Africa Media Review for May 17, 2019

Burkina Faso Seeks Broad Sahel Anti-Terror Coalition
The foreign minister of Burkina Faso called Thursday on the international community to consider creating a counterterrorism coalition, like the ones for Iraq and Afghanistan, to better combat terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region. The region currently has the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which includes troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Those troops are tasked with fighting threats from extremist and armed groups. But in the two years since its creation, the force has faced major delays and obstacles, including the car bombing of its headquarters. The U.N. says the force is now 75 percent operational, but that equipment and training shortfalls are slowing its progress toward full operational capacity. The Sahel also has 16,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Mali and 3,000 French troops based in Chad to help restore stability. VOA

Sudan Doctors: ‘14 Injured as RSF Militiamen Fire on Khartoum Protestors’
On Wednesday evening, the Central Sudanese Doctors Committee announced that 14 protesters were injured – seven of them shot – during attempts by members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia to dismantle the barricades in the vicinity of the sit-in in front of the General Command of the Sudanese army in Khartoum. The doctors committee said in its statement that the seven others were injured as a result of beatings with rifle butts, kicking and whips by the RSF. Witnesses and journalists reported the injury of three protesters in the vicinity of the General Command in Khartoum on Wednesday afternoon when the RSF opened fire while trying to remove the barricades in El Mak Nimir and El Jamhuriya street in central Khartoum. Dabanga Sudan

Sudanese Protesters Divided over Barricade Removal Order
Arguments, shouting matches, and physical tussles broke out late Wednesday among Sudanese protesters over the positioning of barricades surrounding a sit-in in the capital Khartoum, where thousands of demonstrators have camped since April 6. The barricades, built from rock and twisted metal, protect the sit-in, which is intended to pressure the leaders of a military coup that ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir on April 11. The protesters have been demanding coup-leaders, known as the Transitional Military Council, hand over power to a civilian government. But now the barriers have become the source of disagreement among the protesters and a target of violence. On Monday night, 77 people were shot at the barricades — with four deaths, doctors said. VOA

Sudan Protesters Decry Military Council’s Suspension of Talks
Sudanese protest leaders have denounced the ruling military council’s 72-hour suspension of talks over a peaceful transfer of power to civilian rule as a “regrettable” setback to efforts to forge a new democratic era following the overthrow of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir. The Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protest movement and negotiating the transfer of power with Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC), said in a statement on Thursday that the generals’ move “ignores the developments achieved in negotiations so far”. Sudan’s protest leaders and the TMC had been expected to meet on Wednesday evening to hammer out an agreement on the makeup of the ruling body designed to steer the country towards democracy having already reached an agreement on the composition of a 300-member legislative council and a three-year transition period to a civilian administration. But in the early hours of Thursday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the talks had been suspended amid a deteriorating security situation in the capital, Khartoum. Al Jazeera

U.N. Says Somali Militants Using Home-Made Explosives to Step up Attacks
Somali Islamist insurgents are making their own explosives, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters, as they mount more frequent and deadly attacks. The findings are a blow for internationally backed efforts to fight the al Shabaab insurgency, which has repeatedly carried out attacks in East Africa and launched dozens in Somalia this year despite a dramatic increase in U.S. air strikes. “For the first time, post-blast laboratory analyses … indicate a clear shift in al Shabaab construction methods, away from the use of military-grade explosives and towards HME (home-made explosives,” said a confidential report by the U.N. panel of experts on Somalia, which was seen by Reuters. “Information from a range of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts suggests a probable connection between the development of HME by al Shabaab and the recent increased frequency of major attacks in Mogadishu.” The analysis was based on at least 20 attacks since July 2018, the report said. Reuters

South Sudan Sacks 40 Overseas Diplomats for Going AWOL
South Sudan said Thursday it had sacked 40 overseas diplomats for not showing up for work, some of them for years. The foreign ministry in Juba said it had tried in vain “to engage with these diplomats who went Absent Without Appointed Leave (AWOL) over the past few months and years”, including some posted to embassies in the United States and United Kingdom. None had replied or returned home after finishing their postings—prompting their mass firing in a terse memo issued by the foreign ministry. “Unfortunately the ministry was left with no choice but to let these diplomats go, following fruitless attempts to convince these diplomats to return to work in Juba,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday. AFP

Benin Swears in New Parliament after Contested Vote
The West African nation of Benin has inaugurated its new parliament following elections in which opposition parties were banned from taking part. The domination of the two parties supporting President Patrice Talon led to widespread demonstrations across the country. Police and military stepped up their surveillance of the National Assembly in the capital of Porto-Novo as the legislators returned on Thursday. Benin’s electoral commission had rejected candidates from opposition parties, saying they did not conform to the country’s new electoral code. The April 28 vote led to violent street demonstrations. Human rights groups said four people were killed. Authorities also blocked social media around the time of the vote in a bid to quash protesters from organizing online. Washington Post

Cameroon Crisis “More Alarming than Ever”
The United Nations must act to prevent further devastation from the escalating crisis in Cameroon, human rights groups said. Since 2016, worsening violence in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions has killed almost 2,000 people and displaced over 430,000 people. For years, the UN has remained largely silent about the crisis. Finally, however, the Security Council held an informal meeting on Monday to address the situation in the Central African country. Still, more needs to be done. “Security Council members should call on the government of Cameroon and leaders of armed separatist groups to end abuses against civilians in the Anglophone regions and hold those responsible for abuse accountable,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Central Africa director Lewis Mudge. “This…is an opportunity to remind abusers that the world is watching,” he added. IPS

Egypt’s Sinai: At Least 47 Fighters, 5 Troops Killed in Battle
Forty-seven fighters and five Egyptian soldiers were killed during Egypt’s ongoing military offensive in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where it is fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The fighters had “guns of different makes, ammunition, explosive devices in northern and central Sinai” in their possession, according to a video statement posted on Thursday on the armed forces’ social media accounts. One of the Egyptian troops killed included an officer, it said. As part of the wide-ranging operation to secure Egypt’s borders, 158 “criminal elements” were arrested. Al Jazeera

Ugandan Opposition Figure Says State Is Financially Strangling Him
Uganda’s government is hitting back at a pop star and opponent of President Yoweri Museveni by blocking his concerts and intimidating his business partners, the challenger said on Thursday. The singer-cum-lawmaker whose birth name is Robert Kyagulanyi but is universally known by his music moniker Bobi Wine, has rattled Museveni’s government with his growing support base since he joined politics two years ago. Wine, one of Uganda’s top singers who mostly belts out reggae and rap ballads, has many fans across East Africa and he is one of the top earning musicians in Uganda. He has said he intends to contest Uganda’s next presidential poll in 2021. Museveni, 74 and in power since 1986, is also expected to stand in the election. Security forces have cancelled at least 124 planned concerts since he joined parliament in 2017, Wine told Reuters in an interview at his home in a suburb in the northern outskirts of the capital Kampala. Reuters

Uganda Media in Court after Bobi Wine Coverage
Media groups are challenging a decision by the country’s communications regulator to remove dozens of senior journalists from their news management roles over coverage of music star turned politician Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu. Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on April 30 directed 13 media organisations to suspend 39 producers, editors and heads of news, and submit all news and live-streamed content aired the day before. “On that day, Honorable Kyagulanyi was arrested, charged and taken to Luzira prison and media houses got those problems because of covering that,” said Charles James Ssenkubuge, one of the journalists suspended by the directive. Al Jazeera

Malawi: Head-to-Head Race for the Presidency
Rigging fears, a rap song and the voice of Malawi’s youth are all elements in next week’s presidential election. Incumbent president Peter Mutharika is hoping to beat seven rivals to stay in office for a final term. With less than a week to go before Malawi holds tripartite elections to elect a president, members of parliament and local government councilors, the political temperature continues to rise. Eight candidates are vying for the southern African country’s top seat — and are accusing each other of scheming to manipulate the poll. President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is seeking reelection for a second and final five-year term. In 2014, the brother of deceased former president Bingu wa Mutharika defeated Joyce Banda who had planned to run for the presidency again this year, but withdrew her candidacy in March. Now Mutharika faces another rival from 2014: former Christian pastor Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and is the opposition leader in the National Assembly. DW

Burundi Moves to Seize Assets of Opponents in Exile
Burundi’s Supreme Court has ordered the seizure of assets belonging to opposition activists in exile, the latest swipe in an internationally-condemned crackdown by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. The ruling applies to 32 politicians, rights campaigners and journalists living abroad, and also to nine military officers jailed in Burundi over a 2015 coup attempt, according to a statement by the prosecutor general and Supreme Court president. In power since 2005, Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term in 2015 was denounced as illegal by the opposition, triggering protests and a failed uprising. Nearly half a million people have fled since the 54-year-old former sports teacher and ethnic Hutu guerrilla leader was re-elected then. Reuters

Fate of Dadaab Refugee Camp in Limbo as Kenya Presses for Closure
More than once in recent years, Kenyan officials have called for the closure of Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, home to more than 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom fled Somalia during or since the 1991 civil war. In February, Kenya’s government wrote to the U.N. refugee agency, ordering the camp closed by mid-year. The fate of thousands of refugees is in limbo. Mohammed Aden says his parents fled Somalia’s Gedo region for Kenya 27 years ago. He was just three years old when they arrived at Dadaab. Now 30, he says he was able to get an education, good health care, and a family of his own that knows no other home but Dadaab. And constant threats of its closure now gives them sleepless nights. … The camp would be closed by the end of August if the Kenyan plan is followed through. The United Nations refugee agency says it is working with the Kenyan government to provide “solutions.” VOA

Kenyan al-Shabab Returnees Recount Stories of Pain and Fear
Human rights campaigners say hundreds of Kenyans willingly joined al-Shabab as fighters, porters and wives or were duped into doing so. This was after Kenyan troops went to Somalia in 2013 to fight the armed group as part of an African Union force alongside Somali security forces. Since then, al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks, including the one on a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in January, killing 21 people. Al Jazeera spoke to other Kenyans who returned from Somalia and say they were forcefully recruited and used as front-line fighters and sex slaves. Al Jazeera

Why China Has Become Leading Foreign Investor in Tanzania
China has leapfrogged its Western peers to become the largest foreign investor in Tanzania, thanks to the aggressiveness of its people in searching for new markets outside the world’s most populous country. Eight years ago, China was sixth among countries with the largest investments in Tanzania behind the UK, the US, South Africa and Kenya. But latest figures by the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) show that China had moved into second place in 2012 before taking the top slot a few years ago. Cumulative figures for the period between 1990 and 2017 show that China is leading with investments worth $5.963 billion. The UK came second with investments valued at $5.54 billion while the US, Mauritius and India completed the top five list with investments worth $4.7 billion, $4.308 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively. The Citizen

Zimbabwe Earns Foreign Currency Boost from Sale of Nearly 100 Elephants to China
Zimbabwe has boosted its foreign currency reserves after the country sold nearly 100 elephants to China. According to Face2Face Africa, the country sold 93 elephants to China and four to Dubai for $2.7m between 2012 and 2018. The publication said that the elephants were between two and three years old and were sold for between $13 500 and $41500 each. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Nick Mangwana told Bulawayo 24 News that the country had an elephant carrying capacity of 55 000, but had 84 000 elephants. African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are listed on Appendix II on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). This means that trade must be controlled to avoid “utilisation incompatible with their survival”, said Cites. Poaching the animals for their ivory remains a grave threat to their survival. News24

Facebook Bans “Inauthentic” Accounts Targeting Africa
Facebook has removed hundreds of social media accounts and banned an Israeli firm due to “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” mainly targeting Africa. The fake accounts often posted on political news, including on elections in various countries, the firm said. Facebook has faced rising criticism for failing to stamp out misinformation on its platform. It launched a fact-checking programme in 2016 shortly after Donald Trump became US president. In a blog post, Facebook said it had removed 265 social media accounts that originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia, along with “some activity” in Latin America and South East Asia. … The people behind the phantom accounts spent around $812,000 (£634,941) for ads between December 2012 and April 2019, Facebook said, and these were paid for in Brazilian reais, Israeli shekel and US dollars. Five of the six African countries targeted have had elections since 2016, and Tunisia will hold national polls later this year. BBC

Tech Startups Move forward in Africa
The Afrobytes and Viva Tech conferences in Paris this week have provided an opportunity to look at the progress that high-tech startups have made in Africa, where fundraising is booming. According to Partech Africa, a venture capital firm, 146 startups in 19 African countries raised $1.16 billion for African digital entrepreneurs in 2018. Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa received 78% of the total funding, with Egypt close behind. In French-speaking Africa, Senegal is the leading hub with $22 million raised in four deals. Compared with their Anglophone peers, Africa’s Francophone countries operate in smaller markets, and lack capital and mentors. Marieme Diop, a venture capital investor at Orange Digital Ventures, said that “unfortunately in Francophone Africa, it is not in our DNA. People who succeed in business or in electing positions do not necessarily reach back to help their peers to show them how to be successful. In the Anglophone world, it is a must for anyone who wants to start something: seeking advice. So the gap is not only financial” between the regions. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones