Africa Media Review for February 13, 2018

The G5 Sahel Joint Force Gains Traction
The G5 Sahel is ramping up its joint security force in order to address the growing threat posed by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel. The Force is emerging as a focal point for transnational security efforts in the region. The G5 Sahel was established in 2014 as an inter-governmental partnership among Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to foster economic cooperation and security in the Sahelian region. The growing virulence of militant Islamist groups, taking advantage of sparsely populated border areas, has posed a serious challenge to the G5 vision, however. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Africa’s ANC Prepares to Push Out President Zuma after Marathon Meeting
President Jacob Zuma’s fate hung in the balance on Tuesday morning following a grueling 13-hour meeting of African National Congress leaders over whether South Africa’s ruling party should order the embattled head of state to step down. […] Several local media outlets reported early Tuesday that the party’s national executive committee decided to recall the president, but that a defiant Zuma had refused to resign. The ANC has not yet made an official announcement on the meeting’s outcome, and said it would brief the press early afternoon on Tuesday. If the party does indeed recall Zuma and he resigns, Ramaphosa would become acting president, according to South African law. If he refuses to step down, the matter could go to a vote of no confidence in parliament. The Washington Post

US Warns Congo against Electronic Voting for Delayed Election
The United States warned the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday against using an electronic voting system for a long-delayed presidential election in December this year because it has the potential to undermine the credibility of the poll. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told an informal U.N. Security Council meeting on the Congolese electoral process that deploying “an unfamiliar technology for the first time during a crucial election is an enormous risk.” “These elections must be held by paper ballots so there is no question by the Congolese people about the results. The U.S. has no appetite to support an electronic voting system,” Haley told the meeting, which was organized by the United States. VOA

On U.N. Deaths, Haley Asks Congo’s Kabila: What Happened to My List?
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Monday asked the Congolese foreign minister to deliver a message to President Joseph Kabila about the killing of two U.N. investigators: “Please ask Mr. Kabila what he did with my list.” The list, which Haley told Kabila about when she met with him in Kinshasa in October, is of verified names of individuals involved in the murders of Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp in March 2017, said the U.S. mission to the United Nations. Haley told Kabila “that justice for their murders was a priority for the United States,” the U.S. mission said. Reuters

Mattis to Meet with AFRICOM Commander Ahead of Niger Ambush Report
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday the investigation into the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. troops will involve the broader context of the U.S. mission and how it fits with overall French operations south of the Sahara. “It is extensive; it is thousands of pages long,” Mattis said of the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation of the Oct. 4 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger, near the Mali border. Military.com

Tunisia Rejects Proposal for NATO Presence: Official
Tunisia has rejected a NATO proposal that would allow NATO officials to use a planned military command center, according to Tunisia’s defense minister. In a Monday statement, Abdul Karim al-Zubaidi said his ministry had rejected the proposal, by which Tunisia would receive a 3-million-euro grant in exchange for letting NATO officers maintain a presence at military operations center the country plans to establish. At a session of parliament’s security committee, al-Zubaidi said his ministry was currently working on plans to establish a “joint command center to coordinate between Tunisia’s air, land and sea forces”. Anadolu Agency

Funding Al-Shabaab: How Aid Money Ends Up in Terror Group’s Hands
The murderous al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab is making millions of dollars each year by exploiting foreign aid money sent to Somalia by the very western nations who are trying to eliminate the terror group. A CNN investigation has revealed how money given directly by the United Nations to people displaced by conflict and famine is ending up in the hands of Africa’s oldest terrorist organization. Former members of al-Shabaab and Somali intelligence agents said the terror group is extorting thousands of dollars per day through road blocks and taxes on merchants attempting to transport food and supplies to sell to internally displaced people in towns where they are concentrated. CNN

Conference on Peace and Reconciliation Kicks Off in Somalia
More than 30 researchers, academicians and other experts kicked off a three-day meeting in Somalia capital, Mogadishu, on Monday to discuss ways of fostering peace and national reconciliation, organizers said on Monday. The event which is co-hosted by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Norwegian and Somali governments will also identify practical steps for promoting peace and reconciliation initiatives at the national and regional levels. “The experts have been assembled to share their knowledge and their expertise and to figure out how collectively that experience can be geared to the extraordinary challenge Somalia faces,” Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, said in his opening remarks. Xinhua

US and Egypt Pledge Allegiance In IS Fight Raging in Sinai
The United States and Egypt on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to battle Islamic militants in the Middle East as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo at the start of his week-long trip to the region. Tillerson and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, cited productive discussions on regional security and the struggle against the Islamic State group, whose Egyptian affiliate, based in the Sinai Peninsula, has struck military and civilian targets across the Arab world’s most populous country. At a joint news conference with Shoukry, Tillerson said Egypt was an important part of the anti-IS coalition and that Washington was “committed to strengthening this partnership in the years to come.”  AP

Is Sisi’s Sinai Move an Anti-terror Crackdown or Election Ploy?
The battle for control of Egypt’s Sinai province entered a decisive phase Monday, with security forces reporting the first signs of success in their latest operation to stamp out the Islamic State armed group. But is the crackdown due to electoral considerations, as Sisi’s critics argue? “It’s too late,” Sobhi Gress, the president of the association Coptic Solidarity in Europe, told RFI Monday. He was speaking after Egyptian security forces launched a major anti-terror operation Friday, in the restive Sinai province, codenamed “Operation Sinai 2018.” The offensive to stamp out the Islamic State armed group already showed signs of succes Monday, with the military reporting it had killed at least 28 Islamic State fighters and arrested more than one hundred. RFI

South Sudan Sentences Rebel Leader’s Spokesman to Death
A spokesman for South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar was sentenced to death on Monday on charges of treason and incitement against the government. James Gatdet Dak was deported to South Sudan from Kenya in November 2016, a move that rights groups and the United Nations said was in breach of international law. (bit.ly/2ElcknF) A high court in the capital Juba handed Gatdet the death sentence on Monday, as well as a combined 21 years for incitement and conspiracy against President Salva Kiir’s government. Monyluak Alor Kuol, Gatdet’s former lawyer who resigned last month in protest against the case’s handling, said the sentencing violated a ceasefire signed in December, which called for the release of all prisoners and detainees. Reuters

South African Military Investigates Congo Torture Reports
South Africa’s military has opened an investigation into reports that members of its 1,000-strong, U.N.-mandated peacekeeping contingent in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo assaulted and tortured locals. A military statement said “corrective actions” would ensue if the reports, which it understood had come from Congolese citizens, were found to be true. The inquiry would be conducted in liaison with the United Nations’ MONUSCO mission in Congo, the statement added. It gave no details of the allegations and MONUSCO did not elaborate. “We are aware of the case and we have the police record,” MONUSCO spokeswoman Florence Marshall said. Under bilateral agreements with host countries, U.N. soldiers found to have committed crimes while serving in peacekeeping missions are judged and punished in their home jurisdictions. Reuters

Media Freedom in Kenya: Analogies Are Being Drawn with Moi’s Repressive Era
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga was sworn in as the “people’s president” last week, maintaining that he did not recognise Uhuru Kenyatta as the President. After defying government warnings, and broadcasting live from the venue of the contentious event, three of Kenya’s biggest TV stations were shutdown. They have been allowed back on air again, but Joy Mueni explains why the closures mark a new low for press freedom in Kenya. Mail and Guardian

Zim Army on ‘High Alert’ as Mugabe Allies Plan to ‘Foment Disharmony within the Military’ – Report
Zimbabwe’s army has reportedly been placed on high alert following reports that ex-president Robert Mugabe’s allies could be “regrouping and planning to foment disharmony within the military”. According to the privately owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda has warned the soldiers against taking bribes from ex-Zanu-PF officials linked to former first lady Grace Mugabe’s Generation 40 (G40) group. The G40 members, who were expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party when Mugabe was ousted in November, were reportedly coalescing around Grace. Reports last weak indicated that members of the G40 were about to launch a new party in Zimbabwe. News 24

‘Tunisia Is Finished’: Smugglers Profit as Downturn Drives European Exodus
Ahmed Souissi describes himself as a civil society activist. In a country where almost every job is unionised, Souissi is the leader of the Union of Unemployed Graduates on the island of Kerkennah: the departure point for Tunisians heading – legally and illegally – to Europe. Souissi is now employed, but his union work continues. He has seen the illegal migration business take root and flourish on his island. He describes the old fishing boats – packed with desperate, predominantly young men from across the country – making their way out of the harbour in full view of the police and national guard, groups ostensibly charged with halting them. It isn’t just Kerkennah. Coastal ports all along Tunisia’s picturesque coast have served as launching points for clandestine crossings into Europe. According to a leaked Interpol report from November last year, 50 Tunisians with ties to Islamic State are thought to be among those who emigrated illegally to Italy in 2017. One might even have entered France. By the country’s own estimate, a further 29,000 Tunisians were prevented from leaving the country during 2017 alone because of concerns about terrorism. The Guardian

Foreign Aid ‘Less Effective than Expected’ at Curbing Migration, Study Says
Europe’s policy of using overseas aid to persuade people to stay in their own countries has been challenged by research suggesting the strategy may instead encourage migration. A new paper by the development economist Michael Clemens and his colleague Hannah Postel for the Center for Global Development suggests that, far from discouraging migration from the poorest countries to the developed world, foreign aid programmes may actually accelerate it. The paper – entitled Can Development Assistance Deter Migration? – turns on its head the key assumption of much EU assistance policy, arguing that “economic development in low-income countries typically raises migration”. The new research by Clemens and Postel suggests that, while “greater youth employment may deter migration in the short term for countries that remain poor”, that effect is both temporary and negligible in its effects on migration. The Guardian

The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco
[…] Some 1,600 Moroccans are thought to have joined extremist groups, mainly ISIS, since 2012, with some 300 still fighting with ISIS, according to Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Although these figures are low compared to, say, Tunisia’s—some 7,000 Tunisians joined the group over the same period—the death toll in Europe has brought into focus the need for prevention and Morocco has come to play an outsized role in the debate over how, exactly, young people can be stopped from embracing radical Islam. […] Eleven years ago, Rabat saw the opening of an elite new school called L’Institut Mohammed VI Pour La Formation Des Imams, Morchidines, et Morchidates. It turns young women into religious scholars and then sends them out into pockets of the country where radical Islamists are known to recruit disenfranchised youth—to provide spiritual guidance that contradicts the messages they might receive from violent extremists. The Atlantic



Photo: Adam Jones