Africa Media Review for June 26, 2019

Solving the Crisis in Zimbabwe: A Conversation with Tendai Biti (Video)
Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti argues that Zimbabwe’s worsening economic crisis is fundamentally political and driven by a lack of government legitimacy that will require active SADC engagement to resolve. […] Zimbabwe’s current inflation rate of 97.4 percent has raised worries that the country is on the precipice of repeating the economic crisis of 2008. However, former Finance Minister Tendai Biti argues that the current crisis is fundamentally political, not economic, and driven by a lack of government legitimacy. “You can never govern without the consent of the people. … People did not give their consent to the political outcome of [the] 30 July 2018 [election].” Hyperinflation, youth unemployment, and poverty—79 percent live below the poverty line—raise the threat of another military coup, he says.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa Talks up Currency Reform but Business Wary
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Tuesday that a decision to ban the use of foreign currencies was an important step to repair the economy, but local businesspeople and investors were wary a day after the reform was announced. Mnangagwa, who replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe after an army coup in November 2017, is trying to attract investment and lift growth after a litany of failed economic interventions under his predecessor. His government said on Monday the country’s interim RTGS dollar would be the only legal tender, ending a decade during which multiple currencies including the U.S. dollar had been accepted in shops.  Reuters

Questions Surrounding Ethiopia’s Attempted Amhara Coup
As the dust settles on what authorities in Ethiopia have described as an attempted coup in the Amhara region, many questions remain unanswered as to what exactly caused the death of five top officials. Ethiopia’s army chief, the president of Amhara state and three other top officials were killed in two separate attacks. While the government has said the attacks took place within the context of an attempted coup in Amhara and are possibly linked, the overall motives remain murky. Africa News

Ethiopia’s Ethnic Militias in the Spotlight after Failed Coup
A foiled coup in the Ethiopian state of Amhara that left five senior officials dead, including the army’s chief of staff, has thrust ethnic militias in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies into the spotlight. The two attacks on Saturday night were led by Amhara’s head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence. Militias formed by ethnic groups are proliferating across Ethiopia, threatening sweeping political and economic reforms that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed kickstarted after he took power in the Horn of Africa country in April 2018.  Reuters

U.S. to Consider Sanctions in Case of More Sudan Violence
A top U.S. State Department official who deals with Sudan said on Tuesday that Washington was considering all options, including possible sanctions, if there was more violence after a deadly assault on protesters in Khartoum early this month. “We’re looking at all options, including sanctions down the line should there be any kind of repeat of violence,” Makila James, deputy assistant secretary for East Africa and the Sudans, told a U.S. House of Representatives hearing. She said they could include visa sanctions or economic sanctions. “We want to use the right tool and we want to target the right people,” James said.  Reuters

Egyptian Police Arrest 8, Raid Businesses over Coup Funding Claim
Egyptian police raided 19 businesses and arrested eight people in the capital Cairo, Alexandria and Ismailia on Tuesday over claims the firms were funding a coup d’etat, according to the interior ministry. The police took action to curtail businesses allegedly “intent on overthrowing the state and its institutions” by carrying out “violent acts”, the interior ministry said in a statement. Footage provided by the interior ministry broadcast on Egyptian television showed the police officers raiding the various businesses, adding on video that a total of 250 million Egyptian pounds (13 million euros) was seized. RFI

Sudan’s Ruling TMC Announces Release of Prisoners of War
The Deputy Head of the Transitional Military Council announced the release of all the prisoners of war from the different rebel groups. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo Hemetti announced the amnesty of detained rebels in a meeting with a delegation from South Kordofan, after his appointment at the head of TMC peace committee on Monday. Hemetti told the South Kordofan convoy for peace that the ruling TMC decided to release all the detainee from the armed groups and added that there no political prisoners in the jails. He further said the TMC has established contacts with the armed groups through the political committee chaired by Shams al-Din Kabbashi who is also a member of the peace committee. He disclosed contacts with the head of the SPLM-N  Sudan Tribune

16 Militia Killed in Northeast DR Congo: Army
Sixteen militiamen have been killed in northeastern DR Congo, the military said on Tuesday, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks. Militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, a military spokesperson said, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one. “At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told AFP. “The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity,” he said, adding that four AK47 rifles were recovered.  AFP

UN Says Thousands Flee Congo Violence, Seek Asylum in Uganda
The United Nations refugee agency says about 7,500 Congolese refugees fleeing violence have arrived in Uganda since the beginning of June. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic in Geneva said Tuesday that people are fleeing from Congo at a rate of 311 a day, adding pressure on Uganda’s already overstretched facilities. The refugees are running away from clashes between two opposing ethnic groups — the Hema and Lendu — in parts of northeastern Congo. Mahecic said in a statement that recent arrivals from Congo “speak of extreme brutality. Armed groups are said to be attacking villages, torching and looting houses, and killing men, women and children.”  AP

How the Return of Katumbi, Bemba Will Shape Congo
The admission of Burundi and South Sudan to the East African Community served to prove one thing: Political stability, no matter how loosely defined, is not a criterion for membership of an economic bloc that harbours ambitions of becoming a political federation. Even if it were, the Democratic Republic of Congo held watershed elections last year ushering in Felix Tshisekedi as president in the first democratic transfer of power in 60 years. The elections also ended Joseph Kabila’s desire to prolong his rule, including by proxy, at least until 2023. Under a Constitution revised in 2016, term limits will not apply in future DRC elections, meaning Kabila, 47, can vie again, setting the stage for a tumultuous period for the country’s democracy, with four heavyweight candidates, a couple of them confirmed warlords, eyeing the top seat. The East African

As Violence Flares in Burkina Faso, Refugees Trickle into Ghana
Salimata Kali is still looking for her husband, six months after she was forced to flee Zoaga, a small town in southern Burkina Faso near the border with Ghana. She fled because of communal violence. The Burkinabe army had been providing security after an initial flare-up, she says, but tensions had erupted over chieftaincy issues, with rival groups laying claim to the local regency, and the bloodshed looked like it was set to return. That’s when she decided to run away with her children. “When the conflict happened, my husband ran away and until now, I don’t know where he is,” Kali told Al Jazeera through an interpreter. Al Jazeera

US Air Force Veteran Released from Captivity in Libya
US Air Force veteran Jamie Sponaugle was released from captivity in Libya this week where he has been held since early May by the Libyan National Army on accusations of being a mercenary, according to US government officials and a source familiar with the matter. Sponaugle was freed after being held captive for weeks by forces loyal to renegade Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, which in April began an offensive to seize the Libyan capital of Tripoli from the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). While the State Department claims that US policy of supporting the GNA remains enact, President Donald Trump’s praise for Haftar earlier this year signaled a departure from previous administration statements condemning the rogue Libyan general’s march on the capital.  CNN

‘Just Ridiculous’: Rwanda’s Paul Kagame Dismisses EU Human Rights Report
Twenty-five years on from the genocide in Rwanda that saw as many as one million people slaughtered, FRANCE 24 interviews President Paul Kagame, alongside EU Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, at the European Development Days event in Brussels. In the last quarter-century, Rwanda’s people, economy and development have moved on from the killings to such a point that the country is often held up to other nations undergoing conflict, violence and political turmoil as a positive example. However, as Rwanda’s GDP per capita is ranked 36th in Africa at $2,081, government investments such as the multimillion-pound sponsorship of the UK’s Arsenal Football Club have raised questions about Kigali’s development investment strategy. Meanwhile, human rights concerns remain: the European Union’s 2018 human rights report highlights “serious violations of civil and political rights”. FRANCE 24 asks President Kagame why his response to this report is that it is “ridiculous”.  France 24

Tehran Sets up Terror Cells in Africa as Western Sanctions Bite
Iran is setting up a network of terror cells in Africa to attack US and other Western targets in retaliation for Washington’s decision to impose sanctions against Tehran, according to Western security officials. The new terror network has been established on the orders of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the elite section of Iran’s Republican Guard Corps that has responsibility for overseas operations. The aim of the new terror cell is to target US and other Western military bases on the continent, as well as embassies and officials. The Iranian cells are said to be active in a number of African countries including Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Gambia and the Central African Republic. The Telegraph

Daesh Terror Cell Dismantled in Morocco
A terrorist cell affiliated with Daesh terrorist organization was dismantled in the suburbs of central Morocco’s city of Marrakesh, the country’s Interior Ministry said Tuesday. In a statement, the ministry said the cell was composed of four terrorists aged between 25 and 40. Suspicious chemicals and explosive materials were also seized. Initial investigation shows the cell was in contact with foreign elements and was plotting a “terror attack” in the Kingdom. Late in April, Moroccan authorities dismantled another terrorist cell linked to the Daesh terrorist organization. According to official figures released late last year, the Moroccan authorities have dismantled more than 180 terrorist cells since 2002.  Anadolu Agency

Kenya’s Love-Hate Relationship with Chinese Traders
In our series of letters from African writers, Kenyan journalist Waihiga Mwaura looks at how the arrival of Chinese traders at the famous Gikomba market is both a blessing and a curse for Kenyans. It once was unheard of for a Chinese person to be doing business in any of Kenya’s markets. But this year it is becoming a more common sight – something that is causing friction with small-scale entrepreneurs who feel that their livelihoods are being threatened. The situation came to a head earlier this month when Kenya’s Business Daily newspaper reported on an influx of Chinese traders who had set themselves up in Gikomba, one of the largest open-air markets in the capital, Nairobi. BBC

‘Most Complex Health Crisis in History’: Congo Struggles to Contain Ebola
Moise Kitsakihu-Mbira has lost his brother, his grandson and 11 other family members to Ebola. When he himself fell sick he sought treatment in secret. His family don’t believe the virus exists and think a man in their village poisoned them. Refusal to believe in the existence of Ebola is one difficulty for doctors who say the current outbreak of the deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the “most complex public health emergency in history” and warn it could drag on for months. Following two deaths across the border in Uganda two weeks ago, officials admit they are struggling to identify and track cases around the north-eastern city of Butembo, particularly in countryside dominated by the Mai Mai militia and where a highly mobile population mean cases continue to emerge.  The Guardian

Dikembe Mutombo Records Ebola Messages for US Officials
Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help. Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist in his native Congo, recorded radio and video spots designed to persuade people to take precautions and get care that might stop the disease’s spread. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began posting the spots Monday on its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website . Officials are trying to get radio and TV stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to air them.  VOA

UN Drug Report: Opioid Use Booming as Tramadol Crisis Emerges in Africa
Synthetic opioid use is booming, the United Nations said on Wednesday in a worldwide drug report that showed deaths in the United States from overdoses still rising and a “crisis” of tramadol use emerging in parts of Africa. The estimated number of people using opioids – an umbrella term for drugs ranging from opium and derivatives such as heroin to synthetics like fentanyl and tramadol – in 2017 was 56% higher than in 2016, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said. While that surge, to 53.4 million people worldwide, was due to more data being available thanks to surveys in Nigeria and India, it also highlighted the scale of the problem despite a drought-related fall in opium production last year in the world’s biggest producer, Afghanistan. Reuters

A Beauty Queen Accuses Former Gambian President of Rape: ‘I Literally Stumbled Out of There’
[…] During his 22 years in office, Mr. Jammeh ruled by terrorizing the tiny West African nation of two million. People he deemed enemies were tortured and killed. Protesters and journalists were jailed and beaten, many never to be heard from again.  Mr. Jammeh, 54, has never been called to account for any of it. West African leaders allowed him to flee to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after he lost an election, the results of which he had refused to accept for six weeks. He took with him two Rolls-Royces and a Mercedes-Benz, and has turned up on social media celebrating with a birthday cake and sipping champagne. Now human rights advocates are collecting firsthand accounts of abuses so that he can be brought to trial. Ms. Jallow, known in Gambia as “Toufah,” shared her story in an interview. She is the first to publicly accuse the president of sexual assault, just as Gambia is in the process of reckoning with the terrible legacy of the Jammeh regime. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones