Africa Media Review for November 22, 2019

Inside Guinea-Bissau’s Tense Presidential Election
Over 700,000 citizens of Guinea Bissau are eligible to vote in Sunday’s presidential election that pits incumbent president Jose Mario Vaz against old rival and former Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, and 10 other candidates. The election comes in the wake of weeks of political turmoil including violent protests, an alleged coup attempt and the emergence of two competing prime ministers. … Pereira, who has styled himself as a moderniser, is seen as the front-runner by political observers in Guinea Bissau and internationally. … Vaz won the 2014 presidential election as the PAIGC’s candidate but fell out with the party after sacking his prime minister in 2015. He is now running for re-election as an independent candidate. In the latest round of prime-ministerial musical chairs, Vaz fired premier Aristides Gomes on Oct. 29 and appointed a successor to him, but Gomes refused to step down. For around 10 days the country had two prime ministers until Vaz backed down under pressure from the international community, which said his moves were illegal. Regional bloc ECOWAS had warned of the threat of civil war and urged the authorities not to allow the election to be derailed. Africa News

Islamic State Claims Massacre of Troops in Mali, Where It Is Gaining Ground
The Islamic State has asserted responsibility for an attack that killed 30 soldiers this week in the West African nation of Mali, where extremists are gaining ground in their bloody pursuit to seize territory. In a statement late Wednesday, the group’s self-described West Africa arm said it also wounded 30 soldiers in the attack while mentioning no deaths among its fighters. The Malian army, which routinely tangles with extremists in the country’s restive north, said Tuesday that 17 militants were killed in the fight at Tabankort in the Gao region, which borders Burkina Faso and Niger. U.S. officials say the Sahel region, which lies south of the Sahara Desert, threatens to become a safe haven for terrorists to plot and carry out attacks worldwide. Mali, which is about twice the size of Texas, is a particularly troubling hot spot. … Militants with ties to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, meanwhile, have expanded their reach in Mali and Burkina Faso by provoking feuds between ethnic groups and offering to protect victims of the bloodshed they are stoking. The Washington Post

How Jihadists Struck Gold in Africa’s Sahel
People around Pama, a West African town on the edge of vast forested conservation areas, had long been forbidden by their government to dig for gold in the reserves, to protect antelope, buffalo and elephants. In mid-2018, men wearing turbans changed the rules. Riding in with assault rifles on motorbikes and in 4X4 trucks, they sent government troops and rangers fleeing from the area in eastern Burkina Faso bordering the Sahel, a belt of scrubland south of the Sahara Desert. The armed men said residents could mine in the protected areas, but there would be conditions. Sometimes they demanded a cut of the gold. At other times they bought and traded it. The men “told us not to worry. They told us to pray,” said one man who gave his name as Trahore and said he had worked for several months at a mine called Kabonga, a short drive northwest of Pama. Like other miners who spoke to Reuters, he asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. It was not safe for reporters to visit the region, but five other miners who had been to Kabonga corroborated his account. “We called them ‘our masters,'” Trahore said. Reuters

Zambia’s Constitutional Debate: More Powers for the President?
Bill number 10 – that is the controversial bill that has created a stir in Zambia’s political landscape. For the past few days it has been trending on Zambia’s social media scene, and a petition hearing against the passing of the bill has even attracted a small crowd waiting outside the packed constitutional court. “The bill is the grave digger of Zambia’s democracy and the country’s worst constitutional amendment since the achievement of independence in 1964,” Sishuwa Sishuwa, a historian from the University of Zambia told new agencies. Changes to the constitution, which have passed a first reading in parliament, include an increase in presidential powers, allowing the president to nominate judges, ministers, change electoral policies and increase controls over the central bank. The fear of many of those who are against the reforms, is that the bill will sail through parliament, which is dominated by president Edgar Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, and ultimately be signed into law. In what is seen as the final plea against the reforms, members of the civil society group, Chapter One Foundation and the Law Association of Zambia filed a petition in an attempt to halt the move. DW

Ethiopia’s Ruling Coalition Parties Merge to Form ‘Prosperity Party’
Ethiopia’s prime minister on Thursday applauded the decision by three of the four ethnic-based parties in the ruling coalition to merge ahead of the 2020 elections. Abiy said the decision to merge had been taken unanimously, as the dissenting members of the coalition were not in the room. He also announced that the new party would be called Prosperity Party. “The unanimous decision passed today to merge the Party is a crucial step in harnessing our energy to work toward a shared vision. Prosperity Party is committed to strengthening & applying a true Federal system which recognizes the diversity and contributions of all Ethiopians,” he said in a tweet. The coalition’s leaders approved the new party’s program, coalition spokesman Fekadu Tessema told state broadcaster EBC after the meeting. The manoeuvring showed how the country, Africa’s second most populous, is torn between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s unifying drive and various ethnic groups seeking more autonomy. Abiy is hoping his rapid reforms can win over voters alienated by decades of abuse by the ruling coalition before next year’s elections and he frequently invokes unity. Reuters

Somali Official: 2020 Could See First Election in 50 Years
The head of Somalia’s electoral commission told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that 2020 is “a pivotal year” for the country whose citizens have been denied the right to political participation for 50 years and are hoping for an election with universal voting. Halima Ismail Ibrahim said the country’s political leaders must follow through on agreements since 2011 to holding a one-person, one-vote election as a replacement for “clan-based power-sharing.” In presidential elections most recently in 2017, lawmakers were chosen by about 14,000 clan delegates and they in turn elected a president. Ibrahim urged Somali leaders to treat one-person, one-vote elections in 2020-2021 “as a constitutional obligation and a national priority and provide the necessary political and financial support” for the National Independent Electoral Commission which she chairs to conduct an election with universal voting next year. Since Somalia became an independent nation in 1960, she said, “universal suffrage elections have only been conducted twice, 1964 and 1969.” AP

Ex-Leader Leaves Benin with Political Crisis Unresolved
Former leader Thomas Boni Yayi has left Benin without meeting President Patrice Talon, after briefly returning from exile for talks aimed at easing a political crisis, sources said Thursday. Boni Yayi flew in to Benin on Wednesday after spending some five months abroad. He had gone into exile after being held under de facto house arrest for criticising parliamentary elections that sparked mass protests in the West African country. He had been expected to meet rival Talon alongside a delegation from regional bloc Ecowas for talks aimed at resolving the tensions set off by the April vote. But allies of Boni Yayi, Talon’s predecessor as president from 2006-16, said he left Cotonou abruptly on Wednesday evening without meeting the president as he believed his demand for a re-run of the election would be rejected. The former French colony has previously been seen as among the region’s most stable democracies. But Talon, a former business magnate, has been accused of carrying out a concerted crackdown that has driven key rivals into exile. AFP

China’s $2 Billion Deal with Ghana Sparks Fears over Debt, Influence and the Environment
The Chinese government has released phase one of funding for a substantial road construction project in Ghana as part of a $2 billion infrastructure deal which gives Beijing access to the country’s reserves of bauxite – a crucial source of aluminum. The deal has drawn criticism from environmental activists, political opposition, and international government investment partners, with a new report from risk consultancy EXX Africa highlighting a lack of transparency and increasing threat to debt sustainability. … Last week, in his first budget following the latest IMF visit, Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta pledged to boost spending by 21%, promising higher public sector wages and more infrastructure projects. He also announced plans to raise $3 billion in international debt markets. The expansionist push comes as President Nana Akufo-Addo and his ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) look to next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, with former president John Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) aiming to build an opposition coalition comprising nine entities. CNBC

UK Defies UN Deadline to Return Chagos Islands
Britain’s “outright defiance” of a UN deadline to hand the Chagos Islands to Mauritius by Friday, in a final act of African “decolonisation,” has been condemned by Mauritius and the globally-scattered communities of exiled islanders. The UK’s refusal to end its occupation of the Indian Ocean archipelago is expected to be marked by protests outside the UK high commission in the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, organised by those who were forcibly deported more than 40 years ago and their descendants. The Labour party’s election manifesto, published on Thursday, pledges to allow Chagossians to resettle in their homeland. Earlier this year, the UN general assembly voted by an overwhelming majority of 116 to six countries in favour of a motion condemning Britain’s occupation of the remote islands and demanding what the Foreign Office terms British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) be reunified with Mauritius. An advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in The Hague, found the islands had been illegally severed from Mauritius in the 1960s. … The UK regards neither the ICJ judgment nor the UN motion as binding. The Guardian

Children March for Their Rights in Sudan Capital
Dozens of children in Khartoum state, in coordination with pro-child organisations, on Wednesday organised a procession to the Ministry of Labour and Development demanding the creation of a children’s commission and guaranteeing children’s rights. On the occasion of World Children’s Day, the children handed over a memorandum to the Minister for Labour, Development, and Social Affairs demanding their rights to health, education, safety, shelter, and justice. Labour Minister Lina El Sheikh pledged to strive to ensure the rights of children, especially refugees and children in war zones, and promised to establish children’s parliaments in every state. Also in Khartoum, activists staged a protest in front of the Council of Ministers yesterday, demanding the removal of “corrupt members of the former regime” from the management of shelters and social welfare institutions. They also demanded attention to children with disabilities, orphans, and displaced people. In a memorandum handed over to the Prime Minister’s office, activists lamented an increase in mortality rates in shelters, and deteriorating health and psychological conditions within them. Radio Dabanga

Cameroon Teen Girl Wins International Children’s Peace Prize
A 15-year-old girl from Cameroon is one of two winners of the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize. Divina Maloum was rewarded for her efforts in promoting children’s rights by visiting school to warn students against joining armed groups, such as Boko Haram. Hundreds of children from schools in Yaounde, glued to their TV screens, applauded Wednesday as Maloum was given the International Children’s Peace Prize for 2019 in the Hague on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day. … “I noticed that the rights of children especially for girls were violated. You see a girl of five years getting married to an old man of 60 years. You see boys, girls who are carriers of bombs (suicide bombers), so I decided to create that association to stimulate the civic and voluntary engagement of children in the fight against violent extremism. To make them be peace builders in their communities. To also make them to be change makers,” Maloum said. Children for Peace now has a network of 100 children across Cameroon’s ten regions. She has organized inter-community children’s peace camps, established peace clubs in mosques, and together with other children, issued a children’s declaration against violent extremism. VOA

Despite Arrests and Intimidation, Tanzanian Journalist Fights to Ensure Press Freedom
Maxence Melo calls himself an “accidental journalist.” He says the website he founded in Tanzania, Jamii Forums, has a simple mission: give the youth a voice, offer a space for free expression and fight corruption. But the impact of the site and the response by Tanzanian authorities has been anything but simple. Melo has gone to court 137 times in the past three years, been arrested twice and spent 14 nights in jail. “I had lots of restrictions in terms of my freedoms but I know it’s the price we pay for these kinds of fundamental freedoms,” he told VOA. This week Melo was honored with the Committee to Protect Journalist International Press Freedom Award. He joined journalists from Brazil, India and Nicaragua in receiving the prestigious award. Created in 2006, Jamii Forums is mainly published in Swahili and has readers in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. It gained notoriety in 2007 with a story regarding corruption in the Central Bank of Tanzania, where millions of dollars were siphoned off. Melo said that was the first time the site was on the receiving end of official intimidation and authorities wanted to know who ran the platform. VOA

‘The EastAfrican’ Marks 25 Years
The EastAfrican, a publication of the Nation Media Group, on Thursday marked its 25th anniversary with celebrations at its Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Kigali bureaus. The weekly, which covers regional politics, business, diplomatic and policy news, was started in November 1994. After a quarter century of being at the forefront of documenting the East Africa Community (EAC) integration journey, the publication is renewing its commitment to spearhead member countries’ understanding of the region. “Our commitment to continue delivering factual, timely and relevant news to our readers remains our key objective for years to come,” said the Nation Media Group managing director for the Newspaper Division, Francis Munywoki. … The publication is marking its 25-years in the same month when the EAC marks 20 years of re-unification. … It has kept its EAC readers informed, educated and entertained, joining in the celebrations of major political and socio-economic achievements and highlighting missed opportunities and failures. The EastAfrican

AKA, Burna Boy and the African Unity Concert That Wasn’t
Not so long ago, when AKA and Burna Boy were mentioned together it was almost always in the context of their chart-topping collaborations. The two musicians won several awards for the songs they wrote and performed together. … Whether they realised it or not, their collaboration was always about more than just the music. Against the backdrop of tense relations between Nigeria and South Africa, the image of a South African rapper and a Nigerian afrobeats star working together -succeeding together -became a powerful symbol of 21st century pan-Africanism. As Rhodes University lecturer Siphokazi Magadla wrote in the Mail & Guardian in May, about similar cross-border collaborations: “These elite artists are showing us that if Africans in different sectors are able to work together across countries more easily, we stand to benefit in economic, social and creative ways that propel us forward.” But as the relationship between the two musicians has disintegrated – fraying in the harsh, relentless glare of social media – so too has that symbol. The trouble began in September, against the backdrop of another wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones