Africa Media Review for July 17, 2018

Gunmen Kill 14 Civilians in Northeast Mali Village
Gunmen shot dead 14 civilians in an attack on a village in northeastern Mali, a local official said on Monday, amid a spate of killings by rival ethnic groups and jihadist militants that threatens to derail a presidential election later this month. Nanou Kotia, the mayor of the regional hub of Menaka, said the attack had occurred on Sunday in a remote village 55 km (30 miles) away, near the border with Niger. “The assailants came and opened fire on people. According to our information, there were 14 people killed, all civilians, and one truck and three other vehicles were burned,” he told Reuters by telephone. The mayor did not say who he believed was responsible for the attack. Previous killings have been carried out by Islamist militants active in the area as well as by fighters from ethnic militia. Reuters

China Overloading Poor Nations with Debt, Top US Official Says
China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable, the head of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) said on Monday. The criticism of Beijing – targeted by President Donald Trump in a trade war that has sent ripples through economies around the world – comes as Washington seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of China’s global ambitions. Unveiled in 2013, President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” initiative aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. China has pledged $126 billion for the plan, which has been praised by its supporters as a source of vital financing for infrastructure-starved partners in the developing world. Reuters

Ivory Coast President Launches Umbrella Party
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Monday made clear he will not seek re-election in 2020 as he launched a new umbrella party that he said would help ensure continuity. The move will turn the Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), currently the ruling coalition, into a formal party. Named in honor of the country’s founding leader, the party held its constitutive assembly Monday at a luxury hotel in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan, adopting the new party’s statutes unanimously after one hour of debate. Ouattara ran unopposed as its leader. The new party groups Ouattara’s own Rally of Republicans (RDR) with the Union for Democracy and Peace (UDPCI), which has six MPs in parliament, as well as figures from other parties. VOA

Libyan Coast Guard Rescues Some 160 Europe-Bound Migrants
Libya’s coast guard says it has intercepted some 160 Europe-bound African migrants, including dozens of children and women, in the Mediterranean Sea near its shores. Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says a boat carrying 158 passengers including 34 women and nine children was stopped Monday off the coast of the western town of Khoms. Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Moammar Gaddafi. AP

Cash-for-Votes Fears before Nigerian General Election
Nigerian civil society groups on Monday accused leading political parties of buying votes, after reports of cash inducements at a key governorship election. Kayode Fayemi, of President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC), won the closely watched vote in the southwestern state of Ekiti on Saturday. Both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has held power in the state since 2014, were alleged to have paid voters 3,000 to 5,000 naira (R110-180) each. The election was seen as a litmus test of support for President Muhammadu Buhari in the southwest of the country as he looks to win a second term office in February next year. AFP

South Sudanese Groups Receive Revised Entebbe Proposal, but Rejections Emerge
South Sudanese parties Monday received the final draft of the Revised Entebbe Proposal on outstanding issues of governance with the hope that they would accept it and sign on Tuesday a deal on the governance chapter. However, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) said they reject it. Presidents Omer al-Bashir and Yoweri Museveni held a marathon meeting with President Salva Kiir and his main rival and SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar in Entebbe on 7 July. The meeting which was also attended partly by the leaders of the other opposition groups came out with a proposal on the power-sharing and governance budded Entebbe Proposal. However, the opposition groups said the proposed deal focuses only on the power-sharing and neglected the other vital issues particularly the number of states and establishment of an inclusive boundaries commission. Sudan Tribune

Eritrea Reopens Embassy in Ethiopia amid Thaw in Relations
Eritrea has reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in further evidence of a rapid thaw between the two countries that a week ago ended two decades of military stalemate over a border war in which tens of thousands died. In a brief ceremony on Monday, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki jointly raised the Eritrean flag inside a newly refurbished embassy as a military band played Eritrea’s anthem. Ethiopia and Eritrea expelled each others’ envoys at the start of a 1998-2000 border war that killed around 80,000 people. of thousands died. In a brief ceremony on Monday, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki jointly raised the Eritrean flag inside a newly refurbished embassy as a military band played Eritrea’s anthem. Ethiopia and Eritrea expelled each others’ envoys at the start of a 1998-2000 border war that killed around 80,000 people. Monday’s embassy visit marked the end of the Eritrean leader’s three-day stay in Ethiopia, which also included a visit to an industrial park and a Sunday evening dinner and concert attended by thousands of Ethiopians. Al Jazeera

Are Somaliland, Puntland Ready for War over Land?
Somaliland and Puntland’s dispute over land stretching from the Gulf of Aden to the Ethiopian border risks escalating into open war. The self-declared republic of Somaliland and autonomous Puntland are locked in a standoff over Sool and Sanaag areas, leading to deadly clashes since the start of 2018 after both sides massed soldiers in the contested areas. The International Crisis Group said the military standoff could escalate as troops are moved close to Tukaraq, a town that straddles a highway and trade corridor linking Sool and Sanaag to eastern Ethiopia. The ICG, which researches conflict, said the dispute risks creating space for Al Shabaab insurgents and an Islamic State branch in Puntland. The East African

EAC to Set Date for Inter-Burundi Dialogue
There is hope for peace talks in Burundi following reports that the East African Community-led inter-Burundi dialogue, which held its last session in Arusha last year, is expected to resume as the facilitation team meets this week. According to a source, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, who is the facilitator, is expected to meet the mediator, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. The regional mediated process launched two years ago is yet to bear fruit as the Burundi government had vowed not to hold dialogue with those it accuses of plotting the 2015 failed coup. For good measure, Bujumbura boycotted the last two of the three dialogue sessions that took place in Arusha. The government accuses opposition leaders outside the country of trying to topple President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. The Citizen

Activists: Thousands of Congolese Threatened by National Park Oil Plans
Democratic Republic of Congo’s plan to drill for oil in national parks could leave thousands of farmers and fishermen who rely on the land in a struggle to survive, rights groups said Monday. The central African country announced last month that it was taking steps toward declassifying parts of Virunga and Salonga national parks, both recognized as world heritage sites by the United Nations, to allow for oil exploration. The parks, which together cover an area about the size of Switzerland, are among the world’s largest tropical rainforest reserves and home to rare species including forest elephants. Allowing drilling in the parks would cause a loss of biodiversity, release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and pollute water that thousands of local people use for fishing and farming, according to several rights groups. VOA

Tunisia’s President Says PM Should Quit If Crisis Continues
Tunisia’s president called on Sunday for Prime Minister Youssef Chahed to step down or seek a confidence quote if the country’s political and economic crisis continues, withdrawing his support for the premier, who has clashed with the president’s son. President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is leader of the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, called last May for Chahed’s dismissal because of his government’s failure to revive the economy. His call was supported by the powerful UGTT union, which rejected economic reforms proposed by the prime minister. “There is a difference between the parties and national organizations about the government, between government and key players like UGTT and some parties,” Essebsi said in an interview broadcast by local Nesma TV. “If this situation continues, the prime minister must resign or go to the parliament to ask for confidence,” he said. Reuters

Nelson Mandela Anniversary: Obama to Make Rare High-Profile Speech Honouring Former South Africa President
Barack Obama is set to make a rare speech in South Africa marking the legacy of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. The speech on Tuesday is timed to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late global human rights icon, which falls on July 18. The former US president will call on young people around the world to work towards fairer societies highlighting Mr Mandela’s struggle for democracy and equal rights in South Africa. It is one of the most high-profile addresses Mr Obama will have made since leaving office at the start of 2017. However, as has been the case with almost all of his public speeches, he is not expected to mention his successor in the White House, President Donald Trump. The Independent

Mass Radio Campaign Saves Thousands of Child Lives in Africa
A mass radio campaign in Burkina Faso led to a significant rise in sick children getting medical attention and could prove one of the most cost-effective ways to save young lives in poor countries, researchers said on Tuesday.Publishing results of a trial involving a radio campaign in rural areas that promoted treatment-seeking for three of the biggest killers of children under five – malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea – researchers said around 3,000 lives were saved.What this study shows is that using mass media to drive people to health centres is actually more cost-effective than almost anything on earth in terms of saving children’s lives, said Roy Head, who co-led the study.And that makes sense – it reaches millions of people at a time – but this is the first time it has been shown in a scientific trial.The radio campaign, which the researchers said used a saturation method of intensive radio transmissions over an extended period of time to promote behaviour change in a population, was run in Burkina Faso between 2012 and 2015. Reuters

Botswana, Namibia Begin Joint Military Exercise
Botswana and Namibia are due to begin a joint military exercise today, with a focus on peace support operations.  Exercise Tshwaragano II is due to begin on 16 July and conclude on the 30th. It will be held in the Kgalagadi district of Botswana and involve around 1 200 soldiers from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Namibian Defence Force (NDF).  According to a statement from the BDF’s Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, the exercise aims to improve interoperability between Botswana’s and Namibia’s militaries in line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force. The Standby Force is due to go live on 1 January 2019.  DefenceWeb

Egypt Draft Bill to Immune Senior Military Officers
Egypt’s parliament has passed a draft bill that could immune senior military officers from future prosecution related to violence following the 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president. The draft bill, which gained legislators’ approval on Monday, gives President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi the right to name officers who are eligible for rewards that include ministerial benefits and immunity from investigation for any offences committed from July 3, 2013 to June 8, 2014 — namely from the day of former President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow to el-Sissi’s first day as president. The draft bill still needs el-Sissi’s approval to become law. AP

Egypt Parliament Approves Bill to Monitor Social Media
The Egyptian parliament on Monday approved in a final reading a bill that would allow authorities to monitor social media users and combat “fake news”, the legislature said. The bill was backed by two-thirds of parliament’s 596 members and it will now be sent to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to be ratified. Under the new law, people whose social media accounts have more than 5,000 followers could be placed under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulations. This would encompass websites, blogs and personal accounts. The council would be authorised to suspend or block any personal account which “publishes or broadcasts fake news or anything (information) inciting violating the law, violence or hatred”.  The National

Africa’s Attack on Internet Freedom
In August 2017, during a new media roundtable between leaders from China and Tanzania, the Tanzanian deputy communications minister praised the Chinese government for blocking social media platforms in the country and replacing them with “homegrown sites that are safe, constructive, and popular.” The Tanzanian minister lamented that his country wasn’t there yet. Less than one year later, a number of popular Tanzanian websites that had been critical of the government were taken down in June to avoid hefty fines imposed as a result of the country’s new internet regulations that were passed in March. The new laws, including similar ones imposed this past week in Uganda, are the latest in a long and troubling succession of restrictive measures enacted across Africa to muzzle free speech and dissenting political views. Foreign Policy

Madagascar Has Faster Internet than UK, France and Canada
Madagascar, one of world’s poorest countries, has the fastest broadband internet speed in Africa and has average speeds much faster than some of the world’s wealthiest nations, according to a broadband speed league table from UK analytics firm Cable, which collects data from 200 countries. At 24.9 megabits per second, Madagascar’s broadband speed is more than twice the global average. Not only does this mean the African island nation has the fastest internet speed on the continent, but it places 22nd in the world, out-pacing Canada, France, and the UK. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones