Africa Media Review for July 25, 2018

Even before the Vote, Zimbabwe’s Election Is Not Credible
Some international observers appear ready to rubber stamp the vote despite rising concerns. The African Union (AU), for example, is hoping for elections to be minimally acceptable, with anything short of widespread violence likely to be given the stamp of approval. One ominous signal: to lead their delegation, the AU has tapped former Ethiopian leader Hailemariam Desalegn, whose party often won elections with 100 percent of the vote. The British embassy in the capital Harare is also thought to be especially eager to normalise relations with Zimbabwe if the poll is “good enough.” A crude ethos has seemingly developed that a lack of violence somehow equates to a credible election. It does not. On the contrary, however, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the European Union have been more skeptical. They collectively argue that Zimbabwe’s standard should not be merely surpassing its deeply flawed past, but rather following the country’s constitution, as well as regional standards and international norms, including the AU Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance. Mail & Guardian

Zimbabwe Ruling Party Accused of Using Food Aid to Buy Votes
[…]  The Zimbabwe Peace Project, an NGO monitoring the pre-election environment, says it has received reports from across the country of people excluded from food aid because of their political affiliation, allegations echoed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). “People are being deprived of food aid on account of them being supporters of the opposition. That must stop,” MDC presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa told the Africa Report website. Chamisa, who according to a recent report by Afrobarometer is polling just three points behind Mnangagwa, has repeated the allegation several times on the campaign trail. Mugabe’s regime was often accused of using food aid as a political tool. In 2016, amid a spate of anti-government protests and a devastating drought, Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Commission said officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party “were the major perpetrators in violations linked to distribution of food, agricultural inputs and other forms of aid,” and that such practices violated UN Principles on Fundamental Human Rights to Food. IRIN News

Reports of Voter Intimidation, Coercion Ahead Zimbabwe Poll – U.N
Voter intimidation, threats of violence and coercion including people forced to attend political rallies are being increasingly reported ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections on July 30, especially in rural areas, the U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday. “There has also been the worrying use of disparaging language against female political candidates,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told a news briefing in Geneva. “We call on the authorities – and political parties and their supporters – to ensure that the elections are not marred by such acts so that all Zimbabweans can participate free from fear in a credible election process,” she said. Reuters

Defections Hit Nigeria Ruling Party in Blow to Buhari Ahead of Election
Sixteen senators quit Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling party on Tuesday and the country’s third most senior politician said he might follow suit, in a blow to the leader who seeks re-election next year. Fourteen of the 16 lawmakers left the All Progressives Congress (APC) to join the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a letter read on the Senate floor stated. Another two senators later left the ruling party while parliament was in session. Senate President Bukola Saraki, the number three political leader in Africa’s biggest economy, told Reuters in an interview a few hours later that the chances of him also leaving the APC were “very, very high”. Reuters

Boko Haram Faction Chief Reappears after Health Questions
Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau has re-emerged in a new video after a long absence that fuelled speculation about his health and ability to lead the Islamist militants. In a 36-minute message, seen by AFP on Tuesday, Shekau wore a white robe and skull cap, and held an assault rifle as he sat in front of a military camouflage canvas. He appeared unwell but made no direct mention of his health or reports from last month that he had high blood pressure, failing eyesight and diabetes-related complications. The jihadist leader used to appear frequently on camera but was last seen in a 14-minute video message on February 6, in which he claimed responsibility for attacks in northeast Nigeria. AFP

Ethiopia PM to Engage Diaspora Community on First U.S. Visit
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will leave Addis Ababa on Thursday as he heads to the United States for his first visit since taking office in early April. The six-day trip will be spent between Washington DC and Los Angeles, his chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, confirmed on Twitter. According to organizers of the event dubbed: ‘‘Tear down barriers, and build bridges!’‘ the sole purpose of the visit is to engage Ethiopia’s vast diaspora community. They said the open nature of it was to break off traditional meetings that usually involved “community leaders and luminaries tucked as an aside to diplomatic trips. Africa News

Is the UN’s New Arms Embargo on South Sudan Too Little Too Late?
South Sudan wasn’t always a war zone. When it achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, the new nation was lauded as a beacon of hope, a testament to a decades-long struggle for freedom, midwifed with the blessing of the U.S. and other world leaders. But that idealism was dashed two years later, when the nation plunged into civil war. The war has since killed tens of thousands and caused millions more to flee the country. Now, five years into the conflict, the UN has done what many wanted at the outset – impose an arms embargo. But questions remain about how effective the measure will be. “South Sudan’s people have endured unimaginable suffering and unspeakable atrocities. Their leaders have failed them,” said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council meeting where the U.S.-drafted resolution narrowly passed on July 13. Slate

Congo Opposition Threatens to Reject Election If Kabila Runs
Opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo denounced President Joseph Kabilas refusal to rule himself out of upcoming elections, saying they will reject the polls if he is a candidate.Congo is preparing to hold elections in December, two years later than scheduled. While the constitution bars Kabila from seeking a third term, hes yet to say whether hell be a candidate or not. Attempting to extend his 17-year rule would outrage his opponents and risk destabilizing Africas biggest copper producer, which hasnt had a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.Kabilas persistent failure to clarify his plans points to another attempt to install a personal regime which he intends to legitimize by a parody of elections, five major opposition groups said in a joint statement Monday in the capital, Kinshasa. The opposition will hinder any electoral process driven unilaterally by Kabilas camp and based on fraud, they said. Bloomberg

DR Congo Officially Declares End to Ebola Outbreak
Democratic Republic of Congo’s health ministry on Tuesday declared an end to an Ebola outbreak believed to have killed 33 people, after 42 days with no new cases. The outbreak, first detected in northwest Congo in April, was dealt with rapidly by the World Health Organisation and Congolese authorities, including the deployment of an experimental vaccine given to over 3,300 people. That helped contain the impact of the virus even when it reached the city of Mbandaka. With a population of 1.5 million, it has frequent air and river links to Congo’s sprawling capital Kinshasa. Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever and vomiting and is spread through direct contact with body fluids. An outbreak in West Africa which peaked in 2014 killed at least 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. France 24

Central Mali Airport Hit by Shelling Days before Election
An airport in central Mali was hit by shells, the regional governor said on Tuesday, the latest unrest just days before the country votes for a president. No one claimed responsibility for the attack overnight, but jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have intensified deadly raids this year across the desert of central and northern Mali, parts of which have become ungovernable. The government has repeatedly said the election, due on July 29, will go ahead despite the turmoil. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is bidding for a second term, facing former finance minister Soumaila Cisse and two dozen other candidates. Reuters

Uganda: Security Officials behind Assassinations – Minister
The Minister of State for Water, Mr Ronald Kibuule, has said security officials are behind the recent assassinations of top government personalities. “Initially, there was fear of the gun…But because of the friendly nature of the forces, the gun is not feared now, which is an achievement as NRM. Our armed officers are very close to the population and that has come with the challenge of misuse of the weapon by killing Ugandans,” Mr Kibuule said in an interview with Daily Monitor yesterday. He said the assailants are trained and execute the killings with such perfection that cannot be done by a layman. Asked whether the reference ‘armed officers’ meant the security officials, Mr Kibuule said: “Yes, these are security officials and trained. When you look at the killings that have happened, they are done professionally. Daily Monitor

Ivory Coast: Ruling Coalition Crisis
Disagreements and incisive speeches through the media. This is what the pro and anti unified party are doing in Ivory Coast, following the expulsion of 18 elected members of the PDCI’s Executive Board. The latter are accused of having participated prematurely in the constitution of the unified party RHDP. A decision that divides the supporters of the oldest party in Ivory Coast “No one can exclude me from the PDCI-RDA. I’m a PDCI-RDA activist. But I’m pro-RHDP. I will never accept the splitting of the PDCI,” said Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Minister of Animal and Fisheries Resources (expelled from the PDCI-RDA), Africa News

Xi and Modi Just Visited Rwanda and Supplied Millions of Dollars, Here’s Why
The leaders of the world’s two largest emerging economies have both just visited the tiny, landlocked African country of Rwanda – separately – and showed themselves to be friends with deep pockets. Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Sunday, where he met with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame. China granted Rwanda a loan of $126 million for the building of two roads, the latter country’s Minister of Finance Uzziel Ndagijimana told Reuters. On Monday evening, after Xi’s departure earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in Kigali. Meetings resulted in the signing of two loan agreements each worth $100 million, for investment in agriculture and the development of special economic zones. The meetings signified the first time a Chinese or Indian leader has visited Rwanda. CNBC

China Pledges $14.7 Billion in Investments to South Africa
China pledged to invest $14.7 billion in South Africa and grant loans to its state power utility and logistics company as the two nations seek to strengthen economic ties and increase trade. The rand gained.The commitment follows similar promises from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. and bolsters President Cyril Ramaphosas campaign to lure $100 billion in investment to South Africa over the next five years, as he seeks to boost a flagging economy ahead of elections next year. The investment pledge and loans, the biggest yet from the Asian nation to South Africa, were announced after a meeting between Ramaphosa and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Pretoria on Tuesday.China is ready to invest and work with South Africa in various sectors, Ramaphosa, who took office in February, told reporters. Bloomberg

China’s Latest Trade Partner in Africa Could Help It Export to the US
[…] Senegal, with a population of just 16 million, might seem like a curious stop for Xi given that Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is also in the West Africa region. But according to Ibrahima Diong, who has served as Senegal’s minister of Chinese affairs, the country’s location is particularly attractive. “For any Chinese companies that would like to export to the U.S., you cannot get better than Senegal,” he told CNBC via telephone, highlighting its position on the west coast of the African continent. China is Senegal’s second largest trading partner after its former colonial power France. Xi’s visit to Senegal was the first stop of a broader tour of the African continent. He landed in Rwanda on Monday and will then attend a BRICS summit in South Africa, before stopping in Mauritius. The Chinese president visited the United Arab Emirates earlier last week. CNBC

Illicit Logging Threatens Lives and Livelihoods in Africa
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Gambia to Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar and Namibia, illicit logging is exposing communities to serious labour and sexual exploitation. Young people are particularly affected. The continent’s forestry sector is notoriously under-regulated. UK think tank Chatham House estimates that in most forested African countries, 80 to 100% of all trees felled could be done so illicitly. Reasons include limited state capacity for forestry governance and contestation between federal, local and traditional authorities over land ownership and usage. Limited awareness and weaknesses in law enforcement and customs also contribute to the problem, as do corruption and bureaucratic systems of issuing permits and licences. Daily Maverick

EU Fisheries Deal with Morocco Sparks Criticism over Inclusion of Western Sahara Waters
A fresh legal row may be brewing over the EU’s trade links with Morocco, after the two sides finalised a controversial new fisheries agreement, following almost three months of negotiations. In a joint statement issued on July 20, the two sides said they had agreed on the content of a new sustainable fisheries agreement and that it would enter into force “as soon as possible”. The most contentious element of the agreement involves Western Sahara – the territory which has been occupied by Morocco since the mid-1970s. Morocco’s claim is not internationally recognized and the United Nations says the area is a non-self-governing territory. Forbes



Photo: Adam Jones