Africa Media Review for October 6, 2017

French, Nigerien Forces Conduct Operations after 3 U.S. Special Forces Soldiers Killed
French and Nigerien troops conducted operations near Niger’s border with Mali on Thursday, the day after an attack that killed three U.S. Army Special Forces members, security sources said. The attack, which also wounded two U.S. soldiers and killed at least one Nigerien soldier, took place during a routine patrol in a part of southwestern Niger where insurgents, including from al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are active, a U.S. official told Reuters. Nigerien, U.S. and French troops were leading operations in the zone on Thursday, a Niger security source said, without elaborating. A Western security source also said that French troops, part of a roughly 4,000-strong French force in the zone, were deployed alongside Nigerien forces. Reuters

Deadly Ambush of Green Berets in Niger Belies a ‘Low-Risk’ Mission
The reconnaissance patrol was supposed to be a routine training mission along the border between Niger and Mali for the nearly dozen United States Army Special Forces trainers and the Nigerien soldiers with them. The American team leaders told their superiors in seeking approval for the mission that there was a “low risk” of hostile activity in the region 120 miles north of Niamey, Niger’s capital, according to a senior United States military official briefed on the mission planning. Late Wednesday afternoon, that mission proved anything but low risk. The patrol was ambushed by what commanders believe was a heavily armed Qaeda force from Mali, leaving three Americans dead and two others wounded. The combat casualties were the first that the United States has suffered in a widening counterterrorism mission in Niger, in northwest Africa. Pentagon officials expressed shock on Thursday at the deaths during such a routine mission. The New York Times

Killing of 3 Green Berets in Niger Puts a Spotlight on U.S. Counter-Terrorism Efforts
The killing of three U.S. commandos in a remote West African desert has focused attention on one of the many places America has boots on the ground to push back against terrorism and train forces that are often worse equipped and trained than the extremists they confront. The incident also underscores the extent to which Niger and several of its troubled neighbors, including Mali and Nigeria, remain a priority in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, although President Trump offered lukewarm support for a French initiative in June to boost international forces in the region. The three commandos were killed Wednesday in southwestern Niger, a region notorious for drug smuggling, human trafficking and myriad extremist militias, including allies of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Los Angeles Times

UN Warns against Kenya Poll Boycott, Urges Cooperation
The Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), Sahle-Work Zewde, who met the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Tuesday, urged the National Super Alliance (NASA) and Jubilee to cooperate with the Commission as it readies for the poll as that is the only way through which the electorate can exercise their civic right of selecting a leader of their choice. “Free, transparent and credible elections are the only democratic ways to enable Kenyans to choose their leaders. The United Nations, therefore, strongly encourages Jubilee Party, NASA and the electorate to participate in the planned election on 26 October 2017,” read a dispatch from UNON Information Centre Director Nasser Ega-Musa, attributed to Zewde. She commended the electoral commission’s efforts in readying for the repeat presidential elections particularly lauding steps taken to engage the Jubilee and NASA presidential candidates on the preparations for this month’s presidential election. Capital FM

Is Ex-Warlord Charles Taylor Pulling Liberia’s Election Strings from Prison?
Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a prison in the British city of Durham. But is he using that as a base to interfere in the elections in his homeland next Tuesday? “If he was to come back today, I’d roll out the red carpet,” said Justin Luther Cassell, a 32-year-old man sitting outside the Pray for Peace Business Centre in Gbartala, central Liberia. Gathered round on plastic chairs, drinking beer and discussing the forthcoming Liberian elections, the men here are clearly frustrated. This was Charles Taylor’s rebel headquarters in the 1990s. BBC

US Poised to Lift Longstanding Sudan Sanctions, Officials Say
The United States is poised to permanently lift sanctions on Sudan, U.S. officials said Thursday, bringing the African nation further into the international fold after decades of isolation, war and abuses. The Trump administration will complete a process that former President Barack Obama started in January, when he temporarily lifted the penalties. An announcement is expected as early as Friday, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress has yet to be notified. In justifying the decision, the administration will assert that Sudan has continued making progress on several areas of concern, officials said. The U.S. has been calling on Sudan to expand humanitarian access, improve human rights, cooperate on counterterrorism and reinforce a cease-fire in conflict areas. AP

Sudan Cut Diplomatic Relations with North Korea to Get Sanctions Lifted: Report
Sudan severed diplomatic relations with North Korea to satisfy U.S. additional benchmarks for the lift of economic sanctions, revealed the Financial Times on Wednesday. Last July, President Donald Trump delayed his decision on the permanent revocation of the economic embargo on Sudan pointing to the need to improve human rights record, religious freedoms and requested commitments to the international sanctions on North Korea which tops Washington diplomatic priorities. North Korea’s addition to the five-track framework agreement comes as result of reports disclosed in September 2011 that Khartoum had conducted secret talks with Pyongyang to purchase medium-range ballistic missiles, short-range missiles, and anti-tank missiles, according to a U.S. diplomatic note leaked by Wikileaks. Sudan Tribune

North Korea Is Losing Its Friends in Africa
African countries are distancing themselves from an old partner. Sudan has reportedly cut off ties with North Korea, the result of negotiations with the United States over lifting sanctions on Khartoum, officials told the Financial Times. That follows Uganda, which announced the end of ties with Pyongyang last year and kicked out North Korean military trainers teaching martial arts and acrobats last month. Botswana ended ties in 2014, stating it could not support a government with such “total disregard for the human rights of its citizens.” For the better part of the last 70 years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been wooing African states. After its founding in 1948, North Korea sought international recognition and allies in the Cold War, supporting liberation movements in Zimbabwe and Angola. Since being placed under international sanctions in 2006, Pyongyang has depended even more on its African partners for hard currency as well as a way out from complete international isolation. Quartz

Sudan’s Al-Bashir to Change Constitution to Run for a Third Term
Sources close to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have confirmed to MEMO that President Omar Al-Bashir plans to make changes to the existing constitution to permit him to stand for office for a third term. Under the current constitution, the president’s second and final term is set to end in 2020. Although, it was widely expected that he would step down from office, sources have revealed that NCP is planning to bring forward a proposal to review and rewrite the constitution to allow the president to run for a third term. The speculation over the attempts to change the constitution and re-install the president for another term has led a leading daily morning newspaper, run by the opposition Democratic Unionist Party, to declare the results of a readership survey. In it, 76 per cent said they were against the idea of the president running for another term of office. Middle East Monitor

Somali President Asks Khartoum to Help Fight Al-Shabaab
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has asked the Sudanese government to help his country combat the Al-Shabaab terrorist group. Addressing the media in Khartoum on Wednesday night, President Farmajo said the Somali government needed Khartoum’s technical support to fight the terrorists and restore peace. He disclosed that he had discussed with President Omar Bashir, the security and numerous other challenges his country was facing. “We discussed the many challenges that Somalia is facing, especially with regards to peace and security,” he said. The East African

Tensions Rise in Mozambique after Mayor Gunned Down
Tensions are high in Nampula, Mozambique’s third largest city in the country’s north, after Mayor Mahamudo Amurane was gunned down Wednesday night. Amurane was a member of the Mozambique Democratic Movement, a majority party in most parts of northern Mozambique that broke away from Renamo some years ago. Moz TV journalist Marciano Mubai says angry members of the party have blockaded most of the roads with burning tyres and rocks in protest for the killing of Amurane. SABC

AU Silent over Cameroon Separatist Crisis
[…] The African Union has so far refrained from intervening in the ongoing crisis in Cameroon. Efforts by DW to get the AU’s position on the contentious issue were unsuccessful. “It’s a failure of the African Union and the UN collectively,” Ayo Johnson, Director of Viewpoint Africa and an expert on African politics told DW in an interview. “Nigeria and Cameroon are experiencing separatist calls from unsettled, unhappy, disgruntled parts of the country.” In Nigeria, Igbo people are calling for a separatist state which they call Biafra. “These two [separatist movements], are pulling their respective countries apart,” Johnson said. “Sequentially, the international community; the African Union and the UN have been unable to take drastic action which is being called for by many people right now.”  Deutsche Welle

Ten Dead in Attack on Militia in East DRC
Ten fighters were killed on Thursday when the army launched a pre-dawn attack on a militia in the restive eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo, a military spokesperson said. The assault targeted a group called the Mai-Mai Mazembe, which had taken up position in Kapanga, a locality in the Lubero district on the border with Uganda, the official said. “They have been dislodged. We found 10 corpses,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a spokesperson for the army in North Kivu province, told AFP. “Two solders were also injured in the fighting. Everything is under control in the area and we are conducting sweeping-up operations.” Lubero is located about 300km north of North Kivu’s capital Goma. AFP

20% Fall in Migrants from Libya: EU Naval Force
The number of illegal migrants leaving Libya for Europe has fallen by 20% so far in 2017, the European naval force charged with stopping people trafficking in the Mediterranean said on Thursday. “We have seen a drop in the number of people leaving Libya for Europe this year, around 20%,” Enrico Credendino, commander of the force, told a news conference aboard the Cantabria ship at the port of La Goulette, near Tunis. Summer saw a drop of 75% compared with the same period in 2016, with the number dying at sea falling by 60%, said the head of the EU’s anti-trafficking operation dubbed Sophia. The decrease was explained in particular by the support given to the Libyan coastguard, which received four Italian patrol boats and training. AFP

Italian Effort to Stop Migrants Fuels Bloody Battle in Libya
It began when a Libyan militia paid by Italy to stop migrants heading to Europe intercepted a group of human traffickers offshore. That confrontation has spiraled into a weeks-long battle among rival militias for control of a Libyan coastal city that has left dozens dead. The bloodshed in the city of Sabratha is in part an unexpected consequence of Europe’s effort to stem the flow of migrants from Libya across the Mediterranean. It illustrates how easily things can escalate out of control in the chaos of the North African country, where three different governments claim authority and the real power in many areas lies with local militias. The Sabratha fight has expanded, bringing in outside factions, including Khalifa Hafter, the strongman who controls eastern Libya and is a rival of the weak, internationally recognised government based in Tripoli, headed by Fayez Serraj. Hafter appears to be using the conflict to obtain a foothold in the western part of the country. AFP

Frontrunners to Lead South Africa’s ANC Carry Political Baggage
In South Africa, the race to watch is the competition to select the next head of the African National Congress. The new leader is selected at the ANC conference in December. Since the ANC has won every national election since white-only rule ended in South Africa in 1994, its next leader will be in a good position to replace current party chief Jacob Zuma as president when his second and final term ends in 2019. There are two top candidates: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission. VOA

Plague Closes 2 Madagascan Universities
Madagascan authorities on Thursday ordered two universities to close temporarily as efforts intensify to halt a plague outbreak that has killed 33 people and caused widespread panic. The Indian Ocean island nation suffers annual plague outbreaks, but this year the disease has affected urban areas, triggering concern from the World Health Organisation (WHO). “In the fight against the spread of plague, the universities of Toamasina and Antananarivo will be closed for sanitation,” the Ministry of Higher Education said in a statement. The capital Antananarivo and the port city of Toamasina have been at the centre of the plague outbreak. AFP

It’s about to Get Cheaper for over 500 Million Africans to Roam on Their Phone Networks
Countries in the common market for eastern and southern Africa (COMESA) will soon abolish the roaming and termination charges levied on mobile calls while reducing the interconnection rates among different operators. The 19-member bloc, stretching from Libya in the north to Swaziland in the south, signed a binding decision to bring down the price of communication technologies, enhance competition, and increase access to both high-quality cellular calls and affordable internet access. Even as lower smartphone prices drive a digital revolution in Africa, many Africans still pay a significant amount of their income to make phone calls or surf the internet. According to the World Bank, Africans pay on average 25% of their monthly gross national income per capita in mobile cellular calls, compared to 11% in other developing nations. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones