Africa Media Review for July 25, 2019

Beji Caid Essebsi: Tunisian President Dies Aged 92
Tunisia’s first freely elected president Beji Caid Essebsi has died aged 92, the country’s presidency says. He was the world’s oldest sitting president. He was admitted to hospital on Wednesday but officials did not say why he was receiving treatment. Mr Essebsi won Tunisia’s first free elections in 2014 following Arab uprisings across the region. Earlier this year, he announced he would not stand in elections expected in November. Mr Essebsi was also admitted to hospital last month after suffering what officials said was a “severe health crisis”. They gave no further details. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who visited him in hospital, urged people to stop spreading “fake news” about his condition. Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 after 23 years in office. Since then, Tunisia has won praise as the only democracy to emerge from the revolutions of the so-called Arab spring. BBC

Sudanese Army Thwarts Coup Attempt, Arrests its Chief of Staff
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) foiled a new coup attempt led by the Chief of Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the participation of some leaders of the ousted regime and the Islamist movement, said a military statement issued on Wednesday. The head of the security committee in the military council, Gamal Omer announced on July 11, that the security services foiled a coup attempt and that some military personnel were arrested while the coup mastermind was still free. On that day, a statement said that 12 officers had been arrested, including seven in service, five retreated, and four non-commissioned officers. A military statement said that the investigations revealed the plot and those behind it adding that it was headed by “Lt General, Hashim Abdel Muttalab Ahmed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a number of high-ranking officers of the armed forces and the National Security and Intelligence Services, alongside leaders of the Islamic Movement and the banned National Congress Party”. Following the announcement of the aborted coup, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) arrested a number of military personnel and political leaders of the banned National Congress Party of the deposed president Omer al-Bashir. Sudan Tribune

Mogadishu Mayor Wounded in Blast at His Office: Official
Mogadishu’s mayor and other top government officials were wounded in an explosion at his offices in the Somali capital, his deputy told state radio Wednesday. “The mayor was wounded in the blast and he is currently being treated. Some of the commissioners of Mogadishu district have also been wounded,” deputy mayor Mohamed Abdullahi Tulah told the government’s radio station Muqdisho. A security source, who asked not to be named, said a suicide bomber had entered a hall where the officials were meeting and detonated the blast inside. Earlier United Nations special envoy James Swan had met with the mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, at the headquarters of the Banadir district, which encompasses Mogadishu, according to the mission’s Twitter account. AFP

A Fleeting Moment and Fragile Hope for Press Freedom in Sudan
Fay Abuelgasim remembers when she was growing up in Sudan under then-President Omar al-Bashir, a time when the government shut down newspapers, arrested journalists and stopped printing presses. “It was quite restricted to almost a propaganda-like level,” the Dubai-based Abuelgasim told VOA. Now a journalist herself, Abuelgasim traveled to Sudan to cover pro-democracy protests and found something surprising: more critical reporting of the government after the recent ouster of Bashir. But another journalist said this unprecedented period of press freedom turned out to be short-lived as authorities cracked down on news media covering the protests. VOA

Somalia: Puntland Calls for Probe into Qatar’s Role in Terrorist Bombing
Puntland government has called for “credible” investigation over New York Times report on Qatar’s role in a terrorist bomb attack in Bosaso city, the state’s commercial and economic hub, Garowe Online reports. The explosion which occurred outside Bosaso municipal court on May 11, 2019, injured dozens of civilians. The ISIL-affiliated group in Somalia claimed responsibility for the attack on May 12, 2019. Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni calls up the executive and legislative houses of the Somali Government to launch an official and throughout probe into serious allegations,” said the statement. In an audio recording obtained by The New York Times of a cell-phone call with the Qatari ambassador to Somalia, Khalifa Kayed Al Muhanadi, a businessman close to the emir of Qatar said the militants had carried out the bombing in Bosaso to advance Qatar’s interests by trying to driving out UAE. Garowe

Ethiopia’s Sidama Statehood Crisis Triggers New Displacement
Ethiopia’s latest displacement is in the southern regional town of Yirgalem, a town that was hit by deadly unrest related to the autonomy push by the Sidama people. The BBC quotes an official who said over 450 people were sheltering in a church having fled their homes for fear of attacks. Sidama is located in Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region, SNNPR. The displaced are said to have fled into a district in the neighbouring Oromio Regional State. An Oromia security official confirmed that most of the people had fled because of ethnic-based targeting. A state of emergency was imposed on SNNPR following the clashes that claimed over 20 lives. Ethiopia’s displacement crisis has seen it top global figures of internally displaced persons arising from violence. AfricaNews/Reuters

Uganda’s Bobi Wine Formally Announces Presidential Bid
Ugandan musician and opposition legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, officially announced his bid for the nation’s presidency in 2021. Wine made the declaration to challenge incumbent President Yoweri Museveni at his home in a colorful ceremony that began with a prayer and featured the legislator singing for his supporters. He then took to the podium to offer a message of change for citizens, whose rights he says are being trampled and whose voices are not being heard. “On behalf of the people of Uganda, I am challenging you to a free and fair election in 2021,” Wine declared in a clear challenge to Museveni. Wine is the third person to express interest in running for president of Uganda. His message to his supporters was one of unity ahead of the election. … Bobi Wine still faces treason charges for his alleged involvement in pelting President Museveni’s car in Arua district during a by-election. In 2018, Uganda’s parliament enacted a law scrapping the presidential age limit of 75. The move that was upheld by the Supreme Court this year was seen to pave way for 74-year-old Museveni who is seeking a sixth term in 2021. VOA

World Bank Readies $300 Million to Cover Half of New Ebola Response
The World Bank Group is readying a $300 million package of grants and credits to support the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of Congo, it said on Wednesday. It said the funding would meet about half the needs of a new Ebola response plan that is due to be agreed by the Congolese government and an international consortium next week. Previously the World Health Organization had said the response would need “hundreds of millions” of dollars for the rest of this year. Reuters

Ebola Vaccine Hampered by Deep Distrust in Eastern Congo
Until his last breath, Salomon Nduhi Kambale insisted he had been poisoned by someone and that was the reason he was vomiting blood. The 30-year-old man wouldn’t give community health teams his phone number, and when they found it, he hung up on them. Health workers were desperate to persuade him to get vaccinated for Ebola after a friend fell ill with the lethal and highly contagious disease. But within days, Nduhi was dead. His widow and their four young children were given his positive Ebola test result and a chilling warning from a team of health workers: “If you don’t accept vaccination, you can prepare to die.” Deep distrust – along with political instability and deadly violence – has severely undermined efforts by public health authorities in Congo to curb the outbreak by tracing and vaccinating those who may have come into contact with infected people. AP

DR Congo Ethnic Violence Stopping Refugee Returns: UN
Violence and disease have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the threat of new clashes is stopping civilians from going back to their homes, a United Nations official has warned. Leila Zerrougui, head of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in the country, described on Wednesday “simultaneous emergency situations” including outbreaks of Ebola and measles, interethnic bloodshed and rampaging militias. Zerrougui blasted “spoilers” in Ituri Province for “seeking to play on ethnic tensions” between Lendu farmers and Hema herders that have resulted in violent clashes and forced more than 350,000 people from their homes. “The deterioration of the security situation is interrupting the return process that had been gradually taking place since 2018,” she told the UN Security Council. Al Jazeera

In Cameroon, Education Has Become a Victim of War
The charred ruins of some 70 homes dot the streets of Alatchu village in Cameroon. The houses were razed by government troops after anglophone separatists seeking independence from the francophone majority allegedly killed two government soldiers. On the sidewalks of the village, a few traders sell fuel while others struggle to find buyers for their freshly made palm wine. On a normal weekday, children would be on their way to school. But that hasn’t happened in nearly three years in Alatchu, a now sparsely populated village just outside the Northwest regional capital of Bamenda. Recent fighting in the village left at least one person dead. The separatists have made school boycotts a major part of their campaign for a new anglophone nation called “Ambazonia”. According to UNICEF, more than 600,000 children have been affected by school closures. New Humanitarian

‘This is Hell’: Zimbabweans Say Economy is Worse than Ever
Dadirai Tsvakai and her family have taken to combining dinner and breakfast – a meal they now eat just after midnight, if they are lucky to have a few hours of electricity. Then, in the dead of the night, they make a beeline for the local well to grab a place in the line for water. … Many Zimbabweans who cheered the downfall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe two years ago are aghast to find the country’s economy even worse than before. This is the most serious crisis in a decade, when the once-prosperous nation and its currency largely collapsed into ruin. … One year after winning Zimbabwe’s first post-independence elections without Mugabe on the ballot, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration say they are doing a good job of fixing the economy, along with expanding democratic rights and re-engaging with the West after years of icy relations over alleged rights abuses. “People are very happy,” government spokesman Energy Mutodi told the AP. “They know that the government is trying its best and will overcome.” But for many Zimbabweans whose street protests over the economic conditions early this year sparked a violent government crackdown, such statements are nothing more than a mirage. AP

Nigeria Anti-Graft Body Seizes Properties of Ex-Governor, Family, Cronies
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, announced on Wednesday that it had began probing a two-time governor of the southern Imo State. Rochas Okorocha, a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is currently serving as a Senator. The EFCC said its operatives had so far marked properties in his name as well as that of family members and cronies. “It was the outcome of painstaking investigation, and as a result of the failure of those to whom they were traced to, to honour the EFCC’s invitation for interrogation. Operatives neither “raided” nor “harassed” anyone in the course of the action. AfricaNews

Ex Liberia Football Chief Bility Banned by FIFA for Stealing Ebola Funds
The International Football Federation Association (FIFA) on Wednesday banned former Liberian football head Musa Hassan Bility for stealing money earmarked by the association to help Ebola awareness during the deadly epidemic that killed 11,000 people in West Africa. FIFA on Wednesday banned the former of head of the Liberian Football Association from football for 10 years over corruption, including misuse of funds intended for an Ebola awareness campaign. Bility, also an executive committee member at the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was found “guilty of having misappropriated FIFA funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” according the statement from FIFA. He was banned from any dealings with football for 10 years, and also slapped with a €455,000 fine by judges sitting on the FIFA independent ethics committee board. RFI

How China is Slowly Expanding its Power in Africa, One TV Set at a Time
[…] In 2015, Xi announced the 10,000 Villages Project, a lofty plan to take digital television to impoverished parts of Africa … Previously, television access in many parts of the continent was a privilege of the elite, and those who were connected relied on old-fashioned, snowy analog reception. Xi’s dream was to upgrade huge swathes of Africa to modern, digital satellite TV networks, that could broadcast a constellation of channels over long distances-so long, in fact, that a TV channel from Beijing could be beamed to African homes. This was more than just a philanthropic gesture. It was a stroke of soft-power genius that would raise China’s profile among Africans, while giving Beijing a tighter grip on the continent’s communications infrastructure and control over how it is portrayed there in the media. CNN

Tanzania Grants Chinese Firms Licences to Build Gold Refineries
Tanzania said on Wednesday that it had awarded licences for the construction of a mineral smeltery and two gold refineries to Chinese firms, as part of government efforts to generate more revenues from the nation’s mining industry. Mining Minister Doto Biteko said the Chinese companies would also soon be awarded licences for mines, each of which would require investment worth more than $100m. He did not name the firms or give details about the mining or other projects in the East African nation, Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer after South Africa, Ghana and Mali. Al Jazeera

Nigeria Destroys 58 Containers of Tramadol, Other Illicit Drugs Worth N14.7 Billion
The Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), Hammed Ali, on Wednesday, said the service destroyed various pharmaceutical products including tramadol with a Duty Paid Value of N14.7 billion. Mr Ali said this when the Joint Committee on Drugs destruction of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with the other sister agencies destroyed consignments of tramadol and other illicit drugs at a dumpsite in Shagamu, Ogun State. He urged Nigerians to support the federal government in the fight against the importation of illicit drugs. “The seized items to be destroyed were intercepted at various Customs formations across the country. The menace of such drugs in our society cannot be underestimated, having caused a huge negative impact both on our economy and human life.” Premium Times

Treasure Island: Leak Reveals How Mauritius Siphons Tax from Poor Nations to Benefit Elites
[…] Mauritius Leaks, a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 54 journalists from 18 countries, provides an inside look at how the former French colony has transformed itself into a thriving financial center, at least partly at the expense of its African neighbors and other less-developed countries. … The island, which sells itself as a “gateway” for corporations to the developing world, has two main selling points: bargain-basement tax rates and, crucially, a battery of “tax treaties” with 46 mostly poorer countries. Pushed by Western financial institutions in the 1990s, the treaties have proved a boon for Western corporations, their legal and financial advisers, and Mauritius itself – and a disaster for most of the countries that are its treaty partners. ICIJ

This Startling Graph Shows How Many Africans are Now Using the Internet
Last month, an estimated 525 million Africans went online – there are now more internet users on the continent that in North America (327 million) and the Middle East (174 million) combined. The number of African online users is already larger than in Latin America (448 million) and at current growth rates could eclipse Europe (719 million) as internet penetration on the continent grows. Almost 40% of the African population used the internet last month. Elsewhere in the world, the percentage was more than 60%, according to data compiled by the marketing firm Miniwatts, using information from Nielsen Online, by the International Telecommunications Union, by GfK and local regulators. Business Insider



Photo: Adam Jones