Nine Africa stories worth talking about at dinner tonight - and Wednesday breakfast


Good week for Africa’s former generals, Boko Haram’s favourite drug, and a Madiba phone app, and Obasanjo seen seeking jobs from Buhari

IT seems there has never been a better time to be an African former general.

It is not only newly elected Nigerian former military ruler Muhammadu Bahuri who is causing giddy headlines.

In Egypt, president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is on a Bonarpartist roll.

Sisi (L) with Sudan president Omar al-Bashir (centre) and Ethiopia’s PM Hailemariam Desalegn. (Photo AFP).

Recently he dispatched bombers to Libya to hammer Islamic States militants after they beheaded Egyptian Coptic expatriates working there. Then he had a very successful investment summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh at which there were pledges of nearly $30 billion, and then hosted an Arab Summit which approved the Saudi Arabia-led air campaign against Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen.

Egypt, Morocco, and Sudan are the three African countries in the anti-Houthi coalition, the highest number of African nations involved in a military campaign outside the continent since the first American invasion of Iraq in 1990.

Now US president Barack Obama has agreed to send Egypt 12 F-16 fighter jets and other weapons that had been held up after the 2013 military takeover that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama also will support continuing to provide $1.3 billion a year in military assistance to Egypt.

BUT the decorated general flavour of the moment is doubtless Buhari. He has been setting markets alight.

Buhari: Autocrat turned democrat—-who seems loved by markets. (Photo AFP).

Nigerian stocks gained the most in the world as his win triggered a rally. 

Buhari, 72, built a reputation among his backers as a ruler who cracked down on corruption and crime after seizing power in a 1983 coup. He became the first Nigerian opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent.

Nigeria’s all-share index jumped as much as 8.4%, the most among 93 global measures tracked by Bloomberg, to the highest since Jan. 5. The gauge has gained 18% since the start of a nine-day rally, also the world’s largest advance over the period. At the end of February, it was the global laggard for the year.

Foreign companies with operations in Nigeria basked in the Buhari glow. South Africa’s giant wireless operator MTN’s shares gained the most in five years after the generally peaceful Nigerian election. Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market.”

THERE wasn’t Buhari-like love for politicians in Cape Verde, though.

Hundreds of people on the island nation protested against salary increases of as much as 65% for politicians.

The protesters have asked President Jorge Carlos Fonseca to veto the law that granted the pay raises. Former President Antonio Manuel Mascarenhas Monteiro said on national television that he backs the protesters.

THE war against Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants continued in earnest, especially after they killed over 40 people in various parts of the northeast of the country, in an attempt to disrupt the weekend vote – which they failed to do.

Niger troops, parts of the regional coalition fighting Boko Haram. (Photo AFP).

Soldiers from Chad and Niger regained the Nigerian border town of Malam Fatori from the Islamist militants, the Chadian army said.

The troops retook the town on Tuesday “after heavy fighting” with Boko Haram insurgents, according to a statement from army spokesman Agouna Azem Bermandoah read on Chadian national radio.

The war against the group has drawn in Nigeria’s northeastern neighbours Cameroon, Chad and Niger, with their troops carrying out raids against the militants.

IN Zimbabwe, there was another instance of the pointless but growing role of courts in settling the internal squabbles of political parties in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court upheld the dismissal of Didymus Mutasa, a former aide of President Robert Mugabe, from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party.

The court also upheld the dismissal of Themba Mliswa, ZANU-PF’s former chairman for Mashonaland West.

IN the Thailand capital Bangkok, a 25-year-old cast an unflattering spotlight on a senior Bangkok-based World Health Organisation (WHO) official and his wife after their she accused them of modern-day slavery and physical abuse.

Many people will have images of its role in the recent battle against Ebola when they hear of WHO, not of its senior officials torturing their Ethiopian domestic helpers. (Photo AFP)

It is very rare to read WHO, slavery, and abuse all used in the same sentence.

The maid filed a complaint last month accusing her employers of beating her and forcing her to work without pay for nearly two years at their residence in a plush expat colony in Nonthaburi, a northern satellite city of Bangkok, police said.

Thai police are investigating, and no charges have been pressed against the couple but they will be called in for questioning next week.

AND, back to Boko Haram. Their rampage, AFP reports, is putting Lake Chad’s boatmen out of business.

An idle boat on Lake Chad, thanks to Boko Haram. (Photo AFP).

The ruthless Islamists have brought such insecurity to Lake Chad that most trade among the four countries whose borders meet there—Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger—has dried up for months.

Hundreds of little islands are scattered across the broad surface of Lake Chad, thus also making it very hard to monitor. In consequence, it has long been considered ideal for business by traffickers of all kinds, seeking to move their illicit goods from one country to another. However, lately, because of the militant’s threat, security surveillance of the lake has increased.

Weapons, drugs and other contraband items have been shifted around with little hindrance.

A particularly popular product is Tramol, a strong painkiller that doubles as a stimulant. It is the drug of choice for Boko Haram fighters. It would seem then, because of its activities, Boko Haram might no longer be getting narcotic fix regularly.

A PHONE app tracing the footsteps of Nelson Mandela was launched Wednesday in South Africa to encourage tourists to explore his life story, 25 years after his release from prison.

Users can use the tool to plan their travels around major sites associated with the liberation icon, including Robben Island, the prison off Cape Town where he spent 18 years of his 27-year jail term, and Qunu, his childhood home and burial place.

The GPS-enabled app, which is named ‘Madiba’s Journey’ after Madela’s clan name, was designed by South African Tourism and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“This app makes ‘walking in the footsteps of Madiba’ much easier than before and greatly enriches visitors’ experiences of the attractions associated with one of the greatest men of our time,” said Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom.

The revered anti-apartheid leader became South Africa’s first black president after the end of whites-only rule in 1994.

He died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95.

FORMER Nigerian head of state Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday reached out to president-elect Muhammadu Buhari, in a possible sign that he is prepared to help the country’s leader-in-waiting.

Veteran Obasanjo: Has written to Nigeria’s newly-elected president a letter that smells like a job application. (Photo AFP).

“I am sure there are men and women of goodwill, character and virtue… that you can mobilise to join hands with you in the reform, repairs and re-direction that will be imperative to put Nigeria back on fast lane,” Obasanjo said in a letter to Buhari.

Obasanjo, 78, like Buhari, is a former military ruler of Nigeria, who went on to become elected civilian president. 

Obasanjo, head of state from 1999 to 2007, fell out with the beaten presidential candidate Goodluck Jonathan and has launched a series of public attacks on the outgoing president. 

In mid-February he publicly tore up his PDP membership card and refused to back Jonathan’s re-election campaign, despite having been widely believed to have helped his initial rise to the top job. His public letter to Buhari so soon after his election win will likely be interpreted as a pitch for a job, after he made encouraging noises to Buhari’s candidacy on the campaign trail. 

“With so much harm already done to many national institutions, including the military, which proudly nurtured you and me, you will have a lot to do on institution reform,” he wrote. 

Although once seen as a political godfather in Nigeria, Obasanjo’s influence has been on the wane and he retired from front-line politics to his chicken farm.  But he still enjoys international respect outside the country. 

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