Africa Media Review for October 30, 2019

Guinea-Bissau President Fires PM amid Political Crisis
Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz has fired the country’s prime minister and named a new one, intensifying a bitter power struggle between him and the ruling party before next month’s presidential poll. But in a move that complicated the political crisis in the West African country, Aristide Gomes, the dismissed prime minister, said he would not be leaving office. Vaz, who is running for office again in the November 24 poll, dissolved the government late on Monday, saying the political situation was undermining the normal functioning of state institutions in the country. … Gomes said Vaz’s orders were illegitimate since the president’s term technically expired on June 23. West African regional bloc ECOWAS declared a few days later that Vaz, 61, could stay in office through to the November election. Guinea-Bissau has suffered repeated bouts of instability since it became independent from Portugal in 1974, including nine coups or attempted coups. Al Jazeera

South Sudan’s Machar Says Won’t Join Unity Govt by Nov. 12 Deadline
South Sudan’s main opposition leader called on Wednesday for a six-month extension to a deadline of Nov. 12 for forming a unity government, confirming the country’s peace process would not adhere to its original timeline. Former rebel leader Riek Machar’s spokesman said the additional time would “give room” for resolving issues. Puok Both Buluang also said the extension would only be worthwhile if the government released funds it had agreed to spend on implementing the peace deal. Reuters

Mozambique’s Main Opposition Party Appeals Election Result
Mozambique’s main opposition party Renamo on Tuesday appealed the result of the Oct. 15 general election, calling on the country’s top court to annul incumbent President Filipe Nyusi’s victory. Nyusi and his ruling Frelimo party won big in the election, which was hoped would calm tensions in Mozambique, soon to become a top global gas exporter. Instead, the contested result has stoked divisions as opposition parties have cried foul. “We want the election results to be annulled because they were not elections. They were a caricature, a circus show,” Venâncio Mondlane, a Renamo representative, told Reuters by phone. “Today we filed the appeal to the Constitutional Council (CC) against the deliberation of the National Election Commission, which we do not agree with. We demand that the CC annul the election results,” Mondlane said. It was hoped the election could set the seal on a fragile peace pact, designed to put a definitive end to four decades of violence between Frelimo and Renamo. Reuters

Tunisia Dismisses Foreign, Defence Ministers-Statement
Tunisia President Kais Saied made his first major decision as head of state on Tuesday, approving the replacement of the foreign and defence ministers as the new parliament prepares for coalition talks. Saied was elected president in a landslide on Oct. 13, and was invested last Wednesday as head of state, a role that in Tunisia’s political system gives him direct control over foreign and defence policy. However, while the president is the most senior directly elected official, most power is held by a governing coalition that requires a parliamentary majority. The moderate Islamist Ennahda, which won more seats than any other party in the Oct. 6 parliamentary election, is preparing for formal negotiations with other parties to appoint a prime minister and a new government. With the parliament deeply fractured and Ennahda holding only 52 of the 217 seats, however, any new governing coalition will require complex and potentially lengthy negotiations. Reuters

Sudan Reforms Military Command Structure
Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has issued a decree reforming the structure of the Sudanese army. The army spokesman Amer Mohamed al-Hassan said in a statement on Monday evening that the decree relinquished the system of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and adopted the General Staff system for the structure of the military command. The Joint Chiefs of Staff advises the head of the state, the defence minister, and the National Security Council on military matters. Its members do not lead combat forces and have no executive command authority over the troops. The General Staff system is an advisory and operational body alike. … Retired Lt Gen. Osman Baliah told Sudan Tribune that the latest decision would address a “set of imbalances” in the structure of the Sudanese armed forces. … He further said that the new structure would include the Rapid Support Forces. Sudan Tribune

United States to Host Nov. 6 Meeting over Nile Dam Dispute
The United States is set to host Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on November 6, with a view of resolving a dispute over the latter’s hydropower dam the Blue Nile, Egypt’s foreign minister said on Tuesday. Earlier this month, Cairo said it accepted a U.S. invitation to a meeting of foreign ministers over the project that is the source of an escalating spat between the two African countries. It was not clear if the other two countries had agreed to attend. In recent weeks, Egypt has called for an external mediator on the issue, saying three-way talks have been exhausted. … Addis Ababa has previously rejected the idea, accusing Egypt of trying to sidestep the process. … Analysts fear the three Nile basin countries could be drawn into a conflict if the dispute is not resolved before the dam begins operating. Ethiopia is expected to start filling the reservoir behind the dam next year. Africa News

The Challenges of Navigating Ethiopia’s New Media Landscape
The freeing of detained journalists and bloggers, along with an end to the blocking of more than 260 websites and the restoration of access to media outlets forced to work in exile, resulted in Ethiopia jumping 40 places in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders – from 150 out of 180 countries to 110, the largest leap by any country. But the outbreak in Ethiopia of violent protests last week – more than 60 are estimated killed in clashes across the Oromia region, and in the cities of Dire Dawa and Harar in eastern Ethiopia – is fuelling ongoing questions about whether such new media freedoms are being abused to stoke ethnic tensions. At the same time, the government is facing increasing criticism for repressing media and repeating the authoritarian ways of previous Ethiopian governments, including the ongoing implementation of a controversial Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle dissent and gag journalists, including by imprisoning them. Al Jazeera

Yemeni Town Thrives on Extortion and Torture of Migrants
“What will they do to us?” Zahra thought. She and 300 other Africans had just endured six hours crammed in a wooden smuggling boat to cross the narrow strait between the Red Sea and the gulf. When they landed, the traffickers loaded them into trucks and drove them to ramshackle compounds in the desert outside the coastal village of Ras al-Ara. There was Zahra’s answer. She was imprisoned for a month in a tin-roofed hut, broiling and hungry, ordered to call home each day to beseech her family to wire $2,000. She said she did not have family to ask for money and pleaded for her freedom. Instead, her captors raped her. And they raped the 20 other women with her – for weeks, different men all the time. “They used each of the girls,” she told The Associated Press. “Every night there was rape.” With its systematic torture, Ras al-Ara is a particular hell on the arduous, 900-mile (1,400 kilometer) journey from the Horn of Africa to oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Migrants leave home on sandaled feet with dreams of escaping poverty. They trek through mountains and deserts, sandstorms and 113-degree temperatures, surviving on crumbs of bread and salty water from ancient wells. AP

DRC Unrest Sparks Concerns of Regional Refugee Crisis
Months of unrelenting militia attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are driving more people from their homes, adding to the millions already displaced and threatening to spread insecurity elsewhere in Africa’s Great Lakes region, observers warn. This week, people fleeing the conflict lugged small children and possessions as they trekked across the DRC’s eastern border into Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. They fault the Mai Mai, a general name for the scores of armed fighting groups that have engaged in ethnic clashes for decades. Since May, attackers have burned about 160 villages of Banyamulenge ethnic Tutsis, killed at least 200 people, stolen cattle that provide their livelihoods, and forced more than 200,000 to flee, according to Congo Today, a nonprofit group that promotes peace and reconciliation among Congolese tribes. … With an eye toward regional security, military leaders from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda met last week in the DRC’s eastern border town of Goma. They were expected to commit to a joint operation against rebel forces, but they didn’t come to terms. VOA

Nigerian Pastor Accused of Abusing Children Who Fled Boko Haram
Solomon Folorunsho, known as Pastor Solomon, says he is on a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM). His camp in Benin City claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad. But witnesses AFP interviewed across Nigeria — children, their relatives, former missionaries and social workers — paint a far darker picture of the pastor and the treatment of those in his care. … All accused the pastor of physical abuse, while some accused him of sexual harassment. Pastor Solomon, aged in his 50s, admits having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment. … Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions. AFP

Johannesburg Council Refuses to Pay Bitcoin Ransom
The authorities in South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, have refused to pay a ransom of four Bitcoin tokens, valued at approximately 500,000 rand ($34,000; £27,700), to hackers who breached its network last week. The City of Johannesburg said on Monday that it was confident it would be able to restore its systems to full functionality by close of business. The hacking attack affected the city’s billing systems and call centres. “The city will not concede to their demands for Bitcoins and we are confident that we will be able to restore systems to full functionality,” Funzela Ngobeni, a member of the Johannesburg mayoral committee in charge of finance, told journalists on Monday. …The authorities say they have since identified the source of the cyber attack. “We do know where the attack came from, but at this point in time we are not going to be sharing any details in relation to the whole situation, we will eave that in the hands of authorities,” said Shadrack Sibiya, the city’s head of investigation and forensics. BBC

South Sudan: Proposed Ramciel City Master Plan to Cost 10 Billion USD
South Sudan’s First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai said the government is working on a master plan for the proposed new capital city of Ramciel that will cost the nation 10 billion US dollars. Gai was speaking at the ongoing Oil and Power Conference in Juba on Tuesday. He said the government has committed to using part of the oil revenue to the realization of the new city. “To just have the master plan before building the city so that the land has value will cost South Sudan about 10 billion USD, this is according to South Korean and Morocco. Of course, somebody will tell South Sudanese that this is a wastage of money. But we must build Ramciel, it is an area that investors can come and invest in,” he asserted. The first vice president further said a conference deliberating the construction of Ramciel city is underway in Morocco with the master plan expected to out in February 2020. Radio Tamazuj

Deadly Floods across Africa: Somalia to Cameroon, C.A.R. to Nigeria
Floods in parts of Africa are wreaking havoc with rising death tolls and damage to properties. In the case of the Central African Republic, a national catastrophe has been declared. From Beledweyne in Central Somalia through to Bafoussam in Western Cameroon, the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui and parts of northeastern Nigeria – Adamawa and Kogi States. Over in Ghana, unexpected rains in October continue to adversely affect parts of the country. Large areas of the north were submerged weeks back whiles a motorway connecting the capital Accra to the industrial hub of Tema got cut off due to floods. … Heavy rains in Kogi State, central Nigeria, had unintended consequences beyond the destruction and displacement of tens of thousands. It enabled over 100 prisoners to escape detention after the rains entered the holding facility. Africa News

France Faces Up to China’s Africa Challenge with Paris Business Forum
France is stepping up its push for influence on the African continent, with its flagship B2B event, Ambition Africa, which kicks off Wednesday for its second year. It comes as competition from China and other players for the African market is rife. … To stand out in a market dominated by China, French companies are trying to reposition themselves as a source for sustainable development products and services. … French companies like Veolia and Suez have managed to secure contracts for water and electricity in countries like Gabon; and this year’s Ambition Africa forum is built around topics focussing on urban development and Africa’s energy mix, in the run-up to the Africa-France summit on sustainable African cities in July. The two-day event will gather hundreds of industry experts, entrepreneurs, and business leaders for discussions on how to move bilateral trade forward. … Today, France is pledging a real win-win partnership with the continent, and is using tools like Ambition Africa, which aims to make France a hub for African trade, to get its point across. Another weapon is its diaspora community. RFI

UN Chief Is Blunt: Women Remain Excluded from Peace Tables
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was unusually blunt on Tuesday: Women are still excluded from many peace negotiations nearly two decades after the U.N. adopted a landmark resolution calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peace-building. The U.N. chief told the Security Council that sexual and gender-based violence remain weapons of war, a growing number of armed groups promote male superiority and misogyny as part of their core ideology, and women and girls continue “to pay the consequences of conflict.” … Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old Sudanese university student studying architectural engineering who joined successful protests that ended the country’s dictatorship, told the council how women and men were tear-gassed and arrested, and how both sexes faced sexual harassment and were raped. She said women were key members in helping shape the Declaration of Freedom and Change – “a roadmap for Sudan’s transition from military to civilian rule.” But she said only one woman participated in talks with the military. AP

‘New Message’: Russia Trains Its Propaganda Machine on Africa
Russia has been playing for power in Africa in recent years by sending arms, offering mercenaries, and cinching mining deals. More quietly, it has started to set up a low-profile infrastructure of political influence that bears echoes of the Kremlin’s strategy in Europe and the United States. And it is already identifying African politicians and activists who will carry its message. … Afric – an acronym for Association for Free Research and International Cooperation – is building ties with African politicians and commentators while publishing articles that extol the benefits of cooperating with Russia. It has also invested heavily in election monitoring missions that mirror Russia’s approach in its own elections: bringing in sympathetic foreigners who praise the votes’ fairness and transparency, even as established Western organizations criticize them. … Major elections loom next year across Africa, including in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Burundi. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones