Africa Media Review for March 22, 2019

Ghana, Togo and Benin on High Alert against Jihadist Threat
An alarming rise in jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso is posing a mounting threat to security in three of its coastal neighbours, according to security sources and analysts. Benin, Ghana and Togo have so far been spared the Islamist violence that has hit their landlocked neighbour since 2015, a fallout from instability in Mali, a haven for groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Yet the speed at which violence has spread in Burkina Faso has taken many by surprise. In recent months, attacks have occurred in the eastern region, which borders Benin and Togo, sparking fears that the jihadist bushfire in the Sahel is heading towards the coast. Security fears have increased since the killing of four Burkinabe customs officials and a Spanish priest who was returning from a meeting in Togo’s capital, Lomé.  AFP

Security Council Members on Visiting Mission to Mali, Burkina Faso
The members of the United Nations Security Council are leaving New York Thursday evening on a visiting mission to Mali and Burkina Faso. The main objective of the visiting mission is to “assess progress and encourage further implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali,” according to the Security Council Report (SCR), whose mission is to advance the transparency and effectiveness of the Security Council. Other two main objectives of the visiting mission are assessing the status of the operationalization of the joint force of the G5 Sahel (FC-G5S) after a six-month hiatus following a terrorist attack against its headquarters in central Mali in June 2018 and seeking to focus on the degradation of the security situation in Burkina Faso. Xinhua

Burkina Faso Forces, Jihadists Execute Dozens of Civilians: HRW
Burkina Faso security forces have summarily executed more than 115 civilians since mid-last year during operations against Islamist militants who themselves have killed over a third of that number, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday. Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in Islamist attacks in the past three months, as militant groups seek to increase their influence across the Sahel. A Burkinabe government spokesman declined to comment, but said authorities would issue a statement shortly. None of the multiple jihadist groups operating in Burkina Faso could be reached for comment. HRW documented “the execution by Burkinabe security forces of over 115 men accused of supporting or harboring the armed Islamists”, as well as 42 killings carried out by jihadists of suspected government collaborators.  Reuters

South Sudan’s Prominent Activist Faces Charges of Terrorism
South Sudanese rights activist and vocal critic Peter Biar appeared Thursday before the court for the first time since his arrest nearly eight months ago but the charges he is facing are different from the one filed against him initially”. Biar was arrested at Juba airport while on 28 July 2018 as he was on his way to Aweil, his arrest intervened posting on Tweeter several messages hostile to the South Sudanese leadership. Also, he was known for his criticism for the peace process at the time. He was first charged with national security-related offences such as publishing false statements prejudicial to South Sudan, treason among others. However, on Thursday, he appeared before the High Court in Juba for alleged charges of threatening the national security and terrorism in accordance with the Penal Code, and the National Security Act. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese Cities Rocked by Fresh Wave of Protest
Anti-regime demonstrations resumed Thursday in Khartoum and in several other Sudanese cities, the Sudanese Professional Association, a major trade union that has led the protests for the last three months, said in statement. According to witnesses, protests erupted Thursday in more than 20 districts of the capital, with demonstrators chanting slogans against President Omar al-Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party. “Thousands of people took to the streets of Khartoum in the Burri, Sahafa, Shambat, Oshara and Shagara neighborhoods, among others,” one witness told Anadolu Agency. According to the same witness, who spoke anonymously due to security concerns, similar demonstrations also occurred in Omdurman’s Old City district. One witness in Khartoum’s Burri district, also insisting on anonymity, said police had used “excessive force” to disperse protesters, including the use of teargas and batons. Anadolu Agency

Sudan Summons Egypt Ambassador over ‘Illegal’ Red Sea Oil Bids
Sudan has summoned Egypt’s ambassador to Khartoum to protest Cairo’s “illegal” call for oil and gas exploration bids in the Red Sea area of Halayeb, claimed by both countries. In a statement on Thursday, Sudan’s foreign ministry said it summoned Hossam Eissa over “tenders invited by the Egyptian oil ministry for areas under the sovereignty of Sudan”. “Sudan is asking Egypt to stop all procedures concerning the tenders given the situation about the Halayeb triangle.” It also warned oil and gas exploration companies against submitting any bids. Al Jazeera

Cyclone-Battered Mozambique Takes Stock: ‘It’s All Rotten’
Hundreds of villagers labored under a blazing sun on Thursday to salvage what they could from cornfields that just days earlier were submerged by storm-driven floodwaters. With the waters from Cyclone Idai starting to recede, it was time to take stock, and in Tica, a central Mozambique village where many of the residents are subsistence farmers, the news was not good. Homes, clothes and crops — all vanished. “Everything we have is gone,” said Armindo Fernando Lazaro, 52, a father of eight who was taking shelter at the Muda Mufo Complete School. For aid agencies, the water’s retreat allowed better access to scores of communities that had been cut off by the cyclone, which hit last Thursday, and by the floods that followed.  The New York Times

U.S. Military May Join Mozambique Cyclone Rescue, Aid Agencies Told
U.S. military teams could join the cyclone rescue effort in Mozambique, a representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said, according to the minutes of a humanitarian meeting published on Thursday. “The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) will be mobilized. A military aircraft is in Maputo. The US Embassy is requesting approval to mobilize military teams to support rescue operations,” the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting showed, citing a USAID representative. Reuters

Zimbabwe Raises Public Workers Pay by 29 Percent, Averts Strike for Now
Zimbabwe’s public workers have accepted a 29 percent salary hike for the lowest paid employees, which the government says will cushion them against double-digit inflation, unions said on Thursday, and likely averting a strike in the interim. Civil servants in the southern African nation twice rejected a lower government wage offer in January but had been divided over a strike, which led to teachers briefly walking out of their jobs. Zimbabwe is gripped by a severe U.S. dollar crunch, causing shortages of fuel, food and medicine and dashing hopes among citizens that the economy will quickly recover after years of sputtering under Robert Mugabe, who was removed after a coup in 2017. Reuters

At Least 30 Migrants Believed Missing after Boat Sinking off Libya: Coastguard
At least 30 migrants are believed to be missing after their boat sank off the western Libyan city of Sabratha this week, a coastguard spokesman said on Thursday. According to a survivor the boat was carrying almost 50 migrants, coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said. The body of one child was recovered and 16 migrants were rescued, he added. Previously, officials had said at least 10 migrants were thought to have died in the incident. Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe, though numbers have dropped since an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support Libya’s coast guard.  Reuters

UN: Horrors Await Migrants in Libyan Detention Centers
A United Nations report finds migrants are being subjected to what it calls unimaginable horrors from the moment they enter Libya. The report by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has been submitted to the U.N. human rights council in Geneva. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, who presented the report, says the accounts of torture and abuse suffered by refugees and migrants are among the most harrowing he has ever heard. He says a few weeks ago, in Niger, he met with migrants and refugees recently freed from detention in Libya.  VOA

UN to Hold Libya Conference in April to Avoid Military Showdown
The United Nations will hold a conference inside Libya in April to discuss elections as a way out of the country’s eight-year-long conflict, a UN envoy said on Wednesday, although it remains to be seen whether powerful factions will attend. The world body has been scrambling to save almost two years of mediation to prepare the oil producer for elections and end its split into two rival administrations, the recognised one in Tripoli and a parallel version in the east. The initiative has been hit by political divisions and most recently by the prospect of a military showdown. Khalifa Haftar, a military commander controlling the east propped up by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has taken control of southern Libya, taking territory once formally belonging to Tripoli.  The Middle East Monitor

Doctors Face Two Enemies in Fight against Ebola
The second-largest outbreak of Ebola in history is ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as humanitarian organizations and the Congolese government struggle to fight the virus, they find themselves thwarted by the very people they are trying to help. On the last Monday morning in February, three days before the fight against Ebola in eastern Congo turned into an all-out war, Dr. Jean-Christophe Shako stood in the scorching equatorial sun in Katwa, between eucalyptus trees and corn fields, looking down at the smoking ruins of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) treatment center. […] In the night, around 30 men had stormed out of the bush and attacked the MSF clinic with machetes and bows and arrows. The patients were evacuated. The attackers left behind leaflets that read, “We have more surprises.”  Spiegle

Can “French Commonwealth” Work for Peace in Africa?
France is often criticised for its ex-colonial influence in Africa. But the head of the group of French-speaking nations, la Francophonie, says she wants to work for human rights and peace. It comes as the 88-member organisation celebrates Francophonie Week. “I believe that the mission of the Francophonie organisation is to accompany countries and ensure that all member states share its values of democracy and human rights,” Louise Mushikiwabo, the head of La Francophonie, told RFI’s French service. The mission of the 88-member group is laid out in its 1997 charter, in which it vows to promote dialogue among French speakers, some 274 million worldwide.  RFI

Opposition Holds Breath Ahead of Comoros Presidential Polls
Campaigning wraps up on Friday for elections in Comoros with President Azali Assoumani looking to secure another term in office against 11 opposition contenders. Sunday’s polls are the first under a controversial new constitution potentially enabling Azali to remain in power until 2029. “Our party didn’t want elections, we were expecting elections in 2021,” Hadji Mohamed Ali, a member of the national political council for the opposition Juwa party, told RFI. The opposition did consider boycotting the polls, but nevertheless judged that they have a good chance of winning. The vote is the first to take place under a new constitution following a referendum last June. It resulted in a resetting of presidential term limits, enabling Azali to possibly stand for two more five-year terms starting from 2019.  RFI

Sierra Leone Opposition Accuse NEC Chief of Rigging during By-Election
Opposition parties in Sierra Leone have threatened to boycott future elections unless the head of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) resigns. Mr Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh is accused by the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and the National Grand Coalition of ‘incompetence and impartiality’. They say his handling of elections is a threat to national peace and stability. The calls come in the wake of a controversial by-election early this month which the opposition parties believe was rigged in favour of the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The election held on March 9, in the northern Kambia District, a stronghold of the APC, was contested by the three major political parties. The East African

The Misguided Way South African Politicians Are Talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution
South African politicians have become enamored with the “fourth industrial revolution”—a term often used to describe the intense technological transformation taking place in the world —turning to it as a campaign catchphrase ahead of the country’s May presidential elections. Their message: The fourth industrial revolution is coming! And it will either take jobs, or create jobs, politicians say, depending on who the voters choose. Never mind that the exact meaning of the term is up for debate—and that this focus on the future fails to take into account the extremely pressing problems of South Africa’s present. Quartz

Malawi Launches Campaign Period for May Elections
Malawi’s Electoral Commission has officially launched campaigning for May elections with calls against political violence. Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Campaigning will run until May 19, just two days before Malawians cast their votes for lawmakers in the National Assembly and for the president. Voters will also cast ballots for local government representatives or councilors. The run-up to elections has been marred by concerns about political violence.  VOA

In Tunisia, a Youth Crisis Threatens the Arab Spring’s Only Successful Revolution
Six years to the month after the start of the Tunisia revolution – Farid Touti decided he could not endure his wretched life anymore. The gentle Tunisian man had no money and no hope. He couldn’t find work or afford medicines for his ailing mother or even pay the electricity bill. Standing outside the mayor’s office in the dusty central-west town of Sbeitla, he set fire to himself and would have died were it not for the quick thinking of the patrons of a nearby coffee shop, who knocked him to the ground and smothered the flames that were burning his legs with blankets. […] He is not alone. There is a feeling among hundreds of thousands of young Tunisians, perhaps more, that the revolution of 2010 and 2011 has failed them, that they are a lost generation. The youth crisis is getting worse as little Tunisia – population 11.5 million – is buffeted by soaring unemployment, lack of socio-economic reforms, terrorist attacks and the never-ending civil war in Libya, whose porous western border has opened Tunisia to human traffickers, jihadi recruiters and contraband smugglers. The Globe and Mail

Small Tax Base Stifles Africa’s Self-Financed Growth
A majority of African countries collect only about 16 percent of their GDP in taxes undermining their capacity to fund development projects. South Africa and Rwanda are some of the few countries that have been able to leverage new technologies to expand revenue collection to at least 25 percent. Ms Vera Songwe, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) executive secretary, said the ability to increase revenue collection is key to the continent’s capacity to finance its own development, in particular Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. She was speaking at the opening session of the 38th meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Marrakesh, Morocco on Thursday.  The East African



Photo: Adam Jones