Africa Media Review for January 13, 2020

Al-Shabab Militants Kill 3 Teachers in Kenya, Abduct 1
Al-Shabab extremists killed three people in an attack in eastern Kenya, police said Monday. The militants from neighboring Somalia attacked the settlement of Kamuthe in Garissa county, setting fire to a police post and destroying a telecommunications mast, police said in a report seen by The Associated Press. Three non-Muslim teachers were killed and a Muslim one was abducted, the report said. The attackers spared the life of a female nurse due to her gender, it added. Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for its troops being present in Somalia since 2011 to fight the militants. The group has carried out numerous attacks on Kenya, killing hundreds. Earlier this month, the al-Qaida-linked group attacked a military base used by Kenyan and U.S. forces, killing three Americans and destroying aircraft and other machinery. Since December, al-Shabab has increased the frequency of attacks in the five frontline Kenyan counties that border Somalia and that the government has named as a hotspot for extremism. AP

French Summit Aims to Boost Counterterror Fight in W. Africa
France is preparing its military to better target Islamic extremists in a West African region that has seen a surge of deadly violence. But first, French President Emmanuel Macron is asking African heads of state to answer a key question: “Do you want us there?” As a security summit begins Monday in France with the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, Macron hopes to counter anti-French sentiment that has bubbled up amid frustration over the extremist attacks that killed thousands of people last year alone. France, which once colonized much of West Africa, has some 4,500 troops in the sprawling Sahel region and has been accused by some residents of failing to stabilize it. Some in Mali, which has struggled for close to a decade with extremism, have protested the French presence. Macron wants the summit in the French southern city of Pau to help re-legitimize the French operation in the Sahel by sending a strong joint message. A declaration is expected in which France and the African nations vow to fight extremism by military and political means. … Initially scheduled for December, the summit was postponed after a Dec. 11 attack by Islamic extremists that killed at least 71 soldiers in Niger, the deadliest such assault against Nigerien troops. AP

Update: 89 Niger Soldiers Killed in Jihadist Attack on Camp: Govt
A jihadist attack on a military camp in western Niger three days ago left 89 soldiers dead, according to a new toll announced by the government on public radio Sunday. “After a thorough search, the toll has been established as 89 dead among friendly forces, and 77 dead for the enemy,” said spokesman Zakaria Abdourahame. Three days of national mourning have been declared to honour the dead. The previous toll given for Thursday’s attack on the Chinegodar camp was 25 soldiers killed. Heavily armed assailants had stormed the military base in an area where dozens also died in a previous jihadist attack. The raid near to the volatile frontier with Mali was carried out by attackers in vehicles and on motorbikes. The attack happened in the same region Tillaberi, also bordering Burkina Faso, where 71 Niger soldiers were killed in a December attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, that saw hundreds of jihadists storm a camp near the border with Mali with artillery. The latest attack is the deadliest on Niger’s military since Islamist extremist violence began to spill over from neighbouring Mali in 2015. AFP

Moscow to Host Meeting of Libya’s Rival Leaders
Russia is set to host a meeting of Libya’s rival leaders Monday – a mediation effort closely coordinated with Turkey. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya’s U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli, and his rival Khalifa Hifter will meet for talks in Moscow. The negotiations follow a truce proposed by Russia and Turkey that began Sunday – the first break in fighting in months. There were immediate reports of violations by both sides, however, raising concerns it might not hold. The truce came as Libya’s civil war was on the brink of a major escalation. Various foreign players back Libya’s two rival governments, and they have recently been stepping up their involvement in the oil-rich nation’s conflict. … Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Libya with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Moscow on Saturday. The Russian leader welcomed Germany’s plan to hold a Libya peace summit in Berlin early this year. On Sunday, Putin also discussed Libya in phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The Kremlin said they emphasized the need to respect the truce that took effect Sunday and spoke in support of the planned summit in Berlin. AP

Multinational Forces ‘Kill Top ISWAP Commander’
The multinational joint task force (MNJTF) has announced that it has killed a high ranking commander in the Islamic State, West African Province (ISWAP), named Khalifa Umar. A statement from the Task Force said the influential commander of the terror group was “eliminated” during an airborne attack on one of the insurgents’ hideout on a Lake Chad community known as Tunbums Sabo. … Mr Antigha, a colonel, said “the Air Task Force of the MNJTF neutralized Amir Khalifa Umar who was the third-ranking commander in ISWAP leadership. “He was neutralized in an air interdiction conducted yesterday in Tunbum Sabon.” “Khalifa Umar was a High-Value Target considering that he was also the Chief Judge of ISWAP,” Mr Antigha said. … Last week, MNJTF said it carried out airstrikes on “ISWAP training camp and mustering area in Tumbun Madayi” during which “several terrorists and their commanders who gathered for training or an attack were neutralized or maimed.” Premium Times

Nigerian Troops Kill 110 Bandits: Official
Nigerian armed forces have killed 110 bandits in the north-west in a crackdown on criminals who had refused to embrace the peace process in Zamfara. The Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, police and Department of State Services worked together to find the criminals. Speaking in Zamfara, acting Force Information Officer, Captain Ayobami Oni-Orisan on Sunday said the army renewed the use of force against the bandits because they refused to embrace the peace process introduced by Zamfara six months ago. Zamfara had declared an amnesty to bandits, but some of the bandits refused to surrender and embrace the peace process. During the crackdown, the army rescued 10 kidnap victims and recovered arms and special ammunition, as well as 23 motorcycles. Three bandits – Abubakar Kiri Koloma, Abubakar Ibrahim and Haruna Alhaji Yaro – have been arrested. Captain Oni-Orisan said they are also collaborating with the Defence Forces of Niger Republic, which has led to the arrest of a high-profile gunrunner, popularly known as “Kunene.” The East African

DR Congo Army Says ADF Rebels Killed 30 Soldiers
Islamist rebels killed 30 soldiers and wounded another 70, some seriously, during fierce fighting last week in eastern DR Congo, army officials said. They suffered the losses during the latest offensive Thursday against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in North Kivu province, Major Mak Hazukai told journalists Saturday. The army captured the ADF’s headquarters during the battle at Madina, and killed 40 rebel fighters, including five of their leaders, Hazukai added. On Friday, the cabinet posted a tweet on the prime minister’s account congratulating the army on their capture of what they described as the one of the last bastions of the ADF. North Kivu sits on the border with Uganda. The ADF, rebels originally from Uganda, has been waging a campaign of violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for years. … The army announced its campaign against the ADF on October 30. The rebels are accused of having killed more than a thousand people in the Beni region, in the northern part of North Kivu, since 2014. AFP

Eastern Congo Killings, Rapes May Amount to Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, U.N. Report Finds
A report from the United Nations’ office for human rights said Friday that killings and rapes committed by ethnic militias in Congo’s northeastern Ituri province from 2017 to 2019 may amount to crimes against humanity and even genocide. The attacks displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom remain in refu­gee camps within Ituri, as well as in neighboring Uganda. They were carried out largely by members of the Lendu community against the Hema, a larger but politically weaker group. The Congolese military and local police did not do enough to stem the violence, the report added. Allegations of such an extreme nature are rare, since both crimes against humanity and genocide have stringent definitions, but the fact that the United Nations created those definitions lends credibility to the accusations. … At least 701 people have been killed and 168 wounded, and an additional 142 were victims of sexual violence, according to the report. Almost all the victims were Hema, but the report did mention cases of Hema retaliatory attacks that killed and wounded Lendus. The Washington Post

Tunisia Parliament Rejects Gov’t of PM-Designate Habib Jemli
Tunisia’s parliament has rejected a government proposed by Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli after months of negotiations between political parties to fill positions. During a heated day-long parliamentary session on Friday, only 72 of the 213 legislators present voted in favour of Jemli’s cabinet. Jemli, an agricultural engineer by training, had in early January announced the formation of a cabinet made up of independent technocrats, a move that came a month after being nominated by the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party to head a new government. Ennahdha emerged as the most powerful party after winning the most seats in the country’s October parliamentary election. But the self-described Muslim Democratic party’s 52 of a total 217 seats available for grabs meant that it still needed to win the backing of other parties. Tunisian President Kais Saied, who was also elected in October, now has 10 days to designate a new prime minister. If Saied’s appointee fails to form a government, parliament is dissolved and a new election will be called. Al Jazeera

Police Disperse Protesters in Algerian Capital
Baton-wielding police broke up a protest in Algiers on Friday, cracking down on demonstrators vowing to keep up the anti-regime movement that has rocked Algeria for nearly a year. Police charged a group of several dozen people chanting anti-regime slogans, after demonstrators were blocked from gathering at the central Algiers rallying point of the weekly protest marches, now in their 47th week. “Civil state, not military state,” shouted protesters, a week after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced the formation of a new government. Police had been deployed in force in the centre of the capital and several protesters were arrested, according to witnesses. “The Hirak (protest movement) must continue until the complete removal of the ‘gang’ – these traitors who sold out the country and hurt the future of our youth,” said protester Farida Loukam. “This Tebboune was designated, he was not chosen by the people,” Loukam told AFP after she was violently shoved as police tried to tear away her banner. AFP

Abiy Ahmed Woos the Ethiopian Diaspora in South Africa
Abiy Ahmed’s visit to South Africa this weekend was unprecedented on several fronts: not only was it the first ever state visit, in either direction, between Ethiopia and South Africa, but it was also the first time a sitting Ethiopian prime minister has spoken directly to the sizeable diaspora here. Before the official engagements, however, Abiy needed to get some politics out of the way: cementing ties between the continent’s oldest political party, the ANC, and its newest (Abiy’s Prosperity Party was launched in November last year). … Next up was the formal reception at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday morning, where President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed him with all the usual pomp, platitudes and ceremony. But the two leaders also had serious issues to discuss, most significantly the xenophobic violence in South Africa, which has frequently been directed towards the Ethiopian community here; and a request that Ramaphosa intervene in the bitter dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Mail & Guardian

Sudan PM: ‘Our Partnership with the Military Is Unique’
Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reiterated the importance of structural reform in all security forces. He has also expressed his satisfaction with the current cooperation and partnership with the military. In an interview with El Arabiya and El Hadath TV channels last week, Hamdok stated that “there must be structural reforms in all the security forces, providing these forces with qualified people, and creating an army with new convictions.” However, he did not confirm whether or not such reform will include the now defunct National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), – now called the General Intelligence Service (GIS). He stated that the partnership between civilians and military personnel is unique. “We work and face all challenges together,” he said. The PM acknowledged that there is a disparity in the performance of the Ministers. “When we decide to make a change, we will not hesitate to do so.” Radio Dabanga

South Sudan: Government, Rebel Group Sign Declaration of Peace
South Sudan’s government and holdout opposition groups on Sunday signed a declaration of principles, in a critical step towards resolving years of conflict. The document, dubbed the Rome declaration on the peace process in South Sudan, was signed under the auspices of the community of ‘Egidio, a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service provision. The government signed the document with South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of opposition groups that did not sign the 2018 peace agreement. The parties agreed to foster political dialogue in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization by addressing the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan. … The parties recommitted themselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December 2017 to void further armed confrontation. The government and the holdout opposition groups reaffirmed readiness to allow uninterrupted humanitarian access to alleviate the suffering of the population. Radio Tamazuj

Starvation Stalks Counties in South Sudan Cut Off by Floods, Insecurity
In many homes around Jebel Boma County, dinner consists of bitter-tasting leaves that can be picked off the bushes outside. The leaves are neither filling nor nutritious, but in South Sudan’s Jebel Boma and Pochalla counties, there’s not much else to eat. Through a combination of ruinous floods, a lack of decent roads and widespread insecurity, the two counties in the Upper Nile region, near the border with Ethiopia, have been effectively cut off from the rest of South Sudan and a reliable food supply. This reporter visited the area during the last week of December and witnessed thousands of families who have no food and are surviving mainly on leaves or seeds distributed by aid agencies. The governor of Boma state, David Yau Yau, told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus that he has been waiting to meet President Salva Kiir to discuss the dire humanitarian conditions in Boma state. Yau Yau says aid agencies should intervene to save lives of families who are starving. … The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) released in September 2019 estimated 5.35 million people in South Sudan – more than half the population – are in a state of food insecurity. VOA

Guinea-Bissau Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Presidential Election Result
Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a challenge against Umaro Cissoko Embalo’s victory in last month’s election run-off by the defeated candidate, who complained of fraud. The ruling confirms a surprise election win for Embalo, a 47-year-old former prime minister and ex-army general. He will replace outgoing Jose Mario Vaz, who was eliminated in the first round of voting in November after a five-year term marked by political dysfunction and corruption allegations. The court’s ruling said runner-up Domingos Simoes Pereira, the candidate of the majority party in parliament, should have first filed his complaint with the national electoral commission, which declared Embalo the winner with 53% of votes. Pereira said the Dec. 29 election was marred by fraud, alleging that votes surpassed the number of enrolled voters at some polling places. The electoral commission denied this, and African observers praised the election. Reuters

Malawi Chief Justice Reports Bribe Offer in Election Case
Malawi’s Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda has asked the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate bribery attempts targeting judges presiding over the presidential elections case. Justice Nyirenda wrote to the bureau that there had been attempts to bribe the five-judge panel that is hearing the petition. ACB director Reyneck Matemba confirmed to several newspapers that the complaint came from the chief justice and said that investigations had started. He told the Daily Times newspaper that the bureau had the names of those involved in the bribery but refused to disclose them. Mr Matemba said the allegations were being looked into urgently before the determination of the court case. The petition challenging President Peter Mutharika’s win was filed by the candidates who came second and third in the May 2019 election. President Mutharika was declared the winner with 1,940,709 votes, followed closely by the MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera with 1,781,740. UTM’s Saulos Chilima, Mr Mutharika’s former vice-president, came third with 1,018,369 votes. BBC

Chinese Demand Is Fueling Donkey Theft and Stressing Out Farmers in Ghana
To Rafik and others in Ghana’s rural north, donkeys have long provided the cheapest method of transport, dependably hauling goods from village to village. To Chinese merchants here, donkey hides – a key ingredient in traditional medicines – command big money abroad from producers of skin creams, fertility elixirs and energy drinks. These competing demands have fueled a dramatic tug of war between people who call donkeys the economic heart of their households and vendors catering to China’s exploding market, with some animal rights groups urging the Ghanaian government to label the beasts as endangered. Half of the world’s donkeys could disappear in the next five years if Chinese consumption of the gelatin boiled from their hides does not slow down, according to a November report from the Donkey Sanctuary, an animal charity in England. … Beijing’s tightening relationship with African nations has wrought shiny new roads, schools and power plants in a stream of infrastructure deals. Less explored is the way Chinese influence is scrambling more basic ways of life, such as a family’s ability to fetch buckets of water in the countryside. The Washington Post

China Set to Strengthen Cooperation with Zimbabwe
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday pledged to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe despite a spat over bilateral aid figures in November. The two countries butted heads after Zimbabwe’s government said it had only received $3.6 million in aid from Beijing in 2019 – 40 times lower than the figure claimed by China. Yi met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo on Sunday during the final leg of an Africa tour that also took him to Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi. He did not mention financial assistance, but hailed China and Zimbabwe’s “win-win cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, and mining” and vowed to explore new areas of cooperation. … “China has so far helped Africa build more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums and more than 170 schools in the past close to five years,” Yi told reporters in Harare. He then had dinner with Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who spent months in China last year for medical treatment. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s opposition parties have criticised China’s influence and accused the government of giving away minerals and other natural resources in exchange for aid. They also claim Chinese companies abuse and underpay local workers. AFP

Fifty Years On, Nigeria Struggles with Memory of Biafra War
While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on. Biafran flags – an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun – make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence. The security forces – deployed heavily in the region – are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra. At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country. The leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison. Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos – the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba – still feel marginalised. AFP

‘Numbers Don’t Lie’: The Team ‘Counting Dead Women’ in Kenya
For years, whenever Kathomi Gatwiri complained that violence against women in her home country of Kenya was out of control, she got used to hearing the same response: prove it. So at the beginning of 2019, the academic and one of her best friends from college, Audrey Mugeni, decided they would do exactly that. They set up Facebook and Twitter pages called “Counting Dead Woman – Kenya” and dedicated themselves to a grim project: creating an online archive. Since then, the pair have dutifully recorded every woman’s murder that has been reported in Kenyan media. Lucy, set on fire by her husband for returning home late. Eunice, a university lecturer stabbed to death in her car. Helen, killed by her boyfriend for alleged infidelity. By the end of December, the number of victims in their database had risen above 100. “This data is important because numbers don’t lie,” Dr. Gatwiri says. “When we talk about women issues we’re often accused of being emotional and not relying on facts and figures. But these are numbers – and faces and stories – that you cannot argue with.” Their project joins a growing number of movements worldwide dedicated to documenting the murders of women, in hopes that spotlighting the extent of the problem will hold those in power accountable for reducing crimes that often go unpunished. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones