Africa Media Review for February 28, 2020

African Union Plans to Send 3,000 Troops to the Sahel

The African Union said Thursday that it expected to send a temporary deployment of 3,000 troops to West Africa’s Sahel region, where regional forces are struggling to respond to a nearly eight-year-old insurgency by armed Islamists. The decision was made at the African Union summit earlier this month, Smail Chergui, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Commission said, but the announcement was not made until a press conference Thursday. “On the decision of the summit to work on deploying a force of 3,000 troops to help the Sahel countries degrade terrorist groups, I think this is a decision that we’ll be working on together with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS,” Chergui said. … “The summit decided to deploy about 3,000 troops for a period of six months to work with the countries of the Sahel to deal with the menace that they are facing,” Edward Xolisa Makaya, South Africa’s ambassador to the AU, told AFP. “It’s just a sign or a show of solidarity with the people of the Sahel.” South Africa took over as AU chair at the summit and plans and to host an extraordinary AU summit on security issues in May. Makaya said he hoped the Sahel deployment would take place “during the course of the year.” But many details of the possible deployment have yet to be worked out. AFP

Nigeria Confirms 1st Case of New Virus in Sub-Saharan Africa

The health commissioner for Lagos, Africa’s largest city with more than 20 million people, said an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip fell ill the next day. Commissioner Akin Abayomi said the man was clinically stable with no serious symptoms. Abayomi said officials were working to identify all of the man’s contacts since he arrived in Nigeria. Lagos state early this month advised people arriving from virus-affected areas to observe 14 days of self-quarantine while monitoring for any symptoms. Nigerian health officials have been strengthening measures to ensure that any outbreak in Lagos is contained quickly, Abayomi said in a statement. He urged Lagos residents to take measures such as keeping their distance from people who are coughing and washing their hands regularly. Cases of the virus were confirmed in Egypt and Algeria in north Africa in recent days. Until then, some global health experts had expressed surprise that no cases had been reported in Africa. … That Nigeria’s first case came from overseas and wasn’t person-to-person transmission inside Africa “shows that the Nigerian government had the right systems in place to detect and confirm this case,” Trudie Lang, director of The Global Health Network at the Nuffield Department of Medicine and the University of Oxford said in a statement. AP

Guinea Braces for Disputed Referendum That Could Extend Veteran Conde’s Rule

When Alpha Conde was elected president of Guinea in 2010, the veteran opposition leader vowed to restore democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. Ten years later, many fear Conde, who turns 82 next week, is laying the groundwork to cling to power himself by holding a referendum on Sunday that could extend his rule for 12 more years, risking mass unrest and the health of the mining economy. The new constitution would impose a limit of two six-year terms, up from the current two five-year terms. It does not specify whether terms served under the previous constitution would count, but Conde has suggested they would not. At least 30 people have died since October in protests against the proposed constitutional changes and many are bracing for more trouble on Sunday. … In the capital Conakry this week, pick-ups full of police and soldiers patrolled the streets past billboards urging people to vote yes. The government ordered schools closed for several days, and residents of opposition strongholds were stocking up on food. … The United States, European Union and former colonial power France, have voiced concerns. Earlier this week, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an organization of French-speaking governments, withdrew its poll-monitoring mission, citing the presence of 2.49 million “problematic” entries on the electoral register. Reuters

Kenya: US Warns of Attack Threat against Major Hotel in Nairobi

The United States warned on Thursday that extremists may be plotting an attack against a major hotel in Nairobi, urging its citizens to be cautious. “The exact hotel has not been identified, but it is believed to be a hotel popular with tourists and business travellers,” the State Department said in a travel alert. The State Department urged US citizens to “exercise increased vigilance” if staying in hotels around Nairobi and to be aware of buildings’ emergency evacuation plans. In Kenya a US embassy alert warning of the threat went out to citizens, while police on Thursday released a “periodic security alert” saying security had been stepped up as there were “a few criminal elements who may wish to cause harm to the public.” … In January al-Shabaab warned that Kenya “will never be safe,” threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests after they stormed a US base in an assault that killed three Americans and destroyed several aircraft. The al-Qaeda linked group said its attack on Camp Simba should serve as a “warning,” and that Kenya should withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance.” The group’s most recent attack in Nairobi was in January 2019, when a suicide bomber and gunmen stormed the upmarket Dusit hotel complex, killing 21 people. AFP

Embalo Sworn In as Guinea-Bissau President, Election Remains in Dispute

Guinea-Bissau’s outgoing president handed over power on Thursday to the declared winner of December’s election, former army general Umaro Cissoko Embalo, even as the Supreme Court considered a new request by the runner-up to annul the vote. The electoral commission has repeatedly confirmed Embalo as the winner of the Dec. 29 run-off despite complaints by the Supreme Court that the commission has not respected its orders to conduct a full audit of the vote. Runner-up Domingos Simoes Pereira, whose PAIGC party holds the most seats in parliament, filed a fresh complaint on Wednesday, asking the court to order a re-vote because of what he says were widespread irregularities. It is not clear when the court will rule. The bitterly disputed result suggests that, whatever the final outcome, the election is unlikely to end the institutional chaos of the past five years, during which President Jose Mario Vaz cycled through seven different prime ministers while in a protracted dispute with the PAIGC. Vaz, who was eliminated in the election’s first round in November, attended Thursday’s swearing-in at a hotel reception hall in the capital, Bissau. So did high-ranking officials from the military, which has launched nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. Reuters

Sudanese Soldiers Die in South Darfur Shootout

Clashes between army soldiers and gunmen resulted in a number of deaths and injuries in Kafia Kingi, El Radoom locality in South Darfur on Friday. Some witnesses reported that two members of the army and three gunmen were killed. One man was wounded, while Omda Ali Jabir told Radio Dabanga that four members of the army were killed and three others were wounded, while two gunmen were wounded. He said that the incident began on Friday when three gold miners on a motorcycle passed through an inspection gate of Kafia Kingi without stopping, which prompted one of the soldiers at the gate to open fire. The shooting resulted in the injury of two miner, while the third escaped, only to return with a number of men on motorcycles. They killed the army soldier at the gate, and then attacked another group of soldiers, and reportedly shot three of them dead and wounded three others. … An informed source told Radio Dabanga from Kafia Kingi that the 30 gunmen involved in the violent incident are members of a militia led by Ali Kushayb, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and who has fled Sudan, apparently in fear of arrest by the transitional government. On Monday, gunmen on motorcycles hijacked a vehicle belonging to the Roads and Bridges Company on the Rahid El Berdi and Tiwal road in South Darfur. They then headed towards Um Dafug, that borders the Central African Republic. Radio Dabanga

Sudanese Banks to Issue Visa Cards within Weeks

Three Sudanese banks have struck a deal with Visa Inc. allowing them to issue its payment cards in Sudan within three weeks maximum. The deal was concluded after long negotiations between the American multinational financial services corporation, the Central Bank of Sudan and its technical arm Electronic Banking Services (EBS). Omer Hassan Omerabi EBS General Manager told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that three banks are licensed to issue Visa cards in Sudan: Bank of Khartoum (BOK), United Capital Bank (UCB) and Qatar National Bank. The Visa card will be issued after the opening of an account in foreign currency and then he can use it inside the country and abroad, Omerabi further said. The three banks will start soon issuing Visa cards and installing ATMs and points of sale that allow all foreigners to use their Visa cards. … In statements to Sudan Tribune, banking and financial consultant Taha Hussein considered the agreement between Visa Inc and Sudanese banks is a clear indication of lifting the banking ban on Sudanese banks on financial transactions with Sudan. Sudan Tribune

UN Agency Says 35 Migrants Rescued off Libyan Coast

A commercial ship has rescued 35 Europe-bound migrants off Libya’s Mediterranean coast and returned them to the capital, Tripoli, the U.N. migration agency said. The International Organization for Migration tweeted that migrants, who were intersected on Thursday, were given medical assistance and relief items upon disembarkation. “Saving lives at sea is a moral and legal obligation. It is however unacceptable that migrants continue to be returned to an unsafe port,” said the IOM. Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe. … Last week, a rubber dinghy packed with 91 migrants that set out from Libyan shores for Europe, apparently went missing in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea after leaving Libya on Feb. 8. In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants. Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water. AP

Algerian President’s Son Acquitted in High-Profile Corruption Case

The son of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been acquitted in a high-profile corruption case in which a prominent businessman was sentenced to prison, the national radio reported on Thursday. Khaled Tebboune had been in pre-trial detention since June 2018 in connection with alleged influence-peddling involving several senior officials, exposed after a cocaine seizure at an Algerian port. An Algiers court acquitted him late Wednesday, while the principal accused, Kamel Chikhi, was sentenced to eight years in prison for “paying bribes in exchange for undue services,” in a case relating to construction permits and administrative authorisations. The prosecutor had called for a two-year prison sentence for Khaled Tebboune, whose father did not have any official role at the time of his arrest. Chikhi, known as “El Bouchi” (The Butcher), made his fortune in meat imports before becoming involved in property. He was arrested in June 2018 after the seizure of 700kg of cocaine, found hidden in imported meat. The investigation exposed a network of influence, with accusations that Chikhi, using cash and property, bought favours from high-level officials, magistrates and others within the regime of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. AFP

‘You Had to Pay’: Angola’s Deep-Seated Corruption Legacy

Entrepreneur Antonio Almeida has learned to navigate around the potholes of doing business in Angola. Since launching his business two decades ago, the 44-year-old has opened seven luxury clothing stores, a customs brokerage firm and a suburban shopping centre in the capital Luanda. Along the way he faced the 2014 global drop in oil prices, crippling Angola’s debt-ridden, oil-dependent economy – at a time when relatives and cronies of then president Jose Eduardo dos Santos were allegedly looting state coffers. The ex-president’s tycoon daughter Isabel dos Santos, 46, stands accused of using her father’s influence to siphon millions of dollars from state-owned companies to overseas accounts. She was indicted last month for a host of top-level financial crimes allegedly committed during her tenure at Angola’s oil giant Sonangol, which she headed during her father’s reign. … Some analysts believe Lourenco is investigating corruption under dos Santos just to retrieve money allegedly stolen during the ex-president’s 38-year rule. If he succeeds, it would offer temporary relief and “go down quite well with the local population,” Besseling told AFP. Since Lourenco pledged earlier this month to recover “illegally transferred” assets, prosecutors have seized more than 1,000 buildings owned by Chinese companies reportedly built using public funds. AFP

Cameroon Opposition Leader Maurice Kamto Returns Home

A Cameroonian opposition leader who was jailed for nine months for organising and participating in unauthorised protests has said he will organise more marches if need arises. Prof Maurice Kamto, chairman of the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), was welcomed by a huge crowd of supporters in the country’s economic hub Douala on Wednesday following his return from a one-month European and American tour. “Be ready, remain mobilised. If need be, I will call you again for other street protests…We will not allow anyone lead our country into chaos. “Let those who have already put in their all, and who have nothing again to offer allow other Cameroonians to take the relay baton,” Prof Kamto said in what was seen as a message to the decades-old Yaoundé regime. … Prof Kamto was arrested in January 2018 for protesting against the presidential election results. He was released from jail in October 2019 following a presidential amnesty. Prof Kamto returns to the country at a time rights organisations have demanded investigations over the February 14 killing in English-speaking regions. More than 32 people, most of them children and women, were killed in a village in the Northwest-one of two Anglophone regions. The East African

The Facebook Group Taking On South Africa’s White Right

In January 2019, Willem Petzer – an activist against the so-called white genocide in South Africa, with a reported fondness for racist and pro-apartheid memes – made an excited announcement to his 15000-odd Twitter followers: “So I busted the people behind the ‘Busting the myth of white genocide in SA’ page!!!” he exclaimed. “Please RETWEET”. Shortly afterwards, this message was endorsed by Steve Hofmeyr, the musician who has become better known for his support of white nationalist causes. Busting the Myth of White Genocide in SA – known by its creators and supporters simply as “Busting” – is a Facebook group established in April 2018, with a mission to “debunk conspiracies and fight white supremacists that threaten a united South Africa.” The page was set up to counter inaccurate statistics and information disseminated by white nationalists and far-right activists in South Africa, especially when it comes to the sensitive issue of farm murders. The administrators of the group are anonymous, and describe themselves publicly as “a team of smart and streetwise South Africans who joined forces to combat misinformation and propaganda online.” Mail & Guardian

How to Protect Yourself against Coronavirus – WHO

Nigeria on Friday confirmed the first case of Coronavirus, code-named COVID-19, by the World Health Organisation, in the country. The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, on February 25, 2020. He was confirmed by the virology laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the laboratory network at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Here are tips from the WHO on how to protect yourself and others against the virus: Wash your hands frequently. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand. Rub or wash them with soap and water. Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick. … Punch