Africa Media Review for September 26, 2018

A New Report Estimates That More than 380,000 People Have Died in South Sudan’s Civil War
Years of brutal civil war in South Sudan have left at least 382,000 people dead, according to an estimate in a new State Department-funded study that far surpasses an earlier figure issued by the United Nations and points to the horrors of an often-overlooked conflict. The findings of the study, conducted by a small team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine but commissioned by the U.S. Institute for Peace in partnership with the State Department, were expected to be released later Wednesday. The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the report. In March 2016, U.N. officials estimated that the conflict had killed about 50,000 people, and for years, a more accurate death count has been missing as a metric to measure the bloodshed, even as the conflict raged on. Experts say an accurate death toll can be a critical tool for policymakers. The Washington Post

South Sudan’s Kiir Directs to Abide by Ceasefire Agreement
President Salva Kiir has ordered the army and security organs to fully observe the ceasefire agreement which still faces some breaches in Unity and Equatoria 13 days after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement. The South Sudanese leader made his directive during a meeting of the National Security Council at the presidency in Juba on Tuesday attended by the senior military and security officials to discuss the situation on the country two weeks the start of the implementation of the security arrangements. In statements reported by the Presidential Press Unit, South Sudanese Interior Minister Michael Chiengjiek said that Kiir “directed all the various security organs to observe the ceasefire agreement reached recently between the government and opposition forces”. The meeting was also briefed on the security situation in the various regions of the country.  Sudan Tribune

Mali Faces a Turning Point as the Country Prepares for Legislative Poll
How credible were the 2018 presidential elections in Mali? Going by the allegations of stuffed ballot boxes, theft of election materials, threats and attacks against election officials, arson at polling stations, vote-selling, and buying, it could be argued that the poll was not credible at all. As many had predicted, the incumbent, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, won in the second round. That the African Union and the European Union (EU) called the vote credible and transparent came as something of a surprise given that violence and fear also curtailed voter turnout. But the observers stopped short of a full endorsement. They used nuanced language, declaring the poll “credible if flawed”. This points to the challenges faced in holding elections under complex and troubling conditions. Unfortunately, this picture also deepens the sense that national and international interests may outweigh scrupulous oversight of elections. It also suggests that that those who engaged in electoral fraud and violence aren’t likely to be properly investigated and prosecuted. Mail and Guardian

Nigerian Troops Repel Boko Haram Attack on Base: Sources
Nigerian troops repelled another attempt by Boko Haram jihadists to overrun a military base in northeast Nigeria, military and civilian sources told AFP on Tuesday. Dozens of jihadist fighters from an Islamic State-backed Boko Haram faction attacked the base on Sunday in the village of Kekeno, near the garrison town of Monguno, in Borno state. Recent months have seen repeated attacks on military bases in the northern part of Borno, although Nigerian commanders have strongly denied reports of heavy troop casualties. The authorities maintain the group, whose insurgency has left more than 27,000 dead in northeast Nigeria since 2009, is on the verge of defeat, despite the ongoing violence. A senior military officer in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, said the Islamists were equipped with anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Sunday. Daily Maverick

At U.N., Congo’s Kabila Vows ‘Peaceful, Credible’ Elections
Outgoing Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila pledged at the United Nations on Tuesday that “peaceful, credible” elections would be held in his country as planned at the end of the year. Kabila has ruled since his father’s assassination in 2001. He agreed last month not to defy term limits by running for re-election, opening the door to the Central African nation’s first democratic transfer of power. His announcement calmed tensions that have seen dozens of anti-Kabila demonstrators killed by security forces since he refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December 2016. Reuters

Violence in Congo Imperils Efforts to Combat Ebola Outbreak
An Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo has moved into its most worrying stage yet, with the World Health Organization’s head of emergency response warning of a “perfect storm” of factors preventing its containment. The current outbreak is taking place in an active war zone, and on Saturday afternoon a rebel militia staged an hours-long attack in Beni, the city closest to the outbreak’s epicenter. Local media offered conflicting reports, but at least 14 civilians were confirmed killed, according to the Congolese government. The attack spurred the government to declare a “ville mort,” or period of mourning, “out of respect for the victims” that will last until this Friday, effectively forcing aid groups to suspend their efforts to monitor and combat the outbreak. “Every day we lose is another lost chance to care for patients, trace contacts, conduct safe burials and stop this outbreak before it expands further and further,” said Peter Salama, the WHO’s head of emergency response.  The Washington Post

Congolese Activists Convicted of Inciting Anti-Kabila Protests
A Congolese court on Tuesday sentenced four pro-democracy activists to a year in prison for inciting protests against President Joseph Kabila, their lawyer said. Kabila maintains a tight grip on the Democratic Republic of Congo despite his announcement in August that he will not defy constitutional term limits to seek a third term in elections due in December. That decision calmed tensions that have roiled the country since he refused to step down when his mandate expired in 2016. But his opponents remain skeptical that the vote will be free and fair. The activists were arrested on Dec. 30 as they mobilized residents of the capital Kinshasa to demonstrate against Kabila’s refusal to quit power. Security forces have killed dozens of people in similar protests over the last two years.  VOA

Benin under Fire over Huge Hike in Election Candidate Fees
Benin’s former leader on Tuesday accused President Patrice Talon of “declaring war” on the nation through the adoption of a new law demanding exorbitant fees from anyone running for election. Adopted by parliament earlier this month, the legislation demands an eye-watering fee of 250 million CFA francs – around $450 000 – for candidates hoping to contest the 2020 presidential election. The figure constitutes a whopping 1 500% increase from the 15 million CFA francs in the 2016 election in a move denounced by the opposition as favouring the rich and well-connected. There is an even bigger hike for fielding a candidate list in the legislative elections, with the fee rising from 8.3 million CFA francs to 249 million. AFP

Amnesty Cautions Ethiopia against Return to Era of Arbitrary Arrests
International rights group, Amnesty International, AI, has cautioned the Ethiopian government against returning to the authoritarian days of mass arrests after a report that about 1,200 persons are currently in detention. Authorities arrested more than 1,200 people after violence erupted in and around the capital this month, a senior police official said, three times more than earlier estimates. Twenty-eight people died, the head of the capital’s police commission, Degfie Bedi, said, raising the death count from 23. “The majority were beaten to death. Seven were killed by security forces,” he told journalists late on Monday. Africa News

Families Continue Search for Ethiopia’s Disappeared
When the Ethiopian government released thousands of prisoners this year, Hannah Tesemma hoped that her three brothers and sisters, and her cousin, arrested on the streets of the capital 24 years ago, would be among them. They were not, so Hannah and her sister marched with a banner demanding their release during a rally in support of the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, and even stayed there despite a grenade attack that disrupted the public meeting. “We are not living, so why should we hide?” said Hannah, who still doesn’t know where her missing family is. Since coming to power in April, Mr. Abiy has implemented a vigorous reform programme that includes correcting the mistakes made by his party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). He released dozens of dissidents and publicly admitted that security forces were torturing detainees. Africa News

Pro-Government Forces Assume Control of Libyan Capital
The “Tripoli Protection Force”, affiliated with Libya’s UN-backed unity government, assumed control of the capital’s southern districts on Tuesday, according to a local security source. The force assumed control of Tripoli’s Al-Naklia military camp following the withdrawal of forces loyal to Libya’s former government of national salvation. Abdul-Basid Marwan, a military commander in Tripoli, told Libya’s Al-Ahrar television channel that all fighting in the city had ended while all roads had been reopened. Since August 26, Tripoli has seen fierce clashes between armed groups loyal to the unity government and others said to be opposed to it. Anadolu Agency

South Africa’s Mbeki Blasts ANC for Becoming ‘Black Party’
South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki has lambasted the governing African National Congress (ANC) for turning into “a black party”. He made the comment as he criticised the party’s decision to expropriate white-owned land without compensation. The ANC was targeting white people and had abandoned its commitment to “non-racialism”, Mr Mbeki warned. The party says it is pursuing the policy to tackle racial inequality in land ownership. Nearly a quarter of a century after the end of racist system of apartheid, white people – who make up 9% of the population – own 72% of the farmland that is held by individuals, government figures show.  BBC

Malaria and Malnutrition Kill 10 Children per Day in Niger
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned Tuesday over unprecedented levels of child mortality in southern Niger during the past month, with 10 children dying per day. Most deaths are linked to surging cases of malaria or malnutrition that have forced the intensive paediatric care unit in the city of Magaria to fill up, said the charity which is known by its French acronym MSF. “We have never seen anything like this before and we fear it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dorian Job, head of MSF’s Niger programme. Malaria cases normally rise this time of year because of the season, but the number this year is extraordinary, the charity added. “MSF medics believe they are only seeing one-sixth of the children who are in need of care.” The hospital in Magaria serves a population of up to one million, 20 percent of whom are under five. AFP

Calls for UK to Overturn Aid Freeze to Zambia despite Corruption Claims
A leading charity has called for Zambia to be given the benefit of the doubt as allegations of corruption and uncontrolled spending threaten to plunge the country into crisis. Fraud allegations that led to the suspension of the UK’s aid funding to Zambia and the sacking of a key minister could deepen Zambia’s precarious financial position as further details of President Edgar Lungu’s government overspending is revealed. Speaking to ZNBC news in Lusaka, Misheck Kombe, of Zambia-based Vision Ambassadors, appealed to aid providers including DfID to rescind their decision to freeze payments to the country, saying it would hurt the poorest in society. He said donors should judge Zambia leniently, especially as Lungu and his government have shown commitment to recover the money. In a report, the newsletter Africa Confidential has documented allegations of systematic misappropriation of aid that could plunge Zambia into a spiralling debt crisis and risk investor confidence in the government.  The Guardian

Zambia’s Sovereignty Concerns Put China in Crosshairs
In early September, James Lukuku staged a one-person protest in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, against his country’s relationship with China. Lukuku brandished a homemade sign that read: “China EQUALS Hitler.” Scrawled on his T-shirt was a plea to U.S. President Donald Trump for help. “I want every Zambian to rise and stop the influence of China,” said Lukuku, who heads the opposition Republican Progressive Party. The ruling party, he added, was “selling this nation to the Chinese.” Though it was a one-man protest, Lukuku is not the only person ringing alarm bells about Zambia’s relationship with China. Several opposition and civil society groups have warned that Zambia’s debt payments are unsustainable, and that China could take over businesses and public assets. Yet despite strong rhetoric, it’s unclear exactly how indebted Zambia has become, or whether China has seized ownership of any Zambian interests. VOA

Tunisia Reforms Face Fresh Strain after President Ends Islamist Tie-Up
Efforts to rescue Tunisia’s ailing economy face the prospect of fresh turmoil after the president declared his alliance with moderate Islamists at an end, deepening divisions in a fragile coalition managing the country’s transition from autocracy. Political analysts say Monday evening’s announcement by President Beji Caid Essebsi could make it difficult for the government to enact tough economic reforms sought by international lenders. “There will be no real risk of toppling the government in parliament, but the problem is that division will deepen, social tension will rise and reforms are threatened under a fragile government coalition,” Nizar Makni, a journalist and analyst said. Reuters

United Nations-African Union Joint Task Force on Peace, Security Holds Fifteenth Consultative Meeting in New York
The United Nations-African Union Joint Task Force on Peace and Security held its fifteenth consultative meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 22 September. The meeting reviewed the status of the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, focused on the situations in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea‑Bissau, Libya, Mali/Sahel, South Sudan and the Horn of Africa, and discussed cooperation on women, peace and security, follow-up to Security Council resolutions 2320 (2016) and 2378 (2017), African Union Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, as well as African Union and United Nations reforms and their implications on the partnership in peace and security.  ReliefWeb

Macron Faces up to France’s Colonial past with €40M ‘Harkis’ Aid
Emmanuel Macron will offer honours and a financial support package to the families of Algerians who aided French troops in the war of independence, as part of a wider policy of confronting his country’s colonial legacy in north Africa. Earlier this month, the French president took the historic step of acknowledging for the first time that France carried out systematic torture during the 1954-62 conflict. Macron – the first French president born after the Algerian conflict – has turned his attention to the Algerians known as “harkis”, a loaded and often pejorative term for the Algerian Muslims who helped the French in the brutal eight-year independence war and faced discrimination and poverty in France. Macron is granting national honours to more than 20 former fighters and those who have campaigned for recognition for the harkis as well as a €40m (£36m) support package designed largely to help their descendants, who still face marginalisation and poverty.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones