Africa Media Review for December 9, 2019

Kenya Bus Attack: Several Dead, including Police Officers

Suspected Islamist militants mounted an attack on a passenger bus in northeastern Kenya on Friday, killing at least eight people, including several Kenyan police officers, according to the government. The attack took place in an area that borders Somalia, as the bus was en route between the towns of Wajir and Mandera. “People, among them police officers, were brutally murdered,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s office said in a statement on Saturday. Police said the attackers had specifically targeted non-Somalis after flagging down the bus. The area is mostly inhabited by ethnic Somali Kenyans. “The attackers separated local Somalis from non-locals, and in the process, shot 10 non-locals dead,” police spokesman Charles Owino said in a statement. He said security forces were pursuing the gunmen and that the driver and conductor of the bus were in custody and helping with investigations. Al-Shabaab said it had carried out the attack and that it had killed 10 people, including “secret security agents and government employees.” … On June 15, at least eight police officers were killed in similar circumstances in Wajir county. DW

UN Lauds Anti-Graft Efforts in Somalia as World Marks Anti-Corruption Day

The UN head in Somalia James Swan has lauded the signing into law of the Anti-Corruption Act by President Farmaajo and approvals of bills aimed at bolstering good governance in Somalia. In a statement to mark this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, Swan said the formulation of the anti-graft law was a ‘commendable step forward for Somalia.’ “The United Nations is very encouraged by the recent signing into law by President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmaajo’ of the bill on the establishment of the anti-corruption commission and the elaboration of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy,” he added. Noting that corruption was a major impediment to development and undermines state-building, the UN envoy said the UN welcomed steps towards Somalia’s ratification of the UN Convention against Corruption. The world today marks the 16th years since the UN adopted the anti-graft treaty. Goobjoog News

Nigeria Has Been Quietly Crushing Press Freedom–but Now the World Is Watching

Worldwide condemnation has trailed Nigeria’s government after the violent re-arrest of journalist and activist, Omoyele Sowore, on Friday (Dec. 6). It came less than 24 hours after Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, were freed after 125 days in detention during which two courts had granted them bail. Government agents stormed the Federal High Court in Abuja, manhandled the journalist in full glare of world media. Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka slammed agents of the Department for State Security (DSS). He called on all civil society organizations in Nigeria to unite and give a coordinated response against the government of president Muhammadu Buhari for violating the rights of citizens. The horrific way agents of the DSS manhandled Sowore in court had also drawn the wrath of US Senators representing New Jersey where Sowore is a resident. … “That is unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy. The world is watching,” [Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)] the ranking member of the US Senate foreign relations committee said. He warned Nigeria that there would be consequences should anything happen to Sowore. Quartz Africa

Nigeria’s Democracy Not ‘Irreversible’ Fayemi Warns

Two Nigerian state governors on Friday in the United Kingdom assessed 20 years of democracy in Nigeria and returned a verdict that much remains to be done to secure the system in the country. The Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, warned that “there is nothing irreversible about democracy in Nigeria,” while his Sokoto counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, said Nigeria needs strong institutions, not strong men. Mr Fayemi said the democratic system is yet to take deep root in the country despite 20 years of uninterrupted practice. He said democracy is much more than regular elections, an area in which he said the country has done well in the last 20 years. The two governors spoke as guest speakers at a conference on Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy held at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, the United Kingdom, according to a report by Thisday newspaper. “What we established in 1999 is the right to choose our leaders via the ballot What we must not do is assume a teleological link between elections and democracy,” Mr Fayemi said. … “It’s also why our theory of change must not assume that democracy is a destination with a clear road-map…” Premium Times

Nigerian Army Commander Killed in Boko Haram Bomb Attack

A Nigerian Army commander was killed on Saturday after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Marte, Borno State. Military sources told Premium Times the army major, who was the commander of 153 Task Force Battalion in Marte Local Government Area, was leading a patrol of the unit’s perimeter when the bomb went off Saturday evening. Our sources said the officer was the only one immediately confirmed killed in the attack. It was unclear whether some of his troops, including members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, were injured or killed during the patrol. … The major has become the latest senior officer to die since a colonel was killed in battle mid-July. … Insurgent attacks have reduced generally since late October, with the military crediting its new ‘super camp’ strategy that made it difficult for terrorists to overrun brigades and battalions. Premium Times

Algeria’s Presidential Debate Falls Flat, as Anger Simmers

Algeria’s first-ever presidential debate seems to have failed to persuade the country’s pro-democracy protesters to take part in next week’s election. The five candidates recited their platforms instead of sparring over ideas in the Friday night debate – and they didn’t even look at each other. Members of Algeria’s 10-month-old protest movement shrugged off the exercise as a farce. They pushed out long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika earlier this year, and now want a whole new political system. They oppose the election altogether because it’s organized by Algeria’s power structure, and they see the candidates as part of a corrupt and out-of-touch elite. Students plan new protests Tuesday ahead of the first round of the election Thursday. In the debate, the candidates – including former Prime Ministers Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune – responded to the same questions posed by four journalists. … “We saw five candidates answering like automatons, … as if it were an oral examination,” said journalism professor Djamel Mouafia. Other commentators called it a missed opportunity for Algeria’s leadership to show they’re trying to be more transparent and democratic. Criticism exploded on social media, notably from protesters. AP

Sudan Peace Talks Set to Resume in Juba on Tuesday

During discussions on Thursday with the Mediation Committee on the Sudanese peace talks in Juba, Dhieu Mathok, South Sudan’s Minister for Energy and Dams, and member of the Sudanese peace talks mediation team confirmed that the preparations for the next round of talks have been finalised. The negotiations are expected to reconvene on 10 December in Juba, capital of South Sudan. Last month Radio Dabanga reported that the second round of peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the armed rebel movements was postponed. Mathok stressed the significance of the round of negotiation in the comprehensive peace process in Sudan. He confirmed that the mediation held meetings with the members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in Khartoum and the UNAMID- UN-AU Mission in Darfur regarding the issues of displaced people and refugees in Darfur. Radio Dabanga

Sudan Says It Has Reduced Troops in Yemen to 5,000

Sudan’s prime minister said on Sunday Khartoum had reduced the number of troops it has in Yemen from a peak of 15,000 to 5,000, confirming a drawdown in a conflict which he said could not be solved militarily. Abdalla Hamdok, who heads a civilian government formed in September under a power-sharing deal with the military after it ousted long-term leader Omar al-Bashir, gave details of troop levels in public for the first time on his return from talks in Washington. Sudanese troops have been deployed as part of a Saudi-led alliance that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthi movement that controls the capital, Sanaa. “Regarding Yemen we said that there is no military solution and there must be a political solution,” Hamdok told reporters at a briefing following his trip to Washington. Reuters

Sudan: Social Revolution Arrives in Bin Laden’s Old Neighborhood

There’s a party in Osama bin Laden’s old neighborhood and Nasr Aldin has brought the booze to get things hopping. At 38, he’s no teenager, but it’s the first time he hasn’t feared the wrath of the authorities. Being caught with alcohol in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum used to mean 40 lashes under former President Omar al-Bashir, who turned the African country of 40 million into an autocratic Islamic state over three decades. He was ousted by the army in April, and now the country that emulated Saudi Arabia in its pursuit of puritanism is rivaling the kingdom when it comes to loosening up. “The old regime wanted to bury us alive,” Nasr Aldin said of his recent exploits in the Khartoum district of Riyadh, which al-Qaeda’s founder once called home in the 1990s. “We want to do things that are normal everywhere in the world,” he said, talking above the hubbub of a sidewalk cafe as smoke from the previously banned hookah water-pipes filled the air. The power struggle between Islamists and secularists has dominated Sudan for generations and the risk is that the new era is just a prelude to another incarnation of that culture war. Bloomberg

UN DR Congo Peacekeeping Force Repels Attack on Biakato Base

United Nations forces have managed to thwart an attempted attack on one of their bases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N.’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission said on Sunday, December 8. U.N. blue helmets repelled an attempted attack led by five or six men on their facility in Biakato, Ituri province, overnight, the U.N. Stabilization Mission in DR Congo said, adding that “no one was injured.” Three Ebola workers were killed on November 28 when an armed group attacked a complex, also in Biakato. Both the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) have recalled their non-Congolese workers from the region following another attack this week. Eastern DRC has been troubled for years by militia that control swathes of territory and exploit its mineral wealth. The Defense Post

This Is What It’s Like to Be an Ebola Doctor under Fire in Congo

Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire had just gathered the members of her Ebola response team for a morning meeting when they heard the rat-a-tat of gunfire. “It was just in front of our door – very close,” she recalls. “We all got on the floor to protect ourselves.” They lay there for the next 20 minutes, listening as police fired into the surrounding jungle to drive off a group of armed men who had been spotted trying to make their way toward the compound – an encampment of tents and low-rise buildings near the town of Mangina that serves as living quarters for the team. The Nov. 28 attack was merely the latest in a series of violent incidents that Bélizaire, who is originally from Haiti and is 40 years old, has survived while working as a field coordinator for the World Health Organization over this 16-month long outbreak. … In total this year, WHO has documented about 390 attacks on health facilities involved with the Ebola response, with 11 Ebola responders killed and more than 80 injured. NPR

Nairobi’s Gold-Loving Governor Is Arrested on Corruption Charges

The governor of Kenya’s capital city has made no secret of his love for bling: He has posted photos of a golden lion statue and a gilded dining room set, and has shown up at meetings draped in gold jewelry. At rallies, he hands out cash to supporters. The governor has also been accused of drug trafficking, was recently seen slapping a journalist, and was thrown out of Kenya’s starchy Parliament for wearing ear studs and sunglasses. But he has faced little in the way of serious consequences, until now. On Friday, the governor, Mike Mbuvi Sonko was arrested and charged with money laundering and unlawful acquisition of property for his alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar corruption scandal. In a news conference in Nairobi, Noordin Haji, the director of public prosecutions, accused Mr. Sonko of “deploying intimidation tactics” and “using goons to threaten law enforcement officials” who were trying to investigate the case. Mr. Sonko denied the accusations against him on Friday, calling the commission’s investigation “shallow” and saying that he had not tried to evade arrest. The New York Times

Zambian President Allegedly Involved in Illegal Timber Trade: Report

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu and other senior government officials have been accused of facilitating rosewood trafficking, according to an environmental investigation report. The delicate slow-growing timber species locally known as “mukula” is at risk of extinction, mainly due to growing demand from Asia. Zambia banned the felling and transport of rosewood in 2017. But corruption and China’s booming furniture industry have continued to drive illegal mukula logging in Zambia and the southern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Greenpeace. On Thursday the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a London and Washington-based NGO, alleged that Lungu, his daughter and several ministers were “central figures” to the “illicit network.” EIA investigators also claim the state-owned company Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation Limited (ZAFFICO) is being used as a cover for Zambian and Chinese business operators to export thousands of mukula logs. AFP

Little-Known South African Firm Gets Uganda Dam Nod

In a curious change of heart, Kampala will after all allow South African company, Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Ltd, to construct a hydropower dam across Uhuru Falls in the Murchison Falls National Park. The new position comes hardly three months after a similar request by Bonang Power, was rejected. The turnabout has sparked fresh public outcry, and questions as who Bonang Power is, its capacity and capability in constructing a hydropower dam. … Bonang is not new to Uganda. In 2015, Bonang officials alongside those from a Russian company met President Museveni in Kampala and discussed power projects with respect to Kiira and Nalubale hydropower dams according to press statements from State House at the time. … “In the absence of such a track record and profile of the hydropower works that Bonang has undertaken, Ugandans should consider Bonang a front by corrupt middlemen,” notes the African Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego), a civil society policy platform that specialises in energy, oil and gas. The East African

U.S. Claims Unarmed Drone Shot Down by Russian Defenses in Libya

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone reported lost near Libya’s capital last month was in fact shot down by Russian air defenses and it is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, U.S. Africa Command says. Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war. … U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa command, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it.” … Townsend voiced deep concern about Russia’s growing role in the country, including how it would affect Libya’s “territorial sovereignty and AFRICOM’s counter-terrorism mission.” “This highlights the malign influence of Russian mercenaries acting to influence the outcome of the civil war in Libya, and who are directly responsible for the recent and sharp increase in fighting, casualties and destruction around Tripoli,” Townsend said. Reuters

New European Leader Chooses Africa as 1st Overseas Visit

The new European Commission president says she chose Africa as her first visit outside Europe as it has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and some of its biggest challenges, including climate change. Ursula von der Leyen spoke after meeting with Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister on Saturday. Ethiopia hosts the African Union continental body. She praised Ethiopia’s new leadership with Africa’s only current female president and its gender-balanced Cabinet and said it has given hope for the continent at large. The European Union has announced 170 million euros to support Ethiopia’s economy and its election in May. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replied that “we still demand more financial support because we are ambitious.” Von der Leyen said she was not in Africa to present “some grand plan” but to listen and learn. She added that “you here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else,” with deserts advancing and flooding more frequent. AP

African Megacities Adapt to a Climate Crisis

Africa’s cities are booming. But they will be hit hardest by climate change. In interviews with 30 urban Africans, including informal waste pickers and UN climate scientists, DW looks at how four big and fast-growing cities are adapting: Lagos to scorching heatwaves, Kampala to rising waste, Cairo to potentially looming drought and Dar es Salaam to choking traffic. Skipping class to address leaders of some of the world’s most powerful cities, 22-year-old Hilda Nakabuye called on the room of mayors to stand in solidarity with young people fighting for the planet. “I am a victim of this climate crisis and I am not ashamed to say so,” said Nakabuye, a student from rural Uganda who now lives in Kampala, at a climate conference in October. Her voice cracking and eyes wet with tears, she recounted how her family had sold its land and livestock after heavy rains and fierce winds washed away crops, and drought dried up wells. “When the money was over, it was a question of survival or death.” The mayors rose to their feet. DW



Photo: Adam Jones