Africa Media Review for March 13, 2018

Sierra Leone to Recount Ballots from over 70 Stations
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) in Sierra Leone has announced that it is recounting votes at some polling stations before it declares final results. In a statement released late Monday, the NEC said it was recounting votes at 72 polling stations and that no votes had been cancelled. At the last update on Sunday the main opposition, Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), was leading the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). All in all the number of stations to be recounted overall comes up to 154 out of 11 122 stations across the country. Electoral commission chair Mohamed Conteh reassured Sierra Leoneans that “everything is being done to safeguard the choice they made on 7 March”.  ANA

The World’s First Blockchain-Powered Elections Just Happened in Sierra Leone
[…] In Sierra Leone’s Western District, the most populous in the country, votes cast were manually recorded by Agora, a Swiss foundation offering digital voting solutions, using a permissioned blockchain. The idea was simple: just like blockchain technology helps ensure transparency with crytpocurrency transactions using public ledgers, by recording each vote on blockchain, Agora ensured transparency with votes cast in the district. While entries on permissioned blockchains can be viewed by everyone, entries can only be validated by authorized persons. A lack of transparency has plagued many elections around the world, but particularly in some African countries where large sections of the electorate are often suspicions incumbent parties or ethnic loyalties have been responsible for the manipulation of the results in favor of one candidate or another. These suspicions remain even when there is little evidence of manipulation. A more transparent system could help restore trust. Quartz

Nigerian President Plans to Negotiate for Release of 110 Abducted Dapchi Girls
Nigeria’s presidency said on Monday it plans to negotiate for the release of 110 girls abducted from a school in the northeastern town of Dapchi last month, rather than use a military operation to free them by force. The kidnapping is one of the largest since the jihadist group Boko Haram abducted more than 270 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014. Some of the Chibok girls have been freed after what security sources say were ransom payments; around 100 are still being held. Nigeria is grappling with an insurgency by Boko Haram that has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009. Members of the group are suspected of the latest kidnapping, on Feb. 19, in the state of Yobe. VOA

Tillerson Vows US ‘Full Support’ for Nigeria in Jihadism Fight
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday slammed last month’s mass abduction of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria and promised Washington’s “full support” in the country’s fight against Boko Haram jihadists. “The recent kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls is heartbreaking,” Tillerson said on his arrival in the capital Abuja on the final leg of an African tour. “Nigeria has the US in full support and we are actively working with our partners in what we can assist you in this fight.” Tillerson, who was greeted by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, is on the final part of his first tour of Africa since becoming secretary of state. AFP

Tillerson Says Chad Has Made Progress toward Normalizing U.S. Ties
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Chad has acted to “normalize” its relationship with the U.S. after it was included on a visa-ban list, in a visit designed to show that Washington values President Idriss Deby’s government as an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State. Tillerson, the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit Chad, made the comments in the capital, N’Djamena, on the final day of a five-nation African tour. Upon arrival, he went straight into a meeting with Deby, whom he negotiated with for a major oil contract during his 40-year career with Exxon Mobil Corp. A key goal for Tillerson was to ensure sustained Chadian cooperation, while also easing its displeasure for being included last September on the visa-ban list. Chad’s military provides troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions, it hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees and it’s also helping counter militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in neighboring Libya. Bloomberg

Magufuli Warns Tanzanians: ‘…Demonstrate and See Who I Am’
Tanzanian President John Magufuli warned on Friday of a crackdown on anyone who participates in illegal demonstrations, vowing not to let his economic reforms be derailed by street protests. Magufuli, nicknamed “the Bulldozer” for his forceful leadership style, has introduced anti-corruption measures and tough economic reforms, including cuts to wasteful government spending, since taking office in November 2015. “Some people have failed to engage in legitimate politics; they would like to see street protests everyday…Let them demonstrate and they will see who I am,” he told a public gathering in northwestern Tanzania. Africa News

Congo Opposition Leader Katumbi Says He Will Return Home by June
Exiled Congolese opposition leader Moise Katumbi vowed on Monday to return to Democratic Republic of Congo by June to lodge his candidacy for a presidential election to replace President Joseph Kabila, currently scheduled for December. “I’m not scared of returning to Congo,” Katumbi told a news conference in Johannesburg. He left Congo in May 2016 for medical treatment after being accused by prosecutors of hiring mercenaries. “I will be there to present my candidacy,” he said, although he declined to give a more precise date. Reuters

Zero Tolerance for Sexual Abuse by SA Peacekeepers in the DRC
The United Nations has a zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse by South African peacekeepers with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but nevertheless nine cases were reported against South African soldiers last year and four in 2018. The matter of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) was raised during a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on 2 March, when it was heard that incidents are regularly reported by South Africa, unlike a number of other countries serving with the mission. According to Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, Director Defence Corporate Communication at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the Unite Nations reported nine alleged sexual exploitation and abuse cases to South Africa in 2017 and four alleged SEA cases in 2018.  DefenceWeb

Kenyan Opposition Suspends “People’s Assembly” after Rivals Meet
Kenyan opposition politicians said on Monday they had suspended their rival assembly, days after their leader said he would reconcile with President Uhuru Kenyatta and end months of post-election turmoil. Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga met on Friday and promised to re-unite the country after 100 people were killed in clashes, mainly between opposition supporters and security forces. The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition said it welcomed the new spirit of cooperation – though it warned that the suspension could be lifted if the government did not address divisive issues including land. “We have accepted. We acknowledge that it is better to reason together than separately,” the NASA Peoples Assembly Organising Committee said, in the first sign that rank-and file campaigners backed the leaders’ surprise reconciliation. Reuters

Cameroon Separatists Release Video of Abducted Govt Official
A month after armed elements under the banner of the so-called Ambazonia Republic abducted a Cameroon government official, a video of the said officer has popped up on social media. The said video showed the Nimbong Aaron Yong, a regional delegate for Social Affairs in the NorthWest pleading for his substantive minister to intervene before the separatists “sacrifice” him. According to him, the Ambazonia leaders only wanted proof of life to be shown of over 40 of their comrades arrested in Nigeria and subsequently deported to Yaounde. “I’m pleading with my minister to intervene. That the leaders of Ambazonia, arrested and brought to Yaounde, should be shown to the public, that they are alive. I have been given 48 hours, otherwise, be sacrificed, if the leaders are not shown,” he said. Africa News

South Sudan Calls on Egypt to Support Peace Negotiations with Opposition
The Republic of South Sudan has called on the Egyptian authorities to support its attempts to accomplish peace negotiations with the opposition forces. It has stressed on its commitment to maintain all state institutions until presidential election is held. The Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomoro, said the “South Sudan’s government hopes that Egypt supports the country’s peace negotiations with the opposition armed forces,” stressing his government’s desire to achieve national peace and development. Lomoro’s remarks came during his meeting yesterday with the Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry. Middle East Monitor

Egypt Escalates Crackdown on Media ahead of Election
Egyptian authorities have published a list of telephone numbers for citizens to use to bring attention to any media reports they perceive as undermining the country’s security or hurting public interest. The publication of the numbers — listed in a statement issued late on Monday by the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor — is a step up in the government’s crackdown on the media less than two weeks before the presidential election in which the incumbent, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is running virtually unopposed. Last week, chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq told his staff to monitor the media and move against any they consider to be “hurting national interests.” The statement listed eight mobile phone numbers for different parts of Egypt, advising citizens to send complaints on WhatsApp or as text messages. AP

Killing of Civilians by Ethiopia Troops No Accident: Residents
Residents of a town in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region on Monday disputed the government’s characterisation of a deadly shooting that left nine civilians dead as an accident. Ethiopian state media said Sunday that soldiers shot nine civilians near the town of Moyale on the Kenyan border after mistaking them for members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who were trying to sneak into the country. But two residents who spoke to AFP said the shooting took place in an area known for its opposition to the government, and came amid worsening relations between the populace and soldiers deployed to Moyale under a nationwide state of emergency declared last month. “The government is just disseminating misinformation,” said one resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. AFP

In Poor Countries, Antismoking Activists Face Threats and Violence
Eight years ago, more than a dozen men with AK-47s shot their way into Akinbode Oluwafemi’s home in Lagos, Nigeria. They killed his house guard and his brother-in-law, and briefly held a muzzle to the head of one of his year-old twins. “I do not know why I was not killed that day,” said Mr. Oluwafemi, who as deputy director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has been one of his country’s leading antismoking activists. He was one of several tobacco control advocates at last week’s 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town who in telephone conversations described violence or threats they faced as they fought the expansion of smoking in their countries. No arrests were made in any case, and none of the victims could prove that the men assaulting or threatening them worked for the industry. But the pattern was consistent. The New York Times

French Minister Arrives in Mayotte as Rage Grips Tropical Islands
Annick Girardin, France’s overseas territory minister, arrived in Mayotte Monday following weeks of protests across the Indian Ocean archipelago. But few believe Girardin can solve the chronic problems confronting Mayotte’s residents. Rubber tyres and tree trunks block roads in these tiny Indian Ocean islands, traffic slows to a crawl and protestors have been taking to the streets over the past three weeks in the French territory of Mayotte. Situated in the Gulf of Mozambique, between Madagascar and the coast of southeastern Africa, Mayotte has sun, sands and is ringed by a coral reef rich in marine life, all of which makes for a tropical paradise tourist destination. France 24

Mali Study Leads to Huge Cuts in Child Mortality
A health intervention costing as little as $8 per person a year could cut child mortality in Africa to levels close to those in the US, a study in Mali suggests. The seven-year project carried out by US and Malian researchers cut the rate of under-five child mortality in a district on the outskirts of the capital Bamako to just 7 per 1,000 when the study ended. That compared with 154 per 1,000 when the team began in 2008 and the latest data for US child mortality rate of 6.5 per 1,000. “When the study began, 1 in 7 children died before they could celebrate their fifth birthday,” said the researchers in a paper published on Monday in the BMJ Global Health journal. “Seven years later, child deaths had become rare — only 1 in 142.”  Financial Times