Africa Media Review for January 7, 2020

Nigeria Hit by Deadly Bomb Attack near Cameroon
As many as 30 people have been killed after a bomb ripped through a crowded market on a bridge connecting the Nigerian town of Gamboru and Cameroon’s Fotokol. Authorities said more than 35 other people, including both Nigerians and Cameroonians, were injured and taken to the local hospital in the wake of the attack on Monday. “A young man picked up an explosive device thinking that it was a piece of iron and it exploded, killing him and eight others,” said Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the Cameroon’s Far North Region. Militant groups operating in the area have targeted Gamboru on multiple occasions since 2014. That year, Boko Haram seized Gamboru and the nearby town of Ngala. After a monthslong siege, Nigerian troops managed to wrestle back control of Gamboru with assistance from Chadian forces. But the militant group still launches attacks on military and civilian targets in the area. DW

Five Soldiers Killed in Mali Roadside Attack
Five Malian soldiers have been killed in a roadside bomb attack, a government spokesman said, in the latest attack to hit the West African country’s volatile central region. The troops were travelling in the region of Alatona, near the border with Mauritania, when their convoy hit a bomb on Monday morning, destroying four vehicles. “Reinforcements are already in place for the operation to neutralise the enemies,” government spokesman Yaya Sangare said on Twitter. … More than 140 Malian soldiers have reportedly died in attacks between September and December. … Hiding homemade bombs under well-travelled roads is a frequent means of attack used by armed groups. Otherwise known as improvised explosive devices, they kill and maim scores of victims in Mali each year. The UN said in October that 110 civilians in Mali had died in roadside bomb attacks during the first six months of 2019. AFP

New Al-Shabab Attack in Kenya Kills 4, including Small Child
Stray bullets killed four civilians, including a small child, during an al-Shabab extremist attack in Kenya, authorities said Tuesday. A Kenyan national police statement said the attackers targeted a telecommunications mast in eastern Garissa county near the border with Somalia, where the al-Qaida-linked extremist group is based. Police officers on patrol killed two of the attackers in the early morning assault, the statement said. … Kenyan police said bomb-making materials were seized after the attack near the village of Saretho. Al-Shabab since December has increased attacks inside Kenya including Sunday’s attack on a military base that killed three U.S. military personnel and destroyed five U.S. aircraft. It was the first time al-Shabab had attacked U.S. troops inside Kenya. The U.S. on Monday said additional troops had arrived to increase security at the Manda Bay airfield in coastal Lamu county. The U.S. Africa Command also said it did not assess that the attack was linked to Iran, as Middle East tensions are soaring. Al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaida and has no known links to Iran or its proxies. AP

Kenyan Officials Said They Foiled an Al-Shabab Attack and No Kenyans Died. Locals Tell a Different Story.
After Sunday’s attack by al-Shabab fighters on a military airstrip in which three Americans were killed, Kenya’s top security officials issued a raft of fervent refutations. They claimed no Kenyans died, no militants escaped, and the attack lasted no more than a few hours. At 9:30 a.m. Sunday, the spokesman for Kenya’s military, Lt. Col. Paul Njuguna, said “the attempted breach was successfully repulsed” and “the airstrip is safe.” But even as he made that proclamation, the siege was ongoing. And later Sunday, Njuguna’s statement would be discounted by a statement from U.S. Africa Command acknowledging that one U.S. service member and two American private contractors had been killed, and that six aircraft used by the U.S. military had been damaged or destroyed. Interviews with local community members and officials cast doubt on the other assertions by Kenyan officials about the attack on the Kenyan coast, not far from the Somalia border. Locals say one Kenyan civilian was killed by gunfire and that at least 10 militants escaped during the attack and moved through nearby villages. The Washington Post

Mogadishu Bombing Took the Lives of the ‘Best and the Brightest’
They were the kind of bright, young people Somalia hoped to build its future around: hard-working university students in health sciences, in a battered country with a critical shortage of health workers. Amran Kasim Ahmed, 22, was at the top of her class and nurtured dreams of revamping Somalia’s threadbare health care system. Abshir Mohamed Abukar, 23, was the only one of seven siblings to finish high school and attend university. But their aspirations ended abruptly on Dec. 28, when an explosive-laden truck detonated at a busy intersection here in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. The terrorist group Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombing, which killed 82 people, including Ms. Ahmed and Mr. Abukar, and injured nearly 150 others, according to the government. … In the Dec. 28 attack, 16 of the dead and 18 others who were critically injured were students at Benadir University – most of them young women studying sciences in a country where precious few women have access to higher education. “We are losing the best and the brightest,” said Sahra Mire Mohamed, a lecturer at Benadir. The New York Times

Mass Anti-Government Protests Turn Violent in Guinea
Thousands took to the streets in Guinea in a new anti-government protest on Monday, with partisan violence injuring at least 12 people. The West African country has been hit by rolling protests since mid-October over concerns President Alpha Conde plans to stay in office for a third term. On Monday, tens of thousands marched from the suburbs of the capital, Conakry, to the city centre. Wearing the red colour of the opposition, protesters carried placards reading: “No to a new constitution” and “No to a third mandate for Alpha Conde.” Conde, 81, announced a new draft constitution last month which critics fear he will use to pursue a third term. Major opposition figures, including former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure, protested in Conakry on Monday. Abdourahmane Sanoh, the coordinator of National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an alliance of opposition groups behind the protests, said there were plans to increase the number of rallies from January 13. “I ask that the all Guinean people be ready from January 13,” he said. AFP

Thousands March in Liberia to Protest Falling Economy
Police fired tear gas and water to disperse thousands of Liberians who had gathered in the capital Monday to demand that President George Weah take decisive action to improve the economy. Dozens of riot police had been deployed in Monrovia, the capital, earlier in the day. The government had assured security for the protesters. Roads were deserted and many civil servants stayed off work as thousands marched. In the early evening, the police took action in the city center, firing tear gas in front of the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia. “It was just an attack unprovoked” said Mo Ali, secretary general of Council of Patriots, the pressure group that organized the demonstration. He said at least one person had been injured. The demonstrators want the president to fire his entire economic management team, said protest organizer Henry Costa, who is the head of the group called the Council of Patriotsa. … The Liberian economy has declined so dramatically during Weah’s two years in power that banks are unable to pay depositors, salaries are delayed and the prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed. AP

Libya’ East-Based Forces Say Key Coastal City Captured
Libya’s east-based forces said they captured the strategic coastal city of Sirte on Monday from the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli. The announcement comes amid a major offensive by the east-based forces to take Tripoli. The capital city is the seat of a rival Libyan government, which is supported by the United Nations. Libya is currently governed by dueling authorities in the east and in Tripoli in the west, each relying on different militias. Commander Khalifa Hifter declared a “final” and decisive battle to take Tripoli last month. Fighting and shelling between the two sides has been raging there since April, with neither side making much progress. Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army, announced Sirte had been taken at a press conference in the eastern city of Benghazi. Capturing Sirte would be a major win for Hifter’s forces, should they maintain control of the city, which is about 230 miles (370 kilometers) east of Tripoli. AP

Foreign Meddling in Libya Raises Ire of UN Special Envoy: ‘Libyans Have Suffered Enough’
The United Nations special envoy to Libya on Monday said he was “angry” at foreign interference in the war-torn country, saying Libyans have “suffered enough.” “I am really angry to see that everybody wants to talk about Libya and very few people want to talk about the Libyans, what happens to the Libyans,” Ghassan Salame said after a two-hour meeting with the UN Security Council. “Enough is enough, the Libyans have suffered enough,” he added. Asked about Turkey’s decision to deploy troops in Libya to support the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Salame answered that the “country is suffering too much from foreign interferences in different ways.” “What I asked these countries is very clear: keep out of Libya. There is enough weapons in Libya, they don’t need extra weapons. “There are enough mercenaries in Libya, so stop sending mercenaries, as it is the case right now,” he said, estimating the number of foreign fighters in the country to be in the “hundreds, probably thousands.” AFP

Ivory Coast President Plans to Modify Constitution before Election
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Monday he intends to modify the constitution ahead of an October presidential election seen as a test of the country’s stability. A rise in tensions in recent weeks between Ouattara and his political rivals has raised fears of election-related violence in Francophone West Africa’s largest economy, where a disputed 2010 vote set off a civil war that killed 3,000 people. In remarks to foreign diplomats, Ouattara, who has not yet announced whether he will be a candidate in October, said the proposed revisions were intended to make the constitution “more coherent” but did not provide any details. He did, however, seek to downplay opponents’ fears that he would try to impose age limits on presidential candidates that would prevent his main rivals, former presidents Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie, from running. “I wish to make clear that this is not a manoeuvre to push anyone aside,” he said. … Ouattara was expected to step down in 2020 but unexpectedly declared in 2018 that the new constitution had reset term limits that would have barred him from running again. Reuters

Piracy Surges in the Gulf of Guinea with Spate of Deadly Attacks
Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea have kidnapped three seafarers and killed four security personnel in the latest incident in the region, which has seen a spike in piracy in the last month. The Nigerian dredger Ambika was reportedly boarded by armed pirates on 2 January near the Forcadas terminal in Nigeria, with four Nigerian security personnel killed and two injured in the ensuring firefight. Three crew were kidnapped (two Russians and one Indian national) while five remained on the vessel. … It is suspected that pirates off Nigeria are operating from a mother vessel, the chemical tanker Determination 2, with experts speculating that at least two pirate action groups (PAGs) in the Gulf of Guinea are responsible for the recent spate of attacks, according to Dryad Global. “These criminal actors are using the EEZ [exclusive economic zone] as a cover from Nigerian forces and the international naval forces,” said Dryad Global chief executive Phil Diacon. DefenceWeb

Power-Starved Ethiopia Rallies around Nile Dam as Egypt Dispute Simmers
“Our country has a huge problem with electricity,” Kafule, 22, told AFP recently while taking a break from reinforcing steel pipes that will funnel water from the Blue Nile River to one of the dam’s 13 turbines. “This is about the existence of our nation and, in my opinion, it will help us break free from the bondage of poverty.” The dam is expected to begin producing energy by the end of this year. Across Ethiopia, poor farmers and rich businessmen eagerly await the more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity officials say it will ultimately provide. Yet as thousands of workers toil day and night to finish the project, Ethiopian negotiators remain locked in talks over how the dam will affect downstream neighbours, principally Egypt. The next round of negotiations starts Thursday in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and is likely to renew focus on Cairo’s fears that the dam could bring water and food insecurity for millions of Egyptians. Ethiopians at the dam site say they are doing their best to focus on the task at hand, though they bristle at suggestions that their country is overstepping in its bid to harness the Blue Nile for its development. AFP

Sudan’ FFC Launch Discussions on Transitional Parliament
A leading member of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the ruling coalition in Sudan, said that they are discussing the representation of political forces in the Legislative Council which will be announced after the signing of peace agreements. The FFC Central Council – the highest authority in the coalition – has begun a series of meetings since last Saturday to discuss several issues, including the appointment of the Transitional Legislative Council, the selection of state governors and the peace process. “The meetings will determine how political forces are represented in the Legislative Council, but the official announcement (of its members) will be linked to the outcome in the peace process,” said Kamal Bollad FFC Central Council member in statements to Sudan Tribune on Monday. Bollad added that the Legislative Council will be formed without the armed groups if the parties in Juba fail to reach a peace agreement. … The transitional Constitutional Document signed between the ruling coalition and the former military council on August 22, provides that transitional parliament be formed within 3 months. Sudan Tribune

Police Chief Links Lesotho PM in Murder of Own Wife
Lesotho’s police chief has accused Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of involvement in the killing of his estranged wife ahead of his inauguration in 2017, according to court documents seen on Monday. Unknown assailants gunned down Lipolelo Thabane on the outskirts of Lesotho’s capital Maseru two days before her husband’s inauguration. The killing of Thabane’s 58-year-old wife shortly before he took office shocked the tiny poverty-stricken country, which is completely surrounded by South Africa. Alleged evidence that Thabane was involved in his wife’s murder surfaced from court documents filed by police commissioner Holomo Molibeli – who is challenging Thabane’s attempts to sack him. … Thabane has accused Molibeli of overseeing a wave of police brutality against civilians and last week launched attempts to remove the police chief. AFP

Russia’s VTB Sues Mozambique State Firm at Centre of $2 Billion Debt Scandal
Russian state lender VTB has filed a lawsuit in Britain’s High Court against a Mozambican government company it lent hefty sums to as part of a project now at the centre of a $2 billion debt scandal, according to an online court filing. The filing, dated Dec. 23, names as defendants the Mozambique state and Mozambique Asset Management, which took a $535 million loan from VTB as part of a costly project that U.S. authorities say was an elaborate front for a bribery and kickback scheme. It says the case relates to “general commercial contracts and arrangements” but does not elaborate. It provides no further information other than that VTB Capital, the investment banking arm of VTB, is being represented by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. … The debt scandal has already sparked a series of court cases spanning London, New York and South Africa, ensnaring global investment bank Credit Suisse, three of its former bankers, Mozambique’s former finance minister and a past president’s son. However this is the first time any of the cases have involved VTB. Russia and Mozambique strengthened ties throughout 2019, with President Filipe Nyusi visiting the nation in August. Reuters

Years of Drought Threaten South Africa’s Wildlife Industry
A severe drought is threatening South Africa’s wildlife industry, with game farmers keeping fewer animals and tourists visiting game lodges in smaller numbers. Parts of the country have been affected by consecutive years of abnormally hot weather and below average rainfall that have scorched grazing lands and dried up watering holes since 2015, the driest year on record. Industry body Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) estimates the Northern Cape province has lost more than two-thirds of its game over the last three years. It is conducting a countrywide survey to determine the scale of animal losses and the financial impact on the country’s more than 9,000 wildlife ranches. “It’s been an extraordinary drought,” said WRSA chief Adri Kitshoff-Botha. “It’s not a one-year or two-year drought. In some areas we’ve seen it has been going now for six years.” … Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average rate, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, and in much of South Africa the level of water in reservoirs is dwindling. Reuters

Zimbabwe Votes against U.N. Resolution on Rohingya Persecution
Zimbabwe was the only African country that voted against a United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, resolution on the Myanmar persecution of Rohingya Muslims. The resolution, “Situation of Rohingya Muslims and Other Minorities in Myanmar” was however passed overwhelmingly with 134 countries in favour as against nine in opposition and 28 abstentions. Others who voted against were: Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia and Vietnam. A number of African countries also abstained from the vote, amongst others: Cameroon, Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia. In November last year, The Gambia filed a case in the International Court of Justice, ICJ, against Myanmar. The case was filed on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC. Africa News

Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, Eritrea Celebrate Christmas
Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday wished all Orthodox Christians in the country a ‘Merry Christmas,’ urging them to celebrate the day by ‘eliminating separation and divisions.’ Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar and celebrates Christmas on January 7th, while the rest of the world, who follows the Gregorian calendar, celebrates on 25th of December. Several other countries including Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and across the world celebrate the Orthodox Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. ”Diverse communities, thoughts, religions, cultures, histories, languages and knowledge have made Ethiopia their common abode,” Abiy said in a message whose theme was unity. ”There are always those like Herod who would try to destroy Ethiopia’s unity and attempt to build enmity.” Abiy, who took office in April 2018 has championed several reforms in the social, economic, political and diplomatic sphere, earning the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Ethnic tensions that have displaced millions of million are however a huge threat to his reforms. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones