Africa Media Review for September 16, 2019

West African Leaders Pledge $1Bn to Fight Armed Groups
West African leaders meeting in Burkina Faso have announced a one-billion-dollar plan to combat rising insecurity in the Sahel region. The pledge, to be funded from 2020 to 2024, was announced on Saturday at the end of the Economic Community Summit of West African States (ECOWAS) in Ouagadougou, where members of the bloc were joined by Mauritania and Chad. ECOWAS had decided to mobilise “the financial resources of up to a billion dollars for the fight against terrorism”, said Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou. The money, paid into a common fund, would help reinforce the military operations of the countries involved – and those of the joint military operations in the region. Full details of the plan would be presented to the next ECOWAS summit in December. Al Jazeera

Poll: Outsider, Jailed Tycoon Top Tunisian Presidential Vote
A jailed media magnate and an independent outsider appeared likely to face off in Tunisia’s presidential runoff, after a roller coaster first-round race in the country that unleashed the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings. Official preliminary results are expected in the next couple of days from Sunday’s voting, in which corruption, unemployment and Islamic extremism were among key campaign issues. A second-round vote is expected by Oct. 13, the electoral commission chief said. An exit poll by agency Sigma Conseil forecast what would be a surprising result: A top showing of 19.5% for independent Rais Saied, a constitutional law professor without a party. Tycoon Nabil Karoui, jailed since last month on money laundering and tax evasion charges, was predicted to come in second with 15.5%, according to the poll. … More than 100,000 security forces were on guard Sunday as 7 million registered voters were called to the polls. Military surveillance was especially tight in border regions near Algeria and Libya where Islamist extremists are active. AP

Algeria Announces Dec. 12 for Presidential Election
Algeria’s interim leader has announced Dec. 12 as the date for the presidential election, in line with the army chief’s demand to fill the vacancy left when longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika was pushed from office more than five months ago. Abdelkader Bensallah during an address to the North African nation Sunday night called on citizens to make Dec. 12 “an historic day to make the dreams of our people concrete.” The powerful army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, has been pushing for elections as quickly as possible and even named Sunday as the date to announce them. A pro-democracy movement holding weekly protests since February wants time to organize elections that ensure all traces of the old system are gone. … Police, meanwhile, have increasingly cracked down on protesters. More than two dozen arrested during Friday’s march were jailed, their lawyers told the TSA online media outlet. AP

Fresh Fighting Kills 23 in Central African Republic
Fighting between rival armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) has left at least 23 people dead and scores wounded, according to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA). The clashes between the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic and the Movement of Central African Freedom Fighters for Justice took place in Birao, near the Sudanese border. The two groups, who also fought in Birao earlier this month, were among 14 armed groups that in February signed a peace deal with the government of the conflict-ravaged country. In a statement late on Saturday, MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said “the situation remains tense but there is no more fighting”. Al Jazeera

Somalia: Al-Shabab Attacks Kill 17
The al-Shabab militant group launched a series of attacks since Saturday that led to the death of at least 17 people in Somalia. Lower Shabelle region officials told VOA Somali that the militants attacked the town of Qoryoley late Saturday using rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing nine people. The town’s Mayor Sayid Ali Ibrajim told VOA that an RPG fired by the militants caused most of the casualties. Somali government forces with support from African Union forces, who are based outside the town, repelled the attack, according to officials. Some of the residents in Qoryoley alleged that heavy weapons fired by AU troops caused some of the civilians casualties. The Governor of the region Ibrahim Adan Najah told VOA Somali that they are investigating the allegations. AMISOM forces did not immediately respond to the allegations. VOA

Boko Haram Is Back. With Better Drones.
Nigeria’s war against the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram was supposed to be over by now. President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, was re-elected earlier this year after boasting about his progress battling Boko Harm. He has repeatedly declared that the group has been “technically defeated.” On Tuesday, the president conceded that “its members are still a nuisance.” A full decade into the war, however, Boko Haram militants are still roaming the countryside with impunity. Their fighters now have more sophisticated drones than the military and are well-armed after successful raids on military brigades, according to local politicians and security analysts. Militants control four of the 10 zones in northern Borno State, near Lake Chad, according to security analysts and a federal official. The New York Times

Nigerian Children Who Escaped Boko Haram Say They Faced Another “Prison”: Military Detention
Fatima, now 18, is among thousands of children detained in recent years by Nigerian armed forces – including many who had fled extremist captors – amid a decade-long conflict that often turns victims into suspects. Defense officials deny claims of abusive confinement and say they must vet everyone who emerges from the restive countryside: Boko Haram and other Islamist groups in Nigeria’s northeast are known for sending children to carry out attacks. But human rights advocates say conditions in the holding centers are so appalling they thwart the military’s goal of protecting – and deradicalizing – young people by breeding resentment of the government. In interviews with The Washington Post, seven children who spent time in the Giwa barracks near the city of Maiduguri, as well as other military facilities, said they were allowed no outside contact. The Washington Post

Calls for Release of Separatists, Political Prisoners Intensify in Cameroon
Consultations have begun in Cameroon ahead of a national dialogue ordered by president Paul Biya. Civil society groups and opposition political parties are calling for the unconditional release of Anglophone separatist leaders and other political prisoners before discussions begin. Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute began consultations with political party leaders, civil society activists, opinion leaders, traditional rulers, lawmakers and clergy on September 11, one day after President Paul Biya called for a national dialogue to solve the separatist crisis rocking his country. Prince Ekosso, president of the United Socialist Democratic Party, says among the recommendations they are strongly making for the announced dialogue to be successful are the unconditional release of all people he says are illegally held in prisons and detention centers and an end to the separatist war in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. VOA

Gambian Ex-president Yahya Jammeh to Face Prosecution for Corruption
The Gambian government on Friday said it intended to prosecute former president Yahya Jammeh on allegations of theft and corruption. Jammeh, who ruled the tiny West African state for 22 years, fled the country in January 2017 after losing presidential elections and initially refusing to step down. The former president acquired more than 280 private and commercial properties, islands, forest parks, wetland and wildlife reserves during his time in power, according to a commission of inquiry cited by Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou. Tambadou described it as an “unconscionable land grab”. Jammeh came to power in a bloodless coup in July 1994 and was repeatedly re-elected in disputed circumstances until defeated in December 2016 by the relatively unknown Barrow. After the other West African states intervened, Jammeh bolted from his country and found refuge in Equatorial Guinea. AFP

South Africa: A State of Violence
The 2018/19 crime statistics paint a horrific picture of South Africa. Over two million crimes are reported every year to more than 1 000 police stations across the country. The numbers are colossal and with every crime there is a victim – most South Africans have been victims. The M&G Data Desk travelled to three corners of the country to uncover the reasons behind this violence and speak to those left in the aftermath. We analysed the past decade of SAPS crime statistics to find out where rape, murder, and drug-related crimes were reported the most. The data paints a very violent picture in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. But the data also points to small, quiet areas in Limpopo with a serious problem in violating women and children. The Mail & Guardian

Ramaphosa Deploys Special Envoys to African Heads of State over Tensions in South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa is sending special envoys to deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of state and governments across Africa amid tensions and violence in the country. “The special envoys will deliver a message from President Ramaphosa regarding the incidents of violence that recently erupted in some parts South Africa, which have manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property,” spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statement on Sunday. The team, which includes Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mmabolo, and Dr Khulu Mbatha are expected to visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. This comes after widespread tensions across the country, in which people have looted both foreign and South African-owned shops while calling for an end to drug syndicates, News24 reported. According to the Presidency, the special envoys are tasked with “reassuring fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity”. News24

Zimbabwean Doctors Protest against Abduction of Union Leader
A group of Zimbabwean doctors marched at the country’s biggest hospital Sunday, demanding the release of one of their leaders who they say was abducted after calling for a pay strike. Several government critics, including a comedian and a teachers’ union leader, have in recent weeks been abducted from their homes, tortured and warned by suspected state security agents to back off from anti-government actions. The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said its president Peter Magombeyi was abducted Saturday, days after receiving threats on his phone. It was reported as the world’s attention is on the southern African nation and the upcoming burial of former leader Robert Mugabe. … Magombeyi had complained of the poor state of Zimbabwe’s hospitals and staffers’ low salaries in interviews with several foreign journalists. The doctors, who earn less than $40 a month, are demanding a review of their salaries and allowances. AP

US Sanctions Uganda’s Ex-police Chief Kayihura for Rights Abuses
The US Treasury on Friday announced sanctions on Uganda’s former Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, for alleged role in gross violations of human rights and corruption. “We are targeting Uganda’s former Police Inspector General Kale Kayihura for using corruption and bribery to strengthen his political position, as units under his command committed serious human rights abuses,” Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement. Gen Kayihura,whose full name is Edward Kalekezi Kayihura Muhwezi, is under house arrest in Uganda for committing crimes against the state. He was the Inspector-General of Police between 2005 and March 2018 where he was controversially replaced and then detained in June last year. … For 13 years, Kayihura was always the face of the police, authorising detention of political adversaries, clamping down on protesters as well as barring right to assembly. The East African

Moroccan Journalist on Trial for an Abortion She Says She Never Had
This weekend was supposed to have been a celebration of love. The invitations had been sent, the flowers and cake ordered. Family and friends were getting ready to witness the wedding of a young Moroccan political reporter and a Sudanese university professor she met at a human-rights conference. Instead, Hajar Raissouni and Rifaat al-Amin were arrested on Aug. 31 as they were leaving a gynecologist’s office in the Moroccan capital Rabat. They were charged with having sex outside of marriage and an abortion, both crimes in the North African kingdom. The arrests outraged many in Morocco who saw it as another example of the government persecuting critical journalists and activists by charging them with moral crimes. The New York Times

Two Commanders Allied to Libya’s Haftar Killed in Strike Near Tripoli
Two commanders of the eastern Libyan forces trying to take the capital Tripoli from the internationally-recognised government were killed late on Friday in a drone strike, officials said. The strike is a blow to Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA), which in April launched a campaign to take Tripoli. So far that offensive has not breached the city’s southern defences. The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli. The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders – Mohsen al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade – died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed. Reuters

Egypt Resumes Nile Dam Talks with Ethiopia, Sudan
Egypt’s foreign minister said Cairo had resumed talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over a $4 billion dam Addis Ababa is building on the Nile which had been suspended for over a year. The three countries’ irrigation ministers met in Cairo on Sunday to resume negotiations over filling and operating the dam, which Egypt sees as a threat to its water supplies. Egypt fears the dam will restrict Nile River flows, the economic lifeblood of all three countries, from Ethiopia’s highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to Egyptian fields and reservoirs. Sunday’s meeting came “after a halt of about a year and three months, a period exceeding what was planned”, state news agency MENA cited Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as saying. Reuters

Sudan Interim Constitution Will Only Be Amended after Peace Signed with All Rebels
The Constitutional Declaration will not be amended to include representatives of the armed groups in the transitional government before reaching a comprehensive peace agreement, said a leading figure in the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) on Sunday. On 11 September 2019, a Sudanese government and the armed groups signed “The Juba Declaration of Confidence Building Measures and the Preparation for Negotiation”. Regarding the demand of the armed groups to participate in the transitional administration, the government delegation pledged to give its response in the next meeting. However, FFC official Munzir Abul Maali told Sudan Tribune that reopening of the constitutional document is tied to achieving peace with all armed movements and not some of them. Sudan Tribune

Somaliland UAE Military Base to Be Turned into Civilian Airport
The United Arab Emirates no longer plans to establish a military airport in Somaliland and the facility currently being built will be turned into a civilian airport, the region’s president said. Somaliland said last year that the UAE would train military in the semi-autonomous region, part of a deal to host a UAE base in the region. “The Berbera airport which was being built by the UAE and designed to be a military base will become a public airport for civilians,” Muse Bihi Abdi said on Saturday. … Berbera is less than 300 km (190 miles) south of war-torn Yemen, where UAE troops have been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group since 2015 as part of a Saudi-backed coalition. The UAE, concerned about rising tensions with Iran and Western criticism of the Yemen war, in June scaled down its military presence there. Reuters

A Hard Lesson for Migrants Who Give Up: There May Be No Welcome Mat Back Home
The experiences of Mr. Diop and Mr. Guindo are far from unusual. Researchers estimate that one out of four people who migrate in search of opportunity return to their country of birth – some by choice, others not. Just since 2017, the International Organization for Migration has helped more than 62,000 migrants return to 13 countries in West and Central Africa, transported on charter flights and buses arranged by the agency. Many said they wanted to go home after being detained in abysmal conditions in Libyan detention centers, like one in Tajoura that was bombed in early July, killing more than 50 people. Once back, they are offered help reintegrating, including temporary shelter, pocket money, job training and psychological counseling. “These people left for a reason, and if you don’t address that, they will keep dying at sea,” said Florence Kim, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, which runs the program. The New York Times

G5 Sahel Heads of State Laud “Desert to Power Initiative”
In a bid to make availability of power energy to the Sahel regions, the G5 Sahel heads of state at a Summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, gave strong support to Desert to Power, an Africa Development Bank-led initiative. The summit, “Harnessing solar energy for the socio-economic development of the G5 Sahel countries” came on the heels of a high-level technical meeting attended by the region’s energy ministers, and development partners including the World Bank, and regional institutions such as the West African Economic and Monetary Union and ECOWAS. … The goal of Desert to Power is to propel the Sahelian economies to higher growth and prosperity. Adesina outlined the initiative’s ambitions of providing 10,000 MW of solar-generated electricity to 250 million people across the Sahel. Africa News

Vanilla Boom Is Making People Crazy Rich – and Jittery – in Madagascar
80% of the world’s vanilla is grown by small holding farmers in the hilly forests of Madagascar. For a generation the price languished below $50 a kilo (about 2.2 pounds) but in 2015 it began to rise at an extraordinary rate and for the past four years has hovered at ten times that amount, between $400 and $600 a kilo. The rise is partly due to increased global demand, partly due to decreased supply, as storms have destroyed many vines, and a lot to do with speculation. Local middle men have rushed into the market, leveraging deals between village growers and the international flavor companies that distill the cured beans into extract and sell it to the big multinationals like Mars, Archer Daniels Midland and Unilever. In the meantime farmers are getting rich, richer than their wildest dreams. … But there were army checkpoints on the road and vanilla warehouses are heavily guarded. Cash has brought opportunity but also crime. NPR