacks against the al-Qaida affiliate. Sunday’s strike took place in the Hiran region of central Somalia and targeted armed Shabab fighters “as they were transitioning between locations in a rural area” and trying to “mass their forces,” the U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement. “At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed 35 terrorists,” the statement read. Although the military did not specify, such airstrikes in Somalia are typically carried out by armed drones. The Pentagon has increased the rate of strikes in Somalia in recent years, partly because President Donald Trump loosened constraints on when the U.S. military can take action against alleged terrorists. VOA

Burundi in Threat to Quit Somalia Mission
The African Union is on the spot over a request by Burundi and Somalia to convene an urgent summit of troop contributing countries to discuss withdrawal of the African Union Mission in Somalia. The continental body has not responded, amid a threat by an angry Bujumbura to withdraw all its 5,432 troops from the Amisom. Burundi’s threat was sparked by an announcement that Burundi will have shed 1,000 troops by February 28. On February 19, President Pierre Nkurunziza and his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo held a meeting in Bujumbura and called for an urgent summit of the five troop contributing countries to review the decision by the AU Peace Support Operations Division, which Bujumbura rejects as discriminatory. President Nkurunziza had invited the Somali leader for consultations in which they called for urgent talks at the heads of state level about what they see as a decision targeting Burundi, and further agreed to carry out operations against Al Shabaab as soon as possible. The East African

Unknown Gunmen Kill 9 Civilians in Somalia
Nine people were shot dead Monday by unknown gunmen in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, officials said. The incident occurred in Hawa Abdi village, less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Somali capital Mogadishu. Lower Shabelle Governor Mohamed Ibrahim Barre told reporters the victims were killed by members of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab group. ”Al-Shabaab fighters attacked street cleaners in Hawa Abdi, killing nine people, including six women. This is an evil attack by al-Shabaab, and really, this a massacre,” Barre said. The victims, who were all civilians, came under attack as a sanitation campaign was underway in the village organized by the administration, he added. Barre called on the Somali people to unite in the fight against al-Shabaab. Anadolu Agency

In West Africa, Violent Extremism Spreads as U.S. Trims Military Footprint
U.S.-led special-operations exercises that got under way in the scorched scrublands of Burkina Faso last week look much like they have for the past 15 years, with some 2,000 commandos from 32 African, Western and allied countries swapping notes on their martial craft. American Green Berets coached Senegalese special forces on their favorite techniques for breaking down doors and conducting room-to-room searches.[…] But this year’s event has taken on a new sense of urgency in a region facing an onslaught of Islamist militancy, […] The number of violent incidents linked to Islamist extremists across the Sahel has doubled every year since 2016 to reach 465 last year, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Civilian and military fatalities have doubled over the same period, topping 1,100 last year. Peace Corps volunteers are no longer allowed to serve in Burkina Faso, Niger or Mali. The Nigerien officer, Col.-Maj. Barmou, said he is putting more hope in the five-nation G5 Sahel accord, which allows troops from Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso to patrol together and cross borders in pursuit of militant fighters. The Wall Street Journal

French Forces Strike Jihadists in Central Mali
French warplanes struck a group of jihadists in central Mali at the weekend, killing or wounding 15 of them, the defence ministry in Paris said on Monday. The raid — the second in 48 hours — took place north of Mopti on Saturday evening, as French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and defence minister Florence Parly were visiting Mali. Two Mirage 2000 jets, aided by a Reaper drone, took off from Niamey in neighbouring Niger to carry out the strike, which targeted forces from the Macina rebel group in the Dialoube region. The defence ministry did not specify how many jihadists were killed and how many were wounded, saying only they were “put out of action”. France has about 2,700 troops stationed in Mali as part of its Barkhane anti-insurgency campaign in the region, which comprises a total of some 4,500 soldiers. Business Live

Mauritanian Gov’t Ready to Discuss Opposition’s Demands
The Mauritanian government on Monday voiced its readiness to discuss opposition demands related to presidential elections slated for next year, local media has reported. The announcement came at a meeting between Interior Minister Ahmed Ould Abdallah and opposition leaders in capital Nouakchott. On Feb. 8, opposition leaders — in a letter sent to the Interior Ministry — urged the government to help promote “the appropriate atmosphere” for presidential polls slated for 2019. Opposition leaders also called for the reform of the country’s electoral commission and for international observers to monitor the upcoming polls. Anadolu Agency

Gabonese President Bongo Makes Post-Stroke Appearance
President Ali Bongo, whose stroke last October plunged Gabon into uncertainty, held a string of meetings on Monday ahead of the first gathering of the cabinet, according to the government. The authorities released photos of Bongo meeting the heads of the Constitutional Court and National Assembly and his chief of staff. Film footage was also disseminated on social media, showing Bongo waving to passers-by through the lowered window of his car as it negotiated heavy traffic in the capital Libreville. National Assembly president Faustin Boukoubi told Gabon 24 television that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the meeting with Bongo. It had “warmed his heart” to meet Bongo, Boukoubi said, adding that the president had “retained his powers of memory” and “lucidity” and was “very alert”.  VOA

African Women Surmount Obstacles to Redefine Their Countries’ Militaries
In the 17th century, a fearsome group of African soldiers defended their kingdom against invaders and marauders. Well-trained and thousands strong, the Women Warriors of Dahomey inspired fear and won battles for more than 200 years in what is now Benin. In 20th-century Eritrea, women fought alongside men and led soldiers into combat throughout the country’s 30-year struggle for independence. They healed the wounded in underground hospitals sheltered from enemy fire and helped repair equipment for return to the battlefield. For hundreds of years, women have played a vital role in African peace and security. They’ve sacrificed in liberation struggles and offered unique skills in peacekeeping operations. VOA

UN, ICRC Address Sexual, Gender-Based Violence in Conflict Situations
Heads of the United Nations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement are pledging more action to prevent and end sexual and gender-based violence during conflicts. In Geneva, two humanitarian groups announced they have launched an effort to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he has met many victims of rape and brutal sexual violence in war zones from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the former Yugoslavia. Guterres says he has heard firsthand accounts from Rohingya refugees who were gang-raped while trying to escape violence in Myanmar. He says the place and circumstance of the abuse may differ, but the pain and trauma remain the same. “Let me be clear. Sexual and gender-based violence in conflict is not only a horrendous and life-changing crime, most often perpetrated against women and girls,” Guterres said. “It is also used as a tactic of war, to terrorize families, dehumanize communities and destabilize societies, so that they struggle to recover for years or even decades after the guns fall silent.”  VOA

UN Probe Unearths DR Congo Massacre
It is being described as a massacre that took place away from the eyes of the world and went largely unnoticed even inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Days passed before details began to emerge about what had happened in Yumbi, a remote territory in the southwest of the country. A United Nations investigation found an attack happened there on December 16 and 17 over a dispute between two local tribes. Hundreds of houses were burned down. So far, 535 bodies have been identified. The acting Yumbi administrator says between 3,000 and 4,000 men were involved in the bloodshed, while only about a dozen men have been arrested so far. Al Jazeera

‘My Model Is Capitalism’: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Plans Telecoms Privatisation
Ethiopia aims to complete a multibillion-dollar privatisation of its telecoms sector by the end of this year, followed by a sell-off of stakes in state energy, shipping and sugar companies, according to the new prime minister Abiy Ahmed. The government also plans to launch a domestic stock exchange in 2020, part of a gradual but decisive shift towards economic liberalisation in the fast-growing east African country of 105m people. “My economic model is capitalism,” Mr Abiy said in an interview with the Financial Times, conducted in his refurbished headquarters in Addis Ababa. “If you give me $100bn now, I can’t use it. There is not only money, there is talent and experience. That’s why we need the private sector.” Mr Abiy’s policies mark a break with the previous administration, which emphasised controlling the economy’s “commanding heights” and reinvesting profits in infrastructure, health and education.  The Financial Times

Zimbabwe Drip-Feeds Dollars to Tackle Cash Crunch
Zimbabwe’s central bank drip-fed dollars on Monday to a handful of commercial banks to allocate to large businesses, part of currency reforms authorities hope will ease a cash crunch that has starved the economy of many basic goods. Zimbabwe ditched a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its dollar-surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars last week, merging them into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar. Economists welcomed the move but doubt it will prompt a swift turnaround in the southern African nation, which has grown used to currency turbulence since excessive money-printing under former leader Robert Mugabe triggered hyperinflation. Ordinary Zimbabweans are not yet able to use the RTGS dollars in their bank accounts to buy dollars from banks, and the bond notes – which many businesses are reluctant to accept – are still in circulation. Reuters

Sisi Rejects European Criticisms of Egypt Rights Record
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has dismissed European calls to abolish — or at least temporarily suspend — capital punishment in Egypt, claiming the practice is “in line with the region’s laws and culture”. He made the remarks in response to questions raised about Egypt’s human rights record at a press conference held at the conclusion of the first Arab-European Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. “I have listened to a great debate from our European friends,” al-Sisi said, describing the summit as “a new platform for cooperation, consultation and dialogue between two different cultures and regions”. “Europe’s priority is to achieve and preserve prosperity,” he added. “But our priority is to preserve our country and prevent it from collapsing, as has happened to several of our neighbors in the region.” Dismissing recent European criticisms of Egypt’s rights record, he asserted: “You cannot teach us our humanity; we have our own values and ethics. Please don’t impose your views on us.”  Anadolu Agency

Israel’s First Ambassador to Rwanda Presents His Credentials 
Israel’s new ambassador to Rwanda Ron Adam presented his credentials on Friday to Rwandan President Paul Kagame as Israel’s 11th embassy in Africa went into full operation. “Israel shares a lot of similarities with Rwanda and I am excited to be my first country’s representative here,” Adam was quoted as saying after the ceremony where he presented his credentials along with 12 other new ambassadors. Among the new ambassadors is one from Saudi Arabia, who will also be that country’s first ambassador in Rwanda. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spearheaded closer ties with Africa with four visits to the continent in less than three years, announced that Israel would open an embassy in the Rwandan capital of Kigali when he met Kagame on the sidelines of the inauguration of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in November 2017. At the time Netanyahu posted a tweet saying that the “historic step” of opening an embassy in Rwanda “comes as Israel is expanding its presence in Africa and deepening its cooperation with countries across the continent.”  The Jerusalem Post

Shopping Street Rises from the Ashes of War in Libya’s Benghazi
The old center of Benghazi lies in ruins but one shopping street has sprung up in the war-ravaged Libyan city, with sportswear and fashion stores that would not be out of place in Dubai or Istanbul. Foreign brands are tapping into residents’ desire to enjoy shopping again after a three-year city war when their minds were concentrated on getting fuel or moving to safer areas. Imports were limited as fighting between Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army and his mostly Islamist opponents forced Benghazi’s port to close. But with the end of conflict in 2017, shops have returned and Venice Street, with its trendy new stores and elegant cafes, has brought back a level of wealthy consumerism. That contrasts with much of the city where some buildings still show bullet holes from World War II, when Benghazi changed hands between British and German troops. VOA

 



Photo: Adam Jones