Africa Media Review for February 7, 2019

U.S. Cuts Some Military Assistance to Cameroon, Citing Allegations of Human Rights Violations
The United States is scaling back its security assistance to Cameroon following credible allegations that the Cameroonian military carried out human rights violations in the Central African country, the State Department said Wednesday. Cameroon is a key U.S. security partner, and about 300 U.S. troops are based there to train and assist the Cameroonian military, including in its fight against extremism in its far northern region. Human rights groups have reported that Cameroonian security forces have targeted civilians, in the far north and in the country’s unstable southwest and northwest regions, where the military is battling English-speaking separatists fighting to create a breakaway nation called Ambazonia. “We emphasize that it is in Cameroon’s interest to show greater transparency in investigating credible allegations of gross violations of human rights security forces, particularly in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North Regions,” the State Department said through a spokesman via email Wednesday.  The Washington Post

Rights Group Accuses Burkina Army of Executions Following Anti-Militant Operations
Burkina Faso’s army said it had killed nearly 150 militants in response to an attack on civilians this week, but an international rights group said some of them had been executed in front of their families. The army has stepped up operations in response to worsening security across northern Burkina since last year, including attacks by Islamist militants and inter-ethnic clashes, leading to accusations of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests. Rights activists fear such abuses could fuel spiralling instability in previously peaceful Burkina as they have in neighbouring Mali, where jihadist groups have tapped into ethnic rivalries and anger with the central government to recruit. The violence in the West Africa’s Sahel region, a semi-arid band below the Sahara, has alarmed former colonial power France and the United States, who have deployed thousands of troops to the zone to counter al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups.  Reuters

Jihadists Retaliate after Burkina Faso Military Offensive
The commander general of Burkina Faso’s army says five gendarmes are dead and three wounded after jihadists retaliated against counterterror operations that killed 146 of their fighters earlier this week. Commander General Moise Minoungou also said late on Tuesday that armed forces killed 21 jihadists after they attacked a military base in Oursi. Minoungou encouraged the population to continue collaborating with security forces against the growing jihadist presence in the West African nation. Islamic extremists in recent months have increased attacks in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region, which is now under a state of emergency. AP

More Opposition Leaders, Activists Detained in Sudan
Agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continued its arrest campaign of political party leaders and active members of coalitions on Tuesday. Sara Nugdallah, Secretary-General of the National Umma Party (NUP), Um Salama, daughter of NUP leader El Sadig El Mahdi, and Asmaa Mahmoud Taha, Secretary-General of the Republican Party were detained in Omdurman and only released late in the evening. In Khartoum, prominent human rights defender Nabil Adib, was also detained and questioned, and then released after several hours and lawyers Manal Khojali and Abla Osman were held, along with activists Dalia Obeid, Sara Mousa and Tahra Majzoub. Others are still being counted. On Sunday, NISS agents held journalist Hussein Saad while he was on his way home in Khartoum. He was taken to an unknown destination.  Radio Dabanga

Sudan’s Bashir Softens Tone Dramatically, Says Reporters to Be Released
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, facing near-daily demonstrations against his government, took a newly conciliatory tone with the protesters on Wednesday, saying they are mostly young with poor prospects, and pledging to release detained journalists. Bashir’s remarks appeared to be part of a new strategy to soften the government’s stance toward the protests after the Defence Minister and Prime Minister made similar remarks in recent days. “Most of the protesters are young and there are factors that drove them to take to the streets, including inflation, which led to higher prices – and the limited job opportunities that don’t match the number of graduates,” Bashir told journalists invited to the presidential palace for a “discussion of recent events”. Reuters

Egypt’s Opposition Unites on Presidential Term-Limit Changes
Egyptian opposition parties have formed a coalition against proposed changes to the constitution that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stay in office beyond the end of his current term in 2022. Egypt’s parliament has given its preliminary approval of the changes after two-thirds of the general committee endorsed the proposed amendments on Tuesday. The 596-seat assembly, which is packed with Sisi supporters, will take a final vote on February 17, but the amendments would also need to be put to a national referendum. Abdel-Aziz el-Husseini, a senior leader in the Karama (Dignity) Party, said on Wednesday that 11 parties met the previous day and declared their opposition to the proposed changes.  Al Jazeera

Hundreds of Ex-Slaves in Libya Coming to Canada: Immigration Minister
More than a year after the United Nations asked countries to take in refugees living in slavery in Libya, Canada has begun resettling hundreds of them, the UN and the federal government said Wednesday. Canada was one of the few countries to respond to a request from the United Nations refugee agency in December 2017 to take the refugees who were living in detention centres in Libya, said Michael Casasola, the head of resettlement for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Ottawa. “It can take some time for the countries to do their selection because it was a voluntary act. So they want to screen. They go through their usual selection processes,” said Casasola. “That can take time.” More than 150 people have been resettled and another 600 more are expected over the next two years through the regular refugee settlement program, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Wednesday. The Ottawa Sun

East Libyan Forces Say They’ve Taken Southern Oil Field
Libyan forces from the country’s east say they have taken control of the southern Sharara oil field, part of an expansion of Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s control over Libya’s main revenue generator. In a statement late Wednesday, Ahmed Mesmari, spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army under Hifter’s command, says the move was taken in order to provide security to an area that was previously lawless. He says the move was made in collaboration with local tribes, and grievances over salaries would be addressed. Libya is governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east, each of which is backed by an array of militias. Hifter heads the eastern faction.  AP

South Sudan’s Rebel Leader Machar Plans May Return to Juba
A United Nations envoy who visited South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar at his exile home in Khartoum has confirmed that the latter is planning to return to Juba in May. UN envoy David Shearer met last week with Machar to discuss plans for a transitional government that will pave the way to elections, under the terms of a peace plan signed in September. “He told me that he is committed to coming back still at the end of May,” Shearer told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York, adding that his return will mark a “critical juncture” toward setting up the transitional government.  AFP

Piracy and Crime on the High Seas Growing and Becoming More Sophisticated
International maritime crime is becoming “increasingly sophisticated” as criminal groups exploit jurisdiction and enforcement challenges on the high seas and pose “immediate danger to people’s lives and safety”,the UN anti-drugs and crime chief warned the Security Council this week. “Two-thirds of the world’s surface is ocean. Nearly all of that is beyond any State’s territorial waters and largely not subject to a single state criminal jurisdiction,” Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said briefing the Council’s first-ever debate targeting the global challenge of transnational maritime crime. Speaking via video conference from UNODC headquarters in Vienna, he spotlighted the root causes of transnational organised crime at sea and the linkages between terrorism, piracy and illegal trafficking. DefenceWeb

Zambia Infrastructure Minister Arrested on Corruption Charge
Zambia’s infrastructure and housing minister has been charged with concealing property believed to have been bought with the proceeds of crime, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said. The ACC arrested Ronald Chitotela on Tuesday and released him on bail pending a court hearing. Chitotela did not immediately respond the Reuters’ attempts to contact him for comment. The main opposition party has often accused President Edgar Lungu’s government of corruption. Chitotela, 47, is the first cabinet minister to be arrested on suspicion of graft since Lungu’s re-election in 2016.  Reuters

Algerian Brain Drain Is Pre-Election Headache for Government
No matter who wins Algeria’s presidential election, 29-year-old cardiologist Moumen Mohamed plans to seek his fortune elsewhere. He is one of a growing number of young, educated Algerians who are looking for work in Europe or the Gulf to escape the low salaries imposed by a state-dominated economy at home. The exodus of doctors, engineers and other highly skilled workers is a headache for a government hoping to engage with its largely youthful electorate ahead of the vote on April 18. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 81, has not said if he will seek a fifth term, although the ruling FLN party, labour unions and business leaders are urging him on.  Reuters

Arab Spring’s Lone Democracy Teeters as Economy Refuses to Heal
Tunisia’s finance chief is unusually cheerful. Looking at the numbers, its hard to see why. On nearly every economic indicator that matters, the North African nation is worse off than before the 2011 overthrow of its dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: Inflation is higher, growth lower, the deficit wider, and unemployment at chronic levels still dogs a youthful population. Indicators in themselves are meaningless if you don’t put them in their dynamic context, Finance Minister Mohamed Ridha Chalghoum insisted in an interview last week at his ministry in the capital, Tunis. While conceding that the outlook was rosier back in 2010, he pleaded special circumstances when considering Tunisia’s woeful economic figures: You cant treat them like you would numbers in a country going through a normal situation. In truth, Tunisia’s circumstances are anything but normal. From the southern mining heartland to the streets of the capital, where schools shut for weeks on end, the protests that accompanied the revolution have never stopped. As the country prepares for elections this year, the struggle for Tunisia’s economic survival will dictate its future path. Bloomberg

Tanzania May Renegotiate Gas Contracts It Deems Unfavorable
Tanzania said it might renegotiate natural gas contracts if its review finds terms agreed as far back as two decades unfavorable to the East African nation.The assessment of 11 agreements started two months ago and is the latest in a series of measures by President John Magufuli’s government to secure more revenue from the country’s resources. Tanzania has 58 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, some of which is being developed by companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc.  “Should we find they have questionable terms then we will ask the investors to renegotiate them,” Energy Permanent Secretary Hamisi Mwinyimvua said in an interview on Monday. Equinor, which has invested more than $2 billion developing Block 2, said its Production Sharing Agreement with the government is still valid, according to spokesman Erik Haaland . Bloomberg

Senegal Ex-President Calls for Cancellation of Feb. 24 Polls
On Tuesday, Senegal’s former president Abdoulaye Wade called for the cancellation of presidential elections slated for February 24. He also called for peaceful protest against the polls. According to Wade, 92, the process was rigidly tilted in favour of the incumbent Macky Sall who he accuses of using state apparatus to block the participation of strong opponents. He particularly bemoaned the Constitutional Court’s rejection of presidential candidacies submitted by Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar with no relation to President Sall, and his son Karim Wade. The Senegalese Democratic Party, PDS, the political movement Wade founded, is preparing a programme of action by 23 February along with other political parties.  Africa News

South Africa Arrests Whistle-Blower Agrizzi on Corruption Charges
South African police arrested five people, including a witness at a judicial inquiry into alleged influence peddling, on charges of corruption and fraud in the awarding of government contracts, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. One of those arrested was Angelo Agrizzi, a former executive of a private company who testified for more than a week on how he bribed politicians and bureaucrats to secure government contracts for his company. The five are charged with misappropriating about 1.6 billion rand ($44.5 million). “These arrests are a culmination of many years of investigations,” said Hangwani Mulaudzi, the spokesman for the Hawks police unit.  Reuters

Zimbabwe’s Opposition MDC Snubs Mnangagwa Talks
Zimbabwe’s main opposition on Wednesday snubbed talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa meant to try to resolve a political and economic crisis, saying any dialogue with the president would have to be brokered by an independent outside mediator. Mnangagwa, who is under pressure over the deteriorating economy and a security crackdown on anti-government protests last month, invited 23 opposition leaders to a meeting to draw up terms for national dialogue. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would take part in the talks only if they were held under the supervision of the United Nations, African union or Southern African Development Community. VOA

UN Chief: There Is ‘Wind of Hope’ in Africa
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that there has been a “quantum leap” in relations between the world body and the African Union and he hopes this can translate into progress on some of the continent’s biggest challenges. “I am totally committed to the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations,” Guterres told VOA in an interview at U.N. headquarters Tuesday before he heads to Addis Ababa for this weekend’s AU summit. “We are working more and more together in addressing a number of situations in Africa.” He pointed to Tuesday’s breakthrough on the Central African Republic — the government and 14 armed groups initialed a deal to end five years of fighting during peace talks in Sudan. “It was led by the African Union with full support of the U.N.,” Guterres said. The U.N. has more than 13,000 peacekeepers in the country, which has been wracked by intercommunal and religious fighting since 2013.  VOA

Tens of Thousands Dying Each Year as ‘Unsafe Produce’ Impacts Food System in Sub-Saharan Africa
International donors and domestic governments must do more to tackle high levels of illness and death caused by unsafe food in sub-Saharan Africa. A new report by the Global Food Safety Partnership, part of the World Bank, says that “relatively little” is being done to reduce the number of food-borne illnesses among people in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the fact more than 100,000 people are killed eating unsafe food every year. A report by the World Health Organization in 2015 estimated that there are around 137,000 deaths and 91 million cases of illness every year in Africa because of unsafe food. The toll is heaviest on children under the age of five, the report found. The report warns that the number of cases of food poisoning will only increase as the African food system matures, “supply chains lengthen, and Africans have access to more of the nutritious meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables that are needed for good health but are more vulnerable to food safety hazards than traditional staples of African diets”.  The Telegraph



Photo: Adam Jones