Africa Media Review for November 17, 2017

Five Issues to Watch as the Zimbabwe Crisis Unfolds
Zimbabwe has been rocked by the military intervention that seemingly portends the end of the 37-year rule of President Robert Mugabe, the only leader the country has known since independence. As the diplomatic initiative by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) attempts to defuse the crisis and chart a path forward that will restore democracy and stability, here are five strategic considerations to watch. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Fate of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Hangs in the Balance amid Coup Confusion
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s fate hung in the balance on Friday as he apparently resisted efforts to make him step down following a seizure of power by the army, until this week a key pillar of his 37-year-rule. The United States, a longtime critic of Mugabe over allegations of human rights abuses and election rigging, is seeking “a new era” for Zimbabwe, the State Department’s top official for Africa said, an implicit call for the nonagenarian leader to quit. The unfolding drama in the capital, Harare, was thrown into confusion when a smiling Mugabe was pictured shaking hands with Zimbabwe’s military chief, the man behind the coup, raising questions about whether or not the end of an era was near. Reuters

The Zimbabwe Military Is Discovering It May Not Be So Easy to Remove Mugabe
When Zimbabwe’s military detained President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday night, it seemed the stage had been set for the ouster of Africa’s oldest leader. Two days later, it was clear that it might not be so easy. On Thursday, Mugabe, 93, entered into talks with the military commanders who placed him under house arrest and with officials from neighboring South Africa. His motorcade streaked through the city without any army escort, indicating that he had at least some freedom of movement. In a photo from Thursday’s talks released by the government newspaper, he was smiling with his arm around the army commander responsible for the military takeover, appearing untroubled. The Washington Post

Robert Mugabe’s Vast Wealth Exposed by Lavish Homes and Decadent Ways
When Grace Mugabe summoned a number of supporters to her sprawling private compound at Mazowe, north of Harare, in 2014 – she told them that all suggestions her husband was a wealthy man were wide of the mark. Standing in front of the 30 or so luxury villas that she has had built on the property, she insisted that the truth was that Mugabe was the poorest head of state in the world. “We are blessed because we have Baba Mugabe,” she said. “He is the poorest president the world over. I have never seen him asking for money from anyone.” Nobody listening believed a word of it, of course. Grace enjoys a number of soubriquets in Zimbabwe, all of them reflecting a widespread belief that she enjoys squandering the country’s wealth: the First Shopper, Gucci Grace, and even DisGrace. The Guardian

Zimbabwe: Was Mugabe’s Fall a Result of China Flexing Its Muscle?
A visit to Beijing last Friday by Zimbabwe’s military chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, has fuelled suspicions that China may have given the green light to this week’s army takeover in Harare. If so, the world may just have witnessed the first example of a covert coup d’etat of the kind once favoured by the CIA and Britain’s MI6, but conceived and executed with the tacit support of the 21st century’s new global superpower. China, Africa’s biggest foreign investor, has more at stake in Zimbabwe, and more political influence, than any other state. This is largely due to its extensive investments in the mining, agriculture, energy and construction sectors. China was Zimbabwe’s top trade partner in 2015, buying 28% of its exports. But the Chinese connection is about more than money. The Guardian

Chinese Peacekeepers Begin to Return from South Sudan
The first echelon of China’s third peacekeeping infantry battalion to South Sudan has returned after finishing a one-year United Nations peacekeeping mission. Since Dec. 2016, the battalion has completed 39 long-distance armed guards and 18 arms checks in refugee camps in South Sudan. The peacekeepers also handled 38 cases of people armed with guns entering forbidden zones and stopped 105 thefts. They also performed tasks including patrolling urban areas and protecting civilian regions. The battalion won high praise from the United Nations, the local government and other peacekeeping forces. The 700 officers and soldiers of the battalion will return in four groups by the end of this month. Xinhua

Fractured SPLM Factions Sign Unification Deal in Egypt
Fragmented factions of South Sudan’s SPLM party signed a deal in Cairo, Egypt to set aside their differences and unify the party. The Cairo Declaration of Unification was signed in the Egyptian General Intelligence’s headquarters under the auspices of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Cairo hosted the meeting from November 13 to 16. The Declaration, which bears names of SPLM-FDs leader Pagan Amum and South Sudan’s defence minister, Kuol Manyang, is expected to expedite implementation of the 2015 Arusha agreement. Radio Tamazuj

Nikki Haley: US Must Take Sides in South Sudan Conflict
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations says the South Sudanese government is engaged in a brutal, protracted military campaign against a fragmented opposition and says, while both sides are responsible for atrocities against civilians, the government is primarily responsible for ethnically based killings. Nikki Haley, who made those remarks Wednesday at Washington’s Holocaust Museum, says nothing prepared her for the level of suffering she saw when she recently visited South Sudanese refugee camps. “Entire families are living with nothing but a tarp over their heads. Women are giving birth on dirt floors, floors that have now turned to mud by the fact that it is the rainy season,” Haley said. “There is nothing that prepares you for the sobs of the South Sudanese women, nearly all of whom have been raped, sometimes repeatedly.” VOA

S. Sudan President Reconciles with Former Army Chief
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former army chief of staff apparently have reconciled, a week after a tense standoff in Juba threatened to escalate into violence. The reconciliation happened Thursday at a prayer service at the president’s residence in Juba. Pictures surfaced on the internet showing Paul Malong hugging Kiir. The coziness seems a world away from events last week in Juba, when tanks and dozens of government troops surrounded Malong’s house after he refused to release a platoon of soldiers guarding him. Malong had been under house arrest at his residence since May, after a string of resignations by military officials who alleged there was ethnic bias in the army, and that soldiers were committing war crimes in the context of South Sudan’s civil war. VOA

Kenya Court to Rule on Presidential Election Cases on Monday
Kenya’s Supreme Court will rule on Monday on cases that seek to nullify the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta last month and the judges could order a fresh vote or clear the way for the incumbent to be sworn in for a second term. The two cases appear to represent a final chance for legal scrutiny of the Oct. 26 election and the ruling could end a protracted political crisis in which more than 60 people have been killed. Kenya is a hub for trade, diplomacy and security in East Africa. “We will deliver judgment on the 20th,” Chief Justice David Maraga told lawyers at the end of a hearing on Thursday. Reuters

Experts Question Role of Data Mining Firms in Kenya’s Annulled Election
Kenya’s annulled 2017 presidential election was among Africa’s most expensive. President Uhuru Kenyatta and main challenger Raila Odinga spent tens of millions of dollars on their campaigns, including sizeable investments in global PR firms that mined data and crafted targeted advertisements. As experts sort through the historic election’s aftermath, the involvement of data analysis companies has come to the forefront, raising questions about privacy, voter manipulation and the role of foreign firms in local elections. Data mining and PR companies conduct surveys to gauge public sentiment and sift through reams of data across social media. They stitch that information together to build detailed profiles and deliver targeted, customized messages aimed at changing behaviors. VOA

Libyan Forces Hit ISIS Camp with Air Strike
East Libyan forces said they launched air strikes against suspected ISIS militants on Wednesday south of the group’s former stronghold of Sirte. “The Libyan air force struck and destroyed the biggest concentration of Daesh (ISIS) south of Sirte, after monitoring the site over a period of time,” said Sherif al-Awami, an air force commander with the Libyan National Army. The site contained a large camp with military vehicles and stocks of petrol and water and had been used as a base for mounting attacks, he said. ISIS was driven from Sirte last year and has been trying to regroup in the desert to the south, launching occasional forays into inhabited areas and attacks against local forces. Al Arabiya

Where Are Burundi’s Missing Witnesses to Crimes against Humanity?
In Burundi, it’s not just witnesses to the politically motivated string of murders, torture, and rapes who are going missing, it’s also the perpetrators, underscoring the enormous scale of the challenge now facing the International Criminal Court. So great are the risks to the “life and wellbeing” of potential witnesses to alleged crimes against humanity committed by state agents here that ICC judges agreed for the first time to deliberate in secret before deciding the tribunal’s chief prosecutor could step up her enquiries. Fears of a Kenya-style witness tampering campaign appear well-founded: Several people with first-hand knowledge of crimes implicating police, soldiers, and militia members have disappeared or been killed in Burundi, according to relatives and rights groups. IRIN

Sudan, U.S. Launch Second Phase of Normalization, as Khartoum Reiterates Position on N. Korea
The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry Ibrahim Ghandour Thursday have endorsed a roadmap for the second phase of talks on normalisation of bilateral relations. Also, during the bilateral meetings in Khartoum, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry formally announced Sudan’s commitment to sever all trade and military ties with North Korea. Last October Washington permanently cancelled the 20-year economic sanctions on Sudan opening the door for the normalization of bilateral relation and removal of remaining sanctions on the east African country particularly its removal from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Following his arrival to Khartoum Sullivan and his delegation held a closed-door meeting with the Sudanese government delegation headed by Ghandour. Sudan Tribune

Africa Politics Creep into French PM’s Visit to Morocco
France’s prime minister launched a mission Wednesday to reinvigorate trade and cooperation with Morocco, which has steadily positioned itself as a regional economic powerhouse focused on Africa instead of its former colonial ruler. French government ministers, state secretaries and a large group of business leaders accompanied Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to the Moroccan capital for a two-day visit. It was Philippe’s first visit to the North African kingdom since his appointment in May. He chaired a Franco-Moroccan economic forum involving nearly 150 French and Moroccan companies. However, Morocco’s ambitions and stalemates crept into a joint news conference by Philippe and his Moroccan counterpart, Saadeddine El Othmani, in the form of a prickly question over Western Sahara. VOA

Rwanda Announces Global Visa Free Regime Starting January 2018
Rwanda has announced what could be termed a global visa free entry for travelers from everywhere in the world starting January 1, 2018. A communique released by the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration said citizens of all countries the world over could enjoy 30 days visa on arrival under the regime. With some entrants required to pay a fee where applicable. Rwanda already has such a system in place for all African countries and a number of countries outside the continent. The country is reputed as one of the most open in visa openness index publications. Africa News

Melilla: No Asylum for Black Men
Most of the refugees arriving in Melilla, a Spanish exclave in Northern Africa, are Syrians, Yemenis and Algerians. But no blacks apply for asylum at the border. Why is that? Santiago Saez reports from Melilla. In November 2014, Spain announced the opening of two Offices of Asylum and Refuge (OAR), one in each of its two autonomous cities in Northern Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. They were up and running before the end of the year, but the results weren’t as expected. In Ceuta, the office is closed and unused. In Melilla, only Arabs and North Africans can access it. Deutsche Welle


Photo: Adam Jones