Africa Media Review for July 30, 2018

Africa Lags in Protections against Human Trafficking
Trafficking in persons has become a multibillion dollar business in Africa that African governments have been slow to address. Human trafficking is a $13.1 billion annual enterprise in Africa. With the wave of migration toward the Mediterranean that started in 2014, thousands of migrants have found themselves vulnerable to trafficking and other exploitative practices. The U.S. State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report  tracks compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Violence Mars Mali Presidential Election
Malians voted Sunday in a crucial presidential election as attacks disrupted polling in areas already beset by deadly ethnic and jihadist violence. Counting has started in some of the 23,000 polling stations which closed at 1800 GMT. First results are expected within 48 hours and the official outcome is set to follow on Friday at the latest. Despite the deployment of 30,000 security personnel throughout the country, several incidents were reported in the north and centre. Rockets were fired on the UN mission (MINUSMA) camp in Aguelhok, in the northeast, according to a UN security source who added that “there are no casualties and the rockets did not fall into the camp.” AFP

Mali Begins Presidential Vote Count amid Simmering Insecurity
Vote counting began in Mali on Sunday evening after an election to determine whether President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will win a second term, amid ethnic and jihadist violence that has dramatically worsened since he came to power five years ago. Two dozen other candidates were contesting the presidency in a largely Saharan desert nation that has been fractured by a Tuareg rebellion and Islamist militancy across its north and central zones since the last poll in 2013. Insecurity is such that in some parts of Mali, the vote simply did not happen, and the European Union observer mission urged the government on Saturday to publish a list of places that would be unable to vote, to quell suspicions by candidates of “fictitious polling stations”. Reuters

Insecurity Shadows Mali’s President. It May Also Help Him Get Re-Elected.
Reports of military abuses and extravagant spending have shadowed him. His term in office has been pockmarked by terrorist attacks on peacekeepers and even a luxury hotel. Critics of Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, have taken to chanting, “Father must quit.” But at a recent campaign rally as he runs for re-election in a vote on Sunday, Mr. Keïta, 73, stood in a crisp white flowing gown before a throng of supporters in Bamako and defiantly responded, “Father won’t quit.”Malians are heading to the polls when their nation is rife with insecurity, as Islamist groups launch frequent and increasingly bold attacks. Late last month, a suicide bomber drove into the headquarters of the G5 Sahel, a regional military force focused on rooting out terrorism, killing three people. The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali is considered the most dangerous in the world.Yet Mr. Keïta, with a flush campaign fund and a raft of challengers, is likely to be re-elected, analysts say, in part because the violence could keep many people from the polls.  The New York Times

Mugabe Denounces His Own Party on Eve of First Zimbabwe Election without Him
On the eve of Zimbabwe’s first elections without him, Robert Mugabe, now 94 and in diminishing health, held an extraordinary off-the-cuff news conference at his palatial residence Sunday, denouncing the political party he helped found and all but announcing that he would vote for the opposition party he spent years suppressing.  “I must say very clearly that I cannot vote for those who have tormented me,” Mugabe said of the current leaders of ZANU-PF, the party he led from Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 until former allies of his forced him to resign in November. He later implied that he would vote for Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, the only viable alternative. “What is left? It is only Chamisa,” he said, with a wave of the hand.  The Washington Post

Zimbabweans Head to Polls to Vote in First Election without Robert Mugabe
With the moon still out on a chilly winter morning, millions of Zimbabweans lined up to vote on Monday. The results, expected to be announced later this week, will determine who will become only the second elected leader this country has ever had after 37 years of rule by Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s name became synonymous with dictatorship, even if he was once beloved by many Zimbabweans. This election is widely seen as a chance for Zimbabwe to embark on a different path, more in step with a democratizing region and a globalizing economy. As of Monday morning, initial voting had taken place with few reports of irregularities, though opposition and civil rights groups have documented widespread state-sponsored intimidation and vote-buying. The Washington Post

Tendai Biti Breathes Fire over ‘Rigged’ Poll, Warns of Protest
Zimbabwe’s firebrand opposition leader Tendai Biti says he is sure the MDC Alliance, which he is part of, will win the country’s decisive presidential and parliamentary elections on Monday – despite Zanu-PF’s best efforts to rig it.  If Zanu-PF and its leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa do “steal” the elections on Monday, Tendai Biti and the MDC Alliance will make the country “ungovernable”. This is the comment from Biti, the leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, one of seven parties contesting the elections under the banner of the MDC Alliance.1 The MDC Alliance’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has been accused by Zanu-PF of inciting violence because of the same sort of threat. But Biti, in an interview with Daily Maverick, denied that the opposition grouping was planning to initiate violence. Daily Maverick

Eritrea Says It and Somalia Restore Diplomatic Ties
Eritrea says it and Somalia have agreed to restore diplomatic relations in another thaw in the restive Horn of Africa region. Eritrea’s information minister has announced the agreement on Twitter as Somalia’s president ends a historic three-day visit to one of the world’s most closed-off nations. There is no immediate comment from Somalia. The countries have not had diplomatic ties for nearly 15 years. Eritrea remains under United Nations sanctions for allegedly supporting the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group. Eritrea denies it. The visit by Somalia’s leader follows a stunning diplomatic thaw between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia after more than two decades. Ethiopia under reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has asked that the sanctions on Eritrea be dropped. The U.N. chief has indicated the sanctions could be obsolete. The Washington Post

U.S.’s Pence Meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister, Applauds Reforms
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday and praised “the historic reform efforts” undertaken by Abiy since assuming power in April, the White House said in a statement. Pence noted Abiy’s efforts at “improving respect for human rights, reforming the business environment, and making peace with Eritrea,” the statement said. “The two leaders underscored their countries’ shared values and their commitment to building an even stronger partnership in the days ahead,” it said. Reuters

Nigeria Army Kills at Least 16 Boko Haram Militants in North
Nigeria’s military says soldiers have killed at least 16 Boko Haram extremists after an attack in the country’s northern Borno state. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Army Public Relations, said Sunday that insurgents in three vehicles, including gun trucks, on Friday attacked the Mairari area village of Monguno. He said that soldiers and the air force responded, killing at least 16 extremists. He said soldiers also captured the gun trucks and ammunition. Nwachukwu said one soldier and four civilians had been injured during the fighting, and were evacuated to a military hospital. AP

Cameroon Prison Overrun by Armed Men, 163 Inmates Escape
Over 160 prisonsers have escaped from jail in Cameroon’s north-west region following an attack on the facility by armed men suspected to be separatists. According to state media CRTV, the overnight attack on the Ndop prisons was two-pronged. The attackers are said to have lit a fire amid the use of gun fire. “More than 160 prisoners from Ndop prison (North West) fled” after the attack on the penitentiary where they were burnt by an armed group, a source close to the regional authorities said. AfricaNews

Tunisia Gives Boat with 40 Migrants Greenlight after 2 Weeks
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said he is allowing 40 migrants who have been kept at sea for two weeks to enter Tunisia “for humanitarian reasons.” Chahed said late Saturday he would authorize a Tunisian-flagged commercial boat that has been carrying the migrants since July 16 to dock at the southern port of Zarzis. The migrants reportedly were stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for five days before a Maltese ship picked them up and then transferred them to the commercial boat. Italy, Malta and France all refused to let the vessel into their ports. The Maltese government refuted claims it violated international maritime laws by directing the migrants to Tunisia, the nearest port. AP

US Confirms Drones in Niger Have Striking Capabilities
The United States started arming drones in the West African nation of Niger earlier this year, according to the U.S. Africa Command. “In coordination with the Government of Niger, U.S. Africa Command has armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft already in Niger to improve our combined ability to respond to threats and other security issues in the region. Armed ISR aircraft began flying in early 2018,” Samantha Reho, spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press. The armed drones are currently deployed to Niger’s Air Base 101 in Niamey. The effort was supported by Niger, and is part of the long-term strategic partnership between the U.S. and Niger to help counter violent extremists in the region, she said. AP

Egyptian Court Refers 75 for Death over 2013 Sit-In, Spares American and Photojournalist
There was a rare piece of good news Saturday for an Egyptian photojournalist who learned he will be spared a death sentence, nearly five years to the day he was arrested while covering a political protest in Cairo that turned violent. Photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, 31, was not listed among 75 defendants a Cairo court on Saturday said it would refer to Egypt’s top Islamic law official, grand mufti Shawki Allam, over whether they should be hanged to death. Under Egyptian law, the mufti must be consulted before executions are carried out. He must sign off on death sentences, but it’s ultimately up to a judge whether to apply capital punishment. The Los Angeles Times

Egypt President Defends Painful Austerity Measures
Egypt’s president zealously defended his economic policies on Sunday, saying he was left with no choice but to embrace painful austerity measures to revive an economy mauled by years of political turmoil and violence. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was speaking at a youth conference a day after he expressed his displeasure over recent online postings urging him to step down over the economy. He said he was “upset” over the posts, which he said were inappropriate. The #Sissi_leave hashtag surfaced this summer following steep price hikes for fuel, drinking water and electricity as part of austerity measures designed to overhaul the economy, still recovering from years of turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising. AP

South Sudanese Authorities Arrest Prominent Activist
South Sudanese security service Saturday arrested a South Sudanese rights defender Peter Biar Ajak who is known for his activism for peace and his call for a new generation of leaders to lead the country. The rights defender was arrested at Juba airport while he was on his way to Aweil to attend the Red Army Foundation commemoration day. Akaj who is the founding chairman of South Sudan Young Leaders Forum (SSYLF), Red Army Foundation and NxGeneration of SouthSudan group recently twitted and re-twitted several messages hostile to the South Sudanese leadership. “We must stop thinking that the so-called leaders will bring peace South Sudan. We, the great people of South Sudan, must organize ourselves to bring about the peace we deserve!,” he wrote in a recent Tweet. Sudan Tribune

Comoros Heads into Violence-Tarred Referendum on Constitution
Voters in the Comoros go to the polls on Monday for a politically explosive referendum overshadowed by a clampdown and an attempted assassination just days before the vote. Burdened by a long history of turbulence, the Indian Ocean archipelago is being asked to vote on changes to the constitution put forward by President Azali Assoumani. But the plan has run into fierce protests with Assoumani opponents charging it is a ploy for him to retain power beyond 2021, when his currently non-renewable single term would otherwise end. Opposition lawmakers on Saturday demanded an “unconditional halt without delay to the arbitrary and illegal process” of the referendum. Ahmed el-Barwane, secretary general of the opposition Juwa party, called for a boycott and accused the president of wanting to “craft a constitution which is tailor made for him to do as he pleases”. AFP

Is Africa Becoming the World’s Dumping Ground for Dirty Diesel Vehicles?
Any child playing at the Uhuru garden — a recreation park in the middle of the Kenyan capital Nairobi — is oblivious to the health dangers in the air around him or her. But that air is laden with toxic pollutants, which have become a leading cause of respiratory disease in Kenyan cities.  According to the World Health Organization, 15,000 children under five died each day in 2016 due to respiratory disease. But the vehicles that contribute a large part of that pollution trace a long path to Africa. As emission regulations become stricter in the European Union, Japan, and the United States, cars no longer able to meet current standards are exported to other regions, including Africa. In Africa, 25 countries have placed a maximum age limit on used car imports. But due to weak enforcement, cars as old as 25 years are sold in Africa.  Deutsche Welle