Africa Media Review for October 11, 2019

Africa: Why Keeping to Presidential Term Limits is Important for Peace
Since the 1990s, Africa has made notable strides in achieving democratic and peaceful transitions of power in government. According to the Africa Forum, a network of former African heads of state, more than 40 leaders have left office democratically and peacefully during this period. Seven of them have been awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. According to recent research by Afrobarometer, a majority of the continent’s citizens support term limits. And a majority of African Union (AU) member states say they support constitutionalism and the rule of law. But unfortunately political space is shrinking in other countries, and a considerable number of leaders across the continent have extended their time in office by either altering or eliminating constitutional term limits. The Washington-based National Democratic Institute, together with the Africa Forum, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, have therefore launched a program entitled the Constitutional Term Limits Initiative, which aims to support presidential term limits across sub-Saharan Africa through high-level advocacy and citizen mobilization. AllAfrica

Destroying a Fragile Peace, Terrorists Wreak Havoc in West Africa
Islamist militants who once tried to conquer Mali by force are striking again with an insidious new strategy, security analysts say: Fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are provoking feuds between old neighbors — the Fulani and the Dogon — and gaining ground by offering to protect victims of the conflict they’re stoking. Now a record number of people are fleeing their homes in this West African nation twice the size of Texas. The extremist groups “broke down systems that usually deal with intercommunity violence,” said Dennis Hankins, U.S. ambassador to Mali. Chaos has spilled south into countries previously unshaken by terrorism, including Burkina Faso and Benin, and threatens to turn a growing swath of West Africa into a refuge for Islamist groups who have lost territory in Syria and Iraq and aim to rouse followers elsewhere. Washington Post

Drought and Mismanagement Push Zimbabwe to Brink of Famine
Tsiga market in Harare’s most densely populated suburb should be bustling with customers buying maize meal, cooking oil and other staples. Yet these days Tsiga, in the Zimbabwean capital’s Mbare district, is an increasingly empty and unhappy place. Traders say there are ever fewer buyers for goods that have surged in price, amid rising desperation over an economic crisis in the southern African nation that is threatening to morph into famine. “Things are tough. People are saying it’s too hard to survive,” said Chengetai Takaindisa, a vendor, as she scrabbled for business. “[Customers] have to survive on one meal a day.” Zimbabwe is already grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 2017 army coup that overthrew Robert Mugabe, the former dictator who died last month. Under his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his ruling Zanu-PF party, the population has suffered daily power cuts, long fuel queues and currency chaos. Now the country is also facing serious food shortages. The UN World Food Programme warned in August that it risked “marching towards starvation” next year. FT

Abiy Ahmed Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea, ending a long stalemate between the two countries. Mr. Abiy, 43, broke through two decades of frozen conflict between his vast country, Africa’s second most populous, and Eritrea, its small and isolated neighbor. When he became prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume the stalled peace process, doing so in close cooperation with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. … In its official announcement, the Nobel Committee detailed a litany of accomplishments for Mr. Abiy in his first 100 days as prime minister: lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders suspected of corruption, and increasing the influence of women in political and community life. NY Times

Thousands of Nigerian Hunters Prepare to Chase Boko Haram
Thousands of Nigerian hunters, armed with charmed amulets and intimate knowledge of harsh terrain, are preparing an offensive against the Boko Haram extremists who have ravaged the northeast for a decade, calling it “high time” they help soldiers end the deadly insurgency. Nigeria’s government discouraged a similar offensive five years ago, calling it a suicide mission. This time it has the backing of the governor of Borno state, which has suffered the worst of the Boko Haram attacks. It is a sign that Nigerian authorities, who have repeatedly claimed the defeat of Boko Haram, might be running out of options against the Islamic extremists and a recent offshoot that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. AP

Liberia: Massive Protest as Police Shut Down Anti-Weah Station
The George Manneh Weah led – regime has shut down local broadcaster Roots FM, using riot police to forcibly break into the facility despite massive protest by some Liberians that see the government’s action as repressive and against free speech. The government here is unhappy with Talk Show Host Henry Costa who is the main voice on Roots FM for being harsh in his discussions against officials. But a pro – government station that uses terrible language against oppositions remains operational. The police’s move to shut down Roots FM which is deemed in government circle as anti – Weah station comes over a week after Costa raised alarm here, alleging that police were refusing to release a kidnapped, raped and tortured victim Justina Taylor from a Catholic – run hospital to seek advanced medication in the U.S.Justina was released by the government following clashes between police and hundreds of protesters in Oldest Congo Town. New Dawn

UN, African Union Officials Discuss Peace with Sudan’s Prime Minister
Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on Wednesday discussed with United Nations and African Union officials his government plans to achieve peace in Sudan and ways for regional and international support to the process. On 11 September, the transitional government and the armed groups signed a declaration of principles to end the war and achieve peace in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan states and Darfur region and agreed to hold peace talks on 14 October. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations and Smail Chergui African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security separately met with Sudanese prime minister and Mohamed Hamdan Dalgo “Hemetti”, member of the Sovereign Council to discuss peace and UNAMID withdrawal from Darfur. The meeting with Hamdok “Focused on the government’s priority to achieve comprehensive peace across Sudan by the end of 2019, and how the UN and African Union can jointly support new Sudan leadership in ongoing transition from UN Peacekeeping in Darfur,” said Lacroix in a tweet released after the meeting. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Appoints First Female Judiciary Head to Fight Corruption
Sudan appointed a woman as the head of its judiciary on Thursday for the first time in the history of the Arab Muslim country, the ruling Transitional Sovereignty Council said. Supreme Court Judge Nemat Abdullah Khair was nominated by the judges’ professional association, which was part of a protest movement that helped oust veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir in April. Taj-Elsir Ali, a former prosecutor and lawyer, was named as the public prosecutor, a government statement said. The two judicial officials “will carry out their tasks in addressing corruption cases and other cases”, the sovereignty council member spokesman said in a statement without giving details. Reuters

South Sudan: Ceasefire Monitors Worried about Slow Cantonment
South Sudan’s ceasefire monitoring body (CTSAMVM) has expressed concern over the slow progress in the cantonment process. Under the terms of the revitalised peace deal, the rival parties are to create a unified army and settle disputes over the number and boundaries of states before a transitional government could be formed on 12 November. Addressing the CTSAMVM board meeting in Juba on Thursday, the CTSAMVM chairperson, Abiche Ageno said the cantonment process remains slow and that the parties to the peace deal have already missed IGAD’s September 30 deadline to have half of the 83,000 unified forces trained and deployed. Ageno further said government troops are currently occupying Lora Primary School, Ronyi Primary School, Jambu Primary School and Wuktebi Primary Schools in Yei River State. … “The failure to vacate these buildings demonstrates a lack of commitment to the peace process,” he stressed. Radio Tamazuj

Right Body Urges Formation of Hybrid Court in South Sudan
South Sudan’s government and the African Union should urgently meet to clarify plans to set up a proposed Hybrid Court for wartime atrocities, a rights body said. In a letter to both the African Union and South Sudan government on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said a Hybrid Court for South Sudan would bring together judges and prosecutors from South Sudan and across Africa as the country’s domestic court system is not prepared to handle such sensitive, complex cases. “South Sudan’s parties have committed to justice for the victims of war crimes and asked the AU to take the lead on creating a hybrid court,” said Carine Kaneza Nantulya, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But there is no communication between the key players and the process is stalled. The AU and South Sudanese representatives should urgently convene a meeting to develop a plan to establish the court,” she added. … “An independent court that brings those responsible for the worst crimes to justice is crucial for creating a durable peace.” Sudan Tribune

Burundi’s Beleaguered Government Reaches out to Opponents
Diplomatically isolated and its economy on the skids, Burundi is cautiously reaching out to its opponents in a bid to ease a deepening four-year-old crisis. In the past few days, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government has met with CNARED—a forum of exiled opposition figures that opposed Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to defy constitutional limits and seek a third term in office. CNARED, which has been weakened by an exodus of members in recent months, has refused to confirm the meeting publicly. … The sources said that the latest meeting was a further step in a process of clandestine contacts that has been unfolding for several months. A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reason for the secrecy was clear. “Within the Burundian government, there’s a moderate camp which contends that the country will hit the wall if nothing is done to end the present crisis, and a hardline camp, mainly consisting of generations from the (ruling) CNDD-FDD (party), who refuse to make any concession because they fear that they will lose everything.” “It’s the former camp (the moderates) which has started the contacts with CNARED, albeit in the greatest discretion,” the diplomat said. AFP

Congo’s Ebola Outbreak Slows but Still Entrenched in Insecure Areas – WHO
The Ebola epidemic in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been confined to a rural area rife with militias and people on the move, making it harder to stamp out altogether, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. Only 14 confirmed infections were reported last week, the lowest in a year and down from 51 in mid-September and 126 in April at the peak of the outbreak, WHO figures show. “The fact that it is a smaller area is positive but the disease has also moved into more rural and more insecure areas,” Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme, told reporters on his return from a trip to Congo. “The virus is essentially back where it began,” he said. More than 3,200 people are known to have been infected with the virus, of whom 2,144 have died since the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018. Reuters

Uganda Plans Bill Imposing Death Penalty for Gay Sex
Uganda announced plans on Thursday for a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, saying the legislation would curb a rise in unnatural sex in the east African nation. The bill – colloquially known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda – was nullified five years ago on a technicality and the government said it plans to resurrect it within weeks. “Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.” … Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the law – formerly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it includes the death penalty – on a technicality in 2014. Reuters

Family Says Egyptian Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah Beaten in Jail
A leading Egyptian activist who was arrested amid a recent clampdown following anti-government protests has been beaten, threatened and stripped to his underwear while in custody, according to his family. Mona Seif wrote on Twitter on Thursday that her brother, Alaa Abdel Fattah, told his lawyers he was blindfolded and threatened that he would never set foot outside Tora, one of Cairo’s most notorious prisons. In a statement, the family reported the details the 37-year-old relayed to his lawyers. … “By returning to the same prison with the same people who threatened him, we are worried that he might face more violations and more torture,” said Seif, a prominent human rights advocate. … A statement by Marie Arena, the head of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, called for Abdel Fattah’s immediate release, as well as of his lawyer, Mohamed al-Baqer, who was arrested with him last month. Al Jazeera

U.S. Sanctions Guptas, Essa Over Corruption in South Africa
The U.S. Treasury imposed sanction against four businessmen who it said were members of “a significant corruption network” in South Africa and had paid bribes and used other underhand measures to influence government appointments and contracts. The sanctions were levied against brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, and Salim Essa, said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The four have all denied wrongdoing. “The Guptas and Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains,” Mandelker said in a statement. “We will continue to exclude from the U.S. financial system those who profit from corruption.” Bloomberg

Former South African President Zuma to Face Corruption Trial
Former South African president Jacob Zuma will face trial on corruption charges after a court on Friday dismissed his application to halt the case for good. The ruling means further scrutiny of a 1999 arms deal in which Zuma is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales. The charges were raised more than a decade ago but withdrawn, then reinstated after the National Prosecuting Authority announced there were sufficient grounds to bring Zuma to trial. … Zuma has denied wrongdoing and can appeal Friday’s ruling. He made no public statements, slipping out quietly instead of addressing a crowd of supporters as in past court appearances. His successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on the widespread graft that has eroded support for the ANC, which has ruled the country since the end of the harsh system of white minority rule known as apartheid in 1994. The scandals around Zuma also severely hurt investor confidence in South Africa’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa. AP

Botswana Rhinos Risk Wipeout as Poaching Rises
Nine Botswana rhinos have been poached since April, the government said on Wednesday, an unprecedented rate of one per month that could see rhinos wiped out in the southern African country by 2021. The thousands of rhinos that once roamed Africa and Asia have been culled by poaching and habitat loss. Very few are found outside national parks and reserves, where they remain threatened. … Less than 20 are found in Botswana, which is also home to the continent’s largest elephant population. Botswana has a zero-tolerance approach to poaching and previously operated a “shoot-to-kill” policy against perpetrators. “The anti-poaching forces have now placed the protection of rhinos and location of these poaching gangs as their highest priority,” said the statement, adding that two perpetrators were killed in recent operations. But poaching is escalating in the region, driven by demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, and authorities are overwhelmed. AFP

World Bank Cuts Sub-Saharan Africa’s 2019, 2020 Growth Forecast
The World Bank on Wednesday cut its economic growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa for 2019 to 2021 by 0.2 percentage points from its earlier projection, citing a slowdown in fixed investment and policy uncertainty in the global economy. The bank said the region’s economy was expected to grow 2.6% this year, from a 2.8% projection in April. It said growth would rise to 3.1% in 2020 and 3.2% in 2021. “Despite some improvements, the external environment is expected to remain difficult and uncertain for the region,” the bank said in its October Africa’s Pulse report. … On the continent, drought, security threats, increases in the cost of public borrowing and private investment are also slowing growth. Nigeria, South Africa and Angola, which make up about 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s annual economic output, are all facing various impediments, the bank said. Quartz

Activists Give Major Chocolate Companies Poor Marks for Human Rights
A U.S.-based green economy group says some of the world’s most popular chocolate companies are not so sweet when it comes to human rights and sustainability. Green America gives Godiva chocolate an F in efforts to reduce child labor and deforestation in cocoa production and supply chains. Ferroro and Mondelez were both rated D while giant manufacturers Lindt and Hershey were given C. Mars and Nestle were rated C+. Top-rated candymakers, including Endangered Species, Equal Exchange, and Tony’s Chocolonely all earned an A. “Children should be able to enjoy candies that aren’t made by child laborers and these child laborers should be enjoying their childhoods rather than being forced to work in dangerous conditions,” Green America’s Charlotte Tate said. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones