Africa Media Review for October 3, 2018

Mattis Vows No Cut in Military Support for France in Mali
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the U.S. will not reduce its support for the French-led military operations against insurgents in Mali. “We have no intention of cutting back one bit on that support,” said Mattis. Speaking alongside Mattis at a press conference in Paris, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the Pentagon chief reassured her that any changes in U.S. operations or forces in Africa would not affect support provided to France. The Pentagon has been reevaluating its troop presence and operations in Africa after the ambush in Niger last year that killed four U.S. soldiers and four of their Niger counterparts. French forces were part of the rescue force that went to the aid of U.S. forces after the Niger attack. French leaders have previously suggested they’d like to see continued or additional American support in Africa, where militant groups continue to wage attacks.  AP

Report: African Countries Struggle to Contain Terror Groups
Amid a decline in terror incidents worldwide in 2017, African countries struggled to prevent the expansion of terror groups in parts of the continent, according to a U.S. State Department report on terrorism. “African countries expanded their efforts to develop regional counterterrorism solutions while they struggled to contain the expansion of terrorist groups, affiliates, and aspirants involved in attacks or other activities in 2017,” according to the report, released last week. Experts offer different explanations as to why terror groups have been able to expand in the continent. Jacob Zenn, a terrorism expert with the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, said he believes that when it comes to ideology and development, the former should be given more attention. “When it comes to extremism, intolerant religious teachings need to be countered. If not, jihadists would exploit intolerance and encourage people to express grievances through violence,” Zenn said. “Thus, countering the ideology must be paramount. VOA

Islamic State Announces Death of Senior Militant in Egypt’s Sinai
Islamic State announced on Tuesday the death of a senior member of the group in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to a social media posting, dealing a blow to militants behind a wave of attacks on Egyptian military and civilian targets. The notice, published under the heading “caravan of the Shuhada” or martyrs, showed a picture of a smiling young bearded man it identified as Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi. Maqdisi, a Palestinian, was in charge of the group’s planning and training operations in Sinai, it said without giving any detains on how he was killed, when or where. There was no immediate comment from the Egyptian military on the report, but security sources said Maqdisi died along with two other people early on Monday in an air strike on their vehicle near Sheikh Zweid in northern Sinai.  Reuters

South Sudan’s Army Renamed ‘South Sudan People’s Defense Force’
South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Tuesday night issued a decree renaming the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to ‘South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF).’ According to the presidential decree read out on state TV, the change of the name acquired by the SPLA during the war of liberation struggle complies with the resolutions of the sixth SPLA Command Council Conference and the country’s constitution. Last year, President Kiir issued a decree restructuring the army.  Radio Tamazuj

Mozambique to Put 180 Islamist Suspects on Trial
Mozambique will on Wednesday put on trial 180 national and foreign citizens accused of involvement in deadly Islamist attacks in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, sources said. Over the last year, more than 50 people have been killed in gun, grenade and knife assaults in the growing jihadist insurgency, with the militants reportedly seeking to impose Sharia law in the Muslim-majority province. The trial — the first since the attacks began — will be held in an improvised court in the jail where hundreds of suspected militants are being detained in Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado, a court source said Tuesday. Among the defendants are 5O citizens from neighbouring Tanzania. “This is only the first group to be tried among hundreds of detainees,” a police source said. The attackers are believed to have staged their first attack on a police station and military outpost in the town of Mocimboa da Praia in October 2017. Two officers died and 14 attackers were killed.  AFP

Burundi Suspends All International NGOs
Burundi has suspended all international non-governmental organisations, officials said on Tuesday, saying they would need to re-register. The government has listed several reasons for the move, such as laws on their financial operations, but some critics are concerned it is a crackdown by President Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundi has been seized by civil unrest since 2015, when Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in office. Earlier this year, changes to the constitution were approved that allow him to potentially remain in power until 2034. He has, however, said he’ll step down in 2020. “From Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, Burundi does not recognise the existence of any non-governmental organisation on its territory.  The Punch

Libya Conference to Be Held in Sicily in November: Italy
A Libya conference will be held in Sicily in November, Italy’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, with talks focusing on an “inclusive approach” to stabilising the war-torn north African country while not fixating on a date for elections. The peace conference in Palermo on November 12 and 13 will aim to “identify the stages of a stabilisation process”, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told the Senate. The meeting would drive towards “a common solution, even if there are differences of opinion between the parties involved”, he said. Four key leaders from Libya agreed at a conference in Paris in May to hold landmark polls on December 10 as part of a French-led plan to stabilise the crisis-hit country despite ongoing violence and deep divisions. France, however, has faced opposition to the election timetable from the United States along with other European Union countries, notably Italy.  AFP

Libya’s Haftar Still Supports Elections but Sees Others Stalling
Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, a key figure in the future of the troubled North African country, still supports plans for national elections in December but says other players are not fulfilling their part for the vote to take place. His downbeat comments to Reuters add to growing doubts that a French plan, backed by the United Nations, to hold elections aimed at ending seven years of conflict in the oil producer will go ahead. Haftar is a dominant figure in the east where his Libyan National Army (LNA) last year seized the second-largest city of Benghazi by expelling Islamist and other fighters. The 75-year old, in written comments to questions submitted by Reuters, refused to say whether he would run in presidential elections as expected, saying only: “Which elections are you talking about ? When they are announced and the door opened to run for them, you will know the answer.”  Reuters

We Began to Film Secretly in Libya. Then We Had to Escape
We knew Libya would be tough. We set out to report on the re-emergence of the Islamic State group and the immigration crisis. The latter was particularly sensitive, since last November when CNN broadcast shocking video of slave auctions selling African migrants outside Tripoli. The Libyan government opened an investigation into the auctions but also blocked all American TV outlets from entering the country. We spent five months pushing Libyan authorities for visas and permits, and made repeated trips to Libyan embassies in Rome and London. Finally we arrived in Tripoli in early August — typically high season for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. An estimated 700,000 are currently bottlenecked along the coast, trapped between abusive conditions in Libya and an increasingly populist, anti-migrant Europe that no longer wants them. PBS

Ethiopia Faces Reforms’ Next Steps as Ruling Coalition Meets
Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is expected to take the next steps this week on sweeping reforms announced under its new prime minister as it begins its first congress since he took power in April. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tells the gathering that “a true measure of leadership is not indispensability” and that a true leader produces qualified successors and makes “herself/himself redundant.” That’s according to Twitter posts by Abiy’s chief of staff. The prime minister has pledged free and fair elections in Africa’s second most populous nation in 2020. He also has dramatically widened the political space by welcoming once-banned opposition groups home from exile to join dialogue. Ethiopia since 1991 has been led by the coalition and allied parties that hold every Parliament seat. Ethnic tensions challenge the current reforms. AP

Ethnic Clashes Kill 44 in Restive Western Ethiopia
Weekend fighting between rival ethnic groups in western Ethiopia killed at least 44 people, state affiliated media reported Tuesday. The clashes occurred on the border between the central Oromia and western Benishangul-Gumuz regions. Violence began when officials from Benishangul-Gumuz were killed by unidentified gunmen, said the Walta Media and Communication Corporate, citing the region’s communications chief Zelalem Jaleta. The clashes between youths from rival ethnic groups armed with rocks and knives forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes with security forces deployed to pacify the area. Benishangul-Gumuz is one of Ethiopia’s nine regional states, stretching to the border with Sudan. VOA

73,000 Displaced in Ethiopia Ethnic Flare-Up
At least 73,000 have been displaced in the clashes that followed last week’s killing of four people in eastern Ethiopia’s Benshangul/ Gumz region, the state broadcaster said Tuesday. The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) stated that most of the displaced had escaped to the neighbouring towns of Oromia Regional State. EBC quoted the Benshangul/ Gumz communications officer, Mr Zelalem Jaleta, saying the four people killed were officials of the local administration in Kamashi Zone. He said the regional state requested the assistance of the federal government to contain the situation, and reinforcement arrived the following day . The East African

Dozens of Refugees Drown in Shipwreck off Morocco Coast
At least 34 refugees have drowned in a shipwreck along the western Mediterranean, the UN migration agency said, citing the Moroccan navy and a Spanish aid agency. Helena Maleno, a Morocco-based activist with Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, said on Tuesday that 34 of a total of 60 migrants died after authorities failed to respond to earlier reports of the incident. “They had been asking for help for the past 24 hours but we let them die slowly,” she posted on Twitter. Joe Millman, a spokesperson of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told Reuters news agency that “the boat was adrift since Sunday with 60 people on board. At least 34 people have drowned, it looks like there were 26 survivors.”  Al Jazeera

Cameroonian Politicians Use Social Media to Woo Voters
Political parties in Cameroon have turned to social media to effectively woo more voters and even target the undecided ones ahead of the October 7 presidential polls. Opposition Presidential candidate Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) is using his new internet based campaign to reach more Cameroonians. At his campaign headquarters, a team of volunteers work to update his social media networks. “You have a poll that looks at the campaign strategy, which also defines the strategy and planning. You have a poll that looks at all social media activities and in this case it means, tracking all information and news that is released on the candidate on all social media platforms. You have a poll that looks at marketing as well as e-mails that are sent to potential voters. Today, we have sent over 1 million e-mails,” said Patrick Tomi, the social media manager for Joshua Osih’s campaign.  Africa News

Young Ugandans Protest Entrenched Power
Protests have rocked Uganda since last year, when the government amended the constitution to abolish presidential age limits, allowing President Yoweri Museveni to stay in power indefinitely. The demonstrations spilled onto the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, when more than 100 people joined a protest calling for change in the East African country. “We wanted to denounce the routine police brutality and extrajudicial killings that have been happening for the last 32 years,” Kharim Ntambi, who organized the protest, told VOA. “We also wanted to demand that the government should stop criminalizing dissenting views.” Nantume Kabanda and Robert Mulerwa grew up in Uganda and attended the rally in New York. They’re calling on the international community to end its support of a government they say oppresses its people. VOA

Uganda MPs Vote to Maintain Controversial Social Media Tax
Lawmakers in Uganda have voted to maintain a controversial tax law that sparked protests across the country months back. Local media portals reported that the ruling National Resistance Movement, NRM, dominated chamber voted 136 against 101 votes to maintain the tax on mobile money and social media service. The taxes, implemented by telecom companies since July 1, have been widely criticised and resisted by Uganda’s youthful population, human rights activists and economic analysts. President Yoweri Museveni, at a point ordered a reduction of the initial amount imposed. He directed that refunds be made to customers whose deposits had been charged, and also confirmed that the levy should have been 0.5%. Africa News

Liberia Central Bank Denies It Lost $100 Million
Liberia’s central bank did not lose more than $100 million in newly printed notes, its governor said on Tuesday, disputing prior government statements that have sparked outrage and a federal investigation. The information minister said last month that two separate shipments of cash containing a total of $104 million – or about 5 percent of the west African nation’s gross domestic product – went missing over the past year. The scandal has saddled President George Weah with his biggest political crisis since he took office in January. Weah ordered an investigation and more than 30 former bank officials were barred from leaving the country. But in a statement on Tuesday, central bank governor Nathaniel Patray said an internal audit found that all the notes shipped from the Swedish printer between 2016 and 2018 were properly accounted for and stored in the bank’s reserve vaults. VOA

China Boosts West African Oil Imports to Offset Trade War Impact
China is set to boost its crude imports from West Africa to the highest in at least seven years this month as the trade war with the U.S. prompts the Asian nation’s refiners to find alternatives. Chinese refiners have bought about 1.71 million barrels a day of crude for October loading from West Africa, the most since at least August 2011 when Bloomberg started compiling the data, according to a survey of traders and analysis of loading programs. In total, Asia’s crude imports from West Africa in October will jump to 2.44 million barrels a day, also a seven-year high. The trade war with the the U.S. has cut China’s interest in buying shale oil which is similar in quality to West African crude. Unipec, the trading arm of top Chinese refiner Sinopec, recently put a plan to boost U.S. crude imports on hold. The impending return of sanctions on Iranian crude further limits the availability for Chinese buyers. Bloomberg