Africa Media Review for March 20, 2018

The Maghreb’s Fragile Edges
Persistent economic and social disparities between urban centers and outlying communities present an ongoing source of instability for countries in the Maghreb.[…] Nearly a decade after the Arab uprisings, tempers in the outlying regions of the Maghreb are on the boil. Scarred by a history of states’ neglect, with poverty rates often more than triple that of urban areas, these frontiers of discontent are being transformed into incubators of instability. Bitterness, rage, and frustration directed at governments perceived as riddled with abuses and corruption represent a combustible mix that was brewed decades ago, leading to the current hothouse of discord and tumult. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Nigerian Army Failed to Act on Warnings before Schoolgirls Abducted, Amnesty Says
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian army of failing to act on “advance warnings” given a few hours before Boko Haram militants abducted 110 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria last month. In a new report, the human rights group alleges the army and police received at least five calls on the afternoon of February 19, warning them that gunmen were heading to the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi town. It cited evidence from eye witnesses and residents who claimed they alerted Geidam army base in the Nigerian state of Yobe and local police after they saw a convoy of gunmen heading towards the girls’ school. Amnesty has called for an investigation into circumstances that led to the schoolgirl’s kidnapping. CNN

Missing Pro-Biafra Leader Nnamdi Kanu Not in Our Custody: Nigeria Police
Police in Nigeria’s Southeastern Abia State have reiterated that they do not know the whereabouts of pro-Biafra leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Commissioner of Police Anthony Ogbizi told the local Punch news portal that as far as they were concerned Kanu has a case before court. That he had been granted bail with three sureties, those persons according to Ogbizi were best placed to tell where Kanu was. “Nnamdi Kanu was charged to court; he still has a case in court. He was granted bail by the court, but we heard that he jumped bail. “The sureties, who secured the bail conditions for Nnamdi Kanu, should tell us his whereabouts,” he stressed. Africa News

Sierra Leone’s Ruling APC Secures Parliamentary Majority with 63 Seats
Sierra Leone’s ruling All Peoples Congress party has won 63 out of 132 parliamentary seats as against 46 seats won by the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party thus ensuring a parliamentary majority. Two newly created parties, the Coalition for Change and the Grand National Coalition won 8 and 4 seats respectively, while four independent candidates were also elected. 7 remaining seats are yet to be declared by the National Electoral Commission. In a constituency in the Western region, voters will head to the poll again to elect their MP on March 27 because a candidate’s picture did not appear on the ballots. Africa News

Juba Alarmed as Sacked Military Boss Travels to Sudan
The South Sudan government has sounded the alarm over former military chief Paul Malong’s recent visit to Khartoum. The Presidential Press Secretary, Mr Ateny Wek Ateny, alleged in Juba Monday that Gen Malong was in Khartoum to seek support for his subversive activities against the Juba administration. “We are not surprised by his visit to Khartoum. The visit is an attempt to fight the government of South Sudan,” he told the The EastAfrican. General Malong flew to Khartoum from Nairobi last week, but the reasons for his visit were unknown. Juba worries that the influential former military boss could cause political turmoil ahead of the High Level Revitalisation Forum due to resume in Addis Ababa soon. The East African

South Sudan Seeks Change of Peace Talks Venue
South Sudanese government is seeking a change of venue for peace talks, citing the political situation in neighbouring Ethiopia which has been hosting the talks since the conflict broke out in 2013. Presidential adviser on diplomatic affairs and the head of the government negotiating team said his country has hoped the next round of peace talks would resume as per schedules but the political situation in host country has pushed the time to allow certain internal arrangements and processes to be completed. “Because of the necessity to accelerate discussions we feel it would be prudent if the IGAD member countries accept the talks to resume and if the current situation in Ethiopia requires time, we feel another one of the IGAD member countries should host the talks until when the situation in Ethiopia allows”, said Nhial Deng Nhial in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Monday when reached to comment on whether talks would remain on hold until the current political situation in Ethiopia addressed and what is the alternative they are considering to end the war. Sudan Tribune

Egypt: Sudan’s Bashir Arrives in Cairo amid Easing Tensions
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir met Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo on Monday as part of a one-day trip aimed at mending ties between the two countries. The two leaders discussed Addis Ababa’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam currently under construction which – upon completion – could threaten Egypt’s fresh water supply. “As the Nile River is a lifeline for the people of the valley of the Nile, we agreed on working together along with our brothers in Ethiopia to reach an agreement of a partnership in the Nile that benefits everybody and to continue working on the results of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia’s trilateral summit regarding the Renaissance dam,” Sisi said. Al Jazeera

Eritrea to Ethiopia: Deal with Your Security Crisis, Stop Chasing Scapegoats
Eritrea says Ethiopia must move to deal with its chronic internal security crisis instead of finding scapegoats from outside. This is the position of Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel in a response to an email query by the Bloomberg magazine. Ethiopian authorities were reported over the weekend to have said neighbouring Eritrea was partly to blame for its internal security headache. “The regime is desperately trying to deflect attention from its intractable domestic crisis — of its own making — and find external scapegoats,” Yemane said describing the claims as false and one that did not merit a serious response. The state-owned Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation late last week quoted the federal police chief as saying Eritrea was trying to destabilize the country by sponsoring anti-peace forces. Africa News

Seychelles Strategy: Why a Base on Assumption Island Is Crucial for Securing the Indian Ocean Region
The small, out-of-mind archipelago of Seychelles has been in the Indian news cycle an inordinate amount. Part of this is due to a prospering Indian public starting to take greater interest in the geopolitics of their region. Another reason is the recent agreement signed between India and Seychelles for the construction of a military base on Assumption Island, one of the 115 islands of the African country. Originally signed in 2015 during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country, work could not begin on the strategic asset as the deal was not ratified by the Seychelles parliament during the term of the previous president, James Michel. Controversy was stirred recently when the present President of the South Indian Ocean country, Danny Faure, declared in 2017 that the agreement would have to be renegotiated as it did not serve the interests of the Seychellois. Swarajiya Mag

How an Ethiopia-Backed Port Is Changing Power Dynamics in the Horn of Africa
When Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Ethiopia became landlocked and therefore dependent on its neighbours – especially Djibouti – for access to international markets. This dependency has hampered Ethiopia’s aspiration to emerge as the uncontested regional power in the Horn of Africa. Recently, however, the ground has been shifting. As we point out in a recent article, Ethiopia has attempted to take advantage of the recent involvement of various Arab Gulf States in the Horn of Africa’s coastal zone to reduce its dependency on Djibouti’s port. The port currently accounts for 95% of Ethiopia’s imports and exports. It has done so by actively trying to interest partners in the refurbishment and development of other ports in the region: Port Sudan in Sudan, Berbera in the Somaliland region of Somalia, and Mombasa in Kenya. The Wire

African Union Launches Ambitious Bid for ‘World’s Largest Free Trade Area’
Africa’s leaders will gather in Rwanda on Wednesday (March 21) to launch what they say will be the world’s largest free trade area but Nigeria has already pulled out, highlighting the challenge in getting the continent to sign up. Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) with 55 African Union (AU) members having a cumulative gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion (S$3.29 trillion) is one of the bloc’s flagship projects. However Mr Muhammadu Buhari, president of one of Africa’s largest markets Nigeria, this week cancelled plans to attend the Kigali launch and called for more consultations after business leaders objected to joining the world’s biggest free trade area in terms of countries. Straits Times

Museveni Snubs Free Trade Summit in Rwanda
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has unexpectedly cancelled his planned visit to Rwanda where leaders are due to sign an Africa-wide free trade deal – known as the African Continental Free Trade Area Treaty. This comes a day after Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari also opted out of the Kigali conference, saying he wanted further domestic consultation on the continental deal that would remove trade barriers and eventually allow free movement. It remains unclear why President Museveni decided to cancel the trip. But commentators say Mr Museveni’s move suggests deteriorating relations between Kigali and Kampala. Rwanda accuses Uganda of illegally detaining its citizens and helping groups fighting its government, while Kampala accuses some Rwandans of espionage. BBC

Zimbabwe Stolen Funds Amnesty: Millions Still to Be Returned
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has released the names of hundreds of companies and individuals who failed to return $827m (£590m) illegally stashed abroad despite an amnesty. After taking office last year Mr Mnangagwa gave individuals and companies 90 days to give up the funds. He said on Monday it had resulted in $591m being returned, less than half the funds believed to be held abroad. He has warned that those who fail to comply are at risk of prosecution. BBC

Zimbabweans Doubt over Mnangagwa’s Corruption Crackdown
Nearly four months after he was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, says significant progress has been made in reversing the endemic corruption under Robert Mugabe’s rule. His government set up a 90-day amnesty to return stolen assets or face prosecution. But critics say more needs to be done to make sure the recovered money benefits ordinary people. Al Jazeera

African Intelligence Chiefs Meet in Uganda over Terrorism
Intelligence and security officers from East Africa are meeting in Kampala to find means of ending armed struggles and terrorism. The two-day meeting was on Monday opened by Major General Wilson Mbadi, deputy commander of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces. Speaking to journalists after the opening, Mbadi said the officials were trying to find a way of eliminating terrorist activities through sharing information, as well as finding links between established terrorists like Al-Shabaab and rebel groups operating from the region. The meeting brought together intelligence bosses from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia, Mauritius, South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti, Comoros and Madagascar. Xinhua

UNSC: 13 Million People Need Humanitarian Aid in DR Congo
Humanitarian needs caused by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo have doubled over the last year, the UN Security Council said. Speaking on Monday, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock said 13 million people are affected by internal conflict gripping the country and require humanitarian assistance. “More than 4.6 million children are acutely malnourished, including 2.2 million suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” Lowcock said. “We’re seeing mushrooming epidemics including the worst outbreak of cholera in 15 years. There’s also an epidemic of sexual violence – most of it unreported and unaddressed – and much of it against children.” Al Jazeera

Lake Chad: ‘Rate of Its Shrinking Is Getting Faster’
Lake Chad in Central Africa provides water to around 30 million people in four neighbouring countries, but it has lost 90 percent of its surface area in the last 100 years. Environmentalists are warning of impending human and ecological disaster in the Sahel region if nothing is done to stop the disappearance of the lake. Al Jazeera

Sudan, Last Male Northern White Rhino, Dies in Kenya
The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino has died after months of ill health, his carers said. Sudan, 45, lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was put to sleep on Monday after age-related complications worsened significantly. His death leaves only two females – his daughter and granddaughter – of the subspecies alive in the world. Hope for preserving the northern white rhino now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques. BBC