Africa Media Review for July 26, 2018

Presidential Elections in Mali: A Step toward Stabilizing a Weak State
On July 29, Malians will vote to elect a new president. The incumbent, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (or IBK, as he is widely known), and 24 other candidates are vying for the office. The elections take place as Mali continues to recover from a separatist insurgency and military coup in 2012 and ongoing threats from militant Islamist groups in the north that precipitated French and regional military intervention. Ranking 175th on the United Nations Human Development Index, with a population of 18 million—nearly double the size of 2000—and an expansive, land-locked territory of 1.2 million square kilometers (twice the size of France) stretching from the Niger and Senegal rivers in the south to the middle of the Sahara in the north, Mali faces a formidable security geography. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Arab Gunmen Shut Down Mali’s Timbuktu Days before Vote
Armed protesters from Mali’s Arab community fired shots into the air, burned tyres and torched vehicles in Timbuktu on Wednesday, bringing the desert city to a standstill days before an election seen as a test of stability across the country, officials said. The Arab youths, mostly petty traders, were protesting against worsening insecurity and alleged ill treatment by security forces in northern Mali, which has been plagued by Islamist violence, Tuareg separatists and ethnic tensions ever since armed groups took over parts of the region in 2012. Demonstrators filled the streets, forcing shops and banks to shut, witnesses said, though there were no reports of casualties. Reuters

South Sudan’s Warring Leaders Agree to Share Power, Again
South Sudan’s warring leaders have agreed to share power once again in the latest effort to end a five-year civil war, officials announced Wednesday, days after the United States said it was “skeptical” the two men whose rivalry has killed tens of thousands could lead the way to peace. South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, announced the agreement between President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar to reporters in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. The agreement initialed Wednesday will be signed on Aug. 5, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed said. Kiir will lead South Sudan’s government during a transitional period and Machar will return as first vice president, Sudan’s official SUNA news agency reported. AP

MPs Receive Bonus of $18 Million in Juba
South Sudan’s MPs, who are among the poorest-paid in the region, have received a “bonus” worth as much as $18 million in Juba. The bonus was quietly awarded to the lawmakers in the capital Juba this week, and comes two weeks after they extended President Kiir’s term in office until 2021. The lump sum worth $39,000 for each MP from the two houses of parliament could take an average South Sudanese worker several years to earn what each MP has been given. Paul Yoana Bonju, head of the parliamentary committee on information declined to comment on the matter when asked by journalists. But multiple legislators told Radio Tamazuj today that the government allocated the money to them to buy cars and houses. Radio Tamazuj

Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Says Poll Threatened by Fraud
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday said Zimbabwe’s election was set to be fraudulent and accused electoral authorities of bias, but said his MDC party would not boycott the vote. The vote on July 30 is “on path to be determined as a fraud election,” he said, adding that the Zimbabwe Election Commission was “biased and has lost the confidence of the people of Zimbabwe.” He said that his party would not boycott the vote as it would still win against President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ruling ZANU-PF party. It is the country’s first election since Robert Mugabe was ousted in November. “We can’t boycott our mandate, winners don’t boycott. Victory is inevitable,” Chamisa told reporters. AFP

US Conducts Airstrike in Somalia Near Base Where US Soldier Was Killed
The US military conducted an airstrike Monday targeting Al-Shabaab in Somalia, a strike that took place after the terror group’s fighters assaulted a base where a US soldier was killed last month. “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants approximately 50 kilometers north of Kismayo, Somalia,” Maj. Karl Wiest, a spokesman for US Africa Command, told CNN. Wiest said the US was still assessing the results of the strike. The last US airstrike in Somalia occurred on June 2. CNN

Somalia: Roadside Blast Kills 6 Soldiers
At least six government soldiers were killed, while several others wounded when a roadside blast targeted a military convoy on Wednesday in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, officials said. “The attack took place on the road between Afgoye and Wanlawayne when the convoy was traveling from Mogadishu to Balidogle airport,” Mahad Abdirahin, a military official in the region, told Anadolu Agency over the phone. Meanwhile, another roadside blast targeted a Senior military official in Elasha Biyaha village, located on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu on Wednesday. Local media reported that four Somali government soldiers were wounded in the attack. Anadolu Agency

US Acts to Release $195M in Suspended Military Aid to Egypt
The United States has decided to release $195 million in military aid to Egypt after withholding the assistance last year over human rights concerns, the State Department announced Wednesday. The department said the decision follows steps Egypt has taken in response to specific U.S. concerns, and it cited stronger U.S.-Egypt ties in security and counterterrorism while also acknowledging remaining areas of concern about human rights and governance. Independent monitoring groups have documented continued human rights abuses in Egypt over the past year. The New York-based Human Rights Watch describes the situation in Egypt as the “worst human rights crisis in the country in decades.” Egyptian police, the group said, systematically use “torture, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence political dissent,” according to a recent assessment. AP

EU to Fund New Headquarters for G5 Sahel Force
The EU will finance the construction of a new headquarters for the Sahel’s five-nation anti-terror force in Mali, after the destruction of the former HQ in a militant attack that left three dead at the end of June, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said Wednesday. “The EU has decided to finance in full the rebuilding of a new headquarters and to continue its support in order to ensure the operational continuity of the Force’s staff on the ground,” Federica Mogherini said in a statement. Two soldiers and one civilian were killed when a car bomb exploded outside the G5 Sahel force headquarters in the central Malian town of Sevare on June 29. The suicide attack was claimed by a militant group, the Muslim Islam Support Group, the main Sahelian militant alliance linked to al-Qaeda. AFP

Shootings on Video in Cameroon ‘May Not Be Isolated Cases,’ U.N. Fears
In the video, a man in a military uniform leads a woman down a dirt road, smacking her in the head several times as she holds a little girl’s hand and stumbles along. Another woman trails them with an infant strapped to her back. The group is blindfolded and made to sit on the ground.Armed uniformed men raise their weapons and fire.“The girl is still breathing,” someone says after the shooters pause, and one walks over to the limp bodies. A uniformed man approaches the girl and fires again.This graphic video, which has circulated on social media in recent days, appears to show soldiers in Cameroon executing two women, a child and baby on suspicion of being affiliated with Boko Haram. It has drawn outrage from human rights advocates and riled secessionist groups that have taken up arms in English-speaking areas of the country and say that they, too, have suffered abuses at the hands of the military.On Wednesday, the United Nation’s high commissioner for human rights expressed alarm at continuing violence in Cameroon, saying he was “utterly appalled” by the horrific video. The New York Times

U.S. Expresses Concern over Prevailing Insecurity within Ethiopia
The United States has expressed concern over the prevailing state of insecurity and violence within Ethiopia, that has led to the displacement of over one million people. The US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Michael Raynor, who was speaking at the “Our Ethiopia” Video Challenge Awards Ceremony in the capital, Addis Ababa commended the sweeping reforms that have been implemented by the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. […] Describing the change as ‘dizzying and concrete’, Raynor however added that Ethiopians must ‘defend space for all constructive and peaceful views, even those they disagree with’. ‘‘We continue to get reports of citizens seizing private property and attempting to take justice into their own hands against perceived unfairness,’‘ Raynor said. More than 800,000 people fled violence along the Oromia and Somali regions’ border in the country’s southeast last month alone, according the UN humanitarian agency. Africa News

Former Congolese Warlord Bemba Makes His Case to Stand in Presidential Vote
Former Congolese warlord and vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba said on Tuesday that he believed he would be the best candidate to represent the opposition in December’s presidential election but that he was open to supporting another candidate. In his first in-depth public remarks since being acquitted in May on appeal for war crimes at The Hague, Bemba told a news conference in Brussels that standing for president was not an obsession but touted his experience and leadership qualities. Candidate registration is due to open on Wednesday. President Joseph Kabila, who has governed since 2001, is barred by term limits from running but has refused to commit publicly to not standing. Reuters

Beheadings in Mozambique Mark Islamist Threat in New Gas Frontier
Anastacio Talene Nakupenda woke to the sound of gunshots as a dozen men burst from dense forest to attack his remote Mozambican village, torching homes, stealing food and decapitating one of his neighbours. “I was left with nothing, completely naked,” Nakupenda, a Catholic, said outside his partially rebuilt home in Chitolo, northern Mozambique, from where he had run for his life while five men armed with machetes set the mud and wood walls alight. Initially dismissed as isolated acts of banditry, attacks like the one on Chitolo in March are increasing. An emerging pattern suggests the potential beginnings of an Islamist threat in Cabo Delgado – an impoverished province on the border with Tanzania where companies are developing one of the biggest gas finds in a decade. Reuters

You Have Been Warned: Sierra Leone Police Tells Media
Sierra Leone police has warned journalists and media organisations against broadcast of ‘misleading, disrespectful and inciting’ statements, which it says have the potential to cause insecurity, instability and fear in the minds of the people. In a statement issued over the weekend, the police force specifically called out FM 98.1 and AYV television for broadcasts that it says were made against President Julius Maada Bio’s executive orders, the governance transition team report and the controversial of the fuel subsidy that caused the first demonstration in Bio’s presidency. ‘‘In as much as people have the right to discuss issues, yet this should be done within the confines of the law and should be done responsibly and factually,’‘ read part of the statement. Africa News

India to Open 18 Embassies in Africa
India plans to open 18 new embassies in Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, in the latest sign that the Asian state is seeking to strengthen its presence on the continent. Mr Modi made the announcement during a speech in the Ugandan parliament – the first by a serving Indian prime minister. He welcomed President Yoweri Museveni’s policy of encouraging Ugandan Asians to return following the expulsion of many of them during the rule of Idi Amin in the 1970s. “Our people are among the many threads that connect Uganda and India together,” Mr Modi said. “Your visionary leadership has helped Ugandans of Indian origin to come back and rebuild the nation that they deeply cherish,” he told Mr Museveni. India will boost its investments in Africa, and will keep its markets open to African states to “make it easier and more attractive to trade with India”, Mr Modi said. The East African

Double Debt Risk for African Countries That Turn to China
Kenya owes more to China than it does to Western lenders, the traditional source of loans to Africa. As Beijing throws open its credit line to Africa, analysts warn of the risk of a double-debt stranglehold. China has become a generous, ready and easy lender to African countries and a key investor. Researchers say its line of credit to the continent has stretched considerably since 2000 and the money is flowing faster. China’s President Xi Jinping, currently on his fourth visit to Africa, inked a few more loan deals with Senegal and Rwanda. In South Africa, China’s biggest trade partner in Africa, Xi unveiled a $14.7 billion (€17 billion) investment in its broke national energy utility Eskom and its rail, port and pipeline company. Deutsche Welle

Somalia Announces First Prosecution for Female Genital Mutilation
Somalia’s Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir announced on Wednesday the country’s first ever prosecution against female genital mutilation (FGM) following the death of a 10-year-old girl, an adviser to the government said. Ifrah Ahmed, who advises Somalia on gender issues, said the attorney general was sending a team of investigators to find out more about the death of the girl, Deeqa, who suffered severe bleeding after her mother took her to a traditional cutter. The announcement was made at a conference on FGM attended by officials, religious leaders and journalists, which was co-hosted in Mogadishu by the Global Media Campaign to End FGM and the Ifrah Foundation. Reuters

Senegal’s Sinking Villages
Doune Baba Dieye was once a vibrant fishing community on the Langue de Barbarie, a narrow, 30km peninsula that has protected the Senegalese port city of Saint-Louis from the Atlantic Ocean for centuries. But changing weather patterns and heavy rainfall in 2003 led to flooding inland and a rise in sea levels that have now submerged part of the south of the peninsula. Today, the southern part of the Langue de Barbarie is an island and the village of Doune Baba Dieye under more than a metre of water. But the impact of climate change would not have been so great had local authorities not tried to fix the problem. By 2003, as rain hit record levels, the Senegal River threatened to overflow its banks and to flood the commercially important Saint-Louis. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones