Africa Media Review for November 18, 2019

At Least 15 Civilians Killed in Eastern Congo by Suspected Islamist Militants
Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 15 people overnight in eastern Congo, local officials said on Saturday, in the latest massacre since the army launched a major offensive against the rebels last month. Democratic Republic of Congo’s army initiated its latest campaign, with support from U.N. peacekeepers, on Oct. 30 to root out fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) from the dense forests near the Ugandan border. As was the case during previous military operations against the ADF, its fighters have retaliated by attacking civilians, killing more than 40 since last week, according to local civil society activists. Attacks blamed by the government on the ADF have killed hundreds of civilians since 2014. The attacks on Friday in and around the village of Mbau were carried out with bladed weapons, local officials said. Among the eight victims in Mbau were six members of a single family. Reuters

DRC Army Takes Towns in ADF Stronghold
Congolese troops have retaken key operational areas and bases of the Ugandan rebel movement, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The army said in a brief note to the media that it had captured Kididiwe, Masulukwede, Vemba, Kadou and P46 in North Kivu near the Ugandan border. Kididiwe which bout 20km from the city of Beni, Eastern DRC. Beni is about 140kms from Ugandan border town of Kasese. The liberation of Kididiwe is a big success for the Congolese army considering that a joint military operation with UN force, MONUSCO in 2018 did not bear fruit. Several soldiers were felled while UN peacekeepers sustained serious injuries in deadly gun battles with ADF. Kididiwe was seen as a major stronghold of the ADF which the militants used to plan attacks in different parts of Beni. However, the Congolese army this week raised the national flag in Kididiwe. “The Congolese flag is flying again in the village of Kididiwe, a stronghold of the ADF rebels who have been hunted down and defeated by the FARDC,” the army said in a note seen by ChimpReports on Saturday. Chimp Reports

Burkina Faso Army: 32 “Terrorists” Killed in Two Operations
The Burkina Faso army said on Sunday it had killed 32 “terrorists” in two operations in the north of the country after an attack on a patrol. One soldier was killed in the operations, which come less than a month after 37 people were killed in an ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company. The army said 24 people were killed in the first operation on Friday and a further eight in a second on Saturday. The first operation in Yorsala in Loroum province saw a number of women who “had been held and used by the terrorists as sex slaves” freed. Arms, ammunition and other materials were also recovered in the second operation on the outskirts of Bourzanga in Bam province, the army statement added. The impoverished and politically fragile Sahel country has been struggling to quell a rising jihadist revolt that has claimed hundreds of lives since early 2015. The attacks — typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings — have claimed nearly 700 lives across the country since early 2015, according to an AFP toll. Almost 500,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes. AFP

Burkina Faso: A Terrorist Gold Mine
There is a gold rush in Africa’s Sahel region. A number of new mines have been opened there since a vein of gold was discovered in 2012. The Boungou mine in northeastern Burkina Faso, for instance, was opened between 2017 and mid-2018. But the region is also increasingly under threat from Islamists. Last week, at least 39 people were killed in attacks on buses carrying workers to Boungou; another 60 were injured. … The Boungou mine is operated by SEMAFO, a Canadian mining company. Speaking during a visit to Burkina Faso early last week, CEO Benoit Desormeaux said: “We have been with the Burkinabe people for many years. We want to see, together, how we can continue to collaborate whilst ensuring that we do so in a secure manner.” Yet that security is now being called into question. In its most recent report, the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, writes that Islamists first took control of gold mines in the Sahel in 2016. The report claims that local security forces have been hesitant to protect rural areas, and that hesitation has had deadly consequences… DW

Communal Violence in Central Mali Kills at Least 20 People
Mali’s government says at least 20 people were killed in central Mali after an attack on a Fulani village as communal violence increases in the region. The government said Friday that Mali’s army found the bodies Wednesday in the village of Peh. It said unidentified gunmen dressed as traditional hunters came from a nearby village in Burkina Faso. Malian forces went to the village after hearing of the night attack, forcing the assailants to abandon stolen livestock. The government said they are searching for the attackers. The assault comes as communal violence between Fulani herders and Dogon hunters increases over territory and resources. The Fulani are often targeted because of their alleged association with jihadist groups as Islamic extremist threats grow along the Mali and Burkina Faso border region. AP

Mali’s Military Abandons Isolated Outposts amid Attacks
Dozens of soldiers posted to Mali’s remote northern town of Labezanga served as the last line of defense against extremists roaming the surrounding desert. Then one evening earlier this month the military pulled up stakes and left, part of a reorganization following a wave of attacks on other far-flung outposts. The 60 soldiers have been assigned to more central bases, the closest some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. “There is no military … no police left in our village,” one concerned resident told local radio. “People are calm but we have been left at the mercy of this insecurity.” Mali’s military reorganization comes amid devastating extremist attacks that have left more than 100 soldiers dead in just six weeks’ time. Soldiers also have left the community of Andraboukane in the Menaka region, where no mobile phone service even exists. Their departure created panic among residents who fear the return of extremists who controlled major towns, including theirs, in 2012 and implemented a harsh version of Islamic law. A French-led military intervention forced them back into the desert, where they have regrouped. AP

Ethiopia’s Sidama Vote Highlights Battles over Autonomy
Members of Ethiopia’s Sidama ethnic group are expected to vote Wednesday to form a breakaway regional state — a milestone that risks further destabilising the country ahead of next year’s national elections. The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police. In Hawassa, the regional capital, some fear a return of those tensions, but resident Cherinet Deguye said the violence will have been worth it if the referendum passes and the Sidama get a state of their own — an outcome analysts believe is likely. “The process leading to the referendum has come with a bitter price with many of our people killed and injured,” Cherinet told AFP last week shortly after registering to vote. “But there is a great deal of excitement and the atmosphere is currently peaceful.” AFP

African Union Says South Sudan Leaders Have ‘Last Chance’
The African Union said Friday that South Sudan’s duelling leaders had one final chance to form a government, backing US warnings that patience with the fledgling young nation’s government had run out. “I think both our friends here in Washington and us think that this cannot be a game of extending all the time,” said Smail Chergui, the African Union’s commissioner for peace and security. “This maybe is the last chance for them to respond — first, to the will of their people. South Sudanese are tired of war,” Chergui told reporters after talks between the AU and US in Washington, without specifying consequences if the efforts to form a government again fail. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar — whose falling out in 2013, two years after independence, sparked a conflict that has since left hundreds of thousands dead — had agreed to form a coalition government by November 12. AFP

Algeria Kicks Off Presidential Campaign, 5 Candidates to Run
Algeria’s presidential campaign officially kicked off Sunday with five candidates vying to replace the country’s longtime leader, who was pushed out in April amid sustained protests. Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are among those running in the Dec. 12 election to succeed former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Big crowds took to the streets Friday for a 39th consecutive week to demand an end to Algeria’s post-colonial political system. Protesters say they don’t trust those currently in power to ensure democratic elections, citing their past links to Bouteflika. Benflis and Tebboune are considered the favorites of the vote. In some neighborhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits, often sprayed with the words “election of shame” and “traitors.” Benflis said this week that “this election is not held in ideal conditions, I know that, but I consider it is the shorter and less risky path to get Algeria out of the political impasse caused by the former regime.” AP

Burundi Main Opposition Leader Dispels Exile Rumors, Ready for 2020 Polls
Burundi’s main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has confirmed plans that his party will contest in elections slated for next year. He also denounced what he described as “arrangements” aimed at “getting rid” of his party, the National Freedom Council. With months before the 2020 presidential election, the historic opposition figure also dispelled rumours of going to exile amid government’s intimidation to the opposition party members and supporters. “Are you asking if I’m going into exile or going to hide? No I’m not. Go tell them there is no question of going into exile, there is no question of going into hiding, what we’re doing is preparing for 2020.” “The goal of these arrangements is to get rid of the CNL, to try to hurt Rwasa, to disband the CNL militants, to ensure the CNL’s rivals that they can cruise through the upcoming elections,” Rwasa told journalists. Intimidation of suspected opposition supporters has been rife since a constitutional referendum in May last year and the abuses have increased since CNL was registered in February, according to Human Rights Watch. Africa News

The Vanishing: Ghana’ Defenders Face New Perils in Fight against Overfishing
Emmanuel Essien was a fishing observer, one of Ghana’s frontline defenders against an overfishing crisis that is among the worst in west Africa. Illegal and destructive practices by foreign-owned trawlers are draining the Ghanaian economy of an estimated £50m a year. Along its 350-mile coastline, overfishing has driven small pelagic species known as “people’s fish,” the staple diet, to the verge of collapse. In 2015, as part of a $55m World Bank project, Ghana placed an observer on every industrial trawler, to collect data and report violations of fisheries law. Around the world, the work of these observers is becoming ever more dangerous. In 2017, a report by Human Rights At Sea found six cases of disappearances of observers in the Pacific. It concluded their work was hampered by “inadequate legal protection” and “physical danger.” … [Essien’s] disappearance on 5 July from a trawler called Meng Xin 15, and the failure of the authorities to find out what happened, has devastated his family and shocked Ghana’s fishing community. The Guardian

Huawei’s Pitch to African Mayors: “Our Cameras Will Make You Safe”
But the most important advance of them all, [Huawei salesman] Abrahams intones solemnly, is in security. “This area around public safety is very important. We drive a philosophy where we say ‘safe city first, before smart city.’ Because if it’s not safe, no one will invest there.” … When it comes to the technology behind Huawei’s Smart Cities project, not everyone tells such uplifting stories. … Human Rights Watch describes this technology as “algorithms of repression”. … These are issues that Huawei’s salesmen would prefer not to dwell on, although it is not difficult to see the potential for abuse in the technology they want to sell to African cities and governments. After their pitch, Liu declines to be interviewed, but Abrahams is happy to chat – and the more he chats, the more Orwellian he sounds. … “These recognition algorithms check what clothes you’re wearing, what shoes are on your feet. It actually checks your gait, because everybody’s gait is unique. … The nice part of that is your past now catches up with you.” … “I found your presentation very interesting,” said one official from Somaliland. “This big data, and smart cities, and that stuff. It’s the stuff we need to do in Africa.” Mail & Guardian

UN Adds Bomb-Making Materials to Somalia Arms Embargo
The United Nations Security Council added ingredients for home-made explosive devices that are increasingly being used by the Al-Shabaab militant group to an arms embargo on Somalia Friday. The British-drafted resolution prevents the sale, supply and transfer of several chemical materials as it noted a surge in homemade bomb attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked group. The addition follows a recommendation by UN experts in October that the embargo should restrict access to the chemicals it said Al-Shabaab had been using to manufacture IEDS since at least July 2017. Members passed the resolution — which renews the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces until December 2020 — by 12 votes to zero. There were three abstentions. Al-Shabaab has been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade and, while it has lost ground, continues to stage deadly attacks. AFP

Somalia Tries to Keep Rival Gulf States at Bay
Somalia’s president says his government is under constant pressure to choose from among three rival Persian Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The Somali government has tried to remain neutral, despite having a good working relationship with Qatar. Analysts warns that the rivalry and competing security interests are having a negative impact on Somalia’s politics and stability. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – also known as Farmaajo – wrapped up a four-day visit to Kenya Friday. While there, he addressed members of Nairobi’s large Somali community, and spoke about the challenges his administration is facing, especially from some Arab countries. … Farmaajo also addressed the poor relationships between his government in Mogadishu and Somalia’s federal regions. He said some regional presidents and foreign countries are competing with his government for power. … Somalia is just 15 months away from its next national poll, when the government is planning to conduct a one person-one vote election for the first time. VOA

Compact with Africa: Enthusiasm Wanes for the ‘Merkel Plan’
It looks set to be another big day for Chancellor Angela Merkel: The heads of state of the G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) countries are meeting for the third time in Berlin on Tuesday, November 19. And the German government has ensured the bar is high. Merkel launched the Compact back in 2017 during Germany’s G20 presidency with a promise to generate additional private investment in African states. In turn, participating African states would commit themselves to implementing economic reforms. A “Merkel Plan,” joked Ivory Coast president, Alassane Ouattara. But much of the initial excitement has since waned. “At the time, there were unrealistic expectations that a few measures could boost investment,” Robert Kappel, a German economist from the Institute of African Studies in Leipzig, told DW. Nevertheless, the meeting is expected to produce some positive news, including, among other things, the presentation of the so-called “flagship projects” of German companies in Africa. DW

Nigerian Entrepreneur Temie Giwa-Tubosun Wins Jack Ma’s African Business Hero Award
A Nigerian entrepreneur has taken home the top prize at the Jack Ma Foundation’s first annual prize for African businesses. Temie Giwa-Tubosun walked away with the top $250,000 cash prize from the $1 million available from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), started by Chinese investor Jack Ma. The organization says it will award a $1m grant to 10 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years.Giwa-Tubosun is the founder and CEO of LifeBank, a Lagos-based blood and oxygen delivery company that connects registered blood banks to hospitals and patients in need of urgent blood supplies. She said: “The Africa Netpreneur Prize will give me the resources to grow LifeBank and expand our presence in Nigeria and throughout the rest of Africa. I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa.” CNN



Photo: Adam Jones