Africa Media Review for May 31, 2018

Zimbabwe Court Shatters Diaspora Voting Hopes
A court in Harare has rejected a request by Zimbabweans living abroad to cast their ballots in the upcoming elections. The ruling came shortly after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced July 30 as election day. According to the ruling, Zimbabweans working and living outside the country will be unable to vote unless they travel back home to register for the elections. The court did not give any specific reason for its decision. Belinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the ruling is unfair to the millions of Zimbabweans affected. “We really believed that there is now a constitutional right for all Zimbabweans to vote whether they are based in Zimbabwe or they are working abroad,” Chinowawa said. Deutsche Welle

Africa’s Next Civil War Could Be in Cameroon
On May 20, Cameroon’s national day, citizens in the capital of Yaounde marched in parades, and President Paul Biya congratulated armed forces on their commitment to peace and safety. At the same time, in the country’s unstable Anglophone regions, separatists kidnapped a mayor, killed two police officers and intimidated people who tried to celebrate the holiday. Such incidents have human-rights activists worried that Cameroon could soon be the site of Africa’s next civil war. “We are gradually, gradually getting there,” said Agbor Nkongho, an Anglophone human rights lawyer and director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa. “I’m not seeing the willingness of the government to try to find and address the issue in a way that we will not get there.” The Washington Post

Analysts Warn Sahel Region to Deny Militants Safe Havens
Islamic State is spreading its influence to other regions, including Africa’s Sahel, and experts are warning that countries in the region should take measures to keep the militant groups from regrouping in these areas. Having lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, the terror group’s fighters are reportedly establishing ties with local militant organizations. “A key strength of these extremist organizations has been their ability to move with ease across national borders within the Sahel, allowing them to regroup after setbacks, and to replenish their ranks with inflows of fighters, weaponry and resources,” Jennifer G. Cooke of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs told VOA. VOA

‘No Mercy for the Thieves’ in Kenya Graft Scandal: President
“There will be no mercy for the thieves,” Kenya’s president announced Wednesday amid a growing corruption scandal as diplomats representing 18 Western countries including the United States urged strong action against graft. President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke a day after 24 officials were charged with corruption-related offenses in a probe linked to the alleged diversion of nearly $80 million. The government will spare no effort to recover all of the money, Kenyatta said. As for those to blame, “their days are numbered. They will be prosecuted and jailed.” Kenya’s leader is under increasing pressure as outrage grows over a number of corruption scandals revealed in recent weeks around the ministries of health, energy, agriculture, public service and youth. Kenyatta has long been criticized for not acting against corrupt officials despite numerous vows to crack down. AP

Ethiopian Govt and Opposition Start Talks on Amending Anti-Terrorism Law
Ethiopia’s ruling coalition started talks with opposition groups on Wednesday on amending provisions of an anti-terrorism law that critics say has criminalised dissent, state-affiliated media said. Watchdog groups say the 2009 law’s broad definitions have been used indiscriminately against anyone who opposes government policy. Among its provisions, it makes anyone publishing information deemed to encourage terrorism liable to a jail term of up to 20 years. The discussions follow the release on Tuesday of opposition leader Andargachew Tsige, who was sentenced to death under the law in 2009 over his role in the opposition group Ginbot 7, which the government has labelled a terrorist organisation. Reuters

Ebola: Fear, Suspicion, and Anger along Congo’s River of Worry
“My family in Kin (Kinshasa) told me to be very, very careful on this trip. I really wished we could be screened so that we know we are 100 percent sure that we are Ebola-free. I’m going to look at everyone who got here with suspicion,” she says. Properly screening the entire Congo River and all its tributaries is a practical impossibility – thousands of ports and informal embarkation points dot the 600 kilometres south to Kinshasa, the 500 kilometres north to Bangui (the capital of the Central African Republic), and the various routes westward into neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville. But people here are afraid and some accuse the government and the international medical authorities of putting out mixed messages. The first news of the outbreak, in rural Bikoro, reached the World Health Organisation, which is now leading the response with the Congolese government, on 8 May. Its spread to Mbandaka, confirmed on 17 May, greatly increased fears of a wider epidemic, and was described by the WHO as a “major game-changer”. IRIN

Biafra Shutdown Cripples Nigerian Cities
A stay-at-home protest by Biafran separatists in Nigeria has crippled cities and towns in the south-east. Streets are empty and markets, banks and schools are closed to mark the abortive attempt in 1967 to gain independence for the region. It led to a bitter three-year civil war in which more than one million people were killed. The authorities have warned the secessionists against street protests and security forces are on patrol. South-eastern Nigeria is mainly inhabited by the ethnic Igbo community, who often complain of marginalisation – accusing successive governments of failing to develop their areas. BBC

Central African Republic’s President Slams ‘Enemies of the Peace’
Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, granted an interview to FRANCE 24 in the capital Bangui. He discussed the flare-up in violence in his country over the past few weeks, especially in Bangui, and condemned “criminals who are taking the local population hostage”. “Enemies of the peace are trying to destabilise the country,” he told FRANCE 24’s James André. Touadéra also touched on his country’s new partnership with Russia. France 24

Russia and the Central African Republic: A Curious Relationship
Faustin Touadéra, president of the Central African Republic (CAR), recently made his second trip to Russia since October 2017. The two countries have been building relations, with Russia providing military support to its African ally – but what is Moscow getting in return?  BBC

U.S. calls on Sudan to adopt new approach to achieve peace in Darfur
The United States Chargé d’Affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis has called on the Sudanese government to adopt new mechanisms to achieve sustainable peace in Darfur. Following his meeting with North Darfur State governor Al-Sharief Mohamed Abad on Wednesday, Koutsis demanded the government to continue the disarmament campaign and meet the holdout groups in order to join the peace process. He pointed out that the U.S. is exerting serious efforts in coordination with the United Nations to meet humanitarian needs and achieve peace in Darfur. The U.S. envoy acknowledged the significant improvement in the security situation in North Darfur, saying it would contribute to improving the humanitarian situation. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan President Urges Ethiopia to Oppose US-Drafted Sanctions
One day before the United Nations Security Council votes on proposed U.S. sanctions against six South Sudanese officials accused of obstructing the peace process, President Salva Kiir left his nation’s capital, Juba, for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is seeking Ethiopian support to stop the U.S.-drafted sanctions. Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny says Kiir will ask Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to use his position as head of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, to block the proposed sanctions. IGAD sponsored a series of failed peace talks between the government and rebel groups aimed at revitalizing a peace agreement signed in 2015. Ateny told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program that President Kiir will assure Prime Minister Ahmed that the Kiir government is committed to restoring peace in South Sudan. He says Kiir will argue that U.N. sanctions could hinder efforts to restore peace. South Sudan’s defense minister, Kuol Manyang Juk, would be among the six officials blacklisted if the measure passes. VOA

South Africa’s ANC Wants Constitutional Test on Land Seizures
South Africas ruling African National Congress wants to test whether land reform is permitted under the prevailing constitution, and if not, it will be amended, Ace Magashule, the partys secretary-general, said.We are going to start expropriating land without compensation, Magashule told reporters in Johannesburg after a meeting of the partys national executive committee. We are not going to wait any longer. It will be done in an orderly fashion. The ANC decided at its national conference in December to change the constitution to allow for land seizures, a move the main opposition Democratic Alliance and farmers groups say will deter investment. On Feb. 27, lawmakers agreed to the principle and told parliaments constitutional review committee to propose legal changes needed to facilitate the process. Bloomberg

Uganda Approves ‘WhatsApp Tax’
Ugandans who use the internet messaging service WhatsApp will be charged a daily tax of 200 shillings after parliament approved a controversial new law on Wednesday. It comes into force on 1 July. Mobile money transactions will also be taxed, with a 1% levy on the total value of each transaction. At least three members of parliament criticised the new rules as “double taxation”, according to the privately-owned Daily Monitor newspaper. Most of the resistance came from younger MPs Robert Kyaggulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, from Kyaddondo East – as well as Joshua Anywarach and Silas Aogon of Kumi Municipality. They all say that because users access WhatsApp through taxed airtime, an additional tax would be an infringement on users’ rights. CGTN

In Morocco Boycott, Anger, Layoffs and Bloated Udders
An online boycott campaign protesting rising food prices in Morocco has prompted the local unit of French dairy giant Danone to cut raw milk purchases and plan layoffs, underscoring the political and economic cost of simmering unrest in the North African monarchy. The campaign, which began last month on Facebook, initially singled out Centrale Danone, mineral water company Oulmes and the countrys leading fuel distributor, Afriquia SMDC. It later expanded to include the countrys fish markets, as anger simmered over the uptick in consumer prices that hit 2.7 percent in April, its highest level since 2013. Bloomberg

African Migrants Report Torture, Slavery in Algeria
Dozens of Africans say they were sold for labour and trapped in slavery in Algeria in what aid agencies fear may be a widening trend of abusing migrants headed for a new life in Europe. Algerian authorities could not be reached for comment and several experts cast doubt on claims that such abuses are widespread in the north African country. The tightly governed state has become a popular gateway to the Mediterranean since it became tougher to pass through Libya, where slavery, rape and torture are rife. Amid a surge in anti-migrant sentiment, Algeria since late last year has sent thousands of migrants back over its southern border into Niger, according to the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), where many tell stories of exploitation. Reuters

Algeria Seizes 700kg of Cocaine on Container Ship
Algerian authorities have seized more than 700kg (1,543lb) of cocaine smuggled aboard a container ship and made 20 arrests. The vessel was carrying frozen meat from Brazil and had previously docked in Valencia, Spain. It was due to offload in Algeria’s western port of Oran but suspicions were raised when the captain refused to dock for three days. Acting on a tip-off, the Algerian coastguard forced the boat into port. BBC

Africa Needs Unified Regulations against Cheap Chinese Imports
I walked into a dusty wooden booth known in Sierra Leone as a ’boutique’ to shop for fresh clothes. The airline hadn’t delivered my luggage on my flight from Germany and I had been wearing the same clothes for days. When I left the boutique, I had a brand new pair of Armani jeans, D&G shorts and some Lacoste shirts. The items cost me about 500,000 Leones (€50, $58). In Sierra Leone, this is a form of cheap luxury for the middle-class. But for the EU or US, it’s a result of China’s gross violation of intellectual property and patent laws. China is facing hefty fines in the United States. In April, US President Donald Trump unveiled a list of over 1,000 Chinese products to be hit with 25 percent tariffs worth $50 billion. The Trump administration said this was punishment for Beijing’s policy of forcing American companies to give up their intellectual property rights in order to do business with China. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones