Africa Media Review for January 27, 2017

Al-Shabab Fighters Attack Kenya Military Base in Somalia
Islamist militant al-Shabab fighters have launched an attack on a Kenyan military base in southern Somalia. The al-Qaeda-linked group says it has killed more than 50 soldiers and seized military vehicles and weapons. But a Kenyan military spokesman said the dawn attack was repelled, the base was not overrun and scores of insurgents were killed in the fighting. A year ago al-Shabab carried out a similar attack on a Kenyan base in the town el-Ade. In that raid the Islamist group said it had killed more than 100 soldiers, but the Kenyan government refused to give its casualty figures. BBC

President Adama Barrow Arrives in The Gambia, at Last
Jubilant Gambians have welcomed home President Adama Barrow, who was elected almost two months ago but forced to flee to Senegal when his predecessor refused to step aside. Dressed in flowing white robes and a cap, Barrow stepped off the plane on Thursday, with heavily-armed troops from Senegal and Nigeria standing by as he flew in from neighbouring Senegal, where he had taken shelter on January 15. Barrow, who was accompanied by his two wives and some of his children, was welcomed by military officials and senior members of his coalition government.  Al Jazeera

Switzerland Arrests ex-Gambian  Interior Minister
Switzerland on Thursday detained former Gambian interior minister Ousman Sonko, who is accused of committing grave abuses under the regime of ousted president Yahya Jammeh. The arrest, confirmed by Swiss prosecutors, comes as The Gambia prepared to welcome their new president Adama Barrow, who had fled to Senegal after beating Jammeh in a landmark election that sparked a political crisis. Sonko had been one of Jammeh’s top allies, serving in his presidential guard before leading the interior ministry from 2006 to 2016. Jammeh sacked him in September and Sanko fled to Sweden where his request for asylum was rejected. News 24

Gambia’s Ex-Leader Left His Mark—and a Grim Legacy
Across Yahya Jammeh bridge and on the side of Yahya Jammeh highway, amid fields of bushy mango trees and giant baobabs, there is a town of women, children and aging men. Most young men have left. Of the 420 households in this peanut-producing community, each has lost at least one member to an exodus of young men seeking a better life in Europe and the chance to send money back to their impoverished families. The settlement of cement houses is part of the legacy of Mr. Jammeh, Gambia’s longtime leader who stepped down on Jan. 21 after more than 22 years as president. Mr. Jammeh’s weekslong tantrum over ceding power—and his theatrical exit—has drawn attention to this tiny West African nation and its former president. The Wall Street Journal

German Parliament Votes to Expand Military Presence in Mali
The German parliament voted in favor of expanding Bundeswehr’s military presence in Mali on Thursday. Now, as many as 1,000 Bundeswehr soldiers will be deployed in the Western-African nation, compared to a previous upper limit of 650. The troops form part of a UN-mission tasked with securing the peace in the embattled north of the country. German troops are planning to take over rescue responsibilities within the UN mission from the Dutch. On Friday, the first of eight additional helicopters – half of them rescue choppers, the other half combat helicopters – will be deployed to Mali from Germany. German troops are already in charge of gathering intelligence via drone flights. The UN mission currently includes more than 12,000 soldiers. Most of them hail from Africa, while European countries, such as France, the Netherlands or Germany, have provided a majority of the hardware, such as drones and helicopters, as well as a minority of the soldiers. Deutsche Welle

Kenya: New Opposition Coalition Formed to Take on Kenyatta
With Kenya’s general election fast approaching – the vote is scheduled for August 8, 2017 – Kenya’s politicians are doing everything they can to position themselves for a successful tilt at the presidency. Last year, the country saw the birth of a new political party, the Jubilee Party, as President Uhuru Kenyatta sought to consolidate his grip on power. This year, it is the turn of the opposition, which earlier this month unveiled a brand new coalition: the National Super Alliance. The coalition consists of six major political parties, with 15 others lined up to join later. The main parties are the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), the Wiper Party, Amani National Congress, Chama cha Mashinani, the Narc Kenya Party, the United Democratic Party and the Muungano Party. Daily Maverick

Kenyan Doctors Given Five Days to Call Off Wage Strike
A Kenyan labour court has given the country’s doctors’ union five days to call off its on-going strike by medics in the public health sector. The almost two-month-old strike by more than 5 000 doctors has affected all public healthcare facilities in the country, putting at risk the lives of majority of the country’s poor who cannot afford private healthcare. The striking doctors are seeking better pay, working conditions and equipment. Labour Court Judge Hellen Wasilwa has suspended a month long jail sentence handed down on the union officials two weeks ago for failing to call off the strike. SABC

African Nations Must Address Youth Struggles: AU
The time has come for the African governments to address the alienation of young people, which fuels frustrations and create a sense of helplessness.  That’s according to the African Union’s (AU) Commissioner for Political Affairs, Dr Aisha Abdullahi.  She was speaking on the side-lines of the 28th AU Summit currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Abdullahi says young people are highly affected by the governance challenges of the continent, but are rarely considered in the efforts and programmes aimed at addressing them. Africa is regarded as the most youthful continent with 65% of its one billion population below the age of 35 years. The current levels are expected to double by  2055. Almost 10 million young Africans are entering the labour market each year.   SABC

After Delays, Somalia Says Presidential Election Set for February 8
Somalia’s electoral commission says the presidential election will be Febuary 8, after four delays and amid allegations of bribery, fraud and voter intimidation. Opposition candidates have accused the government of monopolizing the electoral process. The electoral commission said late Wednesday that registration of presidential candidates starts Thursday. The development comes shortly after this Horn of Africa nation elected members of the two houses of parliament. Somalia’s president is not elected by popular vote. Some 14,000 delegates selected by their clans elect parliament members, who elect the president. VOA

DRC Bishops Warn Peace Process Faltering
Bishops leading negotiations between political leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are warning that unless a crucial political agreement is signed by 28 January all efforts to achieve peace will have been in vain. The Catholic Church became a mediator between political parties after President Joseph Kabila failed to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate on 19 December after 16 years in power. A deal was signed on 31 December that aims to pave the way for the first ever peaceful transition of power in the nation. However, Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Vice President of the Catholic Church’s National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), and one of the mediators who directed negotiations between the political majority and the opposition, told Fides News Agency this week that “the bad faith of the politicians is putting strain on the patience of the pastors”. Radio Vatican

Army Major Shot Dead in Eastern Burundi
An army major was shot dead by another Burundian soldier Wednesday night in eastern Burundi, a military source told Anadolu Agency Thursday. Col. Gaspard Baratuza, Burundian army spokesman, said: “Major Karashira was killed last night by another soldier during a night patrol; the perpetrator of this murder was arrested and is under interrogation.” The slain major was heading the intelligence services of the 22nd Battalion of Mutukura in Cankuzo province, eastern Burundi, the spokesman added. The murder comes few days after a group of armed men attacked a military camp in Mukoni in Muyinga province, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the capital, Bujumbura, killing three people. Anadolu Agency

Congo Plans to Extradite 186 Alleged Burundian Rebels
Democratic Republic of Congo is to extradite nearly 200 suspected Burundian rebels, raising concerns by rights groups that they could be tortured or killed on their return to Burundi. The 186 alleged rebels were captured near the two countries’ border in 2015 and early 2016 amid violence that broke out after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a third term, a move his opponents said violated the constitution. “We are finalising plans to extradite them,” Congo’s government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters. He did not know how long the process would take. “We cannot accept that Congo serve as a base to launch hostile actions against a member country of the ICGLR,” he said, referring to regional body, the International Conference on the Great Lakes. Reuters

Blacklisting Muslim Brotherhood Carries Risks
In the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates were winning elections across the Middle East—a testament to the Islamist movement’s popular appeal. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration is considering declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, something that could trigger a slew of unexpected consequences across the region. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood says that it is opposed to political violence and wants to reach its goal of establishing an Islamic society through democratic means. This doesn’t mean that Brotherhood members haven’t pursued violence in the past. The group’s Palestinian affiliate, Hamas, has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization since 1997. Over the past decade, however, the administration of George W. Bush and, to a much greater extent, the White House under Barack Obama maintained a policy of engaging with Muslim Brotherhood members elected to public office. That was especially true after the organization’s candidate Mohammed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential elections in 2012. he Wall Street Journal

Congo to Host Mini AU Summit on Libyan Crisis
In an effort to find a solution to the on-going crisis in Libya, a mini summit is due to take place on Friday in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville. Because the Republic of Congo chairs the African Union high-level committee on Libya, President Denis Sassou Nguesso has called for the meeting, just ahead of the opening of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on Monday. So far, only four heads of state are confirmed to be attending, including Chad’s Idriss Deby, Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. Algeria’s Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal and the AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaïl Chergui will also be present. RFI

Watchdog Report Accuses South Sudan Military of Corruption
A new watchdog report says South Sudan’s military is engaged in systemic corruption that has plundered the country’s resources and fueled conflict in the East African nation. The Washington-based Enough Project blames “willful, systematic obstruction of financial oversight” in the world’s youngest nation, where civil war has raged since late 2013. The report says competition among various militia groups for money and power “can erupt into deadly violence” and is exacerbated by a lack of accountability and transparency. The report also says more than 100 000 “ghost” soldiers could be on the military’s payroll, allowing for commanders and military leaders to boost their incomes or reputations. News 24

South Sudan Rebels to Detain Kenyans in Retaliation
A senior rebel figure has warned Kenya against deporting opposition dissidents to South Sudan where they are likely to be held without charge. In remarks made on his social media account Thursday, Koang Rambang Chol ordered forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar to not allow Kenyan nationals to leave South Sudan’s north town of Akobo in retaliation. “I am ordering all security organs, including military intelligence not to allow Kenyan citizens, including those working in the humanitarian organizations to leave Bieh state territory until further directive from my office,” Chol said. The order comes after two South Sudanese opposition dissidents, Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idris, were detained in Kenya on Monday with reports suggesting the duo could face deportation to South Sudan. Anadolu Agency

Sudan Opposition Leader Mahdi Returns from Exile
Sudanese opposition leader and former prime minister Sadique al-Mahdi returned to the country on Thursday more than two years after he fled abroad, his party said. Mr Mahdi, whose civilian government was overthrown in a 1989 coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power, flew in to Khartoum, said his daughter Mariam al-Mahdi, deputy head of the Umma party. She said that authorities prevented several supporters from entering the airport to welcome Mr Mahdi. The East African

Cote d’Ivoire: Partial Justice
In 2011, Cote d’Ivoire – or Ivory Coast as it is known in the English-speaking world – was torn apart by inter-community violence that broke out between supporters of newly elected President Alassane Ouattara and his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo. It was the latest round in a bitter ethnic struggle that had wrought havoc in this former French colony for a decade. Three thousand people were killed; more than a million, from both sides, were displaced. The fighting was only brought to an end with the help of French and UN troops who intervened on Ouattara’s side. Today, the government says its aim is to lay these tensions to rest and return to the peace and stability that once made Cote D’Ivoire one of the most prosperous nations in West Africa. But although violence has indeed diminished and the country is enjoying a degree of economic success, dangerous ethnic and political rivalries still simmer. Last year saw protests over constitutional reforms aimed at preventing the exclusion of presidential candidates based on their ethnicity, and in January a pay dispute involving the army broke out into a short lived mutiny. Al Jazeera

Nigerian oil Pollution Claims Against Shell Cannot Be Heard in UK, Court Rules
The high court has ruled that tens of thousands of Nigerians affected by oil pollution cannot proceed with a legal challenge in the UK against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary. The ruling is a blow for campaigners who called the ruling an “outrage”. They had hoped the case would set an important precedent on jurisdiction, paving the way for other cases to be brought against UK-based corporations for their actions abroad. The lawyers who brought the action on behalf of two communities hit by oil spills said they would appeal the ruling by Mr Justice Fraser on Thursday, who gave permission to appeal. Leigh Day, the law firm acting on behalf of the claimants, said it was surprised at the dismissal in such an early stage of their case, which rested on their claim that parent company Royal Dutch Shell has responsibility for its Nigerian arm and so the case should be heard in the UK. The Guardian

Who Can Unblock Morocco?
Moroccans call it the “blockage”, as if their government is suffering from a medical condition. Three days after the Justice and Development Party (PJD), a moderate Islamist outfit, won the most seats in a parliamentary election on October 7th, King Muhammad VI asked its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, to form a new government. More than three months later, Mr Benkirane is still trying. The power struggle has indeed put Morocco’s economic and political health at risk. Morocco rode out the Arab spring better than most countries in the region. Big protests led to constitutional reforms and a relatively free and fair election in 2011, won by the PJD. The economy shows promise and the king pushes a mild version of Islam. By the standards of the region, it is a budding success—which makes today’s mess all the more disappointing. The Economist

Developing Inclusive National Security Strategies in Africa
Few African countries have an official national security strategy. This is in part because the models and concepts of national security elsewhere are not always readily applicable on the continent. For instance, while most national security strategies are entirely externally oriented, many African countries’ most serious security threats are internal. These societally based security challenges often involve non-state actors rather than conventional military forces. Moreover, the concept of security is often defined in terms of regime survival. As such, the state security apparatus has been organized to protect the regime and not necessarily its citizens. Africa Center for Strategic Studies



Photo: Adam Jones