Africa Media Review for July 28, 2017

Hospitals: Death Toll in Nigeria Militant Attack Rises to 48 
Nigerian hospital officials say the death toll from an ambush in northeastern Nigeria has risen to 48 people. The officials say the bodies of 18 soldiers and 30 others have been brought to Maiduguri from the area near Lake Chad where extremists Boko Haram fighters attacked geological surveyors who were prospecting for oil on Tuesday. The military has put the toll at 10 dead, and the government has suspended oil prospecting in the area. The attack comes five days after Nigeria’s army issued a directive for the arrest of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, within 40 days. Authorities say a separate attack on Thursday near Maiduguri killed several female suicide bombers. News 24

Self-Help Vigilante Groups Are Reshaping Security against Boko Haram 
Boko Haram militants have killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million others in north east Nigeria since 2009. At the height of its activities between 2009 and 2015, the insurgents attacked a range of targets leaving death and destruction in their wake. These include churches, mosques, schools, universities, markets, police stations and even military installations. They bombed locations, attacked with guns, raped women, killed children, took hostages and occupied territories. The militants left government and its security forces looking powerless and people in the region helpless. No place was safe. Under siege, communities in the north east were faced with three options. They could flee, join the insurgents, or risk being killed. Many took the first option and fled to safer destinations. Those who stayed were compelled to either join Boko Haram or risk being slaughtered. Times Live

1200 Days: 113 Chibok Girls Still in Boko Haram Captivity 
It is exactly 1,200 days since 276 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014 by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram after a raid of their school’s dormitories at night in the northern town of Chibok. Over 50 girls managed to escape at the time, leaving 219; and in May 2016, another girl escaped. Later in October last year, 21 girls and a baby were released after negotiations facilitated by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government. A girl was also found by Nigerian troops on January, 5, 2017 with a baby and confirmed to be one of the missing Chibok schoolgirls. Another girl was also rescued in the Sambisa forest where the group is based. Africa News

Pentagon Investigating If US Troops Knew of Torture at Cameroonian Base 
The U.S. military is investigating a report that its service members were present at a Cameroonian base where U.S.-trained security forces allegedly detained and tortured civilians. The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report released earlier this month, which documented over 100 cases of arrest and torture of civilians by Cameroonian security forces as they pressed civilians for intelligence about the Boko Haram terrorist group. The report included photographs of U.S. military personnel at one base where the abuses allegedly occurred, although there have been no reports of Americans taking part in the torture, or witnessing it. There are about 300 American military personnel plus civilian contractors in Cameroon helping the government there fight Boko Haram, a group that has terrorised several Western African nations for years. The deployment is part of Washington’s push to train and advise small nations across the globe to fight extremist forces, with U.S. troops operating surveillance drones, training local forces, and helping to plan missions. Foreign Policy

Nigeria: Parliament Votes on Constitutional Changes 
Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Thursday voted on changes to the country’s constitution, with lawmakers rejecting key provisions to devolve powers to states and allow married women to decide where and how to seek public office. But the parliament approved a proposal to lower the minimum age for seeking political office and another allowing for independents to stand in future polls. The two proposals also sailed through the Senate on Wednesday. The House approved 35 percent affirmative action for women in government appointments, but the Senate’s rejection of the same means the proposal is technically dead because a proposal must secure two-thirds support in both houses to pass. A proposal to let married women run for public office in their place of birth or marriage passed the Senate but failed in the House, garnering only 208 votes on a second ballot. The proposal initially polled 216 but female lawmakers called for a fresh ballot. A minimum of 240 votes is required for constitutional proposals to succeed in the lower house. Anadolu Agency

‘Dozens’ Killed in Mali Clashes before Helicopter Crash
A group of former separatist rebels in Mali killed “dozens” of members of a pro-government armed group before a UN helicopter monitoring the fighting crashed in the country’s north, sources told AFP on Thursday. The UN has confirmed two German crew members belonging to its MINUSMA peacekeeping mission were killed while observing the area near the city of Gao following the clashes. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said on Thursday the helicopter “was conducting surveillance over Tabankort in the aftermath of violent clashes between the signatory armed groups,” when it came down in an apparent accident. German army Vice Admiral Joachim Georg Ruehle said on Wednesday night the helicopter crew did not issue any distress calls and there were no firm indications as to the cause of the crash. The clashes pitted former rebels of the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) against the Gatia pro-government group. News 24

Senegal Votes Sunday after Heated Legislative Campaign 
Senegal is wrapping up a heated campaign season ahead of Sunday’s legislative polls. Tear gas filled the air in Dakar’s city center this week as police dispersed an opposition demonstration called by former president Abdoulaye Wade to denounce the organization of the upcoming election. Wade’s return to the country to lead the main opposition coalition has been just one spark raising the temperature during this campaign period. Another key political figure, the mayor of Dakar, is leading his “Manko Taxanu Senegal” coalition from prison. Khalifa Sall was arrested in March and charged with embezzling public funds. He demanded temporary release during the campaign period, but his request was rejected by the Supreme Court. Supporters waited for the verdict outside the court. Mama Gueye, a coordinator for Ande Dollel Khalifa, a political movement supporting the mayor, was among them. VOA

Japanese Defence Minister to Resign over South Sudan Cover-Up Claims 
Japan’s defence minister, Tomomi Inada, is to resign over claims she helped cover up internal records that exposed the danger Japanese peacekeepers faced in South Sudan. The scandal adds to the political woes of Shinzō Abe, who has faced a string of local election losses and seen his cabinet’s popularity plummet to the lowest level since he returned to the prime ministership in 2012. Inada’s departure will also trigger new leadership in the defence portfolio at a time of growing tensions with North Korea, which recently tested a missile that may be capable of reaching Alaska. The minister is expected to submit her resignation letter to Abe on Friday, local media reported, citing government sources. That would coincide with the release of the findings of an investigation into how politically embarrassing details of the South Sudan peacekeeping mission were concealed from the public. It also comes as Abe prepares to reshuffle his cabinet and the top ranks of the Liberal Democratic party next week. The Guardian

Italy Aims to Deploy Ships in Libyan Waters by End-August 
Italy intends to deploy several ships in Libyan waters by the end of August to fight human trafficking and stem a flood of immigrants, a government source said on Thursday. A mission plan should be brought to the Cabinet for approval on Friday, and the necessary parliamentary vote to endorse it may be held next week, the source said. “The exact number of ships and sailors is still being worked out,” said the source. If parliament approves, the mission might begin “by the end of August”, he said. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni met with military chiefs and ministers on Thursday to discuss “security, immigration and the Libyan situation”, according to a statement. Reuters

“Name Your Successor,” Wife Urges Zimbabwe’s Ageing Mugabe 
Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe on Thursday challenged her president husband Robert to name his preferred successor to end deepening divisions over the future leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF party, state television said in an online report. Africa’s oldest leader, Mugabe, 93, has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980 but has insisted that ZANU-PF, and not him, will choose his eventual successor when the time comes. But at a meeting of ZANU-PF’s women’s wing in the capital Harare, Grace Mugabe contradicted the veteran leader, who also attended the meeting, saying he should name a successor. Reuters

Mugabe’s Party to Consider Early Zimbabwe Elections 
Zimbabwe’s ruling party is considering calling elections early next year out of concern that President Robert Mugabe’s health is worsening and disputes among his supporters could galvanize opposition efforts to form an alliance, three officials familiar with the government’s plans said. While general elections must be held constitutionally by Aug. 21 in 2018, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s chances of maintaining its more than three-decade grip on power will improve the earlier it can hold the vote, said the party’s politburo members who asked not to be identified because the discussions haven’t been made public. This year’s better harvest, which has eased economic hardship, and squabbling among opposition parties are also bolstering the argument for moving up the ballot timetable, they said. Bloomberg

Congo Says Conflict-Ravaged Kasai Ready to Register Voters 
The head of Congo’s election commission said on Thursday that better security in the conflict-ravaged Kasai region had enabled preparations for a delayed election to replace President Joseph Kabila, but it still may not happen before a year-end deadline. Kasai poses Congo’s biggest security challenge and is the scene of a growing humanitarian disaster in a country where militia violence since Kabila refused to step down in December has raised fears of a slip back into civil war. But the central region appears to be settling down a little, with fewer reports of unrest, especially in the main towns. “We’ve seen that security has returned,” election commission head Corneille Nangaa said in an interview in the capital of Kasai-Central province, Kananga, a town of dirt roads and iron-roofed buildings surrounded by thick bush and palm trees. VOA

Jubilee, Nasa Apply Multipronged Strategies in Vote Hunt 
With only three weeks to the General Election, it’s all systems go for Kenya’s two leading presidential candidates — President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga — who have designed multipronged campaign strategies meant to tighten their grip on established strongholds, at the same time making whistle-stop tours of counties that are likely to provide swing votes. While the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) led by Mr Odinga has set up different campaign offices and departments in Nairobi and recruited two coordinators each for every county, constituency and ward, President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has put in place at least five campaign teams, charged with grassroots campaigns in its strongholds to assure voter turnout, while others led by the president and his deputy William Ruto have hit the road on countrywide campaigns to capture the hearts and minds of the unconverted. The East African

Al-Shabaab Militants Ban Starving Somalis from Accessing Aid 
Islamist militants in Somalia have imposed a ban on humanitarian assistance in areas they control, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to choose between death from starvation and disease or brutal punishment. In some towns, hungry and weak people have been ordered by extremist leaders to remain where they are to act as human shields against US airstrikes. Somalia is suffering its worst drought in 40 years, with the effects of climatic catastrophe compounded by war and poor governance. Interviews with villagers in the swaths of land controlled by al-Qaida-affiliate al-Shabaab, in the centre and south of the east African state, reveal a population on the brink of catastrophe, with children and older people already dying in significant numbers. The Guardian

Horn of Africa a Flash Point for Proxy Battles among Gulf States 
The major fall-out in the Gulf between Qatar on the one side and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on the other side has spilled over into the Horn of Africa, aggravating existing tensions and potentially increasing instability. The Horn is in danger of becoming a field of proxy battles among Gulf states as it had been the site of proxy battles between the major powers during the Cold War, Omar Mahmood, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa said last week. The dispute between the Gulf states, which erupted on June 5, had already impacted the Horn, causing Qatari peacekeepers to withdraw from the disputed border between Eritrea and Djibouti which they had been patrolling. That was because Djibouti backed the Saudi/UAE side in the dispute with Qatar, Mahmood said, in an online briefing on the implications for Africa of the fall-out among the Gulf States. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on June 5. Daily Maverick

Ethiopia to Give ID Cards to Rastafarians Long Stateless 
Ethiopia will issue national identity cards for the nearly 1,000 Rastafarians who long have been seen as stateless in the East African nation, the government announced Thursday. The decision means they can enter without visas and live without residence permits. The move also affects Ethiopian Jews and foreign nationals who have made positive contributions to the country. “These individuals have long been unable to enter and leave the country easily,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Meles Alem told The Associated Press. “In the case of Rastafarians, we have three generations of people residing here that have blended well with our citizens. But sadly they were neither Caribbean nor Ethiopians so were somehow stateless. This national ID will address this problem.” AP

Cairo’s Poor Fight Back against Government Relocation Efforts 
Egyptian authorities destroyed the houses of some of Cairo’s poorest last week in a grab for land rumoured to be slated for development by foreign investors. Residents waged a fierce battle to protect their homes. Inhabitants of an underdeveloped island in the middle of the Nile River in the north of Cairo made international headlines recently when the government came in and destroyed properties in a bid to remove them from their land. But as dramatic as the evictions were, they are just business as usual in Egypt – and have been since the birth of the Republic in 1953. France 24

Google Hopes to Train 10 Million People in Africa in Online Skills: CEO 
Alphabet Inc’s Google aims to train 10 million people in Africa in online skills over the next five years in an effort to make them more employable, its chief executive said on Thursday. The U.S. technology giant also hopes to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, a company spokeswoman said. Google’s pledge marked an expansion of an initiative it launched in April 2016 to train young Africans in digital skills. It announced in March it had reached its initial target of training one million people. The company is “committing to prepare another 10 million people for jobs of the future in the next five years,” Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told a company conference in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones