Africa Media Review for September 5, 2018

Eritrea to Trim the Size of Its Military as Détente Opens Future
Eritrea says it will cut the size of its army as part of changes to a system of mandatory national service the UN blames for propelling tens of thousands of people to flee to Europe and neighbouring countries. The end to a two-decade war with neighbouring Ethiopia means the country that sits on a key shipping route to the Suez Canal may be able to place some working-age people in industries such as infrastructure and agribusiness, and spur self-employment, according to government officials. Rights groups and the UN said the conscription policy fuelled a wave of migration. At its peak in 2015, Eritreans were the fourth-largest group illicitly crossing the Mediterranean, adding to Europe’s refugee crisis. Eritrea describes them as economic migrants. BusinessDay

Ethiopian PM Returns to Eritrea on Unannounced Working Visit
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday returned to Eritrea on an unannounced working visit, state-run Fana broadcasting corporate has reported. Abiy stopped in Eritrea whiles returning from the just ended Forum for China – Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, summit in Beijing, China. Fana reported that Abiy was welcomed by Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki and has since “visited the port of Assab and the 71km long road which stretches from Ethiopian border to the port. He is also expected to visit port of Massawa this afternoon,” the report added.  Africa News

Libya Violence: UN Says Ceasefire Agreed
The United Nations says the rival militia factions that have been fighting in Libya’s capital Tripoli for the past week have agreed a ceasefire. At least 47 people have been killed and 1,800 families internally displaced by the violence, officials say. Last week, a ceasefire deal announced by officials from western cities only held for a few hours. A UN-backed government is nominally in power in the capital, but militias occupy much of the rest of the country. “Under the auspices of [UN envoy Ghassan Salame], a ceasefire agreement was reached and signed today to end all hostilities, protect civilians, safeguard public and private property,” the Unsmil mission said. BBC

Libya Says Death Toll from Tripoli Clashes Climbs to 61
The death toll from more than a week of fighting between armed groups in Tripoli has climbed to at least 61 people, including civilians, Libyan authorities said Tuesday, as the U.N. expressed alarm over the fate of detained migrants and Libyans already displaced by years of unrest. The U.N. mission in Libya said late Tuesday that the warring militias had agreed to a cease-fire, but it was unclear whether the violence had ended. Fighting erupted last week when the Seventh Brigade, militias which hail from Tarhouna, a town about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Tripoli, attacked southern neighborhoods of the capital. The Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi Brigade — militias which support the U.N.-backed government — have come to the city’s defense. In addition to those killed, another 159 people, including civilians, have been wounded, while 12 people are still missing, according to Malek Merset, an official at the Health Ministry. AP

As Clashes Rage in Libya’s Tripoli, Italy Takes Swipe at France
Italy has blamed French interference for the latest bout of violence in the Libyan capital, where deadly clashes between rival militias have cast further doubt on planned December elections brokered by Paris. A week of fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has killed more than 50 people and wounded scores more, most of them civilians, according to a toll published by the Libyan health ministry on Tuesday, with the violence showing no sign of ebbing. The continued bloodshed is of major concern to Italy, which is desperate for a measure of stability in the war-torn North African country in order to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. It is also a subject of dispute between Libya’s former colonial power and France, whose mediating role in the Libyan crisis is regarded with suspicion in Rome.  France 24

‘7th Brigade’ Declares ‘Military Coup’ against Militias in Libyan Capital
Security continued to deteriorate in the Libyan capital Tripoli as clashes between rival militias persisted for a second week. Spokesman for the Brigade, Abdul Salam Ashour urged in a statement the government and security forces to exercise their duties. Ashour is interior minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. The Brigade announced that its forces were advancing steadily on Tripoli. In what could be interpreted as a military coup, the Brigade “reassured the residents of Tripoli, all sovereign institutions and diplomatic missions that its advance was aimed at protecting these institutions and ridding them of militias.”  Asharq Al-Awsat

Rebels Ambush South African Peacekeepers in Congo Ebola Zone
Two South African peacekeepers were wounded in a rebel ambush near the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, their U.N. mission said on Tuesday. The attack on Monday on the outskirts of the city of Beni underscored the challenges authorities face in tackling a flare-up of the deadly disease in an active conflict zone stalked by dozens of armed groups. Health officials say they have made progress slowing the haemmorhagic fever’s spread with experimental vaccines and treatments. But they cannot be sure the situation is under control due to difficulties accessing some areas. The peacekeepers’ patrol was attacked in the town of Ngadi by militants believed to belong to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist group active in eastern Congo, said Florence Marchal, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission known as MONUSCO. Reuters

MDC’s Chamisa Stalls Mnangagwa’s Cabinet, Wants Both Zim VPs Fired – Sources
Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has reportedly given President Emmerson Mnangagwa a list of demands that include the sacking of both recently appointed deputy presidents.  According to New Zimbabwe.com, sources close to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader have said Chamisa was driving a hard bargain that was “bordering on ridiculousness” as he demands the collapsing of the presidium. Chamisa was said to have demanded the sacking of deputy presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi before he can consider working with Mnangagwa. He has also demanded the disbandment of the country’s electoral commission and the restructuring of its security forces. Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda has, however, scoffed at the claims, saying the MDC leader would not “make such demands [to] a loser”. News 24

Rwanda Ruling Party Sweeps Parliamentary Poll
Independent candidates’ hope to clinch a seat in Rwanda’s Parliament has dwindled after the electoral commission announced initial poll results. The ruling RPF-Inkotanyi party has taken an early lead as the results from the Monday parliamentary elections streamed in. With over 70 per cent of the votes counted, President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front has bagged 75 per cent of the ballots cast. RPF’s traditional allies, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) have garnered 8.5 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, of the results announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), the country’s only registered opposition party, and Social Party Imberakuri (PS Imberakuri) both tie with 4.5 per cent of the votes tallied. The East African

Nigerians at Risk of Starvation as U.N. Fails to Secure Aid Access, European States Say
European states warned the United Nations that more than 800,000 people are cut off from aid and may be starving in northeast Nigeria, contradicting government assertions that a crisis has abated and rebuking the world body for failing to secure access. Nigeria’s government has said this year that an emergency in the northeast caused by a decade-long conflict with Islamist fighters was easing, and efforts should shift from humanitarian relief to longer term development aid. But in a letter to directors of emergency programs at U.N. and other aid agencies, the EU, Britain, France and Germany said the United Nations was failing to press home the urgency of a disaster which had put children at risk of starvation.  Reuters

Nineteen Killed in Fresh Resource Conflict in Central Nigeria
Nineteen people have been killed and scores of homes burnt in fresh violence in central Nigeria, police said, after weeks of relative calm in a long-running resource conflict between farmers and herders. Eleven people were shot dead in the Lopandet Dwei Du area of Plateau state on Monday. Eight others were killed last Tuesday in the state’s Barakin Ladi district. Twelve people were wounded in the first attack. Three were injured in the second, which also saw 95 houses burnt down and 310 cattle stolen, said police spokesman Typev Terna. Plateau has for years suffered tit-for-tat violence between nomadic herders and farmers over land and water that has taken on a wider ethnic, political and religious dimension. The Independent

3 Algerian Soldiers, 2 Extremists Killed in Clash
Officials say three soldiers have been killed and three others wounded in a clash with Islamist militants in western Algeria. They say two militants, including the chieftain of the group, were also killed. The prefecture in Sidi Bel Abbes, some 600 kilometers west of the capital Algiers, said Tuesday that the extremists fired on the soldiers during a patrol in the village of Talagh a day earlier. Local authorities said the group was responsible for the May 22 murder of two imams, aged 64 and 67, at the mosque in Oued Sebaa, another town in the region. Algeria continues to hunt down extremists years after the so-called “black decade” of the 1990s and early 2000s when violence left an estimated 200,000 people dead. AP

Jitters as South Sudan Rebel Thomas Cirilo Visits US
A visit to the US by a top South Sudanese rebel commander, Gen Thomas Cirilo, is causing jitters in his home country. A report by The Dawn daily in Juba on Tuesday, suggested that the trip to Washington was part of a wider American plot against the latest South Sudan peace agreement. The deal was negotiated in Khartoum. “We are not sure of why he is gone to the US, but we know he is there, being sponsored by the CIA,” The Dawn daily quoted intelligence sources as saying. The paper said the rebel commander was rallying support from the South Sudanese diaspora to fulfill his motive of overthrowing the Juba regime. The East African

Mali’s Keita Promises to Tackle Rising Violence in Inaugural Address
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita promised on Tuesday to address deteriorating security caused by an Islamist insurgency and inter-ethnic clashes as he was sworn in for a second five-year term. Hundreds of supporters and local politicians attended the ceremony in the capital Bamako, which followed Keita’s landslide victory last month in an election marred by militant attacks and claims of fraud by his opposition rival. Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over the desert north in 2012. French forces intervened the following year to beat back the militants, but they have since regrouped. The regular attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso have alarmed Western powers like France and the United States who have poured troops and air power into the region. Reuters

Ramaphosa’s Recession in South Africa Heightens Election Risk
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s job of getting South Africa back on track just got a lot more perilous with the surprising news that the economy has slipped into recession. He must walk a fine line between restoring investor confidence battered by almost nine years of misrule by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, while reducing widespread poverty. And next year’s general elections are looming. The “Ramaphoria” that buoyed the markets and the public at large after Ramaphosa engineered Zuma’s ouster in February has long since faded. Adding to the woes of Africa’s most-industrialized economy are an escalating global trade war that’s soured sentiment toward emerging markets and an official unemployment rate near a 15-year high of 27.2 percent. Bloomberg

Fractures Weaken Lesotho’s Ruling Party
Tom Thabane was jeered by supporters of his own party last week, in what analysts see as a sign that his days as the Lesotho’s prime minister may be numbered. The rowdiness that marked the All Basotho Convention’s (ABC) navel-gazing “sabbatical conference” in Quthing gave a new twist to the leadership battle in the party ahead of its elective conference early next year. Delegates were angered by the national executive committee’s dramatic suspension of outspoken party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe shortly before the conference. Earlier the same week, Thabane sacked Maliehe as his tourism minister. Maliehe’s offence was to publicly accuse Thabane of letting his ambitious young wife, Maesaiah Thabane, meddle in the affairs of state. Mail and Guardian

‘Man Detained’ after Blast Near US Embassy in Cairo
Egyptian security forces have reportedly detained a man suspected of trying to detonate a bomb near the US embassy in the capital, Cairo. A security source said the man was carrying a bag that exploded outside the compound in the Garden City area. The embassy said police had “finished their investigations at the scene” and that it had resumed normal business. Egyptian academic Adel al-Adawy earlier tweeted photos appearing to show a small fire and a man being led away.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones