Africa Media Review for December 26, 2019

Burkina Faso has begun two days of mourning for 35 civilians, mostly women, killed by jihadists, reportedly on motorcycles. A fresh attack in the country’s north reportedly left a dozen soldiers dead. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Wednesday praised the “bravery” of defense forces, who according to a security source, repelled Tuesday morning’s jihadist attack on the northern town of Arbinda and a military base nearby. Security sources quoted by the French news agency AFP late Wednesday said another attack on a military patrol at Hallele in Soum province on Tuesday had left “around a dozen soldiers” dead. No group immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday morning’s assault – one of the deadliest in five years of Sahel violence blamed on militants linked to both al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups. Burkina Faso’s army said 7 of its soldiers and 80 assailants also died during a three-hour fight-back around Arbinda. Air force intervention helped drive back the militants, according to the unnamed security source also quoted by AFP. Kabore declared 48 hours of mourning. Government spokesman Remis Dandjinou was quoted by the French news agency AFP as saying that 31 of the 35 civilians killed were women. DW

Boko Haram jihadists have killed seven people on Christmas Eve in a raid on a Christian village near the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, local militia and residents told AFP Wednesday. Dozens of fighters driving trucks and motorcycles stormed into Kwarangulum late Tuesday, shooting fleeing residents and burning homes after looting food supplies. … “They killed seven people and abducted a teenage girl in the attack,” local vigilante David Bitrus said. “They took away food stuff and burnt many houses before leaving,” he said, adding that a church was also burnt. The jihadists were believed to have attacked from Boko Haram’s nearby Sambisa forest enclave, said Chibok community leader Ayuba Alamson who confirmed the toll. In April, Boko Haram raided Kwarangulum, 16 kilometres (10 miles) from Chibok, stealing food and burning the entire village. Residents had managed to flee before the arrival of the jihadists following tip-off from people who saw the gunmen heading toward the village. Chibok is the scene of the mass kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in 2014 by Boko Haram which sparked global outrage and drew international attention to the group’s notoriety. AFP

Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore and former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki left prison Tuesday evening after the attorney general ordered their release on bail, in recognition of court orders. The release followed growing internal and international pressure on the Nigerian government to abide by court orders. State security had ignored several court orders that former adviser Dasuki, who has been held since 2015, be released. It also sparked protests earlier this month when it re-arrested activist and former presidential candidate Sowore hours after his release on bail. Dasuki left prison at roughly 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Tuesday and joined his family at his home in the Asokoro district of Abuja. Sowore was released earlier in the evening, greeting jubilant supporters. … Dasuki has been granted bail several times but the government had refused to release him. In 2016, a judge at the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered his release, saying his detention was unlawful and arbitrary. Sowore, who also founded news website Sahara Reporters, was first arrested in August. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president. Reuters

Ivory Coast has issued an arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader and candidate in next year’s presidential election, four government sources said on Monday, just before he was due to return home after more than six months overseas. The move against Soro, who retains the loyalty of many former rebel commanders who now hold senior positions in the army, could significantly escalate tensions ahead of an election next October that is seen as a test of Ivory Coast’s stability. About 3,000 people died in a brief civil war that followed the victory of President Alassane Ouattara in a 2010 election. Ouattara won re-election in 2015 but has given mixed signals about whether he will seek a third term, adding to uncertainty about the vote in Francophone West Africa’s largest economy. Soro had been scheduled to return to Ivory Coast on Monday for the first time since May but diverted his private flight from Paris to neighbouring Ghana “for security reasons”, his adviser, Alain Lobognon, told Reuters. … The sources said the warrant charged Soro with trying to destabilise the country and misusing public funds, but they provided no further details. Reuters

A Tanzanian court charged rights activist Tito Magoti with money laundering and other offences after holding him in custody for four days, the organisation for which he works said on Tuesday. Prosecutors in Kisuto court said Magoti and co-worker Theodory Giyan had been charged with leading organised crime, money laundering and possessing computer programmes designed for the purpose of committing crimes. Both were being held in custody to await a January 7 hearing. Magoti, of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), was arrested by plain-clothed officers who bundled him into an unmarked car on Friday, initially raising fears that he had been abducted. Although Dar es Salaam regional police commander Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed his arrest, family and friends were unable to contact him until Tuesday’s court appearance. … Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) both denounced what they said was the deteriorating human rights situation in Tanzania in statements in late October. They argued that since President John Magufuli came to power at the end of 2015, his administration has stepped up repressive action against the country’s news media, civil society and the opposition. AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday met with his Tunisian counterpart, Kais Saied, during a surprise visit to the Tunisian capital to discuss developments in neighbouring Libya. Speaking during a joint news conference, Erdogan told reporters that they discussed ways of establishing a ceasefire and bringing warring factions back to the negotiating table. “We discussed the possible steps we can take and cooperation opportunities with the aim of establishing a ceasefire in Libya as soon as possible and returning to a political process,” Erdogan said. The visit comes a month after Turkey and Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) signed a memorandum of understanding on security and military cooperation. The GNA’s cabinet of ministers and Turkish legislators have since approved the deal. In his comments on Wednesday, Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s willingness to send troops to support the GNA, saying it would do so at the Libyan government’s request. “We are not guests without an invitation and if it comes, we shall look into it,” Erdogan said. “We are in constant communication with them,” he said. Al Jazeera

Sudan’s transitional authorities and a rebel faction reached a peace deal on Tuesday, part of government efforts to end the country’s decadeslong civil wars. The deal was signed between the Sudanese government and a faction of the Sudan Revolutionary Front known as the “Center Track,” according to a statement by Sudan’s transitional authorities. The deal could pave the way for peace agreements with more factions of the SRF, as well as other rebel groups. The agreement was struck in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where talks began earlier this month. Negotiating an end to the rebellions in Sudan’s far-flung provinces has been a crucial goal for the transitional government. It’s looking to revive the country’s battered economy through slashing military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. … “It’s time to push for peace, and for Sudan to live in peace and stability after decades of wars and ruin,” said Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of the Sovereign Council, who led the government delegation at the talks. The delegation returned to Khartoum later Tuesday, but is scheduled to head to Juba again later this week to resume talks with other rebel groups. AP

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok stressed that the Sudanese revolution is a result of the alliance between civilians and military and called to preserve this national unity and to work together to lay the foundations for a democratic regime in the country. Hamdok made his call during a speech to the Sudanese people during a celebration at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum of the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled the Bashir regime last April. The event was attended by the leaders of the ruling Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) the cabinet members and a crowd of citizens who interrupted him repeatedly chanting slogans of support to the revolution. In his speech, he was keen to underline the reforms implemented by his government during the past three months to deal with the internal challenges facing the country. He also spoke about the government’s efforts to achieve justice, stressing that there is no prescription for the killing of civilians, land crimes and genocide. He also said the government was keen to hold accountable the perpetrators of the attack on the pro-democracy sit-in and the prosecution of all those who killed the civilians. “We will ensure that all criminals who have authorized the killing of young women and men are tried and to restore the dignity of the victims’ families” he added. Sudan Tribune

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki flew to Addis Ababa Wednesday for his first meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister since Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for initiating a thaw between the sparring neighbors. Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war in 1998-2000 that left an estimated 80,000 dead before a prolonged stalemate took hold. Shortly after he came to power last year, Abiy, 43, stunned observers at home and abroad by reaching out to Isaias and creating momentum for a peace deal. Abiy welcomed Isaias at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said. “During his stay in Ethiopia, the Eritrean president is expected to meet with Ethiopian officials to discuss bilateral issues,” Fana said. … After the two leaders first met and embraced on the tarmac in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, last year, they reopened embassies, resumed flights and held a series of meetings across the region. But the initial optimism fueled by these gestures has faded, and citizens of both countries complain that they are still waiting for meaningful change. AFP

Several thousand Muslims across Ethiopia in recent days have protested the burning of four mosques in the Amhara region. The Dec. 20 attacks in Motta town also targeted Muslim-owned businesses. Muslims have called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called the attacks “attempts by extremists to break down our rich history of religious tolerance and coexistence.” Recent ethnic-based unrest in some parts of the country has at times taken religious form. Prominent Muslim scholar Kamil Shemsu on Tuesday told The Associated Press there are “political actors who want to pit one religious group against another” and blamed the negative role of activists and videos circulated online. Amhara regional officials said they have arrested 15 suspects in connection with the attacks. Police commander Jemal Mekonnen told state media the attacks appeared to be triggered by news of a fire that broke out in an Orthodox church a few days earlier. Regional officials were criticized for their slow response and their inability to stop similar attacks. AP

A high court in Botswana’s capital on Tuesday dismissed the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) call to have the results of the October general election thrown out over “irregularities.” Botswana voted on October 23 and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won with a majority of 38 seats against the UDC’s 15 seats in the 57-member parliament. The UDC had petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the election citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies.” Delivering its ruling in Gaborone on Tuesday, Justice Mercy Garekwe said “it cannot be deduced that the people or institutions which allegedly committed the corrupt and illegal practises are election or polling agents of the 2nd respondent (BDP),” “As for the BDP, names are mentioned but none of them are said to be election or polling agents of the 2nd respondent (BDP).” President Mokgweetsi Masisi has denied UDC claims of irregularities. A majority of the nine judges were of the view that the matter was not properly before the court, saying petitioners failed to provide verifying affidavits and comply with rules. AFP

Nigerian women make up the majority of African human trafficking victims in Europe, with most forced into prostitution. Numerous secret societies run the smuggling – and authorities say they’re increasingly violent. … Over the past three years, over 20,000 Nigerian women, many of them minors, have come to Italy via the Mediterranean. The UN estimates that some 80% are victims of human trafficking or are at great risk of becoming a victim. Helen Okoro was once a victim of human traffickers. She arrived in Italy 20 years ago and lives there today. She works for Casa Agata, a Catholic women’s shelter, in the Sicilian city of Catania. So many women ask the shelter for help that its workers can barely keep up. Okoro has seen human trafficking change over the past years. She says she is alarmed by how brutal and professional human traffickers have become. … [Public prosecutor Lina Trovato] says authorities have been monitoring the activities of Nigerian organized crime networks for a while. She explains that Nigeria’s so-called “new mafia” is not a single coherent unit but is instead compromised of numerous secret societies and criminal gangs, such as the so-called Black Axe, Vikings, or Supreme Eiye Fraternity. DW

The people lined up early for a chance to buy subsidized maize meal from the government-run Grain Marketing Board depot in Harare, at prices they could afford. After three hours, a guard emerged to announce that the depot’s supply was rotten so there would be none for sale that day. The crowd of 150 reacted with disbelief and anger. “Life is hard, all things are expensive, there are no price controls and inflation just keeps getting worse,” said Benjamini Dunha, 57, a plumber who makes 700 Zimbabwe dollars a month – about $38 at official exchange rates. Less than a year ago, his salary was worth much closer to $700. Another shopper, Nyasha Domboka, 52, spoke cynically about a truckful of maize meal, also known as mealie meal, that he had just seen in the depot parking lot. “How can mealie-meal packed just recently be said to have gone bad all of a sudden?” he asked. A combination of government dysfunction, an economic meltdown, droughts and a calamitous cyclone this past March have hurtled Zimbabwe toward a hunger disaster that has become the most severe in southern Africa and among the most alarming in the world. While food is not necessarily scarce yet, it is becoming unaffordable for all but the privileged few. The New York Times

Militant violence caused soaring humanitarian needs in Africa this year – particularly in the Sahel, where jihadist groups extended their grip, turning communities against each other and sparking a violent backlash from beleaguered security forces. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – three countries with shared borders and problems – all experienced frequent, deadly attacks, which have been blamed on a mix of homegrown, al-Qaeda-linked and so-called Islamic State-linked groups as well as ethnic militias. The militants have deftly tapped into deep-seated social grievances across the Sahel – a semi-arid belt of land on the southern edge of the Sahara – to recruit young men and embed themselves within communities. More than half a million people are now internally displaced in Burkina Faso, while almost 2,000 people have been killed since January, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which collects and analyses conflict information. The New Humanitarian

East Africa’s musicians made a good impression this year. Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania), Harmonize (Tanzania), Sauti Sol (Kenya) and BigTrill (Uganda) are some of the acts who released top songs in the region. Diamond Platnumz and Harmonize teamed up on the hit ‘Kainama’ featuring Burna Boy. The result was an explosion of YouTube views and continuous club rotation. Afropop band Sauti Sol this year opened for business the Sol Generation record label, whose launch was marked with the release ‘Extravaganza’, a song introducing all its signed artists. ‘Extravaganza’ is proof that collaborations are a fruitful exercise, especially in East Africa where most big releases fall under the ‘collabo’ category. The rumba-driven song features Bensoul, Crystal Asige, Kaskazini and Nviiri the Storyteller. In Uganda, Big Trill’s ‘Parte After Parte’ became a club banger and made the music charts, big names like Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Don Jazzy, Zlatan and US rapper Cardi B sharing the song on social media. Music in Africa



Photo: Adam Jones