Africa Media Review for February 4, 2019

An Overview of Africa’s 2019 Elections
Africa is set to host two dozen national elections in 2019. This reflects a now established norm of elections as the recognized means for selecting African leaders. The quality of these elections continues to vary widely, however, with some merely serving as a perfunctory ritual by which leaders maintain their claim on power. Nonetheless, a host of competitive elections will be held in Africa in 2019, including in three of the most consequential democratic experiences underway on the continent—Nigeria, South Africa, and Tunisia. This variance in the caliber of African elections is part of a longer term process underway since the 1990s to build democratic institutions and consolidate genuinely democratic political systems.   Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Central African Republic and Rebel Groups Sign Peace Deal
A peace deal has been made between the Central African Republic government and 14 rebel groups after their first-ever direct dialogue aimed at ending years of conflict, the United Nations and the African Union announced on Saturday. “This is a great day for Central African Republic and all its people,” said the AU commissioner for peace and security, Smail Chergui. The deal will “enable the Central African people to embark on a path of reconciliation, harmony and development,” Chergui said, appealing to all citizens to support the agreement. The agreement was signed at the end of a 10-day negotiation in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. As the talks began, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned of a “catastrophe” if no agreement was reached, saying repeated cycles of violence in one of the world’s poorest nations had “pushed people’s resistance to breaking point.”  Deutsche Welle

France Launches Airstrikes at Armed Libyan Group in Chad
France’s Defense Ministry says French armed forces have intervened in northern Chad and launched airstrikes at an armed group coming in from Libya. The operation took place Sunday and was organized in cooperation with the Chadian army. A patrol of Mirage 2000 airplanes hit a column of 40 pickups coming from Libya that penetrated “deep into Chadian territory,” the ministry said, adding that the “intervention, in response to a request from Chadian authorities, helped hinder this hostile progression and disperse the column.” French President Emmanuel Macron visited Chad in December and reaffirmed French backing for African anti-extremist forces amid growing international concern about the chaos in Libya. Macron also met with French soldiers deployed in the Sahel region with Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military mission.  AP

Boko Haram Kills at Least 60 in Nigeria Attack: Amnesty
Boko Haram has killed at least 60 people in a “devastating” attack on the northeastern Nigeria border town of Rann, Amnesty International said Friday, calling it one of the deadliest assaults by the extremist group in its nearly decade-long insurgency. Fighters on motorcycles drove through the town near the Cameroon border on Monday morning, setting houses on fire and killing people left behind, the international rights group said in a series of Twitter posts. The fighters also chased residents fleeing the “massive attack” and killed several outside town. […] What many in Nigeria call Boko Haram includes a powerful recent offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province, whose violent activities grew last year while those of Boko Haram dropped, according to the U.S.-backed Africa Center for Strategic Studies. It was not immediately clear which faction was behind Monday’s attack. AP

Insecurity throws Nigeria’s election preparations into disarray
Muhammad Suleiman thought it was safe to go home after the army drove Islamist insurgents from his town in northeastern Nigeria three years ago. In December, the militants struck again. Suleiman fled into the bush, leaving his voter card behind with most of his other belongings. The 28-year-old carpenter now fears he will not be able to take part in Nigeria’s presidential election on Feb. 16. Though authorities say they will set up polling booths in the camp where Suleiman has taken shelter in the city of Maiduguri, in the state of Borno, only those with voter cards will be allowed to cast ballots. “I want to vote,” he said. “We have to live here, so hopefully we can vote here.”  Reuters

Nigeria Election 2019: How ‘Godfathers’ Influence Politics
“Godfathers” in Nigerian politics don’t usually run for office themselves, but many believe they are the ones who decide the election winners and losers. With campaigning well under way for general elections on 16 February, these are the men – and they invariably are men – who pull the strings behind the scenes. They are political sponsors, who use money and influence to win support for their preferred candidates. Their “godsons”, it is believed, are not always selected for their political acumen, but rather on their ability to repay and enrich their godfather. These arrangements have spawned the term “godfatherism”, says Dr Dele Ashiru, a senior lecturer at the department of political science at the University of Lagos.  BBC

Gunmen Kill Dubai-Owned P&O Ports Executive in Somalia’s Puntland
Gunmen posing as fishermen killed Dubai government-owned P&O Ports’ operations in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland on Monday in an attack claimed by Islamist militant group Al Shabaab. Yusuf Mohamed, governor of Puntland’s Bari region, told Reuters that two men disguised as fishermen had shot Paul Anthony Formosa as he was going to Bossaso port this morning. He was killed “in the fish market as he was going to Bossaso port this morning. The men armed with pistols hit him (with) several bullets in the head,” Mohamed said. One of the attackers was shot dead by security forces at the scene and the other detained, he said. Formosa’s LinkedIn account states his nationality as Maltese.  Reuters

US Says Airstrike in Somalia Kills 13 Al-Shabab Extremists
The United States military says it has killed 13 members of the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike 30 miles (48 kilometers) outside Somalia’s capital. A U.S. Africa Command statement says Friday’s strike occurred near Gandarshe in Lower Shabelle region. The statement says the al-Qaida-linked fighters have used Gandarshe as a staging area for bombings in the capital, Mogadishu. A half-dozen U.S. airstrikes in December killed 62 al-Shabab fighters near Gandarshe as they were preparing to attack a Somali military base. This is the 10th U.S. airstrike this year in Somalia. It carried out nearly 50 strikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation against al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. A strike on Thursday killed 24 al-Shabab fighters in neighboring Hiran region. AP

Ethiopia Takes Over Amisom Command
The African Union has appointed Lt Gen Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn from the Ethiopia National Defence Forces (ENDF) to take over the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) command. Gen Tigabu replaces Lt Gen Jim Beesigye Owoyesigire of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) . The Amisom command is rotational among countries that contribute troops to the volatile Horn of African nation. Uganda has been in overall command since January 2018. While presiding over the handover ceremony in Mogadishu on Thursday, the head of Amisom, Mr Francisco Caetano Madeira, said there was still a big task for the forces to defeat Islamic militants, the Al-Shaabab.  The East African

Laurent Gbagbo: Former Ivory Coast President Freed by War Crimes Court
The international criminal court has freed the former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo after his shock acquittal in January on charges of crimes against humanity. Supporters sang and waved flags in The Hague after judges decided to release the 73-year-old on condition that he stays in an as-yet-unnamed country pending an appeal by the prosecution. Gbagbo, the first former head of state ever to stand trial at the ICC, and his aide Charles Ble Goude were cleared on 15 January over a wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010. More than 3,000 people died on both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his internationally backed-rival – and now president – Alassane Ouattara.  The Guardian

Belgium Agrees to Take in Former Côte d’Ivoire President Gbagbo
Cote d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, acquitted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, will be taken in by Belgium, the foreign ministry announced. “In response to a request from the International Criminal Court, Belgium has agreed to take in Laurent Gbagbo,” said spokesman Karl Lagatie, who added that he did not know if the ex-president was already in Belgium. Gbagbo’s case is the first time a former head of state has had to stand trial at the ICC, along with his aide Charles Blé Goudé. RFI

Congo Opposition Leader Rejects New President’s Outreach
Congo opposition leader Martin Fayulu in his first speech since losing a disputed election is rejecting any outreach by the new president, saying that when an offered hand is dirty, you don’t take it. Fayulu told hundreds of supporters who gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, that he will not resort to violence as he continues to oppose what he calls a rigged election. He vows to tour the vast Central African nation, press the United Nations and African Union and not obey the orders of “the person we have not chosen.” Fayulu lost a court challenge to the Dec. 30 election results despite leaked data from the electoral commission showing he had easily won. The United States and others, including many Congolese, have accepted the results in favor of stability. AP

Four Die in First Clash of Libyan Force’s Southward Push
At least four Libyan soldiers were killed on Friday when forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar fought for hours with a local armed group as they sought to expand south, military officials said. Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with parallel administrations and armed groups carving the nation into swathes of control. Friday’s clashes were the first real resistance the Libyan National Army (LNA) faction faced since arriving in the south two weeks ago from its main eastern stronghold of Benghazi. Reuters

PM: Algerian President Bouteflika, 82, to Run for 5th Term
Algeria’s prime minister says 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will seek a fifth term in this year’s election through a letter to the Algerian people in the coming days. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told a press conference Saturday about his “strong belief” that Bouteflika will run in the North African nation’s April 18 election. He says “all signs show it and with a little bit of analysis we can easily understand that he’s in and that it’s only a matter of time.” Ouyahia added that he thinks Bouteflika remains “the best candidate” despite ailing health. The Algerian leader is partially paralyzed from a stroke and is rarely seen in public. Two other candidates, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis and Ret. Gen. Ali Ghediri, have already declared they are running for president. AP

Uganda’s Bobi Wine Says He Is ‘Seriously Considering’ Running for President
Pop star turned MP Bobi Wine is making plans for a bigger political stage in the country and says he has launched a grassroots movement for young people aimed at challenging the country’s longtime leader President Yoweri Museveni. Speaking with CNN’s Robyn Curnow Wine said he is “seriously considering” running for president in 2021 where he is expected to face Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986. Museveni has changed the constitution twice to extend his stay in office, although he has not declared his intention to contest in the next elections. Wine said dictatorships have thrived in Africa by suppressing young people, and getting young voters to the polls could help change the game. “Ugandans cannot be free unless they free themselves from military rule and lawless rule,” Wine said. CNN

Thousands Protest in Sudan’s Kassala as Death Toll Mounts
Thousands of residents poured out onto the streets of Sudan’s eastern province of Kassala to denounce the death of a protester last week following demonstrations calling for the president’s ouster, officials and activists said. The protester, Ahmed al-Khair, was a 33-year-old school teacher who was detained last Thursday and pronounced dead in custody on Friday evening. Protests have gripped Sudan since Dec. 19, starting initially over rising prices and shortages but quickly shifting to calls for the fall of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. Activists said al-Khair’s death raises the toll of the protests to 53. An estimated 2,000 protesters have also since been wounded, many shot in the eye with birdshot and some losing limbs from live ammunition, according to the activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. AP

Three Sudanese Die in Security Custody amid Continued Protests
A Sudanese school teacher on Saturday was pronounced dead in custody, two days after being arrested in connection with the ongoing protests against the regime of President Omer al-Bashir. Family sources said Ahmed al-Kheir Awad al-Karim, 36 years, a teacher in Sudan’s eastern town of Khashm Al-Girba, Kassala State was tortured to death by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). They pointed out that he was detained by NISS agents on Thursday in Khashm Al-Girba alongside three others and were transferred to Kassala. According to the sources, Ahmed’s body was found on Saturday morning with signs of horrific torture, including signs of beatings in the head and the kidneys.  Sudan Tribune

Malawi VP and Joyce Banda Unite Ahead of Election
Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and former president Joyce Banda have formed an alliance to take on the ruling party in May elections, a joint statement said Friday. The opposition alliance does not include the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which came second to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2014 elections. Chilima has fallen out with President Peter Mutharika, and has teamed up with Banda and two other smaller parties ahead of the May 21 vote. The alliance said it would reveal its presidential candidate on Monday, adding that “there are grounds for a united front among Malawians discontented with the sad state of affairs in this country.”  AFP

Tough Term for Kagame as Chair of Deeply Divided EAC
Rwandan President Paul Kagame took over the chair of the East African Community on Friday from his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, after a long day of heated consultations compounded by hostile relations between Rwanda and Burundi. Highly placed sources in the EAC Secretariat told The EastAfrican that Burundi opposed the takeover of the chair by Rwanda, arguing that its neighbour should not assume the chairmanship before a lasting solution to their disputes has been found. The closed session of the EAC Heads of State Summit delayed the plenary session for over four hours as the leaders reportedly debated the issue. The plenary session was scheduled to begin 2pm, but it was not after 6pm that the closed session was concluded. The East African

Malema Eyes King-Maker Role in South Africa’s May Election
South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters, the country’s second-largest opposition party, is positioning itself as king-maker in this year’s general election, promising to nationalize all land, banks and mines and double welfare payouts in its bid to lure voters and ensure the ruling African National Congress loses its majority. “No one is going to win an outright majority in this election,” Hlengiwe Hlophe-Maxon, the EFF’s deputy secretary-general, said as the party unveiled its manifesto on Saturday in Shoshanguve, a township near Pretoria. “We are going to be a deciding factor in South Africa going forward after these elections.” The ANC is set to win about 60 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections expected to take place in May, followed by the opposition Democratic Alliance with 22 percent and the EFF on 10 percent, according to a survey carried out by the South African Institute of Race Relations from Nov. 26-Dec. 4.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones