Africa Media Review for June 8, 2017

Al-Shabab Fighters Storm Military Base in Somalia
Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabab says it has carried out a major assault on a military base in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Its fighters killed 61 government troops and seized 16 vehicles in the dawn raid, the group said. A Puntland government minister has denied the high death toll, but did not give separate casualty figures. The al-Qaeda-linked group has carried out several big attacks on military bases in Somalia. BBC

Boko Haram Attacks Leave 6 Dead, Dozens Hurt in Nigeria
Authorities in northeast Nigeria say at least six people are dead and dozens are wounded after Boko Haram extremists launched a series of attacks on the capital of Borno state. The jihadists attacked late Wednesday as evening prayers were ending, targeting four locations throughout Maiduguri. The violence came as soldiers were trying to repel another group of Boko Haram insurgents who were trying to invade the city. While the exact death toll is not immediately known, this is believed to be the worst assault on Maiduguri in months by Boko Haram, a branch of which is linked to the Islamic State group. On Thursday, private security worker Abba Shehu said wounded people filled the emergency ward of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, where all beds were in use. AP

Is Nigeria’s One Nation Policy at Stake?
Sixteen youth groups from northern Nigeria have given Igbo people residing in their states up to October 1, to vacate the region. A section of Igbos from the south has been calling for the independence of Biafra. Concerned by what they see as the persistent Igbo threat to national integration, Northern Nigerian youth groups said they met with several others, reviewed the current situation of the region and jointly came up with the vacation order. The youth also directed northerners residing in the Eastern part of the country to relocate back to Northern Nigeria within three months. Deutsche Welle

Nigeria to Feed 1.8 Million People in Militant-Hit Northeast
Nigeria said it will feed 1.8 million people in the country’s northeast where a militant insurgency has wrecked the local economy and pushed the population to the brink of famine. The federal government will distribute 40,000 metric tons of food including rice, maize, sorghum and soya beans to displaced persons, the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is acting leader while President Muhammadu Buhari is on sick leave in the U.K., said in a statement on Wednesday. Officials want to give each family about 50 kilograms of grains every month and estimate that the operation will cost about 8 billion naira ($25 million). “The new plan is expected to correct many of the lapses observed in delivering relief” to the displaced people, Osinbajo’s office said in the statement. Bloomberg

It Doesn’t Take Much To Be Seen as a “Great President” in Nigeria
For the past month, with Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari away on his second medical vacation to London this year, Yemi Osinbajo has been in charge. With the country mired in a recession, Osinbajo faces a tough task but the acting president has already won plaudits for his proactive, hands-on approach—a stark contrast to Buhari’s slow, delibrate approach. In fact, Osinbajo is seen to have done so well, early talk of a possible shot at the presidency in the 2019 elections is starting to emerge. Much of this is down to the acting president’s decisive actions. Under his watch, Nigeria has kicked off reforms at local ports, famed for their congestion and corruption, and as part of his drive to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, entry visa rules for investors and tourists have been relaxed. Quartz

Zuma Could Be Removed as S.African President Before 2019: ANC’s Mantashe
South African President Jacob Zuma may be removed as head of state after a December conference when a new leader of the ruling African National Congress will be chosen, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday. Zuma has survived calls to resign from sections of the ANC in recent months following a string of corruption scandals, waning public support and economic instability caused by a heavily-criticised cabinet reshuffle in March. Though Zuma can remain South African president until an election in 2019, senior ANC sources opposed to him have told Reuters they will push for his removal as head of state shortly after he steps down as party leader in December. Reuters

Lesotho: Opposition Wins Most Parliament Seats in Snap Election
Lesotho’s opposition party has won the most Parliamentary seats in the southern African kingdom’s snap election over the weekend. The election was called after a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and parliament was dissolved. It is the third election to be held in Lesotho in five years. Supporters of the All Basotho Convention party have taken to the streets for huge celebrations. Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller reports from Maseru, Lesotho. Al Jazeera

Tunisia Radical Islamist Party Banned for One Month
Tunisian judicial authorities on Tuesday slapped a one-month ban on radical Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, notably for incitement to hatred, the prosecution said. “The activities of the party have been suspended for a month from today,” said prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti. The decision was taken because of the party’s “incitement to hatred and its calls to put in place a caliphate”, said Sliti. AFP was unable to immediately reach Hizb ut-Tahrir for comment. It is the second time that the radical Islamist party has been suspended from political activity at the request of the authorities. News 24

Italy Busts Ring Smuggling Migrants from Tunisia in Speedboat
Italy broke up a criminal ring smuggling migrants safely to Sicily for about 3,000 euros ($3,379) on a speedboat capable of making the crossing from Tunisia in less than four hours, magistrates said on Tuesday. Prosecutors in Palermo issued a warrant to detain 15 suspects for people smuggling and trafficking in contraband cigarettes, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters. All were Italian residents, but most were Tunisian-born. Twelve suspects have been detained so far and one speedboat impounded, along with two fishing boats and seven cars the group also used, police said. More than a half million migrants have poured into Italy since 2014, but most of them have paid far less to Libya-based smugglers (usually between $800 and $1,300) to board overcrowded and unseaworthy boats for a voyage that often ends in tragedy. Reuters

Why Are Sahel Countries Deploying an Anti-Jihad Force?
[…] Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – the so-called “G5 Sahel” countries just south of the Sahara – first raised the idea of a regional force in November 2015 in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. The idea then went quiet but was resurrected in the light of the deteriorating security situation in Mali, and following mounting incidents of jihadist violence in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. In January, those three countries decided to create a joint security force on their mutual border, followed by Sahel heads of state announcing the “immediate” creation of a troop corps from all five countries in February. The UN resolution tabled by France quickly followed after new President Emmanuel Macron reconfirmed his nation’s commitment to fighting terrorism in the Sahel on a visit to Mali last month. News 24

Trump ‘Sends’ Envoy to Zim, Demands Reforms ‘For a Robust Working Relationship’
US President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly called on President Robert Mugabe’s government to urgently make political and economic reforms to allow for a “robust working relationship between Washington and Harare”. According to New Zimbabwe.com, visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs at the US department, Carol O’Connell, said the relationship between Zimbabwe and the US was the reason why she was in Harare. “The relationship between the Zimbabwe government and the United States of America is the main reason why I am here,” O’Connell was quoted as saying. “We are looking to the Zimbabwe government or leadership to make political and economic changes so that we can work robustly to improve on the relations between us.”  News 24

Prosecutor: Denial of Yugoslav and Rwanda Crimes Widespread
The chief prosecutor of war crimes in former Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda warned Wednesday that denial of these crimes is now widespread and efforts are underway to rewrite history. Serge Brammertz told the U.N. Security Council there is a refusal by officials and others to accept the facts gathered by U.N. tribunals documenting ethnic cleansing and other crimes in former Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Fifty years after the Holocaust in World War II that killed 6 million Jews and many thousands of others, he said a new generation came to understand the meaning of genocide in Rwanda. The African nation’s government estimates more than 1 million Rwandans perished in three months of machete and gunfire attacks mostly aimed at the country’s minority Tutsi population by extremist Hutus. AP

Congolese Cling to Election Hopes, Some Fear the Worst
Arnaud Kalala had queued for hours in Kinshasa’s rainy season heat to register to vote in an overdue election to replace Congolese President Joseph Kabila, but the 44-year-old civil servant had little faith in the new deadline. “With what’s going on here, it’ll be a miracle if it happens by Dec. 31,” said Kalala, surveying an impatient crowd of 100 residents outside a secondary school. Congolese have flocked to register in Kinshasa since voter enrolment began in the capital last week. Many said they hoped for an eventual end to two decades of Kabila family rule while holding out little hope for a vote this year. The election should have taken place by the end of last year and voter registration began in some parts of the country almost a year ago, but the election commission has said technical delays may mean the new deadline has to be pushed back. Reuters

China Is in the Middle of Diplomatic Spat with One of Its Oldest Allies in Africa
Zambian authorities have detained 31 Chinese citizens on suspicion of illegal copper mining, according to Chinese officials who have formally complained about the arrest. “The government has always asked Chinese companies and citizens to respect the laws of the countries where they operate and does not shield illegal action… But China opposes selective law-enforcement actions against its citizens” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a news briefing this week. Chinese officials claim Zambian authorities haven’t provided evidence of any illegal activity. The foreign ministry added that a pregnant woman and two workers sick with malaria were among those arrested, grounds for humanitarian release. According to Chinese press based in Zambia, the arrested Chinese were allowed to fly back to China (link in Chinese) yesterday afternoon. Quartz

Guinea-Bissau’s Political Crisis Deepens
“The ball is back in our court, only we can help solve our own problems,” Guinea-Bissau’s President, Jose Mario Vaz, better known as Jomav, told reporters at the airport in Bissau. The ongoing government crisis in the tiny West African nation of 1.8 million inhabitants was once again the subject of attention at the recently concluded West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) meeting in Monrovia. Jomav was tasked by the regional body to come up with a government of consensus which would be accepted by the parliament’s majority. But by the end of May, he had missed the deadline. Seemingly without having to face any consequences, the president has once again been granted three more months to finally resolve the political deadlock that has paralyzed his country for the past two years. Deutsche Welle

Overfishing Leaves an Industry in Crisis in Senegal
It was almost sunset as fishermen guided their boats back onto the beach at Joal, Senegal, after a long day at sea. At first glance, it looks as though they’d collected a good day’s haul, but their nets were full of small sardinella, known locally as yaabooy. Fisherman Mamdou Lamine had caught just one bucket of mackerel. He held one up next to a yaabooy to show how much bigger it was — and there are many more yaabooy than mackerel these days, he said. Furthermore, A local favorite, grouper, called thiof in Senegal, is getting harder to find. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization says more than half of West Africa’s fisheries are dangerously depleted. Local officials in Senegal say it’s the foreign-owned industrial boats that have depleted fish stocks and destroyed marine habitats. VOA

Egypt’s El-Sissi Sees Vindication in Moves Against Qatar
The alliance with Gulf countries to isolate Qatar has given a significant boost to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who over the past three years has been trying to find backers in what he calls a “comprehensive” war on militancy. El-Sissi’s administration and pro-government media have relentlessly denounced Qatar — a top backer of el-Sissi’s nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood — depicting it as fueling militancy around the region. Now Cairo has the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which along with Egypt cut ties with Qatar this week. Just two weeks earlier, el-Sissi delivered his vision of a war against terror in an address to an Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia attended by U.S. President Donald Trump. His speech was peppered with thinly veiled references to Qatar. “Terrorists are not just those who carry arms,” said el-Sissi. “Regrettably, there are nations that have been involved in supporting and financing terrorist groups and providing them with safe havens.” AP

Libya’s Eastern-Based Government Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Qatar
Libya’s eastern-based government has followed regional allies in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, its foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri, said on Monday. The government, which sits in the eastern city of Bayda, has little authority within Libya. It is appointed by a parliament that also sits in the east and is aligned with powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar. They have spurned a U.N.-backed, internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli. The eastern-based government’s announcement came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Dayri gave no immediate explanation for the Libyan move. Reuters

Senegal  Joins Nations Cutting Ties with Qatar
The West African nation of Senegal is recalling its ambassador from Qatar, joining several Middle Eastern countries that have cut diplomatic ties in recent days. The announcement was made public on Wednesday, a day after a similar decision was announced by the neighboring country of Mauritania to the north. A statement from the Senegalese Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was acting in solidarity with other countries in the Gulf who have cut diplomatic relations with Qatar because of the country’s alleged funding of terrorist groups and friendly ties with Iran. Karim Wade, the son of Senegal’s former president, has been living in Qatar for nearly a year since his release from prison where he served time for corruption charges. News 24

New Malawi Water Scheme Is in The Interest of a Few, Not The Country
The boss of Malawi’s largest civil engineering company has attacked the roll-out of a $500-million scheme to supply Lilongwe with water from Lake Malawi as “immoral and fraudulent” and intended “systematically to siphon money for personal and political interests”. Newton Kambala, chief executive of Mkaka Construction, said that the Lake Malawi Water Project – also known as the Salima-Lilongwe Project – had been launched at the expense of the unfinished Diamphwi Dam scheme, which was far more viable. Mkaka has done major projects in countries across the southern African region, including Angola, Mozambique and Zambia. It did not bid for either the Diamphwi or the Salima-Lilongwe contracts “The Salima project is not in the national interest. Where on earth do you abandon a viable project for a fresh one? And where no environmental and social impact assessment has been conducted? Tell me, what’s this if not immorality of the highest order?” Kambala asked. Daily Maverick

Will Kenya Get Value for Money from Its New Railway?
The first major new railway line in Kenya for more than a century, running between the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa, faces an immediate challenge of justifying its relatively high cost. At $5.6m per kilometre for the track alone, Kenya’s line cost close to three times the international standard and four times the original estimate. So it is perhaps not surprising that Kenyans have been asking why they seem to have paid so much. Kenya’s new 472km (293 mile) railway is the country’s biggest infrastructure investment since its independence in 1963. Built to a modern “standard gauge”, it runs parallel to the now-dilapidated metre gauge railway line from the colonial era. BBC

‘First of Our Kind’ Found in Morocco
The idea that modern people evolved in a single “cradle of humanity” in East Africa some 200,000 years ago is no longer tenable, new research suggests. Fossils of five early humans have been found in North Africa that show Homo sapiens emerged at least 100,000 years earlier than previously recognised. It suggests that our species evolved all across the continent, the scientists involved say. Prof Jean-Jacques Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told me that the discovery would “rewrite the text books” about our emergence as a species. “It is not the story of it happening in a rapid way in a ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in Africa. Our view is that it was a more gradual development and it involved the whole continent. So if there was a Garden of Eden, it was all of Africa.” BBC



Photo: Adam Jones