Africa Media Review for October 17, 2017

Somalia Blasts Reveal Glaring Security Lapse and Possible Shabab Infiltration
Car bombs, grenade attacks, assassinations and abductions by Shabab insurgents shatter the fragile veneer of calm in Somalia with such regularity that barely a week goes by without a deadly assault. Two large explosions occur on average in Mogadishu, the capital, every month. In June, more than 30 people were killed when militants stormed a popular restaurant in the city. Politicians and businessmen have been shot dead in broad daylight. Aid workers have been kidnapped, scores of civilians gunned down or killed in roadside bombs. The violence is so pervasive that embassies are inside the international airport. But even by Somalia’s standards, the twin truck bombings this past Saturday in Mogadishu that killed more than 270 people, including at least three Somali-Americans, were unusual in their scale and brutality. Although the Shabab, Somalia’s Islamist extremist organization, has not publicly claimed responsibility, its members are thought to have orchestrated the attack, one of the country’s most destructive, and may have even received inside help. The New York Times

Somalia Attack: 165 Unidentified Bodies Buried
As many as 165 unidentified bodies have been buried after a massive truck bomb attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday. At least 276 people have died and the government news agency Sonna says only 111 of them have been identified. A Turkish military plane is taking 40 of the injured to Turkey for medical treatment. It is the deadliest terror attack in Somalia since the Islamist al-Shabab group launched its insurgency in 2007. Some of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. BBC

UN Chief Urges Support for Sahel Force to Fight Extremists
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging strong international support for a 5,000-strong force to fight the growing threat from extremists in Africa’s vast Sahel region, warning that if urgent action isn’t taken “the stability of the entire region, and beyond, is in jeopardy.” The U.N. chief said in a report obtained Monday by The Associated Press that the security situation in the Sahel is in “a continuous downward spiral” and stressed that inaction will leave millions of people at risk of violence. “Ultimately, we, the international community, will bear the responsibility for such a disastrous scenario,” Guterres said. In February, the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad agreed to establish the force to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime, help restore government authority throughout the countries, return millions of refugees and displaced people, and facilitate humanitarian aid. The 22-page report paints a grim picture of the situation in the region today. AP

Mali Is the U.N.’s Deadliest Current Peacekeeping Mission. Canada Still Might Send Troops. 
[…] In August 2016, Trudeau said Canada would devote 600 troops, 150 police officers and $450 million to support UN peacekeeping operations over the next three years. “It is important that when we go into engagements internationally that we be clear-eyed around what we hope to deliver,” Trudeau said at the time. At the time of his trip to Mali in November 2016, Sajjan said the visits were “invaluable in providing us with the information we need about the region and the challenges it is facing from a peace and security standpoint.” “As Canada continues to assess how we can make the most noteworthy contribution to international peace and security, we continue to carefully examine the security situation in Africa,” the minister said in a statement. A decision on a Canadian peacekeeping mission to Mali or elsewhere on the African continent was expected by the end of 2016. But nothing has been confirmed to date and Ottawa’s response to questions about the delays has been vague. Vice News

How Extremists Smuggled $1 Billion in Cigarettes to Finance Terror
Smuggling cigarettes has become such a profitable business for extremist groups, so much that former Algerian military commander of al-Qaeda in Maghreb extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar was also known as Mr. Marlboro. More than three quarters of all cigarettes smoked in Libya are illicit, as over 13 billion cigarettes in the Maghreb region in 2016 had illegal origin now that smuggling has become one of the main sources of financing of extremist groups in the Middle East. “Conflicts in the Middle East are making smuggling a very profitable source of income for terrorist groups because of the porousness of the borders and lack of material and manpower of the security forces in some regions such as the Sahel,” said Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, an El Erian Fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Al Arabiya

New UN Envoy in Morocco to Restart Talks on Disputed WSahara
The new UN envoy for disputed Western Sahara, Horst Koehler, was visiting Morocco on Monday as part of a regional tour aimed at restarting stalled peace talks between Rabat and the pro-independence Polisario Front. Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of a UN-brokered ceasefire. Morocco says Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom, but in 2007 proposed autonomy for the former Spanish colony, which is home to large phosphate reserves. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front campaigns for independence and demands a referendum on self-determination for the desert territory of half a million residents. AFP

Militants Rob Bank, Attack Church in Egypt’s Sinai; 7 Dead
Islamic militants on Monday staged a two-pronged assault in the heart of the largest city in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, lobbing grenades and trading gunfire with guards at an unused Coptic church to distract from a bank robbery across the street. By the time the attack was over, seven people were killed, including a child, and 17 million Egyptian pounds (about $1 million) were reportedly stolen. The assault came just a day after the Islamic State group attacked military checkpoints in a nearby town, killing nine soldiers. The attacks underscored the extremists’ ability to carry out spectacular assaults despite Egypt’s all-out efforts to contain the long-running insurgency in Sinai. AP

Hint of Charles Taylor Link May yet Hurt Liberia’s Would-Be King
There’s a kerfuffle in the court of King George. Ex-soccer star George Weah, who is leading the race to become Liberia’s next president, has just issued a clear message to war criminal Charles Taylor – and his aides are not happy. “Liberia is moving on. I wish you all the best,” he says, his words aimed directly at Taylor. Several of his staff rush forward to cut short the interview with The Irish Times. But Weah rebukes his entourage, insisting he has nothing to hide. “They can’t link me with Charles Taylor,” he says. Not that rumoured links with the country’s former president, locked up in a high-security British jail for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone, have dented the popularity of the soccer ace, commonly known as King George by locals. The Irish Times

South Africa’s Zuma Reshuffles Cabinet, Appoints Close Ally to Oversee Nuclear Deal
South African President Jacob Zuma appointed a close confidant to be energy minister on Tuesday as his government tries to push through one of the biggest nuclear deals in decades. Zuma’s second Cabinet reshuffle in seven months saw him change six ministers, including those for home affairs, education and communications, and axe a vocal critic of his scandal-plagued presidency. The appointment of David Mahlobo, formerly state security minister, to head the energy ministry will heighten speculation that Zuma is trying to push through the nuclear deal before his second presidential term ends in 2019. South Africa is preparing to add 9,600 megawatts of nuclear capacity — equivalent to up to 10 nuclear reactors — in a contract that could be worth tens of billions of dollars. Reuters

Pan African Parliament Seeks Solutions on Conflicts in Africa
The conflicts afflicting Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, DRC and other parts of the continent, came under scrutiny at the Pan African Parliament on Monday. The Legislature is calling for a national dialogue to end the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, which has displaced millions. MP’s also condemned the death of 300 Somalis in the weekend’s explosion. Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the African Union (AU) are concerned about how to end wars on the continent. The AU Commission on Peace and Security presented a gloomy picture with the war ravaging South Sudan taking centre stage. “South Sudan remains volatile and this is compounded by the renewed fighting in many areas. There is no indication that fighting will end any soon,” said AU’s Catherine Mwangi. SABC

African Rulers’ Weapon against Web-Based Dissent: The off Switch
Rapidly expanding access to the internet across Africa is helping grassroots opposition movements take on once-invulnerable regimes. Many entrenched rulers have a simple response: pulling the plug. While countries in the Middle East and China employ firewalls and block virtual private networks to control web access, leaders in Africa increasingly prefer the blunter instrument of outright outages. Critics say that infringes not just the rights of individuals but also undermines the burgeoning economies of some of the world’s poorest countries. Since the start of 2016, governments in 13 African nations have intentionally shut down the internet on 21 occasions, mainly during elections and protests, according to a database run by online rights group Access Now. That compares to seven shutdowns in the previous two years. Reuters

Sierra Leone’s Ruling Party Names Koroma’s Successor for 2018 Election
Sierra Leone’s ruling All People’s Congress appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Samura Kamara as its candidate for next year’s presidential polls to succeed President Ernest Bai Koroma. Kamara was named uncontested on Sunday as Koroma’s preferred successor at a party convention that was broadcast live on state-owned radio from Makeni, 187 kilometers (116 miles) northeast of the capital, Freetown. Koroma is due to step down after more than 10 years in power and the two men hail from Bombali, a district in the north of the country. The main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party elected Julius Maada Bio as its candidate for the March polls, Prince Harding, the organization’s chairman, said on state radio. It will be the second time that Maada Bio competes for president after receiving 38 percent of ballots cast against Koroma in 2012. Bloomberg

South Sudan Rebel Chief Machar Rubbishes National Dialogue
South Sudan’s armed opposition leader Riek Machar has rubbished the national dialogue and instead insisted that the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) peace process be revitalised. Dr Machar, who last Thursday declined to meet the national dialogue delegation in South Africa for the second time, reiterated that the Igad process was a better way of ending the violence in the war-torn South Sudan. The Juba opposition leader communicated his hard-line position through South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. The co-chair of the South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee, Mr Angelo Beda, aid the former first vice-president, had no interest in the national dialogue. The East African

Former Darfur Rebel Faction Freezes Peace Deal with Sudan Government
The former rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement led by Nour al-Din Zorgi (SLM-Zorgi) has suspended the peace accord signed with the government of North Darfur in protest against the slow pace of implementation of the agreement. In February 2016, Sudanese government signed a peace deal with breakaway commanders from Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel-Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) including Nour al-Din Zorgi and Salih Adam Ishag allowing them to join Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). In a statement received by Sudan Tribune Monday, SLM-Zorgi said they responded to President Omer al-Bashir’s call for peace and national dialogue and signed an agreement to stop the bloodshed in Darfur. Sudan Tribune

Jailed Rwandan Opposition Figure Accuses President
A jailed critic of Rwanda’s government said Monday she was detained because she tried to run against longtime President Paul Kagame in the recent election. Diane Rwigara, who faces charges of inciting insurrection against the state and forgery, spoke out in a courtroom in the capital, Kigali. She said she was charged “because I spoke about crimes committed by this government. Nobody has talked about Rwandans who disappear without a trace.” “The government should address the issues I raised because they are legitimate, instead of persecuting me and my family,” she added. AP

Former Military Chief in Lesotho Charged with Murder
A former military commander in Lesotho has been charged with murdering a police official during a purported 2014 attempt to topple the government of the small African mountain kingdom. Tlali Kamoli on Monday also is charged with attempted murder for the 2014 bombings of three homes, including an attack that authorities had said was an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Thabane fled to South Africa after the alleged assassination attempt, but he returned and his party won elections this year, restoring him to the top post. Kamoli’s replacement, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motsomotso, was killed last month in a gunfight with two rival officers who also died. AP

The True Cost of a Plate of Food: $1 in New York, $320 in South Sudan
The world’s poorest pay more than a day’s wages for a single plate of food, according to a report from the World Food Programme, which reveals that the same bean stew can cost the average consumer in New York just $1.20, while the price tag is more than $320 in South Sudan. The research, released to coincide with World Food Day on Monday, underlines the sheer discrepancy of consumers’ purchasing power around the world by measuring the relative cost of food in various countries against a single baseline. “By adjusting for purchasing power, we shine a stark light on inequalities in the affordability of food,” said WFP’s executive director, David Beasley. “The results are, in many cases, staggering: if you thought a meal was expensive in, say, Norway – well, try Malawi.” Economists at WFP took a standard meal of beans and pulses, paired with a locally preferred carbohydrate such as rice or cassava, priced it on a local scale, then compared it with the average daily budget derived from national GDP per capita figures. Using this as a baseline, WFP was then able to determine how much an average person in New York state would have to pay for the stew if they spent the same proportion of their daily income as people in other countries. The Guardian

Cairo Named World’s ‘Most Dangerous’ City for Women
As women around the world come forward with stories of sexual harassment, a report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation shows that Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women, and has become more perilous since the 2011 uprisings. Cairo established itself as a city often unsafe for women in 2011 with a series of high-profile sexual assaults in Tahrir Square. Since then, the situation has only grown worse, according to a poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In a survey of experts looking at how well women are protected from sexual violence, harmful cultural practices, access to healthcare and financial independence, Cairo came in last of 19 megacities those housing 10 million people or more behind Delhi, Karachi and Kinshasa. France 24



Photo: Adam Jones