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March 2019 Review: Ethiopian crash, Cyclone Idai, AFCON, Bouteflika etc.

March 2019 Review: Ethiopian crash, Cyclone Idai, AFCON, Bouteflika etc.


Africa endured a deadly month in March 2019 from Ethiopia through to Beira in Mozambique, over to central Mali, to Ghana’s highways and to the ever unyielding Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopian Airlines ET302 crashes in Bishoftu

March 10 was a normal day till the aviation world was jolted with news from Bishoftu where an Ethiopian Airlines jet had crashed.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 ET302 was on its way to Nairobi from Addis Ababa when the incident happened claiming the lives of all on board – 149 passengers and eight crew members.

The accident has led to the global grounding of the now controversial Boeing jets as multi-level stakeholder probe process continues to roll on in Addis Ababa after flight recorder data was downloaded in France and returned for analysis.

Over the period, the Airline has had to defend itself especially from foreign media reports suggesting it had failed in some respects. Africans have generally stood on the side of the airlines against “detractors.”

Cyclone Idai leaves trail of death and destruction

Four days after the Ethiopian crash, global attention turned to southern Africa specifically to the Mozambican city of Beira. It had been hit on March 14 by a tropical cyclone named Idai.

Cyclone Idai battered Beira so hard and bad, the Red Cross reported days after it hit that 90% of Beira had been damaged by the landfall. Mozambique was not alone eastern Zimbabwe suffered as did Malawi.

The death toll continues to go up in the case of Mozambique with more calls for relief efforts. Flood waters continue to recede and with that bringing to the fore the extent of damage – “death and destruction” as the media tagged it.

Bouteflika’s 20-year clout flicks

The month is also one that long serving Algerian President AbdulAziz Bouteflika will hope never happened at all. His political survival received its biggest test by far in his two decades at the helm.

Starting off, dogged protests across the capital Algiers, forced him to rescind his decision to run for another term in office. He also cancelled the elections scheduled for April announcing that he will stay on till a new leader emerges.

Not even his concession and promise to serve a brief term would appease protesters whose sole demand was for him to quit and the entire political system overhauled.

The other big news was the army chief’s call that Bouteflika be declared unfit and by that ousted from office. The ruling FLN party and a major trade union body have backed that call.

Protesters however remain adamant to what they say is a re-engineering by the military and political class to maintain the status quo by sacrificing aged and ailing Bouteflika.

New dates for polls have yet to be announced. Political watchers say activists and opposition are playing hardball with government in order to not be taken surprise.

Communal massacre in Mali

Over in Mali, what started as death of scores in the central part of the vast west African country rose as far as 150 plus victims.

The army chief would subsequently lose his job as the president visited to among other things have a firsthand account of what transpired and to promise security for citizens.

AFCON 2019 roll call finalized

Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights of the AFCON in December 2018. CAF awarded it to Egypt in January at a time the qualifiers were yet to be completed.

After the last round of fixtures played in the third weekend of March, the list is set with three first timers making it – Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania will make historic appearances in Egypt.

The most represented continental bloc is West Africa whiles the least represented is Central Africa (Cameroon). The draw is scheduled to take place next month ahead of kick-off in June.

Other top news incidents in the course of the month are as follows:

  • Sudanese defying state of emergency by protesting
  • Burundi school girls arrested for defacing president in text book
  • Kabila’s party wins “tainted” Senate majority, Tshisekedi blocks inauguration
  • DR Congo Ebola passes 1,000 cases mark despite robust response
  • Bus crashes in Ghana leaves estimated 80 dead in one day
  • Somali capital repeatedly targeted by Al-Shabaab car bomb, IED attacks
  • Kenya president’s social media handles deactivated after security breach
  • Rwanda – Uganda diplomatic tiff slows down
  • Election campaigns heat up ahead of South Africa’s May polls
  • Ex-Malawi president Joyce Banda abandons presidential comeback
  • Benin finally erects monument in honour of Thomas Sankara at 2019 FESPACO
  • Drought continues to kill people in Kenya’s north
  • Comoros president wins controversial term extension vote
  • Kenyan teacher wins $1 million dollar prize
  • DRC musician Koffi Olomide jailed by Paris court for rape of minor
  • Atiku Abubakar files challenge to Buhari’s re-election
  • Gabon president Ali Bongo makes permanent return from medical leave
  • Gambian president fires Vice-President, appoints woman replacement
  • Son of ex Liberian president charged over corruption, missing banknotes
  • Chad’s social media blackout rolls on after a year in place
  • Chadian army chief fired after deadly Boko Haram attack on soldiers
  • UK national museum returns hair of Ethiopian emperor Tewadros II
  • Ex-Gambian president ransacked state coffers before quitting – Report

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Digital journalist