Africa Media Review for January 15, 2019

Taking Stock of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan
The signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) by the longtime rivals Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in Khartoum in September 2018 was hailed as a breakthrough for reversing the brutal civil conflict that has cost an estimated 400,000 lives and displaced more than 4 million people since its onset in December 2013. This analysis, organized broadly along the main elements of the Agreement, assesses developments since the signing and prospects for implementation moving forward. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Sudan Pursues Fragile Peace, but People Remain Wary
South Sudan opposition commander Moses Lokujo flipped through his notes, explaining international humanitarian law to an attentive group of senior officers. “Soldiers are not supposed to kill someone who’s not an enemy,” he said. “And if a civilian is walking with a goat it doesn’t mean you can steal it just because you have a gun.” Just months ago, such training seemed implausible in a country that was embroiled in a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. Since a fragile peace deal was signed in September, however, South Sudan’s previously warring parties have been trying to rebuild trust in some of the areas hardest-hit by the war. On a trip this month to government and opposition-held territories in Kajo Keji in Central Equatoria state, The Associated Press met with both sides who said the reconciliation of former rivals President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar was the reason peace efforts appear to be working on the ground. AP

Ivory Coast Ex-President Gbagbo Goes Free at ICC Court in the Hague
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has acquitted Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo. He had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced. Mr Gbagbo was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara. He was the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC. The violence in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept that he had lost a disputed election run-off to Mr Ouattara in 2010. The five months of violence that followed were described as some of the most brutal clashes the country had ever seen. BBC

Zimbabwe’s President Raised Fuel Prices to over $12 a Gallon and Then Jetted Off to Russia. Deadly Chaos Ensued.
Pent-up anger found its vent on Monday in Zimbabwe as thousands crowded the streets of cities and towns across the country to protest the mismanagement of an economy that has undeniably rotted to its core. Just five months have passed since Emmerson Mnangagwa took over as president from Robert Mugabe, who ruled for nearly 40 years and presided over Zimbabwe’s initial catastrophic economic meltdown. But Mnangagwa, who won a contested election on promises of putting the country back in business, has taken decisions read by many as a continuation of Mugabe’s misguided policies. Mnangagwa deposed an increasingly erratic Mugabe with the help of the military in November 2017, but a subsequent election was marred by accusations of vote rigging. On Sunday, just before taking a private jet on an official trip to Russia (all of the state-owned airline’s planes are grounded), Mnangagwa announced a 140 percent increase in fuel prices, making Zimbabwe, at $12.53 a gallon, by far the most expensive place to gas up in the world. For many Zimbabweans, it was the last straw. They took to the streets, but in another echo of the Mugabe era, so did security forces, looters, and unidentifiable armed men.  The Washington Post

Zimbabwe protests, Day 2: Govt Shuts Down Internet as Towns & Cities Deserted
Harare and Bulawayo were largely deserted Tuesday as the country-wide protest called by labour unions and anti-government activist entered its second day after a violent start Monday. “Today it’s day two of the Shutdown. We urge workers and citizens everywhere to stay at home,” tweeted the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) which called the protests. “Our struggle is genuine and there must be economic reforms for the poor to survive.” The government was also accused of shutting down the internet with communication on the popular WhatsApp platform impossible from mid-morning and access to social media cites such as Twitter and Facebook restricted. Mobile phone networks were also partially shut down, with one industry source saying the systems had been jammed and many users complaining of limited access. The opposition said the internet blockade was aimed at covering up a crackdown against civilians by the security services. Advocacy gorup, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, reported that five people were killed Monday in clashes between demonstrators and security forces who opened fire on some crowds.  New Zimbabwe

Gabon’s President Returns Home after Extended Medical Leave
President Ali Bongo returned to Gabon on Monday after a three-month medical leave during which a coup attempt was thwarted, two government sources told Reuters. His return comes a week after a small military group took over the state radio station. The move to grab power was quickly halted but exposed growing frustration in the oil-producing country over Bongo’s secretive absence. Bongo suffered the stroke during a conference in Saudi Arabia in October and was flown to Morocco in November for treatment. He has appeared in closely choreographed television clips in recent weeks, including a New Year’s address in which he slurred his speech and appeared unable to move his right arm. It is not clear if he can walk. VOA

Congo under Mounting Foreign Pressure for Vote Recount
Democratic Republic of Congo faced growing pressure from African neighbours and beyond on Monday for a recount of its contested presidential election in a dispute that threatens more violence in the volatile nation. […] The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a 12-member body including Kinshasa allies Angola and Republic of Congo, expressed “great concern”. “We suggest that the competent structures consider counting the votes in order to guarantee the transparency of the results,” it added in a statement. Pressure on Kabila has built since the vote, in part because Congo’s influential Catholic Church said tallies by its 40,000-strong monitoring team show a different winner to that announced by the electoral commission. France, Belgium, the United States and Britain have all expressed concern. But perceived criticism from inside Africa could hold greater sway, with approval from regional partners critical for the legitimacy of president-elect Tshisekedi.  Reuters

Congo President Didn’t Run for Re-Election, but He’s Still in Control
The blaze that consumed the headquarters of the main opposition party of the Democratic Republic of Congo was so devastating that the bodies of several men were charred beyond recognition. The men were among dozens killed protesting the rule of President Joseph Kabila.“We’re dealing with a rogue state,” said the opposition leader, Félix Tshisekedi. That was a little over two years ago. Last week, shortly after he was anointed president-elect, Mr. Tshisekedi “paid tribute” to Mr. Kabila, describing him as “a partner for change, not an enemy.” While the situation in Congo remains fluid after an election that most independent observers, including the Roman Catholic Church, consider to be illegitimate, one thing does seem certain: In the absence of intense international pressure or a determined domestic uprising, the Kabila government seems likely to continue running the country in everything but name.“Kabila is in a very comfortable position,” said one presidential adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “He was very upset over the results, as we all were, but we still retain power.”  The New York Times

New Tensions, Worries Mark Tunisia’s Revolution Anniversary
Thousands gathered Monday in Tunisia’s capital as the country marked eight years since a democratic uprising ousted its long-time strongman. The rally came amid deepening economic troubles in the North African nation and resurgent anger at the revolution’s unfulfilled promises. Unions, political parties and other civil society groups came together in Tunis to celebrate the 2011 revolution and keep up pressure on the government to improve economic opportunity in the impoverished nation. State workers who want an end to a salary freeze plan a general strike Thursday that could disrupt airports, ports and the Mediterranean nation’s vital tourism industry. Union leader Mohamed Ali Boughdiri warned of possible violence, saying workers’ ”patience is running out.”  AP

Tanzania Court Rejects Plea to Halt Draft Law Curbing Opposition
Tanzania’s High Court on Monday rejected a petition from some opposition leaders to halt parliamentary debate on draft legislation they say would criminalize many legitimate political activities and cement “one-party” rule. Accusing opposition groups of trying to foment violence to derail economic reforms, President John Magufuli’s government wants to amend the law governing political parties. The changes would expand grounds on which authorities can suspend political parties and jail their members. Critics say that would sharply curb freedoms in the East African nation and prevent an effective challenge to Magufuli and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in next year’s general election and this year’s local elections.  Reuters

Senegal Blocks Popular Opposition Candidates from Presidential Race
Senegal’s two best known opposition figures have been barred from running in presidential elections next month, the Constitutional Council said on Monday, increasing President Macky Sall’s chances of securing a second term in office. Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar who bears no relation to President Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were jailed for graft and corruption in 2018 and 2015 respectively. Under Senegalese law, the sentences effectively ended their chances of running in the Feb. 24 poll and the Constitutional Council confirmed this outcome on Monday. The opposition says the sentences were part of the president’s plan to silence popular opponents so he can secure a second mandate, charges the ruling party denies.  Reuters

Inside Ramaphosa’s Plan for Winning S. Africa’s National Elections
The African National Congress has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, and will be hoping to extend its 25-year-reign, at this years polls expected in May. The party that has been led by South Africa’s presidents including Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and current head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, is however struggling to recoup its majority that waned drastically during Zuma’s tenure. Under scandal-stained Zuma, the ANC had its worst electoral performance since 1994, winning less than 54% in local elections, and losing the key cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Africa News

Shabaab Kills Pro-Islamic State Commander
According to Somali website Garowe Online, Shabaab militants recently gunned down a pro-Islamic State commander in the southern Somali town of Bu’ale. Shabaab has not confirmed this event, but it rarely publicly comments on assassinations or executions of this nature. Garowe states that “Yahya Haji Fiile, known as Abu Zakariye, was killed in the district after Shabaab intelligence linked him to the Islamic State in Somalia.” The article continues by stating that Fiile, a former top Shabaab commander, initially fell out with the jihadist group in 2016 after it killed Bashir Abu Numan. Abu Numan was one of the first Shabaab commanders to defect to the Islamic State, but he was killed by Shabaab’s internal security force, the Amniyat, in late 2015. Since then, the Amniyat has hunted down and killed dozens of former Shabaab members and leaders who defected to the Islamic State or who professed pro-Islamic State sympathies. Long War Journal

Kenya’s New Security Conundrum after Ousting Al-Shabab
High-profile attacks in Kenya by the armed group al-Shabab at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 and a university in Garissa in 2015 killed more than 200 people. The events changed the way the government deploys ground forces and carries out counterterrorism activities. The Kenyan army took over control of the porous border with Somalia from police. Since then, Kenyan soldiers have spearheaded a large-scale ongoing operation in the Boni National Reserve, pushing al-Shabab fighters back into Somalia, greatly reducing the group’s capacity to recruit and operate inside Kenya. For years, the forest in the national park was easy cover for fighters moving between the countries. Analysts say Kenya’s success in taking the fight to al-Shabab has made it a blueprint for dealing with violent groups in the region.  Al Jazeera

SGR Pact with China a Risk to Kenyan Sovereignty, Assets
Kenya’s key strategic assets at home and abroad will not be protected by “sovereignty” and risk being seized by the Chinese government should there be a default in repaying the Standard Gauge Railway loan, a copy of the contract seen by the Sunday Nation reveals. The initial agreement for the Mombasa-Nairobi railway signed on May 11, 2014 also details how the pact will be governed by Chinese laws with all disputes being arbitrated in Beijing. In addition, the contract, and a subsequent one on the Nairobi-Naivasha phase, also have a confidentiality clause gagging Kenya from making the deal public “without prior written permission of the lender (China)”. This comes more than two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta, responding to a question from NTV’s Mark Masai during a live television interview on December 28 last year, promised to release the SGR contract to put to rest any “porojo” (rumours) that the Chinese could seize the Port of Mombasa.  Daily Nation

Nigeria’s Top Judge Absent from His Corruption Trial
Nigeria’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, was absent on Monday from the first day of his fiercely-disputed trial overshadowed by the country’s upcoming elections. Onnoghen had been scheduled to attend the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a special court set up to enforce ethical conduct among holders of public office. Last week he was accused of breaching a transparency law that requires public officials to declare their assets. It also bars them from having bank accounts in foreign currencies. Lead defence attorney Wole Olanipekun, heading dozens of lawyers who had gathered in a protest against the case, said Onnoghen was absent as he had not been properly served with the summons. AFP

Legacy of Benghazi: Marine Force Stays Ready for Quick Africa Deployment
The U.S. Marines here sprint the Spanish hills daily, charging past palm trees and through lush fields in a regimen built all around being ready for the absolute worst in some of the world’s most dangerous places. If a sudden crisis happens in Africa, they’re likely the first to go. It’s an important mission, said Sgt. Joseph Czajkowski, a joint fires observer with the Marine Corps’ ultra-ready task force in southern Europe. “If coalition forces get into a tight bind in Africa, we would be able to support them. Or an aircraft goes down, we can go get them,” Czajkowski said. “The more support for this region, the better.” The task force was developed in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attacks on U.S. diplomatic buildings in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. It was a wake-up call for U.S. Africa Command, which lacked its own forces at the ready to send in an emergency. Enter Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, a rotational unit based in Moron and Sigonella, Italy, which was established in 2013.  Stars and Stripes

Libya’s Paramilitary Force to ‘Cleanse’ Country’s South
A spokesman for Libya’s powerful paramilitary based in the eastern city of Benghazi says its troops are launching an operation “to cleanse” the country’s south of Islamic militants and criminals. Ahmed al-Mesmari of the self-styled Libyan National Army that answers to Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter told reporters on Tuesday that the operations aims to “eliminate gangs, Islamic State terrorists and criminals” in the south. He says the operation will also try and stem illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, describing it as an “international problem.” The U.N. recently deplored deteriorating security in southern Libya. Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country is currently governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the east, each backed by an array of militias.  AP

Libya to Boycott Arab Summit in Beirut
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has said it will boycott this Sunday’s Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut. […] Supporters of the Lebanese Amal Movement tore down the Libyan flag from between the other flags raised on poles on the road to the airport to welcome the delegations participating in the summit.  They replaced it with the Amal flag to protest the kidnapping in Libya of Imam Musa Al-Sadr, a Lebanese-Iranian philosopher and Shiite religious leader, and two companions in 1987.  Photos of Amal members tearing down and replacing the Libyan flag went viral on social media.  This prompted Libyan protesters to remove the sign of the Lebanese Embassy in the Libyan capital and raise their country’s flag at the embassy’s main iron gate, said Lebanon’s ambassador to Libya, Mohammad Sukaina.  Arab News



Photo: Adam Jones