Africa Media Review for March 19, 2019

Congo Suspends Seating of New Senators following Disputed Election
President Felix Tshisekedi’s Congo government on Monday blocked newly-elected senators from taking office after a disputed vote that gave allies of his predecessor an overwhelming majority in the upper house of parliament. The decision, announced after a meeting between Tshisekedi, cabinet ministers, the electoral commission chief and others, could trigger a standoff with ex-president Joseph Kabila’s camp two months after Tshisekedi succeeded him in Democratic Republic of Congo’s first ever transfer of power via the ballot box. Kabila’s FCC coalition won 80 out of 100 seats, which are voted on by provincial assembly members, in Friday’s election, compared to just three for Tshisekedi’s UDPS party and its allies. Reuters

UN: Envoy Urges DRC to Form New Government Soon
The United Nations’ top official in the Democratic Republic of Congo has urged President Felix Tshisekedi to form a new government without delay, as the country continues its first peaceful transition of power in its nearly 60 years as an independent nation. “We cherish the hope that the new government will shortly be established and operational,” the head of the U.N. mission in DRC, Leila Zerrougui, told a meeting of the Security Council on Monday. “Indeed, the expectations of the Congolese people are tremendous. It is of critical importance to not leave them to wait too long or to dash their hopes.”  VOA

Algeria’s Bouteflika Issues New Letter, Defies Pressure to Step Down Immediately
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday again defied mass protests calling for his immediate resignation, insisting on a plan to elect a successor only after a national conference and new constitution is approved. Bouteflika, 82, last week bowed to demonstrators who say he is unfit to run Algeria by announcing he had reversed a decision to stand for another term. But he stopped short of stepping down and postponed elections due in April, in effect extending his current term until a new constitution can be prepared. In a letter reported by Ennahar television, the veteran leader repeated an earlier plan for a national conference to reform the political system, which would be held shortly. France 24

‘No Talks with the System’: Algeria’s Trade Unions Snub New PM
More than a dozen of Algeria’s most influential trade unions have turned down an invitation by the newly appointed prime minister to hold talks aimed at forming a new government and ending a crisis triggered by unprecedented protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20-year rule. The discussions, which were set to begin on Monday, are part of the ruling National Liberation Front’s (FLN) efforts to form a new “technocratic government” that Bouteflika said would support a “national conference” to approve a new constitution and an election date. The 82-year-old leader had bowed to demonstrators last week by reversing a decision to stand for a fifth term, but he postponed polls due in April until the implementation of political reforms.  Al Jazeera

A Death Toll in Jihadist Ambush on Malian Soldiers Hits 23
Officials in Mali have put the death toll from Sunday’s militant attack on an army camp in the village of Dioura at 23. Suspected jihadists briefly seized the base in the central Mopti region, of which Mopti city is the capital. Malian Defense Minister Tiemoko Sangare visited the camp Monday to encourage the soldiers. “You are not alone. All peace-loving Malians support you. Do not listen to the siren songs whose sole purpose is to destabilize the country,” he said. VOA

Bomb Attacks Kill 5 Burkina Troops, Police
Five members of the security forces were killed in roadside bomb attacks in eastern Burkina Faso at the weekend, officials said on Monday. A policeman and a soldier were killed on Saturday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kompienga, a security official said. Late Sunday, three soldiers were killed in the same area by the same technique, another official said. A third person who was in the vehicle was injured and taken to hospital, the official said. The attacks bear the hallmarks of jihadist groups whose insurgency in the Sahel spilled over into Burkina Faso four years ago.  VOA

Large City in Mozambique Nearly Wiped Out as Cyclone Leaves Vast Destruction
A deadly cyclone that struck Mozambique and other countries in southern Africa has nearly obliterated the worst-affected areas, flooding vast stretches of land, destroying roads and dams, and cutting off victims from help.The cyclone, called Idai, has affected more than 1.5 million people, with a death toll now in the dozens but feared to be far higher.The storm destroyed “90 percent” of Beira, a city of about a half-million people that is Mozambique’s fourth largest and faces the Indian Ocean, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday. “It is a real disaster of great proportions,” said President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, according to The Associated Press. The Red Cross and other aid organizations estimated the total number of deaths at 150, though they warned that the figure could rise as rescuers reached previously inaccessible areas. Mr. Nyusi said the death toll in Mozambique, which stood at 84, could climb to more than 1,000.  The New York Times

South Sudan Militiamen Kill 15 People, Abduct 6 Women, 3 Kids: SPLM-IO
The SPLM/A-IO on Monday accused pro-government militiamen in Wau State of killing 15 civilians and kidnapping six women and three children and called to investigate the criminal assault. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, the SPLM-IO Director for Information and Public Relations Puok Both Baluang said the attack took place on Saturday in Dang Achan Village and in a camp of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Maranyi of Wau State. “The SPLM/A (IO) condemns in the strongest terms possible the heinous attack by pro-Government forces dressed as civilians, on civilians in Dang Achan Village near Mapel at about 5:00 am on Saturday, March 16, 2019, results in 15 civilians killed, 21 injured, 13 children kidnapped and 6 females were abducted,” said Baluang. Sudan Tribune

Cameroon Protests US Criticism During Nagy Visit
As the top U.S. diplomat for Africa visits Cameroon, pro-government groups are protesting what they call Tibor Nagy’s interference in Cameroon’s internal affairs. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Nagy and the European Union representative Federica Mogherini recently called on Cameroon to free opposition leader Maurice Kamto and 150 of his supporters. They also urged Cameroon authorities to work harder to stop the violence in its western, anglophone separatist regions. The coordinator for Monday’s protest, Lilian Koulou Engoulou, said the demonstrators want Nagy to hear them and take their message back to Washington.  VOA

Hundreds Protest in Sudan, Keep Pressure on Bashir
Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, took to the streets in and near Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on Monday, continuing a three-month wave of demonstrations that has posed the most serious challenge yet to President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule. Students, activists and other protesters frustrated with economic hardships have held almost daily demonstrations across Sudan since Dec. 19, calling for Bashir to step down. Police used tear gas Monday to disperse hundreds of students from Eastern Nile University protesting in Khartoum North, and hundreds of other demonstrators on Sitteen Street, which runs through several upscale neighborhoods, witnesses said.  VOA

Gambian President Fires Veep, Appoints Woman as Replacement
President of The Gambia Adama Barrow on Friday (March 15) fired his vice president Ousainou Darboe – with immediate effect, appointing a replacement. A statement from the Office of the President said Darboe “has been relieved of his cabinet appointment as Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia with immediate effect.” It is not immediately know the underlying reasons for the latest move even though the statement puts it down to a presidential prerogative. Barrow, in power since 2017, appointed his third vice president in the person of Isatou Touray, who till today held the health portfolio. She is expected to serve as veep whiles overseeing the health ministry.  Africa News

Somalia: Eritrea’s FM Lands in Somaliland as Guelleh Ends Mogadishu Visit
The delegation which was received at Igal airport by Vice president Abdirahman Saylici and foreign minister Yasin Mohamud Fara-toon also included Eritrean President’s right-hand man Yemane Gebreab. It is the first time in more than two decades that a top-level delegation from Asmara visits Somaliland since it declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 after the country plunged into civil war. The visit comes a day after the President of Djibouti, Eritrea’s regional arch-foe has wrapped up a two-day historic visit to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where he met with top leaders, including President Farmajo. The Eritrean delegation held talks with Somaliland president Muse Bihi Abdi and other officials at the presidential palace in Hargeisa, discussing issues pertaining to the bilateral ties between the two sides. Garowe Online

Italian Charity Ship Defies Rome to Rescue 50 off Libyan Coast
An Italian charity ship has rescued about 50 people at sea off Libya, prompting Rome to warn it was ready to “stop once and for all” such private vessels from bringing rescued migrants to Italy. Italy’s hardline interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has repeatedly declared Italian waters closed to NGO rescue vessels and has left several of them stranded at sea in the past in an attempt to force the rest of Europe to take more asylum seekers. “Mare Jonio has just rescued a rubber boat in distress that was sinking with around 50 people on board,” the Mediterranea collective of aid groups and associations that runs the ship said on Twitter.  The Guardian

Macron Woos East Africa but French Companies Struggle to Make Inroads
On a trip to East Africa last week, a beaming French President Emmanuel Macron was driven through the grounds of the Kenyan president’s official residence in a locally assembled Peugeot 3008 car. Two days earlier, he toured churches hewn into the rock in Ethiopia. On a visit last year, he went to a Nigerian nightclub. Macron, 41, is trying to recast the style of France’s engagement in Africa, where it was once a colonial power, hoping that building warmer cultural and personal ties will help boost business, trade and investment. He signed contracts worth about 2 billion euros ($2.27 billion) while in Kenya, whereas British Prime Minister Theresa May did not conclude any on a similar trip last August. Reuters

UN Hosting Western Sahara Talks in Switzerland This Week
The U.N. envoy for the contested Western Sahara will convene talks in Switzerland later this week, seeking compromise after a first round in December that marked a return to the negotiating table for the first time in six years, a statement said. United Nations efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the desert territory, contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario since Spain left in 1974. U.N. envoy Horst Koehler said after talks in December that all sides had agreed to meet again in early 2019.  VOA

South Africa’s President Ramaphosa Gets Stuck on Train
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa may have hoped that joining the morning commute would mark him out as a man of the people ahead of elections in May. That plan has either backfired or worked, depending on how you view it. He and other passengers were stuck on a train for four hours on a journey that should have taken 45 minutes. “It is unacceptable,” President Ramaphosa said after the train reached its destination. He said the national rail operator, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), had to act to improve the situation “otherwise heads will roll”. BBC