Africa Media Review for October 31, 2018

Militant Islamist Group Activity in the Sahel Rises
Expansion of violent events linked to an array of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel highlights the growing scope of security challenges facing this region. […] The violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel has tripled over the past 12 months, reaching over 377 episodes and 895 fatalities. This escalation largely reflects the efforts of the coalition of militant groups operating under the Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) umbrella. Also contributing to this escalation in the Sahel is Abu Walid al Sahrawi’s Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which was linked to roughly a quarter of all violent events involving militant Islamist groups that occurred in the Sahel in the past 12 months. Reports suggest growing collaboration between ISGS, Ansaroul Islam, and JNIM. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Sudan Opposition Leader Returns as Part of Peace Deal
For the first time since fleeing South Sudan more than two years ago, opposition leader Riek Machar returned on Wednesday to take part in a nationwide peace celebration. Under the new peace deal signed on September 12, Machar will once again serve as a vice president in President Salva Kiir’s government. This will be the third time the two men will try to work together since the country erupted into civil war in 2013. The last attempt failed when fighting broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016 and Machar escaped the country on foot. Machar is joined in Juba for the peace celebrations by South Sudan’s other opposition groups as well as regional heads of state including the leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and Egypt. Five years of fighting in South Sudan has crippled the country, displacing millions and killing almost 400,000 people from violence and disease according to a recent report. AP

Child Soldiers of South Sudan
On the red, dusty ground in Yambio, under a large mango tree, a group of 30 girls and boys, some wearing military clothes and some with guns next to them, sit in the shade eating biscuits while waiting for the start of the ceremony to release them from the army. The US ambassador and other guests are coming from the capital Juba to attend the event. They are part of the 900 children released from the armed forces in South Sudan in 2018, the country with one of the largest number of child soldiers in the world. The ceremony consists of them symbolically taking off the military clothes, and receiving blue UNICEF labelled notebooks and schoolbags. According to the UN, there are still 19,000 children in armed forces in South Sudan, a number contested by the army. “We have concerns about the figures published by UNICEF. We don’t know how they came up with those numbers.  Al Jazeera

DR Congo ‘Not Ready’ for December Polls: Opposition
The Democratic Republic of Congo is “not ready” to hold long-delayed elections in December, the main opposition party said Tuesday, the day after the army handed over 150 trucks and a dozen aircraft for use by the electoral commission. “One hundred fifty trucks can’t cover our vast national territory which doesn’t even have the road infrastructure,” said Augustin Kabuya, spokesman of the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). An opinion poll released Tuesday showed that, regardless of any logistical problems, two opposition candidates are leading voting intentions in the lead-up to the presidential election. UDPS leader Felix Tshisekedi led the poll with 36 per cent support, followed by Vital Kamerhe —head of the Union for the Congolese Nation who came third in the 2011 election — with 17 per cent.  AFP

U.N. Demands Immediate End to Armed Attacks in Ebola-Impacted Areas of Congo
The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an immediate halt to attacks by armed groups in Congo that are jeopardizing the response to the Ebola outbreak. A resolution adopted Tuesday said the security situation in the areas affected by the Ebola outbreak “is severely hampering the response efforts and facilitating the spread of the virus” in Congo and the region. The Security Council expressed “great concern about the potential for the virus to spread into Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.” Congo’s health ministry said last week that teams responding to the Ebola outbreak are being attacked three or four times a week on average. AP

Why Are People So Angry at Ebola Responders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Last month Virgil Attia found himself surrounded by an angry crowd. “Some of them had picked up rocks,” he recalls, speaking in French. “Some had empty bottles.” Attia is an official with the International Federation of the Red Cross. He’s originally from Benin but based in a city in Democratic Republic of the Congo that is the current epicenter of an Ebola outbreak that has been raging there since August. When someone in the community dies of Ebola at home, the Red Cross has been sending teams to collect the body and conduct a safe burial. Normally Attia coordinates these teams out of his office. But on this day he had come along as a team set out to pick up the body of a 7-year-old boy. Attia says the crowd of about 150 people started gathering as soon as the team arrived in the neighborhood. At first people were just watching as the team pulled on protective suits and walked into the house. NPR

Inquiry Finds Refugee Numbers Were Exaggerated by 300,000 in Uganda
A Ugandan government investigation into alleged fraud over refugee numbers has confirmed that previous figures were exaggerated by 300,000. An official inquiry, conducted since March by the office of the prime minister and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, found that Uganda hosts 1.1 million refugees rather than 1.4 million. The investigation followed allegations that senior officials had inflated figures and mismanaged the funds meant to support them. Apollo Kazungu, commissioner for refugees in the prime minister’s office, and three of his senior staff – Walter Omondi, John Baptist Sentamu and Francis Nkwasibwe – were suspended over allegations of collusion with staff from the UNHCR and the World Food Programme to inflate refugee figures. The officials allegedly created fake names in refugee settlements and defrauded millions of dollars in aid. The Guardian

Nigerian Group Says Troops Shot, Killed 27 Shiite Muslims
Nigeria’s main Shiite Muslim movement says Nigerian troops shot and killed at least 27 of its members during a procession to the capital of Abuja. Islamic Movement of Nigeria spokesperson Ibrahim Musa said six people were killed on Saturday and another 21 on Monday. Nigeria’s military said it killed six people and that the Shiite protesters fired first at soldiers. Musa said Tuesday that many members were taking part in a religious procession, which coincided with a protest calling for the release of their movement’s pro-Iran leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky.  AP

Report: Mozambique Violence Funded by Illicit Trade 
The recent surge of violence in Mozambique at the hand of extremist militants has been funded by the country’s illicit economy, according to a new report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. The report emphasizes that the Mozambican government’s enduring involvement in the illicit trades of drug trafficking, human smuggling and wildlife poaching thwarts its efforts to combat militant group al-Shabab. The illicit economy has nourished corruption, kept borders and coastlines porous, and crippled state legitimacy. “Political figures, the ruling party and their elite criminal associates have openly benefited from both the licit and illicit extraction of natural resources, while the local community has often been punished for their involvement in informal illicit economies and denied the benefits of formal investment and economic growth,” Global Initiative said. OCCRP

Ethiopia PM Meets Merkel, Joins G20 – Africa Summit in Berlin
Abiy Ahmed’s delegation arrived in the German capital, Berlin, on Tuesday morning. He has so far held a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German Embassy in Ethiopia said the meeting will address reforms underway back home and investment opportunities for German companies plus peace efforts in the wider Horn of Africa region, specifically on the Ethiopia – Eritrea peace deal. Abiy has since joined the second edition of the G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) meeting currently underway in Berlin. His last wtop will be the city of Frankfurt, where he is expected to meet Ethiopians nationals. Africa News

Merkel Looks to Africa to Cement A Legacy Shaped by Migration
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Tuesday a new development fund to tackle unemployment in Africa, a problem spurring the mass migration that has shaped her long premiership as it nears its end. Merkel hosted a summit of African leaders a day after her announcement that she would retire from politics by 2021, which sent shockwaves across Europe and started a race to succeed her. She needs the Compact with Africa summit to show that progress has been made in addressing the aftermath of one of the defining moments of her 13 years in power: her 2015 decision to open Germany’s doors to more than a million asylum seekers. The Berlin summit, attended by 12 presidents and prime ministers including Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, is designed to showcase the continent as a stable destination for German investment. VOA

In Rain-Short Mali, Villagers Enlist Irrigation to Ward Off Extremism
A short journey in a wooden canoe separates villagers from militants sowing fear with their weapons just across the calm waters of the Niger River in the Malian town of Kouna. “We worry that these people infiltrate and indoctrinate our children,” said Kouna resident Madou Touléma, 51, clearing weeds with his teenage son, shin-deep in their flooded rice field. Violence involving armed groups has proliferated in Mali since Islamist militants hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in 2012. Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have used the center and north of the West African nation as a launch pad for attacks across the region. Reuters

Gabon Is Facing Uncertainty after Its President Suddenly Falls Ill in Saudi Arabia
[…] The uncertainty over Bongo’s health and illness is in keeping with the trend of secrecy around the health of African leaders who typically prefer to seek treatment abroad. Last year, Nigeria’s president Buhari spent over 150 days on medical leave in London treating an undisclosed illness. While Bongo remains in Saudi Arabia, his administration back home is facing an internet shutdown that’s not of its own making. Anonymous, a group which deploys hacking as a means of protest, is claiming responsibility for shutting down several Gabonese government websites, including the finance and defense ministry websites. Gabon’s digital infrastructure agency confirmed up to 60 websites had been hit by the cyber-attack. It’s unclear if there’s any connection between the attack and the president’s absence. For its part, Anonymous, which has previously launched similar attacks on government websites in South Africa and Zimbabwe, claims the cyber-attack is a campaign against dictatorships. Quartz

U.S. Missionary Shot and Killed in Front of Wife and Son amid Escalating Cameroon Crisis
An American citizen was shot and killed in Cameroon on Tuesday, said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and a church in the state. In a statement, the governor’s office said the victim, Charles Wesco, was working as a missionary in Cameroon. His brother, Timothy Wesco, serves in Indiana’s House of Representatives. Dave Halyaman, assistant pastor at Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Ind., which sent Wesco and his family on its mission to Cameroon, told The Washington Post that the church “is grieving greatly the murder of Charles Wesco, but we are also trusting God that he has a purpose in all of this.” The congregation’s senior pastor is Wesco’s father-in-law, he said. The family was living in a suburb of Bamenda, a major town in Cameroon’s northwest Anglophone region, Halyaman said. The Washington Post

Challenging China: US Champions Trade over Aid as Race to Invest in Africa Gathers Pace
America looks set to unveil a new trade-oriented Africa policy which will champion US corporate investment over conventional development aid. The move reflects concern in Washington that the west risks being outgunned by China in terms of direct investment on the rapidly developing continent. While the US remains the single biggest investor in Africa by some margin, China is catching up fast has become dominant in the area of large scale infrastructure. London and Paris, with which Washington is working closely, have both said they will increase direct investment in Africa in recent months. Speaking in London, Mr Tibor Nagy, the newly appointed US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said he had become frustrated with the way some African countries had become dependent on aid and that US policy would now seek to promote a “journey to self reliance”. The Telegraph

Tunis Attack: Suicide Bomber Was Jobless Graduate
Authorities in Tunisia have named the attacker behind Monday’s suicide bombing in the capital, Tunis, which injured nine people. Mouna Guebla, 30, was an unemployed graduate from the eastern region of Mahdia, the prosecutor’s office said. Her father doubted that his daughter had acted willingly to carry out the attack. Guebla appeared to have used a homemade bomb rather than an explosive belt, police sources told AFP news agency. After studying English, Guebla had been jobless for three years, helping to look after sheep to assist her family. A third of Tunisian graduates are unemployed. “I know she did not intend to do things like that,” her father, Mouhamed Guebla, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. BBC

Four Sudanese Soldiers Killed in Yemen Attack
Four Sudanese soldiers were killed and 21 were wounded in an attack in Yemen on Sunday, according to sources in Sudan. The bodies of the four soldiers were taken to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. It is unknown whether that is the home area of the soldiers. According to sources, the Sudanese forces participating in the war in Yemen were subjected to heavy shelling by ballistic missiles. The sources said that some of the wounded were taken to hospitals belonging to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and other wounded were transferred to hospitals in the United Arab Emirates. Qods News Agency in Yemen cited military sources that reported that the attack took place in Nihm district in Yemen’s west coast. Radio Dabanga

Zimbabwe Targets $700 Million from Controversial Payment Tax
The southern African nation, reeling from shortages of foreign exchange, is targeting total revenue of $5.7 billion in the current fiscal year and $6.4 billion in 2019, Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary George Guvamatanga said in a presentation in Harare, the capital, on Monday. The government is scheduled to present its 2019 budget next month. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube introduced a 2 percent tax on money transfers this month to broaden the country’s tax base, part of a series measures he’s implementing to stabilize the economy. The levy of 2 cents per dollar transacted replaced a previous tax of 5 cents per transaction. “Although this is a bitter pill to swallow, we have to accept the principle that it was necessary for everyone including our large informal sector to contribute to the fiscus,” Guvamatanga said. The country hasn’t had its own currency since it scrapped the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 to end hyperinflation. It accepts the likes of the U.S. dollar, euro and rand as legal tender, as well as a quasi-currency called bond notes. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones