Africa Media Review for May 15, 2019

Sudan Crisis: Military and Opposition Agree Three-Year Transition
Sudan’s military leaders have announced an agreement with the opposition alliance for a three-year transition period to a civilian administration. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) said the alliance would have two-thirds of the seats on a legislative council. However, the two sides are yet to agree on a sovereign council – the top tier of power, where both want a majority. Sudan has been ruled by the military council since last month’s toppling of President Omar al-Bashir. Protests that led to his downfall have continued amid demands for full civilian government. BBC

The Man Who Terrorized Darfur Is Leading Sudan’s Supposed Transition
The interim vice president, Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, was in charge of the brutal janjaweed militias. Now he is calling the shots in Khartoum. After Omar al-Bashir was deposed on April 11, Western diplomats made no mistake about who was in charge. Ambassadors from the United States, Britain, and the European Union did not shake hands with the transitional military council’s president, the little known army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan; they met with his younger deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, better known by the nickname “Hemeti.” The story of how an uneducated 40-something chief of the janjaweed—the Arab militias that brought death and destruction to Darfur 16 years ago—became more powerful than his seasoned mentors in the Sudanese junta is, to many, a mystery. In fact, Hemeti is the main legacy of Bashir’s 30-year rule. Bashir himself was a product of an alliance of the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, unseen elsewhere in the Arab world, but the army grew tired of the wars it had to fight in Sudan’s south, and the Islamists fragmented. When a new war began in Darfur in 2003, Bashir was convinced by Darfuri Arab hard-liners that turning their youths to militias would allow him to win. Foreign Policy

Church Attacks Plague Burkina Faso as Jihadists Switch Tactics
Gunmen opened fire on a religious procession in a village in northern Burkina Faso, marking the third attack on Christians in less than two weeks in the country that’s struggling to cope with a surge of Islamist militant violence.Attacks on churches are a new phenomenon as jihadists mainly targeted soldiers and teachers in the border regions, which have become increasingly dangerous due to a spill-over of violence from neighboring Mali. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said last week that terrorists are changing their modus operandi, from stoking inter-communal conflict to trying to foment religious strife. Four people were killed and a statue of the Virgin Mary was destroyed in the attack in Zimtenga on Monday, Bishop Paul Ouedraogo, head of the Episcopal conference, told reporters in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Tuesday. The incident comes just after gunmen burst into a Catholic church and shot six people, including a priest, during Sunday mass. Bloomberg

Mali: Displacement Figure Triples Because of Violence and Military Operations
The number of people forced to flee their homes in Mali increased by 360 per cent last year because of violence and military operations, according to a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). The number of people displaced has continued to increase in the first months of 2019 resulting in alarming humanitarian needs. “We have never witnessed such high levels of displacement since the signing of the peace deal in 2015 and this is likely to worsen in 2019,” said Hassane Hamadou, Country Director at the Norwegian Refugee Council in Mali. “This year has already been marked by several attacks on civilians; those who survive often flee their villages, having lost their loved ones and livelihoods.”  ReliefWeb

Mali Calls for More EU Help amid Attacks in Africa’s Sahel
The impoverished West African country of Mali on Tuesday urged the European Union to step up support for the Sahel region amid a spate of extremist attacks, as France buried two officers killed during a hostage rescue mission. “It’s a race against time,” Foreign Minister Tiebile Drame said, following attacks in central Mali and across the border in northern Burkina Faso. He called for action from “Europe and other countries in the world that have the means and feel concerned by the terrorist threat.” Speaking to reporters in Brussels after a meeting of EU and Sahel country government ministers, Drame said that “we need support. We need to speed up procedures. We need international mobilization in a concrete way.” Security has deteriorated in the Sahel over the past decade, with extremist attacks occurring frequently. Both fighters and people seeking better lives in Europe move easily across the region’s long, porous borders.  AP

4 Killed in Mogadishu District HQ Blast
Police in Somalia say four people were killed Tuesday when a suicide bomber hit offices in the Warta Nabadda district of Mogadishu. Witnesses told VOA’s Somali service that a Toyota Noah vehicle filled with explosives was driven into the district headquarters during food distribution for Ramadan. Police say at least nine people were injured in the blast, but witnesses put the number of injured at 30. The targeted building is near the Somali presidential palace, Villa Somalia, also located in Warta Nabadda district. Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attack.  VOA

Somalia Cancels National Exams after Vast Social Media Leaks, Students Protest
National secondary exams in Somalia have been cancelled by authorities after papers were leaked on social media platforms, the Minister of Education confirmed late Monday. Over 31,000 students are affected by the cancellation. They had started taking the exams since last Saturday, it was expected to span between 11 – 21 May, reports said. Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre confirmed new dates for the exams, they are now slated to be retaken between May 27 – 31. As a measure to curb the incidence from recurring, social media is to be blocked for five days. Reports by the Radio Dalsan news portal indicates that students had taken to the streets in the capital, Mogadishu in protest to the decision. Meanwhile parents have expressed differing views with most saying they were shocked. Africa News

South Africa, This Is Your New Parliament
South Africa’s sixth Parliament will sit in a week, after an intensely fought election. A record number of 14 parties will take up the 400 seats in the National Assembly. The previous high was 13 parties. With voters leaving the ANC and Democratic Alliance (DA), there is now space for new faces, to sit next to some faces that have been in Parliament for a long time. The latter includes Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The nonagenarian will still hold a seat after his party changes its fortunes and grew in this election, from 10 seats to 14 seats. Despite losing 19 seats, the ANC is still the dominant party in Parliament. It now has 230 seats. The DA has also dropped support, losing five seats. It now holds 84 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters has been the big winner in terms of number of seats gained, growing from 25 to 44 and sending a whole host of new faces to Parliament. Mail and Guardian

Ramaphosa’s Economic Reforms in Focus as ANC Adjusts to Smaller Majority
Boosting South African growth and overhauling bloated power firm Eskom are post-election priorities for the African National Congress, but a reduced majority may force President Cyril Ramaphosa to compromise on those and other economic reforms. Ramaphosa took office in February 2018 with a pledge to revive a sclerotic economy and attract foreign investors. But as he prepares for his first full five-year term after the ANC last week saw its share of the national election vote fall below 60% for the first time, the country’s structural problems remain acute. The rand hit a more than two-week high on Friday when the ANC’s parliamentary majority became unassailable, but on Monday the currency retreated and government bond yields rose as outside factors – notably the impact on emerging markets of the U.S.-China trade war – gave investors pause.  Reuters

European Union Calls for Ceasefire in Libya
All warring groups in Libya must commit to a ceasefire and return to U.N.-led mediation, the European Union said on Monday, calling the situation a threat to international security. “The EU calls on all parties to immediately implement a ceasefire and to engage with the United Nations to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement after meeting U.N.-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Brussels. “It also calls on them to dissociate themselves both publicly and on the ground from terrorist and criminal elements involved in the fighting, and from those suspected of war crimes, including individuals listed by the U.N. Security Council,” the statement said. The latest flare-up of violence in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, began a month ago when eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli. More than 440 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced, according to the U.N. Reuters

Has Liberia’s George Weah Scored an Own Goal?
The Liberian economy has taken a serious nose-dive under the leadership of former soccer icon, President George Weah. He came to power in January 2018, elected on promises to revive the nation’s economy and improve living standards, but he is struggling to turn things around. Since Weah’s election, prices of basic commodities such as rice, cooking oil and sugar have more than doubled. The local currency has seen a drastic depreciation. You currently need 176 Liberian dollars to buy a single United States dollar. As correspondent Darlington Porkpa reports from Monrovia, there is growing consternation over the government’s inability to address the situation.  RFI

Kiir Sacks Two State Governors
South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Tuesday night sacked two state governors. Kiir, in a decree read on state television, removed Ruweng State Governor Them Machar Kuol and Southern Liech State Governor Stephen Taker Riek. In another decree, the president appointed Brigadier Lawrence Mabok, to replace Them Machar. The president also appointed Major General Stephen Thiech Yar as the new governor of Southern Liech State. There was no immediate reason given for the changes. The amended constitution in South Sudan gives the president powers to remove and appoint state governors. Radio Tamazuj

Uganda Journalists Take Industry Regulator to Court
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

Gabon Vows No Mercy over Theft of Hardwood Worth Nearly $250M
Gabon’s government has vowed to find and punish those responsible for the disappearance of more than 350 containers of protected hardwood worth nearly $250m. In late February and early March, the authorities uncovered and seized 392 containers with 5,000 cubic metres of illegally felled kevazingo wood in the port of Owendo. By the end of April, 353 of those containers had disappeared. “This case is extremely serious. It requires the greatest severity in response,” the administration of President Ali Bongo said in a statement. “There must be no weakness, no impunity, no special favour, no matter the rank of the persons involved.”  Al Jazeera

Angola Drought: Millions at Risk of Starvation (Video)
The United Nations says a severe drought in Angola is putting thousands of children at risk of starvation. Many of them are being treated for malnutrition. President Joao Lourenco declared a state of emergency in January. Al Jazeera

How Local Campaigns in DR Congo Are Fighting Back against Fake Ebola Rumours
As medical teams work to fight the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, local media organisations and activists are waging a second war against rumours that sow doubt about the disease and distrust of vaccines. Many locals are suspicious of medical workers and believe the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 people since last August, was orchestrated by politicians. Conspiracy theories are rampant on social media, with some users rejecting the existence of Ebola, and others claiming that it is a biological weapon created to decimate the population or that medical teams are more interested in making money than in containing the disease. The hostility has been underscored by violence toward medical workers in North Kivu province, in eastern Congo, where the outbreak has hit hardest. Treatment centers have been targeted, and a nurse and doctor were killed in recent months in attacks believed to have been carried out by local militias. France 24



Photo: Adam Jones