Africa Media Review for August 17, 2020

Attack on Beachside Somalia Hotel Kills at Least 16
A terrorist attack on a popular hotel in the Somali capital that left at least 16 people dead, including five assailants, ended with the dramatic rescue of more than 200 people on Sunday after a raging gun battle. The attack was the latest in a series of deadly onslaughts carried out across the Horn of Africa by Al Shabab, a militant group linked to Al Qaeda, as the group seeks to stoke chaos and undermine Somalia’s government. The Shabab attacks have increased in recent months even as Somalia has struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic, experienced flash floods that have displaced tens of thousands of people and been swarmed by desert locusts that threaten the food supply. The New York Times

Mozambique Army Surrounds Port Held by ISIS-Linked Insurgents
Government troops are taking up positions outside a port in the far north of Mozambique which was captured by Islamist extremists last week in the latest escalation of the insurgency in the southern African country. Hundreds of reinforcements have been rushed into position around the port in the town of Mocímboa da Praia. The facility, which is close to the site of natural gas projects worth about $60bn (£45bn), fell on Tuesday when marines who had resisted several hundred militants ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw. … The attack was the latest in a series launched on the town by a group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa, which pledged allegiance to Islamic State last year. The extremist operation took place over several days, with early attacks closing off roads leading to the town by eliminating government defensive posts, before a final assault. The Guardian

Zimbabwe Bishops Denounce ‘Unprecedented’ State Crackdown
Zimbabwe’s influential Catholic bishops on Friday deplored an “unprecedented” government crackdown on dissent against a backdrop of economic ruin and allegations of rampant rights abuses. In a rare and unusually strong pastoral letter, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference weighed in on the ongoing crisis, which the government denies exists. “Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented,” said seven bishops from the country’s main cities and towns in a letter issued on Friday. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has lately come under heavy criticism over recent its crackdowns on dissent, including detentions, assaults and intimidation. “Voices of various governments, the European Union, the African Union and the UN on the desperate situation in Zimbabwe have not only confirmed the seriousness of the human rights breaches by government agents but the need to rally behind #ZimbabweanLivesMatter” the bishops said. AFP

U.N. Says Mali Army Chief Left Village Unprotected before Massacre
The former head of Mali’s armed forces left the village of Ogossagou unprotected earlier this year despite numerous warnings of an imminent massacre in which 35 people died, according to a United Nations report. The incident highlights a failure by Mali’s security forces to protect civilians that is undermining efforts to halt spiralling ethnic and jihadist violence in West Africa’s Sahel region, it said. In February, army chief Keba Sangare allowed a military unit tasked with protecting Ogossagou in central Mali to withdraw despite repeated telephone calls and messages about a likely attack, according to the report seen by Reuters on Friday ahead of its official release. Just ten hours later, an ethnic Dogon militia raided the village of Fulani herders, killing 35, including women and children as young as four. Reuters

Somali, AU Forces Capture Shabab Stronghold
Somali government troops, backed by African Union (AU) forces, have taken control from the al-Shabab militant group of a strategic town in the Lower Shabelle region, freeing dozens of children in the process, residents and official said. The town of Kuntuwaarey, in the southwest of Somalia, located 208 kilometers from the capital, Mogadishu, has for many years been a strategic stronghold for al-Shabab. The “Somali National Army, backed by units from the African Union peacekeepers, have taken control of this strategic town from the militants,” said Isaq Ali Subag, the minister of internal security for the region. Subag said al-Shabab had been using the town as a base to launch attacks on cities and towns in the region that are controlled by the Somali government. “The militants have used the city as a military base from which to organize attacks they carry out in other parts of the region, and to run courts in which they impose taxes and other unfair sentences to innocent people,” he said. VOA

Hunger, Squalor Mar South Sudan Post-War Unification Efforts
Here in crowded camps in South Sudan, former enemies are meant to be joining forces after a five-year civil war so they can help the shattered country recover. But they can barely find enough food. The Associated Press spoke to women, both former rebel fighters and government troops, who are among tens of thousands of people being trained as a unified security force. It’s meant to be a major step in the 2018 peace deal ending the war that killed nearly 400,000 people. Visits to a handful of camps found squalid conditions, with food supplies expired or stolen by corruption. With few sanitary products available, the women use random pieces of cloth, even strips of bedsheets, for their periods. While some seek informal work in nearby communities to get by, the threat of sexual assault – even by male trainees – makes others wary of venturing too far. AP

Sudan Peace Negotiations Coming to a Close
The Sudanese government delegation to the peace negotiations in the South Sudan capital of Juba and the Darfur rebel movements have agreed to unify their negotiating positions on the security arrangements file. Khartoum and the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) are preparing for the peacekeepers’ exit at the end of this year. After the negotiation session on the security file yesterday, South Sudanese mediator Dhieu Mathok told reporters in Juba that both parties agreed to include the various negotiation papers in one paper, and define the points of dispute, in order to address them. He explained that these points can brought back to three basic issues: Integration of the rebel forces, the formation of a peacekeeping force in the conflict-torn western region, and reintegration and demobilisation of militia forces. … Head of the government delegation for the security arrangements, Defence Minister Maj Gen Yasin Ibrahim, said that Khartoum is ready to complete the remaining file of the peace negotiations. Radio Dabanga

Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Resume AU-Led Talks over Disputed Dam
Three key Nile basin countries on Sunday resumed online negotiations led by the African Union to resolve a years-long dispute over a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, Egyptian and Ethiopian officials said. … Egypt and Sudan suspended their talks with Ethiopia earlier this month, after Addis Ababa proposed linking a deal on the filling and operations of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to a broader agreement about the Blue Nile’s waters. That tributary begins in Ethiopia and is the source of as much as 85% of the Nile River. The ministers agreed to continue the negations Tuesday to “unify drafts of a deal that were presented by the three counties,” Sudan’s Irrigation Ministry said in a statement, without providing details about the drafts. AP

Equatorial Guinea’s Government and Prime Minister Resign
The government and prime minister of Equatorial Guinea tendered their resignation on Friday to President Teodoro Obiang, who said they had not done enough to help the country at a time of crisis, authorities said in a statement. The Central African oil producer is suffering a double economic shock linked to the coronavirus pandemic and a drop in the price of crude, which provides around three-quarters of state revenue. “The head of state regretted that the outgoing government did not fulfil its policy objectives, which undoubtedly led to this crisis situation,” a statement on the government website said. Obiang, 78, has ruled the former Spanish colony since overthrowing his uncle in a 1979 coup, relying on repression of political opponents and the country’s offshore oil riches. Reuters

Cameroon Civilians Protest Growing Separatist Barbarism, Increasing Violence
Hundreds of Cameroonians have braved a heavy military presence and separatists’ threats to protest increasing violence and barbarism in the central African state’s restive English-speaking regions. The protest in the southwestern town of Muyuka was provoked by the killing of civilians and other brutality by the military, which is searching for separatists said to be responsible for a recent wave of attacks and murder of women and aid workers. About 300 people, most of them women and children marched silently on the streets of Cameroon’s southwestern town of Muyuka Sunday. Twenty-nine-year-old Ernestine Naayah said Cameroon’s Womens Peace Movement, which she represents in Muyuka, and four other organizations organized the protest because they are fed up with growing violence in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions. VOA

Bus Torched in Ivory Coast as Election Tensions Run High
Protesters in Ivory Coast set fire to a bus in Abidjan on Friday after deadly protests earlier in the week against the president’s decision to seek a third term, and organisers elsewhere vowed further action against his bid to stand again. Five people have been killed and more than 100 wounded during demonstrations in recent days, official figures showed, as tensions ran high after President Alassane Ouattara announced last week he would run for re-election on Oct. 31. Opponents say the move violates a constitutional two-term limit and jeopardises the tenuous stability achieved since Ouattara’s first election win in 2010 sparked a brief civil war. On Friday, the remnants of tyre barricades smouldered in the opposition stronghold of Bonoua, as residents gathered in the rubble of the town’s police station that was torched by protesters the previous day after one of them was shot dead. Reuters

Malawi Court Orders Arrest of Police behind Sexual Abuse
A court in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe has ordered the arrest of police officers who raped and abused 18 women and girls during anti-government protests last year, as well as compensation payouts. “It is important that the officers … that sexually assaulted and raped the applicants and all other women and girls… be arrested and prosecuted,” High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda said in the ruling issued Thursday. Seventeen policemen had been accused of raping and sexually assaulting 18 women and girls during an operation to disperse demonstrators in October in three districts on the outskirts of the city. AFP

South African Gov’t Urged to Release Marikana Recommendations
On the eighth anniversary of the killing of dozens of miners by South African police, experts are calling on the government to release a report on recommendations on policing to prevent a repeat of such incidents, at a time when the country is also facing an increasing number of protests. On August 16, 2012, police shot dead 34 striking miners outside the Lonmin platinum mines on the outskirts of Marikana, in the country’s northwest, in what was the worst act of police brutality since the end of apartheid and became known as the “Marikana massacre.” In 2015, a commission of inquiry appointed to investigate the incident requested among others that a panel of experts be set up to revise and amend public-order policing policies. Chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, the commission also tasked the panel to investigate “the world’s best practices” for crowd-management control “without resorting to the use of weapons capable of automatic fire.” Al Jazeera

The Pains, Anguish of Niger State Communities Displaced by Bandits
It was dusk and raining heavily in March 2019 in Madaka, a village in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, when familiar sounds of gunshots again seized the air. Dust and gun smoke rose over the village above the heavy downpour as everyone fled to the bush. Zulaiha Isah, 27, was pregnant but ran too, as hard as other villagers. Speaking with Premium Times, Mrs Isah said she had lost two brothers and two in-laws in a previous raid by bandits on the village two weeks earlier. … Banditry has been a scourge for residents of Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states. About 21 million people living in these states have been exposed to insecurity from the activities of bandits. What began as a spate of reprisal attacks triggered by the scramble for resources among farmers from the sub-humid middle belt Nigeria and herders from the semi-arid northern Nigeria has exacerbated into a lethal mix of kidnap for ransom, sexual violence, smuggling and killings. The bandits build their hideouts in Nigeria’s unmanned forests from where they operate almost at will. Premium Times

Nigeria Convicts First Pirates under New Anti-Piracy Law
A Nigerian court in Port Harcourt has fined three men 44,000 euros each for hijacking a ship in the Gulf of Guinea in March and collecting a 169,000 euro ransom for the crew. The new measures were used for the first time in an effort to curb piracy, which is endemic in the Gulf of Guinea, representing 90 percent of all sea abductions worldwide, accordfing to the UK-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Although the three men were handed down sentences under the new statute, Nigerian press reported that they were not pirates in the traditional sense, but employees of a private security company. Nine men were charged in July in connection with kidnapping the crew of the MV Elobey VI off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. They had seized the boat and the crew in March, but released them in May after the ransom was paid. RFI

In Pictures: Ship Leaking Oil off Mauritius Breaks Apart
A ship that has leaked more than 1,000 tonnes of oil in pristine waters off the coast of Mauritius has split in two. The Japanese-owned bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the southeastern coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later, threatening a protected marine park boasting mangrove forests and endangered species. … Mauritius has declared an environmental emergency and thousands of Mauritians have volunteered day and night to clean the powder-blue waters that have long been a favourite among honeymooners and tourists. The spill is an environmental and economic disaster for Mauritius, which relies heavily on tourism. Removing the ship is likely to take months and scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding, but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Al Jazeera

Somalia’s Army Told Her to Sew a Skirt. Now She’s One of Its Top Officers.
When Iman Elman decided to enlist in the Somali National Army in 2011, the officer distributing uniforms gave her one shirt and two pairs of pants. Puzzled, Ms. Elman asked about the missing shirt. There was none, he said. The extra set of pants was provided for her to sew into a skirt. … Almost a decade later, she is now Lt. Col. Elman, having risen from foot soldier and captain, and is in charge of the army’s planning and strategy – the only female department head and one of the highest ranking women in the Somali military. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones