Africa Media Review for July 14, 2017

US, Somalia Forces Raid Al-Shabab, Kill Several: Official
United States and Somali military forces raided a rebel-held village in southern Somalia and killed several al-Shabab fighters early Thursday, a senior Somali intelligence official said, as both countries step up efforts against Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group. Somali commandos accompanied by U.S. forces in two helicopters raided two locations, the official said. They included a detention center run by al-Shabab in Kunya-Barrow village in Lower Shabelle region, and an unknown number of detainees were freed. Troops engaged a small number of extremist fighters, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. U.S. Africa Command spokesman Mark Cheadle said U.S. forces conducted an “advise and assist mission” against al-Shabab with members of the Somali National Army in Kunya-Barrow. He gave no further details. AP

Pirates and Terrorists Are Working Together Now in Somalia
Here’s a line you probably thought you’d never read: Pirates are helping terrorist groups smuggle weapons and maybe even fighters. Yeah, that’s a thing now. “The United Nations and the United States are investigating at least two pirate kingpins for providing material support to terror groups,” according to a CNN report Monday morning. The terror groups in question, according to CNN, aren’t just a bunch of would-be militants. Instead it’s a pair of battle-hardened and dangerous groups in Somalia, the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab and an ISIS faction there. Those connections come as unwelcome news for US military officials working to defeat ISIS and training the Somali military to beat back al-Shabaab, an Islamist group that has killed hundreds over the years. The anti-ISIS coalition is on track to defeat the group in its capitals in Syria and Iraq, but questions remain about the campaign’s ability to halt ISIS operations around the world — including in Somalia. VOX

UN Envoy Warns of Instability in Sahel and Lake Chad Basin
Instability in Mali is spilling over into Burkina Faso and Niger while insecurity in the Lake Chad basin, where Boko Haram remains active, is proving equally challenging, the U.N. envoy for West Africa and the Sahel warned Thursday. Mohamed Ibn Chambas told the U.N. Security Council that “efforts by member states in the region to deliver on development, improve infrastructure, create jobs and strengthen human security are being hampered by traditional and new drivers of conflict and insecurity.” “Terrorism and violent extremism, in addition to the humanitarian crisis and threats to state integrity that they generate, have exacerbated traditional threats,” he said. Chambas said these factors, along with climate change, a growing youth population and lack of jobs, and unchecked urbanization are pushing a surge in migration and human trafficking. AP

Egypt Churches Suspend Activities for Security Reasons
Egypt’s Coptic and Evangelical Churches have suspended some of their activities for security reasons after a spate of jihadist attacks, church officials said on Thursday. Conferences and church-organised trips will be suspended for three weeks after security services warned of more attempted attacks, said the Reverend Andrea Zaki, head of the Egyptian Evangelical Church. “We are talking about conferences and travel for religious events, for three weeks, because we have information in cooperation with the responsible agencies that attempts to attack have been detected,” he told AFP. Church services will not be affected, he said. Coptic Church spokesman Bolus Halim confirmed the moratorium on some activities. Since December, Islamic State group suicide bombers have targeted three Coptic churches, killing dozens of people. AFP

Lord’s Resistance Army Increasingly Active, UN Warns
The United Nations is warning of increasing activity by an African rebel group led by one of the world’s most wanted men after the United States and Uganda recently gave up their pursuit. A report Thursday by the U.N. humanitarian agency says fighters with the Lord’s Resistance Army are becoming “more and more active” in northern Congo, where they briefly kidnapped 61 civilians last month. The report says the rebel group’s activities have increased in the area that includes Garamba National Park, where fighters have been accused of poaching. The U.S. and Uganda earlier this year ended military efforts to eliminate the LRA and capture leader Joseph Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Bloomberg

In Nigeria, Healing the Scars of War Might Curtail Its Spread
It’s often said that prevention is better than cure. But when it comes to the devastation wreaked upon civilians by armed groups, can cure serve as a form of prevention? For Imrana Alhaji Buba, a policy specialist at the Global Alliance of Youths Countering Violent Extremism, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. “Providing trauma healing for victims of terrorism is an integral part of countering violent extremism,” he told IRIN. “Many of the victims of terrorism are likely to suffer severe emotional trauma that may affect their ability to develop emotional awareness, empathy, self-esteem, and basic problem-solving skills,” he added. “Left unchecked, many of these victims will grow up believing that violence is the only solution to coping, and, as a result, many of them become vulnerable to extremist viewpoints. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to defeat terrorism is to promote effective trauma counselling.” IRIN

The Neat-as-a-Pin African Country Where People Are Executed for Petty Theft
In October, Innocent Mbarushimana was caught stealing a few bananas in the village of Kabeza in western Rwanda. Two months before that, an impoverished farmer named Jean Kanyesoko was caught red-handed stealing someone’s sugarcane. They and dozens of others were shot dead or beaten to death in the last year by Rwandan security forces, including soldiers, police and members of a military auxiliary force, Human Rights Watch reported Thursday. Among those summarily executed were suspects accused of taking cows, motorcycles or lightbulbs. Smugglers who sneaked across the nearby border with the Democratic Republic of Congo met the same fate, as did fishermen in Lake Kivu who used illegal nets. Los Angeles Times

US Delay on Sanctions Decision Leaves Sudanese in Limbo
The Sudanese government, businessmen, and banks anxiously awaited a decision on Tuesday that they hoped would permanently lift decades-old US trade sanctions against Khartoum and aid in gradually bringing the country back into the international fold. Mohammed Saad, a Sudanese expatriate living in Boston, had all but convinced himself that he would finally be able to send money back home to his family without having to use intermediaries or alternative banking routes. “Nothing is as dependable as banks when you want your family to receive money that you work hard day and night to collect and send home,” he told Al Jazeera. “I waited for this day for six months.” But on Tuesday, the US state department announced it would postpone by three months a final decision on whether to permanently lift its sanctions on Sudan. Al Jazeera

UN Considers New Base in ‘Nightmare’ South Sudan Region
The United Nations on Thursday said it is considering putting a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s troubled Yei region, saying the city has “gone through a nightmare” in recent months. It would be the first such expansion since civil war began in 2013. “I can see the prosperity that was once here,” the peacekeeping mission’s chief, David Shearer, told residents on his first visit. But stories of rape, killings and abductions are common in what has become one of South Sudan’s most volatile cities. The U.N. warned of growing ethnic violence there after bodies with bound hands were found late last year. In May, a U.N. report said pro-government forces killed 114 civilians in Yei between July and January, brutally raping girls and women in front of their families. VOA

Botswana Risks China Backlash With Dalai Lama Visit
Botswana will host the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, next month, officials said on Thursday, risking a backlash from China, a major investor in the African country’s economy. The Dalai Lama is expected to address a human rights conference in the capital Gaborone on August 17-19 and will also meet Botswana’s president during the trip. “President Ian Khama will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in Botswana. But the president’s attendance at the conference, for the official opening or otherwise, will be determined by his schedule,” Khama’s office said in a statement. The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has long been at loggerheads over Tibet with China, which brands him a reactionary and a separatist. The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, says he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom, and true autonomy for Tibetans. VOA

Gambia Searches Jammeh’s Palaces for Missing Millions
In a warehouse on the sprawling country estate of Gambia’s exiled former leader, Yahya Jammeh, silver platters pile up beside dusty crates of empty champagne bottles with labels commemorating his 1994 coup. A bailiff picks through the boxes and scribbles down notes — the start of what the new government says is a search for tens of millions of dollars of looted assets, an investigation that Jammeh’s supporters have dismissed as a witch hunt. A U.S. official in Banjul said Washington was planning to help, and government staff say they are counting on World Bank assistance. The size of the Kanilai estate — just a small fraction of Jammeh’s holdings, according to the government official leading the tour — shows the scale of the task ahead. “We suspect most of the things were taken away before he left — the treasure, possibly weapons and most of the vehicles,” said the bailiff from Gambia’s high court, Modou Moussa Ceesay, taking an inventory of Jammeh’s possessions. VOA

As Cameroon’s Jungle Shrinks, Pygmies’ Lifestyle Is under Threat
In eastern Cameroon, over 20,000 hectares of virgin forest are disappearing every year due to logging, forcing the indigenous Baka pygmies out of the jungle they rely on for survival. They’re often forced to try to make a living performing menial tasks for low pay by the roadside. As a result, increasing numbers of pygmies are falling into alcohol and substance abuse. France 24

Ethiopians Race to Leave Saudi Arabia as Mass Deportations Loom
Thousands of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are in a state of limbo as they try to return home after being ordered to leave the Gulf state. On March 29, Saudi Arabia launched a campaign it dubbed “Nation Without Violations,” giving all foreign immigrants living there illegally 90 days to leave without incurring a penalty. They were told they could return later after applying and going through the immigration process. As of the beginning of July, 111,000 Ethiopians had agreed to leave Saudi Arabia and 45,000 had successfully returned to Ethiopia, according to Meles Alem, the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many remained stranded, however, due to an inability to get a seat on overbooked flights. VOA

Poll Reveals 85% of Americans Oblivious to Hunger in Africa and Middle East
Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed. Research by the International Rescue Committee showed that millennials, loosely defined as young adults born between 1981 and 1997, are the generation most concerned about solving the hunger crisis in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria. Yet overall public awareness of the situation is low, with only 15% of Americans apprised of the facts even though 73% said, once informed, that it was a major global concern. “More than any other group of Americans, millennials recognised the severity of the hunger crisis and are ready to take on the responsibility of a global community,” said former British foreign secretary David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian relief agency. The Guardian

Uganda’s Other Refugee Crisis
[…] Uganda has been celebrated in recent years for its generosity toward those fleeing violence, especially South Sudanese refugees. Not long ago, only a few huts dotted the northern Ugandan town of Bidi Bidi. Today, more than 200,000 South Sudanese refugees live there, making it one of the largest refugee settlements in the world, according to United Nations officials. In total, Uganda has taken in around 900,000 South Sudanese refugees and thousands of others from neighboring countries. While Uganda has worked to manage the refugee crisis on its border, a smaller one has simmered at home. Last year, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report saying 500 Ugandans had applied for asylum in Kenya based on their sexuality. But LGBT activists say those estimates were too low because most refugees were categorized as having fled or claimed asylum for different reasons. PRI

Ghana Oil Boom Not Enough to Plug Budget Hole as Prices Drop
A surge in Ghana’s oil output this year may do little to ease the West African nation’s fiscal strains as crude prices are lower than what it budgeted, eroding the gains from extra production. This year’s average Brent crude price of $52 a barrel is below the $56 forecast in the budget, which could complicate the state’s plans to narrow the fiscal deficit. Output is set to climb by more than a third in 2017 from a year earlier after Eni SpA started up the Sankofa field in May, and as production rises at Tullow Plc’s second project in the country. The world’s second-biggest cocoa producer plans to cut its fiscal deficit to 6.5 percent of gross domestic product this year as it seeks to raise investor confidence eroded by the announcement in January of a 7 billion-cedi ($1.6 billion) hole in the budget. Funding options are limited, with Ghana already relying on an almost $1 billion International Monetary Fund program to prop up its finances. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones