Africa Media Review for May 28, 2019

Malawi Election: President Mutharika Re-Elected after Court Battle
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has been narrowly elected to a second term in office with 38.5% of the vote. The incumbent leader, 78, had faced stiff competition in the 21 May election, including from his deputy. The result was announced on Monday after an injunction ordered by the country’s high court was lifted. Challenger Lazarus Chakwera, who finished in second place, had sought to delay the results because of concerns over voting irregularities. […] The MEC say President Mutharika, who heads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), gained a narrow victory by about 159,000 votes. Mr Chakwera, from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), came close behind with about 35.4% of the vote. He had also placed as runner-up five years ago.  BBC

Sudan Protesters Begin 2-Day Strike to Press Ruling Military
Sudan’s protest leaders have launched a two-day general strike to press the ruling military to hand over power to a civilian-led authority. Wajdi Saleh, a negotiator for the protesters, says they resorted to holding the strike after negotiations with the military council became deadlocked over the makeup and leadership of a sovereign council that would run the country in a three-year transition period. The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded the protests that led the army to oust President Omar al-Bashir last month, urged people to show up at work on Tuesday and Wednesday but abstain from any activity. After the military ousted al-Bashir, who ruled for 30 years, army generals took over the country. But the protesters remained in the streets, demanding the military hand over power. AP

Sudan Islamists Back Army in Push to Preserve Sharia
With talks suspended between protest leaders and Sudan’s military over a transfer of power to civilian rule, Islamist movements are backing the army in the hope it will keep sharia law in place. Islamist parties stayed on the sidelines during the months of nationwide protests that led to the April ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir. They have since not joined the protest alliance at loggerheads with the generals over the makeup of a new governing body, which would rule the country for a three-year transitional period. But hundreds of Islamists have rallied in the capital in recent days, warning they would reject any deal that would exclude sharia — Islamic law — from the country’s political roadmap.  AFP

Gunmen Raid Church in Burkina Faso, Killing Four
Gunmen burst into a church in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday and shot dead four people, a security source said. This is the fourth attack on Christians in the past month. Other worshippers were wounded in the assault on the morning service at the church near the town of Titao in Burkina Faso, the source added. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks which threaten to upend traditionally peaceful relations between the Muslim majority and Christians who make up a quarter of Burkinabes. The government has blamed unnamed terrorist groups operating in the country and Africa’s surrounding Sahel region.  France 24

Gambia Sentences Former Soldiers over Coup Plot
Eight former soldiers were sentenced on Monday for plotting to overthrow Gambia’s president Adama Barrow in 2017 with the help of his ousted predecessor, the country’s Court Martial said. The soldiers were led by a former military aide to ex-president Yahya Jammeh, who ruled Gambia for 22 years before losing an election in late 2016 to Barrow and then refusing to step down. The plotters, who had pleaded not guilty, were charged with nine counts including treason for conspiring to detain ministers and military officials and attack an international force that had been set up in Gambia to retain order after Jammeh’s rancorous departure. Seven of the accused received a nine year sentence and one got three years. Reuters

Reports Suggest Algeria’s July Election Date Implausible
Algerian media said Monday there was very little chance a presidential election will be held as planned on July 4, after only two candidates – both little known – submitted their candidacies. “The election… will without any doubt be postponed or canceled”, the francophone El Watan daily asserted. The poll was originally meant to take place on April 18, but longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation early last month, on the back of huge street protests, forced a postponement. To be eligible, the candidates – aeronautical engineer Hamid Touahri and Abdelhakim Hamadi, who heads a veterinary drug company – have to be backed by 600 local councilors and lawmakers or 60,000 voters in more than half the country’s regions.  AFP

‘War Crimes Committed’ in Egypt’s Sinai
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused both Egyptian security forces and jihadists of committing “war crimes” in their confrontation in the North Sinai region. The rights group compiled the report over two years, interviewing more than 50 residents of the Sinai Peninsula in north-eastern Egypt. It concluded that while Egyptian military and police forces were responsible for the majority of abuses documented in the report, extremist militants had also committed “horrific” crimes. In November 2017 militants attacked a mosque in North Sinai province, killing 235 people. It was the deadliest attack of its kind since an Islamist insurgency in the peninsula was stepped up in 2013. BBC

Hifter’s Forces Push toward Libyan Capital City’s Center
Heavy clashes have been slowly nearing the center of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, as forces loyal to the military commander Khalifa Hifter battle to seize power, an official and residents said Monday. Hifter opened a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli in early April despite commitments to move toward elections in the North African country. Libya is divided between Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army controls the east and much of the south, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the U.N.-supported but weak government in Tripoli. In recent weeks, the clashes had receded with the start of the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.  AP

Libya: Flight Data Places Mysterious Planes in Haftar Territory
Cargo planes were discovered flying clandestinely into bases controlled by renegade Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and dropping off unidentified payloads at the time his forces attacked Tripoli last month, an Al Jazeera Arabic TV investigation found. Satellite images and flight data show two Russian-made Ilyushin 76 aircraft registered to a joint Emirati-Kazakh company called Reem Travel made several trips between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan before landing at military bases controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in early April, just as it attempted to seize the capital. Flight transponders appear to have been turned off while flying into the war-torn North African country. Libya is currently under an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations after years of fighting.  Al Jazeera

Five Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Boko Haram Ambush
Five Nigerian soldiers have been killed and a number are missing after an ambush by Boko Haram’s Islamic State-backed faction, security sources said Sunday. Fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on Friday opened fire on a column of civilian vehicles under military escort in the northeastern Borno State, according to the sources who requested anonymity. The troops were escorting residents from the village of Sabon Garin Kimba in dozens of trucks to a camp in the town of Damboa about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, according to a militia fighting against the jihadists alongside the army. They were being evacuated from the village, which lies 130 kilometres from the state capital Maiduguri, ahead of a major military offensive against ISWAP, which has recently increased its activities in the area.  AFP

Mabuza to Be Sworn In on Tuesday
ANC deputy president David Mabuza is set to be sworn in as a member of Parliament on Tuesday, clearing the way for his appointment as deputy president of the country. Mabuza met the ANC’s integrity commission on Friday in a bid to clear his name after media reports indicated that he was among 22 party leaders who had tainted the ANC’s image in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. Mabuza last week postponed his swearing in as an MP in order to deal with the allegations before the integrity commission — which had not been officially put to him at that point. The report from the commission, under the title “Statement on the national list” was vague in terms of the allegations against Mabuza. A copy of the statement — which the Mail & Guardian has seen — listed him along with Zizi Kodwa, the ANC’s head of the presidency, as leaders about whom “individuals” had brought allegations of corruption. Mail and Guardian

Ex-Botswana President Khama Backs Opposition against His Successor
Former Botswana President Ian Khama told his supporters he was supporting the opposition against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the country’s forthcoming elections. Khama, who handed power to his then-deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi last year after serving as president of the diamond-rich southern African nation for a decade, has since quit BDP. The policy feud with his hand-picked successor deepened, is threatening to split the party that has ruled the country since independence in 1966.  Africa News

Somalia’s Frightening Network of Islamist Spies
Somalia’s militant Islamists remain relatively undiminished, despite a 12-year UN-backed campaign against them, largely thanks to its sophisticated web of spies, writes the BBC’s Mary Harper. Often, when I return to the UK from Somalia, I get a phone call from al-Shabab. It usually happens even before I talk to my family, while I am waiting for my luggage or in a taxi on the way home. Once, after a trip to the south-western Somali town of Baidoa, I was given a detailed account of what I had done and where I had been. “You walked to a bank but it was shut. You knocked on the doors and tried to open them. You took some photos,” said the man from al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. BBC

Zimbabwe Has Little to Show for $27 Billion Investment
When Emmerson Mnangagwa took over the leadership of Zimbabwe from Robert Mugabe in November 2017, he promised to revive the moribund economy and adopted a mantra he’s repeated regularly ever since – “Zimbabwe is open for business.” Mnangagwa, always wearing a scarf in the colors of the Zimbabwean flag, quickly set about traversing the globe to woo investment needed to revive the heavily indebted economy. By March, he’d been on at least 30 foreign visits, including trips to the U.S., Russia, China, the Middle East and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Together with the enthusiastic support of state media, Mnangagwa and his officials have announced more than $27 billion of planned investment ranging from new platinum mines to steel mills and hydropower dams. Eighteen months into his rule, he has little to show for it.  Bloomberg

Nelson Chamisa Retains Leadership of Zimbabwe’s Opposition MDC Alliance
The biggest casualty at the MDC Alliance’s elective congress in Gweru, Zimbabwe, at the weekend is outgoing secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora. Mwonzora was initially earmarked to challenge for the party’s leadership at the congress but failed to get nominations, leaving party leader Nelson Chamisa uncontested. As such, he reverted to defend his position against a Chamisa ally, Charlton Hwende, and Fortune Daniel Molokele. Hwende emerged the winner with a resounding 2,099 votes to Mwonzora’s 721, while Molokele was third with 577. The vice-presidency was a predictable affair, with Tendai Biti and Prof Welshman Ncube joined by Lynette Kore as the third pick.  Times Live

Madagascar Goes to the Polls amid Major Corruption Scandal
African island nation Madagascar held parliamentary elections on Monday, despite many of the country’s politicians being embroiled in a major corruption scandal. In the past two weeks, Madagascar’s anti-corruption bureau has begun legal proceedings against almost half of the country’s outgoing parliamentarians, following a year-long investigation. At least 79 MPs are accused of taking bribes in return for votes, and those convicted could face up to five years in prison. The scandal poses a challenge for new president Andry Rajoelina, who defeated his predecessor, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in an election last December. Mr Rajoelina, the head of the Tanora malaGasy Vonona (Determined Malagasy Youth) party, had previously led the country between 2009 and 2014, after leading a coup against his longstanding rival Marc Ravalomanana, who leads the TIM (“I Love Madagascar”) party.  The Irish Times

DR Congo: Dozens Drown, Many Missing as Boat Sinks in Lake
At least 30 people have died and dozens more are feared missing after a boat sank in a lake in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to local authorities and media reports. The accident happened late on Saturday at Lake Mai-Ndombe, near the village of Lokanga. “So far, we have recovered 30 bodies: 12 women, 11 children and seven men,” Simon Mbo Wemba, the mayor of Inongo, told media on Sunday. “The toll is still provisional,” the mayor added. It was not immediately known how many people were on board the vessel, but officials estimate several hundred were on board. Some 170 survivors were rescued from the lake. Al Jazeera

Kenya Court Upholds Ban on Gay Sex in Major Setback for Activists
LGBT campaigners have reacted with anger and dismay after judges at Kenya’s high court rejected a bid to repeal colonial-era laws criminalising gay sex. The ruling has dealt a major setback to campaigners, who hoped that scrapping the laws would inspire other countries in Africa – where discrimination is widespread – to do the same. A bench of three judges told a packed courtroom in Nairobi they had not seen sufficient evidence of discrimination caused by the laws, which they said were constitutional because they represented the values and views of the country. Justice Roselyne Aburili rejected last year’s precedent in India, which legalised gay sex between consenting adults, as well as a series of other judgments across the Commonwealth and elsewhere, and said Kenya should make its own laws to reflect its own culture.  The Guardian

Africa’s CFA Franc – Colonial Relic or Stabilizing Force?
Voices calling for the abandonment of the French-back CFA franc, used in West and Central Africa by 14 countries – 12 of them former French colonies – seem to be growing louder. In August 2017, activist Kémi Séba publicly burned a 5,000 CFA note in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, the seat of the West African central bank, saying the currency was a relic of the colonial era. In June 2018, a group of West African musicians released the rap song, “Seven Minutes against the CFA”, with lyrics calling the currency an instrument of repression. Those behind the song hoped to reignite efforts to get rid of the CFA franc. In January 2019, debate around the CFA franc flared again after Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio claimed France was using the currency to “exploit” its former colonies in Africa. Many young Africans celebrated Di Maio for his critique.  Deutsche Welle

Secretive Traders Netting Chinese Delicacy Leave Nile Perch under Threat
Highly prized for its swim bladder – served in soups and stews – the fish could disappear altogether from Africa’s Lake Victoria thanks to the lucrative trade. A thriving trade in fish maw – made from the swim bladders of fish – could lead to the extinction of the Nile perch fish in east Africa’s Lake Victoria. Demand for fish maw has spawned such a lucrative business enterprise in the region that it is raising concerns of overfishing. The high profits involved mean that traders keep a low profile, and are secretive about their haul’s eventual destination, according to the women who gut the perch to extract the precious maw. “We don’t know where they take it. They come to collect it and we sell it to them,” said Francisca Odhiambo, a mother of five, who sells fish at Dunga beach, on the shores of Lake Victoria. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones