Africa Media Review for January 25, 2019

Felix Tshiskedi Sworn In as DR Congo President amid Suspicions He Is Kabila Plant
Felix Tshisekedi, accused of taking power through subterfuge and electoral fraud, was sworn in as president of Congo on Thursday at a ceremony plagued by mishap and boycotted by most African leaders. What should have been a historic moment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo turned farcical after the new leader was overtaken by a bout of apparent illness, briefly abandoning his inauguration speech just as he was savouring his triumph. Mr Tshisekedi later returned to the podium, blaming a “moment of weakness”. Aides blamed an overly tight bullet-proof vest, but, in a superstitious land haunted by decades of internecine violence, many will see an ill-omen that reflects the controversy surrounding his improbable ascent to office. Behind him on the dais brooded the inscrutable figure, hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, of Joseph Kabila, the former president accused of finagling the election to ensure a pliant and possibly temporary successor. The Telegraph

Tshisekedi Calls for ‘A Congo for All’ after Disputed Election
The new president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has called for national reconciliation after being sworn in as successor to Joseph Kabila in the country’s first transfer of power via an election in 59 years of independence. Felix Tshisekedi said to cheers from thousands of supporters on the lawn of the presidential palace in Kinshasa: “We want to build a strong Congo, turned toward its development in peace and security. A Congo for all, in which everyone has a place.” The pageantry of the ceremony was briefly interrupted when Tshisekedi was taken ill during his inaugural address and had to sit down. But he returned to the podium after a brief pause, saying he was exhausted by the election and the emotion of the moment. His spokesman later said his bulletproof vest had been too tight. The Guardian

Ethiopia’s Oromia State Signs Ceasefire Deal with OLF
Ethiopia’s regional state of Oromia and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday, following months of sparring amidst rising insecurity in the region. The reconciliation pact was signed by Milkesa Mideksa of the Oromia state and Dawud Ibsa, chairperson of OLF. The two sides agreed to avoid bloodshed and forge a peaceful future together, state-affiliated Fana BC reported. The event held at the Ambo University in the Oromia state was attended by Oromo traditional leaders and several representatives of political parties. Africa News

Shot at, Confused and Dazed in the Streets of Harare
[…] “It’s like it was before. We are all scared. The police and army are violent. We are short of food, people are being abused, as in Mugabe days. (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa is just the same.” Not far from this clinic, hundreds of people arrested in connection with the violence are on trial, and most are charged with incitement to commit violence or subversion. So far none has been granted bail and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the state is abusing the rule of law in its continuing legal procedures against about 700 people arrested since the anti-fuel hike protests on January 14. Five Movement for Democratic Change MPs are in police cells, four in central Zimbabwe are being fast-tracked through magistrates’ courts for incitement and a Harare MP is still awaiting charges to be formalised. Neither Mnangagwa’s spokesman, George Charamba, nor information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana would take calls or respond to emails for several days. And at their offices in central Harare on Thursday, Daily Maverick was told they were “in meetings”  Daily Maverick

Biggest Protests ‘In Living Memory’ Hit Sudan
Security forces have clashed with demonstrators in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, as anti-government protests take place across the country. Riot police have used tear gas to try to break up the large rallies. The umbrella group of doctors, engineers and teachers co-ordinating the protests says they have been held in at least 50 places around Sudan. They began last month over the economy, but are now focused on removing President Omar al-Bashir from office. Journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih told the BBC that Thursday was the biggest day of protests in living memory. BBC

On Sudan’s Streets, Young Professionals Rise Against an Autocrat
As chaotic antigovernment demonstrations engulfed Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, a young doctor emerged from his hiding place and strode down a deserted street, his hand held high.An eyewitness said the doctor, Babiker Salama, approached a group of security officials gathered around a truck last week and issued a plea. A protester had been injured and was badly bleeding, he said. Would the officers permit his evacuation?Exactly what happened next is hotly disputed by Sudan’s president and the protesters seeking his ouster, but the result is not. A gunshot rang out. Dr. Babiker, 27, fell to the ground, grievously injured. An hour, later he was dead. The death of Dr. Babiker, an idealistic young man from an affluent family, has emerged as a signal moment in a powerful tide of protest that has roiled Sudan over the past five weeks, posing the greatest threat yet to the country’s ruler of 30 years, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Demonstrations that started on Dec. 19 as a howl against soaring bread prices in the city of Atbara have snowballed into a nationwide movement, driven by daily protests calling for the president’s ouster. They hope to succeed where international efforts failed; Mr. Bashir’s autocratic rule has endured despite American missile attacks, war crimes indictments, international condemnation, economic sanctions, and a momentous 2011 split that led to the creation of South Sudan.  The New York Times

Saudi Arabia Latest to Offer Economic Help to Crisis-Hit Sudan
Saudi Arabia became the latest country to offer economic support to Sudan, as anti-government protests sparked by soaring living costs in the northern African nation rage for their sixth week.The king confirmed that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t hesitate to support Sudan until it overcomes the current situation, Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi told reporters Thursday in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. He said his country has provided 8 billion riyals ($2.1 billion) in the past four years, and we wouldn’t hesitate in supporting Sudan at anytime. Al-Qasabi didn’t say what form any economic assistance would take. Bloomberg

South Sudan Embraces Old Enemy Sudan, Now Rocked by Protests
Embattled Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is receiving words of support from some unlikely places as he faces deadly protests calling for him to step down. South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of brutal fighting marked by the mass abduction and enslavement of children, scorched earth ethnic cleansing and famines. Yet now the former arch-enemies describe themselves as the best of friends, bound together by a desperate need for oil revenues and peace to allow them to flow. “When your interest is so intertwined, you are like a conjoined twin,” South Sudan’s oil minister, Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth, told Reuters in the capital of Juba. “For us, the solution is not to remove Bashir, the solution is to improve the economy.” Reuters

Amnesty Says Egypt Detained 113 in 2018 for Their Views
Amnesty International said Thursday that Egyptian authorities detained at least 113 people in 2018 for peacefully expressing their views, saying the country has become more dangerous than at any time in recent history for anyone openly criticizing the government. In a statement, the London-based rights group said those who dared criticize the government in 2018 were sent to prison, often held in solitary confinement or subjected to forced disappearances. “Today, it is more dangerous to openly criticize the government in Egypt than at any other time in the country’s recent history,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director. “Those living under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi have experienced an unprecedented assault that has seen those who peacefully express their views treated as criminals,” Bounaim said. Those detained, it added, faced charges that included “membership of terrorist groups” — Egyptian government parlance for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group — and “disseminating false news” in “unfair” trials. AP

US No Longer Announcing Deaths, Damage in Somalia Airstrikes
The U.S. military says it has carried out two new airstrikes in Somalia against the al-Shabab extremist group but will no longer give details on fighters killed or damage done. A U.S. Africa Command spokesman says those details are now up to Somalia’s government to share. The spokesman later said one extremist was killed. On Saturday the U.S. announced its deadliest airstrike in Somalia in months, killing 52 of the al-Qaida-linked extremists after a “large group” attacked Somali forces. The U.S. says the latest airstrikes occurred Wednesday near Jilib in Middle Juba region, where Saturday’s strike occurred. The United States has dramatically stepped up airstrikes against al-Shabab in Somalia since President Donald Trump took office, carrying out at least 47 last year to diminish the Islamic extremist group’s “safe havens.” AP

Kenya’s Leaders Face a New Dilemma in Fighting Al-Shabab
It is a week since the deadly hotel attack in Nairobi. Life appears to have returned to normal. But beneath the surface, Kenyan leaders have been left with a tough decision on how to proceed. Previously, every time a major attack by the armed group al-Shabab happened on Kenyan soil, the east African country responded by carrying out air attacks in neighbouring Somalia. Security forces would also carry out security sweep in Eastleigh – a mainly Somali suburb in the Kenyan capital. But this time – because most of the attackers are Kenyan nationals unlike in previous major attacks – the incident has taken the government by surprise. For the first time, a Kenyan national carried out a suicide attack on Kenyan soil. Al Jazeera

Nigerian Chibok Girls’ Champion Ezekwisili Quits Presidential Race
The leading female candidate in Nigeria’s presidential election said on Thursday she had withdrawn from the race weeks ahead of the poll to help build a coalition to provide a viable alternative to the country’s two main parties. Former government minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, co-founder of a group to raise awareness about more than 200 girls kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in 2014, said on Twitter that she had been in talks for three months with other candidates about a coalition. Nigeria’s presidential election is scheduled to take place on Feb. 16. The main candidates in the race to head Africa’s top oil producing country are the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president who is representing the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  Reuters

Nigerian Court Gives Order to Stop Trial of Top Judge
A Nigerian appeals court issued an interim order on Thursday stopping a tribunal from charging the chief justice with breaching asset-declaration rules, a month before a presidential election. Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen has been asked to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for trial. He has not responded to the charges and says the tribunal, which tries asset-declaration misdemeanors, does not have the authority to try him. Reuters

A Little Optimism, a Lot of Pessimism: The 2019 Outlook for Humanitarian Crises
It’s quite clear that 2018 was a tough year for the world’s humanitarian agencies. They tried to provide help to the victims of ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Somalia, to name a few hot spots. And then there were major disasters like the floods in India and the tsunami and earthquakes in Indonesia. This year, the challenges will continue in full force, according to an annual report from UNOCHA, the U.N. humanitarian agency, called World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2018. […] More than 80 percent of the funding required that year was for just eight “mega-crises,” as the report calls them, that have lasted five years or more, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and former director of disaster assistance for USAID, says these longer-lasting crises are being driven by conflicts that “just are not being resolved.” NPR

Cameroon Struggles to Aid IDPs in Anglophone Separatist Areas
Cameroon is struggling to get humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of people who fled areas of separatist unrest, some of them trapped by the fighting. Meanwhile, authorities’ calls for separatists to disarm and be pardoned are failing as rehabilitation centers remain empty. A group of twelve kids gather water in the early morning hours in Cameroon’s capital. Forty-five-year old Gwendoline Ndum took in the children a few weeks ago after they fled her home town of Mbengwi. Many of the kids had walked for days in the bush to escape fighting between Cameroon security and anglophone separatists. VOA

Davos: Africa Boosts Free Trade While Global Barriers Go Up
When you ask Tony Elumelu if Africa would profit from free trade, the Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist does not have to think long. “If we look at other parts of the world, intra-regional trade helped significantly. For us to develop in Africa, we must embrace this,” he told DW at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We need to develop and broaden the market. We need to integrate Africa by trade also.” He might not have to wait much longer for this to happen. Last year, 49 African countries signed the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement, which is supposed to do away with tariffs on most goods and other trade barriers. The agreement will come into force once 22 countries have ratified it. With only seven more to go, it might only be a matter of weeks. So in times when others are erecting trade barriers once again, leaders on the continent are edging closer towards establishing the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization’s inception.  Deutsche Welle

Inside Ghana’s Illegal Arms Trade
The production of homemade guns is big business in West Africa. They can be bought for as little as £7 and are used for armed robberies and organized crime. Blacksmiths in Ghana are estimated to produce up to 200,000 of these guns a year. Sulley Lansah met one of the people who make the illegal firearms and some of those affected by them. BBC

Netanyahu Said Seeking State Visit to Morocco Ahead of Elections
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to arrange a state visit to Morocco just before Israelis go to the polls in April 9 elections, according to a report in a Moroccan media outlet. The French-language website Le Desk reported on Tuesday that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat is working, with US support, to arrange a meeting between Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI in Morocco. The visit would take place around March 30, right after a visit to the African country by Pope Francis, according to Israel’s Hadashot TV news. According to Le Desk, Mohammed VI may see developing closer ties with Israel as an inroad with the Trump administration as Morocco courts US support for its claims to Western Sahara, which most of the world views as an occupied territory. The Times of Israel

The Cost of Internet Shutdowns in Africa
So far in 2019, there have been internet shutdowns in at least five African countries, most prominently in Zimbabwe, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Cameroon, and Sudan. The rate of internet shutdowns has steadily increased over the past few years. According to global digital rights group Access Now, there were 21 shutdowns across Africa last year, up from 13 in 2017. Togo, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, and Egypt were among the countries implementing connectivity restrictions over the past two years. Cameroon’s Anglophone regions spent 230 days without internet access between January 2017 and March 2018. In this open access special report, EXX Africa assesses the circumstances of recent internet shutdowns and identifies the African countries where the risk of outages will be highest over the course of 2019. This report also assesses the commercial and economic impact of internet shutdowns and the technical processes involved in shutting down an entire country’s connectivity. EXX Africa



Photo: Adam Jones