Africa Media Review for June 11, 2019

Exploiting Borders in the Sahel: The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara
The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has pursued breadth rather than depth of engagement in its rapid rise along the Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso borders. ISGS has been distinctive for the geographic expansiveness of its activity, extending some 800 km along the eastern Mali/western Niger border area as well as roughly 600 km down Burkina Faso’s eastern border with Niger. Roughly 90 percent of ISGS attacks have occurred within 100 km of one of these borders. ISGS has also emerged as one of the most dangerous militant groups in the region. ISGS was linked to 26 percent of all events and 42 percent of all fatalities associated with militant Islamist groups in the Sahel in 2018. At the current pace, ISGS will be linked to over 570 fatalities in 2019, more than any other Sahelian group. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

At Least 95 Slain in Mali Village amid Surge in Ethnic, Extremist Violence
At least 95 people were killed in central Mali when gunmen stormed a village overnight, carrying out an especially bloody attack in the West African nation, which has been gripped by surging extremist violence and ethnic tensions. Nineteen other villagers are missing, the Malian government said in a statement Monday, as authorities continued to search for bodies. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the massacre in Sobame Da, a rural community populated mostly by people of the Dogon ethnic group. The Malian government blamed “armed men, suspected of being terrorists,” who it said “launched a murderous assault on this peaceful village.”  […] Islamist violence has doubled every year in the region since 2016, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. The death toll has swelled over the past three years, from 218 to at least 1,110.  The Washington Post

Massacre in Mali Prompts UN to Call for ‘National Upsurge’
The United Nations in Mali called for nationwide efforts to end a spiral of violence after a massacre in the central Mopti region left at least 95 people dead and many others injured.Gunmen raided a village near the city of Bandiagara late Sunday in what appears to be a reprisal attack, marking the second such incident this year. In March, the government dismissed several military commanders after a similar assault by local militia claimed 134 lives. The threshold of whats intolerable has been reached and its time for a national upsurge, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN special representative to Mali, said in a statement Monday. This drama reminds us unfortunately that there are no good guys on one side and bad guys on the other in this spiral of violence.  Bloomberg

Attack on Village in Burkina Faso’s Volatile North Leaves Many Dead
Nineteen people died in an attack on a village in the troubled north of Burkina Faso, a security source said Monday. “Several dozen armed men carried out an attack on the district of Arbinda, shooting several people dead,” on Sunday, a local official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. A security source said “19 bodies have been found”. The official said the attack took place “between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm (local and GMT) when a group of assailants opened fire on locals”. An emergency meeting was under way Monday to discuss the situation, the official said. France 24

11 Killed in Sudan’s Capital Khartoum amid Civil Disobedience against Military
At least 11 people have been killed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum in the past two days, the Health Ministry said Sunday. Suleman Abdul Jabbar, undersecretary of the Health Ministry, confirmed the death toll to Anadolu Agency, adding that the assailants used knives and other light weapons. “We urge citizens to not listen to rumors and maintain confidence in the authorities who are doing their best for stability and security of the capital Khartoum,” he added. The campaign got underway nearly a week after the assault on demonstrators at the sit-in outside army headquarters in central Khartoum, which followed talks breaking down between protest leaders and military rulers over who should lead a new governing body — a civilian or soldier.  Daily Sabah

Sudan Opposition Members ‘Deported’ on 2nd Day of General Strike
An opposition leader in Sudan says the country’s ruling military has forcibly removed him and two of his colleagues to neighbouring South Sudan, as protesters continued for a second day a nationwide civil disobedience campaign in the wake of a bloody raid on a protest sit-in. The three deported men are part of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), one of the country’s main rebel groups and part of an alliance pushing for a handover to civilian rule after the military deposed President Omar al-Bashir in April in the wake of mass protests demanding his resignation. Yassir Arman, the most prominent of the three men and the deputy head of the SPLM-N, was detained on Wednesday after returning from exile following al-Bashir’s removal.  Al Jazeera

Internet Blackout Hits Sudan Capital
Landline internet connections were down across Khartoum on Monday, creating a digital blackout in the Sudanese capital a week after mobile online services were largely cut following a deadly crackdown on protesters. Internet lines from the country’s main provider Sudatel stopped working in the early afternoon, an AFP correspondent said, adding the outage had affected embassies, luxury hotels and offices. The landline outage was also affecting cities and towns outside the capital, an AFP correspondent said. The cuts come as a nationwide civil disobedience campaign entered its second day against the country’s ruling generals who took power after the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in April.  AFP

US Africa Envoy to Visit Sudan amid Crisis to Encourage Talks
The US’s top diplomat for Africa is going to Sudan this week amid unrest, the state department said on Monday. Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary for Africa, will “call for a cessation of attacks against civilians”. Workers have staged a national strike, which began on Sunday, to pressurise the ruling military government to make way for civilian rule. Four people were killed on the first day of the strike after security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition. The state department said Mr Nagy would “urge parties to work towards creating an enabling environment” for talks between the two sides to resume. BBC

UN Security Council Extends Libya Weapons Ban
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved Monday a one-year extension on the flow of weapons to Libya. The ban, which is being principally implemented by a EU force, will remain in effect through June 2020 amid ongoing hostilities between renegade commander Khalifa Haftar and the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli. Haftar’s forces have so far been unsuccessful in seeking to capture Tripoli from the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord in a campaign that began in April. Nevertheless, his forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital. The U.N. Security Council authorized in 2016 Operation Sophia, the EU operation initially aimed at combatting migrant trafficking, to also inspect ships in the Mediterranean suspected of carrying weapons to enforce the arms embargo.  Anadolu Agency

Cameroon Arrests More Opposition Supporters as Protest Efforts Intensify
Cameroon has detained hundreds more supporters of opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who is facing treason charges after leading protests and asserting that he won last October’s presidential election. The arrests happened Saturday as security forces disrupted a planned demonstration calling for Kamto’s release. Book seller Germain Kamte was found lying on the ground Monday in the Nlonkak neighborhood of Cameroon’s capital with bruises all over her body. She told the people who found her that police stopped her and four of her friends, accused them of supporting a planned opposition protest, and then beat them. VOA

Ethiopia Delays Census Again despite Looming Election
Ethiopia’s parliament postponed a national census for a second time on Monday, citing security concerns but potentially undermining logistics for the first election under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopia is due to hold a national vote some time next year, and the census – already postponed once from 2017 – is a crucial step towards demarcating constituencies. But parliamentarians in both houses voted overwhelmingly to delay the census again by a year, due to an upsurge in ethnic conflicts that has forced 2.4 million Ethiopians out of their homes, according to United Nations figures.  Reuters

Rising Misery as Ethiopia Struggles to Stem Ethnic Tensions
More than a year after his house in southern Ethiopia was razed to the ground, his coffee plantation destroyed and cattle stolen, Teketel Memheru is still too terrified to return home. The 22-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes by ethnic clashes in a burgeoning domestic crisis the Ethiopian government is battling to contain. “I witnessed a neighbour of mine hacked to death and another neighbour was burnt alive in his house. I’m scared to go to farm my agricultural plot for fear of attacks,” said Teketel, an ethnic Gedeo who says he came under attack by Oromos — the country’s largest ethnic group. Officials insist that what became the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis in 2018 is under control, and that more than a million people have returned to their homes.  France 24

S.Africa’s Opposition Party Calls for Release of Report on Ramaphosa
South Africa’s main opposition party called on Monday for the graft watchdog to release a report into allegations President Cyril Ramaphosa misled parliament over a donation to his 2017 election campaign for the leadership of the ruling ANC. The opposition had complained to the corruption watchdog in November regarding a 500,000 rand ($33,625) donation by Gavin Watson, CEO of services company Bosasa, to Ramaphosa’s campaign to lead the African National Congress (ANC). Any confirmation of the allegations would be a blow to Ramaphosa, who has pledged to tackle deep-rooted corruption and make state-owned enterprises more efficient in order to attract investment and boost the economy.  Reuters

Kenya Indefinitely Closes Border with Somalia, Trade Ban Imposed
Multiple media sources in Kenya are reporting that the government has closed a border with neighbouring Somalia indefinitely with cross border trade banned in the process. The specific border point is the Lamu County area, one of four border crossings between the two neighbours. They are also joined by Mandera, Wajir and Garissa Counties. The border closure is the latest leg of a diplomatic rift over a maritime demarcation that is currently before the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in The Hague.  Africa News

Drought in Africa Leaves 45 Million in Need across 14 Countries
Failed rains across eastern Africa, southern Africa, and the Horn of Africa are seeing another dire season for farmers, increasing food prices and driving up the aid needs of tens of millions of already vulnerable people across the three regions. All told, more than 45 million people will struggle to find enough food across 14 countries in 2019, many feeling the compounded effects of years of drought. It’s the second time in three years that an El Niño event has disrupted weather patterns. In 2017 – a year in which the UN labelled the crisis the worst in decades – some 38 million people were in need. Drought again in 2018 was followed by significantly below-average rains at the beginning of this year – down by 50 percent in parts of southern Africa. The New Humanitarian

Israeli ‘21st-Century Mercenaries’ Spied for DR Congo’s Kabila, Report Says
An investigative report by Israeli TV programme Uvda claimed on Thursday that Israeli private intelligence agency Black Cube was hired by DR Congo’s then-president Joseph Kabila to spy on his opponents. In late 2015, Black Cube’s director Dan Zorella met Joseph Kabila in the first of several meetings that gave birth to Operation Coltan, a project to gather intelligence on the then-president’s many detractors, Uvda reported. “Kabila wanted to know everything that was going on at opposition meetings,” an anonymous former Black Cube employee told Uvda. “He wanted to know who was there and who criticised him. He wanted to know if any of his relatives betrayed him in those meetings – and there were indeed such traitors.”  France 24

Gabon’s Ali Bongo Calls for New Cabinet in Comeback Speech
Gabonese President Ali Bongo delivered his first speech since returning to the West African country following a long absence after a stroke he suffered in October. In the recorded speech televised on Saturday – more than two months after his return to the country following a five-month recovery in Morocco – Bongo called on his prime minister to form a new government. Bongo, 60, sacked his vice president and forestry minister last month over a scandal involving the smuggling of precious timber. In late February and early March, authorities uncovered and seized 392 containers with 5,000 cubic metres of illegally felled kevazingo wood, worth some $250m, in the port of Owendo. Al Jazeera

Botswana Scraps Gay Sex Laws in Big Victory for LGBTQ Rights in Africa
Botswana’s High Court has overturned a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a landmark victory for Africa’s LGBTQ movements. The ruling comes just a month after Kenya’s high court upheld its laws criminalizing homosexuality. Under section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” was an offense that carried a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. Section 167 made “acts of gross indecency” — whether in public or private — a punishable offense, with up to two years in prison. The case was brought to court in March by Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, who argued that society had changed and that homosexuality was more widely accepted, local media reported.  CNN

Why a Tax Crusade in Zambia Worries Copper Miners
Zambia’s government has long complained that it doesn’t derive sufficient revenue from its copper industry, Africa’s second-biggest and the world’s seventh-largest. President Edgar Lungu upped the ante in May, when he accused the local unit of Vedanta Resources Ltd. of lying about its expansion plans and cheating on taxes. A state-owned company is now moving to liquidate Vedanta’s assets. Lungu’s heavy-handed embrace of resource nationalism, which could be directed at winning reelection in 2021, has the potential to upend copper markets.  Bloomberg

Zimbabwe May Withdraw From Endangered-Species Deal to Sell $300 Million of Ivory
Zimbabwe may consider withdrawing from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species because the organization won’t allow it to sell its ivory stockpile. The southern African nation with the world second-largest population of elephants has a stockpile of tusks worth an estimated $300 million and needs the revenue, Fulton Mangwanya, director-general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told lawmakers in the capital, Harare on Monday.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones