Africa Media Review for September 17, 2018

Rwanda Releases 2,000 Prisoners, including Opposition Leader Victoire Ingabire
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, musician Kizito Mihigo and 2,138 others were released in a surprise move on Saturday, following a cabinet meeting on Friday when a presidential “mercy” order was approved. Both Ingabire and Mihigo had made requests for clemency in June. “I thank the president who gave me this liberation,” Ingabire said as she left Mageragere Prison in Kigali. “This is the beginning of the opening of political space in Rwanda, I hope so.” Ingabire called on  President Paul Kagame: “To release other political prisoners.” Hundreds more are believed to be behind bars, including Diane Rwigara whose attempt to stand in last year’s elections was thwarted over allegations she forged signatures on her nomination papers. She was then charged with inciting insurrection against the state. Deutsche Welle

Ethiopia, Eritrea Sign Agreement in Saudi Arabia
Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an agreement at a summit in Saudi Arabia Sunday, further bolstering relations between the two countries which had been at war for twenty years. The details of Sunday’s specific agreement, signed in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, were not immediately made clear. “The Jeddah Peace Agreement signed today before the CTHM is a historic milestone for the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea and will contribute to strengthening security and stability in the region at large,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a Tweet. VOA

Report: Ethiopian Airstrike Kills 70 Al-Shabab in Somalia
A new report says Ethiopia’s air force has killed about 70 al-Shabab extremists in an airstrike in neighboring Somalia. The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate says the airstrike was meant to thwart an al-Shabab attack on an Ethiopian contingent of the multinational African Union force. The report says “two vehicles packed with weapons” were destroyed. It does not say where or when the airstrike occurred. It cites Brig. Gen. Yilma Merdassa with the air force as saying “we achieved 100 percent of our plans.” There is no immediate comment from Somali authorities. Kenya, another member of the AU mission, also has carried out airstrikes against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, while the U.S. military has carried out at least 22 airstrikes against the extremist group this year. AP

Somalia in a Crisis as Regions Pull Away from Mogadishu
Somalia could be split into six regions after five regional federal states announced that they would no longer co-operate with Mogadishu until their grievances about insecurity, sharing of natural resources and the interference by the central government in their affairs are addressed. Following the August 8 announcement, Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo has called a National Security Council meeting on September 17 which is expected to deliberate on the future of the federal nation. It was not clear at the time of going to press whether the five states will attend the meeting. Somali analysts said the decision by the five regional presidents — Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas (Puntland), Ahmed Duale Gelle (Galmudug), Mohamed Abdi Ware (Hirshabelle), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden (South West State) and Sheikh Ahmed Madobe of Jubbaland — could embolden Al Shabaab and negate the gains made by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) with the support of the international community.  The East African

Exiled Leader of Ethiopian Rebel Group Returns Home amid Reforms
The exiled leadership of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which had previously been declared a terrorist movement by the Ethiopian government, returned home on Saturday, marking another step in political reforms driven by the new prime minister. The OLF had fought an insurgency for self-determination for the Oromo – the Horn of Africa country’s largest ethnic group – for over three decades. The group was initially part of a transitional government set up in 1991 by rebels that drove dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam from power, but they soon fell out with the coalition. On Saturday, OLF leader Dawud Ibsa arrived in the capital Addis Ababa aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane. Tens of thousands of supporters attended a rally celebrating his return from neighbouring Eritrea, where he has lived in exile. Reuters

At Least Eight Killed in Burkina Faso Twin Attacks
At least eight civilians have been killed in twin attacks in eastern Burkina Faso, a poor west African country where jihadists have been gaining ground in recent months, local authorities said Saturday. “Two terror attacks were carried out in the villages of Diabiga and Kompienbiga” overnight in eastern Kompienga province, claiming at least eight lives, the regional governor said in a statement. An unnamed security source told AFP that one of the attacks had targeted the home of a religious leader who was killed along with four other people. Meanwhile, “three people belonging to the same family were killed and another two injured by suspected jihadists on mopeds,” according to another security source. AFP

Mass Exodus Underway From Cameroon’s English-Speaking Regions
People fleeing the violence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon are going through systematic searches before being allowed to enter the French-speaking regions of the central African state after the government claimed fighters were trying to enter with weapons. It is very busy here at the Mile 17 bus station in the English speaking Southwestern town of Buea, where at least 30 transport buses leave daily for either the French-speaking town of Douala, or Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde. Many people remain at the station, some with their mattresses, dresses and kitchen utensils, expecting more buses to arrive and transport them. Gabriel Mbinkar, an official of a bus agency says they have doubled fares from $8 to $16 because their vehicles return from the French-speaking towns empty, since many people are fleeing English-speaking towns and villages and no one is coming in.  VOA

Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends PM as Rift Deepens
Tunisia’s ruling party has suspended Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in the latest escalation of a row with the president’s son that has paralysed key decisions on the troubled economy. The North African country is often portrayed as the lone success story of the Arab Spring of 2011 but more than seven years after the ouster of longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali it is still battling high inflation and unemployment and sometimes violent social unrest. Nidaa Tounes announced Chahed’s referral to its disciplinary committee late on Friday after he delivered a stinging attack on infighting within the party that he said was restricting his government’s ability to revive the economy. “Secondary political conflicts.. have disrupted the work of the government, holding it back and blocking the reform process and the decisions necessary to achieve economic growth,” he said in a televised address to a policy conference.  AFP

Fighting Breaks Out in South Sudan 2 Days after Peace Deal
Fighting has broken out in South Sudan two days after the warring sides signed what the government called a “final final” peace agreement to end the civil war. Each side blames the other for the attacks. Clashes erupted Friday morning in Central Equatoria state when government troops stormed bases in Lainya and Kajo Keji counties, opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said. “That means the regime is not serious about the peace,” Gabriel told The Associated Press. The government called the accusations “propaganda.” The attacks were instigated by opposition forces that emerged from hiding along the Ugandan border and were trying to reclaim territory, spokesman Lul Roai Koang told the AP. An investigation into the reports is underway, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the body charged with monitoring the cease-fire, said on Twitter. It reminded all parties of their commitment to refrain from hostilities. The body reports to the East African regional bloc that negotiated the peace deal. AP

Burundi Threatens to Quit UN Human Rights Body
Burundi threatened Friday to quit the UN Human Rights Council over perceived “politicisation” following a report pointing to crimes against humanity in the country. A presidential source made the warning as a government delegation arrived in Geneva, to make a presentation on Monday, following the publication last month of a UN report into human rights in the landlocked east African nation. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” the Burundi government was committing crimes against humanity, warning these and other serious rights violations were continuing unabated, in part due to hate speech by President Pierre Nkurunziza. UN investigators found many violations were committed by the intelligence services, police and army as well as the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.  AFP

South Sudan Opposition Alliance Divided over New Peace Deal
South Sudan’s Opposition Alliance (SSOA), an umbrella of nine opposition entities, is split between the faction that signed the final peace agreement and those who insist the deal failed to address their concerns. A faction of the opposition alliance rejected the peace agreement signed in Addis Ababa on Wednesday saying it failed to address the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan. In a statement issued on 14 September and seen by Radio Tamazuj, the new faction of the opposition alliance said: “As the final text of the signed agreement shows, the agreement is not for power sharing between the peoples of South Sudan. Far from it, it has remained a power sharing agreement between elites and for the elites, namely, the SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO, and a compromised faction of SSOA, SPLM-FDs and the OPP.”  Radio Tamazuj

U.S. Drops Charges against Ex-Senegal Official in Chinese Energy Bribery Case
Federal prosecutors have quietly dismissed charges against a former Senegalese government official who had been accused of conspiring with a representative of a large Chinese energy company in a bribery case.In a one-page filing, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Friday that they were withdrawing charges against the former official, Cheikh Gadio, but offered no explanation for the decision. Dismissals of this sort often come with agreements not to prosecute in return for testimony.The dismissal of the criminal complaint against Mr. Gadio, who had served as Senegal’s foreign minister, came roughly 10 months after he was arrested along with Chi Ping Patrick Ho in a high-profile foreign bribery case that could shed light on the operations of CEFC China Energy, an energy conglomerate with close ties to the Chinese government.The authorities have said Mr. Ho met Mr. Gadio at the United Nations in 2014 and later paid him $400,000 for helping to use his influence with the president of Chad to secure oil rights for the Chinese energy company in the African country. Mr. Ho, who worked for a Hong Kong research organization that got financing from CEFC, is separately charged with paying bribes to officials in Uganda to secure similar oil deals for the energy company. The New York Times

Low Turnout Marks Final Round of Voting in Mauritania
A low turnout marked the second round of legislative and local elections in Mauritania, a frontline state in the fight against extremists, seven months before key presidential polls in the West African country. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s Union for the Republic has already won 67 of the 157 seats in parliament at the first round of voting on September 1. The Islamist Tewassoul party was in second place with 14 seats from the first round. Tewassoul was one of several opposition parties to boycott the previous polls in 2013, but a record 98 parties took part this time. There were another 22 parliamentary seats up for grabs on Saturday with the ruling party needing 12 more to secure an absolute majority in parliament.  Al Arabiya

Bobi Wine to Return to Uganda on Monday
Ugandan reggae star-turned-resistance leader Bobi Wine will return to Uganda on Monday, he told the Mail & Guardian. “I’ll be going back home on Monday. Of course I’m worried, but that’s my home, that’s where my family is, that’s where all my people are. I’m worried but 44-million Ugandans are also worried. That’s where home is,” he said in an interview. He is aware of the risks involved. “You can expect anything from Uganda. Because looking back in history many freedom fighters have been rudely arrested upon arrivals and I am not any different, so there is anything to expect.” Wine – whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu – left Uganda in early September to seek medical attention in the United States, after sustaining severe injuries while in detention at a military barracks. “I’m getting better,” he said.  Mail and Guardian

France May Have Apologised for Atrocities in Algeria, but the War Still Casts a Long Shadow
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, wrestled with the demons of his country’s colonial past this week by acknowledging that the country carried out systematic torture during the Algerian war of independence. After six decades of secrecy and denials, it was a historic first for a country that long refused to even admit that the brutal conflict – in which Algeria says 1.5 million died – was indeed a “war”. Yet political reaction to the avowal and claims he has unnecessarily re-opened painful wounds suggest these remain deep and exert a pervasive influence in France even today. Mr Macron, who at 40 is the first French president born after the war, went further than any of his predecessors in recognising the scale of abuse by French troops during the 1954-62 war. The Telegraph

Djibouti Emerges as Arms Trafficking Hub for Horn of Africa
The rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea has repercussions that go beyond diplomacy on the Horn of Africa. A recent investigation shows that while Eritrea is no longer isolated, Djibouti is emerging as the new regional arms trafficking hub. The small strategically located state acts as a transit location for weapons trafficking between Yemen and northern Somalia through the AMISOM mission among others actors in the trade. The findings are the result of an investigation carried out by EXX Africa (specialist intelligence company that delivers forecasts on African political and economic risk to businesses) in illegal weapons trade on the Horn of Africa. RFI

Brazil Police Seize $16M from Equatorial Guinea’s VP Delegation
More than $16m (£12m) in cash and luxury watches were seized at an airport in Brazil in the luggage of a delegation accompanying the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, local media has reported. Teodorin Nguema Obiang, vice-president of Equatorial Guinea and son of its longtime president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, arrived on Friday on a private plane at Viracopos airport near São Paulo as part of an 11-person delegation. O Estado de São Paulo reported on its website that federal police found $1.5m in cash in one bag and watches worth an estimated $15m in another. TV network Globo said Obiang was the only member of the delegation who had diplomatic immunity as the group was not on an official mission. The bags of other delegation members were inspected as Obiang waited outside in a car, it said.  The Guardian

Nigerian Finance Minister Adeosun Resigns over Forgery Claims
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, who said she stepped down over allegations of using a forged certificate to avoid participation in the country’s mandatory one-year national youth service scheme. Adeosun, a top cabinet member and a former investment banker who promoted the government’s policy to boost growth following a recent recession, said in a statement that she believed she was exempt from the service scheme but felt bound to resign because of the administration’s “focus on integrity.” Allegations that Adeosun had used a forged exemption certificate to avoid participation in the youth service scheme surfaced in recent months in the Nigerian media. Adeosun did not comment on the claims initially, prompting criticism from her opponents. Reuters

Egypt Arrests Ex-President Mubarak’s Sons for Embezzlement
The two sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have been arrested for alleged stock market manipulation. Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are accused of breaking stock market and central bank rules, state news agency Mena reported. The case against them began in 2012, after their father was deposed the year before. The pair had been out on bail for the past three years. The brothers – who deny any wrongdoing – will appear in court on 20 October. The Cairo court also ordered the arrest of three others, and the defendants collectively face charges of embezzling 2bn Egyptian pound ($115m; £88m). BBC

Morocco Gets $275 Million Aid from EU as Illegal Migration Rises
The European Union agreed to provide Morocco with $275 million in aid to help with basic services and support job creation to stem a rising flow of illegal migrants from the north African kingdom. Agreements covering the funding were signed by visiting EU’s Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Morocco’s Finance Minister Mohamed Benchaaboun, state-run MAP reported. Morocco has in recent weeks repeatedly asked the EU, both its main trade partner and top aid provider, for additional help to stop illegal migration. Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi on Thursday told reporters that Morocco thwarted 65,000 attempts by illegal migrants to enter Europe in 2017. Bloomberg

The IMF Comeback in Africa
The rising debt that is threatening to bankrupt several countries on the African continent has sparked the renewed interest in the organization that many had wanted no more to do with. At the end of August, oil-rich Angola in southern Africa turned to the IMF in Washington. President Joao Lourenco is hoping that in addition to emergency loans, it will also provide support for economic reforms. Nine more African countries have sought IMF funding, including Mozambique, Ghana and the Republic of Congo. The IMF’s Africa programme amounted to $7.2 billion (€ 8.3 billion) in 2017 – four times that in 2014. The organization’s strengthened engagement in Africa is reminiscent of Africa’s last debt crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time several countries risked defaulting on debt and the IMF was called upon to extend emergency credit. It came with strict terms: In exchange, the IMF and its partner organization, the World Bank, called on the recipients to implement economic and political reforms.  Deutsche Welle

Off Tanzania, in One of the World’s Richest Seas, Why Is the Catch Getting Smaller?
[…] According to global species database FishBase, Tanzania has some of the world’s richest fishing grounds, with more than 1,700 species recorded in its waters. Of these, 47 are commercially important, 69 are found only in deep water and 171 are threatened. With such bountiful resources, Tanzania should not need to import fish, but the government, regional agencies and the UN’s food and agriculture organisation say overfishing is rampant, depleting stocks, raising prices and threatening food security. […] “It is a disgrace for a country like Tanzania to import fish, while there are plenty of species that could meet fish demand in the country,” says Abduallah Ulega, the deputy minister for livestock and fisheries. Despite the number of fishing boats increasing by nearly 20% in five years to 66,000, the country recorded a sharp decline in catches, from 390,000 tonnes a year on average, to 360,000 tonnes in 2017, says the government. In 2016, Tanzania’s total demand was about 730,000 tonnes of fish, of which about 50% came from salt water and the rest from Lake Victoria and the growing number of fish farms. The shortfall is made up with fish from China and elsewhere.  The Guardian