Africa Media Review for January 21, 2020

Threat from African Militant Islamist Groups Expanding, Diversifying
Militant Islamist groups in Africa set a record pace of activity in 2019, reflecting a doubling of militant Islamist activity from 2013. Expanded activity in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin underscores diversification of threat from Somalia. There were 3,471 reported violent events linked to these groups in the past year, a 14-percent increase over the previous 12 months. This reflects a doubling of militant Islamist group activity in Africa from 2013. The threat from militant Islamist groups in Africa is not monolithic but comprises activity from a constantly shifting mix of roughly two dozen groups actively operating in 14 countries. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Major Humanitarian Hub in North-East Nigeria Burned in Attack
The top UN aid official in Nigeria has condemned a weekend attack against a major humanitarian facility in the north-east of the country. Non-State armed groups targeted the humanitarian hub in Ngala, Borno state, on Saturday evening, burning an entire section of the facility as well as a vehicle used in aid deliveries. Five UN staff were staying there at the time but escaped unharmed due to security measures in place. … Northern Nigeria has been in the grip of a Boko Haram insurgency for about a decade, which has led to widespread displacement. Last year, more than 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, reported. … OCHA said aid workers in Nigeria are increasingly being targeted in attacks. Twelve were killed last year, which is double the number killed in 2018. UN

Boko Haram Cuts Off Maiduguri from Nigeria’s National Power Grid
Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State is without electricity after Boko Haram insurgents cut off power supply from the national electricity grid. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), confirmed in a statement on Monday, that the insurgents had damaged the electricity equipment serving the state capital and its environs. Ndidi Mbah, TCH spokesperson said the agency was making efforts to restore electricity supply in the area as soon as possible. … Reports indicate that the insurgents have carried out a series of attacks on villages located along a major road, Damaturu-Maiduguri, in the last one month. People have reported severally on social media how the road has become a death trap and have urged commuters to avoid that stretch. Maiduguri is birthplace of the decade-old insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions. AfricaNews

Several Killed in Fight between Boko Haram, ISWAP Members
Intense gunfire between two rival jihadist groups in northeast Nigeria has left several fighters dead, two sources with close knowledge of the incident told AFP on Monday. Fighters in pickup trucks from a Boko Haram faction loyal to Abubakar Shekau stormed a camp belonging to rival IS-aligned Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), resulting in a fierce gunbattle that caused several fatalities, the sources said. The Boko Haram jihadists attacked the camp in Sunnawa village in Abadam district near the border with Niger to reclaim their women seized by ISWAP fighters in an earlier raid on their camp across the border in Niger. AFP

Several Civilians Killed by Female Suicide Bomber in Western Chad
Nine civilians died in western Chad after a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives in an area targeted in the past by jihadist group Boko Haram, the army and officials said on Monday. Chad is one of the countries struggling with the jihadist violence that has spilled over from Nigeria’s decades-long Islamist insurgency. The attack took place overnight Sunday in the village of Kaiga Kindjiria. “A suicide bomber blew herself up yesterday in Kaiga Kindjiria, killing nine people, two women and seven men,” an army source said. The toll was confirmed by Chadian army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa. “It is Boko Haram, There is no doubt,” the spokesman said. Kaiga-Kindjiria, a village of about 7,000 people, is located near the vast Lake Chad region where militants hide out among islets and marshlands to launch attacks on Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger. France24

International Powers Call for Cease-Fire in Libya’s Long Civil War
Russia, Turkey and a dozen other international powers with competing interests in oil-rich Libya called Sunday for a cease-fire and an arms embargo, committing to end their own interference on the ground to give Libyans space for a political reconciliation. Sunday’s gathering, hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, offered a small glimmer of hope in the North African nation’s protracted civil war, which has been further complicated recently by an escalating proxy war between Turkey and Russia. Both President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, whose countries have mercenaries on the ground, attended the meeting. … In a modest breakthrough, both sides in the conflict agreed to send representatives to another meeting in Geneva, where they will soon begin working out what a solution might look like. But expectations remain low that these talks will lead to any kind of a lasting peace on the ground in the near future. Even as the talks were underway, rebel forces launched fresh attacks on the Libyan capital, Tripoli. New York Times

Nine Injured in Somali Bombing Flown to Turkey for Treatment
Nine people injured in a bomb attack on Saturday in Somalia, including three Turkish nationals, were being flown to Turkey on Tuesday for medical treatment, Turkey’s ambassador to Mogadishu said. Mehmet Yilmaz told a news conference that Ankara would continue aid work in the country despite recent attacks by Islamist group al Shabaab that have targeted Turkish workers. … Saturday’s suicide car bombing by al Shabaab occurred in Afgoye, about 30 km (18 miles) northwest of the capital, and targeted Turkish construction workers who were having lunch with local police. A total of 21 people were injured in the attack, among them six Turks. … Turkey has been a major donor to Somalia following a famine in 2011. Ankara is seeking to increase its influence in the Horn of Africa to counter Gulf rivals like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Reuters

Al-Shabaab Attacks Challenge Counter Terrorism Strategies
The increased number of attacks by Somali terrorist group al Shabaab in Kenya and Somalia could lead to security chiefs rethinking their counter-terrorism policy. In a year when the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is considering reducing its troops in Somalia, al-Shabaab has launched several assaults in the two countries since December, killing at least 130 people in the attacks. This past week, as Kenya marked the first anniversary of the attack on the dusitD2 complex in Nairobi on January 15, the US embassy issued a statement that the resurgent attacks by al-Shabaab could destabilise the country and East Africa. … The terror group, which appeared spent between 2012 and 2015, has recently resurged with attacks in Kenya and Mogadishu. In December, al-Shabaab killed at least 85 people in a car bomb explosion in Mogadishu. … Meanwhile, Amisom is planning to gradually reduce troop numbers in Somalia starting this year, leaving much of the security responsibility to the Somali National Army (SNA). The East African

As Ethnic Violence Persists in Congo, Many Fleeing to Uganda
A Ugandan official says hundreds of Congolese have fled to the East African nation in recent days to escape deadly ethnic-based fighting. Gerald Menya, commissioner for refugees in Uganda, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that two to three Congolese are arriving each hour. He said over 60,000 have sought shelter in Uganda in the past year, fleeing clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in Congo’s mineral-rich northeastern ituri province. The United Nations reported earlier this month that more than 700 people were killed and at least 168 injured in the fighting from December 2017 to September 2019, with the Hema herding community mostly targeted by the Lendu farming community. The U.N. human rights office said killings, rapes and other violence targeting the Hema may amount to crimes against humanity. AP

Sudanese Pound Continues to Fall, Food Prices Rising Again
The US Dollar rate reached SDG 95 at the Khartoum parallel market on Friday. Prices of food and other basic consumer goods continue to rise. People are lining up again to buy bread and fuel. The Ministry of Industry and Trade will establish a mechanism to monitor the internal markets. The Dollar exchange rate witnessed an unprecedented rise against the Sudanese Pound on Friday. Forex dealers reported on Friday that the Dollar rate reached SDG 95, while the Euro traded for SDG 104.34, and the Saudi Riyal for SDG 25.6. Traders attributed the increases to a rise in the demand, and continuing shortages of supply. People in Khartoum and El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, told Radio Dabanga that the prices of basic consumer goods are soaring again. … The sources also reported renewed shortages of bread and fuel in Khartoum and a number of towns in the states. Dabanga

Darfur Holdout Group Strengthens Military Capacity Thanks to Gold Mining
The holdout Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) has strengthened its military capability thanks to the significant goldfields in a rebel-controlled area in Jebel Marra, said a recent report by a UN panel. According to a report released by the UN panel on Sudan on 14 January seen by the Sudan Tribune, the discovered goldfields are located in Torroye, between the villages of Feina and Kidineer, south-eastern Jebel Marra. “As a result of the revenue generated from the mining operations, the movement has been able to strengthen its military capability by acquiring new weapons and ammunition from local militias and engaging in a recruitment drive,” further said the independent experts. The SLM-AW has rejected calls to join talks for peace in Darfur brokered by South Sudan. Nonetheless, the group recently announced they would launch a new initiative for peace from inside Sudan and accused those who are in Juba of seeking positions not a genuine solution of the 17-year conflict. The report said the SLA-AW commanders supervise the mining operations by the residents and collect 25% of the revenue generated by the artisanal miners. Sudan Tribune

Despite Mediation, No Solution Yet to South Sudan Issue of the Number of States
The controversial issue of the number of states in South Sudan is now in the hands of South Africa after the two principals failed to agree. On Wednesday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar handed over the issue to South African vice-president David Mabuza, after a two-day face-to-face meeting in Juba failed to produce results. … Since last December, Mr Mabuza has tried to bring the two leaders to a compromise agreement, but President Kiir has maintained that the 32 states will remain because any changes downwards will cause chaos. Speaking to reporters in Juba after meeting President Salva Kiir on Thursday afternoon, David Mabuza said the proposal regarding to the number of state and boundaries could be discussed over an extended period of 90 days more. Dr Machar’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and other opposition signatories to the September 2018 peace agreement have called for reverting to the original 10 states if President Kiir refuses to review the boundaries and consider having 23 states. The East African

Egypt Extends State of Emergency to Three Years
Egypt’s state of emergency is set to reach the three-year mark by April after the government announced it would extend it by another three months from Monday next week. The North African country has been under a state of emergency since April 2017 bombings of two Coptic churches by an Islamic State group affiliate that killed more than 40 people. The extension comes nine years after the January 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, who had also ruled for decades under a state of emergency. … Under a state of emergency, police powers such as arresting and holding citizens are extended and constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly are curtailed. Egypt has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which surged following the 2013 military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. … Rights groups say the state of emergency coupled with the government’s effective protest ban since 2013 has helped it in crushing dissent. In September, rare minor protests broke out in Egypt triggered by online calls for removal. Some 4,000 people were arrested in the following weeks, according to local rights groups. AFP

Ramaphosa Vows No More Poorly-Qualified People in Key State Posts—Even If They’re Politically Connected
While struggling state-owned enterprises such as Eskom and SAA are diminishing the state’s capacity, the practice of parachuting poorly qualified, but politically connected, people into key positions will come to an end, President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly newsletter. The topic of Monday’s letter was “a capable state”. Ramaphosa recounted being struck by the “need to significantly improve the capacity of the government that is meant to improve their lives” while walking through the streets of Kimberley and other towns in the Northern Cape two weeks ago, as part of the ANC’s January 8th celebrations. “It was disheartening to see that, despite progress in many areas, there were several glaring instances of service delivery failures,” Ramaphosa wrote. “Many of the places we visited struggle to provide social infrastructure and services simply because they have such a small revenue base. But, in some cases, elected officials and public servants have neglected their responsibilities.” … He said public representatives and civil servants derived their legitimacy from their ability to act professionally while serving the public and managing state resources to the benefit of the public. News24

UN Agency Appeals for $375.5 Million to Enhance Human Rights Globally
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is appealing for $375.5 million to support its efforts to promote and protect human rights in dozens of countries around the world at a time of great turbulence and erosion of fundamental rights. Human rights is one of the three main pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and security and development. And, yet the office established to be the world’s human rights watchdog is seriously short of cash. Barely half of last year’s record $321.5 million appeal was funded. The U.N. High Commissioner’s Office hopes this year’s appeal will receive more generous support from the international community. Human Rights spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, said a great deal of work lies ahead. These include monitoring nations compliance with human rights law, protecting people with disabilities, promoting gender and women’s rights, preventing conflicts, grievances and discrimination of all kinds. … Laurence told VOA much of the work ahead this year will involve Africa. He said his agency will supply the resources, technical assistance and other support to help vulnerable areas improve the human rights of their people. VOA

Yahya Jammeh Faces Arrest If He Returns to Gambia – Minister
Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will be arrested if he attempts to return to the country, a minister has told the BBC. Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou said he would like to prosecute Mr Jammeh himself over his “brutal” rule. Mr Jammeh has expressed his desire to return home and his supporters say arresting him will lead to “bloodshed”. The former leader has been in exile in Equatorial Guinea since being removed from power in 2017. He refused to accept defeat in December 2016 elections and The Gambia’s neighbours sent troops to force him out. The justice minister’s comments come days after Mr Jammeh’s supporters held a large protest demanding their former leader’s safe return to the country. BBC

Luanda Leaks Point to International Complicity as Isabel dos Santos Faces Scrutiny
Angolans are calling for an international investigation into the world-wide dealings that allowed Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former president, to become the richest woman in Africa. No Angolan ever believed that the fortune amassed by Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was acquired by legal means. But even the most skeptical might have been surprised by the extent of international connivance in the plundering of the country’s resources as exposed by the recent leak of documents concerning “Africa’s richest woman.” The New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday published a trove of files allegedly showing how dos Santos syphoned hundreds of millions of dollars of public money into offshore accounts. The more than 715,000 files — dubbed “Luanda Leaks” — were investigated by 120 reporters in 20 countries. DW

More Energy Woes for Zim after Floods at Key Power Plant
Heavy rains have battered Zimbabwe’s Hwange district, leaving over 50 families in temporary shelters as their homes were under water, as well as flooding coal mines and the country’s biggest thermal power station – sparking fears of further power cuts in the coming week. Zimbabwe – which is importing power from South Africa to assist with its power supply gap – is already experiencing 18-hour electricity blackouts following drastically reduced power generation at Kariba dam as a result of receding water levels for power generation. … Power cuts have been blamed for lost production hours for most businesses in the southern African country. Fin24

Malawi is Home to Africa’s First Drone Academy
Malawi this month opened the first African Drone and Data Academy, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. The academy aims to improve drone technology skills across Africa, beginning with Malawi and neighboring countries. Karen Asaba developed an interest in drones at Uganda Flying Labs, a Kampala-based drone mapping and data hub. As a student at Malawi’s just opened African Drone and Data Academy, she gets to learn how to build one. “Right now, we are learning how to assemble a drone from the start, considering its weight, considering the central gravity, considering the GPS and all the electronics that are involved in making the drone,” she said. Asaba is one of 26 students from across Africa in the first three-month course at the academy, learning to construct and pilot drones. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is backing the program, which this year is expected to train 150 students. UNICEF says the academy, and the launch of Africa’s first drone corridor in Malawi in 2016, will promote drones for development and humanitarian use. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones