Africa Media Review for June 24, 2019

Ethiopian Army Chief Killed by Bodyguard and Regional Leader Dead in Coup Attempt
The chief of staff of Ethiopia’s army was shot dead at home by his bodyguard, and a regional governor was killed when a general tried to seize control of a northern state in an attempted coup, the prime minister’s office has said. The Amhara state president, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser were shot dead and the state’s attorney general was wounded in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar, on Saturday evening, according to a statement from the office of the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. In a separate attack on the same night, Ethiopia’s army chief of staff, Gen Seare Mekonnen, and another retired general were shot dead in Seare’s home in Addis Ababa by his bodyguard. The two attacks were linked, the statement said, without giving details. Abiy’s office said the Amhara state security head, Gen Asamnew Tsige, was responsible for the foiled coup, without giving details of his whereabouts. Asamnew was released from prison last year, having been given an amnesty for a similar coup attempt, according to media reports.  The Guardian

Ethiopian Assassinations Likely a Backlash from Old Guard against Abiy Ahmed’s Reforms
US assistant secretary of state for Africa Tibor Nagy says reformist Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed probably still has a rocky road ahead after an apparent regional coup attempt in Ahmara and assassinations in Addis Ababa. America’s top Africa diplomat suspects the failed coup attempt in Ethiopia’s Amhara region and the killing of the country’s army chief in Addis Ababa on Saturday were likely further attempts by vestiges of the old regime to sabotage the ambitious liberal reforms of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Tibor Nagy, noted in Pretoria on Sunday that these were not the first attempts by the old guard to torpedo Abiy’s radical changes, and would probably not be the last. He characterised the violent reactions also as the results of rising ethnic pressures suppressed by the previous autocratic regime and now released by Abiy’s efforts to liberalise Ethiopia’s politics.  Daily Maverick

Mauritania’s Ghazouani Wins Majority in Presidential Vote: CENI
Mauritania’s government has declared victory in the country’s competitive presidential election but opposition candidates said they could contest the result. With counting completed in nearly all polling stations on Sunday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said the ruling party’s Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won 51.9 percent of the vote. “Congratulations to president-elect Mohamed Ould Ghazouani for the trust the people have shown him. We wish him all success in his work,” Communications Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham said in a statement.  Al Jazeera

Sudan’s Protesters Accept Roadmap for Civilian Rule
Sudan’s protest movement accepted an Ethiopian roadmap for a civilian-led transitional government, a spokesman said on Sunday, after a months-long standoff with the country’s military rulers — who did not immediately commit to the plan. Ethiopia has led diplomatic efforts to bring the protest and military leaders back to the negotiating table, after a crackdown against the pro-democracy movement led to a collapse in talks. According to protest organizers, security forces killed at least 128 people across the country, after they violently dispersed the sit-in demonstration outside the military’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. Authorities have offered a lower death toll of 61, including three from the security forces. Yet it appeared that protest leaders, represented by the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, were open to the Ethiopian initiative as a way out of the political impasse.  AFP

Sudan Military Calls for Joint AU, Ethiopia Transition Plan
Sudan’s ruling military council has appealed to the African Union and Ethiopia to unify their efforts in outlining a blueprint for a political transition in the crisis-hit country. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition coalition have been wrangling for weeks over what form Sudan’s transitional government should take after the military deposed long-time President Omar al-Bashir on April 11. On Sunday, Shams al-Din Kabashi, spokesman for TMC, said the council rejected the Ethiopian initiative but had agreed in principle to the AU’s plan. Details of the AU proposal were not immediately known. Al Jazeera

Sudan Court Orders Company to End Military-Ordered Internet Blackout – Lawyer
A Sudanese court ordered telecoms operator Zain Sudan on Sunday to restore internet services, a lawyer said, after they were severed nearly three weeks ago when security forces dispersed protesters camping in central Khartoum. Sudan’s military rulers ordered the internet blackout as a security measure but it is harming the economy and humanitarian operations in the African nation of 40 million. The protesters are demanding the military hand power to a civilian authority. Abdel-Adheem Hassan, a lawyer who filed his own case against Zain Sudan over the blackout, told Reuters the Khartoum District Court had ordered Zain to “immediately restore internet services to the country”. Sudanese courts do not confirm or deny their rulings to the media.  Reuters

Benin’s Ex-President Boni Yayi Leaves Country
Former Benin president Thomas Boni Yayi left the country on Saturday for health reasons, a spokesman for his party said, after two months of political crisis following controversial elections in April. Boni Yayi, who had been under effective house arrest in northern Benin, left after “his health deteriorated rapidly”, Noureni Atchade, spokesman for his Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) party, said in an interview with Radio France Internationale without giving details. His surprise departure came after weeks of tension between President Patrice Talon and his predecessor. Protests first erupted in Benin after April 28 parliamentary elections. At least two people have died in clashes with police who resorted to gunfire. France 24

Jihadi Threat Spreading across West Africa, Togo Leader Warns
Islamist extremists will have a “devastating” impact in west Africa’s coastal states unless their spread from Burkina Faso and Mali can be prevented, Togo’s president has warned. Faure Gnassingbé told the Financial Times that jihadis based in Burkina Faso were starting to make incursions into Togo and neighbouring Ghana. “They’re not organised to hit us but they are inside [our countries],” he said in an interview in London. “If the conflict is not resolved in one country it will spread down to the coastal countries, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire. That’s inevitable.” The threat of violence has been underlined by recent massacres in central Mali between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders, which have stoked fears of jihadis exploiting communal tensions and linking up with ethnic militias.  The Financial Times

Burkina Faso Adopts Law Restricting Media Coverage of Military Operations
Lawmakers in Burkina Faso on Friday, June 21 adopted a controversial new law providing for jail terms of up to 10 years for divulging details of military operations. The amendment bans the “publication of images of attacks against defense and security forces and the victims of terrorist crimes,” as well as “attacks on the morale of troops engaged in the fight against terrorism,” lawmaker Bernard Some said. Justice Minister Rene Bagoro said the new law also aimed to prevent the spread of information about “operations and strategic points of the defence and security forces.” Some said the the measure was also aimed at preventing “terrorist propaganda.” It was passed by 103 out of the 127 deputies present. The Defense Post

Is Somalia Ready for a One-Person One-Vote Election?
“I request parliamentarians in this workshop to advocate for ‘one-person one-vote’,” Halima Ismail Ibrahim, chairperson of the National Independent Electoral Commission of Somalia (NIEC), urged Somali lawmakers on Saturday. Together with African Union (AU) officials and members of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Somali officials and advisers gathered in the Ugandan capital to discuss security and ways forward to prepare for possible universal elections in 2020. For Somalia, such an election would be the first universal suffrage polls in half a century. Somalia’s last universal vote was held in 1969, shortly before the coup that brought military leader Siad Barre to power. Following two decades of civil war and then rule by a transitional government, backed by the United Nations and the African Union, Somalia has slowly been inching its way toward universal polls.  Deutsche Welle

Algeria Arrests 18 Protesters over Berber Flag: Lawyers
Algerian authorities on Sunday arrested 18 people who had brandished the Berber minority flag during an anti-government protest in Algiers despite a ban imposed by the military, their lawyers said. They were detained during a mass protest Friday by Algerians demanding a political overhaul in the country where veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April after weeks of demonstrations against his rule. The suspects were accused of “undermining national unity”, lawyers Noureddine Benissad and Karim Heddar said after the suspects appeared in court. If found guilty they could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has become the main powerbroker after calling on Bouteflika to step down, this week banned protesters from holding any flags other than Algeria’s during their rallies.  AFP

Tensions Flare as DR Congo Opposition Figure Bemba Makes Visit Home
Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo fired tear gas at protesters against a visit Sunday by opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba who made a low-key return home, flying in from Brussels on a private jet. Bemba’s allies said he had returned to the DR Congo to lend support to another opposition figure, Martin Fayulu, who maintains he was robbed of victory in last December’s presidential election. After that vote, another opposition figure Felix Tshisekedi was declared the new president in the country’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but the vote was marred by allegations of ballot-rigging. Police on Sunday fired tear gas to break up rock-throwing protesters who targeted Bemba’s convoy as it arrived from the airport to Kinshasa’s Sainte-Terese square where Bemba spoke, AFP correspondents at the scene said. AFP

West African Task Force Says Troops Killed 42 Islamic State Fighters Near Lake Chad
West African troops killed 42 suspected Islamic State fighters in a battle in the Lake Chad region on June 21, the heaviest death toll suffered by the insurgents in the last six months, a regional military task force said in a statement. The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising troops from countries bordering the lake – said one of its soldiers was killed and 10 others were injured. In an apparent reference to the same clashes, Islamic State said its fighters had killed 15 soldiers in fighting on June 21 at Garno, a town in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state near Lake Chad. It said a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device but did not refer to any of its fighters having been killed.  Reuters

Guinea-Bissau President Names New Prime Minister ‘In Name of Peace’
Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz named Aristides Gomes as prime minister on Saturday, to end an impasse that has dragged on since March. Since legislative elections in March, Vaz had refused to name his estranged deputy Domingos Simoes Pereira for the position. The election took place more than three years after Vaz sacked Pereira from his role as prime minister. A constitutional crisis ensued, which it was hoped the March 10 vote would bring to an end. The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) — which won the election — initially proposed its party leader, Pereira, as prime minister. However, Vaz — also a PAIGC member — refused to comply, and the party eventually proposed Gomes “in the name of peace.”  Deutsche Welle

Central African Republic Facing Acute Food Shortages
A new report finds nearly half of all people in the Central African Republic are suffering acute food shortages. The latest assessment by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a joint effort by eight U.N. and International non-governmental organizations, finds more than 1.8 million people in C.A.R. are facing an emergency food crisis. Civil war in the Central African Republic erupted in December 2013 and continues to take a heavy toll on its people. The country is in the midst of its so-called lean season, which goes from May to August. This is the period between harvests when people have depleted their food stocks and hunger is particularly acute. The World Food Program reports nearly 2 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from during this period. VOA

Zambia’s President Collision Course with Mining Giant
If mounting foreign debt, an anaemic currency and stagnating growth aren’t enough, President Edgar Lungu’s move to break up Zambia’s largest copper mining firm threatens an investor exodus and thousands of job losses. Higher taxes on the mining sector were supposed to help Zambia with its debt problem, but Lungu has taken a hardline approach with international mining companies, accusing them of failing to pay taxes and threatening to expel them from the country. “Government will not take kindly to any form of arm-twisting,” he told a recent mining and energy conference. “Government’s expectation is for investors to operate within the confines of the law — failure to do so will result in government imposing sanctions and disengaging with the unwilling parties.”  AFP

EAC Risks Further Financial Doldrums as Members Delay Obligatory Payments
The East African Community could sink deeper into the financial doldrums after unveiling a $111.4 million budget for the 2019/20 financial year, amid the failure by member states to honour their financial obligations. Some activities of the EAC organs and institutions are likely to stall or slow down due to member states delays in remitting their contributions for the 2018/19 budget, which stood at $99.7 million. Despite tabling of an ambitious budget anchored in “transforming lives through industrialisation and job creation for shared prosperity,” dismal adherence by members to budgetary obligations continues to be a bane in the region’s integration journey.  The East African

Zimbabwe Leader Wants New Currency, IMF Loan in Revival
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his finance chief want a new currency by March, would seek financing from the International Monetary Fund and may even consider a Eurobond offering as the struggling economy emerges from almost two decades of isolation. The introduction of a new currency is crucial to his efforts to revive the economy, said Mnangagwa, who secured a five-year term in July elections after the military deposed Robert Mugabe in 2017. “It is necessary that we have our own currency,” he said in an interview in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, where he was attending a conference. “I have faith that we’ll achieve that even before the end of the year or by the first quarter of next year.”  Bloomberg

Macron’s Mediterranean Dream Rallies Support of Civil Society
A summit regrouping 10 Mediterranean countries has opened in the southern French city of Marseille. Foreign affairs ministers are meeting representatives from 100 civil society groups, which have presented over 200 projects to meet the needs of the region. The two-day Summit of the Two Shores is an initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, who will attend the meeting on Monday 24 June. He wants to expand the 5+5 Dialogue to fully involve civil society groups, which are for the first time involved in the decision making process. The grouping serves as a sub-regional forum for the 10 Western Mediterranean countries that have taken part since its creation, five from the north (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal) and five from the south, the Arab Maghreb Union, (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia).  RFI

Mozambique’s $20Bn Gas Project: A Boom That Heralds a Resource Curse Bust?
Africa has a new petro-state, or gas-state. US energy firm Anadarko Petroleum this week gave the green light for the construction of a $20bn gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique. The boom could double Mozambique’s GDP. But the shining examples of Angola, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea suggest that this hydrocarbon windfall could have catastrophic consequences for the country. If ever there was a candidate ripe for falling under the spell of the “resource curse”, it would be Mozambique. It is in the process of becoming bewitched thanks to the $20-billion gas investment announced this week by Anadarko, which in turn is being taken over by Occidental Petroleum Corp. When that deal is done, Occidental has agreed to sell assets including the Mozambique LNG project to French oil major Total SA. Daily Maverick

Africa Cup of Nations Needs Action on Field to Provide Good News
The blue and orange seats of Cairo International Stadium make an attractive spectacle and the playing surface, at least when set against the ferocious heat, looks verdant. Every tournament eve brings its flutter of anticipation; that moment when reservations take a back seat and the simple joy of a month’s football takes root. It applies to the Africa Cup of Nations as much as any other major event: one glance at the list of names involved suggests that, if everybody is close to their best, a competition that looks impossible to call will be genuinely thrilling. When Egypt are roared on to the pitch for Friday’s opener against Zimbabwe, the organisers’ sense of escapism may be even more profound. A Cup of Nations that will have few serious rivals in the global calendar for casual fans’ attention during its latter stages presents an open goal for reviving a profile that has flagged in recent years, but the buildup could hardly have been more chaotic. The Confederation of African Football is effectively on life support and, where the broader health of the continent’s football is concerned, four weeks of sparkling action may do little more than distract from the deeper clean required elsewhere.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones