This Week in Review: #SAElections2019, US-China Trade Talks, #EP2019, Cuba’s Economic Crisis, Venezuela and Iran Sanctions Top this Week News

Alao Abiodun
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The week in review has been full of activities all around the African region and the wider world. Here’s a roundup of this week’s top stories across Africa and the rest of the world.

On 8 May 2019, South Africans headed to the polls for the country’s sixth democratic elections. Despite the highest number of voters ever registered for the #SAElections2019, the turnout plummeted to its lowest ever.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling ANC won re-election on Friday with an absolute majority in parliament, results showed, but with diminished support, complicating economic revival and anti-corruption efforts.

The results, published by the electoral commission, are the party’s worst national showing since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the first multi-racial polls after apartheid ended in 1994.

Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed the ANC’s closest rival, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), but only marginally. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was in third place

However, It’s been an arduous journey but the end is finally in sight. With the counting and capturing of votes currently sitting at 97%, results of South Africa’s sixth democratic election will be announced today, Saturday. This is according to the IEC, which added that the preliminary results will be audited and ratified at a closing event, due to take place on Saturday evening.

The ANC has won all the past five elections, but Wednesday’s vote is set to be an electoral test on whether the party has started a decline in popularity.

The party is tipped to win the vote, but with a reduced majority and the result will reveal whether its new leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, can reverse growing resentment among South African voters.

Ramaphosa took over from scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma, under whose leadership the ANC saw its most significant drop in support since 1994. Read More: #SAElections2019: ANC Leads as Election Results Trickle in

Meanwhile, Social Democrat Laurentino Cortizo was declared Panama’s 2019 presidential election earlier this week, on Sunday, in a close race that saw a large number of voters turn out amid concerns over corruption scandals and the country’s image as a money-launderer’s paradise.

“I feel very happy. I won. We won. What we have to do now is join forces as a country,” Cortizo told reporters shortly before the electoral tribunal confirmed his victory.

Cortizo was favored to win, with pre-election polls giving him a 10-point lead over his closest challenger, former foreign minister Romulo Roux of the Democratic Change party.

With ballots counted in 92.5 percent of polling stations, Cortizo had won 33.08 percent of the vote against 31.06 for his right-wing opponent Roux, a lead the electoral tribunal said was “irreversible” despite the close margin of fewer than 40,000 votes. Turnout was nearly 73 percent.

Trailing well behind the pair was surprise independent candidate Ricardo Lombana, a lawyer and journalist who took 19.34 percent after campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket. Read More: Panama Election: Laurentino Cortizo Wins Close Presidential Race

Other major stories includes the verdict of the House Judiciary Committee which voted on Wednesday, May 8 to hold attorney general William Barr in contempt of Congress.

The move escalates the Democrats’ extraordinary legal battle with the Trump administration over access to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report.

The vote capped a day of ever-deepening dispute between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump.

For the first time he invoked the principle of executive privilege, claiming the right to block lawmakers from the full report on Mr Mueller’s probe of Russian interference to help Mr Trump in the 2016 election.

Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler declared the action by Mr Trump’s Justice Department a clear new sign of the president’s “blanket defiance” of Congress’ constitutional rights. Read More: US Attorney General William Barr held in Contempt of Congress

In another news, Voters will head to the polls for the EU elections on 23 May after Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington confirmed talks between ministers and Labour would not reach agreement in time to prevent it.

Downing Street said the talks had been “constructive and detailed” but Labour have told reporters that Theresa May remains wedded to her deal which has been repeatedly rejected by MPs.

Lidington said: “We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted… so that those elections did not have to take place, but legally they do have to take place unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect.”

As a result, Scotland will elect its six MEPs this month, although it is unclear how long they will sit in the European Parliament. As things stand the UK expects to leave the EU by 31 October. Read More: European Union Elections Confirmed for 23 May

In this week’s review, APRECON gives a brief recap of various headlines across Africa and the rest of the world. Missed this week’s top stories? Read our quick round-up.


Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak is unlikely to be contained unless violence stops, said the World Health Organization, after attacks halted work for almost five days.

The world’s second biggest Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,000 people in a part of eastern Congo plagued by militia violence. Distrust by local residents has further hampered the response, with health workers and centers repeatedly attacked.

In the past week a burial team was attacked in the town of Katwa and 50 militiamen stormed the city of Butembo, the epicenter of the outbreak, in addition to a number of other “serious security incidents” in Ebola hot spots, said WHO.

“Without commitment from all groups to cease these attacks, it is unlikely that this EVD (Ebola virus disease) outbreak can remain successfully contained in North Kivu and Ituri provinces,” the agency said in a statement.

High transmission rates in recent weeks raise the risk of a spread to other provinces and countries, a WHO spokesman added. Read More: DR Congo’s Ebola Outbreak ‘Unlikely’ to be Contained Unless Violence Stops Says WHO

In another news, Cameroon’s main opposition party on Friday, May 10, called for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all political prisoners, during talks with Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on resolving the country’s regional conflict with anglophone separatists.

Northwest Region, Social Democratic Front (SDF) leader Ni John Fru Ndi also called for the appointment of a mediator for resolving the conflict “Everyone must be listened to. The SDF is for inclusive political debate on the crisis…,” said SDF official Jean Robert Wafo.

“We can listen to the secessionists without, however, agreeing to the principle,” he said explaining that a “clear and unambiguous” against secession had to be taken. During Friday’s discussion the federalist SDF recommended four measure to resolve the crisis, according to a party statement received by AFP.

The federalist party called for “an immediate ceasefire” and the demobilisation of all separatist forces as well as “the immediate release of all political prisoners held as part of this crisis” as well as the naming of a mediator to prepare negotiations.

On Thursday, Dion Ngute arrived in Bamenda with the message that the government was ready for dialogue to resolve the regional conflict with separatists, while stressing that independence was not on the table. Read More: Cameroon Opposition Calls for Ceasefire to End Crisis


Fayez Al Sarraj, prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, has urged US President Donald Trump to stop foreign support for Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli.

Field Marshal Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is allied to a rival administration in eastern Libya, mounted an offensive on the capital in early April, saying the GNA was controlled by what it called terrorists.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council called on all parties to commit to a ceasefire and return to UN-led mediation.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Al Sarraj said it was vital for the US to “prevent a bloody civil war with global implications … I remain hopeful that President Trump will succeed where previous presidents have failed.”

Mr Al Sarraj made his appeal a day after the GNA asked 40 foreign firms, including France’s Total, to renew their licences or have their operations suspended. Read More: PM Fayez Al Sarraj Urges Trump to Stop Haftar’s Backers in Libya

Meanwhile, Sudanese authorities announced on Monday that they had seized modern weapons and explosives belts from a property in the capital Khartoum.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) forces seized explosives belts, guns, including rifles fitted with silencers, devices used to detonate explosives remotely and satellite telephones during the operation, said the state news agency SUNA.

Acting on a tip, the RSF carried out the raid in al-Taif district. It was not known if the weapons cache was linked in any way to the country’s current political crisis. The news agency did not say if anyone was arrested or who owned the weapons.

President Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power for 30 years, was ousted last month by the military following months of protests.

The demonstrations, which have been peaceful, have continued as opposition groups demand that the military, which currently rules through a Transitional Military Council, hand over power to civilians. Read More: Sudanese Rapid Support Forces Seize Explosives, Weapons During Khartoum Raid

In another news, Libya’s navy confirmed the rescued of 213 Europe-bound African and Arab migrants off the Mediterranean coast.

The navy released a statement online on Friday saying its coast guard came to the aid of two rubber boats that had sailed separately on May 8. One of the two boats was carrying 88 men, 12 women and seven children. The second boat carried the remaining 106.

The statement says the migrants — nationals of several Arab and African countries — were handed over to Libya’s police after having received humanitarian and medical aid. Read More: Libya Rescues More than 200 Europe-bound Migrants Off Coast


The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir said on Wednesday, this week that the formation of a unity government should be delayed by at least a year, despite a May 12 deadline in a September peace agreement that ended the civil war.

President Salva Kiir said the government had been unable to disarm, house, train and integrate South Sudan’s various forces since the deal had been signed, and rejected a suggestion by former rebel leader Riek Machar that the new government be formed in six months.

Kiir said that postponement came at Machar’s request, but said the rainy season would make it hard to accomplish the integration of their forces within six months.

“Instead of six months let us call for one year, because from May up to November, there will be rain still and you cannot move with a car to any location,” Kiir said in his speech. “We can form the government by April or May.”

Machar called for a six-month delay during a meeting with the Pope last month.

Around 400,000 people died during South Sudan’s five-year civil war, which broke out in 2013 between forces loyal to Machar – then vice president – and Kiir. Read More: “Formation of Unity Government Should be Delayed a Year” Says South Sudan President Salva Kiir

A US air strike killed 13 ISIS terrorists in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region on Wednesday, May 8, the US military said, days after another strike killed three.

The US military has stepped up its campaign of air strikes in Somalia since President Donald Trump took office, saying it has killed more than 800 militants in two years.

ISIS has gathered recruits in Puntland although experts say the scale of its force is unclear and it remains a small player compared to Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group that once controlled much of Somalia.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said late on Thursday the latest strike targeted an ISIS-Somalia camp in the Golis Mountains. “At this time, it is assessed the air strike on May 8 killed 13 terrorists,” it said.

AFRICOM said in April it had killed Abdulhakim Dhuqubz identifying him as ISIS deputy leader in Somalia. Read More: Air Strike Kills 13 ISIS Terrorists in Somalia

Catholic bishops on Friday, May 10 criticized the Kenyan government over its commitment in the fight against corruption, saying that the enthusiasm to stamp out the vice has waned.

Suggesting that the declared war on corruption was a gimmick intended to deceive Kenyans, the clerics demanded a more aggressive approach to ensure those stealing taxpayers money are arrested and prosecuted.

They raised concerns that the anti-corruption drumbeats by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti were all ‘suddenly dead’, save for the latest onslaught on former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero.

“We have allowed the dragon of corruption to pull us down to the point where we have accepted it to be our way of life. The scale and magnitude of the allegations of corruption reported in the media has reached alarming levels and this is threatening the fabric of the society,” Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) chairman Archbishop Philip Anyolo said in a statement.

Since the President’s State of the Nation address last month, there appears to be a climb-down from what had looked like a sustained crackdown on corruption. Read More: Kenya: Bishops tell Uhuru Kenyatta to Crack the Whip in War on Corruption


Namibian President, Hage Geingob on Monday declared the current drought affecting the arid and semi-arid counties and pockets of other areas within the country a national disaster.

Geingob said all government agencies and stakeholders will be called upon to ensure that the necessary assistance is given to affected communities.

“The rain season is almost over and we did not receive good rainfall. This means that we are facing the natural disasters of drought and many will be affected by the situation,” Geingob said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has been directed to advise farmers in areas with poor grazing to take precautionary measures such as destocking and culling of animals. Other measures include ensuring timely and sufficient allocation of production inputs and acceleration of the repair of government tractors. Read More: Namibia’s President Hage Geingob Declares National Emergency Over Drought

In Zimbabwe, the Vice-president, Kembo Mohadi has implored traditional leaders in Mashonaland Central province to help government to quell emergent protests in the county by preaching peace in their communities.

Speaking at a peace and conflict resolution meeting with chiefs in Mazowe yesterday, Mohadi said the country had become ungovernable and needed a collective approach in dealing with conflicts.

The country has become ungovernable as you all witnessed in August last year soon after elections. There were violent protests and this year in January, there were protests in urban centres, making the country ungovernable,” he said.

“I have oversight on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and I chair the Cabinet committee on peace. However, I have chosen to consult our traditional leaders in order to learn from their indigenous knowledge for this country to be governable.”

Mohadi urged chiefs to preach the “gospel of peace” in their communities for individuals and families to remain united. “Traditional chiefs are the custodians of the people. Indeed, conflicts were high in urban centers, but you, as chiefs, can talk to the parents of those in the city to stop conflicts as it retards development,” he said. Read More: ‘Zimbabwe now Ungovernable’ Says Vice-President Kembo Mohadi


At least 55 people were killed in Niger when an overturned fuel tanker from which they were siphoning gasoline exploded, the government said on Monday.

The incident took place late Sunday night on the highway linking Niger’s Diori Hamani international airport to the capital Niamey.

Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said 55 charred bodies had been recovered from the scene and that 37 were being treated in nearby hospitals. Read More: Niger Fuel Tanker Blast Kills at Least 55

President Muhammadu Buhari has hailed the People’s Republic of China for its “genuine” efforts aimed at improving Nigeria’s infrastructure development.

Buhari spoke yesterday, May 10 at State House, Abuja, while receiving the Chairman of China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC), Mr. Fenjian Chen.

The President said Nigeria’s infrastructure had depreciated and deteriorated over the years and was affecting standard of living, and also leading to loss of lives through avoidable accidents.

“We are very grateful to China for the effort to rebuild our infrastructure and for bringing technical expertise to the country. We will give the required support and cooperation so that our old, out of date and collapsed infrastructure might be turned around,” he said.

The President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, promised to personally pay attention to the many projects being undertaken in the country for the good of Nigerians. Read More: President Buhari Hails China’s Efforts to Improve Nigeria’s Infrastructure

French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight military raid in which two soldiers died.

The operation was ordered to free the French hostages, identified as Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, who disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin on 1 May.

The identity of the American and South Korean hostages was not immediately known, but they were both said to be women.

The location of the raid seemed to indicate that the French tourists had been kidnapped in Benin and taken over the border into Burkina Faso, where Islamist terror and other militant groups have stepped up attacks in recent months.

President Emmanuel Macron “wants to congratulate the French armed forces for the liberation of the hostages, and includes everyone who worked alongside them,” a statement from the presidency said. “He bows with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens,” the statement added. Read More: Two French Soldiers Killed Rescuing Hostages in West Africa


U.S. Treasury Department on Friday, May 10 expanded the scope of its Venezuela sanctions to the defense and security services sectors as part of the campaign against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S. and foreign companies working with Venezuela’s defense and security services sectors can now be sanctioned, the Treasury Department said, adding to penalties for companies working in the oil and banking sectors.

The move puts on notice foreign suppliers of military spare parts or telecommunications equipment and services, it said.

The Trump administration also blacklisted two new shipping companies and two oil tanker ships for shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba. These companies were identified as Monsoon Navigation Corp, based in the Marshall Islands, and Liberia-based Serenity Navigation Ltd.

Monsoon’s tanker Ocean Elegance and Serenity Maritime’s Leon Dias delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 through March 2019, the Treasury Department said. Both tankers have Panama flags. Read More: U.S. Expands Venezuela Sanctions, Mounting Pressure on Maduro’s Government

The leader of North Korea ordered its military to boost its strike capability as he directed another missile firing, state media said on Friday, May 10 as tensions grew over tests that appeared to show preparations for a new advanced missile system.

The call for “full combat posture” by Kim Jong Un came while the United States announced it had seized a large cargo ship for carrying an illegal shipment of coal.

The increased tensions come amid a gridlock in dialogue after the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed over US demands for Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament and Kim’s demands for relief from punishing sanctions.

“(Kim) stressed the need to further increase the capability of the defence units in the forefront area and on the western front to carry out combat tasks and keep full combat posture to cope with any emergency,” KCNA news agency reported.

He noted “genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force capable of defending its sovereignty,” KCNA said, adding he “set forth important tasks for further increasing the strike ability.” Read More: North Korea’s Kim Orders Stronger Strike Power; US Seizes Cargo Ship

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting the Islamic Republic’s export revenues from its industrial metals sector, and vowed to keep squeezing Tehran unless it “fundamentally alters” its policies.

The announcement was made on the anniversary of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from a 2015 landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for easing some sanctions and hours after Tehran said it would no longer fully comply with the accord.

Tensions were already high between Washington and Tehran when the Trump administration said last weekend that it was deploying a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East, in response to what it said were “troubling indications and warnings” from Iran.

Before Trump’s executive order for the sanctions, a senior White House official said Washington would impose more economic curbs on Tehran ‘very soon’ and had warned Europe to stop doing business with the Islamic Republic.

“Today’s action targets Iran’s revenue from the export of industrial metals – 10 percent of its export economy – and puts other nations on notice that allowing Iranian steel and other metals into your ports will no longer be tolerated,” Trump said in a statement. Read More: President Donald Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Iran’s Metals Industry

The United States pulled the trigger on Friday, May 10, with a steep increase in tariffs on Chinese products and Beijing immediately vowed to hit back, turning up the heat before a second day of trade negotiations.

President Donald Trump got a briefing from his trade negotiators after the first day of talks with the Chinese side on Thursday, but made no move to hold off on the tariffs — dashing hopes there might be a last-minute reprieve as the negotiations continued.

Minutes after the US increased punitive duties on $200 billion in imports from China from 10 to 25 percent, the Chinese commerce ministry said it “deeply regrets” the move and repeated its pledge to take “necessary countermeasures”, without elaborating.

Locked in a trade dispute for more than a year, officials from the world’s two biggest economies returned to the bargaining table late Thursday, led by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Read More: US Hits China with Higher Tariffs, Raising Stakes in Trade Talks

The Cuban government announced on Friday, May 10, that it’s launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis.

Commerce Minister Betsy Diaz Velazquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods.

She blamed the hardening of the US trade embargo by the Trump administration.

Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidised fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.

“We’re calling for calm,” Diaz said, adding that Cubans should feel reassured that at least cooking oil would be in ample supply. “It’s not a product that will be absent from the market in any way.” Read More: Cuba Implements Food Rationing as Economic Crisis Worsens


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