Africa Media Review for January 14, 2020

Sahel Coalition: G5 and France Agree New Joint Command, Will Prioritize Fight against Islamic State

The leaders of France and the G5 Sahel group of states have agreed to form a military coalition under joint command and to focus their counter-insurgency efforts against Islamic State. France’s President Emmanuel Macron hosted the leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania at a summit in the southwestern town of Pau on Monday, January 13, where they discussed security and the presence of France-led forces in Africa’s Sahel region. The six leaders jointly announced a new “Sahel Coalition” which will see increased coordination between Sahelien forces and the France-led Operation Barkhane counter-terrorism mission. In a joint declaration released by the French presidency, the leaders said military efforts would focus on the Burkina Faso-Mali-Niger tri-border area with the G5 Sahel Joint Force (FCG5S) and Barkhane operating under joint command and targeting Islamic State as a priority. The FCG5S concept of operation will be revised to allow it greater room to maneuver outside the border zones, according to the declaration. Macron announced that an additional 220 French military personnel would be deployed to the region, and that European, African and international forces were invited to join the Sahel Coalition. The leaders also expressed gratitude for “crucial support” provided by the United States. The Defense Post

Niger Army Chief Fired as Terrorists Kill 174 Soldiers within 2 Months

Niger’s president has fired the army’s chief of staff after attacks against security forces have killed at least 174 security force members since December. President Issoufou Mahamadou’s action on Monday came after the death toll from an attack by Islamic extremists on Niger’s military last week rose to at least 89, making it the most deadly attack of its kind in years in the West African nation. … Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Mohamed will be replaced by Brig-Gen. Salifou Modi, who was the military attache for Niger in Germany, the presidential statement said Monday. He also dismissed the Secretary General of the Ministry of National Defense and the Chief of Land Staff. No group has yet claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but the attack bore the hallmarks of an Islamic State-linked group that said it was behind the December ambush near the town of Inates that killed 71 soldiers and was previously the most deadly attack of its kind in Niger in years. “The government calls on the population to be more vigilant, more serene and united, and reaffirms its determination to continue the fight against terrorism until the final victory,” the government statement said. AP

Libya’s Rival Leaders Leave Moscow, No Peace Deal Signed

Libya’s rival leaders have left Moscow without reaching agreement on a cease-fire deal, with Russia trying to downplay the talks’ failure on Tuesday. The deal was proposed by Russia and Turkey in an effort to bring an end to the north African country’s long-running civil war. Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya’s U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli, and his rival Khalifa Hifter came to Moscow on Monday for talks with top diplomats and military officials from Russia and Turkey. The talks lasted about seven hours, and Sarraj and Hifter didn’t meet directly. They considered a draft document spelling out details of a truce proposed jointly by Russia and Turkey that began Sunday. Sarraj signed the draft before departing, while Hifter requested more time to consider it and then left Moscow without signing the document. In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to teach Hifter “the lesson he deserves” if attacks on the Tripoli government continued. … Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to downplay the talks’ failure, saying that efforts to broker a peace deal will continue. AP

‘Two Killed’ in Guinea during Anti-Government Protests

At least two people have been killed in Guinea at the start of open-ended protests against President Alpha Conde’s suspected bid to seek a third term in office. The West African country has been racked by demonstrations since mid-October over concerns that Conde intends to use a planned constitutional reform to seek another five-year term. At least 20 civilians and one security officer have been killed since the start of protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands of people while scores have been arrested. After months of organising mass protests, the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an alliance of opposition groups, raised the stakes last week and called for “huge” and “open-ended” demonstrations. During demonstrations on Monday, scuffles broke out in the Coza suburb of the capital Conakry between young people and the police, according to AFP news agency. Elhadj Mamadou Sow, a 21-year-old student, was killed in the unrest, according to his uncle, who declined to be named, AFP reported. AFP

Sudan Peace Talks Resume with Great Hopes for a Comprehensive Agreement

On Monday, peace talks between the government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) resumed in Juba. … El Hadi Idris, Chairman of the Sudan Revolutionary Front(SRF) rebel alliance, told Radio Dabanga that they discussed the Two Areas (Blue Nile state and South Kordofan) on Monday morning. “We discussed a framework agreement that was submitted by the head of the SPLM-N under the leadership of Malik Agar,” he said. “The meeting discussed several issues. The main focus was on humanitarian issues and the system of government.” … On Monday, the secretariat of the mediation committee for the Sudanese peace negotiations, which includes representatives from South Sudan, Chad, the United Nations, and the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) held a meeting to assess the progress regarding all five tracks (Darfur, the Two Areas, eastern Sudan, northern Sudan, and central Sudan). In a press statement on Monday, Tut Galuak, the chairman of the South Sudanese mediation team, said that the meeting assessed the peace process during the previous period, and discussed the plans of the mediation committee for the next phase. The next two weeks will be crucial for the peace process, the mediator said. Radio Dabanga

ECOWAS Court Records Highest Number of Decisions since Inception

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) has said it recorded the highest number of decisions in 2019 since inception in 2001. This was made known in a statement on Monday in Abuja by the Court’s Registry Department. The department said a total of 48 decisions were delivered by the ECOWAS CCJ in 2019, the highest number of decisions given in a single year by the Court since its inception in 2001. It stated that the 48 decisions comprise 38 Judgments and 10 Rulings and significantly higher than the 33 and 23 decisions given in 2018 and 2017 respectively. The statement quoted Justice Edward Amoako Asante, President of the Court, in reaction to the landmark achievement saying, “this is the most vivid expression of the expressed commitment of the current judges. “Since their assumption of duty at the end of August 2018 to expedite the handling of cases in order to reduce the number of pending cases and help strengthen the confidence of ECOWAS citizens in the Court,” Mr Asante said. Premium Times

Press Freedom Group Condemns Attempted Kidnapping of Mozambican Editor

One of Mozambique’s most senior journalists escaped a kidnapping attempt in Maputo on New Year’s Eve. Matias Guente, the executive editor of Canal de Moçambique, was accosted in the afternoon of December 31 by three men while in the capital’s Alto Maé area, right behind the headquarters of the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces. The men were armed with guns, a baseball bat and a golf club. Guente was driving to visit relatives in the area. “Apparently the unidentified criminals were following the journalist, who was going to visit relatives in the area. When he stopped his vehicle, they dragged him out of his car and tried to force him into their vehicle,” Canal de Moçambique reported. “Fortunately for Guente, the road was narrow, which caused a traffic jam, and street hawkers who were close by started shouting. This enabled the journalist to flee his assailants and enter a nearby garage.”… “The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disturbed that yet another respected and outspoken journalist, Matias Guente, was the victim of a violent abduction attempt in Mozambique [two weeks ago],” said CPJ Africa director Angela Quintal. Mail & Guardian

Shabaab Raids Reignite Ambition in Somali Ex-President Sharif Ahmed

Somalia’s ex-President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was an accidental politician. Now he wants to become the first man in the country to be re-elected. A graduate of law from a Libyan university, Ahmed was a teacher before plunging into Somalia’s civil war, and later politics. Many consider him the father of Somalia’s modern history after his role in moving the transitional state to a federal government. Yet he is a bitter critic of the current government. “Authorities have failed to establish a security plan to deal with deadly attacks in Mogadishu,” he told the Nation through a spokesman. “The government should accept its failures in protecting citizens from Al-Shabaab,” he added, referring to car bombs last month, one of which killed 85 people. The raids seem to have galvanised his desire to get back the seat he left in 2012, after leading the transitional federal government from 2009. In 2019, he mobilised six political outfits to form the Forum for National Parties (FNP), becoming the first coalition in independent Somalia. FNP includes his party Himilo Qaran, Ilays and the Union for Peace and Development led by ex-president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Daily Nation

Cameroon to Crack Down on Election Disruptors
The Cameroon government will crack down on anyone who tries to create disorder during next month’s general elections, authorities have warned even as separatists vow to disrupt the poll. Mr Paul Atanga Nji, Cameroon minister of Territorial Administration, said Monday in Yaoundé that the state “will display its might” against trouble makers regardless of their social status. “They shall be dealt with firmly and squarely in accordance with the laws of the republic,” Mr Nji said at the opening of the first bi-annual conference of the country’s 10 regional governors. He said the conference, held under the instructions of President Paul Biya, aims at taking stock of security measures put in place for next month’s election. In his New Year message to Cameroonians on December 31, 2019, President Biya, who has ruled Cameroon since 1982, declared that the elections must be conducted countrywide including in the restive English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions. Mr Adolphe Lele Lafrique, the governor of the Northwest, said the security situation in his area is under control and the elections will take place as planned. The East African

Ivory Coast Rescues 137 Child Trafficking Victims

Authorities in Ivory Coast say they rescued 137 children who were the victims of traffickers and groomed to work on cocoa plantations or in prostitution. Police rescued the children after surrounding the eastern town of Aboisso and carried out a two-day search of cars, farms, and nearby villages. Officials say the children ranged from age six to 17 and were brought into Ivory Coast from Benin, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo. The victims are in care of a charity in Aboisso while authorities search for their parents. Senior police officials say they plan to increase operations aimed at stopping child trafficking. “Ivory Coast’s image is tarnished by child trafficking. We are appealing to all parents: a child’s place is at school and not on plantations,” Aboisso’s deputy police chief Kouadio Yeboue Marcellin says. Ivory Coast is dependent on the cocoa and cashew crops and poor farmers depend on child labor to pick the beans and nuts. Western chocolate companies, including some of the biggest such as Nestle and Hershey, have pledged to stop buying beans produced by child workers. Critics say such efforts have been only modestly successful. VOA

Malawi Police Face Legal Action over Failure to Investigate Alleged Rapes

A group of lawyers in Malawi is taking legal action against the police for failing to investigate allegations of rape against their officers during post-election protests. Mphatso Iphani, a spokesperson for the Women Lawyers Association of Malawi, said that three months since the alleged attacks, “no concrete action has been taken, despite the sheer amount of evidence that the girls and women were assaulted.” The association, a not-for-profit organisation made up of lawyers from different disciplines, is preparing to file lawsuits against officers. “Our hope is to get justice for the women who were assaulted and punish the perpetrators. Finally, something concrete is happening, unlike with the other stakeholders who have been just sitting on this,” she said. … A human rights organisation documented accounts from women and girls who said they had been sexually assaulted by police officers. This led the Malawi Human Rights Commission, a state-funded institution led by government-appointed commissioners, to institute an investigation that found one girl under 18 had allegedly been sexually assaulted and seven women allegedly raped during the demonstration. The Guardian

Liberia Questions Presidential Critic Henry Costa for Alleged Forged Document

Immigration authorities are investigating circumstances as to how Henry Costa, the lead organiser of recent anti-government protests, obtained what the authorities have determined to be a forged travel document. Costa arrived in Liberia on 19 December, using a laissez-passer document, which he said he obtained from the foreign affairs ministry. But immigration officials in Monrovia say the document was forged. On Saturday 11 January, Costa presented himself at the headquarters of the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS) unaccompanied by his lawyer Findley Kangar. Speaking exclusively to RFI, Abraham Dolley, Communications at the Immigration Service chief, said preliminary findings show that Costa obtained the laissez-passer with the assistance of Sylvester Tevez Nah, a longtime friend of Costa, who is being sought out to aid with the investigation. When contacted by RFI, Nah said Costa wired money to him from Ghana to help him get the document. Nah said he went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and procured the document through the required legal means. RFI

Nigeria’s Lekoil Halts London Trading on Finding Loan Was ‘Complex Facade’

Trading in shares of Nigerian oil company Lekoil was suspended on the London Stock Exchange on Monday when the company said it had discovered that an announced $184 million loan agreement with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) was fraudulent. The suspension of shares in Lekoil, which first listed in London in 2013, were halted after an official with the QIA approached Lekoil to query the validity of the loan. “The loan agreement announced on 2 January 2020 by the company, purportedly with the Qatar Investment Authority seems to have been entered into by the company with individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA,” Lekoil said in a statement on Monday evening. A source familiar with the developments said the QIA first found out about the loan when Lekoil issued the statement on Jan. 2 and contacted the company immediately to tell them the loan was not legitimate. Reuters

Bid to Revive Tunis’ Ancient Medina Carries Bigger Development Lessons

Leila Ben Gacem guides a visitor through the Tunis Medina, ducking the cars and carts rattling down narrow, cobblestoned streets, and the occasional smear of dog poop. “Historically, the Medina was the heart of trade, craft and art, and it’s structured with many souks — each dedicated to a specific craft,” she says. She points down the maze of roads towards markets dedicated to coppersmiths, and those making Tunisia’s famous, flat-topped chechia hat, which exports to Libya and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. A municipal councillor in a village outside the capital, Ben Gacem is also a social entrepreneur on a mission; helping not only to preserve the Medina’s ancient buildings and community, but also to revitalize trades that once powered this historic quarter, some of which risk going extinct. “If investments are inclusive and pay attention to shared economy,” she says, “then maybe the whole community will grow together.” It’s a lesson that might inform Tunisia’s next government, still under construction nearly three months after elections. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones