Africa Media Review for May 10, 2019

Two French Soldiers Killed in Rescue of Four Hostages in West Africa
Two French soldiers were killed in an operation to rescue four hostages in the Sahel region of Africa, France said on Friday, adding that the hostages, including a U.S. woman, a South Korean citizen and two Frenchmen, were now safe. Two French tourists were kidnapped during a safari in Benin last week, and their local guide found dead.  Reuters

South Africa Election: Ruling ANC Set for Reduced Majority
With about 72% of ballots counted, the African National Congress (ANC) is predicted to win between 57% of the vote. If the result stands, it will be the party’s worst electoral showing since it came to power 25 years ago. The national and provincial elections are the first since President Cyril Ramaphosa replaced former President Jacob Zuma last year. The voter turnout was relatively low in Wednesday’s poll — dropping to 65% compared to 74% in 2014 — as voters said they were disillusioned by widespread corruption and unemployment. The election commission said final results may not be declared until Saturday. Deutsche Welle

SA’s Biggest Electoral Losers: Say Goodbye to the Minnows, Outsiders, Underdogs and Chancers
With the picture of electoral results beginning to emerge into crisper focus on Thursday night, little wonder that some of South Africa’s smaller parties were demanding a re-run of elections. It is now all but certain that a number of the 2019 elections’ most colourful and divisive characters are out for the count, politically speaking — at least for this election cycle. Daily Maverick’s Stephen Grootes recently joked that if there was any justice in the universe, the South African Capitalist Party (ZACP) and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP) would end up having to sit next to each other in the parliamentary pews of the National Assembly. With 68% of voting stations’ ballots counted on Thursday night, that dream was dying a slow death. It was all but certain that the ZACP would fail to reach the threshold of about 46,000 votes required for one National Assembly seat, while hopes were similarly fading for the union-founded SRWP.  Daily Maverick

Togo Changes Law to Let President Stand for Two More Terms
Togo’s parliament has approved a constitutional change permitting long-standing President Faure Gnassingbe to potentially stay in office until 2030, despite widespread protests calling for the end of his family’s decades-long grip on power. The amendment caps the presidential mandate to two five-year terms but does not apply retrospectively, meaning Gnassingbe can stand for the next two elections, in 2020 and 2025, despite having already served three terms since succeeding his late father 14 years ago. “The president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage … for a term of five years, renewable once,” the new text of the Constitution read, which also made the presidential election a two-round race.  Al Jazeera

Libya Suspends Operations of 40 Foreign Firms including Total
Libya’s internationally recognised government has suspended the operations of 40 foreign companies including French oil multinational Total, a Libyan government official has said. The move is thought to have been prompted by the besieged Libyan government’s anger at the reluctance by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to offer the Libyan prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, more explicit support when they met this week in Paris. Total is a major oil player in Libya, which pumps more than 1m barrels of oil a day and aims to have reached 2.1m barrels by 2023. Explaining the decision, which also affected the aerospace company Thales and the telecoms company Alcatel, the economy minister, Ali Abdulaziz Issawi, said the foreign businesses’ licences had expired, according to a decree that appeared online, and whose authenticity was confirmed by an official in the ministry. They have all been given three months to reapply for their licences.  The Guardian

With France’s Backing, Libya’s Sarraj Hopes to Come Out of the Cold
Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj says he has won France’s support against an attack on Tripoli by military strongman Khalifa Haftar. Following his meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, he appeared to get the “clear political position” he was after. “President Emmanuel Macron was very understanding,” Sarraj said Wednesday following his meeting with the French president. “We agreed on a number of points to kick start the UN-backed peace process,” he told RFI. “That can only happen once the fighting in Tripoli comes to an end.” Tensions have flared since General Khalifa Haftar launched an assault last month against Sarraj and his internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). RFI

Egypt’s El-Sisi Gives Libya’s Haftar His Second Thumbs-up in a Month
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met Thursday with Libya’s Khalifa Haftar, saluting the eastern-based strongman’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremist militias in his country. The meeting, which is the second in around a month between the two, comes as Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army presses an offensive to take the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in a fight against the internationally-recognized government headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj. Egypts presidency said in a statement that El-Sisi reaffirmed his governments support for efforts to combat terrorism and extremists in order to achieve security and stability in Libya. He also voiced his support for the military establishments role in restoring the foundations of legitimacy in the North African nation. Bloomberg

UN Security Council to Meet on Libya amid Offensive on Tripoli
The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Libya as a month-long offensive on the capital grinds on, diplomats said on Thursday. Britain requested the Friday meeting so a UN aid official could brief representatives on the assault that has displaced 55,000 people and left more than 430 dead, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity. The council has been divided over how to respond to the crisis in Libya, forcing Britain to put on hold a draft resolution demanding a ceasefire.  AFP

US Airstrike Kills 13 Somalia ISIS Fighters, AFRICOM Says
A U.S. airstrike in has killed 13 Islamic State fighters in northern Somalia, U.S. Africa Command said Thursday. The Wednesday, May 8 airstrike targeted an ISIS encampment in the Golis mountains, the Thursday press release said. “We are supporting our Somali and AMISOM partners with increased, mature intelligence sharing,” said Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, U.S. Africa Command director of intelligence. “There is a deliberate campaign underway, that is intelligence-driven, that capitalizes on what we learn during each operation and rapidly leveraging that information to drive the next operation, including discovering where terrorists may be training, massing, and preparing to commit atrocities.”  AFP

Anti-Boko Haram Militia Frees 900 Children in Nigeria
Nearly 900 children held by a pro-government militia force fighting Boko Haram insurgents in northeastern Nigeria were freed on Friday, the UN said. The 894 children, including 106 girls, had been in the ranks of the government-backed Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a local militia which supports regular soldiers battling the extremist insurgents. At a ceremony in the northeastern town of Maiduguri, they were released as part of the CJTF’s “commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children,” the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) said. “Children of north-east Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict,” said UNICEF chief in Nigeria Mohamed Fall.  AFP

Burkina Sacks Governors of Regions Targeted by Jihadists
Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has sacked the governors of four regions attacked by Islamic extremists, a statement said Thursday. The West African country has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Kabore appointed new governors in five of the country’s 13 regions, including four in the north, the east, the Sahel and the central north which have been targeted by jihadists. The new governors named at the weekly government meeting are mostly civilian administrators or officers in the armed forces, like their predecessors, said the statement, which came after a cabinet meeting. The past four years have seen a major outbreak of violence by jihadists. AFP

German Parliament Extends Army’s Africa Missions
The German Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, voted overwhelmingly to extend three army missions in Africa for another year on Thursday. The army, known as the Bundeswehr, is currently engaged in one UN and one EU mission in Mali and another EU mission in Somalia. The mandate for all three missions will run until late May of 2020. Yet the deployment of German special forces units in Niger and Cameroon drew harsh criticism from parliamentarians who accused the government of illegally bypassing lawmakers. The Bundeswehr’s UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali, which began in 2013, is designed to bolster Mali’s government and deny quarter to terrorists. As terrorist groups are heavily involved in organized crime and human trafficking, the mission is considered a priority for its impact beyond Mali’s borders. Deutsche Welle

Algerian MPs Show Solidarity with Anti-Gov’t Protesters
Algerian lawmakers on Thursday boycotted a parliamentary session that was called to confirm six new cabinet members, according to local media reports. The MPs reportedly boycotted the session to show solidarity with ongoing popular protests calling for the dismissal of all government officials linked to the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The 82-year-old Bouteflika resigned early last month following weeks of popular protest against his 20-year rule. Abdelkader Bensalah, a former parliamentary speaker, is now serving as interim president for a 90-day transitional period — overseen by the army — during which presidential elections will eventually be conducted. Anadolu Agency

Algerian Military Jails Prominent Politician, Raising Worry
An Algerian military court has detained a prominent left-wing politician as it investigates an alleged plot against the country’s leadership. A statement from the Workers Party says its general secretary Louisa Hanoune was ordered held in custody Thursday at the military court in Blida. The statement says Hanoune is being questioned as a witness in an investigation into the former president’s brother Said Bouteflika and two former intelligence bosses. Several tycoons have also been targeted in a corruption crackdown. The outspoken Hanoune has been a fixture on Algeria’s political scene since 1991, and her detention shocked many. The party called it “counter to the Algerian people and their revolutionary mobilization.” A peaceful uprising helped push longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power last month, but new protests are planned Friday. AP

US Wants to See Movement towards Unity Government in South Sudan
Earlier this week, regional mediating body IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) endorsed an agreement by the warring parties in South Sudan to delay the formation of a power-sharing government for a further six months. The original eight-month period is ending with little visible progress towards the implementation of key provisions of a peace deal agreed last September between rival camps headed by President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar. In an interview with DW, the US ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, said the Trump administration wants to see the two sides implement the peace deal without delay. They should not waste the additional time they have been given but should “use the six months wisely and actively accomplish all the remaining tasks that need to be done during the transition period and even start thinking beyond.”  Deutsche Welle

Bill Giving Pensions to Lawmakers Outrages Nigerians
Pending legislation that would give pension packages to lawmakers in northwest Kano triggered an online protest Thursday, with residents questioning the move in Nigeria that is gripped by mass poverty. “Kano state lawmakers have passed bill granting Speakers and Deputy Speakers pension for life, medical trip abroad yearly, new car every four years,” International Crisis Group (ICG) official Nnamdi Obasi wrote on Twitter. “Kano state has over three million kids out of school, over three million youths unemployed. Criminal governance today will aggravate insecurity tomorrow,” he said. The legislation comes as similar proposals are being considered in other parts of the country, drawing widespread criticisms and warnings it could spark anger among the poor populace. Anadolu Agency

U.S. Officials Fear Ebola Outbreak in Congo Could Become Largest Ever
Already the second-largest outbreak in history, the Ebola epidemic that has killed just over 1,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to grow and threatens to surpass the 2014 outbreak in West Africa that resulted in 11,325 deaths, an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. “We’re very concerned. This outbreak does have the potential to be the largest outbreak if things remain unchecked and cases continue at the current pace,” Ray Arthur, director of the CDC’s Global Disease Detection Operations Center, told Yahoo News. “This outbreak has been going for a year now, the first cases were actually in April of 2018, but the outbreak wasn’t recognized and declared until August. But over the last three or four weeks, we’ve seen approximately one-fifth of all the cases, which represents a marked increase.”  Yahoo News

A Sharp Jump in Mobile Internet Prices Shows the True Value of Zimbabwe’s Troubled Currency
While Zimbabwe’s central bank is trying to make the case for a respectable value for its three-month old currency the Zimbabwean Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGs) dollars against the US dollar, local mobile operators are showing the RTGs’ true value in, well, real time. […] But perhaps because of a long history of inflation with fuel and food, a hike in mobile internet prices among Zimbabwe’s nearly 9 million internet users has generated much more furor and consternation. Over the last few weeks as currency uncertainty has mounted, Zimbabwe’s mobile operators—part of one of the few stable and growing industries in a struggling economy—have had to take matters into their own hands. Econet, Netone and Telecel all hiked their data tariffs to keep up with the benchmark US dollar as the RTGs dollar value keeps falling . On Apr. 30, Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest operator, introduced an internet data package called “data bouquet” which came with price increases of 250%, which set off customer protests on social media. It was following in the wake of its smaller rivals who had already introduced price increases days earlier. Quartz