Africa Media Review for November 16, 2018

8 UN Peacekeepers Killed in Congo in Area Facing Ebola Outbreak
Eight United Nations peacekeepers and at least 12 Congolese soldiers were killed in a joint military operation against rebels in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is facing a deadly Ebola outbreak, the Security Council said Thursday. Ten peacekeepers were injured and one was missing after Wednesday’s operation that targeted Allied Democratic Forces rebels, said the United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric. The Security Council’s statement said seven of the peacekeepers who were killed were from Malawi and one was from Tanzania. The joint forces were attacked while conducting operations to dislodge the rebel fighters from a stronghold in Kididiwe, near the regional capital of Beni, a United Nations official said. The mission succeeded and a number of rebels were captured, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. AP

Three Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Boko Haram Attack on Military Base
At least three soldiers were killed and several missing after a Boko Haram attack on a military base in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, military and militia sources told AFP on Thursday. Boko Haram fighters believed to be from the IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) late Wednesday attacked the base in the town of Kareto, 150km north of the state capital Maiduguri. The militants temporarily dislodged troops from the base before being repelled with aerial support, the sources said. … “The terrorists were smoked out of the base by a fighter jet which deployed to the scene,” said the officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the incident. Troop reinforcements were sent to the base, the officer said. It was not clear if the jihadists took away weapons. A civilian militia fighting Boko Haram in the area said troops withdrew to the town of Gubio, 60 km away, while Kareto residents fled across the border into Niger. AFP

Report: Islamic State Financier Paid Money to Eastern Congo Rebel Group
An Islamist rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo received money from a financier linked to Islamic State, suggesting tentative ties between the Congo insurgents and other jihadists in Africa and beyond, a report said on Thursday. Islamist “financial facilitator” Waleed Ahmed Zein paid the Allied Democratic Forces at least once, said the report from New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Bridgeway Foundation that cited U.S. sources and an ADF defector. Zein is on a U.S. government sanctions list and was arrested in his home country of Kenya in July for links to Islamic State. The payments were made in recent years but it was not clear when, how much was paid or how the money was used. … The payment was made as the ADF seeks to align itself with Islamic State, Nigeria-based Boko Haram and al Qaeda and other groups. VOA

Mattis Cuts US Troop Numbers in Africa by 10 Percent
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is cutting hundreds of U.S. troops from Africa so he can use those resources for potential future conflicts with Russia and China. Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch told VOA the move will cut roughly 700 counterterrorism troops and their enablers from West Africa. That is about 10 percent of U.S. Africa Command’s presence on the continent. “Operations in Libya, Somalia and Djibouti remain largely unchanged,” she said. The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy (NDS) emphasizes near-peer competition over counterterrorism. … As Mattis rolled out the NDS in January, he said the United States was losing its competitive military advantage over China and Russia. “Great-power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Mattis said. VOA

Russia Warns France over CAR Peace Role
Russia warned France on Thursday that it must put aside “parochial national interests” and recognise its peace efforts in the Central African Republic as negotiations continued on a contentious UN Security Council resolution. France has presented a draft resolution that takes aim at recent Russian efforts to broker peace deals in CAR by specifying that an African-led initiative is “the only framework” for a solution. “We are pro-actively helping the CAR, knowingly with the support of the people and we would like our efforts to be duly reflected in the French draft,” Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanski told the council. … Working with Sudan, Russia in August convened talks in Khartoum of Central African militias who signed a preliminary agreement, drawing criticism from France of unhelpful meddling in its former colony. Russia has sent military trainers and equipment to the Central African Republic, and a security adviser is working with President Faustin-Archange Touadera, under a bilateral agreement. French diplomats and some UN officials have complained that the Russian peace initiative has complicated diplomatic efforts, sending mixed messages to the parties. AFP

Al-Bashir Accuses Unnamed Circles of Obstructing Sudan’s Mediation for Peace in Central Africa
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Thursday accused unnamed circles of obstructing his Russian supported mediation to bring peace to the western neighbour the Central African Republic (CAR). On the same day in New York, where the Security Council discusses the extension of the UN peacekeeping mission for an additional year, France filed a draft resolution specifying that an African Union-led initiative is “the only framework” for peace in the CAR. “Many envy Sudan in his efforts to achieve peace in the region and obstruct its efforts to achieve peace in the Central African Republic,” said al-Bashir during a speech to the conference of the Islamic Movement in Khartoum on Thursday. … President al-Bashir stressed that all the warring groups in the Central African Republic are convinced that Sudan can achieve peace in their country. He further said that Sudan is leading efforts to achieve peace in the CAR after it succeeded in ending the five-year armed conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. … Worried by the growing Russian influence in the CAR, Paris recently invited the head of the Sudanese intelligence service Salah Gosh for consultations on the situation in the former French colony. Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s Economic Crisis Caused by Massive Corruption: Report
An economic crisis in Sudan, including rapid depreciation of the national currency, severe shortages of essential commodities, and near collapse of public health and education sectors, are the result of 30 years of corruption and economic mismanagement, according to a new Enough Project report published on Thursday. The report entitled “Sudan’s Self-Inflicted Economic Meltdown: With a Corrupt Economy in Crisis, the Bashir Regime Scrambles to Consolidate Power,” shines a spotlight on the key structural causes of the economic meltdown, detailing distorted economic policies and the direct participation in businesses owned by senior government officials, members of their families, and their business allies. … The report details an array of distorted economic policies and practices that led to the economic crisis, including heavy debt burden, large-scale official corruption and overspending on the security sector and government bureaucracy. Radio Tamazuj

How Kenyan Police Let In Somalia’s Shabaab Bombers
Police officers at the Kenya-Somalia border let in five Al-Shabaab suicide bombers in February this year after receiving bribes, a new United Nations report says. The report lays bare how Kenyan security forces routinely accept cash bribes from as low as Ksh2,000 ($20) from terror militants to wave them through. The Somalia Report 2018, released on Tuesday by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), paints a rather disturbing picture of the misplaced loyalties of some of the security officers Kenya has deployed to protect itself, and reveals, for the first time, how the Somalia-based militants are routinely allowed to cross over to Kenya to kill and maim. The East African

Illegal Shabaab $150m Charcoal Trade Goes Unabated
Al-Shabaab continues to reap substantial revenues from charcoal smuggling in southern Somalia despite the presence of African Union military bases in the area, a United Nations report has revealed. These installations at the ports of Kismayo and Buur Gabo are maintained by Kenyan forces operating under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the UN team noted in an earlier report. … Shabaab makes at least $7.5 million from “taxation” at checkpoints in the Middle Juba and Lower Juba regions, according to the analysis by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. Due in part to these charcoal-related profits, Shabaab “generates more than enough revenue to sustain its insurgency,” the monitors say. The regional Jubaland administration is also said to profit from the charcoal trade, which is prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions. The East African

Gabon’s Constitutional Court Intervenes over Bongo’s Absence
Gabon’s Constitutional Court has intervened in a crisis surrounding hospitalised president Ali Bongo, declaring to a storm of criticism that it had modified the constitution to address his “temporary incapacity”. Speculation about Bongo’s future has swollen since the 59-year-old president was taken to hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 24. After initially saying that Bongo had been admitted for “severe fatigue,” his office on Sunday admitted that he had undergone surgery. It said his condition had “greatly improved” and was “recovering most of his functions” but gave no details about his illness or when he would return. The president of the Constitutional Court, Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, late on Wednesday informed reporters that the court had decided to modify the constitution in order to address the scenario of “temporary incapacity” by the head of state. News24

34 Churches Shut in Angola Police Operation
At least 34 churches have been shut in Angola following an operation dubbed Operação Resgate (rescue operation), police confirmed. … The government said recently that more than 50 per cent of churches operating in Angola were foreign, mainly from the DR Congo, Brazil, Nigeria and Senegal, adding that at least 1,116 of them operated illegally. The police rescue operation started on November 6 and will run until the end of the year. The operation aims at restoring the state authority by instituting order in worship, on the roads, fighting unregulated hawking and illegal migrations, among others. During the operation’s first week, at least 509 people were arrested for several crimes. Three foreign nationals, two from DRC and one from the Republic of Congo, were among those detained. Meanwhile, Angolan authorities have repatriated 26 DRC nationals for illegal stay in Zaire Province, the Foreign and Emigration Services (SEM) confirmed. Daily Nation

Passengers in Zimbabwe Caught in Bus Fire; 40 Killed
Fire swept through a passenger bus in Zimbabwe, and police said Friday that more than 40 people died and at least 20 were injured, some with severe burns. Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she did not have details about the cause of the accident on Thursday night. A photograph posted on Twitter by the Zimbabwe Red Cross shows the remains of a bus that was completely incinerated. The Red Cross said its teams responded to a “horrific accident” involving a bus heading to neighboring South Africa at around midnight. The accident happened in Gwanda district, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) south of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. AP

Zimbabwe’s Chamisa Says He’ll Testify to Inquiry Only If President Does
Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said on Thursday he would only testify before an inquiry into post-election violence that killed six people in August if President Emmerson Mnangagwa did the same. The July 30 poll was the first after Robert Mugabe was forced to resign following a coup in November 2017. In the aftermath of the vote, civilians died in an army crackdown on opposition protests. Chamisa lost a legal challenge to the election results but still maintains the vote was rigged and that Mnangagwa lacks legitimacy. A commission of inquiry led by former South African president Kgalema Motlante has heard evidence from security chiefs who this week denied soldiers had killed civilians and blamed Chamisa and other opposition leaders for inciting violence. Video from the Aug. 1 protests showed soldiers, some with their faces obscured by camouflage masks, opening fire with automatic weapons. Chamisa said he and former finance minister Tendai Biti were among leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who on Thursday received letters calling them to appear before the commission when it resumes hearings next week. Reuters