Africa Media Review for March 7, 2019

Cracks Appear in Algeria’s Elite as Embattled Bouteflika Buys Time
The biggest demonstrations in Algeria since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising have died down since the weekend, but cracks are appearing within a ruling elite long regarded as invincible. Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s offer on Sunday to limit his term after April’s election took some of the steam out of the protests which began late last month, although students and other young people are still on the streets. Some officials from his ruling FLN party joined tens of thousands of people who turned out on Friday to call on Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, to step down along with his inner circle. Several public figures have announced their resignations in a country where personnel changes normally take place behind closed doors. Reuters

Algeria Veterans Back Protests Demanding End to Bouteflika’s Rule
Algerian independence war veterans said protesters demanding ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down after 20 years in power had legitimate concerns and they urged all citizens to demonstrate – another sign of cracks in the ruling elite. The unrest poses the biggest challenge yet to Bouteflika and his inner circle which includes members of the military, intelligence services and businessmen. “It is the duty of Algerian society in all its segments to take to the streets,” the influential National Organization of Mujahideen – veterans like Bouteflika of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France – said late on Tuesday. Two branches of powerful Algerian labor union UGTA, representing tens of thousands of workers, also opposed the re-election plan. VOA

Swiss Newspaper: Bouteflika Suffers Respiratory, Neurological Issues
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is suffering from respiratory and neurological issues, reported the Swiss French-language daily newspaper, Tribune de Geneve, on Wednesday. The report said that the Algerian President needs intensive medical care and is suffering from weakness in his nervous system’s responses, adding that he is still on the eighth floor of the Geneva University Hospital. The Algerian President’s life remains “at risk,” since his respiratory system “has significantly deteriorated,” and requires constant care, the newspaper reported. Tens of Thousands of Algerians have been protesting Bouteflika’s re-election for a fifth presidency term, citing his health, chronic corruption, and a lack of economic reforms to tackle unemployment.  Al Arabiya

Tunisia to Hold Fall Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
Tunisia will hold a parliamentary election on Oct. 6 and a presidential election starting on Nov. 10, the Electoral Commission said on Wednesday. They will be the third set of polls in which Tunisians can vote freely following the 2011 revolution that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. “Parliamentary elections will be on Oct. 6 and the first presidential round will be on Nov. 10,” said Nabil Bafoun, the president of the independent electoral committee ISIE. The parliamentary race is expected to be fought closely by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the more secular Tahya Tounes party of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and the Nidaa Tounes party led by Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president’s son.  Reuters

ISIS-Backed Boko Haram Faction May Have New Chief
The leader of an Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram may have been replaced, sources say, against a backdrop of speculation as to his fate – and the group’s future direction. Three sources with deep knowledge of the group said they had been told in recent days that the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had dropped Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi. A previously unknown figure named Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar Albarnawi is said to have replaced Al-Barnawi, whose father Muhammad Yusuf founded Boko Haram in 2002. The name Al-Barnawi or variations of it derive from Arabic words meaning “The man from Borno,” a state in northeastern Nigeria.  AFP

As Peace Efforts Falter, Violence in Central Mali Spirals Further Out of Control
[…] The massacre – in a village called Koulogon – was one of the deadliest, most gruesome episodes in a year-long conflict between Dogon and Fulani armed groups that has enveloped this region of roughly two million people, emptying villages and leaving hundreds dead and wounded, according to the International Federation of Human Rights. In mid-February, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known by its French acronym MINUSMA, said it is investigating two new attacks on Fulani villages in the region. In both cases armed men killed civilians and set fire to “huts, granaries, and livestock”, the UN said. Dogon communities are also facing attacks, according to local officials and displaced people interviewed by IRIN. The recent wave of violence comes despite stepped-up efforts to end the unrest here, including peace agreements between communities, ceasefire commitments, airstrikes by French forces, presidential visits, and a government-backed demobilisation, disarmament, and reintegration, or DDR, scheme that has just got going. IRIN

DRC President Agrees Coalition Govt Arrangement with Kabila
Former President Joseph Kabila’s coalition will have a say in choosing the next Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, according to an agreement between his coalition and that of the incumbent president. Kabila’s Common Front for Congo, FCC, and President Tshisekedi’s Cap pour le Changement, CACH, in a letter dated March 6 agreed that current political dynamics meant that the two groups had to jointly agree on the next Premier. Whiles Tshisekedi-led CACH won the presidential polls of December 2018, Kabila’s FCC had the majority of lawmakers as per results of the National Assembly polls held along with the presidential poll. The statement issued by the two factions said the move was part of: “their common will to govern together as part of a coalition government.”  Africa News

Kenya, Somalia Agree to Ease Tensions over Border Row
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Mohammed Abdullahin agreed Wednesday to amicably resolve a maritime territorial dispute, according to an official Ethiopian statement. Tensions between the two countries rose after Kenya accused neighboring Somalia of auctioning oil, gas, and mineral blocks that fell within Kenyan borders in the Indian Ocean. Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed mediated negotiations and issued a statement following the meeting saying: “Through the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohammed Abdullahi met this morning to discuss extensively on the source of the two countries dispute.”  Anadolu Agency

Opposition Woman MP on Treason Charge as Zimbabwe Hits Mugabe Replay Button
In her other life, Joana Mamombe, 25, is a microbiologist with a Master’s degree from a Norwegian university. Now the opposition MDC Alliance MP is imprisoned in Harare. Mamombe spent four nights in a sewage-infested cell underneath Harare Central Police Station after being arrested at a tourist resort in eastern Zimbabwe on Friday, 1 March. Mamombe had been attending a parliamentary event. She is now charged with treason. Bail was refused on Tuesday. The ruling party also once arrested the late MDC Alliance founding president Morgan Tsvangirai and charged him with treason along with two senior colleagues. What could Joane Mamombe have done?  Daily Maverick

Cameroon Risks Further Slide into Violence – U.N. Rights Chief
Cameroon may fall further into violence if the government does not stop hate speech by politicians and heavy-handed tactics by security forces, the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday. Long-running tensions have erupted into conflicts with separatists in the southwest and Islamists in the northwest, prompting crackdowns by security forces and leaving 1.3 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the neighbouring Sahel region had taken an innovative approach to protecting civilians during counter-terrorism operations, and legal advisors and U.N. rights experts were working with armed forces in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.  Reuters

Cameroon’s Former Separatists Distrust Reintegration Program
Cameroon says three months after creating a commission to reintegrate separatist fighters who agree to disarm, only 20 rebels have surrendered. Separatists fear the commission may be a trap by the military to arrest and punish them. Thirty-nine-year-old Julius, who for security reasons gives only his first name, is a motorcycle taxi driver in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde — but only since November. That is when he says he escaped from a village in the English-speaking northwest, after the military raided his rebel camp. Julius says the military killed 13 of his fellow separatist fighters. VOA

Cameroon’s Ex-Defence Minister Detained
Cameroon’s ex-Defence minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, often touted as as a possible successor to he long-serving President Paul Biya, has been remanded in prison over corruption allegations. The Special Criminal Court in Yaoundé ordered that Mr Mebe Ngo’o be remanded at the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison while investigations continue into an alleged corruption and embezzlement case against him. Mr Mebe Ngo’o, who had earlier been barred from leaving the country, was at the special criminal court on Tuesday for the second grilling in less than a month. Eye witnesses said he was in tears as he was being whisked from the court to prison. The East African

Zimbabwe Says Rapprochement with West Still On despite U.S. Sanctions
Zimbabwe on Wednesday said the extension of U.S. sanctions on its government was regrettable but Harare would keep talking to Washington and the European Union to remove the measures it says have stifled its economy. Sanctions were imposed under the rule of Robert Mugabe, who brought the country to near ruin during his 37-year tenure. The West accused him of rigging elections, rights abuses and oppressing opponents before he was ousted after a coup in 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday extended by one year sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government’s policies still posed an “unusual and extraordinary” threat to U.S. foreign policy. The renewal comes despite calls by African leaders like South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, for the sanctions to be lifted to give the country a chance to recover from its economic crisis. Reuters

The Rise of South Africa’s Third Party
This dusty South African mining town is perhaps best known for its darkest day: the 2012 police shooting of 34 striking mineworkers. But anger over their deaths, and the systemic inequalities that remain 25 years after the end of apartheid, planted the seeds of a political movement that this year could upend the political status quo in a nation that has been ruled by the same party since the beginning of democracy in 1994. From this soil, drenched with the blood of mineworkers, the Economic Freedom Fighters launched their far-left, radical political party in 2013. This year, as they approach their second national election, they stand a chance of making real gains in strongholds once controlled by the powerful African National Congress. The nation votes May 8.  VOA

Central Africa President Meets Pope, Sticks by Troubled Peace Deal
Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera, during a visit to the Vatican Tuesday, stood by his country’s peace deal the day after several militia groups rejected it and the new government. “We are seeking peace, and in the agreement there are mechanisms which would allow us to continue to work,” Touadera told reporters after meeting Pope Francis. “We are committed to ensuring that this deal can bring peace to the Central African Republic (CAR),” he added. Less than a month after it was signed, the Central African Republic’s peace agreement is under strain after five militia groups on Monday either pulled out or rejected the make-up of the new government. AFP

Arab FMs Discuss Israeli Political Expansion in Africa
An Arab League ministerial panel is meeting in Cairo to discuss means of preempting efforts by Israel to normalize its relations with African states. The 151st session of the Arab Foreign Ministers Council kicked off Wednesday at the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters. According to Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency, attendees are expected to discuss “a number of issues of joint Arab concern”. Along with league chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the ministerial panel includes representatives from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Libya and Palestine. Panel members also discussed a proposed “plan of action” for confronting Israeli efforts to expand its influence in Africa, according to MENA.  Anadolu Agency

One Year On, Africa Free Trade Deal Nears Reality
Almost a year after the formal launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the plan is inching toward the 22-country threshold needed for implementation. The African Union envisioned the free trade zone spanning the entire continent — with a combined gross domestic product of at least $2.3 trillion — as a means of improving the movement of goods, services and people among the AU’s 55 members. By integrating economies and reducing trade barriers such as tariffs, it aims to increase employment prospects, living standards and opportunities for the region’s 1.3 billion people — and to make Africa more globally competitive. VOA

Digital Commerce Will Transform African Economies, Starting with Cheaper Phones
There’s a $700-billion opportunity for African countries over the next five years if they can close the gender gap in mobile-phone ownership, according to GSMA, the global mobile-trade body. It bases that estimate on the commercial opportunity for mobile operators and the expected boost to GDPs as more women get phones. The smartphone, vital for internet connections on the continent, will become increasingly affordable as new entrants bring cheaper (under $50) smartphones and “smart feature phones” (under $20) to market. There will be 500 million mobile internet users in Africa by 2020, GMSA estimates, with up to 70% of mobile subscriptions to be internet-connected by 2030. Digital commerce will be a big beneficiary, says a new white paper from consulting firm BFA, commissioned by the Mastercard Foundation. The sector—everything from retail e-commerce and the sharing/gig economy to the platform economy and digital trade—is still just 1% of retail commerce in Africa, compared with 14% and above in countries like the United States and China. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones