Africa Media Review for March 12, 2019

Sudan’s Shifting Calculus of Power
President Omar al Bashir’s declaration of a year-long state of emergency in Sudan indicates that he has opted, for now, to take the route of greater repression to quell the popular protests that have been unfolding across the country since December 2018. The initial response from Sudanese citizens, however, has been even more protests. These protests are being led by Sudan’s professional associations and large youth population who are chafing for more economic opportunity and political freedoms after 30 years under Bashir’s rule. The emergency declaration was accompanied by the dissolving of state governments and the appointment of military or intelligence officers as new governors in the country’s 18 states. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudan Parliament Reduces State of Emergency to 6 Months
Sudan’s parliament has approved a six-month countrywide state of emergency, Parliament Speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omer announced Monday. The move comes after President Omar al-Bashir declared a one-year state of emergency in February. Along with the state of emergency, al-Bashir had also announced the establishment of “emergency courts” tasked with prosecuting anti-regime demonstrators, smugglers and foreign currency speculators. According to Sudan’s Democratic Lawyers Alliance, an estimated 870 protesters have been hauled before the newly-established courts in the past two weeks alone. Addressing lawmakers at Monday’s assembly session, Justice Minister Mohamed Ahmed Salim claimed the new courts were not specifically targeting protesters, whose right to due legal process, he said, was not being violated.  Anadolu Agency

Algeria’s President Abandons Bid for 5th Term amid Protests
Algeria’s president of two decades abandoned his bid for a fifth term Monday following unprecedented protests over his fitness for office, but his simultaneous postponement of an election set for next month had critics worried he intends to hold on to power. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since he had a stroke in 2013 and just returned from two weeks in a Geneva hospital, promised to establish a panel to plan a rescheduled vote and to put an interim government in place. In a letter to the nation released by state news agency APS on Monday, Bouteflika, 82, stressed the importance of including Algeria’s disillusioned youth in the reform process and putting the country “in the hands of new generations.” But for many of the protesters – students, lawyers and even judges among them – the most important sentence in the president’s letter read, “There will be no fifth term.”  AP

Algerians Keep up Pressure after President’s Half-Concession
Algerian students are protesting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to delay presidential elections indefinitely. Bouteflika’s announcement Monday to withdrew his candidacy for a fifth term cheered his opponents. But on Tuesday, there was more skepticism over his decision to delay an April 18 election without setting a new date, which opponents say could leave him in power indefinitely Protesters question Bouteflika’s fitness for office after a 2013 stroke that has left him largely hidden from public view. They’re also angry at the gas-rich country’s power structure seen as secretive and corrupt. Many protesters are now demanding that Bouteflika step down April 18 instead of waiting for a new vote. Student protests started Tuesday in Algiers and are planned in other cities, and nationwide protests are expected Friday.  AP

Libyan Army Chief Strengthens Hand by Taking More Territory
A major military push south by the Libyan strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar has left him in the ascendant, and possibly able with international backing to dictate the terms of a future Libyan political settlement, including presidential and parliamentary elections. Haftar, the head of the Libyan national army, has been strengthened by a successful offensive into the often lawless south-west, and some observers say he is in a better position to dictate terms to his rival Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the UN-recognised government of national accord in Tripoli. The push into the Fezzan region has left Haftar in control of two-thirds of the country, most border crossings and many key oil installations, including the large oil fields in the Murzuk basin.  The Guardian

Dozens of Militants Killed in Shootouts in Egypt’s Sinai
Egyptian security forces have killed 46 “very dangerous” Islamist militants in shootouts in northern Sinai, the military said on Monday. The armed forces say several hundred militants have been killed since it launched a major campaign in February 2018 aimed at vanquishing Islamic State or related jihadist groups in Sinai. “Over the last period” the campaign had resulted in “the elimination of 46 very dangerous members of terrorist elements during exchanges of fire in the north and central Sinai…,” the armed forces said in a video recording, without specifying dates or locations of the security operations. About 100 suspects had been arrested, more than 200 explosive devices found and over 30 cars and scooters confiscated or destroyed, it said. The statement did not give the identity of suspects or their affiliation. Reuters

Violence Sparks First Major Humanitarian Crisis in Burkina Faso
The Burkinabe village of Bawenne was used to contending with nature, but not the impacts of violence, until hundreds of people started showing up late last year, fleeing suspected Islamist attacks. The displaced had walked for days — some with babies on their backs — to arrive at the village of 2,000 people that was already struggling to survive in northern Burkina Faso’s barren scrubland. By March 1, the arrivals numbered 1,200. “This situation can’t last,” said Bawenne Mayor Ousmane Zango, standing amid crowds of people gathered in the sun outside the village’s small round brick huts. “We won’t be able to feed them for even a month,” he told Reuters. This kind of crisis is new for the entire country, a landlocked West African nation that was largely peaceful until, three years ago, a local Islamist group started to gain a hold. Reuters

More Seats than Candidates as Madagascar Prepares for Elections
Madagascar may not have enough candidates to compete in legislative elections scheduled for May 27. A day before registration closes, only 88 candidates have registered to take part in the vote for the Indian Ocean island nation’s 151-seat parliament. The previous ballot in 2013 attracted 2,069 candidates. The low turnout comes two months after the government increased the registration deposit that candidates must pay the electoral authority to 5 million ariary ($1,400) from 400,000 ariary. Of the total number that registered, 62 are independent candidates and 26 represent political parties, Fano Rakotondrazaka, a spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission, told reporters Monday in the capital, Antanarivo. Aspiring lawmakers have until 5 p.m on Tuesday to register their candidacy and the commission has no plans to extend the deadline, he said.  Bloomberg

Environment Summit in Nairobi Opens with Somber Tone
The fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) kicked off Monday in Kenya with a somber tone in the wake of yesterday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash. World leaders, scientists and environmentalists gathered in Nairobi at the United Nations Environment Headquarters started the day by observing several minutes of silence for the 157 people on board the plane who died Sunday, among them 22 UN delegates who were heading to the conference. “I sincerely thank the Eastern European Group for nominating me as president and trusting and supporting me throughout the presidency. I would like to express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in the crash,” said Siim Kiisler, UNEA president and Estonia’s environment minister, speaking during the opening plenary. Those sentiments were echoed by many other speakers, including Kenya’s Environment Minister Keriako Tobiko and Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the UN Environment Program. Among the 157 victims were UN staff, interpreters and delegates who had boarded the flight headed for Nairobi.  Anadolu Agency

Thousands of People Protest in Benin to Support Opposition
Thousands of people in Benin joined a march on Monday to protest the exclusion of five main opposition parties from legislative elections next month by the West African nation’s electoral commission. The decision of the electoral body to only allow two parties loyal to President Patrice Talon to participate in the vote has been widely condemned by civil-society groups, who say Talon’s administration is increasingly repressive, especially toward the media and political opponents. The protest in the commercial capital, Cotonou, was organized by the opposition but publicly supported by senior political figures such as former President Nicephore Soglo and the vice president of the National Assembly, Eric Houndete. Bloomberg

Top US Diplomat Suggests Taking Cameroon to Global Forum
The top United States diplomat to Africa says perhaps it’s time to take the deadly separatist crisis in Cameroon to an “international forum.” An exasperated Tibor Nagy told reporters on Tuesday that “my heart breaks for Cameroon … I just don’t understand why this crisis goes on and on and on.” Some half a million people have been displaced as Cameroon’s government battles an Anglophone separatist movement in the largely French-speaking country. Weary residents in the middle have pleaded for peace. Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, called for “open, unlimited national dialogue.” Cameroon’s government in a strongly worded statement last week criticized Nagy’s earlier comments on the Anglophone crisis, accusing him of misunderstanding the situation and interfering in the West African country’s internal affairs.  AP

UN: December Massacre in Congo Left 535 People Dead
Intercommunal violence that left at 535 people dead in western Congo may amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report by United Nations investigators released on Tuesday that cited witnesses saying village chiefs helped plan the violence. The massacre took place over three days in December, not long before the country’s long-delayed presidential election. Violence erupted in Yumbi between the Banunu and Batende communities after a dispute over a burial for a Banunu customary chief. The attacks “followed strikingly similar patterns and were characterized by extreme violence and speed, leaving little time for people to escape,” the U.N. said. Banunu villagers were targeted with weapons including firearms and gasoline, the investigation found.  AP

DRC’s Bemba Seeks $77M in Compensation from ICC
Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president and rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the International Criminal Court (ICC), his lawyers have announced. The 55-year-old’s legal team last week filed an application asking judges at the The Hague-based court to award him a total of nearly 69 million euros ($77m) for what they called a miscarriage of justice over his former conviction for war crimes, his lawyers said in a statement on Monday. The sum includes damages for the decade Bemba spent in prison between 2008-2018 for alleged murders and rapes committed by fighters belonging to his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel group in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002-2003. Al Jazeera

Rwanda Opposition Calls for Justice following Death of Party’s Spokesperson
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire has called for justice following the death of her party’s spokesperson Anselme Mutuyimana on Sunday. “We need justice,” Ingabire said. She said witnesses had described men in police uniforms in a red car detaining Mutuyimana in the western Mahoko area. It was not immediately clear how 30-year-old Mutuyimana had died. Rwandan authorities said they were investigating the death. “The investigation has started. No suspects so far,” said the spokesman for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Modeste Mbabazi. Mutuyimana’s elder brother Augustin Tubanambazi told Reuters that the body had no visible wounds, but had blood in its mouth. Twenty-five years after a genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery.  Reuters

South Africa’s Land-Expropriation Debate: The State of Play
South Africas ruling party plans to change the nations constitution to make it easier to seize land without paying for it. Lawmakers have also introduced separate draft legislation that outlines the circumstances under which the state can do this.The African National Congress says amendments are needed to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to colonialism and white-minority rule, a view shared by the Economic Freedom Fighters, the second-largest opposition party. Farmers groups and some other opposition parties say the changes will undermine property rights and deter investment, and that they will contest any changes in court. Lawmakers in both chambers of parliament — the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces — in December approved a committee report that recommends the amendment to section 25 of the constitution, which protects property rights.  Bloomberg

As China Prevails, France’s Macron Shuffles His Cards in Djibouti
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday sought to reassert the importance of France in its former colony Djibouti with Paris increasingly fearing China’s muscular role in Africa as it expands economic and military influence across the continent. Djibouti, strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal, hosts France’s largest naval base on the continent and is home to some 1,400 personnel used to train African troops as well as to monitor the Horn of Africa and Yemen. While it was seen as a vital outpost in the past, French administrations have disregarded it in recent years with Macron only the second French leader to visit the East African country in the last 20 years. “France considered Djibouti for too long to be a territory that was won,” said a senior French diplomat based in the region. “But now the competition from China is fierce.” Those comments echoed President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s public criticism in 2015 accusing France – from which it gained independence in 1977 – of abandoning Djibouti and investing very little.  VOA

Tanzania Relaxes Protectionist Regulations in Mining Sector
Tanzania has relaxed the mining sector regulations that require local companies to own controlling stake in multinationals. Once seen as too ambitious, the Mining Sector Regulations 2018 required Tanzanian companies to have at least 51 per cent stake in mining firms while multinationals were to partner with their locally owned institutions. The regulations and the Mining Act amendments, which were part of mineral sector reforms, were meant to give the government a bigger share of the mining sector pie. Additionally, they sought to boost the participation of Tanzanian nationals and firms in multinationals’ operations. But a year later, further amendments have seen procedural ownership percentage reduced to 20 per cent. Analysts say that Tanzania, though endowed with abundant minerals, still feels little impact on its revenue collection or even on lives of most Tanzanians over the years.  The East African



Photo: Adam Jones