Africa Media Review for May 13, 2019

Ramaphosa Helps Halt Decline of South Africa’s Ruling Party
The main opposition Democratic Alliance won 20.8% of the national vote, a 1.4 percentage point dip on its share five years ago, and the populist Economic Freedom Fighters 10.8%, a 4.4 percentage-point increase. Lawyers for 27 smaller parties asked the Independent Electoral Commission for an independent audit of the results and to delay their declaration after allegations of voting irregularities emerged — requests the panel rejected. More than 20 people were arrested for trying to vote more than once. The margin of the ANC’s election victory is within the range anticipated by most analysts and has buoyed financial markets, with Ramaphosa now expected to implement structural reforms to revive an economy that has expanded by less than 2% annually for the past four years. The rand gained for a fourth straight day against the dollar on Friday, advancing 1.3% to 14.1597. Government rand bonds firmed.The ANC scraped through to retain control of the Gauteng province, which accounts for a third of the nations gross domestic product, and includes Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg.  Bloomberg

South Africa’s President Vows to Purge ANC of ‘Deviant Tendencies’
South Africa’s president has vowed to purge his party of “bad and deviant tendencies” as he prepares to appoint a new cabinet following victory in the national elections. The 57% share of the vote was the worst ever election showing for the African National Congress, which has ruled since the end of the apartheid system of racial discrimination 25 years ago. Low voter turnout of 65% in the 8 May election also reflected the frustration of many South Africans after corruption scandals around the ANC that led the former president Jacob Zuma to resign last year under party pressure. Turnout was 74% in 2014. In his first speech to supporters since the election win, Cyril Ramaphosa said he would not appoint leaders who worked “to fill their own pockets”.  The Guardian

ANC Victorious, but Loses Seats in Parliament and across Most Legislatures
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini brought the 2019 general elections to a close on Saturday night by announcing the official results in Tshwane, where he declared the ANC the winner, taking 57.5% of the vote and 230 seats in the National Assembly. Mashinini said 13 of the 48 political parties that contested the elections won seats in the National Assembly, with the ANC and DA losing seats in Parliament and across most provincial legislatures. The ANC’s result was significantly lower than the 62.15% it won in the 2014 elections, meaning it lost 19 seats in the National Assembly, down from 249 to 230 seats. But the ruling party improved on its showing in the 2016 local government elections, when it managed to win a mere 54% of the vote nationally in what was widely seen as an emphatic rejection of the corruption that took hold during former president Jacob Zuma’s administration. The big question now is whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will have sufficient leeway to stave off a powerful faction in the party opposed to his reforms to kickstart economic growth and clamp down on corruption.  The Daily Maverick

Burkina Faso Church Attack: Priest, Five Others Killed by Gunmen during Mass
Gunmen killed at least six people at a Catholic church in the West African nation of Burkina Faso on Sunday and then torched the worship space, town officials told local reporters. The attack during morning Mass occurred in the country’s restive north, where militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have recently gained ground. A priest was among those killed. Militants also set ablaze nearby shops and a medical clinic, according to the BBC. It was the second attack on a church in five weeks in Burkina Faso, where Islamist extremist violence has quadrupled over the past two years. Four worshipers and a pastor died in an attack on a Protestant congregation in late April. The once-peaceful nation, known regionally for its parks and a biennial African film festival, has become a home base for Islamist extremists, who have tried lately to generate income by kidnapping tourists near the borders. The Washington Post

Two French Soldiers Are Killed in Raid That Frees Four Hostages in Burkina Faso
A raid led by French armed forces rescued four hostages in northern Burkina Faso on Friday, as a group of kidnappers were attempting to take them to Mali, the French authorities said. Two French soldiers died in the overnight raid.The hostages included two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean. It was not clear who had abducted them or was holding them, but a number of armed insurgent and terrorist groups, including the ISIS and Al Qaeda, operate in the region.At a news conference on Friday, France’s armed forces chief, Gen. François Lecointre, said the hostages were on their way to be transferred to the Macina Liberation Front, an Islamist militant group in Mali, and that it would have been “absolutely impossible” to set up a raid once the hostages were in the group’s hands.Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, the two French citizens, were abducted on May 1 while on vacation in Benin’s Pendjari National Park, on the border with Burkina Faso, where terrorist groups have stepped up attacks in recent months. Their car was found burned and their driver dead. The New York Times

Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Targeted Blast
The Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu says a Turkish citizen was killed Sunday following an explosion near the city’s busy K-4 junction. The embassy told VOA Somali the victim was an engineer working for a Turkish company. Witnesses told VOA Somali there was an explosion in the vehicle the victim was riding in. The explosion is believed to have been from improvised explosive device planted in the car. The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming the engineer was working at the Turkish military training facility in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab also claimed a killing in the central Somali town of Galkayo. Major Khalif Nur Shil, commander of joint security forces in the town died from wounds suffered in an attack by gunmen armed with pistols as he left a mosque late Saturday.  VOA

After Ousting Bashir, Sudan’s Activists Struggle to Loosen Military’s Grip
After spearheading the rallies that toppled former President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s main protest group is now locked in a stand-off with the country’s new military rulers that is testing its clout as a political force. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) gained widespread support during more than four months of protests and it has helped win a string of apparent concessions from the military council that took over from Bashir on April 11. But as the unionists and activists in the SPA try to chart a course to full-fledged democracy, they are coming up against a powerful rival that has shown little sign yet that it is willing to move aside for a civilian-led transition. Reuters

With Sudan’s Revolution in the Balance, Darfur Moves Center Stage
When the first winds of a revolution blew across Sudan last winter, threatening to upend decades of corrupt and destructive rule, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir needed to find a scapegoat. He got Ayob Omer.Mr. Omer, a 28-year-old veterinary student from Darfur, was scooped up by intelligence thugs outside his university dorm in Khartoum on Dec. 22, days after the first anti-government protest. He was spirited away to a safehouse where he said he was interrogated, tortured with electricity and, after a few days, forced to sit before a camera and read a prepared statement.“I participated in the protests,” he said in a recording later broadcast on state television. “I was carrying a bag and a knife.”His ordeal was part of a propaganda drive orchestrated by Mr. al-Bashir’s security services to blame the revolt on saboteurs from Darfur, the western region where up to 300,000 people have died since 2003 in a government-sponsored campaign to subdue it through pillage, murder and rape. The state intelligence service claimed that Mr. Omer, along with five other Darfuri dissidents who were also forced to appear on TV, had been trained by Israel.  The New York Times

Money, Guns and Brides: Inside South Sudan’s Cattle Wars
Weak rays of early morning sun seep through the smoke rising from smouldering piles of dried dung, keeping flies away from the precious cattle. Children instinctively reach down for the white ash, a natural mosquito repellent, and rub it on their skin as women set to milking and men prepare for a long day seeking pasture at the peak of the dry season. The passing of centuries seems to have changed little in the ebb and flow of life for herders in remote South Sudan, whose cattle serve as a bank account and play a core role in every aspect of life. There has, however, been one devastating shift. Instead of their traditional spears, cowherds now carry automatic rifles that have transformed cattle raids, a generations-old phenomenon, into massacres that have unleashed brutal cycles of vengeance.  AFP

UN Security Council Urges Immediate Libya Cease-Fire
The UN Security Council urged Libya’s warring parties Friday to immediately commit to a cease-fire and return to UN-brokered peace talks. Indonesia’s UN Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani, who is president of the 15-member body for the month, made the appeal on behalf of the Council, stressing it is “deeply concerned” by instability in Tripoli and spiraling humanitarian situation. In early April, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces loyal to a rival government based in eastern Libya, launched a wide-ranging campaign to seize the capital from the UN-recognized government. After more than a month of sporadic fighting on Tripoli’s outskirts, however, Haftar’s campaign has failed to achieve its primary objective.  Anadolu Agency

IS Claims It Killed 11 Soldiers in Northeastern Nigeria
Islamic State killed 11 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on the northeastern town of Gajiganna, the group claimed Saturday through its news agency AMAQ. The jihadist organization said the attack on the soldiers took place in the town in northeastern Borno state on Friday. It published pictures of burned barracks and dead bodies it claimed belonged to the soldiers. Three sources, including one hospital source, confirmed the attack. They said the militants stormed the town at roughly 6:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) and opened fire on residents and the military in sporadic shootings. The fighters fled after the military called in air support and reinforcements from a battalion in a neighboring town. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has carried out a string of attacks in Nigeria in recent months.  Reuters

Dozens Dead as Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Tunisia
Dozens of migrants drowned on Friday after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia, a monitoring group reported, the latest disaster on a perilous but frequently used crossing in the Mediterranean.At least 50 people were killed, according to the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations migration agency, and 16 people were rescued. Most of those who died were reportedly from sub-Saharan Africa.The boat left from Zuwara, Libya, the Tunisian Ministry of Defense said in a statement, and was headed toward Italy when it capsized about 40 miles from the coastal city of Sfax.The movement of refugees and migrants from Northern Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean has dropped significantly from its peak in 2015, when more than one million people traveled the route, but it has remained deadly.The crossing from Libya to Italy has grown increasingly treacherous. Charity vessels that carry out rescue operations and respond to distress calls are finding themselves unwelcome in many European ports, forcing many to stop operating.  The New York Times

Spain Says 52 Migrants Climb Fence into Its African Enclave
Spanish authorities say 52 migrants have climbed a guarded fence to gain entry into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco. An official with the Spanish Interior Ministry in Melilla says four police officer and one migrant sustained light injuries as the group scaled the high fence around dawn Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules. Spain’s proximity to North Africa has made it a target for migrants trying to reach the European Union. The migrants try to get in either by land via Spain’s two North African enclaves or by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in small boats. Spain became the leading entry point to Europe last year, with some 60,000 migrants arriving irregularly, almost all of them by sea.  AP

Nigeria Says Ex-President and His Oil Minister Took Bribes – Court Filing
The Nigerian government has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and his then oil minister of accepting bribes and breaking the country’s laws to broker a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago, a London court filing shows. The deal, in which Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Italian peer Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield, has spawned legal cases spanning several countries. In papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni, lawyers for the Nigerian government said Jonathan and former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired to “receive bribes and make a secret profit”, keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal.  Reuters

Threats by Text, a Mob outside the Door: What Health Workers Face in the Ebola Zone
A text message that says, “Stop or We’ll kill you.” A knock on the door in the middle of the night. Leaflets telling your neighbors that you are the enemy. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, these are the kinds of threats that health workers in the Ebola outbreak zone have been getting for weeks. For five days this past week alone, health workers had to stop all operations because of violence directed toward the Ebola response — resulting in a surge of new infections that’s brought the total caseload to more than 1,600. […] When Ebola hit last August, rumors started swirling that the disease is a hoax — or brought by the government and foreigners as a way to make money and even kill off people in an area that’s been a hotbed of government resistance. “People say that we — the local health workers — are getting money to refer patients to the Ebola treatment centers where they are sent to die,” says Kivwira. “The crowd was shouting that they should chase us out — even kill us.”  NPR

No Nationality Heeded the Call to Come Fight for ISIS Like Tunisians Did. Now They’re Stuck
When the leaders of the Islamic State declared their caliphate in Iraq and Syria, no nationality from outside those countries heeded the call to come fight for it like the Tunisians did. Now, weeks after the caliphate’s defeat, Tunisia is confronting that legacy. Thousands of Tunisian fighters and their family members are believed held in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Libya. Their status represents part of the unfinished business of the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State and a daunting challenge for this small North African country. As their relatives try to bring them back to Tunisia, government authorities here are resistant, fearing that even the tiniest offspring of Islamic State militants could plant the seeds for future radicalism. Tunisian officials say they are hampered in bringing home the detainees by a weak diplomatic presence in Syria and Libya and are overwhelmed by the logistics of repatriation amid the ongoing unrest there. But with Tunisia grappling with its own social turmoil and militant groups on its own soil, there is little political will to bring families back, according to relatives, officials, activists and counterterrorism experts.  The Washington Post

East Africa: Walking a Tightrope between Giving Service and Loan Repayments
East Africa’s finance ministers are walking a tightrope in their quest to finance recurrent government operations and keep major infrastructure projects on course amid falling tax revenues that have weakened key debt sustainability indicators. The region’s debt service-to-total revenue ratios are coming under increasing pressure as governments struggle to achieve tax targets and the window for concessional loans narrows. Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned Uganda to go slow on its borrowing plans after it emerged that the country’s growing debt had weakened its budget metrics to the extent that one out of every five Ugandan shillings paid to the government in tax revenues goes to debt payment.  The East African

How a Nonprofit Trained an Army to Stop Uganda’s Atrocities
For more than 25 years, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorized citizens in Uganda, killing tens of thousands and abducting more than 25,000 children to become soldiers and sex slaves. But one philanthropic group used nontraditional means to stop the slaughter. Hari Sreenivasan spoke to human rights advocate and the Bridgeway Foundation CEO Shannon Sedgwick Davis to learn more. PBS News Hour

Ghana’s 100-Year-Old Imam Who Went to Church
Ghana’s chief imam is a man of few words, but the 100-year-old Muslim cleric certainly knows how to make waves – by attending a Catholic Church service as part of his birthday celebrations. Pictures of Sheikh Osman Sharubutu, sitting attentively in the pews of Accra’s Christ the King Catholic Church for an Easter service, went viral on social media. The grand mufti, leader of Ghana’s minority Muslim community, wants to ensure that his legacy is peace – the fruit of inter-faith harmony. His church attendance was given even more resonance as on the day he was being pictured alongside parish priest Father Andrew Campbell, Islamist suicide bombers unleashed attacks in Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people at churches and hotels. Those on social media championing the imam’s approach described him as a light shining in the darkness. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones