Africa Media Review for January 8, 2019

UN Security Council Delays Congo Session amid Vote Counting
The U.N. Security Council has put off a planned session on Congo and its closely watched presidential election as the country continues waiting for delayed results. A council discussion initially set for Tuesday was postponed to Friday after Congolese officials indefinitely postponed the release of the first results. They had been due Sunday. The council has been keenly following the long-awaited election in a country where the U.N. operates one of its biggest peacekeeping missions. But there have been differences in the council over sending a collective message about the Dec. 30 election, diplomats said. A closed-door discussion last week spanned two hours but yielded no joint statement. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday the U.N. is looking forward to “the timely publication” of provisional results. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric also reminded everyone with a stake in the outcome to respect Congo’s electoral laws and “help maintain an environment free of violence.” AP

AU, France Warn against ‘Unconstitutional Change’ in Gabon
The African Union and France warned against any “unconstitutional” change of power in Gabon, whose government on Monday claimed to have foiled an attempted takeover. AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat, in a tweet, said his organisation “strongly condemns the coup attempt” in Gabon. “I reaffirm the AU’s total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power,” said Faki, who is chairperson of the AU commission. Separately, France, which ruled Gabon from 1885 until independence in 1960, said it condemned “any extra-constitutional attempt at regime change”. “The stability of Gabon can only be assured by strict adherence to the provisions of the constitution,” foreign ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll said in Paris.  AFP

‘More than 800 Arrested’ during Sudan Protests So Far
Speaking in parliament, interior minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said that “The total number of protesters arrested until now is 816,” showing the extent of the authorities’ campaign against protestors, among them political party members, journalists, and doctors. Osman told lawmakers there had been a total of 381 protests reported since 19 December, claiming that “the demonstrations began peacefully, but some thugs with a hidden agenda used them to indulge in looting and stealing.” Demonstrations that demand the withdrawal of the current regime in Sudan, sparked by the chronic shortage of cash and rising prices of bread and fuel, are nearing their third week. The first large-scale protests broke out on December 19 in the Sudanese capital, El Gedaref, Wad Madani, Berber, Atbara, El Obeid, Port Sudan, Dongola, Kosti and several other towns in River Nile state and Sennar.  Radio Dabanga

Government Parties to Rally in Support of Sudanese President
Sudanese political forces allied to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) announced they will organize a rally to support President Omer al-Bashir after nearly three-week protests calling him to step down. The leader of the Liberation and Justice Party, Bahr Idris Abu Garda said that a committee of political forces tasked to deal with the crisis formed by the national dialogue parties decided to organize the rally next Wednesday under the name of “Sudan’s support” at the Green Square in Khartoum. Abu Garda who is a former Darfur rebel leader further said the meeting would be addressed by President al-Bashir and a number of party leaders and political forces. Speaking in a news conference on Sunday, he pointed out that the step comes in the context of supporting the cohesion of the state to resolve the ongoing crisis, especially issues related to corruption, shortage of fuel and cash as well as the hike in bread price.  Sudan Tribune

Russian Military Firm Working with Sudan Security Service: Sources
Sudanese sources have confirmed that military from the Russian Wagner private military firm is now working in the east African country but refused to provide further details about their activities in the country. The mercenary outfit which is highly active in the Syrian and Ukrainian was seen last year in Western Darfur and on the border with the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) to protect the government of Faustin-Archange Touadéra and Russian mining industry there. However, on 26 December Sudanese activists released photos showing the Russian fighters deployed in central Khartoum observing the anti-government protests that started on 19 December. Opposition sources say the Russian military are in Khartoum to train the special operations forces of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).  Sudan Tribune

US Air Strikes Continue, Military Policy Unchanged in Somalia despite Drawdown Rumors
US Africa Command announced Monday that a Jan. 6 US air strike in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle Region “killed six … [al-Shabaab] militants and destroyed one vehicle” without harming any civilians, according to its current assessment, according to a Jan. 7 release. The command said the strike aimed “to diminish” the terror organization’s “freedom of movement” and to put more pressure on it “in the area.” It was the second strike launched by the US in Somalia so far in 2019, and it comes days after NBC News reported the Defense Department planned to lessen the US military’s role and number of air strikes​ in the country. NBC’s Jan. 4 story cited “current and former officials,” who said the rumored drawdown was a result of the Trump administration’s determination that the terror group’s “insurgency” didn’t directly endanger the US. On Monday morning, though, and prior to the air strike announcement, an AFRICOM spokesman told Air Force Magazine that things were still business as usual in Somalia. Air Force Magazine

Mozambique Indicts 18 People in Connection with $2 Billion Loan Scheme
Mozambique has indicted 18 citizens for their involvement in fraud involving $2 billion in loans to state-owned companies, the attorney general’s office (AGO) said on Monday, in a scandal that has ensnared two major international banks. “Mozambique AGO is indicting 18 defendants, (ranging) from public workers and other citizens, on charges of abuse of power, abuse of trust, swindling and money laundering,” it said in a statement. The indictment came days after three ex-Credit Suisse bankers were charged in the United States with fraud over their role in Mozambique’s deal in 2013 in borrowing money from international investors to fund projects that included a state tuna fishery. Former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang, 63, is one of the 18 indictees. He was arrested in neighboring South Africa last week as part of the same case, and has denied wrongdoing. Reuters

The Banker Bros Who Bankrupted Mozambique
In December 2018, the US Department of Justice indicted three former Credit Suisse bankers for their role in bringing Mozambique’s economy to its knees. State-owned entities drowning in billions of dollars in debt, bloated infrastructure projects, kickbacks paid into UAE bank accounts, and government guarantees imperiling the entire economy: if any of this sounds familiar, keep reading. “50 million chickens.” This is how kickbacks, destined for Mozambican government officials, were described by one of the co-conspirators in an international corruption scandal that centred on a $2-billion project to build shipyards and tuna trawlers in Mozambique. Make no mistake though, the kickbacks would not be paid in poultry. Instead, $50-million in hard currency would be deposited into a series of bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Spain. This is according to the US Department of Justice which filed an indictment in December 2018 in a court in New York.  Daily Maverick

Opaque Insurgency Grinds On in Gas-Rich Mozambican Region
It is among Africa’s most opaque security challenges: A campaign of attacks by mysterious militants in an impoverished corner of Mozambique that prompted a military crackdown, leaving civilians vulnerable in a cyclical conflict that has killed at least 100 people. More than a year after insurgents announced their presence with a brazen assault on police in Cabo Delgado province, they have yet to clearly and publicly articulate what they want. The attackers have been described as Islamic extremists in a mostly Muslim area, but their ideology appears undeveloped and ethnic and economic resentments, as well as organized crime, could be key drivers of the unrest, according to analysts. The violence in northern Mozambique, close to Tanzania, is mostly confined to remote, rural areas and doesn’t match the reach, ferocity and sophistication of other armed movements on the continent, including al-Shabab and Boko Haram. But the stakes are high because the Mozambican government, shaken by financial problems and corruption concerns, hopes international plans to develop large reserves of natural gas in Cabo Delgado will eventually boost the economy.  AP

The Migrant Route to Europe Is Changing
You would not know it from the headlines, but more irregular migrants and refugees are arriving to Europe via a route that takes them from Morocco to Spain than, are arriving to Italy via Libya or to Greece via Turkey. In fact, even as the numbers of migrants arriving to Europe declined overall in 2018, the migrant route from Morocco to Spain experienced a sharp increase. More irregular migrants and refugees are now arriving in Europe via the straight of Gibraltar than anywhere else — and this is presenting a new set of challenges for European governments and the migrants themselves. Most of these migrants are refugees are from sub-Saharan Africa, and are braving this perilous journey in order to improve their lives. On the line with me to explain why the Morocco-to-Spain route has become so popular, and what this change in migration routes says about Europe’s shifting attitudes towards migrants and refugees is Joe Wallen. UN Dispatch

Crew Kidnapped in Pirate Attack off Benin
Six Russian sailors have been kidnapped after their vessel was attacked by pirates whilst sailing off the coast of Benin. The attack occurred on 1 January, according to the Russian Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot). It said seven to nine armed pirates boarded the Panama-flagged MSC Mandy at night and raided the ship before taking six sailors hostage. These (captain, senior assistant captain, 3rd mate, boatswain, fitter and cook) are all Russian. None of the remaining 18 crewmembers (comprising Russians and Ukrainians) were injured. Russian diplomats in Nigeria and Benin are working to release the captured sailors, RIA Novosti reported. DefenceWeb

Zimbabwe Teachers to Strike over Pay as Currency Crisis Deepens
Zimbabwean teachers will strike from Tuesday to press for U.S. dollar salaries as talks with the government failed to bring a breakthrough, a union said, adding pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to contain a runaway currency crisis. Cash shortages have plunged Zimbabwe’s financial system into disarray, threatening social unrest and undermining Mnangagwa’s efforts to win back foreign investors sidelined under his predecessor Robert Mugabe. With not enough hard currency to back up funds showing in bank accounts, the value of electronic money has plummeted, prompting businesses and civil servants to demand payment in U.S. dollars they can withdraw. Just over four months into Mnangagwa’s contested presidency, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union (ZIMTA) said its members would strike as spiralling inflation has left them unable to buy basic goods and fuel that are in short supply. Government doctors have been on strike for more than a month over the same issue. Reuters

Nigerian President Plans to Do More on Security over Boko Haram
Nigeria will equip the military to “overcome the insurgency” in the country’s northeast after pledging Monday to boost the nation’s security, President Muhammadu Buhari said. “I’ll raise the standard of the Nigerian armed forces and get resources to encourage them to do better” in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists, Buhari said in an emailed statement Monday. Boko Haram has targeted military bases in recent attacks. The Islamist group, a faction of which is allied to Islamic State’s so-called West Africa Province, has waged a nine-year campaign of violence in an attempt to impose its version of Islamic law of Africa’s biggest oil producer. Bloomberg

Nigeria’s Daily Trust Undermined Security, Army Says
The Nigerian army says it raided the offices of the private Daily Trust newspaper for “undermining national security” by reporting about a planned operation against militant Islamists. The article “put troops in imminent and clear danger”, it said in a statement. Two reporters at the newspaper’s office in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, were arrested. Daily Trust condemned the raid and asked for its staff to be released. The newspaper reported on Sunday that an offensive was being planned to retake control of territory captured recently by militant Islamists in north-eastern Borno state.  BBC

In South Sudan, Girls Forced into War Face Gender Double Standards in Peace
Women and girls bear an additional burden in any war, as the threat of sexual violence or abuse combines with the standard risks of conflict. The conflict in South Sudan is no different. Since it began in December 2013, both sides have been accused of using rape and sexual assault as a “weapon of war”. UN envoy Pramila Patten told the Security Council last month that the practice “escalated dramatically” in 2018. For women and girls kidnapped by armed groups, even if they survive widespread sexual violence and forced marriage, many are left unable to fully rejoin their communities, in part because the programmes intended to ease their transition back into society are traditionally designed for boys and controlled by men. In South Sudan, more than 950 children abducted by armed groups were released in 2018, as a peace deal, signed in September, tenuously holds. Around 28 percent of those officially released were girls. Many more have reportedly been leaving or escaping captivity unofficially.  IRIN

Truth Commission on Jammeh Opens Hearings in Gambia
Two years after President Yahya Jammeh left power in Gambia, the country is opening a truth commission that will look into abuses carried out during his more than two decades in power. The commission, known as the TCRR, or Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, opened hearings Monday. The hearings in the capital, Banjul, will give alleged victims of Yahya Jammeh’s regime an opportunity to voice their grievances publicly. Jammeh ruled Gambia from 1994 until January 2017. He is accused of killing journalists, torturing and killing political opponents, and sponsoring a campaign that allowed so-called “witch doctors” to abduct hundreds of people and force them to drink unknown substances. His paramilitary unit, the Junglers, was known to be particularly brutal. They summarily executed more than 50 Ghanaian, Nigerian, and other West African migrants in July 2005, according to Human Rights Watch. VOA

Ethiopia, Eritrea Reopen Another Border Crossing
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki on Monday reopened a border crossing between their countries as part of an ongoing reconciliation between the former foes. The two leaders re-opened the border crossing between Humera in Ethiopia and Oum Hajer in Eritrea on the western edge of both nations, according to the state-owned Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation. In September, an initial two land crossings between the countries were ceremonially reopened for the first time in 20 years, after Abiy settled a long-standing border dispute by agreeing to adhere to a United Nations ruling. However, the major crossings between Bure-Debay Sima in the east and Zalambessa-Serha in the west were closed again last month without explanation, according to local media reports. The East African

Somalia: Puntland Elects Former Planning Minister as New President
The regional lawmakers of Somalia’s northeastern Puntland state have elected former Somali planning minister, H.E Saed Abdullahi Mohamed Deni as the new president on Tuesday, Garowe Online reports. Deni received 20 votes, followed by former state spy chief, Asad Osman Diyano who secured 17 while Former Finance Minister under Farole administration, Farah Ali Shire came third with 9 votes in the first round. Meanwhile, the electoral commission announced that the three top recipients of the ballots progressed to the second round of voting in which Deni won 29 votes while Asad Diyano got 30 votes. In the election, 21 candidates contested for the top seat. The incumbent president Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas who led Puntland since 2014 has lost in the first round with 8 votes that prevented from advancing to the second round after failing to win enough votes. Garrowe Online

Madagascar Official Election Result Due after Protests
Madagascar is set to confirm the result of its presidential election on Tuesday, after Andry Rajoelina was declared the victor in the vote count and supporters of his bitter rival took to the streets crying foul. In the run-off vote on Dec. 19, Rajoelina scored 55 percent of the ballot and Marc Ravalomanana won 44 percent, according to the final results. Ravalomanana lodged complaints over alleged irregularities with the Constitutional Court, which will announce the official winner on Tuesday. Last week riot police in the Indian Ocean island used tear gas to break up one of several protests by thousands of Ravalomanana supporters in the capital Antananarivo.  VOA

Egypt Named as the Hosts of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
Egypt will host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has announced. Egypt beat South Africa, the only other nation to submit a bid, in a vote held at a Caf executive committee meeting. Original host nation Cameroon was stripped of staging duties in November because of slow preparations. Egypt, which will host the tournament for a fifth time, has just six months to prepare for the expanded 24-team finals, which kick off in June. Caf has since offered Cameroon the chance to stage the finals in two years’ time, which has meant that the original hosts for both the 2021 and 2023 finals have been asked to delay their tournaments.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones