Africa Media Review for August 28, 2017

Somalia’s Army Chief: Raid Killed Civilians, Not Extremists
Somalia’s army chief says civilians, not extremists, were killed in a military operation Friday that both the United States and Somalia say they will investigate. Ahmed Jimale Gedi told reporters on Saturday that the deaths in Barire village in Lower Shabelle region were the result of suspicion between the two sides. He says he is shocked by the civilian deaths. The deputy governor of Lower Shabelle has said 10 civilians were killed, including three children. Somalia’s government at first said al-Shabab extremists were killed but later noted civilian casualties. The U.S. Africa Command has confirmed it supported an operation by the Somali army in the area. President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded operations against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia, often in support of Somali forces. AP

Somalis Refuse to Bury Dead until State Admits Killing Them in U.S.-Backed Raid
Somali families are refusing to bury the bodies of 10 loved ones, including three children, until the government takes responsibility for killing them in a U.S.-backed military raid, officials said on Sunday. The ten were shot dead when Somalia’s army, supported by U.S. troops, carried out an operation in Bariire village, about 50 km (30 miles) from the capital on Friday. Ali Nur, the deputy governor of the surrounding Lower Shabelle region, told Reuters the bodies would be stored until the government pays compensation – a particularly jarring action in a Muslim culture that buries its dead quickly. “We refused to bury them because the government has denied and it still has not directly admitted it killed the civilians,” Nur told Reuters. “The government should admit it killed the civilians and then compensate.” Reuters

Al Qaeda Says Senior Commander in Somalia Al Shabaab Affiliate Killed
A senior commander in al Shabaab, Somalia’s al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist rebels, was killed last month in a U.S. airstrike, the group said on Saturday in an online statement. Somalia said at the time that its military and allied foreign troops had killed the man identified as Ali Moahmed Hussein or Ali Jabal, believed responsible for several bombings. It did not disclose the nationality of the foreign troops, but American soldiers have in the past taken part in such raids. “The cowardly American enemy planes tried to strike him. The first missed him and the second hit, making him a martyr,” said the al Qaeda statement circulated on social media. Somalia said last month that Ali Jabal’s death would “reduce al Shabaab’s ability to conduct senseless acts of violence against the people of Somalia, its East African neighbours, and the international community.” Reuters

U.S. Reporter Christopher Allen Killed in South Sudan Civil War
An American freelance journalist has been killed in civil war-torn South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday. South Sudan’s army and opposition said the Christopher Allen was caught in the fighting between the two sides. The embassy confirmed Allen’s death said his family had been notified. His body was taken to the military hospital in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. South Sudan army spokesman Col. Domic Chol Santo told The Associated Press that Allen was killed Saturday morning when opposition rebels attacked the town of Kaya near the borders with Uganda and Congo. He was “caught in the fighting” that also left 15 rebels dead, the army spokesman said. AP

Little Progress Two Years after South Sudan Peace Deal
The objective of the peace deal signed in Juba in August 2015 was to restore peace and stability following a bloody conflict that broke out in late 2013, two years after South Sudan obtained independence from the Republic of Sudan. The conflict initially pitted former Vice President Riek Machar against President Salva Kiir, who accused Machar of plotting a coup against him. […] “The agreement did not succeed in ending the violence, restoring stability, reforming public institutions and improving the living conditions of ordinary citizens across South Sudan,” said Rajab Muhandis, director of South Sudan’s Network for Democratic Elections. The activist said the main objective has not been achieved since the deal was signed two years ago. “To the contrary, the violence has increased, ambushes have made roads impassable, at least one third of the population is displaced internally or in neighboring countries and six million people are severely food insecure,” Muhandis said. Deutsche Welle

New USAID Chief Visits Sudan as Sanctions Deadline Nears
U.S. President Donald Trump’s new aid chief, Mark Green, kicked off an African tour in Sudan on Sunday, where he will assess whether Khartoum has done enough to get help into conflict areas to deserve eased sanctions. It is Green’s first trip as administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a job he began two weeks ago amid talk of budget cuts and a wide-reaching reorganization of the agency by the Trump administration. He is due to visit aid projects in drought-hit zones including neighboring Ethiopia, at a time when Washington is considering an estimated 30-percent cut in the budget of the State Department and USAID. But his priorities will also include weighing whether Washington should reform one of its main diplomatic fronts in the region – a raft of sanctions imposed first over Khartoum’s perceived support of global terrorism, later its violent suppression of rebels in Darfur. VOA

Suspected Boko Haram Extremists Kill 16 in North Cameroon
Residents say suspected Boko Haram extremists killed at least 16 people and burned homes in two villages in Cameroon’s north, near the border with Nigeria. Iya Gana, whose husband was killed in the attack Thursday night, said the rebels entered her village and killed her husband and others. She said they burned down homes and stole vehicles and cattle after killing people in two villages near Mora, in Cameroon’s Far North province, about 20km from the border with Nigeria. Boko Haram extremists have been crossing into and attacking towns in neighbouring countries, including Cameroon, that contribute to a regional military force trying to eliminate the insurgency. Boko Haram is blamed for killing more than 20 000 people in their eight-year existence. News 24

The Lament of the Boko Haram ‘Brides’
Salamatu Umar was abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, when she was just 15. She and five other girls were herded in the bush. She was forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter. She and another girl eventually escaped, running away while they were collecting firewood for cooking. Umar was pregnant at the time. Today, she is 18 and the mother of a 1-year-old son, Usman Abubakar. She survived her “hell” and lives in a displaced people’s camp in Maiduguri, the main city in northeastern Nigeria and birthplace of Boko Haram. Umar is free — and yet she is not really free. “People call me ‘Boko Haram wife’ to my face,” says Umar. “They say I am the wife of a killer — so how can I be afraid of Boko Haram? They say my son is a Boko Haram baby.” Like other girls and young women who have escaped or been rescued, she is learning to cope with the stigma — with the help of counseling. Many of the young women held in captivity by Boko Haram were forced to marry fighters and bore them children, says Hauwa Musa Magaji, a psychosocial counselor who works with the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. NPR

Tanzania Urges UN to Repatriate over 8 000 Burundi Refugees
Tanzania’s government is urging the United Nations refugee agency to quickly repatriate thousands of Burundian refugees who it says want to return home. Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said on Friday that over 8 000 refugees are “pushing to be returned” after they registered for voluntary repatriation. UNHCR in Tanzania did not respond to a request for comment. In July, Tanzanian President John Magufuli suspended the registration and naturalization of thousands of Burundian refugees. Over 240 000 Burundians are sheltering in Tanzania after fleeing deadly political violence. News 24

Is a Jogging Ban in Sierra Leone for Safety or to Suppress Opposition?
In Sierra Leone, it was common to spot bands of young people jogging along the streets on weekend mornings in cities across the country, where exercising in groups is popular. Some crews ran in complete silence, while others sang and clapped as they loped along, sometimes following vehicles blaring music. These running groups have been a fixture in Sierra Leone for decades. Now, authorities have put an end to the practice, citing disorderly and criminal behavior. But local rights activists have condemned the ban, calling it an attempt to limit group assemblies and to stifle free expression ahead of elections early next year. The New York Times

Local Leaders Say 1,000 Dead from Sierra Leone Mudslides
More than 1,000 people have died from the mudslide and flood that hit Sierra Leone’s capital nearly two weeks ago, a local leader and a minister said Sunday during services honoring the disaster’s victims. The government had earlier put the death toll for the Aug. 14 mudslide at 450 dead, while rescuers and aid groups warned that many of the more than 600 people missing would likely not survive. “Over 1,000 perished in the mudslide and flood disaster, and we will never know the exact number now,” Elenoroh Jokomie Metzger, the head of the women of Regent, said. Regent is an area on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, where the mudslide hit. Hundreds of burials have taken place, while rescue and recovery efforts have continued through rain that could bring fresh tragedy due to unsafe housing conditions. AP

Armed Groups in Mali Agree to Truce as Peace Talks Start
Two armed groups in Mali agreed to a 15-day cease-fire and committed to peace talks after repeated clashes near the northern city of Kidal. The Coordination of Azawad Movements, a coalition of Tuareg separatists, and the pro-government militia known as the Platform, signed the truce on Wednesday in the capital, Bamako. Despite a peace deal signed in Algiers in 2015, fighting between the organizations has resulted in scores of deaths in the north. Kidal is a stronghold of ethnic Tuareg clans. The governor of Kidal returned to the city on Wednesday, exercising state authority over the region for the first time since 2014, government spokesman Abdel Karim Konate said by phone. The return of the government to Mali’s five northern regions was part of the resolutions of the 2015 peace accord. Under Wednesday’s deal, the groups agreed to set a new timetable for the implementation of the peace accord. Bloomberg

Angolan Opposition Disputes Polls with Publication of Its Own Count
Angola’s main opposition party is on Saturday set to publish its own compilation of election results contradicting provisional results announced by the country’s electoral commission. The parallel tabulation of Wednesday’s general election will give victory to the opposition UNITA party and show the ruling MPLA in third place, according to Raul Manuel Danda, UNITA’s vice president. “The national election commission was publishing provisional results on God knows what basis,” Danda told RFI in telephone interview, saying that the national tally given by the electoral commission did not match results sent from each province. RFI

Four Million Displaced by DRC Violence: UN
The number of people displaced by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly in the volatile Kasai region, has doubled in the past six months to four million, a United Nations official said on Saturday. George Okoth-Obbo, the number two official at the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), said its priority for Kasai was providing food and clothing for the 1.4 million who have fled their homes in violence that has killed more than 3 000 people. “Immediate protection” was required, he told AFP on the last day of a three-day visit to the country, in particular for children “who are sleeping in conditions that are difficult to imagine”. In the southeastern province of Tanganyika, clashes between Bantus and Pygmies have also forced thousands to flee, as has the long-running violence in the Kivu region, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO. News 24

Migrant Crisis: France Hosts Summit with African Leaders
French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a summit with several European and African leaders aimed at boosting efforts to curb migrant flows across the Mediterranean. The Paris talks involve leaders from Chad, Niger and Libya – major transit countries for migrants, who risk their lives trying to reach Europe. The leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain are also attending. To ease the influx, Mr Macron wants to see asylum requests handled in Africa. He has spoken of setting up “hotspots” in Chad, Niger and Libya to process asylum applications. But the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says Libya’s chronic instability would be a major obstacle to such centres operating there. BBC

Merkel Wants to Work with African Leaders on Migration
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she wants to work more closely with Libya’s government to curtail illegal migration from Africa to Europe. The chancellor said in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday that she supports training Libya’s coast guard to prevent migrants from risking their lives by trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Merkel says she also is interested in fostering a “migration partnership” with Niger to inhibit the smuggling of migrants through African deserts on the way to Libya. Merkel is scheduled to meet in Paris on Monday with her French, Italian and Spanish counterparts, as well as the presidents of Chad, Niger and Libya, for talks on curbing migration. AP

Morocco’s Stability Is Roiled by Monthslong Protests over Fishmonger’s Death
The house, down a dusty dirt track in a small village near the city of Al Hoceima in northern Morocco, looked dreary outside, with its unpainted facade, but inside the mood was cheery. Friends and family were celebrating the return of a young singer and human rights activist who had just been released from jail. King Mohammed VI pardoned the young woman, Salima Ziani, 23, late last month after his annual speech commemorating his ascension to the throne, which is usually followed by mass pardons. Ms. Ziani had been eating dinner with her three cellmates in Oukacha Prison in Casablanca when she was summoned to the office of the prison warden. The warden gave her a flower and said she was free to return to her hometown, Al Hoceima, in the mountainous Rif region along Morocco’s northern coast. She had been jailed for two months for her role in leading the protests that have been shaking the Rif since the gruesome death of a fishmonger in October. What began as a spontaneous movement calling for a serious inquiry into the tragedy has turned into one of the longest protest movements in the region since the Arab Spring. The New York Times

South Africa Case Is Opening Doors to Grim Apartheid Deaths
Room 1026 of Johannesburg’s Central Police Station looks like any mid-century office in need of a fresh coat of paint: Dusty vertical blinds hang in the window, opening onto an unremarkable view of a chip shop, a lunchtime favorite for police officers. But for the past several weeks, South Africans have been riveted by an inquest into whether anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol jumped or was pushed to his death from that tenth-floor window on Oct. 27, 1971. The hearings have dredged up dark memories of one of the country’s most infamous landmarks and legal experts say the case could set a precedent for investigating similar deaths. For many who lived through apartheid, the system of white-minority rule that ended in the early 1990s, the building remains an ominous symbol of racial and political oppression in a country still struggling to find justice for the atrocities of a not-so-distant past. AP



Photo: Adam Jones