Africa Media Review for February 25, 2019

Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat
The Macina Liberation Front has opportunistically played on perceptions of ethnic, economic, religious, and political marginalization to become one of the most active militant Islamist groups in Mali. […] “The Center is what binds our country together,” observed Ali Nouhoum Diallo, the former president of Mali’s National Assembly. Yet, it is in the center of Mali that violence has dramatically escalated since 2015. Since then, reported violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in Mopti and Ségou regions increased from a few dozen to nearly 150 per year, making central Mali the most dangerous region in the country. Over 500 civilians were killed in this region in 2018, and more than 60,000 people have fled the violence. In Mopti region, over 972,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Despite growing international and regional engagement, the cycle of violence has not stabilized. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

‘Dozens Killed’ in Nigeria Poll Violence, Counting under Way
The violence during Nigeria’s delayed presidential and legislative polls has claimed at least 27 lives and injured several others, an NGO closely following the election said. On Sunday, the Election Network group said the outbreak of violence was “worrying” and the authorities had been warned about the risk as another civil society group said the death toll could be as high as 35. “Prior to the polls, we tracked 251 election-related deaths and circulated it to the relevant stakeholders, so the warning signals are there but nothing was done about it,” Election Network lead strategist Adewunmi Emoruwa said. “[The] government must now show strong will to prosecute [the] agents responsible for the violence, otherwise we might witness a resort to self-help by citizens, which could potentially escalate the situation and lead to more deaths post elections,” he added. Al Jazeera

In Nigeria, Delayed Election Takes Place amid Polling Glitches and Boko Haram Attacks
Tens of millions of Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday, a week after a last-minute election delay, as Africa’s most populous nation struggles with challenges including a stumbling economy and an ongoing Islamist insurgency by Boko Haram militants. Just before polls opened, one soldier was killed and 20 others were injured as Boko Haram fighters waged attacks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the largest city in the northeast. The election delay was announced just five hours before polls opened, amid reports that voting material had not been delivered to all parts of the country. The postponement was expected to push turnout lower. Nigeria has no absentee voting system, and so many who returned to their hometowns to vote on Feb. 16 returned to where they live, not being able to afford a week away from work.  The Washington Post

Senegal President’s Party Say Results Show He Won Vote
Senegal’s prime minister has claimed that incumbent president Macky Sall has won re-election, though the opposition rejected his assertion and said the vote should go to a runoff. Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, who is from the ruling party, told reporters late Sunday that his unofficial results show that Sall had won 57 percent of the vote according to results compiled by their team. The winning candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round. “Tomorrow, the people will have the results in all departments. We will see that President Sall was re-elected in the first round,” said Dionne, adding that his party’s unofficial results show that Sall won in 13 of Senegal’s 14 regions. However, top opposition candidate Idrissa Seck told reporters that he and his supporters do not accept the unofficial reports of a Sall victory.  AP

Senegal’s President Tightens Grip on Power Ahead of Elections
Hotels, a stadium and a conference center are rising in the capital, Dakar. A train line will soon zip commuters from downtown to the new $575 million airport. A bridge that spans the Gambia River is drastically cutting travel time across Senegal and its neighbor Gambia. These are crowning achievements of President Macky Sall of Senegal in his first seven-year term in office. Billboards that line the streets remind voters of his plan for an “emerging Senegal” as they prepare to head to the polls on Sunday. But those achievements gloss over criticisms that the president has consolidated power and used what some say are undemocratic tactics to sideline opponents. His toughest competitor, a former mayor of Dakar, is in jail, sent there after prosecutions ordered up by the government. The president failed to fulfill his biggest campaign promise in 2012: to reduce his own presidential term from seven to five years. His executive actions make it all but certain that he will win the weekend vote.  The New York Times

State of Emergency Declared in Sudan – President Al Bashir Dissolves Govt
President Omar Al Bashir has declared a State of Emergency in Sudan, and dissolved the federal government and state governments. The State of Emergency will be in force of a year. In six Republican Decrees issued on Friday night, Al Bashir dissolved the national Council of Ministers, assigned the Secretaries General and Undersecretaries of Ministries to run the work of their ministries, assigned a new ‘government of competencies’, relieved the Walis (governors) of the states, dissolved the governments of the states, and appointed high-ranking police and military officers as the new Walis of the states. In a speech at the Presidential Palace on Friday, Al Bashir also announced the suspension of the constitutional amendment procedures, which would allow him to run for a new term, stressing to make the National Dialogue document the basis for dialogue with all political forces. Radio Dabanga

Sudan PM Sworn In as Protesters Rally against Emergency
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir swore in a new premier Sunday as hundreds of demonstrators called on the veteran leader to resign after he imposed a state of emergency across the country. Bashir imposed a year-long emergency on Friday after a deadly crackdown failed to suppress weeks of protests against his three-decade rule. The veteran leader, who swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, dissolved the cabinet and provincial governments, and pledged to bring in technocrats to help end the economic crisis — the key factor behind the protests. On Sunday, former governor of the agricultural state of Jazeera, Mohamed Tahir Ela, was sworn in as the new prime minister at a ceremony, an AFP photographer said. Defense Minister General Awad Ibnouf was also sworn in as the first vice president after his predecessor Bakri Hassan Saleh was sacked by Bashir.  VOA

Sudan’s Newly Appointed Military Governors Take Oath
Newly appointed military governors in Sudan’s government on Sunday took constitutional oath before President Omar al-Bashir. On Friday, the Sudanese leader imposed a one-year state of emergency across the country and dissolved his cabinet and state governments, in a bid to quell nationwide protests calling for him to step down. Bashir, who came to power in a military coup backed by Islamists in 1989, wore military uniform as he swore in the newly appointed military governors for the country’s 18 states in the presence of his new first vice president, Gen. Awad Ahmed Ibn Auf. Former governor of Gazira state, Mohamed Tahir Ayala, was also sworn in as the new prime minister. Radio Tanazuj

US to Deny Visas to DRC Officials over Election Misconduct
The United States has made good on its threat to penalise individuals that undermine electoral processes, announcing on Friday that it would deny visas to officials that were involved in election misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Washington said it wanted to send a clear signal of the need for accountability in the conflict-torn nation but stressed that it will still work with the controversially elected new president, Felix Tshisekedi. The United States said it would reject any visa request from five senior Congolese figures as well as their immediate family members over “involvement in significant corruption relating to the election process.”  Africa News

French Troops in Mali Kill Top Commander of Al Qaeda-Linked Group
French troops fighting Islamist militants in Mali have killed a one of the Sahel region’s leading jihadists, France’s defence minister said on Friday. Yahia Abou Hamman was the number two in command of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an umbrella group for al Qaeda-linked insurgents in West Africa’s Sahara. The group claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks to disrupt Mali’s election last July, and more recent strikes in Burkina Faso. “The removal of a prominent leader helps to dismantle the networks and disrupt terrorist activities in the region,” Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a statement.  Africa News

Burkina Forces Kill Nearly 30 ‘Terrorists’ in Operation: Military
Burkina Faso’s armed forces killed around 30 suspected militants last week in an land and air operation against jihadist groups operating in the east of the country, the military said on Sunday. Burkina Faso, part of a joint French-led military campaign against jihadists in the Sahel, is on the frontline of the Islamist militant insurgency that has gripped parts of west and central Africa. During last week’s operations, special forces, army and air force units hit militants in Kombienbiga, Kabonga and other eastern regions between Tuesday and Wednesday, an army statement said. “This operation has taken out 29 terrorists and recovered an important quantity of weapons and ammunition as well as destroying a large stock of food supplies,” it said. France 24

The Story of How a Local Mozambique Islamic Group Become Africa’s Latest Terror Threat
Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province has been held hostage by insurgents for nearly 17 months. Armed attacks, decapitations and the destruction of property have become common. Many are worried that the violence may escalate and destabilize the country’s economy further. One of the biggest problems is that nobody really knows who the insurgents are. They don’t make public statements, so their motives are unclear. Speculation and conspiracy theories abound. Many, including state officials and the new president of the Renamo opposition party, believe the insurgency is part of a struggle within the national elite for the control of Cabo Delgado’s oil, gas and mineral riches. The government offers few – and contradictory – explanations. It has said both that the violence is committed by local unemployed “criminals”, and that the attacks are the result of global jihadism trying to move into Mozambique.  Quartz

US Says 4 Airstrikes in Somalia Kill 2 Al-Shabab Fighters
The United States military says it has killed two al-Shabab extremists in four airstrikes in Somalia. The attacks eliminated checkpoints and facilities used by al-Shabaab to collect taxes to fund their violent campaign in Somalia, said a statement Sunday from the U.S. Africa command. “In addition to creating enhanced security, airstrikes help to disrupt al-Shabaab operations and the network while preventing future attacks by this terrorist group,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. According to the statement, two airstrikes on Saturday hit the Kunyow Barrow area, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Another strike was in the Awdeegle area, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Mogadishu and a fourth was near Janaale, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.  AP

Ramaphosa Announces Special SIU Tribunal to Fast-Track Recovery of State Funds
President Cyril Ramaphosa has established a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Special Tribunal, in an effort to fast track the recovery of funds lost to the state from corruption or irregular spending. The Presidency said in a statement on Sunday that there was a need to fast-track the finalisation of matters that had been referred for civil litigation after the conclusion of an investigation. These are matters where the SIU would ordinarily have gone the civil litigation route to have government contracts declared invalid, or set aside. Spokesperson Khusela Diko said: “Fast-tracking these matters through the Special Tribunal will enable the SIU to recover monies and or assets lost by state institutions through irregular and corrupt means; thus ensuring that those who are responsible for the loss of monies and or assets by state institutions are held accountable. The litigation process includes both public and private sectors, persons and entities.”  Mail and Guardian

Fresh Protests against Fifth Term for Bouteflika in Algeria
Hundreds of people demonstrated on Sunday in the Algerian capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, as the ailing leader was scheduled to go to Switzerland for a medical checkup. Police sprayed tear gas, brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, an AFP journalist said. But turnout was much lower than on Friday when tens of thousands took to the streets including in Algiers, where demonstrations are strictly banned. Security forces arrested more than 40 people after that protest, which saw police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.  France 24

African Union Seeks to Kill EU Plan to Process Migrants in Africa
The African Union is seeking to kill off the EU’s latest blueprint for stemming migration, claiming that it would breach international law by establishing “de facto detention centres” on African soil, trampling over the rights of those being held. A “common African position paper” leaked to the Guardian reveals the determination of the 55-member state body, currently headed by Egypt, to dissuade any of its coastal states from cooperating with Brussels on the plan. The EU set plans for “regional disembarkation platforms” in motion last summer to allow migrants found in European waters to have their asylum requests processed on African soil. Brussels has a similar arrangement in place with Libya, where there are 800,000 migrants, 20,000 of whom are being held in government detention centres. The Libyan authorities have been accused of multiple and grave human rights abuses. A UN report recently stated that migrants in the country faced “unimaginable horrors”.  The Guardian

Turkish President Erdogan Denounces Egypt’s Sisi over Executions
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticised his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after the recent execution of nine people in Egypt, saying he refused to talk to “someone like him”. “They killed nine young people recently. This is not something we can accept,” Erdogan said on Saturday in an interview with Turkish TV channels CNN-Turk and Kanal D, referring to the execution on Wednesday of men sentenced for the murder of the Egyptian prosecutor general in 2015. “Of course, we are going to be told that it is a decision of the judiciary, but there, justice, elections, all that, are nonsense. There is an authoritarian system, even totalitarian,” Erdogan added.  Al Jazeera

Ethnic Tubus Fear Southern Libya Offensive
The ethnic group fears vengeance by Arab communities that have joined an offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army. Long marginalized, Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger, an area long at the mercy of roaming rebel groups, traffickers and extremists. […] The LNA says it is seeking to purge “terrorist and criminal groups,” and some accuse the Tubus of supporting Chadian rebels. But Senoussi dismisses the offensive as “a threat to the social peace of the whole region.” Tubu lawmakers even allege that ethnic cleansing is under way. The community was among the first to join the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed Muammar Qaddafi. But the former dictator’s downfall by no means improved Tubus’ standing in Libya. Arab News

Iran Envoy in Botched Plot to Free Suspects in Kenya
The Iranian ambassador to Kenya is caught up in a criminal investigation over a daring plot to free two terror suspects from police custody, with the potential to trigger a diplomatic row. On Friday, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) arrested two suspects alleged to have defrauded ambassador Hadi Farajvand of an unknown amount of money after introducing themselves as senior Interior ministry officials who could secure the release of Iranian nationals Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousavi who are in police custody pending a decision by the Supreme Court on whether to release them or not. Police are investigating Mr Wesley Kiptanui Kipkemoi and Mr Shemgrant Agyei for their alleged role in the elaborate plan straight out of a spy movie. The two, who are spending the weekend in police custody after being questioned by DCI detectives, are likely to be taken to court Monday.  Daily Nation

Anger in Ethiopia as Officials Demolish Hundreds of Houses
The Ethiopian government has begun demolishing thousands of houses they say are illegal in the Oromia region in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa. The government said it intends to tear down 12,000 houses that were built illegally on government land, taking advantage of widespread unrest in the region over the past three years. But residents allege that they were paying taxes to the government on the properties. “This house that I built with my entire saving is now gone,” said Mekdes Melu, whose home was among the nearly 500 that have been demolished so far. “What I’m supposed to do now? Where can I go with my family of four?” The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Liliana Farha, said she is concerned about the planned demolition of the houses, in neighborhoods called Legetafo and Legedadi.  AP



Photo: Adam Jones