Africa Media Review for November 1, 2019

Gunmen killed 12 soldiers Wednesday in a predawn raid on a military base in southeastern Niger’s Diffa region, a regular target of Boko Haram jihadists, the defence ministry said. Another eight soldiers were wounded in the attack on the Blabrine military unit, said the ministry statement read out on state radio, adding that this was a provisional toll. The attack was “very probably” carried out by Boko Haram, the statement added. This was the latest in a string of increasingly brazen attacks near the west African country’s border with Nigeria, where the radical Islamist insurgency has claimed hundreds of lives. … A senior official in Diffa added that military equipment had been torched in the attack. Diffa, which borders the birthplace of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, has been hit by repeated cross-border attacks by the Nigerian jihadist group since 2015. There was a lull in the attacks late last year, but they have ramped up since March when 10 civilians were killed by a suicide bomber in the town of N’Guigmi, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Blabrine base. AFP

The office of Ethiopia’s prime minister on Thursday issued a statement saying more than 400 people have been arrested during investigations into ethnic and religious violence that left 78 people dead last week. Protests against Abiy erupted in Addis Ababa and in Ethiopia’s Oromia region on October 23 after a prominent activist accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him, a claim police denied. The unrest quickly devolved into ethnic and religious clashes that killed dozens of people over three days. “The latest information that I have in terms of perpetrators that have been apprehended is 409 individuals,” spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told a press conference. She said investigations were ongoing and that more suspects could be taken into custody. Billene said Thursday that the death toll had climbed to 78, up from the figure of 67 provided by a police official in Oromia last week. Africa News

Congo’s military says it has launched an offensive against rebel groups in the country’s east even while efforts continue there to contain a deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus. Army spokesman Gen. Leon Kasonga announced the large-scale offensive Thursday in the Beni region, an early epicenter of the more than yearlong Ebola outbreak. The offensive primarily targets Allied Democratic Forces rebels who have killed hundreds of civilians and security forces over the past few years and recruited children in mineral-rich northeast Congo. Attacks have hampered Ebola containment efforts. The region borders Uganda and Rwanda. Congo’s military offensive comes days after a meeting of regional military leaders on how to rid eastern Congo of rebel groups. But Congo’s army is making clear that it is carrying out this new offensive alone. AP

Anglophone fighters have clashed with government security forces almost daily in the past two years of the conflict in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, a mostly Francophone country. A month after the government called a five-day National Dialogue to try to stop the violence, it appears the violence is intensifying rather than abating. “Just this week, there were several accounts of attacks on government installations and police and soldiers being killed by ‘Ambazonia’ fighters,” reported DW journalist Eyong Blaise, referring to the Anglophone seccessionist forces named after their self-proclaimed independent state, Ambazonia. Blaise also said, there were reports of Cameroonian soldiers burning homes and villages in the Northwest region. “In terms of security, from both the side of the government forces and the Ambazonian fighters, nothing has changed since the dialogue ended,” Blaise said on the phone from Buea, the capital of the Southwest region. DW

In the Senegalese border town of Moudery, a committee initially created to protect residents from robberies has taken on a new purpose in the wake of jihadist violence in neighboring Mali. In 2010, when Moudery inaugurated its “Committee of Vigilance,” the goal was mostly to identify unknown people who might rob homes in the wealthy Senegalese river town. Zakaria Ndiaye, one of the committee’s founding members, said robberies had decreased since the committee was set up, because members perform nightly patrols and criminals are aware of the committee’s presence on the ground. … The system for reducing crime in the village worked so well that members of the U.N.’s migration organization identified the program as a model for more border towns to secure their communities against the threat of jihadist violence. VOA

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said any move to extend the planned formation of the transitional government of national unity would be bad for the young nation. Addressing the military command council at defense headquarters Thursday, Kiir said a unity government be formed by November 12. The South Sudanese leader reportedly told the command council that he requested the country’s opposition leader Riek Machar to nominate the names of his delegates that are to be appointed in the would be formed transitional government of the national unity, but that up to now he has not yet presented the list of his nominees. Machar recently said he is unlikely to be part of the unity government unless some outstanding issues such as the security arrangements and issues to do with number of states are resolved. The armed opposition leader’s latest position could jeopardize efforts to form a unity government as agreed upon by the parties in May. On his part, the chief of the defense forces, Gen. Jok Riak re-assured citizens of the army’s commitment to adhere to their mandate of defending the people and the country during the transitional period. Sudan Tribune

The UN Security Council on Thursday agreed to extend its peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region following a recommendation from the new government in Khartoum. The UN-African Union mission in the conflict-torn region, known as UNAMID, was set to draw down, but in June the Security Council voted to extend the mission’s mandate by another four months until the end of October. That decision was taken in the midst of a political crisis in Sudan that saw President Omar al-Bashir ousted after three decades in power and replaced by a joint civilian-military sovereign council, with a civilian-led cabinet put in charge of the day-to-day running of the country. Thursday’s UN resolution came after the new government in Khartoum recommended a cautious approach to the situation in Darfur, a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. AFP

Mozambique’s largest opposition party Renamo on Wednesday lodged court papers calling for the October 15 election results to be annulled due to “massive electoral fraud.” Renamo, the rebel group turned opposition party, lost the election to the long-ruling Frelimo party, securing under 22% of the vote, the electoral commission announced on Sunday. … Having previously called for the election to be annulled, the opposition submitted an official complaint to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to be judged by the constitutional council. … Renamo has accused the government of “massive electoral fraud” and breaching the country’s peace deal by using violence and intimidation on voting day. The lower courts have so far convicted 158 people over electoral misconduct, while at least 140 more are still awaiting trial. Fourteen of those convicted were arrested for ballot box stuffing. AFP

Tens of thousands of Guineans rallied in support of President Alpha Conde on Thursday after two weeks of violent protests against the leader’s suspected bid to prolong his rule claimed around 10 lives. Communication Minister Amara Sompare said 45,000 people turned out to greet Conde, 81, on his return from a trip abroad, which the minister said proved that the president has wide backing for his push for a new constitution. The pro-Conde rally was a response to a protest that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets a week ago, according to local journalists. Organisers put the turnout for that rally at around a million, while the government said the protesters numbered 30,000. … At least eight protesters — 10 according to the opposition — and a police officer have been killed since October 24, when opposition parties, unions and civil society groups called for a mobilisation against a possible third term for Conde. VOA

The political impasse in Malawi stemming from disputed May elections shows no sign of ending. President Peter Mutharika has offered to negotiate with the opposition, but opposition parties say the president is illegitimate and should step aside. Political tensions started rising in May when opposition leaders rejected election results that showed President Peter Mutharika winning a second term. Since then, a civil rights group, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, has led protests pushing for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly mismanaging the polls. Ansah denies the accusation. Authorities say the protests, vandalism and violence have affected the country’s development. … Runners-up Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement party challenged the results in court, alleging ballot-stuffing and the use of correction fluid to change votes. VOA

Four journalists and their driver are still being held in Burundi after they were arrested for allegedly undermining national security while covering a rebel attack from neighbouring DR Congo, according to the attorney general in Bujumbura. The Burundian reporters were detained on Tuesday last week while reporting in Bubanza, in the country’s northwest. The journalists, from the Iwacu newspaper, one of the last independent publications in Burundi, were detained along with their driver while trying to speak to residents fleeing fighting between rebels and national forces. … The international media rights group RSF recently warned that there was such a crackdown on the press in Burundi that “there is a risk of all forms of independent journalism disappearing” less than a year before the next presidential election. Burundi is currently ranked 159th out of 180 countries on the RSF’s world press freedom index. RFI

Google, Apple and Facebook-owned Instagram are enabling an illegal online slave market by providing and approving apps used for the buying and selling of domestic workers in the Gulf. BBC News Arabic’s undercover investigation exposes app users in Kuwait breaking local and international laws on modern slavery, including a woman offering a child for sale. The discovery of ‘Fatou’ in Kuwait City, her rescue and journey back home to Guinea, West Africa, is at the heart of this investigation into Silicon Valley’s online slave market. After being alerted to the issue, Facebook said it had banned one of the hashtags involved and taken down 703 accounts from Instagram. Google and Apple said they were working with app developers to prevent illegal activity. BBC

About half of the Zimbabwe’s 14 million people lack reliable access to enough food as a result of the worst regional drought in almost 40 years, according to the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube. The situation is compounded by cyclone-induced floods earlier this year and an economic collapse that have left the southern African nation on the verge of its worst-ever famine. … While the government has responded by declaring a state of disaster and distributed about 190 000 metric tons of corn to households – including those in cities for the first time ever – production of the staple is forecast to more than halve. Plans to import as much as 800 000 tons of the staple are complicated by an acute shortage of foreign exchange and prices have doubled. The situation is exacerbated by rampant inflation, which stood at 17.7% a month in September. The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency isn’t reporting year-on-year figures until February 2020, arguing that it needs the time to collect comparable data after the introduction of a new currency earlier this year. According to Bloomberg calculations prices rose more than fourfold from a year earlier.

Severe flooding in South Sudan has affected close to a million people, threatening to reverse some of the humanitarian gains made during a year-long ceasefire in the country’s civil war, aid workers and UN officials say. An estimated 420,000 people have been directly displaced by abnormally heavy seasonal flooding. Entire communities have been submerged, crops and livestock lost, with health centres and schools inundated – or in many cases turned into emergency shelters for people now made homeless. “We have to respond to the people in need, to supply them with tarpaulins, water purification tablets, and food,” Alain Noudéhou, the UN’s emergency aid coordinator in South Sudan, told The New Humanitarian. “If we don’t act quickly and in a targeted manner, the gains made in the past 12 months of stability will be set back.” A government of national unity is due to be formed on 12 November, marking a formal end to a five-year conflict between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar – but the timetable has slipped and there have been calls for further delay. The New Humanitarian

Following Uganda’s independence in 1962, the landlocked Central African country has suffered from multiple civil wars and guerrilla movements. One of those brought Idi Amin, a tyrannical dictator, into power in 1971. During his presidency, Uganda first developed relations with North Korea. The relations between the two countries have strengthened during the Ugandan presidencies succeeding Amin until today. The first high-level cooperation between Uganda and North Korea was recorded in April of 1972 when a high-level military delegation representing the Idi Amin government partook in military celebrations in Pyongyang. During this visit, three agreements were reached between Uganda and North Korea, covering military exchanges, sales of weaponry, and exploring the potential of opening a military construction plant in Uganda. The Diplomat



Photo: Adam Jones