Africa Media Review for October 20, 2017

US Drone Strike Targets Al-Shabab after Somalia Attack
The U.S. military said Friday it carried out a drone strike this week against al-Shabab in Somalia, shortly after the extremist group was blamed for the country’s deadliest attack. The strike occurred Monday about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, the U.S. Africa Command told The Associated Press. The U.S. said it was still assessing the results. Saturday’s truck bombing in Mogadishu killed more than 300 people and wounded nearly 400 others, leaving scores missing. Al-Shabab has not commented on the bombing, which Somali intelligence officials say was meant to target Mogadishu’s heavily fortified international airport. Several countries have embassies there The U.S. has stepped up its military involvement in the Horn of Africa nation since President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group early this year. The U.S. has carried out at least 19 drone strikes in Somalia since January, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. drone strikes in a number of countries. AP

How Somalia’s Deadliest Attack Ever Tore Open the Heart of a Nation
[…] as desperate families picked through the rubble in search of lost sons and daughters, Adow made a life-changing resolution: to leave civil service and join the ranks of the Somali National Army in order to defend his country from the threat of terrorism. “I have made a decision to take up the gun and defend my country and my people,” he says over the phone from Mogadishu. “There is no reason why I should stay at home and wait until I am killed in such a brutal manner.” Adow’s reaction sums up the level of frustration—and revulsion—many Somalis have felt since Oct. 14, when a truck driven by a suicide bomber exploded at the busy Zoobe intersection in the capital Mogadishu. Quartz

Ambush of US Forces in Niger Reveals Rise of Jihadist Splinter Groups
The Islamic militants came on motorcycles toting rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing four American service members after shattering the windows of the unarmored US trucks. In this remote corner of Niger where the Americans and their local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders, residents say the men who came to kill that day had never been seen there before. “The attackers spoke Arabic and Tamashek, and were light-skinned,” Baringay Aghali, told The Associated Press by phone from the remote village of Tongo-Tongo. Who were these men and how did they know the Americans would be there that day? France 24

Video Released of Mali Troops Held by Al-Qaeda-Linked Group
A video has been released that reportedly shows 11 Mali soldiers held hostage by an extremist group linked to al-Qaeda. The Islam and Muslim Support Group aired the video, dated October 1, through MENASTREAM on Wednesday. In it the soldiers, in gray clothing, ask Mali’s government and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to find a solution to achieve their release. The soldiers were captured from various locations in jihadist attacks between July 2016 and March 2017. The video could not be independently corroborated. A Mali intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the press, said Mali’s government is discussing what can be done to free the soldiers. News 24

Congo Bank Helped Hezbollah-Linked Company Avoid US Sanctions, Report Says 
One of the most prominent banks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may have been diverting assets to enable financiers of terrorism avoid U.S. sanctions, an explosive new report says. The report, entitled “The Terrorists’ Treasury,” was published Monday by The Sentry, an initiative of actor George Clooney and human rights activist John Prendergast. It raises red flags about several transactions in 2011 at BGFIBank DRC, a bank operated by the brother of Congo President Joseph Kabila. The Sentry alleges that the transactions involved companies with links to Kassim Tajideen — a Lebanese-Belgian businessman who was added to the U.S. government’s sanction list in 2009 for his support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. The nonprofit says the transactions took place despite warnings from bank employees who said they might violate the U.S. sanctions. Fox News

SADC Dithers Again in Mission to Send Peacekeeping Force into Tense Lesotho
The deployment of a regional peacekeeping force to Lesotho has been further delayed, even as the need for it seems to be growing after the arrest and detention on a murder charge of former military commander Tlali Kamoli. Kamoli, who is widely suspected to be behind much of the instability in the country, appeared in the Maseru magistrates’ court this week where he was charged with the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. Daily Maverick

African Ambassadors Tour Darfur
A delegation of Ambassadors and heads of diplomatic mission for several African countries began a visit to Darfur to assess the situation on the ground in war-torn region. The head of the delegation, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya in Khartoum, Aaron Sugi, said in a statement in El Fasher after talks with the Governor of North Darfur that the visit came in order to stand on the ground in Darfur and assess the actual situation. He said that the delegation met with representatives of the displaced and listened to their demands for security and stability and disarming armed groups. Radio Dabanga

Kenya President Snubs Vote Crisis Meeting, Presses on with Campaign
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta snubbed a crisis meeting called by the top election official for Thursday, saying he would instead spend the time campaigning for next week’s presidential vote re-run. The first presidential vote in August, which Kenyatta won by 1.4 million votes, was annulled by the Supreme Court over procedural irregularities. The re-run is set for Oct. 26 but opposition leader Raila Odinga has pulled out, alleging a failure to improve oversight of the election, casting doubt on how the vote will proceed. Election board chairman Wafula Chebukati, in a stark message to political leaders on Wednesday, said he could not guarantee a credible vote under present conditions, and demanded Kenyatta and Odinga meet him for talks. Reuters

Uganda Police Hold Opposition Leader over Attempted Murder
Ugandan police have detained the country’s most prominent opposition leader over allegations of attempted murder. Police spokesman Asan Kasingye said Friday that four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye is being held in the capital, Kampala, following violent clashes Wednesday between police and opposition supporters in a remote southwestern town. Kasingye says Besigye will be produced in court to face charges of attempted murder, but he gives no details. Political tensions are rising in the East African nation over efforts by government-backed lawmakers to extend the longtime president’s time in office. Police prevented hundreds of opposition supporters Wednesday from accessing a stadium in Rukungiri where Besigye was scheduled to speak, leading to violent clashes. AP

FBI Opens Investigation into South Africa’s Guptas: FT
The FBI has opened an investigation into U.S. links to South Africa’s Guptas, escalating a scandal over the family’s alleged use of a friendship with President Jacob Zuma to control state businesses, the Financial Times said on Thursday. Separately, Britain’s banking regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said it was in contact with two UK banks over any possible links to the Gupta family. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing. Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo could not be reached for comment and the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria had no immediate comment. Reuters

Morocco Thwarts Bomb Attack Planned by Recently Dismantled Terror Cell
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday that the country’s security forces had thwarted a planned bomb attack carried by a recently dismantled terror cell. On Sunday, Moroccan security services announced the arrest of 11 people with suspected links to the Islamic State group and the seizure of chemical materials used for making bombs in the northern city of Fez. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the forces had seized in the cell’s house and in a car “liquids and chemical powders that are used in the manufacturing of explosives that the cell’s members intended to use to carry out terrorist plots in the kingdom.” Xinhua

Senate Challenges House on Western Sahara Dispute
A handful of senators are standing up to their House colleagues who want the United States to side with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara. The Senate spending panel that oversees US foreign aid has included language in its annual appropriations bill that would require the Donald Trump administration to consult with the United Nations before providing aid to Western Sahara, a contested region administered by Morocco. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Algerian-backed government in exile that is pushing for a long-delayed independence referendum, welcomed the Senate’s move. “Since Morocco does not have any legitimacy in the territory, it makes sense that Congress should consult with the United Nations,” Mouloud Said, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s envoy to the United States, told Al-Monitor. “We are very happy for the language that was adopted by the Senate. This is the logical approach while the country still is not recognized.” Al Monitor

Burundian Refugees in DRC Camps Face Food Shortages
Burundian refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they are not getting enough food to eat. About 400,000 people have fled Burundi since its political crisis began in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to run for a third term. The government is accused of trying to silence its critics over extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture – all of which it denies. About 40,000 of the refugees are in the east of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Al Jazeera

Six of the 10 Countries with the Highest Rate of Deaths Caused by Pollution Are in Africa
Pollution has been linked to nine million deaths worldwide in 2015, a report in The Lancet has found. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, where pollution could account for up to a quarter of deaths. Bangladesh and Somalia were the worst affected. Air pollution had the biggest impact, accounting for two-thirds of deaths from pollution. Brunei and Sweden had the lowest numbers of pollution-related deaths. Most of these deaths were caused by non-infectious diseases linked to pollution, such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. BBC

UN Says Plague Cases in Madagascar Almost Doubled in 5 Days
The number of plague cases in Madagascar has almost doubled over the last five days and medical experts project the situation will worsen, with 1,000 cases expected every month if funds aren’t rapidly provided, the United Nations said Thursday. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that only 26 percent of the $9.5 million needed to combat the outbreak of the often deadly disease has been received. Dujarric said U.N. humanitarian officials in the Indian Ocean island nation reported 1,032 cases as of Wednesday, 67 percent of which were pneumonic plague. He says that “is more serious than the bubonic plague and highly challenging to control.” So far, he said, 89 deaths have been counted, including 13 on Tuesday. The Washington Post

Senegal Presidency Targets ‘Fake News’
Senegal’s presidency is getting into the fact-checking business. “Fake news is flourishing. It is something people cannot control and that can end up affecting politics, society and the way people behave,” says the Special Advisor to President Macky Sall, Ousmane Thiongane. It is a concern being raised around the continent, and around the world for that matter. A recent study of the Kenyan electoral campaign released in July found that 90 percent of Kenyans had “seen or heard false news” about the election, much of it shared via Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Thiongane recalls how the Senegalese government had to intervene earlier this year amid panic over false rumors about “plastic rice” imported from China. Senegalese authorities publicly tested rice imports and broadcast interviews with scientists to dispel the myth that had spread in several African countries via social media. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones