Africa Media Review for January 4, 2018

Equatorial Guinea Confirms ‘Failed’ Coup against the President
The West African state of Equatorial Guinea said Wednesday it had thwarted “a coup” in late December mounted by mercenaries who sought to attack President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader. In a statement read on public radio, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said: “Mercenaries… were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers.” The plot had been prevented thanks to an operation carried out ““in collaboration with the Cameroon security services. Africa News

Ethiopia Wants to Turn a Notorious Prison into a Museum. But Some Fear the Abuses Will Continue
One cellblock in the Ma’ekelawi prison in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, is known as the Dark House. Its chilly, dank cells are underground, including four pitch-black cells too narrow for inmates to sit or stretch their arms or legs. It has a second nickname: Siberia. Ma’ekelawi is one of Ethiopia’s most notorious prisons, where dissidents, journalists, bloggers and protesters have been held for speaking out. According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, political prisoners and others have been tortured in Ma’ekelawi through beatings, prolonged stress positions and exposure to severe cold. The government has always denied the allegations. But on Wednesday, Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, stunned local activists and international human rights observers when he announced that the government would release all political prisoners and turn the Ma’ekelawi prison into a museum. Los Angeles Times

Tanzania Fines TV Stations for Airing Human Rights Report
Tanzania has fined five television stations Tsh60 million ($27,000) for “offensive and unethical” broadcasting. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said the broadcasters were penalised for airing ‘seditious content’. “The television stations are supposed to pay the fines within 30 days from today [Tuesday]. If they are dissatisfied they should appeal to the Fair Competition Commission in 30 days,” TCRA content committee chairman Joseph Mapunda told journalists. Africa News

Zambia Foreign Minister Resigns, Complaining of Graft
Zambian foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba has resigned citing “swelling” corruption in government and criticising President Edgar Lungu, officials confirmed to AFP on Wednesday. Kalaba, who was appointed in 2014, wrote a scathing message on social media on Tuesday, lashing out at the state of the ruling Patriotic Front party. “We cannot proceed to manage national affairs with cold indifference when the levels of corruption are swelling and being perpetrated by those who are expected to be the solution,” Kalaba wrote. “It would appear that the poor Zambians have ceased to be the reason we are holding power.” AFP

Deaths and Detentions as Cameroon Cracks down on Anglophone Activists
Felix Agbor Nkongho looked over his shoulder at a secluded Yaoundé cafe. As a leader of Cameroon’s growing anglophone rights movement, he had reason to be on his guard. A month previously he had been in prison in the capital, waiting to be tried under the country’s new anti-terrorism laws. A prominent lawyer and activist, if convicted Agbor Nkongho would have faced the death penalty for his part in organising peaceful protests. The arrest of anglophone activists was part of the Cameroonian government’s attempt to quash discontent emanating from its English-speaking regions. What began as a simple request for English to be used in the courtrooms and public schools of the country’s two anglophone regions has escalated into a crisis in which dozens of people have died, hundreds have been imprisoned and thousands have escaped across the border to Nigeria. The Guardian

Al Shabaab Kills Five Kenyan Policemen Who Were out on Patrol
Five Kenyan policemen were killed in an attack on their vehicle in the northeast county of Mandera near the border with Somalia late on Tuesday, a government official in the area said. Dozens of Kenyan security personnel have been killed in recent months in the remote lands near the border with Somalia, in raids by the al Shabaab Islamist militants from Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for the latest attack. Daniel Bundotich, the deputy county commissioner for Mandera South, said those killed included three police reservists, local civilians who usually assist the police and are assigned uniforms and arms. Reuters

Somalia’s PM Fires 3 Cabinet Ministers as Opposition Looms
Somalia’s prime minister has fired three Cabinet ministers as his government faces stiff challenges from the opposition. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire on Thursday announced the replacement of Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf Garaad Omar with Ahmed Isse Awad, a former ambassador to Washington. Khaire also replaced the interior minister and trade and industries minister. Opposition parties in the Horn of Africa nation have been trying to capitalize on recent security incidents, accusing the government of shortcomings in a bid to unseat the prime minister. The country is still recovering from an October truck bombing in the capital that killed 512 people and was blamed on the al-Shabab extremist group. Somalia’s government has accused some opposition politicians of attempting to overthrow it with the support of foreign countries. AP

The Great Fish Robbery That Costs Africa Billions
[…] The waters off West Africa are being plundered by industrial vessels from across the world including Russia, China, and ships operating under “flags of convenience” that allow them to skirt costs and regulations. Such ships can take hundreds of tons of fish in each haul, and inflict lasting damage on the marine environment. “Trawlers catch all the fish available regardless of protected species or safety standards,” says Abdou Karim Sall, President of the Platform of Senegalese Artisanal Fishermen (PAPAS). “These big vessels hold heavy nets that destroy the ocean and the marine habitat but especially nurseries for juveniles, which prevents the fish from reproducing.” A recent report from the Overseas Development Institute and Spanish journalism group PorCausa used satellite tracking to monitor the methods and scale of expropriation. The research showed a common practice of fishing boats transferring stock to commercial vessels at sea, known as transhipments. A second method involves transporting fish out of West African ports in vast freezers on container ships, which are less rigorously inspected than other vessels. This latter method accounts for 84% of illegal fish exports from the region, the report estimates. CNN

Africa in 2018: The Old Generation Remains at the Helm
Be it Cameroon, Zimbabwe or Guinea, African leaders are apparently not thinking about retirement. Cameroonian President Paul Biya is 85 years old and Guinean President Alpha Conde, 80. At 75, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa is still the youngest of the bunch. “African countries have the largest gap between the age of their leaders and the age of their youth and there doesn’t seem to be any major transformation to shift the leadership to the younger generation any time soon,” said Zachariah Mampilly, a professor of African Studies at Vassar College in the United States. Discontent is widespread among young people in Africa. “We are being ruled by senile leaders,” said the Zimbabwean activist Linda Masarire. The 35-year-old has already fought against former President Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime. She is not at all impressed by his successor, Mnangagwa. Masarire believes that old politicians ignore the needs of young citizens. Deutsche Welle

Egypt Seeks to Drag Sudan into Direct Confrontation in Halayeb: Official
The head of Sudan’s Technical Committee for Border Demarcation (TCBD) Abdalla al-Sadiq said Egypt’s actions in the disputed Halayeb triangle aim to provoke Sudan to engage in direct clashes. The border triangle area of Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateen, which is a 20,580 km area on the Red Sea, has been a contentious issue between Egypt and Sudan since 1958, shortly after Sudan gained its independence from the British-Egyptian rule in January 1956. The area has been under Cairo’s full military control since the mid-1990’s following a Sudanese-backed attempt to kill the former Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. Last month, Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced that it would build a dam in Wadi Hodein, Shalateen area, to benefit from rainwater and floods. Sudan Tribune

Zimbabwe Minister Says No Electoral Reforms Needed
Zimbabwe’s new justice minister is rejecting calls for major electoral reforms ahead of nationwide polls expected later this year. The Zimbabwe Election Resource Centre, a non-partisan think tank focusing on elections and democracy, wrote letters this week to parliament, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, urging them to enact new laws to ensure the 2018 general elections are free and fair. Former president Robert Mugabe, who the military forced out of office in November, was accused by both international and domestic observers of using fraud and intimidation to win elections in 2002, 2008 and 2013. VOA

Nigeria Loses Almost Half Its Power Output after Pipeline Fire
A fire at a Nigerian pipeline interrupted gas supplies to companies generating more than 3,000 megawatts in Africa’s most populous nation, the government said. The fire at the Escravos-Lagos pipeline owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. in the southern Edo state required a shutdown of the pipeline supplying gas to the 1,320-megawatt Egbin power plant, the nation’s biggest, and five others, according to an emailed statement by the Power, Works and Housing Ministry. The interruption tripped the national transmission grid on Tuesday, it said. Most of Nigeria’s power is from thermal generation. The gas produced by oil and gas companies is delivered to the power stations through pipelines owned and operated by Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company, a unit of state-owned NNPC. Bloomberg

Egypt Using Death Sentences to ‘Settle Scores,’ Lawyer Says
The number of civilians sentenced to death in Egypt’s military courts leapt from 60 in 2016 to at least 112 in 2017, according to two independent rights groups. Human rights advocates say the alarming numbers recorded by the Egyptian Coordination for Rights & Freedoms and the Initiative for Personal Rights are shocking — but the stories behind them are even more harrowing. What happened to four families from the northern city of Kafr el-Sheikh is a case in point. After more than a year of campaigning to have their loved ones’ death sentences commuted in a case clouded by allegations of flaws in Egypt’s judicial system, they received phone calls on Monday directing them to collect their relatives’ bodies early Tuesday. CNN

Is Ghana – Africa’s Good-Governance Darling – Losing the Fight against Corruption?
Corruption is a wicked problem that permeates every fabric of Ghanaian society, especially the public sector. Over the years, Ghana has fared dismally in its fight against corruption. In fact, the country has dropped consistently in recent years in rankings by anti-corruption and transparency bodies, including Transparency International and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.i If we do not see a renewed commitment to the fight against corruption – especially political corruption – the country risks reversing the gains made over the years in democracy, good governance, and development. Afrobarometer

Spain Rescues 55 Sub-Saharan Migrants Crossing Mediterranean
Spain’s maritime rescue service says it has rescued 55 migrants from a boat in which they were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The service says a non-governmental organization warned authorities on Tuesday about the boat with 53 men and two women on board. A rescue plane and a vessel were dispatched and the migrants were pulled from the boat 13 miles (20 kilometers) southwest of Alboran Island, which lies midway between the coasts of northern Africa and southern Spain. The service says the migrants, all from sub-Saharan countries, are in good health. Thousands of refugees and economic migrants attempt the perilous sea crossing from Africa in hopes of reaching European shores each year. Human traffickers often pack them into small boats unfit for the open waters. AP

Tropical Cyclone Ava Moves towards Madagascar
Heavy rain has started to pound Madagascar as Tropical Cyclone Ava moves towards the island. In the far north, Antisiranana reported 43mm of rain in 24 hours up to 06:00 GMT on Wednesday, while the eastern island of Nosy Boraha received 59mm. On the neighbouring island nation of La Reunion, the capital Saint-Denis was drenched by 50mm of rain. Despite the downpours, the centre of the storm remained approximately 250km off the east coast of Madagascar. Al Jazeera

Patients in Africa Twice as Likely to Die after an Operation Than Global Average, Report Shows
Patients undergoing surgery in Africa are more than twice as likely to die following an operation than the global average, despite generally being younger, healthier and the surgery they are undergoing being more minor, research has revealed. The study, which covered 25 countries, revealed that just over 18% of in-patients developed complications following surgery, while 1% of elective in-patients died in hospital within 30 days of their operation – twice the global average. Prof Bruce Biccard, a co-author of the latest study from the University of Cape Town, said that one of the major problems is likely to be an insufficient number of medical staff, resulting in difficulties in spotting or tackling complications following operations. “[The reason] that people do so terribly in Africa from a surgical point of view is that there are just no human resources,” he said. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones