Africa Media Review for November 26, 2019

Helicopter Crash Kills 13 French Soldiers during Operation in Mali
A collision of two helicopters killed 13 French soldiers during a night operation in Mali, French authorities announced Tuesday. The deaths, which happened Monday night, took place during a broader military effort against Islamist radicals in the Sahel region, according to a statement from the Élysée Palace, the official seat of the French presidency. The two helicopters involved in the collision, a Tiger and a Cougar, were providing overhead assistance to ground forces engaged in the counterterrorism operation, France’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “greatest respect” for the fallen soldiers and his “total support” for the French military. … The Monday incident involving French forces comes less than a week after the local affiliate of the Islamic State took responsibility for an attack that killed 30 Malian soldiers earlier this month in the Gao region, bordering Burkina Faso and Niger. The terror group also claimed credit for an ambush in early November that killed at least 53 soldiers, and an al-Qaeda branch said it was behind the September raids that killed 38 soldiers. The Washington Post

Ebola Responders on ‘Lockdown’ after Congo City’s Unrest
Ebola responders are on lockdown in the eastern Congo city of Beni after angry residents attacked a United Nations base to protest repeated rebel assaults, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. At least four protesters were killed, a local official said. Every day that health workers don’t have full access to Ebola-affected areas is a “tragedy” that prolongs the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter. Beni residents are outraged that rebels continue to carry out deadly attacks despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers and Congolese forces. Some demand that the U.N. mission act or leave. … Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi after an emergency meeting Monday decided to allow joint operations between Congolese and U.N. forces in Beni following the protests that also burned the town hall. Congo’s military early this month declared a new offensive against Allied Democratic Forces rebels who have killed hundreds of civilians and security forces over the past few years in the mineral-rich northeast. AP

Guinea-Bissau Poll: ECOWAS Has Standby Army to Prevent a Coup
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Monday warned it had a standby military force poised to “re-establish order” in the event of a coup in Guinea Bissau. The warning came as the West African states rejected claims of ballot fraud in Sunday’s election despite claims by incumbent Jose Mario Vaz’s campaign team that his rivals bought votes and stuffed ballot boxes. The president has repeatedly clashed with parliament over who should lead the government, causing severe political deadlock and raising fears of violence. The impoverished West African nation went to the polls in the hope of ending the impasse. ECOWAS says its 75 election monitors saw no tampering at polling stations during the presidential election on Sunday. Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, a former Malian prime minister who heads the ECOWAS election observation mission in Guinea-Bissau, urged all candidates to respect the results and the legal institutions. “This is a crucial step in the consolidation of the democratic gains of the Bissau-Guinean people,” he said. Vaz has previoulsy said he would respect the results. AFP

Magufuli’s Party Wins 99% of Seats in Tanzania’s Local Elections
Tanzania’s ruling party won more than 99 percent of seats in local elections boycotted by the opposition, according to official figures released on Monday. The vote on Sunday was for 16,000 seats for street and village leaders, positions that are highly influential in Tanzanian life. The long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party of President John Magufuli swept the poll as expected in the East African country. Chadema, the main opposition party, said earlier this month it would not be taking part because its candidates were too afraid or had been disqualified by stringent rules. Five other smaller parties also joined the boycott. … In the previous local ballot in 2014, the CMM won three-quarters of the 12,000 seats that were being contested that year. Chadema picked up 15 percent. Chadema say their activists have been kidnapped and beaten, and at least one has blamed authorities for an attack in 2017 in which he was shot multiple times. Several have disappeared and turned up murdered. … Political analysts say the local elections could set the tone for next year, when President John Magufuli, a strongman in power since 2015, is expected to run again. AFP

Cameroon Opposition Chief Kamto Calls for Boycott of Legislative Polls
Cameroon’s main opposition figure, Maurice Kamto, on Monday declared his party the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) would boycott the country’s legislative and municipal elections scheduled for February 9, 2020. He also urged all opposition political parties, civil society and religious groups to boycott the upcoming polls. In his words: “Holding elections in Cameroon without having restored peace in the Northwest and Southwest regions… is sending a message that the people in these regions are not Cameroonians and, in so doing, enshrining the de facto partition of the country.” The Cameroonian presidency announced on November 10 that legislative and municipal elections, postponed twice since 2018, would finally be held on Sunday, February 9, 2020. Some opposition parties have denounced the organisation of these elections, arguing their credibility cannot be guaranteed at a time when the country is facing multiple crises. Africa News

Cameroon Youths Protest Older Politicians Running for Office
As Cameroon prepares for local and parliamentary elections, young people have organized protests across the central African state against the aging political leadership. Cameroonian youths have been disrupting meetings to demand more say in politics and for octogenarian leaders to step down. Youth activists from the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) sing and shout that they no longer want elderly politicians to represent them. The group of about 400 young people erected barricades and marched Sunday through the Mvogmbi neighborhood of Cameroon’s capital. 27-year-old Aristide Omgbwa, a member of CPDM’s youth wing, said it is unthinkable that people who are above 80 years of age and who have been in power since 1995, with nothing to show as achievements, still want to make decisions for the public. … 70 percent of Cameroon’s lawmakers and 80 percent of its senators are over the age of 60. The protesting youths say it is time they hand power to a younger generation to prepare for the future of Cameroon. VOA

Botswana Opposition Challenges Election Result in Court
Botswana’s main opposition party is challenging in court the results of 16 parliamentary constituencies won by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in last month’s election, party spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa told Reuters. The BDP was re-elected with 38 seats, but it faced a strong opposition challenge after former president Ian Khama fell out with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his hand-picked successor, and backed The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) party. Should the High Court rule in the UDC’s favour and strip the BDP of 16 seats, the ruling party would be left with 22 seats and fall short of a majority in the 57-seat parliament. “We have filed petitions in 16 parliamentary seats and five council positions over vote fraud. The challenge is mostly on the grounds of suspicion of double-voting by our rivals,” Mohwasa said. The UDC, a coalition of three parties, won 15 seats in the October election. It was hoping to perform better than in 2014, when it got 18 seats, but an overwhelming win by the BDP in the southern part of the country, traditionally an opposition stronghold, ensured Masisi’s party retained power. Reuters

Official in Haftar’s LNA Says US Drone Shot Down by Mistake
A US drone brought down over the Libyan capital last week was shot down by accident, a Libyan official said. The US military said it lost contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle while it was conducting a security assessment and monitoring activity over Tripoli. A senior official in the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar told The Associated Press the drone was mistaken for a Turkish UAV deployed by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the LNA apologised for shooting down the American drone and “agreed with the Americans to coordinate their operations over Tripoli and its surrounding areas to avoid similar incidents in the future.” The Tripoli-based GNA acquired a number of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones while the UAE – which supports Haftar alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and France – has supplied the military commander with Chinese Wing Loongs. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s ‘Fake News’ Bill Could Jail People for Lying on Social Media. Critics Call It Censorship.
Fears of censorship and an authoritarian crackdown on dissent have erupted on Twitter after Nigerian lawmakers proposed legislation that would hit Internet users in Africa’s largest economy with steep fines or jail time for spreading what authorities decide is fake news. Under what is known as the social media bill, which the Nigerian Senate advanced last week, police could arrest people whose posts are thought to threaten national security, sway elections or “diminish public confidence” in the government, according to the draft text. Authorities could also cut the Internet access of those that violate the regulation. Supporters said the measure is meant to protect Nigerians from lies that sow unrest at a time when countries across the globe are grappling with the menace of misinformation, but Nigerian celebrities, tech activists and civic organizations argued online that such a law could muzzle free speech. The Washington Post

Nigeria Launches First National Sex Offenders Register
Nigeria has launched its first national sexual offenders register, setting up a database of those convicted for sexual violence in a move seen as an important step towards clamping down on abuse. The “Sexual Offender Register” will contain the names of all those prosecuted for sexual violence since 2015. One in four Nigerian women are sexually abused before they turn 18, with the majority of cases of sexual abuse in country are not prosecuted, according to the United Nations children agency UNICEF. At Monday’s launch in the capital, Abuja, Sadiya Farouq, minister for humanitarian affairs, said “the register will serve as a strategy to stop those engaged in violence against women.” She added that a humanitarian and security crisis in northeast Nigeria caused by a decade-long armed campaign had seen a rise in cases of sexual abuse which needed to be addressed. The register will be available online to better help the public, state bodies and police conduct background checks and identify repeat offenders. AFP

Hundreds of Sudanese Women March against Violence
Hundreds of Sudanese women Monday marched in Khartoum to mark International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women, in the first such rally held in the northeast African country in decades. Chanting “Freedom, peace, justice,” the catchcry of the protest movement that led to autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s ouster in April, the demonstrators took to the streets in the Burri district, a site of regular anti-Bashir protests earlier this year. Many women, dressed in orange, carried banners that read: “Women’s revolution continues” and “We are the revolution, we are the change.” Many also carried banners such as “Stop rape of Darfuri Women,” as they called for justice for female victims of the war in the western Sudan region. “There is an atmosphere of freedom now,” said 21-year-old university student Fatima, as others behind her whistled, clapped and ululated, an AFP correspondent reported. “There is less violence now, but we still need to change the laws that are against us.” AFP

Opposition Forces: ‘Al Bashir Must Be Tried Both in Sudan and Abroad’
In a press release on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) criticised the Chairman of the Sovereign Council for his statements last week about the trial of Al Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC). El Burhan said in an interview with Al Jazeera Mubasher on Thursday that the current government does not intend to transfer Al Bashir to The Hague. The SPA, the driving force behind the uprising that led to the fall of the Al Bashir regime in April and founding member of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), called on the government to adhere to the principles of the uprising and respect the struggle of the Sudanese for justice. The FFC also responded to the statements of El Burhan by saying that they adhere to their position to hand over Al Bashir to the ICC. During a forum organised by the Akhbar El Yom newspaper on Saturday, FFC Spokesman Wajdi Salih pointed to a clause in the Constitutional Document, signed by the Transitional Military Council and the FCC in August, that stipulates “the implementation of justice in national and international courts concerning all perpetrators of crimes in Sudan.” In end September, PM Abdallah Hamdok told the France 24 that “Al Bashir will be tried in Sudan, and we do not accept any dictations from outside.” Radio Dabanga

South Africa Blocks Arms Sales to Saudi and UAE in Inspection Row
South Africa is blocking arms sales to countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an inspections dispute, endangering billions of dollars of business and thousands of jobs in its struggling defence sector, according to industry officials. The dispute centres on a clause in export documents that requires foreign customers to pledge not to transfer weapons to third parties and to allow South African officials to inspect their facilities to verify compliance, according to the four officials as well as letters obtained by Reuters News Agency. Officials at major South African defence groups Denel and Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) said the dispute was holding up their exports, as did a third big defence company which asked not to be named. RDM said some of its exports to the Middle East had not been approved since March. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which account for at least a third of South Africa’s arms exports and are engaged in a war in Yemen, have rejected the inspections which they consider a violation of their sovereignty, the sources said. Reuters

US Calls Its Ambassador to South Sudan Back to Washington
The United States has called its ambassador to South Sudan back to Washington for consultations as Washington reevaluates its relationship with the country after a delay in implementing a fragile peace deal. The unusual public statement Monday by the State Department was echoed in a tweet by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the U.S. signaled its frustration with the failure of South Sudan’s rivals to meet this month’s deadline to form a coalition government. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed to postpone that key step for 100 days until mid-February. They had faced a Nov. 12 deadline but said security and governance issues needed to be resolved. The U.S., the top humanitarian donor to South Sudan, said the delay “calls into question their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process.” Its reevaluation of the relationship with South Sudan could mean further sanctions. South Sudan’s government has said it wanted to form the coalition government on time and blamed the opposition for the delay. Machar had asked for an extension and warned that the ceasefire would “erupt” without one. AP

In Mali, Dreams and Sadness for the Sahel Express
The sign above the station entrance declares that this is the Dakar-Niger Railway: the start of a trek from the arid Sahel to the tropical Atlantic, 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) away. But for those hoping to buy a ticket for a legendary journey, disappointment awaits. Not a single train has travelled on the line connecting the capitals of Mali and Senegal since May 17, 2018. Today, knee-high weeds grow on the track at Bamako station. The beloved green train carriages — once Mali’s lifeblood — lie rusting and abandoned, their toilets taken over by beggars. Nevertheless many of the railway’s workers — unpaid but still technically employed — continue to show up at the station, a colonial-era bijou in ochre stone, complete with clock and signs for the ticket office. There, they while away the hours playing cards, snoozing on a bench or chatting in the now deserted offices, where talk inevitably turns to the glory days. “It was non-stop partying,” recalls driver Moussa Keita, who for 38 years would take the train on its long haul to the Mali-Senegal border, where drivers would change over. Every village along the track would fete the arrival of the train, which brought in fresh fish from the coast or a precious package from Europe, as well as freight, its mainstay. AFP

Scientists Created Fake Rhino Horn. But Should We Use It?
In Africa, 892 rhinos were poached for their horns in 2018, down from a high of 1,349 killed in 2015. The decline in deaths is encouraging, but conservationists agree that poaching still poses a dire threat to Africa’s rhino population, which hovers around 24,500 animals. Now, in the hopes of driving down the value of rhino horn and reducing poaching even more, scientists have created a convincing artificial rhino horn made from horsehair. “We’re not trying to supplant boots-on-the-ground, vigilant customs officials and protection of rhino habitat,” said Fritz Vollrath, a biologist at the University of Oxford and senior author of the study, published in Scientific Reports. “But these measures alone so far have not been sufficient to save the rhino, so what we’re doing here is bringing out a really good fake.” … With such properties, Dr. Vollrath believes his artificial horn could be used to covertly flood the market with a cheap, convincing replacement, reducing the demand that leads to rhinos being slaughtered. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones