Africa Media Review for December 3, 2019

Responding to the Rise in Violent Extremism in the Sahel (Africa Security Brief)
The Sahel has experienced the most rapid increase in militant Islamist group activity of any region in Africa in recent years. Violent events involving extremist groups in the region have doubled every year since 2015. In 2019, there have been more than 700 such violent episodes (see Figure 1). Fatalities linked to these events have increased from 225 to 2,000 during the same period. This surge in violence has uprooted more than 900,000 people, including 500,000 in Burkina Faso in 2019 alone. Three groups, the Macina Liberation Front (FLM), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Ansaroul Islam, are responsible for roughly two-thirds of the extremist violence in the central Sahel. Their attacks are largely concentrated in central Mali, northern and eastern Burkina Faso, and western Niger (see Figure 2). Multiple security and development responses have been deployed to address this crisis. While some progress has been realized, the continued escalation of extremist violence underscores that more needs to be done. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Four Soldiers ‘Killed by Boko Haram’ at Lake Chad Base
Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed four Chadian troops early on Monday in a newly established military outpost on Lake Chad, the military and local officials said. Boko Haram has training camps on several of the islands that dot the vast, shallow Lake Chad, which straddles the borders of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon as well as Chad. “We killed 13 Boko Haram elements and we deplore the loss of four soldiers,” a military source said, adding that three soldiers were injured in the attack at around 1:00 am Monday local time. Nouki Charfadine, the governor of the Lake Chad region, also confirmed the toll. “We set up this military post between Ngouboua and Bagassoula village after the kidnapping” of a doctor, a nurse and their driver in the area on October 31, the governor said. … In 2015, the Lake Chad countries, together with Benin, set up a combined force to fight Boko Haram with the help of local groups of armed citizens. AFP

Libya Health Ministry: Airstrike in Tripoli Kills 4 Children
An airstrike that hit a civilian area in a southern neighborhood of the Libyan capital killed at least four children, the country’s health ministry said Monday. Tripoli has been the scene of fighting since April between the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, and an array of militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government, which holds Tripoli. It wasn’t immediately who was behind the Sunday airstrike on the al-Sawani neighborhood, about 30 kilometers, or 18 miles, from the city center but the Libyan interior ministry blamed the Libyan National Army. The force did not return calls seeking comment. … In a political development, the Libyan parliament, which is based in the east and affiliated with the east-based government, called on Monday on the U.N. to withdraw its recognition of the Tripoli-based government. The move appeared prompted by the parliament’s outrage over a maritime and security cooperation deal last week between the Tripoli-based government and Turkey. AP

Heavy Gunfire Erupts as DR Congo’s Anti-UN Protests Continue
Gunfire rang out in the DR Congo town of Beni on Monday as protesters demanding the United Nations’ withdrawal from the city again marched towards the UN headquarters. Security forces blocked hundreds of demonstrators attempting to get close to the UN compound housed inside the airport near Beni, one of two UN bases in the area. “The army is saying the protests are no longer peaceful. They will not accept protesters to gather anywhere near the UN compound,” Al Jazeera’s Alain Uaykani said after attending a press conference by the military on Monday. “They are saying the enemy are the rebels. The rebels are the ones killing civilians. The UN is not the enemy, that is what the army is saying. The army is expected to deploy more troops on the ground from tomorrow,” Uaykani said. Anger erupted last week over the perceived failure of UN peacekeepers to protect civilians from deadly rebel attacks with several mass demonstrations targeting UN facilities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Al Jazeera

Mali’s president urged citizens to support foreign troops struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency he said threatens the country’s existence, after protests against the presence of French forces in the West African nation. “These foreign troops are here because we asked them to, because we need their help,” Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in a statement on public broadcaster ORTM on Saturday. The statement came less than a week after 13 French soldiers were killed in an accident involving two helicopters during an operation against Islamist militants in northern Mali. Following one of the worst losses of life for the French armed forces in three decades, protesters marched through the capital, Bamako, demanding France withdraw its forces. “Mali’s at war, our unity is at stake,” Keita said. The war is “killing our civilians and our soldiers, both Malians and foreigners, who are here to help us. We have no reason to bite the hand of those that reach out.” Bloomberg

New Round of Talks on Contentious Nile Dam Starts in Cairo
The irrigation ministers of three key Nile basin countries have kicked off high-stakes negotiations in Cairo about Ethiopia’s soon-to-be-finished mega-dam project, which Egypt says threatens its water supply. Joining the ministers Monday were American and World Bank officials. It’s the second round of technical talks on the dam since a breakdown prompted Egypt to appeal for international mediation. The White House stepped in last month, hosting the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, who agreed to move talks forward. Months of meetings have so far failed to yield consensus on the dam’s most contentious issues, including a timetable for filling the reservoir. Egypt fears Ethiopia’s $5 billion project, set to be Africa’s largest hydraulic dam, could reduce its share of the Nile, a lifeline for Egypt’s 100 million people. AP

Ethiopia Navy to Be Based in Djibouti, Command HQ in Bahir Dar (Report)
Ethiopia’s naval presence is to be revived soon after its dissolution in 1991, a privately-owned portal, Capital Ethiopia reported on Monday. Given that the country has no coast, neighbouring Djibouti will be hosting its operations whiles the headquarters will be based in Bahir Dar, located in the northern Amhara regional state. Reviving its naval operations was one of the major announcements Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made during his inaugural speech to the legislature back in April 2018. In March this year, during a visit to the country, French president Emmanuel Macron stated that his country was helping Ethiopia to reestablish its naval footprints. “We have just signed a new defence cooperation agreement, which provides the framework for enhanced cooperation and paves the way for specific support for France in setting up the Ethiopian naval component you have requested,” Macron said. Options that were available to Ethiopia aside Djibouti included Sudan and Eritrea – the latter’s independence is the reason Ethiopia does not have direct access to the sea. Africa News

Somalis Remember Hotel Bombing Ten Years Later
Ten years ago on December 3, a suicide bomber attacked a graduation ceremony at Shamo Hotel, one of Mogadishu’s main hotels. Fourteen medical students, lecturers, and doctors from Banadir University were among 30 people who were killed, more than 50 others injured. Dr. Osman Mohamud Dufle was on the podium when the suicide bomber detonated the bomb. “The explosion occurred right in front of me,” says Dr. Dufle, a physician and a member of the parliament. … On the day of the attack, Banadir University, which started admitting its first students in 2002, was graduating its second class, 60 students, 30 of whom were doctors. … “It was a sad day but today we recovered,” says Dr. Biday, who is now the rector of Banadir University. “The intention was to shut down our eyes, the university, and to stop the effort and the work. But the leadership stood up. Today we are stronger.” VOA

Supremacists No Real Threat to South Africa, Analyst Says
Four members of a white supremacist group appeared in court in South Africa today, accused of planning terrorist acts against black people. The accused were remanded in custody by the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court, which will next hear the case on January 21. The self-proclaimed leader of the National Christian Resistance Movement (NCRM), Harry Johannes Knoesen, was arrested on Thursday, under suspicion of planning terrorist attacks. An accomplice, Riana Heymans, was arrested on Friday in Johannesburg after police launched a search for her, together with two other people who had hidden her. The NCRM, also known as the Crusaders, were closely monitored by the police for the last two years. Authorities concluded that the group’s activities were aimed at destabilizing the country. … Zenzo Moyo, a political analyst from the University of Johannesburg, says it’s too soon to gauge the level of threat which the group posed to national security. “At the moment, it may not be possible to tell whether these are real terrorists or not. Investigations are still going on,” he told DW. DW

Ahead of 2021 Elections, Zambian Court Won’t Block Reforms Process
Opponents of a bill to amend Zambia’s constitution were dealt another setback on Friday, as the country’s Constitutional Court ruled against a legal team hoping to interrupt a process many believe is meant to consolidate power for President Edgar Lungu and his ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. The court ruled by a 6-1 majority to dismiss a petition brought by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) and the Chapter One Foundation, saying it has no jurisdiction over a legislative bill that remains in deliberations in the country’s parliament. That bill, known in Zambia as “Bill 10,” would change how the parliament, justice system and central bank would be controlled. … Lungu, who came to power in January 2015 after the death of Michael Sata, has routinely harassed, suspended or detained opposition members, and in 2017 temporarily declared a general state of emergency to maintain control. … The LAZ, which helped file the challenge before the Constitutional Court, was itself targeted last year, with at least one member of parliament proposing a bill to abolish the organization. In September, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies urged protection of independent institutions in Zambia in order to curb pressure and attacks from those in power. Africa Times

Formal Employment in Tanzania on the Decline
The number of Tanzanians in formal employment in government (civil service) and the private sector has been dropping over the past five years, according to a recently-released National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) labour market report. The report says new jobs in the private sector hit a low of 137,054 in 2017/18, about a third of the 408,756 jobs created in 2013/14. Employment within the civil service also declined sharply from 49,615 in 2013/14 to 18,000 in 2017/18, although government-backed development projects saw an upturn in job creation numbers from 172,245 to 397,009 in the same period. … A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report stated that protectionist tendencies and erratic policy-making were becoming a problem in Tanzania and could deter future private investment. According to the NBS’s latest Household Budget Survey report, just 12.3 per cent of households have at least one member who has a bank account, down from 18 per cent in 1991/92. Households in urban areas (23.8 per cent) were about four times more likely to have members with bank accounts than those in rural areas (6.1 per cent). The East African

Nigeria Will Have 25% of World’s Poor without Reforms, Bank Says
Nigeria risks becoming home to a quarter of the world’s destitute people in a decade unless policymakers act to revive economic growth and lift employment, the World Bank said. The economy of Africa’s top oil producer is expected to expand 2.1% in 2020 and 2021, the bank said in its Nigeria Economic Update report published Monday. That’s below the nation’s 2.6% population growth rate. The bank urged President Muhammadu Buhari to increase domestic revenue, remove trade restrictions and improve the predictability of economic policy. It also called on the government to remove expensive fuel subsidies and reduce central bank lending to targeted sectors that crowds out banks. “The cost of inaction is significant,” the bank said. “Under a business-as-usual scenario, where Nigeria maintains the current pace of growth and employment levels, by 2030 the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty could increase by more than 30 million.” … Nigeria’s economy is still recovering from its first annual contraction in 25 years in 2016 that resulted from a collapse in crude prices. The country could slide back into recession if crude prices fall by 25% to $50 a barrel, the bank said. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Is Trying to Build a China Style Surveillance State
Zimbabwe’s Parliament is weighing legislation that would authorize the use of surveillance technologies, grant sweeping powers to crack down on social media users, and allow the government to snoop on citizens’ private communications. The latest version of the bill – known as the Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill of 2019 – was passed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Cabinet last month and is currently being drafted for publication and approval by Parliament, where it’s expected to easily pass under Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party majority. … “It is a terrifying piece of legislation,” Bekezela Gumbo, a researcher at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, told VICE News. “It has everything it needs to give the ruling Zanu-PF party and its agents in government the legal basis to imprison opponents using the internet.” Although the public still doesn’t know exactly what the final version of the bill will contain, activists say it’ll likely be overly broad and lacking the sort of necessary protections that rights groups have called for in the past. Vice

Will East Africa Sail Off into the Sunset with Its Economy-Boosting Port Projects, or Are There Clouds on the Horizon?
Nowhere is the tension between the strategic aims of China and that of the host nation of one of its financed megaprojects more fraught than with Tanzania’s Bagamoyo port. Despite being in the pipeline since 2015, President John Pombe Magufuli has halted the project until CMHI (which had planned to finance the project with Oman’s State General Reserve Fund) agrees to the government’s five demands. … According to Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies of the United States Department of Defense, the issues flagged up by Bagamoyo port – accountability, transparency, negotiating power, debt financing and national security – can also be found in other similar projects. … “Institutions of accountability such as inspector generals, public protectors, chambers of commerce and industry, as well as parliamentary oversight committees, civil society, media, and NGOs have little knowledge of these negotiations, and are therefore unable to monitor commitments to ensure that they reflect the national interest,” he says. Equal Times

Save the Children: Climate Crisis Causing Hunger for Millions of Africans
Millions of people in southern and eastern Africa are facing emergency food insecurity partly caused by climate change, half of them children, according to the charity Save the Children. The region has been hit by extreme cyclones, flooding and drought in recent months and scientists say it is warming much faster than other parts of the world. … Waaijman says 2019 will be remembered as the year that the climate crisis devastated parts of eastern and southern Africa adding that at least 33 million people in the region face emergency levels of food insecurity, with about 16 million of them children. “The link to climate change is actually the compounding effect of emergency after emergency after emergency,” Waaijman says, adding, “So the ability for people to recover from a shock, like a drought or a flood at the moment even, is getting less and less and less. And therefore their livelihoods are slowly but surely being eroded and literally washed away.” A 2015 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows temperatures rising in southern Africa at twice the global rate. VOA

Angola’s War Is Over and Now It Faces Up to an HIV Legacy – in Pictures
A long civil war ended in 2002 but disasters, poverty and food insecurity have allowed Aids-related deaths to rise by more than 33% in the past decade. The number of new HIV infections is also on the rise and too many pregnant women are not getting access to medicines to protect their babies. The end of the 27-year civil war in 2002 should have heralded a new beginning for Angola. But widespread inequalities, poverty and a climate crisis-induced drought in eastern and southern provinces have pushed people’s ability to cope to the limit. Angola is one of the few countries in Africa where new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths have risen over the past decade. Women account for 66% of the adults living with HIV in Angola, yet they are less likely to be on treatment than men. Girls aged 15-19 are three times as likely to become infected with HIV than boys the same age. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones