Africa Media Review for November 6, 2019

France has announced the death of a top jihadist leader in Mali, as it continues to push for European support in fighting the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel. French Defence Minister Florence Parly told the AFP news agency that French troops killed Ali Maychou, a Moroccan, and co-founder of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), or the Group to Support Islam and Muslims. He was “the second most-wanted terrorist in the Sahel, including by the Americans”, after JNIM’s number one Iyad Ag Ghaly, she said, on board a French government plane, returning from an official visit to the region. The group has claimed responsibility for the biggest attacks in the Sahel since its official launch in 2017. It is made up of several jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Maychou was killed during the night of 8-9 October, with the help of Malian troops and US support, Parly said. … France has been trying to convince European partners to boost military assistance, and Parly said on Tuesday in Mali that a decision was imminent. RFI

A digital war is unfolding in Mali alongside a jihadist conflict that has claimed thousands of lives: the battle to sway young minds is being waged on the mobile phone. “Jihadists today are recruiting on WhatsApp. We have to stop the bloodshed,” said Hama Cisse, a moderate imam. He says fiery sermons relayed through the mobile phone application by jihadist leader Amadou Koufa are luring young men from the Fulani ethnic community to join his ranks. “Our children are leaving and getting themselves killed with Koufa, and there’s more and more of them every day,” Cisse said. In the 1980s, then a Koranic student, Koufa was a roving storyteller – a deep-rooted oral tradition in Mali – reciting love poems in exchange for a few coins. Much later, after completing his religious education abroad, Koufa re-invented himself as radical, preaching a hardline form of Islam. AFP

But now medics say they are seeing something new: narrow holes in a head or a torso left by bullets that kill instantly and never exit the body. It is the work, Libyan fighters say, of Russian mercenaries, including skilled snipers. The lack of an exit wound is a signature of the ammunition used by the same Russian mercenaries elsewhere. The snipers are among about 200 Russian fighters who have arrived in Libya in the last six weeks, part of a broad campaign by the Kremlin to reassert its influence across the Middle East and Africa. After four years of behind-the-scenes financial and tactical support for a would-be Libyan strongman, Russia is now pushing far more directly to shape the outcome of Libya’s messy civil war. It has introduced advanced Sukhoi jets, coordinated missile strikes, and precision-guided artillery, as well as the snipers – the same playbook that made Moscow a kingmaker in the Syrian civil war. The New York Times

President Paul Kagame has dropped Richard Sezibera as minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing him with long-serving Minister of Environment Vincent Biruta, in a major Cabinet reshuffle announced Monday evening. Mr Sezibera had been undergoing treatment since July this year and until Monday’s reshuffle, his duties had been temporarily be assumed by State Minister for Regional Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe. Mr Sezibera had served in Foreign Affairs having replaced Louis Mushikiwabo, who is now stationed in France as the head of the La Francophonie. His replacement, Mr Biruta, 60, is a seasoned politician who has served in several ministerial positions, and as president of the senate. … President Kagame also made a major change in the army by promoting Jean-Bosco Kazura, 56, to a full General and also appointing him to the Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces. He replaces Gen Patrick Nyanvumba who served in that capacity since 2013 and will now serve as minister in the newly created ministry of Internal Security. The East African

Botswana’s freshly elected president Mokgweetsi Masisi has nominated four women as specially nominated Members of Parliament, increasing the number of female representatives to seven. Botswana’s 12th National Assembly is composed of 57 elected parliamentarians, of which 54 are men. The president reiterated the need to increase the presence and participation of women in politics. The Southern Africa Development Community electoral observation mission regretted the low number of female candidates in the country’s polls held last month. “While women account for 55 percent of registered voters in Botswana, the 2019 elections represent a downward shift in the representation women in political leadership, particularly at the National Assembly level”, Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, who was the head of the observation mission. In 2014 female representation in politics stood at 8.7 percent. Out of the 192 parliamentary aspirants 17 were women. … Special nomination is a presidential dispensation, which allows the head of state to rope in expertise, which will lend insightful expertise to the legislation arm of government. Africa News

Zimbabwe state workers will go ahead with Wednesday’s street protest after the government failed to give in to their demand for U.S. dollar-indexed salaries to cushion them against soaring inflation, union officials said on Tuesday. Police have given the Apex Council of public sector unions permission to march for better pay in what is widely seen as a test of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent after banning recent opposition protests. Workers are enduring Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis in a decade, with triple-digit inflation, unemployment above 90%, acute shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and rolling power cuts that have hit mines and industry. Workers had expected the government to at least bring a new wage offer at Tuesday’s meeting. The government says it cannot afford dollar-indexed pay, which would see the least paid worker earn 7,293 Zimbabwe dollars ($475) a month from 1,023 Zimbabwe dollars now. Reuters

A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of the military exercise tagged Operation Positive Identification which the Nigerian Army said it would begin this month across the country. A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, had on October 25 filed a suit against the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Attorney-General of the Federation over the exercise. Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, asked the court to declare the operation scheduled for November 1 to December 23 as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. At the hearing of the matter on Tuesday, the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff who were listed as 1st and 2nd respondents in the matter had no legal representation. … The Nigerian army initially began Operation Positive Identification in the north-east last September to check fleeing Boko Haram and ISWAP members in the region. The military later announced it would extend the exercise nationwide, prompting Mr Falana to approach the court. Premium Times

Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has assured residents that the city is safe, hours after suspected members of the terrorist Boko Haram sect were apprehended and their plan foiled by security operatives, before they could attack a university in Nigeria’s most populous city and commercial capital. In a statement signed by his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, Sanwo-Olu “praised the gallantry of officers of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army who foiled an attempted attack on one of the universities in Lagos.” Referring to the operation that led to “the arrest of the Boko Haram suspects by the military operatives, the governor maintained that the security apparatus of the state has strategies in place to forestall any threat to the peace that exists in Lagos.” Pulse

Somalia’s al-Shabab militants have released a video that for the first time gives a partial view of the group’s leader, Abu Ubaidah. The video, released Tuesday, shows Ubaidah meeting with Shabab fighters in a forest before the group’s failed Sept. 30 raid on Ballidogle, an airbase used by U.S. forces in Somalia. The video shows Ubaidah’s hands and shoulders but blurs out his face. His voice his heard addressing the would-be attackers, telling them to target U.S. military personnel in the attack. “Our biggest target today is the Americans, not the apostates,” he says. “The only reason we have exerted all this effort and undertaken all this preparation today is to attack the American troops. Therefore you must carry out the operation with great efficiency.” The U.S. has offered a reward of up to $6 million for information leading to Ubaidah’s capture. … Meanwhile, Somali authorities have launched a background check system to stop the infiltration of al-Shabab and other militant groups into government offices. The program creates a database storing personal information as well contacts and addresses of federal government employees. VOA

The top general for U.S. military operations in Africa visited Somalia Tuesday to meet with leaders and discuss the fight against extremists in the Horn of Africa nation. U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said he would “assess the progress” of the U.S. military campaign to keep pressure on the Islamic State terror group and the local al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab, calling them a threat to “African partners, to U.S. interests in East Africa, as well as to the U.S. homeland.” “Terrorists need to know we will pursue them relentlessly,” said Townsend. “Our actions make Somalia, the region, and the U.S. safer and more secure.” The general said he believes these groups “possess the desire and intent to attack the U.S.” but lack the capability to do so thanks to military force against them. Townsend discussed security developments with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, more commonly known as “Farmajo,” and the chief of staff of the Somali Armed Forces, Gen. Mohamed Ali Barise, on Tuesday. VOA

The Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets are conducting exercises in tandem to help East African and Indian Ocean nations combat seagoing crimes and other threats in the region. This first-time coupling of the sea policing drill Cutlass Express with the large-scale International Maritime Exercise, or IMX, will boost security efforts among the more than 60 participating navies as well as the two U.S. fleets whose theaters border each other, the Navy said. “As we all know, crime at sea doesn’t heed any imaginary lines that we’ve drawn that separate our fleets,” Rear Adm. Nancy Lacore, 6th Fleet’s vice commander, told Stars and Stripes. “They flow freely across the Indian Ocean regardless of where we put a line down.” The exercise helps African navies police seaborne crimes like illegal fishing, gun running and unlawful ship fueling, Lacore said. The region’s growing economy and improved infrastructure feed illicit activities as much as legal ones, threatening the countries’ stability and leaving them more open for violent extremists and U.S. rivals to exploit, said Christopher Jasparro, national security affairs professor at the Naval War College. Stars and Stripes

Sudan’s first-ever satellite to carry out research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, the African country’s governing council said. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, announced on Tuesday the launch of the satellite at a meeting of his top security officials held in the capital, Khartoum. “The satellite aims to develop research in space technology, acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country’s military needs,” a statement issued by the council said. Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reported that the Sudan Remote Sensing Satellite (SRSS-1), was launched on Sunday from the northern Chinese province of Shanxi. Spokesman of the ruling body, Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman told AFP news agency that “in a few months the satellite would be monitored from Sudan.” Al Jazeera

Ethiopia will soon start importing cheaper refined oil from South Sudan to substitute the more expensive product from the Middle East. Koang Tutlam, Ethiopia’s State minister for Mines and Petroleum, announced on Wednesday that this will save Addis Ababa 15 per cent to 20 per cent on the $3.4 billion it spends importing close to four million tonnes of refined products. “We import almost all of our oil and other refined products from the Middle East, but owing to the proximity of about 200km between the oilfields of Pagak and Adar and the Ethiopian border, we stand to save so much,” Mr Tutlam told journalists attending the two-day South Sudan Oil and Gas Conference in Juba. The conference was organised by South Sudan’s Petroleum Ministry in partnership with African Oil and Power, an organisation that brings together ministers and senior government officials and top executives of private sector companies spanning the energy value chain. The East African

A wide, cobblestoned road leads to Gondar’s only synagogue. The town in Northern Ethiopia is home to the largest community of Ethiopians who practice Judaism. They call themselves Beta Israel. Every morning, Ashenafi Asefa leads the prayer as worshippers dressed in white find a spot on the wooden benches, a Torah open in their hands. “Some of us have been here [in Gondar] for more than 25 years,” the young religious leader explained. “Some of our relatives are [in Israel] with their families. Now we are the ones left behind in our journey to Israel.” Around 4000 Jews live in Gondar, close to the synagogue and the Israeli Consulate. Many came from rural areas and chose to settle within the community, while waiting to make their way to the Promised Land. The majority has at least one relative in Israel. … The reason why some individuals have to wait years before being allowed to emigrate, if they succeed at all, is unclear to many. According to a ‘law of return’ all Jews are allowed to move to Israel. But the Beta Israel of Gondar are not officially considered Jews. DW

The day I meet Ollo, in a park in Kampala, Uganda’s lush green, fume-enveloped capital, he is dressed in a silent disco T-shirt with tight canary yellow trousers. Now a 19-year-old television and radio presenter brimming with self-confidence, these days he uses the internet for more serious research. Styling himself a youth motivator and social activist – he runs a programme called “Ollo Experience Uganda” with campaigns such as the “Ollo Green Teen Experience” – he scours the web for the latest information on reusable sanitary pads, entrepreneurship and climate change. … The median age in Africa, the world’s most rapidly urbanising continent, is 19.4. That is about half the equivalent in Europe. The generation born at the turn of the century has approached adulthood in a world transformed by technology and in a continent that, for all its deep-rooted problems and daily tragedies, is not predominantly the Africa of wars and famines that has such a hold on the western imagination. FT



Photo: Adam Jones