Africa Media Review for October 13, 2021

Why a Sea Dispute Has Somalia and Kenya on Edge
The United Nations’ top court largely sided with Somalia over Kenya on Tuesday in a dispute over how to demarcate a disputed area in the Indian Ocean thought to be rich in oil and gas, a major decision that could escalate tensions in the region and ultimately reshape the two countries’ maritime borders. The judgment by the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Tuesday capped a yearslong, oft-delayed case that has strained relations between the neighboring countries in the strategically vital Horn of Africa. While the court handed most of the disputed territory to Somalia, it also shifted part of the border north by a bit, in line with Kenya’s demand. Even before the court issued a ruling, Kenya withdrew from the case, saying it would not recognize any judgment. The court’s rulings are binding but unenforceable, and many other countries have chosen to ignore them. But this dispute, experts say, threatens to inject another note of uncertainty in a region already hobbled by terrorism, internal conflict and widespread instability. … The court ruling adds to a long list of challenges already testing relations between Kenya and Somalia. Last December, Mogadishu severed diplomatic ties with Nairobi after accusing it of meddling in its internal affairs, only to restore them in May. The New York Times

Somalia Rejects Reconfigured AMISOM, Mandate Change Proposal
Somalia has rejected a proposal by the African Union to turn its peacekeeping force in Mogadishu into a hybrid mission, in what could set the stage for a battle for attention at the United Nations Security Council. Two days after the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) endorsed the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to transition into a United Nations-financed mission, Mogadishu says the move does not meet the country’s strategic vision. A statement issued by Somalia’s Federal Ministry of Defence accused the AU organ of disregarding the country’s views, including a joint technical team created to assess the best option for the country. … Somalia says it had proposed and agreed with the joint technical team for a Concept of Operations (Conops) that would gradually place primary responsibility of the country’s security in the hands of local security agencies. The Ministry argued the arrangement was to be in place from January next year until after 2023 when Mogadishu hoped its local forces would be strong enough to take over the country’s entire security. The EastAfrican

Ethiopia Launches New Offensive on Tigray Rebels as Famine Looms
The conflict in northern Ethiopia has escalated sharply in recent days, as Ethiopian forces began a sweeping offensive in a bid to reverse recent gains by Tigrayan rebels, Western officials and Tigrayan leaders said. U.N. officials said the attack will deepen the humanitarian crisis in a region that is plunging into the world’s worst famine in a decade. With the Ethiopian government blocking aid shipments, some starving Tigrayans are eating leaves to survive. Senior Western officials broadly confirmed Tigrayan accounts that the assault, which had been anticipated for weeks, started in the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south. But beyond that, it is hard to get a clear picture of the situation. A strict communications blackout imposed by the government means few details about the fighting can be independently confirmed. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was sworn in for a second term last week, has declined to comment in recent days. … Speaking by phone, Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensae, a member of the central command of the Tigray forces and its leading strategist, said Ethiopian forces had begun the military operation on Friday with a bombardment of Tigrayan positions using warplanes, artillery and drones. On Monday, the Ethiopians switched to a ground offensive led by thousands of fighters, to be met by a Tigrayan counteroffensive, he said. The New York Times

Facebook Removes Accounts Linked to Sudanese RSF Militia
Facebook Inc has taken down 735 accounts and groups engaged in a “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” linked to a controversial militia in Sudan, the company said on Monday. In September 2021, Facebook removed 116 Pages, 666 Facebook accounts, 69 Groups and 92 Instagram accounts targeting Sudanese audiences. “We found this activity as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the region and linked it to the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group operated by the Sudanese Government,” further stated the popular social media platform. Two years after the collapse of the former regime, RSF continues to be rejected in the country due to its involvement in human rights violations during the counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur and the killing of pro-democracy activists in Khartoum on 3 June 2019. … Last July, Facebook removed 53 accounts used to spread fake news hostile to the transitional government in Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Nigerian Troops Beat Back ISWAP Attack in Borno
Nigerian troops on Tuesday, Oct. 12, beat back a column of ISWAP terrorists on gun trucks and an armoured fighting vehicle, as the group attempted to target the Army Super Camp 1 in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. The failed attack on the Nigerian Army Super Camp 1 located at Ngamdu in Kaga Local Government Area near the border with neighbouring Yobe State, bears a similar signature with the deadly large-scale attack on an Army base in Mainok in April, which involved the use of gun trucks and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). Mainok is about 40 km from Ngamdu and both towns are in Kaga Local Government, along the volatile Damaturu – Maiduguri route which faces frequent threats from ISWAP militants harbouring Alagarno-Timbuktu triangle area. HumAngle understands that the attack on Tuesday was thwarted through a combined air and ground military intervention against the ISWAP militants. HumAngle

Independence Leader: Wall Won’t Stop Western Sahara Fight
The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement says that fighting with Morocco will continue across a long wall cutting through Africa’s vast desert until the international community delivers on an unfulfilled promise of self-determination for the Saharawi people. The United Nations considers Western Sahara as Africa’s last territory to be decolonized, but its envoys have failed to set the stage for a referendum on its future since a ceasefire was signed 30 years ago between Morocco, which had annexed it in 1975, and the independence-seeking Polisario Front. The conflict has received renewed attention due to growing frustration among the Saharawi people, but also after the United States last year disregarded the U.N. efforts by backing Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the entire disputed territory. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has recently appointed a new special envoy to Western Sahara, Staffan De Mistura. … Meanwhile in Europe, a top European Union court recently sided with the Polisario in recognizing that Morocco should not be considered the legitimate party for the bloc to sign fishing and agricultural agreements with pertaining to Western Sahara. AP

Congo Journalist Granted Provisional Release after Terrorism Probe Dropped
A journalist arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month for possessing a video showing the assassination of two U.N. sanctions monitors in 2017 was granted provisional release on Tuesday pending further investigation, his lawyer said. Sosthene Kambidi, who works for Congolese news site Actualite.cd and at times with international news agencies, was arrested three weeks ago and told he was being investigated for criminal conspiracy, rebellion and terrorism. Prosecutors did not elaborate further. Kambidi contributed to an investigation … by Radio France Internationale and Reuters in December 2017 which revealed state security agents had helped plan a trip by the U.N. monitors to investigate reports of atrocities in Congo’s Kasai region. Military prosecutors have dropped the conspiracy, rebellion and terrorism investigations but continue to investigate Kambidi for “culpable abstention,” according to his lawyer, Gode Kabongo, and the prosecutor’s written order. … At the time of his arrest, diplomats and human rights groups expressed alarm, citing his professionalism and role exposing details about the killing of the U.N. monitors, Zaida Catalan, a Swede, and Michael Sharp, an American. AP

Britain to Invest in African Ports as Part of Western Response to China
Britain is to pour hundreds of millions of pounds into developing African port infrastructure in a bid to win a “battle for economic influence” against China and other authoritarian states. CDC Group, the Foreign Office’s investment arm, will jointly underwrite a £1.25 billion plan to expand three ports in Egypt, Senegal and Somaliland, the unrecognised breakaway province of Somalia, in what a government source described as a direct challenge to “malign actors” in Africa. Lizz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, said the projects would provide “reliable and honest investment in developing countries” and opportunities for British business. It comes after US President Joe Biden called for a Western-led alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s sprawling overseas infrastructure building program. CDC and DP World said in a joint statement that the partnership “will help address the stark imbalance in global trade through supporting the modernisation and expansion of ports and inland logistics across Africa.” The companies said the investments would generate 138,000 jobs and indirectly support 5 million more in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Telegraph

The IMF Warns of Growing Threats to Global Economic Recovery
The International Monetary Fund did not mince words in its latest outlook for the global economy released on Tuesday, warning that the threats to the economic recovery from last year’s COVID-19 disruptions are growing, along with a “dangerous divergence” between richer and poorer countries. … “Food prices have increased the most in low-income countries where food insecurity is most acute, adding to the burdens of poorer households, and raising the risk of social unrest,” she noted. Moreover, emerging and developing economies are facing tougher financing conditions as debt levels climb, inflation soars and their currencies weaken against the US dollar – compelling them to raise interest rates in a bid to keep inflation expectations in check. Gopinath added that challenges like rising food inflation, food insecurity and increased risk-taking in financial markets are underpinned by the pandemic’s “continued grip” on global society. “The foremost priority is, therefore, to vaccinate at least 40 percent of the population in every country by the end of this year, and 70 percent by the middle of next year,” Gopinath said. Al Jazeera

A Mayor in Mozambique Had a Flooding Master Plan. Then Came the Cyclone.
When a huge cyclone whipped toward central Mozambique in March 2019, Daviz Simango was worried, but he wasn’t surprised. As mayor of the coastal city of Beira, Mr. Simango had seen extreme weather events become more and more frequent, causing floods that overwhelmed his city’s aging trash-choked canals. He knew climate change was to blame and that his city needed to bolster its flood defenses. For as long as he’d been mayor, Mr. Simango, a trained civil engineer, had been working toward this goal. He had drawn up a master plan for making the city and its people flood-resistant by 2035. He’d tapped money and expertise from international donors to rehabilitate seven miles of colonial-era drainage canals. The city had also built a new wastewater treatment plant, started work on a major park, and scooped out massive water retention basins around the city to hold floodwaters. That day in March 2019, as Cyclone Idai’s 105 mph winds shrieked over Beira, Mr. Simango wondered if it would be enough. In many ways, Beira’s attempts to bulk up its flood defenses posed an urgent question: How far could a poor city in one of the world’s poorest countries protect itself against climate change? And what lessons might it offer to other parts of the world that face similar threats? The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones