Africa Media Review for January 19, 2018

Roy Bennett, White Zimbabwean with Black Political Base, Dies in U.S. Helicopter Crash
Roy Bennett, a Zimbabwean coffee grower whose farm was seized in a land redistribution program, and who emerged as a formidable leader of the main party opposed to President Robert G. Mugabe, died on Wednesday evening in a helicopter crash in New Mexico. He was 60. The death was announced on Thursday by the New Mexico State Police and by the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, which Mr. Bennett joined at its founding in 1999. Mr. Bennett and four other people — his wife, Eileen Heather Bennett, 55; a passenger from Texas; and the helicopter’s pilot and co-pilot — died when their private helicopter, a Huey, crashed after taking off from Raton, N.M. It was destined for Folsom, N.M., about 35 miles to the east. […]  Roy Leslie Bennett was born on Feb. 16, 1957, in the eastern town of Rusape, in what was then the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. He was 8 in 1965 when members of the white ruling minority issued a unilateral declaration of independence, which resulted in economic sanctions, isolation from the international community and a violent insurgency by black nationalists, many with communist leanings. The New York Times

Zimbabwe President Promises ‘Free and Fair’ Election in Five Months
Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that elections will be held within “four to five months”, the first since the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule last year. Mnangagwa, who was sworn in after Mugabe was forced to resign following a military takeover in November, also reaffirmed a pledge that the elections would be “free, credible, fair and indisputable”. “Zimbabwe is going for elections in four to five months’ time and we have to preach peace, peace and peace,” the new president, who served as Mugabe’s right-hand man for decades before taking power, said during a visit to neighbouring Mozambique. Successive polls have been marred by violence and intimidation, leading to sanctions and the diplomatic isolation of the former British colony. The Guardian

Plea for Military to Accept Election Outcome in Zimbabwe
The call comes at a time when President Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ whose ascendance to power is credited to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)‚ told Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in Maputo on Wednesday that elections would be held in about five months’ time and be peaceful. However‚ the MDCT is worried about developments at home with allegations that military personnel in civilian clothing have been deployed to rural areas‚ home to 65% of the population in Zimbabwe. “We have solid and incontrovertible evidence pointing to the fact that thousands of army officers in civilian attire have been deployed into the countryside for the purpose of carrying out clandestine political campaigns on behalf of Zanu PF‚” the party said. Times Live

Egypt, Ethiopia Leaders Say Nile Dam Must Not Ruin Relations
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged on Thursday not to let differences over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile river ruin relations with Addis Ababa. Ethiopia hopes the hydroelectric Grand Renaissance Dam will make it Africa’s largest power exporter. Egypt says it threatens its water supply which relies almost exclusively on the Nile that runs from Ethiopia through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. Addis Ababa says it will have no impact. Sisi said negotiations with its two African neighbors were progressing and said a deadlock over a disputed, ongoing study on the dam’s impact must end. Reuters

Sudanese Authorities Detain Reuters, AFP Reporters in Khartoum
Sudanese authorities have detained a Reuters stringer and an AFP reporter who were covering protests in the capital Khartoum, the external information council, which deals with foreign media organisations, said. Reuters last had contact with its stringer early on Wednesday before he went to report on the demonstrations, which resulted in clashes between police and protesters. Sudan has seen a wave of unrest over soaring living costs. An official in the external information council, contacted by Reuters, did not say whether charges would be brought against the two Sudanese journalists. The official had earlier said they would be released early on Thursday. “We do not know the circumstances of the detention and are actively seeking additional information about the situation,” a Reuters spokesperson said. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said five local journalists had also been arrested and called for the immediate release of all the reporters. Reuters

28 Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan Last Year, a New High
The United Nations says violence against aid workers in South Sudan reached a new high in 2017, with 28 killed. Nearly half of the 1,159 humanitarian access incidents reported last year by aid agencies involved violence including killing, looting and threats. The U.N. humanitarian office calls the trend “indicative of increasingly difficult times for aid workers in the country.” It says the trend continues even after President Salva Kiir in November ordered unimpeded movement for aid groups. South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands and plunged parts of the country into famine. Two million people have fled the country. AP

The Misery of Israel’s 38,000 African Asylum Seekers and the Dubious ‘Third Country’ Solution
Muhtar Awdalla was given a choice: Leave Israel, or go to prison. It was early 2014 and the Sudanese asylum seeker had already wasted months of his life behind bars – in Libya, in Egypt and, when he finally crossed the border, in Israel. Having fled the conflict in Darfur as a teenager in 2003, the whole point of the years-long journey was to find a better life. “There were so many people crossing to Israel,” Awdalla said. “They said the country really respected human life.” But when he arrived there in 2009, he found the experience “opposite – totally opposite”. For eight months he languished in a detention centre. It took months more to get a temporary visa – he couldn’t work without one. Even when he got it, he couldn’t study. Dreams of becoming a lawyer stagnated as his 20s ticked by in restaurant jobs and Hebrew classes and days and days spent queuing to renew his papers. When the ultimatum of detention or deportation was put to Awdalla, the authorities proposed Uganda as his final destination. They would cover his flights and organise his travel documents. He would even get $3,500. Daily Maverick

‘Nobody Should Be Forcibly Returned to Libya’: HRW Chief
European authorities should not be sending migrants trying to reach the continent back to Libya until the security situation there has stabilised, the chief of Human Rights Watch said. “The way migrants are treated in Libya is horrendous, where we hear over and over stories of forced labour, forced sexual abuse, torture,” Kenneth Roth said in an interview as the group released its annual report on risks around the globe. While acknowledging Europe’s right to restrict immigration after hundreds of thousands have poured into member states in recent years, Roth criticised a Brussels-backed deal that helps Libya block migrants from trying to reach Europe. “The International Organization for Migration has said that more migrants are dying inside Libya than die once they get in a boat to cross the Mediterranean. So that gives you a sense of how bad things are,” Roth said. AFP

Gabon Says It Busted a Major Ivory Smuggling Network
Officials in Gabon say they have dismantled the Central African nation’s largest ivory trafficking network, which last year alone was responsible for trading, selling and shipping six tons of ivory across the continent. A two-year investigation, called Operation Nzok — which means elephant in a local language — resulted in the arrests of a Chadian man, Abdoulaye Mohamoud Ibrahim, and eight others, including his wife and other family members. Officials said their analysis of the suspects’ laptops and cellphones had revealed links to Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has been waging war in northern Nigeria and neighboring areas for nearly nine years. Gabon has the largest population of forest elephants in the world. Also home to gorillas, mandrills and hippos, it is one of the lushest nations on the planet — 80 percent of its land mass is forest. The New York Times

Southern Africa’s Human Rights Problem
In a Christmas Eve message to party supporters, Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema reflected on a tough year. “We understand 2017 has been a difficult and stressful year for most of us…This is also the year that the country witnessed a total breakdown in the rule of law and loss of fundamental freedoms leading to the brutal arrests of citizens for crimes they never committed.” Hichilema’s anger is especially poignant because Hichilema himself spent a large chunk of 2017 in prison, after being arrested in a violent midnight raid on his property. The accusations against him were spurious, bordering on the absurd – his main offence was to have briefly delayed a presidential motorcade – and the charges were eventually dropped, but not before Hichilema had spent four months in a squalid cell. Mail and Guardian

Congo-Brazzaville’s Hidden War
The shells of burnt-out vehicles rust in the rain and crumbling houses poke out through the overgrown brush. The village of Soumouna in Congo-Brazzaville’s southern Pool region lies empty and guarded by soldiers, but there’s undeniable evidence of what happened here 20 months ago. […] IRIN was granted rare access to the region, and was able to document the toll of the 20-month conflict. The violence here has played out with little international attention, unlike the humanitarian “mega-crisis” in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict dates back to March 2016 presidential elections won by Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled Congo-Brazzaville for all but five years since 1979. His victory, which was marred by allegations of fraud, followed a heavily contested constitutional referendum a year earlier that removed term and age constraints that would have prevented the now 74-year-old from standing. IRIN

Somali Army Reports Killing 7 Al-Shabab Militants
The Somalia national army killed at least seven al-Shabab militants Thursday and destroyed their base during an operation in southern Somalia, officials and residents said. Somali army General Ismail Sahardid, the 43rd Infantry Division commander, told VOA Somali that the forces took control of Bar-Sanguni town, 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of the coastal city of Kismayo. “Our army launched a surprise attack on the militants’ hideouts late Wednesday and continued pursing them since the early hours of Thursday,” Sahardid said. “During the operation we killed seven of the militants, including local leaders of al-Shabab’s Amniyat unit, responsible for the group’s intelligence.” VOA

Uganda’s Leader to Sign Death Warrants Again after 19 Years
Uganda’s president said on Thursday he will sign the death warrants of “a few” prisoners to create fear among criminals in the East African country. President Yoweri Museveni said he had not ordered executions in 19 years but was changing his mind because people were taking advantage of the “leniency.” “I am going to revise this and hang a few,” he said. “We must hang some of these people because if you see how they kill people, they deserve to be killed.” He was speaking at a graduation ceremony for prison wardens in the capital, Kampala. Museveni last signed death warrants in 1999, when 28 people were executed. News 24

Ethiopia Ready to Host 30th A.U. Summit as Corruption Takes Center Stage
Authorities in Ethiopia say the country is set to host the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (A.U.). The summit which will take place at the A.U. headquarters in Addis Ababa is scheduled to kickoff on Monday January 22 till January 29, 2018. Corruption is set to take center stage in deliberations by leaders. The summit will be under the theme: ‘Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.’ Africa News

Dual Citizenship a Sticking Point in Sierra Leone’s Election
Dual citizenship has become a political hot potato for Sierra Leoneans ahead of the General Election which is less than two months away. During ongoing primaries to pick candidates for local and parliamentary seats, the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party invoked a constitutional provision that bars individuals with foreign citizenship from running for office. The move has sparked heated debate nationwide as dozens of people, including prominent politicians, were disqualified. While APC has said the country’s law must be followed, many are asking questions about the party’s motive. The East African

Gabonese Opposition Activist Missing since December 2017
For almost a month now, the family and friends of Jocelyn Obame Nsimoro, better known under the pseudonym Stempy Love Obame, a Gabonese opposition activist, do not know his whereabouts. His family has not heard from him since December 18. Witnesses testified that they saw him being arrested by individuals who then boarded him in a white pickup truck with tinted windows. On Monday, a rumour spread like wildfire on social networks reporting the discovery of his remains in the prison of the Directorate General of Research. Africa News

A Year after Jammeh’s Exit, Gambia Emerges from the Shadows
[…] In the year since the world marveled at a dictator’s fall, Gambia has risen from the shadows of Jammeh’s “rule of fear” with its arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. “Journalists can now freely conduct their work and human rights defenders can carry out their mandate without fearing persecution. The average Gambian is enjoying a lot of fundamental rights and freedoms he couldn’t expect under the previous government,” Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou told The Associated Press, calling it a “seismic shift.” But he warned: “Let us remember that democracy is a continuum … it will take time to rebuild a country.” Jammeh left the nation of 1.9 million people in shambles. Its stunted economy has forced many to flee toward Europe over the years.  AP



Photo: Adam Jones