Africa Media Review for January 14, 2019

DRC Election Results Suggest a Rare Chance for Change
On January 10, after several days of intense speculation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Independent National Election Commission (CENI) declared Felix Tshisekedi, son of the late opposition doyen, Étienne Tshisekedi, the provisional winner of the country’s much-anticipated presidential election. This outcome came as a shock to many Congolese. While Tshisekedi and fellow opposition leader Martin Fayulu were widely seen as the leading candidates, the electoral environment was heavily tilted in favor of longtime leader Joseph’s Kabila identified successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Other popular opposition leaders were barred from running, the ruling party maintained a tight grip on all branches of government, the security services have been highly politicized, the Internet and several media agencies were shut down, more than a million voters in opposition strongholds were not allowed to vote, and even CENI was staffed by Kabila loyalists. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

SADC Calls for a Recount and Negotiations for a Government of National Unity in DRC
The Southern African Development Community — with South Africa’s evident support — has called on the political leaders of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to consider negotiating a government of national unity to resolve the impasse over the disputed 30 December 2019 elections. The move comes as a surprise as until now SADC — representing 16 states of southern Africa including the DRC and South Africa — had appeared to back the DRC’s handling of the elections. The DRC electoral authority CENI announced that Felix Tshisekedi of the UDPS had won the presidential elections, with Martin Fayulu of the Lamuku coalition coming in second and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the preferred candidate of outgoing President Joseph Kabila, coming in third. However, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, chairperson of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, seemed to call these results into question on Sunday when he proposed a government of national unity of all the main parties and also called for a recount of the vote.  Daily Maverick

DR Congo: Ruling Coalition Wins Legislative Majority
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) announced early Saturday that the ruling coalition of outgoing President Joseph Kabila (pictured above) had won at least 290 seats in the country’s 500-member National Assembly. The coalition’s majority may increase as elections were delayed until March in several regions due to an Ebola outbreak and militia violence. There remain 15 parliamentary seats up for grabs. The National Assembly result comes despite the victory of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi in DRC’s presidential vote on the same day. The result may complicate Tshisekedi’s efforts to break away from the country’s Kabila era. Kabila, 47, is to step down in the coming days after leading the mineral-rich country for 18 years. The transition to Tshisekedi, who won 38 percent of the vote according to CENI, will mark the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence. Deutsche Welle

Sudan Protesters Urge Darfur Demos as New Rallies Planned
A group organising anti-government protests across Sudan vowed to stage new demonstrations on Sunday, including for the first time in the war-torn region of Darfur. Protests that erupted in the provinces on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread have escalated into nationwide anti-government rallies, with demonstrators calling for President Omar al-Bashir to resign. Authorities say at least 24 people have died in the protests, while rights group Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, including children and medical staff. On Sunday, protest organisers called for demonstrations in the capital Khartoum and other towns including Madani, Kosti and Dongola as part of what they have called a “Week of Uprising”. They also urged protests in Niyala and El-Fasher in Darfur, the first such rallies to be called in the region.  AFP

In Sudan, No One Is Clear on What Happens after Al-Bashir
As violent anti-government protests enter their fourth week, Sudan appears headed toward political paralysis, with drawn-out unrest across much of the country and a fractured opposition without a clear idea of what to do if the country’s leader of 29 years loses power. Even for a country that looks unwieldy when it’s not tearing itself apart, President Omar al-Bashir’s years at the helm have turned Sudan into a cautionary tale — from genocide and bloody rebellions to ethnic cleansing, starvation and rampant corruption. But Sudan has been hard to rule way before al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup. Protest leaders say a whole new start is needed if the country is to stand any chance of progressing. “There may be very few people out there who still support this regime, the way it governed or its use of an Islamic narrative,” said Othman Mirghani, a prominent Sudanese analyst. “The conclusion reached by the people is that this regime must be brought down and the search start for a modern Sudanese state based on contemporary values.”  AP

Sudan Worshippers Turn On Imam over Protests against President Bashir
An influential Sudanese imam had to be removed from a mosque in the capital, Khartoum, after worshippers confronted him for not leading protests against embattled President Omar al-Bashir. In a video shared on social media, a man appears to shout at imam Abdul Hai Yusuf, who often backs the government: “Get up and lead us from this mosque!” A frantic crowd then chants “downfall [of the regime] only”. Police fired tear gas at protesters who marched after Friday prayers. Three weeks of demonstrations have left 22 people dead across the country.  BBC

Zimbabwe Unions to Strike as Fuel Prices More than Double
Zimbabwe’s powerful labor-union confederation called for a national strike starting at midnight after the government more than doubled fuel prices to among the highest in the world. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which represents most labor unions in the southern African nation, issued the call Sunday, a day after the government boosted prices of gasoline to $3.11 a liter from $1.34 and diesel to $3.21 a liter from $1.49. The hike caps a week in a deepening currency crisis, with the head of the main industry body saying many companies will close this month due to a currency shortage. “The ZCTU general council resolved to call for a nationwide stay-away with effect from midnight today following the insensitive and provocative increase of the fuel price by the president of Zimbabwe,” the confederation, which represents people ranging from journalists to rail workers, said in a Twitter posting.  Bloomberg

Bare-Handed Surgeries as Zimbabwe’s Health System Collapses
A doctors’ strike in Zimbabwe has crippled a health system that was already in intensive care from neglect. It mirrors the state of affairs in a country that was full of promise a year ago with the departure of longtime leader Robert Mugabe but now faces economic collapse. Doctors describe grim conditions: Bare-handed surgeries. Plastic bread bags used to collect patients’ urine. Broken-down machines. Zimbabwe’s health sector, once considered one of the best in Africa, is on its knees. “It’s so sad. The hospitals are empty, the patients are being turned away to die somewhere else,” said Prince Butau, treasurer of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which represents about 1,000 doctors who anchor government hospitals. A new president’s promises of change have turned out to be empty. “Affordable quality health care guaranteed,” read campaign billboards for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe protege, ahead of the July 2018 election. Six months after he narrowly won the disputed vote, Zimbabwe’s health sector has widespread shortages of basic medicines such as painkillers and contraceptives.  AP

Burkina Faso Extends State of Emergency in North by 6 Months after Attack
Burkina Faso’s parliament voted on Friday to extend a state of emergency by six months in several northern provinces where attacks by Islamist militants have surged in recent months, including one on Thursday that killed 12 people. The government said the latest attack was carried out by three dozen jihadists on the town of Gasseliki in Soum province near the Malian border. Two Gasseliki residents told Reuters that the men opened fire and set fire to shops in town. Burkina Faso imposed the state of emergency on Dec. 31 after militants killed 10 gendarmes in a single attack.  Reuters

Nigerian Opposition Decries Trial of Top Judge Ahead of Vote
Nigeria’s main opposition party accused the government of trying to intimidate the judiciary and spark a constitutional crisis ahead of next months presidential election by seeking to oust the country’s top judge. The Code of Conduct Tribunal, based in the capital, Abuja, said Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen would be put on trial for alleged improprieties in declaring assets. The tribunal said Onnoghen, who took up the post in March 2017, would be charged on six counts, which it didn’t detail in a statement on Saturday. Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Party has accused Buhari and his All Progressives Congress of clamping down on dissent and preparing to rig the vote, which they deny.  Bloomberg

Gabon’s New Prime Minister Forms Government after Coup Attempt
Gabon’s newly appointed prime minister has formed a government, replacing the oil-rich nation’s energy minister, less than a week after a failed coup attempt. Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale has named Emmanuel Norbert Tony Ondo Mba energy minister, replacing Patrick Eyogo Edzang, but leaving most key ministers in the 38-member government in place, according to a statement from the presidency. The cabinet reshuffle in the West African nation followed an attempted coup that came while President Ali Bongo was receiving treatment abroad after suffering a stroke. Bongo, who has been out of the country since October, appointed Bekale by presidential decree as prime minister, Secretary-General in the Presidency Jean Yves Teale said in a live broadcast on state television early Saturday.  Bloomberg

A Deeper Look at Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) opened this week in the Gambia as part of an initiative to tackle alleged human rights violations committed during the 22 years of Yahya Jammeh’s iron rule. But some Gambians question if the process will be effective in righting the wrongs of the former president’s repressive rule. “They are not sure how in-depth it will be in terms of addressing all the issues,” said Priscilla Ciesay, acting executive director of the Banjul-based Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations (GVHRV), referring to the victims. “Some are cautious that not all issues will be covered adequately.” Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, known for his cruelty to his people, until he was voted out of office in 2016 and reluctantly forced out of the country.  RFI

Ethiopia’s Ethnic Conflicts Destabilize Abiy’s Reforms
With more than 80 nationalities and ethnic groups, Ethiopia’s political landscape is dominated by tribal allegiances. Paradoxically, since Abiy came to power in April 2018 and ushered in reforms, the opening up of the political space and loosening of state controls have reignited long-simmering ethnic conflicts. In Ethiopia’s south, unresolved grievances between the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country, and ethnic Somalis over land and borders has caused a conflict there to flare up again. The explosion in violence has claimed several dozen lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. In the west of the country, dozens have been killed in clashes between armed groups and the army in recent months. After decades of exile in Eritrea, several opposition leaders were invited back to Ethiopia in 2018 as part of Abiy’s political opening. The government says it is cracking down on some of these groups for failing to lay down their arms and assaulting military and civilian targets. The ongoing violence and insecurity have resulted in increasing criticism of the government for failing to protect civilians.  Deutsche Welle

Foreign NGOs Leave Burundi as Ethnicity Law Takes Effect
Some foreign non-governmental organisations in Burundi recently closed their offices after failing to comply with the country’s laws by the December 31, 2018 deadline. The Burundi government has demanded, among other things, that NGOs observe ethnic quotas in recruiting staff. A diplomatic source in Bujumbura told The EastAfrican that some 30 NGOs could leave the country, taking away around $280 million in aid. Handicap International, which is the latest to opt out of the country, said the requirement was not tenable. “We have hired Burundians for the past 26 years depending on their skills and experience; we never consider their ethnicity,” said Dominique Delvigne, Handicap International director for the Great Lakes Region.  The East African

Chad, CAR Threaten to Abandon Cameroon Port, Blame Corruption
Landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic have dispatched senior customs officials to Cameroon to look into allegations of corruption in the Atlantic Coast port of Douala. At the port, heavy equipment is excavating and relocating huge quantities of abandoned material at the Douala seaport. Some of the containers, with vehicles and other goods destined for Cameroon, Chad and CAR, were abandoned by importers who complain that high levels of corruption, red tape and overpriced services are driving them away from one of Africa’s largest harbors. Moise Vokeng of the Professional Transporters Network at the Douala seaport says importers and exporters are looking for alternatives. “When you arrive at the port and at any checkpoint, from gendarmes to police to customs, you have to pay money, you have to pay heavy money, you do not know why you pay but you must pay before you pass,” Vokeng said. VOA

Tunisia Sentences 41 to Death over 2014 Attack on Army
A Tunisian court has sentenced 41 extremists to death over an attack that killed 15 soldiers on the border with Algeria in 2014, prosecutors said Saturday. The sentences for the men, only two of whom are currently in custody, were delivered in the capital Tunis on Friday, spokesman Sofiene Sliti told AFP. The other 39 convicted remain at large, he said, adding that all of the those found guilty were linked to ISIS. Tunisian courts continue to issue death sentences despite no executions being carried out since 1991. The gun and rocket launcher assault on army positions in July 2014 left 15 troops dead in the Mount Chaambi area of the western Kasserine region that remains a hideout for extremists. The attack was the deadliest ever against the country’s army.  AFP

Ramaphosa Draws the Sword on the Enemy Within
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa lays down the law to civil servants for poor service and for doing business with the state — but can he stare down the big men of the civil service unions? By 11 am on Saturday, 12 January, the gates at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban closed. Inside, more than 80,000 people packed the stadium – the full quota of visitors it can hold. People occupied seating all the way to the nosebleed seats at the top and then stood in rings around those — creating a sea of yellow T-shirts splashed with the smiling face of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. Former president Jacob Zuma received much louder applause than his successor when he walked into the stadium. Durban being his home territory, Zuma forced the party into a détente with him by going on the offensive, using a cheeky Twitter feed in the weeks leading up to the party’s manifesto launch. 5 For this, he received a seat at all the high tables laid on by the ANC as it launched its 2019 election campaign in the province where it has the highest number of members. But he didn’t speak at any big event. Daily Maverick

Somaliland Seeks Recognition by Hosting Naval Bases
The self-declared republic of Somaliland has expressed an interest in hosting British and Russian naval bases, which would add to an already active military presence along the coast of the Red Sea – one of the world’s busiest and most strategically important maritime passages. Last weekend, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson paid an unannounced visit to Somaliland and met with President Muse Bihi Abdi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Yasin Hagi Mohamoud, and Defense Minister Essa Ahmed as well as Nuh Ismail Tani, top army general. In 1991, the Horn of Africa territory of Somaliland seceded from Somalia, which had itself gained independence from Britain in 1960. But for the past 28 years, Somaliland has remained officially unrecognized as a country – a status it resents. Ahmed Hassan Egal, head of the Somaliland mission to Ethiopia, confirmed to Anadolu Agency that military cooperation, and more specifically the establishment of a U.K. naval base in Somaliland at the port of Berbera, was among the points of discussion.  Anadolu Agency

Competing against Chinese Loans, U.S. Companies Face Long Odds in Africa
Growing up in suburban Ohio, Rajakumari Jandhyala never imagined she would end up in the oil business, much less on the front line of America’s global competition with China. She spent two decades as a policy adviser on Africa, most recently as an aid official in the Obama administration. But in 2016, she heard about a call for proposals to build an oil refinery in Uganda that could be the largest in East Africa, and she put together a bid. She landed an investor in Kenya. She recruited oil and gas executives from General Electric. An Italian contractor joined the group of companies that formed a consortium, too. The main problem was the big advantages enjoyed by the competition: two Chinese energy companies, one of them a state oil giant with Beijing’s support. China is aggressively seeking investments and contracts around the world, and perhaps nowhere is this more visible than Africa, where Chinese companies have won contracts to build dams, roads, stadiums, airports and railways. In country after country, governments have borrowed heavily from China to pay for these projects.China’s investments in Africa are central to President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar program to build infrastructure and extend Beijing’s influence around the globe.  The New York Times

RAF Veteran ‘Admitted 1961 Killing of UN Secretary General’
New evidence has emerged linking an RAF veteran to the death in 1961 of the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld in a mysterious plane crash in southern Africa. Jan van Risseghem has been named as a possible attacker before, but has always been described simply as a Belgian pilot. The Observer can now reveal that he had extensive ties to Britain, including a British mother and wife, trained with the RAF and was decorated by Britain for his service in the second world war. Film-makers investigating the 1961 crash for a documentary, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, have found a friend of Van Risseghem who claimed the pilot confessed to shooting down the UN plane. They also gathered testimony from another pilot that undermines one of his alibis for that night. The Guardian

New Monarch Appointed to Ancestral Kingdom of Dahomey
A new ruler of the former military kingdom of Dahomey in modern-day Benin was designated on Saturday, after the death of the previous monarch, last year. Dah Sagbadjou Glele succeeds Dah Dedjalagni Agoli-Agbo, who died in July 2017 aged 84, dignitaries from royal families said following lengthy discussions. Modern-day kings of Dahomey have no formal powers under Benin’s constitution but retain much ceremonial, political and economic influence. “The night was long but a new dawn has broken on the kingdom of Dahomey,” they said. One of those involved said the nomination was “happy and consensual” and that Glele was a worthy successor to Agoli-Agbo, a former police officer who had 41 wives. The kingdom of Dahomey existed for nearly 400 years until its last ruling king, Behanzin, was defeated by the French in 1894. AFP

 

 



Photo: Adam Jones