Africa Media Review for December 5, 2019

Dozens of Migrants Drown as Boat Sinks off Mauritania: UN
At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday. The UN agency said another 83 people swam to shore, while survivors said at least 150 people including women and children were aboard the vessel, which had set sail from Gambia on November 27. They said the boat was running low on fuel as it was nearing the coast of the northwestern African nation. “The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM’s chief of mission in Mauritania. “Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need,” she added. … Mauritanian authorities are in contact with Gambian consular services “to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants,” the statement said. AFP

US to Name Ambassador to Sudan for the First Time in 23 Years
The United States said Wednesday it would name an ambassador to Sudan for the first time in 23 years as it welcomed the country’s new reformist civilian leader. The United States hailed early steps taken by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to “break with the policies and practices of the previous regime,” whose ties with radical Islamists and brutal domestic campaigns had made Sudan a pariah in the west. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would appoint an ambassador to Khartoum, subject to Senate confirmation, and that Sudan would restore full-level representation in Washington. … Lawmakers “raised lingering concerns about the need for financial transparency within the security sector and about remaining elements of the old regime who may still support international terrorism,” said a statement by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hamdok addressed the issue in a statement from his office. “A key programme of the new transitional government is to fight terrorism, and in order to have stability in the region there has to be a regional and international program to fight terrorism,” he said. AFP

Sudan’s Prime Minister Is on a Mission to Show the World His Country Has Changed
NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is the first Sudanese government leader to visit Washington, D.C., in three decades. … CHANG: OK. So you have explained why Sudan needs the help of the U.S. But tell me why the U.S. should help Sudan. HAMDOK: Well, I think Sudan offered the U.S. huge opportunities in investment in every sector you can think about. But also, Sudan was a strategic position bordering seven countries. If we get it right in Sudan, this has an extremely strategic impact and effect in the entire region. CHANG: Beyond the financial interests of the U.S. HAMDOK: Yes, beyond the finance. And you’ll see in the region full of misery. You look at it – Libya, Yemen, Syria, all these places. You have here a change that is peaceful, that will give hope to that region of the world, which created so many challenges and problems to the global peace and security and all that. So helping Sudan, which is going in the right direction – it will bring hope to the world, I would like to think. NPR

Libyan Officials Collect Evidence of Russian Fighters in War
Officials in Libya’s U.N.-supported government say they plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside their opponents in the country’s civil war. Libyan and U.S. officials accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor, the Wagner Group, to key battleground areas in Libya in the past months. They say the Russian fighters are backing commander Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have been trying for months to capture the capital Tripoli. The U.N.-supported Government of National Accord is based in Tripoli. The GNA has documented between 600 to 800 Russian fighters in Libya and is collecting their names in a list to present to the Russian government, according to Khaled al-Meshri, the head of the Tripoli-based government’s Supreme Council of State. … Moscow has repeatedly denied playing any role in Libya’s fighting. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker told reporters last week that the State Department is working with European partners to impose sanctions on the Russian military contractor responsible for sending fighters to Tripoli. AP

Algeria: 2 Ex-ministers Face Groundbreaking Corruption Trial
Two former Algerian prime ministers went on trial Wednesday on corruption charges, in the most high-profile act of transparency and accountability since a pro-democracy movement pushed out the long-serving president. The exceptional trial, which is being televised and also involves several other former Algerian power players, comes at a time of renewed political tensions in the oil and gas-rich country, a week ahead of a controversial election to replace President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Ahmed Ouyahia, who was forced out as prime minister in March as protests against Bouteflika escalated, and his predecessor Abdelmalek Sellal, testified Wednesday at the Sidi M’Hamed court in Algiers. Both are charged with “corruption and the misappropriation of public funds” and both deny any wrongdoing. … The Dec. 12 presidential election is looming over the trial. … Algerian authorities are hoping the trial helps convince the public that they are serious about fighting corruption and reforming themselves – and persuade them to go out and vote next week. Corruption is a key issue for Algeria’s peaceful, 9-month-old protest movement, which considers the election a sham because it’s organized by the existing power structure. Protesters want a whole new political system instead. AP

Morocco and Spain Arrest 4 Suspected ISIS Supporters in Joint Raids
Moroccan police said Wednesday, December 4, that they had disrupted a jihadist cell and arrested three suspected supporters of Islamic State, in a joint operation with Spain. Three men were detained in Morocco’s northern Nador region “in coordination with Spanish national police,” while the head of the group was “arrested simultaneously” near Madrid, a statement by Moroccan anti-terror police said. The suspects, aged between 24 and 39, followed Islamic State group propaganda and organized meetings to “plan terrorist operations in response to repeated calls from ISIS leaders,” the statement said. Spanish police said a man was arrested in Guadalajara northeast of Madrid. He is accused of organizing meetings with other radical Islamists around the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco’s north coast and being in contact with jihadists in Syria and Mali, Spanish police said. The operation also netted electronic equipment, mobile phones, balaclavas and extremist literature, Moroccan anti-terror police said. The Defense Post

Fear, Hunger, and Mystery Killers Stalk Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado
In Mozambique’s northernmost Cabo Delgado province, many residents face the same double misery: struggling in the aftermath of April’s Cyclone Kenneth – the strongest cyclone to ever hit the African continent – they also have to contend with spiralling violence that is driving more and more people from their homes. A series of attacks in recent weeks blamed on the extremist group known as Ansar al-Sunnah has left dozens dead and villages empty. Residents describe it as some of the worst violence since a poorly understood insurgency began in this gas-rich region more than two years ago. The attacks come as the Mozambican military – supported by Russian mercenaries – attempts to wrest back control from the militants, who are lashing out against civilians in response. The violence has left hundreds dead and displaced around 65,000 people since late 2017, while many more are growing hungrier by the day as farmers abandon their fields. Vehicles overflowing with displaced families are now seen bumping down sandy roads on a daily basis, aid workers said. The New Humanitarian

Ebola Was Almost Contained in Congo. A Wave of Violence Threatens to Bring It Roaring Back.
The attack began at midnight, the machete-wielding assailants unidentifiable in the pitch black that engulfed the tented encampment. Their victims were front-line responders to the ongoing Ebola outbreak who had arrived in the remote town of Biakato from across Congo and the world, hoping to cut off the last few chains of the virus’s transmission and end an epidemic that has killed more than 2,200 people over the past 16 months. In the week before the attack on Nov. 28, that victory seemed near: Tallies of new cases had dropped below 10, from a high of more than 100 per week earlier this year. But a sudden resurgence of violent incidents has dashed that optimism and cast a pall of fear over the response. More than 500 health workers have had to be moved away from the violence, and the World Health Organization now says there is a risk the outbreak could come roaring back. … Gressly, the coordinator of the U.N.’s Ebola response, said that in his view, the current tension in Beni largely boiled down to MONUSCO’s failure to coordinate its operations with the Congolese army. The Washington Post

Pirates Kidnap 19 Crew Members of Greek Tanker off Nigeria
Pirates have kidnapped 19 crew members from a crude oil tanker off Nigeria, an official with the ship’s operator said on Thursday. The loaded vessel was attacked 77 nautical miles off Bonny island late on Dec. 3 and the crew – 18 Indians and one Turk – were seized, the official said. Another seven crew members remain on board the vessel. Neither the vessel nor the cargo were damaged, the official said. The Hong Kong-flagged supertanker Nave Constellation, capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of oil, is operated by Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management. “We are doing everything necessary to make sure that the 19 crew members will return safe,” the official at Navios said, adding that their families have been informed. The shipping industry has warned in recent months about the increasing dangers faced by seafarers sailing through West Africa, particularly around Nigeria, with a greater focus on kidnappings by pirate gangs. Reuters

Nigeria: Release Sowore within 24 Hours, Court Orders SSS
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, on Thursday, awarded N100,000 against the State Security Service (SSS) for flouting the court order made on November 6 ordering the release of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare. Mrs Ojukwu said the SSS cannot constitute itself as a parallel court of law. The court also ordered the SSS to release the two activists within 24hours. She also adjourned the case to December 6 for the continuation of trial. The activists have been in the custody of the SSS since August. They were arrested for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow. The SSS had refused to release both men despite two separate court orders. The two men are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari. Premium Times

Nigeria Radio Helps Masses Hold Public Officials to Account
Early each morning, a crowd gathers outside Ahmad Isah’s radio studio in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hoping to share their problems over the airwaves. For those waiting – men and women, young and old – Isah’s Brekete (very big in Pidgin English) Family show offers a rare chance try to hold officials to account in a country where rampant graft and abuses of the justice system often frustrate citizens. The lucky few who Isah picks each day get to make themselves heard on issues ranging from their struggles against the authorities to medical needs and requests for financial assistance. The others will have to come back another time. “My goal is to give a voice to the voiceless, facilitate arbitration, expose wrongdoings and force those in power to respect rights,” Isah. “The inspiration is about justice, kindness, and support to humanity.” Nicknamed the “Ordinary President,” Isah begins his live show on Human Rights radio with a call and response in pidgin, the language widely spoken in Nigeria, to get his audience fired up. AFP

AFRICOM, Ghana Create Plan for Long-Term Security, Stability
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) hosted senior-members of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) between 13 and 16 November to discuss long-term defense and security planning in the West African country. … “The Ghana Armed Forces are well-known in West Africa as professional armed forces,” said Ghana Maj. Gen. Thomas Oppong-Peprah, chief of staff at the General Headquarters. “We have similar values and respect human rights … the U.S. knows this and sees us as a partner.” Partner efforts to enhance capabilities include U.S. Army Africa’s hosting of a medical readiness exercise to enhance the GAF’s ability to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. U.S. Naval Forces Africa assisted in improving the GAF Navy’s Maritime Operational Center that provides around-the-clock domain awareness to enforce maritime laws in the region. … Other objectives in the draft plan include U.S. Air Forces Africa assisting the Ghana Air Force in expanding its air operations to support rapid deployment of forces and aeromedical evacuations. DefenseWeb

France’s Macron Wants Africa’s Approval on Military Presence
West African leaders need to make it clear they want and need France’s military presence, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, just days after a helicopter collision killed 13 French soldiers fighting Islamic extremists in Mali last week. France will organize a Dec. 16 summit to discuss the issue with Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, countries that contribute to a regional counterterror force, Macron said. “Do they want our presence, do they need us? I want clear answers on this,” Macron said, adding that such a statement is a condition for keeping French troops there. After the crash, which marked France’s highest military death toll in decades, Macron called for rethinking the country’s involvement, and he called Wednesday for a new “framework and political conditions” for the mission. He said France is not militarily involved in West Africa’s arid Sahel region for colonial, imperialist or economic reasons. “We’re there for the security of the region, and our own security,” he said. AP

Africa Security Forum 2019: Experts Try to Bring Out Solutions to Impact of Climate Change
The impact of climate change on security in Africa is the theme of the 2019 edition of the Africa Security Forum that takes place in Morocco’s capital, Rabat from December 1 to 3, 2019. The three-day event allows the participants to explore the issue like the impact of climate change on eco-systems, biodiversity and human societies. The Forum intends to provide a framework for developing solutions to limit these impacts on both sides of the African continent. The degradation of livelihoods, droughts and floods, among other consequences of climate change, are factors that exacerbate the conflicts in Africa. These problems are being recognized by several experts at the 4th edition of Africa Security Forum, under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. … ‘Today, the fight against food insecurity goes hand in hand with the fight against terrorism,’ acknowledged the Deputy Director of the National Center for Strategic and Security Studies (CNESS) of Niger, Garba Abdoul Aziz. … More than 350 experts from some 60 countries, including 35 from the African continent, are working on three main themes of the meeting’s central theme: food security and water management, population growth and agricultural development, and anticipation of tomorrow’s solutions. Devdiscourse News

“You Are Too Young to Mock the Government” : Zimbabwean Comedian Relives Her Abduction
The scene is a busy, dusty, unpaved thoroughfare somewhere in Harare. In the foreground, a Zimbabwean police spokesperson addresses a news camera. She is denying reports of police brutality. “Those videos that are circulating on social media, they are not ours. They have been doctored by our detractors from the West.” In the background of the video, seemingly oblivious to the camera, a policewoman is extravagantly assaulting two prisoners. She raises her baton above her head and brings it down on their backs. She uses that same baton to put one of them in a chokehold. With her black leather boots, she gives the other one an almighty kick in the balls. The policewoman’s name is Samantha Kureya. She is a satirist. The scene has been staged to make a point about police brutality. Kureya did not know then, in 2016, that just three years later this scene would be repeated in real life, but that she would be on the receiving end of the beatings. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones