Africa Media Review for April 2, 2018

Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kill 15 in Nigeria’s Maiduguri – Emergency Services
A suspected Boko Haram attack in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri killed 15 people and wounded 68, an emergency agency official said on Monday, in the biggest strike since the government said it was in talks with the Islamist group. Maiduguri is the epicentre of the nine-year conflict with Boko Haram that has killed more than 20,000 people. President Muhammadu Buhari has prioritised improving security and previously said the group, which is trying establish an Islamic State and split into two factions in 2016, had been defeated. The gun attack took place on Sunday night in Bale Shuwari, a settlement near army barracks on the edge of Maiduguri’s inner city, military sources said. “Sixty-eight were injured and 15 innocent people were killed,” said Bello Dambatta, chairman of the rapid response team for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). … The government has not disclosed which elements of Boko Haram it is in discussions with, and neither was it clear which faction carried out Sunday’s attack. Reuters

Extremists Kill 4 African Union Soldiers in Southern Somalia
Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremists on Sunday launched an attack on a base for African Union troops in the country’s south, killing four Ugandan peacekeepers, said Ugandan army spokesman Brig. Richard Karemire. Four other Ugandans were injured, Karemire told The Associated Press. At least 22 of the attackers were killed and the rest were repelled, he said. The attack started in the morning when two suicide car bombs exploded at the entrance to the heavily fortified base in Bulo-Marer, an agricultural town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, said Somali army Col. Ahmed Hassan. Nearly 100 fighters firing propelled grenades and machine guns attacked the base occupied by the Ugandan soldiers. “That attack was repulsed but several soldiers have lost their lives to the bomb,” said Hassan. Residents reported explosions and sustained gunfire, sending hundreds of terrified villagers to the bush. … Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. AP

Ethiopia Swears in Abiye as New PM amid Ethnic, Youth Tensions
Ethiopia’s parliament swore in Abiye Ahmed as prime minister on Monday with a mandate to implement democratic reforms aimed partly at defusing ethnic tensions in the Oromiya province from which the former army lieutenant general hails. The ruling coalition picked Abiye last week to replace Hailemariam Desalegn who quit to clear the way for reforms. Oromiya, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, has been rocked by violence since 2015. This is fuelled largely by a sense among young members of the Oromo ethnic group, which makes up roughly a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, that they are politically and economically marginalised. Abiye, 42, took the oath of office in a ceremony at the House of People’s Representatives in Addis Ababa. … Human rights groups say that security forces have killed hundreds of people in violence. Tens of thousands were also jailed. But in the run-up to Haliemariam’s resignation last month, more than 6,000 prisoners had been freed as the government struggled to calm discontent. It is unclear how many remain in jail. Reuters

Over 1,100 Arrested under Ethiopia State of Emergency
More than 1 100 people have been arrested in Ethiopia since the nation declared a state of emergency following the prime minister’s resignation last month, state media reported on Saturday. Hailemariam Desalegn’s surprise resignation came after more than two years of anti-government protests and increasing divisions in the ruling party. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has for the first time picked an ethnic Oromo, Abiy Ahmed, to be its new leader. … The state-affiliated Fana Broadcast Corporate said 1 107 people have been detained for violating the emergency decree, which suspends the constitution and allows police to hold people without trial. News24

Sierra Leone Poll: Heads of Int’l Observation Missions Meet ahead of Result Announcement
The heads of International Observation Missions have met ahead of announcement of official results of Saturday’s Sierra Leone presidential run-off election. The meeting, according to a statement issued by a member of the ECOWAS Observation Missions, Paul Ejime, was held on Sunday in Freetown. … “As happened in the aftermath of the announcement of the first round results, there appears to be rising tension in the build up to the outcome of the run-off poll. “This tension is what the heads of observation missions are resolved to douse, for a successful conclusion of the electoral process.” It noted that the election was largely peaceful with heavy security presence in a few polling centres. “As counting and tallying of ballots continue, it is expected that the announcement of final results of the poll could take some time, in view of the pre-election agreement by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the two political parties to carry out ballot tallying according to districts.” Premium Times

Why Sierra Leone Temporarily Shut Down Internet after Runoff Vote
Multiple reports indicate that Sierra Leonean authorities temporarily shut down the internet after close of polls in the presidential runoff. The service has since been restored as at Sunday morning. The shutdown was also corroborated by internet censorship outfit, Open Observatory Network Interference (OONI). The group said according to google traffic statistics, there was a noticeable decrease in traffic from Sierra Leone to search. An election monitoring group, Sierra Leone Decides reported on Sunday morning that Internet Service Providers said the measure was to stop the elections body (National Electoral Commission) and affiliates from sharing results data to party affiliates. There has been no official communication on the incident as citizens continue to wait for results from the March 31 runoff that pitched the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) against the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Africa News

DRC Main Opposition to be Led by Founder’s Son
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition party on Saturday chose the son of its founder, a historic opposition figure, as its leader and presidential candidate in long delayed polls due at the end of the year. The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) said Felix Tshisekedi, the son of former premier Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in Brussels in February last year, will “be the presidential candidate” for the December election, after a night-long meeting in the capital Kinshasa. Tshisekedi was also chosen to lead the party with an overwhelming majority, getting 790 of the 803 votes. … Elections for DRC’s head of state are due to take place on December 23 after two postponements that have stoked fears the sprawling, volatile state could spiral into war. News24

Libyan Returnees Stuck in Desert Say No Going Back
The wind whips up sand storms in Garart al-Gatef. Snakes and scorpions lurk amongst the desert scrub. But hundreds of people who were stranded while trying to return to a town emptied in an act of collective punishment during Libya’s 2011 revolution have sworn to stay put here until they are allowed home. The makeshift camp of 250 tents sprang up in early February after armed groups from the city of Misrata blocked convoys of displaced families trying to approach Tawergha, a town of about 40,000 that still lies in ruins. In doing so, they thwarted – at least temporarily – a landmark reconciliation effort to resolve a case that has symbolized the political and communal divisions which surfaced during and after Libya’s uprising. … The U.N. concluded that the town was deliberately destroyed in 2011 in order to make it uninhabitable, and said Misrata’s militias had committed crimes against humanity. Reuters

Nearly 14,000 South Sudanese Refugees Fled to Ethiopia in Two Months: Official
Nearly 14,000 South Sudanese have crossed to Sudan’s Gambella region in the past two months due lack of security in the country, the Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) said. ARRA Program Coordinator in Gambella, Legesse Driba told Ethiopia’s News Agency (ENA) that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia is growing. Driba said the new arrivals are being sheltered at Gupyel Refugee Camp in the region. … He pointed out that huge influx of South Sudanese refugees had complicated the provision of humanitarian aid and called on the international community to support efforts that are being made by the Administration. Driba said most of the refugees have families with children. Radio Tamazuj

Mauritania Court Gives Toughest Sentence for Slave Owners
Two slave owners in Mauritania have been jailed in a country where slavery remains widespread but convictions rare, activists say. The sentences of 10 and 20 years are said to be the toughest-ever for the crime in the West African country. Slavery was outlawed in 1981 but 1% of the population are still living in bondage, human rights groups say. Black people of certain ethnic groups are often enslaved as domestic workers by lighter-skinned Mauritanians. The country has jailed more anti-slavery activists than slave owners, rights groups say. … [P]rominent Mauritanian anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Abeid cast doubt on the reports that Hamoudi Ould Saleck had actually been arrested, and called the case “a show trial by the government to stop criticism from the international community”. BBC

Yoweri Museveni Slaps Taxes on Social Media Users in Uganda
Faced with an increasingly critical citizenry, the Ugandan government has slapped new taxes on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber to stop what President Yoweri Museveni has called lugambo (gossip). Mr Museveni also targets commercial buildings to boost government revenue from the Ush50 billion ($13.5 million) the taxman collects from landlords annually. The president criticised the “concealment” of taxes in housing sector as “scandalous” and asked Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and his team to get serious. The new tax proposals were castigated by social media users, human rights defenders and opposition leaders as “diversionary, deceptive, injurious to individual freedoms and burdensome”. The East African

Mali War Crimes Suspect in Custody – International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court on Saturday said it has taken into custody at its detention center in the Netherlands a Malian man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The suspect, identified by the ICC as Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, was indicted for crimes allegedly committed as de-facto chief of Islamic police in Timbuktu in 2012 and 2013 including destroying cultural monuments and enforcing policies that led to sexual enslavement of women and girls. The detention of Al Hassan is a boost for ICC prosecutors. The only other suspect arrested in Mali’s conflict, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, pleaded guilty to destruction of cultural heritage for his participation in smashing mausoleums. He was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2017 after apologizing for his actions, and could appear as a witness against Al Hassan. Reuters

New President Looks to Wean Botswana off Dependence on Diamonds
Botswana’s new president, sworn in on Sunday as the landlocked country’s fifth post-colonial leader, said he would give priority to tackling youth unemployment and diversifying its economy. Retired teacher Mokgweetsi Masisi, who takes over from former army general Ian Khama, inherits a state with a reputation as one of Africa’s rare political and economic success stories. But he faces a huge task in attempting to reduce its dependence on the diamond trade while creating more jobs after collapsing commodity prices tipped it into recession in 2015. … Botswana, with a population of some 2 million, has a jobless rate of around 20 percent, with youth unemployment thought to be much higher. … Masisi becomes only Botswana’s third leader outside the Khama dynasty since its independence from Britain in 1966. As part of efforts to branch out of diamonds, he also said his government would scale up access to technical education and set up initiatives in tourism, mining, beef and financial services. VOA

Spreading Religious Tolerance in Burkina Faso
Burkino Faso in West Africa is well known for its religious and cultural tolerance. But several large-scale extremist attacks in the region are putting this to the test. One man is using theater to fight back. In early March, for a third time, the capital Ouagadougou was the scene of a large-scale attack — this time against the army’s headquarters and the French embassy. At first it wasn’t immediately clear who was behind it, until the Malian militant group, Jama Nusrat Ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), sent out a message claiming it carried out the attack. As religion once again took center stage of the public debate surrounding terrorism, this got storyteller Francois Moise Bamba thinking about religious tolerance in the region. When Bamba was young, it was normal for children to visit each others’ place of worship. On religious festive days, Catholic children would visit the local mosque and Muslim children would go to church. This inspired the title of his latest theater production: No One has a Monopoly on God. DW



Photo: Adam Jones