Africa Media Review for March 8, 2018

Sierra Leone Police Quash Clashes after Voting Ends
Riot police put down skirmishes Wednesday in Sierra Leone’s capital as political tensions mounted after authorities visited the office of the leading opposition candidate. At least one person was treated for stab wounds following the melee that erupted after an SLPP opposition spokesman said police had come to search the party’s offices without a warrant. Their candidate, Julius Maada Bio, the man who was defeated in the 2012 election, later went on live television to criticize the move. “Counting has started and I have phones and laptops which I am using to tally the results of the counting,” he said. “I have established a tallying center in my office which is not against the law of this country. This is a legitimate affair.” AP

Sierra Leone Elections: Police Raid Offices of Main Opposition Candidate
After a rather peaceful election, the tallying process has kicked off on a dramatic note as Police have raided the offices of the main opposition candidate, saying they were tipped off of a possible hack. Local television station, AYV media, talked to Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), who told them that Police sought to search his offices without a warrant and when denied entry, they were reinforced by riot police. Bio who said all they have at the office are computers and a mobile phone to verify results as they trickle in, believes the raid is an attempt by the ruling government to interrupt this process. Africa News

Ethiopia’s Ruling EPRDF Sets March 11 Date to Elect New Prime Minister 
Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the country’s ruling coalition has finally set a date for its Executive Committee meeting which is expected to produce a new Prime Minister. Head of the EPRDF office, Shiferaw Shigute confirmed that the committee will meet on Sunday March 11, 2018 to deliberate on outcomes from evaluation processes conducted by the four constituent parties. The 180-member body is also expected to elect a new chairman of the front, who will effectively become the next Prime Minister of the country. An earlier meeting scheduled for March 1 was postponed for unexplained reasons. Africa News

Ethiopia Reports Arrests over Anti-Government Protests
Ethiopia’s defense minister announced the arrests of the “main instigators” linked to anti-government protests roiling the country, insisting that armed federal patrols were trying to minimizing violence. At least a handful of civilian deaths have been reported over the last several days. “If these people were not arrested, imagine how much destruction would happen,” Siraj Fegessa said at a Wednesday news briefing in Addis Ababa. His comments came hours before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Wednesday evening arrival in the capital city, the first stop on a weeklong tour of five sub-Saharan African nations. The trip is intended to promote counterterrorism, peace, trade and investment, along with good governance. VOA

UN Condemns Congo Violence and Wants Elections in December
The U.N. Security Council condemned violence during nationwide protests in Congo last month against President Joseph Kabila’s extended rule and called on all parties Wednesday to ensure that a long-delayed presidential election takes place Dec. 23. Kabila’s mandate ended in December 2016 and he agreed to set an election by the end of 2017, but Congo’s election commission said the vote couldn’t be held until the end of this year. The council said in a statement after an open meeting and closed consultations that all provisions of Congo’s Dec. 31, 2016, election agreement must be carried out, including the release of all remaining political prisoners. It noted the release of 25 political prisoners so far. The top U.N. envoy for Congo, Leila Zerrougui, warned the council of the risk of violence in the run-up to the election.  VOA

Fearing Deportation, Burundi Refugees Quit DRC for Rwanda
A group of 2 500 Burundian refugees, fearing repatriation to their home country, moved on Wednesday from the Democratic Republic of Congo to nearby Rwanda, a spokesperson said. The refugees belong to an obscure Catholic sect that follows a female prophet called Zebiya and claim to have fled their homeland due to religious persecution. In January the group said humanitarian agencies had stopped delivering them aid, after their refusal to register on a biometric database, which they said would violate their religion. “It has been two months that we have had no food aid from the (United Nations refugee agency), we were living under threat from our Congolese neighbours and we feared being extradited to Burundi,” said a representative of the refugees, Dionyse Nyandwi. AFP

Militias Are Burning Villages in Congo. We Tracked the Toll.
We obtained satellite images that show how lakeshore villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been destroyed in recent attacks, forcing 140,000 people to flee their homes.  The New York Times

Eight Arrested after Burkina Faso Double Attack
Burkinabe authorities have made arrests after the start of investigations following attacks on the French and staff of the armed forces. “Eight people were arrested and held in police custody, more than sixty people were interrogated either as victims or witnesses,” a prosecutor said on Tuesday. Maïza Séremé added that two serving military officers were among the arrested including one had been terminated. The authorities also believe they have one of the masterminds of this double attack. It is attributed to a jihadist organization known as the “Islamic and Muslim Support Group”. Africa News

China, Russia Mounting Growing Challenge to US in Africa
China and Russia are working to expand their influence across Africa, hoping to outspend or out-compete the United States, U.S. officials warn, describing it as part of a larger effort by both countries to reshape the world order. For months, top national security officials have been talking about the reemergence of what they describe as a great power competition, calling out China and Russia as the two countries doing the most to counter the United States. Officials say the efforts by Beijing and Moscow are both regional and global, with both pursuing strategies to deny the U.S. access to conflict zones in times of crisis and to commercial markets in times of peace. VOA

China Slaps down US Claim That It’s Pushing Africa into Debt
Beijing has flatly rejected the US claim that China is pushing African countries into unrepayable debt by giving them too many low-interest loans. A spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reacting to remarks by acting assistant Secretary of State for Africa Donald Yamamoto. During a briefing on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s current visit to Africa, Yamamoto said the US would soon invite China to a meeting in Washington to discuss China’s role in Africa. He expressed concern that African countries were getting themselves into irredeemable debt through low-interest – in fact, concessionary – loans. He said 50% of these came from China. Yamamoto raised the spectre of the debt traps which many African countries fell into about 12 years ago, when the international community had to forgive billions of dollars of debt. Daily Maverick

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Makes Zimbabwe Stopover during Africa Tour
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a stopover in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday during a week-long Africa tour which also includes visits to Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Ethiopia. It is the first time Lavrov has visited Harare since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power following long-time ruler Robert Mugabe’s resignation in November. Speaking to reporters in Angola’s capital Luanda on Monday, Lavrov emphasized the role of international support on the continent, while also acknowledging the need for African solutions: “We insist that African problems need African solutions, and the international community should respect the Africans’ choice of resolving a conflict, and support them morally, politically and financially in training staff for peacekeeping operations, which Russia has been actively doing,” he said. Deutsche Welle

Russia Boosts Military Cooperation with Mozambique after Attacks
Russia will boost its military cooperation with Mozambique, where suspected Islamist militants have carried out attacks in the gas-rich African nation’s north. The two countries will form a working group to develop collaboration, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Wednesday in the Mozambican capital, Maputo. Lavrov is on a five-nation tour of Africa and spoke after talks with his counterpart Jose Pacheco and Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi. “We have common positions with our Mozambican partners that a global priority is to create a front in the fight against terrorism,” Lavrov said. “The terrorist threat continues, despite the efforts many countries make.” Bloomberg

At Least 24 Killed in Fresh Violence in Nigeria
At least 24 people have been confirmed killed following fresh violence in Nigeria’s north-central state of Benue, according to local officials on Wednesday. Violence broke out in a Benue community since Monday, after some local herdsmen reported a case of cattle rustling, the state governor, Sam Ortom, told reporters. Mostly women and children have been victims of the violence in Omusu Edimoga community, said Ortom, who described the killing as “senseless.” He accused the local herdsmen of going into the community to wreak havoc, instead of waiting for the outcome of the police investigation on the reported case of cattle rustling. Xinhua

Off West Africa, Navies Team Up in Fight against Piracy
[…] Illegal fishing, piracy and hostage-taking haunt the vast bay lying off West Africa, whose coastline runs from Liberia in the west to Gabon in the south. According to the European Union, the Gulf of Guinea is the “worst-affected region” in the world for unauthorised fishing. In 2016, around a third of all catches, a haul worth about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), were illegal, it says. In a survey of sea piracy in 2017, the International Maritime Bureau found that of 16 incidents around the world when a vessel came under fire, seven occurred in the Gulf. In late February, the French patrol boat Lavallee took part in exercises with naval vessels from central African countries over five days, an operation dubbed “African Nemo”. These exercises, held several times a year, are designed to be realistic. AFP

Former Minister’s Reported Death Highlights Eritrea’s Secret Prisons
The reported death of an Eritrean political prisoner has shined a spotlight on the country’s secret prison system, where some of the nation’s founders have been held without trial for more than 16 years. In February, news began circulating on social media that Haile “Durue” Woldensae, a fighter in Eritrea’s liberation struggle and the country’s former foreign minister, had died. Woldensae was imprisoned in 2001 and has not been seen since. In a 2010 interview with al-Jazeera, a prison guard who escaped the country said that Woldensae was alive but “blind and emaciated.” A post on an anonymous Facebook page in February said that Woldensae died on January 25 and was buried on the premises of the Eirairo prison, where he had reportedly been detained. The claims have not been independently verified, and press freedom in Eritrea is severely restricted, making it difficult to confirm information that comes out of the country. VOA

South Sudan Seeks to Join the Arab League
South Sudan has applied to join the Arab League, the Sudan Tribune has reported. Juba’s formal application was presented to the League’s foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital, Cairo on Wednesday. The bloc’s member states include countries in North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Arabia. If successful, South Sudan will join Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia as the League’s ninth African state and 23rd member. South Sudan has long wanted to join the group, which requires member states to use Arabic as an official language. The country seceded from Sudan in 2011. Arab League was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Cairo. The East African

Treasury: Kenya Is Broke
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has revealed that Kenya is experiencing a shortfall of revenue to the tune on Ksh.70 billion. Mr. Rotich, who was appearing before the Senate Finance Committee was at pains to explain why there were delays in disbursement of funds to the county governments and instead promising that funds would be released by June. “We are running short of revenue. There was a slow down in business activities because of elections but we are now catching up,” said Rotich. The CS however noted that Treasury had already disbursed Ksh.134 billion to counties, an amount he said represented 43% of the monies supposed to be disbursed. The Citizen

This Little Miner Keeps Finding Giant Diamonds
A small diamond miner that digs for the precious stones in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho keeps unearthing huge stones. Gem Diamonds Ltd.’s latest discovery is a 152-carat, top white color Type IIa diamond from its Letseng mine in Lesotho, Southern Africa, the company said Wednesday. It’s the sixth find bigger than 100 carats this year, including a 910-carat stone that’s the fifth biggest in history. The company’s seen a return to form after years of smaller hauls. It found just seven stones bigger than 100 carats for the whole of 2017 and five the year before. Gem’s share price sank to a record low last year as prices sank and it had to close a new mine in Botswana. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones