Africa Media Review for March 2, 2021

ISWAP Jihadists Attack UN Base in Nigeria, Trapping 25 Aid Workers
Jihadists linked to the Islamic State have attacked a UN base and overrun a humanitarian hub in northeastern Nigeria, trapping 25 aid workers, security and humanitarian sources said. Scores of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters invaded the town of Dikwa in restive Borno state, dislodging troops from the military base and torching the humanitarian hub, a military source told AFP on Monday. “We have 25 staff sheltering in the bunker which is under siege by the militants… but so far no staff has been affected,” a humanitarian source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Military reinforcements, including fighter jets and a helicopter gunship, had been deployed to help repel the attackers, the military source said. A spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres confirmed only that there was a “security incident,” but gave no further details. The Defense Post with AFP

Chad Opposition Leader Quits Presidential Race after Shoot-Out
Chad’s main opposition figure has announced his withdrawal from the upcoming race for the country’s top job, accusing veteran President Idriss Deby of using force to intimidate rivals. Saleh Kebzabo said his party had decided “purely and simply” to not enter the April 11 presidential election, according to a statement released on Monday, a day after a deadly shoot-out at the home of another candidate, Yaya Dillo. Kebzabo condemned what he called a “military attack” on Dillo’s home in the capital, Ndjamena. “The climate of insecurity … will definitely overshadow the electoral campaign of candidates confronting [Deby’s] Patriotic Salvation Movement [MPS],” he said. By withdrawing from the race, said Kebzabo, he was refusing to “provide cover for a large-scale masquerade.” Deby has ruled Chad for more than 30 years and is running for a sixth term on April 11. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Four Media Workers Arrested in Conflict-Wracked Tigray
Four media workers in Ethiopia’s conflict-wracked Tigray region have been arrested and detained, their families and employers said. Tigray has been at the centre of fighting since November last year when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps. The area was an information black hole for much of that time, with reporting heavily restricted and the internet cut off. … Seven international media organisations, including Al Jazeera, have now been granted accreditation to report from Tigray, but journalists were warned by officials they might face unspecified “corrective measures” if they did not meet local standards. Fitsum Berhane and Alula Akalu, who were working as translators for journalists from AFP news agency and the Financial Times, were detained on Saturday, their families said. … On Monday, the BBC said one of its journalists, Girmay Gebru, had been detained by the military in Mekelle. … Relatives have not been able to see them and no explanation has been given for the arrests. Al Jazeera

‘They Said They’ll Shoot’: Nigerian Schoolgirls Recount Kidnap Ordeal
Gunmen have freed all 279 girls kidnapped from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria, officials said on Tuesday, as victims described how their abductors had beaten and threatened to shoot them. The pupils from Jangebe, a town in Zamfara state, were abducted just after midnight on Friday. All had now been freed, Zamfara Governor Bello Matawalle said. Umma Abubakar, among those released, described their ordeal. “Most of us got injured on our feet and we could not continue trekking, so they said they will shoot anybody who did not continue to walk,” she told Reuters. … Governor Matawalle said “repentant bandits” working with the government under an amnesty programme had helped secure the Jangebe girls’ release. “Those repentant ones are working for us, and they are working for the government and they are working for security,” he said. Reuters

Nigeria’s Boarding Schools Have Become a Hunting Ground for Kidnappers
When nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school by the Islamist group Boko Haram in 2014, the world exploded in outrage. … It seemed an aberration. But since last December, mass kidnappings of girls and boys at boarding schools in northwest Nigeria have been happening more and more frequently — at least one every three weeks. Just last Friday, more than 300 girls were taken from their school in Zamfara state. They were released this week… With Nigeria’s economy in crisis, kidnapping has become a growth industry, according to interviews with security analysts and a recent report on the economics of abductions. The victims are now not just the rich, powerful or famous, but also the poor — and increasingly, school children who are rounded up en masse. The perpetrators are often gangs of bandits, who are taking advantage of a dearth of effective policing and the easy availability of guns. The New York Times

Suspected Islamists Kill Nine Civilians in Central Mali
Suspected Islamist militants riding 4×4 vehicles and armed with machine guns killed nine civilians in attacks on three villages in central Mali late on Sunday, local officials said. Two different sets of assailants struck the ethnic Dogon villages of Gorey, Simikanda and Djamnati in Mali’s Mopti region, which has been ravaged in recent years by Islamist and inter-ethnic violence, the officials said. Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, which is near Gorey and Simikanda, blamed the attacks on the same militants who killed eight people in attacks on a Malian military post and a gendarme base last Thursday. Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State regularly attack Malian security forces, U.N. peacekeepers and civilians in the area, and they have stoked ethnic conflict between farming communities like the Dogon and Fulani herders. Reuters

DRC Army Says Killed 16 Fighters in New Offensive
The army in Democratic Republic of Congo said Monday it had killed 16 militamen for the loss of three soldiers in a three-day push against an armed group in the country’s northeast. Since Friday, “the army neutralised 16 elements from the Patriotic and Integrationist Congo Forces (FPIC) and captured seven more,” said Jules Ngongo, an army spokesman in Ituri province. “Two of their fortified villages are now under the control of loyalist soldiers,” he added, while “three brave soldiers, including an officer” had been killed. “Search and followup operations are continuing,” Lieutenant Ngongo said. The FPIC is one of an estimate least 122 armed groups tallied in Congo’s four eastern border provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika in a recent report from analysts at the Kivu Security Tracker (KST). It is “made up of mainly young Bira” people angry at being excluded from the provincial government and eager to regain lands occupied by Hema people, the KST says. AFP

Mozambique Forces, Jihadists Committing ‘War Crimes’: Amnesty
Jihadists, government forces and a “private militia” backing the authorities have indiscriminantly killed hundreds of civilians in troubled northeastern Mozambique, Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday. Hundreds of civilians in Mozambique’s troubled northeastern region of Cabo Delgado are the victims of indiscriminate killing by jihadists, government forces and a “private militia” backing the authorities, Amnesty International said Tuesday. Violence stoked by armed Islamists in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province has left at least 2,600 people dead since 2017, about half of them civilians, according to an NGO called the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED). Local people are “caught between the Mozambican security forces, the private militia fighting alongside the government and the armed opposition group locally known as ‘Al-Shabaab’ — none of which respect their right to life, or the rules of war,” said Amnesty’s regional chief, Deprose Muchena. AFP

Libya Arrests ‘Main Suspect’ in Killing of 30 Migrants
One of the main suspects in the murder in Libya of 30 mostly Bangladeshi migrants last year was arrested on Monday, authorities in Tripoli said. In May 2020, the family of a human trafficker killed by migrants for unknown reasons allegedly avenged his death by killing 26 Bangladeshis and four migrants of African origin. The massacre took place in May in the city of Mezdah, more than 150 kilometres south of Libya’s capital. Eleven other migrants were wounded. One of the alleged killers, 23, was arrested Monday in Gharyan, around 100 kilometres southwest of the capital, the unity government’s interior ministry said in a statement. … The affair had caused outrage in Bangladesh, which demanded Libyan authorities investigate the murders, bring the perpetrators to account and compensate relatives. A Bangladeshi accused of heading a trafficking ring with “links to international traffickers implicated in this incident” was arrested in the Asian nation’s capital Dhaka in June last year. AFP

U.S. Destroyer Docks in Sudan for the First Time in Decades
A U.S. naval destroyer docked on Sudan’s Red Sea coast on Monday in the latest sign of thawing relations with the United States, a day after a visit by a Russian frigate. The visits are a sign of international competition for influence in Sudan, which sits in a volatile region bridging the Horn of Africa, the Gulf, and North Africa, following the 2019 overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir. Some 300 marines standing at attention aboard the USS Winston Churchill were greeted by a Sudanese military band in Port Sudan, a strategically important city on the Red Sea that serves as Sudan’s main port. … “The reason I’m here is because I want to learn more about your country [and] develop partnerships with your navy,” said Rear Admiral Michael Baze, director of maritime affairs for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet. The visit came “after a break of more than 30 years and is considered a visit with great significance and is a return to the American-Sudanese relations in the framework of visits of warships,” said Colonel Ibrahim Hammad, fleet commander for the Port Sudan Naval Base. Reuters

Amid Turmoil over Elections, Rising Cases in Somalia Fuel Talk of a New Lockdown.
The health minister of Somalia on Monday proposed new efforts to curb the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country, which is battling a worsening caseload amid an impasse over elections that were due last month. The minister, Dr. Fawziya Abikar, said she had advised the government to close all schools and universities and to double down on other measures to stop the virus, including adhering to social distancing and prohibiting large gatherings. “The situation is dire,” Dr. Abikar said in a statement posted on Twitter, adding that the health authorities were nonetheless confident that the rollout of vaccines would help manage the rising cases. Somalia has yet to receive any Covid-19 vaccines; Dr. Abikar said last week that the first doses would arrive in March. With a population of more than 15 million, Somalia has one of the world’s most vulnerable health systems. The New York Times

Ivory Coast Begins Its Vaccination Campaign with COVAX Doses
Ivory Coast has begun giving shots to inoculate against COVID-19 with vaccines delivered last week by the global COVAX initiative, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses. The West African country’s mass vaccination campaign started Monday with jabs being given to health workers, teachers, and members of the armed forces at the Treichville Sports Palace in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where 95% of the country’s cases have been recorded, according to the health ministry. The drive is using 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. Some 24 other African countries are expected to start receiving vaccines via COVAX this week in what is the world’s largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to WHO and UNICEF. … Like many African countries, Ivory Coast recently battled a resurgence of the pandemic that saw increased cases and hospitalizations. AP

Rwanda: The Good Samaritan on Trial for Terrorism
Early in the evening of Aug. 27, 2020, Paul Rusesabagina stepped off a flight from Chicago and walked into Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. He had been in the air for 14 hours, but his journey wasn’t done: Later that night, he planned to travel on to Bujumbura, the main city in the small Central African nation Burundi. Passing through immigration, Rusesabagina — who lived in San Antonio, Texas, but was originally from Rwanda, Burundi’s neighbor — texted his wife to let her know he had arrived in Dubai. “Are you safe?” she wrote back. “I’m fine,” he replied. Then he checked in at a nearby Ibis Styles hotel. The New York Times

Kenyan Police Are Using Twitter to Become Known as Crime Fighters, Not Killers
In recent months, the directorate’s Twitter account has become some of the most titillating reading in Kenya. The director, George Kinoti, the country’s top detective, was blunt about why. “For a very long time in Kenya, police have been thought of as killers. See a policeman? You run. Nothing good could come of it,” he said. “If we want the public’s confidence, we have to show them we are not all like that — we do work for them.” During the pandemic, outrage over police violence here has only grown. At least 20 people were killed during the enforcement of a curfew that has been in place for 11 months. Most were brutally beaten with batons. A 13-year-old boy was shot on his balcony while he sat there with his mother. … Polls show that more than half of Kenyans think police are a threat, not a service. The police, in other words, have some serious PR work to do. … Under [Kinoti’s] leadership, the PR team has grown to eight, all of whom are younger than 35. A few others work in a new call center across a drab hallway, where dozens of actionable tips flow in each day, mostly via Twitter. … “I’d like to think we’ve made crime fighting more accessible to people, by speaking their language.” The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones