Africa Media Review for January 23, 2020

32 Killed in Attack in Disputed South Sudan Border Region: Official
At least 32 people were killed Wednesday when suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked a village in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei along the border of South Sudan, a local official said. Abyei has been contested since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, while there have long been tensions between the South Sudanese Ngok Dinka community and the Misseriya herders who traverse the area looking for grazing. Kuol Alor Kuol, the chief administrator of the Abyei area, told AFP that heavily armed Misseriya and allied militia attacked the village of Kolom early on Wednesday. “Thirty-two people were killed among them children and women, and secondly about 24 people are wounded … and about 15 people including children were abducted and 20 houses burned,” Kuol said. He said the wounded had been evacuated to a hospital in the town of Agok which is run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). In 2011, the UN Security Council deployed a peacekeeping force to the area after deadly clashes displaced some 100,000 people. … The United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) could not be immediately reached for comment on the attack. AFP

Four Killed in Mozambique Health Centre Assault: Witnesses
Four people were killed in central Mozambique after assailants targeted a health centre, witnesses said Wednesday, the first attack since President Filipe Nyusi began his second term last week. Mozambique’s government has blamed factions of the former guerilla group and opposition movement Renamo for attacks in the centre of the country in violation of last year’s peace deal. Attackers hit the health centre in a village in central Sofala province on Tuesday night, where they “fired several shots and entered the health centre and stole all the medicines,” a local nurse told AFP. “The people who died were at the health centre and were hit by stray bullets,” she said. … Tuesday’s attack was the first on a health centre as armed groups have previously targeted vehicles passing along a central highway. “We suspect they wanted medicines as they didn’t target homes but only the health centre in Macorococho village, in Nhamatanda district,” a local community leader said. AFP

Increasing Boko Haram Attacks on Highways Threaten to Cut Borno Off from Nigeria
Fear is now mounting that Borno State may soon be totally cut off from the rest of Nigeria as Boko Haram insurgents in the past few weeks have launched daily attacks on the Kano-Maiduguri highway, the only remaining safe route to the state. Six highways link Maiduguri, the state capital, with other parts of Nigeria. But for the past six years, only the Kano-Maiduguri highway that connects the state with Damaturu, the Yobe state capital, remains in use. Between 2013 and late 2014, the insurgents bombed major bridges on four of the highways, rendering the roads inaccessible. They also seized many communities along the highways. Today, to travel from Maiduguri to Biu, about 180 kilometres in the southern part of the state, commuters now go through Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe states, covering a distance of about 560km. People travelling to Gwoza, a town 127km south of Maiduguri, also have to make even a longer detour through Adamawa State. … In December 2018, the military reopened most of the roads after “reclaiming” them from Boko Haram. But it still required heavily armed soldiers to escort long convoys of vehicles to ply the routes. Despite that, travellers and their military escorts suffered a series of fatal ambushes by Boko Haram gunmen. Today, the “reopened roads” have been abandoned as it has become suicidal to ply them. Premium Times

Cameroon’s Anglophone Separatists Turn to Infighting
Clashes between separatist groups in Cameroon have killed at least six fighters, with one of the groups allegedly abducting close to 40 rebels of another camp. Separatist leaders have blamed the clashes on infiltration by Cameroon’s military. But the military says the clashes are an internal rivalry for power among the separatist groups. Cameroonian rebel leader Chacha posted a video clip on social media Sunday calling for all separatists to unite under his Southern Cameroon Restoration Forces after clashes between rebel groups. In the video, Chacha is dressed in a red suit, with a long black cross on the back, and standing with four supporters – all armed with rifles. He says if anybody attempts to betray their struggle to gain independence, he Chacha will kill such a traitor as he is killing Cameroon soldiers that have been sent by President Biya to eliminate true separatist fighters. Cameroon’s military says the self-proclaimed general posted the video after he killed several members of competing rebel groups. VOA

‘Africa’s Richest Woman’ Isabel dos Santos Charged with Fraud
Angola’s billionaire former first daughter Isabel dos Santos has been charged with money laundering and mismanagement during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol. Documents leaked this week alleged the daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, plundered state coffers to build her fortune, estimated at $2.1 billion. “Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol and is thus charged in the first instance with the crimes of money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management … forgery of documents, among other economic crimes,” prosecutor general Helder Pitta Gros told a news conference late Wednesday. Investigations into Isabel dos Santos’s 18-month tenure as Sonangol head from June 2016 were opened after her successor Carlos Saturnino raised the alarm about “irregular money transfers” and other dodgy procedures. Dubbed Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos is accused of using her father’s backing to plunder state funds from the oil-rich but poor southern African country and moving the money abroad with the help of Western firms. AFP

Peace Agreement on Sudan’s Northern Track ‘Expected within Days’
Peace negotiations on Sudan’s northern track began in the South Sudan capital of Juba yesterday, mediator Dio Matok said. He expects that a final peace agreement on the track can be reached in two days. The negotiations on the eastern Sudan track have been postponed. The parties negotiating on northern Sudan already reached agreement on many issues earlier this month. In a press statement Dio Matok, Minister for Energy, Dams and Electricity in South Sudan, announced that the mediation team postponed the negotiations on the eastern track until January 30. The government delegation asked for this, so it can solve the problem that key stakeholders from Red Sea state have not participated in the consultative forum set up to prepare the negotiations on the eastern track. They feel that too many supporters of the defunct Al Bashir regime are taking part in the forum. Matok announced great progress on the Darfur track, where agreements were reached on land, transitional justice and the system of government. No agreement has yet been reached on the security arrangements, but negotiations between the government and the SPLM North faction led by Malik Agar about security started on Tuesday. Radio Dabanga

Absolute Power: How Warlord Khalifa Haftar’s Designs on Libya Have Emerged as the Top Obstacle to Peace
He presents himself as the tough, no-nonsense military man who forged a national army out of the broken remnants of Libya’s security forces in the years after the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi’s longtime dictatorship, and the only man who can bring order to the fractured north African country. So when Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar was confronted by Peter Millett, who served as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Libya until 2018, about his own deputy’s track record of battlefield atrocities – including summary executions of prisoners – he expected quick results. “I said, ‘There are numerous videos of him executing prisoners,'” Millett recalls in an interview with The Independent. “Without any due process, he shoots them in the back of the head. You need to deal with it,” he told Haftar. But the all-powerful “field marshal,” as he has been anointed by the eastern Libyan parliament, demurred. “He admitted, ‘I don’t control all the groups under me,'” says the retired diplomat. The contrast between Haftar’s vast ambitions and curtailed capabilities has now emerged as the key stumbling block to ending Libya’s increasingly violent and globally tangled war. Independent

Libya: Tripoli’s Main Airport Halts Flights after Shelling, Threats
The only functioning airport in Libya’s capital closed Wednesday after coming under attack, despite a tenuous truce that world powers have pushed warring parties to respect. Authorities at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport said six Grad missiles crashed into the tarmac, prompting the airport to briefly suspend operations. When calm returned, flights resumed – only to be grounded yet again following fiery threats from eastern-based forces laying siege to the capital. As the sole landing strip for the U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli, as well as its major military base, Mitiga is a strategic target for opposition forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. A spokesman for Hifter’s forces acknowledged shooting down a Turkish-made drone over Mitiga. There were no reports of damage or casualties. Hifter’s forces, known as the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, alleged the unmanned drone violated the cease-fire and tried to strike LAAF targets in the capital. Turkey provides the embattled U.N.-backed administration with military support and, in a contentious move, recently deployed troops to help. AP

Turkey Sets Its Sights on the Horn of Africa
Turkey’s influence in the Horn of Africa is back in the spotlight, following the announcement that Somalia has invited Turkey to explore for oil in its seas. The invitation was preceded by a maritime agreement Turkey signed with Libya last year, which increased tensions in the Mediterranean over energy resources. “This is an offer from Somalia,” said Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “They are saying: ‘There is oil in our seas. You are carrying out these operations in Libya, but you can also do them here.’ This is very important for us.” Erdogan did not elaborate as to how Turkey plans to follow-up on Somalia’s offer. Last October the Somali Minister of Petroleum, Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed, announced that the country was opening up 15 blocks for oil companies to bid on. Economic and security developments in the wider Horn of Africa region have boosted the area’s significance as a geostrategic location in recent years. Turkey’s presence has sparked interest from analysts examining its motivations and Gulf States seeking to expand their influence. DW

Tunisia: North Africa’s Overlooked Migration Hub
Camara and her two sons were eventually transferred to Tunisia’s southern migration hub of Medenine, joining a small but steady stream of people who have been showing up in the North African country over the past two years. Some are seeking an alternative path to Europe, others a safe haven from the rampant exploitation, abuse, and spiralling conflict next door in Libya. Others still, like Camara, were rescued and brought ashore – often by the Tunisian coast guard, fishermen, or merchant vessels – after their attempts to make it to Europe failed. Regardless of how they arrive, Tunisia can be a hard country for asylum seekers and migrants to get out of. Between January and the end of November last year, fewer than 4,000 people managed to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy. Of those, around three quarters were Tunisians searching for a better life in Europe – a trend that began after the country’s 2010-2011 revolution and has continued at pace since. Foreign asylum seekers and migrants like Camara who end up in Tunisia often find themselves stuck in a confusing asylum system that is under-resourced and overburdened by the increasing number of people seeking assistance. The New Humanitarian

3 African Nations Meet to Draft Deal on Nile Dam Dispute
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan started U.S.-monitored talks on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital to try hammer out a draft deal to resolve their dispute over a Nile dam that Ethiopia is constructing, an Egyptian spokesman said. The $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, which promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people, has been a contentious point among the three main Nile Basin countries. The issue is critical for Cairo as Egypt seeks to protect its main source of freshwater for its large and growing population, also about 100 million. … According to Muhamed el-Sebai, a spokesman for Egypt’s irrigation ministry, technical and legal teams from the three countries are to “prepare a draft deal” on how the dam’s reservoir would be filled and how the dam itself would operate. The meeting in Khartoum would last two days, he said. There was no immediate indication on whether it would succeed after several previous rounds of talks failed. But at the talks in Washington last week, the three countries said they had reached a preliminary agreement. AP

Sahel: France to Further Strengthen Barkhane, Takuba ‘Fully Operational by Autumn’
France will further bolster its Operation Barkhane force in the Sahel, and the new international Task Force Takuba will be fully operational by the autumn, the country’s most senior military officer said on Wednesday, January 22. The Chief of the General Staff of the French Armed Forces General François Lecointre told reporters in Paris he would detail the “profile and composition” of the proposed troop buildup to President Emmanuel Macron in coming days. Announcements are expected on January 29, media reported. France recently reinforced Barkhane with 220 soldiers “who were on short-term missions in Côte d’Ivoire,” Lecointre said. Further reinforcements will be accompanied by “additional logistical and intelligence” support, said Lecointre, with efforts concentrated on the Liptako-Gourma region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. “Today in this extremely vast zone, the means at Operation Barkhane’s disposal are not sufficient for us to have soldiers deployed 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. The Defense Post

West African Presidents Urge U.S. to Stay in the Fight against Terrorism
West African leaders are urging the United States to stay in the fight against extremist groups that are rooting deeper into the region as the Pentagon weighs a significant troop pullout from the continent. Parts of the Sahel, a dry stretch of land south of the Sahara Desert, have fallen to militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda who are offering shelter to fighters fleeing the Middle East, the presidents of Senegal and Togo told The Washington Post in separate interviews. … Both expressed concern that terrorism is on the brink of spilling into their countries, which have not previously grappled with such a threat. Withdrawing U.S. troops as Islamist violence surges would be a “mistake,” Senegalese President Macky Sall said in his first public comments on the matter. “It would be a mistake, and it would be very misunderstood by Africans,” he said, “because instead of coming to help, you wish to remove the little help there is.” Gnassingbé, Togo’s leader of 15 years, said militants from Iraq and Syria are slipping into the region through restive Libya, where they aim to radicalize locals and build an army. … Terrorist attacks in rural Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have climbed fivefold since 2016, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. The Washington Post

Thousands of Nigerian Slum Dwellers Left Homeless after Mass Eviction
Authorities in Nigeria evicted thousands of impoverished residents from a Lagos slum, leaving many homeless, residents and eyewitnesses told CNN. Residents described scenes of panic and confusion Tuesday as hundreds of navy personnel pushed into Tarkwa Bay and neighboring island communities on the Lagos Lagoon, ordering them to leave within an hour. Navy Cmdr. Thomas Otuji, a spokesman for the operation launched in December, said the planned demolition of buildings aims to tackle oil theft along pipelines that run through the coastal city. Mohammed Zanna, a resident and paralegal, told CNN that the forces shot sporadically in the air as residents, who said they had no prior notice, scrambled to find their families and pack their belongings. “Everyone was panicking and packing everything they could carry. The men were shooting in the air and shouting that people should leave,” Zanna told CNN. Many residents queued at the harbor till nightfall, trying to secure boats to transport their families from the island to the city, said Megan Chapman, co-director of the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, a nonprofit that assists poor communities. She visited neighborhoods while the evictions were ongoing, Chapman said. CNN

Countries around World Gear Up Response to New Coronavirus
Countries in Asia and elsewhere have begun body temperature checks at airports, railway stations and along highways in hopes of catching people carrying a new coronavirus that is believed to have spread from Wuhan in central China and sickened more than 290 people in that country. … Nigeria’s government says health authorities at points of entry are on alert for cases of coronavirus arriving in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control asked that travelers from Wuhan report to a medical facility and the center if they feel ill. China is Africa’s top trading partner. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said anyone with a severe respiratory illness should be tested if they have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks or had close physical contact with a coronavirus patient or treatment at a facility where a confirmed case has been reported. There were more than 200,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of the end of 2017, not including numerous informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. VOA

In Pictures: The Sniffer Dogs Taking On Africa’s Poachers
Poachers in Africa, who are now armed with military-style weapons and even helicopters to hunt their prey, have a new adversary: dogs with a nose for detection. Deployed in key locations across six African countries are around 50 detector dogs. They have sniffed out contraband – elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales – leading to hundreds of arrests of traffickers and the disruption of smuggling routes. There have been almost 400 seizures of illegal wildlife products since the programme, funded by the African Wildlife Foundation, started in 2011. Will Powell, the director of Canines for Conservation, says it is “a public-private partnership” with governments that helps them develop dog units with their wildlife organisations. “That includes strategy, standard operating procedures and veterinary protocol. With their help we select rangers and train them as detection dog handlers.” Dog handling has become a sought-after job among employees of wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and most recently Cameroon. The handlers learn their skills over an eight-to-10-week period. Handlers are carefully matched with their canine partners, which is important as some handlers have not been around dogs before, or have only known dogs as guard dogs. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones