Africa Media Review for March 18, 2019

Trends in African Maritime Security
More than 90 percent of the world’s trade travels by sea. Submarine cables transmit 95 percent of telecommunications data and roughly $10 trillion per day. Cutting one group of such cables could black out a third of the world’s Internet. The maritime smuggling of drugs, oil, antiquities, charcoal, ivory, and other goods facilitates transnational criminal networks and funds terrorist groups. Weapons trafficking fuels conflicts around the globe, and with more private armed activity at sea, the line between state and non-state action is blurring when it comes to maritime security. Life as we know it today depends heavily on the maritime environment, and thus, maritime security is an integral albeit often invisible safeguard to our modern way of life. An array of maritime threats poses serious challenges to fundamental aspects of our interconnected global community. Dr. Ian Ralby, the Africa Center’s faculty lead for maritime law and security, discusses the significance of emerging maritime security trends in Africa and key developments in adapting to evolving threats.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

At Least 16 Dead as Attackers Storm Mali Army Camp
At least 16 soldiers have been killed in a raid on an army camp in central Mali’s Mopti region, two local councillors in the area where the attack happened said. The base is in the village of Dioura, the mayor of the nearest town Kareri, Youssouf Coulibaly, told Reuters by telephone from inside the base on Sunday. “I’m currently inside the base and there were many deaths here. We have counted 16 so far,” Coulibaly said. Army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone confirmed the attack but gave no further details. A second military source told AFP that the troops had tried to fight off the attackers. “Our men responded … We don’t have an exact toll yet but there is a lot of damage,” he said.  Al Jazeera

Algeria’s Ruling Party Turns Back on Bouteflika as Member Says He Is ‘History Now’
[…] A senior FLN figure said in an interview on Thursday night the long-ruling president was “history now”. The remarks by Hocine Kheldoun to Ennahar television were another setback for Bouteflika, who hoped to pacify Algerians by promising to take steps to change a political landscape that has been dominated by a ruling elite for decades. Kheldoun, a former ruling party spokesman, became one of the most senior FLN officials to break with Bouteflika publicly, saying the party had to look forward and support the aims of demonstrators. Some parents had brought children to Friday’s demonstration. “I want a better future,” said Mohamed Kemime, 10, draped in a national flag.  The Independent

Algerian Protests against President Bouteflika ‘Biggest Yet’
Thousands have gathered in Algeria’s capital to demand the immediate resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika despite him dropping his bid for a fifth term. The BBC’s Mohamed Arezki Himeur in Algiers says it is the biggest protest in memory, with people of all ages packing out the capital’s boulevards. Police have fired tear gas at protesters near the president’s office. On Monday, the president postponed the planned 18 April presidential vote. Protesters, however, accuse the 82-year-old leader of illegally extending his term. Students have been leading the massive anti-Bouteflika protests, now in their fifth week. Our reporter says that the latest demonstrations included many families in what has generally been a peaceful and good-natured atmosphere.  BBC

DRC Ruling Party Fails to Get Senate Seat, Kabila Coalition Dominates
Former Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila’s coalition won a clear majority in senate elections on Friday, officials said, further undermining his successor Felix Tshisekedi’s ability to govern independently. Opposition leader Tshisekedi won a surprise victory in the presidential election on Dec. 30 over Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Kabila was barred by term limits from standing for a new term after 18 years in power. But Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition won about 70 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament and an overwhelming majority of provincial assembly seats in elections also held on Dec. 30.  Africa news

DR Congo: Safety Fears Surround Special Yumbi Vote
On December 30, 2018, presidential, parliamentary and regional elections were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The city of Yumbi, however, was excluded from the election because of violent clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities that broke out several days before the vote. The official decision to postpone the election in Yumbi because of the violence, and in Beni, Butembo and the area around Beni because of an Ebola epidemic, affected some 1.2 million registered voters. Now, several months later, authorities want the people of Yumbi and the other districts to head to the polls. But many in Yumbi are scared and fear for their safety. Baudouin, a local resident, says: “They are forcing us to vote.” He does not know how an election is supposed to go ahead in Yumbi when “some Banunu peoples have fled to small islands in the Congo River and others to Republic of the Congo.” He says he has no idea when they will ever return. Deutsche Welle

Tanzania Opposition Chief Slams ‘Police State’ after Jail Stint
The head of Tanzania’s main opposition party on Friday condemned what he described as a climate of fear installed by a “police state” after he was held in prison for more than three months. Freeman Mbowe, head of the Chadema party, and fellow lawmaker Esther Matiko who was also jailed, described appalling prison conditions. “This country has become a real police state,” Mbowe told a press conference. “Fear has gripped the country… people don’t dare speak out, freedom of the press no longer exists,” he said. Mbowe and Matiko were arrested in November after they failed to appear in court twice to face charges over a protest march in February 2018 during which a 22-year-old student was killed by a police stray bullet.  AFP

Border Dispute to Economic War: Tables Turn as Uganda Accuses and Rwanda Denies
Rwanda on Thursday dismissed accusations made by Uganda’s foreign ministry that it had imposed a trade embargo on bilateral trade with Uganda. The accusations of an economic war are the latest installment of a diplomatic row that Rwanda says has lasted two years. The rift came to a climax at the end of last month when Rwanda partially closed its common border with Uganda, and issued a travel advisory to its citizens against travelling to Uganda. On Wednesday, Uganda’s foreign ministry issued a statement accusing Rwanda of introducing an export permit system for those that intend to import goods to Uganda.  Africa News

Nigeria: Major Shake-up as Army Redeploys 21 Generals
The Nigerian Army has approved the redeployment of no fewer than 21 General Officers Commanding, brigade commanders and others, saying the action is for greater efficiency. A statement released on Sunday by the acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, said the army redeployed the commanders of 33, 23, 34, 16 and 14 brigades, among others. The redeployments also affected senior officers at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, the National Defence College and the Headquarters, Command Army Records. Musa said, “The army released the postings and appointments of some of its senior officers. Those affected by this include Maj. Gen. H.O. Otiki, who has been posted to 8 Division as General Officer Commanding; while Maj-Gen. S.O. Olabanji, the erstwhile GOC was posted to the Infantry Corps Centre and appointed as Commander, Infantry Corps. The Punch

Record Cocaine Busts Signal West Africa Is Transit Hub Again
Record cocaine busts in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde have fueled fears of a resurgence of drug trafficking in West Africa that’s likely to benefit Islamist militant groups in the region. Authorities in the two former Portuguese colonies have intercepted as much as 10.4 metric tons of cocaine this year, more than the total amount seized on the entire continent between 2013 and 2016, according to the latest data available from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Analysts say that gangs smuggling drugs into Europe pay Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State to protect shipments crossing the Sahel and then the Sahara, even though the extent of the trade isn’t clear. “There were doubts whether West Africa was still being used as a major transit route, but these seizures seem to suggest that there is a return,” said Mark Shaw, director of the Geneva-based Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. “It’s a surprise and it’s very significant.”  AP

Russia and US Spar over South Sudan Peace Agreement
The Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan by a vote of 14-0 on Friday with Russia abstaining to protest the resolution’s failure to welcome September’s peace agreement. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky’s complaint was clearly aimed at the United States, among others. U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen told reporters after the vote that the Trump administration “remains deeply concerned by the lack of political commitment from parties at the national level to fully implement all tenets of the agreement.” “Having seen previous peace agreements in South Sudan fail to hold and the country fall back into conflict and instability,” Cohen said, “the United States and the South Sudanese people expect South Sudan’s leaders to demonstrate a clear commitment to the implementation of the agreement through rhetoric and action.”  AP

Sudan, South Sudan Agree on Border Demarcation Report
The Joint Border Commission (JBC) between Sudan and South Sudan has held its eights meeting in Addis Ababa. Head of Sudan’s border commission Muaz Tango said the two sides agreed to adopt the report of the joint border technical committee regarding the areas agreed. According to Tango, the JBC has directed the joint committee to prepare a comprehensive report about the border demarcation in order to discuss it during the next meeting. He added the meeting stressed the need to speed up the completion of the border planning to make the borderline a point for convergence in order to strengthen popular, social and economic ties between the two countries.  Sudan Tribune

Pope Reactivates Plans for South Sudan Trip
Pope Francis has asked aides to resume plans for a visit to South Sudan, a trip that had to be scrapped in 2017 because of the civil war in the world’s youngest country. During a meeting with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Saturday, Francis “expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a Vatican statement said. It added that he wanted to make the trip as “a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process”. Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar sparked fighting, often along ethnic lines.  Reuters

Lawmakers Want More of Museveni Rule
Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) lawmakers have endorsed President Yoweri Museveni to continue leading the party and the state. The Parliamentary Caucus in Kyankwanzi District unanimously endorsed the Chobe resolution by the party’s central executive committee (CEC) to have President Museveni continue leading. NRM spokesman Rogers Mulindwa, in a statement on Sunday, said the legislators’ position was taken shortly after party Secretary-General Justine Kasule Lumumba’s presentation titled: Towards 2021: Milestones and Strategies for the NRM Party. Ms Lumumba read out to members the Chobe resolutions.  The East African

Tendai Biti Books Seized by ‘Fascist State’ in Zimbabwe
A consignment of books co-authored by Movement for Democratic Change MP Tendai Biti has allegedly been seized by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in Zimbabwe. Biti co-authored the book, Democracy Works, with former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Dr Greg Mills from the Brenthurst Foundation and Jeffrey Herbst, president of the American Jewish University. He tweeted on Thursday night that 18 copies of the book had been dispatched by its publishers to Zimbabwe early in January. “We were ridiculously asked to pay duty, which we did. Now the president’s office, a euphemism for the CIO, has abducted these books. Who does this?” he tweeted.  News 24

U.S. Hopes to Send More Experts to Congo as Ebola Outbreak Rages
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes to send experts to Congo in the next few weeks to train international and local personnel in the fight against a raging Ebola outbreak that has killed nearly 600 people and is far from under control, the CDC director said Thursday in an interview. Because of the worsening security situation, the CDC experts would not be based in the epicenter of the outbreak, in conflict-ridden parts of eastern Congo. Armed attacks against Ebola treatment centers in North Kivu province have increased in recent weeks. One attack took place hours before CDC Director Robert Redfield and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arrived last week as part of a WHO delegation to assess the situation on the ground. Another attack took place Thursday when an Ebola clinic was burned down by people who then set fire to the home of a local official, according to news reports.  The Washington Post

UN: No Rights Progress in Eritrea after Peace Deal with Ethiopia
U.N. experts say Eritrea’s human rights record has not changed for the better since the government signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia last year, formally ending a two decades-long border conflict. The U.N. Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on the current situation in Eritrea this week. After a 20-year military stalemate with Ethiopia, hopes were high that the peace accord would change Eritrea’s human rights landscape for the better. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore said that has not happened. She said Eritrea has missed a historic opportunity because the government has not implemented urgently needed judicial, constitutional and economic reforms. She said the continued use of indefinite national service remains a major human rights concern.  VOA

Morocco-US Joint Military Exercise Kicks Off in Southern Morocco
The joint military exercise between Morocco and the US, “African Lion 2019,” kicked off on March 16 in southern Morocco in the cities of Agadir, Tifnit, Tan-Tan, Tata, and Ben Guerir near Marrakech. The exercise, which will run until April 7, marks the participation of thousands of military officers. According to the General Staff of the Royal Armed Forces, the exercise will include various types of training including command post, maneuvering, peacekeeping, operations, and aerial refueling. The African Lion exercise agenda will also include counter-terrorism trainings, land and air exercise, in addition to tactical simulation. Morocco and the US partner in several sectors, including terrorism. In several reports, the US touted Morocco’s partnership against terror threats.  Morocco World News

Cyclone Idai Kills at Least 150 in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe 
The death toll from a huge cyclone that hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe last week stood at 150 on Sunday, with hundreds more missing and tens of thousands of others stranded and cut off from roads and telephones in mainly poor, rural areas, officials said. The cyclone, called Idai, has affected more than 1.5 million people in the three southern African countries, according to the United Nations and government officials. The port city of Beira in Mozambique was hit the hardest, with the airport closed, electricity cut and many homes destroyed. The storm hit Beira late Thursday and moved west into Zimbabwe and Malawi, affecting thousands more, particularly in areas bordering Mozambique.Homes, schools, businesses, hospitals and police stations have been destroyed by the cyclone. Thousands of people who were marooned by the heavy flooding abandoned their possessions to seek safety on higher ground.  The New York Times

Africa Has Forgotten the Women Leaders of Its Independence Struggle
When the British colonial officers refused to give permits for demonstrations, activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti mobilized local market women for what she called “picnics” and festivals. One of few women in early 1920s Nigeria to receive post-primary education, Ransome-Kuti used her privilege to coordinate the resistance against colonialism in Nigeria that not only targeted the British but also the local traditional figureheads they used to enforce their rules. The Abeokuta Women’s Union, which she founded, protested unjust taxes, corruption and the lack of women’s representation in decision-making corridors. While she is probably better known now as the mother of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti (an activist in his own right), Ransome-Kuti’s role and years as the mother of anti-colonial activism in Nigeria are rarely celebrated outside of early primary school texts. Her son once sang: “She’s the only mother of Nigeria.”  Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones