Africa Media Review for January 23, 2019

Zimbabwe Troops Accused of  “Systematic Torture’ of Protesters”
A government-appointed human rights group in Zimbabwe has accused soldiers of using “systematic torture” in a crackdown on protests. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission strongly criticised authorities for using troops to quell demonstrations. Unrest broke out more than a week ago following a sharp rise in fuel prices. A government spokesman defended the crackdown, telling the BBC: “When things get out of hand, a bit of firmness is needed.” Reports have emerged of assaults allegedly carried out by the military in various parts of the capital, Harare. Soldiers in Harare were seen beating a large group of minibus drivers on Tuesday.  BBC

Mnangagwa Promises Investigation of Brutal Zimbabwe Crackdown
Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has called for “national dialogue” and promised an investigation into widespread violence by security forces in recent days, after cutting short an overseas trip. The brutal crackdown followed protests last week against the doubling of the fuel price, which led to rioting and sporadic looting. The military and police appear to have targeted officials and supporters of mainstream opposition parties, as well as union officials and high-profile civil society activists, rather than alleged thieves. At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot wounds, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture. About 700 people have been arrested and remain in custody, including five opposition MPs. The Guardian

South Africa’s ANC Calls for End to Sanctions against Zimbabwe
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has called for the lifting of sanctions against neighboring Zimbabwe, where clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters claimed at least 12 lives.The ANC thought those who imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during the rule of President Robert Mugabe would change their view after elections that were held in July, Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the party’s highest decision-making body and minister of small business development, told reporters in Johannesburg Tuesday. That’s despite the challenges that came immediately after that with the deaths of some people, she said. Zimbabwe is still subject to U.S. sanctions dating back to the rule of Mugabe, who stepped down in November 2017 and was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa. His government is facing the worst economic crisis since a hyperinflationary spiral a decade ago as the nation reels from an acute shortage of foreign exchange and fuel and surging food prices, which led to violent protests last week.  Bloomberg

EU, AU Signal Support, but No Acclaim, for Congo President-Elect
The European Union and the African Union said on Tuesday they had taken note of the decision by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitutional Court to back disputed president-elect Felix Tshisekedi, signalling they would work with him. Asked about the Dec. 30 election, the EU and the AU said they discussed the outcome at a meeting in Brussels, noting the court’s support for Tshisekedi. Officials at a news conference did not explicitly say in public that they recognised him as the winner and declined to congratulate him, however. “We’ve taken note of the Constitutional Court’s proclamation … the challenge of the new president is a large one on many issues,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference, flanked by members of the African Union. Reuters

Ivory Coast’s President Ouattara Is Said to Seek Third Term
Ouattara, 77, has informed his inner circle in the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace coalition about his intentions, even though he hasn’t decided when the plan will be announced, said the people, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Ouattara told his confidants that he is the strongest candidate to secure victory for the party in the election, said one person. Ouattara “has said several times he will not seek a third mandate,” Massere Toure, his spokeswoman, said by phone when called for comment. “We have to take his word for it.” Mamadou Toure, a spokesman for the party, said by text message that it’s “not true.” Africa Intelligence first reported about Ouattara’s plans to seek a third term.  Bloomberg

13 Killed in Run-up to Latest CAR Peace Bid
Thirteen people were killed in a weekend attack in the west of Central African Republic, just days before the opening of peace talks, local and UN sources said on Tuesday. “There were 13 deaths, including a pastor and a gendarme. We went to the site to confirm the facts,” said a UN source, confirming a report from a source close to the Fulani herder community. “The violence was started by armed Fulanis,” said Vladimir Monteiro, spokesperson for MINUSCA, the UN’s mission in CAR, referring to an ethnic group widespread across West Africa, who traditionally breed livestock. A joint patrol of UN troops and Internal Security Forces (FSI) had gone to Zaoro Sangou, the village where the violence took place on Sunday, he said. The UN source said the perpetrators were believed to be Fulani from the so-called 3R group (“return, reclamation, reconciliation”). AFP

Cameroon Mobilizes Military Following Boko Haram, Separatist Attacks
Cameroon says it is mobilizing troops along the country’s northern border with Nigeria and in the western English-speaking regions, following renewed attacks by Boko Haram in the north and separatists in the west. Cameroon’s military calls for troops to assemble at its headquarters in Yaounde ahead of major deployments. Defense Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Rene Claude Meka said 2019 will see Cameroon fight for national unity and territorial integrity. He said they have re-mobilized the military to all trouble spots. Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamist terrorist group, is again recruiting fighters in Cameroon and attacking our northern border, said Meka. Meanwhile, separatists fighting to create an English-speaking state have recruited mercenaries from neighboring countries to destabilize Cameroon, he said. VOA

Media Crackdown: Sudan Suspends Correspondents’ Work Permits
Sudanese newspapers and foreign correspondents’ work permits have been confiscated again by the Sudanese security service for their coverage of the ongoing protests against President Omar Al Bashir and the economic crises in Sudan, for the past weeks. On Monday, the security authorities confiscated El Jareeda newspaper for the ninth time in a row, and El Midan newspaper for the seventh time in a row, along with El Tayyar and El Baath newspapers after they were printed at the presses. Journalists speaking to Radio Dabanga said that the prior censorship by the security service, the NISS, on newspapers has become more controlled. The publication of any material related to the demonstrations and the security forces’ violence against the demonstrators is banned.  Radio Dabanga

Sudan’s Embattled President to Travel to Qatar, Seeking Aid
Sudan’s embattled president is flying to Qatar, the tiny but wealthy Gulf state that has offered him help as he faces protests initially sparked by the country’s economic woes but shifting to calling on him to step down. Qatar’s official news agency said President Omar al-Bashir will arrive in Doha on Tuesday and meet on Wednesday with the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In a December 22 telephone call, Qatar’s ruler stated his country’s readiness to “provide all that is needed” to help Sudan get through its crisis, according to a report by the official Sudanese news agency. There has been no word since on whether the emir made good on his pledge. AP

Burkina Faso: Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré Is New PM
Burkinabe President Marc Christian Kaboré on Monday appointed Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré as the new Prime Minister. It follows the resignation of Paul Kaba Thieba and his cabinet last week. Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré was announced as the new Prime Minister through a presidential decree by government Secretary-General Stéphane Sanou on state television. Dabiré, a former commissioner representing Burkina Faso at the West African Economic and Monetary Union, served as minister under former president Blaise Compaoré, with Roch Marc Christian Kaboré as prime minister between 1994 to 1996. Africa News

32 Candidates Apply to Run for Algeria Presidential Elections
The Algerian Interior Ministry announced yesterday that it has received 32 applications for candidates wishing to run in April’s presidential elections. Just three days after the application process was opened, the ministry said in a statement: “We received 32 letters of candidate’s desire to run. Nine from heads of political parties and 23 letters from independent candidates.” The ministry published a list of personalities and parties that submitted applications for nomination to withdraw the agency form. Retired Algerian general Ali Ghediri on Saturday became the first candidate to announce that he would be running for president in April’s election.   Middle East Online

The African Currency at the Center of a European Dispute
Luigi Di Maio, an Italian deputy prime minister, took aim at President Emmanuel Macron of France this week, laying the blame for migration, a deeply divisive issue in Italy, on Mr. Macron.Citing a French-backed currency known as the C.F.A. franc that is used by 14 nations in western and central Africa, Mr. Di Maio accused France of using the currency to exploit former colonies.Mr. Di Maio, a member of the populist Five Star movement, which is skeptical of the European Union and Mr. Macron’s more internationalist views, set off the diplomatic spat with France when he said that Mr. Macron “first lectures us, then continues to finance public debt with the money with which he exploits Africa,” according to ANSA, the Italian press agency.But the currency, its history and the issues around it have had little to do with the debate over African migration to Europe until now. So what is the C.F.A. franc and how did it come to be at the center of diplomatic discord?What is the C.F.A. franc?The C.F.A. franc was created in 1945 by France and was pegged to the French currency of the time, the franc.  The New York Times

Almost 500 Migrants Brought Back to Libya after Foiled Attempts to Reach Italy
The United Nations criticised European countries on Tuesday for not allowing migrants to disembark at safe ports, as Libya’s coastguard said almost 500 migrants trying to reach Italy by inflatables had been brought back to the North African country. The 473 people found trying to cross the Mediterranean on inflatables in different rescue operations since Saturday included some who were rescued by a cargo ship, coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said. U.N. aid agencies had earlier condemned the transfer of migrants to Libyan detention centres in which they often face abuse, lack of medical care, rape or forced labour, according to 61-page U.N. report in December.  Reuters

20,000 Nigerian Girls Sold to Prostitution Ring, Trafficking Agency Says
Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency says it has received concrete intelligence that around 20,000 Nigerian girls have been forced into prostitution in Mali. Many of the girls are working in hotels and nightclubs after being sold to prostitution rings by human traffickers, according to a fact-finding mission carried out by the agency in collaboration with Malian authorities in December. NAPTIP’s Arinze Osakwe told CNN most of the girls said they were lured by human traffickers who promised them employment in Malaysia. “The new trend is that they told them they were taking them to Malaysia and they found themselves in Mali. They told them they would be working in five-star restaurants where they would be paid $700 per month,” Osakwe, who was part of an earlier NAPTIP rescue mission, said. Some of the girls had been sold as sex slaves in gold mining camps in northern parts of Mali, he said. Officials from the agency under Operation Timbuktu rescued 104 Nigerian girls from three brothels in Bamako, Mali’s capital in 2011.  CNN

South Africa Opens Inquiry into Improper Use of Government Pension Funds
A commission of inquiry into South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has just opened. The inquiry has a remit to look into allegations of mismanagement and corruption going back to 2015. The PIC is Africa’s biggest asset manager. The PIC manages the bulk of pensions of South African civil servants on behalf of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund. Its investments are worth two trillion rands, about 126 billion euros. The scale of its investment makes the PIC the largest investor on the Johannesburg stock exchange. President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a commision of inquiry last August following a number of reports about alleged impropriety and dubious investments. It is headed by former Supreme Court of Appeal President, Judge Lex Mpati.  RFI

Ethiopia Pardons More than 13,000 Political Prisoners
Ethiopia’s determination to reform has seen up to 13,000 people who were previously charged with or convicted of terrorism and/or treason, pardoned over the past six months, state media said. Parliament in July passed a law allowing people convicted or facing charges of “treason, crime against the constitutional order and armed struggle’‘ to apply for pardons. “More than [13,200] individuals took advantage of the law in the past six months,” state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said on Tuesday, citing Ethiopia’s attorney general. The previous government had said around 30,000 people including students, opposition leaders, journalists and bloggers were in detention following widespread protests that broke out in 2015. Africa News

How Hundreds of Syrians Found Refuge in Ethiopia
Abdulwahid Mohammed, a young Syrian refugee from Hama, is tending to customers at Damascus, a restaurant jointly owned by Ethiopians and Syrians in Addis Ababa’s Bole Michael district. Mohammed, now 20, travelled to Ethiopia as a teenager with his family five years ago, fleeing the Syrian civil war. He currently manages the restaurant, serving a mix of Syrian and Ethiopian food. Among his Ethiopian staff, he is known as a shy workaholic. “I came to Ethiopia through Sudan. Ever since arriving in Ethiopia I have found it to be a stable country, with a relatively easy process to get foreign residence ID. Ethiopian people have been generous to me,” he told Al Jazeera.  Al Jazeera

What Is President Weah’s Liberia Scorecard One Year On?
As George Weah, at one time named the world’s best footballer, marks a year in power in Liberia the BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh assesses his scorecard. There is no doubt that at 52, George Weah can still work a crowd. On New Year’s Eve he invited his cabinet and supporters to the dedication of a private family church that he has had built. During the late-night service, the president turned preacher, sermonising for several hours. Dressed in white robes, he told the congregation at Forky Jlaleh Family Fellowship Church: “God has given each and every person talent that they can use for their own benefit.”  BBC

Liberia’s Ex-President Sirleaf Joins the Elders
Liberia’s former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf along with ex-Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos and United Nations Human Rights Chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein have joined the illustrious Elders group. The Elders was founded in 2007 by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, with a mandate to “support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where this is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.” “Ellen, Juan Manuel and Zeid each bring valuable and distinctive perspectives on issues that are central to our work, from human rights and peacebuilding to gender equality and justice for all,’‘ said Mary Robinson, the chair of The Elders. Africa News

After Renewing Israel-Chad Ties, Netanyahu May Welcome Mali’s Prime Minister Next
Israel is preparing for a possible visit by the prime minister of Mali after 50 years in which the two countries have had no diplomatic relations. No date has yet been set for Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga’s visit, but a senior Malian official who spoke with a reporter from Israel’s public broadcasting corporation, Kan, did not deny the report, saying merely that when Mali had something to announce publicly, it would do so. Yoram Elron, a senior Foreign Ministry official, told Army Radio on Sunday that Israel “hopes Mali will be the next country with which we renew ties.” Ten United Nations observers were killed in Mali on Monday when an organization affiliated with Al-Qaida attacked a base in the country’s north, near the Algerian border. Haaretz



Photo: Adam Jones