Africa Media Review for September 23, 2019

Al-Shabab Attack Kills 20 Somali Soldiers
At least 20 Somali government soldiers were killed and 18 others were wounded when al-Shabab raided a military base south of Mogadishu, security sources told VOA Somali. The sources said militants detonated a suicide car bomb at the El-Salin military base followed by an infantry attack in the early hours of Sunday. The militants briefly took over the base, a regional official told VOA Somali. A spokesman for Somali special forces said the militants attacked the base “in large numbers.” Mowlid Ahmed Hassan said the fighting lasted about 40 minutes, insisting the troops ‘defended” the base. He said reinforcements have been sent to the base. Hassan said the troops killed 13 militants, but declined to comment on the number of government soldiers killed in the attack. VOA

Hundreds of Egyptians Arrested in Latest Wave of Protests against Sisi
Hundreds of Egyptians have been swept up in a campaign of arrests targeting protesters, as demonstrations against Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi’s rule continue. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a Cairo-based NGO, reported on Sunday that at least 220 people had been arrested since protests began on Friday night. The organisation said it had set up an “emergency room” to deal with the spike in arrests, and that at least 100 more people were likely to have been detained after protests in Suez, Alexandria and Giza. Another NGO, the Egyptian Centre for Economic & Social Rights, stated it had recorded at least 274 arrests since the demonstrations began. … On Friday protesters had taken to the streets across Egypt for the first time in years, in defiance of a de facto six-year ban on demonstrations. Those who came out to call openly for an end to Sisi’s rule risked immediate arrest as well as the use of teargas, rubber bullets and live rounds. The Guardian

Thousands March in Algeria in First Protest since Election Call
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Algerian capital in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the removal of the country’s powerful army chief. Demonstrators on Friday gathered near the iconic post office square in Algiers, which has been at the centre of the months-old protests that forced longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April after 20 years in power. The protesters now want General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who emerged as an authority figure since Bouteflika’s removal, to step down. … Authorities have used a dual approach to containing the protests in recent months, combining increasing pressure on the demonstrators with arrests of senior people in the ruling elite on corruption charges. With the election now called, there seems to be little change in that strategy, with three prominent activists detained over the past week and the chief of the former ruling FLN party arrested on Thursday. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast: Tensions Rock Security Forces
Clashes broke out in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan between members of the Special Forces and the police. Sources indicate the violence linked to the arrest of a soldier, began last week on Thursday, when about 15 special forces soldiers broke into a police prefecture in the northern part of the country, to demand for the release of their colleague. The circumstances of his arrest are yet to be clarified, though the police and military authorities issued a statement to ease the situation. On Saturday, a significant number of soldiers raided the Lycée classique d’Abidjan, located in the commune of Cocody, where police candidates were sitting their entry level examinations. The same day, a police station was reportedly attacked in Yamoussoukro, the political capital by elements of the special forces. Africa News

Somalia: Farmaajo Weaponising Airspace, Violating Citizen Rights-Ex-presidents
The Federal Government is weaponizing the control of the airspace for political expediency, former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said as his predecessor lashed out at Farmaajo’s administration for violating rights of citizens. Responding separately to the decision by authorities in Mogadishu to bar ex-president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the two leaders said the government did not have any rights under the constitution to deny citizens their rights of movement. … But even as the two faulted the government, more stiff measures were underway. The Civil Aviation Authority ordered airlines Monday to cancel all flights to Kismayu until September 26 when the inauguration ceremony of Jubbaland president Ahmed Madobe ends. The directive means Madobe might not have the audience of senior political leaders among the former heads of state and Federal Member State presidents since the only viable mode of transport is by air. Goobjoog News

Al-Shabaab Leader Lashes Out at Kenya over Maritime Dispute
The leader of Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab, Ahmed Diriye, issued a rare audio message on Thursday night, accusing the West of pillaging the country’s natural resources and criticising Kenya’s claim on disputed maritime waters. The message, his first audio missive since 2016, refers to recent events such as contentious elections in the semi-autonomous state of Jubaland at the end of August. “There seems to be an increase in the invasion led by the United States and Britain,” Diriye said in the 20-minute message circulated on pro-Shabaab websites. “Hostility by Christians against Muslim society has increased. The objective of this hostility is to loot the oil wells in the country and other natural resources such as fish, and to hand our oceans over to Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said. AFP

South Sudan: SPLA-IO’s Top General Defects to Government
Major General James Ochan Puot, one of the SPLA-IO’s top commanders, announced today that he had defected from opposition leader Riek Machar to join President Salva Kiir. The general, who was deputy commander of the SPLA-IO’s division 5, was joined by several other military officers. The defections came weeks after fighting between SPLA-IO troops and members of the Cie-waw community in ‘Adar State’, located in what is otherwise known as Maiwut State. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj this afternoon, Ochan said Machar has failed to address their issues and referred to President Salva Kiir as his current leader. “We are not happy because Machar’s leadership is not good. Innocent civilians including women died in the recent fighting in Adar,” he said. “Our communities are unhappy about what happened in the area of Adar”. Radio Tamazuj

Kenya Forest Dwellers Say Government Evictions Leave Several Dead, Injured
Human Rights Watch says Kenyan security agencies have abused and evicted people in Mau forest in an unlawful manner. The rights group said nine people have died, including two children, in the eviction process that began in 2018. The government maintains that the ongoing evictions are part of a wider effort to reclaim the forest, which is a key source of water and clean air for the country. Human Rights Watch says that since June 2018, Kenyan wildlife service, police and county security personnel have been evicting families living in the Mau forest, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. It says some of the evicted were physically abused and died in the process. … The allegation comes a month after Kenyan authorities announced a plan to move about 60,000 people out of the forest to protect it. The government denies using force to clear out the forest. VOA

Nigerian Authorities to Scan ID’s in Northeast in Fight against Terrorism
Nigeria will require anyone moving through three northeastern states to carry identification cards in an effort to root out members of Boko Haram and Islamic State, the army said on Sunday. The new requirement follows credible information that members of the two militant groups were hiding among civilians in the towns and villages of the states, an army statement said. The army said it would “strictly check” the identification cards of those moving or passing through the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. … Last week, the army forced non-profit Action Against Hunger to close its office in the region, accusing it of aiding groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State by providing members with food and medicine. Africa News

South Africa Slowly Turning Tide against Rhino Poaching, Says Minister
Bringing local communities into mainstream conservation was vital to South African efforts aimed at curbing rhino poaching that has steadily declined from a peak of 1,215 animals killed five years ago, the environmental minister said on Sunday. South Africa, with one of the world’s largest rhino populations, is battling organised crime syndicates targeting its national and private parks as strong demand in Asian markets, where the rhino horn is prized as an ingredient in traditional medicines, fuels the slaughter…. [Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries] said rhino poaching has continued to decline, in part due to tougher court prosecutions and anti-poaching strategies, such as specialised sniffer dogs to help detect smuggled horns. From January to June 2019, the number of rhino poached countrywide stood at 318, compared to 386 killed during the same period last year, Creecy said. Reuters

Gambia’s Joy Gives Way to Sinking Distrust as Barrow Clings to Power
Almost three years ago, Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule over the small west African nation of the Gambia came to a shock end. Fed up with the constant fear and human rights abuses, a floundering economy and endemic corruption, Gambians voted out one of Africa’s most notorious strongmen. The man who beat him, estate agent, businessman and one-time Argos security guard Adama Barrow, was a political nobody who united a divided opposition in a coalition, promising to create jobs, repeal bad laws and create a level political playing field. He also promised to be only a transitional president, resigning after three years. With the deadline creeping up, however, Gambians who voted Barrow in say there has been little progress and many abuses of power in the country since he took over. Some even draw comparisons with Jammeh’s governing style, and worry that he too may use constitutional changes to rule for decades too. The Guardian

Burundi Accuses Catholic Bishops of Spreading ‘Hatred’
Catholic bishops in Burundi came under fire from authorities for “spitting venomous hatred” over a message read out in churches denouncing intolerance and political violence in the run-up to elections next year. The message issued by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi and read out in churches on Sunday expressed their “concern” eight months before the May 20 presidential election, which comes five years after President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term plunged the country into crisis. In the letter, seen by AFP news agency, the bishops raised the alarm over efforts to “suffocate and assault certain political parties and to persecute their members”. … They also said the ruling party’s youth league – the feared Imbonerakure that the United Nations has accused of committing atrocities – had “taken the place of security forces”. … A team of UN investigators earlier this month warned of a climate of fear in Burundi before the elections, with crimes against humanity and other serious violations continuing with impunity. Al Jazeera

Botswana Elections: Khama Brothers on Opposite Sides
The proverb “blood is thicker than water” could be in for a tough test with two politicians who are the sons of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, approaching elections from opposite political sides. This happens as Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – co-founded by Khama 58 years ago and at the helm of the Botswana government for 53 years – hangs in the balance amid the strong political opposition it faces. The opposition was to some extent bolstered by the departure of former Botswana president Ian Khama, who ditched the BDP for the newly-formed Botswana Progressive Front (BPF). Khama was, however, not happy that his brother remained with BDP and has publicly expressed his desire to have him join BPF as well. City Press

No Transparency: Who Pays for Africa’s Election Campaigns?
Mozambique’s head of state, Filipe Nyusi, wants to know his limits: He will run for a second term in the presidential elections on October 15. The supporters of the FRELIMO party, which has ruled for decades, hope that Nyusi will beat opposition candidate Ossufo Momade. But Momade’s RENAMO party is also seeing its chances. Although the poor developing country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, the election campaign is still in full flight. Like many other countries on the continent, Mozambique has a legal system that regulates what state subsidies parties can receive, says Olufunto Akinduro of the South African Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), a non-governmental organization that wants to promote credible and democratic elections throughout Africa. “But as far as private party donations are concerned, there is uncertainty about the amounts allowed, and there is generally little transparency in the financing process of the parties and their candidates,” said Akinduro in a DW interview. DW

Zimbabwe’s Currency Is Collapsing
The Zimbabwean dollar is collapsing against the United States dollar on the country’s black market, as confidence in the local currency hits rock bottom. The Zimbabwean dollar or Zimdollar encompasses the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) dollar as well as bond notes and electronic money balances. On Friday morning, it took 20 Zimdollars to buy one US dollar hard currency note on Harare’s black market exchanges. Two weeks ago, around 10 Zimdollars bought one US dollar note on the black market. … Some black market foreign exchange (forex) dealers believe the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe might be driving up the value of foreign currencies against the Zimdollar because the central bank needs foreign exchange to finance critical imports such as food and fuel. The central bank has strongly denied it participates on the forex black market. Al Jazeera

The Rwandan Radio Show Which Brought Children Back from the Dead
This is the story of three little boys almost lost forever in the wave of people fleeing the violence which engulfed Rwanda in 1994. It is also the story of how a radio broadcast cut through the fear and the chaos to reach across borders and decades to bring them from the dead, and home to their families. “It restored hope among us,” Theogene Koreger told the BBC, 25 years after his nephews disappeared. “The message reached where we could not reach – they delivered messages we could not have got otherwise.” … In the end, Espèrance Hitimana, now the protection data manager at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kigali, estimates they managed to reunite 70,000 people. But the work still continues. “We still see about two or three cases a month,” she says. “Some cases we succeed and we find the families. Other cases we don’t have any news. We don’t have any choice but to tell them we have done what we could.” BBC

Nobel Laureate Starts Fund for Survivors of Sexual Violence
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning surgeon whose hospital in war-torn Congo has treated over 50,000 victims of sexual violence has launched a fund with the goal of providing reparations for survivors of conflicts around the world. Dr. Denis Mukwege said in an interview Saturday that he and his team at Panzi Hospital in eastern Bukavu province could physically and mentally help victims of rape and other abuse, but that the only way to really heal survivors is for society to accept the wrong that was done to them through reparations. Legal action can be taken against an alleged perpetrator, he said, but even in cases in which women win, “there is no reparation.” … The fund is trying to get governments and the private sector to give money, he said, but its board will also include victims of sexual violence and civil society representatives. France is the first country to commit to the fund, pledging $2 million a year for three years in an important show of support, Mukwege said. AP

WHO Accuses Tanzania of Withholding Information about Suspected Ebola Cases
The World Health Organization accused Tanzanian authorities of withholding information about suspected Ebola cases in the country this month, potentially hampering the containment of the deadly virus. The U.N. agency’s statement Saturday was its most pointed rebuke toward any government yet during the outbreak that has ravaged nearby eastern Congo for more than a year, killing more than 2,000 people. The WHO was made aware of the suspected cases in Tanzania shortly after one appeared this month in Dar es Salaam, the East African country’s largest city and former capital. After that, the international organization was shut out of blood sample testing and told by the government that Ebola had been ruled out, it said. Tanzanian authorities have not offered alternative diagnoses. The Washington Post

Africa to Seek Declaration of Global Climate Emergency at UN Summit
African countries plan to call on the United Nations to declare a global climate emergency, among a set of demands to be presented at a climate summit in New York on Monday organised by the U.N. chief. Backed by African climate change negotiators, the statement is also expected to say that countries’ climate action plans should be made legally binding, to ensure the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to limit global warming are met. African governments will also likely request more international funding to implement their plans to brake heat-trapping emissions and help their people adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas. The president of Gabon, the current chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, is scheduled to deliver the demands, drawn up at an August meeting in Ethiopia to prepare Africa’s position for the U.N. summit. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones