Africa Media Review for December 18, 2018

62 Al-Shabab Fighters in Somalia Killed in Two Days of Airstrikes, U.S. Military Says
The U.S. military announced Monday that it carried out six airstrikes over the weekend against the extremist group al-Shabab in a coastal region south of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, killing 62 fighters. It said there were no collateral civilian casualties. The strikes bring the total in 2018 to 46, higher than last year’s 31, which was a record. The Trump administration has loosened the U.S. military’s rules of engagement, allowing it to seek out militants and preemptively strike them, leading to more frequent air raids. More than 300 al-Shabab fighters have been killed in this year’s strikes. All six airstrikes were “conducted to prevent al-Shabab from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks,” the military’s statement said. A strike in October killed 60 fighters, and another in November 2017 killed about 100. The Washington Post

U.S. Airstrikes in Somalia on the Rise
A spate of American airstrikes against Islamic extremists in Somalia is the latest in a dramatic uptick in U.S. attacks in the Horn of Africa nation since President Donald Trump took office. The weekend strikes, which killed 62 people, targeted al-Shabab militants who want to establish their own version of repressive Shariah law in Somalia. A Somali intelligence officer told The Associated Press that the strikes on Gandarshe, a town along the Indian Ocean coast, were aimed at foiling a planned extremist attack. The U.S. conducted 17 airstrikes in Somalia between 2007 and 2015, according to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal who has tracked airstrikes in several countries for more than a decade. But those numbers have sharply escalated in recent years. In 2016, the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the U.S. launched 15 strikes in Somalia. That number rose to 31 in 2017 and at least 45 this year. AP

France Vows Aid for Burkina, but No More Troops to Fight Islamists
France agreed Monday to a new military framework with Burkina Faso that would speed engagement of its forces to fight Islamist militants in a northern border region of Burkina where there has been a spike in violence. The arid Sahel region is suffering violence from militant groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State, highlighting the difficulty international partners face in restoring regional stability. The northern region of Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has been especially hard hit, leaving the fragile West African state struggling to assert its authority since ex-Burkinabe president Blaise Compaore was ousted in 2014 at the hands of a popular uprising. “There will be no extra [troop] involvement on the French side,” President Emmanuel Macron said at a news conference with Burkinabe counterpart Roch Marc Christian Kabore in Paris. VOA

Profiles of Main Candidates Hoping to Succeed Kabila in DRC
Democratic Republic of Congo will hold a presidential election Sunday that could lead to the country’s first democratic transfer of power, following decades marked by authoritarian rule, coups and deadly conflict. The outcome of the long-delayed vote to choose President Joseph Kabila’s successor is far from certain, after a campaign marred by violent crackdowns on opposition rallies and the destruction of thousands of the capital’s voting machines in a fire last week. Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, is facing a credible challenge from two opposition leaders: Felix Tshisekedi, president of Congo’s largest opposition party, and Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager and businessman. VOA

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary: Kabila’s Choice for DR Congo President
President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, has a fearsome reputation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The question is whether Mr Shadary can convert that into a victory in Sunday’s presidential election. The former deputy premier and interior minister is said by many to have earned the nickname “back-to-back” for his role in putting down a succession of opposition protests in 2017. The crackdown, which turned deadly, led to him being sanctioned by the European Union. But his supporters say the name is a reference to his years as a model student at DR Congo’s University of Lubumbashi, from where he graduated with five distinctions in 1987. BBC

One Dead, 80 Hurt as Rival Activists Clash Ahead of DRC Vote
At least one person was killed and over 80 injured in weekend clashes between supporters of rival candidates just days ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) crucial presidential election, sources said Monday. The country is on edge ahead of the December 23 vote to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the resource-rich nation since 2001. Unrest erupted in Tshikapa, a city in the restive central Kasai region, on Sunday when the planes of two rival candidates – opposition heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and former education minister Maker Mwangu – landed at the airport just a few hours apart. Sources with observers at the scene said at least one person had been killed and around 20 arrested. But others in the region said the toll could be higher.  AFP

European Union Expands Authorities of Border Mission in Libya
The European Union’s Council expanded Monday the authorities of its border management assistance mission (EUBAM) to include an active support for the Libyan authorities in contributing to efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission’s revised mandate will run until 30 June 2020 and the EU also allocated a budget of €61.6 million for the period from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020. “In order to achieve its objectives, EUBAM provides capacity-building in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice.” The statement issued by the EU Council reads. According to the statement, the expansion of EUBAM authorities in Libya responds to a request by the Libyan authorities and is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. Libya Observer

Nigerian Military Calls for Amnesty International Ban
Nigeria’s army has called for the closure of Amnesty International’s operations in the country. In a report on Monday, the human rights group said at least 3,641 people had died in clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria since 2016. The army has accused Amnesty of trying to destabilise the country with “fictitious” claims. A spokesperson for Amnesty told the BBC that the group “would not be discouraged” by the military’s remarks. The exchange of words comes days after Nigeria’s military briefly suspended the activities of the UN children’s agency Unicef in the north-east of the country. BBC

South Sudan Gov’t Protests New US Sanctions, Calls for Dialogue
South Sudan’s government has protested the decision of the United States to impose fresh sanctions and cut financial aid to the country. Addressing a press conference on Monday, the foreign ministry spokesman Mawien Makol warned that the ‘unjustifiable’ actions of the US government could undermine the implementation of the recent peace agreement. “The government of South Sudan would like to register its concern and protest in the strongest terms against these unjustified unilateral sanctions, and on other USA statements designed to undermine the implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan,” Makol told journalists.  Africa News

Ethiopia Army Op Kills Civilians in Moyale Hotel, Violence Persists
A deadly shooting incident involving the Ethiopian army has claimed the lives of a dozen civilians in a hotel located in Moyale, a border town with Kenya. Local news portals cited sources that confirmed that the incident took place as federal forces were holding talks with ethnic militia groups – Oromo and Somali – to hand over the security of Moyale. Since his coming into office in April 2018, the biggest headache to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been the subject of internal insecurity. It has led to record displacements across the country. Incidentally the worsening crisis has been in or connected to his home region, Oromia, which is also Ethiopia’s largest regional state. Abiy leads the ruling party in the region, the Oromo Democratic Party, ODP.  Africa News

Malawi Vice President Takes Leadership of Opposition Party
Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima was elected head of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) party on Monday, paving way for him to challenge President Peter Mutharika in May elections. Chilima was handpicked by Mutharika to run alongside him in the 2014 elections on the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) ticket. But Chilima quit the DPP in June to form the UTM, citing corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the ruling party. About 900 delegates gathered in Lilongwe for the UTM’s first convention since the party was founded five months ago. “We cannot continue in the ‘business-as-usual’ manner in which our country has been run,” Chilima said after being elected unopposed. AFP

A Freed Cameroonians Ask for Release of Separatist Leaders
Barely 24 hours after being released from detention centers, some of the people accused of fighting for the creation of an English-speaking state in Cameroon have called for the movement’s leaders to be released if President Paul Biya wants peace in the country. The detainees’ release last week came after Biya ordered charges against them dropped. Evelyn Ako, a mother of four, says she spent the night with her husband for the first time in 22 months. She says he was arrested in the English-speaking Southwest town of Mamfe and taken to Yaounde. “With him besides me, we can work harder,” she said. “He used to give me money to support my children but this year, they are in the house. They have not gone to school because of [his absence]. So this thing has disturbed us a lot. It has disturbed even our family because any money that we gather, we used it to buy foodstuff to go and give him. We use it to buy medicines, dresses.” VOA

South Africa’s Former Leader Joins Twitter amid Legal Woes
South Africa’s former president, who faces corruption charges, has taken to Twitter. “It’s me, Jacob Zuma,” the ex-leader says in an introductory video posted on the social media site in the last few days. Zuma says “you will get used to me” and that he intends to join the national conversation. He says he will correct some things that are said about him and that some people have used fake social media accounts in his name. Zuma resigned in February, ending a scandal-tainted tenure that sapped confidence in the South African government and hurt the economy. He now faces corruption charges related to an old arms deal, and a judge ruled that Zuma should reimburse the state for funds used to fight corruption allegations in court in the past decade. AP

China Hopes U.S. Can Learn Not to “Blurt Things Out” after Zambia Denial
China hopes the United States can learn a lesson and “not blurt things out”, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after Zambia denied claims by a White House official that China is about to take over its state power utility to recover debt. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Thursday that China’s quest for more power in Africa was evident in nations like Zambia, where China was poised to take over utility company Zesco to collect the $6-10 billion debt. Zambian presidential spokesman Amos Chanda told Reuters that China was not planning to take over Zesco and that the figure of between $6-10 billion given by Bolton was wrong. Zambia’s total external debt was now $9.7 billion including $3.1 billion owed to China, he said. Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this wasn’t the first time a U.S. official had been caught out on this kind of issue, though she gave no details on that. Reuters

Mauritanians Who Sought Refuge in US Face Deportation, Then Jail
Mo had nothing but a set of jail clothes and the name of a distant cousin when he boarded the deportation flight from the United States to Mauritania, the African country he had fled. After more than 20 years he was returning to the scene of childhood trauma — an Islamic republic on the edge of the Sahara where members of black ethnic groups, like him, have suffered decades of slavery and persecution under a light-skinned elite. The plane descended over desert, and his fears were realized. Upon arrival in the capital, Nouakchott, he was arrested and taken to jail, where he remained for two weeks until his family paid a bribe to free him. “I never thought I would come back to this life,” said the 45-year-old, identified here by a nickname for his protection, from his cousin’s house, where he hid for five months before fleeing the country again.  VOA

Can We Talk? Ugandans Try to Coax Longtime Leader to Leave
Can one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders be talked into giving up power? A new movement in Uganda wants to find out, encouraged by the president’s tentative embrace of a so-called “national dialogue” as the government is in a showdown with an opposition pop star whose popularity with disaffected young people is unsettling the ruling party. The talks, set to be launched on December 18, are being pushed by religious and civic leaders and some retired public officials who envisage a peaceful end to the presidency of Yoweri Museveni. He has held power for over 30 years and could extend his rule until the 2030s after lawmakers last year removed age restrictions on the presidency. That decision, opposed by many Ugandans, left the door open for the 74-year-old Museveni to seek another term in 2021 and deepened concerns over the risk of a violent succession struggle the longer he stays in power. News 24