Africa Media Review for July 30, 2019

Ansaroul Islam: The Rise and Decline of a Militant Islamist Group in the Sahel

Burkina Faso’s first militant Islamist group, Ansaroul Islam has faced setbacks, pointing to the weaknesses of violent extremist organizations lacking deep local support and facing sustained pressure. … Ansaroul Islam has played an outsized role in the destabilization of northern Burkina Faso. From 2016 to 2018, just over half of militant Islamist violent events in Burkina Faso were attributed to Ansaroul Islam. … The violence perpetrated by Ansaroul Islam has forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes and 352 schools to close in Soum alone. Yet by mid-2019, Ansaroul Islam was associated with only 16 violent events and 7 fatalities. This dramatic decline in the group’s activities warrants closer attention. It is particularly important to understand how this militant Islamist group first emerged and what factors have contributed to its diminished role in the first half of 2019. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Curfew Declared in Sudan after the Killing of Five Protesters

Sudanese authorities declared a curfew in North Kordofan as chaos erupted in the state following the killing of five protesters, among them students, during Monday’s march. In a statement, North Kordofan acting governor Alsadig Altybe Abdullah Altybe on Monday evening declared a 9pm-6am curfew that would be imposed indefinitely. “This decision will include the entire cities of the state including Al-Obeid, Um Rawaba, Al-Rahad, bara and Abu Dakana, aimed at saving the lives of citizens in the state,” the statement says. Protests erupted in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and other states following the killings, with demonstrators closing the main highway that links Khartoum to other cities. Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the Sudanese professional Association (SPA), part of the opposition alliance, have condemned the killings. The East African

Sudan Talks to Resume Tuesday over Remaining Issues: Mediator

Talks are to resume Tuesday between Sudanese protesters and ruling generals on remaining issues related to installing a transitional civilian administration, a mediator and a protest leader said. African Union mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt said in a statement Sunday that the two sides had been invited for “final talks on the Constitutional Declaration”. Prominent protest leader Babiker Faisal also confirmed Tuesday’s talks in Khartoum between the two sides, who on July 17 signed an initial power-sharing deal following the April ouster of long-time president Omar al-Bashir. The second agreement will deal with issues including the powers given to a joint civilian-military ruling body, the deployment of security forces and whether to grant “absolute immunity” to generals over protest-related violence, Faisal said. AFP

In an Epic Standoff, Unarmed Algerians Get the Army to Blink

The side with the guns – the army command – dares not spill blood, five months into a popular uprising that chased out Algeria’s autocratic president. The side without – the protesters – remains mobilized, still coursing through the capital’s sun-blasted streets twice a week. The street has stared down the army, and the army has blinked. So the epic standoff in Algeria – Africa’s largest country, the oil-rich neighbor of Libya, strategically situated on the rim of the Mediterranean Sea, gateway to the deep Sahara – continues. That it does, even if Algeria is still far from the democracy the street wants, already signals an unusual victory, one making this unfolding and so far bloodless revolution perhaps unique in the Arab world, say the protesters and Algeria analysts. New York Times

With Libyans Now ‘Fighting the Wars of Others’ inside Their Own Country, UN Envoy Urges Security Council Action to End Violence

Fighting in Libya “shows no signs of abating”, the head of the United Nations Support Mission (UNSMIL), told the Security Council on Monday, painting a grim picture of worsening humanitarian conditions, and warning that the instability and influx of foreign weapons is fueling a proxy war in the north African country. Briefing the Council via video teleconference from the Libyan capital, Ghassan Salamé, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said: “The war around Tripoli has already left nearly 1,100 dead, including 106 civilians.” “Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in the capital and neighbouring districts as a result of the fighting; tens of thousands crossing the border to Tunisia seeking safety for their families.” UN News

Malawi’s ‘Tipp-Ex President’ Mutharika Faces High Court Challenge

It has been two months since Malawi’s Peter Mutharika was sworn in after winning an election that earned him the nickname “Tipp-Ex president”. The jibe is a reference to the correction fluid that the opposition claims was used to alter of results with a vote that gave the 79-year-old former law professor a second term. Malawi’s high court is now being asked by two disappointed challengers to scrub out the outcome and order a rerun. Five judges will, from Monday, begin deliberations in an effort to resolve a crisis that has spilled on to the streets of the normally peaceful southern African country. If, as the opposition said it expects, the court orders a fresh election, it will be only the second time in Africa that judges have nullified a national poll. FT

Nigeria: Troops Repel Terrorist’s Attack in Borno, Kill 10 – Official

The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and national troops have dealt a deadly blow on the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), killing 10 of its terrorists in Baga, Borno, an official said. A statement by Col. Timothy Antigha, the Chief of Military Public Information of MNJTF in N’Djamena, Chad Republic, on Monday said that what was meant to be a dawn surprise attack became a nightmare for the terrorists. Mr Antigha explained that at about 5:30 a.m., ISWAP terrorists numbering about 30 attacked troops defensive locality. According to him, vigilant troops spotted their approach and promptly thwarted what could have been an audacious assault. “In the process, 10 terrorists, including four suicide bombers were neutralised while others escaped with gunshot wounds as blood-stained tracks were observed. Premium Times

South African Kidnapped in DR Congo – Army

A South African and a Zimbabwean working for Canadian gold mining firm Banro have been kidnapped in DR Congo’s restive east, an army spokesperson said. The incident occurred on Friday morning in the province of South Kivu which borders the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Burundi. “The Banro officials were ambushed by armed bandits on Friday at 10:30 (08:30 GMT) between Salamabila and Kitindi in the Maniema region,” Captain Dieudonne Kasereka, regional army spokesperson, told AFP, adding that it was in an area where rebel militias operated. “Some sources speak of four officials kidnapped but the report we have is that a South African and a Zimbabwean were kidnapped by rebels active in the region,” he said. AFP

Arrest of Tanzanian Journalist Sparks Fears over Press Safety

Tanzanian police have arrested a prominent investigative journalist, a senior official said, sparking calls for answers from authorities about the safety of journalists. Erick Kabendera, a respected freelance journalist who writes for several international publications, was detained on Monday at his house on the outskirts of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, by a group of men who claimed to be plainclothes policemen, according to witness accounts. Tanzania’s inspector general of police, Simon Sirro, confirmed Kabendera had been taken to a police station for questioning. The Guardian

UN: Fewer Refugees Willing to Leave Kenya’s Dadaab for Somalia
Insecurity in Somalia is diminishing the numbers of refugees willing to return home from the Dadaab camps in northern Kenya, the United Nations said recently. A total of 84,230 Somalis have taken part in the UN’s voluntary return programme since its inception five years ago. So far this year, fewer than 1400 have gone back to Somalia under UN auspices. The total population of the nearly 30-year-old Dadaab refugee complex, which the Kenyan government is seeking to close for security reasons, has dwindled only slightly in recent months. Kenyan officials have said that Dadaab is the scene of al-Shabaab plotting and recruitment. Daily Nation

Top UN Official Discusses Elections on First Visit to Somaliland
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General James Swan made his first visit to the Horn of Africa on Sunday. Swan discussed the importance of building Somaliland’s achievements and the impending elections. “We also discussed the importance of completing the necessary preparatory work to proceed to credible parliamentary and local elections very soon and in this context, I am very pleased to have noted the agreement reached among political parties just yesterday to move forward in preparing for elections on an early timeline”, he said. AP

Nigerian Court Adjourns Bail Hearing for Leader of Banned Shi’ite Group
A Nigerian court on Monday adjourned a bail hearing for the leader of a banned Shi’ite Muslim group, which says at least 20 of its followers died in clashes with police last week while holding protests to demand his release. Supporters of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leader Ibrahim Zakzaky say he should be released on bail to receive medical treatment in Egypt. The court in the northern city of Kaduna adjourned the bail hearing until Aug. 5. Zakzaky was arrested after a 2015 clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground in northern Kaduna state. He has remained in detention despite a court order in Dec. 2016 to release him. Reuters

Moroccan King Seeks Government Shake-Up to Calm Frustrations
Morocco’s king is calling for a government reshuffle, seeking “new blood” and saying the country’s development policy isn’t doing enough to meet citizens’ needs. In a speech Monday night marking his 20 years on the throne, King Mohammed VI reproached the Islamist-led government and tasked Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani with proposing new government candidates in the fall. The king said he wants “people with a different mentality and officials who are capable of raising performance levels.” Morocco recently launched one of the world’s biggest solar plants and one of the fastest trains in Africa, but poverty rates remain high and social frustration has led to two major protest movements in the past three years. …The king also pardoned 4,764 prisoners, according to Justice Ministry statement. AP

Mozambique Pass Amnesty Bill Eyeing Lasting Peace
Mozambique’s parliament on Monday passed an amnesty bill that will pardon all criminal acts committed against the State as part of the government commitment to honor the deals with the main opposition party, Renamo, in the peace negotiation process. “It has been proven necessary for political stability and the guarantee of an effective and long-lasting peace and ensuring mutual trust between the parts and for national reconciliation, the proposition of an amnesty law to eliminate the responsibility of all who may have committed acts that are punished by the penal law,” said Minister of Justice, Religious and Constitutional Affairs Joaquim Verissimo at the Assembly of the republic. … The amnesty law is the second to be approved in less than five years. Xinhua

Vietnam Seizes 125-Kilogram Haul of Trafficked Rhino Horn Encased in Plaster
Fifty-five pieces of rhino horn were found hidden inside shipments of plaster at Hanoi International Airport, Vietnam’s state media reported Saturday. Customs officers broke open plaster molds from 14 shipments to uncover the illegally trafficked horns, which weighed 125 kilograms (275 pounds) in total, according to the Vietnam News Agency. Vietnam has the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A single horn can fetch $100,000 in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where buyers believe it can cure health problems from hangovers to cancer, and use it as a lifestyle drug. The global market is thought to be worth about $500 million. The seizure in the Vietnamese capital came after Hanoi police arrested a man accused of running a wildlife trafficking ring on July 23. CNN

2019 Elections: How WhatsApp Strengthens, Undermines Nigeria’s Democracy – Research
WhatsApp, a cross-platform messaging and voice over service owned by Facebook, strengthens accountability and promotes inclusion in Nigeria’s democracy, particularly in the conduct of the 2019 general elections, according to Uk-Nigeria research findings. It, however, also promotes the spread of “fake news” around the elections, the findings said. … WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in 40 African countries, including Nigeria, due to its low cost, encrypted messages, and the ability to easily share messages with both individuals and groups. The aim of the research project was to shed light on how the app is influencing Nigerian elections, particularly in light of concerns – in Nigeria, and across the globe – about social media usage and the spread of “fake news”. Premium Times