Africa Media Review for September 19, 2018

Report: South Sudan Troops Raped, Killed While Peace Pursued
With “staggering brutality,” South Sudan government soldiers and allied militia targeted civilians by raping them, burning them alive, running them over with armored vehicles and hanging them in trees even as the government pursued a new peace deal to end a civil war, a new Amnesty International report says. The report released Wednesday, based on interviews with 100 displaced people from Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity State, describes attacks between April and July in what the United Nations has described as an offensive aimed at “clearing opposition-held areas.” The report comes shortly after South Sudan’s latest attempt at peace, which was signed last week but has been met with skepticism by the United States and others. For the first time the U.S., Britain and Norway, the troika that helped to achieve South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011, decided not to sign the peace deal, saying it remained “concerned about the parties’ level of commitment.”  AP

Violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions ’Spiralling Out of Control
Brutal attacks on civilians and security forces in anglophone regions of Cameroon have escalated in recent weeks and could rise even further in the run-up to presidential elections next month, rights groups have warned. A self-declared member of the Ambazonia Liberation Forces appeared in a new video alongside images of a soldier’s decapitated head, according to Amnesty’s experts, who said the head had bruises on it and lay on a blood-soaked white cloth next to what could be the man’s genitalia. “Ambazonia” is the name separatists would like to give to their new country, if they achieve independence, and is derived from Ambas Bay in southern Cameroon. “The situation in the anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate, with no one spared from the violence, which is spiralling out of control,” said Samira Daoud, the deputy regional director of campaigns in west and central Africa. She called for the government to act immediately to restore peace, adding: “Violence will only fuel further incidents, crimes and untold suffering.”  The Guardian

Cameroon to ‘Disallow’ Exodus from Restive Anglophone Region
Authorities in Cameroon’s NorthWest region say they will not allow people without legitimate reasons to leave the area. A communique dated September 18 and signed by a regional delegate said the decision had been taken with stakeholders in the transport sector. “I have the honour to inform the general public that as a measure to secure and protect those persons travelling out of the region, that henceforth, they will be required to provide additional information at their points of departure. “In effect, they shall state the reason for their departure, the name of the receiver and his or her contact. Anybody who will not comply with this order shall have his or her journey cancelled, the statement added. Africa News

Niger Says Italian Priest Kidnapped Near Burkina Faso Border
An Italian priest has been kidnapped in a part of Niger where a number of extremist groups are active, the West African nation said on Tuesday. Government spokesperson Zakaria Abdourahmane said authorities had not been aware the priest was in the country’s southwest near the Burkina Faso border. He said investigations have begun to find the attackers and free the priest. The Reverend Pierluigi Maccalli is a member of the Society of African Missions religious order. In Niger he had promoted initiatives to encourage an end to the cultural practice of female genital mutilation, which sparked some local opposition to him, according to the Fides missionary news agency in Rome. The Italian foreign ministry said it had asked Nigerien authorities to give “absolute priority” to resolving the kidnapping but asked that they avoid “any initiative that could put Father Maccalli at risk.”  AP

Togo Announces Referendum, Legislative Election Dates
Togo will hold legislative and local elections in December as well as a referendum on constitutional reform. “We will hold the local elections and the referendum on December 16, and on December 20 we will organise legislative elections,” national election commission chief Kodjona Kadanga said on Tuesday. “We are technically prepared. I can assure you that we have sufficient balloting material as well as people. There are no problems on our side.” Kadanga did not specify what reforms were envisaged. Togo’s latest political crisis started in August when large numbers of people rallied against the administration of President Faure Gnassingbe. Al Jazeera

Amid Poll Restrictions, Eswatini Activists Hope for Change
[…] On September 21, more than 500,000 registered voters in the country formerly known as Swaziland will elect 55 parliamentarians to the House of Assembly. King Mswati III, Eswatini’s powerful monarch, will appoint the remaining 10 to make up the lower house of 65 representatives. The elected MPs will then choose 10 senators for the upper house, while the king will select 20 more. With a wide range of powers allowing the king to summon and dissolve parliament or declare a state of emergency, Eswatini, home to some 1.4 million people, is ranked among the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies.  Al Jazeera

Angola, Portugal Turn Page on past Tensions
President Joao Lourenco and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa buried the hatchet on Tuesday during whirlwind talks in Luanda that follow several turbulent years between Angola and its former ruler. Following a meeting with his Portuguese visitor, Lourenco said “common sense and pragmatism would prevail so that relations between the two nations would be strengthened”. The diplomacy marks an effort to move beyond the bitter legacy of Lisbon’s colonial rule that ended in 1975 when Portugal withdrew without handing over power and Angola sank into civil war until 2002. Costa said he hoped for a return to “the development of economic and financial cooperation between the countries on an even footing that would contribute to the two nations’ prosperity”.  AFP

Zimbabwe Opposition Lawmakers Walk Out of Mnangagwa Address
Zimbabwean opposition lawmakers walked out of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s state of the nation address to parliament on Tuesday, signalling their lingering bitterness after losing a disputed July 30 presidential and parliamentary election. Members of Parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that is led by Nelson Chamisa heckled Mnangagwa when he started reading his speech before filing out. Chamisa – who is not a member of parliament and lost a court challenge to Mnangagwa’s win last month – maintains that he was cheated of victory by the electoral board and says the 76-year-old president lack legitimacy. Reuters

Zambia Aid: UK Suspends Funding over Corruption Fears
The UK has frozen aid funding to Zambia, after its government admitted that $4.3m (£3.3m) meant for poor families had gone missing. The move follows allegations of corruption within President Edgar Lungu’s administration. The UK takes a “zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption”, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) said in a statement. Ireland, Finland and Sweden have also suspended aid. More than 50% of Zambia’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, the World Bank says. The aid freeze by the UK is believed to affect the education, health and nutrition sectors, as well as social cash transfers for the poorest Zambians. BBC

Tanzania’s Curbs on Fact-Checking Spark Censorship Fears
Tanzania has adopted controversial amendment to an existing law, which the government says, will help tackle public misinformation gaps. However, journalists fear it will make it a criminal offense to challenge official data. If signed into law, it would mean that anyone who “distorts” facts by the National Bureau of Statistics could be sentenced to at least a year in prison. It’s going to have a “chilling effect,” communications expert Maria Sarungi Tsehai told RFI, after Tanzania voted the amendment to the country’s Statistics Act, making it illegal for anyone to publish statistical information which is intended to “invalidate, distort, or discredit official data.”  RFI

‘Hardline Takeover’ Blamed for Latest Boko Haram Violence
The execution of a kidnapped aid worker and the apparent death of a senior factional leader have sparked fears of an upsurge in Boko Haram violence in northeast Nigeria. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday announced that one of its employees, midwife Saifura Khorsa, had been killed after more than six months in captivity. That followed reports last week that hardliners in the Boko Haram splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) had killed their de facto leader, Mamman Nur. Recent weeks have seen a marked increase in Iswap attacks on the military, which security analysts tracking the conflict said was a sign of renewed strength and organisation. Times Live

Libya Rivals Clash South of Capital, Causing Blackouts
New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said. The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed ceasefire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Tuesday morning’s clashes centred on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist. Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.  AFP

South Sudan and Eritrea May Be Admitted to Regional Force
The Eastern African Standby Force EASF’s council of ministers may admit South Sudan and Eritrea to the regional force once the two countries officially express interest to join. The Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, quotes the EASF director Abdillahi Omar Bouh as saying on Monday that the council of ministers are expected to meet in December in Sudan where the approval process could be initiated. “Eritrea and South Sudan will have to present an official request to the council of ministers to join. We see no reason to reject the application unless a member state objects to the application,” Bouh said.  Radio Tamazuj

Egypt Feels the Pain From Saudi Arabia’s Reforms
In August, as the Turkish lira crisis set off anxieties of financial turmoil in other developing economies, the Egyptian pound held firm. That was thanks to painful reforms the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi began in 2016. Allowing the currency to trade freely, along with a rise in tourism and in remittances from Egyptians working abroad, had helped to stabilize the Egyptian economy, prompting S&P Global Ratings to raise the nation’s credit rating. Now, Egypt’s reforms face an unexpected challenge from the reform agenda of its most important political and economic allies, Saudi Arabia. The knock-on effect of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan for economic modernization could force El-Sisi to deepen spending cuts and seek more expensive borrowing. The way out for the president is to make bolder changes, to cut the Egyptian economy loose from the restricting ties to the state, and its all-powerful military.  Bloomberg

