Africa Media Review for October 4, 2018

Guinea-Bissau Migrant Shipwreck: Dozens Feared Dead
About 60 migrants are feared to have drowned when a wooden boat capsized during a storm off Guinea-Bissau. The country’s navy was unable to help when the boat went down on Monday as it lacked the resources, national ports head Felix Siga told the BBC. The boat wreckage has been found but no bodies have been recovered. It is not clear where the boat was headed but the sea crossing to Spain’s Canary Islands from neighbouring countries used to be popular. Guinea-Bissau is some 1,120 miles (1,802 km) from the Canary Islands. However, this route has become less common since naval patrols increased on the Atlantic Ocean in the 1990s. Accidents at sea involving West African migrants in overcrowded boats are common.  BBC

UN Security Council Heads to DRC Ahead of Polls
The U.N. Security Council is heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo this week ahead of December elections, amid tensions between Congolese authorities and the UN and concerns over a risk of poll violence. The U.N. wants “free, fair and peaceful elections,” Karel Van Oosterom, Dutch ambassador to the global organization said Wednesday. Van Oosterom will be among those in the Security Council delegation, joined by representatives from the United States, Bolivia, France and Equatorial Guinea. The trip is planned Thursday to Monday and will be limited to Kinshasa. The council hopes to meet with President Joseph Kabila, his prime minister and foreign minister, as well as the election commission and other stakeholders.  VOA

UN Calls for End to Congo Fighting to Combat Ebola Outbreak
The U.N. Security Council is calling for an immediate end to hostilities by all armed groups to combat the deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo. Council members stressed the urgency of getting medical teams to the affected areas quickly “because the disease can spread rapidly, including to neighboring countries, possibly impacting regional stability.” The council issued the statement after a closed-door video briefing Wednesday by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and ahead of a trip to Congo. WHO said Saturday the risk of the Ebola virus spreading from northeastern Congo where the latest outbreak began is now “very high” after two confirmed cases were discovered near the Uganda border. Bolivia’s U.N. Ambassador Sacha Llorentty Soliz said Ebola and December’s elections are on the agenda of the council’s Congo visit.  AP

South Sudan Government Objects to War Crimes Court
A top South Sudanese official says the government opposes creation of a war crimes court, a key aspect of the peace deal which the country’s warring parties recently reaffirmed. The projected court would be a hybrid of South Sudanese judges and international war crimes experts, tasked with trying those accused of committing atrocities during South Sudan’s nearly five-year civil war. Civil society activists say the “hybrid court” should be established without delay to end rampant impunity in South Sudan. But speaking to reporters in Juba this week, Information Minister Michael Makuei labeled the court “a tool of regime change by the troika” — the United States, Britain and Norway.  VOA

South Sudan Government Releases 20 Political Detainees
South Sudan government has released at least 20 political prisoners, after President Salva Kiir ordered the immediate release of all Prisoners of War (PoWs) and detainees last week, a senior security official said. The head of public relations at the Internal Security Bureau told state television on Wednesday that the political prisoners were set free as part of the presidential amnesty in line with the peace agreement. All the former detainees, the security official said, had been accused of supporting the opposition. He further said the freeing of the political detainees demonstrates that the government is determined to implement the revitalized peace deal. The exact identities of the ex-detainees were not revealed by the Internal Security Bureau.  Radio Tamazuj

Ethiopian PM Pushes for Unity after Months of Ethnic Violence
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told members of his ruling coalition that “an attack on one is an attack on all” on Wednesday as he pushed for unity after months of ethnic violence. Abiy has presided over a series of jolting political and economic changes since coming to office in April – making peace with arch-foe Eritrea, freeing political prisoners, pledging to open up the state-controlled economy and promising to overhaul the security services. But the reforms have not stopped ethnically-charged violence that has escalated since he was named premier – including in his own native Oromiya region where protesters first took to the streets in 2015 over perceived marginalization by the state. “If we are see a developed Ethiopia, we should not commit violence on the basis of ethnicity or religion,” he told about 1,000 delegates at the congress of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in the southern city of Hawassa. Reuters

When Violence Flares, Ethiopia Continues to Turn Off Internet
When dozens of people died in ethnic clashes last month on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, protesters took to the streets. The government, meanwhile, turned off the internet. Mobile internet service stayed off for about 40 hours. It was the second time this year the internet has gone down in Ethiopia during times of unrest, in addition to a months-long outage that began last year during protests that led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Officials have yet to explain this latest outage, but activists and journalists believe the typical justification, to ensure public safety in turbulent times, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. They’re also concerned that the government continues to suppress information and impede journalists, even in the midst of wide-reaching reforms.  VOA

South Africa’s Zuma Fired Me for Blocking Russian Nuclear Power Deal – Nene
South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told a judicial corruption inquiry on Wednesday that he was fired by former president Jacob Zuma for refusing to approve a $100 billion nuclear power deal with Russia in 2015. Nene is the highest profile figure to give evidence at a probe into alleged influence-peddling by the Gupta family, friends of Zuma, who are accused of using their relationship with the former leader to unduly win state contracts. Zuma has repeatedly denied accusations by his opponents that he pushed for a deal with President Vladimir Putin at a BRICS summit for Russia to build a fleet of nuclear power stations. Opposition politicians and local investigative journalists say the proposed deal – which would have been the biggest state contract in South Africa’s history – would have included huge kickbacks for Zuma and the Gupta family.  Reuters

Senegal Capital Gets Historic Female Mayor: Soham El Wardini
The Senegalese capital of Dakar has a new mayor in the person of Soham El Wardini who records indicate is the first woman post-independence to hold the post. Until her election last Saturday, September 29, she was the deputy mayor to embattled Khalifa Sall – who has been imprisoned since March 2017 over corruption charges, despite repeatedly claiming it is a political witch-hunt. Wardini polled 64 votes against 13 and 11 for Moussa Sy and Banda Diop respectively. “I am proud to be the first female mayor of the Senegalese capital,” she stressed after results of the election to replace Sall were announced. She went on to reiterate her support for Khalifa Sall and saying that she still considered him as being the mayor. “The teams will remain unchanged. We will finish the projects started. The key is to get back to work and stay united. I assure you that the fight continues,” she added to the joy of Sall faithful.  Africa News

Egypt Says Security Forces Kill 15 Militants in Sinai
Egypt said Wednesday that police have killed 15 suspected militants in a shootout in the northern Sinai Peninsula, where they are battling an Islamic State-led insurgency. The Interior Ministry says the militants were killed during a raid on their hideout in the city of el-Arish, where they were planning attacks on security forces in the coming days. It says security forces dismantled two explosive devices and seized weapons. The statement did not say when the raid took place or whether any security forces were killed or wounded. It wasn’t possible to independently confirm the report as access to the northern Sinai is heavily restricted. Earlier this week, the Islamic State group said one of its leaders in Sinai has been killed. The group’s Aamaq news agency announced the death of Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi late Monday, calling him a “martyr” without saying where or how he died.  AP

Governor of Nigeria’s Commercial Hub Lagos Defeated in Bid for Second Term
The governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos, a prominent ruling party figure, lost his bid on Wednesday to seek a second term following a primary selection process that exposed internal divisions in a crucial state months ahead of polls next year. Lagos state, with a city of some 23 million inhabitants, is the driving force in one of Africa’s biggest economies and a key election battleground in the southwest. The region’s support for President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party proved to be crucial in the 2015 presidential and gubernatorial races that swept the leader to power. But there have been signs of waning support for Buhari and his party in the southwest, most recently in the APC’s narrow win last week in the governorship election in Osun state. And the Lagos primary race exposed rifts within the party.  Reuters

UN Extends Migration Ship Searches off Libya
The Security Council on Wednesday renewed for a year UN member states’ authorization to inspect vessels off Libya suspected of smuggling migrants between Africa and Europe. Proposed by Britain, the resolution was approved unanimously by the 15 members of the council. It “condemns all acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory and off the coast of Libya, which undermine further the process of stabilization of Libya and endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.” Negotiations led to friction with the United States, which wanted to water down the draft text and remove several paragraphs on migrant smuggling considered too permissive for migration, diplomats said. France 24

Morocco Rules Out Building EU Offshore Asylum Centers
Morocco’s foreign minister threw cold water on an EU plan to build offshore centers to process migrants in North Africa, saying claims of a migration “crisis” are overblown. “Morocco is generally opposed to all kinds of centers,” Nasser Bourita told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview published Wednesday. “This is part of our migration policy and a national sovereign position.” It would be “too easy to claim this is a Moroccan responsibility,” he said, adding that the policy is counterproductive and claiming financial help from the EU would not change his country’s position. European leaders remain deeply divided about how to manage migration. An EU proposal — agreed at a June summit in Brussels — to deepen cooperation with African countries and explore building processing centers in North Africa to deal with asylum applications was not met with enthusiasm from governments in the region.  Politico

Former Puntland President Picked as Chief Mediator in Somalia’s Political Crisis
The former president of Puntland, a semiautonomous state in northern Somalia has been selected to lead a new parliamentary mediation committee tasked with helping resolve political crisis pitting regional states against the central government. The political crisis was triggered by a recent decision by the country’s five Federal state leaders who have announced that they have severed ties with the government accusing it of failing to deliver on its promises and not sharing the country’s resources with their states. The ongoing political crisis which also saw Federal state leaders missed out a planned meeting discussing over the crisis convened by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo last month has prompted calls for mediation in ending the stalemate which officials warned would threaten to undermine the fight against al-Shabab. Garowe Online

Tanzania’s Foreign Ministry Staff Face the Sack
Staff at the Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation ministry face the sack after President Magufuli gave the nod for a reshuffle to improve service delivery. Dr Magufuli said the minister, Dr Augustine Mahiga, is not being accorded the necessary support by his staff. “I know the ministry has many activities and Dr Mahiga has been travelling a lot to represent me; for sure he has represented me accordingly. In his absence, the ministry might be lacking proper coordination,” the President said Wednesday. He directed the new Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Dr Faraji Mnyepe, who was sworn-in on Wednesday, to “transfer those directors who are non-performing to other government institutions and find suitable candidates to replace them”. Dr Mnyepe replaces Prof Adolf Mkenda, who was transferred to the Natural Resources and Tourism ministry as the PS.  The East African

Will Morocco’s Chinese-Funded ‘Tech City’ Ever Break Ground?
In the desert scrubland of Morocco’s Tangier region, a donkey laden with water bottles trots down a pebble lane chased by two small children. A farmer herds his cows in the near distance. Crickets leap in the dry grass. It’s within these gently undulating hills, just inland from the coast, that China plans to build an entire city that will stand in monument to its expansion into a North African nation on Europe’s doorstep. At a grand signing ceremony presided over by Morocco’s king in March of last year, Li Biao, the CEO of the Chinese Haite Group, outlined the ambition: a city of gleaming high towers and industrial zones that will attract as many as 100 Chinese companies and expected investment of $10 billion over the next decade. According to a promotional video, the area is expected to cover 7.7 square miles — about six times the size of Central Park in New York. NPR

World Bank Cites ‘Deep Concern’ over Tanzania Statistics Law
The World Bank says it’s “deeply concerned” by new legislation in Tanzania that criminalizes the collection and dissemination of information contradicting official statistics. Lawmakers last month passed amendments to the 2015 Statistics Act despite opposition from critics who say it will undermine the free flow of information and deter the work of non-governmental groups and others. The World Bank statement says the amendments “could have serious impacts on the generation and use of official and non-official statistics, which are a vital foundation for the country’s development.” It urges Tanzanian authorities to “protect openness and transparency” in the use of official data. President John Magufuli is yet to sign off on the amendments, which criminalize the dissemination of information “which is intended to invalidate, distort or discredit official statistics.”  AP

Facebook Is Launching Fact-Checking Tools in Africa—but WhatsApp Is Its Real Problem
Facebook will begin flagging fake news stories with the help of users and third-party fact-checkers in Kenya, in a bid to improve the quality of news people find on its platform. The company announced today (Oct. 3) that it would work with independent fact-checking organization Africa Check along with the French news agency AFP to assess news accuracy and stem the flood of misinformation. If a story is identified as false, Facebook will demote them in the news feed and will warn users who try to post those stories. As part of the review and rating process, the company will also share related pieces written by the fact-checking partners immediately below the story in the news feed. Facebook told Quartz the fact-checking program will apply only to Kenya for now—but will soon be spread to other African countries as well. Quartz

 



Photo: Adam Jones