Africa Media Review for January 29, 2018

More Activity but Fewer Fatalities Linked to African Militant Islamist Groups in 2017
2017 marked a continuing drop in reported fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa (10,376 compared to a peak of 18,728 in 2015). This primarily has to do with the decline in fatality numbers linked to Boko Haram (3,329 from 3,484 in 2016) and ISIS (1,687 from 2,537 in 2016). In terms of activity, however, the number of violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa rose in 2017 (2,769 events from 2,317 in 2016). Despite repeated announcements of Boko Haram’s defeat, the group has shown resiliency. Though the number of reported fatalities linked to Boko Haram has continued to fall since a peak of 11,519 in 2015, the number of violent events linked to Boko Haram in 2017 was up to 500 from 417 in 2016. Africa Center of Strategic Studies

Ambush on Mali Army Camp Leaves 14 Soldiers and 17 Attackers Dead
Islamic militants stormed an army camp in northern Mali on Saturday, killing at least 14 soldiers in the worst attack on security forces in the West African country in more than a year, an army spokesman said. The spokesman, Col. Diarran Kone, said that after the attack in the Timbuktu region, the bodies of 17 assailants were left at the scene and the base was once again under the control of the Malian military. Mali recently commemorated the fifth anniversary of a French military mission to oust Islamic extremists from power in the major towns to the country’s north. The operation, however, merely dispersed the jihadists into the surrounding desert. In the years since, they have staged frequent attacks on the military as well as on United Nations peacekeeping forces that are trying to stabilize the country. The New York Times

Equatorial Guinea Says It Will Protect Former Gambian Leader
The president of Equatorial Guinea has pledged to protect the former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, who is living in exile in the tiny central African country. Jammeh left the Gambia with his family, trusted military officers and a fleet of luxury cars last year after a prolonged political crisis that followed his defeat in the presidential election. A host of west African presidents including Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Guinea’s Alpha Condé and Liberia’s then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tried to negotiate his exit, and Teodoro Obiang, who has been president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, gave him refuge. The Guardian

Ethiopia ‘Pardons 2,000 Prisoners’ Jailed over Oromo Protests
More than 2,000 prisoners jailed for involvement in unrest that gripped Ethiopia between 2015 and 2016 have been pardoned, officials said on Friday. The release is the latest of several in recent weeks, as authorities make efforts to calm continuing unrest since mass protests broke out in the Oromo region – dominated by the Oromo ethnic group – over accusations of land grabbing two years ago. Hundreds have died in the protests and successive waves of repression. Analysts say the continuing disorder indicates a deep-rooted discontent with decades of rule by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. The Guardian

DR Congo’s Kabila Says Elections Will Be Held
In his first speech in six years, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed his country will hold elections. Joseph Kabila said polling will go ahead, even though voting has already been postponed twice. He also denied accusations that his security forces are cracking down on protesters who are calling for him to step down. Al Jazeera

AU Chief Says Time Ripe for South Sudan Sanctions
African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said Sunday that “the time has come” to slap sanctions on those blocking peace in South Sudan, one of the most intractable wars facing African leaders as they meet in Ethiopia. At the opening of the 30th annual African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Dr Mahamat deplored the “unbelievable cruelty” and “senseless violence” of warring parties in South Sudan, which has been torn apart by conflict since December 2013, just two years after gaining independence. Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes, while millions are going hungry in a humanitarian crisis expected to worsen as the lean season sets in. AFP

S Sudan Summons U.S. Envoy for ‘Unfit Partner’ Comment
South Sudan’s foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in Juba on Friday over a recent comment by the U.S envoy at the UN about the South Sudanese government. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, in her speech to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, denounced the country’s president and its government as “an unfit partner” for the UN Security council and any country seeking peace and security for the people of South Sudan. The country’s undersecretary of foreign affairs, Ambassador Bak Valentino Wol, said Nikki Haley’s comment during her speech to the United Nations was “demeaning, undermining, and disrespectful” to South Sudanese sovereignty. Anadolu Agency

