Africa Media Review for March 1, 2019

Senegal President Wins Re-Election with 58 Percent of Vote
Senegal President Macky Sall won re-election with 58 percent of votes cast in last Sunday’s poll, according to provisional results announced by the official counting body on Thursday. The majority win hands Sall a second term without a run-off vote. Opposition candidate Idrissa Seck came second with 21 percent of votes, while Ousmane Sonko placed third with 16 percent. Sall, whom rights groups have criticized for squeezing out rivals, was tipped to win after a modernising first term that propelled Senegal’s economic growth to more than six percent – one of the highest in Africa. Since Sunday’s vote, opposition candidates have rejected reports of an out-right victory for Sall, saying their tallies point to a second round of voting. Reuters

Al-Shabab Launch Lay Siege to Downtown Mogadishu Hotel, Killing at Least 29
The Somali militant Islamist group al-Shabab claimed a double-bombing and siege of a hotel in downtown Mogadishu that began at night and continued through the day on Friday. Police officials said 29 people were confirmed dead so far, 80 were wounded, and militants were still holed up inside the Maka al-Mukarama hotel, engaging in sporadic gunfire with officers. The hotel is on a street lined with restaurants and shops in the heart of Somalia’s capital city. Al-Shabab attacks Mogadishu frequently and its deadliest attack ever — a truck bomb that killed more than 500 in 2017 — took place just a mile down the same road as the ongoing siege. Photos and videos of the attack posted on social media on Thursday night showed the hotel in flames and ambulances run by the private Aamin Ambulance service rushing to the scene.  The Washington Post

320,000 Somalis Fled Conflict and Insecurity in 2018
The number of civilians who fled their homes due to conflict and insecurity increased to 320,000 in 2018, up 50 per cent from the previous year – according to newly-released figures. “We’re alarmed at the sharp increase in the number of civilians forced to flee their homes in Somalia. The conflict is getting worse for civilians, making thousands more homeless. If this worrying trend continues, it could lead to catastrophe,” warned Evelyn Aero, Regional Adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Over 320,000 people fled conflict and insecurity last year within Somalia, according to the Protection and Return Monitoring Network. This number is up from 202,000 people displaced in 2017. Areas hardest hit by the fighting were in the Lower Shabelle region, which is still heavily impacted today. Norwegian Refugee Council

Key Mali Jihadist Amadou Koufa Resurfaces to Deny Reports of His Death
FRANCE 24 has obtained exclusive video footage of Amadou Koufa, one of Mali’s jihadist leaders, in which he denies reports of his death made in November. FRANCE 24’s expert on jihadist groups, Wassim Nasr, discusses the video’s significance. In the more than 19-minute-long video, Amadou Koufa answers questions posed by two people in both Arabic and English. It is supposedly the first sign of life from the radical preacher since his death was announced. Koufa is a senior member of Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims), which has links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). His Macina Liberation Front has been called Mali’s answer to the Islamist group Boko Haram. Koufa has called upon his supporters to rebuild the 19th-century Massina Empire that existed in what is now Mali.  France 24

‘We Are Not Winning’ Counterterror War in Sahel, US Military Leader in Africa Says
The United States and its allies are not winning the counterterrorism war for the Sahel, the head of U.S. special operations forces in Africa told VOA Thursday. “I would tell you at this time, we are not winning,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, said Thursday on the sidelines of Flintlock, a major U.S.-led military exercise in the region. The exercise involves about 2,000 commandoes from more than 30 countries. The host of this year’s exercise, Burkina Faso, is battling an insurgency from several al-Qaida-linked groups, particularly in the past several months. “What we fight against, what we see every day is like a toxin,” Burkinabe Lt. Col Coulibaly Kanou told VOA. “I do not know what the terrorists want from us.”  VOA

African Allies Grapple With Rise in Terrorist Attacks as U.S. Pulls Back
[…] hundreds of United States commandos and other forces are leaving West Africa — despite an onslaught of attacks from an increasingly deadly matrix of Islamist fighters. The shift has unnerved African commanders in Burkina Faso and neighboring nations in the Sahel, a vast sub-Saharan scrubland increasingly racked by Islamist bombings, massacres, kidnappings and attacks on hotels frequented by Westerners. It is a region in which most Americans were unaware of United States military involvement until four Army soldiers were killed in a deadly 2017 ambush in Niger by Islamic State fighters.What is emerging, critics said, is a glimpse of what happens when American troops, especially Special Operations forces, pull back before insurgents are effectively subdued, leaving local or allied forces to fend off the Islamic State, Al Qaeda or their offshoots.“It’s a real problem,” Col. Maj. Moussa Salaou Barmou, commander of Niger’s Special Operations forces, said of the drawdown and the closing of seven of eight American elite counterterrorism units operating in Africa. The New York Times

Booby-Trapped Corpse Kills 17 People in Explosion at Mali Funeral
The booby-trapped corpse of a man kidnapped by jihadists last week has exploded in Mali, killing 17 people. Authorities had discovered a body abandoned in bushes in Gondogourou, a rural area close to the town of Koro on the country’s border with Burkina Faso on Tuesday. Relatives are understood to have been burying the remains later that day when the corpse, which had been rigged with an improvised device, exploded. A total of 17 people are thought to have been killed in the blast – around half of those in attendance at the funeral – while several others were injured. “They dug the grave. It was at the moment of sliding the body in that the it exploded,” Oumar Guindo a Gondogourou resident told Malian newspaper the North South Journal.  The Independent

Comoros Opposition Demands Electoral Reforms
Eleven candidates in the Comoros have called for a review of the country’s electoral process ahead of the March 24 presidential elections. The collective of opposition parties on Wednesday demanded a credible and transparent vote. Opposition spokesman, Moustoifa Said Cheikh told reporters that they believe guarantees for a free and fair elections have not been met by the current regime. They are also demanding a manual counting of votes in all polling stations in the full glare of representatives of candidates on election day. In early February, the Supreme Court cleared the way for thirteen candidates to run in the March 24 presidential elections.  Africa News

Libya’s Competing Leaders Agree on Holding Elections, Says UN
Rival leaders in Libya have agreed to hold elections in the country, agreeing on the “need to end the transitional stages”, according to a statement on Thursday from the UN mission in Libya. Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Western-backed government, and Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, met in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Sarraj and Haftar agreed to hold general elections, said the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). “They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions,” a statement said. Libya was thrown into civil war following the fall of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 following a NATO-led intervention. RFI

How a ‘Giant Ponzi Scheme’ Destroyed a Nation’s Economy
Almost two decades of profligate monetary policy has destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy and fueled rampant inflation, decimating the savings of its people twice. Hyperinflation of as much as 500 billion percent in 2008 made savings worthless and led to the abolition of the local currency in favor of the dollar the following year. In 2016, former President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government introduced securities known as bond notes that it insisted traded at par with the dollar. In 2018, it separated cash from electronic deposits in banks without reserves to back them, causing the black-market rate to plunge. Last week, it threw in the towel and allowed bond notes to trade at a market-determined level, once again slashing the value of savings. The decision came after the southern African nation faced shortages of bread and fuel, was hit by strikes and protests, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s drive to attract new investment floundered.  Bloomberg

Zim’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission to Put Spotlight on 1980s Fifth Brigade Atrocities
Finally, Zimbabweans will be able to learn some details in public about the first post-independence atrocity when thousands of opposition supporters were killed by government forces. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) says it will begin public hearings in March in communities that were affected by “Gukurahundi”, as the campaign against the largely Ndebele-speaking opposition became known. The North Koreans who arrived in Zimbabwe shortly after independence, and were close to the prime minister Robert Mugabe, helped create and train a force, known as The Fifth Brigade, which operated outside the confines of the regular army. Daily Maverick

Report: Liberian Bank Ordered 3 times Money Authorized
Liberia’s central bank illegally ordered three times the number of bank notes it had been authorized to print and now can’t properly account for most of them, according to findings of an external investigation released Thursday. Hours after the report’s release, authorities arrested the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Charles Sirleaf was a deputy governor at the Central Bank of Liberia during the period when the bank notes were illegally ordered, Justice Minister Musa told The Associated Press. Sirleaf has denied any wrongdoing. The Liberian government and the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, among others, commissioned the probe by the U.S.-based firm Kroll Associates following reports in August that about $100 million worth of Liberian dollars had disappeared — an amount equal to nearly 5 percent of the West African country’s GDP.  AP

‘Crippling’ Attacks Force Doctors without Borders to Close Ebola Centers in Congo
Two attacks on Ebola treatment centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have forced the international aid group Doctors Without Borders to close the facilities, it said on Thursday, warning that the outbreak was not under control. In the first attack, on Sunday night, unidentified assailants threw stones at a treatment center in Katwa, in northeastern Congo, and set fire to the structure. They destroyed much of the building, equipment and patient wards, and the brother of a patient died, though the circumstances were unclear. Doctors Without Borders said that its staff members were safe and that patients had been transferred to other facilities, but it called the attack a debilitating blow to efforts to contain the outbreak, which has killed 553 people so far. It is the second-worst Ebola epidemic in history, after the crisis that left 11,310 people dead in West Africa from 2014 through mid-2016. “This attack has crippled our ability to respond to what is now the epicenter of the outbreak,” Emmanuel Massart, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Katwa, said in a statement on Tuesday. The New York Times

Executions Stepped up in War-Ravaged South Sudan, Amnesty Says
South Sudan is stepping up its use of executions, hanging seven people in the first two months of 2019, the same number subjected to the death penalty all of last year, Amnesty International said. Six were executed at a prison in the capital, Juba, and at least one other was in Wau, in the country’s northwest, the London-based advocacy group said Friday in a statement. Four had been convicted of murder, while three belonged to the same family and their executions were shrouded in secrecy, with relatives only being informed after their deaths. This confirms our fears that South Sudan authorities have absolutely no respect for the right to life as they continue to totally disregard the fact that the world is moving away from use of the death penalty, said Seif Magango, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa. Bloomberg

Catholic Bishops Express Doubt over South Sudan Peace Implementation
The bishops of the Catholic Church in South Sudan are expressing concern about the future of South Sudan’s peace agreement, signed last year. The bishops said in a statement Thursday they welcomed the agreement as a step forward. “However, the concrete situation on the ground demonstrates that it is not addressing the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan,” they said. The bishops said human rights abuses continue with impunity, including murder, rape, widespread sexual violence, looting and occupation of civilian land and property in South Sudan. “There is no will or commitment for peace among many of our leaders, hate speech and propaganda abound, and there is a thirst for revenge among our communities,” the bishops said.  VOA

Uganda Questions Rwanda’s Explanation for Border Closure
Uganda on Thursday called upon authorities in Rwanda not to prevent people from crossing the border at the Southern point of Katuna (Gatuna). The Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo told journalists that since Wednesday 6:00 pm (local time), Rwandan authorities had denied entry to both private and public vehicles attempting to cross the border from Uganda. Opondo also questioned the explanation by Rwanda’s Revenue Authority (RRA) that cargo trucks from Uganda were prevented from crossing the border at Katuna because of a planned upgrade of the border post. ‘‘If it was construction of the road they wouldn’t have prevented their people from coming into the country,’‘ Opondo argued.  Africa News

Ethiopia’s Neglected Crisis: No Easy Way Home for Doubly Displaced Gedeos
It was the second time in less than a year that Meret – like thousands of others from the Gedeo community who have lived in Oromia’s West Guji zone for decades – had been chased from her village because of her ethnicity. A merry-go-round of forced evictions by groups of armed young men and government-pressured returns has left tens of thousands of ethnic Gedeos trapped in dire conditions in makeshift shelters across this part of southern Ethiopia. Now in the village of Gotiti, in the Gedeo district of the Southern region that borders Oromia, Meret is one of an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 internally displaced people living in overcrowded shelters without roofs and sanitation as the rainy season approaches. The Ethiopian government has not formally acknowledged Gotiti’s inhabitants as IDPs eligible for humanitarian aid.  IRIN

Protesters Challenge Emergency Measures in Sudan; Police Fire Tear Gas
More than 1,000 anti-government protesters demonstrated in and around Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Thursday, witnesses said, the first rallies since President Omar al-Bashir announced new emergency powers to combat more than two months of unrest. Security forces fired tear gas at about 400 protesters at Omdurman Grand Market, in Khartoum’s twin city across the Nile, witnesses said. The protesters, who are calling for an end to Bashir’s 30-year-rule, chanted “Down, that’s it.” The protests, initially over high bread prices, have taken place nearly every day since Dec. 19 and have developed into the most sustained challenge that Bashir has faced.  VOA

Chadian Returnees: When ‘Home’ No Longer Feels like Home (Video)
For nine years, the Boko Haram militant group has plagued the countries surrounding the Lake Chad basin, displacing millions of civilians. Many Chadians once fled to nearby Niger for refuge, but they have now been forced to return to Chad as the security situation in Niger deteriorates. Many of those who fled don’t have Chadian identity documents, so they do not qualify as refugees. This, in turn, means they do not receive much international help and instead spend their days waiting in a Chadian migrant camp with very poor sanitation.  France 24

Algeria: Thousands Expected to Take Part in Anti-Bouteflika March
Algerians on Friday will take part in what are expected to be the biggest protests the North African country has seen in decades. The demonstrations – dubbed the Million Man March – follow week-long protests in more than 30 cities against incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s re-election bid for a fifth term in office. Elected president in 1999, Bouteflika’s public appearances have been few since he suffered a serious stroke in 2013. The 81-year-old’s last official trip abroad dates back to January 2012 when he travelled to neighbouring Tunisia to participate in the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings that overthrew long-standing ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali among others. Al Jazeera

Mozambique Files Case against Credit Suisse
The government of Mozambique has filed a case in the High Court in London against the investment bank Credit Suisse over what has become known as the “tuna bond” scandal. Credit Suisse was one of the lenders that helped to arrange $2bn (£1.5bn) of government-backed loans that pushed Mozambique into a debt crisis. Also named in the filing are three former Credit Suisse bankers, who have already been indicted in the US. Credit Suisse declined to comment. The court records said the case related to “commercial contracts”, but gave no further details. Mozambique’s economy has been in crisis since 2016, when it emerged the country had more than $2bn of undisclosed state debts.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones