Africa Media Review for August 20, 2019

Burkina Faso Troops Killed in ‘Major Terrorist Attack’: Army
More than a dozen soldiers have been killed in a “major attack” by “terrorist armed groups” in northern Burkina Faso, the army said, adding that it could be the deadliest ever against the armed forces. With other soldiers still missing, the death toll could pass 20, several security sources said late on Monday. … The assailants used heavy weapons and burned a large portion of the camp and material, a security source told AFP news agency. … The military operations, including air raids, reportedly killed “several” fighters, the military said. … Overnight on Thursday, armed fighters also raided a village in the restive north, killing 15 people, plundering and burning shops, a regional governor said. Most attacks in the former French colony are attributed to the Ansarul Islam group, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the JNIM (Group to Support Islam and Muslims), which has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Al Jazeera

Four Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Ambush: Sources
Four Nigerian troops were killed Sunday in an ambush by fighters suspected to be from an IS-affiliated faction in the country’s restive northeast, two military sources said. Attackers believed to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group opened fire on a military patrol in Mogula village close to the border with Cameroon, killing four soldiers and seizing two machine guns, one of the military officers said. “Our troops came under attack by ISWAP terrorists in Mogula in an ambush in which we lost four soldiers,” the first source said. “The attack happened around 11:00 hours when the team was on routine patrol in the area,” the officer said. The second officer gave the same toll and said the attackers seized two military pickups but were forced to abandon them as they slowed their escape due to the poor state of the road. AFP

Top Nigerian Senator Attacked by Pro-Biafra Activists in Germany
A sitting Senator and former deputy Senate president of Nigeria was over the weekend assaulted in Germany by pro-Biafra activists. Ike Ekweremadu of the main opposition party was in Nurnberg for an annual cultural festival when the said Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, activists physically attacked him. He was billed to deliver a keynote address. The Senator represents the people of Enugu and has been deputy Senate president for 12 years till earlier this year. He confirmed the attack on his Facebook page stating that his stay in Germany till the incident had been cordial. … IPOB currently led by “fugitive” Nnamdi Kanu is pushing for the declaration of an independent republic of Biafra, years after a civil war aiming for same led to the loss of millions of lives. [The Nigerian g]overnment got a court order proscribing the group after clashes between security forces and activists. Kanu is reported to have given his blessings to the attack on Ekweremadu cautioning other politicians and governors in the southeast. Africa News

After Safari Ends in a Nightmare, Benin Awakens to the Threat of Terrorism
As a safari guide in a sprawling wilderness preserve in West Africa, Fiacre Gbédji often seemed no different from the tourists in his care: He gushed at each lion sighting and thrilled at each bushbuck he spotted through the trees. … And he knew where not to go: To the north is the Pendjari River, dividing Benin from Burkina Faso. On official maps put out by the French and American governments before his death, the river marked a red line. On its northern side, Islamist militants are active and tourism is “formally discouraged,” according to the French Foreign Ministry. … On that shore, insurgents fleeing south from French military operations in Mali and Niger have started to embed. They recruit by exploiting tensions between herders and farmers, competition over resources made scarce by climate change and frustration at abuse by government forces. Last year, Burkina Faso was hit with 137 attacks by Islamist groups, compared to just 12 in 2016, according to data from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The New York Times

Support Mali Reconciliation Efforts ‘In Whatever Way Possible’, Urges UN Expert
The move follows warnings from the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, that central areas of Mali, especially around Mopti, are seeing an increased level of violence, including the killing and maiming of children. More than 150 children have been killed in Mali so far this year, with 75 injured due to violent attacks, and the number of child soldiers in armed groups has doubled compared to the same period in 2018. This underlined the “disproportionate impact that intercommunal violence has had on children, with a dramatic increase in the number killed so far in 2019”, said Mr. Tine. In his statement, Mr. Tine also referred to the June attacks in the central Mali village of Sobane-Da in June, which led to the deaths of 35 people. He said that the recent report on the killings, from the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, also emphasised the “needless death, destruction and displacement of civilians caused by such incidents”. The reconciliation process, which has involved traditional and religious leaders, civil society members and the local authorities, was described as “an encouraging development”, which should contribute to “ending impunity and promoting justice and reconciliation”. Mr. Tine noted Prime Minister Boubou Cissé’s recent visits to the affected region which, he said, have provided a boost to the initiatives. UN News

Cameroon President Assists Militia After Boko Haram Raids
Authorities in Cameroon are giving huge consignments of food, money and equipment to militias fighting Boko Haram on the country’s northern border with Nigeria. The militias are defending areas from which the military has withdrawn. … Authorities have given a half-million dollars worth of food to Kousseri and an unspecified amount of money. They pledged to give $1 million to militias in other areas. The militias are defending areas from which the military has withdrawn, presumably to fight separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking areas. Officials say the self-defense groups are needed to stop the fighters who infiltrate through porous borders and hide in the communities. After years of battling the armies of Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Boko Haram has lost much of its military strength but still attacks villagers in northern Cameroon with machetes, long knives and locally made guns. Thirty-two militiamen and civilians have been killed in less than a month. VOA

Cameroon’s Separatist Leader Sentenced to Life
A leader of Cameroon’s separatist movement, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and nine of his followers have been given life sentences by a military court in the capital, Yaoundé. The 10 had been arrested in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in January 2018 and were sent to Cameroon to face trial. They have been convicted of various charges, including rebellion. Tabe and his followers have been campaigning for the creation of an independent state called Ambazonia, made up of Cameroon’s English-speaking North-West and South-West regions. Cameroon’s English-speaking minority say they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority. BBC

Under Pressure, IS Militants in Somalia Look to Ethiopia
Islamic State militants in Somalia say they will release jihadist materials in Amharic – a step unmistakably aimed at winning recruits in restive, neighboring Ethiopia. The announcement came in the form of a three-minute video released last month by pro-Islamic State sites and endorsed by the official IS media. The video posted the words to one of Islamic State’s best-known chants in Amharic and promised IS will release more materials in the language, one of the two most-spoken tongues in Ethiopia. Matt Bryden, an Africa analyst with Kenya-based Sahan Research, believes Islamic State – also known as ISIS – is reaching out to Ethiopia’s Muslim community in an attempt to take advantage of ongoing ethnic and political unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation. VOA

Regional Somali Airport Refuses to Allow Ethiopian Plane to Land
Kismayo airport in southern Somalia refused to allow an Ethiopian plane to land on Monday, a witness said, amid heightened tensions between the federal government and the regional leadership ahead of elections on Thursday. Somalia’s central government said on Saturday it would not recognise the result of an upcoming vote to elect a president of Jubbaland, a key battleground state for counter-terrorism operations, saying the candidate selection process violated the national constitution. The Jubbaland election commission has said the vote would go ahead on Thursday. Security analysts say the spat has the potential to cause friction between neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, longtime allies each with significant numbers of peacekeepers in the Horn of Africa nation. … Incumbent Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, who is seeking re-election this week, is a key security partner for Kenya, while Ethiopia has grown closer to the federal government in Mogadishu in the last year. Reuters

Air Raid in Somalia Killed Al-Shabab Fighter, Says US
The US military says it conducted an air raid targeting an al-Shabab fighter in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow, Somalia. In a statement, US Africa Command says the air attack was carried out on Tuesday in coordination with the federal government of Somalia. The command said it appears that no civilians were wounded or killed in the raid. The director of operations for the command, Major General William Gayler, said the raid is an example of the pressure US Africa Command places on armed networks, including the al-Qaeda aligned al-Shabab. Gayler said persistent pressure limits the armed fighters’ freedom of movement, creates confusion within the network, and supports Somali partners “as they continue to take the fight to al-Shabab”. Last week, the armed group carried out an attack on a military base in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Al-Shabab claimed that it had killed 50 soldiers and that two of its fighters had died in the attack. Al Jazeera

Ex-Sudan President Got Millions from Saudis, Court Hears
Sudan’s ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a police detective told a court on Monday at the start of a corruption trial that many Sudanese thought they would never see. Bashir listened to the testimony without comment, sitting in a metal cage and wearing traditional white robes and a turban in his first appearance in a Khartoum courtroom. He is charged with illicit possession of foreign currency and accepting gifts in an unofficial manner. Bashir’s lawyer dismissed the accusations, telling reporters after the hearing it was usual for leaders to hold amounts of foreign currency. … Police Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Mohamed, a detective in the team investigating Bashir, testified that Bashir told them he had received $25 million from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MbS. The detective cited Bashir as saying MbS gave him the money for spending outside the Sudanese state budget and that it was spent on donations, without going into further details on who received it. Reuters

Darfur Rebels Accuse RSF of New Attack on Jebel Marra Civilians
The Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) has accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia of attacking civilians in Tawila locality in North Darfur on Saturday. Three villagers were reportedly killed, and two others were wounded. Waleed Abakar, the military spokesman for the SLM-AW, claims in a statement on Sunday that Abdallah Fadul, Mekki Abdelkarim, and Mousa Mohamed were shot dead in the area of Fanga in northeast Jebel Marra. The two wounded are Azza Shareef and Haroun Khamees. The movement condemned the attack in the strongest terms and held what it called the “Military Coup Council” and its partners, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the “full responsibility for this attack and the loss of innocent lives”. The statement urged the international community to fulfil its humanitarian and moral duty to protect innocent citizens, hold perpetrators accountable by forming an international fact-finding commission. The Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW) does not recognise the accords reached between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC). According to SLM leader Abdelwahid El Nur, the agreements “only legitimise the power of the junta”. Radio Dabanga

‘Before I Was Kidnapped I Had Friends’: Girl Soldiers of South Sudan
Late one night in April 2015, 13-year-old Patricia* and her sister, who was 11, were kidnapped from their beds by rebel forces fighting the government in South Sudan. The girls were taken from their home in a raid on their village by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement in Yambio county, not far from the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although she spied on government troops during her captivity, Patricia’s main job was carrying food and cooking. She was also forced to have sex with soldiers. … Since fighting broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 19,000 children are understood to have been “recruited” by armed forces and groups, according to a briefing published by the UN children’s fund, Unicef, in March. Children can be used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and spies. Girls are often subjected to sexual violence. Recruiting children under 15 constitutes a war crime, although despite an international focus on ending impunity, very few war crimes are investigated. Since February last year, 360 girls and 610 boys have been released in Yambio through the National Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration Commission (DDR), in partnership with Unicef and the UN mission in South Sudan. More than 3,000 children have been released in other states. The Guardian

Civil Society Workers Run Afoul of Tanzania Security Officials in Sign of Increasing Clampdown
African civil society campaigners attending a conference in Tanzania were questioned and warned over the weekend, in what human rights activists say is part of a continuing clampdown on free speech in the East African nation. Details are still emerging over what exactly happened to at least 40 civil society workers who ran afoul of security officials at this year’s summit of the Southern African Development Community in Dar es Salaam. But rights experts said Monday that the episode is another worrying sign of heightened paranoia and harassment from the government. Catherine Eden, a lawyer for the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, says the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding. South African delegates to the 15-nation conference, she said, wanted to hold a short commemoration of the seventh anniversary of South Africa’s deadly Marikana mine massacre on Aug. 16. Thirty-four striking miners were killed by police in the deadliest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994. … Eden says she was summoned by authorities as she went to the police station Friday night to meet with a local coordinator and then was let go with a warning. … She said police then told her – and her 40-person delegation – to remain in their hotel all day Saturday. She asked them if they were under arrest, to which they did not reply. VOA

Zimbabwe Police Deploy Hundreds in Gweru, MDC Challenges Another Protest Ban
Zimbabwe Police deployed in force in the city of Gweru on Tuesday, witnesses said, as authorities sought to keep a lid on dissent after banning the third anti-government protest that the main opposition party has sought to organise inside five days. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) planned rolling mass demonstrations in different cities starting last Friday. It accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of mishandling the economy, which is facing its worst crisis in a decade, and repression. The MDC said it would challenge the ban in court on Tuesday. The party failed to overturn two previous bans on marches in Harare and Bulawayo. In Gweru, a central city, police patrolled on foot and in lorries and also cordoned off a university, a local journalist told Reuters. “There is a determined effort by the regime to ensure that there is no more democratic space,” MDC national spokesman Daniel Molokele said. “They are also deploying a lot of military and police in the streets… It clearly shows that the new government is even worse than that of Robert Mugabe.” Reuters

Ebola Spreads 200 Km West to Remote, Militia-Run Congo Province
Congolese authorities have confirmed a new case of Ebola in the remote, militia-controlled province of Walikale, hundreds of kilometres away from where previous cases near the border with Uganda and Rwanda occurred, the Health Ministry said overnight. Pinga, where the case was reported, lies about 150 km (about 95 miles) northwest of Goma, one of the towns affected by the Ebola epidemic, and much further away from the epicentre of the epidemic in Butembo and Beni. The ministry also confirmed a third case in South Kivu region, more than 700 km (430 miles) south of where the first case was detected. Reuters

Ghana’s Financial Nightmare: 70,000 People Can’t Access Savings
Isaac and Bless Boahen saved for months to fund her economics doctorate, but when the time came to cash in the investment, they were left empty handed. The couple are among at least 70,000 investors who have become collateral damage from a cleanup of Ghana’s banking industry. The crackdown, which reduced the number of lenders by a third and saw the closure of 23 savings and loans companies, also triggered a run on fund managers, who couldn’t sell their holdings fast enough to meet demand. That’s tying up as much as 9 billion cedis ($1.6 billion) of investments, more than a third of the 25 billion cedis in assets that private fund managers oversee for retail and institutional investors. “My wife was very disturbed,” the 36-year-old said by phone from Kumasi in Ghana’s Ashanti Region. They’re not getting answers and are now worried they’ll never get back the 12,000 cedis they expected back from their investment. “If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t have gone there.” Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones