Africa Media Review for November 15, 2019

Uganda’s Opposition Fights to Be Heard amid Clampdown on Dissent
75-year-old Museveni came into power in 1986 and has kept a tight grip on it ever since. His rule was extended to a fifth term in 2016 elections that were widely dismissed as lacking transparency and being carried out in an intimidating atmosphere. Laws that would have stopped Museveni from standing again have been dismantled. In April 2019, Uganda’s supreme court ruled that scrapping the age cap of 75 years was legal, thus paving the way for Museveni to seek a sixth term in the 2021 elections. … Uganda, under Museveni’s rule, has a long history of repression. But Museveni’s “brazen crackdown on human rights has clearly escalated in recent months,” said Jeffery Smith, the founding director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit organization that supports fair elections in Africa. “This situation has typically played out in Uganda in the lead up to elections, but this time around the ferocity and the speed with which state violence has been unleashed should concern everyone,” Smith told DW. DW

In Uganda, Dissidents Adapt to Evade Huawei Assisted Government Spying
Wine, a vocal critic of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is certain security forces knew where he’d be and meticulously planned their attack. Reporting by The Wall Street Journal this summer confirms his claims and shows that Ugandan intelligence officials, with the help of employees of Chinese tech giant Huawei, hacked into Wine’s WhatsApp and Skype accounts to monitor the dissident and his supporters. In an interview Wednesday, Wine told VOA he’s now adopted a sophisticated routine to throw government spies off his trail using burner phones and old-fashioned code words. “What I’ve been doing to protect myself and the people that I communicate with is, one, to use coded language when I’m talking on the phone that is known,” he told VOA. “I’ve been forced to devise means of changing telephone numbers and telephone headsets constantly to keep them on the wrong track,” Wine added. “And sometimes, when I have to move to a place and I don’t want to be followed by the regime, I’m forced to leave my phone behind or put my phone in a car that is going in a different region of the country while I’m going into another one. That alone is how I’m trying to maneuver to go around it.” VOA

Kenya, Somalia Agree to Restore Ties After Spat Over Oil Rights
Kenya and Somalia agreed to restore ties on Thursday after a months-long spat over oil rights that led the neighbors to halt the issuance of visas on arrival for each other’s citizens. The two East African nations “agreed to normalize bilateral relations” beginning with the restoration of the visa policy, Kenya’s presidency said on Twitter late on Thursday. The oil rights dispute is linked to the nations’ maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean, subject of a long-running case before the International Court of Justice that Somalia filed against Kenya in 2014. Tensions escalated early this year when Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia after the Mogadishu government decided to auction the oil and gas exploration blocks at the center of the maritime territorial dispute. Somalia denied the accusation. Reuters

Dusit Attack Report Reveals Shabaab’s Plan in Recruiting Kenyans
Three Kenyans and two Somalis linked to the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Garissa County carried out the January attack claimed by Al-Shabaab on the DusitD2 hotel complex in Nairobi, according to United Nations experts. A fourth Kenyan citizen based in Mandera County served as “a key financing link between al-Shabaab in Somalia and the attacking cell in Kenya,” adds a report by the UN experts released on November 12. The findings lend some substance to Shabaab’s claim in June that it has recruited “an army of fighters from the Kenyan population itself.” The Dusit attack also highlights what the UN experts describe as “a newly observed dimension of al-Shabaab’s recruitment strategy.” “The possession of criminal skills, including knowledge of evading law enforcement, are privileged over ideology or affiliation with certain mosques or religious networks,” report says. … “Unusually for a Kenyan operative within al-Shabaab,” the report notes, “Gichunge was given wide discretion and autonomy over the particulars of the plot…” The East African

Teenager Killed in Guinea during Anti-Govt Protest
A teenager was shot dead by Guinean police on Thursday as he tried to flee a crackdown on mass anti-government protest, his family and doctor said. Alpha Souleymane Diallo,19, was reportedly caught up in the clashes. A doctor at the Amitie Hospital in Conakry confirmed he died from bullet wounds. Hundreds of protesters draped in red, the color of the oppostion, took to the streets of Conakry a day after President Alpha Conde confirmed parliamentary elections for February 2020. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of politicians and activists opposed to a constitutional change that could let Conde seek a third term is leading the protest. … On Thursday, Amnesty International published a report with accusations of human rights abuses against the government ahead of the 2020 elections. AFP

Nigeria, Niger, Benin Set Up Patrol Team to Tackle Smuggling
Nigeria, Niger and Benin have agreed to set up a monitoring committee to tackle smuggling after months of border closure. Representatives of the joint anti-smuggling committee, including foreign ministers met in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday to try to resolve the impasse. “The patrol team is to agree on the modality to carry out its operation and recommend a date for the opening of the borders. The delegation of Benin and Niger appealed for the immediate re-opening of the Nigerian borders. In conclusion, the three (3) countries reaffirmed their commitment in enhancing economic integration”, said Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama. The committee will comprise naval, customs, immigration and security officials from the three African nations. A statement released after the meeting said, the three countries have agreed to meet later this month to recommend opening the borders. In August, Africa’s largest economy shuts its borders with Niger and Benin to curb smuggling of rice and other commodities. The decision continues to take a toll on businesses in the affected countries. AFP

Cameroon Opposition Party Wants Security Beefed Up for Feb. 2020 Polls
Cameroon’s opposition party, the Social Democratic Front has agreed to participate in the February 2020 legislative and municipal elections only if the government put in place favourable security measures. The elections had been postponed twice due to growing threats from armed separatists in the country’s two English-speaking regions. A secessionist struggle has been raging in the two regions since October 2016. Separatists have vowed to disrupt the elections in the Anglophone regions. But Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji had earlier told reporters that “necessary security measures” would be taken to ensure peaceful elections. he 2018 presidential election stoked a political crisis in this Central African nation, where President Paul Biya has ruled for 37 years. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto was imprisoned along with some of his supporters for denouncing electoral fraud through marches. Africa News

Birao’s Militia Powder Keg in North Central African Republic
A heavy silence hangs in the dusty alleys of Birao, in the extreme northeast of Central African Republic, where figures only rarely wander between the empty houses and reed hedges. Since September, Birao has been hit hard by fighting between armed groups despite a peace agreement that had helped bring a precarious calm to a country ravaged by years of civil war. Most of Birao’s 14,000 inhabitants are now refugees camped out in makeshift tents next to a UN base, only metres from the abandoned homes that few can imagine returning to anytime soon. Birao highlights the complexities of the Central African Republic’s fragile peace deal among 14 armed groups and the government – an attempt to end a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced a fifth of the 4.5 million population in six years. AFP

Renamo’s Appeal to Have Election Result Annulled Dismissed – Mozambique’s Top Court
Mozambique’s top court has dismissed opposition party Renamo’s application to have the results of its recent general election dismissed – a scenario Renamo has said could result in violence in the country just months after an historic peace deal. A written judgement posted on the Constitutional Council’s website and dated Nov. 11 said the council had dismissed the appeal to have the victory of President Filipe Nyusi and his party Frelimo in the Oct. 15 election annulled. “The applicant has not provided sufficient evidence to support its claim,” the judgement said. It was hoped the presidential, legislative and provincial poll would set the seal on a peace pact signed between Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade in August that put an end to four decades of hostility between the two parties. Instead it has stoked tensions as opposition parties said the vote was hit by major fraud. Momade has said the country risked sliding back into violence if the election results were validated. “If one wants to save Mozambique, the election must be annulled,” he said, according to broadcaster STV on Wednesday, adding that Renamo had respected the peace accord so far. Reuters

Two Namibian Ministers Resign following Al Jazeera Investigation
Two Namibian government ministers resigned following allegations of corruption and money-laundering in the Namibian fishing industry. The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau and the Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala were accused of receiving bribes in return for giving preferential access to Namibia’s rich fishing grounds to Samherji, one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies. … From 2012, Icelandic fishing company Samherji made payments to businesses associated with Shanghala worth close to $10m, the investigation found. Shanghala had a swift ascent in Namibian politics, from being the chairman of the Law Reform and Development Commission, to being the country’s attorney general until becoming justice minister. The well-connected politicians appear to have fixed a bilateral fishing agreement with neighbouring Angola in order to provide the Icelandic company Samherji with greater access to Namibian fishing quotas. Al Jazeera

Two Years after Coup, Zimbabweans Grow More Despondent
Two years ago, Linos Mutepera was among hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who celebrated the toppling of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe with tears of joy. Today, he looks back at that time with bitterness, his hope of a better life dashed on the rocks of poverty and joblessness. … “We thought it was an end at last of an era that had been marked by poverty, joblessness, shortages, army and police brutality,” the 33-year-old unemployed engineering graduate told AFP. “How wrong we were.” … “Things have basically got worse,” Professor Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe’s School of Economics told AFP. “People are getting poorer and thousands are losing jobs,” he said. “The economy has got worse and politically, nothing has changed except that the military are much more visible and much more powerful. … Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero told AFP the November 2018 takeover had “never been for the good of the people. “It’s all about the political elite in (the ruling) ZANU-PF (party) and the preservation of their wealth,” he said. “The moment you have soldiers closing the barracks and joining politics, nothing good comes out of it.” AFP

Sudan Army: End Appointment of Military Governors
The High Command of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) informed rebel leaders during the negotiations that it wished to end the appointment of generals as acting state governors. The SAF command says that “the generals were appointed by the deposed regime of Omar Al Bashir, which raises a variety of difficulties. In a number of cases, it would be better if interim civil governors would manage the states until a peace agreement is signed.” During the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and armed movements in the South Sudanese capital in Juba over the past two months, the parties agreed on appointing new state governors after a peace accord has been reached. Yasir Arman, Deputy Secretary General of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF, a coalition of Sudanese armed opposition groups) said in a press release on Thursday that in the meantime, Khartoum may appoint civil governors who will rule the relevant state until a peace agreement has been reached and new governors will be appointed to all 18 states in the country. Radio Dabanga

Libya’s Prime Minister Says Russia Mercenaries Will Drag Out War
Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister said Russian mercenaries backing his rival, Khalifa Haftar, will drag out a months-long war in the North African oil producer, and urged the U.S. to act to restore peace. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said he had raised the matter with Russian officials during an October conference in Sochi. “We expressed our concern over the increase of foreign fighters in Libya in general, that this would increase the duration of the war,” Sarraj said in an interview in Tripoli on Wednesday. Hundreds of mercenaries with the Russian Wagner group, headed by President Vladimir Putin’s associate Yevgeny Prigozhin, are fighting alongside Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army in a stalled offensive to take the capital, Tripoli, and dislodge Sarraj’s government, according to Western and Russian officials. Russia and Haftar’s Libyan National Army officially deny the presence of mercenaries in Libya. Bloomberg

US Donates $92.5 Million to South Sudan
The United States government said it has provided $92.5 million worth in humanitarian assistance to help people affected by ongoing conflict and food insecurity in South Sudan. The contribution, according to the US embassy in Juba, also includes many of the estimated 908,000 people impacted by severe flooding in recent months. The embassy said in a statement today that the assistance through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will enable the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to continue providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to vulnerable people in South Sudan, including in flood-affected areas. As of early November, WFP said it had reached 400,000 of the more than 750,000 people in urgent need of food assistance in flood-affected areas. “Floods have exacerbated conditions that were already very precarious for more than 900,000 people in South Sudan,” said US Ambassador to South Sudan Tom Hushek. Radio Tamazuj

Malawi Clinic’s Safe Births Record Rivals Rich Countries – Here’s Why
The founder of a Malawian maternity clinic for poor women says it has set a record – safely delivering more than 8,000 babies. For her efforts improving access to safe childbirth, Charity Salima has even won a prestigious British award and honorary title. Grace Chakudza gave birth in November to a healthy baby boy – her fourth child – at Achikondi Community Clinic. It opened in 2008 to help poor women safely give birth. Since then the clinic has performed more than 8,800 successful deliveries, without the loss of mother or child, according to its founder. That’s a record number in Malawi, where the United Nations Children’s Fund says the average mortality rate per 1,000 births is 22 deaths for babies and six for mothers. … The number of successful deliveries reported by the clinic, means it beats not only the global average of 17 newborn deaths per thousand births, but also the average of rich nations. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones