Africa Media Review for October 1, 2019

Key leaders of the Anglophone separatist movement in Cameroon boycotted the first day of a national dialogue that government hopes will resolve the decades-old conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country. Nearly 3,000 people have died and half a million fled their homes since fighting broke out in 2017 between the army and insurgents who want independence for Cameroon’s two English-speaking provinces. President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 37 years, announced the dialogue earlier this month hoping to end the crisis that is also hurting the economy of the coffee and cocoa-producing Central African state. As the five-day talks opened at the Congressional palace in the capital Yaounde on Monday, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute called on all participants to be “true architects of peace.” Dion Ngute, who is leading the negotiations, added that the “preoccupations” between the opposing sides were “not unsolvable.” Africa News

Twin Al-Shabab Attacks in Somalia Target U.S. and European Armed Forces
Al-Shabab, a Somali militant organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed two attacks in Somalia on Monday, both targeting Western forces backing the government. The U.S. Africa Command and the Somali government said no coalition members were injured or killed, but the brazenness of the attacks highlighted the insurgent group’s continued ability to destabilize the country. One attack, apparently led by an explosives-laden vehicle and followed by foot soldiers, took place at the gates of Baledogle airfield, where the U.S. military stations drones and trains Somali soldiers. The second took place in the capital, Mogadishu, and involved the bombing of an Italian military convoy returning to base from a training exercise as part of a European Union training mission in Somalia. The Washington Post

U.S. Steps Up Strikes on Islamic State Militants in Libya
The U.S. has stepped up airstrikes on Islamic State militants in southern Libya, where a breakdown in security has allowed the extremists who once controlled parts of the North African country to regroup. An American strike that killed seven suspected Islamic State members on Sept. 29 was the fourth in a month, with a total of 43 militants dead, according to a tally of casualties from statements released by the U.S. military’s Africa Command. The forces of eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar swept through the oil-rich southwest at the start of 2019, saying they wanted to restore security and fight terrorism. But the intervention set off a deadly ethnic war between the Tebu people and Arab tribes allied with Haftar’s Libyan National Army. The country has seen almost constant conflict since a 2011 NATO-backed revolt ousted Muammar Qaddafi, allowing extremists and traffickers to thrive. Bloomberg

UAE, Turkish Drones Battle It Out in Libya Skies
In Libya, where rival forces are deadlocked south of Tripoli, a months-long battle for the skies between Turkish and UAE drones has failed to break the stalemate, analysts say. Since April 4, when eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli — the capital and seat of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA)– frontlines have moved little. Faced with a standoff, the two sides have turned to sophisticated weaponry in the hope of gaining an advantage in a battle that has killed over 1,000, injured close to 6,000 and forced 120,000 people from their homes, according to UN figures. Libya is “possibly the largest drone war theatre in the world”, UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said in a video released by the United Nations on Wednesday. AFP

Islamic State Claims Attack on Soldiers in Northeast Nigeria
Militants in northeastern Nigeria killed at least nine people in an attack on Sunday, sources told Reuters on Monday. It was the latest in a series of attacks in the northeast that has coincided with the Nigerian military’s implementation of a new strategy of withdrawing to “super camps” that the military says can be more easily defended against Islamist insurgents. Some security experts have expressed concerns that the areas vacated under the strategy announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July are being filled by insurgents, leaving civilians vulnerable in a region that is grappling with a decade-long insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people. Reuters

Nigerian Police Rescue 19 Young Women Forced to Have Babies
Police in Lagos say they have rescued 19 pregnant girls and young women who had been kidnapped, impregnated and forced to give birth to babies which were then sold. Lagos police spokesman Bala Elkana said the victims and four babies were rescued from four locations in the Ikotun area of Lagos. The victims, who are mainly from eastern Nigeria, said they were tricked into coming to Lagos with the promise of getting job as domestic staff. Elkana said two suspects have been arrested, and a manhunt launched for the lead suspect. Nigeria has a high incidence of syndicates that keep young women to produce babies for sale, which have locally been termed “baby factories.” The police spokesman said the price of a baby can range from $830 to $1,400. AP

Nigeria’s Tech Industry Outraged at Alleged Police Shakedowns
Nigeria’s tech industry is rising up against what its leaders say is a campaign of police harassment and extortion of tech workers after the alleged arrest of a software developer went viral. The #StopRobbingUs campaign launched on Sunday after Akinmolayan Oluwatoni, a developer at Buffer Media in Lagos, tweeted that members of the city’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad had stopped him while he was carrying a laptop and iPhone and taken him to a police station where they demanded [Naira]1m ($2,759) to release him. … Lagos’s tight-knit tech community quickly responded, with scores of other developers posting similar stories about being accused by police of being “Yahoo boys”, a nickname for internet scammers. A Nigerian police spokesman declined to comment, but the force’s complaints department said on Twitter that an investigation had begun. Financial Times

Moroccan Journalist Jailed for Abortion That She Says Never Happened
A Moroccan journalist has been sentenced to a year in prison on charges of having an illegal abortion and premarital sex, in a trial observers say was concocted to crack down on criticism of the government. A Rabat court sentenced journalist Hajar Raissouni to one year in prison, on charges of “having an illegal abortion and sexual relations outside marriage.” Her fiancee, Prof Rifaat al-Amin was given a one-year sentence for alleged complicity. Dr Mohammed Jamal Belkeziz, accused of performing the abortion, was sentenced to two years in prison. Raissouni previously described the charges as “fabricated,”in a letter from prison. The defendants maintain that the abortion never took place, and that Raissouni was targeted by the Moroccan authorities for her work with the independent Moroccan outlet Akhbar al Yaoum, where she won praise for her coverage of unrest in the country’s north. The Guardian

Uganda Bans Red Beret Synonymous with Bobi Wine’s Movement
Uganda outlawed on Monday the civilian use of red berets, a symbol of presidential hopeful Bobi Wine’s “People Power” movement that he hopes will defeat President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. The headgear, also worn by some Ugandan soldiers, was included in Uganda’s first ever gazette of all-military clothing, deeming it to be “property of the state” which civilians cannot wear. Members of the public found in possession of the items could be “liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.” … Former pop star Wine has announced he is running for president against longtime leader Yoweri Museveni in 2021 and has made the red beret his trademark, describing it as a “symbol of resistance.” Wine has garnered great support, especially among young Ugandans who have been attracted by his criticism of Museveni – a message he has occasionally incorporated in his lyrics. DW

Kenya: Police on High Alert Over Terrorist Attack
Police at the Coast are on high alert over a possible Al-Shabaab attack a few weeks after a most wanted terrorist was killed and another suspected member injured in raids in Kwale and Mombasa counties. On Sunday, police said the terrorist group is believed to have sent seven operatives to Kwale and Kilifi counties to attack key installations. An internal communication sent to police commanders indicates that some of the targets include Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Moi International Airport and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Mombasa terminus. “It is likely that the operatives may use the opportunity to target social places including hotels and beaches along the Kenyan Coast,” reads the letter to the police commanders dated September 28. Daily Nation

Intl Court Orders Alleged Mali Jihadi Leader to Stand Trial
International Criminal Court judges on Monday ordered an alleged jihadi leader from Mali to stand trial on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. A pretrial chamber issued a confidential decision confirming charges including torture, rape, sexual slavery and deliberately attacking religious buildings and historic monuments against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud. The crimes were allegedly committed in Timbuktu during a brutal occupation of the historic desert city by Islamic extremists from April 2012 until January 2013. The global court said in a statement that after studying evidence presented by prosecutors the judges concluded that there are “substantial grounds to believe that Mr. Al Hassan is responsible” for the crimes charged. Prosecutors allege he was a key member of Ansar Dine, an al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group. AP

Who Are Cameroon’s Self-Named Ambazonia Secessionists?
October 1 this year will mark the second anniversary since separatists in Cameroon’s northwest and southwest regions proclaimed a so-called independent state “Ambazonia.” It is a symbolic date: on the very same day in 1961, the East, which was then administered by the French, and the West, administered by the British, were united to form Cameroon. Something, the “Ambazonians” want to reverse. This year, the day will be under close watch: Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has announced plans to hold a “national dialogue” with the aim of ending the conflict. It is a conflict which is scarred by violence and severe human rights violations from both security forces and armed groups, Amnesty International reported. 3,000 people have died and close to half a million have been displaced. Multiple separatists groups have formed in the southwest and northwest of the country. DW

War on ADF: Congolese Forces Reopen “Death Triangle” Road
Congolese armed forces known by the acronym, FARDC, have forcefully reopened the Mbau-Kamango road in North Kivu, Eastern DRC, as it plans massive military operations against the terrorist, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The road was closed two years ago to protect civilians from ADF which operates in the areas of Mbau, Eringeti and Kamango – also known as the “death triangle.” Sokola 1 operations spokesperson, Mak Hakuzah said the reopening of the critical road was aimed at “facilitating impending operations” in areas controlled by ADF. He added: “Our soldiers have been attacked by ADF who lay ambushes along this road.” Chimp Reports

Congo Mine Deploys Digital Weapons in Fight against Conflict Minerals
In a small shack overlooking muddy pits hewn out of eastern Congo’s rolling green hills, a government official puts a barcoded tag on a sack of ore rich in tantalum, a rare metal widely used in smartphones. With a handheld device linked to a server in the cloud, the agent scans the barcode, uploading data including the sealed bag’s weight, when it was tagged, and by whom. It’s the latest initiative in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to improve systems meant to show minerals entering global supply chains come from mines that don’t use child labour or fund warlords and corrupt soldiers. Reuters

West Africa’s Sahel Region Is Especially Vulnerable to Climate Change but Also Weak Governance
The Sahel is experiencing extreme temperatures, fluctuating rainfall, and droughts, all of which can degrade land, change grazing patterns, and reduce water supply for both animals and people. This in turn jeopardizes food security, and can have a negative impact on security and migration, Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou declared in his opening remarks at the UN General Assembly summit on climate change in the Sahel last Monday. Adding to the challenge for policy-makers in the Sahel is the question of how to provide opportunities for youngest, fastest-growing populations in the world amid increasing rates of violence, militarization, and loss of state control in parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and northeastern Nigeria. While addressing specific impacts of climate change is important, experts say it is urgent to combine climate-specific approaches with addressing core governance issues that plague the region and stymy efforts to prepare for the highly unpredictable climate of the future decades. Quartz Africa

These Are the African Countries Not Signed to China’s Belt and Road Project
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a vast transcontinental development project looking to improve connectivity among nations in Asia, Europe, and Africa. First announced by president Xi Jinping in 2013, dozens of countries have signed onto the scheme seeking to complement their infrastructural gaps, increase foreign investment, expand trade, and ultimately reduce poverty. These include 40 out of Africa’s 55 states, who-along with the African Union-have signed memoranda of understanding with Beijing to finance and build modern highways, airports, and railways. Yet six years since the BRI’s introduction, 14 African states are yet to jump on the bandwagon, raising queries about the profiles of these states and why they are holding out against Beijing’s assertive push into Africa. Geographically, these countries are spread across four regions in the continent: in the east (Eritrea, Mauritius), center (DR Congo, Central African Republic), west (Benin, Equatorial Guinea), and south (eSwatini, Botswana). All the countries in North Africa are part of the Belt & Road economic corridor. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones