Africa Media Review for September 30, 2019

Tunisia Crying out for Change

The promise of democracy persists in Tunisia. The September 15 presidential election that propelled Kais Saied, a relatively little-known law professor, and Nabil Karoui, a flamboyant media magnate, to the second round cements the country’s standing as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak regional landscape marred by authoritarianism, political violence, and war. Indeed, one of the major lessons of the vote is how much electoral politics have normalized. This is the fifth national vote and second presidential election that Tunisia has held since the overthrow of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. In all, free and fair elections have been defining characteristics. This is particularly significant this year as several high-profile establishment candidates were running, including Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and former interim President Moncef Marzouki. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

At Least 8 People Killed in Two Attacks in Northern Burkina Faso

At least eight people were killed in two attacks in the north of Burkina Faso, security sources said on Sunday. They were the latest in a series of attacks that claimed 17 lives Saturday, in violence generally blamed on a long-running jihadist insurgency in the poor, fragile Sahel region. Seven people were killed on Saturday at around 6:00 pm local time, by an armed group in Deneon village in Bam province, one security source told AFP. A soldier was also killed on Saturday when an army unit was attacked in Deou in Soum province, said another security source, who confirmed the attack on Deneon. Security sources already reported a deadly raid Saturday morning on another northern village, Komsilga, in Zimtanga district. Around 20 attackers on motorbikes killed nine villagers and set fire to shops and motorcycles. Africa News with AFP

C.A.R: Minusca Starts Military Operation against Armed Group

The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) has begun a military operation against an armed group that has signed a peace agreement with Bangui but is “continuing to increase its illegal activities,” the UN confirmed in a statement. The operation, which began on Thursday, “aims to push the 3R group (Return, Claim, Rehabilitation) back into the deployment areas set for it” as part of the peace agreement signed in February, Minusca said in its statement dated Friday. The 3R group said on Thursday that they were bombed by UN forces in Koui, in the northwest of the country. Three Senegalese peacekeepers were killed on Friday in Bouar, in the west of the country, in the crash of their helicopter, according to a Minusca statement issued on Friday. Minusca staff members then informed AFP, anonymously, that the aircraft was involved in the operation against the 3R group. AFP

U.S. Military Again Strikes ISIS in Southern Libya

For the third time in a week, the United States military carried out an airstrike on Thursday against Islamic State fighters in southern Libya amid indications the terrorist group was seeking to exploit the country’s civil strife to increase its recruiting. The Pentagon’s Africa Command said in a statement on Friday that the strike – which other officials said was carried out by an Air Force Reaper drone based in neighboring Niger – killed 17 militants in an unidentified location in southwest Libya. “We will continue to pursue ISIS-Libya and other terrorists in the region, denying them safe haven to coordinate and plan operations in Libya,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the command’s director of intelligence, said in the statement, noting that the strike was coordinated with the Libyan government in Tripoli. The New York Times

Extremists Launch 2 Attacks on Military Targets in Somalia

Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels on Monday launched two attacks on U.S. and European military targets, officials said. The first attack was on a military airstrip which is a base for U.S. and Somalia forces in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia. A suicide car bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives at the gate of the Belidogle airstrip, said Yusuf Abdourahman, a security official with the Lower Shabelle regional administration. Bursts of gunfire could be heard across the base after bombing, suggesting an ongoing attack on the base. Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, have claimed the responsibility for the attack. The U.S. military uses the Belidogle airstrip base to launch drones that attack al-Shabab targets and to train Somali troops. The second attack was by a suicide car bomber targeting Italian peacekeepers in Mogadishu. The explosion missed the European Union peacekeepers but injured Somali civilians who were nearby, according to reports. AP

Egyptian Security Forces Kill 15 in Restive North Sinai

Egyptian security forces killed 15 fighters in a shootout at a farm in restive North Sinai, the interior ministry said. A statement on Sunday said an armed group was “planning hostile acts targeting military and police forces … in order to destabilise national security.” It did not name a specific organisation but said “terrorist elements” had been hiding at the farm in El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province. When security forces approached, the fighters “shot live rounds forcing troops to deal with them [and] leading to 15 deaths,” without specifying when the raid took place. … Sunday’s announcement follows recent military operations in Sinai that authorities say killed 118 fighters. The statement came three days after an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS) attack on a checkpoint in the town of Bir el-Abd killed eight troops and a civilian. Security forces killed at least 15 fighters in that attack. Al Jazeera

Prominent Egyptian Activist Detained

Prominent Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah was detained Sunday morning beyond his overnight probation, his family and a judicial official said. “We don’t know where Alaa is… The police station says he’s most probably at state security prosecution… we seriously don’t have any information about him,” his sister Mona Seif, also a well-known activist, said on Twitter early Sunday. Abdel Fattah, 37, is serving five years of probation after completing a five-year jail sentence in March for staging a protest against a 2013 law effectively banning public gatherings. … The activist and computer programmer’s whereabouts remain unknown and no word has been given on when he might appear before prosecutors, the judicial official told AFP. … Some 2,000 people have been arrested in the past week in what may be the largest expansion of an ongoing crackdown in Egypt since 2013, rights groups say. Authorities have detained other prominent critics including well-known academics, politicians and lawyers. AFP

Zambia’s Constitutional Reform to Go Ahead

For weeks, Zambia has been torn apart over a highly controversial constitutional reform that strengthens the powers of President Edgar Lungu with less than two years to go before the general elections. A target for criticism from the opposition and civil society, this law is soon to be discussed in the National Assembly, where Mr. Lungu’s Patriotic Front (FP) has an absolute majority of deputies. If voted as it stands, Bill 10 extends the President’s powers to appoint judges and ministers, allows him to change the electoral map alone and transfers the responsibility for monetary policy from the Central Bank to the government. AFP

Senegal President Pardons Political Rival Khalifa Sall

Senegal President Macky Sall has pardoned one of his chief political rivals, the charismatic former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, who was jailed in 2018 on corruption charges. Khalifa Sall, who is no relation to the president, was arrested in March 2017 on suspicion of embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($3 million) in public funds. Last year, he was sentenced to five years in jail. He was pardoned with two others, according to a statement from the Presidency on Sunday. Khalifa Sall’s lawyers confirmed the decision. … With four largely peaceful transitions of power since independence from France in 1960, Senegal is seen as a beacon of democratic stability in a restive region. Yet the president’s political opponents saw Khalifa Sall’s imprisonment as a political hit job based on false charges to keep one of the country’s best-known and popular politicians out of a presidential election that Macky Sall won decisively in February this year. Reuters

Cameroon Dialogue Starts as Anglophone Separatists Pull Out

Cameroon will start a “national dialogue” on Monday in a bid to end the separatist conflict in the country’s Anglophone provinces, but key rebel leaders have already refused to participate. Nearly 3,000 people have died and half a million fled their homes since fighting broke out in 2017 between the army and armed fighters who want independence for Cameroon’s two English-speaking provinces. The talks, led by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, are scheduled to take place from September 30 to October 4 at the Congressional palace in the capital Yaounde. … Most of the leaders have expressed willingness to hold talks with the government but in the presence of an international mediator and in a foreign country with the terms for secession the main item on the agenda, according to the ICG. Al Jazeera

40,000 People Flee Nigeria Violence in 10 Months – UN

Escalating violence in northwest Nigeria blamed on armed bandits has forced more than 40 000 people to flee across the border into Niger over the last 10 months, the UN said on Friday. However, the surge in kidnappings, killings, sexual violence and other unrest in this area is not known to be linked to Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency, which is concentrated in northeast Nigeria. “People are seeking safety from indiscriminate attacks unleashed by organised armed groups on men, women and children alike,” the United Nations refugee agency said in a statement. UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told reporters that the agency did not have clear information on the perpetrators of the violence in the states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina, while Nigeria’s government has blamed armed bandits. AFP

Hundreds of ‘Abused’ Captives Freed from Nigeria School

At least 300 captives, most of them children and many in chains, have been rescued from a building in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, a spokesman for the police said. Yakubu Sano told reporters on Friday that police raided the building, which housed an Islamic school in the Rigasa area, and found adults and minors in “the most debasing and inhumane conditions”. “We found around 100 students, including children as young as nine, in chains stuffed in a small room, all in the name of reforming them and making them responsible persons,” he said. … Two of them were from Burkina Faso while most of the rest were from northern Nigerian states, according to the police. … Earlier this year, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim, said it planned to eventually ban the schools, but would not do so immediately. Al Jazeera

10 Years after Guinea Stadium Massacre, Justice Is Elusive

On that day, several hundred soldiers stormed the national stadium with tear gas and bullets where protesters were denouncing a presidential bid by then-coup leader Moussa “Dadis” Camara. He had seized power in December 2008 after the death of Guinea’s longtime dictator and had pledged not to run in the next elections. The soldiers blocked exits and methodically opened fire. At least 109 people were sexually assaulted, with some soldiers using bayonets or batons. The security forces later removed the bodies from the stadium and from morgues, burying them in mass graves to cover up the massacre, according to Human Rights Watch. A decade later, families still await justice. AP

Soweto, Once Unified Against Apartheid, Is Now Divided by Wealth

Soweto, once the country’s largest black township, was a symbol of the united resistance to the racist apartheid regime and home to the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. It is where the police killed at least 176 protesting schoolchildren during the Soweto Uprising of 1976, and where residents refused to pay the white government for rent, electricity and water during boycotts in the 1980s. To the outside world, Soweto stood for black solidarity. Today, Soweto embodies the social and class divisions within South Africa’s black majority. It is a place of flashy cars and grand mansions, but also of shanty towns and high unemployment. The New York Times

The dealer pulled back a shiny pink curtain and sprinkled the contents of two white envelopes across his desk: sparkling diamonds, more than 100 of them. Some gems are sold legally, he explained. But many are trafficked by rebels who fight over the mines, adding fuel to a six-year uprising that has killed thousands and displaced more than a million people here in the Central African Republic. Now, hoping to wrest control over the diamond trade and piece the country back together, the government has turned to a new partner – Russia – in what some lawmakers fear is a dangerous bargain that trades one threat for another. Russian mercenaries have fanned out across the nation to train local soldiers. A former Russian spy has been installed by the Central African president as his top security adviser. Russians shuttled warlords to peace talks with the government, helping lead to a deal with more than a dozen armed groups to stop fighting. The New York Times

What’s ‘Stomach Infrastructure?’ Check African Politics Dictionary

In Nigeria, for instance, the term “zoning” has nothing to do with buildings or real estate. It describes power sharing between the north and south. In Kenya, a “three-piece suit” refers to a party asking voters to back its full slate of candidates, for president, governor and member of parliament. Oxford student Sa’eed Husaini, one of the dictionary’s authors, said he and his colleagues thought the project would “give us an opportunity to basically shine a light on the diversity of words and diversity of meanings that are part of African politics. … There is a lot of meaning that is being generated, a lot of new content words, like ‘stomach infrastructure,’ that “will help us understand how Africa conducts contemporary politics.” The term “stomach infrastructure” was coined by a politician in the 2015 elections in Nigeria. He promised people rice and chicken over development and won that election. In Benin, switching of parties by politicians is called “transhumance,” which is the act of moving animals from one grazing ground to another. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones