Africa Media Review for September 4, 2019

Mali: More than a Dozen Killed after Explosion Hits Passenger Bus
At least 14 people have been killed when an explosion hit a bus carrying passengers in Mali’s Mopti region, according to the security minister. Salif Traore said 24 people were also wounded in Tuesday’s blast, with seven being “in a critical state”. He did not provide further details. Bus operator Sonef said the vehicle was travelling from the central town of Douentza to the northern town of Gao, carrying 60 passengers. … A Malian military unit, which had coincidentally been on the same road, was able to assist the passengers, a police source told AFP news agency. Sonef said it had sent a second bus to pick them up. The United Nations stabilisation force in Mali, MINUSMA, condemned the attack – which it said had caused “many deaths and 30 injuries” – adding that some of the wounded had been evacuated by helicopter. Al Jazeera

Tunisian Court Refuses to Free Jailed Presidential Candidate
A Tunisian court on Tuesday refused to free jailed presidential candidate Nabil Karoui from prison so that he can campaign for the Sept. 15 election, a television station he co-owns and his spokesman said. Karoui, a leading candidate among 26 people in the race, was jailed Aug. 23 during an investigation into money laundering and tax evasion charges against him. The decision was announced by Nessma TV, which Karoui co-owns. A spokesman for Karoui, Abdelaziz Belkhoja, said the court declared itself “incompetent” to rule in the case. He denounced the situation as a “masquerade.” … Dozens of Karoui’s supporters had rallied outside the Tunis courthouse where judges were meeting, chanting “Liberate him!” They claimed the charges are politically driven since his arrest ahead of the elections. The media magnate is considered a top candidate in the first-round presidential vote. Tunisia’s electoral commission says he can remain a candidate as long as he hasn’t been convicted. AP

South African Police Arrest 90 as Unrest in Cities Continues
South Africa’s president condemned days of widespread looting and arson attacks on foreign-owned businesses across Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, calling the violence “totally unacceptable.” “We are a country that is completely committed against xenophobia,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video statement published on Twitter Tuesday. “We do not allow and cannot tolerate attacks on people from other African countries.” Police fanned out across neighborhoods in Johannesburg and Pretoria as the violence extended into a third day in South Africa. Police have arrested more than 100 people in five areas impacted by the violence. Many gutted, emptied shops remained closed as shop owners, many of them foreign, feared to return to their property. Police minister Bheki Cele confirmed on Tuesday that five people had died since the the violence started on Sunday night. … Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited Alexandra with police officials and called for calm, pleading with the community to refrain from the violence. Makhura said police had the capacity to deal with the unrest and would not need any reinforcement from the army, a concern that has emerged in recent days. AP

Xenophobia: Stop Attacking South African Businesses, Nigerian Govt Urges Citizens
The Nigerian government has appealed to its citizens to stop attacking South African businesses in the West African country. Some South African businesses, including retail store, Shoprite; clothing store, PEP; and telecoms firm, MTN, were attacked in various parts of Nigeria on Tuesday. The attacks are believed to be in retaliation to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against foreigners including Nigerians. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa have worsened in the past week leading to the destruction and looting of many business premises including those owned by Nigerians. At least five people are reported killed in the attacks which the South African government said it is trying to curb. Many Nigerians have accused the South African government of not doing enough to stop the violence there. Premium Times

Xenophobia in South Africa Strains International Relations
Taking to the social platform Twitter, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama vented his anger at the attacks which also targeted Nigerians living in South Africa. “Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in South Africa by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection,” he wrote. “Enough is enough.” Without getting into details, Onyeama said that Abuja would take “definitive measures.” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is expected in Cape Town on 4 September 2019, where he will be attending the African edition of the World Economic Forum. Pressure is growing at home for him to take a decisive stance. Former presidential candidate Oby Ezekwesili called on Twitter for stronger intervention by the government: “The maiming and killings have gone on for too long without effective response. The bilateral relations with South Africa is [sic] troubled. It is time to be candid,” Ezekwesili wrote. DW

SA Joint Operation Develops Security Plan for WEF on Africa Conference
South Africa’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) said on Wednesday it had developed a comprehensive security plan to ensure the safety of delegates attending the World Economic Forum on Africa. South Africa will host the September 4-6 forum in Cape Town against the backdrop of rising outrage over violence against women and children, and the ongoing looting and burning of small businesses owned largely by foreigners from other African countries as well as Asian states such as Pakistan. In a statement, NatJOINTS said the activities and deployments outlined in its plan would ensure uncompromising security measures were implemented for the duration of the event. … South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend the event, but some of the 20 heads of state that had also been expected have indicated they will boycott the conference in response to the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals. The forum brings together senior leaders of government, business, academia and civil society for high-level discussions on how to accelerate economic growth and development and South Africa aims use the event to promote itself as an attractive investment destination. ANA

Pope Makes Strategic Visit to Mozambique after Peace Deal
Pope Francis is opening a three-nation pilgrimage to southern Africa with a strategic visit to Mozambique, just weeks after the country’s ruling party and armed opposition signed a new peace deal and weeks before national elections. Thirty years after St. John Paul II begged Mozambicans to end their civil war, Francis is expected to endorse the new Aug. 1 accord and urge its full implementation when he meets with government authorities on Thursday, his first full day in the region. He arrives Wednesday evening but has no public events scheduled after his brief airport welcome ceremony. The timing of the visit is not coincidental, coming just weeks after the signing of the accord between the ruling Frelimo party and the armed Frenamo opposition and before national elections on Oct. 15. The vote is considered crucial because a new constitutional amendment has decentralized power so that provincial governors will now be elected directly, rather than appointed by the central government. AP

Cracks Form in Mozambique’s Latest Push for Peace
The renewed political uncertainty comes as Mozambique, a southern African country of roughly 30 million people, faces multiplying crises. A suspected Islamist insurgency is destablising the northern region of Cabo Delgado, and some 1.8 million are struggling in the aftermath of cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which made landfall earlier this year. The self-styled Renamo Military Junta – a faction of the armed opposition movement Renamo – has rejected the new peace deal and threatened to derail presidential and provincial elections scheduled for October unless the governing Frelimo party agrees to renegotiate. Frelimo party officials are meanwhile accused of torching the property of Renamo members just days after committing to the deal – raising tensions between the bitter rivals who have waged war on and off since the late 1970s. Rights groups worry the agreement – the third attempt at forging peace in Mozambique – offers impunity to human rights abusers and little for the victims of past crimes, including those allegedly killed and disappeared by government forces during the conflict’s most recent 2013-2016 flare-up. The New Humanitarian

Zimbabwe: I Can Hold a Gun If Pushed into a Corner, Chamisa Says to Mnangagwa
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government against pushing his party too far as witnessed by a continued State crackdown, telling party followers Sunday that the main opposition was only restraining itself from an armed retaliation against the abuses. He was addressing thousands of party supporters who thronged Chemhanza stadium in Glenview suburb, Harare to drum up support for Vincent, son to late founding party president, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is due to contest a parliamentary by-election within the constituency this coming weekend. Not less than 20 civilians died in the hands of the military following two episodes of violent anti-government protests since the July 31, 2018 elections. Several more were left nursing varying degrees of injuries. In his address, Chamisa said the Zanu PF led government was pushing the opposition too far. New Zimbabwe

Scores of DRC Media ‘Closed’ in Crackdown: Rights Group
Dozens of media outlets have been shut down in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the latest crackdown against journalists, a local media rights group said on Tuesday. Congolese group Journalist in Danger (JED) said “around thirty” media outlets were closed “around the country”. “They were accused of not paying taxes,” Tshivis Tshivuadi, JED’s secretary general told AFP. The media outlets – which the organisation did not name – were mostly in the Kasai and Equateur provinces, he said. Journalist in Danger said it had recorded “at least six cases of flagrant attacks on the freedom of information” in two weeks, including attacks and detentions. One reporter was “violently beaten” by a soldier while interviewing alleged victims of military violence in Nord-Kivu province, it said in a statement. AFP

Eritrea Seizes Schools Run by Religious Groups
Authorities in Eritrea have seized control of seven secondary schools run by religious organisations. An order to hand over the running of the schools was given to the Catholic Church and other Christian and Muslim groups on Tuesday morning. Sources have told the BBC that security agents are already in the school compounds demanding the handover. Most of the students at the schools are from economically disadvantaged families, a source said. The government says that the closures are in line with regulations they introduced in 1995, which limit the activities of religious institutions. In June, the government seized all health centres run by the Catholic Church, leaving thousands of patients without care. Those closures appeared to be a response to the church’s criticism of President Isaias Afwerki’s rule. BBC

Ethiopian Opposition Parties Threaten Election Boycott
A coalition of Ethiopian opposition parties on Tuesday threatened to boycott a national vote next year without changes to an electoral law they view as biased towards the ruling party. There have been regular parliamentary elections since the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in 1991 but, with one exception, none were competitive. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed last year by the EPRDF after three years of anti-government protests, promising reforms including a credible multi-party poll in 2020. But opposition parties say last month’s changes to the election law in parliament, where the ruling party holds all the seats, made it more difficult for them. … The vote is also under threat from ethnic rivalries. The election board in June said that violence, which has driven 2.4 million people out of their homes according to the United Nations, could delay the vote. Reuters

Japan Has a Plan to Challenge China’s Influence in Africa
Dozens of African leaders trooped into Yokohama city on Japan’s Pacific coast in late August and heard prime minister Shinzo Abe promise that Japan’s private sector will invest $20 billion over three years in Africa. What’s more, said Abe, Tokyo would offer “limitless support” for investment, innovation, enterprise, and entre­pre­neur­ship, with backing from Japan’s government-backed institutions. The promises of cooperation were made at the seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD). It is one of several such gatherings that now occur across the globe, where countries make their vows to Africa and court African partners for aid, trade, investment. China’s deepening presence in Africa, however, looms large over them all and so it was at TICAD. China is now Africa’s largest trade partner and its largest infrastructure funder. Last year, president Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion for development projects in Africa. … Tokyo’s strategy is also aimed at providing an ideological counterweight to Beijing by building, as Abe declared at the sixth TICAD in Nairobi in 2016, a partnership “that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion.” Quartz Africa

Congo-Brazzaville Gets $65M Funding to Protect Earth’s Lung, Congo Basin
Republic of Congo is joining an international program that will grant the country 60 million euros ($65.6 million) to better protect the rainforest and fight climate change. The country’s president, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, will formally sign up for the Central African Forest Initiative during a meeting Tuesday in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. The program’s financing is provided by a coalition of donors: the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Conservationists consider the Congo Basin as the earth’s second set of lungs, after the Amazon. Logging, farming and armed conflict still menace Africa’s jungles, which include the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest after the Amazon, but analysts are increasingly hopeful its remaining wilds can be rescued. Macron pledged last week at the G-7 summit to help sub-Saharan African countries fight fires raging in the area that are being compared to the Amazon rainforest fires. AP



Photo: Adam Jones