Africa Media Review for December 31, 2019

At Least 18 Killed in New Militia Attack in Eastern DRC
Eighteen people in eastern DR Congo’s troubled region of Beni have been killed in a fresh attack by a notorious armed group, a local official said on Monday. “There was an incursion in Apetina-Sana by the ADF last night,” Beni administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP, referring to the Allied Democratic Forces militia. “(They) hacked 18 civilians to death.” Apetina-Sana is 16km west of Oicha, the chief administrative town in the Beni region. It is a point on the so-called Death Triangle, along with Mbau and Eringeti – the worst-hit area for attacks. ADF fighters have killed more than 200 people since the army launched an offensive against the militia on October 30, according to a toll compiled by civil society groups. The toll has sparked anger over the authorities’ response. “The authorities were tipped off on Sunday evening about the presence of suspicious men west of Oicha,” said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society activist in Beni. “We continue to ask the DRC armed forces to launch operations on the western side as well, to save civilians.” AFP

Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Deadly Bombing in Somali Capital
The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s truck bomb attack in Mogadishu, which killed at least 80 people and wounded 78 others. The official spokesman for the group, Ali Mohamud Rageh, known as Ali Dhere, made the statement via the group’s official station, Radio Andalus. Ali Dhere said the group’s target was a Turkish convoy and security forces at the city’s busy Ex-Control junction. … The al-Shabab spokesman admitted civilians were killed in the explosion. While he said he regretted the loss of civilian lives, he also justified it, saying, “Protecting religion comes before saving a life.” … Turkey has been training the Somali army at a modern training facility in Mogadishu inaugurated in September 2017. Turkey has also implemented development projects in Somalia, including rebuilding roads, buildings and hospitals. Earlier, Somalia’s national intelligence agency accused an unidentified foreign country of planning the deadly truck bombing. … NISA did not identify the country it accuses of involvement in the bombing, nor did it provide evidence backing up the claim. … VOA Somali could not reach the Ministry of Security, which supervises the agency. VOA

Somali Terror Group Al Shabab Remains Resilient Despite Setbacks
The terror group Al Shabab, suspected in the weekend attack that killed 79 people in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has proved resilient in recent years even as it lost territory, suffered high-level defections and faced increasing airstrikes by the United States. Almost a decade since African peacekeeping forces kicked the Al Qaeda-linked group out of Mogadishu, it has become deft in handling its operations, versatile in using guerrilla tactics and prolific in manufacturing bombs. … To finance itself, the militants have set up an extensive racketeering system that levies fees on sales of agricultural produce in southern and central Somalia – areas that are the stronghold of the group. They also tax imports into the Mogadishu port, according to the United Nations. The Shabab have also been able to infiltrate federal institutions – they claimed to have recruited a government employee to kill Mogadishu’s mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, in July. And the group’s growing assertiveness was in evidence when it declared war last year on pro-Islamic State groups in Somalia in a fight over territory. The New York Times

Sudan to Deploy Troops to West Darfur after Deadly Unrest
Sudan’s authorities said on Monday they would deploy military forces to West Darfur and suspend peace talks with rebel groups for 24 hours after an outbreak of deadly violence around the regional capital. There were no details of the scale of the deployment or the clashes around el-Geneina, but information minister Faisal Saleh said the head of Sudan’s transitional ruling council and the prime minister would visit the city. Aircraft would be sent to evacuate the wounded to the capital, Khartoum, he said. A resident from el-Geneina told Reuters that the violence flared after a soldier from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) was stabbed to death with two of his relatives in apparent retaliation for incidents in which locals had been hit by cars. On Monday Arab groups responded to the soldier’s death by raiding camps for internally displaced people near el-Geneina, killing people and livestock both in el-Geneina and the camps, the resident said. A second resident confirmed the revenge attacks. It was unclear how many people had been killed and injured. Reuters

In Darfur, Revamped Janjaweed Militia Still Kill, Rape with Impunity
“I returned to Geneina, Zalinge, Gosile and Doram villages in March 2018. I had been told the situation had changed, but nothing has changed. Women continue to be raped. What are we going to do if we go back to Darfur? Going back is impossible for now. I don’t even dream of going back.” These words sum up the feelings of thousands of victims of the Darfur war that begun in 2003 and continues even with the ouster of former leader, Omar al-Bashir in April this year. These atrocities are laid at the feet of the Janjaweed militia, now transformed into Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as “Hemeti,” a former influential Janjaweed leader, and currently a member of the Sovereign Council-the transitional government established in August this year-the RSF has committed serious crimes, including sexual violence. In a new report Will There Be Justice for Darfur, the International Federation for Human Rights, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, and the Sudan Human Rights Monitor profiles persisting impunity in Darfur in the face of political change. The East African

Angola Freezes Assets of Ex-President’s Daughter in Graft Probe
An Angolan court has ordered the freezing of assets held by former president Eduardo dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel, her husband and a business associate as part of a corruption probe, a copy of the order seen by Reuters shows. The asset freeze follows an injunction application by the government, which is seeking to recover around $1 billion of funds that it says it is owed by Isabel dos Santos and her associates. It is one of the highest-profile moves in an anti-corruption drive launched by President Joao Lourenço, who ended dos Santos’ nearly 40-year grip on power when he became head of state in 2017. Isabel dos Santos, who owns stakes in companies including telecoms firm Unitel and financial firms, has denied wrongdoing during her father’s time in office. … Ranked as Africa’s wealthiest woman by Forbes, Isabel dos Santos chaired the state oil company Sonangol – a crucial pillar of Angola’s oil-dependent economy – before being sacked by Lourenço in late 2017. Reuters

Mozambique Opposition Rejects Accusation of Role in Attacks
Mozambique’s main opposition on Monday dismissed government accusations that it was responsible for highway ambushes that have left at least 10 dead. Armed men have attacked buses and trucks travelling on the main north-to-south highway in central Mozambique, an opposition bastion. The government, which last week announced it would organise military escorts on the road, has pinned the blame on Renamo, a former guerrilla group turned opposition party. But Renamo chief Ossufo Momade, at a press conference on Monday, insisted that his group had not returned to armed conflict. … The attacks have taken place in the aftermath of general elections in October that saw President Filipe Nyusi win a new five-year term. … Despite losing a legal challenge on the election results, Renamo has promised to disarm its troops in accordance with a peace deal signed in August with Nyusi. However, a rebel faction has condemned the peace deal as treason. It claimed a string of attacks just before the election that caused several civilian deaths. The head of the dissident faction, Mariano Nhongo, has said he will block Nyusi from taking the oath of office, due on January 15. AFP

Ivory Coast’s Ble Goude Sentenced to 20 Years
A court in Ivory Coast has sentenced controversial political leader Charles Ble Goude to 20 years in prison over murder, rape and torture charges. Ble Goude was cleared of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Hague this year, along with his former boss, Ivory Coast ex-president Laurent Gbagbo. But following his acquittal, an Ivorian court brought a fresh trial against him over the 2010-2011 bloodshed which followed a disputed vote in the West African nation. The former aide to Gbagbo, who has remained in the Netherlands following his ICC trial pending a possible appeal by the prosecution, told AFP the Ivorian court had convicted him on Monday. Ble Goude who was sentenced in absentia said he was “surprised by the verdict,” adding that he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison, 10 years deprivation of his civil rights, and a fine of 200 million CFA francs ($340,000) to be paid to the victims. The court has issued an arrest warrant for him, he added. About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Abidjan, once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities – in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to bitter rival Alassane Ouattara, who remains in power. AFP

Liberia: Anti-Government Protest Postponed for Security Reasons
Costa, a radio show host and critic of President George Weah, had previously rejected calls by the international community to suspend the demonstrations. Costa told reporters that the rally had been postponed for a week after the government said it would not be able to provide security, and after international observers recommended a postponement. On Friday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN’s office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) issued a joint statement exhorting “all parties to work towards calling off this imminent protest in the general interest of Liberia and the sub-region.” The international community was also worried about the creation of a group calling itself the Independent Council of Patriots, which had announced pro-government counter-protests for today, increasing the threat of violence. Tensions have risen in recent weeks in the run-up to the protest. The government accuses the opposition of calling for the “unconstitutional eviction” of the president. Weah, who took office in January 2018, is under growing pressure over his handling of the economic crisis. DW

4 Burundi Journalists Charged with Breaching State Security
Four journalists in Burundi were charged on Monday with breaching state security and denied bail, according to local media reports. The driver of the journalists also faces the same charges. The court hearing in Bubanza, in western Burundi, was their first appearance in public since their arrest on Oct. 22. If convicted, the state prosecutor has called for 15-year jail sentences and the seizure of their belongings including a car they were using when they were arrested. He also called on the judge to deny them the right to vote for five years. The reporters, two females and two males from the Iwacu media group, were arrested in Musigati District where they had traveled to report on an armed attack by anti-government rebels. They have been accuse of “complicity in the breach of the State’s internal security.” The ruling is expected within 30 days. In November, when a court decided to keep the Iwacu journalists in detention, many organizations including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists said they were disappointed by the Burundian justice’s decision. AP

Fresh Cattle Raids Threaten Uganda, Kenya Peace Pact
Fresh cross-border cattle raids in Karamoja are threatening to tear apart a memorandum of understanding on peace and development, signed barely two months ago between Uganda and Kenya. Uganda’s northeastern region has suffered a series of cattle raids which local leaders and security agencies say “have intensified since October” this year, with “several people killed and thousands of cattle lost.” “It’s worrying because in Napak alone, seven warriors have been killed since November,” said Joseph Lomonyang, the district chairperson of Napak. Mr Lomonyang said that local leaders have been holding inter-district meetings to stem the practice -which had been tamed through a disarmament programme between 2001 and 2010 that saw government recover more than 40,000 guns. The East African

Central African Republic Clashes: UN Adds More Troops
After fighting between traders and fighters broke out over a dispute in Bangui, 40 people die. The United Nations has sent more troops to patrol Bangui in the Central African Republic after fighting broke out between armed men and market traders on Tuesday over a dispute about money. But the UN says it needs more forces. Youth groups have given the armed men a deadline to hand in their weapons. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Bangui, CAR. [Video] Al Jazeera

Merkel, Erdogan and Putin Discuss Diplomatic Solution for Libya
German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed efforts to reach a diplomatic solution for the Libyan conflict in separate phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, whose government intends to send troops to Libya, a government spokesman said on Monday. Turkey’s foreign minister has warned that the Libyan conflict risks sliding into chaos and becoming the next Syria, as he sought to speed up domestic legislation to allow Ankara to send troops to the North African country. A German foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin said Germany was following the reports about Turkey’s military plans in Libya with “great concern.” He urged all involved parties to exercise maximum restraint, respect an international embargo for arms exports to Libya and step up efforts for a diplomatic solution. … Germany has offered to host an international peace conference on Libya that the United Nations is planning. The conference could take place in Berlin after a planned meeting between Erdogan and Putin in January. Reuters

Returned to a War Zone: One Boat. Dozens of Dreams. All Blocked by Europe’s Anti-Migrant Policies.
Dozens of glum-faced African men sat on the cement floor of the packed migrant detention center, the air thick with body odor. The steel door was locked. The migrants’ phones, and what meager money they had, had been confiscated. In another room, dozens of African women, including several expectant mothers, were also locked up. “I want to get out of this place,” said Stella Wisdom, 25, a Ni­ger­ian who was eight months pregnant and weeping. Three days earlier, the men and women had climbed into a smuggler’s boat destined for Italy, following the route of thousands of migrants this year who have risked death in search of a better life. But they were picked up by a European Union-funded Libyan coast guard boat and taken back, like so many before them, to Tripoli – an active war zone. … This is a story of what happened to one boat of mostly African migrants, in one episode in the sprawling global tragedy of displacement, migration and human trafficking. Instead of leading to new opportunities, the migrants’ attempt at crossing became another turn in the seemingly endless cycle of abuses, violence and disappointment they have endured since leaving their homelands. The Washington Post

Nigeria Studying ECO Move by Francophone West Africa – Minister
Nigeria says it is studying the currency changes ringing through the West African region and that it will respond in due course. A statement by a media aide to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning read as follows: “Nigeria has received the news of the change of the UEMOA Currency, the CFA (Communaute Financiere d’Afrique) to Eco supposedly as the the ECOWAS single currency. “Nigeria is studying the situation and would respond in due course,” the statement added. It came on the heels of Ghana’s announcement that it was ready to join the ECO bloc. Ghana became the ninth country to commit to the ECO currency barely a week after Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara announced at a press conference in Abidjan in the presence of the French president that all eight Francophone countries were quitting the CFA for a new currency. The eight countries will also withdraw their reserves from the French Central Bank. Regional bloc ECOWAS had earlier this year announced a 2020 date to introduce a common currency. Africa News

In Strategic Djibouti, a Microcosm of China’s Growing Foothold in Africa
Above ground in this tiny but strategically located country, signs of China’s presence are everywhere. Chinese entities have financed and built Africa’s biggest port, a railway to Ethiopia and the country’s first overseas naval base here. Under the sea, they are building a cable that will transmit data across a region that spans from Kenya to Yemen. The cable will connect to an Internet hub housing servers mostly run by China’s state-owned telecom companies. Beijing’s extensive investments in Djibouti are a microcosm of how China has rapidly gained a strategic foothold across the continent. Western countries, including Africa’s former colonizers, for decades have used hefty aid packages to leverage trade and security deals, but Chinese-financed projects have brought huge infrastructural development in less than a generation. The construction is fueled mostly by lending from China’s state-run banks. The Washington Post

2019 Africa Roundup: Jumia IPOs, China Goes Digital, Nigeria Becomes Fintech Capital
2019 brought more global attention to Africa’s tech scene than perhaps any previous year. A high-profile IPO, visits by both Jacks (Ma and Dorsey) and big Chinese startup investment energized that. The last 12 months served as a grande finale to 10 years that saw triple-digit increases in startup formation and VC on the continent. Here’s an overview of the 2019 market events that captured attention and capped off a decade of rapid growth in African tech. … 2019 was the year when Chinese actors pivoted to African tech. China is known for its strategic relationship with Africa, based (largely) on trade and infrastructure. Over the last 10 years, the country has been less engaged in the continent’s digital scene. That was until a torrent of investment and partnerships this past year. July saw Chinese-owned Opera raise $50 million in venture spending to support its growing West African digital commercial network, which includes browser, payments and ride-hail services. In August, San Francisco and Lagos-based fintech startup Flutterwave partnered with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China. Tech Crunch

2019 in Review: Africa for Optimists – and Pessimists
On February 6, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to seek a fifth term in office. He had been in power since 1999. Less than two months later, his generals told him that he had no choice but to resign. In the interim, Algerians had taken to the streets in their millions to demand his exit. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but they were relentless. The people made it clear that they had had enough of Bouteflika’s corrupt and authoritarian rule, and the generals – fearful for their own futures – had no choice but to obey. It took the people of Sudan just a couple of months longer to get rid of President Omar al-Bashir, who had been in charge for a decade longer than Bouteflika. Protests against a rise in the fuel price in December 2018 morphed into a nationwide revolt against his rule. So deep was the public anger that al-Bashir’s generals, too, forced him to step down. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones