Africa Media Review for July 31, 2018

Mali President Claims Lead in July 29 Vote, Opposition Cries Foul
Malian president Ibrahim Boubakar Keita is leading in the July 29 presidential polls according to provisional vote count in the west African country, his spokesperson has said. “According to our tally, IBK (Ibrahim Boubakar Keita) has come substantially ahead,” Mahamadou Camara told Reuters news agency in a phone interview. He, however, added that despite the president’s lead, he was likely not going to clinch a first round victory thus the possibility of the vote entering a runoff as by law required. IBK is one of twenty four candidates running for the country’s top political office. He is seeking a second and final term as president. In case a run-off is required, it shall be held on August 12. AfricaNews

Mali Says More Than 700 Polling Stations Inoperable During Election
Officials in Mali say more than 700 polling stations were not able to operate during Sunday’s presidential election because of attacks or threats of violence. Authorities said Monday the counting of ballots is underway, but said no ballots were cast at 716 polling stations — representing just over 3 percent of the country’s total — because violence forced the stations to stay closed. The affected polling stations are located in the country’s central and northern regions, areas that have already been troubled by Islamic extremism and ethnic unrest. Reports of violence included election officials beaten up, ballot boxes burned and election supervisors stopped by armed groups from entering polling stations. VOA

Counting Underway after Zimbabwe Polls, Turnout at over 70%
Counting began in Zimbabwe on Monday in the first election since the removal of former president Robert Mugabe, a watershed vote that could pull a pariah state back into the international fold and spark an economic revival. The election is a two-horse race between 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time Mugabe ally, and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who is vying to become Zimbabwe’s youngest head of state. Mnangagwa is viewed as the frontrunner, though the latest opinion polls showed a tight race. There will be a runoff on Sept. 8 if no candidate wins more than half the votes. Voting closed at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT). The official result has to be announced within five days but there will likely be an indication of the outcome on Tuesday. Africa News

EU Observers Offer Mixed Picture of First Zimbabwe Vote since Mugabe’s Fall
Zimbabwe held its first election on Monday since former president Robert Mugabe was ousted in a de facto coup and European Union observers said the vote was “very smooth” in some places and “totally disorganised” in others. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time ally of Mugabe, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in the vote. Mnangagwa is the frontrunner but the latest poll shows a tight race. A credible election after Mugabe’s 37-year rule is essential if Zimbabwe is to exit painful sanctions imposed on the government and secure the donor funding and investment needed to stem chronic cash shortages. Reuters

Trepidation as Observers Warn That an Expected Presidential Run-Off Should Be Peaceful
Early celebration parties in Zimbabwe kicked off even before the polls closed in one of the country’s most peaceful elections of recent times. Amid high expectations from both sides, and with a high possibility of a presidential run-off, the next 48 hours will prove to be the real test. […]  All Zimbabweans agree that they want to see their country change to become economically prosperous again. The long voting queues – and, according to early figures, the high turnouts – were testament to that. So far, they’re doing good. The run-up to elections day was more peaceful than it had been in years, and supporters from both the major parties, the MDC and Zanu-PF, have shown tolerance. Swarms of foreign and local observers have been allowed into the country and did the rounds on elections day. They did note that at some polling stations MDC agents were denied access, and that campaigning still happened on Sunday while the Electoral Act forbade this. All in all, however, there was cautious optimism. Daily Maverick

South African Court Overturns Immunity for Grace Mugabe in Assault Case
South Africa’s High Court on Monday overturned a decision by the government to grant Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she was accused of whipping a woman with an electric cord. Model Gabriella Engels, the woman behind the assault allegation, last August filed a court application challenging the government’s decision. Grace Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe immediately after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade prosecution for assault and causing a row in South Africa where the opposition Democratic Alliance also challenged the ruling. Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels had attacked her with a knife. South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Engels, dismissed the allegations as lies. Reuters

UN Delays Troop Reduction in Somalia Force
The Security Council voted Monday to delay the reduction of troops in the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia from October to February and its target date for Somali forces to take the lead in the country’s security to December 2021. A resolution adopted unanimously by the council authorizes deployment of the force known as AMISOM until May 31, 2019, including a reduction to a maximum of 20,626 uniformed troops by Feb. 28, 2019. It pushes back Somalia’s target takeover from AMISOM from 2020. British Ambassador Karen Pierce, whose country sponsored the resolution, said: “AMISOM is providing the critical space while Somalia gets its own security forces up to capacity, and we hope that that will continue.”  AP

Dangers behind Bemba’s Possible Presidential Candidacy in Congo
The possible return of Jean-Pierre Bemba has shocked many in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With just over five months before the presidential and gubernatorial elections, he has reemerged to challenge President Joseph Kabila’s political order. And despite his chequered past, Bemba has a popular following. More than two years ago Bemba was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to 18 years in jail. But in June this year his appeal against most of his convictions was successful. He may therefore be out of jail sooner than originally thought. Bemba was also convicted of witness tampering and/or bribing witnesses. This appeal is ongoing. The Star, Nairobi

DR Congo Tycoon Seeks Permission to Return to Contest Key Election
Multimillionaire and political heavyweight Moise Katumbi on Monday said he had sought permission to return to DR Congo this week to contest presidential elections in one of Africa’s most volatile countries. Mr Katumbi said in a phone interview with AFP that he was in Johannesburg and had written to the civil aviation authorities requesting permission for his private jet to land on Friday in Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga province. Mr Katumbi, 53, a former governor of the mineral-rich province, has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since May 2016 after falling out with President Joseph Kabila. He has vowed to return for the long overdue December 23 election despite being handed a three-year jail term in a case of alleged property fraud. The East African

Africa’s Trafficking Gangs Flourish as Nations Fail to Work Together
Trafficking gangs are flourishing across Africa through the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of migrants, yet nations are failing to dismantle networks due to a lack of coordination, the United Nations said on Monday. More than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually – often duped with promises of a better life overseas, then sold into forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual slavery, according the U.N. Many victims are migrants from African nations such as Eritrea and Somalia, yet countries are failing to curb the crime as they lack mechanisms to share cross-border intelligence and coordinate efforts to bust trafficking rings. “International cooperation has to get stronger and stronger,” said Amado Philip de Andres, Head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Eastern Africa. VOA

Libyan Assembly Postpones Debate over Constitution Poll
Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament on Monday prematurely adjourned a session held to vote on whether or not to hold a popular referendum on a new constitution. “Today’s session has been adjourned until tomorrow to allow more discussion of the proposed referendum,” Assembly Speaker Aqila Saleh said during the session, which was broadcast live on local television. In a statement posted on the assembly’s website, assembly spokesman Abdullah Balikhak said “consensus” had been reached between most MPs on an amended version of a referendum bill — with the exception of a handful of articles over which some disagreement remains. Balikhak did not, however, specify the articles over which there was still some contention. Anadolu Agency

Sudan Frees Captured Egyptian Troops from Libya Militia
Sudan’s National intelligence Security Services (NISS) announced on Monday that it had freed a group of Egyptian army soldiers abducted by a Libyan militia on the border between Sudan, Libya, and Egypt. The Egyptian group of four soldiers and one officer has been captured by some outlaws on the border, NISS information office head Mohamed Hamid Tabidi told a press conference at Khartoum airport. “In a qualitative security operation, the Sudanese NISS in coordination with the Sudanese army and Egyptian intelligence liberated an Egyptian army force from a group of outlaws operating in southern Libya,” said Tabidi. The liberated group is now in Khartoum, in good health, and will be transported to Cairo, he added. He further confirmed that the operation confirmed that coordination over regional security between the two countries is going smoothly. Anadolu Agency

‘500 Russian Troops on CAR-Darfur Border’
Several witnesses and sources from the Um Dafug area of South Darfur which borders on the Central African Republic (CAR) have reported the presence of about 500 Russian soldiers who have been received and hosted by the government in a camp 15 kilometres south of Um Dafug. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the Russian forces had 50 vehicles with other military equipment. They said that the forces have constructed a sandy area on the border of South Darfur to receive helicopters. They said government, military, and security officials regularly visit them in the area. According to local sources and witnesses, the exact purpose of the Russian presence on the border with CAR for five months has remained unknown. Western diplomatic sources had previously spoken of a Russian-Sudanese cooperation in the CAR crisis, prompting reservations by France and the USA, which reject any Russian presence in the region. Radio Dabanga

U.S. Military in Africa Says Changes Have Been Made to Protect Troops
The U.S. military in Africa has taken steps to increase the security of troops on the ground, adding armed drones and armored vehicles and taking a harder look at when American forces go out with local troops, the head of the U.S. Africa Command said Monday. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser told reporters the U.S. also has cut the response time needed for medical evacuations the result of a broad review in the wake of last years ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and four of their Niger counterparts. […] A report is due in mid-August on actions taken in response to the findings, Waldhauser said. He released a report in May on the ambush, which has been blamed on extremists linked to the Islamic State organization. He said Africa’s challenges remain vast, from Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked groups in the west to al-Shabab in the east. The U.S. takes a hard look at what is necessary when accompanying local forces on operations, in terms of when its necessary; is the threat there going against something that’s significant to the U.S. homeland and our national interests, he said. Bloomberg

Ethiopia: Thousands of Ethiopians Gather to Hear Abiy Speak in U.S.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been making sweeping changes in his country, has had a series of meeting with members of the diaspora and political leaders in the U.S. at events in Washington DC and Los Angeles. The Mayor of Washington, DC, declared July 28 as “Ethiopia Day in DC” during the visit by the Ethiopian leader. Abiy had met with the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim last week who said, “We endorse the reforms being taken and we support your efforts.” The two discussed a range of issues including future of disruptive technology, human capital, sustainable debt financing & risk of debt distress. Dr Kim said the World Bank is “ready to provide robust support to Ethiopia”. At his meeting in Washington DC, where he addressed a political consortium bringing together over 24 US-based Ethiopian political parties, the PM underscored the importance of dialogue and the “need for working to the best interest of our nation”. allAfrica

Ethiopia Working to Resolve Eritrea-Djibouti Impasse
Ethiopia is working to restore relations between two of its neighbours, Djibouti and Eritrea, its envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council on Monday. According to ambassador Takeda Alemu, Addis Ababa was doing so in the prevailing spirit of embracing and all inclusive progress and development of the wider Horn of Africa region. He reiterated how dynamics of security and cooperation in the region was fast changing especially after the Ethio – Eritrea peace agreement, and more recently the Eritrea – Somalia normalization of relations.  AfricaNews

Egypt’s War on ‘Rumors’ Threatens to Kill the Free Press
No more and no less than 21,000 rumors have been monitored by the authorities in Egypt over the past three months. This report is not a rumor but a “fact,” which Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi revealed last week in a meeting with the graduates of the military academies. A “rumor,” in the language of the regime, is any report that is incorrect and whose goal is to create instability, increase despair, undermine the hopes of the people and destroy the state from within. This is not a dictionary definition but Sissi’s carefully fortified interpretation. “This is the greatest threat facing the country. Its goal is to cause peoples to destroy their countries from within,” he warned. Haaretz

Another Year of Bloodshed for Africa’s Game Rangers
Some were gored or trampled to death by elephants and buffalo. Others were assassinated or shot dead in bloody gunfights with wildlife poachers, illegal miners and loggers. All told, at least 63 African game rangers have died in the line of duty while protecting wildlife reserves and nature sanctuaries over the last year. Paying tribute on World Ranger Day today (Tuesday, July 31) the Game Rangers Association of Africa said it was clear that not enough was being done to protect men and women at the front line of nature conservation. “In far too many places they work without sufficient equipment, without adequate skills training, with poor facilities, and rely on scant resources. These are the men and women who serve and protect our remaining wild places where the remnants of Africa’s natural heritage can be found. They deserve so much more,” association chairman Chris Galliers said in a statement. Daily Maverick