Africa Media Review for March 20, 2017

ISIS in Africa: Implications from Syria and Iraq
At the end of 2016, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), announced that the group had “expanded and shifted some of our command, media, and wealth to Africa.” ISIS’s Dabiq magazine referred to the regions of Africa that were part of its “caliphate”: “the region that includes Sudan, Chad, and Egypt has been named the caliphate province of Alkinaana; the region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda as the province of Habasha; the North African region encompassing Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania as Maghreb, the province of the caliphate.” Leaving aside the mismatched ethno-linguistic groupings included in each of these “provinces,” ISIS’s interest in establishing a presence in Africa has long been a part of its vision for a global caliphate. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mass Graves in Central Congo Bear Witness to Growing Violence
The increasingly brutal nature of fighting in central Congo between the army and local militia is on vivid display in the village of Tshienke, where the bodies of rebel fighters last month were dumped into a mass grave following intense clashes. A visit to this site this month was the first time that journalists including Reuters have been able to see the toll that the Congolese military has exacted on fighters of the Kamuina Nsapu militia, whose insurgency poses the most serious threat to the rule of President Joseph Kabila. Reuters was unable to determine the exact number of bodies in eight mass graves dug in January and February in Congo’s Kasai-Central province. The graves were also confirmed by nine local witnesses. The United Nations said it suspects that Congolese forces killed 84 militia members close to the town of Tshimbulu between Feb. 9-13. VOA

7 Congo Army Officers Charged With War Crimes in Massacre
Seven Congolese Army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes after a video surfaced last month that appeared to show uniformed soldiers opening fire on a group of civilians in a massacre that left at least 13 people dead, the military’s auditor general said on Saturday. The video depicts a squad of soldiers gunning down a group of people, which included women and possibly children, in Congo’s Kasaï-Central Province. Most of the victims were unarmed, though a few men appeared to be holding slingshots. Several analysts who saw the video said that it revealed a government-sponsored massacre of civilians and that the video could be used as evidence of war crimes. “In connection with this video, we have found seven suspects, all are F.A.R.D.C. elements, who are currently in detention,” said the auditor general, Gen. Joseph Ponde Isambwa, using an abbreviation for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The New York Times

Congo Forces Targeting Civilians, Denying Peacekeepers Access – U.N.
Government forces have targeted civilians, including women and children, resulting in numerous deaths in central Congo this week and are restricting United Nations peacekeepers’ access to the area, the country’s U.N. mission said on Saturday. Amid mounting accusations of violence against civilians, Congolese authorities on Saturday announced they had charged seven soldiers in connection with a video last month appearing to show army troops massacring suspected militia members. Democratic Republic of Congo’s army is carrying out operations against the Kamuina Nsapu militia. Clashes between the military and the insurgents have killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands since last August. Militia violence in Congo, a tinder box of conflicts over land, ethnicity and minerals, has been worsened by President Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down when his elected mandate expired in December. Reuters

South Sudan Keeps Buying Weapons Amid Famine: UN
The government of South Sudan is spending its oil revenue on weapons, even as the country descends into a famine largely caused by Juba’s military operations, according to a confidential United Nations report. The report by a panel of experts, whose findings were dismissed by South Sudan’s government, calls for an arms embargo on the country – a measure rejected by the Security Council during a vote in December. “Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighbouring countries,” said the 48-page report, seen by the AFP and Reuters news agencies on Friday. The experts found a “preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba” for the army, the security services, militias and other “associated forces”. Al Jazeera

UN: South Sudan is World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Crisis
The U.N. refugee agency reports 1.6 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries to escape famine, fighting and drought, making South Sudan the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls the rate of displacement from South Sudan alarming, placing an impossible burden on the region. This is particularly true of Uganda, which is hosting nearly half of all the refugees, some 800,000 people. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says more than 2,800 people on average are fleeing into Uganda every day. He told VOA most of the refugees, 86 percent, are women and children. “They come in quite a desperate situation, being affected by instability, fighting and famine,” Baloch said. “Food security is an issue. They arrive into settlements into northern Uganda. All the structures that we have been trying to put in place with the government in Uganda are overstretched.” VOA

3 Suicide Bombers Kill 4 in Northeastern Nigeria
A Nigerian police officer says that three suicide bombers detonated themselves Saturday night, killing at least four people in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. Spokesperson of the Borno state police command, Victor Isuku, said the attackers were a male and two teenage girls believed to be working for Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremism rebels. Isuku, a deputy superintendent of police, said one member of the civilian militia, a woman and two children were killed and 8 others were injured. He said the bombers infiltrated Maiduguri by sneaking in during the dark hours, but were spotted by members of the civilian self-defense group on sentry duty. The three then detonated their explosives. News 24

Beneath Mask of Normal Nigerian Life, Young Lives Scarred by Boko Haram
[…] The Nigerian military has made recent gains, pushing into the forests where Boko Haram hides and recapturing areas once under its control. But throughout the war, now in its eighth year, hundreds of thousands of people have fled here to Maiduguri, the battle-weary capital where the conflict began. It is a place where former fighters and captives like Amina blend into the urban tapestry, a place where nearly everyone has been a victim, a collaborator — or both. With its busy tea cafes, flaming kebab stands and rush-hour traffic, Maiduguri seems like a city returning to its old self. Suicide bombers, many of them girls, still periodically set upon the mostly Muslim city. But the days of house-to-house fighting that once terrorized residents are over. Roadside stalls offer fried doughnuts, storefront gates open every morning to sell clothing and office supplies, morning commuters guzzle caffeine and university students picnic at the zoo. The New York Times

U.S. Military Works With African Security Forces To Fight Boko Haram
Cross-border counterterrorism investigations and crisis response are priorities for regional forces battling Boko Haram insurgents. The U.S. military and law enforcement are working with African allies to enhance technique, preparedness and collaboration. “The Trump administration’s new budget blueprint pledges to boost military spending while making deep cuts in foreign aid. It’s not yet clear what that will mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa. Over the past few weeks, the U.S. military has been involved in annual training with West and Central African security forces. NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Chad that they’re collaborating in the fight against Boko Haram, the violent extremist group. ” NPR

Trump Continues U.S. Use of Special Forces, Keeping Wars at Arm’s Length
[…] In Africa, about one-third of the nearly 6,000 overall troops are Special Operations forces. The only permanent American installation on the continent is Camp Lemonnier, a sprawling base of 4,000 United States service members and civilians in Djibouti that serves as a hub for counterterrorism operations and training. The United States Air Force flies surveillance drones from small bases in Niger and Cameroon. Elsewhere in Africa, the roles of special operators are varied, and their ranks are small, typically measured in the low dozens for specific missions. Between 200 and 300 Navy SEALs and other special operators work with African allies to hunt shadowy Shabab terrorists in Somalia. As many as 100 Special Forces soldiers help African troops pursue the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony. And Navy SEALs are training Nigerian commandos for action in the oil-rich delta. The United States is building a $50 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, that is likely to open sometime next year to monitor Islamic State insurgents in a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Chad. Mr. Trump’s tough talk on terrorism has been well received here in Chad, where American Special Operations and military instructors from several Western nations finished an annual three-week counterterrorism training exercise last week. The New York Times

Malaysia Sending Troops to Somalia on Aid Mission
Malaysia is sending troops to Somalia as part of the humanitarian mission to avert famine and save the lives of thousands of people, Somali government officials and diplomats said on Saturday. “I can confirm the report and the details will be given when the delegation led by Somali Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omar Arte, which has been visiting Malaysia, returns to the country,” Somalia’s information minister, Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye, told VOA Somali. Addressing the media in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said his country will send three officers and 17 personnel from the Armed Forces Medical Core to Somalia. “The infantry unit, consisting of an officer and 10 personnel, will provide security for the delegation. The food and medical supplies will be flown to Somalia by a Hercules C-130 aircraft,” the minister said. VOA

Somalia Blames Saudi-Led Coalition for ‘Horrific’ Deadly Strike on Boat
Somalia’s government on Saturday blamed the Saudi-led coalition for Friday’s attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees, calling the assault by a military vessel and a helicopter gunship “horrific.” Somalia urged the U.S.-supported coalition to investigate. The boat packed with dozens of refugees was more than 30 miles off war-torn Yemen’s coast when it came under attack. Some of the passengers were women and children. “What happened there was a horrific and terrible problem inflicted on innocent Somali people. The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is responsible for it,” Somalia’s foreign minister, Abdisalam Omer, said on state-run radio. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in a separate statement called the attack “atrocious” and “appalling.” News 24

Egyptian Newspaper: Sisi to Meet Trump in Washington Next Month
The Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, will meet Donald Trump in Washington next month, Egypt’s leading state-owned newspaper said on Sunday. Al-Ahram said in a front-page report the two leaders will meet during the first week of April, in what will be Sisi’s first visit to Washington since taking office in 2014. Sisi and Trump have already shown a bond when they met in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Trump, at the time the Republican presidential nominee, said there was “good chemistry”. Sisi, a general-turned-politician, said Trump would “without a doubt” make a strong leader. The Guardian

Tensions Between Egypt’s FM and Intelligence Agencies Play Out in Washington
The contracting of a lobbying company in Washington DC and a PR firm in New York by Egypt’s intelligence agencies to promote the country’s image and role in the Middle East raises several questions. The US Justice Department disclosed information about deals made between Egypt’s Central Intelligence Agency and Cassidy and Associates to the tune of US$50,000 a month, and Weber Shandwick for $100,000 dollars a month, amounting to 1.88 billion dollars annually, aside from operational costs and special missions. The agreements were made on January 18, just two days before US President Donald Trump was sworn in to office. This means negotiations around the deal may have begun with Trump’s winning of the elections on November 8, 2016, or even before. The timing could also be linked to Egypt’s securing of a deal with the IMF and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s upcoming Washington visit, which Cairo is pushing to carry out as soon as possible. The deals garnered attention in political and media circles in the US because Washington is not used to seeing direct agreements between foreign intelligence services and US lobbying firms to undertake activities pertaining to improving the image of the country in question, or helping it achieve its objectives. Mada Masr

Pope Francis Is Going to Visit Egypt in April
Pope Francis will visit Egypt in late April, reflecting improved Vatican-Muslim dialogue after years of tension that developed during the previous papacy of Benedict XVI. The Vatican said Saturday that details of the April 28-29 trip will be announced soon. In Egypt, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said the visit to the majority Muslim nation comes in response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who met Francis when he visited the Vatican in late 2014. The Vatican said the pope was going also upon invitations from Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox church leader Pope Tawadros II and the grand imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib. Time

Morocco Arrests 15 Suspects for Daesh Links
Moroccan authorities have arrested 15 people for suspected links to the Daesh terrorist group, according to the interior ministry. In a Friday statement, the ministry said the suspects were detained in a number of cities, including Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, Marrakesh and Agadir. According to the statement, the suspects were planning terrorist attacks in the country. “They were in the process of acquiring materials to make explosives to carry out terrorist attacks against vital sites, entertainment places and public institutions in a number of cities,” it said. The ministry said the suspects had tried to produce firearms with a view to killing public and military figures. Anadolu Agency

King of Morocco Names Saad Eddine El Othmani as New Prime Minister
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named Saad Eddine El Othmani of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) as the country’s new prime minister and asked him to form a government, a statement carried by MAP state news agency said on Friday. The king announced on Wednesday he would replace Abdelilah Benkirane as prime minister with another member of the PJD in an effort to break a five-month post-election deadlock. Othmani was foreign minister from 2011-2013 and had since served as the head of the PJD’s parliamentary group. France 24

Canada Gives $119m to Fight Hunger in Africa
Canada will provide $119.25 million humanitarian crises response to Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The Global Affairs Canada spokesperson, Ms Brittany Venhola-Fletcher, made the announcement in Abuja on Saturday, quoting the Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship minister, Mr Ahmed Hussen. Global Affairs Canada manages the country’s diplomatic and consular relations, promotes its international trade and leads Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance. “It is estimated that in the three most impacted states of the northeast (Nigeria), 8.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2017, of which 5.1 million are severely food insecure,” said Ms Venhola-Fletcher. “Assistance for basic survival and protection is vital for displaced populations, host communities and vulnerable people across the northeast.” She said $21 million would go to Somalia, $36.9 million to South Sudan and $34 million to Yemen. The East African

Kenya Deploys Soldiers to Quell Clashes by Armed Herders
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he’d deployed the army to restore law and order in four western counties where communities have been fighting over pasture land. Kenya Defense Forces troops have been sent to Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Laikipia to disarm cattle-herding communities, the presidency said in an emailed statement from Nairobi, the capital. The insecurity has created concerns ahead of a ballot on Aug. 8, and almost a decade after ethnic violence that followed a dispute election in 2007. Cattle rustlers armed with assault rifles, spears and machetes have been raiding in western Kenya while herders have invaded private ranches in central Kenya in search of food for their livestock. Fighting over pasture and cattle theft between pastoralist communities in arid regions of Kenya are relatively common, especially during drought periods. “Those who have defied orders to surrender illegal firearms are enemies of the state and will be dealt with accordingly.” Bloomberg

As Drought Sweeps Kenya, Herders Invade Farms and Old Wounds Are Reopened
[…] From the verandas of self-contained tents at lodges such as Lewa safari camp, visitors look out on endless stretches of wheat-coloured grass and the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya in the background. They can also see some of the rarest species on earth, including Grévy’s zebras, with their arched necks and distinctive thin stripes – now found almost exclusively in the northern Laikipia ecosystem – and masses of black rhino. Yet this windswept highland plain has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Thousands of herders are fleeing their traditional grazing lands as a biting drought engulfs east Africa, and their animals have swept through farms and conservation areas. Many of the herders have committed acts of shocking violence, and dozens of families have been displaced. The herders’ crimes, including the killing of the well-known safari guide Tristan Voorspuy, have been widely condemned. Some British tabloids have cast the situation in racial terms, with one speaking of the “end of the white man in Africa”. This is not accurate. Ranches owned by both whites and blacks have been overrun. Powerful Kenyans, including a former chief of the army and a former speaker of the national assembly, have seen their holdings occupied by armed raiders. The Guardian

Botswana: Freedoms Shrivel Under Khama
Outsa Mokone, the editor of the Gaborone weekly Sunday Standard, could be charged with sedition in Botswana under an archaic law based on the acceptance of an all-powerful monarchical ruler and a powerless subject people. This is not unlike the relationship that exists between an all-powerful president and a weak citizenry in today’s Botswana. I first became acquainted with Mokone’s work in 2000 when he published his “shrinking president” story in the Botswana Guardian. It was a lively and pertinent discussion about the odd relationship between then-president Festus Mogae and his vice-president, Lieutenant General Ian Khama, the eldest son of Botswana’s founding father Seretse, and Kgosi IV of the Bamangwato. Mogae was offended by the article and stopped all government advertising in the Botswana Guardian and its sister paper, the Midweek Sun, which threatened them with financial ruin. Mail and Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones