Africa Media Review for September 11, 2018

Ethiopian, Eritrean Leaders Mark New Year at Their Border
Celebrating their dramatic diplomatic thaw, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea on Tuesday officially opened the border where a bloody war and ensuing tensions had divided them for decades. Ethiopia’s reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and longtime Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki visited the Bure Front along with members of their militaries to mark the Ethiopian new year, Abiy’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega said in a Twitter post. The two then opened the border post “for road transport connectivity” and would shortly do the same at the Serha-Zalambesa crossing, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter. Photos posted by both officials showed Abiy in camouflage and sunglasses walking alongside Isaias in olive drab, while civilians lined a road with the countries’ flags in hand. AP

Sudanese President Bashir Dissolves Government, Appoints New PM
President Omar al-Bashir dissolved the Sudanese government on Sunday and named a new prime minister, moves aimed at fixing a crisis-hit economy battered in recent months by shortages of bread, fuel and hard currency. Bashir named Motazz Moussa as the country’s prime minister. He replaces Bakri Hassan Saleh, who was appointed in 2017 as the country’s first prime minister since Bashir came to power in 1989. Moussa had been serving as minister of irrigation and electricity before the government was dissolved. Saleh, who had been serving as both prime minister and vice president before the shake-up, will stay on in the newly created post of first vice president, while Osman Yusuf Kubur was appointed second vice president.  Reuters

Mali’s Keita Appoints New Defence Minister to Deal with Security Crisis
Having declared ‘re-establishment of peace and security’ as an absolute priority for his second term, Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita named new defence, mines and foreign ministers on Sunday. Keita was sworn in last week after winning a landslide re-election despite escalating attacks by Islamist militants and clashes between herders and pastoralists that have killed hundreds of civilians this year. The violence has spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, alarming Western powers like France and the United States, which have deployed troops and air power across the region’s sprawling desert landscape.  Africa News

Libya Oil Company Offices Attacked, Causing Fire, Casualties
Security forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed government on Monday stormed the headquarters of the country’s national oil company in the capital Tripoli shortly after gunmen invaded the building, shooting randomly, setting off explosions and taking hostages, officials said. The Health Ministry said two people were killed and 10 others wounded in the attack. The company confirmed these casualty figures in a separate statement, adding that they were all company employees. “There were a number of explosions inside the building and intense shooting, with a number of staff temporarily held hostage,” the company said. “Security forces arrived and liberated the building and those inside.” The officials said explosions rocked the glass-and-steel building soon after the gunmen stormed it, starting a fire that swiftly spread through the lower floors.  AP

Libyan Warlord Haftar Threatens to War with Algeria, Tripoli-Based Government Says Sorry
Unable to claim a full victory for over four years in his alleged war on terror in Benghazi, the Libyan east-based warlord Khalifa Haftar has raised some eyebrows with his threat to got to war with Algeria. Haftar said Thursday in a televised meeting of “Social Components” that he would take the fighting to Algeria if it continued to violate the sovereignty of Libya’s territories. “We cannot allow anyone to violate Libya’s sovereignty. Whenever the Algerians find a chance, they enter Libyan territories and that is why I sent General Abdelkarim to Algeria to tell the that their behavior is not brotherly and they are taking advantage of ur hard times.” Haftar told the tribesmen in the meeting. “We will turn the destination of the war in a blink of an eye.” He remarked.  The Libya Observer

Official: US ‘Gravely Concerned’ by Reports of Abuse by Ugandan Security Forces
The United States is “gravely concerned” by reports of excessive force used by Uganda’s security forces against lawmakers and journalists in the northwestern town of Arua, a State Department official said on Monday after the country’s opposition called on Washington to suspend military support to Kampala. Five lawmakers, including opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, who is also a musician known by his stage name Bobi Wine, were arrested in Arua last month. Kyagulanyi, who is currently in the United States for medical treatment, and fellow member of parliament Francis Zaake say they were tortured while in detention.  VOA

Uganda Warns against Interference as Pressure Mounts on U.S. to Cut Military Support
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday warned against foreign interference in the country’s politics days after an opposition call for the United States to suspend military aid over the government’s human rights record. Museveni also accused some unnamed foreign countries of seeking to influence the nation’s politics by funnelling assistance to the opposition through non-governmental organisations. “It is important that external players refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries,” Museveni told a press conference on Sunday. “If there’s any problem in Uganda, I surely will handle it better than the outsider.”  Reuters

Are Somali Troops Prepared to Lead the War against Al-Shabab?
As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) prepares to implement the planned phased withdrawal of more than 21,000 troops fighting militant groups, including al-Shabab and the Islamic State in Somalia, some experts are concerned that the country may not be prepared to take on the task in the face of growing political divisions and lack of military equipment and training. As part of the first phase, AMISOM plans to withdraw about 1,000 troops by February 2019. The process of handing over responsibility of some forward-operating bases to the Somali national army has already begun. The plan is to gradually withdraw all AMISOM troops from the country and hand over the lead security responsibility to local government forces. The transition would occur based on the conditions on the ground and the preparedness of the Somali National Security Forces (SNFS), according to officials at AMISOM.  VOA

At Least 6 Dead in Al Shabaab Attack on Somalia’s Capital
At least six people were killed on Monday in al Shabaab attack on a local government building in Somalia’s capital, the director of an ambulance service and a Reuters witness said. “We have carried six dead people and 16 others injured. The death toll may rise,” Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Amin Ambulance service, told Reuters. A Reuters witness saw five bodies lying at the blast scene and body parts of a sixth person.  Reuters

The U.S. Is Warning Congo That Using Electronic Voting Machines Could Backfire
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has a warning for another country preparing for a presidential election: Use electronic voting machines at your own risk. At a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York late last month, Haley called on Congo to abandon its plan to use the machines for the first time in favor of paper ballots — what she called a “trusted, tested, transparent and easy-to-use voting method.” And earlier this year, she said: “These elections must be held by paper ballots so there is no question by the Congolese people about the results. The U.S. has no appetite to support an electronic voting system.” But the U.S. is still working to secure its own election infrastructure from the threat of foreign interference and cyberattacks — and though security experts and top federal officials here have also called on states to use machines with paper trails, it’s an uphill battle. The Washington Post

Starvation: A Weapon of War That Could Kill 590,000 Children by the End of 2018
Starvation being used as a weapon of war has become the new normal, according to Save the Children. Its analysis shows more than half a million infants in conflict zones could die of malnutrition by the end of the year if they do not receive treatment, the equivalent of one every minute. The charity makes its own estimates using UN data, and projects that 4.5 million under-fives will need treatment for life-threatening hunger this year in the most dangerous conflict zones – an increase of 20% since 2016. At current rates, only one in three will receive treatment, and 590,000 could die as a result. The data emerged ahead of Tuesday’s launch of the UN annual report on food security, which last year warned that global hunger was rising for the first time since the turn of the century, fuelled by conflict and climate change.  The Guardian

Tanzania’s President Magufuli Calls for End to Birth Control
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has urged women to stop taking birth control pills, saying the country needs more people. “Women can now give up contraceptive methods,” Mr Magufuli said. Opposition MP Cecil Mwambe has criticised the comments, saying they contradicted the country’s health policy. Tanzania has a population of around 53 million people, with 49% of them living on less than $2 (£1.50) a day. On average, a woman in Tanzania has more than five children, among the highest rates in the world.  BBC

Egypt Security Forces Kill 11 Suspected Jihadists in Sinai
Egyptian security forces have killed 11 suspected jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula as they press a campaign against Islamist militants in the area, a security source said on Monday. The military launched a sweeping operation in February focused on the Sinai in eastern Egypt aimed at wiping out jihadists, including from the Islamic State group, who have been waging a bloody insurgency. “Eleven terrorist elements were killed in an exchange of fire” with security forces in El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, the security source said. The jihadists were in an abandoned petrol station “preparing terrorist acts” against security forces, the source added.  AFP

UN Rights Commissioner Blasts Egypt’s 75 Death Sentences
The U.N. human rights commissioner says it will be an “irreversible miscarriage of justice” if the death sentences issued by an Egyptian court against 75 people, including top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, are carried out. In a Sunday statement, Michelle Bachelet voiced concern over the sentences passed the previous day along with 47 life sentences in a case involving 739 defendants from a 2013 sit-in protest by supporters of an Islamist president ousted by the military. She said the defendants were tried en masse and not permitted individual legal representation or to present evidence in their defense. The prosecution, she added, did not provide sufficient evidence to prove individual guilt. The 739 faced charges ranging from murder and property damage to inciting violence. Their sentences can be appealed. AP

At Least 35 Die as Nigerian Gas Tanker Explodes
At least 35 people were killed on Monday and hundreds were injured when a gas tanker exploded in the northern Nigerian state of Nasarawa, an emergency services official said. The accident happened as the truck was unloading at a gas station along the Lafia-Makurdi road linking the capital city, Abuja, with northern and southern Nigeria, said Usman Ahmed, acting director of the State Emergency Management Agency. The agency was investigating the explosion, he said. “We have confirmed 35 dead and over a hundred injured,” Mr. Ahmed said. “Most of those that died rushed to the accident spot to see what was happening.” In June, at least nine people were killed in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, when a gasoline tanker caught fire and burned 53 other vehicles. Reuters

Denel Finally Removed from Indian Blacklist
India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has finally removed Denel from its list of aerospace and defence companies it barred from doing business in India, 13 years after the defence conglomerate was first blacklisted over allegations of corruption. The Indian MoD on 6 September said the blacklisting was lifted after a settlement agreement signed on 19 July, following a South African delegation visit to the Indian MoD between 16 and 19 July ahead of the BRICS Summit. The MoD in a statement said “it has been decided to remove the restrictions in dealing with procurement cases involving M/s Denel, South Africa, with immediate effect” after the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) could find no evidence of wrongdoing on Denel’s part and in line with the Settlement Agreement. “These instructions will be applicable to all the future procurement cases involving M/s Denel”.  DefenceWeb

Aid Group: More than 100 Migrants Die Off Libya Coast
More than 100 migrants in two rubber boats died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya in early September, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The international aid agency said in a report on its website Monday that most of the migrants were from Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. Survivors being treated by the aid group said one of the boats had engine failure, while the other sprang a leak and began to sink. “There were 165 adults and 20 children on board” the boat that deflated, an unidentified survivor told MSF.  VOA

A Tunisian Gravedigger Gives Migrants What They Were Deprived of in Life: Dignity
Chamseddine Marzoug placed a red toy car atop an unmarked grave. Under the small mound of yellow dirt lay the sea-battered bones of a child migrant. Next to it was the grave of a woman. “I found their bodies washed up on the beach, the child next to the woman,” Marzoug said, after spreading fresh flowers over the graves. “Perhaps, she was his mother. So out of consideration for her, I decided to bury them next to each other.” Even as the European Union tightens its rules to prevent migrants from reaching its borders, thousands keep boarding rickety boats in search of a better life. And many still drown in the Mediterranean Sea, their bloated bodies ending up on the shores of North Africa with no family members to claim them. Marzoug gives the migrants in death what they failed to receive in life: a recognition of their worth.  The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones