Africa Media Review for January 9, 2020

‘Unprecedented Terrorist Violence’ in West Africa, Sahel Region
The top UN official in West Africa and the Sahel updated the Security Council on Wednesday, describing an “unprecedented” rise in terrorist violence across the region. “The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the Council in its first formal meeting of the year. “The humanitarian consequences are alarming,” he spelled out. In presenting his latest report, Mr. Chambas painted a picture of relentless attacks on civilian and military targets that he said, have “shaken public confidence.” The UNOWAS chief elaborated on terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger, which have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier. “Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States.”… And displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries. UN News

Militant Attack in Nigerian Town Kills 20 Soldiers, Displaces 1,000 Residents
About 20 soldiers were killed and nearly 1,000 people made homeless in a militant attack on a town in northeastern Nigeria, two residents and a military source said on Wednesday. The militants entered Monguno in Borno state posing as a convoy of soldiers on Tuesday evening, the sources said. They then attacked troops inside the town, destroying at least 750 homes in the process. Resident Gumati Sadu said people fled into the bush for safety during the fighting and that three civilians were killed by stray bullets. A military spokesman declined to comment. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news agency. It said that one of its militants detonated a car bomb in the town, killing at least 8 soldiers and destroying 3 armoured vehicles. The group also said it had seized a vehicle, weapons and ammunition before leaving the town. ISWAP split from Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016 and has since staged its own frequent attacks in the region. Reuters

Twenty Wounded in Northern Mali Rocket Attack on U.N. Base
Twenty people were wounded on Thursday in northern Mali’s restive Kidal region, including 18 U.N. peacekeepers from Chad, in a rocket attack on a military base for U.N., French and Malian forces, a U.N. spokesman said. Six of the peacekeepers from the MINUSMA mission were seriously wounded by the attack on the base in the town of Tessalit, spokesman Olivier Salgado told Reuters. He said it was unclear who was responsible. France’s military said none of its soldiers were injured. Kidal has been under the control of Tuareg rebels since an uprising in 2012, and tensions regularly flare between armed groups and the government. The MINUSMA mission has over 13,000 troops in Mali to contain violence caused by various armed groups in the north and centre of the country, including jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. The French army operates a separate anti-insurgent mission across West Africa’s arid Sahel region, where jihadist and ethnic violence is worsening. Reuters

Al-Shabaab Warns of More Attacks against Kenya, US Interests
Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab on Wednesday warned Kenya “will never be safe,” threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests after they stormed an American base at the weekend. The al-Qaeda linked group said its attack on Camp Simba, in which three Americans were killed and several aircraft destroyed, should serve as a “warning” and Kenya should withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance.” Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya. “Withdraw all your forces from our Muslim lands while you still have the chance. Otherwise brace yourselves for the worst and prepare for perilous times ahead, because Kenya will never be safe and Kenyans will never sleep soundly at night,” the statement said. “Tourists and travellers visiting the country are hereby warned that there will no longer be any safe sightseeing or safari trips in Kenya.” The statement also urged jihadists to “make US interests in Kenya their primary target.” AFP

Cameroon Anglophone Villagers Attack Separatist Camps over Abuse
Several communities in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have within a week attacked at least five camps belonging to separatist fighters, whom they accuse of destroying civilian homes, looting and killing innocent people. The angry civilians say they do not know who to trust, as they say the military commits similar crimes against them. … Babungo is not the only anglophone village in Cameroon with growing anti-separatist feelings over rebel abuses. Authorities, local media reports, and a rebel spokesman confirmed villagers have been attacking separatist camps. Last week, people from the English-speaking village of Balikumbat stormed rebel camps and seized their guns, along with items stolen from them, including goats and cows. The villagers say the retaliation was sparked after rebels stole a taxi driver’s motorcycle because he refused to give them $10 in support. Cameroon’s rebels have confirmed their fighters committed abuses. On Sunday, separatist fighters in the southwestern town of Kumba killed their commander, say local media reports, because he ordered them to torture civilians. VOA

Cameroon Deploys Troops to Anglophone Region Ahead of Polls
Cameroon has deployed troops to the restive English-speaking regions to ensure security before, during and after next month’s general election. A contingent of 350 security forces arrived in Buea, headquarters of the Southwest region, Tuesday and were due to be re-deployed to all the six administrative divisions of the region. Colonel Henry Nchinda, National Gendarmerie Legion Commander for the Southwest, said the forces will be sent to “all parts of the region to ensure the vote takes place hitch-free.” “We want everybody to go out and vote knowing that the forces are there to protect them,” Col Nchinda told reporters. Cameroonians will go to the polls on February 9 to elect parliamentarians and municipal councillors amidst threat from armed separatists that the vote will not take place in the English-speaking regions that have been rocked by a bloody conflict since 2017. Separatist leaders have announced a one-week lockdown on the regions beginning February 7 intended to stop the vote from taking place. Armed separatist fighters have also kidnapped over 30 candidates for the twin elections in the regions in another bid to frustrate the process, promising to release them after the poll. The East African

Confusion Clouds International Efforts to Reach Libya Ceasefire
An unprecedented drive involving Europe, Russia and Turkey has been launched to broker a Libyan ceasefire, and end the risk of the country collapsing into total all-out war. However, it is unclear to which extent the joint Russian-Turkish call for a ceasefire by 12 January should be seen as complementary or in competition to an intensified Italian-led European push to end the fighting. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin – who have each backed opposing sides in the Libyan conflict – together called for a ceasefire by midnight on 12 January. At the same time, the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, hosted the two warring leaders – Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern military forces – in a summit in Rome. But it appeared the initiative was running into difficulties even before it had begun: late on Wednesday it was reported that Sarraj refused to meet Conte because the Italian prime minister had previously met his rival, Haftar. The Guardian

US Sanctions South Sudan Vice President over Human Rights
The United States on Wednesday hit South Sudan’s first vice president with financial sanctions, accusing him of ordering the deaths of two opposition leaders. Taban Deng Gai also has created distrust that has inflamed conflict in South Sudan and undermined the peace process, the US Treasury Department said in a statement. Deng “reportedly arranged and directed the disappearance and deaths of human rights lawyer Samuel Dong Luak (Dong) and SPLM-IO member Aggrey Idry (Aggrey)… in order to solidify his position within President Kiir’s government and to intimidate members of the SPLM-IO,” Treasury said. “Taban Deng Gai’s attempt to silence the opposition party is derailing the country’s ability to implement a peace agreement,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich said in a statement. “The United States calls on all nations to exclude from the international financial system those who jeopardize South Sudan’s future.” AFP

Sudan’s Revolution Runs Aground in Darfur
Sudan’s revolution, which last year ended the three-decade rule of Omar al-Bashir, is yet to be fully felt in troubled western Darfur, where heavily-armed militia still terrorise civilians, hold on to land they have seized, and make reconciliation harder. … In the most recent violence last month, at least 54 people were killed. It began at the end of December with a raid by Arab gunmen on a displaced persons camp following a local dispute, and spread to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state. Before order could be restored, 40,000 people had fled seven IDP camps, with thousands crossing the border into Chad. It is a dispiriting sign after the success of the pro-democracy movement in bringing the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to its knees, and then forcing the military in August to sign a power-sharing agreement, paving the way for an interim government and elections in two years time. The new civilian-led government has dissolved the NCP, put al-Bashir on trial and promised a “comprehensive peace” in Darfur and other war-affected states within six months. The New Humanitarian

China, Sudan Say Bilateral Relations Not Affected by Regime Change in Khartoum
Sudan and China reaffirmed the strength of bilateral relations saying they are not affected by the political changes that took place in Sudan following the overthrow of former President Omer al-Bashir. The Assistant Undersecretary of the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ilham Ibrahim Wednesday discussed relations between the two countries with the Minister plenipotentiary at the Department of Western Asia and North Africa of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Liu Yong Feng. The visiting Chinese diplomat announced that “the visit came in the framework of maintaining friendship between the two countries, as China considers Sudan a partner and friend,” according to a statement released by the Sudanese foreign ministry. Feng “expressed her happiness that the relations were not affected by the change in the country, and hoped that security and stability would prevail throughout Sudan.” She further stressed China’s commitment to supporting Sudan in all fields. Until 2010, China relied on Sudan as its sixth-largest source of oil imports and was one of the main weapons providers to the internationally isolated former regime. Sudan Tribune

Mozambique Police Detain 6 Opposition Members over Attacks
Mozambique authorities are detaining six opposition members over the violent attacks in the central regions, local police (PRM) confirmed on Wednesday. The violence experienced in Nhamatanda district of Sofala province has seen at least 21 people killed since August 2019 and police attribute it to members of the opposition Renamo’s armed wing. The group, which includes a member of the Renamo’s municipal assembly and the head of Marromeu Youth wing, was arrested on its way to Nhamatanda district, the alleged scene of attacks, VOA reported quoting PRM. One of the group’s member is hospitalised after he was shot in the operation, while the other five are being held at Sofala’s police station. The group denies any link to the attacks. Meanwhile, Mr André Matsangaíssa Júnior, Renamo’s armed wing member, threatened to carry out more attacks in the central regions of Mozambique unless kidnapped members of his family are freed. The East African

DRC Police Order Students Out of Kinshasa Campus over Deadly Protest
Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday gave protesting students a day to leave Kinshasa University campus. This follows violent clashes that left a police man dead over high increase in tuition fees. “At first we didn’t want to fight back. We wanted to leave the lobby anyway. In spite of (the fact that) we didn’t know where we could go, we had to leave. It was a decision that was made. Tomorrow, there might be policemen or soldiers”, economics student, Trésor Nkoko, said. In a statement, the police said any student found on campus on Thursday will be considered ”an enemy of the Republic.” According to local media, some students who reside outside of the capital expressed worry that they will be left with no where to sleep. Fees have almost doubled from 253,000 CFA franc or $429 during the last academic year to 485,000 CFA franc or $822 this academic year. AFP

Child Found Dead in Paris in Undercarriage of Plane from Côte d’Ivoire
A child aged around 10 was found dead Wednesday at a Paris airport in the undercarriage of a plane that had come from the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, a source close to the inquiry said. The Air France Boeing 777 had taken off from Abidjan on Tuesday evening and landed at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in the early morning. Air France said in a statement a “clandestine passenger” had died, without giving the age of the person. “Aside from the human drama, this shows a major failing of security at Abidjan airport,” an Ivorian security source told French news agency AFP, asking how a 10-year-old child could access an aircraft and if the child was helped. Over recent years, several clandestine passengers, notably adolescents from Africa, have been found frozen to death or crushed in the undercarriage of planes. RFI

Ghana Starts Construction of New Naval Base
Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has officially launched construction of the country’s new naval base with a sod-turning ceremony. Akufo-Addo said the base is part of the country’s efforts to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and protect the country’s oil and gas sector. Construction of the Forward Operating Base in Ezilinbo in the country’s Western Region began on 16 December 2019. Ghana plans to establish forward operating bases at Keta in the Volta Region, Winneba and Elmina in the Central Region, and Ezinlibo in the Western Region. The new Western Region base is being built by Messrs Amandi and Vuluxx and will include a breakwater and a jetty with a double lane tarred road, berthing facilities, and accommodation for 150 military personnel. “As part of the project, Government has also contracted Hawkmoor Co. Ltd. to supply six Phantom boats, and provide other equipment to enhance operational efficiency of the Base. When completed, the Base will serve as an advance military, operational location from where the security of our offshore oil fields, Ten, Sankofa and Jubilee, can be co-ordinated and maintained,” the President said. DefenceWeb

Botswana Opposition Wins Right to Challenge Election Result
Botswana’s court of appeal on Wednesday ruled in favour of hearing an opposition bid to throw out general election results after a lower court rejected their petition for lack of evidence. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won a sweeping majority in the October 23 polls, securing 38 out of 57 seats in parliament. The runner-up, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which won 15 seats, had filed the suit to the high court in November, citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies.” But the high court dismissed the petition the following month, saying it lacked supporting affidavits and failed to comply with rules. But Court of Appeal judge Singh Walia overturned that ruling. “I am satisfied… that the applicants have reasonable arguable cases on appeal,” said Walia, delivering his verdict in the capital Gaborone. “I can see no reason for refusing the applications,” he added. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on January 29. AFP

South Africa: New Refugee Laws ‘Target Political Dissidents’
The new laws, which came into effect on January 1, prohibit refugees from participating in political activities related to their countries of origin. To do so, they will need to seek permission from the home affairs minister. Also, an asylum-seeker who has sought protection from South Africa may not set foot on “the premises of any diplomatic mission representing his or her country of origin,” the new laws state. Under the new laws, political dissidents cannot participate in their countries’ elections. They cannot either vote or be voted for in any elections conducted by their countries of origin, the gazetted laws state. Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced the new laws just two working days before they even came into effect. African migrants living in South Africa told DW they were taken by surprise. “We did not know about any public hearings that were conducted on this matter,” Ngqabutho Mabhena, chairman of the Zimbabwe community in South Africa, told DW. … Rwanda’s foreign affairs ministry hailed the new laws, saying it “will prevent [RNC] from continuing fueling terrorist activities,” KT Press, a local Rwandan online newspaper, quoted the deputy foreign affairs minister, Olivier Nduhungirehe, as saying. DW

Congo Ebola Crisis: To Fight Disease, an Anthropologist Heals Distrust
The crisis in Butiaba began with a grave. When a man named Makombela got sick in September in this isolated village in Congo’s lush green eastern borderlands, his family did just what the radio PSAs and awareness posters had instructed. They called an emergency number, and told them they had a possible Ebola case. And when he died at a clinic, 50 miles away in a town they had never seen, the family swallowed their fear and consented again. OK, they demurred, he could be buried there, in a cemetery shared by strangers. But back at home in Butiaba, a cluster of mud-brick houses huddled at the edge of the rainforest, the message hadn’t gotten through. The chief had already dispatched a group of young men to dig a grave in the town cemetery, a hacked-out clearing a few hundred meters into the forest. And now it sat gaping and empty like a crater. This was a bad omen, said Moshi Katwakima, an elder. A man with an air of quiet authority, he told the chief that he had seen what happened when graves were left open in the past. Failed harvests. Scores of young people suddenly unable to find work. The conversation quickly turned barbed. The Christian Science Monitor

Wanted: Reliable Data on Africa
Numbers form the basis of all business transactions. They also impact forecasts. But in many African countries, the possibility of collecting data is limited, according to Morten Jerven, an economics professor at Lund University in Norway. “Generally, in lower income countries, there are fewer resources available to collect statistics and data,” he says. What that means, he suggests, is that we should simply acknowledge that fact and give up the notion of precise forecasts for development policy. Still, in the long term, African countries need reliable statistics. According to Jerven, the difficulties start with the raw data. Most of Africa’s economic activity takes place in agriculture or in medium and small-sized businesses, or in the informal sector. But the numbers don’t find their way into official statistics. “Most small businesses, such as farmers and shoe shiners, don’t keep records,” he says. In areas where there is civil war or political unrest, it is hard to come by reliable data, he adds. “If you have to make guesses in a situation where there is a political incentive to want a number to be high or low, then complications arise.” DW

Water Wars: Early Warning Tool Uses Climate Data to Predict Conflict Hotspots
Researchers from six organisations have developed an early warning system to help predict potential water conflicts as violence associated with water surges globally. The Dutch government-funded Water, Peace and Security (WPS) global early warning tool, which was presented to the UN security council before it was launched formally last month, combines environmental variables such as rainfall and crop failures with political, economic and social factors to predict the risk of violent water-related conflicts up to a year in advance. It is the first tool of its kind to consider environmental data, such as precipitation and drought, alongside socio-economical variables, a combination lacking in previous tools designed to predict water conflicts. It is available online for the public to use, but is aimed more specifically at raising awareness among policymakers, and people and parties in water-stressed regions. The tool has already predicted conflicts that are likely to happen in 2020 in Iraq, Iran, Mali, Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Developers claim an 86% success rate in identifying conflict zones where at least 10 fatalities could occur. The tool currently focuses on hotspots across Africa, the Middle East and southeast Asia. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones