Africa Media Review for January 8, 2020

Islamist Group Al Shabaab Claims Somalia Bomb Attack That Killed Three
Islamist militant group al Shabaab said it was responsible for a bomb blast on Wednesday near the presidential palace and other government buildings in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu that city authorities said had killed three people. The attack appeared to be part of an intensified campaign over the past two weeks by the al Qaeda ally in Somalia and neighboring Kenya, which have porous borders and often ad hoc methods for sharing intelligence. Three people were killed in Wednesday’s blast, Saleh Hassan Omar, spokesman for the city’s mayor, said in a statement. The bombing hit Sayidka junction, a security checkpoint near the palace, the interior ministry and parliament. Aamin ambulance service head Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters that 11 people were wounded, including three women. Al Shabaab issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing and saying the attack showed that the government has not fully secured “Mogadishu’s major arteries.” Reuters

‘Tragic and Absurd’: Sudanese Refugees Detained in Niger
Authorities in Niger have arrested at least 335 Sudanese refugees, accusing them of burning down a refugee camp just outside the city of Agadez in the north of the country. Officials said the camp was burned down after nearly 1,000 refugees protesting in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Agadez were forcibly dispersed. For the last 20 days, these refugees and migrants, including women and children, said they had camped in front of the office, demanding better conditions, including healthcare and education. According to the UNHCR, these people were demanding relocation to Europe. The sit-in was part of ongoing protests in Niger since early 2019. On January 2, Niger’s High Court ruled the sit-in was unlawful and ordered the refugees to move “before it was too late.” According to witnesses, the security guards tried to disperse protesters on Saturday by shooting in the air. However, more force was applied and injuries were reported in the ensuing violence after the refugees and migrants refused. Al Jazeera

Sudanese Prime Minister to Visit Rebel Stronghold in South Kordofan
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will travel to the SPLM-N al-Hilu stronghold, Kauda on Thursday, his office announced on Tuesday. The first visit of a senior Sudanese official to the rebel key town in South Kordofan state comes as peace talks in Juba are stalled over a demand of the SPLM-N al-Hilu to discuss the issue of the secular state in the negotiations. … Sudan Tribune learnt that a group of journalists will arrive in Kauda on Wednesday ahead of the visit. … Sudanese officials in Khartoum say they have no objection to the separation between the state and religion but the matter cannot be decided in peace negotiations with the armed group, pointing that it should be decided in the constitutional conference. The government and the SPLM-N al-Hilu continue to hold a unilateral cessation of hostility as the government has allowed aid groups to reach civilians in the rebel-held areas. Sudan Tribune

Turkish Support for Tripoli Could “Rebalance Forces” in Libya
Manoeuvring in Libya by Russia and Turkey, whose presidents meet in Turkey on Wednesday, has overshadowed European efforts to revive a U.N.-led peace process. Although Turkey and Russia have generally been on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, they have strengthened economic and military ties recently. … Ankara and Moscow want to protect their strategic interests in Libya, where they lost lucrative contracts in 2011 after a NATO-backed uprising, and in the wider east Mediterranean region. The two countries are unlikely to clash directly, with Ankara seeking leverage to negotiate over offshore gas drilling rights after signing military and maritime accords with the GNA in November. “In Libya, Ankara’s end game is not to help Tripoli win the conflict, which is not realistic. It is to create a stalemate and political negotiations that preserve its maritime demarcation deal,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank. … Russia could be eyeing a long-term goal of having a naval base in eastern Libya, said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow with the Clingendael Institute think tank in The Hague. Reuters

Steep Rise in Civilians Killed or Injured in Libya by Explosive Weaponry
Civilians killed or injured in Libya by explosive weapons rose by 131% last year, with the number of incidents at its highest since 2011, the year of the Benghazi uprising, according to new data seen by the Guardian. Most of the 900 people who died or were hurt in explosions in the country in 2019, up from 392 in 2018, were victims of airstrikes, according to statistics from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a charity based in London. Libya was one of several countries to buck the downward global trend in civilian casualties from explosive weapons. The worst places for civilian killings and maimings were Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia, but increases were also recorded in Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Turkey, Gaza, Egypt, Colombia, and Myanmar. … Airstrikes accounted for 72% of civilian casualties in Libya in 2019 and shelling, 19%, AOAV said. Despite the rising number of incidents, 125 in 2019, compared to 134 in 2011, the death toll in 2019 is far lower than in 2011, when 2,108 civilians died. The Guardian

How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects
The European Union spent 20 million euros last year in Eritrea, hoping to help stem an exodus from the repressive African country, which is consistently one of its biggest sources of asylum seekers. The money, about $22 million, bought equipment and materials to build a road, a seemingly uncontroversial task. The catch? Many workers on the construction site are forced conscripts, and the European Union has no real means of monitoring the project. … The European Union’s change in approach to Eritrea is part of a broader coming in from the cold for the country, as world powers take an interest in the geopolitically crucial Horn of Africa and Eritrea’s long coastline along the Red Sea. The United Arab Emirates in recent years set up a huge base on the Eritrean coast to support its war effort in Yemen directly across the water. The Red Sea is also a critical passage for ships carrying goods and oil to Europe through the Suez Canal. Officials involved in shaping Europe’s Eritrea policy said that the bloc did not want to be left out of that unfolding “game,” which has become more active since the peace with Ethiopia and the subsequent lifting of longstanding United Nations sanctions against Eritrea over its links to regional armed groups. The New York Times

Nigerian Troops Repel Another Boko Haram Attack in Monguno
There was massive shooting in Monguno, a major town in northern Borno State, as the Nigerian military battled to repel an attack by suspected members of the Boko Haram, sources said. Suspected members of the ISWAP faction of Boko Haram attempted to invade the community that now serves as a mega camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Sources from Monguno said soldiers battled for several hours to repel the attack. A source, who works with a non-governmental organisation in Monguno, told Premium Times that the attack started late in the evening when ISWAP ambushed a convoy of travellers escorted by soldiers coming from Maiduguri to Monguno. … A source at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital informed Premium Times that many injured persons were brought to the hospital on Tuesday night. … Since the withdrawal of the Chadian troops from the Multinational Joint Task Force operation in northern Borno some days ago, there have been rumours of planned attacks by insurgents on key locations of Borno. President Muhammad Buhari had on Tuesday told Nigerians not to panic over the withdrawal of the Chadian troops. Premium Times

Stop Seeing Acts of Terror as ‘Religious War,’ Buhari Tells Nigerians
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday charged Nigerians to be united in their resolve to fight terrorism and ensure peace reigns in the country. The president also said that citizens must ensure they do not subscribe to the terrorists’ message of division, adding that doing the contrary would embolden what the terrorists wish, which is for “Nigerians to see their beliefs as a reason to turn against one another.” The president’s statement came in the wake of the allegation of religious persecution by the Christian Association of Nigeria. The group, reacting to a U.S. report, alleged that Christians have been victims of persecution and killings in states like Kaduna, Benue, Plateau Adamawa and Taraba. Also, on 26 December last year, the Islamic State group released a 56-second video, produced by the IS “news agency” Amaq, claiming to show the killing of 11 Christian hostages. The group said its action was to “avenge” the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed during a US raid in Syria in October. Analysts believed the video was aimed at flaring religious tension between Muslim and Christians, two major religious groups in the country. Premium Times

Uganda Frees Rwandans amid Strained Diplomatic Ties
Nine Rwandan nationals who were on trial in a military court in Uganda after being accused of kidnapping and illegal possession of firearms have had all charges against them dropped. They are to be deported. The move comes amid more than a year of strained relations between the two countries. In September Rwanda said the Ugandan authorities had illegally detained more than 200 of its citizens. Officials in Kigali have also accused Uganda of trying to destabilise its government by supporting rebels. Uganda has accused Rwanda of infiltrating its security services. The dropping of the charges appears aimed at easing some of the tension between the two former allies. BBC

2 Zimbabwe Park Rangers Drowned by Poachers in Lake Kariba
Zimbabwean authorities say they have retrieved the bodies of two park rangers who had arrested four poachers but were then thrown into Lake Kariba by the suspects. The bodies of the two rangers were taken to the capital, Harare, for examinations, said Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority on Tuesday. The two rangers had arrested four Zambian men for poaching and on Dec. 31 were transporting them by boat to Kariba town to be charged and jailed. But the four suspects overpowered the rangers and threw them into Lake Kariba, said Farawo. The rangers’ bodies were discovered after a week-long search. Authorities are searching for the suspected poachers, he said. The rangers had caught the poachers in Matusadona National Park, home to lions, leopards, elephants and hyena on the shores of Lake Kariba, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. The park is popular with tourists who go on walking safaris and boating on the lake. AP

WHO: Death Toll from Measles Outbreak in Congo Hits 6,000
The death toll from a measles epidemic in Congo has surpassed 6,000, the World Health Organization said Tuesday as it warned that more funds are needed to save lives during the world’s worst outbreak of the infectious disease. Measles has killed nearly three times as many people in Congo than an Ebola outbreak in the country that has garnered far more international attention, particularly after health teams came under attack from armed militias operating in the area. “Lack of funding remains a huge impediment to successfully curbing the outbreak,” WHO said in announcing its appeal. While $27.6 million already has been mobilized to curb the measles epidemic, WHO said that $40 million is needed for a special six-month plan to vaccinate older children between the ages of 6 and 14. A vaccine against measles has existed for decades but some 310,000 cases have been reported in Congo since the beginning of 2019. Health workers in Congo struggle to access remote parts of the vast country, and vaccination rates remain low in areas where armed groups operate. AP

Africa: Breakthrough Device Revolutionises Ebola Patient Treatment during Outbreaks
When Dr. Richard Kojan, an intensive care unit (ICU) specialist, went to Guinea during the 2014 Ebola oubreak, he was forced to work in hot and cumbersome protective clothing which looked like a spacesuit, isolating him from his patients and limiting his interaction with them. “It was impossible to monitor a patient properly,” he tells AllAfrica. “It was impossible to stay with a patient for long enough. It was impossible for a patient to see his or her doctor or nurse properly. It was very complicated.” So when Dr. Kojan and a team from the Alliance for International Medical Action (Alima), the NGO for which they worked, finished their stint in Guinea, they studied how hospitals in Europe treated patients with highly infectious diseases. They found that patients treated in Africa were seven times more likely to die than those in Europe. … The solution Alima hit upon was to flip the practice of enclosing medical staff in protective gear, and to place patients behind a protective shield. Working with a French company, Securotec, Alima developed “the CUBE”, a stand-alone treatment room with transparent plastic walls in which an individual patient can be isolated and continuously monitored and treated from the outside. AllAfrica

Togo National Football Team Attack: Survivors Remember Machine Gun Ambush, 10 Years On
On 8 January 2010, the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola was just days away. I was in the province of Cabinda, preparing to cover Group B for the BBC World Service, and was also charged with handing over the BBC African Footballer of the Year trophy to the newly-crowned winner, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba. As the day wore on, unconfirmed reports of a shooting, apparently involving the Togo national team, started coming through. The detail was sketchy, but it was clear that something serious had happened. Just how serious was spelled out when I encountered the squad, walking back to their hotel in Cabinda city. Asking to speak to someone, I was immediately told the team spokesman would be their best-known player – then Manchester City star Emmanuel Adebayor. When he sat down to speak, he gave horrifying details of an attack which left two members of the Togo delegation dead and resulted in life changing injuries to a number of others. BBC

Cocoa Cartel Stirs Up Global Chocolate Market
The West African nations of Ivory Coast and Ghana, which combined produce more than 60% of the world’s cocoa, have banded together to form their own chocolate-coated version of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Like OPEC, whose control over crude oil output has largely driven global oil prices since 1960, the decision by the world’s top two cocoa producers to join forces is expected to raise the cost of candy bars, ice cream and cake. The two-nation chocolate bloc has decided to charge an extra $400 per metric ton of cocoa, which is currently trading around $2,500 per metric ton. “COPEC,” as some in government and industry have dubbed the new partnership, is already stirring confusion and unease in the $107.3 billion global chocolate market. The new premium, the second attempt to create a cartel in the cocoa market in the last 50 years, is due to take effect in October. Cocoa traders and brokers call the plan the biggest overhaul of the global cocoa market in decades-from its start with cocoa-bean farmers, to its finish with a consumer grabbing a bar of chocolate. The Wall Street Journal

How to Raise Startup Funding in a War-Torn Economy
After years of war, Libya’s economy often seems to be characterized by what’s missing rather than what’s there. Speak to entrepreneurial Libyans and they’ll often tell you what’s lacking, from reliable electricity to transport networks, experienced management or up-to-date regulations. One businessman sums it up as “a lot of missing encouragement” for startups. What’s also missing is finance. Simply put, there aren’t many places a young business can go if it wants to raise money. Moaad Zagzoie, chief executive of local mobile games developer Techneon Group, says local banks will offer credit, but “most are afraid to give loans without guaranteed personal involvement from members in the bank’s management or someone well-known. Most start-ups have to find other means, like local competitions or small grants from accelerators.” Perhaps the biggest missing element, though, is the lack of peace. Since April 2019, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has been trying to seize Tripoli from the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). A dangerous proxy war has developed, drawing in players from around the region including Turkey and the UAE. Quartz Africa

Transforming a Symbol of Colonialism into a Space for African Art
It is a scenic walk along the driveway leading to the entrance of Lome’s new centre for the arts. The sun glints through the branches of centuries-old trees, lining a path set within thousands of square metres of lush parkland. The incessant chirping of birds and the dull thud of my feet against the packed red earth are the only sounds to be heard within the vast compound. It is not long before the canopy of boughs and path give way to a large gravel clearing. A grand, white, two-storey vision rises from the ground, gleaming against the blue sky. Set on an elevated foundation, a wide stone staircase leads up into the whitewashed arcades of Palais De Lome in Togo’s capital. At its heart is a courtyard garden – an oasis of smooth white cement walls, decorative wood columns and splashes of green trees and ferns. Past the crisp white walls and pivoting glass doors are the exhibition spaces – a blank canvas for African art by painters such as Emmanuel Sogbadji and Edwige Aplogan and sculptures by Sokey Edorh. Al Jazzera



Photo: Adam Jones