Africa Media Review for November 27, 2019

Namibians Vote in Tight Contest Clouded by Economic Crisis
Namibians voted on Wednesday in what was expected to be the toughest contest yet for the party that has ruled for three decades of independence, an election it was still expected to win despite a brutal economic crisis. President Hage Geingob, Namibia’s third leader since the sparsely populated and mostly arid country freed itself from the shackles of apartheid South Africa in 1990, is seeking a second and final term from 1.3 million registered voters.He faces nine challengers including Panduleni Itula, a dentist-turned-politician who is a member of the ruling SWAPO party but is running as an independent. Itula is popular with young people, nearly half of whom are unemployed. … Results are expected within 48 hours. … But now SWAPO is contending with an economy that has been in recession for nearly three years, one of Namibia’s worst-ever droughts and the biggest corruption scandal in its history – all of which have conspired to make this election unexpectedly tough for Geingob, who won by 87% last time. “I campaigned like hell but if I lose I will accept that. I am a democrat,” Geingob told reporters shortly after voting. … The military said in a statement it was on high alert for violence, which Namibia has avoided in previous polls. Reuters

Congo Killings Trigger Protests, Complicate Ebola Response
An uptick in violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is raising fears that hard-won gains against the country’s worst ever Ebola outbreak could be undone as aid groups and the UN evacuate staff and response efforts are suspended. A UN military base in the major town of Beni was set alight on Monday amid militia attacks and protests by residents. The World Health Organisation said last week that the violence risks reversing “major gains” made against the deadly virus, which had infected just a handful of people in recent weeks. Gunfire could be heard on Monday in Beni as police fired at protesters, who say peacekeepers and government forces stationed in the region are failing to protect them from attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia. The protests follow the launch of large-scale military operations by the Congolese army against the ADF – an Islamist rebel group formed in 1995 in opposition to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The army said it has captured several ADF bases in recent weeks, but the Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in eastern Congo, said at least 81 civilians have been killed in some of the worst attacks in Beni in years. The New Humanitarian

South Sudan Rivals Reach Accord on Security Arrangements
The deputy head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council says a military committee has been setup to monitor the implementation of critical security arrangements in the countdown to the formation of South Sudan’s transition government. Under the Entebbe Accord signed between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on November 7, the security arrangements were to be resolved within the first 50 days of the extended pre-transition period. General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo-commonly known as Hemedti-who is in the country on a peace related visit says the Sudanese team will inspect progress at the military training centers. The team of mediators on Tuesday announced a breakthrough in the security arrangements that are key to the formation of a transitional government in South Sudan in February next year. Hemedti led the peace envoys in following up on progress in integrating rebel forces into the national army. They said President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar’s teams had agreed on “the forces, their training, their camps and their redeployment” across South Sudan. The East African

Report: South Sudan Recruits New Force, outside Peace Deal
A new report says South Sudan’s National Security Service has recruited a force of 10,000 fighters in President Salva Kiir’s ethnic stronghold, in apparent breach of the terms of the country’s peace deal. The report by United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on South Sudan expresses concern over the slow implementation of the fragile deal signed in September 2018 to end five years of civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people. The report says South Sudan’s government has shown little interest in abiding by the spirit of the agreement on security and other arrangements, putting the deal in peril and posing an “immediate threat” to the country’s fragile peace. A crucial deadline to form a coalition government was missed this month after opposition leader Riek Machar criticized slow progress in security arrangements. Machar and Kiir agreed to postpone that key step for 100 days until mid-February so security and governance issues can be resolved. AP

Sudan Militia Leader Grew Rich by Selling Gold
Late last year, as President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s hold on power weakened, one of Sudan’s most feared militia leaders lashed out against the government of his long-time ally and benefactor. In a speech to cheering troops, militia chief Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo sympathised with the thousands of protesters who had poured onto the streets in December demanding food, fuel and an end to corruption. He hit out at officials “who take what isn’t theirs.” “There are some people who are doing great harm, and they are the officials, not the poor,” he raged. After years of loyally supporting Bashir, Hemedti took part in the military coup that toppled the leader in April and is now a senior figure in the transitional government that is preparing the ground for elections in three years’ time. Under the constitution, members of the transitional government aren’t allowed to engage in private business activity. Now a Reuters investigation has found that even as Hemedti was accusing Bashir’s people of enriching themselves at the public’s expense, a company that Hemedti’s family owns was flying gold bars worth millions of dollars to Dubai. Reuters

Sudan PM Briefed on UNHCR North Darfur, White Nile Visit
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok met with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth-Obbo in Khartoum today, for a briefing on the outcome of the UNHCR delegation’s tour of North Darfur and White Nile state over the last two days. The delegation led by Okoth-Obbo visited the North Darfur capital of El Fasher on Sunday. The purpose of the visit was to assess the conditions of a large number of returning refugees and internally displaced people to ensure that their basic needs are met. … In a press briefing following his meeting with PM Hamdok in Khartoum today, Okoth-Obbo pointed out that Sudan has been hosting over a million refugees as well as 1.8 million internally displaced people in the various regions of the country. The assistant high commissioner commended Sudan and its role in hosting this huge number of refugees, saying the dispensations expressed by the government should be used to provide yet more protection for the refugees, the displaced, and the returnees in the country. Okoth-Obbo called on the international community provide all types of support and assistance to the Sudanese so that it would be able carry on with its role of providing assistance and protection to these vulnerable groups. Radio Dabanga

Why France Is Focused on Fighting Jihadists in Mali
Extremist violence, sometimes intermingled with criminal trafficking or local community tensions, is disrupting everyday life and any hopes of development in this desperately poor region, which fringes the Sahara. But the causes are complex and neither negotiations nor military operations have yet managed to restore security. … This is not an African crisis that has been ignored by the rest of the world. Quite the contrary in fact. It features regularly in discussions of the UN Security Council and the UN operation in Mali (Minusma), includes troops from Asia, Canada and Europe as well as Africa. Moreover, since 2013 the EU has been retraining the Malian army, while the French anti-terrorism force, Operation Barkhane, deployed across the Sahel is supported by British helicopters, other European allies as well as US surveillance drones. … However, it is the armies of the G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad) themselves that bear the brunt of the jihadist campaign. They are desperate for more international funding and equipment for their own 5,000-strong joint force. The Malian army in particular is struggling to cope: far from the capital, Bamako, in difficult terrain where temperatures can climb to around 50C in hot months, soldiers are at risk both when they move on patrol and when they barricade themselves into isolated rural garrison bases. BBC

UN Suspends Ties with Caritas in CAR over Sex Abuse Probe
United Nations aid groups said on Monday they have suspended cooperation with the Catholic charity Caritas in the Central African Republic after a probe was opened into its former country chief for alleged sexual abuse of minors there. Luk Delft, a Belgian priest, worked for two years in the northern city of Kaga Bandoro where the abuse allegedly occurred before he was promoted to Caritas’s director in the CAR in 2015. Caritas has been operating in the strife-torn country since 1991, mainly coordinating programmes to protect children and assist displaced people. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that among the projects affected by the rupture is the management of displaced people’s camps in northern Nana Grebizi province as well as a food programme in southern Bambari. Delft had informed his superiors of the allegations after CNN reported on them in June. … Delft had already been convicted of sexual assault in a case dating from 2001. A court in Ghent gave him an 18-month suspended sentence in 2012 and banned him from any work involving contact with minors for 10 years. AFP

Burundi, Rwanda Relations Worsen after Kibira Attack
The Burundian Civil Society has accused Rwanda’s military of planning and orchestrating an armed attack on Burundian soil and mounted pressure on President Pierre Nkurunziza to increase security deployments in the area. On the morning of November 17, unknown militants raided Burundi’s military camps in Cibitoke along the border with Rwanda. Scores of Burundian soldiers were killed in the deadly attack. Gitega condemned the attack but stopped short of accusing Rwanda of mastermind the raid. The incident came after militants of FNL, a Rwandan rebel movement, carried out attacks inside the Rwandan territory. ChimpReports now understands that leaders of Burundi’s main civil society organisations traveled to Cibitoke to investigate the incident. “According to information collected at the place, these organizations discovered that, in the night of the 16 to 17 November, 2019 at 02:00am, Burundian military stations of Kibira in Mabayi Commune, Cibitoke Province near the border between Burundi and Rwanda got attacked. This attack was done by Rwandan military and got back to Rwanda after,” the civil society’s statement sent to this investigative website reads in part. … Rwanda denies the charge, saying Gitega wants to divert attention from its domestic challenges. Chimp Reports

Bujumbura, Burundi: Mayor Restricts Bar Opening Hours over Security
Burundian capital Bujumbura is under ‘curfew’ on the order of the city’s mayor, Freddy Mbonimpa, indicated in a letter dated November 21. The mayor has restricted time for all bars in the city over security. The order followed a meeting between the Public Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni and Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye. The agenda of the closed door meeting, also attended by security and government officials, was the status of the country’s security ahead of next year’s general election. In his letter, the mayor states: “The opening hours of bars and other drinking places is strictly from 5pm to 9pm during weekdays and from 1pm to 9pm on weekends and public holidays. The same letter also banned street vendors in and around the city with immediate effect. Local administrators and police commissioners are expected to implement the order. Early last month, a group of unknown armed assailants shot dead three people and wounded three others in a bar in the city centre. The East African

African Countries a ‘New Frontier for Child Sexual Exploitation’ Warns Report
Weak laws regulating sexual exploitation in travel and tourism are turning the African continent into a “new frontier for child sexual exploitation,” according to a new report. The study, by the African Child Policy Forum, sheds light on the continued rise of child sexual exploitation, including new forms such as “tourism marriages” and cybersex. The travel and tourism sector is facilitating “sexual services” involving children within entertainment amenities, the report found, citing the rise of massage parlours and upscale restaurants targeted at foreign customers in Africa. In Egypt, “tourism marriages” between young girls and male tourists were reported, predominantly among families from poorer backgrounds, who received financial payments for providing their daughters. The report pointed to inadequate law enforcement in the travel and tourism sectors, and weak internet regulation, as contributory factors in the rise of child sexual exploitation in Africa. The Guardian

Ghana Could Issue Digital Currency in ‘Near Future’
The West African nation of Ghana could soon issue a digital currency. Ernest Addison, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, announced the news at an annual banking conference on Tuesday, saying that the central bank is in discussion with “key stakeholders” to explore a digital currency pilot project “with the possibility of issuing an e-cedi in the near future.” The effort is aimed at complementing the growth in electronic payment systems in Ghana, such as mobile money. Mobile money transaction volumes, for instance, increased to 1.4 billion last year as compared to 982 million in 2017, said Addison, adding: “The digital age provides enormous potential for the financial sector to re-orient itself to satisfy the new consumer and business demands for financial services.” Africa has been seeing increased cryptocurrency interest as well. … The Block’s research analyst John Dantoni recently mapped out the blockchain ecosystem in Africa and found that there are 64 blockchain and cryptocurrency firms across 11 different sub-categories, including exchanges and wallets. The Block

Women in Africa Lead the World in Corporate Board Membership
In Africa, one in four board members are female. That’s better than second-placed Europe at 23% and well ahead of global laggard Latin America at 7%, according to a report on gender parity released by the McKinsey Global Institute on Tuesday. The world average for female representation on boards is 17%. Representation on executive committees in Africa is lower than on boards, at 22%, but above the global average of 21%. Still, the advance has been led by progress in only a handful of African nations and women disproportionately occupy leadership roles in human resources and legal departments, jobs that are seen as less likely to lead to the position of chief executive officer, McKinsey said in the report titled ‘The Power of Parity – Advancing women’s equality in Africa.’ At 76%, its workforce participation rate is above the world average of 64% and only behind Western Europe and the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. But it’s below the global average on formal employment and representation in professional and technical jobs. Bloomberg

‘Lobsters and Octopuses Are Back’: The Kenyan Women Leading a Reef Revival
Three years ago, coral reef along the Kenyan coastline was almost totally destroyed in some areas. Rising surface sea temperatures had triggered devastating bleaching episodes for the fourth time in less than two decades, and with the whitening of coral came a dwindling of marine life. Overfishing only exacerbated the problem. For coastal communities dependent on the sea for their livelihoods, the degradation of the coral reef and its effect on the marine ecosystem threatened to overturn an entire way of life. In some areas surveyed by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), as much as 60-90% of coral was destroyed. A fightback was needed and so the institute began working with local communities to rehabilitate degraded coral reefs along the country’s coastline. … The results have been startling. … Kenya and the Seychelles are the only African countries to implement this type of coral reef restoration, with Kenya lighting the way for such efforts along the Indian Ocean coast as long ago as 1968, when Malindi national marine park was established. However, the Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius are among countries that have overtaken Kenya in coral reef conservation by securing financial support, as well as effective monitoring and law enforcement. The Guardian