Africa Media Review for January 30, 2019

Djibouti: 130 Migrants Feared Dead after Two Boats Overturn
At least 130 migrants are missing off the coast Djibouti after two boats capsized, amid new warnings from the UN that six migrants a day die on maritime smuggling routes to Europe and elsewhere. According to the International Organization for Migration, the alarm was raised over the latest incident after two survivors were recovered. As the search for more survivors continued, the IOM said on Wednesday that 28 bodies had been found. Hopeful of finding work in rich Gulf countries, thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa region set off every year from Djibouti to cross the Bab al-Mandab Strait for the Arabian Peninsula.  The Guardian

2 Killed, 5 Wounded in Mogadishu Car Bombing: Security Official
Two people were killed and five wounded on Tuesday when a car packed with explosives was detonated near the ministry of petroleum in the Somali capital, a security official said. Mohamed Abdullahi Tulah, a regional security official, said the vehicle was parked at a petrol station in front of the ministry’s offices in Mogadishu when it was detonated. “It was hidden inside the petrol station parking where it went off, two civilians were killed and five others wounded in the blast,” he told a press conference. A witness, Dahir Adan, said one of those killed was a woman who was selling tea close to the blast scene. “The blast was very heavy but luckily it did not cause fire destroying the petrol station and the casualty (toll) was minimal,” he added.  AFP

Ethiopia Air Force Bombards Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Two Leaders Killed
The Ethiopian National Defence Force, ENDF, says its Air Force has bombarded bases of militant group Al-Shabaab in Somalia killing two leaders of the group in the process. A statement from the Ministry of Defense sent to the state broadcaster, EBC, confirmed the attacks that lasted about 45 minutes were carried out on January 24 in Bur Haybe, located 75km east of Baidoa, capital of the South West regional state. The report said aside the killing of Abdu Osman and Abdusalem – the group’s operations chief and a grenade detonation expert, 35 Al Shabaab members were also killed. Around January 18, Somali media outlets reported that Ethiopian troops serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, had been ambushed in Baidoa and that casualties had been reported. Subsequent reports indicated that the Ethiopian contingent were preparing an onslaught on Al-Shabaab. Security watchers believe the aerial attacks of January 24 could be the said response. Africa News

UN Says 18 Killed in Central African Republic Attack
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic says 18 civilians are dead and 23 wounded after an armed group opened fire during a funeral ceremony. The statement on Tuesday says the gunmen with the Union for Peace armed group carried out the overnight attack on Friday in the central town of Ippy. The peacekeeping mission condemns “this terrible massacre” that occurred as a new round of peace talks on Central African Republic began in Sudan. Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest nations, has faced interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013. The violence has intensified and spread in recent months. AP

Sudan Protests: Authorities Order Release of All Detainees
Authorities in Sudan have ordered the release of all detainees held during weeks of anti-government protests. The release was ordered by Sudan’s intelligence and security chief, Salah Ghosh, the information ministry said in a statement. No reason was given. More than 1,000 people are reported to have been detained in the protests, which began in December. President Omar al-Bashir has blamed the unrest on “foreign agents” and rebel groups in the Darfur region. Meanwhile, riot police in the capital Khartoum used tear gas to disperse dozens of demonstrators in the Burri district on Tuesday, witnesses said. BBC

President Al Bashir Calls Cease Fire in Sudan
President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan has announced an extension of the unilateral cease fire in all conflict areas, including South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Speaking to a crowd at a football stadium in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan state, President Omar Al Bashir said his country has exerted every possible effort to bring peace and vowed to make further efforts to achieve peace across Sudan. The president and field marshall of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) appeared in full military uniform on stage. Al Bashir said he hoped that his next meeting with the crowd will take place in Kauda, the stronghold of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). “They [the rebels] are our brothers and they belong to us and we want them to return and live among us in order to build this country,” the president said. Radio Dabanga

Sudan General Says Army Ready to Face Any Enemy Threat
A top Sudanese general said on Tuesday the armed forces were ready to face any threat to the country in the first such remarks in over five weeks of anti-government protests, state media reported. “We confirm the readiness of our armed forces to respond to any conspiracies by the enemy,” the official news agency SUNA quoted the army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, General Essameddine Mubarak as saying. He was addressing the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum, both of which have been rocked by protests since December 19. “The armed forces are committed to protect the country and its residents. The forces are aware of the enemy’s threat,” Mubarak said, without specifying the nature of the threats or who the enemies were. AFP

In DRC, 3 Rebel Chiefs Surrender in Nod to New President
Three militia leaders, including a man accused of murdering 39 police officers, surrendered on Tuesday in a show of support for Democratic Republic of Congo’s new President Felix Tshisekedi, local officials said on Tuesday. All three, who belong to the Kamwina Nsapu (Black Ant) militia which has been accused of a host of bloody atrocities, laid down their weapons along with more than 100 men in the restive central Kasai region, a stronghold of Tshisekedi. The apparently coordinated display of surrender was a boost for Tshisekedi who was sworn in last Thursday and faces numerous challenges at the helm of this vast unstable nation following bitterly disputed elections. The move came just days after 600 other Kasai rebels also laid down their weapons, saying they were ending their uprising as they turned themselves in – also as a sign of support for Tshisekedi.  AFP

DRC President Tshisekedi Names Coalition Ally as Chief of Staff
New President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Felix Tshisekedi, has named his coalition partner and political heavyweight, Vital Kamerhe, as his chief of staff. The appointment is among the first senior positions to be filled by the president who took office last week in a historic inauguration – the first peaceful transfer of political authority. A January 25 executive order issued from the presidency appointed Kamerhe for the post of Chief of Staff with the order taking immediate effect. Another order named deputy Chief of Staff as Desire-Cashmir Kolongele Eberande. Tshisekedi pulled out of an opposition coalition agreed in Geneva, Switzerland only to announce a two-man coalition with Kamerhe weeks later in Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Africa News

Thousands Flee Nigerian City into Cameroon Fearing Militant Attack -UNHCR
Around 30,000 people fled into Cameroon at the weekend from the Nigerian city of Rann, fearing an attack by Boko Haram militants, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva that the exodus followed the departure of Cameroonian forces who had moved to secure the city, following an attack by Boko Haram on Rann on Jan. 14. “Because Cameroon is part of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, their military went in to secure Rann. So it was … peaceful (for a while) but as far as we understand now, that Multi-National Task Force has left,” Baloch said. Refugees reported that Boko Haram had promised to return to the city, which originally had an estimated population of about 80,000, he said.  Reuters

UN Seeks Nearly $1 Billion to Assist Displaced in Nigeria
The United Nations is launching a three-year Humanitarian Response Strategy together with the Nigeria Regional Refugee Response Plan. The $983 million appeal will assist millions of victims of Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria and hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled to neighboring countries. The bulk of the appeal, $848 million, will assist 6.2 million vulnerable people in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.They have been the hardest hit by the decade-long crisis between Boko Haram and Nigeria’s government forces. Boko Haram, which wants to set up its own Islamic State based on Shariah law, reportedly has killed more than 20,000 people and forced more than two million to flee their homes since the insurgency began in 2009. VOA

Mauritania Leader Backs Defense Minister for Presidency
The Mauritanian government on Tuesday confirmed incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s support for Defense Minister Mohamed Ould Ghazouani in this year’s presidential election. “Ould Ghazouani is the best choice for continuing the pioneering national project founded and led by President of the Republic Ould Abdel Aziz,” government spokesman Sidi Mohamed Ould Mohamed said on Twitter. Ould Mohamed is also the leader of the ruling Union of the Republic Party. On Monday, a party source said Ould Abdel Aziz has backed the defense minister to run in this year’s presidential election.  Anadolu Agency

Zimbabwe President Wants MDC ‘Crippled’, Rejects Entreaties for Dialogue – Chamisa
Nelson Chamisa, the president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe, said an ongoing crackdown by security forces was meant “to cripple” the country’s largest opposition party. At least 43 party officials are in hiding and five MPs are in prison since a crackdown by security forces on protests began a fortnight ago, sparked by a 150% fuel price hike. At a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Harare on Tuesday, Chamisa said he would approach regional and international communities for help. “We are escalating this matter to regional bodies. My worry is that I have previously engaged them and have not received any response. “I don’t how many dead bodies and how much blood must flow on the streets of Harare first, before we see the intervention of regional bodies,” said Chamisa. Times Live

Mnangagwa Defied as Zimbabwe Violence Is Said to Be Orchestrated
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is being defied by members of his ruling party who are orchestrating a violent crackdown after demonstrations this month, government and military officials said. Door-to-door raids in urban townships by police and men in military uniform are continuing more than a week after a three-day strike was called following a more than doubling of fuel prices, the people said on the condition of anonymity. Abuses range from beatings to rape, according to human rights organizations including the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. The continuing crackdown signals a split in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Mnangagwa, a former spy chief, is trying to court investors to rescue an economy close to collapse and has said he won’t tolerate abuses by security forces. Opposing him are military and party officials who want to retain tight control after ousting long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in late 2017 and benefit from illicit diamond sales, access to scarce hard currency and control over lucrative fuel imports, the people said. Daily Maverick

Leading Zimbabwean Activist Evan Mawarire Freed on Bail
Leading Zimbabwean activist and pastor Evan Mawarire was freed on bail on Tuesday after being detained for 13 days following violent anti-government protests. “I’m persuaded in the case… that the interest of justice will be served by the admission of the applicant to bail,” Judge Tawanda Chitapi told the courthouse in Harare. Nationwide demonstrations erupted two weeks ago after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food, and medicine. At least 12 people died in the ensuing crackdown in which security forces said they arrested more than 1 100 individuals, including leading trade unionists and opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers and senior figures. AFP

Italy: 5 EU Nations Will Take in Migrants Stranded at Sea
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says five European Union nations are stepping forward to help resolve the latest impasse involving migrants stuck at sea on a humanitarian ship, but he bemoaned the lack of a systematic EU way to deal with migrant rescues. Conte said Tuesday that the crisis over the Sea-Watch 3, which has been stuck off Sicily with 47 rescued migrants since Friday, demonstrates the EU’s “incapacity to manage this phenomenon with shared European mechanisms.” He spoke Tuesday in Cyprus at the close of a southern European summit. But Conte said individual countries had stepped forward late Tuesday to say they would take some of the migrants. The Italian news agency ANSA, citing Conte, said the five countries are Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta. AP

UN Diplomats: New Talks on Western Sahara Expected in March
Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement are expected to meet for a second round of talks on the conflict over the mineral-rich Western Sahara, a hopeful sign following the Security Council’s call last year to speed up a solution to their 43-year dispute, U.N. diplomats said Tuesday. Former German president Horst Koehler, the secretary-general’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, told the council in closed consultations that he plans to hold separate talks with all parties in February before getting them around the same table again in March, the diplomats said. Kohler was able to get Morocco, the Polisario Front and neighbors Algeria and Mauritania around the same table in early December for the first time in six years, and though no significant progress was reported the parties remain committed to the U.N.-brokered talks that have strong Security Council backing. The Washington Post

South Sudan Begins Vaccinating against Ebola
Health workers and other front-line responders are being vaccinated against Ebola in South Sudan amid a worsening outbreak of the disease in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, WHO said. The vaccination drive that started on Monday is conducted with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners. According to WHO, vaccination began in Yambio, Gbudue State, but health workers in Tombura, Yei and Nimule as well as the capital city, Juba, will also be offered the vaccine. The outbreak began in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 1 August 2018. However, neighboring countries have not reported any cases of Ebola. Radio Tamazuj

UN Finds at Least 15 Mass Graves in Congo after December Violence
At least 15 mass graves have been found in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of three days of ethnic bloodshed in December, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s MONUSCO mission in Congo said Tuesday. Earlier in January, the United Nations estimated that at least 890 people were killed as a result of the violence, some of the worst in the area for years which highlighted the precarious state of inter-ethnic relations even in the Central African country’s more peaceful regions. A MONUSCO special mission looking into the circumstances of the fighting found at least 11 mass graves and 43 individual graves around the town of Yumbi and at least four communal graves containing at least 170 bodies in nearby Bongende, spokeswoman Florence Marchal said. VOA

Bribes Like ‘Monopoly Money’ Were Given to South Africa’s Leaders, Panel Hears
Cash bribes were called “monopoly money,” and handed out to high-ranking members of South Africa’s governing party on monthly retainers. When that payoff wasn’t enough, $22,000 was stuffed into a Louis Vuitton handbag and delivered to a close ally of the president at the time. That sent the recipient “over the moon,” according to Angelo Agrizzi, a businessman — and now whistle-blower — who detailed, at a continuing government inquiry into public corruption, extravagant bribes doled out to members of the party, the African National Congress, at the highest levels of government. A current government minister, he testified, liked receiving an annual Christmas basket that included “four cases of high-quality whiskey, 40 cases of beer, eight lambs — cut up, obviously.” Her daughter was partial to high-end convertibles, Audi A3 Cabriolets, but kept crashing the cars given to her. “So I actually called her in one day and sat her down and said, ‘Can I arrange for driver training, special driver training for you,’ because it was getting embarrassing,” Mr. Agrizzi said.  The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones