Africa Media Review for January 17, 2019

Survivors Recount Nightmarish Siege in Nairobi Hotel Attack That Killed 21
An unseasonable thunderstorm was rolling through central Nairobi on ­Tuesday afternoon as al-Shabab militants approached the five-star DusitD2 hotel. Charles Karugu was at the taxi stand where he works opposite the upscale hotel when a deafening explosion ripped through a nearby security checkpoint, he recalled. Before Karugu could react, a bullet pierced his abdomen. A handful of fighters from al-Shabab, a Somali militant group, had just begun what would be a 19-hour siege of the hotel and its surrounding office buildings, killing at least 21 people. Karugu, like so many others who were hit in the explosive early stages of the attack, was saved by a civilian. Closed-circuit video footage would later show the attackers firing at others as they entered the hotel. As Karugu crawled away, bleeding, a Kenyan journalist flagged down a motorcycle taxi that ferried him to a hospital. The Washington Post

UN: 900 People Killed in DRC Ethnic Violence
Nearly 900 people were killed in ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-December, the United Nations Human Rights office said Wednesday. “The U.N. Human Rights Office said Wednesday that according to allegations from credible sources, at least 890 people were killed between 16 and 18 December in four villages in Yumbi territory, Mai-Ndombe province in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in what appear to have been clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities,” a statement read. Most of the population of the nearby villages have been displaced, including an estimated 16,000 who crossed the Congo River into neighboring Republic of Congo, according to the statement. The U.N. has launched an investigation into the mass killing, as have national judicial authorities.  VOA

US Calls for Transparency in DR Congo Vote
The United States on Wednesday called for transparency as the Democratic Republic of Congo examines an appeal against election results, renewing a warning against undermining democracy. As tensions mount over last week’s election results, the United States toughened earlier language and said it “recognizes the legitimate concerns over the transparency of the electoral process.” “The United States supports the lawful right of candidates to file a legal challenge to the election results and urges the Constitutional Court to execute a lawful, fair and transparent process for resolving electoral disputes,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “The United States will hold accountable those who perpetrate election violence or undermine democratic processes,” he said. Official results released last week in sub-Saharan Africa’s most vast country gave opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi a narrow edge over Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive.  AP

Gunmen Kill More than 30 Tuaregs in Ongoing Mali Violence
Gunmen on motorbikes have killed more than 30 Tuareg civilians this week in northern Mali, where clashes over land and scarce water are common, an official said on Wednesday. The violence compounds an already dire security situation in the desert region used by jihadist groups to launch attacks in Mali and across West Africa. The identity of the assailants was unknown, but disputes between the nomadic Tuareg and herder Fulani ethnic groups have killed several hundred and displaced thousands over the past year. Menaka town mayor Nanout Kotia told Reuters 34 Tuareg were killed in two nearby villages on Tuesday. “Armed men riding several motorbikes, as is their custom, encircled these villages and shot at the people. The death toll is high,” Kotia said by telephone. Reuters

Laurent Gbagbo: Ivory Coast Ex-President Detained Pending Appeal
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo will stay behind bars after prosecutors appealed against his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague acquitted him on Tuesday and ordered his immediate release. But on Wednesday prosecutors challenged the decision to release him, arguing that Mr Gbagbo might abscond. They said he might not appear in court if his acquittal were to be overturned. Mr Gbagbo had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced. He was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara. He is the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC. BBC

Zimbabwe NGOs, Opposition Accuse Security Forces of Brutalizing Protesters
Protests in Zimbabwe over a fuel price hike entered the third and final planned day Wednesday, with police arresting a pastor accused of inciting violence via social media. NGOs and opposition parties are accusing the police and army of assaulting protesters. Attorney Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is representing Mawarire. “They are alleging that he incited violence through Twitter and other forms of social media. We have asked for full particulars — when, how. They said they do not know,” Mtetwa said. “They will give him [details] at the police station. We have asked how asking people to stay away constitutes inciting into violence. Of course, this is the new dispensation, guys.” VOA

US Alarmed as Zimbabwe Targets, Beats Activists amid Unrest
The US embassy in Zimbabwe says it is “alarmed” by credible reports that security forces are targeting and beating activists and labour leaders. A local doctors’ rights group says it has treated 68 gunshot cases. The US statement on Thursday also urges Zimbabwe’s government to restore access to social media as the country faces its worst unrest since deadly post-election violence in August. Zimbabweans this week heeded a nationwide stay-at-home call after the government dramatically increased fuel prices in the economically shattered country. Prominent pastor and activist Evan Mawarire is currently in court in the capital, Harare, accused of inciting violence. Zimbabwe’s state security minister has said more than 600 people have been arrested. AP

Despite Crackdown, Zimbabwe Fuel Protests Continue
Police in Zimbabwe have arrested prominent protest leader Evan Mawarire as part of a widening security crackdown on demonstrators following violent clashes and incidences of looting. Mawarire, an activist pastor, had called for a three-day work stayaway to protest against a hike in fuel prices that citizens fear could push the country back to the brink of economic collapse. Clashes between protesters and security forces continued in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Wednesday, on the third day of national shutdown demonstrations. This is the longest running mass action in more than a decade since labour unions and opposition movements protested against the then-President Robert Mugabe. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Suspected Cattle Rustlers in Northwest Kill 30
Suspected cattle rustlers have killed at least 30 civilians in Nigeria’s northwestern Sokoto state, said the president’s media office late Tuesday. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered “immediate security crackdown on every hideout of the criminals”, his media office said. The latest spate of violence has added to the fears that a fresh militancy may be in the offing in northwestern Nigeria. Hundreds of people have been killed in the neighboring northwestern state of Zamfara in attacks blamed on “bandits” believed to be cattle thieves. Nigeria still battles Boko Haram in the northeast where over 25,000 have died and nearly 3 million displaced since 2009 when the crisis began. Anadolu Agency

IMB: Gulf of Guinea Led the World for Piracy in 2018
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has released its global piracy report for 2018, and it warns that the maritime industry experienced a net increase in attacks year-over-year. In particular, the agency recorded a “marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa.” Worldwide, the IMB recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017. The Gulf of Guinea is particularly dangerous for seafarers: reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Congo more than doubled in 2018, and these incidents accounted for the overwhelming majority of serious acts of piracy worldwide. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for all six hijackings, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages held, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom worldwide. In a worrisome trend, this violence accelerated in the last quarter of the year. 41 kidnappings were recorded off Nigeria between October and December, more than half the annual total. Some of these attacks occurred up to 100 nm offshore, well outside of the territorial waters of West African states. The Maritime Executive

‘At Least 30 People Abducted’ by Separatists in Anglophone Cameroon
“More than 30 people were kidnapped yesterday on the road between Buea and Kumba” in the Southwest Region, a source close to the authorities there said, confirming an account by a local NGO. Since October 2017, the Southwest and neighbouring Northwest Region have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country. The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses plying the highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, one of the sources said. Ransom kidnappings and extortion have proliferated in the two regions, along with attacks on troops and police, plus arson assaults on public buildings and schools. The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.  France 24

Ahmed Hussein-Suale: Ghana Journalist Shot Dead
A Ghanaian undercover journalist has been shot dead as he drove home, after a politician called for retribution against him. Local media reports say unidentified men on motorbikes shot Ahmed Hussein-Suale three times in the capital Accra. He was a member of Tiger Eye Private Investigations and had investigated corruption in Ghana’s football leagues. The undercover report on cash gifts led to a lifetime ban for the former head of Ghana’s Football Association. BBC Africa Eye made a documentary about the scandal in 2018 after gaining access to the investigation led by controversial journalist Anas Aremayaw Anas, who runs Tiger Eye. BBC

Ethiopia Says Launches Offensive against Oromo Rebels
Ethiopian troops have launched operations against members of a rebel group that signed an agreement to end hostilities with the government last year, an official said on Wednesday. Since the 1970s, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has fought an insurgency for self-determination for ethnic Oromos, the Horn of Africa country’s most populous ethnic group. The OLF was initially part of a transitional government set up in 1991 by rebels. The rebel coalition had driven military leader Mengistu Haile Mariam from power, but the OLF soon fell out with them. Though the OLF has since splintered into a myriad of groups, one faction with the largest number of fighters, which had been based in neighbouring Eritrea, signed a reconciliation agreement in August with the Ethiopian government, led by reformist premier Abiy Ahmed. Reuters

Tunisian Union Launches Nationwide Strike Over Pay
Tunisia’s biggest union, UGTT, started a nationwide strike Thursday affecting the country’s airports, schools and state media to protest the government’s refusal to raise the salaries of 670,000 public servants. Tunisia is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to freeze public sector wages as part of reforms to help reduce the country’s budget deficit. International lenders have threatened to stop financing the economy, which has been in crisis since the toppling of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. The one-day strike will hit airports, ports, schools, hospitals, state media and government offices, but Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said the state will provide minimum services in vital sectors including aviation, ports, buses and trains. Tunisia’s state-owned airline Tunisair expects major disruptions to its flight schedule because of the strike and urged customers to change bookings, it said, adding that at least 16 flights will be postponed. Reuters

Morocco’s Crackdown Won’t Silence Dissent
[…] Today’s repression may be much less brutal, but just denouncing the recent crackdown could land critics in jail. Indeed, in recent months, human rights defenders have pointed to a major rise in harassment, arrests, and police violence against activists. One of them, Abdellah Lefnatsa, said that “achievements such as freedom of expression [and] the right to protest” have started to be rolled back. Over the last two years, over a thousand people have been jailed on politically related charges, according to Youssef Raissouni, an executive director at AMDH and a member of the leftist party Annahj Addimocrati (The Democratic Way). Beyond the big names, there are people like Nawal Benaissa, a 37-year-old mother of four who has been arrested four times for her involvement in protests denouncing corruption and demanding jobs, hospitals, and schools as part of the so-called Hirak movement, which began in the country’s northern Rif region after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a garbage truck in October 2016 while trying to reclaim fish that local authorities had taken from him.  Foreign Policy

Fighting Flares up in Libyan Capital, Killing 5, Wounding 20
Libyan authorities say fighting between rival armed groups in the capital of Tripoli has flared up again, four months after a U.N.-brokered cease-fire. Malek Merset, spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry, says at least five people were killed and 20 others wounded Wednesday. A previous round of fighting, which erupted in August last year, killed at least 96 people, including civilians. The U.N. mission has warned against any breach of the cease-fire, brokered in September. The fighting between militias allied to the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and an armed group from a nearby town underscores Libya’s lingering lawlessness since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi. AP

Second Canadian National Feared Kidnapped in Burkina Faso
A Canadian national has been abducted in northern Burkina Faso, according to media reports. The man was kidnapped on Tuesday night from a mine near the border with Niger, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo told reporters. This is the second case of a Canadian going missing in the West African country in recent weeks. Canadian officials said they are in touch with Burkina Faso authorities regarding the incident. “The relevant Canadian agencies are very much engaged in this difficult situation,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday in Quebec. Reuters reported that the man was kidnapped by gunmen from a gold mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger. A pair of aid workers also went missing in Burkina Faso last month.  BBC

India to Host Exercise with African Militaries
The Indian Army will in March this year conduct a field training exercise with several African countries including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. The exercise is due to take place between 18 and 27 March in Pune, western India as part of India’s efforts to improve military cooperation with African states. The ten day long India-Africa Field Training Exercise (IAFTX) is expected to cover things like de-mining and peacekeeping operations, amongst others. Initial planning for the exercise, which will involve a dozen nations, started in December 2018, with a final planning conference slated for the end of January.  DefenseWeb

UN Peacekeeping Faces Massive Funding Shortfall
In a letter to United Nations Ambassadors, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of an urgent cash crisis facing the UN in general — and UN peacekeeping in particular. As of January 11, he says, the United Nations faces a $2 billion shortfall in UN Peacekeeping funding; the cash it has on hand can fund less than two months of UN Peacekeeping operations around the world. “Active peacekeeping missions are soon expected to face liquidity gaps due to late payments and increasing arrears,” Antonio Guterres wrote in the letter, seen by UN Dispatch. “As of today, arrears are nearing US$2 billion and are likely to keep growing. Current cash balances cover less than two months of operations, compared to four months last year.” Peacekeeping is funded through dues payments from member states to the United Nations. The problem is that UN member states are not paying their dues on time and in full. If this trend continues much longer, the United Nations will simply run out of money to pay for all the peacekeeping operations it deploys around the world, which includes about 100,000 troops deployed to 14 global hotspots.  UN Dispatch

Ebola Has Gotten So Bad, It’s Normal
Nearly 600 people have contracted Ebola since last August in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, making the ongoing outbreak the second largest in the 43-year history of humanity’s battle with the deadly virus. And there is a genuine threat that this Congo health crisis—the 10th the African nation has faced—could become essentially permanent in the war-torn region bordering South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, making a terrible transition from being epidemic to endemic. Despite having a tool kit at its disposal that is unrivaled—including a vaccine, new diagnostics, experimental treatments, and a strong body of knowledge regarding how to battle the hemorrhage-causing virus—the small army of international health responders and humanitarian workers in Congo is playing whack-a-mole against a microbe that keeps popping up unexpectedly and proving impossible to control. This is not because of any special attributes of the classic strain of Ebola—the same genetic strain that has been successfully tackled many times before—but because of humans and their behaviors in a quarter-century-old war zone.  Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones