Category - Africa

Egypt vs. ISIS: Is Sinai now an official battlefield?

Al Arabiya, By Sonia Farid, July 11

The July 1 Sinai attacks were not the first, but they were the most shocking. They followed the assassination of the prosecutor general, which made linking the two incidents inevitable, especially since they both took place around the second anniversary of the June 30 protests that toppled former President Mohamed Mursi.

Confusion ensued due to contradictory reports on the number of deaths, with an official figure of 21 but local sources saying 70-100. The media described the battle, between Islamist militants and the army, as the fiercest since the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile, officials are trying to alleviate fears over the growing power the militant group Sinai Province, which is affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“This specific attack is by far the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Daniel Nisman, CEO of the Levantine Group Risk Consultancy, adding that the danger lies mainly in a plan to take over Sinai. “It’s not a hit and run – this is what [ISIS] used in places like Syria and Iraq to capture and hold territory.” Nisman said the operation underlined the shortcomings of the “scorched land” strategy of the Egyptian army, as it makes it harder for the state to garner local support.

Sinai security expert Zack Gold described the attack as “new and worrying,” and said militants either aimed to take over the city of Sheikh Zuwaid, where the attacks took place, or wanted to drag the army into an actual battle. “Either one is unprecedented.” However, he said comparing Sinai to Iraq and Syria was unrealistic, and the success of militants in the peninsula was extremely unlikely.

“Egypt isn’t Iraq; this isn’t Anbar. The [Egyptian] military is more cohesive, has more firepower, and has the capability to get them out,” Gold said, adding that the main obstacle is the number of civilians that could be killed in the process.

Middle East Briefing: The Unseen Significance of ISIL North Sinai Attack


ISIS claims Italian consulate car bomb in Cairo

Al Arabiya News, July 11

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group said it exploded a deadly car bomb Saturday outside the Italian consulate in Cairo, warning Muslims to stay away from such places, SITE Intelligence Group reported.

“Soldiers of the Islamic State in Cairo were able to detonate a parked booby-trapped vehicle laden with 450 kg (990 pounds) of explosives at the headquarters of the Italian consulate,” the U.S.-based security monitor quoted an ISIS tweet as saying.

“We advise Muslims to stay away from these security dens, because they are legitimate targets for strikes of the mujahedeen,” the statement added.


AP’s Timeline: The Latest: Egypt to repair Italian Consulate after bombing

Africa creates TFTA – Cape to Cairo free-trade zone

BBC, June 10

Africa’s largest free-trade zone is to be created, covering 26 countries in an area from Cape Town in the south to Cairo in the north.

The deal, signed in Egypt, is intended to ease the movement of goods across member countries which represent more than half the continent’s GDP.

Since the end of colonial rule, governments have been discussing ways to boost intra-African trade.

[…]

Three existing trade blocs – the Southern African Development Community (Sadc); the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) – are to to be united into a single new zone.

The pact – known as the The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) – will then be officially unveiled at the upcoming summit of the African Union this weekend in South Africa.

Nigeria Becomes Latest African Nation to Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

VICE News, By Hilary Beaumont, June 3

In one of his last moves as president of Nigeria, outgoing leader Goodluck Jonathan outlawed female genital mutilation last week, continuing a trend of criminalizing the practice in nations across Africa.

The new law criminalizes the cultural tradition of FGM, also known as female circumcision, which is performed on an estimated 125 million women and girls worldwide, according to a 2013 UNICEF report. The procedure can range from partial to total removal of the clitoris and labia. About a quarter of Nigerian women and girls are affected by the procedure, the report says.

According to a 2013 version of Nigeria’s bill, which criminalizes “harmful traditional practices,” anyone in Nigeria who performs female genital mutilation or engages someone to carry it out can be jailed for four years or fined the equivalent of $1,000. Attempting or aiding the procedure can also land Nigerians in jail for two years, with a fine up to $500.

According to Equality Now, an international group that’s working to end the practice, 23 African nations including Nigeria have enacted laws against FGM.

Kenya-based Mary Wandia, FGM Program Manager for Equality Now, called Nigeria’s criminalization of the practice “a vital first step.”

Liberia Is Free of Ebola, World Health Organization Declares

New York Times, By Sheri Fink, May 9

The World Health Organization declared Liberia free of Ebola on Saturday, making it the first of the three hardest-hit West African countries to bring a formal end to the epidemic.

“The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over,” the W.H.O. said in a statement read by Dr. Alex Gasasira, the group’s representative to Liberia, in a packed conference room at the emergency command center in Monrovia, the capital.

Just before Dr. Gasasira’s statement, Luke Bawo, an epidemiologist, showed a map depicting all of Liberia in green with the number 42 superimposed on it. This represented that two maximum incubation periods of the virus, a total of 42 days, had passed since the safe burial of the last person confirmed to have had Ebola in the country, fulfilling the official criteria for concluding that human-to-human transmission of the virus has ended.

[…]

In the past week, Guinea and Sierra Leone each reported nine cases of the disease, the lowest weekly total this year. Dr. Bruce Aylward, head of the W.H.O.’s Ebola response efforts, cautioned that hidden chains of transmission were probably occurring in those two countries. “We don’t know where that virus is,” he said.

Dr. Aylward said it had taken Liberia several months to get to zero cases after reaching single digits.

New York Times: After Ebola Outbreak, Liberian Churches Confront Crisis of Faith

Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More

UN aid worker suspended for leaking report on child abuse by French troops

Anders Kompass said to have passed confidential document to French authorities because of UN’s failure to stop abuse of children in Central African Republic.

The Guardian, By Sandra Laville, April 29

A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.

Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.

Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.

The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.

Egypt extends state of emergency in northern Sinai by three months

Reuters, April 25

Cairo – Egypt said on Saturday it had extended by three months a state of emergency imposed on parts of northern Sinai in October after Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.

Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Sinai since mid-2013, lashing out after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests. Sisi went on to be elected president last year.

The decision, announced in a statement from the presidency, will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday. It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas.

South Africa arrests hundreds over xenophobic violence

Police arrest more than 300 for crimes against migrants, after violence kills eight and displaces more than 1,000.

Al Jazeera, April 20

South Africa’s government has vowed to crack down on xenophobic violence, after arresting more than 300 people for a range of crimes against migrants.

Authorities said on Sunday in Johannesburg that 307 suspects had been arrested for a range of xenophobic-related crimes.

Security agencies have also increased the police presence on the ground after at least eight deaths in anti-immigrant violence in the past week.

“They have actually pushed other people to leave their own comfort zones, their homes,” David Mahlobo, the minister of state security, said.

More than 1,000 people have been displaced after violence against foreign nationals flared up on March 30 in the country’s coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, whose capital is Durban.

Millions of Nigerians come out to vote in tight poll

Voters brave sun, insecurity and queues but presidential election extended to Sunday in some areas after tech glitches.

Al Jazeera, March 28

Nigerians turned out en masse on Saturday to vote in what is expected to be one of the tightest presidential races in their history between incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Analysts are calling the poll a pivotal historical event for the young democracy. Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled Africa’s most populous nation virtually unopposed for 16 years.

But it is possible he could lose to Buhari, who has contested three previous elections but never come close to victory before.

Al Jazeera: Goodluck Jonathan hopes it will be 2011 all over again.

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