South Sudan Rebels Show Peace Gesture
The rebels of the Sudan People’s Army in Opposition (SPLA IO), loyal to Riek Machar, said they handed over 15 South Sudan government soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the KoloPach airstrip in the Jonglei state. SPLA IO deputy military spokesperson Col. Lam Paul Gabriel said Sunday that 11 other government soldiers refused to go to Juba for fear of persecution from their commanders. ‘’The SPLA IO welcomes their decision and gave them the freedom to live among the displaced people in the state. This is the third time the SPLA IO is showing compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed in December last year, while other partners have not yet complied,’’ Gabriel said. VOA

Sudan to Resume Peace Talks for Cessation of Hostilities
Sudan on Sunday announced that peace talks with rebels of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/northern sector will resume in February in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. “The government is trying to reach a declaration on cessation of hostilities and a comprehensive peace,” said Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, Sudanese Presidential Assistant and head of government’s negotiating delegation. The negotiations, regarding South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas, would be held during Feb. 3-4 in Addis Ababa, he said. “The talks will start from where the last negotiation sessions ended,” he noted. Xinhua

Sudan Political Leader, Journalist Reportedly Tortured in Detention
Activists held by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Sudan have been subject to torture, says the Committee of Families of Political Detainees. According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), at least 79 people are currently being detained incommunicado following the government crackdown on popular protests against its austerity measures. After the government decided to liberalise the prices of basic consumer goods and raise the customs rate of the US Dollar from SDG 6.7 to SDG 18 in early January, daily expenses doubled and in many cases tripled for the Sudanese public. Radio Dabanga

UN Chief Pledges Support for S. Sudan Peace Process
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has pledged “absolute” support of his office for the revitalization of the South Sudan peace process. Guterres made the pledge during a meeting of the leaders of the East Africa security bloc — Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — on Saturday, a day before the 30th Assembly of African Heads of State and Government. The IGAD launched a process to revive the South Sudanese peace process in December last year after the warring parties failed to implement the August 2015 peace accord. The revitalization effort ended with the warring parties leaving Addis Ababa after they had signed a cessation of hostilities agreement, which they broke within 48 hours of enforcement. There have been blames and counter blames ever since as to who first violated cease-fire.  Anadolu Agency

Egyptian Opposition Figures Say Boycott Presidential Vote
Five opposition figures, including a 2012 presidential candidate and two top campaign aides for now-arrested presidential hopeful Sami Annan, called on Sunday for a boycott of the March vote, saying it has lost all credibility. In a statement, they also called on Egyptians not to recognize the presidential vote’s outcome if it goes ahead. The incumbent general-turned-president Abdel-fattah el-Sissi is so far the only candidate in the race for the March 26-28 vote. He can win a second, four-year term if he secures the support of five percent of registered voters, about 60 million people. All potentially serious challengers to him have been arrested, forced out or quit the race. AP

Algerian Army Kills Eight Armed Men in Khenchela Province: Ministry
Algeria’s army killed eight armed men on Friday in Khenchela province, 700 km (435 miles) east of the capital Algiers, the Defence Ministry said. The gunmen, described as “dangerous terrorists”, were killed in an ambush and the soldiers seized assault rifles, the ministry said in a statement. It did not identify the men. Another armed man was killed later in an ongoing operation, the ministry said in another statement. Algeria emerged from a conflict with armed Islamists in the 1990s that left an estimated 200,000 dead. But al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and small bands of fighters allied to Islamic State have been active in remote parts of the sprawling, oil-producing North African country. Reuters

U.N. Concern over Bodies Dumped in East Libyan Cities
The United Nations has said it is “appalled” by apparent retaliatory killings in Libya following reports of eight bodies found in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna. Five bodies were found in Benghazi’s Laithi neighbourhood on Friday, residents told Reuters. Pictures posted on social media appeared to show the bodies, bloodied and mutilated, lying in the dirt. The pictures could not be independently verified, and security officials in Benghazi declined to comment. In Derna, 250 kilometres (155 miles) east of Benghazi, the bodies of three people who appeared to have been summarily killed were found dumped in the city on Thursday, medical sources said. Reuters

Chad President Reshuffles Ministers
Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno on Friday evening reshuffled the government, including the replacement of its public security minister, officials said. In office since a reshuffle on December 25, public security minister Amadai Abdelkerim is to be replaced by Ahmat Mahamat Bachir, it was announced on national radio. Bachir held the strategic position from 2014 until he was replaced in late December. Mahamat Moctar Ali was appointed public service minister, taking over from Mahamat Allahou Taher, according to the radio. AFP

First They Were Burned and Whipped, Then Their Families Were Sent the Videos
Disturbing video clips shared on social media by their desperate families have revealed the ordeal of Sudanese migrants kidnapped and tortured for ransom in Libya. As one clip plays, viewers can hear the slap of the whip, the whimpering as each man is forced to turn his head to the camera and beg his family to send money. The men’s relatives say they disseminated these videos on social media in a bid to raise awareness — and within a matter of days Libyan special forces had traced where the men were held, according to Libya’s UN-backed unity government. On Wednesday, they raided a location in the city of Sirte, where they arrested four men and freed eight Sudanese abductees, according to a statement from Libya’s Special Deterrence Forces, which operate under Libya’s Ministry of Interior. CNN

Exploited and Extorted, 30 Africans Drown While Trying to Return Home from Yemen
At least 30 African migrants and refugees drowned off Yemen this week after their overcrowded vessel capsized during a clash with smugglers trying to extort them for more money, the United Nations said Friday. The mass drowning, in the Gulf of Aden, which separates war-ravaged Yemen from the destitute Horn of Africa, punctuated the lethal hazards facing migrants and refugees in an especially insecure part of the world. The victims, Somalis and Ethiopians who had originally sought temporary refuge in Yemen, were en route back toward their home countries — a telling barometer of Yemen’s descent into deprivation during its long civil war. “These migrants, as far as we can tell, are folks who have been in limbo inside Yemen for some time,” said Joel A. Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency. The New York Times

AU: President Zuma, with Few Remaining Friends, Celebrates 100 Years of Mandela
Name cards at empty seats bore testimony to the score of presidents and former heads of state who just couldn’t make it to the Sheraton’s Lalibela Grand Ballroom on Saturday night. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was one, and former South African president Thabo Mbeki another. They were both in Addis Ababa, but evidently had more pressing engagements that night. So, apparently, did the heads of state of 53 of the other African Union member states (although, admittedly, not all are attending the summit). Kenya, however, had the decency to send a representative in the form of foreign minister Amina Mohamed, who is serving her last continental stint before going home to her demotion to education minister. Daily Maverick

War on Blood Diamond Trade Loses Its Luster in Age of Digital Smuggling
The diamond industry stands at a crossroads. The Kimberley Process, a scheme designed to certify that diamonds are “conflict-free”, is under pressure to reform. Once regarded as a landmark agreement between industry, governments and NGOs, it has been attacked for widespread shortcomings. Can it restore confidence in the industry and can consumers be sure of what they are buying? For years, the diamond business was dominated by mining house De Beers, which controlled global prices by buying and selling rough, unpolished diamonds from its rivals. But the turn of the century brought profound change. Facing antitrust pressure in the US, De Beers abandoned its cartel system, paving the way for the rise of Russia’s Alrosa, now the biggest producer of diamonds by volume, as well as a host of smaller players. The Telegraph

In Kenya, and across Africa, an Unexpected Epidemic: Obesity
As she walks through the alleyways of her poor neighborhood, to a job washing other people’s clothes, Valentine Akinyi weathers the jeers yelled at her: “Elephant, elephant, elephant.” She has gotten used to the insults, she said, but still, it hurts. “Who’s going to want to marry me?” she asked. It used to be difficult in Kenya to find many people built like Ms. Akinyi, who, at 5 feet 9 inches tall and 285 pounds, is obese. In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, malnutrition is stubbornly widespread and millions of people are desperately hungry, with famine conditions looming in some war-torn countries. But in many places, growing economies have led to growing waistlines. Obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa are shooting up faster than in just about anywhere else in the world, causing a public health crisis that is catching Africa, and the world, by surprise. The New York Times