Africa Media Review for December 14, 2017

Suicide Bomber Kills 17 at Somalia Police Academy
An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer killed at least 17 and injured 20 at a police academy in Somalia’s capital on Thursday, police said. Col. Mohamud Aden said that 20 other officers were wounded by the blast, some of them seriously. The bomber, with explosives strapped around his waist and torso, infiltrated Gen. Kahiye Police Academy and targeted officers gathering for special morning exercises, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said. The officers were rehearsing for Somalia’s Police Day celebrations scheduled for Dec. 20, Hussein said. The bomber walked into the police academy undetected and joined a long line of officers in the rehearsal parade before he detonated the explosives under his sportswear, Hussein said. “He detonated his bomb vest having realized that his presence had drawn suspicion among officers in the queue,” he said. AP

In Somalia, an Overlooked Extremist Hotbed Simmers
Maimed in the war between Somalia’s government and al Qaeda’s affiliate al-Shabaab, the patients of De Martino Hospital prefer not to talk about what happened to them. “Everybody’s afraid,” the hospital’s director, Abdi Ibrahim Jiya, said as he walked through a ward filled with recent arrivals. “If you complain and are for the government, you’re afraid of the Shabaab. And if you complain and are for the Shabaab, you’re afraid of the government.” Such is the balance of fear in Somalia’s capital, a bustling city of three million people where, despite years of international military efforts to stamp out Islamic extremists, security remains elusive and government authority fleeting. In October, Mogadishu was hit by Africa’s deadliest terrorist attack—a truck bombing that killed more than 500 people. Outside Mogadishu, things are worse. Al-Shabaab controls roughly 30% of the country’s territory, Somali government officials estimate. The Wall Street Journal

US Commander Orders New Probe into Somalia Raid
The head of U.S. Africa Command has asked for an additional investigation into whether civilians were killed during a deadly August raid in Somalia involving American and Somali forces. Army Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for Africa Command, said Wednesday that Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser has asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to look into the details of the raid in Bariire village by Somali troops supported by U.S. special operations forces. The decision comes just two weeks after Africa Command released a statement discounting reports that several civilians, including children, were killed in the attack. Cheadle said Waldhauser requested the NCIS investigation in recent days after additional published reports came out saying that local villagers were insisting that innocent civilians were killed. He said Waldhauser also questioned why there have been discrepancies in how many were killed, and decided an additional investigation was needed. AP

“Sahel Coalition” Wants Victories Against Islamist Militants by Mid-2018
A French-backed West African military force to tackle Islamist militants must secure its first victories by the middle of 2018 to prove its worth and ensure more concrete support from the United Nations, the French and Malian leaders said on Wednesday. The G5 Sahel – composed of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad – launched a symbolic military operation to mark its creation in October amid growing unrest in the region, whose porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State. However, France which has some 4,000 troops in the region, has bemoaned that the militants have scored military and symbolic victories in West Africa while the G5 force has struggled to win financing and become operational. Reuters

Sahel Force Could Tackle Jihadists ‘Without Antagonizing Communities’
A new African military force in the Sahel region could be operational in the next few months after donors pledged millions at a conference in France. Paul Melly from Chatham House talked to DW about the G5 Sahel force. The heads of state of the G5 countries – Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger – met with European delegates to discuss the financing and organization of the new Sahel force at a conference near Paris on Wednesday. French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted the meeting, announced new pledges for the Sahel force, one from Saudi Arabia of 85 million euros ($100 million) and another of 25.5 million euros from the United Arab Emirates. Deutsche Welle

Video: French Special Forces Lead Fight Against Sahel Militants
France 24 reporters have been following French special forces in the Sahel as they battle Islamist militants. It is the first time French special forces have allowed journalists to film them during their mission in the Sahel region. French special forces have been fighting Islamist militants for years in the Sahel, a semi-arid belt that stretches across six African countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The region’s porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and the Islamic State group. The French missions are secret and the forces do not communicate their outcomes. Their overall goal is to prevent militant and terrorist groups from creating sanctuaries in the vast region. France 24

UN Says 9 Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan in November
Nine aid workers were killed in South Sudan in November, the deadliest month for humanitarian workers in the world’s youngest nation since December 2013, the UN said on Wednesday. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released in Juba that six humanitarian workers were killed in Duk, Jonglei, one in Ikotos, Eastern Equatoria, and two in Awerial, Lakes. “Fighting forced the relocation of at least 47 aid workers in six incidents in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, and Unity,” said the UN. A total of 103 humanitarian access incidents were reported in November, compared to 116 in October, the report said, noting that six security incidents forced the suspension of aid activities in different locations. Xinhua

Aid Agencies Appeal for $1.72bn to Avert South Sudan Crisis
The humanitarian community in South Sudan has launched an appeal for $1.72 billion to forestall the growing crisis in the war-torn country. The humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Mr Alain Noude’hou, said the cash would provide critical assistance to more than six million people affected by the conflict, displacement, hunger and a deteriorating economy. Mr made the appeal at the launch of South Sudan’s humanitarian response plan of action for 2018 in Juba Wednesday. “There is a growing need for humanitarian assistance with displacement, food insecurity, malnutrition, violence and economic decline taking a toll on health, safety and livelihoods of people in need,” he said. The East African

Angolan President Offers Grace Period to Recover Overseas Funds
Angola will set a moratorium in January to allow citizens with money abroad to repatriate their funds, as the oil-producing country struggles to ease an acute dollar shortage that began soon after oil prices dropped in 2014. “Angolans who repatriate overseas funds and invest in the economy, companies that generate goods, services and jobs won’t be harassed,” President Joao Lourenco said Wednesday in the capital, Luanda. “No questions will be asked about why their money was abroad and they won’t face legal prosecution.” The Angolan economy, sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest, has been crippled by oil prices that have halved since mid-2014, causing zero growth last year, soaring inflation and a shortage of dollars needed to import products. Bloomberg

Life Sentences for Militiamen Who Raped Children in DR Congo
An eastern Congolese court’s life sentences for 11 militiamen for raping children is a breakthrough, according to rights groups. They say the verdict is a victory against those who “thought they were invincible.” A Congolese military tribunal imposed life sentences on the militia fighters, including their leader, provincial lawmaker Frederic Batumike, describing the rapes and several murders as crimes against humanity. Between 2013 and 2016, the militia kidnapped and raped at least 37 girls in the village of Kavumu, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Bukavu city in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu province. Prosecutors said Batumike, whose immunity was waived to stand trial, had hired a spiritual advisor who told fighters that raping very young children would give them mystical protection. Deutsche Welle

U.S. Urges Sudan and Rebels to Resume Peace Talks
U.S. chargé d’Affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, on Wednesday has called on the Sudanese government and opposition groups to resume peace talks to end the armed conflicts in the country. The Sudanese army has been fighting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, also known as the Two Areas since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. The African Union (AU) is brokering peace talks between the Sudanese government and opposition including the armed groups in Darfur and the Two Areas. Following six days of talks in Addis Ababa in August 2016, the armed movements and the government failed to conclude a deal on the security arrangements and humanitarian access in Darfur and the Two Areas prompting the AU mediation to suspend the talks indefinitely. Sudan Tribune

Guinea-Bissau Opposition Rejects President’s Crisis Talks Plan
Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz has proposed fresh talks on the country’s grinding political crisis days before the issue was to be raised at a regional summit, but opposition parties have rejected the plan, both sides revealed on Wednesday. The tiny west African state has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when the president sacked then prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Talks mediated by Guinean President Alpha Conde in October 2016 had envisaged naming a new prime minister and assembling a unity government including PAIGC lawmakers. A new prime minister, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, was sworn in last December but the majority of the PAIGC rejected him, accusing Vaz of breaching an agreement calling for a consensual choice of prime minister. The Citizen

South African Court Rejects Jacob Zuma’s Bid to Block Corruption Inquiry
President Jacob G. Zuma of South Africa suffered a stinging legal defeat on Wednesday when the country’s High Court rejected his efforts to block an inquiry into accusations of influence-peddling so widespread that it is known as “state capture.” The decision came days before a major gathering to choose Mr. Zuma’s successor as leader of the governing African National Congress. After the findings were read aloud in court, the public gallery burst into applause and cheers, according to local news media reports. The allegations center on accusations that Mr. Zuma has been complicit in a scheme by three businessman that allows them to influence the appointment of government ministers in order to tilt the awarding of contracts in their favor. Mr. Zuma and the men, who are brothers, have all denied the charges. The New York Times

Mozambique President Replaces Energy and Foreign Ministers
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has sacked four ministers, including those with the foreign affairs and energy portfolios, his office said late on Tuesday, without giving a reason. Energy is a key portfolio in Mozambique, which has vast untapped offshore gas reserves that are being developed by oil majors such as Italy’s Eni. Nyusi’s office said Ernesto Max Elias Tonela had replaced Leticia da Silva Klemens as minister of energy and mineral resources and Jose Condugua Antonio Pacheco was the new foreign minister, replacing Oldemiro Baloi. The president also replaced the ministers of industry and trade and of agriculture and food security. Reuters

E Guinea Intercepts Gabon-Bound Boat Carrying 205 Migrants
Equatorial Guinea’s coastguard intercepted a makeshift boat carrying 205 West African migrants headed for Gabon, local media reported on Wednesday. The migrants, including a newborn baby and three pregnant women, were apprehended on Tuesday off the coast of the capital Malabo, according to state television. Coming from West African countries such as Benin, Nigeria and Togo, the migrants are being held at Malabo’s central police station, dubbed Equatorial Guinea’s “Guantanamo”. “The boat’s leader told us that they on their way to Gabon. We do not know if it is true,” a coastguard told state TV. AFP

Algeria’s Ruling Caste Set on Orderly Succession, When the Time Comes
Algerians are facing the eventual departure of their long-serving president, the ailing Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the knowledge that all is being done to ensure little changes when he goes. The 80-year-old leader, who has ruled the North African country for nearly two decades, was incapacitated by a stroke in 2013 but may decide to run again in the next presidential election due in May 2019. Should he bow out, though, many Algerians believe the person elected to replace him will be secondary. Just as now, observers say, a powerful ruling caste dominated by the army will run the show from behind the scenes. That may be good news for an aged and thinning party elite from the Front de Liberation National (FLN), allied business tycoons and generals – collectively known as “Le Pouvoir” or “The Powers That Be” – that has long managed Algeria’s politics. Reuters

Egypt’s Civil Society Is on Life Support
[…] Repression of human rights and civil society organizations in Egypt is not new. But under Sisi, it has reached unprecedented levels. His government is not simply rolling back the space won when mass protests brought down Mubarak, activists say, but seeking to eliminate it altogether. Egyptian officials often use the country’s struggle with terrorism as justification for the ongoing crackdown. After last month’s terrorist attack on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed more than 300 people, Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service, said: “This heinous crime is an alarm to all organizations that trade in raising high the banners of ‘human rights and freedoms.’ It is time for them to become aware that their fabricated reports that are teeming with exaggerations and false information would render these organizations ‘partners’ in giving an excuse, albeit inadvertently, to these crimes and their perpetrators.” Presidential and Foreign Ministry spokesmen did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Rights activists say the assault on civil society appears calibrated to progressively tighten the screws without sounding alarm bells for Egypt’s Western allies. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones