Africa Media Review for November 27, 2017

Mosque Attack in Egypt’s Sinai Kills at Least 305
A terrorist attack that targeted a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has left at least 305 people dead and more than 120 wounded Friday, according to the public prosecutor’s office. The death toll makes it the deadliest attack in the country’s recent history. At least 27 of those killed were children, according to the prosecutor’s office. Chief Prosecutor Nabil Sadeq said in a statement Saturday that between 25 and 30 people carried out the attack after arriving in five all-terrain vehicles, according to The Associated Press. “Teams of attackers set off bombs and then opened fire as worshippers tried to flee,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reports. “Others used rocket-propelled grenades.” “The Egyptian government launched airstrikes overnight on what it said were hideouts and fighters involved in the attack,” she adds. NPR

Egyptian Village Where Mosque Was Attacked Had Been Warned
Elders of a village in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where militants killed 305 people in a mosque had been warned by Islamic State operatives to stop collaborating with security forces and to suspend rituals associated with Islam’s mystical Sufi movement, security officials and residents said Sunday. The latest warning came as recently as a week ago, telling villagers in Al-Rawdah not to hold Sufi rituals on Nov. 29-30 to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, according to residents and the officials who work for security and military intelligence agencies operating in Sinai. Local operatives of the Islamic State affiliate in Sinai consider Sufis to be heretics who should be killed. Ahmed Saqr, an expert on the Sinai insurgency, said militants had publicly identified the mosque, which also serves as a Sufi center, as a target months ago. He wrote Saturday in a Facebook post that the selection of the Al-Rawdah mosque as a target “raises questions about those who read, analyze and prepare in our security agencies,” and whether anything could have been done to prevent the “untold horrors.”  AP

Islamic State Raises Stakes with Egypt Mosque Attack
The mosque was packed with hundreds of worshippers for Friday prayers in Egypt’s North Sinai when gunmen in military-style uniforms and masks appeared in a doorway and at windows. The ease with which they mounted an attack – killing more than 300 people in the worst bloodshed of its kind in Egypt’s modern history – highlighted the threat militant groups pose in the most populous Arab country. After four years of battling Islamic State in the Sinai, where the group has killed hundreds of soldiers and police, authorities still face an enemy with growing ambitions in Egypt, despite its defeats in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Reuters

Egypt’s Options Dwindling in Its Fight against Militants
The scale of the bloodshed was vastly higher than past militant attacks but the Egyptian government response the same: three days of mourning, reassuring messages in the media that things are under control, and the president promising vengeance. The identical pattern in the aftermath of Friday’s attack on a mosque in Sinai, which killed 305 people, raises the question whether Egypt has any options left in the fight against Islamic militants. The military has thrown tanks, fighting vehicles, fighter-jets, warships and helicopter gunships along with tens of thousands of security forces in three years of conflict with extremists, including an affiliate of the Islamic State group in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The area has been under emergency law for several years and the entire country since April. Security forces have forcibly evacuated areas adjacent to the border with Gaza, razing residents’ houses and farmlands. They have blown up underground tunnels that authorities believe jihadis used to smuggle weapons and fighters in from neighboring Gaza, ruled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. AP

Zimbabwe’s New Leader Stirs Fears That He Resembles the Old One
When Robert Mugabe stepped down as president this week, Mevion Gambiza, 28, quickly joined the throng of people celebrating the sudden end of his 37-year rule. Mr. Gambiza jumped on the roof of a taxi and rode around as the driver honked through the streets of the capital. But by Friday morning, Mr. Gambiza, like many other Zimbabweans, had sobered up. By the time he came to the National Sport Stadium to watch the swearing-in of the new president — Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr. Mugabe’s longtime right-hand man — it was more to witness history than from any enthusiasm. “Nothing will change; poverty and suffering will continue,” said Mr. Gambiza, a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe. The only difference now, he said, was that one faction of the governing party had “outcompeted its rival, and now Mnangagwa’s bootlickers will have their full turn to loot from the state coffers.”  The New York Times

Zimbabwe Detains Former Finance Minister on Corruption
Zimbabwe’s former finance minister, Ignatious Chombo, has been held in custody until Monday, when a court will rule on his bail application in his corruption trial. This comes the day after Zimbabwe’s new president was sworn in. Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from Harare. Al Jazeera

Zimbabwe Court Coup Ruling Raises Concern over Mnangagwa
A High Court judge in Zimbabwe ruled on Saturday that the military takeover leading to ex-President Robert Mugabe’s resignation was legal, and therefore not a coup d’etat. At the same time, another court ruled that Mugabe’s sacking of his former deputy, current President Emmerson Mnangagwa was illegal – prompting fears over judicial independence under the country’s new administration. “Two incredible judgements,” Dewa Mavhinga, director of Human Rights Watch for southern Africa, wrote on Twitter. “Strange, captured judiciary?” Mavhinga’s comments echo the concerns of many observers and people in Zimbabwe who worry that the new president, a longtime Mugabe ally nicknamed “the crocodile,” may carry on in the same brutal manner as his predecessor. Deutsche Welle

4 UN Peacekeepers, Malian Soldier Killed in Jihadist Attacks
Four U.N. peacekeepers and a Malian soldier were killed and 21 people were wounded Friday in two separate attacks by unknown assailants in Mali, the U.N. mission there said. Regional armies, U.N. forces, and French and U.S. soldiers are struggling to halt the growing influence of Islamist militants, some with links to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, in West Africa’s Sahel region. Mali’s U.N. mission, MINUSMA, has suffered the highest number of fatalities among current U.N. peacekeeping operations. “I condemn in the strongest terms this attack that has once again befallen the MINUSMA force as well as the [Malian army],” U.N. mission head Mahamat Saleh Annadif said in a statement. VOA

Ethiopia to Go Ahead with Multi-Billion Dollar Nile Dam
Ethiopia said on Saturday no amount of misunderstanding would compel it to halt construction of the $4.8 billion mega hydro dam project on River Nile. Seleshi Bekele, the Ethiopian minister of water, electricity and irrigation, said the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has completed 63 percent of its construction and soon it will be generating electricity. He was speaking at a news conference at his office in the capital Addis Ababa. His remarks came amidst heightening tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt. Last month, a meeting of water ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in Cairo ended, without reaching an agreement on the “inception report” put forth by the international consultants — BRL and Artelia — hired by the three countries to study the impact of the dam. Anadolu Agency

Zambian Troops Arrive in Lesotho as Standby Force
The first contingent of troops from Zambia arrived in Lesotho Saturday as part of a standby force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), meant to assist the security crisis in the country. A senior Lesotho government spokesman, Ramakhula Ramakhula, told Anadolu Agency in a text message late Saturday that the Zambian contingent arrived at Maseru Bridge (the capital) at 22:30 Local time (08.30 GMT) The SADC, a bloc of 15 southern African countries, approved in September the deployment of a standby force consisting of the military, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) in managing the security crisis in the country. The approval followed the murder of the LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. Anadolu Agency

Liberia’s Liberty Party to Appeal Election Fraud Case to Supreme Court
Liberia’s opposition Liberty Party will take its claims of election fraud to the Supreme Court this week after the electoral commission ruled on Friday that the first-round Oct. 10 vote was fair, it said on Sunday. The appeal will likely set the West African country’s presidential election back well into December, and could result in the first round poll being re-run, which could delay the first democratic transfer of power in over 70 years by months. Ex football star George Weah was meant to face Vice-President Joseph Boakai in a run-off vote in early November to determine who will replace Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Reuters

Migrant Crisis: Boat Sinks off Libya, Killing at Least 31
At least 31 migrants have died after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Saturday. They had been trying to cross the Mediterranean along with another boat. Children were among the dead. Some 60 people were rescued from the water and 140 picked up from the second boat. Mild weather conditions and calm seas has led to a rise in the number of migrants leaving Libya for Europe in recent days. Some 250 people were rescued by the Libyan coastguard on Thursday. And Italy’s coastguard said on Tuesday it had rescued 1,100 people. BBC

Macron Visits Africa amid Anger over Human Trafficking and Slavery
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, will start a four-day visit to Africa on Monday amid growing anger across the continent about politicians’ collective failure to do more to clamp down on human trafficking, and even slave auctions, in Libya. The revelations by CNN of apparent slave auctions in Libya a fortnight ago led to widespread condemnation, but also claims that European politicians had been repeatedly warned about the dire state of Libyan migrant detention centres, including systematic abuse, amounting to slavery. Macron has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council this week, saying such auction houses are a crime against humanity. The fierceness of his intervention may have been prompted by his high-profile visit to sub-Saharan Africa built around a carefully crafted theme of empowering Africa’s youth. The Guardian

Ethiopia Says Ethnic Clashes Kill More Than 20 in past Week
Ethiopia’s government says more than 20 people have been killed in renewed clashes between ethnic Oromos and Somalis in the past week. Spokesman Negeri Lenco says 98 people were arrested in the Oromia region and five arrested in the Somali region. A long-standing border dispute and an increased military presence in the regions triggered the recent fighting. Officials agreed to reconcile differences in April and troops were deployed to major roads, but clashes have continued. Fighting in September killed several dozen people and displaced tens of thousands of Oromos. AP

President Al-Bashir Says U.S. Plans to Divide Sudan into Five Countries
Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir reiterated his accusations against the United States of and accused Washington of planning to divide his country into five states. Sudanese were surprised to hear al-Bashir on his first visit to Russia asks President Vladimir Putin to support his country against American plans against the Sudan. Last October, Washington lifted economic sanctions on Sudan and the two countries engaged discussion on the removal of the east African country from the list of states sponsor of terrorism. During his recent work visit to Russia, the Sudanese president gave in a long interview to the Russian government-controlled RIA Novosti. Its full text has been published by the Arabic service of Sputnik (Voice of Russia) which is described as a “Russian propaganda” outlet. Sudan Tribune

Senegal Lifts Immunity of Jailed Dakar Mayor
Senegal’s national assembly has lifted the parliamentary immunity of Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, a leading opponent of President Macky Sall, opening the way for his trial on graft charges. The mayor has been in pre-trial detention since March on what his supporters say are politically-motivated charges. After a raucous debate, the deputies late on Saturday voted by 125 to 27 to back a report by a parliamentary commission calling for Sall’s immunity to be lifted. Earlier Saturday, security forces fired tear gas to break up a demonstration of dozens of his supporters outside the assembly, in the centre of the Senegalese capital, local media said. AFP

Boko Haram in New Raid on Town in Nigeria
Boko Haram fighters briefly overran a town in northeast Nigeria in a raid to loot food supplies, military and civilian militia sources said on Sunday, in the latest attack in the restive region. The attack happened on Saturday evening when a large number of jihadists stormed Magumeri, some 50km north of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri. The town and surrounding area have been attacked before by fighters loyal to the Islamic State-group supported factional leader of Boko Haram, Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi. In July, at least 69 people – most of them soldiers and civilian militia members – were killed in an ambush on a heavily armed convoy escorting an oil exploration team. “It was a huge invasion,” a military source in Maiduguri told AFP of Saturday night’s attack. AFP

Kenyan Military Quietly Makes Changes in Its Top Ranks
The Kenyan military has quietly effected key changes in its top ranks, a departure from a recent trend where the defence forces were slowly opening up to greater public scrutiny. Major-General Charles Gituai is now the general officer in charge of the Western Command. Until his appointment, he was the chief of staff in the East Africa Standby Force. Colonel David Obonyo is now in charge of Public Affairs at the Department of Defence headquarters in Nairobi. He replaced Col Joseph Owuoth, who barely survived three months on the job. The holder of the office is the official spokesman of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). Maj-Gen Gituai replaced Maj- Gen George Owinow, who doubled as the commandant of the Kenya Military Academy. Daily Nation

Algeria’s Ruling Parties Retain Majority in Local Elections 
Algeria’s ruling parties retained their majority in local elections, taking more than 50 percent of the vote, the interior minister said on Friday. Turnout in Thursday’s vote reached 46.83 percent, slightly up on 42.92 percent in 2012, the minister Noureddine Bedoui told reporters. Participation is closely watched by officials as they attempt to reverse a trend of increasing political apathy. More than half of Algeria’s population are under 30 and many feel disconnected from the ageing elite which runs the country. The elections come amid continuing questions over the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999 and has made only rare appearances since suffering a stroke in 2013. Reuters

Congo’s Child Labor Spurs Demand from Apple, Tesla for Ethically Produced Cobalt
Some estimates say more than a third of all cars in the world could be electric in 20 years. But as the demand and interest for an obscure mineral increases, car manufactures are presented with a new challenge: acquiring enough in time to make electric vehicles. Tesla is among the companies looking for stable and responsibly-sourced supply chains of cobalt, which helps power everything from smartphones to laptops to electric vehicles. It’s a key ingredient in lithium batteries, a product that has seen an explosion in demand recently. But 60 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where children often do much of the hard labor. Because of that, Apple and Tesla are among companies refusing to use what they term “unethical cobalt” in their batteries. In 2014, a spokesperson for Tesla promised to use only cobalt mined in North America. CBS



Photo: Adam Jones