Africa Media Review for October 25, 2016

Militants Attack Kenya Hotel, Killing 12; Shabab Claim Responsibility
Islamist militants struck a hotel in northern Kenya on Tuesday morning, killing a dozen people and stoking outrage from Kenyans who accused their government of not doing enough to protect them from a relentless menace. The Shabab, a Somali militant group, gleefully took responsibility, saying online that they had bombed the hotel to kill infidels and that all their fighters “came back to their positions safely after the operation.” The attack happened at 3:30 a.m. at a hotel in Mandera, a town that sits at the absolute northeastern tip of Kenya. This month, Islamist militants killed six people there. Less than two years ago, Islamist militants slaughtered dozens of miners in the same area, separating the Christians from the Muslims and shooting the Christians in the head. According to Kenyan officials, the militants detonated a powerful bomb at the hotel on Tuesday when most guests were sleeping. Part of the hotel collapsed, and at least 12 people died in the avalanche of concrete and rebar. Several others were seriously wounded. The New York Times

Suspected Extremists Attack African Union Base in Somalia
A Somali police officer says a suicide car bomber hit an African Union army base in central Somalia Tuesday. Ahmed Ali said the bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the gates of a base of soldiers from Djibouti in Beledweyne town. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, however Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, often carry out such assaults. Despite being ousted from major strongholds across Somalia, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, has recently been attacking military positions of Somali and African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s government. AP on US News and World Report

Kenyan President Commutes All Death Sentences to Life in Prison
President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted all death sentences in Kenya to life jail terms on Monday, removing 2,747 convicts from death row in a nation that has not executed anyone for about three decades. In addition to commuting the sentences of 2,655 men and 92 women, Kenyatta also signed pardon warrants to release 102 long-term serving convicts, the presidential State House said. Such pardons are granted to prisoners deemed reformed and rehabilitated, and found to be deserving of early release. A mass commutation of prisoners on death row was last signed in 2009 by the then President Mwai Kibaki. A life prison sentence in Kenya means for the rest of a convict’s natural life. Reuters

Sudan’s President Heads Abroad, Ill Health Denied
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir left for Saudi Arabia on Monday amid reports he is unwell. Bashir, 72, cancelled a scheduled appearance at a national dialogue meeting on Sunday. Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told reporters the president had suffered a minor illness but declined to give further details. The official SUNA news agency confirmed that Bashir had left for talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour denied the illness reports and said Bashir was in good health. “Bashir is in his full health and does not complain of any health problems,” Ghandour said. Anadolu Agency

Three Killed in Anti-U.N. Unrest in Central African Republic: Red Cross
Three people were killed and six wounded in Central African Republic on Monday when U.N. peacekeepers exchanged fire with armed men during a protest against the U.N. military presence, the local Red Cross said. The dead and wounded were among hundreds of protesters gathered to call for the U.N. troops to leave the country, Antoine Mbao-Bogo, president of the CAR Red Cross, said. A U.N. spokesman said at least four peacekeepers had been wounded. A Reuters witness saw protesters, carrying anti-U.N. posters, throwing stones and shouting at the troops who responded with warning shots. There was then an exchange of gunfire between the troops and armed men near the crowd. Reuters

Why It’s Taking So Long for the U.S. and Its Allies to Finish Off the Islamic State in Libya
A U.S. air campaign against Islamic State militants in Libya, which was supposed to be a brisk illustration of the effectiveness of U.S. support for local forces, has turned into an extended operation with no clear end in sight. About 100 militants are believed to remain in the coastal city of Sirte, which in 2015 became the most important Islamic State stronghold outside of Iraq and Syria. They are holed up in a small, densely packed residential area. For months, U.S.-backed local militia fighters have struggled against militant defenses and sniper attacks; last week, 14 fighters were killed on one day alone. The elusiveness of victory in Sirte underscores the challenges that continue to face U.S. efforts to defeat extremists from North Africa to Afghanistan: the limitations of local fighting forces, including inadequate battlefield support and poor morale, and the corrosive effects of local political feuds. The Washington Post

Torture, Starvation, Deprivation: Life Inside IS Prisons in Libya
Written in English by a foreign national held captive behind the bricked-up windows of a secret IS prison, the desperate missive – signed Dr Muhammad and dated April 2016 – detailed ongoing neglect despite the writer’s conversion to Islam after just one month of incarceration. “I became so sick that I am not able to sit or stand for ten minutes continuously. I am standing up only for my prayers,” he wrote, pleading for medication to treat several long-term health conditions. The letter, discovered in a secret prison in a Sirte suburb liberated by Libyan forces battling against IS, gave a chilling indication of the treatment of prisoners by the extremist group, which claimed Muammar Gaddafi’s former hometown as its North African stronghold for more than a year. IRIN

Sudanese Rebels Given Ultimatum to Leave South Sudan
South Sudan government has given Sudanese rebels within the young nation’s territory to leave the country within 30 days, contrary to its earlier denials that it hosted and supports armed dissidents opposed to the Khartoum regime. The South Sudanese defense minister, Kuol Manyang said government was fully committed to respecting and implementing non-aggression pact, which it signed with neigbouring Sudan. The deal, Manyang said, demands that the two nations take no military action against each other. It also prevents hosting, arming, training and providing any logistical supports to any hostile armed group operating with the ambition to advance their cause through violence to destabilize the security situation of the other. Sudan Tribune

Stop Supporting Rebels or Else, Sudan Warns South Sudan
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has given Juba two months to force Sudanese rebels operating inside South Sudan to leave the country. Bashir made the remarks in Khartoum over the weekend after the U.S. State Department issued a statement last Thursday indicating the South Sudan government is harboring Sudanese rebels. At a meeting Saturday of the National Shura Council, Bashir said Juba, the capital of South Sudan, must cut its ties with Sudanese rebels and expel them from the country immediately. VOA

South Sudan’s Army Committed Atrocities, Amnesty Says
A new report by Amnesty International says they are among the victims of crimes committed by South Sudanese soldiers when clashes with the opposition in the capital, Juba, killed hundreds of people in July. The new report describes how atrocities continued even after the fighting stopped. Soldiers raped and gang-raped more than 200 women on the basis of ethnicity over a one-week period just after the clashes ended, according to Amnesty International. The report called the pattern of sexual violence carried out by soldiers “systemic,” adding that “pillage and destruction was so enormous that it could not have been done without, at a minimum, a large degree of command acquiescence.” Soldiers also were seen looting a U.N. agency food storage site, used to feed around 220,000 people, two days after the opposition withdrew, the report said. Opposition fighters also put thousands of civilian lives in danger, according to Amnesty International, entering U.N. civilian protection sites during clashes, potentially in an attempt to use people inside as human shields. AP on The Washington Post

South Sudan ‘Rebels’ Demand Ransom for 41 Abducted Ugandans
A suspected South Sudan rebel group has reportedly demanded a ransom for the safe return of 41 Ugandans who were kidnapped in the east African country early this year. According to Daily Monitor, the group was believed to be loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. The victims were taken from buses bound for the capital Kampala and along border districts. Twenty-three were abducted in May and a further eight taken the following month in July. News 24

Burkinabe Security Dismantles Al-Qaeda Linked Recruiters Ring
An extremist network that had been trying to recruit people for al-Qaeda linked movements in the Sahel has been dismantled in Burkina Faso. This is according to the AP news agency which quoted Burkinabe officials as saying they are still pursuing three other suspects who are nationals from the country. Security officers shot at one man who was carrying a gun and a grenade on Saturday following information they received from the public. In January, Burkina Faso suffered a terrorist attack on a hotel in Ouagadougou, that claimed the lives of at least 30 people. Africa News

Zambian Opposition to Boycott Independence Celebrations
Opposition parties in Zambia on Sunday instructed their supporters to boycott national independence celebrations scheduled for Monday. The United Party for National Development (UPND) and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) were angry at what they called an “artificial crisis” created by the ruling party. Monday’s ceremony is also to be attended by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the personal invitation of Zambia’s leader, Edgar Lungu. UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema told journalists in the capital Lusaka the boycott decision was to protest economic hardship and accused the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) of being involved in political intimidation and harassment. Anadolu Agency

Egypt’s Security Chief Warns of Scheme to Incite Chaos
Egypt’s interior minister warned in comments published on Monday that the country faced “unprecedented challenges” that required a “decisive” response by security forces, accusing the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of scheming to incite chaos. The minister’s comments, which came in an Interior Ministry statement published in state-owned newspapers, was the latest sign of alarm by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s government over possible unrest as result of worsening economic conditions. News 24

Museveni Supports South Africa’s ICC Exit Decision
President Yoweri Museveni has backed South Africa’s decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court. South Africa has formally started the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has since notified the UN of its decision. When asked for a comment by reporters on his arrival at Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport for a state visit President Museveni said: “Very good, very good. I support it [the decision]. ICC is useless.” President Museveni did not say why Uganda was yet to or if it intends to pull out of ICC. While in Zambia, the Ugandan leader will hold talks with President Edgar Lungu,attend Independence Day celebrations Monday and meet that country’s first president Kenneth Kaunda. The ICC has a fractious relationship with the African continent. Africa Review

African States Can Try Their Own African Leaders – Dlamini-Zuma
Africa has the mechanisms to try leaders accused of human rights violations, African Union commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Monday. She would not comment on South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, saying it was its sovereign right. “The African Union commission has no standing in the ICC. We are not members of the ICC. It’s a purely sovereign decision for each country to join or pull out. As I am chair of African Union commission I will not comment on that,” Dlamini-Zuma said on the sidelines of an African editors’ and press officers’ meeting in Pretoria. News 24

Morocco Lobbies East Africa for Re-entry Into the African Union
King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited Rwanda this week as part of his aggressive diplomatic push to be readmitted to the African Union (AU), 32 years after it withdrew from membership of the continental body. The trip that was also to take him to Tanzania and Ethiopia. The move comes ahead of the next AU summit scheduled for January 2017 in Addis Ababa where the matter of Morocco’s admission is expected to be on the agenda. The kingdom might however be forced to swallow its pride and accept to co-exist with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a semi-autonomous western Sahara region whose admission as a full member of the former OAU had pushed Morocco to withdraw from the organisation in 1984. The East African

Europe Pays Out to Keep a Lid on Ethiopia Migration
Set off a busy main road, it hosts refugees from the conflicts and struggles in South Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, Yemen, Burundi, and more besides. Ethiopia has a refugee population of 700,000, the largest in Africa. In the first few weeks of October alone, an additional 31,000 people fleeing the crisis in South Sudan arrived in the west of the country. But Ethiopia is not only an important destination for refugees, it’s also a key country of origin and transit for migrants as well. IRIN

Stuck on France-Italy Border, African Migrants Ponder Next Move
Migrants have continued to arrive on Italy’s shores by the thousands this year. Most of them are Africans who hope to continue on to other European countries. But emergency border checks in place since last year mean many of them are stuck. Cars whip quickly around the curvy mountain roads as rain fails on a chilly day in Ventimiglia, Italy. We are at the country’s border with France. Groups of migrants are walking along the edges of the wet highway. VOA

The Race for Oil and Gas in Africa
Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with many of them relying on oil for foreign exchange. It is estimated that 57 percent of Africa’s export earnings come from hydrocarbons. Proven oil reserves have grown by almost 150 percent, increasing from 53.4 billion barrels since 1980, to 130.3 billion barrels by the end of 2012.  The region is home to five of the top 30 oil-producing countries in the world, and nearly $2 trillion of investments are expected by 2036. Due to these conditions, the interest of Europeans, Americans and Chinese remains high in the continent. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones