Africa Media Review for October 10, 2019

Top Contender for Tunisia Presidency Freed from Jail, 4 Days before Vote

One of the two candidates in the runoff to become Tunisia’s president was released from prison on Wednesday, just four days before the vote. As he stepped from the prison on Wednesday night, the candidate, Nabil Karoui, was greeted by the cheers of his supporters, who had gathered outside, with some waving flags with his face on them. Mr. Karoui, leader of the secular Qalb Tounes, or Heart of Tunisia party, had been arrested on Aug. 23, as part of an investigation into money laundering and tax fraud. Mr. Karoui has said the allegations amounted to a politically motivated smear campaign. … The Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, overruled a lower court earlier Wednesday and ordered Mr. Karoui freed. The head of Tunisia’s independent electoral commission praised the release. … While his release means Sunday’s election is likely to go forward, questions about how his arrest and detention might damage the electoral process remained. … Only two days of campaigning are left; regulations prevent media coverage on Saturday, the day before the election. The New York Times

Mozambique Elections: A Close Call?

There’s been much criticism of Frelimo, which has governed since independence in 1976. But its 51.8% share of the vote in last year’s municipal elections indicates it may drop below 50% for the first time, forcing a second-round runoff with main rival Renamo, which got 38.9%. Though a lack of opinion polls makes the outcome difficult to predict, Frelimo has a formidable election machine. Opposition parties and observers suspect the country’s electoral commission might have artificially inflated numbers in some areas where Frelimo is in the majority. In Gaza province, for instance, almost 300,000 more people registered to vote than the voting-age population there in the 2017 census. (The commission has stood by its figures.) Temperatures were raised further with the alleged assassination of a local observer in Gaza eight days before polling day. … Journalists have reported a tightly controlled media space. Government has limited elections coverage by local-language radio stations, on which three-quarters of people depend for information, says investigative journalist Estacio Valoi. Financial Mail

‘It’s a Nightmare’: Zimbabwe Struggles with Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation is changing prices so quickly in Zimbabwe that what you see displayed on a supermarket shelf might change by the time you reach the checkout. “It is a nightmare,” Macheku said. “I can’t plan.” Before a coup unseated the late president Robert Mugabe in late 2017, Macheku could afford all his family’s basics on his salary, which equals about $24. Now the same amount can hardly buy 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of beef. He ended up buying chicken skin for his family’s supper. “I cannot afford the actual chicken,” he said. … Zimbabwe now has the world’s second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to International Monetary Fund figures. … Prices in Zimbabwe are changing faster than at any point in a decade. In 2009, the country’s currency collapsed under the weight of hyperinflation. The government then adopted a multi-currency system dominated by the dollar. … Zimbabwe’s president, Mnangagwa, continues to appeal for more time. … The patience of many Zimbabweans is wearing thin, considering the lengths they are going to cope. AP

Zimbabwe Is Clamping Down on Social Media Use with a Cyber Crime Bill Set to Become Law

Zimbabwe has inched closer to clamping down on citizens’ use of social media platforms and will likely fish out and penalize citizens who create and share what is deemed offensive or pornographic material over outlets including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. The Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill of 2019 was passed by president Emerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet on Tuesday, representing an important step towards it becoming law. It still has to be debated and approved by parliament, in which Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party has a majority. Mnangagwa said last week the bill has to be fast-tracked to protect Zimbabwe’s “cyber-space.” However, there is wide-spread sentiment the law is being pushed through to deal with potential uprisings, especially as public anger against the government’s austerity measures. … Analysts in Zimbabwe such as Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute believe Mnangagwa’s administration will lean on China for technology and expertise to monitor and regulate social media data under the new cyber-crime law. Quartz Africa

Ghana ‘Coup Plotters’ Charged with Treason

Nine people accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Ghana have been charged with treason. They were arrested last month for allegedly plotting to seize key state installations with the aim of overthrowing President Nana Akufo-Addo. According to the state prosecutor, the accused were part of a group known as Take Action Ghana and had planned to stage a series of protests with the purpose of destabilising the country. … Six of the suspects were initially accused of illegally manufacturing firearms and explosives, but the charges were changed to treason – a crime punishable with death. The ministry of information had said that security agencies carried out a raid last month and retrieved several weapons including six locally manufactured pistols, improvised explosive devices and ammunition. A lawyer for the suspects maintains that the accusations are baseless. BBC

Ghana’s Stock Revival on Hold with Investors Wary of Elections

First, a deep cleanup of its banking sector battered Ghana stocks. Now, investors already appear to have a wary eye on elections due next year, curbing the prospects of any revival. The Ghana Stock Exchange Composite Index, the world’s third-worst performing equities benchmark in 2019 in dollar terms, has suffered as a government-led reorganization of banks that ended this year reduced the flow of funding to companies and drained market sentiment. Even though share prices have tumbled, investors may still be reluctant to return, said Joel Hammond, an analyst at Strategic African Securities Ltd. … The world’s second-largest cocoa producer has held seven peaceful ballots since the end of military rule in 1992, so investor concerns around elections are largely focused on the risk that overspending by the government will fuel inflation and weaken the exchange rate. … “The government will spend some more next year because of this thinking that they haven’t built anything,” he said. “But how will that be financed? That’s the fear we have.” Bloomberg

Deadly Rebel Raid in Rwanda Awakens Painful Memories

Rwanda saw its bloodiest attack in over two decades when rebels raided a town on the border with the DR Congo on Friday. The killings have sparked fear among residents of Kinigi, an area famed for mountain gorillas. … Fourteen people were killed and 18 injured that night. No other armed attack has claimed so many victims in Rwanda in recent years. The rebels attacked the inhabitants of Kinigi with knives and rudimentary weapons. Kinigi is just a couple of kilometers from the Congolese border. The attack took residents completely by surprise. “They came here from two kilometers (1.2 miles) away,” says Bosco Havugimana, pointing in the direction of the majestic mountain range that towers over the area. “They came straight to the village, and killed everyone they met.” … In the wake of the attack, the Rwandan military began hunting the rebels in the dense rainforest of the region. DW

Peace May Bring Freedom to South Sudan’s Child Soldiers, but Not the Help They Need

South Sudan is meant to form a power-sharing government next month to end five years of civil war. But there’s growing concern the deal may be delayed, spelling further hardship for a war-weary population and stalling the release of thousands of children press-ganged into the country’s armed groups. Peace negotiators have missed a series of key procedural steps towards the scheduled creation of a coalition government on 12 November, including the formation of a unified national army and securing agreement on the number of states the country is divided into. … Abducted or coerced to join, many of these children have been brutalised by a conflict that has witnessed shocking human rights abuses. Girls, who typically serve as cooks and porters, face the additional threat of sexual violence and exploitation. Just how damaging those experiences are is underlined by Médecins Sans Frontières, which found that 40 percent of the 932 children released by rebel forces in the southwestern Yambio area last year had acute mental health needs, including post-traumatic stress disorders. The New Humanitarian

Somali Women Kick Start Processes on Inclusive Peace Building

A cross section of Somali women met on Monday in Mogadishu to kick start a process towards the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) to strengthen their participation in peacebuilding and socio-economic progress in the stabilization and rebuilding efforts for Somalia. Representing women in politics, civil society and security sectors from the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States, the participants at the three-day conference organized by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are set to focus on the action plan for women’s political participation, women in mediation and women in the security sector. … The United Nations Security Council in 2000 adopted Resolution 1325 which affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in the forging of lasting peace. Goobjoog News

Somalia Auditor General Slams Government Finances

The Somali government is keeping some donor funds offshore and none of the ministries have completed last year’s accounts, the auditor general said in a report published on Wednesday. The critical audit comes as World Bank considers forgiving Somalia’s debt burden of $4.6 billion to help the government win greater access to international financing to tackle nearly three decades of lawlessness and violence. … The police and military – in the frontline of the fight against an al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency – still have no system to account for vehicles, weapons, and uniforms, according to a more detailed audit of the security sector, also published on Wednesday. Some food provided to soldiers through a government contract had expired and it was still unclear how many soldiers are actually in the army, that audit said, flagging a long-running problem donors have tried to address with a biometric database. Reuters

Morocco Reshuffles Cabinet, Keeps Foreign and Finance Ministers

Morocco announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, reducing the number of jobs to 23 but keeping the foreign, finance and interior ministers in their posts. King Mohammed VI approved the list of new ministers submitted by Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani, state news agency MAP reported, after having asked him in the summer to arrange a reshuffle. … Many of the new ministers are technocrats without clear party affiliation, a development that some analysts say shows the influence of the palace in appointing strategic portfolios, while political parties are marginalised. … Morocco is seeking a new development model to fight poverty and curb regional and social disparities. The north African country has largely been insulated from the turmoil that hit North Africa and the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, although it regularly sees protests over economic and social problems. Reuters

Uganda: Bobi Wine Escapes House Arrest in Daring Motorbike Stunt

Ugandan popstar Bobi Wine has made a daring motorbike escape from security forces after they barricaded his home on Wednesday. Wine had earlier said he was placed under house arrest in an attempt to stop his Independence Day Concert. He later shared a video of himself hopping onto a motorbike surrounded by dozens of cheering supporters. He captioned the video, “Busabala Final destination,” – the venue of his canceled concert. The Ugandan police on Tuesday said the concert was not approved because they did not have the manpower to provide security for those attending the show. … However, Wine disagreed with police saying security personnel deployed to his homes could have been sent to the show instead. … Wine (real name is Robert Kyagunlayi) has been at loggerheads with authorities in Uganda since he entered the political fray. He joined politics in 2017 as an independent and has remained a thorn in President Museveni’s flesh condemning his policies and singing songs against his government. CNN

Facebook Extends Fact-Checking Programme to 10 New African States

Facebook on Tuesday announced the expansion of its third-party fact-checking programme to 10 new African countries in partnership with Agence France-Presse and other media. The programme will be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso in partnership with AFP; in Uganda and Tanzania with Pesa Check and AFP; in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast with France 24 and AFP, in Guinea with France 24, and Ghana in partnership with Nigerian fact-checking platform Dubawa. … Eric Mugendi, managing director of Pesa Check, which will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English, said: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news… They shape our perceptions of the world. “This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could cause real-world harm.” AFP

Faced with Climate Change and Growth, Ethiopia’s Capital Shores Up Its Water Supply

Currently, the dams, reservoirs and wells that constitute the Addis Ababa water supply system provide less than two-thirds of the 930,000 cubic meters of potable water residents need every day, according to the AAWSA. Nigusse pointed to Ethiopia’s steady economic growth, and its rising population, as factors in Addis Ababa’s clean water shortage. The city’s water demands have almost doubled in the past five years, he said, and that demand is rising every day as the capital expands both out and up, with a boom in the construction of apartment blocks and offices, Nigusse said. Bisrat Kifle, a researcher and associate professor at Ethiopian Civil Service University, said the problem will get worse as extreme weather events such as flooding and drought become more common. Research by Bisrat and his colleagues published in 2017 estimated that by 2039 Addis Ababa’s current population of more than 3.5 million will reach 7 million. Reuters

Ivory Coast Signs $1.5 Billion Deal for a Metro in Abidjan

Ivory Coast formalized an almost 1.4 billion euro ($1.5 billion) agreement with a unit of Bouygues SA for an urban railway known as Metro d’Abidjan that’s being built in the commercial capital to ease congestion. France, the former colonial power that still has close ties to the West African nation, agreed in 2017 to fund the entire project as part of a package of mainly concessional loans, on condition that French companies could build the 37-kilometer railway project. While works started that year, no formal accord was signed until now. … The train can carry 530,000 passengers daily, according to statement Tuesday from the office of Ivory Coast’s prime minister. Inadequate transport infrastructure is contributing to inequality in the world’s top cocoa grower, according to the World Bank. It estimates that traveling costs in Abidjan are the third-biggest expense of those who commute. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones