Africa Media Review for April 8, 2021

In Bid to Boost Its Profile, ISIS Turns to Africa’s Militants
The Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate has fallen, its fighters have dispersed and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed. But two years after it suffered stinging defeats in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group has found a new lifeline in Africa, where analysts say it has forged alliances with local militant groups in symbiotic relationships that have pumped up their profiles, fund-raising and recruitment. Many of those homegrown insurgencies are only loosely connected to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Still, over the past year, as violence from Islamist extremists on the African continent reached a record high, the Islamic State has trumpeted these battlefield wins to project an image of strength and inspire its supporters worldwide. … “None of these groups are extraordinarily powerful, it’s just that they have enough capacity to destabilize these fragile states which are not able to maintain a security presence,” said Joseph T. Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The New York Times

Satellite Images Reveal How Shadowy Wagner Group Has Become Vladimir Putin’s ‘Private Army’
Britain should confront Russian “mercenary groups,” the Defence Secretary has said, as intelligence images show Vladimir Putin is supplying tanks and planes to his “private army.” The Russian Wagner Group mercenary force, run by a man known as “Putin’s chef,” showed “how modern warfare is rapidly changing,” Ben Wallace told The Telegraph. The Defence Secretary’s comments come as recently declassified intelligence photos, below, show the Wagner Group using regular Russian military equipment in Libya, suggesting it is, in effect, a deniable part of the Kremlin’s army. Security experts believe the Wagner Group is used deniably to flex Moscow’s military power by supporting weak or illegitimate regimes, often with direct military support from the Russian army. The group is particularly active in Syria, Libya and across sub-Saharan Africa, where armed assistance is rewarded with access to energy reserves and gold and other precious metals. British security officials warn the use of such unregulated forces shows how state threats can manifest below the traditional threshold of armed conflict. Telegraph

‘I Know in Advance That I Will Win’: Chad’s Deby Eyes Sixth Presidential Term
Deby, 68, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, having seized power in 1990 in an armed rebellion. He pushed through a new constitution in 2018 that could allow him to stay in power until 2033 – even as it re-instated term limits. Deby, who took the title of “Marshal” last year, will face six candidates after the supreme court barred seven others. The runner-up in the last election in 2016, Saleh Kebzabo, and Ngarledji Yorongar, another prominent opposition leader, withdrew from the race here to protest Deby’s candidacy. “Of course we are going to win,” Deby told supporters at a campaign event on Monday. “I know in advance that I will win, as I have done for the last 30 years.” … Succès Masra, a 38-year old opposition firebrand whose candidacy was rejected because he did not meet the minimum age of 45, said the election was a masquerade. “This election resembles a home game played by the same team that has been split in two,” Masra told a news conference, where he displayed empty tear gas canisters fired at a recent protest. Reuters

What Is behind the Sharp Drop in Deaths in Burkina Faso’s War?
For months, Belko Dialo’s* hometown of Djibo in the restive north of Burkina Faso was blockaded by armed groups that largely cut off its connection with the capital, Ouagadougou. But in recent weeks, there have been reports that negotiations between the government and the groups have led to a detente between the two sides and the surrender of some 50 fighters. Dialo, however, said this has not brought with it a new sense of peace for Djibo’s roughly 60,000 residents. “I don’t know if there has been a negotiation, because we still can’t go to the [armed group-controlled] areas around here,” the 61-year-old told Al Jazeera on the phone. … Nonetheless, Dialo conceded that some of the fighters from the surrounding area have surrendered and that supplies are flowing into the town again. He also said fighters who are still actively battling in the town’s surrounding area now venture into its market unarmed. … Conflict-related deaths in the provinces surrounding Djibo fell to 439 in the past six months, from 901 in the previous six. This sharp drop-off raises many questions, especially since the number of attacks against civilians, battles between armed actors, and other acts of violence has remained the same. Al Jazeera

Mozambique Seeks Targeted Foreign Support to Help Tackle Insurgency: President
Mozambique has told the international community what support it needs to deal with an Islamic State-linked insurgency, but for reasons of sovereignty it will tackle some aspects of the problem unassisted, its president said on Wednesday. Filipe Nyusi was speaking two weeks after an attack by insurgents on the coastal town of Palma, near natural gas projects worth tens of billions of dollars that are meant to transform the southern African country’s economy. Southern African bloc SADC is holdings meetings on Wednesday and Thursday to consider a regional response to the insurgency, while the United States already has a small special forces team in Mozambique on a training mission. The government has said dozens died in the latest assault, and aid groups believe tens of thousands were displaced. French energy major Total withdrew all staff from its Afungi site outside Palma when the militants appeared to be approaching, but the army has since said the town is secure. Reuters

Mozambique to Probe Human Rights Violations in War on Terror
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said Wednesday that alleged human rights violations by members of the Security and Defence Forces (FDS) in the fight against terrorism will not be tolerated. “Human rights violations will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate measures will be taken,” he said. The president’s statement comes two weeks after Islamic State-linked militants attacked the northeastern coastal town of Palma in Cabo Delgado Province. He also said that if the civilian population feels violated by security agents, they might not cooperate to help in the defeat of the militants. “No victory will be achieved without complete trust and mutual assistance with the civilian population,” President Nyusi said. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) documented human rights violations in the war on terror in Cabo Delgado province. The EastAfrican

Sudan: Holdout Rebels, Sidelined Victims, and Other Hurdles to Peace in Darfur
A peace agreement last year between armed groups and Sudan’s transitional government was heralded as a landmark moment, coming as the country charts a new course following the ouster amid mass protests of long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir. But in the western region of Darfur – one of several areas covered by the deal – resistance is coming from a major rebel group that refused to sign, as well as conflict-affected communities whose members complain that their voices have not been heard. … Thrashed out after months of talks in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, the peace deal involves armed and political movements from marginalised regions across Sudan, which has been embroiled in a series of deadly conflicts since independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. The document, signed in October, is ambitious: Sections on Darfur promise reparations and justice for victims of past wars, and include plans for returning displaced people to their homes – a critical issue in a region where at least 1.5 million people still live in camps. … Analysts say a lack of public funds amid an economic crisis will also hamper implementation, and they fear some provisions could even trigger new conflicts. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia, Egypt Disagreement Frustrates African Search for Nile Solution
The stalemate between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile waters has made it difficult to resolve a simmering dispute over a dam built by Addis Ababa. Both countries have stuck to their “legal rights” in utilising the water; with Ethiopia citing sovereign right of utilising a river that originates from its soil and Egypt arguing that the flow of the Nile is its natural rightful source of water. This week, the three countries in the dispute – Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan – failed to reach a solution again, after talks in Kinshasa mediated by DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi ended without progress. Tshisekedi had said the meeting would be an “important step” for a lasting solution. But added that this would only happen “if all of us, together, can give to it, the courage to overcome obstacles.” However, each country blamed the other for lack of compromise. … Diplomats associated with a mediation programme at the African Union say the lack of compromise has stalled the discussions on the agreement. The EastAfrican

Somalia Leaders in Blame Game after Talks Collapse
Somalia’s top leaders are trading blame after the collapse of the much-anticipated talks meant to provide certainty on elections. The blame game ensued on Wednesday evening, dampening optimism that had been expressed earlier in the week, going into talks. Information Minister Osman Dubbe admitted there had been no progress from the initial sessions and that leaders had fallen out. … Meanwhile, Somalia’s international partners (SIPs,) that support the Horn of Africa country’s state rebuilding expressed optimism that the talks will generate consensus, keeping in mind that the Holy fasting month of Ramadan is fast approaching. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the SIPs partly wrote, “As Somalis prepare to welcome the Holy Month of Ramadan, international partners express hope that the basic tenets of reflection, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation will usher in a successful summit of the Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders.” The EastAfrican

UN Chief Proposes Targets to Lift South Sudan Arms Embargo
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Wednesday for implementation of the 2018 peace agreement in South Sudan, disarmament of former combatants and establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission as key targets in proposed benchmarks for the world’s newest nation to get rid of a U.N. arms embargo. The U.N. chief made the proposals in an eight-page report to the U.N. Security Council in response to its request in December for recommendations to assess the arms embargo on South Sudan, which was adopted in 2018. The benchmarks call for progress in three broad areas — political and governance issues; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former fighters and security sector reform; and the humanitarian and human rights situation. Guterres said progress in implementing the peace agreement has been slow and the proposed benchmarks “could play an important role” in its implementation. AP

UN Reunites 58 Abducted Women, Children with Their Families in S. Sudan
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) during Easter reunited 58 abducted women and children with their families. The women and children were kidnapped during last year’s vicious inter-communal fighting in Jonglei State. UNMISS says the exchange of abducted women and children followed a community-led goodwill agreement between the Lou Nuer, Murle and Dinka Bor ethnic communities. “Intensive efforts to broker peace between the three communities have been underway since December 2020, backed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan working together with agencies supported by the United Kingdom and United States. “At a recent peace conference in Pieri County, traditional leaders, women, youth and cattle camp leaders discussed compensation for lives lost and the return of abducted women and children,” said UNMISS in a statement. The EastAfrican

Nigeria Sacks Police Boss after Separatist Attack on Security Command
Mr Adamu, 60, was fired while he was on a tour of Owerri, the Imo State capital, to assess the damage done in the attacks carried out by separatists. The government, through police affairs minister Maigari Dingyadi, announced that he has been replaced with Mr Usman Alkali Baba, the Deputy Inspector General of Police. The tenure of the embattled IG had expired on February 1, 2021 but was renewed for three months by President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr Dingyadi explained that Mr Adamu’s removal was to rejig and enforce proper security. Gunmen belonging to Eastern Security Network (ESN), a militia group of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), yesterday attacked the Imo State Police Command headquarters and the local prison. The separatists looted the prison’s armoury, burned 38 vehicles and set free 1,844 inmates. Nation

Tanzania Goes Back on Decision to Lift Media Ban
Tanzania revised a decision to lift a ban on all media in the country, clarifying that only online television would benefit from the measure, a government spokesman said in a tweet on Wednesday. The country’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Tuesday that media banned under her late predecessor John Magufuli should be allowed to operate. Following on from an announcement that the government was forming a committee to research COVID-19, Tuesday’s announcement appeared to indicate a change in course for the nation after Magufuli’s death last month. Yet a day later, the decision, welcomed by local and international press freedom advocates, was reversed. The President “instructed to lift the ban on online television only and not other media, including newspapers that were banned according to the laws,” Gerson Msigwa, a new chief government spokesperson, said in a tweet. Reuters

Ex-President Gbagbo, Right-Hand Man Blé Goudé ‘Free to Return to Ivory Coast’ after ICC Acquittal
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé are “free to return to Ivory Coast when they want” after they were definitively acquitted of crimes against humanity, President Alassane Ouattara said Wednesday. “Arrangements will be made so that Laurent Gbagbo can enjoy, in accordance with the laws in place, the advantages and allowances available to former presidents,” Ouattara said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Abidjan. He spoke a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) upheld Gbagbo’s acquittal, with appeals judges confirming that he was finally in the clear over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-11. Gbagbo was the first head of state to stand trial at the tribunal in The Hague. More than 3,000 people were killed in the brief civil war which followed Ivory Coast’s 2010 president election, when Gbagbo disputed the results of the vote won by Ouattara. France24 with AFP

US Exercise Focuses on Role of Police, Courts in West Africa Counterterrorism
About 80 law enforcement and judiciary officers participated in last week’s inaugural West Africa Joint Operations regional exercise — a small figure compared to the thousands of personnel who sometimes take part in military-led counterterrorism exercises. But this modest exercise could have a big impact against terrorism, said Julie Cabus, deputy assistant secretary and assistant director of the training directorate in the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security. For this exercise, Cabus said, trainers and participants examined the complex systems of courts and law enforcement in several West African countries to learn how to fairly, quickly and justly prosecute terror cases. “We focused on gathering timely, accurate evidence while working with judicial authorities to ensure adherence to local laws,” she said. “Goals of the exercise included enhancing the investigative capacity and capability of units focused on terrorism cases in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, ensuring investigations adhere to the rule of law and the principles of human rights, and facilitating regional cross-border cooperation by sharing best practices.” VOA



Photo: Adam Jones