Africa Media Review for January 24, 2020

At Least Six Mali Soldiers Killed in Overnight Ambush

At least six soldiers were killed and several were wounded in an overnight attack in central Mali, the army said on Thursday, in fresh violence in the war-torn West African state. The troops came under fire late Wednesday from “unidentified armed men” in Dioungani, an area in central Mali’s volatile Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, the army said on Twitter. A security official who declined to be named said that, in an assault lasting several hours, the attackers overwhelmed the soldiers’ position before reinforcements took it back. Local authorities and inhabitants have blamed the attack on jihadists. The army gave a “provisional toll” of six dead and several wounded, without giving further details. The security official, however, said seven soldiers had been killed. … On Tuesday, two soldiers were killed in the Mopti region when their convoy hit a roadside bomb. AFP

Barkhane Operations Kill More than 30 ‘Terrorists’ in Mali

More than 30 “terrorists” were killed during a recent series of operations conducted by the France-led Operation Barkhane force in Mali, the French Armed Forces Ministry said. “In recent weeks, Barkhane has stepped up the pressure on armed terrorist groups, in the Tri-border area and beyond, through several one-off operations” that were hitting the terrorists hard, “challenging their freedom of action and limiting their capacity to cause harm,” the Thursday, January 23 release said. … A commando operation on January 10 in northern Mopti “put three terrorists, including a logistics officer, out of action.” Then, between January 14 and 15, during a helicopter-borne operation in southern Mopti that was marked by fierce fighting and several skirmishes, “a full combat group was neutralized.” … A separate joint operation in the Gourma conducted by the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) supported by the French Desert Battle Group 1 (GTD-1) “Steel” between January 2 and 17 led to the seizure of weapons and more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition, the ministry said in a Wednesday release. The Defense Post

The Hunt: What Are Terrorists Planning in 2020?
A lot changed in the world of terrorism in 2019, from more high-profile terror attacks around the globe to the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Shabab’s stunning rise in Somalia. So, what should we expect in 2020? Wendy Williams, assistant research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, breaks down what their latest map of terrorist activity in Africa tells them, on this week’s edition of The Hunt with WTOP national security correspondent J.J. Green. WTOP

Fresh Clashes in Key Central African Republic Town

Two armed groups who last year joined an agreement aimed at bringing peace to the Central African Republic have clashed in a key northeastern town, the UN said on Thursday. “The deputy special representative of the United Nations secretary general, Denise Brown, has gone to the area” to assess the situation, the spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission Minusca, Vladimir Monteiro, told AFP. The fighting broke out on Monday in Birao, a trading town located near the Sudan border, and continued on Tuesday. Aid workers there, reached by AFP, said the town itself was calm on Thursday but its outskirts were extremely tense. The clashes involved the Movement of the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the CAR (FPRC), which had been fighting sporadically over Birao since July. Both groups joined other militias in Khartoum last February 6 to sign a peace agreement with the government. AFP

South Sudan: Peace Monitors Concerned over Delayed Training of Forces

Peace monitors in South Sudan have expressed concern over the delayed screening and subsequent training of unified forces. This came during a meeting held in Juba on Thursday. “I am concerned that the screening of forces has not started yet, even though the screening teams are reported to be ready to begin,” said Augostino Njoroge, the interim head of the international monitoring body RJMEC. He pointed out that no training can take place before screening. “The more it is delayed, the more the time that will be lost in beginning the training of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF),” he stressed. Njoroge urged the Joint Defence Board (JDB) to ensure that the screening, selection and training of forces “starts immediately in consultation with the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission.” The interim chairperson further added that security mechanisms have fallen behind the timelines of their action plans. He asked the mechanisms to coordinate their activities more closely. … He further called on the mechanisms to fast-track the implementation of the critical tasks in the remaining 30 days. Radio Tamazuj

Murders Plague Lesotho Politics

Over the past few years, top-level politics in Lesotho has been defined less by elections and more by a spate of violent deaths – one of which threatens to collapse the government yet again. For nearly a decade, no prime minister in Lesotho has served a full five-year term. Political instability has forced unscheduled general elections in 2015 and 2017, and incumbent Thomas Thabane has now declared that he will not see out the rest of his term. Punctuating these votes have been a series of high-profile murders that continue to cast a long and ominous shadow over the mountain kingdom. The first unmistakable sign that something was very wrong came in June 2015, with the killing in suspicious circumstances of former army chief Maaparankoe Mahao. At the time of his death, Mahao was embroiled in a bitter fight for power between Thabane and his arch-rival, former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili. The latter had just won an election, unseating Thabane in the process; weeks later, Thabane’s favoured army chief – Mahao – was found dead. Eight soldiers have been charged with murdering Mahao. Mail & Guardian

Demobilising South Africa’s ‘Child Soldier’ Gangs

Hanover Park, a depressing neighbourhood of drab buildings and unemployed young men, is one island in a violent gangland archipelago that stretches across South Africa’s coastal city of Cape Town, where even the deployment of the army has failed to stop the shootings. … Nearly 7,000 people in Hanover Park are thought to be active within the myriad street gangs that have their roots in a prison gang culture on the Western Cape that stretches back more than 100 years. It’s a multi-tiered system that incorporates gunmen – known as shooters – through to narcotic merchants, robbers, and enforcers, adhering to complex codes of conduct that are amplified during time spent in jail. The victims are civilian members of the community routinely maimed and killed in the crossfire of rival gangs. When The New Humanitarian first met Bruce, she was cleaning and dressing a gunshot wound sustained on a July Sunday morning while doing household chores. The first round skipped off the road separating her backyard from the Summer Primary School perimeter fence she uses for a washing line. The next hollow-point bullet shattered her lower right leg. The New Humanitarian

Oversight Group Says Abuse by Kenyan Police on the Rise

Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) says police abuse of civilians is getting worse and includes extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The IPOA issued a report Wednesday documenting over 3,000 cases of abuse by Kenyan police, mostly in poor slum areas. Seventeen-year-old Stephen Machurusi was buried Thursday in Molo, a town in the Rift Valley region. He was killed in the Kasarani area of Nairobi, during protests over bad roads. Medical examination showed he was shot at close range, and family members are blaming police. “We want justice for our brother,” his sister told VOA after the burial. “That’s why I want to come back to Nairobi to follow up on the story. With people I have, we will get justice am sure of that. We won’t rest until we get justice for our brother.” The abuse of Kenyan civilians by the police is on the rise. According to the Independent Police Oversight Authority, a body mandated to check on the work of the police, 3,200 people reported cases of police abuse in 2019. VOA

Out of Court: Ugandans Turn to ‘Barefoot Lawyers’ to Settle Land Disputes

When Emma Obokullo’s grandmother became embroiled in a property inheritance wrangle, he went online for answers. Obokullo had spotted a Facebook post by BarefootLaw, a local non-profit aiming to find new ways to teach Ugandans about their rights. Now, through email and messaging apps, they helped him and his grandmother to claim property she had inherited. “In Uganda, lawyers don’t take you seriously,” said Obokullo, a social worker in the capital Kampala. With the free advice he received online, he was able to prod his own lawyer into action. Eventually, his grandmother was reimbursed for her property, which he considers a success. BarefootLaw was founded by Ugandan law students in 2012, initially as a Facebook page. The group handles about 100 legal matters every day and reaches 350,000 people a month through phone, text messages and social media, as well as old-fashioned public meetings. Reuters

Morocco Adds W. Sahara Waters to Its Maritime Territory

Morocco on Wednesday integrated waters off the coast of Western Sahara into its maritime territory, adopting two laws that extend its legal jurisdiction over the disputed former Spanish colony. “These laws aim to update the national legal arsenal” in line with “the full sovereignty of the kingdom over its land and maritime borders,” Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said before parliament in Rabat passed the laws. The laws, intended to establish Morocco’s jurisdiction over territorial waters stretching from Tangiers on the northern coast as far as Lagouira, on the border with Mauritania, were unanimously backed by lawmakers and greeted with applause. The vast desert territory of Western Sahara lies north of Mauritania and is bordered to the west by around 1,000 kilometres of Atlantic coastline. Morocco has controlled 80 percent of the territory since the 1970s and views it as an integral part of the kingdom. That is disputed by the Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed independence movement. AFP

Ethiopian Teff: The Fight against Biopiracy

Teff, also known as dwarf millet, is to Ethiopia what maize is to Mexico and rice is to China: the country’s most important foodstuff, the basis for the national dish injera – a soft, spongy, pancake-like bread – and an important part of its cultural heritage. Farmers in the Ethiopian highlands started cultivating teff 3,000 years ago. Perhaps understandably, many Ethiopians are annoyed that a Dutch company holds a patent on processed teff flour. To this day, in some European countries, no flour from the gluten-free and nutrient-rich super grain may be sold without paying royalties to the Netherlands. This could soon change, and it if it does it will be partly due to the private initiative of a German lawyer. Ethiopians find it particularly perfidious that the Dutch company in question started by conducting research on teff together with the Ethiopian state and agreed to share the genetic information obtained for commercial use. But in 2004, it filed a patent alone. … Activists call this biopiracy: the act of marketing plants or other biological material from the global south without sharing the profits with the countries of origin. DW

Angolan Journalist Feels Vindicated after Years of Exposing Corruption

In 1999, Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais wrote an article titled “The Lipstick of Dictatorship” in which he denounced then-President José Eduardo dos Santos as corrupt. For his writing, he was arrested, held in solitary confinement, denied food and charged with defamation. “I was jailed for that, went on trial for that, and went through hell for exposing corruption at the presidential level,” he told VOA. Today, as members of the dos Santos family have more than $1 billion in assets frozen and face charges of financial crimes, he feels vindicated. He says his fight to expose corruption was worth it. “It’s a long-overdue measure by the judicial authorities because Isabel dos Santos and the dos Santos family are at the top of the pyramid of those who have plundered the country,” he said. Marques has spent more than two decades chronicling corruption in his home country, with a particular emphasis on the diamond industry. He has received numerous awards for his work including a Hellman/Hammett grant by Human Rights Watch in 2011. His initiative Maka Angola supports and publishes crusading, investigative journalism in the country. VOA

Rohingya Crisis: The Gambian Who Took Aung San Suu Kyi to the World Court

“I’d never intended to study law. But… the first university place I got offered was to do a law degree [at Warwick University] and so I had a career deviation.” After graduating, he returned home and initially worked as a public prosecutor. Increasingly conscious of the political situation in The Gambia, he and his friends began to speak out against human rights violations. In April 2000, President Yahya Jammeh’s notorious security forces opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters, killing 14 students, a journalist and Red Cross volunteer. Mr Tambadou watched his close friends prosecuted and persecuted but it was pressure from his family, concerned about the consequences of his opposition to the Jammeh regime that finally convinced him to pursue opportunities outside his homeland. And so began his career in international justice. … His self-imposed exile took him to the UN court set up to try the ringleaders of the Rwanda genocide, where he was responsible for the prosecution of former Rwandan army chief of staff Maj-Gen Augustin Bizimungu. … “This was a way for us Africans to send a message to our leaders… I saw it as more of an African struggle for justice and accountability than a Rwandan one.” BBC

These Are the Nigerian English Words Added to the Oxford Dictionary

When a Nigerian says “see you next tomorrow,” the person actually means the day after tomorrow. It’s one of the colloquialisms of Nigerian English that have made it into the latest updates of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Like in many English-speaking societies, Nigerians have crafted new words, phrases and meanings that have, overtime, become widely adopted as part of the country’s local lexicon. And that’s a reality that OED acknowledges. In release notes announcing the updates, the dictionary says Nigerians “have made, and are continuing to make, a unique and distinctive contribution to English” through these words. The 29 new additions from Nigerian English, OED says, are “either borrowings from Nigerian languages, or unique Nigerian coinages” that have been used since the 1970s and 1980s. Quartz

These Artifacts Were Stolen. Why Is It So Hard to Get Them Back?

In 2004, Steve Dunstone and Timothy Awoyemi stood on a boat on the bank of the River Niger. The two middle-aged men, both police officers in Britain, were taking part in a journey through Nigeria, organized through the Police Expedition Society, and had reached the small town of Agenebode, in the country’s south. Their group brought gifts with them from British schoolchildren, including books and supplies. The local schools had been alerted in advance, and a crowd came down to the river banks to meet them; there was even a dance performance. It was a wonderful – if slightly overwhelming – welcome, Mr. Dunstone recalled. In the back of the crowd, Mr. Awoyemi, who was born in Britain and grew up in Nigeria, noticed two men holding what looked like political placards. They didn’t come forward, he said. But just as the boat was about to push off, one of the men suddenly clambered down toward it. … The man reached out his arm across the water and handed Mr. Dunstone a note, then hurried off with barely a word. That night, Mr. Dunstone pulled the note from his pocket. Written on it were just six words: “Please help return the Benin Bronzes.” The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones