Africa Media Review for March 14, 2019

Guinea-Bissau: Ruling Party Wins Parliamentary Elections
Guinea-Bissau’s ruling party has emerged victorious from last weekend’s legislative elections, however, it will need to secure a deal with smaller parties in order to govern with a majority in parliament. The PAIGC — the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde — won 47 out of 102 seats according to provisional results published by the National Election Commission on Wednesday. Earlier on Tuesday, the party was able to forge an agreement to form a government with other parties which hold seven seats. The people of the small West African nation went to the polls on Sunday, March 10 to elect a new parliament. The current parliament has been stuck in a stalemate for the past four years after President Jose Mario Vaz sacked Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, who was formerly the head of the PAIGC. Since then Vaz has appointed a series of prime ministers, although none have managed to secure enough support to maintain a parliamentary majority. Deutsche Welle

Congo President Pardons about 700 Political Prisoners
Congo’s new President Felix Tshisekedi on Wednesday pardoned about 700 political prisoners who were jailed under his predecessor. Tshisekedi signed the decree, fulfilling a promise he made earlier this month to do so during his first 100 days in office. Among those set for release is Firmin Yangambi, who was sentenced in 2009 to 20 years in prison on charges of being a threat to national security. Also being freed is Franck Diongo, an opposition figure who was sentenced to five years during the previous administration. Tshisekedi was declared winner of the Dec. 30 election, leading Congo to its first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium nearly 60 years ago. He succeeded Joseph Kabila, who governed the largely impoverished but mineral-rich central African country for 18 years.  AP

Algerian Opposition Cries Foul over Election Delay
Algerian opposition figures on Wednesday voiced their rejection of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s recent decision to postpone scheduled presidential elections. Earlier this week, the 82-year-old Bouteflika announced that the polls — originally slated for April — would be postponed to a later date, yet to be decided. He also announced his decision to withdraw his candidacy from the upcoming election. The surprise announcement followed several weeks of popular demonstrations — in different parts of the country, including capital Algiers — against Bouteflika’s stated intention to run for a fifth term in office. In a joint statement issued Wednesday, several opposition groups rejected the decision, saying the move amounted to the de facto extension of Bouteflika’s fourth term in office. Anadolu Agency

US Says Algerians Have Right to ‘Free and Fair’ Elections
The United States said Tuesday it supports the right of the Algerian people to “free and fair elections,” amid fears that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking to prolong his two-decade rule. In a surprise announcement Monday, the ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika said he would not stand for a fifth term — but also cancelled next month’s presidential election in the North African country. “We support the rights of the Algerian people to vote in free and fair elections,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said, after thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Algiers on Tuesday. Palladino did not directly address Bouteflika’s decision, simply saying: “We’re closely monitoring reports that Algeria’s elections have been postponed.”  AFP

Sudan Announces New Cabinet amid Protests
Sudan’s prime minister on Wednesday announced a new Cabinet packed with supporters of President Omar al-Bashir, who is digging in after nearly three months of protests against his long rule. Al-Bashir disbanded the government last month and declared a state of emergency. Sudan has been gripped by nationwide protests since Dec. 19, and opposition parties and professional unions have called on al-Bashir to step down after three decades in power. Mohammed Taher Eyla, who al-Bashir tapped to form the new government, kept the defense and foreign ministers in place. Gen. Awad Mohammed Ibn Auf, the defense minister, was named vice president last month. Activists say most of the new ministers belong to the ruling National Congress party. A Sudanese appeals court meanwhile overturned a sentence of flogging and imprisonment against nine women who took part in anti-government protests, an opposition group said Wednesday. AP

Sudan’s Government Crackdown on Protest Stirs Concern
Rights groups are voicing concerns about Sudan’s violent action against anti-government protests, which have been sweeping the African nation since last December. The rights groups say the action has left at least 60 people dead and hundreds in jail. The rising costs of bread and fuel sparked the initial protests, which quickly escalated to demand removal of longtime President Omar al-Bashir. Jehanne Henry, associate director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said the widespread crackdown by Sudanese police was aimed at opposition leaders, protesters, activists and journalists. “These protests are ongoing daily and they have been met with quite a lot of violence and abuses by government security forces that inflict very brutal beating on people as they arrest them. Many have been killed so far,” she told VOA. VOA

Eight Killed in Blast at Somali Market: Official
At least eight people have been killed after a bomb exploded at a busy livestock market in a village in southwestern Somalia’s Bay region, an official has said. At least 40 others were wounded, Gof-Gadud village official Hassan Bayow told the local radio on Wednesday, according to the dpa news agency. “All the victims were civilians who were there to sell or buy livestock at the time,” he told Radio Kulmiye. Bayow said fighters belonging to armed group al-Shabab were likely behind the attack because those at the market had refused to pay the group. Al-Shabab regularly asks villagers for money handouts in the areas where it is present. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Al Jazeera

South Sudan: Government Says ‘Ready’ for Direct Talks with Rebels
South Sudan government said it was “ready” for talks with armed rebels and anyone who favours dialogue, as international pressure to end the conflict intensifies. The offer for negotiations came after the rebel group South Sudan United Front (SSUF) led by former military chief Gen. Paul Malong called for face-to-face talks with the government. Following meetings with IGAD officials in Nairobi on Tuesday, Malong expressed his willingness and readiness to engage in the peace process through negotiations with the government to be facilitated by the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan. “We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue because we need peace. What we want is a genuine dialogue with clear commitments, so we are waiting for IGAD to update us on the outcome of its meetings with those holdout groups,” said Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Minister of Information. Radio Tamazuj

23 South Sudanese Could Face ICC over War Crimes
At least 23 South Sudanese could face trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and possible genocide, the UN says. The suspects, who include politicians, reportedly committed the crimes in South Sudan’s five-year old war. The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said the identified individuals bore superior responsibility under international criminal law for serious crimes related to the conflict. Members of the commission told the the media Tuesday that the listed individuals, along with previously identified alleged perpetrators, could face justice in courts around the world, not just in South Sudan. The East African

Macron Warns of Chinese Risk to African Sovereignty
French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Tuesday of risks to the sovereignty of African countries from China’s increasing economic presence as he began a visit to the east of the continent. Macron arrived in Djibouti looking to reassert French influence in a former colony on the Horn of Africa where China has built a military base and invested billions of dollars in infrastructure. The French leader, who will also visit Kenya and Ethiopia on his current tour, cautioned that conditions attached to Chinese loans could be dangerous in the long term. “China is a great world power and has expanded its presence in many countries, especially in Africa, in recent years,” he said alongside Djibouti President Ismail mar Guelleh. “But what can look good in the short term … can often end up being bad over the medium to long term.  Reuters

France Pledges $2.8 Billion African Business Investment by 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to invest 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in Africa by financing and supporting startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises by 2022.Dubbed Choose Africa, the government would support about 10,000 enterprises across the continent by providing credit, technical support and equity financing, the French Development Agency said in an emailed statement. The funds will be mobilized via the AFD and its private-sector financing arm, Proparco. Macron, who is on a three-day trip to Africa to boost trade with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, said 1 billion euros was earmarked for equity investment in startups and SMEs. Bloomberg

Arrests in Cameroon for Corruption, or Challenges to Biya?
The recent arrest of a former official in Cameroon for alleged corruption has sparked a debate over whether the government is actually trying to stamp out corruption, or is cracking down on anyone it sees as a challenger to longtime President Paul Biya. Former defense minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o was arrested along with his wife and three of his close collaborators. Political analyst Eugene Mbida says Mebe Ngo’o had occupied several strategic positions, including the director of Biya’s cabinet, police chief, minister of transport and defense minister — who was instrumental in arresting people considered as opponents of Biya. Mebe Ngo’o was widely viewed by Cameroonians as the emblematic future president, according to Mbida. At least two dozen former government officials have been arrested and imprisoned in Cameroon over the past 10 years, including a former prime minister, several ex-ministers, and heads of state-owned corporations. VOA

Uganda Accuses Rwanda of Imposing Trade Embargo
As the ongoing border spat between Uganda and Rwanda escalates, Kampala is accusing Kigali of imposing non-tariff barriers to trade between the two countries. Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said on Wednesday that Rwanda has introduced an export permit system for those who intend to export goods to Uganda. “This is a technical and non-tariff barrier to trade, to which there has been no successful applicant. In effect, this is a trade embargo,” Mr Kutesa said. The border crisis started on February 28 when the Rwanda Revenue Authority announced the closure of the Katuna border post, ostensibly to allow the completion of the one-stop border post. The East African

South Africa: Jacob Zuma Embroiled in State Intelligence Scandal
Panic has gripped South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), following damning revelations on the abuse of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) powers over the past decade. The High Level Review Panel set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to examine the workings of the SSA — an organization long shrouded in both secrecy and scandal — has finally concluded that the SSA was appropriated and used to wage factional political battles in the African National Congress (ANC) under former President Jacob Zuma’s administration. It also describes how the agency became a “cash cow” of sorts for those working both inside and outside the organization. The SSA has been in shambles over the past 10 years, particularly under the Zuma administration. The agency has been accused of serving the political interests of the ruling ANC, leading to serious concerns regarding national security. Deutsche Welle

ANC Parliamentary List Includes Leaders Implicated in State Capture
The ANC has included leaders implicated in allegations of state capture in its parliamentary lists for the May 8 national and provincial elections. On Wednesday, the party’s lists for the National Assembly, National Council of Provinces and the nine provincial legislatures were submitted to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) by an ANC delegation headed by Magashule. In response to questions from the media, Magashule said ANC leaders and sitting and former government ministers implicated in allegations of state capture — including Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane and Malusi Gigaba — who had made it to the list would remain. Mail and Guardian

Italy’s Eni Makes Major Oil Find in Angola
Italian company Eni said on Wednesday it had made a major oil discovery in Angola that would boost its credentials as one of the most successful foreign oil producers in Africa in recent years. The find is Angola’s largest offshore discovery in years and may help Africa’s second-biggest crude producer avoid a steep decline in output due to the ageing of its other fields. Oil accounts for 95 percent of exports and around 70 percent of revenues, and the government has recently offered better fiscal terms and more collaboration to international energy firms in an effort to help its mostly impoverished population. Eni said its new Agogo prospect in Angola’s deep waters contained between 450 million and 650 million barrels of light oil with potential for further upside. Reuters

What the Collapse of a Major Bank Says about the Rise of Kenya’s Powerful Social Media Spaces
It began with a rumor. Late on the night of Sunday, Apr. 3, 2016, messages tore through Kenya’s numerous WhatsApp groups that one of the country’s best known mid-sized banks–Chase Bank–was in trouble. By Tuesday, Apr. 5, the news leaped onto Twitter. […] Some Facebook posts alleged that major depositors heard about the Chase Bank rumors prior to the Twitter revelations and immediately withdrew their money. For the majority of customers, however, the first sign that something truly was wrong didn’t come until Seraki’s tweet on Apr. 5. The Chase Bank social media accounts were running as normal. Users frantically tagged the bank in Seraki’s tweets, urging them to respond. The people managing the bank’s social media urged customers to ignore such rumors: “that information is completely false and we urge the public to ignore it” The bank drafted and issued a press statement asserting that Chase Bank was ‘strong, sound and transparent.’ Forty-eight hours later, on Apr. 7, 2016 Chase Bank was under receivership—taken over by the Central Bank— with all accounts frozen, and the CEO and managing director suspended pending investigations. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones