Africa Media Review for May 14, 2019

Deadly Clashes in Sudan after Military, Protest Leaders Strike Deal
Four Sudanese protesters and an army major were shot dead Monday in the capital, hours after protest leaders and the ruling generals reached a breakthrough agreement on transitional authorities to run the country. The latest developments came as the prosecutor general’s office said ousted president Omar al-Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule last month. The major and a protester were killed at a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where thousands of protesters remain camped for weeks, demanding that the army generals who took power after ousting Bashir step down.  France 24

Ramadan Keeps Sudan Protesters Hungry for Change
In our series of letters from African journalists, Zeinab Mohammed Salih explains how Sudan’s protesters are managing to keep going during the Muslim fasting month. More than a month since Sudan’s long-time leader Omar al-Bashir was arrested by the military, crowds are still camped out – day and night – in front of the army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. They feel the transitional military council is procrastinating about handing over power to civilian rule – and are determined that the energy of the sit-in is not diminished during Ramadan, when Muslims do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset. A buzz can be felt around the vigil site directly after sunset when people gather for Iftar, the meal when the fast is broken. BBC

Former Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir Charged over Dead Protesters
Prosecutors have charged ousted President Omar al-Bashir with involvement in killing protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the uprising that drove him from power. Sudan’s state news agency published the charges, following a statement from the public prosecutor. It was not immediately clear what punishment Mr Bashir might face. The transitional military council ruling Sudan has said he would face justice inside the country and will not be extradited to the Hague, where the International Criminal Court has charged him with war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s. Mr Bashir, who was the only sitting head of state to be subject to an international arrest warrant, was imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum, days after the military removed him from power last month. The Independent

Chad Suspends Import Taxes on Food to Avoid Sudan-Style Protests
Chad scrapped import taxes on staple foods to quell growing anger about rising food prices, a month after protests in neighboring Sudan over high costs of living forced President Omar al-Bashir to step down.The decision comes amid regular, days-long power outages in the capital, NDjamena, and after almost four months of an acute cooking-gas shortage that forced the poorest residents to use cow dung as fuel. Last year, civil servants went on strike for weeks to protest a range of austerity measures President Idriss Deby said were needed to get a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The government has exempted rice, flour, cooking oil and dates from any levies or import duties as of May 10, according to a joint decree by the finance and other ministries. The measure will stay in place for an initial six months, according to comments Deby made on state TV.  Bloomberg

Unidentified Armed Men Kill 4 Civilians in Central Mali
Four civilians were killed on Friday by unidentified armed men in central Mali, AFP learned from a family member, a community leader and a security source. “My brother was with other people returning by motorcycle from the Bandiagara market. Armed men opened fire on them. Four civilians were killed on the spot and two others were wounded. The killers disappeared quickly,” Ali Ogobara, a relative of one of the victims, told AFP. An official of the Association for the Development of the Bandiagara Circle (ADB), Seydou Timbiné, confirmed the facts. “This is a cowardly and barbaric attack. Civilians were leaving Bandiagara for the village of Tégrou. We call on the Malian government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the civilian population… (…) There are too many weapons and gangs circulating,” said Mr. Timbiné.  AFP

Attacks in Burkina Faso — a Simmering Islamist Conflict
It was Sunday morning, May 12, when about 20 attackers reportedly surrounded a church and shot a priest and five members of the congregation. “Towards 9 a.m. during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church,” the mayor of the northern Burkinabe town of Dablo, Ousmane Zongo said. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.” The attack came two days after French troops rescued four foreigners who had been taken as hostages in neighboring Benin, and two weeks after a similar attack on a church in the nearby town of Silgadji, which killed six people. “In terms of the frequency and the geographical scope of Islamist militant violence in Burkina Faso, it is increasing and expanding at an alarming rate,” Ryan Cummings, a security analyst and director of Signal Risk, told DW. While the targets are generally small, the extremist groups are reported to have targeted churches, Muslim clerics who the groups view as not radical enough, schools, checkpoints, and mining operations.  Deutsche Welle

Algeria: What’s Next for Post-Bouteflika Era under General Salah?
With ousted President Bouteflika gone, Algeria’s army minister, Ahmed Gaid Salah, has become the country’s most powerful figure. Whether he can or will lead Algeria to democracy, however, remains unclear. It has been a month since Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out of office, but the street protests that preceded his ouster have not stopped. Thousands of people have continued to gather in demonstrations in Algiers and around the country to call for political reform. Ahmed Gaid Salah, the country’s vice minister of defense, has become protesters’ intended target, with some calling for his resignation. It was Salah who who forced Bouteflika out at the beginning of April, following weeks of mass demonstrations. The move was received well at first, but voices from the opposition have not overlooked the fact that Salah lacks the constitutional authority to remove elected leadership, even if they are opposed by the people or in power thanks to voter manipulation. Salah is also part of the very political establishment whose corruption has brought people to protest it, although the general himself has not been seriously accused of any wrongdoing.  Deutsche Welle

Ramaphosa’s Next Challenge: Picking a Team to Revive South Africa’s Economy
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s triumph in guiding his African National Congress to a sixth straight election victory has left him with an even more formidable challenge: to pick a cabinet that can dismantle a shadow state of corruption and revive the flagging economy. His window of opportunity to install an administration free of ministers tainted by graft and to impose tough economic reforms, without deepening rifts in an already-divided party, may not remain open for long. The ruling party’s 5 percentage-point drop in support in the May 8 election from 2014 — its worst showing in a national vote since the end of apartheid — testifies to the public anger over state capture, as the looting of public funds under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, is known.While Ramaphosa fired several ministers with tainted reputations when he replaced Zuma as president last year, others kept their posts. Bloomberg

Despite a Low Internet Penetration, Malawi Is Worried about Fake News in Its Election Run-Up
As Malawi prepares for national elections to be held on May 21, the country has been hit by a fake news campaign which has quickly spread on social media. While the spread of misinformation is no longer surprising during elections in Africa or elsewhere, Malawi is notable because the southern Africa country has an internet penetration rate of just 14% of its 18 million population. That’s lower than the sub Saharan Africa average of around 22%, based on ITU data. And yet, despite low internet access people who get online and pick up fake information (often urban dwellers) end up discussing these emerging Issues in their neighborhoods, social gatherings and in many public places and can at times even spread to people living in rural areas. With election campaigns for president, members of parliament and local government councillors now at a fever pitch, Malawians are eager to hear election news and it’s driving a proliferation of fake news mainly through Facebook and WhatsApp.  Quartz

Guinea-Bissau: Electoral Commission Calls for Elections on November 3
Guinea-Bissau’s National Electoral Commission has called for the presidential elections to take place on 3 November, according to a schedule which Lusa had access to on Monday. The schedule also indicates that the second round of the presidential elections will take place on 8 December, if necessary. The document provides that the date of the presidential elections will be set, under a presidential decree, by the first week of August. The head of state’s current term of office ends on 23 June. According to the electoral law, the president shall set the date for the presidential and legislative elections 90 days ahead, via a presidential decree. LUSA News

As Peace Efforts Stumble in South Sudan, Needs in a Swamp Refuge Grow
At the centre of al-Sudd swamp, one of the world’s largest wetland areas, is Old Fangak, an isolated town that has become a haven for tens of thousands of people fleeing South Sudan’s interminable conflict. But safety comes at a price. The population of Old Fangak in northern Fangak State has grown tenfold since 2013, up from 5,000 people to 50,000. The influx has depleted local food resources, sending food prices soaring and leaving many in the community reliant on humanitarian aid flown in to the small landing strip, or boated in during the rainy season. In the wake of a shaky truce agreed in September last year fighting did stop across large parts of South Sudan. But a power-sharing government due to have been installed on 12 May as the final step in a peace deal has been postponed for at least another six months. The New Humanitarian

UN Security Council to Discuss Cameroon’s Escalating Crisis
The United Nations Security Council this Monday is set to informally discuss the separatist crisis in Cameroon for the first time. The discussion comes at a time when the conflict is escalating with many internally displaced persons from the English speaking regions escaping to the French speaking zones where some live in desperate conditions. This is Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, visiting the English-speaking town of Bamenda on Saturday, begging people to ask their relatives who have joined separatist fighters to come back home. Dion Ngute says President Paul Biya has sent him to say he is ready for an all-inclusive dialogue but will not discuss separating Cameroon. As the prime minister went begging for peace, the military announced that the war against the separatists had intensified with many of their camps destroyed and at least two dozen fighters killed.  VOA

Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International
[…] In an amorphous conflict, estimates of exactly how many fighters are involved are equally slippery. A recent report from International Crisis Group estimates that are somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 fighters attempting to take Ambazonia from concept to reality. However, separatist leaders themselves claim there are far more people who have taken up the fight—and an even greater number willing to do so. Fighters in the AMF routinely take on well-equipped and heavily armored soldiers from Cameroon’s military with rusty hunting rifles, or even single-shot pistols. The AMF is the product of an attempted merger between several other groups. Its members have fashioned a logo for themselves, built a command structure, and amassed hundreds of fighters, but the composition of the group is constantly changing. Some of the AMF’s ranks even claim multiple allegiances. A soldier might belong to the AMF and claim membership in other groups such as the Red Dragons, or the Southern Cameroons Defense Forces at the same time. Others are ready to be associated with any group fighting the Ambazonian cause. Foreign Policy

Zimbabwe Starts Rolling Power Cuts, Hitting Mines, Industry
The power cuts will add to mounting public anger against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as Zimbabweans grapple with an economic crisis that has seen shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, food and medicines as well as soaring inflation that is eroding earnings and savings. The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) said power cuts, known locally as load shedding, would start on Monday and will last up to eight hours during morning and evening peak periods. “The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand,” ZETDC said in a public notice. Isaac Kwesu, chief executive of Chamber of Mines, which groups Zimbabwe’s biggest mining companies, did not answer his mobile phone when contacted for comment. Reuters

Ex-Somali Colonel Faces Civil Trial in US Alleging Torture
A northern Virginia man who served decades ago as a colonel in the Somali Army is facing accusations in a federal courtroom that he tortured and killed those perceived as enemies of the government. A civil jury in Alexandria heard opening statements and testimony Monday in the suit against Yusuf Abdi Ali of Alexandria, who was known as “Tokeh” when he served under dictator Siad Barre. The lawsuit was brought by a Somali man who says he was shot and left for dead by Ali during a 1988 interrogation. He says he survived only by bribing the men who were supposed to bury him. The lawsuit has been delayed for nearly 15 years, mostly by legal debate over whether a Somali national could bring suit in the U.S. over alleged torture overseas.  AP

Political Games Hinder Efforts to End Ebola Outbreak in Congo: WHO
Attempts to end the second worst Ebola outbreak on record are being hampered by “political games” and distrust of outsiders in two towns in Democratic Republic of Congo, a senior World Health Organization official said on Monday. The epidemic has moved through northeastern Congo, killing 1,117 people since mid-2018. A rapid international response with an effective vaccine has managed to stop the spread in a string of towns, including Beni, Kyondo, Komanda, Tchomia, Mabalako, Mandima and Kayna, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said. But in two towns, Butembo and Katwa, there has been persistent infection and reinfection, Ryan he told an audience at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.  Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones