Africa Media Review for November 6, 2018

Scores of Schoolchildren Kidnapped in Restive English-Speaking Cameroon
Armed men kidnapped 79 children from a school in western Cameroon on Monday and a local pastor said separatist militias were responsible. The abduction happened before dawn in the city of Bamenda in the English-speaking Northwest region. The children, their principal and a driver were taken into the bush outside town, military and governemnt sources said, and the army had started searching the area. Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. A separatist spokesman denied involvement in the kidnapping.  France 24

Cameroon Detains Journalists Reporting on Unrest for ‘Propagating False Information’
Media rights organizations are calling on authorities in Cameroon to release five journalists detained without charges in the past month after reporting on the country’s unrest. TV host Mimi Mefo is the latest journalist believed to be targeted by Cameroon authorities for her critical reporting. A Cameroonian gendarme summoned popular TV host Mimi Mefo, who heads English news for privately-owned Equinoxe broadcasting. Mefo was called Monday to appear before the military legal body after several threats were made on her life. But Mefo believes authorities are trying to intimidate her because of her reporting.  VOA

Facebook’s Cameroon Problem: Stop Stoking Hate
In Cameroon, the footage went viral. Some Facebook users said the man was a cannibal and that the video was shot in the country’s English-speaking west, where separatist insurgents are fighting to create a breakaway state. Local websites quickly debunked this notion. The man in the video was not a separatist fighter or cannibal, and the body parts were not real. The clip was taken on a Nigerian film set and uploaded to Instagram on June 17 by make-up artist Hakeem Onilogbo, who uses the platform to showcase his work. But the video’s rapid spread raises questions about Facebook’s ability to police millions of posts each day and crack down on hate speech in a country where internet use is rising fast, social media are used for political ends and the company has no permanent physical presence. The day the link was posted on Facebook, a member of the government brought the video to the attention of international diplomats in the capital, Yaounde, via the WhatsApp messaging service, according to messages seen by Reuters. PRI

President of War-Torn South Sudan to Mediate Sudan Peace Talks
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has been appointed to mediate peace talks between Khartoum and rebels in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur conflict zones. Tut Kew, Kiir’s security advisor, told journalists on Monday that the president had agreed “to mediate between the Khartoum government and the armed opposition in Sudan.” South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, but the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan – which both have large ethnic minority populations who fought alongside the south – were left north of the border. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which had been part of Kiir’s SPLM, launched an insurgency against Khartoum in the two states that same year.  AFP

Somalia: 4 Militants Killed in US Airstrike against Al-Shabab
The U.S. military says it has killed four militants in a fresh airstrike against al-Shabab in southern Somalia on Saturday on 4th November, Garowe Online reports.</p> <p>The military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement the American forces conducted a collective self-defense airstrike targeting al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Araara in Lower Jubba region. The AFRICOM further said it assessed no civilians were killed in the strike carried out in coordination with the Somali government. The area has recently seen random attacks on local forces by extremists. Al-Shabab officials remained unavailable for comment on the U.S. raid. The airstrike was conducted after armed militants were maneuvering to attack partner forces during a patrol. No U.S. service members were present on the ground during this Somali-led operation.  Garowe Online

West Africa Security Forum Opens amid Concerns over G5 Sahel Force
A two-day African security forum opened in Dakar on Monday amid concerns about funding for a much-trumpeted initiative to bind five Sahel countries into an anti-terror force. Less than a quarter of the roughly €400m (R6.5bn) pledged for the G5 Sahel force has been forthcoming, French defence minister Florence Parly said on Sunday. “At the moment, (pledges) are materialising very slowly.” Only “10 to 25 percent of the funds” have been disbursed, she said. The G5 Sahel is a French-backed scheme conceived in 2015 to roll back jihadism and lawlessness in five states on the Sahara’s southern rim. Bringing together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, it aims to become a 5,000-man joint force to restore authority in areas grappling with jihadists and brutal gangs. But the project, which brings together five of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries, has run into problems of financing, poor equipment and lack of training. AFP

African Leaders to Hold Summit to Resolve Differences
The African Union (AU) is set to convene an extraordinary session of heads of state and government ahead of a January meeting, a diplomatic source said Monday. The meeting is expected to discuss the AU reform agenda put forth by Rwandan President Paul Kagami. The ambassadors met Monday to set the agenda for the meeting on Nov. 17. “The extraordinary meeting was deemed necessary to achieve consensus on the reform agenda and crystalize the reform issues, which is the main discussion point of the regular summit in January next year,” an African diplomat told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity. Anadolu Agency

Burundi Lifts Suspension of 25 Foreign NGOs
Twenty-five foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Burundi have been authorized to resume operation after re-registration, over a month after a suspension, Burundian Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye said Monday. The Burundian National Security Council on Sept. 26 imposed a three-month suspension of foreign NGOs, requiring them to abide by the general framework of cooperation between the landlocked African country and foreign NGOs, a law promulgated by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza in January 2017. Barandagiye in October urged the suspended foreign NGOs to prepare necessary documents in order to resume their activities. The re-registration process of foreign NGOs was moving smoothly, said Barandagiye at a press briefing in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. Xinhua

Ex-Rulers Favourites in Madagascar’s High-Stakes Election
Madagascar votes on Wednesday in a high-stakes election with three ex-presidents the front-runners to lead the large Indian Ocean island rocked by tensions earlier this year. Attempts by the most recent president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, to change electoral laws backfired and sparked nearly three months of protests in the capital Antananarivo. The demonstrations forced Rajaonarimampianina to accept a “consensus” government tasked with organising the election in the poor country with a history of coups and civil unrest. Nearly 10 million voters are eligible to select a president from a list of 36 candidates who include four former presidents, two ex-prime ministers, pastors and a popular rock singer.  AFP

EU Recalls Tanzania Ambassador amid Call for Gay Arrests
The European Union has recalled its ambassador to Tanzania, citing “the deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation” in the East African country where one regional official last week called for the outing and arrests of homosexuals. A statement emailed to The Associated Press Monday said the EU will be conducting a broad review of its relations with Tanzania. The statement does not cite specific issues, but there are fears of an impending crackdown against homosexuals after Dar es Salaam Commissioner Paul Makonda urged Tanzanians to spy on suspected gays and lesbians and to report their activities. Tanzania’s government has since issued a statement saying Makonda stated his opinion and does not speak for the administration. AP

Rights Group Condemns Egypt’s Media Law as ‘Extortion’
An international press freedom group says new regulations in Egypt amount to “extortion” and aim to silence the country’s last remaining independent media. Reporters Without Borders said Monday that the new law, which went into effect last month, requires online newspapers to deposit large sums to secure permits. It says websites would need more than $30,000 to register, and would pay up to five times that amount for non-compliance. The group’s Sophie Anmuth says the “law is tantamount to extortion because journalists now have to pay if they want to work.” The government has already blocked hundreds of websites, including those of several independent media outlets, as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent. All major media outlets in Egypt support the government.  AP

Egypt’s Leader Says Arab Spring Uprising Was Ill-Advised
Egypt’s president has said his country’s 2011 Arab Spring revolt was an ill-advised attempt at change whose chaotic aftermath posed an existential threat to the nation. Addressing an international youth conference late Sunday, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said those behind the revolt had good intentions but had inadvertently “opened the gates of hell.” El-Sissi had until recently only hinted at his disapproval of the uprising that ended the 29-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. In his first outright criticism of the uprising, he said last month it was the “wrong remedy that followed a wrong diagnosis.” But his comments at the youth forum provided his most detailed assessment of the uprising, which pro-government media routinely demonize as a foreign conspiracy to destroy the country.  AP

UN adds sexual violence as reason for sanctions in Libya
The U.N. Security Council on Monday authorized action against illicit oil exports from Libya until February 2020, and it added planning and committing sexual and gender-based violence as reasons for sanctions over objections from Russia and China. The vote in the U.N.’s most powerful body on a resolution that also renewed asset freezes and travel bans on Libyan political spoilers was 13-0, with Russia and China abstaining. “This sends a powerful signal that the international community will not tolerate such crimes,” senior British diplomat Stephen Hickey, whose country drafted the resolution, said of the addition of sexual and gender-based violence. Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and is now governed by rival administrations in the east and west. It has also become a haven for armed groups, including several from neighboring countries, which survive on looting and human trafficking.  AP

CDC Director Warns That Congo’s Ebola Outbreak May Not Be Containable
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said Monday that the Ebola outbreak in conflict-ridden Congo has become so serious that international public health experts need to consider the possibility that it cannot be brought under control and instead will become entrenched. If that happened, it would be the first time since the deadly viral disease was first identified in 1976 that an Ebola outbreak led to the persistent presence of the disease. In all previous outbreaks, most of which took place in remote areas, the disease was contained before it spread widely. The current outbreak is entering its fourth month, with nearly 300 cases, including 186 deaths. If Ebola becomes endemic in substantial areas of North Kivu province, in northeastern Congo, “this will mean that we’ve lost the ability to trace contacts, stop transmission chains and contain the outbreak,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which hosted the briefing on Capitol Hill that featured the Ebola discussion with Redfield. The Washington Post

Eritrea Hopes UN Security Council Will Soon Lift Sanctions
Eritrea is hoping that the U.N. Security Council will soon lift sanctions it imposed on the East African nation in 2009, now that its relations have thawed with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries. The Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other tough sanctions on Eritrea for supplying weapons to al-Shabab Islamic militants opposed to the Somali government and for refusing to resolve a border dispute with neighboring Djibouti, a key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa. A draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press would lift the arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions imposed in late 2009. It also urges Eritrea and Djibouti “to continue efforts to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law” and to engage on Djibouti combatants missing in action. The Security Council met privately Monday to hear from its committee monitoring sanctions on Eritrea and Somalia. The Washington Post

In Push for Stability, France Gives 30-Million-Euro Aid to Gambia
France gave 30 million euros ($34 million) of aid to Gambia on Monday as part of efforts to support its democratic transition and ensure stability in a region Paris deems vital to its interests. Born of British and French colonial rivalry in the 19th century and surrounded by francophone Senegal, Gambia – a tourist haven and groundnut producer – won independence from Britain in 1965. President Adama Barrow won the December 2016 election by beating exiled authoritarian former leader Yahya Jammeh, who fled Gambia after regional militaries launched an operation to remove him. “What’s at stake is consolidating democracy and stability in Gambia,” said a French diplomatic source, as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Gambia. Reuters

Nigeria Braces for Nationwide Strike over 66% Minimum-Wage Hike Demand
Nigeria is bracing itself for nationwide strike from Tuesday over demands for a 66 percent increase in the minimum wage that could drive up inflation and hamper capital spending. Giving in the demands for a rise to 30,000 naira ($83) a month could add to inflationary pressures at a time when the government is already under pressure to stop capping the gasoline price. It would also weigh on the state’s ability to sustain its pledge of increasing investment in roads, ports and power that’s needed to spur growth in an economy that’s recovering from a contraction in 2016, according to analysts including Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based risk advisory SBM Intelligence. “The government will be prodded into taking a populist, yet imprudent decision that diffuses working-class rage at the expense of sound economics,” Nwanze said.  Bloomberg

Tunisia’s PM Reshuffles Cabinet to Tackle Economic Crisis
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government which has been widely criticized for failing to fix an economic crisis. Key portfolios such as finance, foreign and the interior ministries were kept unchanged. Since the toppling of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s economy has been in crisis and nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems, including high inflation and unemployment. Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956. Reuters

Ethiopia PM Appoints Woman as Official Spokesperson
Ethiopia has a new goverment spokesperson as at Monday with the appointment of Billene Seyoum as Press Secretary at the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. She is to be assited by another woman, as Helen Yosef, was also confirmed as deputy press secretary. Both Billene & Helen have extensive experiences in communications & journalism, the independently-owned Addis Standard reported. The new press secretary held her first briefing for local and foreign journalists on Monday with reports that she announced the issuance of access badges for media operating within the PM’s office. Until Billene’s appointment, government communications had almost become the job of Abiy’s former Chief of Staff, Fitsum Arega. The press secretariat is a new office under Abiy’s new chief of staff, Shimelis Abdissa. Africa News

Prince Charles Says Britain’s Role in Slave Trade Was an Atrocity
Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade was an appalling atrocity that has left an “indelible stain” on the world, Prince Charles has acknowledged. The heir to the UK’s throne made the comments in a speech in Ghana, from where many Africans were shipped away to a life of slavery, most across the Atlantic, on ships from Britain and other nations. Charles said the “profound injustice” of that legacy could never be forgotten, adding: “At Osu Castle on Saturday, it was especially important to me, as indeed it was on my first visit there 41 years ago, that I should acknowledge the most painful chapter of Ghana’s relations with the nations of Europe, including the United Kingdom. “The appalling atrocity of the slave trade, and the unimaginable suffering it caused, left an indelible stain on the history of our world.”  The Guardian

Parliamentarians in Sierra Leone in Hot Water over Massive Salary Demands
Sierra Leone’s Parliamentarians have caused unnecessary controversy in the country, over their proposal to the minister of finance for a massive increase in their salary and benefits, which many say could see their total income and benefits package go up by over 300%, should the government approve. A controversial document believed to have been produced by a committee of MPs representing the interests of all parliamentarians was leaked last week, causing widespread uproar among the population across the country. The document which contains proposals for salary and benefits increase from MPs was sent to the minister of finance for approval before it could even be discussed and voted upon in open parliament. The Sierra Leone Telegraph

Africa Enjoys Oil Boom as Drilling Spreads Across the Continent
Africa is finally seeing the benefits from the recovery in crude prices as companies ramp up drilling from Algeria to Namibia. The rigs are returning and wildcatters are getting excited again after a years-long hiatus during the oil-price slump. From majors like Total SA to independents like Tullow Oil Plc, companies are snapping up exploration rights and doing deals. “When you go for business development, trying to acquire licenses or make partnerships in West Africa, you can sense the competition,” Gilbert Yevi, senior vice president of exploration and production for Sasol Ltd., said in an interview in Cape Town. “It’s like a new California gold rush.”  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones