Africa Media Review for March 5, 2019

A Review of Major Regional Security Efforts in the Sahel
An escalation of attacks from militant Islamist groups in the Sahel coupled with cross-border challenges such as narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, migration, and population displacement have prompted a series of regional and international security responses. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Trump Extends U.S. Sanctions against Zimbabwe by a Year
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday extended by one year sanctions against Zimbabwe saying that the new government’s policies continue to pose an “unusual and extraordinary” threat to U.S. foreign policy. The renewal comes despite calls by African leaders, including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, for the sanctions to be lifted to give the country a chance to recover from its economic crisis. “The actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” Trump said in a notice announcing the extension, adding: “I am continuing for (one) year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288.”  Reuters

1st US Congressional Delegation in 14 Years Visits Eritrea
A U.S. congressional delegation has visited Eritrea for the first time in 14 years as Washington seeks closer contact with the long-reclusive state in the Horn of Africa after it made surprising peace with Ethiopia last year. “Eritrea has been a mystery,” Karen Bass told reporters in Ethiopia on Monday after visiting Asmara with fellow lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Joe Neguse, whose parents fled Eritrea in the early 1980s as it fought for independence. “I know that there have been no reforms that have taken place yet but this is very new. I’m hopeful that reforms will take place, most notably in the area of human rights.” Bass, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, said she hopes that several U.S. nationals detained in Eritrea, including four U.S. Embassy staff, will be released “promptly, as well as other people who are incarcerated.” She said she learned only on Monday that a U.S. national from her own California district was in detention.  AP

How the Prospect of a Fifth Term for Algeria’s President Sparked the Biggest Protests in 30 Years
Joy and foreboding hung in the air as the protesters surged into the centre of Algiers just past midnight on Monday. There were students and labourers, pious young women in headscarves and secular leftists sporting berets. The thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life demanded an end to the 20-year reign of Algeria’s ailing, 82-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, hours after he announced he would be running for a fifth consecutive term on 18 April. “This is a republic, not a kingdom,” they chanted. Algeria’s well-armed, highly trained security forces were standing guard. Some of the protesters felt fear as they entered the Place du 1er Mai, the very heart of the Algerian capital. At first the police seemed to block the way, but then at around 1:30 am, they relented, giving the protesters control of the square. “The police gave up,” one protester told The Independent. “They were tired, and the crowd was extraordinarily resilient.”  The Independent

Algeria: Protesters Reject President’s ‘Compromise’
The protests against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s controversial attempt to run for a fifth consecutive term refused to let up on Monday, even as a lead opposition candidate withdrew from the race. In a rare sign of discontent with the ruling administration, a prominent lawmaker also announced his resignation from parliament on Monday. Former Agriculture Minister Sidi Ferroukhi did not directly refer to Bouteflika in his statement on Facebook, but referred to the exceptional circumstances in Algeria at the moment. Election officials said that 20 candidates had submitted papers to run for president by the deadline on Sunday. Bouteflika’s campaign manager Abdeghani Zalene filed the paperwork on behalf of the ailing 82-year-old president, who promised that he would not serve a full term if re-elected. Abdelaziz Belaid of the opposition Future Front party, who came in third in 2014’s presidential ballot, said he was withdrawing his candidacy over concerns it would not be a fair election.  Deutsche Welle

Wars, Coups and Protests Don’t Stop Gas Flowing to Europe
Arab Spring-style protests have rocked Europe’s third-biggest natural gas supplier. Thousands of young Algerians have taken to the streets, fed up with an octogenarian president who’s been in power for 20 years and a weak economy that doesn’t generate enough jobs. While the rare public display of dissatisfaction has sparked a political crisis in the authoritarian state, the country’s energy exports haven’t been disrupted. Protesters say their 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika should not seek a fifth term in the April elections. Bouteflika, who had a stroke in 2013 and is rarely seen in public, quelled smaller protests when he ran in 2014, using a mixture of water cannons and enhancements to subsidies and salaries. Handouts would be more painful this time for Africa’s biggest oil and gas producer because its economy is still struggling to cope with four years of lower crude prices. Inflation is rising and the country’s reserves are projected to plummet to $67 billion this year from $177 billion in 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund.  Bloomberg

Zambia Suspends Pro-Opposition TV News Channel
Zambia’s broadcasting regulator on Monday ordered a one-month suspension of a TV channel that has been critical of the government, just days after the governing party accused the station of bias and unprofessionalism. Established seven years ago by a former cameraman at the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Prime TV has openly condemned the government of President Edgar Lungu. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) “resolved to suspend (the) license with immediate effect for 30 days,” IBA board secretary Josephine Mapoma told a news conference in Lusaka. “During the suspension period the station is expected to conduct in-house training in basic journalism, ethics and news script writing,” said Mapoma. Last week, the secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front, Davis Mwila complained to the authority of “biased coverage and unethical reporting of political opinions and beliefs disguised as news”.  AFP

Eastern DR Congo Ebola Treatment Centre Reopens
An Ebola treatment centre in eastern DR Congo has reopened after an attack by gunmen last Wednesday forced its closure, the health ministry announced. The centre, located in Butembo in the troubled province of North Kivu, reopened on Saturday, the Health ministry said in a bulletin. Repairs were also set to begin on another North Kivu treatment centre, in Katwa, that was set ablaze on the night of February 24, the statement said late Sunday. Both centres had been jointly run by the health ministry and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), but after the attacks, the aid agency announced it was suspending its activities in both facilities.  AFP

Former Foes Ethiopia and Eritrea Seek to Boost South Sudan Peace Deal
The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea met South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Monday seeking to breathe new life into a flagging peace agreement signed six months ago between his government and rebels. South Sudan’s influential Catholic Church last month warned that the deal agreed in September to quell the country’s war was falling apart and all sides were gearing for fresh fighting. “One of the first issues that they discussed was how to bolster the ongoing peace process,” South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial told journalists after Kiir met Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at State House in the capital. Among other things, the leaders discussed bringing on board groups who rejected the deal inked in Addis Ababa, Nhial said. AFP

Unshackled Yet Far From Free, Former Slaves Struggle in Mauritania
Mbarka Mint Essatim was 23 when she discovered she was a slave. Her master’s driver saw her doing heavy lifting one day and asked if she was paid. When Mbarka said ‘no,’ he told her the truth about the family she had always considered her own. “I knew no one else and thought they were my family,” she said of her masters, members of the light-skinned elite known as white Moors in the west African country of Mauritania. She neither looked like them nor lived like them. “I did not sleep with them in the same house. I was afraid of them, they struck me … raped me. I wanted to be like children my age, going to school and studying. I was alone.” She tells the story coolly, sitting in a makeshift shack in the capital, Nouakchott, as if the child taken from her mother at five to wash dishes and scrub floors was someone else. Reuters

Nigeria Election: Defeated Candidate’s Relative and Lawyer Arrested
Nigerian anti-corruption investigators have arrested a relative of the runner-up in Nigeria’s presidential elections as well as the candidate’s lawyer, sources said on Monday. Alhaji Babalele Abdullahi, a son-in-law to Atiku Abubakar who was defeated in the February 23 polls, “is being investigated over an alleged case of money laundering,” an official at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said, speaking under condition of anonymity. “The sum involved is 150 million euros ($169 million),” he claimed. Abdullahi, who was also director of finance for Abubakar’s presidential campaign, was arrested at his home in the capital Abuja on Saturday, the source said. Meanwhile, Abubakar’s lawyer, Uyi Osagie, was arrested on February 18 by the EFCC, who raided his home in Lagos and found sums of cash, said Boladele Adekoya, a spokesperson for Abubakar’s campaign. AFP

Son of Former Liberia President Charged in Missing Billions Saga
The son of Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been charged over the disappearance of 2 billion Liberian dollars in freshly printed banknotes. Charles Sirleaf appeared at the Monrovia City court today alongside Milton Weeks, the former Central Bank Governor and, Banking Director Dorbor Hagba. The three were charged with a string of offences, including criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage and misuse of public money. Last year, parallel investigations were launched by both Liberia and the United States following media reports in September that a container full of newly printed Liberian banknotes, worth more than US$100 million, had gone missing.  RFI

Rwanda Brings Fresh Arrests, Torture Accusations Against Uganda
Rwanda said Uganda arrested and tortured 190 Rwandan citizens in the past couple of years, part of a string of accusations the two neighbors have slung at each other in recent weeks as diplomatic tensions heighten. Uganda has also deported 986 Rwandan citizens, Rwanda’s foreign minister, Richard Sezibera, told reporters in the capital, Kigali. His comments come after the government warned Rwandans over the weekend against traveling to Uganda and closed one of its border points with the country, citing road construction. “We have been in negotiations with Uganda for the last two years to sort out the issue,” Sezibera said, referring to the alleged arrests and torture of Rwandans. “Negotiations are ongoing.” Rwandan traders in Uganda are being frustrated by authorities there and their goods are being blocked without an explanation, Sezibera said. Rwanda exports goods worth only 91 million francs ($101,110) to Uganda, he said.  Bloomberg

Diplomats Working Overtime to Resolve Uganda-Rwanda Tensions
Ugandans and Rwandans have been urged to remain calm as their respective governments work to resolve an ongoing dispute over the arbitrary detention of Rwandan citizens. Uganda’s prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Sunday appealed for calm, saying the country’s foreign affairs ministry was working to resolve the issue. “Uganda and Rwanda are brotherly countries, therefore, people should not get worried because the issues shall be handled and concluded. The Uganda Foreign Affairs Ministry is working on the matter,” Rugunda told residents in the South Western town of Kabale. These same sentiments were echoed by Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, who called for ‘calm and patience from both sides’.  Africa News

UN Says Burundi Forces Closure of Its Rights Office There
Burundi’s government has forced the United Nations human rights office in the troubled East African country to close after 23 years, the U.N. rights chief announced with “deep regret” on Tuesday. Burundi in December asked the U.N. office to leave, months after the outgoing U.N. rights chief called the country one of the “most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times.” New rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that human rights gains in Burundi have been “seriously jeopardized” since 2015. That is when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for another, disputed term, leading to months of violence that the U.N. has said killed more than 1,200 people. Burundi has been pulling back from international criticism, making history in 2017 as the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. AP

Kenya and Somalia’s Row over Offshore Rights Is Rooted in the Carve up of Africa
The borderlines separating Kenya and Somalia were first drawn in the late 19th century. Like everywhere else on the continent, this was the work of cartographers working for European colonial powers. Across the continent they replaced porous spaces in which people engaged openly across culture, language, religion, kinship, and ethnicity with straight-line geometrics. East Africa was no exception. For ages, the borderlands in the Horn of Africa conformed to the adage: “Wherever the camel goes, that is Somalia.” Colonial border lines met with fierce resistance. In Kenya the line delineating the Northern Frontier District produced an immediate reaction, sparking the Shifta War soon after Kenya’s independence in 1963. The area is ethnographically dominated by Somalis. The legacy of that unfinished business has now migrated to the Indian Ocean.  Quartz

WWF Accused of Funding Guards Who ‘Tortured and Killed Scores of People’
One of the world’s largest charities has launched an investigation into claims that it funds, equips and works with paramilitary forces accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting and murdering scores of people in national parks across Africa and Asia. Human rights specialists will lead an independent review of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conservation charity, following allegations of abuse in six countries, published by BuzzFeed news on Monday. The charity is accused of supporting anti-poaching units that attacked, sexually assaulted, shot and killed villagers. It is also accused of providing paramilitary forces with salaries, training and supplies – including knives, night vision goggles, riot gear and batons – and funding raids on villages. WWF operated like a “global spymaster”, organising, financing and running networks of “informants”, to provide park authorities with intelligence, while publicly denying working with informants, Buzzfeed reported.  The Guardian

Five Things Tanzania’s President ‘Bulldozer’ Magufuli Has Banned
This year began with a new ban in Tanzania – all public hospitals were forbidden from televising entertainment programmes and told to show only health-related content. Since President John Pombe Magufuli, nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, came to power three years ago, his government has been infamous for issuing hasty directives. Just days after taking office in late 2015, he cancelled the symbolic independence day fete and directed all the funds budgeted for the event to be used to widen a part of a highway notorious for gridlocks in the main city of Dar es Salaam. That was coupled with firing a number of government bigwigs in his anti-corruption crusade. Africans on Twitter loved all of it – the hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo? saw other African presidents either being mocked or called into action to emulate the no-nonsense Tanzanian leader.  BBC

Can We Expect an African Position on Venezuela?
What is the correct response to Venezuela’s crisis? This past week, the UN Security Council debated two draft resolutions , one from Russia and one from the US, on this matter. The US demanded free elections and the opening of the border to aid deliveries. Nine countries, including Germany supported this demand. South Africa and China, however, voted against the proposal, backing the Russian call for noninterference in Venezuelan politics. Equatorial Guinea also backed the Russian proposal, which failed, however, to garner enough support. […] Chadian opposition politician Saleh Kebzabo, however, doesn’t buy the illegal-term argument. “This is an excuse for the powerful countries, but they have their own interests at heart,” he told DW. The South African Development Community (SADC) also refuses to back Guaido. Members of the international community are trying to “undermine a democratically elected government,” declared Namibian President Hage Geingob, who is currently chairman of SADC.  Deutsche Welle

With Cash, Crime and Drama, Nigeria Politics Inspire Movie Makers
With its alliances and betrayals, crimes and cash, and even a dash of witchcraft, the theatrical twists of Nigeria’s politics are inspiring directors from the country’s Nollywood movie industry. The saga surrounding Nigeria’s recent election, delayed for a week just hours before voting started, has film-makers convinced they may have hit movie gold. Nigerians watched as their election delivered all the ingredients of a thriller, including charges of vote card fiddling, armored cars filled with cash delivered to politicians’ homes, and even arrests of opponents by the secret police — all in the space of one week. “I can do 100 movies based on Nigerian politics,” said local director Ike Nnaebue. “There is too much drama going on (…) and I believe that, as story tellers, it’s our responsibility to start the conversation and begin to start changes.”  AFP



Photo: Adam Jones