Africa Media Review for February 5, 2019

Burkina Faso Forces Kill 146 Jihadists after Village Attack
Burkina Faso’s armed forces have killed 146 jihadists in three counterterror operations in the northwest near the border with Mali, the army’s commander general said. The army’s response came after armed men attacked Kain village in Yatenga province early Monday, killing 14 people, Gen. Moise Minoungou said on national television Monday night. The army response, including air support, included fighting in Bahn in the north region and Bomboro in the Boucle du Mouhoun region. The statement said there were light injuries and no deaths among security forces. Islamic extremists in recent months have increased attacks in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region. A Canadian man was recently kidnapped and killed, and another Canadian and Italian are missing. Gunmen in the past week killed at least 14 people in attacks on a marketplace and military base in the Sahel region.  AP

Car Bomb Kills 11 at Somalia Shopping Mall – Police
A car bomb exploded at a shopping mall in Somalia’s capital on Monday, killing 11 people and wounding 10 in an attack that police said was probably carried out by Islamist group al Shabaab. The blast occurred in Mogadishu’s Hamarweyne district, a busy area with shops and restaurants. “Several dead people were removed from a wrecked building at the blast scene. So far death toll is 11 civilians and 10 others injured,” police officer Mohamed Hussein said. Hussein had earlier put the death toll at two. A Reuters witness saw one dead person at the scene, where four cars burned and a restaurant was destroyed.  Reuters

US Warns Terrorists May Target Americans in Kenya
[…] on Monday (Feb. 4), the US embassy in Nairobi issued a security alert cautioning its citizens to exercise caution across Kenya. The embassy said it had “credible information” that Westerners in towns including Nanyuki itself alongside the capital and the coastal areas faced the risk of being targeted by extremists. The message also noted that “shopping malls, hotels, and places of worship” were of particular concern, and urged those going there to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activities. The security message comes weeks after the terrorist group al-Shabaab killed 21 people at the luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi. The al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group said it carried the attack in retaliation for Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Since then, Kenyan security officials have intensified their fight against terrorism, arresting suspects including 17 youngsters later released who were found staying in a two-bedroom house in Kwale county along the Kenyan coast. Hotel managers, public bus operators, and managers of shopping centers were also ordered to step up security in their establishments.  Quartz

Backing Chad’s Deby, French Warplanes Stop Rebel Advance from Libya
French warplanes struck a rebel convoy in northern Chad on Sunday, helping local troops repel an incursion across the border from Libya, a sign France’s support for President Idriss Deby goes beyond fighting Islamist militants. Mirage jets struck a column of 40 pickups carrying armed groups from Libya deep into Chadian territory, the French army said in a statement. “This intervention at the request of Chadian authorities helped hinder this hostile advance and disperse the column,” it said. The strikes were the first by French jets in support of Chadian troops since the rebel Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) based in southern Libya increased its activities last year in a bid to overthrow him. The Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR), a rebel Chadian coalition created in 2009 after almost toppling Deby, said it was behind the offensive. CCMSR is a splinter group of the UFR.  VOA

UN Chief: Mercenaries Are ‘Feeding Off’ Terrorism and Crime
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that reports suggest there has been “a surge in the use of mercenaries,” who are not only fighting in wars and illegally exploiting natural resources but are now “feeding off” transnational organized crime, terrorism and violent extremism. The U.N. chief called for much broader support for regional and international conventions against the use of mercenaries and said those compacts need to be updated. He also called for prosecuting mercenaries and for strengthening efforts at preventing people, especially the young, from being recruited as mercenaries. Guterres told the Security Council that while “the shadowy nature” of mercenaries makes data hard to come by, their impact is clear in the worsening of conflicts, weakened stability of countries, the undermining of the rule of law and the large numbers of people forced to flee their homes.  AP

Zimbabwe Teachers to Strike, Ignoring Government Appeal
Zimbabwean teachers will go ahead with a national strike from Tuesday after last-ditch negotiations with the government failed, unions said, risking more unrest after violent protests last month. The main public sector union backed down last week on its plan to strike for better pay, citing a volatile situation after security forces cracked down on protesters in January, but teachers said they would go ahead with a work stoppage. Government officials met teachers’ unions on Monday in Harare to try to dissuade them from walking out, and to continue negotiations, but without success. The country’s 305,000 government workers are demanding wage rises and payments in dollars to help them to deal with spiraling inflation and an economic crisis that has sapped supplies of cash, fuel and medicines in state hospitals.  VOA

Zimbabwe: Coup Rumors Swirl around Mugabe Successor
Rumors had been circulating in Zimbabwe that an attempted coup was staged in January while President Mnangagwa was abroad on a four-nation official tour. He was quoted by local newspapers on Friday as saying there was no evidence of a rift between him and his vice president, Constantino Chiwenga. “I have known Chiwenga and his colleagues [in the military] since the struggle years. We are comrades and understand each other better than you think,” the president said, referring to the struggle for independence from the UK. Analysts say another coup in the southern African country would not be possible within less than two years. “The said rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga has not reached such levels. There is disharmony and discord but the two need each other,” political analyst Alexander Rusero told DW.  Deutsche Welle

S Sudan Military Court Tries Army General for Treason
A military court on Monday began hearing the trial of an army general charged with treason for allegedly plotting a rebellion against President Salva Kiir’s government. Major General Stephen Buoy Rolnyang has been charged with “treason, offenses related to insecurity,” as well as disobeying military orders, according to the army’s deputy spokesperson Brigadier General Santo Domic. He is being tried by a seven-member military court panel constituted by army chief General Jok Riak. Buoy was arrested in May last year in northern Mayom, after defying military orders to report to army headquarters in Juma, said Domic. The spokesperson added that after he defied these orders, Buoy and the troops in his division unilaterally decided to move to Mayom – a move interpreted as defection to wage rebellion. AFP

Sudan Minister Appeals to Young as Protests Near 7th Week
Sudan’s defense minister said on Monday young people caught up in recent turmoil had “reasonable ambition” — the second apparently conciliatory gesture in three days from a senior government figure. Students, activists and other protesters frustrated with economic hardships have held almost daily demonstrations across Sudan since December 19, mounting the most sustained challenge to President Omar al-Bashir’s three decades in power. Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf did not directly address the protesters’ concerns, but said the situation in the country showed a schism between young and old. That, he added, “requires intergenerational communication and fair solutions to youth problems and realizing their reasonable ambition.”  VOA

Ethiopia Blames Sudan for Failing to Prevent Border Arms Smuggling
Addis Ababa said frustrated by the failure of the Sudanese authorities to curb the continued arms smuggling into Ethiopia through its border and warned it may negatively impact bilateral relations. During the last year 2018, the Ethiopian government announced several times the seizure of hundreds of guns and pistols as well as ammunition through the Amhara region which borders the Blue Nile state of Sudan. In May 2018, the Ethiopian police said they captured 116 guns and thousands of bullets. Also, in October it seized 481 pistols and 13,000 bullets. The herders and farmers In a biannual report to the Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representatives on Tuesday 29 January, Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu told the lawmakers that his government raised with the Sudanese authorities the need to enhance border control operations to prevent increasing arms smuggling from its territory.  Sudan Tribune

New DRC President Seeks to Reassure Security Forces
Democratic Republic of Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi, sought on Monday to reassure the country’s security forces that he would be as “benevolent” as his predecessor, after taking power in the country’s first-ever peaceful change of leadership. Tshisekedi, who has no military experience, has made several overtures to the powerful security apparatus since succeeding long-term president Joseph Kabila after a bitterly-fought election. “Do not worry about anything. You are in good hands, your supreme commander will be as benevolent towards you as his predecessor,” he told hundreds of troops and their families in a visit to the presidential guard in Kinshasa. He told the soldiers he planned to check military rations and look at improving the living conditions for soldiers and their families, in a speech greeted with cheers from the crowd. AFP

DRC President’s First Trips Abroad: Angola, Kenya and Congo Republic
President of the Democratic Republic of Congo is set to make his first foreign trips, the presidency has announced. He will conduct a days’ trip to Angola, Kenya and Congo Republic starting Monday, February 4. Felix Tshisekedi who took office on January 24 became the country’s fifth president taking over from Joseph Kabila. It was the first time the country had experienced a peaceful transfer of power. His first stop will be in neighbouring Angola where he is expected to confer his counterpart Joao Lourenco. He will travel over to East Africa specifically to Kenya on Tuesday and round up the outing in Brazzaville, capital of Congo Republic. Africa News

Outgoing Congo Government Defends Lifetime Salaries for Ex-Ministers
Prime Minster Bruno Tshibala, who is due to submit his government’s resignation to new President Felix Tshisekedi in the coming days, signed the decrees last November, but they were only widely reported in the media last week. One provides for former prime ministers, starting with Tshibala, to receive a monthly salary equivalent to 30 percent of the current prime minister’s, a monthly housing stipend of $5,000 and health care overseas. The other decree calls for former ministers to receive monthly salaries equal to 30 percent of the current minister’s, a $1,000 monthly housing stipend and one international flight per year in business class.  France 24

South Africa Disappointed after Western Powers’ Criticise Policy in Memo to Ramaphosa
South Africa expressed disappointment on Sunday after the United States and other Western powers wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa urging him to tackle corruption, and said those countries had breached diplomatic protocol. The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, had sent a joint memorandum to Ramaphosa through their diplomatic missions in Pretoria to warn that foreign investment was at risk unless South Africa takes tangible action against perpetrators of corruption and other serious crimes. The countries also expressed concern over what they called “obstacles” to foreign investment such as “constant changes of goal posts” in the regulatory framework for mining and black economic empowerment targets, the paper said. It did not say when the memo was sent.  Reuters

Nigerian Candidate’s U.S. Visit Was Temporary Reprieve from Graft Ban
Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar visited Washington two weeks ago to meet with top U.S. diplomats and lawmakers thanks to a temporary suspension of a travel ban linked to decade-old bribery scandals, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.S. administration has not commented on Atiku’s status or his travel, but several U.S. diplomats and others familiar with the visit told Reuters the former vice president has been banned from entering the United States for the past several years after he figured prominently in two corruption cases. For Atiku’s supporters, the fact he was able to visit Washington on Jan. 17 and 18 without being arrested was proof that the allegations were baseless. “It is fake news, and we showed that,” said Harold Molokwu, who heads the U.S. chapter of Atiku’s People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria. Reuters

R4.8bn for a Prestige eSwatini Project — for a Summit Unlikely to Happen
An extravagant prestige project allegedly commissioned by eSwatini’s absolute monarch Mswati III for the hosting of 2020’s African Union summit has more than quadrupled in price to R4.8-billion, amaBhungane has been told. It has also been learnt that eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) has not formally applied to stage the summit and is considered unlikely to host the event. The project in question is the International Convention Centre (ICC) and Five-Star Hotel currently under construction in the hotels hub of the Ezulwini Valley, between Mbabane and Manzini. Given the depressed state of eSwatini’s hospitality industry, it is widely seen as a potential white elephant. A senior source in eSwatini’s ministry of finance told amaBhungane that the cost of constructing the two structures was now set at R4.8-billion — a massive escalation from the R1-billion reported in the media in 2013, when the project was first unveiled. Daily Maverick

Experts Call for Emergency Declaration on Congo’s Ebola
An international group of public health experts on Monday called on the World Health Organization to convene an emergency committee to consider declaring Congo’s Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency. The group of experts wrote in the Lancet that such a call would help galvanize “high-level political, financial, and technical support to address the Ebola outbreak that started last May.” The outbreak, declared just over six months ago in Congo’s east, is the country’s tenth and the world’s second largest recorded. Instability, dense populations, political instability and mass displacement have contributed to the spread of the disease. “The epidemic is not under control, and has a high risk of spread to the region, perhaps globally,” said lead author Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.  AP

China Just Quietly Wrote Off a Chunk of Cameroon’s Debt. Why the Secrecy?
When top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met Cameroon President Paul Biya in the capital Yaounde last month and wrote off a chunk of the African country’s debt, the deal very nearly went unnoticed. China issued no press release, and the Cameroon government did not mention the debt cancellation in its write-up of Yang’s visit. It was only when a Chinese news report later alleged that Beijing had written off 3 trillion Central African CFA francs ($5.2 billion) of Cameroon’s debt during Yang’s trip that the existence of a deal emerged. The figure was incorrect. Five billion dollars is close to the amount Cameroon has borrowed from Beijing since 2000, according to the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI), and exceeds the amount the country is believed to still owe.  CNN

Tanzania’s Port Out of Africa
Bagamoyo, a small fishing port 70km north of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, may become Africa’s biggest container port in the next 10 years. China’s largest public port operator, China Merchants Holdings, is about to start what the Ecofin Agency called ‘the most significant construction project in the last four decades of Chinese-Tanzanian relations’. Part of the $10bn funding will come from the Sultanate of Oman’s sovereign wealth fund and China’s Exim Bank. There will be a special economic zone modelled on Shenzhen, China. The piers and docks will extend along 20km of coastline, and handle 20m containers a year, more than Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port. Tanzanian authorities say it will create an industrial revolution in a mainly rural country where 80% still live below the poverty threshold. Tanzania, a rare example of stability in this region, has been governed by John Magufuli since late 2015. He is the political heir of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, Party of the Revolution), founded in 1977 by Julius Nyerere. According to Daudi Mukangara, a political scientist at the University of Dar es Salaam, the CCM’s original brand of socialism did not withstand ‘the neoliberal assault of the late 1980s and 90s, which denationalised the very notion of nationalism’. Tanzania has one of Africa’s strongest growth rates, 5.8% in 2018 and a forecast of 6% in 2019 according to the IMF, and has begun a massive infrastructure development programme. Le Monde Diplomatique

Battle for US Skies: Ethiopian Airlines Ups the Stakes
Africa’s leading carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has upped the competition for the US market, with this week’s announcement that it will introduce three-times-a-week flights to the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, adding to its flights to the city’s Newark International Airport. The announcement may not come as good news to the region’s other airlines, which are also looking to serve the same market. Ethiopian said on Tuesday that it was restructuring its network, opening new destinations, adding frequencies and shifting gateways as it seeks to offer passengers travelling between Africa and the US the best possible connectivity and the shortest routes. This, coming barely two months after Kenya Airways started its daily direct flights to JFK Airport, and a few months before Rwandan flag carrier RwandAir launches its flights, may further upset these carriers’ plans. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones