Africa Media Review for September 18, 2018

Eritrea, Djibouti Leaders Hold Historic Meeting in Saudi Arabia
The historic meeting between the leaders of Eritrea and Djibouti on Monday ‘opens a new page to promote peace and stability in the region’, the Saudi Arabia foreign minister, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said. Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki met his Djibouti counterpart, Ismail Omar Guelleh met in Saudi Arabia, one day after the Gulf nation recognised the peace efforts of Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed. Djibouti and Eritrea, normalised relations two weeks ago after a delegation of Eritrean, Somali and Ethiopian foreign ministers initiated dialogue to resolve a long-standing border dispute.  Africa News

Protests Paralyse Ethiopia Capital after Violence Kills 23
Demonstrators flooded the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday, blocking roads and shutting businesses in an explosion of anger following the killing of 23 people on the city’s outskirts over the weekend. The unrest in Ethiopia’s largest city was the latest instance of ethnic violence to challenge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has undertaken aggressive reforms including reigning in the security forces since his April inauguration. Police appeared spread thin as groups of mostly young men waving protest flags and tree branches jogged through neighbourhoods across the city to denounce the weekend killings in the Burayu suburb. Ethiopia’s police chief, Zeynu Jemal, said officers had shot dead five people on Monday, describing them as “dangerous vagrants” who attempted to loot property and steal police weapons. AFP

Can Ethiopia’s New Leader, a Political Insider, Change His Country from the Inside Out?
On the morning of his first day of school, when he was 7, Abiy Ahmed heard his mother whispering into his ears.“‘You’re unique, my son,’” he recalled her saying. “You will end up in the palace. So when you go to school, bear in mind that one day you’ll be someone which will serve the nation.”With that preposterous prophesy for a boy growing up in a house without electricity in a tiny Ethiopian village, she kissed him on his head and sent him on his way. Mr. Abiy, now 42, not only ended up in the prime minister’s palace. He has also become the most closely watched leader in Africa: a man who says he wants to to change his country from the inside out — and fast. After taking office in March, he officially ended two decades of hostilities with Ethiopia’s longtime rival and neighbor, Eritrea. Beyond that, he started loosening a tightly controlled state-run economy, pledged multiparty elections in a country long known for jailing dissidents, and began wooing the government’s most strident critics: members of the Ethiopian diaspora, who have long organized insurgencies from afar. Leaders of a previously outlawed opposition group returned to the capital on Saturday.The task is enormous. Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation, with more than 100 million people, in a part of the continent where world powers are scrambling for influence.  The New York Times

ICC Sentences Congo’s Bemba for Witness Tampering, Says Time Served
The International Criminal Court on Monday sentenced Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba to a 300,000 euro fine and a 12-month sentence for witness tampering, but his sentence was reduced to zero due to time served. Bemba was acquitted of war crimes on appeal in June but was convicted on the lesser charge of witness tampering during his trial. The former warlord has been barred from standing in December’s presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of the conviction. Bemba lost presidential elections in 2006 and was later accused of treason when his bodyguards clashed with the army in Kinshasa. In 2007, he fled to Belgium, where he had spent part of his youth. France 24

Top Militia Chief Surrenders in DRC’s Kasai Region
A top chief who led a coalition of armed militia groups has surrendered in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo with hundreds of youth fighters, according to local authorities. Chief Ndaye Kalonga Nsabanga, who turned himself in on Saturday with many followers, was active in the troubled Kananga area. “It’s thanks to negotiations that he agreed to hand himself over,” the vice-president of Kasai Central province, Manix Kabwanga Kabwanga, told AFP on Sunday. “We have realised that military and police operations cannot eradicate these armed groups because they blend into the population,” Kabwanga said. “Of the eight militia leaders who have been identified, seven surrendered this Saturday to (a) delegation led by the provincial minister of the interior,” he added. AFP

S. Sudan President Kiir Phones Machar in Bid to End Fighting
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says he called rebel leader Riek Machar to urge him to pull back his troops after reports of fighting in parts of Yei River state. Speaking Monday at a memorial service in Juba for the 20 victims of a plane crash last week in Eastern Lakes state, Kiir said government and SPLA-IO forces have been fighting for the past three days in parts of Yei River state. He told the congregation he asked the chairman of the SPLA-IO to order his forces not to attack government troops for the sake of peace. “It was my initiative to call him and ask him why he is still fighting us when we have signed the agreement. So I told him, ‘What is this? Is it the acquisition of more territories? We have signed the agreement. I don’t want us to go back to war again. So, you talk to your commanders in the field so that they don’t attack us again,'” Kiir said. VOA

Igad Endorses Somalia and Djibouti to Deploy Troops to S. Sudan
Regional bloc Igad has mandated Somalia and Djibouti to deploy troops to South Sudan to safeguard security and the implementation of the peace agreement. The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), in a statement to the media on Monday afternoon, said Somalia and Djibouti have been endorsed by the regional bloc to be among the South Sudan peace guarantors. The endorsement was made during the Igad Extra-Ordinary Summit held in Addis Ababa on September 12. “Igad shall request the UN Security Council to review its mandate on deployment of regional protection force to South Sudan and allow Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia as guarantors, to contribute forces to enhance the protection and security,” the Igad statement reads.  The East African

UN: Widespread Violations in Burundi May Amount to Crimes against Humanity
The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi accused the country of persistent and widespread violations of human rights, some of which it says constitute crimes against humanity. The Commission presented its final report on the situation in Burundi to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. It says violations — which include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and sexual violence — are used by the government and its allies to bend the Burundian people to its will. The Commission accuses members of the National Intelligence Service, including senior officials and the police, of serious violations. It also expresses concern about the growing role played by the youth militia, the Imbonerakure, in controlling the population. VOA

Senior Boko Haram Leader Reportedly Killed by Allies
Mamman Nur, a senior figure in the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, reportedly has been killed by some of his own colleagues. Nur’s men allegedly gunned him down Aug. 21 following an internal dispute, according to Nigerian media sources and others. News reports of the killing have trickled out in the last few days. Gyade Abdalla, an Islamist scholar in the country’s northeast region where the group is based, has served as a trusted negotiator between Boko Haram leaders, as well as Nigerian government officials. He told VOA that Nur’s men believed the Boko Haram figure was too lenient. A key point of dispute was Nur’s decision to release schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeast Nigerian town of Dapchi, Abdalla said. VOA

Algerian Leader Replaces Infantry, Air Force Commanders
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday sacked the commanders of Algeria’s ground and air forces, along with the secretary-general of the Algerian Defense Ministry, the Al-Nahar satellite channel has reported. Known to be close to the Algerian presidency, the channel quoted “informed sources” as saying that Bouteflika had sacked Major-General Hassan Tafer, commander of Algeria’s ground forces, replacing him with Major-General Said Shankarikha. According to the same source, Air Force Commander Major-General Abdul Qader al-Wannas was also dismissed and replaced with Major-General Baumiza Mohamed. Bouteflika also sacked Defense Ministry Secretary-General Mohamed Zanakhri, appointing General Hamid Ghraise in his place, the same channel reported. Anadolu Agency

Mauritania’s Ruling Party Wins Majority Parliament
Mauritania’s election commission says the West African nation’s ruling party has won a majority of seats in a second round of legislative, municipal and regional elections. The election commission said Monday that the Union for the Republic now has 93 of 157 seats on the National Assembly. It also won control of all of the regional councils and 169 of 219 municipalities. The second round vote took place Sept. 15. The party’s victory is crucial for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s political future. His second and final term ends next year but he hopes to keep the ruling party in power for the 2019 presidential elections. Mauritania, like several other West African nations, faces a growing threat from extremists as well as the day-to-day challenges caused by underdevelopment. AP

Uganda Accuses EU Parliament of Meddling in Its Internal Affairs
Uganda’s government on Monday accused the European Union Parliament of meddling in its internal affairs after the legislator passed a resolution deploring the alleged torture of opposition politicians in the East African country. Robert Kyagulanyi, a Ugandan pop star and lawmaker, and MP Francis Zaake were allegedly tortured after they were arrested last month on suspicion of participating in stoning the motorcade of President Yoweri Museveni. The government has denied that security staff tortured the two men, saying the injuries visible on their bodies could have been sustained in scuffles as they tried to resist arrest. “For EU parliament to pass a resolution asking the courts of Uganda to drop charges is inconceivable…we see this as a premeditated attempt to hijack and subvert our institutions,” government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told a news conference on Monday. Reuters

Ramaphosa Takes a Swipe at ANC Members Accused of Plot to Unseat Him
President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken an indirect swipe at ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and other party leaders accused of being involved in a plot to unseat him. Speaking at the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) 13th national congress on Monday, Ramaphosa accused those who “meet in dark corners” and plot to divide the ANC of being counter-revolutionaries. “Those who want to divide the ANC, what agenda are they serving? Because coming out of Nasrec, we all held one agenda of unity, renewal, jobs and transforming our economy. So if you are going to divide the ANC tell us what your agenda is,” Ramaphosa said. “Comrades this is a call for unity. And those who are engaging in acts to disunite our people and divide our people must be exposed,” he added. Mail and Guardian

South Africa Not Planning Mass Layoffs in Public Sector to Fight Recession – Ramaphosa
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday there would be no mass layoffs of public sector workers as his government considers various ways to pull the economy out of a recession that has rattled the rand and investor confidence. The economy slipped into recession in the second quarter for the first time since 2009, data showed in August, a stinging blow to Ramaphosa’s pledge to revive the economy and reduce record-high unemployment after a decade of stagnation. In June, the National Treasury said it was considering layoffs and early retirement packages for staff in the public sector to avoid breaking its pledge to cut spending after unions clinched above-inflation wage increases. “The mass retrenchment of public sector workers is not under consideration,” Ramaphosa said at trade union federation Cosatu’s electoral conference in Johannesburg.  Reuters

Portuguese PM Arrives in Ex-Colony Angola to Mend Fences
Portugal’s prime minister Antonio Costa touched down in Angola on Monday kicking off a two-day trip designed to improve ties between Luanda and its former colonial master. The diplomacy marks an effort to move beyond the bitter legacy of Lisbon’s rule over Angola, which ended in 1975 when Portugal withdrew without handing over power. Angola sank into civil war until 2002. “Portugal and Angola have a long history, the tone of which should be defined by the future and not the past,” said Costa as he set off for Luanda. Angola entered a new era last year when president José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1979 to 2017, stepped down and was replaced by João Lourenço. Times Live

Migrant Departures May Increase Due to Libya Violence – Foreign Minister
Migrant departures from Libya may increase due to a deterioration of the security situation, foreign affairs minister Carmelo Abela told a Parliamentary committee on Monday. Mr Abela told the House Committee for Foreign and European Affairs that the situation on the ground in Libya had worsened since August 26, with various armed militias operating in Tripoli and other areas. These developments also cast doubt on whether elections planned for December 10 would be held, given that Libya was still putting together its electoral registry, and that the proposed timeframe – which had been agreed by all four key faction leaders at the Paris Summit earlier in 2018 – had been ambitious from the start. The minister said Malta continued to fully support the UN Support Mission in Libya, and the mission’s leader Ghassan Salamé. He did not exclude meeting with the Libyan foreign minister on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly in November. Times of Malta

Israel to Approve Immigration for 1,000 Ethiopian Jews
The Israeli government announced Monday that it agreed to absorb 1,000 Ethiopian Jews — accepting just a fraction of the African country’s 8,000 remaining Jews who want to move to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a special committee had agreed to allow community members who already have children in Israel to immigrate. It was not clear what will happen to the remaining 7,000 people. Alisa Bodner, a spokeswoman for Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, a group petitioning the government to allow Ethiopian Jews to immigrate, called Netanyahu’s decision an “incredible disappointment” and “another spit in the face” for Israel’s Ethiopian community. Citing his previous vows, the group is calling on the prime minister to provide a path to citizenship for the remaining 7,000 members of the Jewish Ethiopian community. AP

African Countries Seek Relief from Chinese Loans
Some African countries are now seeking to write off their loans from China while others are offering concessions using their natural resources and assets to manage their ballooning debt. A new report by the US-based Centre for Global Development shows that China’s loans to Africa, currently standing in excess of $14 billion, continue to rise, putting a strain on borrowers and posing the risk of default. South Sudan has said that it will use its crude oil as payment to China for its roads projects. On September 2, President Salva Kiir said that his country had reached an agreement with Beijing. “We agreed at the recent Forum On China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) summit in Beijing that we will not pay them in cash to do the roads but in crude oil. This will help us avoid debt, and also eliminate corruption within our ranks,” President Kiir said, citing some of the roads targeted in this arrangement as Nadapal to Torit, and Juba to Rumbek and Wau. The East African

Nigeria Floods Kill 100 People across 10 States
Torrential rains have unleashed floods in different parts of Nigeria over the past few days, killing at least 100 people and damaging thousands of homes, according to officials. A national disaster was declared in four states – Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta – over the flooding, meaning that the federal government had taken over the search, rescue and rehabilitation of victims. “Based on the data available, 100 people have so far died in 10 states,” Sani Datti, spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Monday. Delta is an oil producing state in the Niger Delta region, home to Africa’s biggest energy industry, where the Niger river fans into creeks before emptying itself into the Atlantic. There has been no reported impact on crude oil production. Al Jazeera

When UN Peacekeeping Works: The Story of the United Nations Mission in Liberia
In this special episode of Global Dispatches Podcast, we are bringing you the story of how UN Peacekeepers partnered with the people and government of Liberia to help transform the country from one of the bleakest places on the planet, to one of the more hopeful today. When peacekeepers were first deployed to Liberia in 2003, the west African country had just experienced a devastating civil war. Fifteen years later, the last Blue Helmets left the country. Through interviews and archival audio, you will hear from Liberians, UN officials and experts who explain how the UN Mission in Liberia, known as UNMIL, was able to work itself out of a job. When the world works together, powerful and lasting change can take place. UNMIL is a success of UN Peacekeeping. This episode tells its story.  UN Dispatch



Photo: Adam Jones