Africa Media Review for September 2, 2021

Gunmen Kidnap 73 Students in Latest Attack on Nigeria School
Gunmen abducted 73 students in yet another school attack in northwestern Nigeria on Wednesday, police said, prompting authorities to close all primary and secondary schools across Zamfara state. The new kidnappings came just days after three other groups of hostages were freed when large ransom payments were reportedly made, raising hopes that other captives might soon be freed, too. Attackers descended upon the Government Day Secondary School in the remote village of Kaya around noon Wednesday, local resident Yusuf Mohammed told The Associated Press. The kidnappers then began shooting into the air before taking the students, he said. Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said an operation was underway to rescue the students. More than 1,000 students have been kidnapped from schools in northern Nigeria since December. While most pupils ultimately have been released, some have died or been killed in captivity and about 200 remained hostages before Wednesday’s attack, according to UNICEF. … The head teacher at one of the schools in Niger state told AP that many parents sold most of what they owned in an effort to raise funds totaling more than 30 million naira (about $72,900). It remains unclear whether the kidnappers of the three separate hostage groups last week are connected or if the simultaneous releases were merely coincidental. Each took place in a different state and they involved students of varying ages. AP

Nigerian States Impose Curbs in Bid to Stop Kidnappings, Violence
Four state governments in northern and central Nigeria have imposed a series of restrictions on residents in an attempt to stop mass kidnappings and other violent crimes. Gangs of criminals known locally as bandits have spread fear among local communities for years, but security forces have recently struggled to contain worsening violence. From Wednesday, weekly cattle markets are suspended in Niger state, local government spokesman Ahmed Matane said in a statement. Petrol sales are capped and the use of jerrycans at fuelling stations is prohibited in several locations, he added. No further details were given to explain the choice of measures but criminals in the region often use motorcycles and engage in cattle rustling. “All filling stations should not sell petrol of more than 10,000 naira (around $20) to each vehicle at a time and should be wary of vehicles or motorcycles coming for repeat purchases,” Matane said. Carrying three people on a motorcycle is now illegal, he added, and transporting cattle by truck to other parts of the country is restricted. … A nighttime curfew for moto-taxis and tricycles is also in place in several locations. Similar measures were announced in recent days in nearby Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara states. In Kaduna, the authorities also banned the cutting of trees in some locations due to fears that loggers collaborate with bandits. Al Jazeera

Rebels Kidnap 20 in East Congo after Ambushing Convoy
Rebels in eastern Congo ambushed a stalled civilian convoy that was under military escort Wednesday, killing five people and abducting dozens of hostages initially. About 20 people remained missing hours later, the army said. The attack took place after the convoy had stopped to repair one of the vehicles, Capt. Jules Ngongo, spokesman for the Congolese army in Ituri province, told The Associated Press. Initially the gunmen kidnapped 80 people but he said the army was able to soon rescue 60 of them. “We call on people to remain calm and to trust their army because it is difficult to fight the terrorists, but we will fight for peace to return as soon as possible,” Ngongo said. The latest attack, though, prompted more outcry in eastern Congo, where civilians say the rebel group known as ADF is stepping up its attacks. … The ADF, or Allied Democratic Forces rebels, trace their origins to nearby Uganda and have long carried out attacks in eastern Congo, at times bringing gunfire to the city center of Beni. The ongoing attacks there have repeatedly prompted anger about the inability of the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeepers to stop the violence. AP

Africa Countries, UN, IOM Review Migration Aims
The exploitation of migrants in Africa and the protection of their human rights were among the topics discussed by officials on Wednesday at a conference looking at the impact of migration across the African continent. Representatives from the United Nations and the International Organization of Migration as well as officials from African countries and the African Union took part on Wednesday in the last day of two-day discussions on migration and human mobility inside and outside the continent. Speaking during the meeting Felipe González Morales, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said the coronavirus pandemic, conflicts, food insecurity and climate change were some of the major factors forcing people to move inside and outside the continent. He also highlighted the “criminalization of migration in some countries” which he said had led to an increase in the smuggling and trafficking of migrants. AfricaNews with AFP

Two Students Shot Dead, 11 Injured, as Sudanese Troops Disperse Central Darfur Demo
Two students have died and eight others have been injured, after Sudanese regular forces fired live ammunition at student protests at Zalingei University in Central Darfur yesterday. The Director of the University of Zalingei, Mousa Ismail, acknowledged in a statement that the shooting by the security forces at student protests in front of the former UNAMID headquarters resulted in the death of Ezzeldin Omar, who was a student at the Faculty of Science of Technology, and the wounding of eight students, three of whom are in critical condition. The three critical cases were transferred to Nyala Hospital in South Darfur. The university director acknowledged that a second student was killed, and three others were injured, in heavy fire on student protests that moved to the secretariat after the killing of the first student. The director blamed the state security committee for the events, demanding an urgent and transparent investigation and justice for those involved. Students from Zalingei University told Radio Dabanga that they staged protests on Tuesday morning in front of the former UNAMID headquarters because the authorities had not fulfilled their promises to open the eastern gate of the headquarters, which was handed over to the university. Radio Dabanga

Sudanese Security Forces, Former Rebels Clash in Khartoum Suburb
One policeman and a number of gunmen were wounded during armed clashes on Wednesday in Khartoum’s suburb of Soba between government forces and gunmen affiliated with a signatory group called Third Front-Tamazuj. The Sudanese interior ministry said the former rebels refused to leave a building in the Rahaf neighbourhood of the Soba area of Khartoum and opened fire on the police force that requested them to render the keys of the accommodations. The group members were supposed to stay in the police building for one month after their arrival in Khartoum in November 2020. The Sudanese police said that the armed group refused to vacate the residence and opened fire on the police, following what they request the support of a joint force involving the police, the army and the Rapid Support Forces. The controversial group did not take part in the negotiations but joined the agreement later. Its leadership claims they were part of the SPLM-North but the latter denies that. … The U.S. Embassy which has its building in Soba advised its personnel “to avoid all areas south of its location until further notice. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: Juba Security Organs Arrest Two More Activists on Anti-Gov’t Protest Claims
Security authorities in South Sudan arrested two activists on Wednesday amid claims that they were among individuals behind a planned demo to call for the ouster of President Salva Kiir. The duo are staff of the Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG), a local lobby, which reported the arrests on social media. “Two people visited my office three times since morning looking for me. The fourth time, they stormed the FODAG office with more than ten soldiers and arrested two of my staff,” Jame Kolok, who heads FODAG, posted on his official Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know where they have been taken. My staff, like me, are innocent and should not be victimised because of my activism.” But South Sudan’s deputy police spokesperson, Col James Dak, said he wasn’t aware of the arrests. … The arrests are just the latest in what appears to be a crackdown on activists protesting President Kiir’s tenure in office. Last month, Abraham Awolic and Rajab Mohandis, who co-founded the People Coalition on Civil Action, said they were on the run after issuing a declaration asking Mr Kiir and his associates to hand over power to those with vision. On Monday this week, a South Sudanese activist said he and four others had gone into hiding, abandoning plans for an anti-government protest after authorities warned of a tough crackdown. The EastAfrican

South Africa: Police Deal with Watchdog Will Protect Violent Cops
Police commanders will be empowered to overrule watchdog findings against their colleagues when a new agreement between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) takes effect. The draft agreement was attached as an annexure in Police Minister Bheki Cele’s response to Parliamentary questions last month. A recent presentation to Parliament showed that the veto powers contained in this agreement are already being used by the police on a large scale across the country, GroundUp reported. IPID officials have in the past complained that the police ride roughshod over many of their findings and disciplinary recommendations against officers implicated in such crimes as torture, murder, rape and corruption. In the most extreme instances, police management refuses even to initiate disciplinary steps. This is in spite of the law saying that the police must do so. A recent joint SAPS and IPID presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Policing revealed that the police had refused to take disciplinary steps in 229 cases, or more than half of the 550 IPID cases “finalised” in 2020/21. This is the highest such figure on record. In all these 229 cases, IPID investigators concluded that police officers had a case to answer. They were overruled by SAPS management. News24

What Nigerians Displaced by Boko Haram Say about Living with Ex-Fighters
A surge of surrenders by Boko Haram jihadists in northeastern Nigeria has turned the spotlight onto how the government deals with fighters who claim to have repented and are now – controversially – looking to be reintegrated into a society scarred by 12 years of war. The New Humanitarian visited Muna Garage last week, a camp for some 40,000 people displaced by the conflict on the eastern edge of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, to ask residents how they felt about the return of the former mujahideen, and whether they could ever forgive them for the violence they had unleashed. The surrender of the ex-jihadists has forced people in Muna to both confront the past and consider the future. The people The New Humanitarian spoke to weighed a demand for justice and accountability with a hope that the defections could signal a new, more optimistic phase in the long-running war. “Any person that leaves Boko Haram and repents, we’ll be happy to have them back in the society,” said grandmother Falta Modu. “We’ll live with them, to have peace.” … In Muna there was talk of forgiveness. Those opinions were cast either in religious terms, celebrating the value of mercy, or as a practical step to convince other jihadists in the bush to surrender, and so end the war more quickly – the yearning of all in Muna. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia Shuts Down Embassy in Algeria
The Ethiopian government on Wednesday announced it had closed its embassy in Algiers as it began to cut costs on its foreign policy obligations. It cited financial constraints in closing a mission to a country that had in the past hosted talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and which produced a document known as the Algiers Peace Agreement signed on December 12, 2000 to end the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In a statement, the Ethiopian embassy in Algeria cited the economic crisis exacerbated by the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.The latest decision, according to the embassy, is part of the country’s plan to introduce new reforms aimed at establishing effective diplomatic representation across the globe. Ethiopia’s interests in Algeria will now be covered by a non-resident ambassador based in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Nation

Ivory Coast Reports ‘Major’ Offshore Oil Discovery
Ivory Coast on Wednesday reported a “major discovery” of oil and natural gas offshore after deepwater exploration by Italian firm Eni. Energy minister Thomas Camara said the find was estimated at between 1.5 and 2 billion barrels of oil and around 1.8-2.4 trillion cubic feet (51 million cubic metres) of gas. He said the development would “greatly increase Ivory Coast’s proven reserves in the coming years.” The 3,445-metre-deep well was drilled about 60 kilometres (40 miles) off the coast in 30 days, Eni said. The firm added that it would now carry out a further evaluation of the wider potential of the find. In a 2019 investment worth $185 million, Ivory Coast signed contracts with Eni and French firm Total to explore the possibility of ramping up Ivorian production. Ivory Coast to date has 51 identified oilfields with four in production, 26 in exploration and the remaining 21 still up for grabs. AFP

Somaliland Gears Up for ‘Healthy’ Battle of Ports
Anchored at the deepwater port of Berbera, an Ethiopian-flagged ship offloads its cargo of sugar and rice coming from India in what officials hope is a sign of a fresh era of trade in the self-declared east African state of Somaliland. Thanks to a $442m investment from the Dubai-based ports operator DP World, Berbera is shaping up to regain its centuries-old trade lustre, setting up a battle of ports over a maritime thoroughfare traversed by about a third of ships worldwide. The revamped port of Berbera now offers an alternative to Djibouti as a gateway to lucrative trade routes through the Suez Canal. Berbera was once the capital of the British Somaliland protectorate. For centuries, until a civil war destroyed much of its facilities three decades ago, it was a hub of maritime trade between the Horn of Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and India thanks to its key location on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen. Now, “we are getting another chance to become an international business centre,” said Berbera’s mayor, Abdishakur Mohamed Hassan. Outside his office, rows of camels and herds of goats are heading to the dock, destined for the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. “There will be a healthy competition between the neighbouring ports,” he added. Berbera’s terminal, which opened in June, can handle the world’s largest ships. Its container capacity increased from 150,000 20ft containers (TEU) to 500,000 TEU annually, and work is already under way for an expansion to handle up to 2m TEU a year. FT



Photo: Adam Jones