Africa Media Review for March 20, 2019

Cyclone Hit Millions across Africa in Record Disaster: U.N
Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disaster recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday. Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbours Zimbabwe and Malawi. Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages. “There’s a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn’t caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.  Reuters

Mozambique Mourns Cyclone Deaths as Rescuers Struggle to Reach Those Affected
Three days of mourning began in Mozambique on Wednesday for the more than 200 people reported killed by a devastating cyclone that smashed into the center of the southern African nation. Cyclone Idai came ashore near the central port city of Beira on Friday with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour, destroying much of the infrastructure of the city of a half-million and leaving rains that have inundated the whole area and left people scrabbling to their roofs to be rescued. Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said late Tuesday that more than 200 people have been killed already but the toll is expected to go up as more bodies are being discovered. Another 98 are reported dead in neighboring Zimbabwe from the intense flooding with hundreds more still missing. Beira’s airport is one of the few areas still above water and has become a staging ground for aid that has been coming in from around the world. Humanitarian agencies are struggling to reach people in the remote areas cut off by the flooding. The Washington Post

Algerian Doctors, Students Protest as New Deputy PM Promises Change
Algeria’s new Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra says that President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika has vowed to hand over power to whoever is elected to succeed him, following a planned national dialogue conference under the auspices of former U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Lamamra said a new constitution and other changes to the current regime will be enacted, followed by elections, which have been postponed until next year. Doctors and students protested Tuesday against the government of ailing incumbent President Bouteflika in the Algerian capital Algiers and a number of other cities and towns. Various labor groups, including medical professionals and students, are calling for the president to step down next month when his term officially ends. Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in the capital Algiers and other parts of Algeria for the past four Fridays to call for Bouteflika to step down and to enact fundamental political reform. VOA

Algeria’s Protesters Tell Army to Stay Out of Politics
[…] On Tuesday morning, The National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people choice”. To date, the Algerian army has not taken a major role in the protests. But on Monday, the Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah indicated that the military should take on the responsibility of finding a quick solution to the crisis. Historically, Algeria’s military has played an important role in the country since independence. Following the war of independence in 1962 against France, the army declared itself a legitimate force having defeated the French army, though Asseraf notes “this was not a strictly military victory, the Algerian army never defeated the French army.” But it did participate in the war and it carved out a role for itself in the transition to Algerian rule post-France.   RFI

Talks with IGAD about South Sudan Peace Are Stalled over Alliance’s Recognition: SSNDA
The opposition South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) chaired by Thomas Cirilio said ready to resume discussions on joining the revitalized peace agreement, stressing on the need to recognize their coalition. The SSNDA is formed by a number of groups formerly members of South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) as they have rejected the revitalized pact. The umbrella includes NAS, NDM, SSNMC and UDRA. The PDM of Hakim Dario is no longer a member of the coalition. The IGAD says the mediation will not acknowledge any new group formed after the signing of the peace agreement on 12 September, fearing that would lead to review the power-sharing and security arrangements. Sudan Tribune

IMF Urges South Sudan to Halt Dubious Oil-Backed Loans
South Sudan should stop selling expensive and opaque oil advances, the IMF said, because loan resettlements are hindering spending vital for the implementation of a peace deal. President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar signed an accord in September, halting fighting that had uprooted more than a third of the country’s 12-million people. South Sudan was plunged into war in 2013 after a political disagreement between the two men, who hail from rival ethnic groups, escalated into a military confrontation. The government took out loans from several Chinese companies during the war, offering to repay them with future oil proceeds from fields that at their height pumped 350,000 barrels per day (bpd). “On the management of oil revenues, the mission urges the authorities to immediately stop contracting oil advances that are expensive and nontransparent,” said Jan Mikkelsen from the IMF, who led a mission to Juba. Business Daily

Comoros President Shrugs Off Opposition Vote Rigging Claim
The leader of the union of opposition parties in the Comoros said Tuesday it was time for President Azali Assoumani to step aside, barely a week before presidential elections. Mohamed Ali Soilihi, popularly known as Mamadou also accused Assoumani of attempting to rig the elections. “ Is this what we are asking the people? Scaring the people, making them lose the right to express themselves? I don’t think so. The Comoros deserves better. I think Azali has had his time. He has the right to retire politically “, he said. Responding to the oppositions, President Azali Assoumani says they have nothing to be afraid of. “ We have set up a consultation committee between the opposition and the government. So all the elements have been put in place to reassure people, which is good… If in spite of all that they are not reassured, it is their problem. I don’t know why they are afraid “, Assoumani said.  Africa News

South Africa Politician Arrested in Killing of Whistle-Blower
A high-ranking politician in South Africa’s governing African National Congress was arrested in connection with the assassination of a party member who had exposed corruption in a public works project, officials said Monday.Mluleki Ndobe, one of the most influential A.N.C. power brokers in KwaZulu-Natal Province, was arrested early Sunday for suspected involvement in the mafia-style killing of a nationally known party leader, Sindiso Magaqa, according to party and police officials.Mr. Magaqa, who had loudly condemned the theft of public money in the town of Umzimkhulu, was fatally shot inside his Mercedes-Benz in 2017 by two hit men who sprayed the car with gunfire. A man suspected of being one of the killers was arrested in September.The assassination — the most high-profile in a wave of political killings that have swept across South Africa since early 2016 — came to symbolize the decline of the A.N.C., whose members have increasingly targeted anticorruption whistle-blowers and turned on one another in lethal fights over political posts.  The New York Times

US Military Denies Rights Group Allegations of Civilian Casualties in Somalia
A human rights group says 14 civilians were killed during five U.S. airstrikes in Somalia in the last two years, an allegation the U.S. military strongly denies. Amnesty International issued a civilian casualty report Tuesday, which included accounts from 65 eyewitness interviews, several photos, satellite imagery and social media posts as evidence of airstrikes in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region from October 2017 to December 2018. The rights group concludes that its report “provides credible evidence that U.S. airstrikes were responsible for four of these incidents and that the fifth was most plausibly caused by a U.S. airstrike.” U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which conducts U.S. military strikes in Somalia in coordination with the Somali government, asserted that no civilians have been killed in its strikes and said Amnesty’s report “does not accurately reflect AFRICOM’s record in mitigating civilian casualties.”  VOA

Kenyan Anger over Turkana ‘Starvation’ Being Ignored
Kenyans have accused their government of ignoring drought victims following reports that at least 10 people have died of hunger in the north-western Turkana region. The hashtag #WeCannotIgnore has been trending on Twitter in the country. The Kenyan government has said more than 1.1 million people are facing food shortages. But authorities say this figure is “normal” and the deaths are not directly related to the drought. James Oduor from the Drought Management Authorities told the BBC that there is nothing unusual about one million people facing starvation.  BBC

Egypt Tightens Restrictions on Media, Social Networks
Egypt’s top media regulator has put into effect tighter restrictions that allow the state to block websites and even social media accounts with over 5,000 followers if they are deemed a threat to national security. The move is the latest step by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to suppress dissent. In recent years, Egypt has launched an unprecedented crackdown on reporters and the media, imprisoning dozens and occasionally expelling some foreign journalists. The new regulations, published in the official gazette late Monday, allow the Supreme Media Regulatory Council to block websites and accounts for “fake news,” and impose stiff penalties of up to 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,400), all without having to obtain a court order.  AP

Africa’s Richest Woman to Be Ousted at Angola Telecoms Company
Africa’s richest woman is set to be ousted from the helm of Angola’s biggest telecommunications company as shareholders meet Tuesday to discuss corporate governance in the wake of legal action by one of its biggest investors. The meeting at Unitel SA, whose chairwoman Isabel dos Santos owns 25%, comes after an arbitration court ruled that Brazilian telecommunications company Oi SA was entitled to receive $654 million from other Unitel shareholders because they violated several clauses of the company’s shareholders’ agreement and failed to pay dividends to Oi.  Fin 24

Nigerian Senate Approves 67% Increase of Minimum Wage
Nigeria’s senate approved a proposal to raise the monthly minimum wage by 67 percent to 30,000 naira ($83). The decision by the parliaments upper chamber Tuesday in the capital, Abuja, came after the House of Representatives. The presidency said in January it would ask parliament to agree to a minimum wage of 27,000 naira for employees in the private sector and of state governments, while federal government workers would get 30,000 naira. Bloomberg

For Somaliland and Djibouti, Will New Friends Bring Benefits?
On any given day in Berbera, the deep-water port on Somaliland’s Red Sea coast, ramshackle ships dock next to small boats known as dhows. Most of them are waiting to set off for the Persian Gulf, laden with spices, scrap metal, and often more lively cargo—goats raised for the global market on the country’s scorched landscape. It may be hard to tell by looking at it, but some 30 percent of the world’s crude oil transported on ships passes just a few miles offshore, a detail that has made Berbera’s port a prized location for outside powers looking for a new connection to the world’s most vital sea transport route. As a result, Somaliland, like its neighbor Djibouti, which is emerging as a hub for foreign military installations, has found itself at the center of big power rivalries that could reshape the Horn of Africa. Foreign Policy

For Africa, Chinese-Built Internet Is Better than No Internet at All
The Chinese telecommunications company Huawei has made huge inroads in Africa in recent years even as the United States urges its allies around the world to avoid working with the firm over cybersecurity concerns. Huawei has built about 70 percent of the continent’s 4G networks, vastly outpacing European rivals, according to Cobus van Staden, a senior China-Africa researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs. The construction is often accompanied by loans from Chinese state banks, which are approved faster and with fewer conditions than loans from international institutions. While concerns about Huawei are shared by other countries around the world, in Africa they are largely overshadowed by the imperative for greater internet access. The continent is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and its population is expected to double by 2050.  Foreign Policy

Africa’s Booming Cities Are Running Out of Water
As water supplies in Ghana’s capital grew increasingly erratic, Beatrice Kabuki stopped customers from using her grocery stores bathrooms and installed a plastic storage tank at her home.The taps flow once a week and usually at night, so we stay awake to fetch what we can store, Kabuki, 35, said in an interview in Accra. We mostly augment by buying water from tankers. Cities and towns in several other African nations including Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast have been plagued by similar water shortages in recent months, manifestations of a global supply squeeze brought on by drought, population growth, urbanization and insufficient investment in dams and other infrastructure.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones