Africa Media Review for May 24, 2019

President Mutharika Takes Lead in Malawi Election with 75% of Votes Counted
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has so far taken 40.44% of votes cast in the May 21 presidential election, with 75% of the vote counted, the Electoral Commission said on Thursday. Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the opposition Malawi Congress Party, has 35.34%, while Deputy President Saulos Chilima has secured 18.35%, the commission told a news conference. Malawi also held parliamentary elections on Tuesday. Reuters

Observers Note Problems in Malawi Elections
Foreign observers of Malawi’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections issued a preliminary assessment Thursday, saying that although the process was peaceful, it lacked a level playing field. Incumbent leader Peter Mutharika held a small lead in the presidential election, partial results showed. About a quarter of the votes remained to be counted, leaving challenger Lazarus Chakwera some room for hope. The European Union observer mission said the Malawi Electoral Commission organized the elections well, but the pre-election period was marked with tension. VOA

Central African Republic Massacres Leave More than 50 Dead
More than 50 people were reportedly killed in an attack by a militia on several villages in the Central African Republic’s volatile northwest near the border with Chad, the United Nations said Thursday. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MINUSMA, condemned Tuesday’s attacks and its peacekeepers are undertaking “robust patrols in and around Ouham Pende prefecture” where the killings took place, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. The government issued an ultimatum to the leader of a militia group known as 3R, calling on him to hand over those responsible. Government spokesman Ange-Maxime Kazagui says the group retaliated against several communities in the Ouham Pende prefecture after an incident in which one man was killed. AP

Nigeria: Islamic State Claims Gubio Military Base Attack, Releases ISWAP Propaganda Video
At least three Nigerian soldiers were killed when insurgents attacked a military base in Borno state, military and militia sources told AFP on Wednesday, May 22. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram on Monday evening attacked the base in the town of Gubio, around 80 km (50 miles) north of Borno state capital Maiduguri, firing heavy weapons and dislodging troops. ISIS on Wednesday claimed that 20 Nigerian soldiers were killed when ISWAP fighters “took control” of the base. ISIS later released a video showing ISWAP attacks mainly in the Lake Chad area between November and January. The video appeared to also show the execution of nine people, including one tank crewman who was killed with a rocket-propelled grenade.  The Defense Post

US Military Targets ISIS-Somalia in Fifth Airstrike since April
The US targeted ISIS fighters in Somalia for the fifth time since mid-April, killing two terrorists in an airstrike Wednesday, US Africa Command said in a statement. “Our efforts to locate and eradicate ISIS leaders who control a range of activities — from operations to financing and communications — is hitting at the heart of the organization and disrupting their ability to continue their terrorist activities,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence of US Africa Command, said in a statement Thursday. The recent series of strikes against ISIS-Somalia have taken place in the Golis Mountains, located in the northern part of the country. US Africa Command said in April that a strike in the same area killed the organization’s second in command. There have been 37 US airstrikes in Somalia so far this year, mostly targeting the al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, compared to 47 strikes in all of 2018. The US estimates that ISIS-Somalia commands about 150 fighters, making it one of the smaller affiliates of the terror group. The Pentagon has about 500 to 600 personnel in Somalia, where they primarily advise local troops battling al-Shabaab.  CNN

Dispute Over Oil Deposits Raises Somalia-Kenya Tension
The Somali government says it’s not ready to take any action that could threaten its relationship with its neighbor Kenya. The announcement comes amidst simmering tensions over potential offshore oil deposits and an incident where Somali government officials and diplomats were denied entry to Kenya this week. In a leaked protest letter, the Somali government raised concerns about what it called a Kenyan decision to deny entry visas to some lawmakers and diplomats, who had planned to attend a European Union meeting in Nairobi on Tuesday. Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, Monica Juma, said she wasn’t aware of the incident, and said she would be surprised if anyone with a valid visa is denied entry.  VOA

Talks Have Stalled, and Divisions Are Growing. Is Sudan’s Post-Bashir Honeymoon Over?
Since early April, the thousands of participants in Sudan’s long-running protest have slept rough in tents and on sidewalks and endured oppressive heat. At times, they have fled gunfire as regime loyalists attempted to break up the sit-in, a demonstration that prompted the overthrow of president Omar al-Bashir. But the protesters stayed put, calling for an end to three decades of military rule and reveling in music, dance and solidarity. But patience is growing thin. On Tuesday, protest leaders called for a general strike after talks with military leaders on a proposed transitional government collapsed. Divisions are appearing both within the protest camp and the military leadership, and the feeling of hope that blossomed after Bashir’s ouster has given way to frustration, a sign that Sudan’s revolutionary honeymoon may be coming to an end. “We’ve been waiting for a change: Are we going to be a civilian government or not?” asked Iram Usama, a college student who has participated in the protest with her sister Ilaf since April 6. “We’re just here, and it’s a waste of time.”  The Washington Post

Blocked Arrest of Ex-Sudanese Official Stirs Concern
Sudan’s public prosecutors have called for the dismissal of the director of the National Intelligence and Security Service after agents prevented police from arresting former security chief Salah Abdallah, known as Salah Gosh. The case has raised questions about whether certain people are above the law in Sudan and has caused alarm among protesters and analysts. Gosh was the head of the National Intelligence and Security Service until he resigned in April, days after the military ousted longtime President Omar al-Bashir. The prosecutor’s office said Gosh was to be questioned about an account containing more than $1 million (46 million Sudanese pounds), which was only accessible by him. But his guards blocked his arrest Tuesday, saying they did not receive an arrest warrant in advance.  VOA

High-Ranking Sudanese Military Delegation Visits Juba
A Sudanese high ranking military delegation led by the chief of staff of the Sudanese army travelled to the South Sudanese capital Juba on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by the military media, Lt-Gen Hashim Abdel-Mutallab Ahmed Babikir heads the Sudanese delegation participating in the celebrations of the twenty-sixth day of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, the former Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The visit comes in the context of the eternal and historical ties between the two countries and developed relations in all fields, the statement said. Khartoum has confirmed the recent political change in the country will not affect the relations between the two sisterly countries and renewed its support for the revitalized peace agreement signed on 12 September 2018. Sudan Tribune

Egyptian Court Orders the Release of Mahmoud Hussein
A court in Egypt has ordered the release of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein from prison after more than 880 days of detention. The court ruled on his release on Tuesday but following an appeal by the prosecution Hussein was brought to a different court on Thursday. It upheld the earlier decision. However, it remained unclear exactly when the Qatar-based Egyptian producer will be freed from prison. Hussein’s lawyer Taher Abul Nasr said his release “is expected to take place within days”. Az-Zahra Hussein, his daughter, said in a Facebook post her father will be released “with precautionary measures”, and will soon be transferred to a police station from prison. Al Jazeera

Rwanda Rebel Spokesman Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Offences
Rebel official Callixte Nsabimana pleaded guilty in a Rwandan court on Thursday to charges of terrorism, murder and hostage-taking in part of a violent campaign to oust long-ruling President Paul Kagame. Nsabimana, known by his alias Sankara, is spokesman for the Forces for National Liberation (FLN), which has carried out a number deadly attacks in Rwanda in recent years, including attacks on villages and buses. FLN is the military arm of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) political party which opposes Kagame. A total of 16 charges were read out by the prosecution. They included formation of an irregular armed group, committing terrorist acts and spreading false information.  Reuters

A Copper Mining Lesson from Zambia: History Repeats Itself
Vedanta Resources Ltd. is learning the hard way that when it comes to Zambia’s copper-mining industry, history tends to repeat itself.Fifty years ago, Zambias first post-independence leader Kenneth Kaunda nationalized mines owned by Anglo American Plc and Roan Selection Trust to rally his political supporters. Now populist President Edgar Lungu is taking legal steps to take over the operations of Vedantas Konkola Copper Mines, alleging the unit lied about expansion plans and cheated on taxes. With Zambia mired in a debt crisis that’s made its dollar bonds and currency among the worst performers in the world this year, Lungus attack on Vedanta is a useful distraction from the nations economic woes. While copper prices are well below historical highs, the metal has more than tripled since 2000.  Bloomberg

Uganda Court Blocks Government Bid to Suspend Journalists
Uganda’s high court on Thursday blocked a government bid to suspend dozens of top journalists, on the grounds their coverage of the arrest of popstar MP Bobi Wine had endangered national security. The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) earlier this month called for 13 radio and TV stations to suspend their news editors, producers and heads of programming over their coverage of the latest detention of the popular rapper and politician. Two activists petitioned the court on behalf of the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) to have the order struck down. “I am aware of the national security interests, however regulatory actions cannot be used to trample the rights of people’s freedoms and right to information,” judge Lydia Mugambe Ssali told a packed courtroom in Kampala.  AFP

Kenya: State Capture Foils Uhuru’s Anti-Corruption Campaign
A damning report has indicted the State for being “captured” by systemic forces of corruption, leading to theft of public resources. The Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) report released Wednesday in Nairobi says elites and private interests are calling the shots. State capture, considered one of the most pervasive and harmful forms of corruption, refers to a situation where powerful individuals, institutions, companies or groups within or outside a country use corruption to shape a nation’s policies, legal environment and economy to benefit their own private interests. The AfriCOG findings suggest the vice is systematically planned across many institutions, and the denials and inaction by the government mean ordinary Kenyans bear the brunt.  The East African

UN Names David Gressly to Tackle DRC Ebola Outbreak
The U.N. named a point man on Thursday to coordinate the global response to the devastating Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as it ramps up efforts to contain the outbreak. David Gressly, currently serving as the UN’s deputy special representative in DRC, will take charge of the anti-Ebola effort, the World Health Organization said in a statement. The outbreak declared in eastern DRC last August has killed more than 1,200 people in two provinces — Ituri and North Kivu — and new cases have surged in recent weeks. Containing the virus has proved especially challenging because of militia violence in the region.  AFP

As Ebola Cases Rise, So Do Worries of a Cross-Border Epidemic
The second-largest Ebola outbreak ever continues to spread, and health officials now say it’s likely to reach the populous city of Goma. Once there, the risk of it spreading beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwanda, South Sudan, or Uganda increases. Only a fraction of the health centres in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, are prepared for a large-scale outbreak. The city, about 300 kilometres from the outbreak’s epicentre, sits at a major trade and migration crossroads and borders Rwanda, where Kigali’s international airport is only 160 kilometres away. “I wouldn’t say (the spread to Goma) is inevitable, but it’s highly probable,” said Ray Arthur, director of the Global Disease Detection Operations Center at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New Humanitarian

Madagascar Legislators Indicted in Bribery Scandal (Video)
Madagascar’s anti-corruption agency has begun legal action against more than half of the country’s parliamentary deputies who are suspected of taking bribes. After a year-long inquiry, a dossier on 79 MPs was sent to the prosecutor’s office “to begin legal action against the accused”. So what are they are really accused of? And what does their indictment mean?  Africa News

Zimbabwe’s Independence Hero Dumiso Dabengwa Dies Aged 79
Former Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister and independence war hero Dumiso Dabengwa has died aged 79, his Foundation has said. Mr Dabengwa, known as the ‘Black Russian’ for having trained in the then-Soviet Union and for his role as spy chief during the fight for independence, died while transiting through Nairobi from India. He had reportedly been in India to seek treatment over undeclared illness. Zimbabwe President Emerson Mnangagwa paid tribute to his role in the country’s independence struggle. “I had huge respect for Dumiso and his contribution to Zimbabwe: As a liberation fighter, a long standing Minister of Home Affairs and as a man. My deepest condolences are with his friends and family at this sad time,” Mnangagwa tweeted. The East African

Is Facebook Undermining Democracy in Africa?
Facebook is under fire in Africa for undermining democracy, with critics saying the social media giant has allowed its platform to be weaponised for co-ordinated misinformation campaigns. The role of false news has taken centre stage in every single one of the continent’s eight national polls this year – and last week Facebook said an Israel political consultancy was behind much of it. It banned Archimedes Group, which it said was responsible for a network of those masquerading as African nationals, and removed 265 Facebook and Instagram pages and groups involved in “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” mainly targeting Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia. Nanjira Sambuli, from the World Wide Web Foundation, says it has taken Facebook too long to pay attention to this problem in developing countries.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones