Africa Media Review for September 24, 2018

Lourenço’s First Year: Angola’s Transitional Politics
João Lourenço’s first year in office has been marked by notable reforms and the consolidation of power. If ordinary Angolans are to benefit this momentum must continue, along with institutional checks that can curb the excesses of the past. João Lourenço’s first year as Angola’s head of state has seen quicker change than many expected. The former defense minister, who became Angola’s president in September 2017, had two policy priorities for his first year: to stabilise the economy and to take full control of his party, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA). He has made progress on both fronts. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Eighteen Dead in DR Congo Rebel Attack: Army
At least 18 people, including 14 civilians, have been killed in a rebel attack in Beni in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east, an army spokesperson told AFP on Sunday. Four soldiers were among the dead following the attack on Saturday night, military official Mak Hazukai said, with witnesses describing gunfire and groups of assailants slashing victims with machetes. The Beni region, not far from the Ugandan border, is under siege from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years. “The territory and the city of Beni are facing ADF terrorism whose command structure is led by Ugandans,” said Hazukai, adding that nine people were also wounded in Saturday’s violence. AFP

12 Killed, 14 Wounded in Mozambique Jihadist Attacks: Source
Twelve villagers were killed and 14 injured in an attack by suspected jihadists on a village in a gas-rich region of northern Mozambique, a local source told AFP on Friday. Since October, the southeast African country’s golden vision to exploit its gas reserves has been thrown into doubt by an explosion of bloodthirsty assaults in the region where the industry plans to base its hub. “Ten people killed were shot by firearms and two burnt (to death) after 55 houses were charred. A person was beheaded after being shot dead” in the northern village of Paqueue late Thursday, said the source. A health official in the Cabo Delgado region, who declined to be named, said that an ambulance was dispatched to Paqueue to “rescue the 14 wounded”.  AFP

US Air Raid in Somalia Kills 18 Al-Shabab Fighters
A US military drone attack in southern Somalia killed 18 al-Shabab fighters after American and local forces on the ground came under attack, the US Africa Command said. The air strike was carried out Friday in self-defence after fighters were “observed manoeuvring on a combined patrol,” while the US also responded with “indirect fire”, a military spokesman said on Saturday. No US or Somali forces were killed or wounded in the attack, AFRICOM spokesman Nate Herring told The Associated Press. The confrontation occurred about 50km northwest of the port city of Kismayo, the US Africa Command statement added.  Al Jazeera

Rebel Leader Machar Declines Offer to Visit Juba, Fears for His Safety
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar turned down an invitation Saturday from President Salva Kiir to visit the South Sudanese capital Juba. Machar, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM IO), told Kiir in a meeting in Khartoum that the environment in South Sudan is not conducive for a visit by a rebel delegation. “What is the security? I was concerned about that. Truly, if we are going to implement the peace agreement, there is that need for people moving to Juba, outside the areas of [rebel and government control],” Machar said. “In our phone conversation, I had appealed to you to release the prisoners. First, prisoners of war. Second, political prisoners and detainees. I hope your excellency [President Kiir] has taken action because that builds confidence and trust among people [South Sudanese] when such an action is taken,” he added.  VOA

Pirates Kidnap 12 from Swiss Vessel off Nigeria, Shipper Says
Pirates kidnapped 12 crew members from a Swiss merchant vessel on Saturday in Nigerian waters, the ship’s operator said in a statement. Massoel Shipping, operator of MV Glarus, said the vessel, with 19 crew members aboard and carrying wheat, was traveling between the southwestern commercial capital, Lagos, and the southern Niger Delta oil hub of Port Harcourt when it was boarded by pirates. It said the attack happened around 45 nautical miles south west of Bonny Island. “The company is working with the authorities and specialists to secure the speedy and safe release of those being held,” Massoel Shipping said in its statement. The statement did not give the nationalities of the crew members. VOA

Spain Saves Some 440 Migrants; New Crackdown on Rescue Boat
Spain’s maritime rescue service said Sunday it rescued more than 400 people from 15 small boats, most of them off the country’s southern coast, while humanitarian groups lamented that the sole private rescue boat operating near the deadly central Mediterranean human trafficking route risked being put out of action by Italy’s anti-migrant leaders. While the Spaniards pulled 447 people to safety on Saturday in the western part of the sea, two humanitarian groups which operate the last private rescue vessel in the central Mediterranean, considered the deadliest route for trafficked migrants, said Panama had yanked the ship’s registration following Italian complaints. Panama’s maritime authority said in a statement that it has begun procedures to remove the registration of Aquarius 2 after Italy complained the boat’s captain failed to follow orders. It said Italy contends that the captain of Aquarius 2 defied instructions to return migrants to Libya that it had rescued from unseaworthy vessels launched by Libyan-based traffickers. AP

Libya’s Haftar: Army Will Intervene in Tripoli at the Right Time
The army will move towards Tripoli at the right time, in the right way, Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar said during several meetings with tribes east of the country on Thursday. Haftar also refuted any connection between the army and the armed groups clashing in Tripoli. Fighting erupted last week when the Seventh Brigade, militias, which hail from Tarhouna, a town about 60 km south of Tripoli, attacked southern neighborhoods of the capital. The Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi Brigade – militias, which support the UN-backed government – have come to the city’s defense. The death toll from more than a week of fighting between armed groups in Tripoli has climbed to at least 50 people, including civilians.  Al Arabiya

Analysts: France and Italy’s Differences Undermine Efforts against IS in Libya
France and Italy have had differences over how changes should be brought in Libya in the post-Moammar Gaddafi era, but those differences have become public in recent months, raising concerns among some analysts that the ongoing tension between the two sides would derail the more important task of fighting IS-linked militants in the country. The Islamic State (IS) terror group, which had been severely weakened and deprived of its main stronghold of Sirte in 2016 with the help of U.S. airstrikes, is making a comeback in parts of the country, according to local media reports. “I think [the French-Italian dispute] will continue to make Libyans disagree amongst each other and this disagreement will open the way for the terror groups like Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State), al-Qaida, local groups and other fanatics we have here in Libya to gain the momentum again,” Moustafa Fetouri, a Tripoli-based analyst, told VOA. VOA

Ethiopia Still Tampering with Internet Access – Report
Just five months into the new government of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the administration is back into the old habit of tampering with internet in times of crisis, according to Netizen Report. According to the report, “on September 17, in what appeared to be an effort to quell social unrest, mobile internet networks were shut down across the capital city. Ethio Telecom, the country’s sole, government-owned internet and phone service provider, did not offer any public statement about the shutdown.” Dr. Abiy Ahmed came into office in April 2018 partly on promise of widening the political space and guaranteeing freedom of speech. The new government subsequently unbanned 264 blocked websites by previous EPRDF governments. It also allowed many opposition parties and poltical figures who were previously banned or forced to flea to return into the country. However, the new government seems to be falling into the old habit of using the brute force tactic of tampering with the internet to control information. Ezega.com

ICC Will Not Investigate Post-Election Violence in Gabon
The International Criminal Court will not open a formal investigation into claims of post-election violence following the disputed 2016 presidential election, the ICC’s chief prosecutor said Friday. “There is no reasonable basis to believe that the acts allegedly committed in Gabon in the context of the 2016 post-election violence” amounted to crimes against humanity that the court is mandated to investigate and prosecute, Fatou Bensouda said in a statement. “The legal requirements for opening an investigation into the situation in the Gabonese Republic (“Gabon”) have not been satisfied,” the statement concluded. Africa News

Liberia Seeks US Assistance in Tracking Missing Millions
The U.S. government is considering helping Liberia track down more than $100 million in missing cash, an embassy spokesman said, in a case that has triggered a political crisis in the country. Several shipments of freshly printed Liberian dollars ordered from abroad by the central bank have been unaccounted for since they passed through the country’s main ports in November 2017 and August this year, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said on Tuesday. Minister of Justice Frank Musa Dean said the government had sought U.S. help in investigating the whereabouts of the cash, equivalent to nearly five percent of Liberia’s GDP. Africa News

eSwatini Votes but the King Holds Absolute Power
The king is one of the world’s last absolute rulers — wielding complete control over the parliament and government, as well as over the judiciary, civil service and security forces. Mswati, who has 14 wives and more than 25 children, has a reputation for lavish spending on planes and palaces, while 63 percent of his subjects live below the poverty line. Without warning or consultation, he changed the country’s name from Swaziland to eSwatini (“land of the Swazis”) in April. “We know the person we are voting for,” Zodwa Mabuza told AFP as she lined up to vote with her husband and daughter in the western constituency of Lobamba Lomdzala. “The issues are job opportunities, proper roads and more food packages for the elderly.”  AFP

Nigerian Herders Face Threat from Farmers Competing for Land
Hundreds of horned cattle wandered back to camp after a long day of grazing, their moos sounding more like wails. Manu Baka walked into the middle of the herd and lit a small campfire. Cows began to gather around the flames, and silence fell across the bush.“It calms them down,” explained Mr. Baka, savoring the peace.It’s an evening routine that he and other herders have repeated their whole lives, just like generations before them, moving their livestock across Nigeria in search of fresh grazing land.In his years as a herder, Mr. Baka has overcome poisonous snakes, outbreaks of disease, cattle rustlers and counterfeit veterinary drugs. But now he and other herdsmen are facing a serious threat to their way of life: Nigeria’s rapidly expanding population means more people want to farm on land that has been used by herders for centuries.Across parts of Nigeria, conflicts that mirror the 20th-century range wars in the American West have broken out between farmers and herdsmen vying for land, leading to bloody battles.  The New York Times

Congo Reports Ebola Death Close to Busy Ugandan Border
A Congolese woman who refused an Ebola vaccination and then disappeared has died of the virus near the heavily traveled border with Uganda, which is preparing to begin vaccinations as needed. The confirmed Ebola death announced by local authorities highlights the challenges health workers are facing in a region of northeastern Congo that had never experienced an outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever before. Authorities have fought rumors and trained community members including traditional healers in efforts to calm and educate nervous residents. The 32-year-old woman had assisted in the burials of other Ebola victims and health workers had followed her as a possible case, but she refused a vaccination and disappeared from the city of Beni, said the vice governor of Ituri Province, Pacifique Keta. She died on Thursday at a hospital in Tshomia, on Lake Albert.  AP

Tanzania Buries Ferry Disaster Dead as Toll Hits 224
Tanzania declared the whole nation was in mourning Sunday as the first dozen bodies were buried from a devastating ferry capsize on Lake Victoria that left people 224 dead. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa led “national funerals” on the island of Ukara, where the MV Nyerere had been coming in to dock on Thursday. He spoke of “great mourning by the whole nation” as the first coffins were placed in individual graves, many of the victims unidentified. The remainder of the dead were to be lain to rest later or taken away by families wishing for privates funerals. The prime minister said a memorial would be built on Ukara. Hopes had faded of finding any more survivors three days after the disaster, even after rescuers pulled out an engineer on Saturday who had holed up in an air pocket in the upturned vessel. AFP

Boko Haram Landmines in Nigeria Killed at Least 162 in Two Years – Study
Hundreds of people have been killed or maimed by landmines in north-east Nigeria, research shows. Mines laid by Boko Haram, the extremist group that has waged a deadly insurgency in the Lake Chad region, killed 162 people in two years and wounded 277 more, according to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a landmine clearance charity. Casualties rose from 12 per month in 2016 to 19 per month in 2017-18, making Nigeria’s casualty rate from mines the eighth highest in the world. After nine years of the insurgency, locally produced landmines, unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices are scattered across the north-east. “All around here people are dying. Just looking for firewood is very risky,” said Saleh Ibrahim, the deputy leader of a camp in Ngala, in Borno state, that shelters more than 100,000 people.  The Guardian

It’s More than Diplomacy for African Presidents at U.N. Gen. Assembly
Several African heads of state and delegations have made their way to New York in the United States America, where they will attend the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). About 130 world leaders are gathering for the annual high-level debate to address pressing global issues, from scrapping North Korea’s nuclear weapons to financing development. Some of the highlights for the continent of Africa will be heads of state addressing the United Nations for the first time including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa. Other heads of state who are expected to attend their first UNGA are Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed, Liberia’s George Weah, Sierra Leone’s Julius Maada Bio and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa. Africa News

‘Things Are Getting Worse’: Economic Collapse Looms Again in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe faces a deepening economic crisis as hopes fade of a new wave of international investment and aid following historic elections in July. The poll, the first after the military takeover that led to the ousting of Robert Mugabe, was won by the ageing autocrat’s former righthand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa’s campaign slogan was “Zimbabwe is open for business”, but people in the former British colony say conditions have deteriorated since the election. Majory Manjoro, a part-time currency dealer in Harare, said life had become unbearable. “Things are getting worse. Everything goes up [in price]. Those in authority need to make sure things get better,” Manjoro, 33, said. Although the elections in July did not see the systematic violence of those under Mugabe, alleged irregularities during the count and violent repression following the vote have resulted in only lukewarm support for Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF party from major international powers. The Guardian

Ramaphosa Rolls the Dice to Rouse Slumping South African Economy
Africa’s most-industrialized economy is in dire need of pep. It contracted in the first and second quarters, and the central bank projects just 0.7 percent growth this year. With the country clinging to its last investment-grade credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service, the recovery plan has to be implemented within existing spending limits.The government will reveal how it will redirect the funds in the mid-term budget next month. The government was committed to its existing fiscal framework and is able to live within its means, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said in an interview on Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA Friday. Ratings companies are watching South Africa keenly and its essential to ensure that plans to revive the country’s economy are implemented effectively, he said.A revised mining charter, to give the industry greater certainty on ownership requirements for black investors and mining communities, will be published next week, while the allocation of additional spectrum to mobile-network operators is expected soon.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones