Africa Media Review for March 29, 2019

Gunfire Heard in Comoros Capital after Opposition Forms Parallel Body to Unseat President
Gunfire was heard near the main military base in the Comoros capital on Thursday, hours after opposition candidates announced plans to unseat the president whose re-election this week they reject as fraudulent. President Azali Assoumani was declared the winner in Sunday’s election with more than 60 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a second-round run-off. Observers from African monitoring missions have said the election lacked credibility. The 12 opposition candidates said they had set up a body called the National Transition Council, chaired by one of them, Mohamed Soilihi, to remove Assoumani from office. “The mission of the National Transitional Council is to resolve the post-election crisis, to ensure a peaceful transition, to preserve peace, stability and national cohesion in our country,” Soilihi said in a statement broadcast on private-owned radio stations and social media platforms. Reuters

US Orders Staffers Out of Comoros amid Vote-Related Unrest
The United States ordered its personnel to depart the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros on Thursday amid “gunfire, political unrest, and infrastructure disruptions” over a disputed presidential election. The electoral commission earlier this week declared that President Azali Assoumani had been re-elected easily with more than 60 percent of the vote, but the opposition has asserted multiple irregularities. It marked the latest political turbulence in the coup-prone archipelago of less than 1 million people. In a declaration posted on social media, opposition candidate Soilihi Mohamed said a National Transition Council had been formed with him in charge. The council is meant to “solve the electoral crisis” and keep the country peaceful and stable, he said.  AP

15 Killed as Somalia Bomb Hits Restaurant at Lunchtime
At least 15 people died when a bomb exploded on a busy street and ripped into a nearby restaurant in Somalia’s capital on Thursday, medics said. Security officials and witnesses reported bodies strewn on the ground as plumes of smoke rose high into the air after the bomb detonated on Mogadishu’s Maka Al-Mukarama road, one of the seaside capital’s main thoroughfares, an area busy with businesses and travellers. It struck as people were eating lunch. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan, director of the Aamin Ambulance service, said that 15 people had been killed, as well as several more wounded by the ferocious blast. Witnesses described scenes of devastation.  AFP

Trump Extends Deportation Protection For Liberians In The U.S.
President Trump is extending for one year a program that gives Liberians protected status from deportation. The president’s action affects some 4,000 Liberians living in the U.S. The policy change, announced in a presidential memorandum Thursday, temporarily reverses one of the administration’s hard-line immigration stances. Last year Trump said that conditions in post-civil war Liberia had improved and that he would end a program called Deferred Enforcement Departure with a “wind-down” period expiring March 31, 2019. But now, he said, “upon further reflection and review,” he has decided “it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States” to give Liberians another year, or until March 30, 2020, to stay in the United States. He added that the overall situation in West Africa “remains concerning.”  NPR

The Most Common Destination for African Immigrants Is Neither Europe nor North America
There is even more evidence that African immigrants are more likely to move elsewhere within the continent than outside it. While migration to Europe through life-threatening trips across the Sahara desert and Mediterranean Sea as well to North America through immigration programs and asylum requests have dominated headlines, there are more Africans likely to emigrate to another African country. A new Afrobarometer survey of respondents in 34 African countries shows that 36% of Africans are more likely to move to another country within the continent. The trend noted in the report is also backed by reality as only 20% of African migrants who decide to emigrate from their countries actually leave the continent, according to the African Union. For example, many more people move from the Horn of Africa to southern Africa than those crossing the Sahara to north Africa to reach Europe.  Quartz

Mauritanian Police Forcibly Disperse Nouakchott Protest
Mauritanian police on Thursday broke up a protest in capital Nouakchott in which demonstrators called for reform of the country’s election commission in advance of presidential polls slated for later this year. Protesters chanted slogans against the commission, demanding the formulation of an “impartial” committee to oversee the elections. On Wednesday, Mauritania’s main opposition coalition openly accused the commission of “bias”, casting doubt on its ability to conduct impartial polls. Speaking to reporters in Nouakchott, coalition head Mohamed Ould Mouloud said the opposition was vastly underrepresented on the commission in its current form.  Anadolu Agency

Tunisia Commission Releases Final Report on 50 Years of Dictatorship
The Truth and Dignity Commission of Tunisia released its final report this week on more than 50 years of dictatorship in the country, a devastating, 2,000-page archive of torture and human rights violations that is intended to prevent the return of authoritarian rule. The president of the commission, Sihem Bensedrine, unveiled the document at a ceremony in Tunis on Tuesday and posted the entire Arabic-language document on the commission’s website. The report is the product of four and a half years of investigation by the commission, which was mandated by a Constitutional Assembly after Tunisia’s popular uprising of 2010 and 2011. That revolution inspired Arab Spring revolts across North Africa and the Middle East — most of which were followed by violent crackdowns and power struggles, if not civil war.  The New York Times

Tunisia Spruces up, Hopes for Boost from Arab League Summit
Tunisia is cleaning up its boulevards and securing its borders for an Arab League summit that this country hopes raises its regional profile and economic prospects. New murals, exotic flowers and flags from the 22 Arab League states now decorate the capital Tunis as it prepares to host thousands of visitors, including the Saudi king and U.N. secretary-general. Police and soldiers were deployed around the country and security was tightened on land and sea borders, as Arab government ministers hold preparatory meetings all week for Sunday’s summit. Tunisian diplomats want their country to play a mediating role in a summit marked by thorny issues: President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the deepening rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and whether to let Syrian President Bashar Assad back into the Arab fold. AP

Niger: At the Centre of a Brewing Militant Storm
Early last year, 500 people fled violence in Niger’s western Tillabéri region. A few months later, that number had risen to 20,000. In 2019, more than 100,000 people may be displaced. That’s according to Alice Bardot Tsegne, who monitors human rights violations and the movement of people along the Niger-Mali border for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. Intercommunal violence and jihadism – which began in Mali before spreading to Burkina Faso – have brought a spillover humanitarian crisis to Niger. Tsegne says that through 2018 she received weekly phone and email alerts with reports of sexual violence, kidnappings for ransom, mass killings, murders, looting, and destruction of houses. Attacks were occurring at a much higher rate than in the past, increasing rapidly throughout the year. IRIN News

Chad – Where Social Media Has Been Cut for a Year
Activists in Chad are demanding that the government restore access to social media after it was cut off a year ago. The restrictions were introduced on 28 March 2018 – shortly after the conclusion of a national conference which recommended changes to the constitution, to allow President Idriss Deby to remain in power until 2033. Critics of Mr Deby have been mobilising through social media since the last presidential elections in 2016. The mobilisation proved effective, as according to the BBC’s Vincent Niebede in the capital, Ndjamena, many Chadians were using social media to organise anti-government protests. He says the internet became a real threat to the government.  BBC

UN Urges Eritrea to Clarify Fate of Dozens of Missing People
U.N. Human Rights experts are calling on the government of Eritrea to clarify the fate of dozens of disappeared people whose whereabouts have remained unknown since 2001. Eritrea is one of seven countries examined by the Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The 18 independent experts of the Human Rights Committee have many concerns about the prevailing situation in Eritrea. The committee says it has received numerous allegations of extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances and other serious violations.  VOA

Human Rights Watch Blasts Cameroon; Military Rejects ‘Biased’ Report
A new report from Human Rights Watch says Cameroon’s military has killed scores of people and burned down hundreds of homes in its campaign against separatists in the country’s Anglophone regions. Cameroon is rejecting the report as grossly biased. Government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi read a communique on Cameroon state radio CRTV, saying troops fighting separatists in the country’s northwest and southwest regions have remained professional in protecting its citizens. The communique said although soldiers in the English-speaking regions have been victims of relentless attacks from separatist forces, they have not stopped protecting people and their property. It added that in no situation have the forces torched houses or indiscriminately shot at citizens.  VOA

Cameroon’s Anglophone Separatist Conflict Hits Economy Hard
In Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, an armed conflict pitting separatists against security forces has been going on for more than two years. Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands more forced to flee. The conflict is now affecting the country’s economy. Vast plantations have been left to rot, workers have lost their livelihoods and Cameroon’s exports are in decline. Our correspondents report. France 24

Zimbabwe’s Dollar Squeeze Worsens
Zimbabwes attempt to ease a dollar shortage and stop its currency from plunging in the black market is showing little sign of working.The southern African nations currency, known as the RTGS$, fell to 4.2 per U.S. dollar Wednesday, its weakest level in more than five months, according to marketwatch.co.zw, a website run by analysts in Harare. That took its decline in March to 18 percent. The losses came even as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe devalued the official rate to 3 per dollar for the first time. The regulator has allowed it to fall from an initial price of 2.50 since formal trading of the unit began last month, after officials stopped insisting it had the same value as the greenback.  Bloomberg

Colonial-Era CFA Currency under Fire as Finance Ministers Meet
French finance minister Bruno Lemaire met with his counterparts from the 14-strong CFA bloc in the Niger capital Niamey on Thursday to discuss the health of the CFA franc, amid growing calls for the currency to be scrapped. Critics say the CFA franc is a relic of colonialism, whilst France maintains that the mechanism guarantees stability. Thursday’s meeting of finance ministers in Niamey was no different from the one that preceded it six months before. The bi-annual event is a ritual. This year however, it has attracted more attention because of renewed criticism of the CFA franc. RFI

Ebola Disbelief Widespread in DR Congo Hotspots
More than a quarter of people surveyed in Ebola-hit areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo told researchers they do not believe the disease exists. Some 36% of respondents also believed that the disease had been fabricated to destabilise the country. The authors of the study said this mistrust was a factor in prolonging the epidemic. The current outbreak started in August and more than 600 people have died, according to the health ministry. More than 1,000 people have contracted the virus during the current outbreak, which is the second-largest ever recorded. BBC

Libya’s Oil Revenues Dip in February as Battle over Oil Wealth Continues
Libya’s oil revenues fell in February to $1.26 billion, according to its National Oil Company, as repeated oilfield closures continue to weigh on the troubled African nation. The oil revenues were $330 million less than January levels, while overall oil production had actually increased by 23,000 bpd in February, according to OPEC’s March Monthly Oil Market Report. Oil production in Libya fell in January to 883,000 bpd from 949,000 bpd in December 2018, rising to 906,000 bpd in February. Libya’s oil production averaged 811,000 bpd in 2017 and 952,000 bpd in 2018. March production is expected to be lifted further. Libya continues to suffer from oilfield and port closures both due to inclimate weather and internal strife over who will control its great oil wealth that resulted in a force majeure over the last few months. Oil Price

Housing in Sub-Saharan Africa Improves but Millions of People Live in Slums
From cities to the countryside, Africa has undergone a dramatic transformation in living conditions over the past 15 years, according to a new study. But the research, based on state of the art mapping and published in science journal Nature, also found that almost half of the the urban population – 53 million people across the countries analysed – were living in slum conditions. Led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study offers the first detailed estimate of housing quality in sub-Saharan Africa. Using the most recent data available from 31 countries, researchers found housing had improved across several measures over a 15-year period. Sufficient living area, improved water and sanitation and the durability of construction were found across 23% of houses in 2015, up from 11% in 2000.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones