Africa Media Review for February 24, 2017

Militants Kill 15 Niger Soldiers in Patrol Ambush
Militants ambushed an army patrol in Niger on Thursday, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 19, the Defense Ministry said, occurring in an area near the border with Mali where violent Islamists have been seeking to expand their reach. “A search operation is underway to neutralize the terrorists,” the ministry statement said of the attack just outside the town of Tiloa. Militants and allied criminal gangs have long exploited the areas around the vast, desert border between Mali and Niger to launch attacks, even after a French-led military intervention pushed insurgent groups back from northern Mali in 2013. Attacks in Niger are much rarer than in Mali, although militants in the past year have been expanding across borders in the fragile Sahel region into Niger and Burkina Faso. Reuters

South Africa Anti-immigrant Protests Erupt in Capital
Police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon Friday as the latest wave of anti-immigrant protests broke out in South Africa’s capital, while President Jacob Zuma condemned anti-foreigner violence and appealed for calm. “We don’t have hate! We don’t have hate!” one foreign man shouted in video posted by local broadcaster eNCA. Police tried to keep protesters apart from foreigners who gathered to express alarm about recent attacks. Resentment against foreigners has sometimes turned deadly in South Africa amid accusations that they take jobs from locals in a country where unemployment is above 25 percent. Others are blamed for drug-dealing and other crimes. In 2015, anti-immigrant riots in and around the city of Durban killed at least six people. In 2008, similar violence killed about 60 people. AP

Nigerian Student Protesters Demand South Africans Leave the Country 
Nigerian protesters on Thursday demanded that South African citizens and businesses leave the country and vandalised the head office of mobile phone giant MTN in Abuja in retaliation for anti-Nigerian violence in South Africa. The National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) said it had given South Africans 48 hours to get out otherwise the attacks would continue and the vandalisation of MTN’s offices would be just the beginning. Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two largest economies and pre-eminent diplomatic and military powers, have a volatile relationship. The students’ threats follow the looting this week of at least 20 small businesses believed to belong to immigrants in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. “We are not going to kill like them and that is why we have asked their citizens to leave, but we will sure destroy their businesses,” NANS president Aruna Kadiri told Reuters. Reuters

Nigeria Summons SA Ambassador over Anti-Immigrant Violence
Nigeria on Thursday said it had summoned South Africa’s top diplomat to register its fears about a fresh wave of violence against immigrants near Johannesburg and Pretoria. Junior foreign minister Bukar Ibrahim said the high commissioner would be “informed of [the] government’s concerns on the situation” and asked to ensure action was taken. “The Federal Government of Nigeria strongly urges the South African Government to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and property of foreigners living and working in South Africa,” he added in a statement. In the last week, more than 20 shops have been targeted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria, and at least 12 houses have been attacked in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg. Ibrahim said reports from South Africa that Nigerians had been killed were unsubstantiated. News 24

South Africa Plans Drive Against Illegal Foreign Workers
South African officials will inspect workplaces to see if firms are employing undocumented foreigners, the home affairs minister says. Malusi Gigaba added that more than 60 employees of retail chain Spar “without documentation” had been arrested. Mr Gigaba warned that firms would be “penalised” if they breached the law, and said they should not fuel tensions by “playing locals against foreigners”. His comments come amid concern that xenophobia is rising in South Africa. Many unemployed South Africans accuse foreigners of taking their jobs. BBC

Mali Soldiers, Armed Groups Hold First Joint Patrol in Northern Town
Malian soldiers staged their first joint patrol on Thursday with rival armed groups in the town of Gao, where Islamist militants killed over 77 people last month in the deadliest such attack in the country’s history. The long-awaited patrol is part of an initiative aimed at easing local tensions so that government forces can focus on fighting the militants. More such patrols are due over the next few weeks under the terms of a 2015 U.N.-brokered peace deal. Hundreds of soldiers from Mali’s army, France’s operation Barkhane, the U.N. peacekeeping mission, the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements and pro-government militias took part in the patrol, a Reuters witness said. They moved through the town on foot and in pick-up trucks, starting at around 9.45 a.m. local time (4.45 a.m. ET) on a roughly 7-km (4-mile) route and met no resistance, the witness said. Reuters

Report: Nigerian Kidnappers Demand $200,000 for Two Germans
Kidnappers are demanding a ransom of 60 million naira (about $200,000) for a German archaeologist and his associate abducted this week from a northern Nigerian village, a worker at the excavation site said. The worker said he heard a man make the demand in a telephone call Thursday to the site’s supervisor. The caller warned not to involve police or security forces, said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters. Police special forces and a special investigative team for kidnappings were searching around Jenjela village in Kaduna state, where gunmen Wednesday abducted professor Peter Breunig and his associate Johannes Behringer and walked with them into the bush. Nigeria’s acting President Yemi Osinbajo summoned the federal police chief for a briefing Thursday on efforts to find the kidnap victims, the official News Agency of Nigeria reported. VOA

Ethiopia’s Oromo Leader, 2 Others, Finally Charged with Terrorism
Dr Merera Gudina, leading opposition figure in Ethiopia and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), has finally been charged with terrorism by Ethiopian prosecutors. Gudina is accused of meeting anti-government elements during a European tour last year. He was twice denied bail by the courts as the police continued to gather evidence for charges. The privately run Addis Standard news portal reported that the opposition chief was charged along with two others. Jawar Mohammed a popular Oromo activist and Executive Director of the Oromia Media network and Berhanu Nega, were also charged with terrorism. Africa News

Ethiopia Ready for Greater Cooperation with Trump Government – PM
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has stated that his country was looking to work with the new United States government particularly in the area of trade and investment. He was speaking during a visit by a US delegation led by Republican Senator, Jim Inhofe, to Addis Ababa on Wednesday, the state-owned Ethiopia News Agency reports. The Premier said despite cordial relations between Washington and Addis, there was the need to boost trade and investment cooperation in general and the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) in particular. AGOA is a United States Trade Act, enacted seventeen years ago as Public Law 106 of the 200th Congress. The legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. The pact has since been renewed to 2025. Africa News

South Sudan President in Ethiopia for Security Talks
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa for talks on the implementation of border control and security cooperation deal signed last year. On 28 October 2016, President Kiir and Ethiopian Hailemariam Desalegn signed a series of cooperation agreements on Friday, including a security arrangement to stop hosting armed opposition groups in their respective countries. During his tree day visit, the South Sudanese president will hold talks with the Ethiopian prime minister on Friday. Also, the two leaders are expected to sign a number of bilateral cooperation agreements including security issues in line with a memorandum of understanding signed last year. Last October, the two leaders signed an agreement on border control and security cooperation but it seems that the implementation conditions had not been included in the deal. Sudan Tribune

Hundreds of Protesters Demand Departure of Guinea Bissau President
Hundreds of people marched through the capital of Guinea Bissau on Thursday demanding the departure of President Jose Mario Vaz, a day after parliament rejected a programme submitted by his prime minister. Vaz appointed Prime Minister Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo in November after months of regional talks seeking an end to an 18-month political crisis that has paralysed the institutions of the poor West African nation and stoked fears that drug traffickers might profit from the power vacuum. However, according to the constitution, the prime minister has already missed a 60-day deadline to present a government programme and budget that have to be accepted by parliament. “The party … voted against the programme of the PM because his government is illegitimate,” said Seidy Ba Sane, a spokesman for the country’s ruling PAIGC party. Reuters

World Donors Gather in Oslo to Tackle Nigeria Famine
UN aid agencies and donor countries gathered in Oslo Thursday for a two-day meeting to raise emergency aid for millions of people threatened by famine in northeastern Nigeria, a Boko Haram stronghold. The UN aims to raise up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in commitments throughout 2017 for the Lake Chad region, which comprises northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon, western Chad and southeast Niger. One of the poorest regions in the world, it has been ravaged by eight years of violence. Schools, dispensaries and agriculture are in ruins, and people have been forced to flee jihadists on foot without any resources. Across northeast Nigeria, some 5.1 million people face severe food shortages and nearly 500,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, even as the military makes gains against the group. AFP

The Lake Chad Region: ‘Africa’s Most Acute Crisis’
An international conference in Oslo on Friday aims to raise $1.5bn to help people affected by Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the Lake Chad region. Here are five things to know about the area, which is home to what the United Nations has called “Africa’s most acute crisis”. News 24

US Sees a Role for Russia in Trying to Restore Peace in Libya
The commander of U.S. forces in Africa has told VOA the only way to restore peace in Libya is to bring rival factions together, and that will require cooperative efforts by many parties, including Russia. General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads the U.S. Africa Command, discussed the continuing political chaos in Libya while in Germany for the recent Munich Security Conference. Libya is a checkerboard of separate, divided power centers: The internationally backed Government of National Accord controls only part of Tripoli, while rival power bases vie for control over the rest of the capital and other cities. Along the North African coast, the head of the Libyan National Army, General Khalifa Haftar, holds sway over much of eastern Libya through his House of Representatives. VOA

East Libya Bans Travel for Those Aged Between 18 and 45
Eastern Libya has banned men and women between the ages of 18 and 45 from travelling abroad without permission. The region’s military chief of staff, Abdelrazzak Al-Naduri, said the aim of the move was to prevent people from joining terrorist groups abroad. Libya has rival administrations in the east and west, and much of the country is effectively controlled by militias. The new order comes days after a controversial ban on women’s travel was introduced, and quickly suspended. That order, also issued by the authorities in eastern Libya, prevented women under 60 from travelling without a male companion. BBC

13 Migrants Found Suffocated in Libyan Shipping Container
Bodies of 13 African migrants have been found inside a shipping container in western Libya. Officials of the Red Crescent in Libya said the victims appeared to have been locked inside the container for several days while being transported to a coastal town. The victims included a girl, 13, and a 14-year-old boy. Another 56 people were rescued alive from the container, some suffering from serious injuries and fractures. Aid workers said many of the migrants were from Mali. Libya has become the main gateway for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. A record 181,000 migrants reached Italy along the route last year. VOA

Tunisia Receives First Kiowa Warriors
The Tunisian government has taken delivery of the first six of 24 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters from the United States in a ceremony at a military base in Gabes, Tunisia. Deliveries of the remaining 18 aircraft are expected to conclude in March, according to a Tunisian government statement issued on 4 February. According to the statement, the helicopters were handed over in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and will be used to fight terrorism. The aircraft will be able to provide reconnaissance, security, air support, surveillance and targeting. In May 2016 the United States government approved the sale of 24 ex-US Army OH-58Ds, weapons and equipment to Tunisia in a deal worth $100 million. DefenceWeb

16 Killed in Three Days of DR Congo Clashes
Sixteen people have been killed in three days of fighting this week that pitted the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army against a rebel militia, a military spokesman told AFP Thursday. Guillaume Djike, a spokesman for the army in troubled North Kivu province in the east of the nation, said 16 people had been killed from Monday to Wednesday, while five rebels from the M23 militia had been captured and 58 others had surrendered. Djike did not specify whether the dead were rebels, troops or civilians. M23 is a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group that mutinied against DR Congo in 2012, saying a peace accord signed in 2009 had not been respected by the government. The militia was defeated the following year, and hundreds of fighters fled the country. But in January, the government and residents of North Kivu said they had seen M23 fighters return from neighbouring Uganda. Daily Nation

Fox Show Apologises for Kenya Westgate Attack Video
The executive producers of Fox’s popular TV thriller 24: Legacy have apologised for using footage from a deadly terror attack in Kenya in 2013. Evan Katz and Manny Coto said it “will be removed from all future broadcasts and versions of the show”. Kenyans on Twitter earlier condemned the producers, using hashtag #SomeoneTellFox. Sixty-seven people were killed when al-Shabab militants attacked the popular Westgate mall in the capital, Nairobi. In a statement, Mr Katz and Mr Coto said that “we regretfully included news footage of an attack in Nairobi”. BBC

Kenyan Airport Attains Category One Status, Key to Non-Stop US Flights
The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has achieved the Category One status that will allow for direct flights between Kenya and the US, bringing to an end the long search for express connection between the two countries. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted Nairobi the top status after carrying out a series of assessment audits in the country. “Getting [the] Category One status for us is a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa and rest of Africa,” said Transport minister James Macharia. “The granting of this status means that airline operators, both in Kenya and US, which have long desired to operate directly to or from the US, will now be allowed to carry on their operations,” he added. In Africa, only Morocco, Cape Verde, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa have direct flights to the US. Africa Review

Poverty Plus a Poisonous Plant Blamed for Paralysis in Rural Africa
For nearly a century, people have reported mysterious epidemics of permanent paralysis in rural regions of Africa. In 1990, Hans Rosling a Swedish epidemiologist and pop-star statistician, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this month, linked the malady to cyanide in the staple crop, cassava. But Rosling would protest if I told you that cassava causes this incurable disease he called konzo. The disease requires more than a poisonous plant. Namely, poverty, severe malnourishment, conflict and a lack of infrastructure – most affected areas are far away from markets, clinics and paved roads. “If you do not find the true cause, you do not act correctly,” Rosling told me last September. To understand the connection between cassava, poverty, conflict and konzo, photographer Neil Brandvold and I traveled to a remote region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where more than 3,500 people have been brought to their knees by konzo over the past 20 years. The town is called Kahemba, which, in the region’s language, Chokwe, means the “the place of suffering.” NPR



Photo: Adam Jones