Africa Media Review for March 21, 2018

The Many Layers of the Ethiopia Crisis
After 3 years of relentless protests, Ethiopia started 2018 with rare good news. On January 3, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his party pledged to release political prisoners and shut down the notorious Maekelawi detention center in Addis Ababa. In a 3-hour-long press conference, leaders of the ruling Ethiopian People‘s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) also took responsibility for the myriad of political challenges facing the country. The aim, EPRDF leaders said, was to foster national reconciliation and to widen democratic space. The announcement was roundly welcomed, including by a leery opposition, as a crucial step in the right direction. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ethiopia’s Ruling Party to Choose New Leader
Hailemariam Desalegn’s snap resignation as prime minister last month set off a dramatic chain of events in a country that has seen mass protests for several years, putting pressure on the coalition’s 27-year-long grip on power. Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is due to meet on Tuesday to elect a new prime minister. Hailemariam Desalegn resigned last month, saying the move was needed to enable reforms. A growing protest movement since 2015 has put pressure on the coalition’s 27-year-long grip on power. Al Jazeera

Why America Is Uneasy about Change of Ownership of the Horn’s Harbours
In the wake of former US secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Africa, the White House announced a plan for talks with China on, among other things, that country’s role in one of the continent’s busiest ports. In February, President Ismaïl Guelleh of Djibouti issued a decree nationalising the country’s container terminal and ending a 30-year lease to Dubai firm, DP World. The harbour at Doraleh, right next to China’s military base in Djibouti, serves shipping headed for Europe via the Suez Canal. Djibouti controls the only route from the Indian Ocean to Suez, via the Red Sea. It is through this narrow strait that most of East Africa’s exports are carried north to Britain, France and Germany. The East African

Kidnapped Dapchi Schoolgirls ‘Freed in Nigeria’
The majority of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by militants from the town of Dapchi last month have been returned, the government says. Nigeria’s Ministry of Information says 76 of the 110 schoolgirls were brought back in the early hours of this morning following “back channel efforts”. The army then “paused” its operations in the area to ensure “lives were not lost”, the statement continued. However, the statement did not address reports a number of the girls had died. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in the statement that girls were released “unconditionally” and “with the help of some friends of the country”. BBC

How Cambridge Analytica Influenced Kenyan Poll
An undercover investigation has blown the lid off the workings of Cambridge Analytica, the British data company that was suspected and now boasts of influencing Kenya’s 2017 presidential election. In a three-part series titled ‘Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks’, Britain’s Channel 4 News exposes how the right-leaning digital marketing firm targets voters with propaganda to influence their voting decisions. In the investigation, the company’s bosses, including chief executive Alexander Nix, are secretly filmed saying they discreetly campaign in elections across the world through a web of shadowy front companies or by using sub-contractors. The East African

UN: DR Congo Forces Killing Protesters with ‘Impunity’
Dozens of protesters were killed by DR Congo security forces in 2017 in what the UN described as quashing dissent at all costs. The violence threatens peaceful and free elections. At least 47 people, including women and children, were killed last year by Congolese security forces in an “unlawful, unjustified and disproportionate” crackdown on peaceful protesters, the UN said Monday. Democratic Republic of Congo has been hit by a wave of protests since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his term in December 2016. After repeated delays the election has been set for December this year, but the electoral commission has said that it may have to be held in April 2019. The opposition accuses Kabila of trying to hold onto power. Deutsche Welle

UN Peacekeepers Could Help Prepare DR Congo Vote: Draft Resolution
The United Nations Security Council is considering a French-drafted resolution that would task peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo with helping to prepare credible elections. The draft text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, would renew the MONUSCO force’s mandate for a year and outline its priorities as the DR Congo heads for historic elections on December 23. The elections in the vast mineral-rich African country are to pave the way for a transfer of power from President Joseph Kabila, who took over from his father after he was assassinated in 2001. Kinshasa authorities have set a date for the vote but Kabila has not clearly stated whether he will step aside, raising fears that the country will slide into all-out violence.  AFP

Ghana, US Seek Closer Military Ties
Ghana and the United States are working to forge closer ties between their armed forces but both countries denied that they are involved setting up military bases in the West African nation. News reports in Ghana on Tuesday cited leaked documents from a recent cabinet meeting that formed the basis of a request to parliament to approve an agreement between the two governments. Ministers reportedly backed a proposal to allow the US military access to and the use of facilities in Ghana. There have long been rumours in Ghana that the United States wants to establish a base in the country as part of its military operations in Africa. But Ghana’s defence minister Dominic Nitiwul said there were currently no more than 200 US military personnel and it was “not true” Washington wanted a more permanent presence in the country. AFP

Over 20,000 Cameroon Refugees Registered in Nigeria
Over 20,000 Cameroonians have been registered as asylum seekers in Nigeria, where their basic needs are hardly served, UN Refugee Agency said on Tuesday. According to UNHCR spokeswoman Aikaterini Kitidi, the Cameroonian refugees whose fourth-fifths of the total population is women and children will face serious challenges if they failed to receive international support. “A recent assessment by humanitarian groups shows 95 percent of the asylum seekers have no more than three days of food. Most families are down to one meal per day,” Kitidi said. She said the asylum seekers reported that they do not have access to clean water, while essential relief items such as clothing, blankets, and plastic sheeting are also available to fewer than 25 percent of them. Anadolu Agency

African Union Ready to Propose Solutions for Western Sahara Conflict
The President of the African Union (AU) and Chadian Commission, Moussa Faki, has announced that the AU is ready to draft a proposal for the resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara. The announcement follows a three-day visit to Algeria, against which Morocco spoke out, where the AU is looking to lead a more active role in the resolution of the Saharawi crisis. The main conflict over the past four decades has been between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi separatists who have been fighting for self-determination in Western Sahara for the past 27 years. Morocco believes that the area is part of its own sovereign territory. The AU includes representatives from both the Kingdom of Morocco and the self-proclaimed Arab Saharawi and Democratic Republic (SADR) supported by the Polisario. Middle East Monitor

Chad Mulls Presidential Terms but Opposition Sceptical
Chadian President Idriss Deby on Monday opened a forum on sweeping constitutional reforms including presidential term limits in a country ruled he has ruled with an iron fist since a 1996 coup. Deby kicked off the so-called “national forum” comprising more than 700 pro-government figures but boycotted by the opposition with a grandiose declaration that it would lead “to the birth of the Fourth Republic.” “If a federation or regionalisation is suited to our country, we must not fear to go this way,” he said. A draft of the proposals seen by AFP includes a presidential term of seven years through direct universal suffrage and a maximum of two terms. The Citizen

Chad Public Sector Back to Work after Seven-Week Strike
Civil servants in Chad returned to work on Tuesday after a strike over austerity measures paralysed the impoverished country’s public sector for seven weeks. Trade unions had called the strike in late January after the government slashed civil servants’ pay, and the whole public sector ground to a halt. But a deal was struck last week between the government and unions, after two weeks of negotiations. Work resumed on Tuesday at government ministries and healthcare facilities in the capital N’Djamena, an AFP journalist said. Teachers and students also slowly headed back to schools. AFP

French Ex-president Sarkozy Held in Libya Financing Probe
French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was detained for questioning on Tuesday over allegations the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi financed his 2007 election campaign, including with suitcases stuffed with cash, a source close to the inquiry told AFP. Sarkozy, 63, was taken into police custody early Tuesday morning and was being questioned by officers specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre. AFP’s source said that Brice Hortefeux, a close ally who served as a senior minister during Sarkozy’s presidency, was also questioned on Tuesday as part of the inquiry. AFP

Seychelles Opposition to Block India Military Deal
Seychelles’ opposition coalition, which holds a majority in parliament, said on Tuesday it would not ratify a deal signed with India to build a military base on one of the archipelago’s outlying islands. The deal would see India invest $550m in building the base on Assumption island to help it ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. Indian soldiers would be deployed on the island which lies 1 135km southwest from the capital Victoria, and help train Seychelles’ troops. However the deal has faced some resistance from locals, and Wavel Ramkalawan, head of the opposition Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (Seychelles Democratic Union in Creole) said the coalition “will not ratify the Assumption deal. This deal is dead”. AFP

South Africa to Resume Visa Issuing in Kigali
South Africa will resume issuing of visas to Rwandans after nearly four years, signalling a thawing of relations between the two countries. Responding to a question on restriction of travel for Rwandans even as Africa moves towards creating a free trade area, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said “consider it as a matter that is solved.” President Ramaphosa is in Rwanda ahead of the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) on Wednesday. The South African leader met with President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the African Union summit on Tuesday, where the two agreed to mend the strained relations that nearly severed since 2014. The East African

Zambia to Conduct Tax Audit of Mining Companies for past 6 Years
Zambia’s tax agency plans to conduct audits on mining companies in the country running back six years after uncovering 76.5 billion kwacha ($7.9 billion) of underpayment by a “prominent” miner. The Zambia Revenue Authority may extend the period of the audit should it find a pattern of “consistent, systematic, premeditated” tax evasion, it said in a statement. “We are announcing the preliminary assessment of 76.5 billion kwacha issued to a prominent mining company for misclassifying consumables and spare parts at importation for the last five years,” the tax authority said, without identifying the company. “The said items were declared as mining machinery, which attract customs duty at zero percent, when in fact not.”  Bloomberg

Macron Unveils Plan to Spread French Language
French President Emmanuel Macron was to unveil plans to boost the number of French speakers in the world to 700 million in a speech in Paris on Tuesday. With its young and growing population, Africa is key to his strategy but some intellectuals there have criticised “colonialist overtones” in