Africa Media Review for October 18, 2019

Nigeria became the latest African nation to close its borders, following similar actions by Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan in recent months. The borders have been closed for various reasons including diplomatic disputes, security concerns, health precautions and economic considerations among others. The closures, especially by Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria are a slap in the face of continent’s integration efforts. The recently signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement provides for the free movement of goods and persons across African countries. In this article, we explore the various reasons that have caused the border closures. Africa News

Abdel Rahman al-Tamimi, his wife, sister and three children were traveling Wednesday evening to the capital from their hometown of Aziziya, south of the city, when unknown militants opened fire on their car, Malek Merset, a health spokesman with the U.N.-backed government told The Associated Press. The family was headed to the capital, where the children, ages 3 to 6, were expected to receive vaccination shots, Merset said. It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the attack. However, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari blamed the attack on militias allied with the Tripoli-based internationally recognized government. “This is one of the systematic crimes carried out by militias against civilians,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “In order to eradicate them and avenge the murdered, the battle shall continue.” Earlier this week, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord held the LNA responsible for the shelling of a civilian residence that killed at least three civilians and the wounding of two, including children. AP

Despite major political developments at a national level, which have led to the establishment of a civilian-led government, the security situation in the Darfur region of Sudan remains unstable, UN peace chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed the Security Council on Thursday. From a visit to the country, the Under-Secretary-General said that the effects of talks between armed groups and the Sudanese government have yet to be witnessed on the ground, and that with the shift of attention by the authorities towards security challenges in the capital, Khartoum, incidents of criminality in Darfur have increased. Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been particularly affected, and there has been an increase in the number of farms destroyed, and land occupied during the period of military rule that followed the overthrow of former dictator, Omar al Bashir. In addition, armed clashes between rebel forces of the Sudan Liberation Army and Government troops, have continued in the Jebel Marra district in West Darfur. UN News

The chairman of the South Sudanese mediation committee at the Sudanese peace talks, Tut Galwak, announced the return of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz El Hilu to the negotiating table. At a press conference in Juba on Thursday evening, he said direct negotiations between the government delegation and the delegation of the armed movement have been re-scheduled to start at 9 am Friday morning. Mediator Tut Galwak claimed that the differences that emerged recently have been contained, and that positive steps are being taken towards achieving comprehensive peace in Sudan. SPLM-North El Hilu suspended the negotiations on Wednesday, accusing the Sudanese government of violating the agreed ceasefire. … It is expected that all parties to the SRF will sign a framework agreement to stop hostilities throughout Sudan in response to the constitutional decree about a comprehensive cease fire issued by Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, president of the Sovereign Council. The South Sudanese mediator Tut Galwak also said that all members of the SRF agreed that Juba should be the seat of the negotiations. Radio Dabanga

Lawmakers in Benin announced on Thursday that they would vote for electoral reforms ”as soon as possible.” The MPs also say they would grant amnesty to those still in detention since the post-electoral violence in May. This they say will help to resolve the current political crisis in the West African nation. Speaker of the National Assembly, Louis Vlavonou told the media that between five and six laws will be taken up for implementation. Last week, President Patrice Talon summoned registered political parties in the country for a political dialogue to try to resolve the political crisis. At the end of the dialogue, representatives of nine political parties recommended the amendment of the electoral code to promote participation of all political parties in the electoral process. Dozens of people are still locked up after opposition protests in May following the legislative polls. AFP

Malawi police on Thursday announced the launch of an inquiry into allegations by rights groups that its officers raped and tortured women during demonstrations over presidential election results. The usually peaceful southern African country has been gripped by a wave of protests since President Peter Mutharika secured a second term in May. Riots broke out last week in Msundwe – a trading outpost west of the capital Lilongwe – when opposition supporters blocked a pro-government group from attending a public meeting. One policeman was stoned to death during the unrest. Rights group Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) said Thursday that some police officers took advantage of the chaos to sexually assault women in and around Msundwe on the following day. AFP

The European Union observer mission deployed in Mozambique on Thursday raised an alarm, citing unfair conditions and unjustified use of state resources by the ruling party, as well as widespread violence. “An unlevel playing field was evident throughout the campaign,” the EU mission said in a statement. “The ruling party dominated the campaign in all provinces and benefited from … incumbency, including unjustified use of state resources, and more police escorts and media coverage than opponents.” Frelimo spokesman Caifadine Manasse said the EU claims were “unfounded.” … African observer missions were more sanguine, with both the African Union team lead by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and the Southern Africa bloc SADC praising the poll for being peaceful and well organised. “We commend (the electoral commission) and the state for conducting successful, peaceful and orderly elections,” SADC mission chief Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told journalists. “Parties and people must be patient and remain committed to Peace as the results are being compiled for validation,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is Zimbabwe’s defence minister. Africa News

More than 40 people have been arrested in Burundi since the penalties for black market trading were increased last month, the ministry of public security has said. The country has been short of foreign currency since foreign aid was frozen in 2016, after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term despite protests from opponents who said he was violating the terms of a deal that ended a civil war. A ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that those who had been arrested were accused of “breaching the central bank regulation on foreign exchange.” The dollar fetches about 2,900 Burundian francs on the streets of the capital Bujumbura, nearly double the official rate of 1,876, traders said. The central bank said in October that official reserves in the first quarter of the year covered only three weeks of imports, and has not answered requests for more recent information. Reuters

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has called his leading critic, musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine, as an “enemy of the country’s prosperity”, in an interview with the BBC. President Museveni is seeking a sixth term in office in 2021 after being in power for 33 years. Bobi Wine, the leader of The People Power movement, accuses the president of overseeing a system of oppression. Mr. Museveni rejected the accusation telling the BBC’s Alan Kasujja that his government is not repressive, but dealing with Bobi Wine as an enemy. … President Museveni said he still has unfinished business in Uganda as president and will only leave if asked to do so by his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. BBC

Listeners of the wildly popular Liberian radio program, The Costa Morning Show, were startled last week to hear muffled banging during a live broadcast. It was the sound of dozens of heavily armed police breaking down the station compound’s iron gates early in the morning. When one of the hosts announced on air that officers had started seizing the station’s equipment, a crowd quickly gathered outside the offices of Roots FM in Monrovia, leading to clashes with police. The morning show host, Henry Costa, who is also the station owner, is a tough-talking critic of President George Weah and his administration. His listeners see the closure of Roots FM as another example of the government’s lack of tolerance for opposition voices. The government, however, said it shut the station down because Roots FM was broadcasting on frequencies that it didn’t have a license for. It also accused the station of inciting violence. DW

Heavy rains and floods this week have left at least 100,000 people homeless on both sides of the border between northern Cameroon and Chad. It’s the worst flooding in the area since 2012. the military is working to evacuate those stranded by floodwaters in Kaikai. Heavy rains have been pouring ceaselessly, destroying houses and farms in the northern Cameroon village of Kaikai over the past two weeks. Residents say the downpours caused Lake Maga and the Logone River to overflow. … Cameroon’s military deployed earlier this week to assist the needy. Roads are inundated and access to most villages is by boat. Some bridges have been damaged, but no deaths have been reported. … Residents say if the current floods persist, people displaced by the flooding and Boko Haram terrorism will be hugely affected. Cameroon’s northern border area with Nigeria is home to about 500,000 IDPs and about 60,000 Nigerian refugees. VOA

A new report released by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has stressed the need for African governments to work assiduously to close the data gap in order to meet development targets. The African Governance Report, published on Tuesday October 15, by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, draws on data from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and shares new insights on progress towards the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In a release issued by the Foundation, it says the new report points to where policy efforts can be focused to tackle current governance challenges, and highlights the urgency of addressing the ‘data gap’ in Africa to ensure progress can be assessed and shortfalls addressed. The report argues that good governance is closely linked to progress towards the SDGs, while at the same time indicating that the overall governance scores in the IIAG are strongly associated with performance in the Africa SDG Index, underscoring the importance of good governance to sustainable development in Africa. The report further argues that the ability and capacity to monitor progress in Africa is highly compromised. The New Dawn

From diamonds and arms to nuclear power and oil, Russia has major business ambitions in Africa, even if it is coming late to the party. … But with President Vladimir Putin hosting dozens of African leaders next Wednesday and Thursday, experts say Moscow is aiming to expand its reach in Africa’s growing economies. The timing of the Russia-Africa Summit – the first major gathering of African leaders in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – is hardly a coincidence. With economic growth stalled after five years of Western sanctions, Russia is anxious to find new business partners. … Russia’s business footprint in Africa is relatively small, about the same size as that of Turkey, another country that has been looking to expand its influence on the continent. … Arms deals have been especially useful as Russia expands its interests into sub-Saharan Africa, with agreements reached over the last few years that included the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. … Russian business instead seem to be seizing opportunities ad hoc, in contrast to the Turkish approach. AFP

Global corruption body, Transparency International, said in a new report on Thursday that police around the world do not have the capacity to track illicit transactions made by carton companies. The body noted that this makes governments dependent on banks to report such activities, a situation that impedes investigation into corruption. The report notes that only one of the 83 companies studied are able to properly track criminal financial activities. “Almost without fail, anonymous Shell companies appear at the centre of major cases of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion,” said Maira Martini, an anti-money laundering expert at Transparency International and author of the study. … Global anti laundering regulator – Financial Action Tax Force, has made it mandatory for countries to make it easier for people to know the real and beneficial owners of a company. This requirement is not legally possible in Nigeria, as the eighth assembly failed to assent to the beneficial ownership bill. Sahara Reporters

Covering 70,000 sq km (27,000 sq miles) of wetlands, the Niger delta was formed primarily by sediment deposition. It is home to more than 30 million people and 40 different ethnic groups, making up 7.5% of Nigeria’s total land mass. It used to be an incredibly rich ecosystem that contained one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet before the oil industry moved to the area. The Nigerian petroleum resources department estimated 1.89m barrels were spilled into the Niger delta between 1976 and 1996. A United Nations development programme report states there have been a total of 6,817 spills between 1976 and 2001, which account for a loss of 3m barrels of oil. So far, no real action has been taken by the authorities and oil companies to clean up and renaturalise the delta, and oil spills are still very common. Half of them are caused by pipeline and tanker accidents, while other causes include sabotage (28%) and oil production operations (21%), with 1% of the spills being accounted for by inadequate production equipment. The Guardian

Airlines are increasingly introducing nonstop flights, dramatically reducing travel time and further linking the United States to major African nations. This spring, Royal Air Maroc offered the first Miami-to-Africa nonstop route in two decades, a direct route from Miami to Casablanca, Morocco. In December, United will start a direct flight from Newark to Cape Town, a 14 1/2-hour journey offered three times a week. And by next summer, fliers will be able to go nonstop from Philadelphia to Casablanca, on American Airlines’ new route (Also three times a week, but only 7 1/2 hours). … The reason for the boost in nonstop traffic between the continents has as much to do with technology as it has to do with demand. Longer flights – really long flights – are increasingly flown by airlines all around the world. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones