Africa Media Review for May 1, 2019

Record Low Turnout at Benin Polls with No Opposition
Benin’s electoral commission has announced the results of controversial elections that were held without any opposition candidates and saw a record low turnout just under 23 percent. All candidates contesting the April 28 vote came from just two parties, the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union, both allied to President Patrice Talon. The small West African state was long held up as a model for democracy, but the main opposition parties were effectively barred from fielding candidates by tough new eligibility rules. The election commission announced late on Tuesday that 22.99 percent of the almost five million eligible voters had cast ballots. Turnout had never previously been below 50 percent since the country’s transition to democracy in 1990.  France 24

25 People Killed in Boko Haram Attack on Nigerian Village
Victims’ relatives say suspected Boko Haram extremists attacked a village in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 25 people who had just returned home from a wedding. Rebecca Malgwi says two of her brothers-in-law were killed in the attack on Kuda-Kaya village in Adamawa state on Monday night. She says the attackers went from house to house. She says many people could not escape because the shooting came from all directions. Former local government official Yahaya Muhammed confirms that 25 people were killed.  VOA

Terror Attacks on the Rise in Burkina Faso
Violence fueled by extremists is on the rise in the West African nation of Burkina Faso and appears to be getting worse. In April more than 65 people died in ethnic clashes inflamed by Islamist extremists seeking to gain a stronghold in the Sahel. On Sunday, four worshippers and a pastor were killed when gunmen targeted a church in the small northern town of Silgadji, local security sources said. “What we fight against, what we see every day is like a toxin,” Lt. Col. Kanou Coulibaly of the Burkina Faso Armed Forces told VOA.  VOA

Sudan Protesters Call for Mass Rally, Military Warns against ‘Chaos’
Sudan’s main protest group says the army isn’t serious about handing over power and calls for a mass rally.Algeria’s Former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia is questioned over possible charges of “squandering public funds, and undue advantages.And in Mali, thousands take part in the annual Grand Mosque plaster. Our team was there to capture the ceremony, in tsUDANe historic World Heritage city of Djenné. France 24

Sudan Military Ruler to Head New Joint Council with Civilians
A top Sudanese general has said the new joint civilian-military council will be headed by the current chief of the ruling military council. The move has been denounced by leaders of the protest movement that brought down former strongman Omar al-Bashir. Demonstrators have already called the military council headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan “a copycat of the toppled regime”. Sudan’s generals set up a military council after they toppled veteran president Bashir on 11 April. They have since resisted protestors calls to step down. RFI

Uganda Police Clash with Pop Star Bobi Wine’s Supporters
Ugandan police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at scores of demonstrators who took to the streets to protest the arrest of pop star-turned-opposition MP Bobi Wine. Crowds of people held rallies in several suburbs of the capital, Kampala, on Tuesday, a day after the latest arrest of the politician, according to an AFP reporter. “There are clashes between the police and youths who threw stones at the advancing police, a number of people have been injured and we took some to Mulago hospital,” Kampala Red Cross Manager, Praise Turyebwa told AFP news agency. AFP

6 Soldiers Killed in Sudan Clashes
Six Sudanese soldiers have been killed in clashes with protesters in South Kordofan state, according to the ruling military council on Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum, council deputy head Mohamed Hamdan Daqlo said the deaths occurred in the state in the past few days. He also cited clashes between protesters and security forces in the western Darfur province over what he described as attempts to rob billions of Sudanese pounds from stores belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Daqlo confirmed that the military council and opposition have agreed to form a joint transitional council and to open the railway path and main roads that lead to a protest camp in front of the army headquarters. Anadolu Agency

Libya ‘War Crimes’ Videos Shared on Social Media
An investigation by BBC Arabic has found evidence of alleged war crimes in Libya being widely shared on Facebook and YouTube. The BBC found images and videos on social media of the bodies of fighters and civilians being desecrated by fighters from the self-styled Libyan National Army. The force, led by strongman General Khalifa Haftar, controls a swathe of territory in the east of Libya and is trying to seize the capital, Tripoli. Under international law the desecration of bodies and posting the images online for propaganda is a war crime.  BBC

Libya Is On the Verge of Becoming a Massive Humanitarian Crisis
Fighting has intensified around Libya’s capitol city of Tripoli that is threatening the plunge the entire country into a full scale civil war. UN humanitarian agencies have been warning of the human toll of this fighting for several weeks. Now, the UN Refugee Agency has issued a dire warning from its operations in Tripoli, where it says 42,000 people have been displaced by “indiscriminate shelling and heavy gunfire.”  UN Dispatch

Libya in Spotlight as Italy, Tunisia Shore up Ties at Summit
Tunisia and Italy bolstered their ties with a visit Tuesday by the Italian prime minister, concluding commercial deals and pleading for dialogue, not fighting, to prevail in Libya. Seven cooperation agreements on energy, education and decentralization were signed during the visit by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and an array of top ministers for the first inter-governmental summit between the two nations. Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio and anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini were among those present. Italy’s defense minister didn’t t make the trip, as initially planned. An important delegation of Italian business leaders took part in an economic forum. AP

Support for South Africa’s ANC at 51–61 Percent, Opinion Polls Show
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) appears headed for victory in next month’s election, as President Cyril Ramaphosa seeks to strike a reforming tone, with three opinion polls showing support ranging between 51 and 61 percent. The three pollsters, which used different methodologies and turnout assumptions for the May 8 parliamentary vote, put support for the biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), at between 19 and 24 percent. Facing huge pent-up demand for better living standards for the country’s black majority, the ANC is seen by some critics as having failed to live up to the heady promises of Nelson Mandela’s era. The party’s image was severely tarnished under Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma.  Reuters

Young Voters Are Turning Their Backs on South Africa’s Elections
Young South Africans are turning their backs on elective politics at the fastest pace in at least two decades, a trend that may hurt the ruling party in next weeks vote. The number of South Africans under 20 who have registered to participate in the May 8 general election has dropped to the lowest level since at least 1999, data from the Independent Electoral Commission show. It didn’t have details for the first non-racial elections in 1994. Among citizens aged 18 to 29 — the biggest segment of the voting population — registrations are at the lowest in at least a decade.  Bloomberg

Algeria’s Ruling FLN Party Elects New Leader
Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party has elected a new leader, according to state media, a month after former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit in the face of mass protests over his bid for a fifth term in office. Mohamed Djemai, a 50-year-old businessman, was named as the new head of the FLN on Tuesday, state television reported. Djemai is a relatively youthful figure atop the FLN, most of whose senior officials are in their 70s and have dominated Algeria’s politics since independence from France in 1962. He replaced Moad Bouchareb, who like other associates of the ailing, 82-year-old Bouteflika stepped down when he did on April 2.  Al Jazeera

Algerian Army Chief Says Big Corruption Cases to Be Revealed
Algeria’s army chief of staff said on Tuesday several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on systemic graft, private channel Ennahar TV reported. A number of figures from the ruling elite including the finance minister, ex-prime minister and several oligarchs have come under investigation over corruption since mass protests forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign on April 2. Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, the army chief of staff, gave no names or details on Tuesday but vowed to help the judiciary handle corruption cases freely. “The judiciary has been freed from all pressures,” he said in a speech at a military base in the eastern city of Constantine. “The country will be cleansed of corruption and corrupt people.”  Reuters

Rwanda Arrests Rebel Leader over Deadly Attacks
The Rwandan government said Tuesday it had arrested a rebel leader alleged to be behind a spate of deadly attacks in a forested area near Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Callixte Nsabimana is accused of forming “an irregular armed group, complicity in committing terrorist acts… taking persons hostage, murder, and looting,” a government statement said. Nsabimana is the spokesman for the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed group which has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Nyungwe, a region popular among tourists coming to see endangered mountain gorillas. The FLN is affiliated with the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR)—a rebel group based in the DRC which carries out cross-border attacks on Rwandan forces.  AFP

Congo Drops Mercenaries Investigation of Opposition Leader Katumbi
Congolese prosecutors have dropped an investigation into allegations opposition leader Moise Katumbi hired mercenaries, a document showed on Tuesday, opening the door for him to return home from three years in exile. Katumbi, the former governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper-mining Katanga region, fled Congo in May 2016 in the face of accusations he had hired mercenaries, including a former U.S. soldier, as part of a plot against former President Joseph Kabila’s government. Katumbi denied the charges, which he said were aimed at preventing him from running in an election to replace Kabila. The poll was meant to take place in 2016 but was delayed by two years amid accusations Kabila was trying to cling to power.  VOA

UN Welcomes Momentum on Western Sahara, but Parties at Odds
The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution welcoming “the new momentum” in efforts to end the decades-old dispute over the mineral-rich Western Sahara, but Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front remain at odds over its future. South Africa and Russia abstained in Tuesday’s 13-0 vote, calling the resolution unbalanced. Last year, the Security Council called for accelerated efforts to reach a solution to the more-than-four-decade standoff over the territory, but two rounds of talks have made no headway. Morocco insists on wide-ranging autonomy for Western Sahara while the Polisario Front insists the local population has the right to a referendum on its future. AP

Amid Border Wrangles, Eritreans Wrestle with Staying or Going
An unexpected rapprochement last year between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the subsequent opening of the border, seemed to offer hope of a more lenient approach toward freedom of movement by the repressive Eritrean government. But last week the only open border crossing at Bure-Assab was closed, with neither country offering an explanation. Trade was also suspended. Eritrea’s apparent opening up but at the same time very uncertain future are leaving its citizens with hard choices to make. […] Even if people wanted to return, it’s not easy. Eritrea’s strict emigration policy makes it difficult to come back and invest in the country – especially for those who slipped out through secretive routes – contributing to further impoverishment and even more emigration. State propaganda also portrays migration negatively, and post-conflict tensions with Ethiopia have often muted discussions about it. The topic is polarising in Eritrean society, even among younger Eritreans who have formed the largest demographic of those leaving.  The New Humanitarian

African Military Spending Continues to Decrease
Military expenditure in Africa has fallen for the fourth consecutive year, with major decreases recorded by Algeria, Angola and Sudan, according to new research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Whilst world military spending rose to $1.822 trillion in 2018, representing a 2.6% increase from 2017, spending in Africa fell by 8.4% last year to an estimated $40.6 billion or 2.2% of global military spending. This was the largest relative annual decrease since the post-cold war peak reached in 2014, SIPRI noted.  DefenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones