Africa Media Review for September 19, 2019

DRC Army Says Rwandan Hutu Rebel Commander Mudacumura Killed

Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army says it has killed Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the Rwandan Hutu fighters who was wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mudacumura had been a leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) since its founding in 2000 by Hutu officials, who fled Rwanda at the end of the 1994 genocide. The FDLR has waged periodic war with the DRC government and rival armed groups, and Rwanda’s government has cited its presence in DRC to justify repeated interventions across the border. … Mudacumura’s death is the latest blow to the FDLR, which has been weakened in recent years by arrests of several of its leaders and military pressure from the DRC’s army and other armed groups. The international court issued an arrest warrant for Mudacumura in 2012 for alleged attacks against civilians, murder, rape and torture in eastern DRC, where armed groups have operated since the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Al Jazeera

Algeria Army Chief Orders Clampdown on Protesters

Algeria’s army chief has ordered a clampdown on those who head into the capital for weekly demonstrations. In a speech Wednesday at an army barracks in the south of the gas-rich nation, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah said members of the military – or gendarmes – should arrest protesters heading to Algiers for the demonstrations and to seize their vehicles. Gaid Salah’s tough new stance comes days after a December 12 date was set for presidential elections – just as he had demanded. In his speech that was published by the Defense Ministry, Gaid Salah said that, for some people, coming into Algiers from other regions has become a “pretext to justify dangerous behavior” and a way to swell crowds. … In the past, gendarmes, have often blocked roads into Algiers, without making arrests. However, there recently have been a number of arrests at the Friday protests, drawing condemnation from opposition politicians and human rights advocates. AP

Mozambique Rebel Group Threatens Attacks during Election Campaign

Breakaway Mozambique rebels on Wednesday threatened to step up violence if campaigning is not suspended for upcoming elections – the first after a landmark peace deal – as they claimed responsibility for two recent car attacks. The country is gearing up for 15 October polls as it tries to shed a legacy of decades of unrest, following the completion of a historic treaty last month between the government and former rebel group Renamo, now the main opposition party. The deal requires Renamo fighters to either return to civilian life with financial help or join the police and army. In all, more than 5,000 members are required to surrender their weapons. But some fragmented, with one breakaway faction purporting to be the military wing of Renamo refusing to participate in the peace deal. AFP

Tunisian Presidential Candidate Karoui to Stay in Jail: Lawyer

A Tunisian court has turned down a request to release jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, who, along with academic Kais Saied, has advanced to a runoff in Tunisia’s presidential election. Karoui, who was arrested in August on money laundering and tax evasion charges, finished second behind Saied in Sunday’s election. “The judge has refused to give a ruling, saying it was not in his jurisdiction,” lawyer Kamel Ben Messoud said on Wednesday, after requesting his release the previous day. This is the third time that a court rejected an appeal to release Karoui – the court of appeals refused to pass judgement on September 3, as did the court of cassation on September 13, citing the same reason. Al Jazeera

Somalia: Three Killed in Mogadishu Explosion

Three people have been killed and dozens of others injured in a suicide car bomb attack at Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu last night. Reports indicate that the explosion was a remote-controlled landmine, in which a convoy of MP Abdulkadir Arab has survived the blast, according to local sources. At the time of the explosion, all the roads were very busy, causing two vehicles and a motorbike destroyed. Al-Shabaab claimed the responsibility for the attack saying it was targeting the lawmaker. Goobjoog News

In New Sudan, Women Want More Freedom, Bigger Political Role

Amid high hopes for a new era, many Sudanese women like Saber are looking for greater freedoms and equality. They seek to overturn many of the restrictive laws based on Islamic jurisprudence, or Sharia, that activists say stifle women’s rights. “For sure the whole Sudanese people have an interest in this revolution, but we, the women, had a bigger interest and motivation to make it happen,” Saber said. Al-Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, adopting a harsh interpretation of Islamic law that diminished the ability of women to participate meaningfully in public life, Human Rights Watch said in a 2015 report. Public order laws imposed an Islamic dress code on women and restricted their ability to move freely or, if unmarried, with male colleagues, said Jehanne Henry, an associate Africa director at the New York-based rights group. Violators faced lashing in public and hefty fines. But the end of al-Bashir’s rule would lead Saber, who worked with a local NGO on women’s rights issues for years, to flee the country. AP

Will South Sudan Make a November Deadline to Form a Unity Government?

South Sudan’s warring parties are less than two months away from forming a unity government, but meetings last week failed to move the needle on a 2018 peace deal long-delayed by disputes. The question now: what will happen in November? The war-torn nation has been slow to emerge from five years of fighting that has killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. Some 180,000 people remain in six UN-protected sites across the country; many are still too afraid to return home. A unity government was supposed to be formed in May, but a deadlock on several key issues forced a six-month extension. Since then, little has changed. Last week’s talks in Juba between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar were the first time the rivals had met in the capital in almost a year. … “It’s not clear they made any breakthroughs. Both leaders are positioning themselves to blame the other party if they fail to form a government together in Juba,” Alan Boswell, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told TNH. The New Humanitarian

ICC Pretrial Hearing Starts in Central African Republic Case

Two alleged leaders of a predominantly Christian militia involved in a bitter conflict with Muslim forces in the Central African Republic have appeared at the International Criminal Court for a hearing at which prosecutors will seek to persuade judges that there is sufficient evidence to send the suspects to trial. Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom are suspected of involvement in crimes including murder, persecution, torture and using child soldiers, when they were senior leaders in the anti-Balaka militia. Ngaissona, who was chief of his country’s soccer federation when he was arrested on an ICC warrant in Paris last year, faces 111 charges and Yekatom, who prosecutors say was an anti-Balaka military leader, faces 21 charges. AP

Malawi Activists Resume Protests over Presidential Vote Result

Thousands of people gathered in three cities in Malawi on Wednesday to call for the sacking of the head of the electoral commission, as protests continue over May’s presidential election result. The demonstrations came two days after the expiry of a 14-day ban on protests ordered by the Supreme Court in a bid to allow mediation between the government and protest leaders. Protesters demonstrated in the capital in the capital Lilongwe, in the commercial centre Blantyre and in the third city of Mzuzu. They want the head of the Malawi Electoral Commission Jane Ansah to step down over her handling of the disputed May presidential elections. AFP

Ramaphosa Moves to Allay Fears of Government Inaction on Gender-Based Violence

In a period of mass protest and ever-increasing anger over government inaction on incidences of gender-based violence and femicide, the president called for a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Parliament. These sittings are usually called to address serious issues affecting the nation, or when visiting heads of state address Parliament. They are more commonly used during the president’s State of the Nation Address. The last time an incumbent called for a special joint sitting was in 2005, when former president Thabo Mbeki announced that he had fired his then-deputy, Jacob Zuma. … The president instructed the police and justice minister to reopen unsolved sexual offences, while also committing the South African Police Service to train more female officers at station level to properly interact with victims of crimes against women and children. Mail & Guardian

Interpol Drug Conference in Cape Town

A potent and effective global response is required to protect world citizens against proliferation of illegal drugs and precursor chemicals, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole said. He made the remarks addressing delegates at the opening ceremony of the Interpol second Global Drugs and Illicit Substances Conference in Cape Town this week. More than 400 delegates from 194 member countries, international organisations, the SAPS and SA government departments are attending. Sitole said the increase in drug use and drug trafficking continues to affect every region globally. … The SA government has declared tackling the constant challenges of drugs, gangsterism and violence a high priority. Sitole said the conference provides an opportunity for the country to discuss with its global counterparts existing government reforms and criminal justice programmes to turn the tide against crime and drugs. SAnews

Nigeria Becomes Africa’s Staging Ground for the Illegal Pangolin Trade with Asia

In a rubble-strewn storage lot in the sprawling Nigerian port city of Lagos, customs agents crack open a shipping container crammed with scales from pangolins, a shy mammal prized in Asia for its use in medicines. The scales being stored with elephant tusks in the fetid container are part of a growing haul of pangolin cargos seized in Nigeria, a country that is now the main hub for gangs sending African pangolins to Asia, according to law enforcement officials, non-governmental organisations and wildlife experts. They say porous borders, lax law enforcement, corruption and one of the continent’s biggest ports have helped criminal networks in Nigeria corner most of the African trade in pangolins, considered to be the world’s most trafficked mammal. … This year alone, Hong Kong and Singapore have intercepted three huge shipments of pangolin scales weighing a combined 33.9 tonnes and worth more than $100 million, based on estimates of their value in Singapore. Each shipment was bigger than any that had come from Africa before this year – and they all came from Nigeria. Reuters

Cameroon Courts Paralyzed as Lawyers Strike over Human Rights Violations

Cameroon’s law courts are at a standstill as lawyers for a third day Wednesday defy government threats and continue to protest what they say are widespread unbearable rights violations that include torture, illegal and prolonged detention of accused persons. Observers say the strike may compromise the national dialogue ordered by President Paul Biya to solve the separatist conflict rocking the country. Three hundred and eighty cases have been on the schedule at the Ekounou tribunal in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, since Sept. 16 and none of them have been heard. … [Pierre Bayo, political analysts and lecturer at the University of Yaounde] says most of the lawyers who initiated the strike had defended separatist leaders who had been sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal and also Maurice Kamto, the man who claims he won last year’s elections – a victory he alleges was stolen by Biya. VOA

US AFRICOM Commander Townsend Meets G5 Sahel Leaders in Inaugural Trip

The new Commander of U.S. Africa Command General Stephen Townsend made his first trip as commander to the Sahel this week, meeting with the heads of the G5 Sahel joint force tasked with fighting insurgents in West Africa. The Army general was to visit Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger during the trip this week, his first to the region since being confirmed as AFRICOM commander in April. In Mali on Monday, Townsend met President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta as well as leaders of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the long-planned 4,500-strong joint counter-terrorism force comprising troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. Leadership included commander General Oumarou Namata from Niger, who assumed the role of commander in July, U.S. Africa Command spokesperson Samantha Reho told The Defense Post. The Defense Post

Russia to Help Uganda Develop Nuclear Energy

Russia and Uganda have agreed to work together in the field of nuclear energy, the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom said on Wednesday, as Moscow seeks to strengthen its influence in Africa. Russia’s state-owned companies have been at a key part of the strategy to bolster Moscow’s presence on the continent. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s is seeking to use his country’s uranium deposits to develop nuclear power. The agreement was signed on Tuesday by a Rosatom representative and Ugandan Energy Minister Irene Muloni on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna. AFP

Activists Want Details on Kenya Oil Contract with Chinese Firm

Kenya has exported its first shipment of oil, worth about $12 million, under a deal with the Chinese petrochemical company, ChemChina. Members of a civil society group are demanding transparency, calling on the Kenyan government to show how the Chinese firm won the bid to buy the oil and how much revenue the country is getting from the sale. After years of exploration, Kenya exported its first crude oil shipment last month. Amid the excitement of Kenya joining the list of oil-producing countries, some civil society groups are accusing the government of keeping oil deals with a Chinese company secret. … Kenya’s principal secretary of petroleum, Andrew Kamau, says the information the government provided on who bought the oil and how much they paid was enough. VOA

Remove Sudan from Terror List, Calls UN Chief

United Nation Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday joined calls to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism after the popular revolution that overthrew the regime of Omer al-Bashir. Guterres made his call in New York at a press conference at the outset of the 74th session of the General Assembly which officially opened on Tuesday 17 September while the high-level General Debate will begin on Tuesday, 24 September 2019. Responding to a question about the situation in Sudan, the UN chief hailed the political agreement reached last August between the army and the protesters’ coalition to form a transitional authority and to work together to bring peace into the country and achieve democratic reforms. “Sudan is a matter of great hope for us. I believe that what was possible in the dialogue in Sudan demonstrates that all political conflicts can be solved by dialogue (…), and this should be a lesson for everywhere else in the world,” he said. Sudan Tribune

Remembering the Eritreans Jailed without Trace

Eighteen years ago, Eritrean security forces detained 11 high-profile officials who had written an open letter to President Isaias Afwerki calling for democratic reforms. Since that day – Tuesday 18 September 2001 – there has been no word from them. They were part of a group known as G-15 and many were prominent politicians, who had been involved in the struggle for independence and had become members of the now-defunct parliament. Seventeen journalists who reported on their letter – which asked the president to uphold the constitution and hold elections – were also detained and similarly disappeared. … Following last year’s peace deal with Ethiopia, ending years of hostility between the two neighbours, many Eritreans and human rights organisations hoped there would be an opening up of the political space in the country and that Mr Isaias would agree to holding the first national election since independence. But there has been no change, indefinite conscription continues, political prisoners remain in detention and its borders remain closed. BBC

Tanzania Tells WHO It Has No Ebola Cases – Statement

Tanzania has formally told the World Health Organization (WHO) that it has no cases of Ebola after a woman died there earlier this month from an unknown illness following Ebola-like symptoms, the organisation said on Wednesday. … The WHO received the notification on Sept. 14, the statement said. It was unclear why it took four days to make it public. The WHO announcement came a day after the head of a U.S. government health agency travelled to Tanzania at the direction of America’s health secretary, Alex Azar. Azar criticized Tanzania earlier this week for not sharing information. Tanzania’s health minister said on Saturday that the government had investigated two recent cases of unknown illnesses, but they were not Ebola. … He called on Tanzania to comply with international obligations to share information and allow independent verification of test results. There is increased vigilance across East Africa after an outbreak of Ebola in the DRC killed more than 2,000 people. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak in global history. Reuters

Almost Everywhere, Fewer Children Are Dying

Two decades ago, nearly 10 million children did not live to see a 5th birthday. By 2017, that number – about 1 in every 16 children – was nearly cut in half, even as the world’s population increased by more than a billion people. The sharp decline in childhood mortality reflects work by governments and international aid groups to fight child poverty and the diseases that are most lethal to poor children: neonatal disorders, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. … By combining detailed survey data with statistical models, the researchers were able to map child mortality in much greater geographic detail than previous estimates. … The divergent experiences of Nigeria reflect trends that experts say permeate the map of child mortality. Northern Nigeria has endured prolonged violence and political instability that has displaced many residents. … In many southern African countries, reductions in H.I.V. deaths have made a difference. South Africa and Botswana saw some of the largest reductions. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones