Africa Media Review for December 13, 2019

Libya’s Haftar Announces ‘Decisive Battle’ to Capture Tripoli
Libya’s renegade General Khalifa Haftar has announced that a “decisive battle” to capture the capital, Tripoli, will commence imminently, eight months after he launched his offensive to wrest it from the internationally recognised government. “Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan,” Haftar said in a televised address on Thursday. “Today, we announce the decisive battle and the advancement towards the heart of the capital to set it free … advance now our heroes.” Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided with a weak UN-supported administration in Tripoli, overseeing the country’s west, dubbed the Government of National Accord (GNA), and a rival government in the east aligned with Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). … The GNA said on Thursday that the situation was “under control” and that its troops were holding their positions in the capital’s south. “We are ready to push back any more mad attempts by the Haftar putsch leader,” said GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha on al-Ahrar television. Al Jazeera

Unrest Marks Algerian Election, as Protesters Boycott the Vote
The election is taking place amid an economic crisis, and whoever wins will immediately face budgetary and unemployment problems. But the new president will be widely seen as lacking the legitimacy to tackle those challenges. Algeria, Africa’s third-biggest oil producer, depends on oil and gas for 95 percent of its exports. But the price of oil is about half of what it needs for the government to balance its budget. The arrest and jailing of leading businessmen has meant frozen payrolls and layoffs. Analysts estimate that 60 percent of businesses have stopped their activities. “We’re going to have a president who will not have legitimacy at the national level, and who can’t be legitimate internationally,” said Mr. Djabi, the sociologist. “This president will be weak in the sense that he won’t be able to solve economic and social problems. A president who is badly elected can’t solve the Algerians’ problems.” The New York Times

Al-Shabaab Attacks Somali Army Base in Hilweyne, Killing 5
Four civilians and a soldier were killed when heavily-armed al-Shabaab fighters attacked a Somali army base north of the capital, military sources and witnesses said Thursday. Witnesses said dozens of al-Shabaab members, arriving aboard four pickup trucks, took part in the attack late Wednesday, December 11 on Hilweyne base 25 km (15 miles) north of Mogadishu, while a soldier said there had been hundreds of assailants. Al-Shabaab fighters took over the camp for a while before pulling out. “After [a] tactical retreat by the armed forces, the military is back to the camp now and the situation is under control,” said Mohamed Salad, a Somali military commander in the nearby town of Balcad. “We have lost one soldier in the fighting, but the terrorists also killed four other civilians including two women who were running small businesses near the camp.” Hussein Luqman, a witness, said: “There was heavy exchange of gunfire which continued for more than 30 minutes. The Defense Post

Tunisia’s Premier Says More Time Needed to Form Government
Tunisia’s prime minister-designate requested another month to pull together a governing coalition from across the North African nation’s politically fragmented parliament, the presidency said. Habib Jemli, a politically independent agricultural engineer, was picked as premier last month by Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that won the most seats in October’s legislative elections. He was handed the complex task of forming a new government with the support of smaller parties and blocs by Dec. 15. Both Jemli and President Kais Saied are from outside the political mainstream, reflecting the widespread disillusionment with an elite that’s failed to deliver economic gains more than eight years after the country kicked off the Arab Spring. Bloomberg

Sudan’s Deposed President Faces Verdict in Corruption Trial, but Victims Fear He’ll Evade Justice Once Again
The verdict of the first trial of Omar Bashir is set to be delivered on Saturday, but civilians are concerned that they will be denied justice as Sudan’s ousted president evades the International Criminal Court. In the corruption case, 75-year-old Mr Bashir is accused of illegally acquiring and using foreign currency, after sacks of euros, dollars and Sudanese pounds amounting to £100 million were found at his home. If found guilty he could face more than a decade behind bars. It is just the first in a slew of possible legal proceedings against the former leader who ruled the country for 30 years until he was ousted in April. In May he was also charged with involvement in the killing of protesters, and was summoned last Thursday for questioning over his role in the 1989 military coup which brought him to power. … Victims of the Darfur conflict told The Independent they fear that the judiciary is still populated by Bashir’s former allies and believe the corruption trial is a distraction. The Independent

‘Optimistic Mood’ at Sudan Peace Talks
On Wednesday morning, the first general negotiation session began at the Palm Africa Hotel in the South Sudan capital of Juba, at the start of the third round of the reconvened negotiations between the government delegation headed by Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council, and the armed movements. The session discussed the regulations governing the negotiation process, reviewing what was agreed upon regarding the Juba Declaration of Principles and all agreements, and consulting on the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and other movements’ joining of the Juba Platform. The chairman of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance of rebel groups, Dr El Hadi Idris, told Radio Dabanga that the procedural session discussed how the negotiations will proceed in the coming days and it was agreed that the negotiations start with the tracks concerning Darfur, the Two Areas (Blue Nile state and South Kordofan), eastern Sudan, northern Sudan and central Sudan. Radio Dabanga

France Postpones Security Summit with Leaders of G5 Sahel Bloc
French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed with Niger to postpone a key summit focusing on France’s military operation in Africa’s Sahel region until the beginning of next year. The French presidency said in a statement Thursday that Macron called Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou to express his support, a day after an attack by Islamic militants that killed at least 71 soldiers in the West African country. They agreed to postpone the summit initially scheduled on Dec. 16 in the French southern town of Pau with the participation of the heads of state of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania. Macron has said he expects West African leaders to make it clear that they want and need France’s military help despite the anti-French sentiment expressed by some protesters. France’s operation in West and Central Africa is its largest overseas military mission, with 4,500 personnel. France intervened in Mali in 2013 after extremists seized control of major towns in the north and implemented a harsh version of Islamic law. AP

Anti-French Sentiment on the Rise in West Africa as Security Situation Deteriorates
Although France remains the only Western country with a significant military presence in the Sahel, France’s relationship with its former African colonies has grown increasingly tense in recent months. This has led to an evident increase in anti-French sentiment. “There is indeed [a clear rise in anti-French sentiment in West Africa],” Dakar-based independent reporter, Bram Posthumus, told DW. “When Operation Serval began in 2013 to dislodge the jihadists, who were then occupying all the major urban centers in the north of Mali, it was thought it would be a problem that would be quickly resolved. They did chase out the jihadists, although they did not chase them out completely. It’s now seven years later and the problem is most definitely getting worse.” … “So that’s when the conspiracy theories get going: Either they’re there because of the supposed mineral riches in the north of Mali, or they think it’s just a neocolonialist project to make sure that they remain part of France’s backyard,” he says. DW

Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis in Mali Revealed in New Report
Escalating violence and insecurity in Mali have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, rendering 3.9 million people in need of assistance and protection – an increase of 700,000 since the beginning of the year, the UN said on Thursday. Citing a recent report from the NGO Refugees International, Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told correspondents in New York that the number of internally displaced people has also jumped from around 80,000 to nearly 200,000 in one year with more than half being children and women. The data shows that 650,000 people face food insecurity, compared to 185,000 at the same time last year and that number is projected to nearly double to 1.2 million by June 2020. … While insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-Government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have inflamed intercommunal tensions. Some 70 per cent of the people affected live in the conflict regions of Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao. UN News

Cameroon Records Daily Boko Haram Attacks along Nigeria Border
Authorities in Cameroon say Boko Haram terrorists have been launching daily attacks on villages along the Nigeria border, killing at least 30 people and injuring scores in the past few months. Cattle rancher Lamsi Guidjo, 55 years old and speaking through an interpreter, asked for temporary housing at the central Mosque in the town of Mora, on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria. He said Boko Haram militants attacked his ranch in Werwack village on Tuesday and it is not safe for him to return. Guidjo was told by villagers that Boko Haram killed five people in the attack. The governor of Cameroon’s far north region, Midjiyawa Bakary, said the attack on Werwack was just one among a hundred they have recorded in the past three months. At a high-level security meeting Wednesday in the city of Maroua, Bakary said the Boko Haram attacks left at least 30 people dead in villages around Mora, Tokombere, Limani, Kolofata and Ashigachia. Participants at the meeting recommended that traditional rulers, the clergy and civilians work with the military to help reduce the attacks. VOA

Saving Lake Chad Basin, Sahel: AU Chief Calls for African Solidarity
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, AUC, has renewed calls for continental solidarity in helping combat twin scourge of terrorism and environmental degradation. Speaking at the Aswan Summit taking place in Egypt, the former Chadian Foreign Minister specifically mentioned the Sahel region and the Lake Chad Basin as two cases worthy of solidarity. He described the situation in both regions as “not normal.” “It is not normal that while the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin are burning, the rest of the continent is not showing greater solidarity towards these countries confronted with terrorism.” … In February 2018, a $6.5-million research and conservation programme to save the Lake Chad Basin was launched in the Nigerian capital Abuja. … Troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria are fighting a battle against Boko Haram jihadists in the remote region. The ongoing Islamist insurgency has forced tens of thousands of people to cross borders in search of food and safety. The UN estimates that more than two million people have been uprooted from their homes and 10.7 million are in need of food handouts to survive. Africa News

Nigerian Police Fire in Air to Disperse Shiite Protests
Nigerian police on Thursday fired live rounds into the air to disperse protesters from a banned Shiite group in the capital Abuja. Heavily armed officers clashed with more than 100 rock-throwing demonstrators from the pro-Iran Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). “We are protesting to commemorate the killing of our members in Zaria four years ago,” said Muhammed Bello, a Shiite demonstrator. The army killed 350 IMN Shiites, with many gunned down and burned alive according to rights groups, during a religious procession in the northern Nigeria city in December 2015. The protesters were also demanding the release of their detained leader, Muslim cleric Ibrahim El Zakzaky, who is facing terror charges. … In July the Nigerian government listed the IMN as a proscribed terror group, banning their activities, yet protests have continued.Waves of clashes with security forces have claimed hundreds of lives in the last year. AFP

Nigerian Peacekeepers Haunted by the Ghosts of Executions Past
Nigerian peacekeepers changed the course of Sierra Leone’s civil war, helping to defeat the rebels. But in keeping the peace, these soldiers committed atrocities of their own. Two decades on, they are still grappling with what happened on their watch – and their victims want justice. … It is unclear just how many Nigerian soldiers were deployed to the region or how many died. But by 1999, Nigerian troops made up 80% of the Ecomog force, with about 10000 deployed in Liberia and 11000 in Sierra Leone, and the country suffered the heaviest troop casualties. Corinne Dufka, from Human Rights Watch, says the organisation welcomes efforts to pursue justice. But Dufka also acknowledges the conditions Nigerian troops were forced to survive in during the war. “I met Nigerian soldiers who’d been wounded and a few who’d been tortured by the RUF or seen fellow soldiers executed, but after hospitalisation in Nigeria, they were re-deployed to Sierra Leone, and to the field of operations.” That, of course, is not an excuse for indiscipline, Dufka says, but rather a pointer to the mental conditions of Ecomog troops at the time. Mail & Guardian and Premium Times

Nigeria Eases Visa Rules for African Passport Holders
Nigeria has said that starting next month African passport holders can apply for a visa upon arrival in the country, in a move aimed at encouraging free circulation of people on the continent. The announcement was made by President Muhammadu Buhari during the Aswan Forum on peace and sustainable development that opened on Wednesday in Egypt. … Buhari also appealed for massive investment in Africa’s transportation infrastructure. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and market with some 190 million inhabitants. Along with Benin, it was one of the last nations to join the new African free trade zone in July. The goal is to become the world’s largest free trade zone by cutting trade tariffs and barriers for 1.2 billion people. … In contrast to its aims of a free flow of trade, Nigeria in late August and “until further notice” closed the borders with neighbouring countries – highly dependent on the economic giant – to block contraband products such as petrol and rice. Al Jazeera

West African Court Voids Sierra Leone’s Ban on Pregnant Schoolgirls
West Africa’s top court on Thursday ordered Sierra Leone to revoke a ban on pregnant girls in school, a move activists hope could lead to challenges against similar laws across Africa. The continent has the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world, and 18 African countries require pregnant girls to drop out of school. Sierra Leone’s ban was adopted in 2015 as teenage pregnancies rose during an Ebola epidemic. Critics say it has increased stigma for pregnant girls and sent thousands back in their studies. The government has argued that allowing pregnant girls to attend school would tire them out, expose them to ridicule and encourage others to get pregnant. Sierra Leone’s education minister David Senghe declined to comment on whether the government would respect the ruling. Previous Sierra Leonean governments have ignored decisions by the ECOWAS court. The government has created part-time centers where pregnant girls could study but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court in Nigeria ruled that this was not sufficient. Reuters

Uganda, Rwanda Officials Meet in Kampala over Tensions
Rwandan and Ugandan officials will on Friday meet in Kampala to discuss the implementation of a pact aimed at ending tensions between the two countries. Uganda government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, on Thursday said the meeting will be attended by Angola and DR Congo who are the facilitators to the Luanda agreement. “Uganda and Rwanda will tomorrow [Friday] hold a follow-up meeting at Speke Resort Munyonyo to the one held in Kigali in September to concretize the issues in the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Luanda, Angola in Aug 2019,” Opondo tweeted. … The meetings are meant to fast-track the implementation of an agreement signed by both President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to end two-year long hostilities between the neighbours. Key on the agenda for the Kampala meeting is reopening of the two nations’ common border for goods and people. The border has been closed since late February when Rwanda stopped its citizens from crossing into Uganda and restricted the entry of Ugandan goods into the country. The East African

At the heart of Zimbabwe’s economic paralysis is a personality clash. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya don’t get on, are pursuing different agendas and at times issue directives without informing each other, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said. The result: policies that are quickly reversed, confusing contradictions in public statements, an economy that’s forecast by the government to contract 6.5% this year and an annual inflation rate that reached 440% in October. While Ncube, a Cambridge-trained economist, is often accused of being overly optimistic, his push to cut spending and bring order to chaotic government finances has been lauded. By comparison, Mangudya, an appointee of former President Robert Mugabe, is seen as a governor who puts political considerations ahead of rational economic decisions. They seem to be at two polar opposites,” said Jee-A van der Linde, an economic analyst at NKC African Economics in Paarl, South Africa. Bloomberg

The Rebel Saint of South Sudan
It was June 2016, and one week earlier, this had been ground zero of a devastating attack that displaced at least 30,000 people and as many as 150,000. Wau, one of South Sudan’s largest trade hubs, had become the latest victim in the country’s civil war. … Sister Gracy Adichirayil was a nun in the Salesian order, a Roman Catholic institute founded in 1872 tasked with serving disadvantaged children around the world. She had come to Sudan 30 years ago, when civil war pitted the government in Khartoum against the southern SPLA insurgency. Despite chronic instability, she managed to build several schools, a nursing college, and a hospital. She taught thousands of children and found homes for hundreds of orphans. Along the way, she’d become something of a fixture in Wau. Wherever we went people called her by name, or called her uktana. Our sister. But for all her work, she’d fallen afoul of her superiors in Rome for going beyond the provincial mandate of the Salesian Sisters, namely, elementary education. And it seemed that no matter how much she worked, a surge in violence would bring things back to square one. In some ways, the attack in Wau was a test of her resolve. Roads and Kingdoms