Africa Media Review for October 29, 2019

Gunmen killed 15 civilians in northern Burkina Faso over the weekend, security and local sources said on Monday, in the latest deadly attack as the impoverished West African country battles a jihadist revolt. “On Saturday night numerous armed individuals attacked the village of Pobe-Mengao and kidnapped several residents, ransacked shops and carried away equipment,” a local source said. A security source said “the lifeless bodies of 11 people were found on Sunday morning… probably the bodies of those abducted the day before in Pobe-Mengao by an armed terrorist group.” The local source said that “after the attackers departed, the population started to leave the village to take refuge in Djibo – particularly after the bodies were discovered.” Djibo, the capital of the Soum province, is 25km from Pobe-Mengao. … More than 10,000 people marched in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday to express their support for the country’s security forces, which are badly-equipped, poorly trained and under-funded. AFP

In an exclusive interview Friday with VOA, Africa Command Director of Public Affairs Col. Chris Karns said four U.S. airstrikes this year had killed 43 of the terror groups’ fighters in Libya, where Islamic State forces had been gathering in camps and recruiting new fighters. “We wanted to make sure that threat did not grow,” Karns said, adding that the U.S. would “continue to monitor the situation” to prevent Libya from gaining a safe haven and taking advantage of a “difficult situation.” He also said the new Air Force base in Agadez, Niger, was expected to start operations later this year, with U.S. aircraft already landing on the base. “We’re still waiting for a technical agreement to be signed by the government of Niger. We expect that flying operations will occur this year,” Karns said. He also spoke about competition with Russia and China on the continent, pointing out that Russia and China are Africa’s top arms exporters. VOA

Algerian judges and prosecutors began an open-ended strike Sunday to demand the independence of the judiciary after a massive reshuffle that has affected thousands, the union of magistrates said. The move comes as the country remains wracked by anti-government protests against a planned December presidential election that must be overseen by judges. Earlier this month the justice ministry carried out an unprecedented reshuffle of the judiciary in a move that affected 3,000 judges and prosecutors, out of around 6,000. The National Magistrates’ Syndicate (SNM) denounced the move as “a stranglehold by the executive over the power of the judiciary.” … Magistrates play a major role in overseeing elections in the North African country. The planned December poll is meant to find a successor to veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who quit in April under the pressure of demonstrations. … Algeria’s electoral committee has registered 22 candidates for the December polls, including two former prime ministers who served under Bouteflika. AFP

An Islamic State cell broken up last week planned to attack Casablanca and its port, but a Syrian militant who assisted the group remains at large, the head of Morocco’s BCIJ security agency said on Monday. The group had targeted economically sensitive sites both in the city of Casablanca and offshore, said Abdelhak Khiame, adding that the jihadists, all aged between 19-27, were radicalised online. Khiame said the cell was probably the last to pledge allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he was killed on Saturday in a U.S. special forces raid in northwestern Syria. Police said on Friday they had arrested seven suspected militants near Casablanca and in the northern areas of Ouazzane and Chefchaouen in possession of firearms, bomb-making material, an inflatable boat, diving and navigation tools. Reuters

In Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution, a new ICG report released on October 21, the international think-tank poses that the power-sharing deal signed by the Sudanese military and opposition leaders on August 17, could, if honoured, pave the way for elections and civilian rule. “Sudan faces a crushing economic crisis, insurgencies and political polarisation, with a security establishment bent on keeping power and an opposition movement determined to install a fully civilian administration. The 17 August agreement represents the best pathway both to achieving reform and to averting spiralling violence,” ICG states in its Executive Summary. … Another challenge is the fragmented security establishment which is unaccountable and subject to dangerous internecine rivalries. The army has lost its primacy to the Rapid Support Forces, Sudan’s main government militia, run by Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, “who may be the most powerful man in Sudan.” “The country’s primary military and paramilitary organisations should be unified under one command, but that project will require patience and encouragement from outside powers like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” ICG states. Radio Dabanga

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Tukur Buratai, has called for improved funding for the Nigerian Army to meet with the current challenges in the fight against insurgency in the country. He made the call at the opening of the 12th Biennial Training Conference of the Nigerian Army Finance Corps in Uyo, on Monday. … The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the conference was “Expanding Roles of the Nigerian Army in Internal Security Operations: Funding Imperatives.” He said that the public sector financial reforms, such as cashless policy, treasury single account and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS), had prevented leakages in the sector. The army chief said that some of the policies would affect the optimal performance of the army and its core competencies, if not well managed. “The Nigerian Army will continue to ensure prudence and accountability in the utilisation of available resources. “To this end, I authorised the establishment of Directorate of Audit and Financial Management (DAFM), which reports directly to my office. …” NAN

In 2011, Ghana was Africa’s second-largest producer of gold. In recent years, it has been home to a multibillion-dollar industry which, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, accounts for nearly half of the country’s exports. But this rich resource has also attracted a network of scammers who, posing as legitimate gold traders, dupe buyers out of their money. Using hidden cameras, investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas went undercover in 2011 to expose their operations. Working with an associate who posed as a wealthy investor from the Middle East, he met scammers, collected documentation, visited a small-scale illegal mine, and eventually handed over his findings to the police. Rewind recently caught up with Anas to discuss what it took to cover the story, and what has happened since. … While scammers still operate in Ghana, Anas believes that a country’s willingness to hold fraudsters accountable is what matters most. “Gold scammers will always be there. But the bigger question is how prepared is your nation to fight these.” Al Jazeera

More than 200,000 people have fled fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu highlands in recent months as a long-simmering struggle over land, power, and citizenship descends into village burnings and widespread killings. A coalition of militias drawn from the Babembe, Bafuliru, and Banyindu communities – who consider themselves “indigenous” Congolese – are fighting the Banyamulenge, a cattle-herding group of Rwandan origin often derided as outsiders. Foreign rebel groups from neighbouring counties are suspected of participating in the violence, which is centred on Minembwe and Itombwe – remote mountainous areas where many Banyamulenge have lived for generations. Aid groups are providing limited assistance to displaced people, who are mostly staying with host families. Washed-out roads and insecurity are preventing aid workers from accessing some areas. The New Humanitarian

DR Congo military prosecutors on Monday requested life imprisonment for a warlord accused of leading the mass rape of hundreds of people, including children, in the central African country’s volatile east. Frederic Masudi Alimasi, known as Kokodikoko, and two other men “committed crimes against humanity including rape, torture, murder, imprisonment and sexual slavery,” said military prosecutor Major Apollinaire Yoma Mukoko. Kokodikoko, the leader of the Raia Mutomboki militia, and members Mwilo Katindi and Samitamba Makese Raphael have been on trial since mid-September in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Charges against two other militia members have been dropped for lack of evidence, the prosecution said. … “They took more than 100 women hostage… to rape them one after another,” said the Panzi Foundation of surgeon Denis Mukwege, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for helping women recover from rape. AFP

The Chief of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, has paid a friendly visit to South Africa and met his counterpart, Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang. During the official visit last week, the Pakistan Air Force said matters of mutual interest were discussed, with Pakistan offering support in the field of training, amongst others. Msimang lauded the Pakistan Air Force’s professionalism and efforts to acquire indigenously produced equipment such as the Super Mushshak, K-8 and JF-17. Both the air chiefs agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation and explore avenues of common interests. During his arrival at South African Air Force Headquarters on 24 October, Khan was presented with an honour guard. South Africa and Pakistan have shared close defence ties for some time now. In 1998 the two countries signed agreements concerning defence and defence equipment as well as peacetime cooperation between their respective navies. defenceWeb

Internal Egyptian government documents show officials in Cairo scrambling to do damage control after U.S. spy agencies uncovered an alleged scheme to smuggle North Korean military cargo into the country in defiance of international sanctions. The newly obtained records include what appears to be an explicit acknowledgment of the Egyptian military’s role in purchasing 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades that were discovered hidden on a North Korean cargo ship in 2016. The vessel was headed to an Egyptian port in the Suez Canal at the time of the bust, which a report by the United Nations described as “the largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions” against the communist state. North Korean officials continued to demand payment for the estimated $23 million weapons shipment, prompting fears among the Egyptians that they might be subjected to blackmail, according to the Foreign Ministry documents obtained by The Washington Post. … How the matter was ultimately resolved – including how much money, if any, was paid – is not clear from the documents. The Washington Post

The smartphone market in Africa is highly competitive, but few devices worldwide are designed with African customers in mind. This was something the Chinese company Transsion recognized early on and enabled it to become market leader on the continent over the last 10 years. According to Transsion Holdings, it has sold more than 130 million Tecno and Itel cells in Africa. “They are exactly how smartphones need to be,” says Lafu Balde. He bought a Transsion phone recently: “It cost only 50,000 CFA francs [€76] and has everything we need here in Africa: access to the most important social media is pre-installed, the device is robust and the battery lasts several days in standby mode. I am grateful to the Chinese for making it so easy for us to access the Internet.” Transsion phones also have user menus in several African languages and usually offer space for two SIM cards. That goes down well with the customers. Chinese cell phones also dominate the market in Senegal and Nigeria, the latter being Africa’s most populous country. DW

A parallel central bank in eastern Libya stepped up deliveries of new banknotes from Russia this year, before and after eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar launched a military offensive to capture Tripoli, Russian customs data show. The data obtained by Reuters shows nearly 4.5 billion Libyan dinars ($3.22 billion) were despatched in four shipments from February to June. Haftar launched his campaign in early April. The new banknotes appear to push the total quantity of dinars ordered from Russia since 2016 well above the 10 billion previously acknowledged by eastern officials, and underscore the dependence of eastern factions on the deliveries. … Western diplomats who have led talks on reuniting the central bank have expressed concern that the printing of banknotes in Russia and accumulation of debt by the east could undermine those efforts. Reuters

“It’s a low-cost, high-profile way of elevating Russia,” said Joseph Siegle, the research director at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “I don’t see much of a long-term plan for Africa, but this fits into broader Russian foreign policy where Moscow is following opportunities and posturing to be seen as a global power.” … “For Russia, this return to Africa is like jumping on the last wagon of the train,” said Olga Kulkova, a senior research fellow at the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “There are still some elites across the continent that have ties to the Soviet era, but the next generation doesn’t have the same links to Russia as before. So we need to take the opportunity to return now while there are still people with connections.” … Against this backdrop, Russia has deployed a loose strategy of self-enrichment, boosting military ties, deepening trade links, and selling its influence as a path for autocrats to stay in power and defy Western pressure. … “There is certainly a receptive audience for the Russian playbook in Africa,” Siegle said. “For Russia, they are hoping that by legitimizing these leaders and helping them hang on, it can open up more political and financial opportunities in the future.” Foreign Policy

A group of researchers say they’ve pinpointed the ancestral homeland of all humans alive today: modern-day Botswana. In a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists analysed mitochondrial DNA – genetic information that gets passed down the female line – from more than 1,200 people across myriad populations in Africa. By examining which genes were preserved in people’s DNA over time, the anthropologists determined that anatomically modern humans emerged in what was once a lush wetland in Botswana, south of the Zambezi River. … Anthropologist Vanessa Hayes, the senior author of the new paper, said in a press conference that the findings suggest “everyone walking around today” can trace their mitochondrial DNA back to this “human homeland.” Business Insider