Africa Media Review for May 22, 2019

Malawi Election: Vote Count Starts in Unpredictable Poll
In Malawi, election officials have started counting votes in what has been described as one of the country’s most unpredictable presidential elections. There were no significant reports of violence and the election appeared to be well organised, correspondents say. There are seven candidates, but three are seen as having a realistic chance. President Peter Mutharika is running for a second term, but he is being challenged by his own vice-president, Saulos Chilima, and Lazarus Chakwera. The southern African country returned to multi-party elections in 1994 after 30 years of authoritarian rule.  BBC

UN Envoy Warns Libya Is on Verge of Descending to Civil War
The U.N. envoy for Libya warned Tuesday that the oil-rich nation “is on the verge of descending into a civil war” that could divide the country and imperil the security of its neighbors and the wider Mediterranean region. Ghassan Salame told the Security Council that extremists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida are already exploiting the security vacuum sparked by the offensive to take the capital Tripoli launched April 4 by the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter. He said the black flags of the Islamic State extremist group are appearing in southern Libya and there have been four attacks by its fighters in the south since April 4 that together have killed 17 people, wounded more than 10 and led to eight kidnappings. “Libyan forces that had in the past courageously defended their country against these terrorist groups are now busy fighting each other,” Salame said. AP

Libyan National Army Hires Firm to Forge Closer Ties with US
A Libyan general who has gained control of the city of Benghazi and is believed to have ties to the CIA has hired a Texas-based lobbying firm to help him forge closer relations with the U.S. as he seeks to defeat rival militias and consolidate his hold on the North African country. Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter and his Libyan National Army have hired Linden Government Solutions, based in Houston, according to a foreign agent registration document released Tuesday by the Justice Department. Linden, which would receive about $2 million under the 13-month agreement, also will assist with “international coalition building, and general public relations” for the Libyan National Army. AP

Sudan Generals, Protesters Split on Who Will Lead Transition
Sudan’s ruling generals and the protesters who drove President Omar al-Bashir from power last month said Tuesday they remain divided over who will lead the country during its transition period despite progress in recent talks. The protesters, represented by the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, have insisted on “limited military representation” in a sovereign council, while the military wants to lead the body during an agreed-upon three-year transition. The military council said in a statement Tuesday that the two sides are split over the makeup of the council and who should lead it. Both sides said early Tuesday that they intend to continue the talks, without setting a date. The U.S., Britain and Norway meanwhile issued a statement urging a transition to civilian rule.  AP

Sudan Opposition Calls for Civil Disobedience Campaign
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) has called for a countrywide strike after talks with the country’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) failed to make any headway on Monday. In a Tuesday statement, the SPA accused the TMC of “sabotaging” the talks and “dragging its feet” in relinquishing power to a civilian authority, urging the Sudanese public to take part in the planned strike. “We are calling on Sudanese people of all professions to take part in a civil disobedience campaign, including a countrywide general strike, with a view to achieving the goals of the revolution,” the statement read. On Monday, the TMC and the opposition Change and Freedom alliance failed to agree on the composition of a proposed joint transitional council tasked with running the nation’s affairs until a presidential poll can be held.  Anadolu Agency

Kiir Warns of ‘Chaos’ Ahead of Planned Protests
South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit has warned of a risk of “chaos” as youths plan to stage demonstrations against his rule. “We will not accept chaos in our country… So, the youth must always avoid social media campaigns from abroad to stage protests,” Kiir told officials while launching the international internet gateway in Juba on Tuesday. “When you are being urged to protest against the government from abroad, don’t they know that people may die in the protests? If the government closes its mind and mows you down with automatic weapons. Why do you want to die for no apparent reason?” he asked. However, the South Sudanese leader said he will not order his soldiers to shoot anti-government protesters. South Sudanese activists, apparently emboldened by the success of similar protests that ousted Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, called for anti-government protests on 23 May. Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan Warring Parties Sued over Delay to Form Government
A group of more than 300 South Sudan civil society organizations sued parties to the country’s peace agreement for the illegal delay in forming a transitional government to end the nations five-year war.The government and rebel leaders agreed earlier this month to postpone the introduction of a transitional administration for six months to complete the conditions of their peace deal. President Salva Kiir’s government and several opposition parties including that of former Vice President Riek Machar had no mandate to do so, said Akuoch Ajang Nyanhom, chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance.  Bloomberg

Egypt Says Security Forces Kill 16 Militants in Sinai
Egypt says its police forces have killed 16 militants in raids in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. An Interior Ministry statement Tuesday says security forces exchanged fire with Islamic militants as they stormed insurgent hideouts in the Mediterranean coastal city of el-Arish. No casualties were reported among the police. The ministry says the extremists had intended to carry out militant attacks in the city. It says police found weapons, three explosive devices and an explosives belt. Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland.  AP

EU – Horn of Africa: Mogherini Visits Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia
The European Union, EU, High Representative for Foreign Policy / Vice President, Federica Mogherini, on Monday (May 20) started her three-day visit to the Horn of Africa in Somalia. She met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre for talks in the capital Mogadishu. She is expected in Kenya before she moves to Djibouti and wraps up the mission in Ethiopia. It is expected to last between 20 – 22 May, 2019. In comments after the meeting she stressed that the visit was part of the EU’s friendship, partnership and support for the government. “We recognise that Somalia is first and foremost of strategic relevance and importance, not only for Somali people, for the region, for Africa, but also for Europe and the international community,” she said.  Africa News

Somalia Needs $710 Million in Humanitarian Aid, UN Says
The United Nations made an appeal for $710 million to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, as 4.5 million people face acute food and water shortages.The funds are needed to save lives and provide lifesaving assistance for families affected by drought, the UN said in a statement.Drought and conflict in Somalia forced more than a million people to flee their homes in 2017. The drought, which was declared a national disaster, left 6.2 million people in the Horn of Africa nation in need of humanitarian assistance and 388,000 children below the age of five acutely malnourished.  Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Increases Diesel, Petrol Prices by up to 47%
Zimbabwe’s energy regulator on Tuesday announced that prices of diesel and petrol had been increased by up to 47% effective immediately, a day after the central bank said oil firms would now buy dollars to import fuel on the interbank market. The latest price increase had been expected and follows an earlier 150% hike in January, which sparked violent street protests and led to the death of a dozen people after a security crackdown. Oil companies in Zimbabwe will from Tuesday buy dollars to import fuel on the interbank market after the central bank ended the 1:1 peg to the dollar that the firms were using, the bank said, a move that could see the price of fuel going up. On Monday, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a new local currency and an interbank market in February to allow companies and individuals to trade in forex.  Reuters

Burkina Faso Ex-President Offers to Return to Broker Peace Deal
After five years in exile, former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore says he wants to come home, offering his help to try to broker a peace deal with armed groups. The government has been struggling to stop religious-based attacks and intercommunal violence. And as Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque reports from Ouagadougou, protesters are threatening to take action. Al Jazeera

Body of DR Congo Opposition Leader to Return Home: Family
The body of the opposition figurehead father of DR Congo’s new president is to be repatriated to his home country two years after he died in Belgium, family members said on Tuesday. Etienne Tshisekedi, whose son Felix was this year sworn in as leader in the country’s first peaceful transition of power in decades, is to be returned to DR Congo for burial next week. He died in Brussels aged 84 in February 2017 but his body stayed in the Belgian capital due to political tensions with the regime of ex-president Joseph Kabila. “The body of Etienne Tshisekedi arrives May 30 and the funeral will happen at Martyrs stadium,” his brother, Archbishop Gerard Mulumba, told AFP. He said the burial was expected to take place on June 1.  AFP

Gabon Leader Sacks Vice President, Forestry Minister
Gabon’s leader Ali Bongo on Tuesday announced the dismissal of his vice president and the minister of forests, in a move that comes amid a scandal over the smuggling of precious timber. The president did not give a reason for the sackings of Vice President Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou and Forestry and Environment Minister Guy Bertrand Mapangou, in his statement late Tuesday. No new minister was appointed to the forest and environment portfolio, which was placed “under the direct authority” of the prime minister. There have been intensifying calls for Mapangou to resign in recent days in the press and from civil society groups in the aftermath of the theft of hundreds of seized containers of kevazingo, a rare wood considered sacred.  AFP

SA Rejects US Request to Extradite Mozambican Politician
South Africa’s government has turned down a request from the US to extradite Mozambique’s former Finance Minister Manuel Chang to stand trial on corruption charges. Instead, Mr Chang would be extradited to Mozambique, where he is wanted on similar charges. “I am satisfied that the interest of justice will be best served by acceding to the request by the Republic of Mozambique,” South Africa’s Michael Masutha said in a statement. Mr Chang was arrested in South Africa in December at the request of the US for his alleged involvement in $2 billion of borrowing that US authorities alleged was fraudulent. Mozambique asked for his extradition soon after the US submitted its request. Last month, a South African court ruled that Mr Chang could be extradited to the US.  BBC

Angola Cancels Mega Real Estate Deal Awarded to Isabel dos Santos
Angolan President Joao Lourenco has cancelled a $1.3-billion real estate tender that had been awarded to his predecessor’s daughter Isabel dos Santos, the presidency said Tuesday. In a decree, it said the contract had been cancelled “after establishing overcharging” and denounced a “violation of moral principles”. In January 2016 former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos approved a tender awarded to several companies — including Urbinveste, in which his daughter Isabel is the main shareholder. The tender was for the construction of a new suburb in the capital Luanda. AFP

‘Weak Governments’ Enable Armed Groups to Thrive – Report
This year’s Armed Conflict Survey takes a look at 33 ongoing conflicts across the world. The book aims to explain what shapes conflicts in our modern world while providing in-depth analysis of each armed conflict. Weak governments – unable to meet the basic needs of the population – appear to be the underlying factor enabling armed groups to thrive. “The social contract between the citizens and the state has been broken. The State is [no longer] providing the protection, the services, the legal system to allow people to earn a living and have opportunities,” declares Francesca Grandi, the Editor of the Armed Conflict Survey 2019, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.  RFI

A Legacy of Lunacy Haunts Kenya’s Old Railway. Will China’s $3.6B Line Be Different?
In 1903, British colonial administrator Sir Charles Norton Edgecumbe Eliot made a bold statement: “It is not uncommon for a country to create a railway, but it is uncommon for a railway to create a country.” The country was Kenya. The railway became known as the Lunatic Express. […] In 2014, the Kenyan government decided the aging line needed replacing and agreed to pay the state-owned China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC) about $3.6 billion to build, finance and, initially, operate a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between the capital of Nairobi and Mombasa, in a bid to fire-up the East African country’s developing economy. It was a huge gamble. Like its predecessor, the new railway line has been plagued by controversy, as well as accusations that it has resulted in huge debt to China it will take Kenya years to climb out of. But now China appears to be unwilling to fund further sections of the line, leaving a question mark over its future. […] In December 2018, reports emerged in the Kenyan press that a Mombasa port was at risk of being seized by Beijing over unpaid debts. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones