Africa Media Review for January 31, 2019

52 Bodies of Migrants Found after Boats Capsize off Djibouti
The remains of 52 people have been found after some 130 migrants went missing off Djibouti when two boats capsized in rough waters, the U.N. migration agency said Wednesday, as body bags were laid out on the sand. Sixteen survivors were recovered, and the tiny East African nation’s coast guard continued a search and rescue operation after Tuesday’s accident, the U.N. said in a statement. Witnesses said large waves caused the overloaded boats to tip over about a half-hour after departing. An 18-year-old survivor told the migration agency he had boarded one of the boats with another 130 people, including 16 women. There were no immediate details on the second boat. AP

Sudan’s Army Says It Will ‘Not Allow State to Fall’ amid Protests
The Sudanese army issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would not allow the state to collapse, following weeks of mass protests demanding an end to President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule. Some activists had been calling for the military to back the protesters and pressure the government to step down. “The armed forces will not allow the Sudanese state to fall or to slide into the unknown,” said General Kamal Abdul Maarouf, chief of staff of the armed forces, in a statement. He said those leading the protests were hostile to Sudan and were hurting the country’s image. Reuters

Sudan Uprising: Mass Action across Capital and States
The demonstrations across Sudan demanding the immediate step-down of President Al Bashir and his regime from power, which has entered its second consecutive month, have continued unabated. On Tuesday, thousands participated in demonstrations in Khartoum, Sennar, and the Northern State that included the March for the Sudanese Martyrs and the commemoration of the 2005 Port Sudan massacre called for by the Freedom and Change forces, represented by the Sudanese Professionals Association, Sudan Call (an alliance of armed movements, civil society organisations and political parties) and the National Consensus Forces (a coalition of -leftist- political parties) and the Unionists Gathering. Security forces fired tear gas and used batons and plastic wires to disperse demonstrations, as well as the arrest of a number of demonstrators. Radio Dabanga

Tanzania MPs Grant Government Sweeping Powers over Political Parties
Tanzania’s parliament passed amendments to legislation late on Tuesday that give sweeping powers to a government-appointed registrar over political parties, a move that opposition legislators say will cement “one-party rule”. President John Magufuli’s government has already banned some newspapers, restricted opposition rallies and detained dozens of their members which, along with repeated state intervention in key sectors like mining and agriculture, have dimmed investment in the region’s third-biggest economy. The amendments give a government-run registrar sweeping powers to de-register parties and provide for up to a year in jail for anyone engaging in unauthorized civic education – for example, a voter registration drive.  Reuters

‘Along the Main Road You See the Graves’: U.N. Says Hundreds Killed in Congo
Fifteen communal burial sites and 43 single graves have been found in a northwest area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three days of ethnic strife last month may have left nearly 900 people dead, United Nations officials said Tuesday. The officials said the violence, between the Bununu and Batende groups in and around the town of Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe Province, flared a few weeks before the country’s presidential election on Dec. 30.There was no indication the violence had been directly related to the election, the officials said. But it came against a backdrop of high political tensions throughout the central African country because the election had been repeatedly delayed by the government of then-President Joseph Kabila, who ruled for 17 years and was reluctant to relinquish power.  The New York Times

DR Congo Seeks UN Help against Rwanda Rebels on Border
DR Congo’s government has asked its UN peacekeeping mission for help against Rwandan rebels planning operations against Rwanda from inside Congolese territory, the UN said on Wednesday. Leila Zerrougui, chief of the UN mission known as MONUSCO, said Kinshasa asked in a letter for peacekeepers to “thwart” FDLR Hutu rebels who were mustering in an eastern province near Rwanda’s border. The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) have in the past carried out cross-border attacks on Rwandan forces from rear bases in the DR Congo. In his letter DR Congo Defence Minister Crispin Atama Thabe said rebel brigades had moved from North Kivu into South Kivu province where they would be able to join a rebel commander planning operations in Rwanda. AFP

Al Qaeda Group Claims Series of Attacks across Sahel
Over the past few days, al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which operates within West Africa and the Sahel, has claimed several deadly attacks in both Mali and Burkina Faso. Within a span of week, the jihadist group claimed seven attacks on Malian and Burkinabe military targets, as well as local militia groups. On Jan. 21, JNIM claimed its forces targeted a Malian military convoy that allegedly contained Dozo [traditional farmers] militiamen near Toye in the Segou region. Local media has reported at least one Malian soldier was killed, while one vehicle was captured. This is not the first time JNIM has claimed targeting the Dozo, as it has long accused the Malian government of favoriting the Dozo over the Fulani in central Mali.  Long War Journal

Alarm over Troops Build-up in South Sudan
The South Sudan peace monitoring agency has expressed concern over the military build-up in Yei River State in Central Equatoria. The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), has disclosed that it has received several credible reports of military deployment to Yei by both the government and rebels under the command of Gen Thomas Cirillo. Gen Cirillo is the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to sign the September peace deal. The peace was signed between President Salva Kiir and former rebel chief Riek Machar in Addis Ababa.  The East African

Former Detainees Agree with Kiir to Rejoin SPLM Party
Members of the SPLM Former Detainees (SPLM-FDs) said they agreed to reunite the SPLM party soon after meeting President Salva Kiir in Juba on Tuesday. South Sudan’s ruling party fractured into three factions after the civil war broke out in December 2013. Deng Alor Kuol, a leading member of the SPLM FDs, said in a press statement that they agreed to reunite the fractured historical party. “All of us have agreed to reunite the SPLM and to come back to SPLM as a family,” he said. “The President was very happy and he is going to cooperate with all of us so that we see the unity of the SPLM as soon as possible,” he added.  Radio Tamazuj

Zimbabwean Police Files Implicate Army in Widespread Abuses
Internal Zimbabwean police documents passed to the Guardian suggest the army has been responsible for murder, rape and armed robbery during the ongoing brutal crackdown in the southern African country. In more than a dozen investigation reports shared with the Guardian by police officials frustrated at the apparent impunity of the military, a series of alleged attacks are described, including two murders and the rape of a 15-year-old girl. Police investigators wrote that all the acts were committed by men wearing army “uniforms” or “camouflage” – a style of wording allowing the police to avoid making direct accusations against the powerful military.  The Guardian

Will Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo, Acquitted at ICC, Return Home?
The acquittal at the International Criminal Court of Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo on crimes against humanity is making waves in the West African nation where some celebrate his pending release but others fear a repeat of the deadly 2010-2011 post-election violence that led him to The Hague. “For the moment, we are savoring the ICC’s decision to acquit President Gbagbo. We are waiting for his return for a true reconciliation in Ivory Coast. It was the missing link,” said Assoa Adou, secretary general of the Ivorian Popular Front, the party founded by Gbagbo. Gbagbo and former youth minister Charles Ble Goude were ordered released earlier this month after being acquitted of involvement in violence that left more than 3,000 people dead following Ivory Coast’s disputed 2010 presidential election. AP

South Africa’s Largest Labour Union Plans Nationwide Strike over Mass Layoffs
South Africa’s largest labour union group, with more than a million and a half members, said on Wednesday it would stage a nationwide strike on Feb. 13 over large-scale layoffs at ailing state-owned firms and at private companies. The decision by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) poses a major threat to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to revive the economy by cutting the government’s wage bill and reforming state firms that are drowning in debt and plagued by corruption. The protests also come just months ahead of national elections, where Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is likely to struggle to maintain its large electoral majority amid stubbornly high unemployment and rising poverty.  Reuters

Nigerian Opposition Candidate to Consider Amnesty for Corruption Suspects
Nigerian opposition presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar said on Wednesday he would consider an amnesty for corruption suspects in order to help recover billions of dollars stashed abroad by the country’s politicians and government officials. Abubakar is the main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Feb. 16 election, where corruption, security and the economy have been key issues. Buhari is hoping his anti-corruption agenda can win him a second term. Nigerian state coffers have in past years been ransacked by government officials and their associates, and corruption is prevalent throughout society. Buhari was elected in 2015 in part on a promise to rid the country of graft. Reuters

In Tense Uganda, You Watch the President—and He Watches You
Step into a cinema in Uganda’s capital and you could watch an action-packed retelling of President Yoweri Museveni’s ascent to power. Step outside of it and Museveni could be watching you. A new surveillance system with hundreds of cameras on Kampala’s streets; a glitzy biopic made by the president’s daughter — superficially they have little in common. But in the East African country the former rebel has ruled with a firm grip for more than 30 years, critics say they’re part of a push to glorify his achievements and tighten control of public space before 2021 elections that may be his toughest yet. Ugandan state TV showed 27 Guns, which reenacts Museveni’s 1980s revolt against President Milton Obote, before last weeks Liberation Day holiday. Celebrations this year, though, followed months of sporadic unrest in which pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine became a lightning rod for dissent for one of Africa’s youngest populations. Bloomberg

Massive African Finance Scandal May Get Even Bigger
The noose seems to be tightening around former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang, who has been held in South Africa since late December under an international arrest warrant issued by the US. Chang, 63, was arrested at Johannesburg airport in connection with his alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to state firms totaling some $2 billion (€1.75 billion). The US alleges that Chang received $12 million to agree to sign a loan deal supposedly intended to finance a tuna-fishing fleet and maritime surveillance project. Chang had benefited from immunity as a serving member of parliament and extradition requests from both Mozambique and the US had gone unfulfilled. Deutsche Welle

Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa, Home of the World’s Most Corrupt Governments
The nations of sub-Saharan Africa are still perceived on average to have the world’s most corrupt governments, according to the latest index published by Transparency International (TI). The Berlin-based organisation says in its annual report, released on Tuesday, that sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-scoring region on its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. The region “has failed to translate its anti-corruption commitments into any real progress”, the report says. “A region with stark political and socio-economic contrasts and longstanding challenges, many of its countries struggle with ineffective institutions and weak democratic values, which threaten anti-corruption efforts.”  allAfrica

Cameroon Summons French, German Envoys over Embassy Violence
Cameroon summoned French and German envoys to protest violence and vandalism during opposition demonstrations at the central African nations embassies in Paris and Berlin.The two European host governments failed to provide ample diplomatic and consular protection during the Jan. 26 protests by backers of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, in violation of international conventions, Cameroons Communication Minister and government spokesman Rene Emmanuel said in a statement Tuesday in the capital, Yaounde. While the United Nations condemned the violence at the Cameroonian embassies, it also expressed concern about alleged use of force by security forces during demonstrations in Cameroons port city of Douala in recent days, and the arrest of opposition leader Maurice Kamto, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres office said Tuesday in an emailed statement.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones