Africa Media Review for May 20, 2019

Malawi Election Goes Down to the Wire
Malawi elects a new president Tuesday with no clear frontrunner, but incumbent Peter Mutharika hopes his record of improving infrastructure will help him overcome two serious challengers. But while the largely agricultural country has seen rapid development in recent years, it is still dependent on foreign aid and Mutharika, 78, has been accused of corruption and mismanagement. The main rivals to Mutharika and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera of the long-established Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and Saulos Chilima of the new United Transformation Movement (UTM). Chilima, a 46-year-old former corporate executive, was Mutharika’s closest ally and his vice-president. But he fell out with the president and last year broke away to set up the UTM. This will be the UTM’s first electoral test and they are hoping to tap into the massive youth vote. More than half of the 6.8-million registered voters are under 35.  AFP

Jobs, Corruption Top Issues as Malawi Votes for President
Corruption and the need for economic growth are the main campaign issues as Malawi goes to the polls Tuesday for a presidential election that pits the incumbent against his own vice president as well as the country’s main opposition party. The need to protect people with albinism has also emerged as a hot election topic in this southern African country. More than 6 million people are registered to vote in the elections that also will decide 193 parliamentary seats in one of the world’s poorest countries. As in previous elections, the results of the presidential vote likely will be challenged in court. Although seven candidates are running for president, just three are seen as having a chance at winning. As Malawi has no runoff election, whoever receives the most votes wins, even if the share is well below 50%.  AP

Gunmen Kill at Least 19 at Fish Market in DR Congo
At least 19 people have been killed by gunmen at a fish market in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near Lake Albert in the Ituri region, local authorities revealed on Sunday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place on Wednesday, but the region around Ituri province has been by violence between militias from the Hema and Lendu communities. “Nineteen corpses were found in the village of Tara on the edge of Lake Albert, and eight others were wounded,” said Pilo Mulindo, a community leader in Djugu territory. “Armed bandits attacked a group gathered on the beach to set up a market,” the official said. The UN mission to the DRC, MONUSCO, reported the attack without giving a precise death toll. It said it planned to send a team to the area.  RFI

DRC Opposition Leader Moïse Katumbi Arrives in Lubumbashi
Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition leader Moise Katumbi, who has been in exile for the last three years, arrived in Lubumbashi on Monday, local media reported. Katumbi was received by thousands of excited supporters from his Ensemble pour le Changement party, at the Luano airport. The opposition politician has been living in exile for the last three years, after he was charged by former president Joseph Kabila’s government of several crimes including fraud, hiring foreign mercenaries and illegally acquiring a second citizenship. Africa News

Torture Thrives in Climate of Impunity in DR Congo
A U.N. watchdog group is demanding an end to the widespread practice of torture and other cruel punishments in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC is one of six countries examined by the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which monitors the implementation by States of the Convention Against Torture. At the conclusion of its four-week session, the Committee criticized the DRC for failing to meet this test. Democratic Republic of Congo’s Minister for Human Rights Marie-Ange Mushobekwa offered a vigorous defense of her country’s efforts to comply with the provisions of the Convention Against Torture. She argued that following the ratification of the treaty in 2010, her country had adopted a law against torture which strengthened and completed the Penal Code. She said measures were being enacted to strengthen the criminalization of torture. VOA

Sudan’s Opposition and Ruling Military Council Resume Talks
Sudan’s military rulers and protest leaders have resumed talks to finalise a new governing body that would replace the generals who took power after ousting longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir on the back of a popular uprising. The resumption of talks on Sunday comes following pressure from world powers to reach an agreement over an interim government that would be civilian-led – a key demand of demonstrators. “The talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance for Freedom and Change have started,” a statement by the military council said, in reference to the protest movement. Earlier in the day, the alliance said it was determined that the country’s new ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation”.  Al Jazeera

Sudanese General’s Path to Power Ran through Darfur
In April 2015, President Omar al-Bashir traveled to the heart of Sudan’s conflict-ravaged Darfur region to congratulate one of his hand-picked commanders on a recent victory over rebels. Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, had led the so-called Rapid Support Forces on a series of counterinsurgency campaigns in Darfur and other restive provinces. The paramilitary force grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias, and rights groups say forces under his command used many of the militias’ brutal tactics. “I signed the list of promotions that I received from you without even looking at it,” al-Bashir told a cheering crowd, addressing Dagalo, as he stood atop a Land Cruiser in the sweltering heat, according to a contemporary account of the rally. Four years later, al-Bashir is imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum, and Hemedti, who comes from a camel-trading family in a remote province, is the second most powerful man in Sudan.  AP

‘Real Democracy’ the Goal in Sudan, General Says
The deputy leader of Sudan’s military council voiced his enthusiasm for democratic elections in front of an audience of tribal leaders and senior diplomats Saturday, while seeking to deflect blame for violence in Khartoum this week. The clashes threatened to derail the council’s talks with an alliance of protest and opposition groups pushing for a swift transition to civilian rule after the fall of former President Omar al-Bashir last month. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the youthful leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has emerged as the most prominent member of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that ousted and arrested Bashir following months of protests. Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, has considerable power. His RSF are deployed across Khartoum, and he is close to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which between them pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan late last month. VOA

Algeria Election May Be Postponed, Protests Continue
Algeria’s imminent presidential election looks likely to be postponed, a source said on Friday, as protesters returned to the streets for the 13th successive Friday to demand the removal of the nation’s ruling elite. After two decades in power, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit last month under pressure from protesters and the army, but demonstrations have continued seeking political reforms and the removal of all officials belonging to the old guard. A presidential election is scheduled for July 4. But a source familiar with the matter said the vote was to be delayed due to difficulties of organizing the logistics in time and opposition on the street. “There won’t be elections on July 4,” he told Reuters, asking not to be named. Hundreds of protesters began gathering again on Friday, calling for the resignations of the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, appointed by Bouteflika days before he stepped down. Reuters

Somalia’s Al Shabaab Changes Tactics, Uses Home-Made Explosives
A United Nations report has revealed that Somali Islamist insurgents are making their own explosives to 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.” Africa News

UN Peacekeeping Missions in Africa Report Most Deaths
That peacekeeping is dangerous – often fatal – and particularly in Africa is again borne out by this year’s list of recipients of the Dag Hammarskjold Medal. All told 119 peacekeepers that died in the line of duty between May last year and May 1 this year will be honoured by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a commemorative event at UN headquarters in New York next Friday (24 May). The troop contributing country which suffered the largest loss of peacekeepers is Chad with 16 deaths reported –all from the peacekeeping mission widely regarded as the most dangerous of the 14 the world body currently manages – MINUSMA (UN Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali). The May to May 12 month period saw 37 deaths among MINUSMA personnel ranging from troops to police, civilians and UN volunteers. That mission, now in its sixth year of existence, has the broad aim of supporting political process and helping to stabilise the West African country.  DefenceWeb

Nigerian UN Peacekeeper Killed in Mali
A United Nations soldier has been killed and several injured in two attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, officials said on Sunday. Gunmen attacked the UN troops in Timbuktu, where several armed groups are active, according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The peacekeeper who was killed was Nigerian, as were three of those injured. A further three UN soldiers from Chad were injured in Tessalit in the northern Kidal region near the border with Algeria when their vehicle drove over an explosive device. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso Wracked by Escalating Violence
A mission to rescue kidnapped tourists that went fatally awry. A church burned to the ground, the priest shot at Sunday Mass. A day later, another attack; four more Christians dead.The fury that hit Burkina Faso this month left a dozen people dead and laid bare the yearslong unraveling of a once-stable country. It is now wracked with near-daily violence from extremists pouring over its northern border with Mali and Niger, restive farmers and herdsmen battling for land, and militias bent on vengeance for each attack.And as violence by Al Qaeda and violent groups tied to the Islamic State has moved from Mali and Niger to Burkina Faso, fears are rising that the unrest could spread even farther south, putting the entire Gulf of Guinea at risk. The terrorists appear to have shifted their goals from stoking conflict between farmers and herders to inducing a similar divide between Muslims and Christians, Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, said recently.“These terrorists have reorganized their way of operating,” Mr. Kaboré told a conference of Christian leaders in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Tuesday, according to local news reports.“They have developed their mode of operation,” he said, “seeking first to create an intercommunity conflict, and today an interreligious conflict.”  The New York Times

At Least 17 Injured as Bomb Strikes Tourist Bus near Egypt’s Giza Pyramids
A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus on Sunday near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists. The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.  AP

Rwanda Turns to DRC as Trade with Uganda Dips
As relations between Rwanda and Uganda remain frosty, Rwanda is looking west for trade, towards the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last week, Rwandan President Paul Kagame gave contrasting messages to people living in border communities. In a speech to residents of Rubavu district, bordering the DRC, he encouraged them to trade more with communities across the border and seek trade partnerships. “You have a very big market in DRC, and in towns like Goma. They also have a market here. You can cross the border and buy what you don’t have and they can also cross to buy what they don’t have,” he said. However, on his trip to Burera, a district on the border with Uganda, he discouraged those living there from crossing into Uganda and castigated local leaders. The East African

Speculation about Cabinet Posts Obscures SA’s Achilles Heel — Eskom, Which Has Just Received Another R12.5bn
Speculation over Cabinet positions and factional ANC jockeying is distracting and obscures what is central — not who holds what position, but determination by the Cabinet to put all shoulders to the same wheel. And Eskom will be central in any clean-up, because without fixing Eskom, there’s little to be done for South Africa. In late March 2019, Eskom pushed South Africa to the edge of economic collapse when it ran out of money and could not meet its debt servicing and contractual liabilities. The power utility had banked on a R7-billion disbursement from a R33.4-billon loan by the Chinese Development Bank that did not arrive. The crisis was averted through a commercial bridging facility until Finance Minister Tito Mboweni used the emergency provisions of the Public Finance Management Act to release R17.6-billion for Eskom, of which R5-billion was paid over in early April. None of that emerged until Mboweni filed the required statutory report with Parliament on the last possible day, just before the Easter long weekend.  Daily Maverick

Zimbabwe to Give Dollar Boost as Currency Woes Turn Into Crisis
The regulator will inject $500 million into the foreign-exchange market on Monday, it tweeted over the weekend, a move Governor John Mangudya said would go a long way to stabilize the exchange rates and prices of goods and services. The money is from international banks, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in a separate tweet, without naming them. The central bank is intervening after the southern African nations currency plunged on the black market last week, and the price of goods soared at the fastest pace in more than a decade. Local investors have been piling into the stock market to hedge against inflation that climbed above 75% in April. Bloomberg

Fighting Ebola When Mourners Fight the Responders
When Ebola came to this city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Janvier Muhindo Mandefu quit farming and got work burying the highly contagious bodies of Ebola victims.But Mr. Muhindo is less afraid of Ebola than of the mourners he encounters at funerals. He and his burial team have been attacked by relatives of the dead, one swinging a hoe. Mourners have shouted at team members, accusing them of stealing the organs of corpses, and have threatened to throw them into the open graves. Last month a mourner brandished a hand grenade, he said, sending everyone scattering and leaving a 3-year-old Ebola victim unburied.“Someone like me can be buried alive,” Mr. Muhindo said as his colleagues hosed down their trucks at the Red Cross compound after another day of burials. This Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, the second-largest ever recorded, is now spiraling out of control. Despite some early success — helped by a new and effective vaccine — the disease has come roaring back in the past two months.  The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones