Africa Media Review for May 23, 2019

Armed Group Kills More than 30 in Central African Republic: UN
More than 30 people were killed and many more wounded when an armed group attacked villages in northwestern Central African Republic on Tuesday, the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) said. The massacres took place in several villages near the town of Paoua, not far from the Chad border, Major General Pascal Champion, head of MINUSCA’s police component, said at a press conference in Bangui on Wednesday. “Criminals arrived and opened fire” on the residents, he said. Thirty-one people were killed in Koundjili and Lemouna. At least three other were killed in Bohong. Local security forces also reported the deaths of 15 people in Maikolo village, but this information was not immediately confirmed by the UN. AFP

Ex-Minister among Five Killed in Mogadishu Car Bomb
A former Somali foreign minister was among five killed Wednesday when a car bomb exploded in the capital Mogadishu, according to the country’s information minister. The bombing was claimed by Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which said in a statement it had targeted a convoy escorting officials and lawmakers heading to the presidential palace. “The security forces stopped… a vehicle loaded with explosives which was aiming to target a security forces base. We have confirmed five killed and 11 wounded in the blast,” deputy police chief Zakia Hussein wrote on Twitter. Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayr told a press conference that former foreign minister Hussein Elabe Faahiye, who served under former premier Ali Mohamed Gedi in 2007, was among those killed.  AFP

IS West Africa Claims Killing, Execution of 29 Nigerian Soldiers
Islamic State’s West Africa branch claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a raid in Nigeria two days earlier in which it said 20 soldiers had been killed, and released a video purporting to show the execution of nine other Nigerian soldiers. A security source and a humanitarian worker, both requesting anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to media, said insurgents struck the northeastern town of Gubio in Borno state on Monday evening, in vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and on motorbikes. The insurgents and soldiers exchanged fire for more than an hour before the army withdrew, said the humanitarian worker, who counted the corpses of more than 15 soldiers. Reuters

Boko Haram Adopts ‘Hearts and Minds’ Strategy in Nigeria – Inspired by Isil
When a motorbike convoy of Boko Haram fighters invaded Baga in north-east Nigeria last December, residents feared the very worst. Watching the gunmen roll in, they recalled Boko Haram’s last seizure of the town in 2015, when hundreds of their men were slaughtered and their women kidnapped as “bush wives”. This time, though, the Hells Angels’ style motorcade did not bring the usual orgy of rape, murder and pillage. “They didn’t beat anyone, they just said that we should stay where we were,” said Mansour Yusuf, 44, a father of nine. “But they also said we were free to leave if we wanted to.” Mr Yusuf took no chances, fleeing along with thousands of other Baga residents to the better-defended town of Monguno, where Nigerian troops have dug a protective trench around the town. The Telegraph

Pro-Biafra Anniversary Turns Bloody as Police Open Fire on MASSOB Members
The 19th anniversary celebration of the Chief Ralph Uwazuruike-led Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) otherwise called Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) turned fatal on Wednesday when police opened fire on members of the movement. Two members of the movement were reported killed while no fewer than 10 members of the movement were arrested and 15 sustained serious bullet wounds. Addressing newsmen in Onitsha, Ogbaru Regional Administrator of BIM-MASSOB, Mr. Amadi Ifeanyi (aka Ochiagha), wondered why police would open fire on a non-violent organisation. He said: “We were hoisting our flag at about 2 am yesterday morning at Upper Iweka axis in preparation for the anniversary when the police stormed the place in three Hilux vans and allegedly opened fire on us at a close range, which resulted in the killing of the two members instantly. Sahara Reporters

‘I’ve Killed So Many People, I’ve Lost Count’: South Sudan’s Child Soldiers Search for a Life after War
Moses Obama, 17, was living in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, when war broke out in 2016. He fled to his family home in the countryside, where he discovered that his father had been murdered and his mother was missing. An anti-government group called In Opposition (IO) had taken control of the village. Alone, grief-stricken and starving, he waited for his mother to return. But the prospect of a new family, not to mention a hot meal, was too hard to resist. With nothing left to lose, he joined the thousand-strong child army of the bush. New recruits like Moses are separated from the rest of the group and taught the skills they need in military warfare and close combat to enable them to steal, maim and kill on demand. The children must then complete their “initiation”: they are forced to execute a stranger, at point-blank range with a rifle. Often, recruits are made to kill a parent or a best friend. Moses was one of the lucky ones. He was rewarded with an AK47 machine gun. Over the next two years, Moses rose up the ranks. “I had to kill so many people, innocent people from my country, I just stopped counting… so many,” he says.  The Independent

Sudan Professionals Gear-up for General Strike
Diverse professional sectors have responded to the call of the Sudanese Professionals Association to prepare for the political strike and civil disobedience. The Sudanese Central Doctors Committee confirmed the continued strike by medics, and announced its “readiness to implement all forms of strike, full-time field clinics to treat the wounded and injured, and to transfer patients for treatment in temporary clinics outside the Ministry of Health hospitals”. The Central Pharmacists Committee has announced preparations for a “comprehensive political strike and civil disobedience”. The committee accused the military junta of clinging to power, stressing their insistence on a transfer to civilian authority. It has called on all pharmaceutical sectors to complete and record attendance in the book of the peaceful revolution.  Radio Dabanga

An Internet Cutoff during Malawi’s Vote Count Affected Its Electoral Commission’s Backup Network
Malawi has joined the list of African states that have experienced disrupted internet during crucial election periods.As results from Tuesday’s (May 21) general election trickled in, numerous internet providers in the southeastern African state experienced service interruptions that lasted for up to six hours. The suspension came after a tight election in which president Peter Mutharika is seeking a second term in office. Mutharika, whose administration has been fraught with corruption, is being challenged by his own vice president Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera, a former preacher who is leading the opposition. Data from digital advocacy group NetBlocks shows the outage began at 6:30pm local time yesterday, half an hour after counting began around the country and results were being sent to the electoral commission. Fixed network carrier Malawi Telecommunications Limited and fiber-optic network operator SimbaNET were among those affected.  Quartz

Haftar Rejects Macron’s Calls for Libyan Ceasefire at Talks in Paris
Libyan rebel commander Khalifa Haftar rejected calls for a ceasefire during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris but is willing to negotiate if certain conditions are met, an Élysée official said Wednesday. Macron and French officials have for several weeks called for an unconditional ceasefire in the battle for Tripoli, which began in early April when Haftar launched an offensive on the Libyan capital. The fighting pits Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army against militias allied with the UN-recognised government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. “The distrust we see between the Libyan actors is stronger than ever today,” said a French presidential official after the meeting between Macron and Haftar in Paris. France 24

Tunisia Frees United Nations Expert Suspected of Espionage
A United Nations expert monitoring sanctions against Libya has left neighboring Tunisia after being jailed for nearly two months on suspicion of espionage. The U.N. office in Tunis said Moncef Kartas was released Tuesday on a provisional basis pending further investigation and is doing “relatively well.” He is a Tunisian-German citizen and both the U.N. and Germany had expressed concern about his arrest. Both welcomed his release. Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told reporters at U.N. headquarters on Wednesday that Kartas has left Tunisia. He would not say where Kartas went. Tunisian anti-terrorism officials have questioned Kartas’ use of a special phone to track air traffic, and said the case concerns his personal activities and not his work for the U.N. The officials said he entered Tunisia on his Tunisian passport, not his U.N. passport, and so is not entitled to diplomatic immunity. He was jailed upon his arrival March 24. AP

Algeria’s Army Chief Says He Has No Political Ambitions
Algeria’s army chief of staff said on Wednesday he had no political ambitions in response to democracy activists who say he intends to copy the authoritarian model of Egypt. The armed forces have been a pivotal power center in Algeria for decades and have been managing a transition after mass protests forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign last month after 20 years in office. Street demonstrations have continued to press demands for a dismantling of the elite of independence veterans, security commanders and business tycoons that have run the major oil and natural gas producer since independence from France in 1962. “Everybody should know that we have no political ambitions,” Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah told state television. A presidential election has been scheduled for July 4 but an informed source said on Friday it might be postponed.  Reuters

Chagos Islands Dispute: UN Backs End to UK Control
The UN has passed a resolution demanding the UK return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. In the non-binding vote in the General Assembly in New York, 116 states were in favour and only six against, a major diplomatic blow to the UK. Fifty-six states, including France and Germany, abstained. Mauritius says it was forced to give up the Indian Ocean group – now a British overseas territory – in 1965 in exchange for independence. In a statement to the BBC, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said Britain did not recognise Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty, but would stand by an earlier commitment to hand over control of the islands to Mauritius when they were no longer needed for defence purposes. BBC

South Africa’s Parliament Elects Cyril Ramaphosa as President
South African legislators elected Cyril Ramaphosa president on Wednesday and he promised to create jobs and work for the interests of all citizens, not just members of the majority African National Congress (ANC). The ANC won South Africa’s May 8 general election, enabling the party to pick the country’s president, but its share of the vote fell to a post-apartheid low – reflecting anger at corruption and cronyism under Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma. Many voters were also dismayed at the racial inequality that remains entrenched a generation since the former liberation movement took power. Al Jazeera

South Africa’s Deputy President, Accused of Corruption, Faces Uncertain Future
South Africa’s deputy president, David Mabuza, who has long been dogged by accusations of corruption, abruptly postponed the ceremony to swear him in as a lawmaker on Wednesday, casting doubt on his future as the country’s second in command.Just two hours before recently elected legislators were due to be sworn in at the National Assembly, the governing African National Congress released a statement saying that Mr. Mabuza had requested a delay in his case. The party said that he wanted first to respond to an internal report “in which he is alleged to have prejudiced the integrity of the A.N.C. and brought the organization into disrepute.”Mr. Mabuza has decided “to follow the dictates of his conscience and postpone his swearing in,” added the statement, which was attributed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.The announcement — coming two days after Mr. Mabuza publicly expressed confidence that he would return as Mr. Ramaphosa’s No. 2 — could amount to the first significant shake-up inside the African National Congress since the general election this month.  The New York Times

Congo Republic’s IMF Bailout at Risk over Debt Deals -Document
Advisers to Congo Republic’s government have warned it that there is a “major risk” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will reject its bid for a long-sought bailout, according to a letter obtained by Reuters. Negotiations for an IMF programme have dragged on since 2017, with the IMF’s executive board demanding the central African oil producer ensure the sustainability of its debt, most of which is owed to China and oil traders. At the end of its most recent mission to Congo this month, an IMF team said it was finally ready to support a three-year credit facility. But any programme would first need to be approved by the Fund’s board. Reuters

To Borrow $500 Million, Zimbabwe Pledges Mine That Doesn’t Exist
The collateral for African Export-Import Banks $500 million loan to Zimbabwe is a mine that hasn’t been dug yet, people familiar with the matter said.The loan, which will be paid over four years when production starts, is backed by a mine that Great Dyke Investments, a venture between Russian investors and the Zimbabwean military, plans to build at a cost of $4 billion, the people said. The mine, for which Afreximbank is arranging funding, is struggling to attract financiers because of the interest held by the military’s Zimbabwe Defense Industries Ltd.  Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Charges Four Activists with Treason
Police in Zimbabwe have charged four civil society activists with treason over an alleged plot to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. Nyasha Mphahlo, Tatenda Mombeyerara, Gamuchirai Mukura and George Makoni were arrested on Monday night after they landed at the Robert Mugabe International Airport from South Africa. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who are representing the activists, said the four had been charged with treason. “Zimbabwe authorities charged the four pro-democracy campaigners with subverting a constitutional government for allegedly plotting to overthrow President Mnangagwa’s administration,” the ZLHR said in a brief update.  The East African

Botswana Lifts Ban on Elephant Hunting
Botswana, home to almost one-third of Africa’s elephants, lifted a ban on elephant hunting on Wednesday saying the population had increased and farmers’ livelihoods were being affected. Conservationists estimate the southern African country has about 130,000 elephants, but some parliamentarians say the number is much higher and causes problems for small-scale farmers. A prohibition on elephant hunting was introduced in 2014 by then-President Ian Khama, a keen conservationist, after surveys showed declining wildlife populations. However, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party has been lobbying to overturn the ban saying elephants have become unmanageably large in some areas.  Al Jazeera

The Undercover Migrant
[…] Azeteng was on the run. A few hours earlier, the smugglers who controlled El-Khalil had swiped his glasses from his face, just to mess with him, and refused to give them back. Azeteng was 25 but he was small for his age — 5’ 5” and slightly built, with a shy manner and a way of moving through the world that suggested he was always trying not to be seen. He was powerless to stand up for himself, so he backed away. If the smugglers had stopped then to look closely at his glasses, they might have seen the strangely thick frame, the mini-USB port under one arm, the pin-sized hole in the hinge — and they would surely have killed him. He had seen enough already to be sure. The month was May 2017. The migrant routes through northern Mali were controlled by the Tuareg rebels, who worked with smuggling and trafficking networks connected to departure points across West Africa. Azeteng’s journey began in Ghana. Others came from Guinea, the Gambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone. In recent years, tens of thousands of men, women and children made their way into the Sahara, drawn by the distant promise of a better life in Europe. BBC

Binyavanga Wainaina, Barrier-Shattering Presence in African Literature, Dies at 48
Binyavanga Wainaina, a prizewinning Kenyan writer whose humorous, incisive books and essays explored themes of postcolonialism, gender and sexual identity, including his own decision to come out as a gay man in a country that long demonized homosexuality, died May 21 in Nairobi. He was 48. Tom Maliti, the chairman of Mr. Wainaina’s literary organization, the Kwani Trust, confirmed the death to the Associated Press but did not give a precise cause. Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported that Mr. Wainaina had died at a hospital after a stroke, one of several he had suffered since announcing in 2016 that he was living with HIV. Easily recognizable by his short-cropped, rainbow-dyed hair, Mr. Wainaina was considered one of the finest African writers of his generation and a pivotal figure in Kenya’s modern literary history.  The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones