Africa Media Review for November 25, 2019

8 Killed in DR Congo’s Beni, Residents Burn Town Hall
Eight civilians died overnight in DR Congo’s volatile city of Beni in a fresh militant attack and angry residents partly burnt the town hall on Monday, an AFP reporter said. Army spokesman Colonel Mak Hazukai confirmed the latest casualties in the city, near the Ugandan border, telling AFP that “the enemy entered the Boikene quarter and killed eight civilians.” Incensed locals then partly burnt the town hall and then moved towards the camp of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) on the outskirts of Beni, accusing it of inaction. There have been a string of rallies against local forces and UN peacekeepers in Beni for failing to stop attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia. Nearly 70 civilians have been massacred in the Beni region since military action against the ADF began at the start of November. A protester died in police firing on Saturday. Two policemen were killed the same day by angry demonstrators, the UN Okapi radio said. AFP

Ethiopia’s Sidama Vote Overwhelmingly to Form Autonomous Region
Ethiopia’s Sidama people have voted overwhelmingly to form their own self-governing region as many of the country’s ethnic groups demand greater autonomy under sweeping reforms led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The country’s electoral board said on Saturday that provisional results showed 98.5% of voters had backed the change in Wednesday’s ballot, with turnout reaching 99.7%. The result grants the Sidama, who represent about 4% of Ethiopia’s 105 million population, their own self-governing region – the country’s 10th, control over local taxes, education, security and certain legislation. Ethiopia’s constitution gives the right to seek autonomy to its more than 80 ethnic groups, but it is only under Abiy’s political reform agenda that the government approved the Sidama request for a referendum. The country, once one of Africa’s most repressive nations, has been undergoing rapid changes since Abiy was appointed last year, promising to forge a more open society. … Members of other ethnic groups living in the city said they feared the vote’s outcome meant they could suffer discrimination or become marginalized. Reuters

Guinea-Bissau Picks President after Weeks of Political Unrest
Vote-counting was under way in Guinea-Bissau in a presidential election that many hope will bring stability to the West African country after years of political turmoil. More than 760,000 voters registered to take part in the poll, which is being contested by 12 candidates, all men. About 6,500 defence and security forces were dispersed to ensure security during the process, and more than 100 police officers from Togo also arrived. No incidents were reported as more than 33,000 polling stations received ballots. … Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony of around 1.5 million people, is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been plagued by political instability, poverty, corruption and drug trafficking, especially cocaine. The most recent military coup was in 2012. … Guinea-Bissau has suffered nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. “The presidential election is a promising step towards political stability,” Maurice Toupane, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, told Al Jazeera. “In a short term, they [polls] could lead to the clarification of the political game with the election of a legitimate president and the formation of a legitimate government,” Toupane said. … Preliminary results are expected on November 28. Al Jazeera

Namibia’s Ruling Party Faces Unexpectedly Challenging Vote
Namibia’s registered 1.3 million voters go to the polls Wednesday in a general election that promises to be far removed from the overwhelming victories enjoyed by former liberation movement SWAPO since independence in the resource-rich southern African country in 1990. The election of a president and National Assembly members will be keenly watched by powers such as China, which enjoys a uranium monopoly with its control of Rössing Uranium Mine and Husab Uranium on Namibia’s Atlantic Ocean coast. Mining accounts for half of the southern African nation’s foreign exchange earnings. Foreign interests abound in this sparsely populated nation of about 2.5 million people, with sometimes damaging results. Two cabinet ministers resigned this month after Iceland’s biggest seafood company, Samherji, was accused of paying bribes to Namibian politicians and officials for access to Namibia’s fishing quota, another key economic resource. The ruling SWAPO has been shaken by the scandal and by the weakening economy, which has shed thousands of jobs. Some 46% of youth are unemployed. Meanwhile more than 700,000 people have registered for drought relief as hunger grows. AP

Namibia’s First Female Candidate Vows to ‘Restore Dignity’
Calm and confident, Esther Muinjangue, Namibia’s first woman to run for president, says she feels a “wind of change” softly blowing through the southwest African country which goes to the polls on Wednesday. From her modest home in a quiet suburb of the capital Windhoek, Muinjangue spoke to AFP about her bid to “restore dignity” to the country’s 2.45 million inhabitants – struggling through an economic recession after nearly 30 years of independence from South Africa. “You hear a lot of people complaining about the (ruling) SWAPO-led government,” she said on Saturday, before heading into the final day of campaigning for her National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) party. “There was apathy among the youth,” added the 57-year-old former social worker. “But now you see at every rally… more and more young people coming on board.” … Namibia “was like a full glass of water,” said Muinjangue, but “the first president brought it down half, the second drank further.” “So when Hage took over we were already in the mess that we are in today.” Despite vast mineral wealth, abundant fish reserves and a growing tourist industry, Namibia remains the world’s second most unequal country after South Africa, according to the World Bank. AFP

French and Sahel Soldiers Step Up Campaign against Jihadists
It was the heart of the forest and there, in a marsh, lay a carpet of water lilies, their delicacy unveiled in the dawn light. But the beauty belied the danger — the Tofa Gala forest, on Mali’s lawless border with Burkina Faso, was a haven for ruthless jihadists. Guns in hand, French troops advanced on one side of the marsh, and their counterparts from Burkina Faso on the other. Their goal: Assert control over an area where no troops had set foot for over a year. Named Bourgou IV, the mission was the first official joint ground operation between the French army and the so-called G5 Sahel force, which pools troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. In an exercise earlier this month, some 1,400 soldiers, 600 of them French, were deployed in the volatile region. For jihadists, “it’s an ideal area to hide and handle logistics,” said Thibauld Lemerle, a French colonel. Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in violence across the Sahel which began when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012. The conflict has since swept into the centre of Mali and spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way. Many thousands have fled their homes. AFP

Nigerian Airline CEO Accused of Fraud, Money Laundering
Allen Onyema, the Nigerian businessman who owns the country’s largest airline, was indicted by US authorities on charges of fraud and money laundering. He allegedly moved “more than $20m from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes”, according to a statement by the US Department of Justice. The company’s chief of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was charged with bank fraud and identity theft in the same case, the statement said. Onyema, who is also the airline’s chief executive officer, allegedly used export letters of credit that were supposedly to fund the purchase of five Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace to get banks to transfer the money, according to the Justice Department statement. Supporting documents from a US registered company owned by Onyema “were fake,” it said. He then allegedly laundered over $16m of the proceeds by transferring it to other accounts, the Department of Justice said. More than $3m of the transferred funds allegedly came from accounts of organizations set up by Onyema to promote peace across Nigeria, according to the statement. Fin24

Egypt: Independent Media Outlet Says Police Raided Its HQ
Security forces on Sunday raided the offices of one of Egypt’s last remaining independent media outlets, briefly detaining its top editor and two other journalists and later releasing them, the outlet and officials said. The raid is the latest in a widening government crackdown on dissent and media. The outlet, Mada Masr, has produced investigative pieces looking into some of Egypt’s government institutions, including the intelligence agencies, military and presidency. Such stories are not produced by other local media in the country, where nearly all newspapers and television channels are closely aligned with the government or military. A group of plainclothes security agents stormed the outlet’s offices Sunday afternoon and locked staff inside for hours, Mada reported on Twitter. During that time, the agents searched through staffers’ laptops and mobile phones and questioned the top editor, Lina Atallah, and other journalists, it said. Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said lawyers from his organization were not allowed to enter Mada Masr’s office. AP

Moroccan Rapper Faces Court after Track about Corruption Goes Viral
A Moroccan rapper who was arrested after recording a viral track denouncing the state of the country will face court on Monday in a case rights groups say is “an outrageous assault on free speech.” “Tell me, will we really shut up about this humiliation?” begins the track by Mohamed Mounir, who performs under the name Gnawi, and two other artists, which was posted online in late October – a few days before Mounir was arrested. The blistering song references state torture, drug abuse and corruption by the Morocco’s rulers and sardonically suggests poverty will be eliminated by 2020 – “because everyone will have left the country.” It has been viewed more than 15m times on YouTube, giving voice to widespread discontent in a country where 50% of all respondents in a recent survey said they wanted to see rapid political change – the highest rate in the Arab world. Mounir, a former serviceman, has officially been charged with insulting the police and a judicial body over a separate video he posted on 24 October criticising officers who he said had abused him at a checkpoint the same evening. Police say the charges are unrelated to the song, pointing out the other two rappers involved have not been arrested. The Guardian

Zimbabwe VP Chiwenga Returns after Months of Medical Leave in China
Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga returned home on Saturday after spending four months in China receiving medical treatment for an unknown illness, state-owned media reported. Chiwenga, the 63-year-old former general who led a coup against the late Robert Mugabe two years ago, has spent a large part of the year away from work, also receiving treatment in South Africa and India. His health is of great interest to Zimbabweans as he is widely seen as the driving force behind the country’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the front-runner to succeed him. His absence from public duties had stoked speculation about the gravity of his illness, which authorities have sought to play down. … Government officials in Zimbabwe routinely seek medical treatment abroad while the country’s public health system has collapsed and hospitals struggle to provide medicines to patients. Many Zimbabweans are angry that top government officials continue to travel abroad for treatment while state hospitals are turning away patients because doctors have been on a pay strike since September. The government has so far fired 435 doctors for participating in the strike. Reuters

Electronic Warfare Evolving Rapidly in the Hands of Irregular Forces
Electronic warfare is advancing rapidly and is increasingly being used by irregular forces, defence expert Helmoed Romer Heitman has cautioned, and urged governments and militaries to stay on top of this rapidly evolving sector. Heitman was speaking at the recent Electronic Warfare South Africa conference held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) this month. … Cyber warfare raises the question, Heitman said, of who should be responsible for cyber domain intelligence, counter-intelligence, protection, defence, counter-attack and pre-emption – the armed forces, the intelligence services or a specialised agency? One way of combating some of these threats is to use tactical electromagnetic pulse weapons, which are now available as bombs and hand grenades. However, forces don’t want to fry their own systems, and electronics can be shielded by simple Faraday cages. Most future conflicts will be against irregular forces, Heitman believes. “They are getting very sophisticated and don’t need much tech.” He urged for security forces to wake up before it’s too late and added that the sophisticated attacks see in northern Africa, such as Somalia, will be seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Mozambique. “That will come down here and we will be stuck dealing with it.” defenceWeb

Waste Storage at Africa’s Only Nuclear Plant Brimming
Spent fuel storage at South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant will reach full capacity by April as state power utility Eskom awaits regulatory approval for new dry storage casks, the company said on Monday. Storage of high-level radioactive waste is a major environmental concern in the region, as South Africa looks to extend Koeberg’s life for another two decades and mulls extra nuclear power plants. Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear facility, is situated about 35 km (21.75 miles) from Cape Town and was connected to the grid in the 1980s under apartheid. “The Koeberg spent fuel pool storage capacity is currently over 90% full. (These) pools will reach (their) capacity by April 2020,” Eskom told Reuters in a statement. Koeberg produces about 32 tonnes of spent fuel a year. … Three years ago Eskom paid an estimated 200 million rand ($13.60 million) for an initial batch of seven reinforced dry storage casks from U.S. energy company Holtec International to help keep Koeberg running beyond 2018. Reuters

The Powerlessness of Nigeria’s Tech Startups
Chris Oyeniyi runs a small tech startup in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s a smartphone app called KariGO that he says is “like Uber but for trucks.” Businesses or factories can use it to hire big semitrucks to move their products around the country. He started it in 2016 and now has 11 office staff members, and he owns a few dozen trucks. But unlike Uber, which operates 24/7, Oyeniyi says the app is limited to normal business hours. He wants to keep it open around the clock but faces what has so far been an insurmountable obstacle. It’s not staff shortages, government regulations or software glitches. “One thing will not allow us to do that,” he says. “Electricity.” Oyeniyi says he pays about $800 every month to keep the lights and computers on in his small office. The reason for the high cost? Power from the government-run electrical grid is cheap but goes out so often – multiple times a day, every day – that he is forced to rely on a loud, fume-belching, diesel-sucking generator. It’s too expensive to fuel and maintain beyond the bare minimum number of hours. NPR

Ethiopia Hosts Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Alibaba’s Jack Ma
Ethiopia is this week playing host to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and former Alibaba chairman Jack Ma, as the East African nations strives to implement an ambitious digital transformation strategy. Ethiopia is the last stop of Dorsey’s tour of the African continent, which has seen him meet entrepreneurs and techies in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. While in Ethiopia, the Twitter CEO is expected to meet trailblazers like Betelhem Dessie of iCog Anyone Can Code, Noel Daniel of Kudu Ventures among others. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed on Monday met Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma, as they discussed the launch of the Electronic World Trade Platform in Ethiopia. Both parties hope the platform will promote Ethiopia’s export products to the global market and open the door for small enterprises to become competitive. This visit follows a meeting between the Abiy and Ma at the Alibaba Headquarters in Hangzhou last year. In January this year, they met at the World Economic Forum in Davos and discussed a potential partnership to build a tech city in Ethiopia. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones