Africa Media Review for November 27, 2018

Mogadishu Market Bombing Kills Seven in Somalia
Seven civilians were killed and five were wounded in Somalia on Monday when a car bomb detonated at a busy market in the capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses said. The explosion occurred after security forces stopped a suspicious vehicle at the market in the south of the city. “The suspected driver was stopped by the security forces and was being questioned when the vehicle went off,” said police officer Mohamed Hassan. “According to the initial information we obtained, seven people died in the blast and five others were wounded,” he said. “The suspect is now in police custody.” Witnesses said the explosion wrecked part of the Kawo Godey market in the city’s Wadajir district. “The area was densely populated,” said Abdulahi Malim. “It was horrible and most of the buildings in the area had been destroyed.”  AFP

Trading Bullets for Ballots, Former Al Shabaab No. 2 Tests Somalia’s Democratic Process
When al Shabaab’s deputy leader Mukhtar Robow defected from the jihadist group, it was hailed as a major step for peace hopes in Somalia. But now that he’s running for a December 5 regional election, some think it’s a step too far. At a crowded meeting hall in the southern Somali city of Baidoa last month, Mukhtar Robow faced a gathering of local politicians and reporters squeezed into the room as a crowd of supporters and curious onlookers gathered outside the premises. Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, is no stranger to the media spotlight. As one of the founding members of al Shabaab — the al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group — Robow once served as the jihadist group’s deputy leader and spokesman. France 24

Main Togo Opposition Coalition Boycotts Elections
The main opposition coalition in Togo said Monday it will boycott December 20 general elections and call for further protests over what it alleged was a “fraudulent” poll. “We’re not going to give our blessing to this masquerade being prepared,” a coordinator in the coalition, Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson, told local radio. Togo’s Constitutional Court has validated ballots for 12 parties — but not any for the 14-party opposition coalition that has staged protests in the former French colony over the past year. Ballots for 17 independent candidates have also been approved. Adjamagbo-Johnson vowed “we will do everything so that the elections don’t happen — we never want fraudulent elections in Togo.”  AFP

Comoros Lawmakers Defeat Move Giving President Full Powers before Elections
A group of Comoros lawmakers have defeated a move which would have allowed President Azali Assoumani to bypass parliament before elections which he wants to contest despite violent opposition. Assoumani’s attempt to extend limits on presidential terms and run in polls expected in early 2019 has provoked clashes on the archipelago’s Anjouan island. The speaker of parliament called off on Saturday a vote on a legal amendment empowering Assoumani to pass laws by presidential decree for three months. Government ministers stayed away when it became clear that 21 out of the 33 members of parliament (MPs) opposed the move. Reuters

African Union Urges EU to Lift Sanctions on Congo Candidate
The African Union Peace and Security Council is urging the European Union to lift sanctions on Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s chosen successor less than a month before a historic election. Ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was sanctioned by the EU last year for obstructing the electoral process and related human rights violations. The AU communique, without naming Shadary, says lifting sanctions will help lead to “free, fair, credible and peaceful elections” in Congo. The mineral-rich Central African nation on Dec. 23 faces what could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power. The opposition fears that Kabila, who has ruled since 2001, will assert power behind the scenes if Shadary wins.  AP

U.S. Extends Congo Embassy Closure amid Militant Threat
The United States will extend the closure of its embassy in Democratic Republic of Congo into Tuesday because of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. government facilities in the capital Kinshasa. The United States first warned its nationals of the threat on Saturday and closed the embassy on Monday. In a second statement on Monday, it said the embassy would remain closed for another day. It advised citizens in Kinshasa to keep a low profile. The embassy declined to comment on the exact nature of the threat. Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said the United States had shared no information. Reuters

1,500 Rebels Disarmed in Mali
Some 1,500 rebels dropped their arms in Mali on Monday in a disarmament campaign led by the UN and government. Zahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed, head of the country’s national commission responsible for the disarmament, liquidation and reintegration (DDR) campaign, told local media that the campaign started on Nov. 6. Mohamed el Maouloud Ramadane, coordinator of Azavad Movements (CMA), which was formed by Tuareg-dominated groups, confirmed the number given by the government. Ramadane stated that there is hope of peace despite difficulties. The disarmament campaign targets 34,000 armed group members operating in the north of the West African nation. Anadolu Agency

New Violence Eclipses Mali’s Plans for Peace
[…] Fighting between al-Qaeda-linked extremists, self-defence militias, and government soldiers has displaced tens of thousands of people this year in central Mali and left hundreds dead, the International Federation of Human Rights said last week. The unprecedented scale of violence in a previously peaceful part of the country has many wondering whether the 2015 peace agreement, signed between the Malian government and armed groups, is still fit for purpose. It was meant to kickstart a new era of stability in Mali after an uprising by separatist Tuareg rebels, who seized large parts of the north following a 2012 military coup in the capital, Bamako. But years on, the Mali conflict has evolved, spreading from the north to the centre, which was relatively stable when the deal was written and signed. Meanwhile, key elements of the accord such as the devolution of power and economic development in the north – as well as justice, reconciliation, and the demobilisation of combatants – have barely begun.  IRIN

An Oil-Rich State Seeks Hope in the Ashes of Africa’s Worst War
Torched homes, gutted shopfronts and fields of rotting corn greeted Laker Betty as she returned to the town in South Sudan’s breadbasket she fled in terror a year ago. She’s one of thousands of civilians tentatively returning to the East African nation after a war that at its height rivaled Syria for the dubious title of the worlds worst conflict, claiming almost 400,000 lives. As President Salva Kiir prepares to welcome rebels into a new government, South Sudan’s pillaged towns and villages show the scale of the challenge in rebuilding even a country endowed with sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves. “There is nothing to eat here, the soldiers cleaned up everything,” said Betty, a 30-year-old mother of three whose looted home in Pajok once sported the relative luxuries of a solar-power system, TV and refrigerator. Spared for much of the half-decade civil war that unleashed a refugee crisis, Pajok was overwhelmed by the violence last April, with soldiers rampaging through its streets and residents racing for shelter in nearby Uganda. What they left behind is little more than ashes and ruins — testimony to a scorched-earth policy waged mostly by pro-government forces.  Bloomberg

Egypt Creates New Human Rights Watchdog – to Protect Itself
Egypt has created a new high-powered human rights watchdog agency, but its primary mission isn’t to protect Egyptians from violations. Instead, the body is foremost aimed at protecting the government from allegations of rights abuses and defending it on the international stage. The new body reflects an attitude of the state under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that sees criticism over human rights as intended to undermine the government and cause instability at a time when it is facing militant threats and trying to rebuild a battered economy. Officials have already started a campaign against “false rumors” and “fake news” and have in some cases detained those who speak out. At the same time, the government has sought to redefine or broaden human rights, declaring new “rights” to fight terrorism and protect the state. Critics see that as an attempt to legitimize and draw international attention away from alleged abuses by security forces.  AP

Nigeria Could Lose $6Bn from ‘Corrupt’ Oil Deal Linked to Fraud
A court in Milan is considering charges of corruption against Eni and Shell in a controversial oil deal that led to Nigeria losing an estimated $6bn. The campaign group Global Witness has calculated the OPL 245 deal in 2011 deprived Nigeria of double its annual education and healthcare budget. Eni and Shell are accused of knowing the money they paid to Nigeria would be used for bribes. The Italian and Anglo-Dutch energy giants deny any wrongdoing. This unfolding scandal, which is being played out in an Italian court, has involved former MI6 officers, the FBI, a former President of Nigeria, as well as current and former senior executives at the two oil companies. BBC

Opposition: Uganda Police Use Tear Gas, Live Rounds to Disperse Meeting
Police in Uganda used tear gas and live rounds to disperse opposition supporters on Monday, an opposition aide said. The clash occurred in the southwestern of town of Rukungiri, home to the country’s main opposition figure, Kizza Besigye, a veteran rival to President Yoweri Museveni. A police spokesman said “necessary” force was used in the incident in which 15 people were arrested. Pictures and footage posted on social media by Ronald Muhinda, an aide to Besigye, showed plumes of smoke from exploding tear gas canisters, fires lit in the middle of the roads and anti-riot police vehicles on the town’s streets. Muhinda said police had also used live rounds. Other posts by various social media users also showed teargas and heavy police deployment in the town. VOA

Two Years On, Uganda Activists Seek Justice for Kasese Killings
Human rights activists in Uganda have called for the establishment of an independent inquiry into the killing of scores of people by the country’s security forces in a western town two years ago. On November 26 and 27, 2016, security forces killed 103 people after storming the palace of King Charles Wesley Mumbere, a tribal leader of the Bakonzo people, in Kasese, home of the Rwenzururu kingdom. At least 15 children were among the dead, according to Human Rights Watch. “There has been no accountability for what happened,” Oryem Nyeko, Uganda researcher for the Africa division of HRW, told Al Jazeera on Monday.  Al Jazeera

General Denies Leading Burkina Faso Coup
A general denied leading a deadly 2015 coup attempt in the West African state of Burkina Faso, in his first trial testimony on Monday. “I neither ordered, nor planned, nor organised, nor executed what some people are calling a coup d’etat on September 16, 2015,” Gilbert Diendere told a military court in the capital Ouagadougou. “I just faced up to a given situation on the advice of mediators and by agreement with the military hierarchy,” said Diendere, who appeared in the packed courtroom in a red beret and military fatigues. Diendere is the former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) that guarded president Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.  AFP

Zimbabwe: Opposition Leaders Launch New Attempt to Share Power
Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe say they will launch a new attempt this week to put pressure on the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his ruling Zanu-PF party to share power. Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in the former British colony, said a rally on Thursday in Harare would call for a “transitional authority” to “move the country forward”. Chamisa reiterated his rejection of the results in presidential polls held four months ago. Mnangagwa was declared winner of the vote, the first after the ousting of Robert Mugabe in a military takeover last year. “We need a collective approach … the people voted and that has to be respected,” Chamisa told the Guardian. The Guardian

Zimbabwe ‘To Shut Down Foreign Embassies’ in Bid to Cut Costs – Report
Zimbabwe’s new finance minister Mthuli Ncube has reportedly announced that the government is planning to reduce the number of the country’s foreign missions from the current 46. According to New Zimbabwe.com, during his budget speech last week, Ncube said that the government this year alone ran a $15 million deficit through expenditure directed at foreign missions. “Currently, Zimbabwe has diplomatic presence at 46 Embassies and Consulates, staffed by around 581 home based and locally recruited staff. The above diplomatic presence is currently imposing annual budgetary levels of around $65 million, which is above available 2018 budget capacity of $50 million. “Government has resolved to reduce the number of foreign missions, thereby optimising the utility value realised from the remaining missions as well as avoiding accumulation of arrears and embarrassing evictions of our diplomats,” Ncube was quoted as saying.  News 24

Charities: Malawi Plans to Gag Critics With ‘Draconian’ Law
Charities in Malawi have accused the government of trying to rush through a “draconian” law ahead of next year’s elections aimed at muzzling criticism and stifling advocacy groups. They say the proposed legislation will give the government sweeping powers to interfere with the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the southern African country, which is regularly rocked by allegations of high-level corruption. “It’s draconian,” Oxfam country director John Makina told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We believe this is a way to silence criticism of the government. We’re concerned that advocacy organizations will not be able to operate.”  Reuters

Global Blue Economy Conference Opens in Nairobi
The first ever global blue economy conference opened in Nairobi on Monday. The three-day gathering seeks to harness the promise and address the vulnerabilities of the blue economy. Over 18,000 participants are attending the conference which is expected to come up with strategies to harness water resources to improve the lives of all, particularly people in developing states. The delegates will also learn how to leverage the latest innovations, scientific advances and best practices to build prosperity while conserving waters for future generations. President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged Kenya’s support for the sustainable blue economy by highlighting key areas of focus.  The East African

Ocean Shock: Fishmeal Factories Plunder Africa
[…] Seemingly oblivious to the smell, the rubber-booted laborers shoveled the fish into a proboscis-like chute. Armed with a giant rotating screw, the device liquidized each sardinella on contact, then sucked the resulting gray goo through a hole in the wall and into the bulky contraptions of the factory proper. The hungry machines of Africa Protéine are producing fishmeal — a nutrient-laden powder that fuels the $160 billion aquaculture industry. One of the world’s fastest-growing food sectors, aquaculture is rapidly overtaking wild-capture fisheries as the biggest source of fish for human consumption. From the shrimp ponds of China’s river deltas to the salmon cages of Norway’s fjords, the industry thrives by feeding fish to other fish. Its needs are so voracious, roughly 20 percent of the world’s wild-caught fish don’t even go near anyone’s plate but are instead ground up to make fishmeal. With relentless demand from China pushing fishmeal prices to record highs, companies have set their sights on West Africa as a new source of supply. From state-owned conglomerates to adventurous entrepreneurs, Chinese investors are racing to build new factories on the shores of Mauritania and its two neighbors to the south, Senegal and Gambia.  VOA

Ethiopia Is Set to Launch Its First Satellite into Space—with China’s Help
With Beijing’s assistance, Ethiopia is heading to space in just under a year. The Horn of Africa nation announced it would launch its first earth observatory satellite in Sept. 2019, with China footing much of the bill. Officials from both governments’ space agencies met both in August and November (in Amharic) to advance talks on technological transfer and sign cooperative agreements on space activities. Designed and built at a cost of $8 million, China will pay for $6 million of the capsule’s price, the head of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) at Addis Ababa University Solomon Belay Tessema told The EastAfrican newspaper. The satellite will be launched from China, but its command and control center will be based in Ethiopia. Once launched, Addis Ababa says it will utilize it to collect data on changes in climate and weather-related phenomena. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones