Africa Media Review for April 12, 2018

Algerian Military Plane Crash Kills 257 People
At least 257 people were killed on Wednesday when a military plane crashed near the Algerian capital, Algiers, state media reported. The plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Boufarik air base, between Algiers and the city of Blida. Ten of those killed were the plane crew, according to state-run Radio Algérie. It was not immediately clear whether there were any survivors. Wednesday’s plane crash was the deadliest since 2014, when 298 people were killed when a Malaysian airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine. The plane was supposed to go from Boufarik to Tindouf, and then on to Bashar, which are both towns on the Algerian-Morocco border, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. CNN

Corpses Laid outside UN Headquarters by Protesters in Central African Republic
Hundreds of protesters laid the bodies of 17 people killed in clashes in the Central African Republic’s capital in front of the United Nations peacekeeping offices. UN peacekeepers and local security forces have battled armed groups in Bangui’s PK5 neighbourhood, a largely Muslim enclave within the majority Christian city. One Rwandan peacekeeper was killed and eight others wounded in fighting on Tuesday. The surge in violence coincides with a visit by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations. The Independent

France Wants Sanctions against Spoilers Blocking Mali Peace
France said Wednesday it is fed up with delays in implementing a 2015 peace agreement in Mali and is moving ahead to impose sanctions on spoilers obstructing the peace process. French Ambassador Francois Delattre made the announcement at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Mali and received immediate support for sanctions from Britain, the United States, the Netherlands, Poland and Ethiopia. Delattre said France will work with the supporters to identify the spoilers and submit their names to the council committee monitoring sanctions against Mali. The panel has the final say on imposing sanctions including travel bans and freezing assets. AP

Egypt, Russia Resume Flights Halted after 2015 Attack
Egypt and Russia have resumed direct flights more than two years after they were suspended in the wake of a bombing that brought down a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt’s flagship airline EgyptAir said a Moscow-bound flight took off from Cairo on Thursday, and that it will operate three such flights a week. An Aeroflot flight from Moscow arrived in Cairo early Thursday. Direct flights between Russia and Egypt’s popular Red Sea resorts have yet to resume. Moscow suspended flights after the 2015 attack, which killed all 224 people on board and was claimed by the Islamic State group. AP

Mozambique to Hold General Election in October 2019: Presidency
Mozambique will hold presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections on Oct. 15 next year, the presidency said on Wednesday, setting the date for a vote that will proceed the southern African country’s emergence as a major gas exporter. President Filipe Nyusi set the date of the election, a notice on the presidency website said. Mozambique is due to start exporting liquefied natural gas in 2022 from huge offshore fields operated by oil majors including Italy’s ENI and Exxon Mobil. Reuters

In Congo, Rwandan Hutus in Limbo as Refugee Status Evaporates
“They are telling me to go. Go where? What would I do back there? Everyone’s dead,” says Gilbert Bigirimana, an 18-year-old Rwandan living in Republic of Congo who has never set foot on Rwandan soil. Bigirimana is among thousands of Rwandans who, a generation after the Rwandan genocide, are living in a void, adrift in their host country and fearful of returning home. Most of those in limbo are Hutus, who fled the country after leaders of their ethnic group orchestrated the mass slaughter of minority Tutsis before being ousted by a Tutsi-backed campaign. Many first headed to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But two wars — a ghastly repercussion of the Rwandan genocide — forced thousands further west to the Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, a small country of about five million people. AFP

German National Kidnapped in Western Niger: Attorney General
Armed men on Wednesday kidnapped a German man in western Niger near the border with Mali, Niger’s attorney general said. Cheibou Samna said the kidnapping was carried out by men riding motorcycles about 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the town of Inates. Samna identified the kidnapped man as Joerg Lange, a humanitarian worker. He provided no further details. Germany’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment. Jihadist groups, including some affiliated with al Qaeda and Islamic State, have repeatedly attacked military and civilian targets along the porous border between Mali and Niger. Islamic State’s affiliate in West Africa claimed responsibility for an attack last October near the border that killed four U.S. special forces and at least four Nigerien soldiers. Reuters

Where Did Zimbabwe’s Diamond Money Go?
Lawmakers in Zimbabwe are preparing to summon ex-president Robert Mugabe to answer for his management of the diamond sector, which he nationalized in 2016. Mugabe announced the state seizure two years ago on Zimbabwe state TV, saying, “There has been a lot of secrecy … and we have been blinded. We have not received much from the diamond industry at all.” Foreign mining companies operating in the country were quick to challenge the stop-work orders in court, and some cases are still pending. But analysts question Mugabe’s 2016 assertion that as much as $15 billion in diamond revenue was missing, and it was the fault of the foreign companies. VOA

Six Months after US Sanctions Lifted, Promised Aid Access in Sudan Remains Limited
But six months after this major shift in strategy in dealing with President Omar al-Bashir, aid workers and rights advocates doubt the bureaucratic changes they’ve seen in Khartoum will translate into more people receiving humanitarian assistance over the long term. They also worry that any new cooperation might be rolled back as Sudan normalises relations with the international community, especially if it is soon removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, opening the way to debt relief and foreign investment. “The way we all see it here is that [access improvements] are a temporary measure to appease Western governments – there’s not been a core change in the government’s behaviour,” said an aid worker based in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains, for decades the target of oppression, alleged ethnic cleansing, and brutal counter-insurgency operations by Sudanese government forces and allied militias. “Once they get what they want, it’s going to go back to what it was.” IRIN

Senate Leader Wants a New Army Advisory Brigade for Africa 
A key U.S. senator is pressing the Army to set aside one of its new Security Forces Assistant Brigades for missions in Africa, which are now being carried out by a mix of rotating units. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a letter Monday to Army leadership that U.S. Africa Command would benefit from having a more reliable unit to tap for its expanding advisory mission on the continent. “As you know, AFRICOM does not have any assigned forces, but must compete for allocated forces within the Department of Defense’s global force management process,” Inhofe wrote to Army Secretary Mark Esper. Earlier this year, the Army stood up its first SFAB, which is now advising Afghan forces. Stars and Stripes

US Military Opens Annual Counterterrorism Training in Niger
Six months after the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger led to questions about the military’s presence in the West African nation, the U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa on Wednesday opened its annual counterterror exercise in the face of a growing extremist threat. The Flintlock exercise’s 10 days of training for special operations forces is meant to strengthen West African nations’ ability to combat multiple extremist groups, including ones that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. About 1,900 service members from 20 African and western nations are participating in the Flintlock exercise. The vast Sahel region’s large number of ungoverned spaces and widespread poverty pose challenges to counterterror efforts. Military Times

US Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for New S. Sudan Envoy
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek. During his one-day hearing, Hushek said he is ready for the job despite the complexities of going to a country like South Sudan. Democratic Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker who has visited South Sudan, told Hushek he is frustrated with the lack of progress on the South Sudan peace process and with the Trump administration’s failure to flesh out a policy regarding South the conflict, now in its fifth year. “My concern is compounded by not only the deteriorating effects in South Sudan, but I just feel we have no articulated strategy to deal with this crisis,” said Booker. “And more than that, I have to say I am very concerned about this administration’s concern about this crisis.”  VOA

Somalia to Halt UAE Funding for Troops as Relations Sour
As relations with the United Arab Emirates sour over the seizure of millions of dollars in cash, Somalia announced Wednesday it would end UAE funding for its armed forces. Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal’s comments to reporters came shortly after the UAE condemned what it called an “illegal” move by Somalia to seize $9.6 million from an aircraft at the Mogadishu airport over the weekend. The UAE’s state news agency, WAM, said some of the 47 Emirati Armed Forces personnel on the plane were held at gunpoint and assaulted by Somali security forces. The money was allocated to support the Somali army and trainees, WAM reported. VOA

France Will Not Oppose Morocco’s Military Intervention against Polisario
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian has allegedly warned his Algerian counterpart that France would not oppose Morocco’s military intervention against Polisario’s illegal maneuvers east of Morocco’s defense wall. Moroccan newspaper Assabah reported that the Security Council could also give Morocco a green light for a limited military intervention against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which has been attempting to relocate parts of its facilities east Morocco’s defense wall. Le Drian has also warned Algeria against any actions that would likely cause further escalation in the region, a diplomatic source told Assabah. The unidentified source further said that Le Drian’s statement came before an official meeting between King Mohammed VI and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday at the Elysee Palace. Morocco World News

Ethiopia PM Visits Town at the Centre of Anti-government Protests
Ethiopia’s new prime minister pledged on Wednesday to address grievances in his native Oromiya region, centre of violent unrest that threatened the ruling coalition’s hold on Africa’s second most populous nation. Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as premier on April 2. His predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February, signalling divisions in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in power since 1991, over how fast to pursue reforms. The 42-year-old former army officer faces the challenge of calming the anger of young members of his own Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, who complain they are politically and economically marginalised. Abiy is the first prime minister in modern Ethiopian history to come from the Oromo, which took to the streets in late 2015 protesting the country’s one-party government. Reuters

Aisha: Boko Haram Huntress
Among the thousands of hunters enlisted by the Nigerian army to track and capture Boko Haram fighters, one stands out from the crowd. Aisha Bakari Gombi towers over her band of hunters, one of the few women who has joined the fight against one of the deadliest armed groups in Africa. With her shotgun slung over her shoulder, she ventures into the scrub of Borno, the northeastern province of Nigeria long plagued by Boko Haram attacks, hunting down their fighters. Her bravery and keen hunting abilities have earned her the title of ‘Queen Hunter’. Government troops are quick to call on Aisha for her skills but slow to reward her efforts financially. While she is unable to liberate many more captives held by Boko Haram due to a lack of resources, she will never stop trying. Al Jazeera

EAC Vision for Single Currency Takes Shape
The search for a single East African currency is set to go a notch higher as the regional parliament prepares laws for setting up key institutions. The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has said its committees are using the three-week Dodoma sittings, which began on April 9 to collect views on the East Africa Monetary Institute (EAMI) Bill, 2017 and the Statistics Bureau Bill, 2017, which had earlier sailed through the first and second readings. The Monetary Institute Bill seeks to set up EAMI as an agency to initially perform the role of a regional central bank. It will be expected to craft policies required to back a single currency. The EA Statistics Bureau Bill will on the other hand create a regional agency akin to European Union’s Eurostat, charged with gathering data to guide decision making within the EAC Monetary Union. Business Daily



Photo: Adam Jones