Africa Media Review for October 4, 2019

Attacks Kill 22 in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region – Party Official
Clashes between regional special forces and a minority ethnic group have killed at least 20 people in the past five days in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara, a local political official said on Thursday. The clashes are another headache for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose political and economic reforms in what was once one of Africa’s most repressive nations have also emboldened powerful strongmen building ethnic powerbases. Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-most populous province, has been a flashpoint for tensions following violence that killed dozens of people, including the region’s president, in June. The federal government described that violence as a coup led by a rogue state militia leader. The latest clashes erupted last Friday, when armed men killed 10 people when they ambushed a minibus travelling to the city of Gondar in northern Amhara, Desalegn Chane, president of the new National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) party, told Reuters by phone. Reuters

Cameroon’s Govt Proposes Special Status for Anglophone Regions, Releases [330] Prisoners
Delegates at the ongoing national dialogue in Cameroon have welcomed the release of 330 prisoners and resolution to grant the English-speaking regions special status. The country’s prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute, who is leading the dialogue process, announced on Thursday that president Paul Biya had ordered for the release of several hundred detainees linked to the separatist crisis. … And late Thursday, delegates adopted a resolution at the dialogue’s plenary session recommending “special status” for the English-speaking areas “aimed at re-enforcing the autonomy of administrative areas.” … But armed rebel groups have snubbed the forum, and analysts have questioned whether the initiative can achieve much while the main separatist leaders are behind bars. “We welcome the decision by the president to release 330 anglophone detainees. It is a step in the right direction,” Felix Agbor Nkongho, a leading anglophone lawyer and human-rights defender who is taking part in the forum, told AFP. “But we call for a general amnesty to all those in detention and those in the diaspora under investigation.” AFP

Nigeria, South Africa to Set Up Early Warning System over Attacks
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has met his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, weeks after xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg triggered tensions between Africa’s leading economies. Nigerians were among those targeted during the wave of violence which resulted in the death of 12 people and led to an extraordinary airlift of hundreds of people last month. On Thursday, amid warm smiles and a joint commitment to strengthen bilateral relations, Buhari said the attacks were “unacceptable” and called for preventive measures. Ramaphosa condemned the violence, saying: “Early warning mechanisms will be set up so that when we see there is restiveness in both of our people … we will be able to inform one another.” … A joint business forum between South Africa and Nigeria was held on Thursday afternoon. “We want to create an enabling environment for doing business in our respective countries,” said Ramaphosa, pointing out road, mining and infrastructure as key areas. Al Jazeera

The Political Calculus for Nigeria’s Next Presidential Elections Is Kicking Off Three Years Early
A full three years before the next elections, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has been forced to deny reports that he will be seeking a third term in 2023. The conspicuous early denial is a measure of just how intense politicking is expected be in Africa’s most populous country ahead of its next elections. With president Muhammadu Buhari required to leave office after serving a second term, Nigerians will be voting to elect a new president in 2023-and that represents too much of an opportunity to serve as a distraction for members of the political class. Already, there are murmurs of a fractured relationship between camps of president Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo. It’s significant given the vice-president was initially mooted as Buhari’s de facto successor and flag-bearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC) party in 2023. Quartz Africa

Nigerian Police to Get Stun Guns, New Rules of Engagement in Push to Reduce Deaths
Nigerian police plan to acquire stun guns and revise their rules of engagement in an effort to curb the use of deadly force, the inspector general of the force said on Thursday. The West African country, which plays a pivotal role in regional stability, is riven by security problems ranging from armed bandits who have forced 40,000 people to leave the northwest in recent months to communal violence between nomadic herdsmen and farming communities in central states. Last month, a United Nations special rapporteur described Nigeria as a “pressure cooker of internal conflict” due to security problems and what it said was an excessive use of lethal force by police and military. … The force is also arranging special training for certain units, including the counter-terrorism unit, anti-robbery and kidnapping squads, and criminal investigation specialists. Reuters

Nigeria Unveils New Armoured Personnel Carrier
The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) has unveiled a new locally developed armoured personnel carrier, the Ezugwu. It is named after Major General Victor Ezugwu, who earned recognition for his efforts to combat Boko Haram extremists. At the end of last year he was appointed as the Managing Director/CEO of DICON. The new vehicle, described by DICON as an MRAP (mine-protected, ambush resistant armoured vehicle), is manufactured in collaboration with the Nigerian Army Command Engineering Depot (CED). It is armoured against small arms fire and using flat-bottom armour technology, its hull can withstand a 7 kg TNT explosion whilst each wheel can withstand a 12 kg TNT explosion. Unusually, the vehicle has two weapons turrets which can traverse 360 degrees and a telescopic long range camera for improved situational awareness. … The Nigerian military has been increasing its share of locally produced weapons, with Proforce delivering its domestically manufactured Ara APCs to the Army. defenceWeb

Mali Government Says Death Toll from Double Attack Rises to 38
The death toll from attacks on two army bases in central Mali has risen to 38 from 25, defense minister Dahirou Dembélé said on state television late on Thursday. The double attack, carried out by unidentified assailants, was among the deadliest suffered by Malian forces this year as they struggle to contain militant groups with links to al Qaeda or Islamic State that have set up operations in parts of Mali from where they launch attacks across the Sahel. Reuters

Hundreds Return to Burundi as Mass Repatriation Effort Begins
More than 500 Burundians were returned to their home country from three Tanzanian refugee camps Thursday, marking the first wave in a massive effort to repatriate people fleeing violence and unrest over the last few years. Burundians boarded buses at the Nduta, Mutendeli and Nyarugusu camps in western Tanzania, bound for two reception centers in their country’s Ruyigi province. After spending the night, they were to be dispatched to their home provinces. … The U.N. refugee agency has estimated the Tanzanian camps hold almost 184,000 Burundians who are to be sent home by year’s end, based on the bilateral pact. They are among nearly 350,000 Burundians who have fled the small, Central-East African country’s political unrest, which erupted after a controversial 2015 election gave President Pierre Nkurunziza a third term. Some went to other neighboring countries. … Some refugees are reluctant to go home, citing continuing violence in Burundi. VOA

South Sudan: Faltering Peace Deal Risks Return to Violence-Report
Failure to address critical issues in the revitalised peace deal could restart the devastating violence of recent years and displace even more people, a new report has warned. The report by Refugees International “No Confidence: Displaced South Sudanese Await ‘Real Peace” says failure to address critical issues, including relocation and disarmament of soldiers and disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities, could restart the devastating violence of recent years and displace even more people. The new report on South Sudan by Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan stated that a year after South Sudan signed a peace agreement to end the country’s devastating civil war, a staggering one-third of its population is still displaced. Few feel safe enough to return home, and the situation remains dire, according to the report released on Thursday. … The report urges the government and opposition groups to prioritize the cantonment of soldiers, integration of armed forces to reflect ethnic diversity, and settlement of state boundaries to avoid disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan: UN Backs Deadline for Unity Government
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said a transitional unity government should be formed by 12 November as originally planned. Speaking at a press conference in Juba on Wednesday, David Shearer, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the deadline should stand and that there should be no more extensions. … Shearer revealed that the world body is stepping up the deployment of peacekeepers to remote communities to provide a protective presence for the people returning to their homes. “Ultimately, it is the primary responsibility of South Sudan government to establish conditions needed for displaced families to return safely,” he observed. Shearer said Security Council members will visit South Sudan this month. “The Security Council signalled its strong desire for the momentum of the peace process to be maintained. So much so, that they are traveling as a group to South Sudan towards the end of this month to see the situation first-hand and to put their weight behind the political process,” he noted. Radio Tamazuj

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Tries the Kagame Way
Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to emulate his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame’s economic development model, which blends authoritarian practices and homegrown solutions with international best practices, as he hired yet another public relations (PR) firm in a desperate bid to spruce up the country’s battered international image. The Zimbabwe Independent revealed last week that Mnangagwa’s administration has engaged London-based BTP Advisers to bolster the diplomatic re-engagement without first addressing human rights concerns in the country. The company has previously done work for Kagame. It becomes the fourth PR Company engaged by Mnangagwa, who has previously engaged United States-based Mercury International Limited, Ballard Partners and Avenue Strategies. … The Rwandan strongman undertook a series of pro-investment reforms to facilitate the ease-of-doing-business. Mnangagwa has, however, come under a barrage of criticism over the snail pace of instituting reforms. The Independent

Zimbabwe to Introduce New Currency in November: Official
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will introduce a new currency in November, a member of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, Eddie Cross, has told State broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). ZBC News Online reported Thursday that Cross, a renowned economist, had said the new currency would be introduced in a move set to curb current cash shortages in the country. “He commended President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa for taking a bold decision to freeze accounts of companies suspected of fueling the instability of exchange rates, saying what is needed now is to act on such economic saboteurs,” the broadcaster reported. Zimbabwe’s last currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, became moribund in 2009 following a spell of hyper-inflation and was replaced by a basket of multi-currencies which included the U.S. dollar, the British pound, South African rand, Botswana pula, Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. Xinhua

Uganda Police Arrests Bobi Wine Supporters over Banned Red Berets
Police in Uganda on Thursday detained six supporters of pop star and presidential hopeful Bobi Wine for wearing red berets, a banned symbol of his “People Power” pressure group, a spokesman for the movement said. Joel Senyonyi, spokesman for Wine’s People Power movement, told Reuters the youths were detained in Kabalagala, a suburb in the south of the capital Kampala where they were holding a news conference to denounce the government’s red beret ban.”The youths were emphasising that we commit no offence when we wear these berets,” Senyonyi said, adding that police stormed the event and detained the six while others fled. … Police spokesman Patrick Onyango however told Reuters Wine’s supporters were arrested for staging an unlawful assembly because they had not notified the police in advance. Africa News

Somalia Hopes to Counter Al Shabaab with New Education Curriculum
Somalia’s government is implementing a new curriculum for primary and secondary school students, for the first time since the civil war broke out in 1991. In the past, schools had to make do with whatever materials came to hand. More than 40 curricula were used across Somalia, creating a hodgepodge of competing education systems in a variety of languages, the government said. Schools sourced textbooks from more than 10 countries during the civil war and English and Arabic replaced Somali as the language of instruction. Up to 2 million textbooks printed in Somali have been issued to pupils in most of Somalia since August and their schools have synchronised academic terms, the ministry of education said. … Religious education is particularly important, said State Minister of Higher Education and Culture Abdirahman Mohamed Abdulle. The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency also regularly launches deadly bomb attacks in Somalia in a bid to impose its own strict version of Islamic law. The government hopes the new textbooks will help counter their message. Clerics helped the government train teachers in Islamic ethics and create a syllabus that “will produce students who are sound, who are free from terror ideology, moderate students who have Islamic knowledge as well as other subjects”, Abdulle said. Reuters

Tanzania Rejects Suspicions That It Covered Up Ebola Cases
Tanzania on Thursday rejected suspicions that it might have covered up cases of the deadly Ebola virus, calling it a plot to show the country “in a bad light.” The health minister’s comments came after the World Health Organization issued an unusual statement saying Tanzania refused to share information and the United States and Britain issued travel warnings. The current Ebola outbreak based in neighboring eastern Congo is now the second-deadliest in history with more than 2,000 people killed. Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said there were two suspected Ebola cases last month but the East African country determined they did not have the virus. … Global health officials had repeatedly asked Tanzania to share the results of its investigations, but Mwalimu asserted there is no need to submit a “negative sample” for further testing. Critics have shown increasing alarm as Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s government has restricted access to key information and cracked down on perceived dissent. Lawmakers recently approved an amendment to a statistics law to make it a crime to distribute information not sanctioned by the government or which contradicts the government. AP

After Years of Rapid Growth in Africa We’re About to Enter the Age of Mobile Money 2.0
There is nowhere else in the world that moves more money on mobile phones than Sub-Saharan Africa. The region is currently responsible for an astonishing 45.6% of mobile money activity in the world-an estimate of at least $26.8 billion in transaction value in 2018 alone-this figure excludes bank operated solutions. Mobile money operators like MTN, who also own the mobile network, typically charge in between 0.5%-3% for their various digital services, a small price to pay for the convenience. Telcos have perfected the art of running these, with over 270 deployments present in the world today. They represent the first iteration of mobile money services and kickstarted the revolution, practically inventing mobile financial services as we know them today. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we now see for the first time an industry wide trend with more launches of challenger bank apps, affectionately referred to as digibanks for the rest of this post. These types of apps represent the first iterations of Mobile Money 2.0. Quartz Africa

Agriculture Visionary: He Grew Up on a Farm. Now, He Helps Protect Them.
Few livelihoods offer as many paths to failure as agriculture. Throughout history, farmers have been at the mercy of nature – be it weather, pests or crop diseases – even as the survival of people and livestock depended on their success. Growing up on a farm on the slopes of Mount Kenya, Thomas Njeru witnessed firsthand the devastating impact such setbacks had on the lives of small landholders, including his own family. His mother lectured him to work hard in school so he could one day leave the farm and land a good job in the city. Mr. Njeru followed that advice obediently – until he did not. Today, he is a co-founder and the chief financial officer of Pula, a four-year-old microinsurance firm that serves 1.7 million smallholder farms of 0.6 acres or less in 10 African countries and India. Microinsurance – think of it as an offshoot of the microloan programs that kick-start businesses in impoverished areas – provides protection for low-income individuals who do not have access to conventional coverage. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones