Africa Media Review for March 15, 2019

Malawi’s Joyce Banda Quits Presidential Race
Joyce Banda, who was Malawi’s first female president in 2012, has withdrawn from the 2019 presidential race, endorsing opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera who heads the Malawi Congress Party. Speaking to AFP, Banda, who heads the People’s Party, confirmed her decision, saying: “Yes, it is true”. But she declined to comment further ahead of a joint news conference with Chakwera on Saturday. In a joint statement, the two parties said they had begun talks in 2015, a year after Banda lost the presidency, partly as a result of a huge multimillion-dollar corruption case known as the “Cashgate” scandal. Banda fled the country into self-imposed exile but returned to Malawi last year, saying the allegations against her were politically motivated. She has never faced any charges. AFP

Over 30 Boko Haram Militants Killed in Lake Chad Region
At least 33 Boko Haram militants have been killed and many others injured as the West African regional army launched airstrikes on their bases in the Lake Chad region, an army spokesman said on Thursday. Timothy Antigha, spokesman to the regional troops, said in a statement that the ground troops working with the Air Force team also destroyed or recovered large weapons from the militant hideouts following the air raid. “The multinational joint task force wishes to warn individuals still associated with Boko Haram to surrender themselves for demobilization and rehabilitation, while the opportunity still exists,” Antigha added.  Anadolu Agency

US Military Attacks Al-Shabab for Third Time This Week
The U.S. military has carried out three airstrikes against al-Shabab militants in Somalia in less than a week, continuing a rapid pace that could triple last year’s record-setting strike numbers. According to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the latest strike killed three militants near Malayle in the Lower Juba region on Wednesday. The “collective self-defense airstrike” targeted militants who were shooting at Somali National Security Forces on patrol, AFRICOM said. U.S. service members were not on the ground. The strike came a day after an airstrike killed two al-Shabab militants in the vicinity of Huley in the Lower Shabelle region. And on Monday, another U.S. military strike in Lower Shabelle region — this one near Dara Salaam — killed eight militants who had attacked Somali National Army soldiers and U.S. troops who were advising their Somali partners.  VOA

Algerian Prime Minister Promises New Government in Days
Algeria’s new prime minister promised Thursday to create a government within days and to respond to the demands of protesting youth, a day before planned nationwide protests that could further crank up the pressure on authorities. As the country faces mounting calls for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui told a news conference that the government would be in place by early next week and will include a combination of young people and more experienced members. He called upon all sides to build trust and cooperate in order to overcome the crisis shaking the gas-rich country, which is an important player in the global fight against Islamic extremism. “We have understood the message from Algerian youth in the protests. We will from now on commit ourselves to responding,” he said. AP

Embattled Sudan President Reshuffles Cabinet amid Protests
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has reshuffled his cabinet, appointing at least 15 new ministers, state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday. Changes included the ministers of petroleum, finance and the interior. The move comes amid relenting protests calling for the president to quit. A state of emergency imposed in late February has done very little to assuage the concerns of protesters who insist the president must leave and a transition team appointed. The state of emergency initially imposed for a 12-month period was earlier this week halved by lawmakers. Economic protests in December 2018 morphed into the current push against the president who has been in charge since 1989. He has stepped aside as leader of the ruling party amid pressure.  Africa News

Lieutenant General Mohammed Al-Sharif Takes Office as Libya’s Chief of Staff
Lieutenant General Mohammed Al-Sharif has taken office as the Chief of Staff of the Tripoli-based Presidential Council’s (PC) government replacing Brigadier General Abdelrahman Al-Taweel. The dismissed chief of Staff Al-Taweel handed over the office and tasks to Al-Sharif, according to the media office of the General Staff of the PC. Al-Sharif was appointed by the PC last February as the Chief of Staff and General Salim Juha as his deputy. In the same month, the dismissed chief, Al-Taweel, refused the order of his replacement, saying the decision was void as Fayez Al-Sirraj had taken it individually without consultation with other PC members.  Libya Observer

Is Tripoli Next? A Warlord’s Victories Risk Libya Conflagration
Libyas most powerful warlord has his sights on the capital. And even his international backers are nervous. Based in the east of Libya, Khalifa Haftar has made no secret of his ambition to capture Tripoli, the northwestern seat of the internationally-recognized government. His threats were long dismissed as bombast, but a lightening advance through the south this year has put Haftar in control of most oil resources and could embolden him to make his much-vaunted final push. Alarmed, international powers are clamoring to avert a military showdown that could rattle global oil markets and sow further chaos in a divided country already struggling to defeat Islamic State and stem the flow of migrants toward Europe. Bloomberg

Ethiopia Parties Sign Pact Ahead of 2020 Polls, PM Stresses Fairness
Competing political parties in Ethiopia on Thursday signed a peace pact as part of democratic efforts as the country gears towards crucial polls slated for 2020. Reports indicate that over 100 parties were signatories to the code of conduct document at an event held in the capital Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed the document on behalf of the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF. He described the occasion as a democratic milestone. “Describing the day as a historic and unique one that has bound more than 100 parties in common understanding, he called upon all to treat the document as one that guides the actions of all.  Africa News

Burkina Army Investigating Claims Its Troops Carried Out Executions
Burkina Faso’s military has launched an investigation after a rights group accused the army of carrying out executions during a recent operation in which it said it had killed nearly 150 militants, the government said on Thursday. The army said in February it had killed 146 militants in response to an attack on civilians, part of a broader response to worsening Islamist and interethnic violence across northern Burkina since last year. Human Rights Watch said later that some of those killed were executed in front of their families. On Wednesday, a local rights group cited witnesses as saying 60 of the dead had been summarily executed. Analysts are concerned that such abuse could fuel spiraling instability in previously peaceful Burkina. In neighboring Mali, jihadist groups have tapped into ethnic rivalries and anger with the central government to recruit.  Reuters

Attacks Could Reverse Gains in Congo’s Ebola Fight, Says WHO
Attacks on Ebola treatment centers in eastern Congo threaten to reverse the gains being made against the current outbreak of the deadly virus, the director-general of the World Health Organization said Thursday as a fourth assault on a health center was reported. Nearly 600 people have died from Ebola in the volatile region, making it the second most deadly in history. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has just returned from a visit to the affected areas in Congo, insisted that efforts to contain Ebola are succeeding. He said that the WHO hopes the outbreak will be brought to an end in the next six months. His optimistic assessment Thursday starkly contrasted to one offered last week by the head of Doctors Without Borders, which has had to pull out of two Ebola centers following attacks. Eastern Congo is home to a myriad of armed groups, and the Ebola epidemic has deepened the political and economic grievances of many in the area.  AP

Spanish NGO: Survivors Say 45 Migrants Die in Mediterranean
A Spanish human rights activist quoted survivors Thursday saying that 45 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. Helena Maleno, who runs a Tangiers-based non-governmental organization, said she based her figure on accounts from seven female survivors. They told her a pregnant woman was among the dead. A Moroccan official said he couldn’t confirm the report. He said he was aware of 21 migrants who were rescued by the Royal Marines after their rubber dinghy floundered. He said he knew of only one body being recovered Thursday, a day after the boat went adrift as it crossed the Mediterranean. AP

Angolans’ Views Mixed on Efforts to Recover Suspect Funds
Lusia Bento Xicuba is one of thousands of street vendors in Praça da Madeira, an unlicensed market about a half-hour’s drive from downtown Luanda. Xicuba’s construction materials business has been struggling since the price of oil, Angola’s biggest export, dropped four years ago. Angola has since faced a shortage of foreign currency, which has discouraged banks from lending to businesses like Xicuba’s. The government of President Joao Lourenco has been seeking to inject money into the country with an amnesty for those who repatriate suspect funds. VOA

Rwanda, Uganda Trade Barbs as Dispute Grows
Uganda has failed to “address fundamental issues” raised by Kigali, begins a statement by the Rwandan Foreign Affairs ministry in the latest series of rebuttals between the two countries. On Wednesday, Kampala had accused Rwanda of introducing an export permit system for those who intend to export goods to Uganda, “to which there has been no successful applicant.” Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said that Kigali had imposed a trade embargo and was blocking goods and Rwanda-registered trucks from crossing into Uganda. “Claims that Rwanda has instituted trade embargo on Uganda are as untrue as they are diversionary,” responded Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday. The East African

Scandal over Kenya’s Border Fence That Cost $35M for Just 10km
Kenyan MPs have asked how a 10km wire fence built along the country’s border with Somalia cost $35 million. The government had originally promised to build a complex wall to run about 700km (435 miles) along the border. But the “wall”, which was meant to stop al-Shabab militants from crossing into Kenya, has ended up being a wire fence that is only 10km long. Kenya’s parliament has now suspended construction, and is demanding an investigation into the project. BBC

France Seals Contracts Worth over 2 Billion Euros in Kenya
France signed infrastructure contracts in Kenya worth more than 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion) on Thursday, including a 1.6 billion euro 30-year concession for a Vinci-led consortium to operate a highway between Nairobi and Mau Summit. Renewables firm Voltalia also sealed a 70 million euro contract for two solar power plants, while an Airbus-led consortium won a 200 million euro contract for coastal and maritime surveillance. The contracts were signed during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking to boost trade in the East Africa region. Reuters

World Leaders Pledge Billions to Save African Forests
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday joined Kenya’s president and other heads of state to open the high-level session of the UN Environment Assembly at the UN Environment’s Africa offices in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Macron kicked off his speech by mourning the people who were killed when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed earlier this week. “These were our children, nine French people, and a number of members of the Secretariat, members of NGOs present here,” he said. “Kenyans and many perished in this crash because they were working on the environment towards this summit and I would like to extend special recognition to their memory.” Macron joined world leaders gathered at the summit and other organizations such as the World Bank in pledging billions of dollars towards preservation of African forests, which are fast disappearing due to logging and climate change. Anadolu Agency