Africa Media Review for March 8, 2019

Algerian President Issues Warning on Eve of Mass Protests
The Algerian president has warned of chaos on the eve of anticipated large demonstrations if protesters challenging his decision to stand for a fifth term allow the “infiltration” of their movement by unspecified forces. People from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds have taken to the streets across Algeria in recent weeks in what have been the biggest demonstrations in the country since the 2011 Arab spring. “Our citizens took to the streets … to peacefully express their opinions. We welcome this maturity of our citizens, notably youth,” Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled the north African country since 1999, was quoted as saying. “We urge vigilance and caution against any possible infiltration of misleading parties, either internal or external, in this peaceful expression. Such parties may cause discord and provoke chaos … they may trigger crises and woes.”  The Guardian

Tanzania Opposition Leader Freed after Nearly Four Months in Jail
Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema, has been released on bail after winning an appeal against a contempt of court ruling. Mr Mbowe was freed alongside his co-accused Esther Matiko, a Chadema MP, after spending nearly four months in prison. The two had been denied bail in November last year for failing to show up for a court hearing. At the time, Mr Mbowe said be had been taken ill while Ms Matiko said she had been on parliamentary duty outside the country. The Chadema chairman, Mrs Matiko along with seven other top party leaders are facing charges of sedition, incitement to violence and holding an “illegal rally” in February 2018 that led to the death of a female student, who was killed by a police stray bullet.  AFP

AFRICOM Commander Calls for Diplomatic Push in Africa as US Pulls Troops from Continent
The United States needs higher level political engagement in Africa to counter China’s growing influence even as the military cuts back troop levels on the continent, U.S. Africa Command’s commander told lawmakers Thursday. About 300 counterterrorism troops have been pulled from Africa in connection with a strategy shift that calls for more focus on great-power competition, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. Despite the Pentagon-ordered troop cutbacks, Waldhauser said he has “adequate” forces to carry out his mission and special operations troops in Libya and Somalia were unaffected by the drawdown. Instead, the reductions centered on regions where there was no clear threat to the U.S. homeland, he said. And in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers were killed in a 2017 ambush, special operations troops have shifted away from ground patrols to advising forces at a battalion headquarters level and even remotely, Waldhauser said.  Stars and Stripes

US General: Troops Cuts Don’t Impact Somalia, Libya Missions
Planned troop cuts on the African continent will have no impact on counterterror operations in Libya and Somalia, where American airstrikes target insurgents, the top U.S. commander for Africa told Congress Thursday. General Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, said about 300 troops will be cut by June 2020, in phase one of a 10 percent reduction. But he said he’s not sure if the second phase of the reduction will be ordered. The Pentagon called for the reduction in U.S. troops in Africa as part of plans to refocus attention on great power competition from Russia and China. But the cutbacks have triggered concerns from Congress members who questioned if they would increase terrorism threats on the continent. Waldhauser told lawmakers that officials will watch for any possible impact of the changes, and he will push back on future cuts if they become a problem.  AP

‘Alarming’ Burkina Faso Unrest Threatens West African Stability
A rapid and alarming deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso is threatening to spread to its three southern neighbours, a senior US military figure has warned, heralding the potential destabilisation of a vast area of west Africa. The three coastal nations of Ghana, Togo and Benin were racing to “insulate or inoculate at-risk populations” to try to stop unrest, violence and criminality leaking through their northern borders, the head of Special Operations Command Africa said. Speaking during Flintlock, the US military’s biggest annual exercise on the continent, Maj Gen Marcus Hicks said an “alarming deterioration” had taken place in Burkina Faso over the past five months. If militant groups linked with al-Qaida and Islamic State managed to establish a presence in those countries, they would have easier access to major west African ports, providing clearer trafficking routes for weapons and drugs.  The Guardian

Al-Shabab Car Bomb Attack Kills Seven in Somalia
A car bomb in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has killed seven people and wounded several others, police say. The bomb that went off on Thursday was in a car parked outside a restaurant near a checkpoint manned by the presidential guard regiment. “What we know so far about the attack is that a car bomb blast targeted the busy Dalsan restaurant, killing five people, including soldiers and civilians,” Adan Ahmed, a police officer, told Anadolu Agency by telephone. The blast “was caused by a car loaded with explosives, we perceive that it was parked near a restaurant along the road,” Somali police official Ibrahim Mohamed told the AFP news agency.  Al Jazeera

Timelines in South Sudan Peace Deal Largely Unmet: Guterres
The implementation of tasks in South Sudan’s peace deal continues to face delays while timelines and benchmarks in the accord remain largely unmet more than halfway into the pre-transitional period, a top UN official said. “However, some positive momentum was generated with the return to Juba of senior opposition leaders to participate in the various institutions and mechanisms established under the Agreement, which was essential to generate trust,” said Antonio Guterres in a report on South Sudan covering 1 December to 26 February 2019. South Sudan’s arch-foes signed a peace deal last year to end a civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.  Radio Tamazuj

Malong’s Group Insists on Renegotiation of Peace Deal
A faction of the rebel group South Sudan United Front (SSUF) led by Gen. Paul Malong is adamant that the terms of the revitalised peace deal should be reopened. African regional bloc IGAD has recently ruled out a renegotiation of the September 2018 peace agreement. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Thursday, spokesman for Malong’s SSUF rebel movement, Sunday de John criticized the regional bloc for attaching preconditions to talks. The IGAD special envoy to South Sudan Ismail Wais and Gen. Paul Malong are scheduled to meet in Nairobi, Kenya on March 11. The meeting is to discuss modalities for the rebel group’s participation in the peace process.  Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan Rebel Leader Rebuffs Igad Invitation
South Sudan rebel faction leader Thomas Cirillo has rebuffed the invitation to meet the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Special Envoy Ismail Wais. The regional bloc on March 1, sent a letter to Gen Cirillo requesting his presence at a meeting slated for Friday in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia. Gen Cirillo is the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS) faction, which refused to sign the September peace agreement that re-united President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. NAS spokesman Suba Samuel said the Igad invitation was exclusively to Gen Cirillo, and not his faction. The East African

UN Considering Drawdown of DR Congo Mission
The United Nations is considering a drawdown of its large peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and charting a course towards an exit strategy, a senior UN peacekeeping official said on Thursday (Mar 7). After presidential elections in December that ended Joseph Kabila’s rule and improved security, the 16,000-strong mission known as MONUSCO can be reconfigured, said the official, who asked not to be named. “We are looking at a gradual process of adjusting the MONUSCO – probably downsize it,” the official told reporters. “We have to work together with the Congolese on a path toward a gradual exit strategy.” Kabila had repeatedly called for MONUSCO to pull out of his country but new President Felix Tshisekedi has said the force should be “better armed” and has offered to cooperate with the United Nations on next steps.  AFP

DR Congo Election Runner-up Refuses to Take Seat as MP
Martin Fayulu, the runner-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s controversial presidential vote, said on Wednesday he would refuse to take his seat as an MP, describing the role as inappropriate for someone who considered himself to be the country’s “elected president.” Fayulu is pursuing a campaign of verbal opposition to the outcome of the December 30 elections, which he says was rigged. He was credited with 34.8 percent of the vote against 38.5 percent for fellow opposition candidate, Felix Tshisekedi. “I was elected president of the republic – I cannot fall back on being an MP, never!” he told AFP. “I am the elected president, and this is what I consider myself to be. I cannot be both the elected president and an MP,” he said. AFP

Congo Lost $617 Million Dispute Before Approving Oil Deal
An international court ordered the Democratic Republic of Congo to pay DIG Oil Ltd. of South Africa $617 million for failing to honor two oil contracts, weeks before outgoing President Joseph Kabila finally approved one of the deals. The previously undisclosed ruling is the latest twist in an 11-year dispute over concessions in the central African nation, which may hold as much as 6 percent of the continent’s oil reserves. Kabila’s belated assent to one of the contested contracts suggests the state may be seeking ways to avoid paying the penalty. The Paris-based International Court of Arbitration said Congo “failed to execute its obligations” by withholding presidential approval of production-sharing agreements signed in December 2007 and January 2008, according to a Nov. 7 ruling seen by Bloomberg and verified by the Oil Ministry and DIG Oil.  Bloomberg

Cameroon Opposition Figure Charged with Rebellion – Lawyer
A prominent lawyer close to detained Cameroon opposition leader Maurice Kamto was charged on Thursday with rebellion, her lawyer said, after the country shrugged off international concern over a wave of arrests targeting government critics. Michele Ndoki was “placed in custody” and charged with the same offences as Kamto, who is being held for insurrection, hostility to the homeland and rebellion, according to her lawyer Emmanuel Simh. Cameroon this week rejected US criticism of the detention of Kamto and dozens of supporters, insisting that it was not politically motivated. Kamto, head of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), claims he was cheated out of victory when Paul Biya was elected to a seventh term as president in last October’s election. News 24

US: Zimbabwe Failed to Make Needed Political, Economic Changes
The government of Zimbabwe under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to bring about political and economic changes needed to improve the country’s reputation, the State Department said Thursday. The comments relate to President Donald Trump’s decision this week to extend by one year U.S. sanctions that target more than 100 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe, including Mnangagwa. “We believe that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has yet to implement the political and economic overhaul required to improve the country’s reputation with the community of nations, and with the United States,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.  VOA

MSF: Community Mistrust Hampers Ebola Fight in Eastern Congo
The charity Doctors Without Borders warns a climate of deepening mistrust and suspicion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is hampering efforts to bring an Ebola epidemic under control. The outbreak, which started, last year, has killed more than 500 people in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, has suspended its Ebola activities in Katwa and Butembo in North Kivu Province. This follows attacks on two of its treatment centers last week. In the last month alone, the agency says more than 30 attacks and security incidents have taken place in this volatile area. VOA

South Africa Agrees to Upgrade Morocco’s Diplomatic Representation in Pretoria
South Africa’s long, frosty relations with Morocco have at last begun to thaw. Pretoria accepted the appointment last week of a full ambassador from Rabat for the first time in 15 years. It has taken seven months for the South African government to ponder Morocco’s request to upgrade diplomatic relations by appointing a former deputy foreign minister as envoy to Pretoria. On Wednesday Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, confirmed to Daily Maverick that South Africa had finally sent a message to the Moroccan government through South Africa’s embassy in Rabat informing it that it had approved former deputy foreign minister Youssef Amrani as ambassador to Pretoria. Daily Maverick

Debts Pile up as Rival Libyan Governments Struggle for Power
Libya’s parallel government in the east has sold bonds worth more than $23 billion to fund its wage bill, bypassing the central bank in Tripoli and creating a potential financial black hole if the country reunifies, bankers and diplomats said. The eastern government’s finance ministry has been selling the debt to a parallel central bank in the east and the proceeds of the sales are used to pay eastern state employees via local banks, in large part using dinars printed in Russia. The debt has been piling up since 2014, when the country split into two administrations – one in Tripoli and the other in the east – as a result of the power struggle that followed the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.  Reuters

US Judge Dismisses Namibian Genocide Claims against Germany
A US court has dismissed a compensation lawsuit lodged against Germany by two Namibian tribes for genocide and property seizures in colonial times. New York lawyers for Herero and Nama will appeal the ruling. Herero leader Vekuii Rukoro asserted Thursday that New York federal judge Laura Taylor Swain had made “fundamental errors” in dismissing the case, adding that lawyers for the tribes would lodge an appeal “with immediate effect.” In the early 1900s, colonial troops killed tens of thousands of protesting Nama and Herero outright or expelled them to their deaths in the Omaheke desert region within what was then known as German South West Africa under an “extermination order” issued by colonial German General Lothar von Trotha. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones