Africa Media Review for May 16, 2019

Niger Loses 17 Soldiers in Ambush Near Mali Border
A government spokesman in Niger says at least 17 Nigerien soldiers were killed and another 11 are missing after an ambush by unknown attackers Tuesday. The attack took place near the village of Tongo Tongo in western Niger. It is in the Tillaberi region where attackers killed four U.S. special forces troops and four Nigerien soldiers in 2017. A security source told the French news agency that Tuesday’s ambush is believed to be a terrorist attack. A group affiliated with Islamic State took credit for the 2017 attack. The area where Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso come together is the scene of frequent militant activity. The Boko Haram group and a splinter group from Islamic State are headquartered in Nigeria and conduct cross-border attacks. VOA

Death Toll from Niger Ambush Rises as Bodies of Missing Soldiers Found
The bodies of 11 missing Nigerien soldiers have been discovered after an ambush by armed men killed 17 of their colleagues on patrol near the Mali border, security sources said. “We have confirmation that the dead bodies of the eleven missing soldiers have been found, bringing the death toll to 28,” a source said late Wednesday. The military patrol was ambushed on Tuesday near the village of Tongo Tongo in the western Tillaberi region, sources said. One of the military vehicles had set off an explosive device. A source referred to what happened as a “terrorist attack”. Several troops were also injured and evacuated to the capital Niamey, a different source told AFP. According to the news site Actuniger, a patrol of 52 Nigerien soldiers happened upon a group of heavily armed men at Baley Beri, near Tongo Tongo. Heavy fighting ensued, lasting more than two hours.  AFP

Sudan Crisis: Talks Stall as Military Demands Barricades Removed
Talks on moving Sudan towards civilian rule have been suspended for three days by the country’s military leaders, who demand protesters clear roadblocks. In a televised statement, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said barricades outside a designated zone in Khartoum should be removed. The setback comes hours after the TMC and the opposition agreed a three-year transition period to civilian rule. Shots were fired on Wednesday as soldiers tried to clear barricades. Protesters in Khartoum said at least nine people were wounded, but that figure could not be verified. Similar violence on Monday left at least six people dead and protesters say those responsible must be held to account.  BBC

Sudan’s Junta Declines to Scrap Death Sentences on SPLM-N’s Agar and Arman
Sudan’s military council has declined to cancel death sentences for two leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) jeopardizing rebels’ plans to return to Sudan after the collapse of al-Bashir’s regime. Last month, SPLM-N led by Malik Agar decided to dispatch a delegation headed by its deputy-chairman Yasir Arman to Khartoum. The group said that the delegation will meet with its freedom and change allies and the Military Council to insist that the issues of war should be resolved in one package within the transitional arrangements. According to reliable sources, the leadership of the military council has received contacts from regional leaders urging it to drop the death sentence against the Movement’s leaders and that Arman’s return to Khartoum would strengthen efforts to bring peace to Sudan during the interim period. Sudan Tribune

Tanzania Was East Africa’s Strongest Democracy. Then Came ‘The Bulldozer.’
John Magufuli began shaking things up on his first full day in office. On November 6, 2015, the newly elected president walked unannounced into Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance, peering into empty offices and interrogating frightened staff—letting it be known that a government long characterized by laxity was in for a major change. He later canceled independence day celebrations and redirected the funding to fight cholera, purged more than 10,000 so-called ghost workers from the public-sector payroll, and initiated a crackdown on corruption and underperformance that saw numerous senior officials sacked, some following scoldings on live television. Africa took notice: Twitter users across the continent adopted the hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo to speculate how he might clean up their own governments. Ten months into his first term, polling by Twaweza, a regional civil-society group, found that 96 percent of Tanzanians approved of his performance. The Atlantic

South Africa’s Ramaphosa Says to Speed up Economic Reforms, Fix Eskom
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that he would use a new five-year term to speed up economic reforms and fix ailing state power firm Eskom, a week after his African National Congress party was re-elected with a reduced majority. Analysts have said reforms like cutting red tape and overhauling Eskom should be post-election priorities for the ANC, after a decade of slow growth and rising joblessness in Africa’s most advanced economy. “We are in an economy that has not been growing … in an appreciable way. That troubles us,” Ramaphosa told investors at a conference in Johannesburg, acknowledging that South Africa’s regulatory framework had discouraged investment. Reuters

UN Steps up Measures to Combat Ebola at South Sudan-Congo Border
The United Nations is stepping up measures to fight Ebola in South Sudan in case an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo spills over the border. The UN, the World Health Organization and South Sudan’s Health Ministry are training medical staff and have moved equipment to centers near the border to screen people, UN head of mission David Shearer told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Juba. The hemorrhagic virus has killed at least 751 people in Congo. If it comes across the border, we have measures to deal with it, Shearer said. There is, however, concern that insecurity near the border will complicate efforts to fight the disease, he said. Bloomberg

Eritrea Blocks Social Media, Reportedly to Curb Planned Protests
Eritreans are unable to access social media networks as at today (May 15), the BBC’s Tigrinya Service reports. People have thus been forced to turn to Virtual Private Networks, VPN, to exchange messages. In Eritrea, the internet cannot be accessed via mobile phones, the report added. The government is said to have taken the measure to avert an intended protest as the country gears up for its 26th Independence Day celebrations on May 24. Asmara has yet to officially respond to the development. Communication like media is strictly under government control in the country considered to be a one-party state.  Africa News

Feud between Rwanda, Uganda Strongmen Takes Toll
The people living on either side of the Ugandan-Rwandan border at Katuna never much considered the boundary: children crossed for school, workers moved freely and trade thrived. That harmony evaporated in February when Rwanda abruptly closed the crossing, with queues of cargo trucks and thronging merchants turned back as soldiers from both armies marshalled along the forest-clad border. The blockade is a result of the worsening animosity between Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, once close allies who backed each other into power, but whose relationship has turned deeply hostile. The distrust between the presidents has burst into the open in recent months, with the pair trading accusations of espionage, political assassinations and meddling in each other’s backyards.  AFP

‘Go and We Die, Stay and We Starve’: The Ethiopians Facing a Deadly Dilemma
Last week, a car rolled through the town of Gedeb in southern Ethiopia, flanked by federal police. A local official made an announcement to roughly 150,000 people who, displaced from their homes, have sought sanctuary in makeshift camps in the town and across the surrounding farmland. In two days’ time, they were told through a loudspeaker, their shelters – mostly built of firewood, banana leaves and the odd tarpaulin sheet – would be demolished. Food aid, medical treatment and other humanitarian assistance would soon stop. The announcement marked the start of the Ethiopian government’s latest effort to bring an end to a displacement crisis caused by ethnic violence that last year left about 2.9 million people homeless, according to new estimates. The figure, the highest recorded anywhere in the world, seriously mars the record of Abiy Ahmed, the reformist prime minister who took office in April 2018. The Guardian

Foreign Military Activity Increasing in the Horn of Africa
The presence of foreign militaries in the Horn of Africa is increasing, with a wide variety of international security actors—from Europe, the United States, the Middle East, the Gulf, and Asia— currently operating in the region. This is profoundly changing the region’s external security environment, new research finds. A new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) entitled The Foreign Military Presence in the Horn of Africa Region states that the Horn has experienced a proliferation of foreign military bases and a build-up of naval forces. This presents major challenges for existing African and Horn regional security structures, which are poorly adapted to the new external security politics of the region. It raises the prospect of proxy struggles, growing geopolitical tensions and a further extension of externally driven security agendas in the region. DefenseWeb

Malawi President Dissolves Cabinet Ahead of Polls
Malawi President Peter Mutharika dissolved the country’s 20-member Cabinet on Wednesday, ahead of May 22 elections. A statement by Chief Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara said until the appointment of a new Cabinet, all ministerial powers, functions and responsibilities will be exercise by Mutharika. “All queries or matters should be directed to the Office of the President and Cabinet,” Muhara said. The dissolution is in line with the Constitution which mandates the president dissolve the Cabinet at any time of his choosing, including during elections, a political analyst at University of Malawi, Mustaf Hussein told Anadolu Agency. “It is expected that the Cabinet be dissolved at this time as we head to the polls to avoid ministers using state resources for campaigning,” he said.  Anadolu Agency

Algeria Presidential Elections Heading towards Dead End
Algeria is witnessing what seems to be a state of political blockage due to the authorities’ commitment to organising the presidential elections on 4 July and the rejection of the popular movement and the opposition of any voting under the supervision of symbolic figures of Bouteflika’s regime. At the same time, experts believe that there are ways out of this impasse, and the statement of the Army Command will be the decisive factor. Last week, Abdelkader Bensalah, President of the Council of the Nation, called on political actors in the country to conduct a “clever and constructive” dialogue to agree on conditions that would ensure the integrity of the presidential election, according to Anadolu Agency.  Middle East Monitor

Senegal’s Macky Sall Signs Decree Scrapping Post of Prime Minister
Senegalese president, Macky Sall on Tuesday signed a decree that officially abolished the post of Prime Minister. “The President of the Republic today promulgated the constitutional law abolishing the post of Prime Minister”, adopted on May 4 by a very large majority of deputies, says a government statement. The scrapping of the prime minister’s post was initiated by the president at the start of his second term mandate in April which has proven very divisive. on May 4 , Senegalese parliamentarians approved a constitutional reform which called for the abolition of the post of Prime Minister. 124 mps voted in favour of the reform with only seven against while, 7 others abstained. Africa News

Be Patient, Urges Zim Finance Minister as Inflation Continues to Climb
Arresting inflation has proven to be an impossible task for Zimbabwe’s finance minister, professor Mthuli Ncube. He says he needs another year to yield positive results. Ncube, the former chief economist and vice-president of the African Development Bank and a professor at the University of Oxford in the UK, took up the finance hot seat in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet in August last year. He vowed to turn the country’s fortunes around within half a year. “If you give me six months, you will see changes, significant changes,” he said at the time. With those six months elapsed, however, there is no sign of inflation slowing down.  Times Live

Army Puts Backers Off Multibillion-Dollar Zimbabwe Platinum Mine
A plan to build Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum mine at a cost of about $4 billion is floundering because a military stake in the project has deterred potential backers, according to people familiar with the funding discussions. The African Export-Import Bank has the mandate to raise money for the mine, a joint venture between Russian and Zimbabwean investors. While the bank provided $192 million of its own funds, meetings in the past year with investors including South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., the continents biggest fund manager, failed to bring additional commitments, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. Zimbabwe has the world’s third-largest reserves of platinum, palladium and related metals such as rhodium — which typically occur together — after South Africa and Russia. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to lure investment to the country to help rebuild the economy, devastated during the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe’s White Farmers: Who Will Pay Compensation?
In Zimbabwe, thousands of white farmers were forced from their farms, sometimes violently, between 2000 and 2001 under a government programme of land reform. The seizures were blamed for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy, and ruined relations with the West. A new plan to compensate the farmers could restore donor confidence but it has divided the country, as the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka reports. The rolling hills beyond the rich farmland remind Dave Wakefield of what he lost. He points out a distinct bald hilltop among them and laughs, “bald like me”. It is part of the Chaddesley Estate, which used to be his 2,000-hectare property. He bought it in 1980 after the government of newly independent Zimbabwe relocated him from another piece of land, which his family had farmed for generations. He purchased Chaddesley with compensation money and a bank loan. BBC

New HIV Map Offers Most Detailed Look Yet At The Epidemic
The United Nations has set a goal of ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. The tide is slowly turning in southeastern Africa — which encompasses countries like South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho and Botswana — and which remains the epicenter of the epidemic and home to more than half the 36.9 million people living with the disease. The rates of deaths and infections there are declining overall. But a July 2018 report from the United Nations’ AIDS agency found a $5.4 billion shortfall in global funding needed to achieve final victory. A first-of-its-kind new map may help increase the precision of the HIV/AIDS response as some data-savvy researchers narrow their focus on the continent’s worst-affected areas — to the size of a small town. A study published Wednesday presents what these researchers describe as the most detailed map ever produced of HIV prevalence across sub-Saharan Africa. The team behind the map is an international consortium of epidemiologists led by the University of Washington-Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Their work appears in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones