Africa Media Review for January 18, 2019

Citing ‘Serious Doubts’, AU Urges Delay to Final DRC Vote Results
The African Union has called for the final announcement of last month’s disputed presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to be suspended due to “serious doubts”. The rare move on Thursday from the bloc creates fresh uncertainty into the post-election process, which was meant to usher in the vast country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 but has been mired in controversy. “The Heads of State and Government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the votes cast,” the AU said in a statement after a meeting at its headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. As a result, it has “called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections”.  Al Jazeera

African Bloc Walks Back Calls for Congo Election Recount
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Thursday rowed back on call earlier this week for a recount in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s disputed presidential election. Opposition leader and election runner-up Martin Fayulu is demanding that Congo’s highest court order a recount of the Dec. 30 vote, which was meant to lead to Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence. Fayulu claims he won by a landslide and that the victory of another opposition figure, Felix Tshisekedi, was engineered by authorities. The dispute risks stoking new instability in the volatile Central African country where previous elections have been followed by violence. Election officials deny the results were rigged.  Reuters

Three Killed, Hospital Stormed in Large Khartoum Protests
Several Sudanese cities were in turmoil by large-scale protests yesterday which security forces clamped-down with the use of bullets and tear gas. At least three people are confirmed dead. Again, security forces stormed a hospital treating wounded protesters. Khartoum, El Obeid, Atbara, Port Sudan, Wad Madani, El Duweim, en Sennar witnessed demonstrations calling for the step-down of President Omar Al Bashir and the departure of the Sudanese government. Sudanese security forces, including riot police and National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), used excessive violence against the demonstrations amid a large deployment of security forces that used live bullets, baton sticks and tear gas. Vehicles with security personnel in official and plain clothes were stationed across the downtown area of Khartoum and along the route of Thursday’s march in the capital.  Radio Dabanga

UN Rights Chief Condemns Sudan’s Crackdown on Protesters
The U.N. Human Rights chief expressed concern Thursday that Sudanese security forces have used excessive force and live ammunition against anti-government demonstrators, and she called on Khartoum to allow citizens to peacefully protest. “A repressive response can only worsen grievances,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement from her office in Geneva. The country has seen large-scale demonstrations since Dec. 19, when the government raised bread prices. The protests have grown in scope, and many are calling for an end to the three-decade-long rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The government has confirmed that 24 people have died during the protests, but the U.N. says credible reports suggest the death toll may be nearly double that. There have also been numerous injuries and reports that security forces fired tear gas and bullets inside a hospital as they pursued injured protesters.  VOA

Zimbabwe in ‘Total Internet Shutdown’ amid Violent Crackdown
Zimbabwe on Friday faced a “total internet shutdown,” a media group said, after a days-long violent crackdown on people protesting a dramatic fuel price increase. Badly injured people streamed into a hospital in the capital after alleged assaults by security forces. “Our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a sweeping statement lamenting the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse. Media group MISA-Zimbabwe shared a text message from the country’s largest telecom company, Econet, calling the government’s internet order “beyond our reasonable control.” The High Court will hear a challenge to the shutdown on Monday, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.  AP

Most Shops, Schools Still Closed as Zimbabwe Stayaway Enters Day Four
It was meant to last only three days but the stayaway called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions entered its fourth day on Thursday. Most businesses, schools and a few government departments remained closed. A few banks partially opened, mostly in Harare’s CBD, but remained closed for business. Supermarkets that did open recorded brisk business as citizens turned up in numbers to buy basic commodities. After three days, many had depleted their supplies of bread, milk and meat. A store about 4km from the Harare CBD struggled to cope with the number of shoppers. It had to briefly close to new customers while serving those inside. This process took at least 30 minutes, a situation attributed to the fact that most employees did not turn up for work due to public transport challenges. Times Live

Deadly Nairobi Attack Comes as U.S. Military Ramps up Airstrikes against Al-Shabab in Somalia
When the Somali extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for this week’s 19-hour siege of a Nairobi complex that left at least 21 dead, it said the attack was “a response to the witless remarks of U.S. president, Donald Trump, and his declaration of al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel.” Most of the victims of the attack were Kenyan, and the effects of trauma, tightened security and economic losses will also be mostly felt by Kenyans. But al-Shabab’s stated reason for the attack is a reminder that it comes amid an escalation in its battle for survival against a growing number of U.S. airstrikes, which are supported by Kenya. The U.S. military’s unmanned drones, based in Somalia and neighboring countries, conducted 47 strikes in 2018, up from 31 in 2017, according to U.S. Africa Command. The most recent U.S. strike was Jan. 8, and several in December killed 62 al-Shabab fighters.  AP

Al-Qaeda Disciples Still a Potent Threat to African Business Hub
[…] One of a recent wave of Islamist militant attacks that have rocked sub-Saharan Africa from Nigeria and Mali in the west to Somalia in the east, Tuesdays assault shows al-Shabaab is still a major threat to Kenya and the region, said Omar S. Mahmood, a senior researcher at the Pretoria, South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies. Even if there have not been major incidents in Nairobi in recent years, al-Shabaab remains a sophisticated and determined actor which still has its sights on the city, he said. For residents of Kenya’s capital, the events stirred painful echoes of the September 2013 attack by al-Shabaab on the upscale Westgate shopping mall, about a mile from Riverside, in which 67 died. Nairobi is a regional hub for companies such as General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. Al-Shabaab has historically targeted sites that represent multiple constituencies to maximize the propaganda value of its actions, said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, senior Africa analyst at Bath, England-based Verisk Maplecroft. As well as a hotel, the Riverside complex is also home to the offices of foreign companies and high-end shops, giving them three high-value targets. Bloomberg

Kirk Woodman: Canadian Mine Worker Killed in Burkina Faso
A Canadian geologist kidnapped earlier this week in the West African nation of Burkina Faso has been killed, Canadian officials confirm. Kirk Woodman was abducted by gunmen on Tuesday night from a mine exploration camp in the country’s northern region. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland condemned those responsible “for this terrible crime”. Mr Woodman was the second Canadian to go missing in Burkina Faso in recent weeks. Ms Freeland said that Canada is working with the Burkina Faso government and other international partners “to pursue those responsible and bring them to justice. The government’s priority is the safety and security of Canadians”.  BBC

Momade Elected as Mozambique’s Opposition Leader Ahead of Polls
Mozambique’s main opposition Renamo has picked Mr Ossufo Momade as the party president and presidential flag bearer ahead of the October election. Mr Momade takes over the party’s reins, replacing veteran leader Afonso Dhlakama who died on May 3 last year with his party saying he succumbed to an unconfirmed heart attack. Mr Momade was elected during Renamo’s sixth national congress held on January 15 to 17, garnering 410 votes. Mr Elias Dhlakama, a war veteran and Afonso’s brother, was second with 238 votes. Renamo fought a 16-year guerrilla war against the ruling Frelimo party until 1992 and then emerged as an opposition party that still retained armed fighters.  The East African

Algeria to Hold Presidential Election on April 18
Algeria is set to hold the presidential election on April 18, the North African country’s presidency announced. It is unclear whether Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s frail 81-year-old president who has been in power since 1999, will stand for a fifth consecutive term. Djamel Ould Abbes, the former chief of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), was sacked in November, a month after he announced that Bouteflika would be the party’s candidate in the presidential poll. “Bouteflika… is the candidate of the FLN for the presidential election,” Ould Abbes was quoted as saying following a meeting with legislators from the party last year. “His candidacy has been demanded by all the FLN cadres and activists across the country,” he said. Bouteflika, who has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2013, last addressed the nation more than six years ago. Al Jazeera

Nationwide Strike Paralyzes Tunisia as 670,000 Public Servants Demand Pay Rise
Tunisia’s biggest union, UGTT, started a nationwide strike on Thursday affecting the country’s airports, schools and state media to protest against the government’s refusal to raise the salaries of 670,000 public servants. Tunisia is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to freeze public sector wages as part of reforms to help reduce the country’s budget deficit. International lenders have threatened to stop financing the economy, which has been in crisis since the toppling of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. The one-day strike will hit airports, ports, schools, hospitals, state media and government offices, but Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said the state will provide minimum services in vital sectors including aviation, ports, buses and trains. Reuters

Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential Polls: 72 Aspirants on Ballot – Official
Nigeria’s February 16 presidential elections will have a total of 72 candidates participating, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, said on Thursday. INEC released a list that had the name of all aspirants and their vice-presidential candidates. The list also included aspirants for the senatorial and house of representatives positions. Nigeria’s is Africa’s most populous nation and INEC has reported that some 82 million people have registered to participate in the elections. The list also noted that one part, SDF, have yet to submit their candidates owing to a court injunction. The election is the sixth since Nigeria’s return to multi-party rule in 1999. Despite the crowded field, the race is largely believed to be between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president. Africa News

Atiku Confirms Arrival in U.S.
Atiku Abubakar has confirmed his arrival in the United States. In a post on Twitter, he said: “Just arrived Washington D.C for meeting with US government officials, Nigerians living in D.C metropolis and the business community. -AA”, with a photograph, showing him clutching a bouquet of flowers, along with Senate President Bukola Saraki and a lady. The Embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC had said it was not sure if the former Vice-President would be visiting the United States any moment soon. A competent source at the embassy told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the embassy was yet to get official information about the former vice president. Mr Abubakar, who is the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was then being rumoured to have arrived in the United States on Thursday night. Some other reports said he was on his way. Premium Times

Ethiopia Nabs over 800 Returnee OLF Fighters Disturbing Oromia
Eight hundred and thirty-five armed members of the Oromo Liberation Front, OLF, have been arrested by a Command Post in Ethiopia, the state-affiliated FBC reports. Weapons and other logistics were seized in the raid that resulted in the arrest of the OLF members who are believed to be behind a spike in crime incidents in western Oromia. A wide array of recoveries were also made from the detainees. Among others, Bern machine guns, Kalashnikov guns, old-fashioned weapons, pistols, an assortment of bullets were recovered as wall as trucks, minibuses, motor bikes, a computer, SIM cards and a printer. The Command Post was established to prevent deadly incidents between Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regional states. Violence across their common border in 2018 led to the loss of lives and displacement. Africa News

Ethiopia Fuel Squeeze and Djibouti’s Continued Economic Importance
For a populous nation as Ethiopia – on record as Africa’s second biggest only behind Nigeria, imports are as important to its economic growth as are the goods it also exports – chief amongst them, coffee. Ethiopia is, however, landlocked with five neighbours who have access to the sea – Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea. As things stand now, Djibouti handles roughly 95 percent of all inbound trade for Ethiopia, a nation of 105 million and an economic power in East Africa. One of the first significant steps Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took when he assumed the premiership in April 2018 was to acquire stakes in ports in neighbouring countries. Africa News

Ethiopia Allows Almost 1 Million Refugees to Leave Camps, Go to Work
Ethiopia passed a law Thursday giving almost 1 million refugees the right to work and live outside of camps, in a move praised for providing them with more dignity and reducing reliance on foreign aid. Home to Africa’s second largest refugee population after Uganda, Ethiopia hosts more than 900,000 people who have fled conflict, drought and persecution in neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. The refugees — many of whom sought refuge decades ago and have children born in Ethiopia — are largely confined to one of about 20 camps across country. Most are not permitted to work. “We are happy to inform that the new refugee proclamation has been enacted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) said. VOA

Burundi to Change Its Capital City
The Burundian parliament has voted to move the country’s capital from Bujumbura back to the ancient capital of Gitega. The vote took place on Wednesday and the leader of parliament said the move would take place over three years. The first to move will be the upper house of parliament, the Senate — starting on Friday. President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has to sign off the change, promised in 2007 to move the capital, saying Gitega was geographically more centrally placed in Burundi, AFP reports. Opposition accuse Nkurunziza of attempting a symbolic restoration as Bujumbura is today considered an opposition stronghold where the president spends less and less time.  BBC