Burkina Faso Arrests 30 over Illegal Female Circumcisions
Burkina Faso authorities have jailed more than 30 adults after they carried out botched female genital mutilation on nearly 60 infants and girls who have been hospitalized. Viviane Ursule Sanou, head of the National Secretariat against Circumcision, said Tuesday the banned procedure was carried out on girls and young women ranging from 10 months to 24 years old in the capital, Ouagadougou, Kaya in the north and two towns in the central east. She says because the practice is illegal, many people carry out the circumcisions in secret. All of the victims have been admitted to hospitals for treatment of hemorrhage and infection. Burkina Faso adopted measures banning female circumcision in the early ’90s. The penal code adopted this year suggests up to 10 years in prison and severe fines. VOA

Algeria Will Take Back Its Citizens Illegally in Germany
Algeria will take back its citizens illegally residing in Germany, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia pledged on Monday during a visit by the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I confirm that Algeria will bring its citizens back, whether it’s a matter of 3 000 or 5 000 (people),” the premier said during a news conference alongside Merkel. Ouyahia said most citizens had been returned on Air Algerie flights, adding the process could be speedier if Berlin was able to convince Lufthansa to fly them back on its regular flights. Merkel affirmed the “will in Germany to welcome those who have good reasons to flee their countries,” such as Iraqis and Syrians, offering them the right to stay and work. “On the other hand, where the right to remain does not exist we expect that the state can take action.  AFP

Morocco Cracks Down on Migrants Heading to Spain
Hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants escaping poverty and violence in their home countries are fleeing to forests to escape police raids in the northern Moroccan port city of Tangiers — only to be chased from their makeshift camps. Migrants have been arriving in Morocco in increasing numbers in a bid to get to Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar. A prime route from Libya to Italy is being choked, notably by the Libyan coast guard intercepting smugglers’ boats. Rights activists in this North African kingdom say the crackdown on migrants is the biggest since 2015. Many of those arriving in Tangiers, one of several Moroccan jump-off points to Spain, say they escaped into the forest after police smashed doors of their small shared rooms in Tangiers and took money they were making to pay smugglers. AP

US and Morocco to Hold 2019 Strategic Dialogue in Washington
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita met Monday, September 17, at the State Department in Washington, D.C. The two officials “discussed opportunities to expand our strong economic and security cooperation, including shared efforts to end Iran’s support for terrorism and counter its malign influence in the region,” the US Department of State wrote in a statement. The US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue was first launched September 13, 2012. Senior U.S. and Moroccan officials discuss issues in four main areas: politics, economy, security, and educational and cultural affairs. According to the US Department of State, Secretary Pompeo and Minister Bourita discussed other regional and international issues as well. Morocco World News

Project FishGuard: Seychelles to Monitor Illegal Fishing with Unmanned Drones
Monitoring of illegal fishing activities in the waters of Seychelles will soon be conducted by drones as the island nation embarks on a trial project. The Seychelles Fishing Authority will be the coordinator of the project — called FishGuard — which will be integrated into the fisheries patrol routines of the Seychelles Air Force and the Seychelles Coast Guard. “SFA is a leading partner in this project and eagerly looking forward to its implementation in view of the potential to significantly improve how the authority combats illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities, especially in the northern part of our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone),” said Ronny Renaud, the authority’s chief executive. Surveillance of large marine areas will be done using a combination of the short and long-range drone equipped with artificial intelligence. Seychelles News Agency

Nigerian Pentecostal Megachurches a Booming Business
“The siege of unemployment is over in your life, the siege of business stagnation, frustration in your life are finally over.” The prosperity gospel by David Oyedepo sounds hypnotizing. A crowd of 50,000 people is taking in every word. 50,000 — that is the current capacity of the Living Faith Church just outside of Lagos, the country’s third biggest Pentecostal church. Many more listen to Oyedepo outside this megachurch, those who did not get a seat inside. They raise their hands towards the sky in devotion, in hopes their prayers will be heard. Oyedepo is just one of many pastors in Nigeria who promise positive change.  Deutsche Welle