Africa Media Review for February 11, 2020

Nigeria Governor Pleads for Military’s Help after 30 Killed
The governor of Nigeria’s Borno state has urged the military to better defend a town where suspected Islamic extremists killed more than 30 people who had been left to sleep in their cars over the weekend after being locked outside the city gate. Gov. Babagana Zulum visited the scene Monday where some of the cars were still smoking with corpses inside them. The violence Sunday night marked the sixth time since June that the town of Auno had come under attack by suspected Boko Haram militants. While the governor put the death toll at 30, the military said only 10 people had died and that the motorists had defied a military warning that the highway would be closed at 5 p.m. The governor accused the military of failing to protect the stranded travelers and pleaded again for soldiers to re-establish a base there. “The fact is that we have made several attempts for the Nigeria military to establish their unit in Auno but nothing was done,” he said. “As soon as it is 5 o’clock and they closed up their gate, they abandon the people and move over to Maiduguri,” the capital of the northeastern state. Witnesses said the locked-out travelers came under attack around 10 p.m. and the assault lasted 45 minutes. AP

New Killings in Eastern DR Congo Blamed on ADF Militia
Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia killed seven civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, just days after another massacre, local officials and police said. About 60 ADF fighters carried out the attack at Makeke, killing five men and two women, local official Mapengo Shabani told AFP. Makeke lies 32km north of Beni, in Ituri province, near the border with Uganda. “The attack happened in broad daylight,” he added. “These terrorists also pillaged five shops. So far, we have not recorded any missing persons.” This latest attack was first reported by Major Losendjola Morisho, chief of police at the neighbouring town of Mangina. Morisho also reported that another 12 bodies had been discovered near Beni, in the neighbouring province of North Kivu, two days after an ADF attack that killed eight people and left around 20 missing. … The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than 1 000 civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed President Yoweri Museveni. AFP

Deadly Attack on Benin Police Post along Border with Burkina Faso
Men armed with rifles and machetes attacked a police station in Benin near the border with troubled Burkina Faso, raising fears that extremist violence could be encroaching even further south, officials said. One policeman was killed and another wounded in the attack in the village of Mekrou-Djimdjim at dawn on Sunday and the gunmen then set fire to the building, according to a statement by a police spokesman. The attack took place near one of the wildlife areas known as W National Park straddling the borders of northern Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. In the Pendjari National Park further west, two French tourists were kidnapped last May and their guide was killed. Observers have expressed growing fears that Islamic extremist groups could be extending their reach further south. AP

Suicide Attack Kills Algerian Soldier Near Mali Border
An Algerian soldier was killed Sunday in a suicide car bomb attack near the Mali border, the Algerian defence ministry said in a statement. “Today at 1050 (0950 GMT) in the border area of Timiaouine, a detachment of the ANP (army) was the target… of a suicide attacker in an all-terrain vehicle,” the statement said. “The soldier in charge of access managed to stop the suspect vehicle from entering, however the suicide attacker blew up the vehicle, causing the death of the solider on guard,” it added. No information was given about the identity of the attacker. Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Said Chanegriha offered condolences to the family of the “martyred” soldier, and praised “the great vigilance shown by the unit which was able to foil this desperate attempt for media attention.” Chanegriha stressed “the determination of ANP forces to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and to track down criminals across the country, to preserve the security and stability of the state.” The attack — which was not immediately claimed — is the first of its kind in southern Algeria in years. In January 2013, members of Al-Qaeda attacked a gas plant near In Amenas near the Libyan border. Forty hostages died along with 29 jihadists. AFP

Mali’s President Acknowledges Dialogue with Jihadist Leaders
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and Radio France Internationale (RFI) Monday, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita acknowledged, for the first time, that his government had opened up a dialogue with senior jihadist leaders. … Keita acknowledged that his government had made contact with Iyad Ag Ghali – a prominent Tuareg figure and leader of the Ansar Dine jihadist group – as well as Amadou Koufa, leader of Katiba Macina, a group of predominantly Fulani ethnic fighters allied with Ansar Dine. … Keita’s interview came as the New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Malian authorities to investigate massacres by armed ethnic groups and Islamist militants in central Mali that killed more than 450 people, making 2019 the deadliest year in the region since the conflict began in 2012. The Malian president also revealed that Malian army soldiers on Monday had begun deploying to Kidal and should arrive in the key northern town by Friday. The return of Malian soldiers to Kidal is considered a key component in implementing the 2015 Algiers peace agreement, struck between the government in Bamako and some rebel groups. France24

‘Overlooked’ African Union Leadership Vow Libya, Sudan Support
African Union leaders on Monday vowed to push peace efforts in Libya, a sign of the bloc’s desire to play a bigger role in resolving the continent’s conflicts. The AU leadership has complained about being overlooked in Libya-related peacemaking efforts, which have been led primarily by the UN and heavily involved European nations. As the 55-member group wrapped up a summit, Smail Chergui, the AU’s Peace and Security Council chief, offered assistance to revive Libya’s faltering peace process. “It’s (the) UN itself which needs us now,” Chergui said. “It’s time to bring this situation to an end… the two organisations should work hand-in-hand for that goal,” he added. … South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over as AU chair on Sunday, has said Libya is one of two conflicts he wants to focus on during his tenure. The other is South Sudan, where a civil war that began in 2013 has left hundreds of thousands dead – but talks on the sidelines of the AU summit ended in deadlock. The two-day summit ended in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with the traditional closing session and press conference cancelled. AFP

Haftar Overtaking Tripoli a ‘Nightmare’ for Algeria, Tunisia
When Libya’s eastern-based renegade commander Khalifa Haftar in April launched a military offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, he knew he could count on the support of neighbouring Egypt. Besides the prospect of winning lucrative reconstruction contracts, the Egyptian government’s view of Haftar as a bulwark against the rise of political Islam boded well with its geopolitical interests in the region. But while Libya’s eastern neighbour happily threw its weight behind Haftar, arming and providing the 76-year-old’s forces with logistical support, the countries to the west – Algeria and Tunisia – opted for a different strategy. Though nominally supportive of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Algeria and Tunisia have throughout Libya’s near decade-long conflict maintained strict neutrality and insisted against foreign interference. Speaking alongside his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied in Algiers last week, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune reiterated the two countries’ belief that the crisis could only end with a political solution that should come by Libyans themselves and “protected from foreign interference and weapons flows.” Al Jazeera

UN Refugee Agency: Major Rise in Migrants Stopped Off Libya
The U.N. refugee agency reported Friday that the total number of migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard in the past month rose 121% from the same period last year. The UNHCR said in January alone, it registered 1,040 refugees and migrants the coast guard stopped and brought back to Libyan shores, a dramatic increase from the 469 rescued that month the year before. It classified the population as 70% men, 18% women and 12% children. The relentless war in Libya has turned the country into a major conduit for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. In its attempts to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the European Union has trained and funded Libya’s coast guard to keep the migration crisis off its shores. The figures show these efforts have not stopped people from boarding boats and making the journey. It’s a contentious alliance. The coast guard catches and returns migrants to Libya, where they often land in squalid detention centers, notorious for rape and torture at the hands of militias. AP

A Protest Dispersed, a Camp Burned: Asylum Seekers in Agadez Face an Uncertain Future
Since 2018, The New Humanitarian has been following the story of a group of Sudanese asylum seekers who turned south from Libya to seek protection in Niger – one of the poorest countries in the world. This article covers the latest developments as we continue to explore the connection between EU migration policies and their struggle to find safety and stability. Early in the morning on 4 January, security forces carrying long, wooden sticks arrived outside the office of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the city of Agadez, Niger: 600 or more asylum seekers, mostly from Sudan, were gathered in the street in front of the office. Since mid-December, they had been staging a sit-in to protest what they said was UNHCR’s “complete neglect” of their living conditions and the slow processing and mishandling of their asylum cases. By the end of the day, security forces had dispersed the sit-in, dozens of demonstrators were allegedly injured, more than 330 were arrested, and the camp set up to house asylum seekers outside the city was almost entirely burned to the ground. The events were only the latest in the more than two-year saga of the Sudanese in Agadez – a story that has always been part of a bigger picture. The New Humanitarian

UN Warns of ‘Major Shock’ as Africa Locust Outbreak Spreads
Uganda scrambled to respond to the arrival of the biggest locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in decades, while the United Nations warned Monday that “we simply cannot afford another major shock” to an already vulnerable region. An emergency government meeting hours after the locusts were spotted inside Uganda on Sunday decided to deploy military forces to help with ground-based pesticide spraying, while two planes for aerial spraying will arrive as soon as possible, a statement said. Aerial spraying is considered the only effective control. The swarms of billions of locusts have been destroying crops in Kenya, which hasn’t seen such an outbreak in 70 years, as well as Somalia and Ethiopia, which haven’t seen this in a quarter-century. The insects have exploited favorable wet conditions after unusually heavy rains, and experts say climate change is expected to bring more of the same. Keith Cressman, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organizations senior locust forecasting officer, said Kenya has received “waves and waves of swarms” since the beginning of the year from the Horn of Africa, and “over the weekend they moved on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro across the border into Tanzania.” AP

Kenya, FBI Partner on First Anti-Terror Task Force outside US
Kenya has been chosen as the site for the first US-funded Joint Terrorism Task Force to be located outside the United States, the State Department announced on Monday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a partner in this initiative to build the investigative capacity of a country “on the frontlines of terrorism,” the State Department said. The announcement follows President Uhuru Kenyatta’s meeting with President Donald Trump at White House last week. The two leaders’ discussion had focused on another prestigious designation of Kenya as the first sub-Saharan country to begin negotiations on a bilateral trade deal with the United States. A select group of 42 Kenyan investigators will take part in an intensive 12-week counter-terrorism training course at the FBI Academy in the US state of Virginia. Methods used by US-based joint anti-terrorism task forces will be imparted to the Kenyan team to enable it to respond to sensitive counter-terrorism intelligence shared with the Kenyan government, the State Department said. Daily Nation

Skepticism Surrounds Somalia’s New Surveillance Cameras
Al-Shabab militants reportedly destroyed four newly installed surveillance cameras in the capital Mogadishu, blowing them up with explosive devices in the early morning on January 29. Somalia’s national security forces installed the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in December in a move to cut crime and also prevent attacks by the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab. Dozens of CCTV cameras have been placed in areas of Mogadishu where al-Shabab has historically been most active, as well as near high-value targets such as along Maka al-Mukarama, a major road which leads to the presidential palace. “The surveillance cameras aim to make it easier for security forces to monitor the streets and detect suspected terrorists,” Somali government spokesman Ismael Mukhar Omar told DW by phone from Mogadishu. … On the streets of Mogadishu, not everyone is convinced of the ability of the new cameras to stop attacks such as these. Hassan Ali Yusuf, a shopkeeper in Mogadishu, says that the “visibility” of the security cameras, which are mounted on high poles above roads, makes them an easy target. He says authorities should have tried to hide them to make it more difficult to sabotage the cameras. Others also question the trustworthiness of those monitoring and policing the CCTV networks. DW

Militia Strike Gold to Cast a Shadow over Sudan’s Hopes of Prosperity
Ornate, heavy necklaces gleam on stands above stacks of thick filigree bangles in the windows of Khartoum’s gold market. The gold is Sudanese, dug from the rich mines that span the country. Shop owner Bashir Abdulay hands over a palm-sized lump of pure gold with two small bore holes as he explains how the prized metal goes from mine deposit, through middlemen, to Khartoum. Abdulay describes the Jebel Amer gold mine in Darfur, one of several controlled by the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group whose leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is now a central figure in Sudan’s transition to democracy. “There are many people working there, some work on their own, others for the RSF. Everyone has his place, and the RSF have theirs,” he says, the metal twinkling in the bright shop lights. “The RSF have a big place producing gold, and selling it on their own.” The RSF seized control of the Jebel Amer gold mine in Darfur in 2017, immediately making Dagalo, known as Hemedti, one of Sudan’s richest men. The Guardian

Sudan: Khartoum to Darfur – a Road Trip of Rediscovery for Radio Dabanga
Last month, a delegation from Radio Dabanga, led by editor-in-chief Kamal El Sadig, visited Sudan and Darfur for the first time since the radio station was founded in exile 11 years ago. Radio Dabanga was prevented from operating freely and openly in Sudan while the deposed Al Bashir regime was in power, and was founded in exile in Amsterdam, facilitated by the Netherlands-based NGO Free Press Unlimited, and has enjoyed the benefits of the freedom of expression and the press enshrined in Dutch law. It has taken the changes brought about in the aftermath of the December 2018 revolution that has allowed Radio Dabanga’s editor-in-chief to cautiously venture back into his native country. When Kamal fled Al Bashir’s press curbs to self-imposed exile in Amsterdam over a decade ago, the road for the Sudanese capital Khartoum and the North Darfur capital of El Fasher was unpaved and very poor. “I was interested to see how transport has improved, now that there are new asphalt roads,” Kamal explains. “11 years ago, it took three days by lorry to travel from Khartoum to my home district of Um Kedada in North Darfur, south-east of the state capital of El Fasher. Radio Dabanga

Mandela’s Release 30 Years Ago Birthed a New South Africa
Thirty years ago, Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of imprisonment by South Africa’s apartheid regime and instantly galvanized the country, and the world, to dismantle the brutal system of racial oppression. Raising a clenched-fist salute and striding purposefully from the gates of Victor Verster prison, Mandela, then 71, made it clear he was committed to ending apartheid and establishing majority rule and rights for all in South Africa. His release gave many South Africans their first view of Mandela because during his imprisonment the regime banned the publication of images of him and his speeches. And then, suddenly, he was everywhere. “Comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all,” Mandela said hours after his release, speaking to throngs of supporters at Cape Town’s City Hall. On Tuesday, current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who held the microphone during Mandela’s address, was set to speak to the country on the “speech that birthed a nation.” AP



Photo: Adam Jones