Africa Media Review for March 4, 2019

Algeria’s Bouteflika Offers to Serve Brief Term If Reelected, Protesters Defiant
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, facing mass protests over his 20 years in power, will run in April’s elections, his campaign manager said on Sunday, with Ennahar TV saying he had offered to step down after a year if re-elected. The announcement read out by Abdelghani Zaalane on Bouteflika’s behalf said the president pledged to organise an early election, with Ennahar TV saying that would be held within a year. The comments are likely to be viewed as an attempt to appease those who had taken to the streets for 10 days to protest against the 82-year-old’s plans to remain in office and to allow him an exit on his own terms. But hours after his comments, new anti-government protests broke out late at night in the capital and other cities drawing in thousands, according to witnesses and TV footage.  Africa News

Algeria Has Blocked the Internet Days before Its Ailing President Files to Run for a Fifth Term
Internet disruption continues to spread across Algeria as public demonstrations calling on president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to vacate office intensify. The internet monitoring organization NetBlocks said there was further evidence of growing cutoffs across the North African nation on Friday (Mar. 1) amid the biggest anti-government protests since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The targeted shutdown affected parts of the capital Algiers, the north-central city of Tizi Ouzou, along with the port city of Bejaia. The current reports follow blockages that began in cities like Bordj Menaiel on Feb. 22, when thousands of Algerians took to the streets to oppose a new term for their ailing president. “The disruptions are ongoing at the time of writing and are likely to significantly impact participants’ ability to share content from the demonstrations,” NetBlocks said in a statement.  Quartz

Algeria’s Largest Islamic Party Withdraws from Polls
The Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamic party, threatened on Sunday to withdraw from next month’s presidential election if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeks a fifth term in office. Announcing its support for popular protests against Bouteflika standing again, a movement statement called on the nation’s political authority to respond to the demands of the people and in particular to forestall Bouteflika’s fifth term. Earlier Sunday, 145 members of the movement’s Shura Council voted in favor of a decision to pull out from the race while 97 voted against, local media said. Supporters of the withdrawal argue that the move was taken “in tandem with the desire of the people, who have gone out in the millions against the nomination of incumbent President Bouteflika.”  Anadolu Agency

Sudan’s President Hands Party Leadership to Deputy
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down from his position as chairman of the ruling party. The National Congress Party made the announcement late Thursday, following weeks of protests against Bashir’s rule. The president transferred his party leadership role to NCP deputy chairman Ahmed Harun, until the party’s next general convention. A NCP party statement said a new president would be chosen at the next general convention. VOA

Islamic State Says It Killed 10 Nigerian Soldiers -Amaq
Islamic State said on Saturday it killed 10 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on Thursday in the country’s northeastern Borno state, but a Nigerian Army spokesman said “no such incident was recorded.” In a statement issued through its news agency Amaq, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on a village it referred to as Tdmari, near Maiduguri town. It said the attack happened two days ago. The Nigerian Army spokesman insisted the “situation in the north east has been calm for sometime now. The Nigerian Army is consolidating its efforts and successes are being achieved.” Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016, has carried out a number of attacks in northeast Nigeria in the last few months. Reuters

Russian Mercenaries Back Libyan Rebel Leader as Moscow Seeks Influence in Africa
Hundreds of mercenaries linked to Russian military intelligence have been backing the military commander of Libya’s breakaway eastern half, The Telegraph has learned, as Moscow further expands its presence in Africa. The murky private military company Wagner Group has been supporting Khalifa Haftar with 300 personnel in Benghazi and has supplied his Libyan National Army with artillery, tanks, drones and ammunition, a Whitehall source said. A source close to the Libyan Russian Oil & Gas Joint Company started in Benghazi in April told The Telegraph that “lots of Wagner fighters went [to Libya], and there are rumours that military personnel also went there”. The illegal contractors are “almost interchangeable with the GRU,” whose agents are accused of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, the Whitehall source said. The Telegraph

State Capture Wipes Out Third of SA’s R4.9-Trillion GDP – Never Mind Lost Trust, Confidence, Opportunity
The cost of State Capture hovers at around R1.5-trillion over the second term of the Jacob Zuma administration. That’s just short of the R1.8-trillion Budget for 2019. Put differently: State Capture has wiped out a third of South Africa’s R4.9-trillion gross domestic product, or effectively annihilated four months of all labour and productivity of all South Africans, from hawkers selling sweets outside schools to boardroom jockeys. Quantifying the cost of State Capture is a Gordian knot. There are some costs that hit hard and immediately, although their final impact can be mitigated, at least to some extent, over time. Other costs creep on to the balance sheets of, for example, state-owned entities (SOEs) such as Eskom or government departments, where they look as if they belong as “finder’s fees”, “consultancies” and “commissions”, but they don’t, as these are effectively kickbacks.  Daily Maverick

Nigeria Court Says Extradition of Cameroon Separatists ‘Illegal’
A Nigerian court has condemned as “illegal and unconstitutional” the arrest and deportation of Cameroonian separatists who had applied for asylum in Nigeria, their lawyers said Sunday. In January 2018, Nigeria arrested and sent back 47 anglophone separatists who had fled Cameroon following a crackdown by the authorities. The move was denounced by UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, which said most of them had filed asylum claims. It accused Nigeria of breaching international agreements. “Justice Chikere declared the arrest and detention of the 12 applicants illegal,” said a statement from Nigerian law firm Falana & Falana, referring to a ruling issued last week in the capital Abuja.  VOA

More than 50 Missing after Oil Pipeline Explosion in Nigeria
More than 50 people are missing after a leaking oil pipeline exploded and caused a stampede in southern Nigeria, a local official said on Saturday. The blast early on Friday caused massive oil spillage in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state, the Nembe Chiefs Council spokesman, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, told the Associated Press. The Nembe trunk line is operated by the Port Harcourt-based Aiteo Group and carries crude oil to the Bonny export terminal. Aiteo has yet to comment on the explosion. It was not immediately clear if the pipeline has been shut down. Video obtained by the AP shows a large blaze from the ruptured pipeline at night as villagers look on. “If they turn off the oil well from the station, the pressure inside the pipeline would reduce, causing the flame to burn out,” one person is heard in the background explaining. The Guardian

Shell May Face Charges in Netherlands Tied to Nigerian Oil Deal
Royal Dutch Shell, which is on trial in Italy over alleged corruption stemming from a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria, now appears likely to face legal proceedings over the same issue in its home country, the Netherlands.Shell said on Friday that the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office had warned that it was preparing to prosecute the giant oil company “for criminal charges directly or indirectly related” to a Nigerian oil deal that occurred in 2011.A spokeswoman for the Dutch prosecutor’s office, Valentine Hoen, said that based on the investigation so far “we concluded there are prosecutable offenses.” However, she said, inquires were continuing, and no decision had been made on what if any actions would follow.A trial in the Netherlands would mark a significant expansion of the corruption case, and risk damaging Shell’s reputation as a major player in the global oil business. The legal woes might also further complicate Shell’s operations in Nigeria, where for years it has been a major producer of oil and gas. The New York Times

Is the Scent of Oil a Solution for Somalia?
Somalia has enough problems as it is. Now the resource curse, so fatal to many other African countries, appears to be raising its ugly head. On the military front, Mogadishu isn’t winning the war against al-Shabaab. And now the African Union (AU) has reluctantly decided to downsize the AU Mission in Somalia, its force that has prevented al-Shabaab from overrunning the country. Last year the AU ordered 1 000 of Burundi’s Amisom contingent of 5,432 troops out of the country by the end of February 2019. This is part of an overall reduction in Amisom, to be completely withdrawn by 2020. One might have thought that was bad news only for Somalia, and indeed President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) decried the Burundi withdrawal after meeting Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on 19 February. Farmajo said Somalia still needed all the help it could get to fight al-Shabaab. Daily Maverick

Egypt Releases Prominent Photojournalist after 5-Year Term
A prominent Egyptian photojournalist was released after five years in prison and returned home on Monday to hugs from his family and friends, pledging to continue working despite having to spend the nights at a police station nearby. Mahmoud Abu Zaid, popularly known as “Shawkan,” was convicted of involvement in a 2013 sit-in protest by Islamists that was broken up by Egyptian security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead. His case comes as Egypt, under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has launched an unprecedented assault on reporters and the media in recent years, imprisoning dozens and occasionally expelling some foreign journalists. Shawkan was taking photos at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo where Muslim Brotherhood supporters had staged a sit-in protest in August 2013 to denounce the ouster and detention weeks earlier by the military of the country’s freely elected but divisive Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. AP

Museveni, Besigye, Bobi and Muntu Start Preparing for 2021 Race
Uganda’s political train is running full speed ahead of the election in 2021. Perennial rivals incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye, seeking to keep their traditional advantage over opponents, set in motion their campaigns at two separate events within days of each other. President Museveni, 74, who will be seeking his sixth elective term, is set to take his tally to an enviable 40 years in power at the end of 2026. He secured a much anticipated “request” from the 17 members of the ruling NRM’s central executive committee (CEC), the party’s top policy organ, to “offer himself to stand as a sole candidate” in 2021. President Museveni had gathered the CEC at the luxury Chobe Safari Lodge by the River Nile when the request for him to stand again was made. The East African

Rwanda Says Borders Are Open, Advises Citizens against Travelling to Uganda
Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs in charge of the East African Community, Oliver Nduhungirehe, on Friday explained the ongoing border standoff between his country and Uganda. In two tweets posted on his official account, Nduhungirehe clarified that Rwanda’s borders were not closed, adding that Rwandans were however ‘strongly advised not to travel to Uganda’. “As explained to many journalists, all Rwanda’s borders are open. Trucks and heavy vehicles are advised to use Kagitumba due to ongoing construction at Gatuna.” “Rwandans are strongly advised NOT to travel to Uganda due to ongoing arrests, harassment, torture,Incarceration without consular access, deportation etc. This is for their own security.” Africa News

Abiy Ahmed and Uhuru Kenyatta in Asmara, Eritrea
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and Kenyan president,Uhuru Kenyatta, have arrived on Sunday morning in Asmara, Eritrea. Neither the trip nor its purpose was disclosed to the public earlier. The office of prime minister of Ethiopia shared pictures on its social media page showing Isayas Afeworki,Eritrean President, receiving Abiy Ahmed up on arrival at Asmara Airport and also a picture of the two visiting leaders flanking Eritrean president. However, the update from Abiy Ahmed’s office did not say anything about the intention of the trip. State affiliated FanaBC, on the other hand, reported on Sunday, citing sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, that the three countries are holding trilateral discussions the focus of which is, according to the aforementioned source, matters related to regional economic integration. Borkena.com

Eritrea, Ethiopia Leaders to Arrive in Juba Monday
The president of Eritrea and the prime minister of Ethiopia are expected to arrive in the capital Juba on Monday morning, officials said. The official agenda of the meeting in Juba is to bolster already strong relations between South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. In a press statement this evening, South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed are expected in the country for a state visit. Minister Makuei further said President Kiir will receive the two leaders at the airport. Makuei, who is also the government’s spokesperson, called on Juba residents to turn out in large numbers to give a warm welcome to the two regional leaders.  Radio Tamazuj

Zimbabwe’s Brave Ones: The World’s First All-Female Anti-Poaching Unit
Zimbabwe is one of the African countries worst affected by poaching. In an unprecedented move, an all-female unit has been created in the north of the country to track down poachers. The rangers are known as the Brave Ones. FRANCE 24’s reporters went to meet these women who risk their lives to protect their country’s wildlife. In the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe, the local biodiversity is endangered by poaching. The main victims of this illegal trade are elephants and rhinos, whose ivory and horns are sold for a small fortune on Asian markets. But for the past year, a group of around 30 rangers have developed a new way to fight poaching. This unit is made up exclusively of women – a considerable achievement, since being a ranger was previously a job only held by men.  France 24

Mount Kenya: Wildfires Rage around Africa’s Second Highest Peak
Wildlife rangers and Kenyan soldiers are battling to stem fierce wildfires on Mount Kenya national park, around 190 kilometers (118 miles) northeast of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. More than 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of forest land has been destroyed at the World Heritage site since the fires broke out a week ago. Kenya’s Wildlife Service (KWS), the government agency responsible for national parks, said in a statement on Saturday that it had “made good progress” in containing the fires. However, it noted reports of fresh outbreaks. Other officials on the ground said the fires are still spreading at an alarming rate, and that firefighters faced challenges containing them due to high temperatures and changing wind direction.  Deutsche Welle

Egypt’s Top Cleric Calls Polygamy ‘Injustice,’ Draws Debate
Egypt’s top Muslim cleric has stirred up controversy after saying that polygamy is an “injustice” for women, but stopped short of calling for a ban on the practice. “Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong. We have to read the (Quranic) verse in full, said Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam. He said that monogamy was the rule and polygamy a restricted exception. It is restricted in Islam and requires fairness and “if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have more than one wife,” he said. Al-Tayeb said the practice came from “a lack of understanding of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet” and it is “often an injustice to women and children.”  AP



Photo: Adam Jones