Africa Media Review for November 8, 2018

Rwandan Who Challenged President Faces 22 Years in Jail as Trial Opens
The trial of Rwanda’s leading dissident politician has opened with a demand from prosecutors that she be sentenced to 22 years in prison for inciting insurrection and forgery. Diane Rwigara denies the charges, dismissing them as politically motivated after her blocked attempt to challenge the country’s president, Paul Kagame, in last year’s elections. The 37-year-old appeared in court in Kigali, the capital, on Wednesday alongside her mother, who faces a similar sentence for alleged insurrection and promoting ethnic hatred. The two women had spent more than a year behind bars before being released on bail last month ahead of their trial.  The Guardian

Eritrea President’s Visit to Ethiopia’s Amhara Region Confirmed
The Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, is due to back in Ethiopia this Friday with a scheduled visit to the Amhara region, Ethiopia state media outlet, FBC, have reported. It was announced in August this year that Afwerki will visit the region but no details of the date was advanced. He is due to visit the regional capital Bahir Dar and the historic city of Gondar, the report added. The trip will be Afwerki’s third to Ethiopia following the July 8 peace deal with Ethiopia. It was during Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s historic visit to Asmara that the two nations agreed an end to decades of “no peace – no war footing.” Afwerki, days after Abiy’s visit returned the gesture by flying to Addis Ababa – his first in two decades. During the visit, he officiated the reopening of Eritrea’s embassy in Addis Ababa, held talks with the then president and other government officials before attending a concert in the capital. Africa News

2 Ex-Presidents Lead as Votes Counted in Madagascar Election
Two former presidents of Madagascar are neck and neck as votes are being counted in the presidential election that seeks to end years of political instability in this Indian Ocean island nation. According to partial results announced by the National Electoral Commission on Thursday, Andry Rajoelina had 45 percent of votes counted and Marc Ravalomanana had 40 percent, with results from 291 of the more than 24,000 polling stations. The electoral commission said that about 48 percent of the 9.9 million registered voters cast their ballots in the election. Rajoelina was appointed by the military to be president during the transitional period from 2009 to 2013 and Ravalomanana was president from 2002 to 2009. The former presidents waged assertive campaigns among the field of 36 candidates in the presidential election.  AP

EU Observers Say Madagascar Presidential Vote Going Smoothly
Millions of voters in Madagascar queued on Wednesday to cast their ballots for a president to tackle unemployment, poverty and corruption on the Indian Ocean island. President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is seeking a second term in office and his two main challengers are former heads of state: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina. The head of the European Union’s observer mission, Cristian Preda, said his team deployed across the country had not yet detected any anomalies in the polls, which he said were key for the restoration of Madagascar’s democratic credentials. Observers are hoping for the second peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009, when Ravalomanana was forced out of office by protests led by Rajoelina in what international organisations such as the African Union said was a coup. Reuters

Libya Shelves Plans for December Elections as Fighting between Rival Militias Intensifies
The United Nations and Western powers have given up hope that Libya will hold elections in the immediate future, focusing on reconciliation first among rival factions locked in a cycle of conflict, diplomats and other sources said. In May, France had persuaded major players in the North African country to verbally agree to elections on Dec. 10 as a way of ending repeated rounds of bloodshed between competing factions that emerged after a 2011 Nato-backed uprising. But weeks of fighting between rival militias in the capital Tripoli and deadlock between rump parliaments in Tripoli and the east has made that goal unrealistic, Western officials argue.  The Telegraph

Several Libyan Political Parties Dismayed for Being Shunned from Palermo Conference
A number of Libyan political parties and blocs have been dismayed by the fact that they were intentionally not invited to participate at Palermo Conference in Italy on November 12-13, among other international conferences and meetings. They also said in their statement on Wednesday that such an eliminatory behavior toward them is harmful to the political process as any Libyan accord must be inclusive of all political, military and social parties so the accord can be materialized smoothly without hindrances. “We call all stakeholders to adopt a Libyan national initiative that can end the current unrest and chaos.” The statement reads. The signatories of the statement are National Forces Alliance, National Front Party, Shabab Al-Wasat, Al-Watan Party, Taghyeer Party, Naam (Yes) Libya, Democratic Civilian Bloc, Mustakbal (Future) Movement, Libyan Union Gathering and National Federalist Bloc.  The Libya Observer

South Africa to Hold Elections in May 2019
South Africans will head to polls in May 2019, officials said Wednesday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling ANC party seeking to reverse growing voter discontent over the weak economy. The ANC, which has held power since the end of apartheid in 1994, recorded its worst electoral performance in local polls in 2016 before it replaced scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma with Ramaphosa earlier this year. The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and radical Economic Freedom Fighters parties will hope to make gains in the election as unemployment hits record highs of near 28 percent and racial inequalities remain dire. AFP

State Department ‘Closely Following’ 2 Journalists Held in Tanzania
The State Department is “closely following” the case of Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo, two Committee to Protect Journalists staffers reportedly being held in Tanzania, a spokesperson told CNN. “We continue to engage with our Government of Tanzania counterparts on a wide range of issues, including those related to human rights,” the State Department said in a statement Wednesday. “The United States remains committed to the values of democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression, and prosperity in Tanzania.” Quintal, the Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Mumo, the organization’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, were in Tanzania for a reporting mission, according to a news release. They were detained on Wednesday in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam by “officers who identified themselves as working with the Tanzanian immigration authority.” The officials took their passports and the journalists were taken to an unknown location, the release said.  CNN

Egypt Court Sentences 8 to Death for Attacking Troops
An Egyptian military court has sentenced eight men to death in absentia for their alleged involvement in deadly militant attacks on troops. The court in Ismailia issued life sentences Wednesday to 32 defendants and sentenced another two to 15 years in prison on terror-related charges linked to the killing of at least 14 soldiers. The court acquitted another two defendants. Military prosecutors had accused the defendants of belonging to the Islamic State group and plotting attacks against security forces. The verdict can be appealed. Under Egyptian law, anyone convicted in absentia is granted a retrial once apprehended. AP

Egyptian Meko Contract Blocked
Egypt’s planned purchase of four Meko A200 corvettes from Germany’s Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has been blocked after Germany halted defence exports to Saudi Arabia, which was to fund the Egyptian vessels. France’s La Tribune this week reported that the contract between Egypt and TKMS was signed in mid-September and was initially for two Meko corvettes, but was later expanded to cover three manufactured in Germany and one manufactured in Egypt. The deal was apparently scuppered as Saudi Arabia was financing the majority of the contract. In late October, Germany halted the approval of future arms deals to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. DefenceWeb

France Proposes UN Peacekeeper Support for Central African Troop Deployments
The United Nations Security Council is weighing a proposal that would see U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic offer support to newly-trained troops as they deploy across the country. A French-drafted resolution would authorize the U.N.’s Minusca mission to “provide limited logistical support” for troops that have been trained by the European Union, according to the text seen by AFP on Wednesday, November 7. The proposal is raising eyebrows, in particular from the United States, which is seeking to streamline peacekeeping operations to reduce costs and make them more effective, diplomats said. The council will vote next week backing “rapid extension of state authority over the entire territory” by supporting the deployment of the vetted and trained troops in areas outside the capital Bangui. The Defense Post

Fears of Arms Race in CAR as Armed Groups Fight Government
An arms race is building between armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) and government forces, according to a new report by a US-based NGO. It warns that a build up in weapons could lead to an escalation in sectarian violence, bloodier than ever before. “What we’ve seen since 2018 (…) is that ex-Seleka [Islamic militias] factions are now joining forces, because they are seeing the CAR government getting stronger, and this is a threat,” says Nathalia Dukhan, author of The Enough Project’s new report: Shifting Alliances, Foreign Interference: Mapping the Web of Armed Groups in the Central African Republic. RFI

Libyan Coast Guard Picks up 315 Migrants Attempting Sea Crossing
The Libyan Coast Guard picked up a total of 315 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday who were trying to reach Europe in three inflatable boats, a spokesman said. The migrants, who included 275 men, 32 women and eight children from different sub-Saharan and Arab countries, were moved to detention centers. Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty and hoping for new lives in Europe, though the number of crossings has dropped sharply since July 2017. Coast Guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said a patrol rescued 116 illegal migrants in an inflatable boat 50 miles off the town of Zawiya. A further 199 migrants were picked up from two inflatable boats off Kums.  Reuters

Mediterranean Deaths Escalate as Sea, Rescue Missions Stall
The U.N. refugee agency reports a growing number of refugees and migrants are dying on the Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe because non-governmental organizations are being prevented from conducting search and rescue missions. The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 2,000 refugees and migrants have lost their lives on the Mediterranean this year. It says the number of drownings has escalated sharply, mainly in the central Mediterranean. In September, it notes one of every eight people making the dangerous journey toward Italy died. UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxlie blames the increasing loss of life largely on the substantially reduced search and rescue operations. “In light of this, UNHCR continues to be very concerned about the legal and logistical restrictions that have been placed on a number of NGOs wishing to conduct search and rescue operations, including the Aquarius,” he said. “These have had the cumulative effect of the central Mediterranean currently having no NGO vessels conducting search and rescue.”  VOA

Rights Group Warns US against Swift Normalization with Sudan
Human Rights Watch is cautioning the United States against lifting its designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The New York-based watchdog says Khartoum continues to violate basic human rights, with security forces regularly attacking civilians and opening fire on peaceful protesters. Thursday’s statement comes after Washington agreed to a second phase of rapprochement with Khartoum that includes six criteria, which if fulfilled would qualify Sudan to have the designation lifted. The State Department says these include expanding counterterrorism cooperation and enhancing human rights protections and practices, including freedoms of religion and press. Also on the list are “ceasing internal hostilities and creating a more conducive environment for progress in Sudan’s peace process.” AP

Supreme Court Seems Divided on Whether Sudan Properly Served with USS Cole Lawsuits
A high-stakes lawsuit involving victims of the 2000 attack of the USS Cole seemed to divide the Supreme Court on Wednesday, as justices struggled with the seemingly innocuous question of whether notice of the suit was sent to the right address. The answer has enormous consequences for the victims — they won a nearly $315 million default judgment against the Republic of Sudan — and apparently for the U.S. government, which said a ruling against Sudan could harm international relations and endanger the government’s legal position in the world. Sudan’s foreign minister, Mohamed Ahmed El Dirdiri, said he was in the audience for the Supreme Court hearing. At a private event at the Atlantic Council later, he said that Sudan’s “intention is to merely show concern and real interest, and that this is one issue that we take very seriously.” Dirdiri met with Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan on Tuesday, and said that Sudan “engaged in this matter with the United States administration,” but did not offer additional details.  The Washington Post

Zim Leader Mnangagwa in Guinea… Seeks AU Support in Ending Sanctions
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is reportedly seeking the African Union’s support in efforts to end his country’s devastating sanctions. According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa was currently on a two-day official visit to Guinea. The report said that he was set to use the visit to appeal to the former AU chairperson President Alpha Conde to rally other French speaking countries to support his bid. Speaking to journalists in Conakry, presidential spokesperson George Charamba said that Mnangagwa’s visit was important for Zimbabwe’s course at ending the two decades long sanctions. News 24

UN Vows to Tackle Congo Rebels, Contain Ebola
The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations vowed Wednesday to do more with Congo’s government to help improve security in the country’s east, where frequent attacks by rebels are undermining efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 150 people. Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the U.N. “will do our best to contain the Ebola outbreak despite the security environment that is being degraded by armed groups.” Lacroix singled out the Allied Democratic Forces rebels in particular. The group has killed more than 1,000 people in Beni and the surrounding region since October 2014. “We promise to neutralize and hunt down these rebels because we have a mandate to keep the peace. Peace is one of the major elements of the Ebola response,” Lacroix said.  AP

UN fears Ebola spread to South Sudan from DR Congo
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) fears the Ebola epidemic could spread to South Sudan due to the influx of Congolese refugees. In its weekly brief, the agency said it had received at least 42 DR Congo nationals who crossed into country to South Sudan recently. But it did not mention whether the 42 were Ebola free or not. The agency said it conducted sensitisation among the refugees on Ebola prevention in South Sudan’s Yei River State, where the Congolese new arrivals were hosted. “In Yei, UNHCR and partners conducted community sensitisation and awareness sessions on Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The key messages focused on the transmission, prevention and the importance of high vigilance on arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo to 42 (11 men and 31 women) members of the community,” it says.  The East African

Mauritanian Activists Cheer US Move to End Trade Deal over Slavery
Mauritanian activists Tuesday praised the United States’ decision to end trade benefits over the practice of slavery and called on other states to follow suit with sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that Mauritania was no longer eligible for the benefits, citing insufficient progress last year in eradicating forced labor and hereditary slavery. Slavery is a historical practice in Mauritania, which became the last country to abolish it in 1981. Today more than two in every 100 people, 90,000 in all, live as slaves, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index. The Mauritanian government denies that slavery is widespread and said the U.S. decision was based on misinformation. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones