Africa Media Review for September 18, 2019

Subverting Democracy in Tanzania and Zambia

Progressively authoritarian practices in Tanzania and Zambia are heightening the risk of instability in two countries long seen as among Africa’s most stable. Both were among the first African countries to start a trend of orderly and peaceful transfers of power and avoided the civil wars that have affected many of their neighbors. However, political space is shrinking rapidly in both countries, causing social and political tensions and public unrest. Ordinary citizens now regularly face intimidation for criticizing the government, political opponents are imprisoned and physically assaulted, independent media outlets continue to be closed, and the security actors are increasingly politicized. Citizens in both countries are resisting these infringements on their democratic rights and taking measures to level the playing field ahead of elections in 2020 in Tanzania and 2021 in Zambia. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Tunisian Outsiders Set for Runoff Elections Amid Voter Discontent

Tunisia’s independent electoral commission Tuesday confirmed the stunning victories of two political outsiders in the first round of presidential voting – results seen as a major rebuff of the post-revolution political establishment. Final results place law professor Kais Saied and business tycoon Nabil Karoui in first and second place respectively, capturing more than 18% and 16% of the vote. They now face a runoff in what is Tunisia’s second-only free and democratic presidential election. … Saied and Karoui have one thing in common – both are newcomers when it comes to running for office. Both also kept low profiles during campaigning these past weeks, but for different reasons. … This is the first round in the election season. October’s legislative vote comes next, offering another test of whether Tunisians will continue to sanction the political establishment. VOA

Algerians Protest against Planned Presidential Vote

Protesters massed in the Algerian capital on Tuesday to demand the cancellation of a controversial presidential election planned for December 12. Interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah announced the poll on Monday in a bid to resolve the political deadlock gripping the country since the April resignation of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. But activists have demanded political reforms and the removal of Bouteflika loyalists including powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah before any vote takes place. Led by students, protesters on Tuesday shouted slogans against “the gang” and demanded: “Hey Gaid Salah, forget the elections!” The general, who has become a key powerbroker since Bouteflika’s departure, has led the push for polls by the end of the year in keeping with the constitution. … Police detained at least 10 protesters in central Algiers and confiscated mobile phones of people who filmed the arrests, according to an AFP journalist. AFP

Senior Shabaab Leader Killed in Hiiraan, 15 Others Felled In Lower Jubba by Somali Forces

Scores of Al-Shabaab militants among them a senior commander in Hiiraan region were killed in a joint offensive by national army and Jubbaland forces Tuesday. Somali National Army Chief of Staff Gen. Odowaa Rage told the media his forces felled Ibrahim Abdi Tureey, the head of the group in Hiiraan region alongside Hassan Yare who headed the mines section. The two were killed in an operation conducted by the forces between Jalalaqsi and Bulo Burte in Hiiraan region. Down south in Lower Jubba, 15 militants were neutralized by SNA and Jubbaland forces. The fighters met their fate in Bandar-Jadid area near Arare town of Afmadow. Goobjoog News

‘Militia’ Shooting Prompts Mass Demo in South Darfur

Displaced people in Mershing camp in South Darfur staged mass demonstrations on Sunday and Monday to protest the killing of three displaced people and the wounding of four others by two gunmen wearing uniforms of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). One of the camp elders told Radio Dabanga that two armed men in uniforms of the RSF – the feared and notorious main government militia commanded by Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council – tried to rob Munir Hamid, a student at the Zalingei University, of his mobile phone on Sunday. When he resisted, one of them shot him dead. He said the demonstrators moved towards the police station of Mershing, where they went to the office of the neighbouring National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). When the demonstrators wanted to break into the office of the agency, shots were fired at the crowd, killing Adam Mohamed, and wounding Musa Abdallah and Abdallah Omda. Radio Dabanga

Belgium, Congo Normalize Diplomatic Relations during Visit

Officials from Belgium and Congo have signed agreements aimed at normalizing relations between the former European colonial power and the Africa nation during an official visit of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to Belgium. Belgium’s foreign affairs ministry said officials met Tuesday to agree to restore their ambassadors in both countries as they tried to put an end to a two-year diplomatic crisis that was triggered by the perceived interference of Belgium in Congo’s internal affairs. The memorandum signed by Belgium Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and his Congolese counterpart Marie Tumba Nzeza also includes the reopening of consulates, regular bilateral consultations and a program aimed at training Congolese diplomats. AP

Investigators Say Burundi’s President Violated Human Rights

A committee looking into abuses in Burundi has concluded that President Pierre Nkurunziza is personally accountable for serious violations. They have presented their final report before the international human rights council in Geneva. Investigators found that opposition members, their families and people who have not co-operated with the ruling party ahead of the next year’s elections have been killed, abducted or tortured. The UN commission’s report says agents of the national intelligence service, the police and the ruling party youth wing were the main perpetrators of the crimes against humanity. BBC

Burundi: ‘Assertive Authorities’ Threaten Humanitarian Ethics

Working in Burundi is unpredictable. “You can go to sleep with a job and wake up without one,” according to a local aid worker employed by an international organization in the nation’s capital. The 36-year-old, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said she was shocked when she woke up the morning of Oct. 1, 2018, to discover she’d become unemployed overnight. At the end of September 2018, the Burundi government announced that all international organizations would be shut down until they could prove compliance with new guidelines. Among the stipulations issued that month was a request for an ethnic breakdown of local staff, according to aid groups and government documents seen by Devex. It was a troubling ask in a country ravaged by more than a decade-long civil war largely fought along ethnic lines between Hutus and Tutsis. Devex

UN Rapporteur Visits Zimbabwe to Assess Human Rights Situation

U.N. Special Rapporteur Clement Voule is in Zimbabwe this week on a 10-day visit to assess the human rights situation, as rights groups accuse the government of being behind recent disappearances of activists in the country. It is the first official visit by an independent human rights expert to Zimbabwe. “I am here at the invitation of the government of Zimbabwe regarding my mandate to assess the implementation and protection of freedom of association and peaceful assembly in the country,” said Voule, who was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council. His trip comes as doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe hold vigils and protests to call attention to the disappearance of Peter Gabriel Magombeyi, acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association. … Health Minister Obediah Moyo denied Harare’s involvement in the disappearance, while Magombeyi’s colleagues say they will not go back to work until he safely returns. VOA

Military Takes Over Zim Hospitals as Doctors Strike over ‘Abduction’

In a bid to contain a crippling doctors’ strike in Zimbabwe, the country’s government has deployed doctors from the military to state hospitals. Doctors went on strike on Tuesday after one of their own, union leader Peter Magombeyi, was allegedly abducted by state security agents. Despite calls for information on his whereabouts and doctors’ declaration that they would not return to work until he is found, no headway has been made. During a press briefing on Tuesday evening, health minister Obadiah Moyo said military doctors would provide services at public facilities as a “temporary measure”. At the same briefing, information minister Kazembe Kazembe said there were no signs that Magombeyi had been abducted and this case would therefore be treated as a “disappearance”. State security minister Owen Ncube said that despite telling his officers to approach the case with “an open mind”, they should check if a “third force” is involved. Sowetan Live

163 Chinese Peacekeepers Sent for South Sudan Mission

A sapper team of 130 and a medical unit of 33 are reportedly the first group of 331-strong battalion sent by the Asian nation. The group of Chinese peacekeepers will reportedly handle tasks like maintaining and upgrading supply routes, repair runways at airports, building shelters and providing engineering support in mission areas. In addition, the medical unit is expected to provide basic healthcare services such as treating common and infectious other diseases. Last month, Chinese peacekeepers serving in South Sudan were given United Nations Medal of Peace for their service in the region. Sudan Tribune

One Million Facing Food Shortages, Nutrition Crisis after Mozambique Cyclones: UNICEF

UNICEF expects the number of affected children will rise to 200,000 by next February, while nearly 40,000 could become severely malnourished and at risk of death. Cyclones Idai and Kenneth struck central and northern Mozambique in March and April. The storms caused widespread flooding, destroyed nearly 780,000 hectares of crops, and displaced tens of thousands of families. “The agricultural devastation wrought by the two cyclones has made what were already high levels of child malnutrition even worse,” said Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF Representative in Mozambique. Before the cyclones, more than 40 percent of children in Mozambique were chronically malnourished or stunted. UN News

Nigeria’s Diesel-Dependent Economy Braces for Clean-Fuel Rules

Nigeria’s frenetic commercial capital, Lagos, is plunged into darkness several times a day. Then its generators roar, and the lights flood back on. Nigeria is one of the world’s largest economies where businesses rely so heavily on diesel-powered generators. More than 70% of its firms own or share the units, while government data shows generators provide at least 14 gigawatts of power annually, dwarfing the 4 gigawatts supplied on average by the country’s electricity grid. The machines guzzle cash and spew pollution, but they are reliable in a nation where nearly 80 million people – some 40% of the population – have no access to grid power. Now diesel costs could spike globally, and many businesses are not prepared. Diesel prices are expected to surge as United Nations rules aimed at cleaning up international shipping come into effect on Jan. 1, with many ships expected to burn distillates instead of dirtier fuel oil. Reuters

How Nigeria Got Hit with a $9.6 Billion Gas Deal Judgment Debt in a UK Court

Nigeria has received a legal hiding after a UK court awarded a private company a $9.6 billion judgment debt against the West African nation. The ruling has generated significant attention in both domestic and international media. This is understandable given that the sum amounts to 20% of the country’s foreign reserves. This means it poses a significant threat to its economy. The big question is: What went wrong? How did Nigeria end up in this costly situation? For the answer, we must look back to January 2010 and a gas supply contract that went horribly wrong. … This case perhaps highlights issues with Nigeria’s ability to effectively manage its oil and gas resources as well as its facilities. Between January and June 2019 alone, it is reported that Nigeria lost 22 million barrels of crude oil. These losses have been largely attributed to pipeline vandalism and aged pipelines. … But other problems, such as corruption and fraud in awarding security surveillance contracts for pipelines, persist. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones