Africa Media Review for October 25, 2019

Botswana Election Won by President’s Party, despite Rift with Ex-Leader

Voters in Botswana returned to power the party of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the country’s chief justice announced on Friday, signaling public support for the president’s contentious decisions to lift a ban on hunting elephants and to oversee the decriminalization of homosexuality. A diamond-rich country of just over two million people, Botswana has long been held up as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. … The vote, held on Wednesday, was an endorsement of the Botswana Democratic Party, which has won every election in the country since 1966, when Botswana secured its independence from Britain, but which splintered early this year in a rift between Mr. Masisi and a former president, Ian Khama. … Despite the tensions among politicians, however, voting on Wednesday was peaceful. The New York Times

Ethiopia Activist Calls for Calm after 16 Killed in Clashes

Prominent Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed called for calm on Thursday amid protests that have killed 16 people and are challenging Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his political heartland. Addressing hundreds of supporters gathered around his house in Addis Ababa, Jawar said: “Open the blocked roads, clean the towns of barricades, treat those who have been injured during the protests and reconcile with those you have quarrelled with.” He struck a conciliatory tone toward the government, saying it was “not the time to kill each other,” but warned his supporters to stay alert. “Calm yourself,” he told the crowd at his house, “but sleep with one eye open.” People have died in at least four cities since clashes began on Wednesday, officials and a witness said, after police fired gunshots and teargas to break up demonstrations in support of Jawar. … Jawar, a one-time ally of the prime minister, has mobilised protesters from the Oromo ethnic group – the same group Abiy comes from. The showdown is a litmus test for Abiy… Reuters

Egypt, Ethiopia ‘Agree’ to Resume Talks on Massive Nile Dam

Egypt and Ethiopia’s leaders have agreed to restart the work of a committee aimed at brokering an agreement on the operating terms of a giant hydropower dam, an Egyptian presidency spokesman said. The apparent breakthrough on Thursday was announced after a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. … But in his statement on Thursday, el-Sisi’s spokesman made no mention of a mediator but said the technical committee would resume its work “in a more open and positive manner, in order to reach a final vision on the rules for filling and operating the dam.” Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs meanwhile confirmed el-Sisi and Abiy had held “discussions” over the project in a post on Twitter. Al Jazeera

Guineans Protest Conde’s Third-Term Bid, ECOWAS Calls for Dialogue

Thousands took to the streets of Guinea on Thursday in the largest of a series of protests over a suspected effort by President Alpha Conde to seek a third term that have led to the jailing of a dozen opposition campaigners and politicians. Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has waded into political ongoings in the Republic of Guinea where incumbent Alpha Conde is facing opposition over plans to extend his constitutionally mandated term. A statement signed by ECOWAS commission president, Jean-Claude Kassi, called on government and opposition elements to employ dialogue to seek solutions to the challenges. … It also made reference to deadly protests of 14 and 15 October. Authorities jailed a number of protesters earlier this week. The statement also stressed that the tensions could potentially affect the wider sub-region. Africa News

African Military Chiefs Discuss Great Lakes Security Issues

Senior military officers from five African Great Lakes countries met on Thursday to discuss violence which plagues part of their region, sources said. A military official said senior officers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda gathered in the eastern town of Goma, in DRC’s North Kivu province. “(They) are discussing security in the Great Lakes region. The insecurity concerns every country, not just the DRC,” the source said. … The DRC’s chief of staff, General Celestin Mbala, has been suggesting joint military operations to “eradicate armed groups,” both domestic and foreign, in the troubled east, according to a letter dated October 2 seen by AFP. … On Monday, a pro-government DRC legislator, Juvenal Munubo, said he had challenged the defence ministry “to confirm the existence or not of planning for joint operations” involving the armed forces of the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to root out the militias. “A mistake that absolutely must be avoided is to authorise Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian troops to enter the DRC,” he warned. AFP

UN House in Nigeria Reopens Eight Years after Suicide Bomb Attack

Nigerian authorities are commemorating United Nations Day with the official reopening of the U.N. building in Abuja. The building has been closed since a deadly Boko Haram suicide attack in 2011. The event Thursday opened with renditions of Nigeria’s national anthem and the U.N. anthem played by Nigeria’s National Assembly guards brigade. Then, the reconstructed U.N. building officially reopened. Mark Lowcock is U.N. Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. “The reopening of U.N. house today is an act of defiance against such terror,” Lowcock said. “We stand together to say that we will not be cowed by violence. We will continue to support the Nigerian people, fulfill their dreams of a future of prosperity and security.” Twenty-three people including U.N. workers, guards, and visitors were killed in the 2011 blast. More than 60 others were injured. VOA

Hundreds of Cameroon’s Central African Republic Refugees Voluntarily Repatriate

Cameroonian and Central African Republic (CAR) officials greeted a group of about 200 CAR refugees Wednesday as they crossed the border and headed home. Members of the group – among more than 6,000 CAR refugees in Cameroon who agreed to voluntarily repatriate by the end of the year – say they hope for peace following a Khartoum agreement their government signed with rebel groups. However, there are over 270,000 CAR refugees who are reluctant to leave Cameroon because of sporadic fighting along the border. … The Central African Republic has promised to socially and economically integrate refugees who return from Cameroon. By the end of the week, about 500 CAR refugees who agreed to leave Cameroon will return home. … Many of the remaining refugees raise concerns about reintegration and ongoing security threats. VOA

Amnesty: Potential War Crimes Committed in Libya Fighting

Human rights group Amnesty International says it has evidence of potential war crimes committed by warring parties vying for control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli. In a report issued Tuesday, the London-based rights group said combatants have killed and maimed scores of civilians by launching indiscriminate attacks and using “a range of inaccurate explosive weapons” in populated urban areas. “Scores of civilians have been killed and injured as both sides use everything from Gadhafi-era unguided rockets to modern drone-launched guided missiles in attacks that could amount to war crimes,” said Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations. Amnesty says its members conducted the first in-depth field investigation across the front line since fighting broke out across Tripoli April 4. The investigators visited 33 air and ground strike sites in and around Tripoli and interviewed witnesses, victims, militia members, local officials and medical workers. Their report found that 100 civilians were killed or wounded and 100,000 others were displaced. VOA

Sudan’s Attorney General to Lift Immunity of Former NISS Members

Attorney General Tajelsir El Hibir has taken measures to lift the immunity of members of Sudan’s now defunct National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), allowing them to face charges from the Public Prosecution. In a meeting today with Abubakir Dambalab, Director General of the reformed security apparatus – now called General Intelligence Service (GIS)* – El Hibir discussed a number of issues related to the work of the Public Prosecution, particularly the lifting of the immunities of the members of the now defunct NISS. The Attorney General announced the formation of several committees to investigate cases related to victims of the September 2013 and December 2018 demonstrations, and to hire lawyers with expertise and competence in criminal work. … The GIS, in cooperation with the Public Prosecutor of Khartoum North, has banned a number of leaders of the deposed Al Bashir regime from traveling outside the country. Radio Dabanga

U.S. Working to Rescind Sudan’s Designation as State Sponsor of Terrorism: Booth

The United States is doing its best to ensure a quick rescission of Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST), said Donald Booth, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan on Tuesday. Booth made his remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington which hosted an event on Sudan with the participation of the Sudanese Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Badawi who took part in the Friends of Sudan meeting in Washington on 21 October. In a statement on the outcome of the meeting, the State Department announced they had begun engagement with the Sudanese government on the requirements for (a) potential recession of Sudan’s SST designation. The special envoy in his intervention explained that they understand the impact that the SST designation on Sudan pointing it is not the only restriction that prevents them from dealing with Sudan and pointed to congressional acts on Sudan and other acts. Sudan Tribune

‘Unique Opportunity’ to Resolve Border Dispute between Sudan, South Sudan

The meeting was focused on the disputed, arid, oil-rich border territory of Abyei, where the UN Interim Security Force, UNISFA, has helped to monitor an uneasy peace without formal governance, and protect civilians, since 2011, in the weeks before South Sudan became independent from its northern neighbour. Boundary lines for the ethnically-split rectangle of territory, have not been agreed between the two nations, but both sides agreed to allow UNISFA’s neutral presence when inter-communal fighting erupted in 2011, to help foster a more secure environment, until final agreement can be reached. The UN chief of Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said there had been a “continued partnership” between the two, “notwithstanding the recent change of government in Khartoum”, following the overthrow of dictator Omar al-Bashir, presenting a “unique opportunity to move the political process forward on the border issues.” UN News

Peacebuilding in Somalia – Another Victim of Climate Change?

Climate change is hampering peacebuilding in Somalia as droughts and floods strengthen the hand of militants and weaken the power of government, a report said on Wednesday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said three decades of conflict – coupled with increasingly severe droughts – were posing serious challenges to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). UNSOM has been in the east African nation since 2013 to advise government on how best to cement peace, be it disarming fighters or bringing rival communities together. “What surprised me most was the impact that climate change has on pretty much every element of UNSOM’s mandate,” report co-author Florian Krampe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Thomson Reuters Foundation

Kenyan Envoy Faults Anti-Terror Financing Efforts

Kenya is asking the international community to target informal sources of finances for groups like al-Shabaab, that have managed to remain active despite military losses, in the war on violent extremism. Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK Manoah Esipisu gave a lecture in London that despite the concerted crackdown on terror merchants, some like al-Shabaab are thriving on informal channels of fundraising. “The military means must be maintained and escalated. This is necessary but insufficient. We will need to fully deal with cash-based financing in areas that terrorists operate,” Mr Esipisu told a workshop at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The institute focuses on international affairs such as counter-terrorism measures. … “These teams must also take aim at its illicit taxation and protection rackets of thousands of businesses and many of the humanitarian organisations in Somalia.” The East African

Four Journalists Detained in Burundi’s Bubanza Province

Four journalists and a driver were detained by Burundian police on Tuesday morning while on assignment. The team was detained in Bubanza province in the northwestern part of the country. “We call for the immediate release of our journalists Agnes Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana, Terence Mpozenzi and the driver Adolphe Masabarakiza,” said Leandre Sikuyavuga the director of a local newspaper Iwacu. The journalists with the Iwacu newspaper “were arrested (Tuesday) at midday while trying to get witness statements from residents fleeing the fighting.” … Iwacu-one of the last independent publications in the country-has previously reported on cases of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests during attacks in this area of Burundi. AFP

Ugandan Police Detain 16 Men over Suspected Homosexuality

Ugandan police have detained 16 men on suspicion of homosexuality and human trafficking, a rights group said Thursday, as activists fear an increase in targeted attacks against LGBT people. The arrests took place in a neighborhood just outside the capital, Kampala, on Monday as the men were being hosted by another rights group, said Diane Bakuraira of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country’s most prominent LGBT rights group. A police officer confirmed the arrests, saying the men were detained following a “complaint from the public.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Activists say attacks against LGBT people are increasing amid efforts by Uganda’s ethics minister, Simon Lokodo, to introduce a bill that would punish gay sex with death. … Four members of Uganda’s LGBT community have been killed in attacks over the last three months, according to Sexual Minorities Uganda. AP

Tanzania Arrests 4 Chinese over ‘Slow Construction Projects’

Tanzanian authorities said Thursday they had arrested four Chinese contractors because of slow progress in state-funded construction projects, in what it said was an “example” to other businesses. The three men and a woman are employed by two companies contracted to build a canal and a section of road in Dar es Salaam. Abubakar Kunenge, executive secretary of the Dar es Salaam region, said work on the two schemes was “going nowhere.” “The governor of the Dar es Salaam region, Paul Makonda, ordered the arrest of these business people…he wants it to serve as an example to others,” said Kunenge. … President John Magufuli’s government has become known for meting out summary measures such as breaking or forcing the renegotiation of contracts with foreign companies it considers unfair, or cracking down on gays, pregnant schoolgirls, the media and opposition. AFP

C.A.R. Considers Hosting Russian Military Base

The president of the Central African Republic (CAR), Francois Faustin-Archange Touadera on Friday told RIA news agency his country is considering hosting a Russian military base. Touadera, whose country is emerging from a bloody sectarian conflict, added that he would like Moscow to supply CAR with new weapons. He made the comments in an interview with RIA a day after Russia gathered dozens of African leaders at a summit in southern Russia aimed at expanding Russian influence on the African continent. Visitors examined different Russian arms at the Russia-Africa Economic Forum Exhibition held on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit. The Russian president said the country exports weapons worth 15 billion dollars to African countries. On Wednesday, two two TU-160 strategic fighter planes made an unprecedented trip to South Africa, where they will be used in joint military exercises. Africa News

Russia offered nuclear power plants, fighter jets and missile defence systems to African countries in a charm offensive designed to win back influence on the continent, at a summit low on concrete trade and investment deals but high on congeniality. The Kremlin says $12.5bn worth of deals were struck during the first ever Russia-Africa Summit, however the majority were memorandums of understandings that may not result in any investment. “Let’s drink to the success of our joint efforts to develop full-scale mutually beneficial co-operation, wellbeing, peaceful future and prosperity of our countries and people,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a toast at the formal summit dinner in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. For all the warm rhetoric, however, the lack of fully formed deals underscored the gulf in financial firepower between Moscow and Beijing, which last year offered $60bn in financing to African states to fund trade. Financial Times

John Mbiti, 87, Dies; Punctured Myths about African Religions

John Mbiti, a prominent Christian theologian from Kenya who helped debunk entrenched ideas that traditional African religions were primitive, giving them equal weight with major world faiths, died on Oct. 5 at a nursing home in Burgdorf, Switzerland. He was 87. His daughter Maria Mbiti confirmed the death but did not give the cause. In his writings, Mr. Mbiti described a landscape of tribal and national religions in Africa that might have lacked sacred texts like the Bible but that nonetheless lived deeply in people’s hearts and minds, in rituals and oral histories, and through priests, elders and kings. “Everyone is a religious carrier,” he wrote in his influential book “African Religions and Philosophy” (1969), a result of his field work in Africa. “Wherever the African is,” he added, “there is his religion.” He disputed characterizations of African religions as anti-Christian at best and practiced by savages at worst – labels that had been used to justify imperialism and slavery. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones