Africa Media Review for July 10, 2019

Frontlines in Flux in Battle against African Militant Islamist Groups
A time-lapse review of violent episodes involving militant Islamist groups over the past decade underscores the shifting nature of Islamist militancy in Africa. Key highlights include: Militant Islamist groups in Africa have engaged in 3,050 violent events in 2018—a record level of activity. However, this figure is only slightly higher than that seen in 2017 (2,927 events), reflecting a plateauing of what had been a steadily upward trend. Overall, militant Islamist group activity in Africa has doubled since 2012 when there were 1,402 events linked to these groups. Over the past 10 years, there has been a ten-fold increase in violent events (from 288 in 2009 to 3,050 in 2018). Militant Islamist group activity in Africa continues to remain primarily concentrated in four theaters: Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel (Central Mali and border areas), and Egypt. Within each of these theaters, however, the geographic range of violent activities has become more dispersed in recent years. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Nigerian Parliament: Violent Clashes at Shia Protest
There have been violent clashes outside Nigeria’s National Assembly between police and Shia protesters. Protesters say officers shot two people dead, but the police said they had used “minimum force” and that eight security personnel were injured. The members of the pro-Iran Shia Muslim sect, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), were protesting against the detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. He has been detained since 2015. The police said that two of their officers had been shot in the leg and six others injured by clubs and stones. They added that 40 members of the sect had been arrested. BBC

WHO: More than 1,000 Killed in Battle for Libya’s Tripoli
The battle between rival groups for the Libyan capital has killed more than 1,000 people since it began in April, the United Nations said, a grim milestone in a stalemated conflict partly fuelled by regional powers. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a brief statement on Tuesday that 1,048 people, including 106 civilians, have been killed since the offensive began. It said 5,558 were wounded, including 289 civilians. “WHO continues to send doctors and medical supplies to help hospitals cope. Our teams have performed more than 1,700 surgeries in three months,” the UN body said on Twitter. Al Jazeera

UN: Sudan Must Respect Human Rights to Achieve Peace and Stability
U.N. human rights experts say Sudan must end its horrific legacy of violence and abuse and respect the rights of its people if it wishes to achieve a peaceful and stable society. A senior U.N. official has provided an update on the situation in Sudan, on behalf of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said he is encouraged by the agreement reached Friday between Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council. VOA

Mobile Internet Access Slowly Restored in Sudan
Sudan’s telecom providers began restoring mobile access to the internet weeks after service was cut off following a deadly crackdown on protesters. The country’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) severed internet access after government forces opened fire on demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on June 3, killing more than 100 people. A court-ordered services restored across Sudan on Tuesday after lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan launched a lawsuit challenging the block. The restoration, however, was limited to fixed-land lines, prompting the Khartoum-based lawyer to demand it be extended to 3G and 4G mobile services. Al Jazeera

South Sudan’s Independent Media under Pressure
Eight years after independence, South Sudan still struggles to address media challenges. Independent journalists continue to fear for their freedom. Many choose to abandon either the country or their profession. Despite the passing of a media law and establishment of a Media Authority in 2014, the independent media in South Sudan still grapple with a slew of serious problems that include persecution. Some journalists are forced to flee the country. Some of those who do not abandon the profession resort to censoring themselves. Journalists and rights activists admit that there has been a reduction of arrests, but feel this is only a small improvement. DW

South Sudan Court Rules Against Marriage of Girl, 16, in Landmark Case
A court in South Sudan has annulled a child marriage, in a rare legal case that activists say could signal a turning point for women’s rights in the conservative country. The marriage of a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a cattle herdsman, to a 28-year-old man was deemed illegal by a court in Kapoeta late last month, the southern state’s information minister Simon Karlo said this week. Despite the legal age of marriage being 18, more than 50 percent of South Sudanese girls are wed before their 18th birthday, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. Poverty, climate change, low levels of literacy and gender inequality in education have fueled child marriage in the country for years. But activists said last month’s ruling, the first of its kind in South Sudan’s eight-year history, could set a precedent for other girls in the country wishing to end marriages entered into at a young age. VOA

Machete Attacks and Forest Escapes, as Conflict Returns to Congo’s Troubled Ituri
A wave of militia attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern Ituri province has left hundreds dead and roughly 300,000 displaced in recent weeks, triggering a new humanitarian crisis in a region already grappling with the second worst Ebola outbreak in history, on top of multiple other conflicts and health epidemics. On a visit to Ituri last week, Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi described the violence – blamed on an ethnic Lendu militia – as “attempted genocide” and a “plot” to destabilise the central government. The Congolese military said it had “totally neutralised” the armed group it considers responsible for the attacks. After years of relative calm, conflict reignited in December 2017 following scuffles between Hema and Lendu youth. Subsequent attacks uprooted roughly 200,000 people – mostly Hema – and left more than 260 dead. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia’s Abiy Steps Up Mediation in Kenya, Somalia Sea Row
Ethiopia prime minister has sent emissaries to Kenya and Somalia seeking to have their maritime border dispute resolved without worsening flagile diplomatic ties in the Horn of Africa. Officials in Nairobi and Mogadishu said Abiy, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the region’s security prefect, had scheduled a meeting for this week between presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohammed Farmajo for July 13. However, the meeting was still subject to confirmation from the two heads of state with the officials leaving it at “their diaries allowing.” … Senior Somali government officials … said Abiy’s had been working behind the scenes to broker a truce amid pressure from key international players like the United States and the United Kingdom for a truce. Igad and its partners fear the maritime dispute could undermine cooperation in the fight against terrorism and sea piracy in the Horn of Africa. The East African

Calls for Unity in Ethiopia’s Tigray as Anti-Abiy Sentiment Swells
Since coming to power last year, the 42-year-old leader has loosened controls in long-authoritarian Ethiopia and shaken up decades-old power arrangements, angering some Tigrayans who feel sidelined as other ethnicities jostle for influence. … In Mekele, the regional capital, Tigrayans complain they have been scapegoated by the prime minister, who is an ethnic Oromo, for Ethiopia’s woes in recent years. Anti-Abiy sentiment in Tigray was spotlighted following the killings last month of five high-ranking government and military officials — violence Abiy says was part of a coup attempt in Amhara state, neighbouring Tigray. Two of the victims, including the army chief, were from Tigray, and their funerals in Mekele sparked an outpouring of grief, with some mourners denouncing Abiy as a traitor. “There is a huge frustration here in Tigray,” said Nebiyu Sehil Mikael, a writer and lecturer at Mekele University. AFP

Zimbabwean Opposition MP Charged with Treason
A Zimbabwean MP Job Sikhala, vice-chairman of the opposition MDC party, was on Tuesday charged with treason for allegedly saying he wanted to overthrow the president. Sikhala was “formally charged with attempting to overthrow the government unconstitutionally”, his lawyer Obey Shava told AFP, saying his client denied the charges. Sikhala, an often outspoken senior official in the Movement for Democratic Change party, allegedly said in a speech at a rally on Saturday that the party would unseat President Emmerson Mnangagwa before the next election. “We are going to overthrow him (Mnangagwa) before 2023,” Sikhala was quoted as saying. Some Zimbabweans hoped that the ousting of long-time autocrat Robert Mugabe in 2017 would usher in a more tolerant political scene as Mnangagwa sought to attract foreign investment. But government critics have been frequently targeted by the police and security forces as the country’s economy tips into crisis. AFP

Zimbabwe Public Workers Reject $21 Million Pay Raise
Public sector workers in Zimbabwe on Tuesday rejected a government offer of 180 million Zimbabwe dollars ($21 million) in added pay for the July-December period as inadequate in the face of soaring inflation, a union official said. Zimbabweans are angry as a year-on-year price jump of around 100% has eaten the value of their wages and savings, recalling the horrors of hyperinflation in 2008. Hopes that living standards would soon improve under President Emmerson Mnangagwa have not been realized. Daily power cuts lasting up to 17 hours and severe shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, bread, and medicines are bedeviling citizens who had hoped the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule after a 2017 coup would herald a new economic dawn. VOA

West Africa Wealth Inequalities Reaching Extreme Levels – Report
West Africa suffers the most inequalities on the continent but many governments prefer to ignore problems despite economic growth, a report by Oxfam and Development Finance International said on Tuesday. According to the “West Africa Inequality Crisis” report, six of the ten fastest-growing economies in Africa were in West Africa, with Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal among the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. “In most countries the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth have gone to a tiny few,” the report said. “Inequality has reached extreme levels in the region, and today the wealthiest 1% of West Africans own more than everyone else in the region combined.” AFP

Malawi Facing Water Crisis
Findings of a study on the effects of climate change on water availability have revealed that Malawi is at risk of having a water crisis in the near future. An investigation by Future Climate for Africa has shown potential changes in Lake Malawi water levels and subsequent flows in the Shire River basin. Increased and competing demands from hydropower, irrigation, domestic water supply and environment sectors coupled by impacts of a changing climate are among the factors to cause water crisis in Malawi. The first risk is an increase in lake levels leading to increased water flows into the Shire River resulting in increased risk of flooding. The model has also shown the second risk that the lake level would remain similar to the current state where the lake level will only maintain levels just high enough to flow into the Shire River, resulting in limited downstream water supply which may impact the performance of hydropower and irrigated agriculture. “Future three, there is a decrease in lake levels and decreased inflow of water to the Shire river basin due to reduced rainfall. A few of the models projected such low levels in Lake Malawi that it resulted in no flow of water into the Shire River, which changed it from a perennial to seasonal river,” reads part of the findings. Malawi24

UN: Climate Change Undercutting Work to End Poverty, Hunger
Hunger is growing and the world is not on track to end extreme poverty by 2030 and meet other U.N. goals, mainly because progress is being undermined by the impact of climate change and increasing inequality, a U.N. report said Tuesday. The report on progress toward achieving the 17 U.N. goals notes achievements in some areas, including a 49% fall in child mortality between 2000 and 2017 as well as electricity now reaching nearly 90% of the world’s population. But Liu Zhenmin, the U.N. undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said that despite some advances, “monumental challenges remain.” AP



Photo: Adam Jones