Africa Media Review for May 9, 2017

Car Bomb Attack Kills Six in Mogadishu
At least six people were killed and about 10 injured Monday in a car bomb attack in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, a police officer on the scene told AFP. The car exploded next to an Italian cafe on a key thoroughfare in the centre of the city which leads to the presidential palace, in the latest such attack in the violence-scarred country. “For the moment we have six dead in the explosion, civilians. The car full of explosives blew up next to an Italian cafe,” said the officer, Mr Mohamed Abdulahi. “The blast was very powerful and there were a lot of people there at the time, I saw several people dead and injured,” added a witness, Mr Abdukadir Ise. The East African

Quarter Century After Black Hawk Down, U.S. Revisits Somalia
Almost a quarter century since the U.S. withdrew from Somalia after militiamen shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and special forces took heavy losses in a battle in the capital, an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency is once again drawing U.S. attention. The U.S., which already supported the Horn of Africa country’s battle against al-Shabaab militants with drone strikes and limited special forces, say it’s deploying about a dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division to train Somalia’s army and has given U.S. commanders greater authority to use air strikes. A Navy SEAL was killed May 4 in a operation with Somali forces west of the capital, Mogadishu. The Pentagon said it was the first death of a U.S. service member in combat in Somalia since 1993. President Donald Trump has given “enhanced authorities in the last several weeks” to strike al-Shabaab, General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads U.S. Africa Command, told reporters last month at Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti. “We continue to develop intelligence and develop targets. And when we have the opportunity, we will use those.” He said Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed supports the U.S. efforts. Bloomberg

Mali Says Militants Kill Seven Soldiers in Attack in North
Unidentified militants killed seven Malian soldiers in the north at the weekend, the defense ministry said on Monday, days after the West African country extended a state of emergency. The strike is the second on Malian security forces in a week, bringing the total death toll to at least 15. Militants used a car to ram an army post in the village of Almoustrat on Sunday, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Gao, before firing rockets, the defense ministry said on state TV. Desert fighters have regrouped since a French-led military operation in 2013 to drive them out of Mali’s northern towns which they seized the year before. Reuters

UN: Ethnic Violence, Humanitarian Crisis Deepen in Congo
Spreading ethnic violence is driving more people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the humanitarian situation is “dramatically deteriorating”, the United Nations said on Monday. Some 100,000 people were uprooted last week alone, bringing the ranks of displaced in the central Kasai region to nearly 1.3 million, it said. The total number of displaced throughout Congo has more than doubled to 3.7 million since Aug 2016. “This very acute crisis in the DRC is not just expanding dramatically in terms of numbers but it’s also expanding in terms of geographical scope,” said Rein Paulsen, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs office in Congo. VOA

Video of UN Investigator Murders Leaves Congo Government Facing Scrutiny
When a video showing the murders of two UN workers was aired last month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government justified the move as necessary to prove local militia were behind the deaths. The grim footage, which was shown to reporters in Kinshasa, shows the final moments before the shooting of American Michael Sharp and his Swedish colleague Zaida Catalán, who was then beheaded. The pair had been working in the Kasai region of the country, where they were investigating the activities of the Kamwina Nsapu rebel group, which the government claimed was responsible for the killings. The Guardian

UN: 2m Children Displaced by South Sudan Conflict
The civil war in South Sudan has forced more than two million children to flee their homes, according to two UN agencies. Children make up 62 percent of the more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees who have arrived mainly in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, say the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, and the refugee agency, UNHCR. More than a million children have, meanwhile, been internally displaced. “No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Africa director for UNHCR. Al Jazeera

South Sudan Suspends National Dialogue Steering Committee
Efforts to start a “national dialogue” in war-ravaged South Sudan are on hold again after a key steering committee could not muster enough members for a quorum. The government says more than half the committee members appointed by President Salva Kiir have yet to report for duty. Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said Sunday that officials were forced to delay the swearing-in of the committee that was to oversee the dialogue. “It has been postponed until further notice because the percentage of the steering committee was only 20 percent. So we are waiting [for] committee members at least to be 50-plus [percent] before they are sworn in,” Ateny said. VOA

Appearance by Ailing President Hardly Reassures Many in Nigeria
Nigeria’s ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari, had been seen in public so rarely that some Nigerians were convinced he was dead. Some of his supporters have called on him to step down, at least until his health improves. His wife recently defended him, posting on Twitter that the president’s condition was “not as bad as it’s being perceived.” As the worries grew, Mr. Buhari desperately needed a victory to show that he was still in control, securely at the helm. Over the weekend he got one: Dozens of the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram were released, by far the biggest break in a case that shocked the nation and the world. But Mr. Buhari, 74, barely reveled in the achievement. He met with the girls briefly Sunday, then flew back to London, where he has spent nearly two months this year on medical leave. The New York Times

Boko Haram-Chibok Girls Swap, ‘Boost for Insurgents’ – Opposition
A faction of Nigeria’s main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have slammed the government for agreeing to swap suspected Boko Haram commanders for 82 abducted Chibok Girls. According to a statement issued by the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP, it was wrong for the government to allow the suspects to ‘escape’ justice by their release. The 8-point release slammed the government’s handling of the Chibok girls’ situation accusing the Buhari-led administration of playing into the hands of the terrorists whose release they said was a ‘setback for the war on insurgency.’ Africa News

Egypt Says Kills 8 Brotherhood Members Before Terrorist Acts
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says its forces have killed eight members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group “before carrying out terrorist acts.” Is says in a Monday statement that the Brotherhood members fired on security forces when they were approached at an undisclosed date or location in the desert near the country’s southern border, drawing return fire that killed the men. The statement says the group’s leader, Helmy Muhareb, had been previously sentenced to death in absentia on terrorism charges and was a wanted fugitive in other cases. AP

Libya General’s Troops Push into Central Benghazi
Troops loyal to a powerful general in eastern Libya say they have pushed into central parts of Benghazi on Monday, working to clear out the final areas held by Islamists and their allies in the eastern city. Riyadh al-Shahiebi, of the special forces media office, says troops fighting for the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter entered the Souq al-Hout and Sabri areas. Six soldiers were killed in the fighting, mostly from land mines and roadside bombs. Hifter is allied with the internationally recognized parliament in eastern Libya and at odds with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli. AP

Hundreds of Migrants Feared Dead in Mediterranean over Weekend – Survivors
More than 200 migrants are feared to have died in the Mediterranean over the weekend, according to testimony from survivors, and several bodies, including that of an infant, have washed up on a Libyan beach. About 7,500 people have been rescued off the coast of Libya since Thursday, the Italian and Libyan coastguards said. Two groups of survivors told the organisations that hundreds drowned when their rubber boats began to deflate before rescuers arrived. More than 60 are feared dead and three bodies were recovered on Saturday, survivors brought to Sicily on Sunday told Italian coastguards. The boat left Libya carrying about 120, they said. Reuters

Demobilised Rebels Block Road to Ivory Coast’s Second City
Demobilised rebel fighters blocked access to Ivory Coast’s second city on Monday, demanding bonus payments and jobs in the latest bout of unrest to strike the West African nation, which has been touted as a rare, post-war economic success story. The former fighters, some wearing balaclavas or their faces blackened with ashes, set up barricades, sealing off the main road south from Bouake, the centre of a wave of army mutinies that paralysed the world’s top cocoa grower earlier this year. Witnesses said several hundred demobilised fighters, some armed, blocked traffic on the road, which is one of the primary routes between the port of Abidjan and landlocked Mali and Burkina Faso. Reuters

US Brings African Army Chiefs Together to Discuss Security Threats
Army chiefs from some 40 countries throughout Africa are meeting in this small southern nation to develop regional strategies to counter security threats facing the continent and forge closer ties during a four-day conference hosted by U.S. Army Africa. The African Land Forces Summit 17 opened Monday with speeches and encouragement for military men — and one woman, from Swaziland — to speak their minds. “What can make this summit a success is the candid, free exchange of ideas,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, commander of U.S. Army Africa. Stars and Stripes

UN Agency Returns 62,372 Somali Refugees from Kenya
The UN refugee agency said Monday it had repatriated some 62,372 Somali refugees from Dadaab camp in northeast Kenya since the return exercise begun in December 2014. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly update that some 707 refugees were supported to return to their home in Somalia voluntarily in the past ten days. According to the UNHCR, some 23,058 refugees out of 62,372 returned in 2017 as the UN refugee agency steps up returns to the Horn of Africa nation. The UN agency said road convoys to Somalia remained suspended due to the heavy rains in some parts of the Horn of Africa nation. Xinhua

‘Ethiopia Needs to Open Up Civic Space’: UN Rights Chief
The Ethiopian government has rejected requests by the United Nations and the European Union to investigate months of anti-government protests that left hundreds dead. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said not allowing an outside investigation was an issue of sovereignty. Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission has said at least 669 people were killed during the protests that began in November 2015 and led to the country’s current state of emergency. Its report puts the blame for the unrest largely on opposition groups and foreign media and says security forces used “proportionate measures” to counter it. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited Ethiopia this week, told DW in an exclusive interview he would push the government to allow his agency to investigate rights abuses. Deutsche Welle

Kenya: USAID Suspends Funding for Health Ministry Departments
USAID on Monday issued a notice to suspend funding for activities carried out by a number of Ministry of Health departments. The US agency, in a May 8 letter, cites unspecified conditions that are yet to be met by some of the implementing partners. However, funding for procurement of commodities and equipment related to life-saving treatment, prevention, outbreak or emergency response have been exempted. Brian Woody, USAID Kenya and East Africa Contracting Officer, listed activities that directly strengthen county health systems will still be funded. The Star (Nairobi)

West Africa Evolving As a New Natural Gas Frontier
British energy company BP said Monday its joint effort off the coast of West Africa sets the partnership up for a strong regional position. The British energy company said it confirmed a “major” discovery of natural gas off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal alongside joint venture partner Kosmos Energy. Named Yakaar-1, the discovery has a preliminary range of around 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Bernard Looney, the CEO of exploration and production for BP, said in a statement the discovery follows a string of earlier successes off the West African coast and sets the partnership up for a more significant presence in the region. “This discovery marks an important further step in building BP’s new business in Mauritania and Senegal,” he said. UPI

West Africa Loses over $2 Billion to Illegal  Fishing Because Governments Don’t Talk to Each Other 
Greenpeace says poor government communication and coordination is hurting West Africa’s ability to combat illegal fishing, losing it billions of dollars each year in the process. The problem has become so severe that it is threatening food security in the region, the environmental group says in a new report (pdf). “Fish stocks are not restricted to national boundaries, and that is why the solutions to end the overfishing of West Africa’s water can only come from joint efforts between the countries of the region,” Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace’s Africa Oceans campaigner, said in a statement. Halting illegal fishing is only possible, Diame said, if governments pool resources and work together to standardize legislation and establish joint monitoring centers. Quartz

Giving Up Nuclear Weapons: It’s Rare, But It’s Happened
South Africa was filled with drama in 1993. Violence raged as the white president, F.W. de Klerk, negotiated with black leader Nelson Mandela to end apartheid. Amid this uncertainty, de Klerk appeared on TV one night and made a startling announcement: South Africa secretly built six nuclear weapons, but had dismantled them and shut down the program, he said. “Let us convince the world we are not playing games, that we have broken those bombs down, that we can account for every milli-milli-milligram of material in it — and that is exactly what we did,” de Klerk said at a 2012 event in Washington, recalling his decision two decades earlier. NPR

In Uganda, Other Parts of Africa, People Are Ready for Manufacturing to Slide from China
[…] Several African countries have tried in the past to become tailors and cloth-makers to the world. Nigeria’s cities of Kaduna and Kano were once home to textile mills that employed 350,000 people. Yet these factories are now rusting, and employ perhaps a tenth of that number. This mirrors a wider trend. In 1990 African countries accounted for about 9 percent of the developing world’s manufacturing output. By 2014 that share had slumped to 4 percent. As the world’s labor-intensive jobs left the rich world for countries with lower wages, Africa lost out to Asia because of bad governance, political instability and poor infrastructure. Another shift of similar proportions now seems in the offing as China grows richer. But there are some signs that, this time, Africa might catch the wave of industrialization. Star Tribune



Photo: Adam Jones