Africa Media Review for November 4, 2019

Jihadists attacked the Malian military near the border with Niger, leaving at least 53 soldiers and one civilian dead, in the second major assault against the country’s armed forces in a month, the government said Saturday. The latest violence to target Mali’s armed forces took place Friday in Indelimane, located in Mali’s volatile Menaka region. “Reinforcements have been sent to the scene and the situation is under control with the support of the French military, which is helping to evacuate the wounded,” government spokesman Yaya Sangare told The Associated Press. … The assailants were believed to have fled toward the border with Niger, Sangare said. The new violence is likely to further raise tensions in the capital, Bamako, where military families have already protested in the streets. They say that soldiers are not being given the resources on the ground that they need to confront an array of jihadist groups. … In a separate incident, a French army officer was killed when his armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device, according to an announcement Saturday morning by President Emmanuel Macron. AP

Ten people were killed in an ambush attributed to jihadists in Mozambique’s far north, witnesses said Friday, the latest attack in a region where suspected Islamist extremists have waged a campaign of terror for two years. Gunmen ambushed a truck near the village of Mbau in the northernmost Cabo Delgado province on Thursday, a witness said. “The vehicle was bogged down in a sandy road and suddenly unidentified people started shooting at us,” said a young businessman on condition of anonymity. He said that 10 people had been killed, a death toll confirmed by a villager. “The situation is deteriorating. People are leaving their villages” for the port city of Mocimboa, the villager said. AFP

Mozambique’s electoral commission has admitted that there were irregularities in the October 15 elections, which saw President Filipe Nyusi win a second five-year term. The country’s largest opposition party Renamo filed a suit on Wednesday calling for the election results to be annulled due to “massive electoral fraud.” The opposition submitted an official complaint to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) for a ruling by the constitutional council. … Rather than defend itself against the anomalies, the CNE said it would leave the judgement on how it conducted the elections and the validity of the results to the country’s Constitutional Court. “When we announced the results, no one heard us saying that the elections were free, fair and transparent,” CNE head Abdul Carimo said on Tuesday, October 29. … The Public Integrity Centre (CIP), a Mozambican NGO that observed elections, said the rejection of the election results could unleash a new political crisis. “If the Constitutional Court validates the polls it would pave the way for a political crisis, which would prevent the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process already inked from progressing,” CIP said. The East African

The deaths in northern Mozambique of military contractors employed by a Russian firm are raising new questions about Russia’s security presence in Africa. Five soldiers employed by the Wagner Group, a private military firm with connections to the Kremlin, and 20 soldiers in FADM, the Mozambique Defense Armed Forces, were killed in an ambush in Cabo Delgado Province’s Muidumbe district on Oct. 27, according to Carta de Moçambique, a local publication. Insurgents were said also to have burned two vehicles in the ambush. VOA reached out to the Mozambique government for comment but did not receive a response. Russia denies its soldiers are in Mozambique, and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier in October, “As far as Mozambique is concerned, there are no Russian soldiers there,” according to Russian state-owned media. … But the killings last week, counterterrorism experts warn, show the growing sophistication of insurgent groups operating in the region, and bring into question the effectiveness of Russian private military contractors assisting African governments. VOA

A widening rift between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and chief opposition leader Riek Machar has pushed Juba to the brink, raising tension across the country ahead of the November 12 deadline by which the two are supposed to have formed a Transitional Government of National Unity. The standoff, if not resolved in less than two weeks, could push South Sudan into a deep constitutional crisis or trigger armed conflict in the restive nation. The United Nations Security Council, US Congress and other Western powers have all insisted on the formation of TGoNU by the set deadline, to pave the way for reconciliation and enactment of a strong Constitution. Dr Machar, however, wants formation of the transitional government (TGoNU) delayed by up to six months, appealing that Juba has not met the conditions set in the 2018 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), including addressing fears for his personal security. He remains in exile in Khartoum.Analysts say formation of a transitional government in the absence of Dr Machar could throw the country into a legal quagmire. The East African

Algeria’s electoral authority has said the country’s presidential election next month will be contested by five candidates – all part of the political establishment that has drawn the ire of months-long protests demanding the departure of the ruling elite. The contenders are former Prime Ministers Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Ali Benflis, former Culture Minister Azzedine Mihoubi, former Tourism Minister Abdelkader Bengrine and Abdelaziz Belaid, head of the El Mostakbal Movement party. … The announcement came a day after tens of thousands of Algerians marched for a 37th consecutive week to demand an overhaul of the political system. … The demonstrators have repeatedly demanded key figures of the ruling elite step down and credible institutions be established before elections are held. The army, led by powerful chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, is seen as the main player in Algeria’s politics. Gaid Salah has also promised transparency and fairness for the December 12 vote. Al Jazeera

The protest movement that led to the removal of Sudan’s longtime President Omar al-Bashir has said it is not against handing over the deposed ruler to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be tried for alleged atrocities in Darfur. Al-Bashir, who was toppled by the army in April in the face of months-long protests against his rule, has long been wanted by the Hague-based ICC on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the devastating conflict in the western region of Darfur. … The transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of al-Bashir to the Hague. Also on Sunday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and across the country. The demonstrations were organised by local groups linked with the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded the uprising against al-Bashir. In Khartoum, the protesters called on authorities to step up an investigation into the hundreds of people who went missing on June 3, when security forces dispersed the main sit-in outside the military headquarters. Al Jazeera

Authorities in Benin are investigating the latest piracy case in the Gulf of Guinea, after nine crew members of Norwegian Ship MV Bonita were kidnapped on Saturday. The Norwegian shipping firm J.J. Ugland said the ship, which carried a cargo of gypsum, a mineral commonly used as fertiliser, was boarded by pirates while at anchor off the coast of Benin. “The Ugland Emergency Response Team are handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities. … The families of the crew members have been contacted and will be kept informed by Ugland,” the company said in a statement on Sunday. Citing safety reasons, Ugland did not reveal the crew’s nationalities or how many had avoided capture. While piracy has decreased worldwide, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is a high-risk area for abductions and armed robbery, the International Maritime Bureau, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement last month. Africa News

Nigeria said on Sunday its borders would remain closed to trade until at least January 31, 2020. Nigeria launched a partial border closure in August to tackle smuggling of rice and other goods. Last month the head of customs confirmed that all trade via land borders was halted indefinitely. Joseph Attah, spokesman for the Nigerian customs service said the “present phase” of the closure would end on January 31, 2020, and that would not be the end of the closure. “The operation is in phases, it will continue until the set objective is attained,” Attah told Reuters by phone. A private memo sent by the customs service comptroller for enforcement, Victor Dimka, to colleagues called the closure operation an “overwhelming success”, but said there were some strategic objectives yet to be achieved. The memo did not outline which objectives these were. Reuters

Somalia’s largest telecom has been “forced” into an unholy alliance with Al-Shabaab, and this is paradoxically enabling the firm to grow. A new report lays blame on a symbiotic relationship between Hormuud Telecom and Al-Shabaab for the resurgence of raids in Kenya and Somalia. The think-tank International Policy Group says in its report that the telco has been threatened and forced into working with the terrorist group, but from which it receives protection in return. … “Al-Shabaab has used extreme force to get Hormuud to kowtow to its guidelines, pay taxes and allow its agents access to the company’s technology for counter-intelligence operations,” the report titled Reaping the Whirlwind says. According to the report, some of those attacks were because of rivalry between Al-Shabaab factions. It says telco may have learnt survival skills in Al-Shabaab strongholds, and now takes part in facilitating raids which ultimately scares off rivals. Daily Nation

Kenya’s chief justice says budgets cuts have left judges unable to afford fuel to come to work in an attempt to make judiciary “a puppet” of other arms of government. Chief Justice David Maraga said Monday that the budget cuts had halted the use of mobile courts which helped people from remote areas get justice and also stopped a project to reduce the backlog of hundreds of thousands cases. He said the judiciary can no longer afford internet Wi-Fi. The budget cuts come after President Uhuru Kenyatta called the judiciary a bunch of crooks and promised to “fix” them after top courts nullified his election in 2017, citing illegalities and irregularities that went against the constitution. Kenyatta later won a rerun of the elections. AP

Kenya and Rwanda last week took contrasting missions to the Middle East in their search for trade and investment fortunes with President Paul Kagame going to Qatar, giving a wide berth to the Future Investment fronted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh and attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta. President Kagame’s diplomatic presence at the International Information Technology Conference and Exhibition in Doha was not wholly surprising given that Rwanda is leaving nothing to chance in becoming an advanced ICT hub in Africa. … Kagame and Kenyatta’s presence in the Middle East also came as the Saudis battle for influence in the Horn of Africa-in Somalia and Djibouti-with Qatar, and as Kenya seeks support from far and wide to become a temporary UN Security Council member for the 2021-22 session and also in its maritime border case with Somalia. The East African

A radio host who helped spread the word in the fight against Ebola has been stabbed to death at his home in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, the army said Sunday. The motive for the murder in the town of Lwemba in the troubled Ituri region was unknown, but it came as health authorities were set to introduce a new vaccine against the disease in unaffected areas. The attackers killed 35-year-old Papy Mumbere Mahamba and wounded his wife before burning down their home late Saturday, General Robert Yav, the commander of Congolese army forces in the Ituri town of Mambasa, told AFP. … On Saturday, the authorities said they had received 11,000 doses of a second anti-Ebola vaccine from Belgium, the DRC’s former colonial power. The Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine – an experimental product- is to be used to protect those living outside of direct Ebola transmission zones. AFP

While the Mediterranean Sea remains a deadly route for migrants attempting to reach the European Union, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that the African land journey to reach the Mediterranean coast remains far more lethal. Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean, said in an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that around twice as many migrants die crossing Africa as crossing the Mediterranean. “We assume that at least two times as many people probably die on their way to the Mediterranean Sea as in the sea itself,” he said. The actual number could “also be much higher,” he said; exact numbers could not be provided. “But it is a tragedy.” The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has identified transportation accidents, dehydration, violence, starvation and illness as the primary causes of death via land routes in 2018, the paper reported. DW

South Africans continued to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph on Sunday, with many in the sometimes fractious and troubled nation echoing Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s post-match message of unity and strength. … “The win has provided a welcome moment of optimism,” [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu said. “Though there has been much progress since the dark days of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, and deep tensions between communities remain. … Most newspapers and bulletins were still leading with the news of the win on Sunday morning. Many quoted the words of Kolisi, who grew up in deep poverty in Eastern Cape province and spoke immediately after the match of support from “people in the taverns, in the shebeens, farms, homeless people … and people in the rural areas.” “We have so many problems in our country. But to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races and we came together with one goal.” The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones