Africa Media Review for March 2, 2020

Guinea-Bissau’s Cipriano Cassamá Quits amid ‘Death Threats’
One of the two men declared president of Guinea-Bissau has resigned from the post after just one full day in office, saying his life was in danger. Cipriano Cassamá was chosen by lawmakers as president following disputed elections in December. This was despite the fact that former army general Umaro Cissoko Embaló had already been sworn in as president at a hotel in the capital, Bissau. … The poll was intended to draw a line under the past, but it has triggered a new political crisis in a nation where the military wields huge political influence. The national electoral commission declared that Mr Embaló had beaten his main rival, Domingos Simoes Pereira, by 54% to 46% in the 29 December run-off election. Outgoing President José Mário Vaz handed power to Mr Embaló at a ceremony at a luxury hotel on Thursday. But Mr Pereira’s PAIGC party, which led Guinea-Bissau to independence and was the only legal party until 1990, rejected Mr Embaló’s inauguration, saying the election was marred by fraud. It then used its parliamentary majority to swear in Mr Cassamá, the parliamentary speaker, as interim president, until the Supreme Court ruled on its bid to annul Mr Embaló’s victory. … Guinea-Bissau still has two rival prime ministers. BBC

Guinea Delays Controversial Referendum
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde announced a “slight postponement” of Sunday’s referendum on whether to adopt a new constitution, following mounting international criticism over the poll’s fairness. The government argues that the draft constitution would, among other things, codify gender equality and ban female circumcision and underage marriage in the West African state. But the proposal has sparked huge protests since October over fears that the real motive is to reset presidential term limits — allowing Conde, 81, to run for a third spell in office later this year. … While Conde did not publicly announce a date for the new vote, a letter from the leader to the West African bloc ECOWAS, seen by AFP, said the new poll should take place within two weeks. The poll had been scheduled for Sunday alongside parliamentary elections — also delayed in the poor but mineral-rich country of some 13 million people, which has a legacy of autocratic rule. The long-running demonstrations over the constitution issue have sometimes turned violent, with at least 30 protesters and one gendarme killed to date. Conde’s announcement followed criticism of the electoral process from the African Union, European Union and The International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), which gathers French-speaking states. AFP

‘Nigeria Will Deal with This’: High Alert after Coronavirus Case
Health authorities in Nigeria are ramping up efforts to detect and contain the new coronavirus after Africa’s most populous country confirmed its first case, calling on citizens to avoid panicking or spreading unverified information about the disease. An Italian citizen working in Nigeria tested positive for the virus on Thursday after falling ill following his arrival in the commercial hub of Lagos from Milan in northern Italy, an area that has emerged as Europe’s coronavirus hotspot. The man, who has since been isolated at a hospital in Yaba, is “clinically stable” and has not developed serious symptoms, according to health officials. “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient since he entered Nigeria,” Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s health minister, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. “We have continued to beef our own security. The level of preparedness continues to improve of Nigeria every day.” Public health professionals who spoke to Al Jazeera expressed confidence in the West African country’s ability to contain the spread of the virus. They pointed to key lessons from its successful response to an Ebola outbreak more than five years ago, as well as a series of measures already put in place before the arrival of the coronavirus. Al Jazeera

Coronavirus: High Court in Kenya Suspends Flights from China
The High Court in Kenya has suspended flights from China for 10 days because of the coronavirus. Justice James Makau issued the order after three cases were filed Friday against the Kenyan government. The petitioners wanted the court to bar travellers from China and other coronavirus hotspots from entering the country. “Upon perusal of all petitions and prayers sought, I find that unless a conservatory order is issued, Kenyans will be exposed to the deadly disease,” said Justice Makau. The cases were filed at the High Court by the Law Society of Kenya, two doctors and a lawyer. They all sued Cabinet Secretaries for Health, Transport and Interior, Kenya Airports Authority and the Attorney-General. … In all the three cases, the petitioners pointed out that a China Southern Airlines plane landed in Nairobi on Wednesday with 239 passengers contrary to the global travel advisory issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in mitigating risks against the spread of the virus. They also said the landing of the Chinese plane amidst coronavirus fears caused anxiety and psychological trauma among Kenyans. The East African

Somalia’s Sufi Muslim Leaders Surrender to Government
The leaders of a Sufi Muslim group turned themselves into the custody of the Somali government Saturday after fighting left 22 people dead in central Somalia. Moallim Mohamud Sheikh, the spiritual leader, and Sheikh Mohamed Shakir, the chief of Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jamaa (ASWJ), are in the custody of the Somali national army in the town of Dhusamareb after the group’s militias were overpowered in a battle with government forces. Dhusamareb is the administrative capital of Galmudug state. “Our security forces have ended the standoff and disarmed all ASWJ militias,” Osman Isse Nur, the spokesperson of the newly elected president, told VOA. Speaking in a video posted online, ASWJ chief Sheikh Shakir said his group ceded power to the Somali national army. … At least 22 people were killed in clashes that broke out Thursday night after ASWJ militias fired on a government checkpoint in Dhusamareeb. … The Sufi group ASWJ played a pivotal role in the fight against al-Shabab militants, and early this week, a U.S. diplomat said in remarks at the U.N. Security Council briefing that internal rivalries among allies in Somalia could derail the effort to combat al-Qaida-linked insurgents. VOA

Mozambique Investigates Beheadings by Suspected Jihadists
Mozambican police on Saturday were investigating the deaths of two young men found beheaded in a northern province prone to jihadist attacks. Shadowy attacks blamed on Islamists have hit the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province for two-and-a-half years, claiming more than 700 lives. At least 100 000 people have been displaced by the violence, according to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies. The two headless corpses were found last Sunday in a road in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, a local resident told AFP. It was the first such attack in the city and in the province’s south. Jihadist violence has so far been confined to the northern areas. “Two young men were shot and beheaded near the jail where people accused of being insurgents are being held,” a local said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “From the way they were murdered, we think it is an al-Shabaab job,” he said, referring to jihadists. … The government of President Filipe Nyusi has on several occasions vowed to eradicate “criminals” in the region and launched a fightback, with the help of mercenaries from Wagner, a private Russian firm. But they have so far failed in their efforts to stop the attacks. AFP

UK Military Gears Up for Deployment in Mali
Britain is significantly stepping up its military support in West Africa to help combat the world’s fastest growing Islamist-led insurgency. Over the past month, British troops have been helping train local forces to fight extremism in the Sahel. The region, a semi-arid stretch of land just south of the Sahara Desert, has been a frontline in the war against Islamist militancy for almost a decade. Later this year, 250 British soldiers will join a UN mission in Mali. It has been described as the most dangerous peacekeeping operation in the world. In Senegal, a team of around 30 UK soldiers and Royal Marines have been training special forces from a number of West African nations in a US-led counter-terrorism exercise involving more than 1,600 troops. Maj John House has been leading the British element of the training in Senegal with the focus on infantry skills and counter-terrorism operations. He said it was in Britain’s interests to get more involved in the region. “If we don’t act we may find the problems getting closer to our door,” he said. “The more they have a presence in the region, the more we can feel the effect back in the UK.” BBC

Security Forces Surround Home of Togo Opposition Rival
Togo’s security forces on Friday surrounded the home of a main opposition challenger, after he called for protests against the reelection of President Faure Gnassingbe. … Kodjo appealed for protests on Friday after alleging widespread fraud during the ballot and insisting he was the rightful winner. … “My home has been surrounded since 05:00 (GMT) by the security forces,” Kodjo told AFP. “Nobody can leave, nobody can enter.” Togo’s security minister Yark Damehame told AFP that the residences had been surrounded for opposition leader’s “own safety.” This is the second time that Kodjo’s home has been surrounded during the election period after security forces cordoned it off for several hours on the evening of the election. AFP

Algerian Court Acquits Protest Leader
A key figure in Algeria’s protest movement has been acquitted of charges of undermining the state, for which he faced up to a year in prison. Fodil Boumala was active in the 2019 protest movement that pushed then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to abandon a bid for a fifth term in office and step down. “He has been acquitted. He will go home today,” said Zoubida Assoul, one of Boumala’s lawyers told the AFP news agency. Boumala was accused of “undermining [national] territorial integrity”, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and of distributing “publications that could undermine the national interest”, punishable by a year in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a year in prison for Boumala, a former state television journalist, who had co-founded an opposition group. He had been held in detention since his arrest in mid-September. A ruling on another key protest figure, Karim Tabbou, also charged with undermining national territorial integrity, and also accused of similar crimes, is expected on Wednesday, 4 March. Though Bouteflika stepped down in April 2019, the protest movement continued. The army toughened its line on demonstrators and increased arrests of protesters in June. RFI

DR Congo Probes Death of Army Military Spy Chief Delphin Kahimbi
The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo is investigating the death of its head of intelligence. Delphin Kahimbi was found dead at his home in the capital, Kinshasa, on Friday, the day he was meant to appear before the country’s security council. He was to answer charges that he was involved in a plot to destabilise President Félix Tshisekedi. Gen Kahimbi was on an EU sanctions list for alleged human rights violations and hindering the democratic process. Mr Tshisekedi took over from Joseph Kabila in January last year, the first peaceful transfer of power in the country in nearly 60 years – though many disputed the election result. Mr Kabila remains politically powerful and his party is in a coalition government with Mr Tshisekedi’s party. Gen Kahimbi was undoubtedly one of the most powerful figures during Mr Kabila’s time in power, reports the BBC’s Gaius Kowene from Kinshasa. To some the military intelligence chief was an impressive strategist, who helped defeat rebels in the east of DR Congo, our reporter says. But to others he was a symbol of the torture and oppression of opponents of the former president, he says. It is not clear yet what exactly killed him. BBC

Uganda Blocks a Million First-Time Voters
The Ugandan Parliament and the Electoral Commission are at loggerheads following revelations that over a million Ugandans who have just turned 18 will not be allowed to vote in the 2021 general elections. The Uganda National Electoral Commission says it does not have the resources or time to register new voters as they are busy rolling out the electoral process for the vote. The exclusion of voters is nothing new in Uganda. Elections have often been marred by irregularities, such as the banning of opposition supporters, and despite calls to modernize the register, electoral officials are resistant. … Uganda is among the countries with the world’s youngest populaces. Some 77% of people are under 25. The median age in Uganda is 17 years. Their exclusion from the next election has upset many Ugandans. “The population of Uganda comprises young people,” one Kampala resident told DW’s Alex Gitta. “The time should be extended so that they are eligible to vote. Their vote counts,” she said. … Political observers say the blocking of young voters could be an attempt to prevent supporters of the 2021 opposition presidential hopeful Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, from voting. The popstar-turned-politician boasts a large youth following. DW

Tanzania Proposes Law to Bar Foreigners from Grazing Land
Tanzania’s Parliament is mulling a review of the grazing land law blocking livestock from crossing borders to feed, in a move that could see neighbouring pastoral communities pay hefty fines whenever their herds breach the common borderline. “A person shall not move an animal into mainland Tanzania for the purposes of grazing or accessing water,” states one of the clauses in proposed amendments to the Grazing Land and Animal Feed Resources Act. Violators of the new law will be liable to minimum fines of Tsh20,000 ($8.70) and Tsh100,000 ($43.50) per animal, depending on the type of herd involved. Cattle, donkeys, horses and water buffalos are cited in the more expensive category; goats, pigs and “such other animals” in the other. … The Bill is set for a second reading when Parliament resumes its sittings in April. Effective implementation of such laws would be difficult, given the cultural ties between tribes that share borders like the Maasai and Kuria. “This (proposed) law is a stand-alone and does regional integration no favours. The fashioners of this law took no consideration that illegalizing something is one thing – implementing is another,” said Nick Oyoo Kasera, a social analyst. The East African

South Africa Removes Migrants Squatting in Cape Town
Hundreds of foreign migrants have been removed from central Cape Town by South African authorities following a months-long stand-off. The migrants, who were moved in an operation Sunday, had demanded to be relocated to other countries, claiming they had been threatened by xenophobic violence last year. But the group lost their court bid to compel the government to fly them to what they said would be safer countries, including the U.S. and Canada. The foreigners had camped outside the Central Methodist Church at Cape Town’s Green Market Square. South African authorities said they will verify their identities and will process those seeking asylum. The Nigerian government last year evacuated about 600 of its citizens from South Africa following violent demonstrations against foreigners. The removal of the foreigners was largely a calm operation, with the authorities getting little resistance from the migrants, except for some heckling and chanting. AP

U.S. to Keep Working with Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan on Blue Nile Dam
The United States will continue to work with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan until they sign an accord on a giant Blue Nile hydropower dam, after failing to secure signatures from the three countries this week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday. The three countries had expected to sign an agreement in Washington this week on the filling and operation of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), but Ethiopia skipped the meeting and only Egypt has initialed the deal thus far. In a statement released late Friday, Mnuchin said he held separate bilateral talks with key ministers from Egypt and Sudan over the past two days after Ethiopia asked for a delay in what was to be the final round of talks. … It was not immediately clear whether further talks would be scheduled. Mnuchin said he looked forward to Ethiopia concluding its internal consultations to allow a signing of the deal “at the earliest possible time,” and stressed that final testing and filling of the dam “should not take place without an agreement.” Reuters

Rwanda Scrambles for Alternative Sources of Imports
Rwandan traders are racing against time to find alternative sources of consumer goods and raw materials they used to import from China, as the coronavirus disruption to supply chains begins to deplete stocks. Rwanda imports from China electronics and electrical equipment, machinery, building materials, ceramic products, footwear and textiles, furniture, vehicle parts among other products. “The effect on supply chains also extends to some ongoing local projects which rely on the raw materials and equipment imported from China. Besides, Rwandair has suspended flights to China, which has also affected business travel and trade between the two countries,” said Li Zhen, the second secretary, Economic and Commercial Office at the Chinese embassy in Rwanda. Rwandair suspended flights on January 31. … Due to the tensions between Uganda and Rwanda, most members of the Rwandan private sector started importing directly from Asia. The Private Sector Federation initiated a fund to facilitate many traders to import directly from China, increasing the number of Rwandans who import from China. However, many of them are now stuck, with some opting to import from Kenya and Tanzania, where big importers still have large stocks. The East African

People with Albinism Issued with Protective Alarms in Malawi
On a sunny February day, Catherine Amidu looked downcast. The protective alarm she received in October had not been working for close to two weeks, she said. The 17-year-old with albinism survived an attempt on her life in 2017 when unknown attackers whisked her from her Malawi home in the middle of the night but quickly abandoned her when villagers intervened. She now sees the new keychain-like alarm as the best way to alert others in case of another attack. “Without it, it means I don’t have protection at all,” she said. “What will I do when the people return to finish what they started?” People with albinism in several African countries live in fear of being abducted and killed because of the widespread but mistaken belief that their body parts carry special powers. Because of the superstition surrounding people with albinism, their body parts can be sold for thousands of dollars. … The vulnerability of people with albinism is compounded by poverty and superstition. Since 2014, at least 26 people with albinism in Malawi have been killed while 11 remain missing, according to the national Association of Persons with Albinism. AP



Photo: Adam Jones