Africa Media Review for March 21, 2019

President Bouteflika’s Party Says It Backs Algeria Protests
The party of ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said Wednesday it supports protesters’ calls for change while advocating his initiative for dialogue to overcome the country’s political crisis. National Liberation Front (FLN) chief Mouad Bouchareb said the government “was not in the hands of the party”, in remarks seen as an attempt to distance the FLN from the Bouteflika regime. The FLN has been in power since Algeria won independence in 1962. Algeria has been gripped by unprecedented protests since February 22, following Mr Bouteflika’s announcement he was running for a fifth term as president despite concerns about his ability to run the country.  AFP

‘It Was Too Late’: Hundreds Are Dead as Rescue Efforts Stall in Mozambique and Zimbabwe
[…] More than 300 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and elsewhere in the region have been declared dead since Idai came ashore near the central Mozambican port city of Beira on Friday, destroying infrastructure across the city of half a million. The cyclone brought severe rain and winds exceeding 100 mph, and road and weather conditions slowed the disaster response — leaving the most affected communities in limbo. Although aid is now trickling into Zimbabwe, boulders from mudslides are still blocking some roads. Floods washed away bridges that connect a number of the most devastated areas, forcing some military and aid workers to move by foot. The Washington Post

Somali Government Troops Vacate Some Bases in Row over Salaries
Somali soldiers have vacated at least three of their bases in protest over months of missed pay, a military officer and residents said on Wednesday, in what could be a boost for Islamist al Shabaab insurgents. The Horn of Africa nation’s weak central government relies on the support of the military and African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeepers against al Shabaab, which aims to carve out a realm based on strict sharia (Islamic law). The vacated bases are in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region, one of the troops’ commanders Col. Abdi Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters, adding that the move was to protest about non payment of salaries for four months. Reuters

Somali Leaders Jittery over KDF’s Military Base Pullout
Leaders in Somalia are questioning the recent abandonment of a military base in the country by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, saying the move will expose the country to Al-Shabaab threats. The leaders say Kenyan troops started withdrawing from Somalia after moving out of Busar, KDF’s command centre in the northern sector of Jubaland, a town that was liberated in the first 100 days of their entry into Somalia. On Tuesday morning, a contingent of troops made the final withdrawal from Busar. “Our people spotted the troops heading towards the Somali border. They destroyed their military base before leaving,” a senior politician from Gedo, who requested not to be named for fear of reprisals by both KDF and Somali security forces, told the Nation.  Daily Nation

Ethiopia: 5 Killed in Oromia Shooting
At least five people were killed by shootings of unidentified gunmen in Oromia regional state in central Ethiopia, an official statement said on Tuesday. Two foreign nationals were among the victims of shooting in the Nejo district, Western Wollega zone, in the southwest of Oromia, early Monday, the Oromia Communication Bureau said, without mentioning their nationality. Gunmen have not been identified, yet, neither their motive, it noted. Details are sketchy at the moment. According to the bureau, regional police and security forces have been mobilized to the crime scene. Anadolu Agency

Tunisian President Wants to Amend Constitution to Dilute PM Power
Tunisia’s president called on Wednesday for changes to the new constitution to give the presidency more power, in the latest escalation of a dispute between the two highest offices in the country. The constitution, adopted in 2014 after the uprising of 2011 that ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, significantly erodes the previously extensive power of the presidency and gives the prime minister and parliament a much bigger role. But President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed have been at loggerheads since last year, culminating in the president’s son being suspended from the ruling party in September. Essebsi has called on Chahed to resign but he defied him and formed a new governing coalition last November with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.  Reuters

Sudan Call Forces Withdraw from African Roadmap and Cancel Peace Talks
The Sudanese opposition alliance Sudan Call has decided to withdraw from the African Union Roadmap for a comprehensive settlement in the east African country and its armed groups stopped any peace talks with Khartoum. The opposition alliance which is part of the Freedom and Change Declaration forces held a two-day meeting in the French capital to discuss the latest development in Sudan where the protests that erupted in December 2018 continue to occur calling on President Omer al-Bashir to step down. Wednesday’s decision comes as government officials recently stated several times they are in contact with the opposition leaders particularly Sadiq al-Mahdi leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) and Omer al-Digair of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP). Also, last week they spoke about contacts with Gibril Ibrahim, leader of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).  Sudan Tribune

Sudan Says Egyptian Red Sea Oil and Gas Blocks Are on Its Territory
Sudan considers oil and gas exploration blocks offered by Egypt in the Red Sea’s Halayeb area as a direct intrusion into Sudanese territory, Saad al-Deen Hussein al-Bishri, minister of state at Khartoum’s oil ministry, was cited as saying. The Halayeb triangle, which is controlled by Egypt, has been claimed by Sudan since the 1950s. However, Cairo says it is Egyptian territory and it has long been a source of contention between the two neighbors. “It is considered an illegal operation that carries legal consequences which will be borne by the entities carrying out this operation,” al-Bishri was quoted as saying by Sudan’s state news agency SUNA on Wednesday. Reuters

Hundreds of Trucks Blocked on Cameroon-CAR Border
Hundreds of trucks transporting food and humanitarian assistance to the Central African Republic are blocked at the border with Cameroon, as rebels have cut off the road to the capital, Bangui. The rebels acted to protest the president’s new cabinet, which they say is not being representative enough. Among the 230 trucks and more than 500 drivers stranded in Garoua Boulay was Kum Aki, 54, who was transporting rice, maize and vegetable oil to the troubled CAR. He said most of the drivers had exhausted their $200 to $400 allowances they were given to cover the distance within a maximum of 10 days.  VOA

DR Congo Says Local Officials Helped Spark Yumbi Massacre
Democratic Republic of Congo has acknowledged for the first time that local officials played a role in sparking the slaughter of hundreds of people last December. At least 535 civilians were killed on December 16 and 17 in three villages in Yumbi, a remote territory in western DR Congo on the banks of the Congo River some 350 kilometres (200 miles) north of Kinshasa. The ethnic bloodletting went largely unnoticed at first because it coincided with the run-up to long-awaited presidential elections. Days passed before details began to trickle out, and it took a month before the scale of the killing emerged. AFP

Congo Ebola Outbreak Spreads to City of 1 Million
Health authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo have confirmed a case of Ebola in another city of close to 1 million people, the health ministry said Wednesday. Bunia is the second-largest city in eastern Congo to confirm a case of the hemorrhagic fever during the current outbreak, which was declared last August and is believed to have killed 610 people and infected 370 more to date. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that the outbreak was concentrated in two areas and could be stopped by September, but poor security in Congo’s militia-ravaged east and community resistance to health workers continue to hamper the response.  VOA

France Accused of Propping up Chad’s Deby with Air Strikes on Rebels
Chadians living in Europe have demonstrated in Paris and Berlin in recent weeks to protest against French strikes in Chad. The strikes on 3 February, at the request of N’Djamena, were to prevent a rebel group from toppling President Idriss Deby. However they have sparked accusations of French interference and once again cast an unfavourable light on France’s African policy. Waving the bright blue, yellow and red colours of Chad’s national flag, dozens of demonstrators protested in front of the National Assembly in Paris on 7 March with many calling on the French government to end its support for Deby. RFI

Here’s South Africa’s Election in Numbers
A record number of 48 political parties will contest in South Africa’s national elections on May 8, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said on Wednesday. IEC announced the final tally after the deadline for submission of party candidate lists and payment of deposits. While only 29 political parties contested the national elections in 2014, a record number will contest even the provincial legislature elections in 2019. Gauteng province has the highest number of political parties at 36, while the smallest number is in the Northern Cape at 21.  Africa News

New Directorate to Deal with State Capture Proclaimed by Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa has proclaimed the establishment of an investigative directorate in the office of the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batoyi, to deal with allegations of corruption and state capture emanating from various commissions of inquiry instituted during his first year in office. This could potentially lead to the prosecution of those implicated in state capture, including former president Jacob Zuma and a number of his Cabinet ministers, from Lynne Brown, Malusi Gigaba and Nomvula Mokonyane to his loyal lieutenants appointed in other institutions such as former South African Revenue Service (Sars) Commissioner Tom Moyane. Mail and Guardian

South Sudan Spends Millions on Cars, Homes Instead of Peace
South Sudan’s committee overseeing the fragile transition from civil war has approved almost $185 million in spending on vehicles, food and home renovations while the country’s peace deal suffers from an alleged lack of funds, according to internal documents seen by The Associated Press. As the East African nation emerges from a five-year conflict that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, experts warn that the government’s lack of financial transparency will gut the confidence of international donors who have been encouraged to donate to the peace transition fund. Some already have; Japan has given $1 million. AP

Kenya Seeking Another $3Bn Railway Loan from China
The government is negotiating with China for a loan of about Sh370 billion to complete the third phase of the standard gauge railway. According to Kenya Railways Acting Director Philip Mahinga, the corporation is also holding talks to finance a system that will ensure the railway, its passengers, goods and equipment are secure as they snake through sparsely populated regions in its 974-kilometre journey from Mombasa to Malaba in Busia County. During a briefing about the status of the multibillion-shilling endeavour at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi on Tuesday, the country’s Chargé d’affaires Li Xuhang said the amount would be in form of concessional and hard loans.  Business Daily

Chinese Imports ‘Driving Fishermen to Despair’
As the frozen fish defrosts under the hot Kenyan sun, fishmonger Mechak Juma prefers not to tell his customers that it has come all the way from China. We are at the largest fish market in the city of Kisumu, on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. A scene of hustle and bustle, business is booming for the traders, but very little of that money now goes to the local fishermen. As fish stocks in Lake Victoria have plunged over the past two decades, and prices have risen sharply as a result, cheap farmed Chinese imports are increasingly filling the gap. BBC

Rwanda Sparks Human Rights Concerns in Proposing World’s First Nationwide DNA Database
Rwanda has proposed the world’s first country-wide DNA database, a project that will involve collecting samples from all of the country’s 12 million citizens in an effort to crack down on crime. The scheme has prompted concerns from human rights campaigners who believe the database could be misused by the government and violate international human rights laws. Plans for the database were announced by Rwanda’s Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye. Speaking in the country’s capital, Kigali, he said the project would help to fight crimes like rape and murder.  The Independent