Africa Media Review for May 12, 2017

Farmajo Calls for Arms’ Embargo End to Defeat al-Shabab
Somalia’s president has called on the international community to lift an arms embargo on his country as government soldiers battle to regain territory from the armed group al-Shabab. Speaking on Thursday at a Somalia conference held in London and attended by world leaders, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, said government forces would defeat the al-Qaeda linked group in “a few years” – but troops had to be better equipped. “For far too long, our security forces and terrorist groups have been fighting using the same type of light weapons – mostly AK47s. The longstanding arms embargo on Somalia severely restricts our ability to procure heavy weapons,” Farmajo said. Al Jazeera

Somalia and Its Backers Sign Security Pact to Beef Up Army
Somalia’s government and its foreign backers on Thursday signed a security pact which they presented as a road map towards building a functional national army capable of taking on the fight against al Shabaab militants. The Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group has lost much of the territory it once controlled in Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, but its deadly attacks remain one of the main obstacles to stability in the chaotic Horn of Africa country. A London conference on Somalia also heard that the United Nations was increasing its appeal for the country by $900 million to a total of $1.5 billion to allow aid agencies to cope with a severe drought that is causing a humanitarian crisis. Reuters

The Pentagon Would Consider Sending More US Troops to Somalia
The Trump administration would consider deploying additional U.S. troops to Somalia should the troubled African nation request greater military aid to combat al-Qaida loyalists there, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis indicated Thursday. “That’s a decision we’ll take if it’s broached to us, and we’ll decide yes or no,” Mattis told reporters after attending a London security conference focused on the Somali government’s relentless struggle with the extremist group al-Shabaab. No such request has been made by the Somali government and it was not discussed in London, Mattis said. But his openness to entertaining such a possibility highlights the Pentagon’s evolving perspective on how aggressively it should support indigenous forces willing to fight mutual adversaries. Military Times

U.S. Troops ‘Not on the Frontline’ Against Al-Shabab in Somalia: Official
American troops will not take a frontline role against Al-Shabab militants in Somalia despite a recent loosening of the rules of engagement by President Donald Trump, the State Department’s acting deputy tells Newsweek. Trump signed a directive in March designating part of Somalia as an “area of active hostilities,” making it easier for U.S. security advisers in the country to call in drone strikes against Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has recruited Americans and called for attacks in the West. The Trump administration also recently sent several dozen regular U.S. troops to Somalia for the first time since the early 1990s. The United States suffered its first military casualty in more than 20 years on May 5, when a U.S. Navy SEAL, Kyle Milliken, was killed in a joint U.S.-Somali operation targeting Al-Shabab. Newsweek

U.S. Military Offers Support, but Not Troops, to Aid France in Africa
[…] Over the past several years, French troops have battled Al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate and other Islamist extremists in Mali, and have helped African troops thwart Boko Haram, a violent militancy that has spilled from Nigeria to attack Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The Islamic State is also a looming threat. In the latest sign of an emerging regional collaboration, five countries within the Sahel — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — announced recently that they would create three border areas for military patrols and operations. French troops are advising and assisting these units. The Trump administration, which is already fighting the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria and weighing whether to send several thousand more American troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, has been only too eager to continue Obama-era policies of providing financial, logistical and intelligence support to France in this region. By doing so, it hopes to avoid having to put American combat forces on the ground in yet another global hot spot. American and French officials say their close military and counterterrorism partnership will continue unchanged after the election last week of Emmanuel Macron as France’s next president. The New York Times

Gunfire in Ivory Coast Barracks after Rebels ‘Apologise’ for Mutiny
Sporadic gunfire rang out overnight in a military barracks in Ivory Coast’s second city of Bouake, where a mutiny erupted in January, according to a report. An AFP journalist said Friday that the shots were heard just hours after national television broadcast a ceremony in which a soldier presented as a spokesman for 8,400 former rebels, many of them based in Bouake, said they wished to apologise to President Alassane Ouattara for the mutiny. In January, former rebels integrated into army ranks staged a mutiny that paralysed activity in several towns of the west African country while they pressed their demands for bonuses. In meeting the demands of the ex-rebels, who controlled the northern half of Africa’s biggest cocoa producer between 2002 and 2011, the authorities provoked a fresh mutiny by other troops and paramilitary gendarmes. AFP

EU Ready to Work with African Countries
The European Union says it’s ready to cooperate with African countries in stemming the illicit financial flows from the continent. This emerged during the debate at the fourth session of the Pan African Parliament currently underway in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. In 2015 African leaders decided to launch an investigation into illicit financial flows because of the impact it has on the funding of socio-economic development programmes. Africa needs massive capital injection to address challenges such as poverty eradication and job creation. According to the International Monetary Fund, it’s estimated that Africa loses 50-Billion US Dollars annually in illicit financial flows. SABC

Ship Attacks Up Internationally in First Quarter of 2017
Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of this year, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report, while Yemen’s worsening conflict is contributing to a spike in regional piracy. The IMB global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines – where two crew members were killed in February. Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels. In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017. Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also recorded. DefenceWeb

South Sudan’s Ousted Army Chief to Return to Juba
South Sudan’s ousted army chief said he will return to the capital Juba on Thursday, two days after being dismissed and leaving the city in a convoy of vehicles, raising concerns over his next move. General Paul Malong’s removal follows the resignations of a string of senior military figures who alleged that there was ethnic bias in the army and that war crimes had been committed as the civil war dragged on. Some of them also vowed to overthrow President Salva Kiir. “I am just waiting for a plane to come, and I will go back to Juba,” he told Reuters by phone from the central town of Yirol in Lakes state, where he spent Wednesday. Reuters

Sudan’s al-Bashir to Participate in Islamic-American Summit
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir will take part in an Islamic-American summit attended by U.S. President Donald Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 20-21 May. The rare summit, which gathers leaders of over 40 Islamic countries, will discuss the dangers of extremism and terrorism and ways to spread the values of tolerance and coexistence among peoples. Senior diplomatic sources told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that Bashir would leave for Saudi Arabia two days ahead of the summit for bilateral consultations with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan President Says He Fired Malong to Avoid Scapegoat for Inefficiencies
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said he was tired of the numerous and never-ending reports about Paul Malong, pointing out that his decision to have him removed was to avoid “scapegoat for inefficiencies”. “I was tired of receiving reports about Malong almost every hour of people telling me things I knew he was not doing. This was becoming a routine talk and it was like I was not listening to the, so I decided to make changes which I informed Malong about, so he should not be surprised when the time comes,” President Kiir told members of the Dinka council of elders who paid him a courtesy call on Wednesday evening. The President went on to tell the elders that his reasons for the change were to see what those who had been making the reports and claims would do next. Sudan Tribune

Death Toll Now 5 in Worst Attack on UN in C African Republic
The death toll has risen to five in the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic with the discovery of the body of a missing Moroccan soldier, the United Nations said on Thursday. Four Cambodian soldiers also died – one in Monday night’s ambush by a Christian rebel group and battle that followed near Bangassou, about 474km east of Bangui, the UN said. The bodies of three missing Cambodians were found on Tuesday. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that searchers found the body of the missing Moroccan near Bangassou, about 474km east of Bangui where the ambush occurred. A UN official said the bodies of the four peacekeepers who had been missing were badly mutilated, making identification difficult. News 24

Latest Fighting Kills 37 People in Central African Republic 
A local Central African Republic branch of the Red Cross says that days of clashes in the central region have left at least 37 people dead and many displaced. The group said violence flared in Alindao, some 100km east of Bambari on Saturday and Sunday as a faction of the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group fought with the Christian rebel group known as anti-Balaka. Alindao priest Severin Ngoumango said no shots have been heard for more than 24 hours. Central African Republic descended into sectarian conflict in 2013 when the Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president. The Christian militia retaliated with a backlash against Muslim civilians. News 24

UAE Accused of Air Strikes Against Eritrean Afar Civilians
An Eritrean opposition group on Thursday accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of bombing ethnic Afar fishermen on Eritrean territorial waters in the Danakalia region this week. The group, Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) alleged that at least one was killed and seven others were wounded during recent air strikes by the UAE planes taking off from the Eritrea’s port city of Assab in the Danakalia region. The group handed over Sudan Tribune list of names of victims. “RSADO is strongly outraged by the series of deliberate deadly aerial attacks on a Red Sea Afar civilian fishing Boat inside Eritrean territorial water by UAE Forces stationed in Assab-Dankalia Region in Eritrea,” the group said. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria Negotiating with Boko Haram for More Chibok Releases
A Nigerian minister says the government is negotiating “seriously” for the release of the more than 110 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls still held by Boko Haram extremists. Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development Aisha Alhassan told reporters on Thursday that “we will not relent until all are back.” She says Nigeria’s government has no regrets about exchanging Boko Haram detainees for the 82 young women released over the weekend. The young women are in government care in the capital, Abuja. Alhassan says they are undergoing medical screening for a couple of weeks and that some have needed surgery. News 24

Nigeria: Army Appoints Another General to Lead Boko Haram War
The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole counterinsurgency force in north-east Nigeria, Lucky Irabor, is now the head of the Multi-National Joint Task Force as its Field Commander, a statement from the army headquarters, Abuja, disclosed. Mr. Irabor, a major general, is being replaced by I. Attahiru, also a major general, as the new Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, the name given by the army to its operation to defeat the Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria. This posting came up as the Nigeria Army embarks on a massive restructuring of its major commanding posts and units around the country. According to a statement released by the Director of Army Public Relations, Sani Usman, a brigadier general, the new posting was “in a bid to re-strategise the Nigerian Army”. Premium Times

Nigeria Finds Fighting Corruption Often Means One Step Forward, Two Back
Large billboards at Lagos airport urge travelers to call a hotline to report officials asking for bribes. But there is a problem with this attempt to fight the corruption that plagues Africa’s biggest economy. The phone number does not work, an indication of how little progress President Muhammadu Buhari has made tackling a problem he promised to address when he was elected two years ago. The government has fired customs and immigration officers accused of corruption, introduced staff rotation at passport and customs desks at Lagos airport to disrupt cozy networks, and set up the phone number to report demands for bribes. VOA

Opposition Member ‘Assassinated’ in Rwanda
A member of a banned Rwandan opposition party has been assassinated, party officials alleged on Thursday, less than three months before national elections are due to be held. The body of Jean Damascene Habarugira, a member of the United Democratic Forces party (known by its French acronym, FDU), was found on Monday, police spokesperson Theos Badege said, 60km from where he had disappeared three days earlier. FDU vice president Boniface Twagirimana, claimed 52-year-old Habarugira had been murdered because of his opposition to the government’s agricultural planning policy in his home area of Ngoma, in the east of the country. “We denounce this as an assassination,” Twagirimana said on Thursday. News 24

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ‘Not Asleep Just Resting His Eyes’
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is not asleep when he closes his eyes for long periods during meetings but is resting his eyes, his spokesman says. “The president cannot suffer bright lights,” George Charamba was quoted as saying by the state-run Herald newspaper. Mr Mugabe, 93, has been seen apparently sleeping at several events, leading to speculation about his fitness. He intends to stand in presidential elections next year. The president is currently receiving specialised medical treatment for his eyes in Singapore. BBC

China, Africa Trade, Investment ‘Off to a Flying Start’ in 2017
China’s trade with African countries in the first quarter climbed by nearly a fifth from a year earlier, while its direct investment in the continent soared 64 percent, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday. Trade cooperation between China and Africa is “off to a flying start” in 2017, thanks to policy benefits from a cooperative framework laid down by the Chinese and African leaders in South Africa in 2015, said Sun Jiwen, spokesman at the ministry. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to plough $60 billion into African development projects at a summit in Johannesburg in 2015, saying it would boost agriculture, build roads, ports and railways and cancel some debt. Reuters

The Plight of Togo’s So-Called ‘Witch Children’
Togo is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the belief in witchcraft is still widespread. Children who are slightly different from the others are among the worst affected. Whether it’s due to a physical or mental handicap, hyperactivity or being intellectually gifted, they are often accused of witchcraft and even held responsible for deaths in their family. These children are then subjected to all sorts of abuse: kidnappings, forced labour and torture. Our correspondents report. France 24



Photo: Adam Jones