Africa Media Review for January 3, 2020

Four children were among 18 people killed on Thursday when a Sudanese military transport plane crashed after take-off from West Darfur state, an army spokesperson said. The plane crashed five minutes after take-off from an airport in the state capital El Geneina, after delivering aid to the area, which had been hit by recent deadly tribal fighting. “An Antonov 12 military plane crashed Thursday night after take-off from El Geneina, killing its seven-member crew, three judges and eight civilians, including four children, who were onboard,” the spokesperson Amer Mohammed Al-Hassan said. He said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the crash. Most of Sudan’s military and civilian fleet consists of old Soviet-made aircraft, and the country has suffered a series of crashes in recent years, with the military frequently blaming technical problems and bad weather. Earlier, a military source told AFP the plane had delivered aid to West Darfur which was rocked earlier this week by deadly tribal clashes. AFP

Turkey has voted to send troops to Libya as part of a security deal with the UN-brokered authority in Tripoli – inaugurating a new era of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, said he would consider deploying the troops only at the request of the UN-backed government, led by Fayez Serraj. Insiders have already suggested that Mr Serraj will end up asking for up to 2,000 Turkish soldiers to defend the capital against the forces of renegade officer Khalifa Haftar and his foreign backers. The controversial measure to send troops was passed in Turkey’s parliament on Thursday by 325 to 184 votes, with opposition lawmakers voting against it. Turkey has already reportedly recruited and deployed scores of Syrian fighters to Libya to bolster forces defending the capital, Tripoli. That has elicited protests from Mr Haftar’s backers, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, the latter of which organised an emergency summit of the Arab League this week to discuss Libya. Independent

Kenyan officials say four people were killed on Thursday when a convoy of passenger buses was fired on by Islamic extremists in the country’s eastern coastal area. Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack. The gunmen fired at a convoy of three buses and two vans that was being escorted by police to Lamu, said Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia. The four were killed when the vehicles were sprayed with gunfire by attackers in the Nyongoro area of Lamu county along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast, he said. The first bus was hit with bullets on its side and tires but the driver managed to speed away, he said. Other vehicles in the convoy stopped and the gunmen opened fire at passengers fleeing on foot into the bushes, he said. The police escort had been delayed and was behind the convoy but arrived in time to prevent a massacre, he said. Police escorts for passenger vehicles in the area became mandatory after 2014 when al-Shabab killed nearly 90 people in two attacks in Lamu county. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on its Andalus radio station, saying its fighters spared Muslim passengers and only killed Christians. AP

This year will mark nine years since Kenya Defence Forces went to Somalia, and eight years since they were re-hatted to the African Union Mission after the fall of Kismayu. This year, Amisom will begin its gradual withdrawal from Somalia. Francisco Madeira, the Mozambican diplomat in charge of Amisom, said on New Year’s Day that the first batch of 1000 Amisom troops will pull out of Somalia in February, and will be replaced by trained local forces. With Somalia planning for elections however, Mogadishu is attracting interests from both the Horn of Africa, Middle East and the West. The dilemma is whether Somalia can now handle own security, or whether Amisom should stay longer. In the meantime, Kenya continues to be hit by terror group Al-Shabaab, ostensibly because KDF are in Somalia. Kenya insists the troops will remain in Somalia as long as Amisom stays. The problem, however, is that few people are willing to pay for the troops to stay. Nairobi’s defence and foreign policy chiefs could, in 2019, be engaged on this matter, with partners. The East African

Hundreds of mourners and government officials in Mogadishu gathered at the capital’s Police School on Thursday to mourn the 79 people killed by a tragic truck bomb last week. Somali government officials and residents marched through Mogadishu’s streets to show solidarity with those who lost their loved ones in the bombing that was the country’s biggest and most deadly in two years. Several mourners said that they reject terrorism. Women and men carried flags and placards denouncing the killings. “Evil-doers are not our sons” and “Collaborate with the security forces” read some of the posters in the Somali language. Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist rebels claimed responsibility for the weekend bomb at a busy checkpoint in which many of those killed were university students. Mogadishu mayor Omar Filish, the mayor of Mogadishu who organized the event, told the crowd that the perpetrators of the attack failed to destroy the spirit of the Somali people and instead increased their anger at the extremist group. “We will not cry but we will take revenge for the blood of the innocents killed in that truck bomb,” said Filish. AP

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Thursday pardoned dozens of prisoners including a prominent economist jailed for giving interviews to foreign media, saying it was a goodwill gesture to rejuvenate the country’s stalled peace process. In June 2019, economist Peter Biar Ajak was sentenced to two years in jail for disturbing the peace because he gave interviews to foreign media after he was arrested on treason charges that were subsequently dropped. State TV South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (HSBC) said a total of 31 people had been pardoned. … “It’s a good gesture by President Salva Kiir for keeping his words. The release…is a New Year gift to the family of Biar,” Philip Anyang, Ajak’s lawyer, told Reuters. Ajak fled to the United States as a youth, was educated at Harvard and Cambridge and worked at the World Bank. He also worked as South Sudan country director for the International Growth Centre, part of the London School of Economics. He was arrested in July, 2018 and charged with treason, although a court threw out those charges early last year. He had been publicly critical of the way Kiir and Machar approached peace talks to end the civil war. Reuters

The United States, Britain and Norway jointly on Thursday advised South Sudan leaders to end reliance on military force in order to achieve a durable peace. “Ending reliance on military force and creating political space for a diverse range of voices from all political parties, civil society, and the media is essential to creating a durable peace and an inclusive government that represents the interests of all parties to the agreement,” the three countries known as the Troika said in a statement. President Kiir and opposition leaders missed the November 12 deadline, 2019 to form a unity government and agreed to give themselves another 100 days to address the key outstanding issues and then form the government by February 2020. The outstanding issues include the creation of unified forces, deployment of forces meant to protect top officials, agreeing on the number of states and drawing internal boundaries. The Troika said with less than six weeks remaining to meet the extended deadline to form a unity government, South Sudan’s leaders have a clear duty to their citizens to deliver. Radio Tamazuj

The governments of Ethiopia and Sudan have emphasised the crucial significance of cooperation on port service and utilisation as landlocked Ethiopia aspires to enhance its access to ports. This came as high-level officials from the two neighbouring countries met on issues of port service and utilisation, comprising the Ethiopian Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges and Sudan’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Omar Ahmed Mohammed and Director General of Sudanese Sea Ports Corporation Onour Mussa, state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported on Wednesday. … During the meeting, high-level officials from Ethiopia and Sudan also “agreed to establish a technical committee to smooth the progress of the port service,” the report added. The agreement includes implementing the 2003 pledge by the government of Sudan to offer 875,000 square meter area of land close to Port Sudan for Ethiopian logistics service, it was noted. … The Red Sea nation Djibouti presently handles about 90 percent of landlocked Ethiopia’s export-import trade. Xinhua

Newly-elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune formed his government on Thursday, two weeks after he took office following a controversial election, his spokesman said. Tebboune’s cabinet is composed of 39 members, whose names were announced by the spokesman on state TV live from the presidency, in a departure from the usual procedure of naming a government in a statement. Tebboune was elected last month in a poll marred by an official turnout of less than 40%, with a months-long protest movement boycotting a vote they saw as a ploy by the establishment to consolidate its power. The unprecedented movement forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April. Reflecting a strong degree of continuity, Tebboune filled four of five key posts with players who figured in a reshuffled administration unveiled just two days before Bouteflika was forced out. AFP

Algeria on Thursday released well-known independence war veteran Lakhdar Bouregaa, who was detained last June for allegedly insulting the army, one of his lawyers told AFP. “His trial, which was due to start this (Thursday) morning, has been postponed and the judge has decided to release him,” Abdelghani Badi said. Bouregaa, 86, was arrested at his home in Algiers for “insulting a state body” and “taking part in a scheme to demoralise the army with the aim of harming the nation’s defence.” His supporters attributed his detention to his criticism of army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who became Algeria’s de facto strongman after the fall of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika last April. Gaid Salah died of a heart attack in December. … Bouregaa was a commander of the National Liberation Army – which fought French colonial rule – and a founder in 1963 of the Front for Socialist Forces, one of Algeria’s oldest opposition parties. Before his arrest, he took part in the demonstrations that have rocked Algeria since last February – initially against Bouteflika, and then the wider establishment, after the president was forced to resign. AFP

The Egyptian authorities said on Thursday that they were investigating a video of a woman being attacked by a mob of men that has ignited widespread outrage over the country’s longstanding problems with sexual violence. The video, which shows a group of men swarming around a woman, grabbing at her as she screams and struggles to get into a car, surfaced online on Wednesday. Activists said it was recorded in the city of Mansura, north of Cairo, though it was not immediately clear when, except that it was night. It was also not clear who the woman was or what happened to her after she got into the car. At least seven people were arrested in connection with the attack, according to the news site Al Masry Al Youm. Ragia Omran, a human rights lawyer in Cairo, said there had been outrage on social media in response to the video. “I am of course upset and shocked that these incidents continue to happen,” Ms. Omran said in an interview on Thursday. She said she was relieved to read reports that the police had moved swiftly to investigate the case. The New York Times

Two Sudanese sisters, Seham and Ekhlas Bashir, were walking their children home from elementary school in a Cairo neighborhood when a group of Egyptian teenagers crowded around them. The boys taunted them, calling them “slave” and other slurs. Then they tried to rip off Ekhlas’ clothes. An onlooker intervened, scolding the young harassers, and the sisters and their three children managed to escape. But they were shaken. They had just arrived in Cairo months earlier, fleeing violence in their homeland. The harassment brought up traumatic memories of detention, torture and rape they said they experienced at the hands of militias in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. “We have come here seeking safety,” said Ekhlas, recounting the incident that took place in November. “But the reality was very different.” Egypt has for decades been a refuge for sub-Saharan African migrants trying to escape war or poverty. But the streets of Cairo, a metropolis of some 20 million, can bring new dangers in the form of racist harassment or even violence in ways that other significant migrant communities here, such as Libyans and Syrians, don’t face. While other major centers of African migration like Europe have been wrestling with racist violence, Egypt has only made small starts toward addressing the issue. AP

Many people were reportedly killed as troops of the Nigerian military repelled a night attack launched by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State on Thursday. This latest attack is coming barely three days after a visit by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to troops in the front line of the battle, tagged Operation Lafiya Dole, deployed at Madagali in Adamawa. Earlier reports indicated that the insurgents stormed Kopa and Wurogayadi in the outskirts of Shuwa around 8.00 p.m., resulting in a stampede, with residents scampering for safety. They then entered Michika, causing residents to flee towards Uba town while others took refuge in nearby mountains. Witnesses said that scores of insurgents were killed by the soldiers, who were assisted by local vigilantes, in a fierce battle, while several others reportedly fled with injuries. … In a telephone interview, a community leader and former chairman of Michika local government, Stephen Maduwa, said military aircraft were promptly drafted to the area and aircraft gunshots were heard by residents as the attackers were forced to retreat through Lassa, a community near the Sambisa Forest. Premium Times

A chartered plane from the Nigerian city of Lagos landed at Yaounde’s international airport late Tuesday with 87 Cameroonian asylum-seekers and former separatists on board. The group of mainly women and children was the first to return to Cameroon after fleeing to Nigeria to escape fighting between government troops and separatists in Cameroon’s troubled western regions. Cameroon authorities say they returned voluntarily under an agreement with Nigeria and that at least 700 asylum-seekers and rebels are expected to return before the end of February. Marie Nash, 29, fled the English-speaking southwestern town of Mamfe two years ago when fighting first broke out, but returned amid renewed talk of peace. “Because of the war, I have experienced a lot of things,” she said. “I just thank God because they want to bring peace to Cameroon, and I am very happy for that. I want everybody to come back so that we should not fight again. Let us make peace.” Among the returnees are former separatist fighters like Success Nkongho, who led an armed group called “Ground Zero” before fleeing to Nigeria in October. VOA

It’s a beehive of activity at the training grounds of Wakiso District where soldiers, recruits and onlookers have converged during the army recruitment exercise. Florence Nalubanja is among the candidates who have undergone a five kilometer (3.1 miles) marathon, physical drills and medical tests. The 26-year-old lawyer says joining the army has always been her dream. “I have been wanting to join the legal team, so it is a lifetime opportunity and I am really appreciative that I have come this far,” she told DW. “The screening process has not been easy but I have been able to go through successfully.” Ivan Nyakony was not as lucky as Nalubanja. He has been disqualified because he did not have a national identity card. He is visibly disappointed, “When I finished school you know you just can’t stay home idle,” he said. “I tried to look for some work, I tried to look for jobs but still I couldn’t make it so I took this as a chance to work under the government.” Many other applicants, he said, also failed to make it. Several Ugandan newspapers jumped on the news that 40 Kenyan applicants were also turned away. Nyakony doesn’t know what he’ll do next. DW

In the capital of one of Africa’s poorest countries, there is talk about the mysterious Russians who called themselves “election observers.” People tell of an illegal poll that emerged on Facebook at a crucial moment in the recent election campaign, and a flow of cash from a self-styled “think tank” that seemed to have no office anywhere. Two months after Mozambique’s election, clues to explain the mystery have surfaced. Facebook has uncovered a network of fake Mozambican pages with links to a Russian disinformation expert. The “election observers” had their Facebook page exposed as a front. And a Russian-funded scholar has confirmed his role in the illegal poll, which gave a valuable boost to the ruling Frelimo party in the days before the election. Under Mozambique’s laws, opinion polls are banned during election campaigns. But when polls are forbidden, an illegal poll can gain outsized influence. That’s what happened when the Russian operatives began publicizing the poll that purportedly showed Frelimo far ahead of Renamo. The Globe and Mail



Photo: Adam Jones