Africa Media Review for February 1, 2019

US Army Says at Least 24 Al-Shabab Members Killed in Air Strike
The United States armed forces said it has killed 24 members of the Al-Shabab armed group in an airstrike carried out on Wednesday. In a statement released on Thursday, US Africa Command said the strike took place on a camp near Shebeeley Hiran in central Somalia. “Precision strikes are part of our strategy. Strikes continue to help our partners make progress in their fight against the transnational terrorists who oppose peace in Somalia and the region,” Director of US Africa Command Major General Gregg Olson said in the statement. According to the press release, “no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike”.  Al Jazeera

Al-Shabab Battles IS in Northeastern Somalia
The al-Shabab militant group has scaled up its attacks against pro-Islamic State fighters in the northeastern mountainous Somali region of Bari, experts say. Intelligence and security officials say al-Shabab has seized two locations from pro-IS militants this week. One of the two areas is called El-Miraale, a water point that has been the focal point of clashes. The second village seized by al-Shabab is called Shebaab, south of the town of Qandala according to sources. Pro-IS militants have now retreated further into the highlands, but experts say the fighting is not over. Abdi Hassan Hussein is the former intelligence chief of Puntland. He has been monitoring the latest clashes between the two sides. “They are fighting over the control of the mountains, which has been a base for Daesh,” he said, using another term for Islamic State.  VOA

Study: Dadaab Shrinks as Violence, Hunger Declines in Somalia
The number of Somalis in urgent need of food assistance has dropped by almost half, while terrorist-related deaths linked to al-Shabaab have fallen by 15 per cent, according to recent reports. The United Nations suggests that the positive trends may be related. Two UN agencies cited a link between conflict and hunger in a joint report that covers seven countries and one sub-region. “Somalia, Syria and the Lake Chad Basin saw some improvements due to improved security,” said the January 28 report by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). As of last July, the two agencies noted, 1.8 million Somalis were experiencing acute food shortages, compared to 3.3 million in July 2017.  The East African

Kenya Bomber’s Journey Offers Cautionary Tale of Intelligence Failures
The bomber who blew himself up outside a Nairobi hotel this month, launching an attack that killed 21 people, was already so well-known to Kenyan police that they had emblazoned his face across billboards under the slogan “WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE”. Mahir Khalid Riziki was barely 20 when he joined a radical Islamist cell that assassinated police in his home town of Mombasa, officers said. His mosque in the coastal Kenyan city funnelled recruits to the Somalia-based Islamist group al Shabaab, which claimed the Jan. 15 attack in Nairobi. Riziki, who was 25 when he died, fled after a deadly police raid on the mosque in 2014. His years as a fugitive shed light on the difficulties of tracking militant suspects across East Africa at a time when al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab is seeking to broaden its pool of recruits and carry out more attacks in other nations.  Reuters

UN Extends Central African Republic Arms Embargo
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to extend an arms embargo on Central African Republic for a year but also raised the possibility that it could be lifted earlier as the government has urged. The French-drafted resolution says the council intends to establish benchmarks by April 30 on security sector reform, the demobilization and reintegration of combatants, and the management of weapons and ammunition that could guide a review of the arms embargo. It asks the panel of experts monitoring the arms embargo and sanctions against individuals, which were also extended, to assess progress on the benchmarks by July 31, and says the council will review the arms embargo measures by Sept. 30. AP

Arrested Cameroon Opposition Leader Faces 8 Charges
The lawyer for Cameroon’s arrested main opposition leader says he now faces eight charges including sedition, insurrection and inciting violence. Christopher Ndong told The Associated Press Thursday that Maurice Kamto also faces charges that include hostility against the fatherland and disruption of peace. If he is found guilty, he could face five years to life in prison. Kamto and members of his Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon party were arrested on Monday in Douala. The party over the weekend had called for protests against what it called irregularities in the Oct. 7 election that saw President Paul Biya easily win a seventh term. Official results said Kamto finished a distant second. More than 100 protesters were arrested in various cities. International rights groups have called for their release. AP

JNIM Claims Suicide Assault on Malian Military
In a statement released earlier today, Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which operates in West Africa and the wider Sahel, claimed Tuesday’s suicide assault on a Malian military base in the northern town of Tarkint. A photo of the purported suicide bomber was also released. “Continuing in its campaign against the occupying crusaders and their allies from the foreign occupying forces and the criminal Malian military, a unit from JNIM launched an attack on the criminal Malian military base in Tarkint, 160km north of the city of Gao,” JNIM’s statement begins. It then proceeds to detail the operation, saying a suicide bomber, identified as Tamim al Ansari [indicating he is a local Malian], detonated his vehicle near the base before an assault team entered the fray. JNIM says that “several were killed or wounded,” which was largely confirmed by the Malian military itself. Long War Journal

Number of IDP in Mali Has Tripled in a Year – U.N.
United Nations says, the number of Internally Displaced People in Mali has tripled over the course of a year as a result of growing insecurity at the border with Burkina Faso. Half of those internally displaced 120,000 people are based in Mopti region. The UN says people are escaping worsening inter-communal violence and armed conflict. Most have fled the south-eastern border with Burkina Faso and sought refuge in other parts of the region. Armed conflict is also spreading from the north to central Mali and along the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger. African News Network

Rwanda’s Kagame to Attend EAC Summit despite Differences with Burundi
Rwandan President Paul Kagame will attend the East African Community (EAC) heads of state summit on Friday in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha, despite earlier suggestions he might skip it to avoid a confrontation with neighbouring Burundi, the East African reported. Friday’s meeting between Kagame and the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan comes after two previous attempts to hold the summit in November and December failed due to disagreements between partner states. Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza had requested that the EAC convene an extraordinary summit to address differences with Rwanda. Animosity between Kigali and Gitega follows the controversies around Nkurunziza’s third term in office in 2015 and an attempted military coup which Burundi accused Rwanda of backing. Independent  Online

Millions Displaced in Ethiopia: A Forgotten Crisis
Reforms adopted by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed have challenged the status quo – politically and economically. They come as inter-ethnic violence is intensifying throughout the country. Today almost three million people have been internally displaced. Two-thirds of them have fled the conflict; the others, drought, and floods. Nearly eight million people are in need of emergency food assistance. Qoloji is the biggest camp for internally displaced people in the Somali regional state, in the east of Ethiopia. The camp hosts 80,000 people, mostly from the Somali ethnic community and from the nearby Ethiopian Oromia region. New families arrive every day, but many of them have been here for over a year. Euronews

Algerian PM Hints at Possible Fifth Run by Bouteflika
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika may run for a fifth presidential term in polls slated for later this year, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia hinted Thursday. “We urged [Bouteflika] in June to run for another term,” Ouyahia told reporters in capital Algiers. “Today, we began to see the light of his candle in front of us and — God willing — this [a fifth presidential run] will be achieved,” he said. Remarking on opposition calls for Bouteflika’s departure, the prime minister added: “It is for the people to decide, every five years, whether the president stays or goes.” Bouteflika’s ruling National Liberation Front recently began collecting signatures in support of a fifth presidential run by the 81-year-old leader, who has ruled Algeria since 1999.  Anadolu Agency

US Imposes Visa Restrictions on Ghanian Nationals
The United States imposed visa restrictions on Ghanaian nationals Thursday, making it more difficult for citizens of the West African country to visit the United States. The Trump administration levied the sanctions, accusing Ghana of not repatriating Ghanaians deported from the U.S. “Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in a press release. The United States periodically restricts visas when countries fail to allow citizens removed from the U.S. to be repatriated in their nation of birth. In July, the Department of Homeland Security imposed visa restrictions on Burma and Laos, after those countries failed to accept removed nationals in a timely fashion. Those restrictions affected B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas, for visitors seeking to enter the United States as tourists or on business trips. VOA

UN May Push Back Libya Election Conference
The United Nations is likely to delay a conference intended to prepare Libya for elections this year until there is more support from rival leaders, sources familiar with the plans said. The national meeting is central to a UN and Western roadmap for a vote in Libya as a way out of its eight-year war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. But big players and their allied armed groups wield considerable power under the status quo, and there is mistrust between rival governments and parliaments. Libya splintered following the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi and has since 2014 been divided between competing political and armed groups based in Tripoli and the east. More delay in the UN-sponsored conference, where Libyans from all walks of society are supposed to decide details of their elections such as the presidential or parliamentary system, would also probably push back an actual vote. Reuters

Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir Mocks ‘Facebook Protesters’
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has ridiculed his opponents’ use of social media to organise recent protests against his rule. “Changing the government or presidents cannot be done through WhatsApp or Facebook. It can be done only through elections,” he told his supporters. He was speaking as fresh demonstrations were held in the capital Khartoum. The protests started over cuts to bread subsidies in December but have since morphed into anger at Mr Bashir’s rule. The Sudanese government says 30 people have been killed in clashes since the unrest began. Human rights groups put the death toll at more than 40.  BBC

Sudan’s Bashir Says Border with Eritrea Reopens after Being Shut for a Year
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Thursday that his country was reopening its border with Eritrea, which has been shut for about a year. Sudan closed the border in early January, 2018, after Bashir announced a six-month state of emergency in the regions of Kassala and North Kurdufan to help combat the trafficking of weapons and foodstuffs. “I announce here, from Kassala, that we are opening the border with Eritrea because they are our brothers and our people. Politics will not divide us,” Bashir said in televised remarks before scores of supporters in the town of Kassala, which is near the border in eastern Sudan. As Bashir was speaking in the remote town, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a union that has led calls for demonstrations against his rule, called for fresh protests across several Sudanese cities on Thursday afternoon.  VOA

Colombia Recovers Bodies of 12 African Migrants Drowned in Accident
Colombia’s navy has recovered the bodies of 12 African migrants, including seven children, who died in a shipwreck in the Caribbean, a source from the country’s migration agency said on Thursday. The shipwreck took place early on Sunday, the source said, and its cause is unknown. The migrants were traveling without visas and were being transported by traffickers to Panama. Survivors told the agency the boat was carrying about 30 people, some of whom remain missing, the source said. The source could not confirm the migrants’ nationalities. The jungle region in northern Colombia, bordered by Panama and the Caribbean, is often used for illegal migrant trafficking. Many of the people who use routes through the area are Cuban or African and are attempting to reach the United States eventually. Reuters

Internet Shutdowns Mushroom Across Africa
The last two years have been grim for internet access on the African continent, according to analyst Robert Besseling of risk-assessment firm EXX Africa, and the situation may be getting worse. In the last four weeks alone, no fewer than five African governments have temporarily shut down internet access amid political crises and unrest. While this practice dates back several years, he says it has accelerated and hit nations that rely on the internet for spreading information and for internet-based commerce, like Zimbabwe. “We counted 21 shutdowns across Africa in 2018, and so far this year in the first three weeks of 2019, we saw shutdowns in five countries: again, Cameroon, as well as most prominently, Zimbabwe, as well as during the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and unrest in Sudan, as well as briefly following the attempted coup in Gabon,” Besseling said.  VOA

Political Violence Mars Malawi Election Run-Up
Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. However, DPP officials have denied being behind the attacks, blaming misguided youth who aim to tarnish the party’s image. In response, Malawi’s electoral commission has threatened to disqualify any candidate using violence. One opposition party member, Henderson Waya, a member of the United Transformation Movement, was attacked by a group of youths two weeks ago when he and others were driving to a party rally. He says when they youths approached them, one threatened to burn their car and threw a glass bottle at them. The bottle missed him by a whisker but hit the driver’s door. Waya was severely injured by the pieces of glass, which stuck in his face.  VOA

Uganda Seizes 750 Pieces of Ivory Being Smuggled from S Sudan
Ugandan authorities have seized 750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales being smuggled from neighboring South Sudan in one of the largest seizures of wildlife contraband in the East African country. The ivory and pangolin scales were discovered inside hollowed-out logs in the Ugandan capital Kamapala, authorities said on Thursday. Two Vietnamese men, suspected of smuggling, were detained. The illegal cargo was discovered after officers at the Ugandan tax authority (URA) scanned three six-metre containers carrying timber logs which had crossed the border from South Sudan. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones