Africa Media Review for January 24, 2019

Congo: Felix Tshisekedi Set for Inauguration
Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi will be sworn in as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, replacing longtime President Joseph Kabila following disputed elections. Kabila, 47, had ruled the mineral-rich African giant since 2001 following the assassination of his father, rebel-turned-president Laurent. Tshisekedi was declared the surprise winner of the December 30 election, which was held after Kabila delayed a vote for two years amid violent protests. Ahead of the swearing in ceremony, Kabila on Wednesday said he would hand over power “without regret” and urged Congolese to support Tshisekedi, the 55-year-old son of the late opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi. It will be Congo’s first peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960. The country has been marred by a tumultuous history of coups, despots, assassinations, foreign interventions, civil war and the gutting of state institutions.  Deutsche Welle

U.S. and Angola Endorse New Congo President’s Election
[…] Despite doubts about the election’s credibility, Tshisekedi has won growing international acceptance in recent days by Western and African countries who fear that a protracted dispute could further destabilise Congo. On Wednesday, the United States voiced support for Tshisekedi, a sharp reversal from one of the countries most critical of the election, deploring a lack of transparency and even threatening sanctions. “The United States welcomes the Congolese Constitutional Court’s certification of Felix Tshisekedi as the next President,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. “We are committed to working with the new DRC government … We encourage the government to include a broad representation of Congo’s political stakeholders and to address reports of electoral irregularities.” Neighbours Angola and Congo Republic also congratulated him. Angolan President Joao Lourenco wished Tshisekedi “success in carrying out the noble and difficult task entrusted to him by the Congolese people”. Angola is a longtime Kinshasa ally but relations were strained during a two-year delay in the election.  Reuters

Congo’s Kabila Says He Is ‘Without Regret’ Ahead of Power Handover
Democratic Republic of Congo’s outgoing President Joseph Kabila said he would hand over power on Thursday “without regret” and called on Congolese to support his successor, Felix Tshisekedi. Kabila has governed the vast central African country since succeeding his assassinated father in 2001 at the age of 29, in the midst of a regional war that led to millions of deaths. His refusal to quit power when his final term officially expired in 2016 led to deadly protests, but he finally agreed last year to step down following an election meant to lead to Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence. The Dec. 30 poll produced an unexpected winner in opposition leader Tshisekedi. Its credibility has been heavily questioned with the runner-up saying he actually won a landslide victory and accusing Kabila and Tshisekedi of a stich-up.  Reuters

Russian Contractors Are Training the Army in Sudan, Says Moscow
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that private Russian companies were training the army in Sudan, confirming for the first time their presence in a country shaken by protests against its president, a close Russian ally. Demonstrators have been on the streets near-daily since Dec. 19, initially to protest against an economic crisis then to call for an end to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir. “According to our information, representatives of Russian private security companies, who have nothing to do with Russian state bodies, really do operate in Sudan,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told reporters.  Reuters

Zimbabwe’s Civil Servants to Strike on Friday over Salaries as Civil Unrest Continues
Zimbabwe faces a new wave of unrest as the group representing government workers announced on Wednesday that roughly 500,000 civil servants across the country will go on strike after salary negotiations failed. David Dzatsunga, secretary of the Civil Service Apex Council, said the strike will begin on Friday as the southern African nation’s economic collapse deepens and frustration with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government grows. A crackdown on last week’s protests over a sharp rise in fuel prices continued in the courts and on the streets, where witnesses and rights groups reported abuses by the military, police and ruling party youth gangs. Mnangagwa’s call for national dialogue has been met with skepticism. Soldiers and police tortured and assaulted people in their homes in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, overnight in “post-protest retribution,” the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said in a statement.  AP

Zimbabwe: Beatings and Abductions Continue despite Mnangagwa Pledge
A brutal crackdown on protesters and opposition activists in Zimbabwe has continued despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pledge earlier this week to stop excesses by the security forces. Soldiers in the southern city of Bulawayo launched a new wave of raids on Tuesday night, while more sporadic security operations continued in the capital, Harare. […] “There is less widespread general retribution but still a lot of targeted arrests, abductions and beatings. This is clearly ongoing,” said Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer and activist in Harare. Activity in the centre of the capital was returning to normal on Wednesday. The internet, shut down across the country by authorities for much of the last week, was functioning. Zimbabwe faces further turbulence after unions called for a new strike by civil servants later this week.  The Guardian

The Cash Crunch behind Zimbabwe’s Violent Protests
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised action in response to a crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters following a hike in the price of fuel. Lawyers and activists say police and soldiers have killed at least a dozen people, wounded scores and arrested hundreds over the demonstrations. Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) accused security forces of systematic torture. Critics say the country is reverting to the authoritarian rule that characterised the 37-year regime of former leader Robert Mugabe, who was forced from power after a coup in November 2017. The crisis will not be easy to fix. There is a severe shortage of dollars, fuel and medicines, while inflation hit 42 percent in December, the highest in a decade. Foreign investors are, by and large, staying away. Reuters

Oliver Mtukudzi, Zimbabwean Musician with Subtle Political Power, Dies at 66
Oliver Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean musician who became one of Africa’s best-known performers, died Jan. 23 at a hospital in the capital city of Harare. He was 66. Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mr. Mtukudzi died of complications from diabetes. With his distinctive husky voice, Mr. Mtukudzi had a career that stretched from white minority-ruled Rhodesia to majority-ruled Zimbabwe, producing a string of hits that spread his fame across Africa and eventually to an international audience. In 1980, he celebrated Zimbabwe’s independence by singing the country’s new national anthem, “Ishe Komborera Africa” (God Bless Africa) with a reggae inflection. Tuku, as he was widely known, avoided political controversy. The closest he came was with his 2001 song “Bvuma,” which in the Shona language means “accept that you are old” and was taken as a message to autocratic leader Robert Mugabe to retire. (Mugabe, now 94, was forced from the presidency by members of his own party in 2017 and replaced by his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.)  The Washington Post

France Hands Central African War Crimes Suspect to ICC
A Central Africa Republic soccer executive and alleged militia leader was transferred by France to the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, the court said in a statement. Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona was held on an ICC arrest warrant on Dec. 12 and a French court authorised his hand over to the ICC late last month. ICC prosecutors accuse Ngaissona of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, deportation, persecution, torture, attacking civilians, and recruiting child soldiers. He has been described by prosecutors as the “senior leader” of the mostly Christian anti-balaka militia that carried out systematic attacks on the Muslim population in 2013-2014. Ngaissona, who was elected as a top executive of Africa’s football governing body CAF, has denied the charges.  Reuters

Nigerian Govt Asks Chief Justice to Step Down
The Nigerian government on Tuesday asked the country’s chief justice to step down from office while he faces charges on six counts of failing to declare his assets and operating unlawful offshore accounts. The government had last week filed charges before the country’s code of conduct tribunal accusing Walter Onnoghen of violating the country’s laws for public servants. Onnoghen did not appear at the tribunal to take his plea as demanded in criminal trial, saying instead that the panel lacks jurisdiction. “We have an application that the tribunal should direct the Honorable Chief Justice to step aside pending the determination of the case,” Aliu Umar, counsel to the government, told the tribunal on Tuesday at the resumption of the hearing. Anadolu Agency

Why Burundi Is Kicking Out Aid Groups
For 26 years, Handicap International has not only been providing crutches, prosthetics and wheelchairs to people with disabilities in Burundi, it has also been a leading advocate for people with disabilities in the country. Much of its work has focused on helping people get physical therapy, accessible housing and jobs. But all of that is over now. HI has been ordered by the government to stop its work in Burundi in a dispute over ethnic quotas. The government is requiring all foreign aid groups to commit to having 60 percent of their local employees be Hutus and 40 percent Tutsis – the quota for government agencies. The government is also demanding that foreign charities provide staff lists specifically identifying employees by their ethnicity. Rather than comply, Handicap International (which just recently changed its name to Humanity & Inclusion) is laying off all 105 of its local employees, shutting down its operations and pulling out of the central African nation. Two other organizations — human rights group Avocats Sans Frontières and a Belgian NGO called RCN Justice & Démocratie — have announced that they’re also departing over the new requirements. NPR

Conflicts and Corruption in Cameroon Drain the Economy
In addition to corruption and the battle against separatists fighting to create an English-speaking state, there is also the war against Boko Haram on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria and the spillover of the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). All of these combined are draining the state of its resources. Employees of a company constructing the Paul Biya Stadium in Olembe, on the outskirts of Yaounde, protested against difficult working conditions and non-payment of their salaries. Their spokesperson Dieudonne Nguidjol demanded that they be given a normal contract. “We are supposed to work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. [and] 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. is supposed to be extra time. Our salaries are not good,” said Nguidjol. He added that people who come to work as engineers earn a salary of about 80,000 CFA francs (about €120, $138), which is not in line with Cameroon’s labor code. Deutsche Welle

Thousands of Nigerian Refugees Flee to Chad for Safety
The U.N. refugee agency says thousands of Nigerian refugees are fleeing to Chad to escape a surge of violence in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state. Fierce clashes between government forces and armed militants from the radical Islamic group Boko Haram erupted in late December in Borno state’s Baga town, near the Chadian border. The U.N. refugee agency reports an estimated 6,000 Nigerian refugees have fled for their lives over the past month, many paddling across Lake Chad to reach safety. The UNHCR says most of the new arrivals are women and children. Many describe their desperation to escape the violence after receiving threats of retaliation and intimidation following militant attacks. VOA

Sudan’s Bashir Visits Qatar While US Expresses Concern over Arrests
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was in Qatar Wednesday to discuss aid for his embattled nation as the United States expressed concern over death, injuries and arrests of Sudanese citizens over four weeks of protests challenging Bashir’s government. Bashir met with ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha, where the Qatar News Agency reported they discussed various topics including the war-torn western Sudan region of Darfur. Meanwhile in Khartoum, Sudan’s oil minister announced the country has accepted offers of aid from the UAE, Russia and Turkey. Oil Minister Azhari Abdel Qader announced that his country “accepted it as a normal matter between friendly countries in light of the current circumstances that Sudan is going through.” He did not elaborate on how much aid was offered or when it would be delivered. VOA

South Sudan Urges Foreign Partners to Fund Peace Deal
South Sudan on Wednesday called on the international community to fund efforts to implement a peace deal, which is already four months behind schedule due to lack of money. In an address to diplomats, deputy foreign minister Deng Dau Deng said the money was needed to move warring forces into cantonment areas, a move seen as vital to addressing security in the country. “Our specific appeal is for our partners and for the diplomatic community in Juba to give support to plug the gaps… so that we can move,” Deng said. Goc Mokwach, deputy finance minister, told AFP that parliament last year approved estimated spending of $20 million (17 million euros) to implement the peace deal, however an overall budget has not been announced. But Deng said the government only had $1.6 million for peace efforts. “If you don’t have resources, you cannot move,” he said. “It is availability of the resources that will actually enhance the process itself.”  AFP

How We Made an Invisible Crisis at Sea Visible
More than 16,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 — with more than 100 new deaths this past weekend off the coast of Libya. Those who go this route are among the least powerful people in the world, and they often drown anonymously — mere statistics in tragedies that tend to occur with barely a trace of documentation. Our Opinion Video team at The Times sought to change that with an ambitious project produced across three continents that would combine cutting-edge technology such as forensic verification with traditional reporting. It began when a couple of us made visits to the offices of the pioneering British research group Forensic Architecture to discuss possible collaborations. Soon afterward, Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, an affiliated research group specializing in the investigation of incidents at sea, reached out with an intriguing idea.  The New York Times

African Borrowers Face Risk of Debt ‘Tipping Point’
A third of African countries have unsustainable debt positions and the continent must reduce its reliance on foreign funding for projects that don’t help them service loans, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said.Global investors in search of higher yields have been gobbling up African debt over the past decade, he said. Governments on the continent used the financing to build infrastructure and fund recurrent expenditure, neither of which create enough foreign earnings that can be used to repay creditors, said Ncube, a Cambridge-trained former chief economist of the African Development Bank. African countries must stop borrowing to finance infrastructure, he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday. You don’t export roads. The bulk of the financing must come from domestic sources or public-private partnerships of Build-Operate-Transfer models, Ncube said.  Bloomberg

The Gambia River Bridge Set to End ‘Centuries’ of Trade Chaos with Senegal
A new bridge spanning the River Gambia is set to revolutionise travel and trade in the region. The Gambia is a thin sliver of land either side of the eponymous river, surrounded on three sides by Senegal. The 1.9km (1.2 miles) Senegambia bridge near Farafenni links the two halves of The Gambia, as well as allowing people from the north of Senegal to reach the southern Senegalese province of Casamance with ease. Up until now, people have had to use an unreliable ferry crossing or take the long route round The Gambia. Lorry drivers could spend days, and sometimes a week, in a queue waiting to cross meaning that perishable goods could spoil. On Monday, people took the opportunity to make the crossing over the bridge for the first time. BBC

DR Congo Confirms Record Number of Ebola Cases in One Day
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday confirmed 14 new cases of Ebola virus in its eastern borderlands, the largest one-day increase since the current outbreak was declared in August. In all, the haemorrhagic fever is believed to have killed 439 people and infected another 274 in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. The epidemic in a volatile part of the DRC is the second worst ever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The largest outbreak occured in 2013-2016 in West Africa. More than 28,000 cases were confirmed. The news comes shortly after drugmaker Merck said it will ship another approximately 120,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo by the end of next month. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones