Africa Media Review for June 14, 2018

Al-Qaida’s Mali Branch Releases Video of Two Female Hostages Held Over a Year
Al-Qaida’s Mali branch released a proof-of-life video Wednesday showing footage of two female hostages abducted in separate incidents and held for more than a year, according to SITE Intelligence Group. The video released on Telegram by the Mali-based al-Qaida affiliate known by its acronym JNIM shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez caring for French aid worker Sophie Petronin, according to the U.S. based group that monitors jihadist communications. Petronin was kidnapped in late 2016 in Gao, Mali. Narvaez was seized near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso in February 2017. In the video, which Petronin indicates was recorded June 7, the two women address the camera. AP

Armed Islamist Leaders in Libya Claim Al-Qaeda’s Belmokhtar Is Still Alive
Is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the world’s most wanted Algerian, still alive? Quoting Libyan security sources intel from armed Islamists, London-based Saudi magazine El Majalaa reported that Mokhtar Belmokhtar – an emir affiliated to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), whose death was announced by the United States in 2013, 2015 and 2016 – is, in fact, alive. While three armed Islamists in contact with the Libyan sources assured that Belmokhtar – also known as ‘Le Borgne’ or ‘the One-Eyed’ after losing an eye in Afghanistan – was killed by an American strike in Libya’s Derna, a number of which occurred in 2015, two Islamist leaders affirm that he made it out alive, and is currently somewhere between the borders of Chad, Niger and Mali. The Middle East Eye

Nigerian Troops Kill 23 Boko Haram Fighters in Operation
Twenty-three Boko Haram fighters were killed in a recent clearance operation by Nigerian troops in the Lake Chad region, an army spokesman told Xinhua on Wednesday. Many terrorists escaped with gunshot wounds during the encounter with troops late Monday, according to Texas Chukwu, the army spokesman. Chukwu said the Nigerian troops conducted the operation in conjunction with Cameroonian defense forces. Arms and ammunition used by the Boko Haram were recovered during the military raid. On May 15, the Nigerian army launched a four-month operation to totally defeat Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region. Xinhua

Nigeria Reaches Deal for Return of $500 Million of Stolen Funds
Nigeria agreed a deal with some foreign countries for the return of $500 million in public funds stolen by officials, Justice Minister and Attorney General Abubakar Malami said. Countries including the U.S., the U.K. and France are helping to repatriate the funds, Malami told reporters on Wednesday in the capital, Abuja. We are almost concluding the processes, he said. Under terms agreed with the U.S., specific projects have been identified to which the funds will be committed when returned to the West African country, according to the minister. Bloomberg

Somalia: Puntland Security Chiefs Sacked amid Rising Terrorist Attacks
The president of Somalia’s northeastern Federal State, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali “Gaas” has sacked the region’s top Intellegence and security chiefs via a presidential decree on Wednesday, Garowe Online reports. President Ali fired the Directors of Puntland Intelligence Agency (PIA) and Puntland Security Service (PSS), Abdirisack Ise Hussein [Khatumi] and Abdullahi Aden Mohamed respectively. The officials had been relieved of their duties following a surge in terrorist attacks by the Al-Shabaab and ISIL-linked militants on the security forces’ army bases in Bari region over the past few months. Early this month, Al-Shabaab fighters stormed a major military base belonging to Puntland Maritime Police Force [PMPF] in Bali-Khadar area outside Galgala mountains and killed many soldiers. Garowe Online

Why Landlocked Ethiopia Wants to Launch a Navy
When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Ethiopia suddenly found itself without a coastline and so it took the logical step of disbanding its navy. Now, it is reconsidering its decision and its latest manoeuvres in the region suggests it could be shopping around its neighbourhood to find a naval base it can use. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently said on state TV: “We built one of the strongest ground and air force in Africa… we should build our naval force capacity in the future.” His comments revealed the country’s naval ambitions but his plans for how to achieve this goal have not been made public. However, Ethiopia’s latest push to enter into deals with its coastal neighbours signal something is afoot. BBC

Ethiopia’s Reforms Challenged by Party in Ruling Coalition
A party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is calling for an emergency meeting, saying dramatic reforms announced last week by the new prime minister were decided on without full consultations. The statement late Wednesday by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front appears to be the biggest challenge so far for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April. The TPLF, which has been the dominant force in government for most of the past 27 years, said decisions to fully accept a peace deal with bitter rival Eritrea and open Ethiopia’s state-owned enterprises to investment were made before the ruling coalition’s congress met to discuss them: “We see this as a flaw.”  AP

Ethiopian Diaspora Using US Democracy to Change Politics at Home
A recent declaration by US lawmakers could signal a significant shift in Washington’s approach to addressing Ethiopia’s human rights record. Ethiopian diaspora activists joined members of Congress on the steps of the US Capitol to celebrate the passing of legislation that sends a clear – and rare – message to the Ethiopian government. A week after the April 2nd swearing-in of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia’s new prime minister, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia. ”  Unusually outspoken for US public policy in its criticism of Ethiopia’s government, the resolution – known as HR-128 – condemned the killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces; the detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders; and the regime’s abuse of the anti-terrorism laws to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms. The Irish Times

South Sudan Rebel Leader to Attend Talks with President in Addis Ababa
South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar has accepted an invitation from the Ethiopian Prime Minister to talks with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa next week, a spokesman for Machar said on Wednesday. “The Movement welcomes this invitation … it will go a long way in building confidence in the peace process,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement. The statement said Machar, who is under house arrest in South Africa, had been invited by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to attend the talks on June 20. The talks will be led by East African bloc IGAD, the statement said. There was no immediate comment from South Sudan’s government or from IGAD. Reuters

Congo Plans to Start $13.9 Billion Hydropower Project This Year
The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to start work this year on the frequently delayed Inga 3 hydropower project, after receiving a joint bid from two previously competing consortia of investors. One group led by China Three Gorges Corp. and another including Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA of Spain submitted a joint bid on June 6 for the $13.9 billion project that will produce 11,000 megawatts, Bruno Kapandji, director of the Agency for the Development and Promotion of the Grand Inga Project, said at a conference Wednesday in Lubumbashi in southeast Congo. Bloomberg

Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Kenya Puts Health Workers on Alert for ‘Ebola-Like’ Symptoms
An Ebola-like haemorrhagic disease classified by the United Nations as among the most likely viruses to trigger a global pandemic has killed five people in Kenya. The first significant outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in East Africa for more than a decade claimed its first casualties in northern Kenya’s Wajir County last week, when an 18-year-old man died after three days of internal and external bleeding. Fears that the viral disease, known to be highly contagious, could spread rapidly have prompted authorities in the county to announce a total ban on the slaughter of livestock as well as on the sale and consumption of meat and milk. The Telegraph

New EU ‘Peace Fund’ Could Buy Weapons for Africa
The EU wants to pay for military equipment, including lethal weaponry, for partner countries in crisis zones such as Africa’s Sahel region as part of a $12.4bn “peace facility” launched on Wednesday. The bloc says the new European Peace Facility (EPF) is needed to make its training missions in three African countries more effective and to enable it to contribute to peacekeeping efforts elsewhere in the world. But the EU paying for arms is a sensitive issue for some member states, especially when it involves countries with histories of political unrest and human rights abuses, and there could be resistance to the proposal. The new EPF is being kept separate from the main EU budget to get around the bloc’s rules against funding military projects. AFP

2 Killed, Attacker Shot Dead in Stabbing Attack at Malmesbury Mosque
Two worshippers have been killed and several wounded in a stabbing attack at a mosque in Malmesbury in the Western Cape in the early hours of Thursday morning. Western Cape police confirmed that the attacker was shot dead by police. The attack comes at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and five weeks after another attack at a mosque in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal. Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said Malmesbury police were called out to the mosque in the early hours of the morning and found two people stabbed to death and several injured. “A couple of hours ago – about 03:00 – as people got themselves ready to pray, the suspect just got up and started stabbing the people. He was praying with them,” Malmesbury Police Constable Henry Durant told News24.  News 24

African Cocoa Giants to Start Coordinating Sales Strategy
Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together supply about 60 percent of the worlds cocoa, will start coordinating their sales of the beans as part of efforts to exert more influence on the market. The West African neighbors want to harmonize their marketing systems and officials from each country will visit the other to exchange information, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, chief executive officer of Ghanas cocoa regulator, told reporters in Abidjan, Ivory Coasts commercial capital, Wednesday. So once were able to harmonize, then the two countries can decide when to go to the market, Aidoo said. Once that decision is taken and what amount or volumes of cocoa that can go to the market, then we can regulate. Bloomberg

Experts, Lawyers from Africa’s Great Lakes Region Take Aim at Legal Impunity
Judicial officials and experts Africa’s Great Lakes region are meeting to look for ways to reduce violence and human rights abuses through the judicial process. The officials attending the meeting have called on closer cooperation between states to fight impunity in the region. Judges, lawyers and legal experts are taking aim at impunity with hopes of finding a peaceful solution to conflicts in the Great Lakes region. Tanzania’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Frederick Manyanda, spoke Wednesday in Dar es Salaam. VOA

Uganda Arrests Former Police Chief Kale Kayihura
Former Ugandan police chief has been arrested, the military spokesperson has confirmed. General Kale Kayihura was taken into custody on Wednesday morning for questioning but the army did not disclose what the interrogation is about. Reports that he had been apprehended started circulating on Tuesday throwing the country into confusion as local media reported that he had been arrested and later that he had not. In a statement on Wednesday, army spokesman Brig Richard Karemire said Gen Kayihura, “still a serving soldier of Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces”, was asked to report to the military headquarters in Kampala on Tuesday by the Chief of Defence Forces General David Muhoozi. The East African

Exposing Corruption with Ghana’s Hidden Camera King
Few people in Ghana would be able to recognise Anas Aremeyaw Anas on the street – but almost everyone knows his name and his burgeoning reputation as the country’s anti-corruption hero. The journalist keeps his identity a closely-guarded secret and on camera wears a trademark hooded tunic, his face covered by a veil of red-and-white beads. His latest undercover documentary, “Number 12”, was released last Wednesday, and as the start of the World Cup finals loomed, detonated with the force of a bomb. In it, he and his team of reporters caught dozens of football referees and officials accepting bribes. AFP