Africa Media Review for October 18, 2017

Intel Official Says Turkish Military Base Was ‘Target’ of Somalia Truck Bomb
The newly Turkish-built military base in Mogadishu was the original target of Saturday’s deadly truck bomb, a senior Somali intelligence official told VOA Somali. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says all the intelligence reports received before this attack — and information gathered since the explosion occurred — indicated the Turkish military base was the target. “This base is the most strategic target for them, it’s going to produce an organized army and they have to preemptively destroy that,” the source said. The official said the National Intelligence and Security Agency had prior information that al-Shabab was planning to attack the Turkish military base. VOA

Somalia Bombing May Have Been Revenge for Botched US-Led Operation
The man who killed more than 300 people with a truck bomb in the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday was a former soldier in Somalia’s army whose home town was raided by local troops and US special forces two months ago in a controversial operation in which 10 civilians were killed, officials in Somalia have said. The death toll from the bombing now stands at more than 300, making it one of the most devastating terrorist attacks anywhere in the world for many years. On Tuesday remains of victims were still being brought out of rubble spread over hundreds of square metres. Investigators believe the attack on Saturday may in part have been motivated by a desire for revenge for the botched US-led operation in August. Al-Shabaab has not claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack but a member of the cell detained by security forces has told interrogators the group was responsible, one security official told the Guardian. The Guardian

US Presence in Somalia Surges as Military Mission Turns More Deadly
The number of U.S. servicemembers operating in Somalia has quadrupled since the beginning of the year to 400 troops, making it the biggest contingent deployed to the war-torn country in nearly 25 years. The Pentagon confirmed the total Monday, two days after a massive truck bomb in the Somali capital of Mogadishu killed more than 300 people. Col. Rob Manning, briefing reporters in Washington, said “we’re not going to speculate” about whether the Somalia mission will expand further. About half of the 400 U.S. troops in Somalia are positioned in Mogadishu and the rest are operators in the field on an advisory mission. “The numbers represent a snapshot in time of the ebb and flow of personnel, both operational and support personnel,” said Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command. Stars and Stripes

Somalia Bomb Attack Killed Two U.S. Citizens, State Department Says
At least two U.S. citizens were among the 276 people killed in a huge truck bomb blast last weekend in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, the State Department said Tuesday. It is believed to be the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation. At least 300 people were wounded in the blast Saturday, which occurred on a busy street near key ministries. “We want to extend our deepest condolences to all Somalis, especially those who lost their friends and family in the senseless and barbaric attacks, including at least two U.S. citizens who were killed,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We further wish for a speedy recovery for all of those who were injured.”  NBC News

US Military Plane Lands in Mogadishu Carrying Tonnes of Medical Aid
The United States has sent medical aid to Somalia to support the victims of the truck bomb blast that killed over 300 people. A US military transport plane landed in Mogadishu on Tuesday carrying medical supplies to be handed to the Somali government. The quantity of supplies have not yet been disclosed. This gesture follows that of Djibouti which sent over 30 doctors on Monday to offer treatment. Kenya announced on Tuesday that it will send 31 tonnes of medical supplies to Mogadishu and evacuate some of the victims of the bomb blast to Nairobi for treatment. Turkey was the first country to respond immediately after the bomb blast on Saturday by sending a team of medical professionals and an emergency response plane that airlifted some critically injured victims to Ankara for treatment. Africa News

Where Is the Empathy for Somalia?
[…] Most major news outlets did run articles on what happened, but, with a few exceptions, most followed the same formula: a dispassionate recounting of the explosion, similar to most news articles on major events. What is often missing in the days following attacks in Somalia are the intimate stories about the victims, the sense that real, breathing people were affected, and that these catastrophes are neither normal nor expected. With a place like Somalia, defined by stereotypes beyond its borders, it has become acceptable to think of the country as holding only war and extremism, and to forget that the lives there are multilayered, possessing similar and universal concerns, interests, and desires. “Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination,” Leslie Jamison writes in “The Empathy Exams.” “Empathy requires knowing you know nothing.” Somalis told their own stories. Some put together a crowdfunding drive to help support first responders. Others collected and then shared the photos and the aspirations of the missing. The New Yorker

UN, US Failed to Prevent ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ in South Sudan
When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews. Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died. Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda. “The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”  AP

Rebel Leader Machar to Skip Forum to Revitalize Peace Deal
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) confirmed Tuesday that Riek Machar will be a no-show at an upcoming high-level meeting aimed at revitalizing the August 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan. Despite Machar’s absence, he will be represented at the meeting, according to IGAD’s special envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais, who said that “his idea, his thinking, his position and everything he is thinking about will be represented.” Wais said IGAD ministers have met with all the key stakeholders including estranged groups headed by exiled General Thomas Cirillo, former Western Equatoria state governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro, General Peter Gadet and former deputy chief of army staff General Bapinyi Monytuil. Wais described the meetings as “constructive and positive.” VOA

UN Says South Sudan ‘Lukewarm’ about Regional Peace Effort
South Sudan’s government has given only “a lukewarm response” to a regional effort to revive the 2015 peace agreement and end worsening violence in the world’s newest nation, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Tuesday. Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the U.N. Security Council that opposition figures including the country’s former vice president, Riek Machar, “all declared cautious support to the process.” “I would like to emphasize the criticality of this initiative and urge council members to use their leverage on all parties and encourage them to engage in this process meaningfully and without preconditions,” the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping said. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is heading to South Sudan next week, told the council Sept. 26 that the revitalization process put forward by the eight-nation East African regional group known as IGAD “is the last chance at salvaging the peace agreement.” Haley expressed hope South Sudan’s leaders would seize the opportunity, warning that if they didn’t, Security Council members must “individually and collectively” do more to end the conflict. AP

Algeria’s Attempts to Impose Polisario Hangs over Upcoming EU-Africa Summit
[…] The joint summit is due to discuss the cooperation roadmap adopted during the 2014 conference held in Brussels, in which the two sides agreed to implement a cooperation strategy in the fields of security, democracy, good governance, peace, sustainable development, and continental integration. The lead-up to this year’s summit has seen Algeria make efforts to impose Polisario and its self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a participant. SADR did not take part in previous conferences, but the entity has recently cried out for its “right” to participate in the event as a member of the AU, after the forum originally called the “EU-Africa” summit was renamed the “EU-AU” summit. The announcement of SADR’s impending participation in the conference was made in September by Algeria’s notorious ambassador to Brussels, Amar Belani. However, the claim was soon debunked by Moroccan outlet LeDesk, citing an unnamed source in the EU capital. “As was always the case with preceding summits, Algerians pushed for an inclusion of SADR, but no change was made in that regard,” the source said. Morocco World News

Central African Republic Children Starve as Aid Workers Flee Fighting
Children are starving to death in Central African Republic because violence has forced aid workers to pull out, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the country said on Tuesday. Four years after a conflict began between Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian “anti-balaka” militias, Central African Republic had seemed calm in the early part of the year. But violence has flared since May, turning the southeast into a virtual no-go area. “There is no humanitarian assistance there. It’s not even half, it’s nothing, because it was just not possible for humanitarians to stay there,” coordinator Najat Rochdi said. “We started already seeing children dying from severe malnutrition.” Lack of funds had already forced aid workers to halve food aid and in some places stop it completely, despite widespread malnutrition in children under five-years-old. SABC

Kenya Election Official Roselyn Akombe Flees to US
A senior member of Kenya’s electoral commission (IEBC) has resigned, saying the country is unable to hold credible elections next week. Roselyn Akombe said the IEBC was under political “siege”, unable to reach consensus or take any decisions. Now in the US, she told the BBC she had feared for her safety while in Kenya after receiving numerous threats. Last week, opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the 26 October presidential re-run. The Supreme Court annulled the result of the original 8 August poll, which saw current President Uhuru Kenyatta declared winner, after finding irregularities and illegalities. BBC

Four Dead in Northern Togo after Imam Arrested
Two teenagers were among four people killed in violence in Togo’s second city after an imam close to the main opposition was arrested, the government and a rights group said on Tuesday. “Two soldiers on guard duty at the home of a VIP were lynched and executed and their weapons and ammunition were taken,” the government said in a statement. “A young person also died and about 20 other civilians and members of the security forces were injured,” it added. Amnesty International’s country representative Aime Adi told AFP the young person killed was an apprentice upholsterer and aged 16 or 17. A second youth, 17, was “shot in the head”, he added. AFP

DR Congo Controversially Elected to UN Human Rights Council
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was one of 15 states chosen on Monday after a vote by the 193-member General Assembly as rights representatives for three-year terms starting in January 2018. Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine were also elected. The Human Rights Council is made up of 47 UN member states elected through direct and secret ballots. While Congo was elected uncontested to the 47-member Geneva-based council, it still needed majority support. The country – which has been beset by political and militia violence since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down in December – won 151 votes. Deutsche Welle

Nigeria: Pro-Biafra Leader Nnamdi Kanu ‘Missing’ as Trial Resumes
The leader of a separatist movement in Nigeria has failed to appear in court at the start of his treason trial. He hasn’t been seen in public since soldiers allegedly invaded his home in mid-September. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a group which has been demanding secession of southeast Nigeria, a territory formerly known as Biafra, did not show up as his case resumed at the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. His absence has raised concerns among his ardent supporters who say they have not seen Kanu for weeks. “I don’t know where my client is,” Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said. The home of the 50-year-old pro-Biafra leader was reportedly invaded by soldiers on September 14. “Since that time I have not heard from him. I cannot tell whether he is alive or dead,” Ejiofor said. Deutsche Welle

Zim Ex-Freedom Fighters Vow to Block Grace Mugabe’s Ascendency to vp
Zimbabwe’s former freedom fighters have vowed to stop an alleged plan to get President Robert Mugabe’s wife elected as a vice president in the forthcoming Zanu-PF extraordinary congress in December, according to a report. The ruling party is expected to confirm President Robert Mugabe as its sole presidential candidate for the coming elections during the congress. The decision to hold the congress for this reason was unanimous, provincial spokesperson Abicia Ushewokunze said after a meeting of the Harare Provincial Executive Council (PEC). He said the PEC also resolved to amend the 2014 party constitution “to accommodate issues to do with the Youth and Women’s Leagues”, with the resolution to have a female vice president taking centre stage. News 24

Angola President Lourenco Shuts down Dos Santos’ Propaganda Outfit
Angolan president Joao Lourenco has reportedly ordered the immediate closure of an outfit that worked on the image of the country and his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The Office for the Revitalization and Execution of Institutional Communication and Marketing of Administration (Grecima) was largely labeled as a propaganda outfit that managed the image of the country and its long serving second president. Angolan media portal, Journal de Angola, reported that Lourenco issued the closure orders via a press release that relieved Grecima boss, Manuel Antonio Rabelais, of his post. A presidential decree also transferred Grecima operations to an office under the presidency’s communications unit. Africa News

Madagascar Struggles to Contain Plague Outbreak
A plague outbreak in Madagascar has killed at least 74 people and 805 cases have been reported so far. The government has deployed resources to curb the disease, but many obstacles remain. As plague cases rose last week in Madagascar’s capital, many city dwellers panicked. They waited in long lines for antibiotics at pharmacies and reached through bus windows to buy masks from street vendors. Schools have been canceled, and public gatherings are banned. For the first time, the disease long seen in the country’s remote areas is largely concentrated in its two largest cities, Antananarivo and Toamasina. France 24



Photo: Adam Jones