Africa Media Review for January 2, 2020

Former Guinea-Bissau PM Umaro Sissoco Embalo Wins Presidency
A former prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has won the country’s presidential elections, the electoral commission announced Wednesday, as the losing candidate vowed to contest the results in court. The 47-year-old former army general won the Dec. 29 runoff with about 54% of the votes, the commission said. He beat another former prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira, who had come out ahead in the initial round of voting, but on Sunday earned just 46% of the vote, according to the commission. Embalo, however, garnered the support of other candidates who did not make it to the second round. Embalo will succeed incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, who also failed to reach the second round of voting. Embalo served as prime minister under Vaz from 2016 to 2018. Vaz, in power since 2014, has vowed to respect his defeat in a rare gesture of political stability. In a tear-filled New Year’s speech, he urged the new leaders to work toward stability. … The second round of elections was endorsed as free and transparent by the observer mission of the influential West Africa economic group, ECOWAS, although it noted a low voter turnout. As a result of Guinea-Bissau’s history of instability, ECOWAS said it had put its military force on standby ahead of the runoff vote in the event of a coup. AP

Sudan: Hamdok, Hemeti, Visit Strife-Torn West Darfur
A delegation led by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and the Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ arrived in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina yesterday to asses the situation following bloody tribal clashes this week, that have claimed dozens of lives. … Hundreds of displaced people from Ardemeta camp near the airport organised a protest on the road linking the airport to the city, and blocked the road for some time, before the government delegation could pass. A large number of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen intervened and cordoned-off the protest, and prevented the protesters from submitting a memorandum to Hamdok. The protesters raised banners calling for retribution for the victims of El Geneina events and Camp Kerending in which about 50 people were killed, and chanted slogans calling for the arrest of the second commander of the RSF in West Darfur sector, Mousa Ambelo. Hemeti pledged to hold those involved in El Geneina events accountable according to the law and affirmed rejection of the principle of settling murder cases by blood money. Radio Dabanga

Making Misery Pay: Libya Militias Take EU Funds for Migrants
When the European Union started funneling millions of euros into Libya to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the money came with EU promises to improve detention centers notorious for abuse and fight human trafficking. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the misery of migrants in Libya has spawned a thriving and highly lucrative web of businesses funded in part by the EU and enabled by the United Nations, an Associated Press investigation has found. The EU has sent more than 327.9 million euros to Libya, with an additional 41 million approved in early December, largely channeled through U.N. agencies. The AP found that in a country without a functioning government, huge sums of European money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants. In some cases, U.N. officials knew militia networks were getting the money, according to internal emails. The militias torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms in detention centers under the nose of the U.N., often in compounds that receive millions in European money, the AP investigation showed. Many migrants also simply disappear from detention centers, sold to traffickers or to other centers. AP

Turkey may hold off from sending troops to Libya if forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar halt their offensive against the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and pull back, the Turkish vice president said Wednesday. The Turkish parliament is due to debate and vote on a bill mandating the deployment of military forces to Libya on Thursday after Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) requested support as part of a military cooperation agreement. “After the bill passed from the parliament … it might happen that we would see something different, a different stance and they would say, ‘OK, we are withdrawing, dropping the offensive,'” Fuat Oktay said in an interview with Andalou news agency. “Then, why would we go there?” Oktay also said that Ankara hoped the Turkish bill would send a deterrent message to the warring parties. Ankara has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations embargo, according to a U.N. report seen by Reuters, and has said it will continue to support it. Reuter

Tunisia: Prime Minister-Designate Announces Government Formation
Tunisia’s prime minister-designate has announced the formation of a cabinet of independent technocrats, more than a month after he was picked to head a government focused on reviving the economy. Habib Jemli, an agricultural engineer by training and a nominee of the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, said the new government comprised independent Tunisians but stopped short of disclosing their names. “I have depended [in forming the cabinet] on elements of competence and independence from political parties,” said the 60-year-old Jemli after a meeting with Tunisian President Kais Saied on Wednesday. Tunisia’s official news agency TAP said Jemli had presented the proposed government to Saied, who will ask parliament to set a session for holding a confidence vote on the lineup. The government must be endorsed by a majority of parliament’s 217 members. Ennahdha emerged as the country’s strongest political force in Tunisia’s October parliamentary elections, winning 52 seats in the fractured parliament. Al Jazeera

Mauritania’s New President Sets Down His Mark in Volatile Country
In less than six months after he was elected, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani has consolidated his grip on power, leaving on the sidelines his predecessor and one-time mentor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, a soldier who ran the African desert country for 10 years. Early in 2019, suspicions ran high that Aziz, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 2008, wanted to breach the constitution and run for a third term. Instead, the former general backed his loyal aide and defence minister, Ghazouani. When Ghazouani took office in August, he swiftly began to consolidate power, dashing Aziz’s hopes of rallying his support base and manipulating parliament. Many people saw Ghazouani, a one-time chief of general staff, as the mastermind behind a security strategy that successfully kept jihadist movements out of Mauritania even as they ravaged parts of neighbouring Mali. … The new leader dismissed the heads of the presidential guard appointed by Aziz and last weekend won the outright backing of the UPR during its party congress in Nouakchott, which notably was not attended by its founder. AFP

Moroccan Journalist Released from Jail, Charged over a Tweet
A Moroccan court has agreed to release on bail a journalist-activist who defended anti-government protesters in a tweet. Omar Radi was released Tuesday soon after an appeal court in Casablanca accepted his request, according to his lawyer Omar Benjelloun. Radi’s arrest last week was apparently prompted by a tweet six months ago in which he criticized a Moroccan court’s decision to hand maximum prison sentences to leaders of mass demonstrations in the poverty-stricken northern Rif region. Radi has been charged with insulting a judge. A hearing on the case is scheduled Thursday in Casablanca. If convicted, Radi could face up to a year in prison and a 500 euro ($555) fine. It was unclear why the arrest occurred so long after the original tweet. Radi was also part of Arab Spring demonstrations in Morocco in 2011 that protested against corruption, abuse of power and limits on free speech, and he has continued to defend human rights since then. AP

Gambia President Forms New Political Party
Gambian President Adama Barrow created a new political party on Tuesday, according to the country’s electoral authority, in a move that would allow him to contest future elections unhindered. The president has formally registered the National Peoples Party, with himself as its leader, Joe Colley, the communications director for The Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission, told AFP. The announcement comes as the Barrow’s relationship with his former political party – the country’s largest – has deteriorated, and during mounting calls for him to step down. After a coalition of parties agreed to back him, Barrow defeated former autocrat Yahya Jammeh in elections in the tiny West African state in 2016. Their agreement stipulated that Barrow quit his United Democratic Party to stand as an independent, and step down after three years of leading an interim government, an AFP journalist said. But The Gambia has been increasingly divided over whether Barrow should step down or not. AFP

Prominent Ethiopian Oromo Activist Joins Opposition Party
A prominent activist for Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group has announced that he’s joined an opposition party. Jawar Mohammed’s membership in the Oromo Federalist Congress party comes five months before general elections that will test the popularity of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the east African nation of more than 100 million people. “I have been working with the party as a supporter for a long time,” Jawar told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I am attracted to the party because of their clear and strong stand on federalism.” Jawar and the party are expected to call for greater autonomy for Ethiopia’s regional states, including Oromia, which is the largest and most populous. … Until recently, Jawar was seen as an ally of the prime minister. When he was living in the U.S. many say Jawar played a key role on social media in mobilizing widespread protests that led the previous prime minister to resign and saw Abiy rise to power in April, 2018. Last year, Abiy relaxed restrictions on political activists which allowed Jawar and others to return to Ethiopia without fear of arrest. AP

Somali Army Kills 20 Al Shabaab Militants: Official
The Somali Special Forces killed 20 al Shabaab militants in the country’s southern region of Lower Shebelle on Tuesday, a military officer said Wednesday. Ismail Abdi Malik, commander of the 16th Unit of Somali Special Forces, told journalists that “our forces have taken control of many villages during the operation, such as Mordinle, Bula Maskin, Faqayle, Bula Bashir and we inflicted heavy casualties on the militants, killing 20 of them during the offensive.” He added that the army will maintain operations until it drives the militants out of the whole region. Residents said there was an intense confrontation between the army and the militants. Xinhua

Experts Reject Somalia Claim of UAE Role in Mogadishu Bombing
Experts on Somalia say they doubt the claim by the Somali government’s intelligence agency that an unnamed “foreign country” planned the December 28 attack in Mogadishu that killed scores of civilians. The National Intelligence and Security Agency of Somalia did not name the accused country, nor did it offer evidence for its explosive claim of foreign responsibility. But a commentator for a Turkish newspaper asserted on Sunday that “the UAE is behind the bombing in Mogadishu.” “Evidence left behind from the bomb vehicle that exploded in Mogadishu leads us to the UAE,” wrote Ibrahim Karagul, a senior columnist for the Yeni Safak daily. “A massacre was conducted and the traces lead us to Mohammed bin Zayed.” Mr Karagul did not specify what evidence he was referring to in linking the United Arab Emirates crown prince to the attack that claimed at least 81 lives. Yeni Safak has close ties to Turkey’s ruling party and consistently expresses strong support for the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But three analysts knowledgeable about Somalia’s civil war suggested on Tuesday in messages to the Nation that the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab probably acted on its own. The experts reject the contention of UAE involvement. Daily Nation

US Agency Warns of Threat to Kenyan Airspace
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned American air carriers to “exercise caution” when flying over Kenyan airspace, citing possible attacks by extremists. In an advisory directed to civilian airliners and all operators of US-registered aircraft issued last week, the agency said: “Those persons are advised to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the territory and airspace of Kenya East of 40 degrees East longitude at altitudes below fl260 due to the possibility of extremist/militant activity.” FAA said it will review the advisory by February 26, 2020. “Aircraft may encounter various anti-aircraft weapons, including manpads, small-arms, and indirect fire weapons such as mortars and rockets, which could target aircraft at low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure phases of flight and/or target airports and aircraft on the ground,” it said. Kenya has battled terrorism in recent years especially along the restive northeastern border where Al- Shabaab militants have executed several attacks. The East African

Drug Frontier: How Cocaine Trafficking Is Impacting West Africa
The route first became infamous between the 16th and 19th centuries when millions of West African slaves were shipped to South America through it. But the distance of approximately 2,500 kilometres (between Brazil and Dakar) has acquired a new type of notoriety since the early 2000s after Latin American drug cartels started using it to ship tonnes of narcotics into West Africa, which are later smuggled by drug mules in smaller quantities into Europe. Geographically referred to as the tenth parallel because its latitude is 10 degrees south of the earth’s equatorial plane, the route is known as “Highway 10” among international law enforcement agencies because it is the shortest route across the Atlantic. Gbenga Mabo, the Director of Operations and Investigations of Nigeria’s drug police, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA told Premium Times that more than 80 per cent of the cocaine that comes into Nigeria comes from Brazil, through Highway 10. Premium Times

Nigerian IDPs, Citizens Hope for Better in 2020
Many Nigerian citizens are hoping for a better year in 2020. Last year, besides anxieties ahead of the general elections in February, the West African nation endured security challenges on multiple fronts. President Muhammadu Buhari has promised that his cabinet will address these issues. It’s been an eventful and hopeful day at this internally displaced people’s (IDPs) camp in Durumi, in the capital, Abuja. The camp is receiving food supplies and donations to mark the new year celebration. Liatu Ayuba, a widow who fled her home in Gwoza, Borno state, five years ago after her husband was killed during a battle with terrorist group Boko Haram, now leads the women at this camp, more than 1,500 of them. She says she often thinks of home in Gwoza, and said she wishes to return this year. … Despite a decline in the group’s activities over the past year, attacks have persisted. Last week, seven people were killed when Boko Haram raided a village near Chibok, a town known for the notorious abduction of 276 school girls in 2014. Idris Ibrahim is the spokesman of Abuja-based IDPs. … Apart from Boko Haram attacks, Nigerians had to endure a rise in armed robbery and increased kidnappings for ransom in the last year. VOA

Field of Broken Dreams: Football’s Slave Trade – Photo Essay
For months, Yves Kibendo woke up every morning at 6am. He would leave his house in an ancient area of Istanbul, returning late in the evening, after working for 12 hours in a textile factory. He was paid under the table, or sometimes not at all. But Kibendo didn’t come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to work long shifts in a factory, he came to play football. Fast and talented, Kibendo plays on the right wing. Hundreds of young African football players like him arrive in Turkey every year to seek their fortune. In many cases, intermediaries bring them with the promise of a trial at one of the big clubs in Istanbul. The players pay up to $5,000 (£3,800) for a “full package,” including visa, accommodation and contacts with talent scouts. But many are left deeply disappointed. Shortly after Kibendo arrived in Turkey he found himself with an expired visa and none of the opportunities he had been promised. Communities often invest all their money in these young people, hoping they will become rich and lift those at home out of misery. But in most cases these young men find themselves stranded soon after they arrive. The Guardian

Firestone Tires Built Liberia’s Economy. Now, Painful Layoffs Are Sowing Fear for the Future.
The end came with a letter, but Moses Tokpah couldn’t read it. Twenty-two years of fumes at the rubber factory had damaged his vision, he said, so a friend delivered the news: Firestone was laying him off. “Due to the redundancy of your position,” the text said. Tokpah, 53, felt dizzy that July morning. When the international tire powerhouse – Liberia’s largest private employer – announced plans last spring to slash its workforce, he prayed to survive the cuts. No one he knew could find work anymore. “I just lost everything,” he said, tears welling. As the price of rubber slips on the global market, Firestone – a company founded in Ohio with nine decades in this West African country – is shedding large swaths of its staff to cope with what it calls “continued and unsustainable losses.” The drawdown threatens to rip a seismic hole in Liberia’s floundering economy, analysts say, opening the latest chapter in the country’s long and complicated history with American-rooted power brokers. “Firestone is the anchor,” said Gyude Moore, Liberia’s former public works minister. “Like the auto industry was for Detroit – except for an entire country.” The Washington Post

Africa’s Young Leaders Face a Testing 2020
After several years during which younger leaders have come to power across Africa, 2020 could hold challenges that may force many of the newcomers to take a step back. Not all the young politicians are progressive, or even pro-democracy. But they are all representative of sweeping changes across the continent that have destabilised long-standing regimes and forced out some veteran leaders. They include a 34-year-old female finance minister of one of Africa’s biggest states, a 37-year-old dissident rapper and opposition leader and a dynamic 43-year-old Nobel-prize-winning prime minister. Two “dinosaurs” who were forced out of politics in 2019 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 82-year-old president of Algeria, who had ruled since 1999, and Omar al-Bashir, 75, in power in Sudan since 1989 – fell victim to mass movements spearheaded by young protesters, though in each case the once-powerful rulers were left vulnerable when armed forces withdrew their support. The huge numbers of young people reaching adulthood across Africa have fuelled a powerful desire for change and has pushed forward a new wave of younger political figures who could dramatically influence the continent’s future. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones