Africa Media Review for May 22, 2018

Burundi Referendum: Who Will Stop Pierre Nkurunziza?
Burundi’s electoral commission announced Monday, May 21, that 73 percent of all eligible voters approved a new constitution that will scrap presidential term limits and allow President Nkurunziza to stay in office until 2034 if he is elected. Ahead of Thursday’s referendum, more than a dozen people were killed, and women were raped, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Burundi is no doubt heading along a terrible path, leading to renewed violence. Last Friday (11 May 2018) unidentified attackers, armed with machetes and guns, butchered people in the rural northwest near Democratic Republic of Congo. They killed 26 people, many of them children. Days before that, the government suspended international broadcasters, namely the BBC and Voice of America, and international reporters were denied visas to cover the referendum.  Deutsche Welle

U.S. Says Burundi Constitutional Referendum ‘Marred’
The United States on Monday criticized last week’s referendum in Burundi as being marred by a lack of transparency and voter intimidation and condemned the government’s decision to suspend media outlets. “The government allowed vigorous campaigning by the opposition during the designated two-week campaign period, but numerous cases of harassment and repression of referendum opponents in the months preceding the vote contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation,” the State Department said in a statement. The referendum on Thursday granted changes that could allow the current president of Burundi to stay in office until 2034. Reuters

Ten Killed by Suspected Ugandan Rebels in Eastern DR Congo
Ten civilians were killed overnight in a flashpoint area in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in an attack by suspected Ugandan rebels, an official said Monday. The attack was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia, said Jonas Kibwana, administrator of the Beni region in North Kivu province. “The ADF attacked the town of Mbau… 10 civilians were shot dead and two others were wounded,” Kibwana told AFP, giving a toll confirmed separately by sources in the armed forces and civil society. Eastern DRC has been wracked by violence since the mid-1990s. The ADF — created by Muslim radicals to oppose the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni — is one of a number of armed groups fighting over the region’s rich mineral resources. AFP

Little Progress on South Sudan Peace Talks
After four days of closed-door negotiations at the high-level peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a South Sudan government official said warring parties in South Sudan have made some progress on security issues but admits there has been little headway on governance and other big sticking points. “On security arrangements, people have agreed on the cantonment, they have agreed on Article 2,” South Sudan information minister Michael Makuei told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus, after emerging from a plenary session of the party delegates Monday night. Makuei said the parties have also agreed on the unification of the forces but failed to agree on a timeline for that process. VOA

Guinea’s Conde Names New PM amid Rising Political Tensions
Guinea President Alpha Conde on Monday named Ibrahima Kassory Fofana as the country’s new prime minister amid heightened political tensions and suspicion about his intentions ahead of a 2020 election. Fofana, a Conde loyalist and former minister of investment and public-private partnerships, replaces Mamady Youla, who resigned last week along with his government, according to a decree read on state television. About 10 people died when riots erupted in the capital Conakry and other cities in February and March following local elections that the opposition said were marred by fraud. Conde’s opponents also fear he intends to try to modify the constitution to stand for a third term in 2020. Conde has not yet commented on his intentions. Reuters

Rights Watchdog Reports Army and Jihadist Abuses in Burkina Faso
Security forces in Burkina Faso have carried out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other abuses in their campaign against terrorism, Human Rights Watch says. A 60-page report by the US-based watchdog said Sahel villagers found themselves caught between jihadists, who threatened to kill those who collaborated with the government, and security forces, who expected locals to give them information about insurgents. Human Rights Watch Report: By Day We Fear the Army, By Night the Jihadists Human Rights Watch said it had documented the execution-style killings by Islamists of 19 men from 12 villages who had been accused of providing information to the security forces. Business Live

Group: Egyptian Army Intensifies Home Demolitions in Sinai
Egypt’s military has intensified home demolitions in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula as part of its campaign against a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, an international rights group said Tuesday. The military launched a massive security operation in early February in restive northern Sinai, the epicenter of an Islamic insurgency spearheaded by the local IS affiliate. The campaign also includes parts of the Nile Delta region and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya. Human Rights Watch said in a report that Egypt’s military vastly expanded widespread destruction of homes, commercial buildings and farms in Northern Sinai province since Feb. 9. “The new destruction, including hundreds of hectares of farmland and at least 3,000 homes and commercial buildings, together with 600 buildings destroyed in January, is the largest since the army officially began evictions in 2014,” HRW said. AP

Zimbabwe Applies to Re-Join Commonwealth, Invites Poll Observers
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has officially applied for Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth it left in 2003 and has invited the grouping of former British colonies to send observers to its general elections set for July. The southern African nation formally quit the Commonwealth after then leader Robert Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe from its independence in 1980, came under criticism over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers. Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in a statement that Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after a de facto army coup in November, made the application on May 15. Reuters

Zimbabwe Parliament Summons Mugabe to May 23 Hearing
A Zimbabwe parliament committee has summoned former president Robert Mugabe to give evidence on Wednesday about diamond corruption alleged to have cost billions of dollars during his rule.  Mugabe, who was ousted from office in November after a brief military takeover, has not commented on whether he will appear before the committee. A parliamentary notice for May 23 was released on Monday. “Subject to confirmation, oral evidence from His Excellency, the former president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, comrade R. G. Mugabe, on diamond mining revenues,” it read. Daily Maverick

UN Envoy: Ending Corruption and Trafficking Key in Libya
The U.N. envoy for Libya warned Monday that the oil-rich country’s “perverse economic model” based on corruption and trafficking in people and goods “must be shattered” to end its political crisis and progress toward stability and democratic elections this year. Ghassan Salame also warned that the continued influence of armed groups on politics and the economy “is perilous, and unless resisted is in danger of expanding.” Those groups include the Islamic State, which he noted took credit for the May 2 attack on headquarters of the High National Elections Commission in the capital Tripoli that killed 13 people. AP

Experimental Ebola Vaccinations, Considered ‘Paradigm Shift,’ Begin in Congo
Health workers have unsheathed their experimental new weapon against the Ebola virus in the northwest reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Monday, the World Health Organization, together with local and international partners, began administering Ebola vaccinations in the region, where at least 49 suspected cases have been reported since early April and at least 26 people are believed to have died. More than 7,500 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV — which is still unlicensed — are now available in the country and 8,000 additional doses will be available soon, according to WHO. Health workers in the bustling port city of Mbandaka and the remote village of Bikoro have already begun to receive their vaccines. NPR

Eritrean and Sudanese Migrants Continue to Arrive in Italy with New Records
Eritrean and Sudanese migrants and refugees were the second and the fourth in number of refugees and migrants arriving in Italy by sea during the first five months of 2018, said the UN migration agency. In its latest report about the arrival of illegal migrants and refugees into Europe released last Friday, the IOM said 26,026 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through the first 136 days of 2018. Only 41% of them arrived through Italy. Among the 10,659 migrants who are registered in Italy, “Tunisians represent the largest nationality group arriving in Italy by sea from North Africa this year, followed by Eritreans, Nigerians, Sudanese, Pakistan, Malians, Guineans and Senegalese,” said the IOM. Sudan Tribune

Over 30 Killed as Cyclone Hits Horn of Africa
More than 30 people were killed and dozens of others are still missing after a tropical cyclone and heavy rains hit the Horn of Africa over the weekend. Cyclone Sagar slammed into the Horn Saturday and Sunday, and local officials say Sagar was the strongest storm ever recorded in the area. Mogadishu Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman told VOA Somali that the storm killed at least six people. More than than 300 homes in the Somali capital are under water following heavy rains. Authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland confirmed at least 25 people in the Awdal, Sahel and Salal regions. Most of the victims were be swept away by flash floods, residents said. VOA

Kenya Issues 60 Day Ultimatum to Expatriates: ‘Get Valid Permits or Be Deported’
Expatriates working in Kenya have been given 60 days to regularise their status with the authorities as the government intensifies a crackdown on illegal foreign workers in the country. The interior minister, Fred Matiang’i said the government is determined to weed out undocumented foreigners because they are a security threat and deny the government tax revenue in addition to cheating Kenyans of job opportunities. “The verification exercise, which will be ongoing for the next 60 days, shall be used to rid the country of illegal and undocumented workers by according them an opportunity to standardize their papers. Those who fail to do so within this period will be jailed,” said Matiang’i. Africa News

Liberia: UK Issues Terrorist Alert on Liberia
The British Government’s issuance of a “terrorist attack” alert on Liberia has sent the Liberian media into virtual overdrive, driven by an anxious public in search of answers to ease their growing concerns and apprehension about the consequences of such an attack. The British Government on Tuesday of this week issued a terror alert warning that there is heightened threat of a terrorist attack against UK interests and British nationals by elements that draw inspiration from ongoing developments in Syria and Iraq. The alert did not state when or where the attack is expected to be mounted but it has warned British nationals in Liberia and those desirous of traveling to Liberia to avoid beach resorts, hotels, cafes, crowded areas and restaurants frequented mainly by foreigners. Liberian Observer

South African Rand Is Back to Its Bad Old Way
Bearish signs are stacking up for South Africas rand. Volatility is rising and with it the cost of protecting against a weakening currency, short positioning is soaring and foreigners are fleeing South African bonds at a rate last seen 18 years ago. After outperforming emerging-market peers for much of the year, the rand is falling into line as rising U.S. Treasury yields spark dollar strength, damping demand for riskier assets. The South African currency is down 5.6 percent against the dollar over the past month, and more pain is in store as the currency resumes its mantle as one of the most volatile in developing nations according to strategists at Nedbank Group Ltd. “Our view for a weaker rand is now materializing, but we must admit that we are surprised by the speed at which it is taking place,” said Mehul Daya, a Johannesburg-based strategist at Nedbank. We expect the trend to continue as the year progresses. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones