Africa Media Review for December 2, 2019

Gunmen Massacre 14 Christians during Protestant Service in Burkina Faso

Gunmen launched yet another attack on a church service in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing 14 people and wounding several others in the small eastern town of Hantoukoura. Sunday’s massacre follows a string of attacks by radical Islamist insurgents on military posts, a mining convoy and places of worship in the restive countryside that the cash-strapped military has struggled to contain. The assailants fled on motorbikes after spraying bullets into the Protestant congregation, authorities said. “I offer my deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Kaboré, tweeted late Sunday. No group has asserted responsibility for the attack yet, but fighters linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda routinely ambush soldiers and civilians in a campaign to sow division, gain recruits and seize territory. Such attacks have quadrupled over the last two years in Burkina Faso, which was once known as a peaceful farming state that prized art and religious tolerance. The country of 19 million is about two-thirds Muslim, with a Christian minority. The Washington Post

The Intersection of Terror and Wealth in Burkina Faso

Outfits ranging from Ansarul Islam, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara, have been active in the country’s Sahel region – a group of provinces that borders Mali. Attacks by insurgent groups have left hundreds dead and forced at least 500,000 people to flee their homes due to the violence. More than 500 people have been killed in the past year alone in militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations, according to the UNHCR. “It is difficult to say what their [the insurgent groups’] objectives are but it’s clear that they have created enough insecurity to profit from the situation,” says Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) at the National Defense University. “And they are increasingly challenging the government’s authority in the area.” … Much of the violence of the last three years can be traced to Ibrahim Malam Dicko, a resident of the Soum province, who founded Ansarul Islam. A radical preacher, he is believed to have been inspired by the Mali-based Macina Liberation Front. But the group’s influence waned after Dicko’s death in 2017, writes Pauline Le Roux, who has extensively documented the country’s security problems. TRT World

Namibia Election: President Wins Second Term despite Scandal and Recession

Namibia’s president has won another term but the longtime ruling party has lost its powerful two-thirds majority in its most challenging election since independence nearly 30 years ago. The southern African nation’s electoral commission said on Saturday that the president, Hage Geingob, received 56% of the vote while opposition challenger Panduleni Itula had 29%. Itula made history as the first independent candidate for the presidency, though he retained his ruling party membership. The leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, came in third with 5.3%. The results showed a sharp decrease in support for Geingob, down from 87% in the previous election in 2014. Public frustration has been high over corruption scandals and unemployment. … Opposition leader Venaani told Reuters that they were considering approaching the courts over “anomalies and irregularities” during the election. … While troubles were reported with some electronic voting machines, a preliminary statement by observer missions called the election free, fair and “generally peaceful.” The Guardian

UN Envoy in Beni, DRC as Anti-MONUSCO Sentiment, Rebel Attacks Persist

The UN’s chief of peace operations visited the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, where rebel attacks have killed dozens in recent days and anti-MONUSCO protests continue. Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix was in Beni, where riots targeted peacekeepers on Monday. The protestors accuse the troops of failing to stop civilian massacres by militia fighters. A tense atmosphere remains in and around Beni. On Saturday, a mob lynched two people suspected of being Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. “They did not have identity cards and when we searched their luggage, we found ammunition, military uniforms and magazines,” a witness, Fabrice Muhindo, told AFP. The Congolese military said the victims were an army sergeant and his wife. Another soldier was killed in Oicha, north of Beni by civilians who mistook him for an ADF fighter on Friday. Lacroix met briefly with the head of the Congolese army. He pleaded for cooperation from civilians as he toured a base that was overrun by protestors. African News

DRC Army Says It Killed Top Rebel Leader as Civilian Toll Rises

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) army has said it killed a rebel leader in the country’s northeast, hours after attackers killed at least 13 people in the restive region. The announcement on Saturday morning came as the area reels from a string of recent attacks that have killed scores of people over the past month, prompting angry protests this week by residents accusing local and international forces of failing to protect them. Speaking to Al Jazeera, army spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga said soldiers shot dead Mouhamed Mukubwa Islam – one of the top three leaders of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group – during a military operation late on Friday in Mapobu forest, in the Beni region of North Kivu province. … Earlier this month, Congolese forces killed Nasser Abdullayi Kikuku, another senior leader of the group that has also been blamed for the recent upsurge of violence in the area. Al Jazeera

Cameroon Airlines Plane Fired On by Separatist Rebels

Cameroon’s conflict between separatist rebels and the government escalated on Sunday when the former fired on a passenger jet as it approached Bamenda airport in the northwest of the country. The scheduled flight from Douala landed safely and there were no casualties, Cameroon Airlines said in a statement confirming the attack. The airline has grounded the plane while it assesses the damage. “Thanks to the bravery of the captain, the aircraft was able to land smoothly despite the impact on its fuselage,” it said. … Cho Ayaba, one of the separatist leaders and president of the Ambazonian Council, said that commercial planes were being used to transport soldiers and weapons and he had warned Cameroon Airlines and its passengers that planes will be shot at if they do not provide flight schedules ahead of time. “If we cannot confirm, we will consider all planes coming in as a security risk,” he said. “This is war.” Reuters

Commonwealth, AU, OIF Call for Peace and Unity in Cameroon

Three international organizations have ended an official visit to Cameroon with a call for efforts to restore security, justice and the conditions for the resumption of normal life in English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of the country hit by the separatist crisis that has killed over 3,000 people. The Commonwealth, African Union, and International Organization of La Francophonie delegation says it is convinced dialogue remains the preferred path for peace to return, but that the government should start implementing the recommendations of the last major national dialogue it organized. Some, however, have been critical of government efforts. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, says after exchanging views with Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, representatives of the main political parties, religious leaders, youth representatives and a cross-section of Cameroonians, the organizations are convinced that there is a yearning for peace to return to the restive English-speaking regions. VOA

Abiy Ahmed Fanning Instability in Somalia, S. Sudan: UN Reports

Just months after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is fighting accusations of his interfering with the affairs of neighbouring countries. In November, two United Nations reports accused him of being lukewarm in South Sudan peace process and fuelling fires of instability in Somalia; two of the countries he has been closely involved in as the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. In South Sudan, where Igad midwifed a revitalised peace agreement in September last year, Abiy’s government, Uganda and Kenya were accused of being inconsistent in ensuring the deal is implemented. “Over the past year, the Igad and member states neighbouring South Sudan – specifically Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda – have not demonstrated full and consistent engagement in the peace process,” a UN report said. “The government of Salva Kiir, in particular, has benefited from the inconsistent approach of the region.” … On Friday, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem told the Nation that the allegations do not hold water. “One of the pillars of Ethiopian foreign policy is non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. That is our track record,” Meles said. The East African

Is Kenya Building Bridges to Nowhere?

Twenty-one months ago, Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga and his bitter rival President Uhuru Kenyatta kissed and made up – metaphorically. In fact they shook hands for the cameras – in what became known as “the Handshake.” It ended months of tensions following disputed elections, which always tend to be highly divisive and deadly in Kenya. The two leaders agreed to put together a team to find a way to end such instability. This taskforce, known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), was to look at nine issues – including ethnic antagonism, corruption and devolution – thought to be among the greatest challenges since the country became independent in 1963. After 18 months travelling around the East African nation, the BBI has just delivered its finding – to much fanfare. Mr Odinga told those gathered for the launch that before the process began, the nation had been on the “brink of a precipice.” The president added: “We were not in a good place as a country. We were divided. There were no-go zones for certain communities.” The pair were unified in embracing the BBI’s recommendations. … Some have hailed the report as unifying, comprehensive and the beginning of the process of rebuilding the nation. … But the document is also facing its fair share of opposition. … The BBI recommendations have a long way to go before they are adopted – and may even have to go to a referendum if the constitution is changed. BBC

Eggs, Protests, Apathy Greet Algeria’s Presidential Campaign

Algeria’s presidential campaign is in trouble. Candidates are struggling to fill rally venues, campaign managers have quit, voters have pelted campaign headquarters with tomatoes and eggs, and the country’s 9-month-old pro-democracy movement calls the whole thing a sham. The five candidates seeking to replace President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the Dec. 12 election have failed to captivate a disillusioned public. Bouteflika was pushed out in April after 20 years in power amid an exceptional, peaceful protest movement, and now demonstrators want a wholesale change of political leadership. Instead, the election is managed by the long-serving power structure of this oil- and gas-rich country with a strategic role in the Mediterranean region. Instead of new faces, two of the candidates are former prime ministers and one is a loyalist of Algeria’s influential army chief. The Hirak protest movement held their 41st weekly demonstrations Friday, denouncing the presidential election. But for the first time, thousands of pro-government supporters held their own rally Saturday. AP

Sudan Repeals Public Order Law That Let Police Flog Women for Wearing Pants

It has been nearly a year since mass protests broke out in Sudan – culminating in April with the ouster of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the African country’s longtime dictator accused of war crimes. Women were at the forefront of these protests – and they didn’t stop pushing for change once Bashir resigned and the military followed by a transitional government took over. After 30 years of Bashir’s repressively conservative rule based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Sudanese women have more grievances than days in the year to demonstrate. On Thursday, the transitional government took a significant step in addressing Sudan’s troubled past by repealing a public order law that had granted police far-reaching powers to arrest people for a litany of infractions, including women who were found dancing, wearing trousers, vending on the streets or mixing with men who weren’t their relatives. Punishments included flogging, fines and, in rare cases, stoning and execution, according to the BBC. The Washington Post

Somaliland Is on a Rocky Political Path

The postponement of a vote set for mid-December to 2022 and increasing crackdowns on free speech pose a risk to Somaliland, an internationally endorsed autonomous region of Somalia that straddles the borders of Ethiopia and Djibouti. Some analysts see Somaliland as East Africa’s strongest democracy, located at a strategic intersection and key to the development of the Horn of Africa. The most recent postponement of the parliamentary vote to 2022 has triggered political infighting and discontent on the part of the opposition and among young people who say they feel excluded. The majority of Somaliland’s population are under 35. “We are having a whole generation unable to elect their own representatives, because everyone who is under the age of 30 was not eligible to vote in 2005 when our parliament was elected,” says Guleid Ahmed Jama, a lawyer and political analyst. “There is a detachment between the elected officials and the majority of the people in the city, who are suffering because of unemployment and other social issues.” DW

All Eyes on AU Observer Missions as Burundi, Tanzania, CAR Prepare for Elections in 2020

In the Mission’s defence, Khabele Matlosa, the director of the Department of Political Affairs at the African Union Commission, said that their critics misunderstand their role and often expect immediate intervention, which is not their mandate. He said the AU election observation is meant to reinforce procedural certainty and substantive uncertainty of elections as a central plank of electoral governance. “It includes systematic, comprehensive and accurate information gathering; on-site fact-finding concerning the laws, processes and institutions related to the conduct of elections; impartial and professional analysis of such information; and reaching an informed verdict about the credibility, legitimacy and acceptability of the election outcome. Watch, see, note and report,” he said. Dr Matlosa, however, said that elections in Africa and other continents do not equal democracy. He said that elections can serve two purposes-as a fundamental anchor for democracy-building, and as a veil of legitimacy to authoritarian rule. The East African

Rights Groups Applaud Scrapping of France’s Boat Offer to Libya

French officials confirmed they had cancelled the delivery after eight NGOs filed a lawsuit against the move, criticising Libya’s treatment of migrants. Lola Schulmann of Amnesty France — one of the NGOs involved in the case — saod she hoped the decision would mark “a turning point in relations between France and Libya in terms of migration policy.” Defence Minister Florence Parly had announced in February that France would provide semi-rigid inflatable Sillinger crafts to help Libya’s unity government consolidate its control of the war-torn country. But rights groups assailed the plan, accusing Libyan officials of routinely picking up migrants in the Mediterranean and bringing them back to overcrowded detention centres, where many have been victims of abuse and forced labour. … The rights groups, which also included Doctors Without Borders, praised the cancellation of an offer they said would have made France “complicit in the crimes committed against migrants and refugees in Libya.” RFI

Twitter Chief Jack Dorsey Announces Plans to Move to Africa

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said this week that he plans to move to Africa for up to six months next year. The tech executive announced the planned move following a month-long trip visiting entrepreneurs on the continent. … Dorsey began traveling Africa on 8 November and visited Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, CNN reported. In Ethiopia, he listened to startup pitches. In Nigeria, he had meetings with entrepreneurs and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Twitter board member who formerly worked as managing director of the World Bank. … Africa’s tech industry is presently experiencing rapid growth. GSMA, a mobile services industry group, said there were 618 “active tech hubs” on the continent this year, up 40% from 2018. According to GSMA, Nigeria and South Africa have the most, with 85 and 80, respectively. The Kenyan tech entrepreneur John Karanja launched BitHub, an incubator for cryptocurrencies, in 2015. Ethiopia’s government reportedly hopes that a tech-centric economy could create 3m jobs. The Guardian

#WorldAIDSDay | HIV Campaign Tackles Sex Taboos in South Sudan

The campaign, launched by the Okay Africa Foundation NGO in partnership with government, comes ahead of World Aids Day on Sunday, and highlights that despite great strides made in raising awareness about the disease around the globe, many are still at risk. In South Sudan, HIV rates are currently believed to be low, at around 200,000 people infected in a population of around 12 million, however few protect themselves or get themselves tested, and only 10 percent of those infected are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, according to the World Health Organisation. … At the campaign launch at the Kampala University College in Juba, demonstrations were carried out on how to use both male and female condoms — as students listened attentively and took photos with their phones — and around 5,000 condoms were distributed. Data Emmanuel Gordon from the Okay Africa Foundation said the campaign was motivated by a lack of awareness on how to stop the spread of HIV/Aids. [Chris Isa, who works on HIV prevention at the South Sudan Aids Commission] said HIV prevalence was particularly high in the military, with five in every 100 soldiers testing positive. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones