Africa Media Review for January 9, 2019

Madagascar Court Declares Rajoelina President
Madagascar’s top court on Tuesday proclaimed former leader Andry Rajoelina winner of a hard-fought presidential vote, rejecting his rival’s accusations of fraud. High Constitutional Court chairman Jean Eric Rakotoarisoa ratified results given by the Indian Ocean island’s electoral board last month saying Rajoelina won 55.66 percent of votes versus 44.34 percent for Marc Ravalomanana. “The victory is not only mine. It is also the victory of Malagasy people,” Rajoelina, a 44-year-old businessman, told jubilant supporters at his party’s headquarters. He had ousted Ravalomanana, 69, who is known as “the milkman” for his ownership of a dairy business, in a 2009 coup. Both men said this time they would accept the outcome of the vote. However, after a Dec. 19 runoff, Ravalomanana’s team asked the court to nullify the results and submitted more than 200 complaints about balloting and vote counting.  VOA

DRC Opposition Party Says Leader ‘Presumed’ Winner of Election
The largest opposition party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has claimed its leader is the “presumed” winner of last month’s presidential election, as observers identified numerous problems with the vote. The country’s electoral commission has yet to release the results of the 30 December election, despite an announcement being due last Sunday. But on Tuesday, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) called for transition talks between its candidate, Félix Tshisekedi, and the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila. The Catholic church – which has significant power in the DRC and had 40,000 observers across the country on election day – announced last week that one candidate had won decisively and it knew who that person was. Polling just before the election predicted a third candidate, Martin Fayulu, would win by a wide margin. The Guardian

Congo Opposition Campaign Says It Is Talking with Kabila Camp on Transition
A Congolese presidential candidate’s representatives have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, they said on Tuesday. Kabila’s camp denied any such meetings had occurred since the December 30 election, for which provisional results are expected this week, but supporters of another candidate, who led opinion polls ahead of the vote, said they feared the government was maneuvering to squeeze him out of contention. Members of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi’s campaign said they spoke with representatives of Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in meetings aimed at promoting national reconciliation. Kabila and Tshisekedi “have an interest in meeting to prepare for the peaceful and civilized transfer of power,” Jean-Marc Kabund told a news conference at which he said Tshisekedi was the “presumptive winner.”  VOA

‘Major’ Irregularities with DR Congo Vote Count: Poll Observers
An observer mission to Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election said it had witnessed 52 “major” irregularities in the 101 vote-counting centres it observed, including people tampering with results. There are 179 counting centres currently tallying the vote across Congo. The report released on Tuesday by Congo-based SYMOCEL said 16 percent of vote counting centres it had observed relied on tallies transmitted by voting machines instead of hand-counted tallies as required by law. It also said 92 percent of the vote-counting centres it had observed did not post vote tally sheets outside as required by law. Al Jazeera

DR Congo Opposition Candidate Fayulu Says Results ‘Not Negotiable’
Opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu has warned election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo not to “disguise the truth” as tensions mount over the delayed result. Mr Fayulu said the “Congolese people already know” the result of the vote, which took place on 30 December. The election outcome was initially expected to be announced on Sunday. The poll is to establish a successor to Joseph Kabila, who is stepping down after 18 years as president. Mr Kabila has promised that the polls, which were supposed to have taken place two years ago, will be DR Congo’s first orderly transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960. BBC

Botched Coup Signals Bongo’s Weakened Grip on Gabon
While the rapid failure of Monday’s coup in Gabon highlighted the plotters’ lack of preparedness and support, analysts say the attempt alone signals mounting frustration with a government weakened by President Ali Bongo’s secretive medical leave. Gabonese security forces foiled an attempted military coup on Monday, killing two suspected plotters and capturing seven others just hours after they took over state radio and urged the people of Gabon to “rise up” against the Bongo family’s 50-year rule. Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou announced the deaths and arrests after mutinous soldiers briefly seized the radio station in the capital, Libreville, and broadcast a message saying Bongo, who suffered a stroke in October, was no longer fit for office.  France 24

Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Boom as Peace Takes Hold
The reopening of the border between former enemies Ethiopia and Eritrea has dramatically changed the towns near the frontier, writes the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza. The sun had just risen but the market in Adigrat was already coming alive when I went to visit. Dozens of makeshift stalls lined the street where a group of women traders were sifting chickpeas. In another place an elderly man was removing chickens from cages and placing them outside his shop. You can buy almost anything at the market: spices, building materials, fridges and washing machines. The market in this Ethiopian town, just 38km (24 miles) south of the border, has been transformed since the border opened four months ago after a peace deal ended the “state of war” between the two nations. Many Eritreans now cross over to see what they can buy. BBC

Thousands Protest Al-Bashir’s Rule in Eastern Sudanese City
Thousands of protesters chanting “revolution is the people’s choice” took to the streets Tuesday in a city southeast of the Sudanese capital to call on longtime leader Omar al-Bashir to step down, the latest in nearly three weeks of anti-government demonstrations. The demonstration in Gadaref came just hours after Sudan’s Interior Minister, Ahmed Bilal Othman, told Parliament that police have arrested 816 people since protests erupted Dec. 19, initially over price rises and shortages but which soon shifted to calls for al-Bashir to step down. Also on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said at least 40 people have been killed in the protests and accused security forces of using live ammunition and excessive force against the protesters as well as arbitrary detentions. Othman, the minister, said 19 people have been killed in the protests, including two members of the security forces. Al-Bashir has ordered an investigation into the killings. AP

Sudan’s Bashir Hints at Possibility of Stepping Down for Military
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on Tuesday hinted at the possibility of stepping aside for the military to seize power, as protests against his rule continue in Khartoum and other cities. Last week, 22 Sudanese opposition political parties demanded that President Omar Bashir transfer power to a transitional government that would set a date for elections. Also, they called on the Sudanese army to protect the protests. Addressing a military gathering in River Nile State, al-Bashir said:” They say what? They say the military must take over power. There is no problem, if someone wearing military uniforms takes over power, honestly, I have no objection.” He further said the Sudanese army is capable of defending the nation.” When the army starts to move, it doesn’t move in support of the agents. It moves in support of the nation, “he said. Radio Tamazuj

US Says Airstrikes in Somalia Kill 4 Al-Shabab Extremists
The United States military says it has carried out two airstrikes in Somalia that killed four al-Shabab extremists. The U.S. Africa Command statement on Tuesday says Monday’s airstrikes were in the vicinity of Baqdaad after the military’s Somali partners “were engaged by al-Shabab militants.” It does not say whether any of the partners were killed. Another U.S. airstrike on Sunday killed six al-Shabab members near Dheerow Sanle in Lower Shabelle region. The U.S. military says no civilians were injured or killed in any of these airstrikes. The U.S. carried out at least 47 such airstrikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation. AP

Somali Region Once Riddled with Pirates Sees Peaceful Power Transfer
A region of war-ravaged Somalia elected a new president on Tuesday, a peaceful transfer of power in a part of the country notorious for piracy and Islamist militias. Said Abdullahi Deni, who is likely to continue Puntland’s close cooperation with the United States, defeated his closest rival, Asad Osman Abdullahi. He was sworn in for a new five-year term. Puntland, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, considers itself a semi-autonomous region that comes under the federal government, although the relationship between the two parties has at times been tense. Six years ago, it was a hotbed of piracy, and hundreds of attacks cost the shipping industry billions of dollars. Reuters

Fracture in Kenyan Ruling Party May Revive Rift Valley Tensions
An alliance that helped deliver Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta two terms in office is fracturing, reviving tensions in the country’s Rift Valley region that was wracked by widespread violence a decade ago. The deputy chairman of the ruling Jubilee Party stepped down on Sunday after saying Deputy President William Ruto shouldn’t be allowed to succeed Kenyatta. That undermines an arrangement in which Ruto delivered the backing of his Rift Valley constituents for Kenyatta’s elections in 2013 and 2017, in return for assistance from the president’s supporters in the next vote in 2022. The schism in the Jubilee Party has brought to the fore long-held mistrust that many in the party have of Ruto, said Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham and author of How to Rig an Election. Ruto and Kenyatta were on opposite sides of a disputed 2007 election that triggered ethnic fighting in which more than 1,000 people died. Bloomberg

Nigeria’s Buhari Accepts Setbacks in Boko Haram Fight
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has acknowledged setbacks in the fight against Boko Haram, as the jihadists launched fresh attacks in the restive northeast. The 76-year-old head of state was elected in 2015 on a promise to end the Islamist insurgency, which has killed more than 27,000 people since 2009 and left 1.8 million homeless. But as he seeks a second term in elections next month, a wave of attacks, including against military bases, has undermined his repeated claim that the group is virtually defeated. Soldiers have also complained that Boko Haram fighters are better armed and that morale is low, particularly because of a lack of rotation and support.  AFP

Tanzania Names Latest Mining Minister in Ongoing Industry Clash
Tanzania named a new mining minister on Tuesday amid a prolonged spat between the government and gold producer Acacia over a $190 billion tax bill, which has severely limited the London-listed company’s operations in the East African nation. Dotto Biteko, whose appointment was announced by presidential official John Kijazi on state television, is the third mining minister President John Magufuli has appointed since he was elected in 2015. Biteko comes from Magufuli’s home region and has been deputy mining minister since January 2018. He previously lead a parliamentary investigation that concluded there was widespread tax evasion and smuggling in the gemstone business, allegations that companies working in the sector have denied. “He knows the mining sector well, so we expect continuity of policy,” Tanzania Chamber of Minerals and Energy (TCME) executive secretary Gerald Mturi said. Reuters

Investigating DR Congo’s Illegal Gold Trade
The current mood in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is tense. A general election finally took place this month after a two-year delay and the country is now holding its collective breath as it awaits the results. Meanwhile, armed groups in the north-east continue to take advantage of a weak government and meddle in the minerals trade. Since 2017, we have been investigating the impact of illegal gold mining in the region. Our initial research led us to Obima Faustin, a hustler who says he will tell us more about the illegal gold trade. But just organizing a time to interview him proved difficult, as he repeatedly insisted on changing the time and place. Finally, we meet him in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Faustin — who is half-Congolese and half-Ugandan — is dressed in a denim suit. He’s obviously not lacking in self-confidence. No one in Kampala knows more about gold than him, Faustin assures us. Back in the DRC, he says, he has “an entire community” mining for him. But Faustin prefers not to call himself a gold trader or smuggler. His role is less concrete: “I point people the way to where gold can be found.”  Deutsche Welle

South Sudan Restarts Oil Output at Key Field Halted by Conflict
South Sudan resumed production at its Unity oilfields, where operations were halted five years ago when a civil war erupted. The East African nation is boosting output to fund a power-sharing government that’s being formed in the latest bid to end five years of conflict. South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest crude reserves and pumped about 350,000 barrels of crude per day before fighting broke out in December 2013. The first phase of the resumption of output at the Unity oilfields in the north of the country began on Dec. 31, with five of 16 wells operating, Oil Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said in a statement on his Facebook page. “The initial target of the oil production at Phase I will be 20,000 barrels per day,” he said. Output will rise to 40,000 by the end of January, he said. Bloomberg

How an Emerging African Megacity Cut Commutes by Two Hours a Day
[…] In 2018, four out of five of its [Dar es Salaam] people live in single-storey informal settlements on the sprawling fringes, where the journey to and from the centre regularly takes over two hours. It can be longer if rain turns dirt roads to mud. But Dar es Salaam is pinning its hopes on a solution that could offer a different model for Africa’s megacities, giving them an alternative to a future in thrall to the private car. Unlike many cities on the continent, Dar es Salaam isn’t trying to build a metro. It has chosen a less sexy but cheaper and more achievable route: the bus. […] The average journey time from the centre to the terminus at Kimara has been slashed from two hours each way to just 45 minutes, according to sustainable transport group the ITDP. That adds up to a saving of around 50 hours a month for the average bus passenger making the full trip. The ITDP awarded the system Africa’s only “gold standard” bus rapid transit (BRT) rating.  The Guardian

Tunisia Tourism Revenues Jump by 45%
Tunisia’s tourism revenues jumped in 2018 to $1.36 billion as the country saw the arrival of a record 8.3 million visitors, a strong recovery for a vital sector from two militant attacks on holidaymakers in 2015, official figures showed on Monday. The tourism industry accounts for 8 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product. A return of Europeans visitors would give a strong boost to the struggling economy and raise the country’s weak foreign currency reserves. Major European tour operators started to return to Tunisia last year, after three years of shunning the country following the attack on a beach in Sousse that killed 39 tourists and a separate attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 21. Tourism revenues rose in 2018 by about 45 percent compared to 2017 to reach 4.09 billion dinars ($1.36 billion), the central bank figures showed. The Independent



Photo: Adam Jones