Africa Media Review for July 26, 2019

150 Migrants Feared Dead After Boats Capsize off Libya Coast
Up to 150 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, were missing and feared drowned on Thursday after the boats they were traveling in capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the country’s coast guard and the U.N. refugee agency said. A top U.N. official described the shipwreck as “the worst Mediterranean tragedy” so far this year. The International Rescue Committee said the tragedy was a stark reminder of the humanitarian crisis emerging out of Libya and of the urgent need for search and rescue missions to be resumed in the Mediterranean. Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for Libya’s coast guard, told The Associated Press that two boats carrying around 300 migrants capsized around 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli. … After the uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe. Traffickers and armed groups have exploited Libya’s chaos since his overthrow, and have been implicated in widespread abuses of migrants, including torture and abduction for ransom. AP

Tunisia Declares Mourning Period After Death of President Essebsi
The Tunisian government has declared seven days of mourning following the death of Beji Caid Essebsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, as condolences poured in from the region and beyond. In a ceremony hours after the death of the 92-year-old leader on Thursday, Mohamed Ennaceur, the head of parliament,was sworn in as interim president.Ennaceur, 85, will lead the country until presidential elections are held on September 15, according to the Independent Electoral Commission. The presidential vote was originally scheduled for November 17. … Drafted in as prime minister in 2011 after the toppling of longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during the so-called Arab Spring uprising, Essebsi was elected president three years later, becoming the country’s first directly elected head of state after its Arab Spring uprising. As prime minister, he helped draft a new democratic constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and preparing Tunisia for free elections. Al Jazeera

Sudan Protest Leaders, Rebels End Rift Over Power Deal
Sudanese protest leaders and their rebel partners have ended their differences over a power-sharing deal signed with the country’s military rulers, vowing to work jointly for peace, a leading protest group said Thursday. On July 17, the umbrella protest movement signed a power-sharing accord with Sudan’s ruling generals that provides for a transitional civilian administration, the key demand of demonstrators. But three armed groups who are members of the protest movement had objected to the deal, saying it failed to address peace in the war zones of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. A group of protest leaders then flew to Addis Ababa for talks with the rebels, and after days of intense negotiations they reached an agreement that was announced on Thursday. AFP

Sudan Continues to Arrest Military Officers, Former Officials After Failed Coup
The Sudanese military authorities on Thursday continued the arrest campaign of military officers and political leaders of the Islamic Movement and the banned National Congress Party (NCP) after a failed coup attempt announced on Wednesday. In addition to the suspected military commanders and some NCP figures, the security authorities arrested Ossama Twafiq, a leading member of Reform Now Movement (RNM), and Ossama Abdalla, former power minister. On Thursday evening, former chief of staff Imad Eddin Adawi was arrested raising questions about the reasons for his arrest, especially since he has no political affiliation [and] no personal ambitions. … The Sudanese armed forces announced on Wednesday the details of the aborted coup and revealed the involvement of the army chief of staff and several military commanders as well as former officials. Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s Journalist Union Says Its Head Detained by Military
A Sudanese editor who heads the country’s main journalist’s union has been detained, the union said. The Sudanese Journalists’ Union called on the ruling Transitional Military Council to “immediately release” its head Sadiq al-Rizaigi, who is also editor of Al-Sayha newspaper, or that he be put on trial. A senior journalist with Rizaigi’s newspaper told AFP news agency that security forces took him away from outside the newspaper’s offices. “We do not know where he is being held or the reasons for his detention,” said Awad Jad Al-Sayid, news editor of Al-Sahya. Al Jazeera

1,000 Sudanese Militiamen Arrive in Libya
Reliable sources reported to Radio Dabanga that the first batch of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia have arrived in Libya in the oil-rich region crescent to protect Libya’s oil installations in order to allow forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar to concentrate all their power on the Tripoli attack, which Haftar’s forces have failed in recent months. The sources estimated the number of troops to be about 1,000 out of the 4,000 troops expected to arrive in Libya in the next few months. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera revealed the use of the Sudanese airspace in the transfer of hundreds of RSF soldiers to Libya and Yemen through Eritrea. Sudan has a large RSF contingent in the war in Yemen, which is now part of the coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Radio Dabanga

South Sudan Army Accuses Rebels of Violating Ceasefire
South Sudan’s army spokesperson, Lul Ruai Koang has confirmed Tuesday’s clashes with the National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels, but accused the holdout group of attacking its positions in the latest violation of the ceasefire by the two factions. “They attacked our position at Karpeta near Lobonok. Our forces returned fire and dropped back the attackers. On Tuesday, our Recce Platoon discovered NAS’s hideout at Paya and dislodged them,” Koang said in a statement extended Sudan Tribune Thursday. He said there were no reports of casualties on both sides. The rebel group, in a statement on Tuesday, accused government forces and its allied militias of attacking their troops at Karpeta. Sudan Tribune

Act Now to Avert Disaster in Drought-Hit East Africa, Aid Agencies Say
East Africa could suffer a repeat of a 2011 famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people unless foreign donors stump up funds to help drought-hit communities in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia now, aid agencies warned on Thursday. More than 15 million people across the Horn of Africa are struggling to access basics such as food and water after consecutive poor rainy seasons destroyed their crops and left reservoirs and rivers dry, British charity Oxfam said. A famine in Somalia in 2011 caused by drought and war killed more than 260,000 people. “We cannot wait until images of malnourished people and dead animals fill our television screens. We need to act now to avert disaster,” said Oxfam’s regional director for the Horn of Africa Lydia Zigomo in a statement. “Once again it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt.” Reuters

South Sudan: Building an Oasis for the Approaching Drought
Ruar Leek village in Jonglei state suffers from harsh drought during South Sudan’s dry season, leaving the earth parched and the local watering holes empty. Pastoralist herders can be forced to drive their cattle for kilometres to access water and green pasture. But now, the village is collaborating to find a solution that will provide enough water to help sustain Ruar Leek through the dry months. “We’re digging a pond so that our cattle can get water nearby,” said James Jongkuch Nyang. The civil war in South Sudan has not only resulted in huge death and displacement figures, but has also destroyed facilities such as schools and clinics, while the lack of state services has allowed other infrastructure to fall into disrepair. Al Jazeera

Jammeh Ordered Killings of Journalist, US Citizens and Migrants: Soldiers
Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) continues to hear shocking and damning revelations of the extent to which former president Yahya Jammeh violated human rights and abused power during his 22-year reign. … Former members of a Gambian death squad known as the Junglers on Thursday accused ex-president Yahya Jammeh of ordering the murder of two US citizens in 2013. … On the last day of hearings before the commission adjourns until August 5, Badjie, a member of Jammeh’s elite hit squad, said the head of state had ordered in June 2013 that two US-Gambian businenessmen, Alhaji Ceesay and Ebrima Jobe, who he suspected were planning a coup, should be “chopped into pieces”. The two men were arrested and taken to the president’s residence in the village of Kanilai, Badjie said.There they were driven deep into the grounds where they were suffocated, beheaded and buried, Badjie added. Africa News

Female Bomber in Mogadishu Mayor’s Office Targeted UN Envoy
A rare female suicide bomber used in the deadly al-Shabab attack in the office of Mogadishu’s mayor was aiming for the American who is the new U.N. envoy to Somalia and had left the office just minutes earlier, the extremist group and officials said. The death toll in Wednesday’s attack rose to seven and the seriously wounded Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman was in a coma Thursday. He and other officials were expected to be airlifted to Qatar for treatment, said Mohamed Ahmed, a government official at the Mogadishu hospital treating the mayor. The new U.N. envoy, James Swan, was the bomber’s intended target, Abdiaziz Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military spokesman, told local media. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer, said the female bomber walked into a security meeting and blew herself up a few yards away from the mayor. It was just the fourth time the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab had been known to use a female suicide bomber. AP

Despite ‘Considerable Progress,’ Somalia Needs Help Tackling Political, Economic and Rights Challenges, Says UN Expert
“I urge the international community and Federal Government of Somalia to address the negative effects of climate change on the population and ensure access to basic human rights such as water supply, health services, and education for all children, in particular girls”, said Independent Expert Bahame Tom Nyanduga at the end of a 12-day visit to the country. According to Mr. Nyanduga, Somalia also faces “many other challenges”, including continuing conflict, discrimination and youth unemployment, as well as “delivering economic, social and cultural rights”. … He also expressed concern over the delay in establishing the National Human Rights Commission and in progress on a Sexual Offences Bill. UN News

Political Violence in Congo Reaches Record High
The year 2018 was one of the most politically violent on record for Congo and data shows that six months into the new presidency of Félix Tshisekedi “overall political violence is rising at even higher rates than last year,” according to a project which tracks political violence. A fact sheet released Thursday by the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, known as ACLED, said there have been nearly 790 “organized political violence events” in more than 420 locations since Tshisekedi’s inauguration on Jan. 24. There were nearly 1,900 conflict-related fatalities reported in connection with these events, including over 760 deaths from violence targeting civilians, it said. By comparison, ACLED said that during the same period in 2018, under Tshisekedi’s predecessor Joseph Kabila, it recorded almost 630 political violence events in nearly 260 locations, resulting in approximately 500 reported fatalities. It said an upsurge in conflict in eastern Congo, an outbreak of the Ebola virus that has become an epidemic, and a contentious election were contributing factors. AP

Johannesburg Power Company Hit by Ransomware Attack
A ransomware virus has hit Johannesburg’s City Power, the electricity supplier for South Africa’s economic hub, company representatives said on Twitter on Thursday. A ransomware attack usually blocks certain functions of a company’s computer system until a ransom is paid to the attacker or the virus is removed. The virus “has encrypted all our databases, applications and network,” the company said. They did not provide details on the origin of the attack or the attackers’ demands. “Currently our ICT department is cleaning and rebuilding all impacted applications,” they added. City Power, which is owned by the City of Johannesburg, said its customers may have difficulties visiting the company’s website or buying prepaid electricity units. The issue might also prevent the firm’s ability to respond to outages. Separately, some Johannesburg residents told local media that they had been left without power due to the ransomware attack, according to Reuters news agency. DW

Zimbabwe Anti-Graft Authority Arrests Tourism Minister Mupfumira
Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption authority on Thursday detained Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira over graft allegations, becoming the first high-profile arrest since the commission was reconstituted. “The minister of Tourism has been taken in; the process is happening now and the commission will be able to make a statement soon,” Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) said in a brief statement. On Monday, Public Service Minister Sekai Nzenza told Parliament that expert lawyers were scrutinising the findings of a forensic audit of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) before they are made public. Ms Mupfumira was the Social Welfare Minister when the alleged looting of the pension fund occurred. AFP

Ecowas Countries Agree to Fight Pirates Together
West African regional group Ecowas’s member states have agreed to join forces to fight against pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. This comes after 10 Turkish sailors were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria earlier this month. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says the Gulf of Guinea is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy. A total of 73% of all sea kidnappings and 92% of hostage-takings occur in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, according to the IMB. The agreement will enable West African countries to jointly use facilities vessels and aircraft to better monitor the coast. BBC

Successful Elections and ‘Political Dialogues’ Push Democracy Forward in West Africa and the Sahel
In the past six months, presidential polls have taken place in Nigeria (23 February), Senegal (24 February) and Mauritania (22 June), Mohammad Ibn Chambas, who also heads the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the Security Council. Ahead of the “fiercely contested elections”, he said that he conveyed to all presidential candidates, regional and international partners, “the need to uphold the high electoral standards in the region”. Beyond relatively smooth electoral processes, he continued, “the past six months also saw the opening of political dialogues between the ruling government and the opposition in Burkina Faso and Benin, while in Ghana, political stakeholders started a dialogue on vigilante groups”. UN News

Kidnapped Aid Worker in Nigeria Pleads for Her Life on Video: ‘We Have Families’
The woman in a blue hijab tells the camera she’d been kidnapped six days earlier. She identifies herself in a video released late Wednesday only as Grace, a Christian and worker for an international aid group that tries to feed the hungry. Five men sit behind her on an orange carpet, heads bowed and fidgeting. They’ve all been taken by militants who called themselves “Calipha,” she says. They’re all Nigerians and don’t know where they are. Behind them hangs a sheet with upside-down United Nations refugee agency logos. … Kidnapping in Nigeria has become epidemic in recent years. Terrorists target tourists, aid staff, oil workers and schoolchildren for money and notoriety. More foreigners are kidnapped in the nation than anywhere else, according to a report last year from Constellis, an American security firm. (Mexico ranks second.) Anyone linked to an international operation faces heightened risk, analysts say. Washington Post

After 10 Years of Boko Haram Violence, Nigerians Crave Peace
Suicide bombings, mass kidnappings, tens of thousands of people killed. A ghastly insurgency by the homegrown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram marks 10 years this week in northeastern Nigeria, where many residents say life has been set back by decades. “It feels like 100 years, because everything seems to be moving slowly and not getting any better for me and my family,” said Hassan Mamman, who fled to Maiduguri, the region’s main city, after Boko Haram attacks on his rural home. He is among millions of people displaced. … Friday marks a decade since Nigerian forces clashed with the extremists at Maiduguri’s central mosque. More than 700 people were killed, including leader Mohammed Yusuf, according to officials and rights groups. From that violence sprang the insurgency of Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means “Western education is taboo.” The extremists have sought to establish a strict Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, carrying out attacks as far away as the capital, Abuja. The violence has also spilled into neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. In recent years some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, creating a new threat. AP

Nigeria Air Force Promotes Officer Who Returned Missing $41,000
He found and returned a parcel that contained 37,000 euros while he was on patrol, the Nigeria Air Force, NAF, announced that he was due to be rewarded. This was the story of Bashir Umar, an Aircraftman, ACM. Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal SB Abubakar ordered that processes be undertaken: “to immediately come up with modalities to reward the airman so as to encourage other personnel of the Service to continue to embody attitudes and behaviours that reflect NAF’s core values of Integrity, Excellence and Service Delivery.” On Thursday, July 25, the Chief of Air Staff delivered the said reward for Bashir’s integrity and for giving the Force a good name with his actions. ACM Bashir Umar was decorated with the new rank of a corporal, which according to reports automatically meant a double promotion in the NAF hierarchy. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones