Africa Media Review for September 14, 2018

UN Renews Libya Mission, Delays Vote Indefinitely
The UN Security Council has extended the mandate for the UNSMIL mission in Libya by another year, until September 15, 2019, but did not endorse a December 10 date for elections that were agreed to in a Paris meeting four months ago. France stuck to its position pushing for elections in Libya by the end of the year on Thursday, a day after Italy and the UN backed government in Tripoli sowed doubts on the electoral calendar, citing a worsening security situation. The council unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution that called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held “as soon as possible, provided the necessary security, technical, legislative and political conditions are in place”. Four key leaders from Libya had agreed in May to hold the landmark polls on December 10 as part of a French-led plan to stabilise the war-torn North African country, despite ongoing violence and deep divisions.  Al Jazeera

France Pushes Year-End Vote for Libya despite Doubts in Italy, Tripoli
France stuck to its position pushing for elections in Libya by the end of the year on Thursday, a day after Italy and the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli sowed doubts on the electoral calendar, citing a worsening security situation. Former colonial power Italy and France have been competing for influence in war-torn Libya, rich in oil and gas and a staging post for people smugglers who have launched tens of thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean sea toward Europe in past years. Libya splintered following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and since 2014 has been divided between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.  Reuters

South Sudanese Cautiously Optimistic over Signed Peace Deal
South Sudan’s warring parties signed what they call a final peace agreement to end a civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. The deal, signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday, was witnessed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other regional heads of state. Juba town residents say they are cautiously optimistic peace will return to their country. Emmanuel Agele, who resides in Juba’s Gudele suburb, believes peace will prevail. “Surely it’s going to hold because everybody is tired of war, the war has changed the situation of the country completely, and I’m sure that everyone doesn’t want that kind of situation to go on whether on the side of the opposition or the government; all the people are now desperate,” Agele told South Sudan in Focus. Juba lawyer Buot Manyel Buot said he hopes the signing means the country’s leaders have learned from their mistakes.  South Sudan

MDC’s Chamisa Makes Sweeping Leadership Changes – Report
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has reportedly made sweeping changes to the leadership of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. According to NewsDay, Chamisa appointment Welshman Ncube and Morgan Komichi as vice-presidents, while one of his most senior lieutenants, Biti was given a deputy party chairperson seat. Ncube, and Biti were among the MDC founding members and served as secretary generals before an acrimonious fallout in 2005 and 2013 respectively with the party’s founding leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai. The two were, however, part of a group that contested the July 30 election as MDC Alliance under Chamisa’s leadership. Komichi took over from Lovemore Moyo who quit the party to form his own political party early this year, following the death of Tsvangirai. News 24

Canada’s on a New Kind of Mission in Mali — Mixing Peacekeeping with Counterterrorism
By joining the United Nations’ mission to Mali, the Canadian government is hoping to signal Canada’s return to the world of peacekeeping. But in some ways, the UN’s operation in the West African nation looks less like peacekeeping than counterterrorism. What began as a fight against Tuareg rebels in Mali’s north a few years ago has erupted into a full-blown insurgency, with as many as 20 different jihadist and ethnic rebel groups — some with ties to al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State — now battling for control. “Normally, a UN job would be two fighting parties. But the challenge in Mali is, you don’t have only two parties, you have a lot of parties. And sometimes, they’re working together, sometimes they are shooting at each other, so it’s very difficult to get an overall picture,” said German Lt.-Col. Michael Weckbach, a spokesperson with Germany’s UN operation.  Global News

Army, Boko Haram in Heavy Gun Battle in Damasak
Damasak Local Government Area of Borno state is currently under crossfire between Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram fighters. The battle is raging at the time of filing the report. A competent Militatry source, told NAN that the military and the terrorists were currently engaging in a heavy gun battle. He said that the insurgents stormed the town to attack a military formation in the evening but they met stiff resistance from troops. Reacting, Brig.-Gen. Texas Chukwu, who comfirmed the attack to NAN through text message, said the troops were dealing with the terrorists. Chukwu said that ” Troops of 145 Bn in Damasak, Borno State are engaging Boko Haram Terrorists who came to attack their location at about 6 p.m. this evening. The Nation

Zamfara: Nigeria’s Wild Northwest
It was a set-up and Buharin Daji walked right into it. The notorious cattle-rustling kingpin had arrived for a meeting in the northern Nigerian bush, ostensibly to settle differences with one of his senior lieutenants, but instead was shot dead. Daji’s murder in March has had consequences in an already deeply troubled Zamfara State, where years of building unrest have claimed thousands of lives and driven whole communities into destitution. This underdeveloped yet agriculturally rich region has been unstable for many years. What began as unresolved clashes between Hausa farmers and Fulani pastoralists over access to land has transformed into a lucrative illicit economy of banditry and cattle-rustling dominated by men like Daji. Zamfara is different from highly politicised farmer-herder clashes in other parts of Nigeria where largely Muslim pastoralists push south in search of pasture and meet increasingly populated Christian farming areas. Instead, Zamfara is overwhelmingly Muslim and, human rights groups argue, the violence here is fundamentally about the government’s abdication of its responsibility to protect its citizens. IRIN

Banners and Promises, but Few Doubt Who Will Win Polls in Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy
In eSwatini, one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world, voters will be going to the polls next week. The law is, however, vague about the extent to which parties can take part in elections, but one thing is clear: King Mswati III is likely to emerge as the big winner again in 2018. It’s a week to elections and lamp posts in eSwatini are quite bare. On the main roads in town, Elections and Boundaries Commission-funded banners and billboards encourage people to vote on Friday 21 September. The kingdom, with its 1.3 million people, is fresh from celebrating its 50 years of independence, as well as King Mswati III’s 50th birthday, and large billboards by the roadside feature the king in traditional gear. At informal markets, traders sell cloth in orange, red, blue and brown to commemmorate the 50-50 festivities. In the back windows of taxis there is some sign of an elections campaign on the move, as many display one or two small posters with pictures of candidates, the names of their constituencies and a promise or two.  Daily Maverick

Remains of Angolan Rebel Commander Are Repatriated
The remains of a former Angolan rebel commander were repatriated from South Africa on Thursday in an effort by Angolan President Joao Lourenco to reconcile with the opposition. South African and Angolan officials presided over a ceremony at the Waterkloof air force base for Arlindo Chenda Pena, who died of an illness in South Africa in 1998. Pena, known as “Ben Ben,” was a rebel commander in UNITA, whose Portuguese acronym means the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. He was also a nephew of UNITA chief Jonas Savimbi, whose death in a 2002 clash with government forces signaled the end of Angola’s civil war. In the mid-1990s, Pena had a senior post in Angola’s national army during a fragile peace process. UNITA became the main opposition party after the war.  AP

Republic of Congo Appeals Court Releases Opposition Leader
A Republic of Congo court has freed opposition leader Paulin Makaya, who had been under house arrest in Brazzaville since 2015. The criminal court of appeals on Thursday ordered him to be released. Makaya was sentenced to two years for inciting public disorder and insurrection. He was accused of complicity in a prison escape attempt that killed four people, including a policeman. Makaya was initially detained after organizing a peaceful march against a constitutional reform that allowed President Denis Sassou Nguesso — in power for more than 30 years — to run for another term. Amnesty International welcomed the ruling, calling for the release of other dissidents.  AP

Violence in Ethiopian Capital Ahead of Opposition Group’s Return
Clashes broke out in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Thursday ahead of the return of an opposition group popular with the country’s largest ethnicity the Oromo. The violence appeared linked to the homecoming for the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) as part of a sweeping reform agenda launched by new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. An AFP journalist said federal police clashed with men armed with sticks and stones, while a passenger bus appeared to have been pelted with rocks near the Piazza neighbourhood. On Twitter, the British embassy warned of violence in Piazza and also in the Karl Square area, while the United States embassy said in a statement it was “monitoring reports of protest and unrest throughout Addis Ababa, with police deployed in response”.  AFP

Eritrea Seeks Regional Role as It Casts Off Hermit-State Tag
Eritrea is casting off its reputation as a hermit state and pushing to become a key player in one of the world’s most strategically important regions. Decades of eschewing international cooperation by the Red Sea state are giving way to renewed ties. Relations with Ethiopia, its sworn enemy since a border war at the end of last century, are blossoming after the two states agreed a rapprochement in July. Somalia signed a trilateral cooperation accord with the two countries that includes an initiative to seek peace with Djibouti, which in turn has welcomed the move. The effects of the improving bonds are rippling beyond the Horn of Africa, drawing the attention of countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. A quarter of a century after it won independence from Ethiopia, Eritrea is welcoming the interest. “Eritrea is not an island but can thrive in an environment of regional cooperation,” Yemane Gebreab, the top political adviser to President Isaias Afwerki, said in an interview in the capital, Asmara. Bloomberg

US Launches Somalia Strike after Troops Come under Attack
U.S. forces in Somalia came under attack earlier this week, prompting a defensive air strike against a militant group aligned with al-Qaida, U.S. Africa Command said Thursday. It said that U.S. troops were on a mission on Tuesday with Somali partner forces about 40 miles west of Mogadishu when they came under attack. No U.S. military personnel were injured in the clash, but one member of the partner force was killed and two others were injured. “The U.S. airstrike was conducted against an enemy fighting position in self-defense after U.S. and partner forces came under attack,” AFRICOM said in a statement. Two militants were killed and one was wounded in the strike, the statement said. The Al-Shabab militant group has waged its insurgency in Somalia since 2006. The militants, who have sworn allegiance to al-Qaida, also have carried out attacks in Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda. The African Union has deployed as many as 22,000 troops and policemen since 2007 to try and help stabilize the nation.  Stars and Stripes

US-Assisted Raid on Somali Ex-Leader’s Home Blamed on Bad Intelligence
US and Somali forces who raided the family home of a former president and detained three teenagers may have been acting on misleading intelligence, according to officials in the unstable east African country. Somali soldiers accompanied by at least one foreigner broke into the house of Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, a revered nationalist leader and former president who died in 2007, in the town of Janale, around 100km south-west of Mogadishu late on Friday. Members of Daar’s family told the Guardian they were deeply shocked by the raid, which targeted Islamic militants from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab organisation. The incident will raise further concerns about the use of special forces troops to fight extremism in Africa. Last year the deaths of four American soldiers in an ambush in Niger prompted anger and led to questions over the costs of such deployments.  The Guardian

Egypt’s New ‘Cyber Crime’ Law Accused of Curbing Online Freedoms
A new bill to fight cyber crime in Egypt was signed into law by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on August 19. While it may help to provide a legal framework to govern an area that was lacking in regulation, the legislation is being criticised for also allowing authorities to legally crack down on online freedoms. Our correspondents report.  France 24

Kenya in Major Police Reforms
President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday announced radical changes in the police force that he said should grant Kenya “a new service”. The reforms deal with command, uniform, housing and training in the Administration Police (AP), Kenya Police and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). The changes include integration of functions, rebranding, renaming and scrapping of some positions.

21 More Bodies Wash up as Migrants Try to Reach Spain
The bodies of 21 people thought to be migrants trying to reach Spain have washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean this month, the U.N. migration agency said in statement on Friday. The latest deaths bring the total of Mediterranean migrant deaths this year to 1,586, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. The remains of nine sub-Saharan Africans were found on Sept. 4 on a beach near Marsa Ben M’Hidi, in Algeria’s province of Tlemcen, about 200 km from the Spanish coast. The next day, four more bodies were recovered on the neighboring beach of Saïdia, across the border in Morocco. On Sept. 10, the remains of six migrants including two women and one child washed ashore at Driouch, near Nador, Morocco, IOM said. Reuters

Why Activists Aren’t Happy with Morocco’s New Anti-Sexual-Harassment Laws
Late last month, a teenage girl in Morocco told local media she had been violently kidnapped, raped and branded by a gang. The incident was covered around the world and has sparked growing concerns about violence against women in Morocco. Now the Moroccan government is hailing an anti-violence-against-women law that took effect this week after five years of efforts to get it passed. The law offers a variety of protections for women who report harassment or violence in Morocco, bans forced marriage, and mandates fines and even short prison sentences for people convicted of sexual harassment in a public space. It is the first time that women in Morocco will have legal pathways to seek justice from such behavior. [,,,] But critics say the long-sought-after law still falls short of giving women the protections they need. “The law that was adopted yesterday disappointed us enormously,” said Nouzha Skalli, the former minister for women’s affairs, to Jeune Afrique magazine after the bill passed in February. “It only modified some articles of the penal code and can’t be considered like a great breakthrough in the struggle against violence against women.” The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones