Africa Media Review for October 19, 2017

Africa: Al Shabaab Remains Virulent as ISIS Shifts to Egypt
A quarterly review of violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa underscores the continued variance among these actors. Al Shabaab has been involved in over half of all violent events related to militant Islamist groups in Africa in the first three quarters of 2017 (987 of 1,827 total). The 2,745 reported fatalities linked to al Shabaab thus far in 2017 is on track to match the average annual number of fatalities involving al Shabaab since 2014: 3,536. Fatalities linked to violent events involving Boko Haram have dropped precipitously since 2015, when the group was linked to 11,519 deaths. In the first nine months of 2017, 2,232 reported fatalities were linked to Boko Haram, compared to 2,970 in the same period of 2016. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Tens of Thousands March in Somalia to Protest Mogadishu Bombing
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Mogadishu and other major Somali cities on Wednesday, condemning those behind the massive explosion that killed nearly 300 people and wounded more than 400 others. The Mogadishu protest came in response to a call from the city’s mayor for a massive rally to pray for those killed and injured in Saturday’s truck bombing, which the government blames on Islamist militant group al-Shabab. Ahead of the rally, young men wearing red headbands forced businesses to shut down. The demonstrators, chanting slogans such as “down with the enemy … down al-Shabab,” later gathered at the city’s Banadir soccer stadium, where the president and other leaders joined them. VOA

Somalis Angry over Government’s Failure to Prevent Deadly Blast
Police in Somalia has opened fire on a crowd of people protesting against those behind a massive bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu. More than 300 people were killed in two bombings on Saturday and hundreds of others injured. People are also angry at the government for not doing enough to protect them. Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reports from Mogadishu. Al Jazeera

Pentagon Sends Team to Niger to Find out What Happened
The U.S. military is still searching for answers on what happened in Niger two weeks ago when four U.S. soldiers were killed during an ambush, apparently by a branch of ISIS. Now the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent a team to the African nation to conduct a “review of the facts,” according to two U.S. defense officials. The officials are careful not to call the inquiry an investigation, but admit they simply don’t know what happened on Oct. 4. “We need to collect some very basic raw facts,” one defense official said. In addition to the Pentagon, a top Senate Republican wants answers. Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain of Arizona told reporters this week that the Trump administration was not being forthcoming about what happened in Niger. “I want the information that the Senate Armed Services Committee deserves and needs,” he said. NBC News

US Has Drones and Hundreds of Troops in Niger. Here’s Why
The killing of four American soldiers in Niger has drawn attention to the role of US troops in western Africa, where several terror networks roam freely. In the region, the US has enemies all around. Niger shares a border with Mali, where an al Qaeda affiliate and other Islamist groups thrive in the vast desert. It also borders Libya, where ISIS and other extremists are regrouping, and Nigeria, where Boko Haram is a major challenge. The Defense Department said 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters ambushed the US soldiers on October 4, leaving two others wounded. The US has previously acknowledged it has troops there. But it’s never gone into much detail. In 2013, the White House announced that then-President Barack Obama had deployed 100 military personnel to Niger. CNN

Travel Ban: Chad Added Because It Ran out of Passport Paper, US Officials Say
US officials say an office supply issue was a major reason the African country of Chad was hit with travel restrictions by the United States. Donald Trump’s administration added Chad in an order last month that a judge put on hold this week. Chad’s inclusion was perplexing because the country cooperates closely with the U.S. on counterterrorism. It turns out a seemingly pedestrian issue was to blame: Chad ran out of passport paper. All countries had been given 50 days to take several steps that included providing a recent passport sample. Chad couldn’t comply, and its offer to provide a pre-existing sample wasn’t sufficient. The Homeland Security Department says there were other reasons Chad was added, too. The department says the U.S. is working with Chad to resolve them. The Guardian

America Should Beware a Chadian Military Scorned
[…] In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.” Despite its relative poverty, Chad plays an outsized role in African security and politics. Its troops are considered some of the most capable in the region, and its president, Idriss Déby, has won considerable influence with the African Union, France, and, until recently at least, the United States by deploying them to clean up others’ messes. In addition to leading the fight against Boko Haram, Chad’s military is busy countering al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadis in the Sahel, a volatile region that includes parts of Mali and Niger. Foreign Policy

Kenya Election Chief Casts Doubt on ‘Free, Fair’ Poll
Kenya’s polls chief cast doubt on Wednesday on his organisation’s ability to hold a credible vote next week, pointing to internal divisions and interference by both major parties. In the latest bombshell to hit the presidential election, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chief Wafula Chebukati lambasted political leaders and his staff just hours after another commissioner announced her resignation after fleeing to New York. “Let me be very clear that this a yellow card to both sides. I will not tolerate the interference in the commission anymore,” said Chebukati in a no-holds-barred statement in which he slammed the “arrogance and narcissism of our political class”. “Political leaders who are supposed to build the nation have become the greatest threat to the peace and stability of the nation.” AFP

Nasa to Hold Countrywide Demos on Election Day
National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga has said the opposition will hold countrywide demonstrations on October 26. This is the day set for the repeat presidential election. Speaking at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi on Wednesday, Mr Odinga said they will continue to push the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to meet their demands. “(Wafula ) Chebukati’s statement today confirms that IEBC takes instructions from State house. Today we are changing our call from no reforms, no elections to October, no elections,” said Mr Odinga ,who has been insisting that he has quit the repeat election. Daily Nation

Several Dead in Togo Protest Clashes with Police
At least four people were shot dead on Wednesday in clashes between protesters and security forces in Togo’s two largest cities after soldiers and police launched teargas to prevent the latest anti-government protest. Opposition parties had refused to cancel plans for demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday, despite a government ban on weekday protests on security grounds. The government said three people were shot dead in second city Sokode while one was killed and several wounded by gunfire in capital Lome. “Security forces aren’t the only ones in possession of weapons so it’s difficult to say who fired,” security minister Colonel Yark Damehame told reporters. France 24

Nigeria Kidnapping: Four British People Abducted in Delta State
Four Britons have been kidnapped in Nigeria’s southern Delta state, a police official said. The police are attempting to rescue the four people, who were taken by unidentified gunmen on 13 October, Andrew Aniamaka, a spokesman for the Delta state police, told Reuters. The British nationals had been doing humanitarian work in the area, according to Agence France-Presse. The spokesman for Delta state police, Andrew Aniamaka said the kidnapping occurred on 13 October. “The victims are of British nationality, two of whom are a couple, and have been rendering humanitarian services in the area for a while. The Independent

Sudanese, U.S. Officials to Discuss Normalization of Ties in Washington
A delegation from Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Thursday will visit Washington to discuss bilateral relations within the framework of the strategic dialogue between Sudan and the United States. Sudan’s State Foreign Minister Hamid Mumtaz Wednesday told the semi-official Sudan Media Center (SMC) he would head a delegation to Washington to discuss the future of bilateral ties between the two countries. He said Khartoum would proceed in the strategic dialogue with Washington to achieve common understandings on the bilateral and regional files, stressing the desire to push forward relations to new horizons to achieve interests of both nations. Sudan Tribune

Govt Wants IGAD to Share Military Details of Rebel Groups
South Sudan government has asked the IGAD council of ministers during their recent meeting in Juba to share the list of estranged groups that have been mapped with details of their military and political activities on the ground in the country, according to a leaked IGAD report. The report obtained by RadioTamazuj said members of the coalition government of South Sudan had presented a written position to the IGAD council of ministers in which they wanted the regional body to clearly explain the criteria for determining the estranged groups in South Sudan. The cabinet ministers, according to the report, proposed two-track discussions where Chapter Two on security arrangements shall be discussed by the military wings of the estranged groups while the rest of the chapters are discussed by political wings. Radio Tamazuj

UN Chief to Visit Central African Republic
The United Nations Secretary-General said Wednesday that the Central African Republic is at a critical moment and everything must be done to ease growing communal tensions and preserve gains to keep the fragile nation on the right path. Antonio Guterres will travel to the Central African Republic next week, to meet with the country’s leaders and visit the nearly 12,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission. The country has been struggling with sometimes deadly inter-communal tensions for the past five years between two armed groups — the mostly Muslim Seleka and largely Christian anti-Balaka. VOA

One Killed as Uganda Bans Protests over Presidential Age Limit Bill
At least one person died and several others were injured on Wednesday after Uganda police fired bullets and teargas at opposition supporters at a rally against the lifting of presidential age limits. The security forces have in recent days broken up rallies called to oppose plans seen to extend President Yoweri Museveni’s rule after 2021 when his current fifth-term expires. A Bill removing the age limit for the president was introduced in parliament last month, and MPs are currently holding consultations with ordinary Ugandans to seek their views. The East African

Migrants Surge through New Route from Tunisia
More migrants took the sea crossing from Tunisia to Italy last month than in the whole of last year, after a crackdown in Libya on people-smuggling to Europe. At least 1,400 people travelled from Tunisia to Italy in September, well over the 1,200 who made the journey last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration. It is also more than the 1,350 who crossed in the first eight months of this year. The Tunisian coastguard said that it had recorded a five-fold increase in the number of attempted departures. They foiled 900 attempted crossings in September compared with 170 in August. The journey between the Gulf of Tunis and Sicily is 95 miles, half the distance of the traditional route between Libya and Europe. The Irish Times

EU Looks for ‘Big Pot of Money’ to Handle Migration
European Union leaders will promise during talks in Brussels “sufficient and targeted funding” for migration projects in Africa and elsewhere, according to a draft statement that shows they have yet to put their money where their mouth is. The EU has spent billions of euros in recent years on keeping a lid on immigration from the Middle East and Africa after a 2015 peak in arrivals overwhelmed the bloc and fueled support for populist, right-wing and anti-immigration groups. In 2016, the EU promised Turkey at least 3 billion euros over two years for the Syrian refugees it hosts in exchange for Ankara cutting off the migratory route to Greece. It has so far contracted to pay nearly 1.7 billion of that and disbursed 900 million. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones