Category Archives: East Africa

Al-Shabaab claims governor assassination

Somalia Mudug region governor was killed with three of his bodyguards in a suicide car bombing on May 17. The explostion was claimed by Islamist group al Shabaab, police said.

“A suicide car bomb hit the governor’s car. Governor Ahmed Muse Nur and three of his bodyguards died,” police captain Mohamed Osman told Reuters.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia’s western-backed central government and frequently carries out bombings in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. The group wants to establish its own rule in the Horn of Africa country, based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

“We are behind the explosion. It was a suicide car bomb. We killed Mudug region governor and his three bodyguards,” al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab told media.

The same day the armed group posted a statement on a pro-Shabab website that said: “The governor of the apostate administration in the Mudug region was killed in a martyrdom operation in Galkayo today.”

Galkayo lies about 600km (375 miles) north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 and lost most of its strongholds, but still controls vast swathes of the countryside.

Ethiopia Millenium Dam causes tensions

Government of Sudan rejected Ethiopia’s proposal to sign an initial agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and now expressed readiness to resume U.S.-led talks on the project.

According to a statement on May 12, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed disapproving of an Addis Ababa proposal on an agreement over the dam’s first filling water, which is a crucial issue for agriculture in Sudan and Egypt, risking to lose up to 50% of arable land due to lack of irrigation.

Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to “technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.

The agreement must incorporate a mechanism of coordination, an exchange of information and the safety of the dam and its environmental and social impacts, he insisted.

Prime minister of Sudan stressed that the path to reach a comprehensive agreement is an immediate resumption of negotiations which he underlined experienced a significant progress in the last four months.

Sudan believes that the current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, he said, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that teleconferences are suitable means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues.

Lead Sudanese negotiator Saleh Hamad said that most of the issues being negotiated are inextricably linked, not only to the first filling but to all phases of filling.

The statement on May 12 comes a day after Ethiopia announced it is to start filling its mega-dam in July, despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan as they stand by a 2015 declaration that stipulates an agreement on the guidelines governing the filling and annual operation of the dam should be reached.

Director of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies Khaled Okasha said the Sudanese move brings the matter to its proper path, which relies on cooperation and negotiation.

Mr.Okasha explained that Ethiopia took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to cancel all agreements, and according to point zero it was announced through its “populist” mechanisms that it pursued from the beginning.

Okasha has affirmed that the move by the Sudanese Prime Minister came after Ethiopia’s intentions to go on with the project solely without consulting with Khartoum and Cairo became clear, threatening the interests of both countries.

This is in addition to the dangers related to the safety requirements of the dam, which the Ethiopian side has been ignoring, constantly pushing for the filling stage with an aim to aid internal and political conflicts through the construction of the dam, completely disregarding the sovereignty and authentic rights of Egypt and Sudan.

He added that Ethiopia is also seeking from this to blame the issue on both Cairo and Khartoum, according to flawed and outdated Ethiopian theories that claim disagreements between Egypt and Sudan.

Okasha further stressed that the new Sudanese government is now correcting many of the faults of the previous regime, which had been performing in contradiction with the Sudanese national interests.

Neighbouring Sudan and Egypt dependent on Nile flow fear the dam will trap their essential water supplies once the giant reservoir starts being filled in July as planned.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

The dispute is over the Millenium Dam being built on the Blue Nile. Ethiopia announced it will begin part filling it in July this year in order to test two turbines next year during the rainy season. The dam is 71% complete and when finished in 2023 will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa providing much needed power to the second populous country on continent with 100 million inhabitants.

The reservoir will be able to hold more than 70 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water, but Egypt says if it operates according to Ethiopian intentions, 100 million Egyptians will then be deprived of much of their lifeline – the waters of the river.

Kenya: Italian hostage liberated

President of the European Parliament David Sassoli thanked all those, involved in an operation of liberation of an Italian hostage – an NGO volunteer Silvia Romano (25) kidnapped in Kenya one and a half year ago. On his Twitter accounted Sassoli wrote that he received the news with joy, and expressed gratitude to everyone who did not “give up” working on her liberation.

On May 9 Italian Prime Minister Conte announced the liberation of an NGO worker Silvia Romano in an international operation conducted by the Italian secret services.

Silvia Romano has been freed! I thank the women and men of our intelligence services. Silvia, we are waiting for you in Italy” he wrote on Twitter micro blog.

“I was strong and I resisted. I’m fine and I can’t wait to go back to Italy” these are the first words in pubblic of the young Milanese Silvia Romano after the liberation.

The operation was directed by General Luciano Carta from the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (External Intelligence and Security Agency), known as AISE with the collaboration of the Turkish and Somali services and took place last night.

The volunteer is now in safety in the compound of international forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. The return to Italy will take place tomorrow, at 2 pm at Ciampino airport, Rome, according to the media reports.

She is well and fit. Obviously tired by the existence of captivity but she is all right” said Raffaele Volpi president of Copasir (Parliamentary Committee that controls the operator of the secret services). “The compliments – he added – go to General Carta, to the men and women of the Aise who with their tireless work, never in the light of the limelight, have allowed this very important result. Thanks guys and welcome back home to Silvia”.

Immediately after her release, according to the Adnkronos news agency which cites intelligence sources, the young woman “had a long telephone conversation with her mother and with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte”.

On November 20, 2018, Silvia Romano, a volunteer for the NGO Africa Milele Onlus, devoted to children in fragile situation, mainly abandoned, had been kidnapped by a group of armed men in the village of Chakama, 80 kilometers from Malindi. A large scale manhunt was conducted, but without any success.

In December 2018, an information was obtained about her being alive and transported to Somalia, but since then her case was shrouded in silence.

The violence during the kidnapping – commented a police inspector in the capital Nairobi –looked more like a theatrical act. The kidnappers carried Silvia up to the almost entirely dry Athi Galana Sabaki river, which is quite close. They got across the river and got to the motorcycles they had left there. They could have acted by surprise, riding to Chakama, taking Silvia and leaving quickly. Instead they took a more complicated and difficult route where someone could have followed or recognized them. But they where able to get away.”

Three of her eight kidnappers were subsequently arrested in Kenya.

On the events of the kidnapping, however, everything remains to be established. According to the sources by the Rome prosecution she was held captive in Somalia by militia close to the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, the Somali organization affiliated to al-Qaeda, and was considered a “political hostage”.

Malawi faces new elections

In a unanimous decision Supreme Court upheld a previous court ruling that annulled President Peter Mutharika’s narrow election victory last year, the Malawi justice announced on Friday 8 May.

In its judgment on May 8, the Supreme Court said: “The various breaches undermined the duties of the Malawi Electoral Commission and grossly undermined rights of voters. None of the candidates obtained a majority.”

It added that the electoral commission should not have appealed, as doing so showed it was taking sides. Mutharika and the electoral commission later appealed the Constitutional Court decision.

Malawi is dependent on foreign aid and is frequently beset by drought which threatens the lives of thousands of people.

Former law professor Mutharika, president since 2014, oversaw infrastructure improvements and a slowdown in inflation in his first five-year term, but critics accuse him of failing to tackle endemic corruption.

The Constitutional Court in February cited “widespread, systematic and grave” irregularities when it annulled the vote that returned Mutharika to power last May.

A new election will now be held on July 2.

Tigray region elections controversy

Ethiopia’s Tigray region plans to hold elections, its leading party announced, setting it on a collision course with the federal government in Addis Ababa and imposing strain on the country’s fragile unity.

On May 4 the Executive Committee of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has passed a decision to hold the upcoming elections at the regional level after the decision of the election board to postpone the elections “indefinitely” the context of the pandemic.

The end of March Ethiopian electoral board postponed parliamentary and regional elections scheduled for August 29 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. A new date has yet to be set but the opposition has already questioned the move.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the region’s governing party, split acrimoniously from the national Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition last year when its three other parties merged to form the new Prosperity Party.

The TPLF said it would proceed with elections in Tigray region despite the nationwide postponement of voting due to COVID-19.

We are making preparations including the holding of a regional election in order to safeguard the rights of our people from chaos,” a TPLF statement said. It did not mention a date for the vote.

Addis Alem Balema, an expert and a prominent Tigray politician has criticised Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government in connection with the change of the election schedule.

Government was working half-heartedly on the next election. Now the Coronavirus complicated it,” the expert said.  Moreover, he criticized Prime minister’s administration pointing that the rule of law in the country is “messy“.

Concerning the strategy to address the situation, Alem Balema added the measures to be taken need to ensure the “rights of nations and nationalities, and foster the federal system.” 

Consultation has to continue and the upcoming election has to be free, fair, and credible” he added.

Sudan: Bashir family property confiscated

In Sudan capital Khartoum several large plots of land and residential properties will be confiscated from family members, relatives, and some close friends of ousted President Omar al-Bashir after investigation established they were acquired largely due to family connections, anti-corruption committee announced on May 7.

The Empowerment Removal Committee said it confiscated property from Bashir’s brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, and a former Defence minister, who was a close ally of al-Bashir. It transferred the ownership of the propterites, which totalled around 92,000 square meters in size to the finance ministry with new status of natonalised public property.

Separately, it also dissolved the boards of the Khartoum International Airport Company and the Sudan Airports Holding Company over a range of accusations, mainly corruption.

The committee was charged by the attorney general with dismantling the system built by long-term ruler Bashir authority after his ouster in April last year. It is in charge of investigations into crimes involving public funds and corruption by the former president and members of his extended family and allies.

Bashir, who has been jailed in Khartoum since he was toppled following mass protests after his 30-year authoritarian rule, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.

A Sudanese court handed Bashir a first, two-year sentence in December on corruption charges. He also faces trials and investigations over the killing of protesters and his role in the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

EU will not send observers to Malawi

The European diplomacy reiterated its call for restraint to political actors in Malawi.
“It is especially important at this time that all political actors should stand united in the defence of human rights and Rule of Law, and against any acts of violence, incitement or hate speech” the EU spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs said, quoting a statement of the EU Mission in Malawi.

On May 6, being “shocked” and “saddened” by acts of violence the EU Mission in Malawi together with Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States reacted upon the lamentable episodes, fuelled by political motives, hoping that those responsable would be brought to justice, following the transparent investigations in the frame of the Malawi law.

However the EU has no plans to send the observers for the possible presidential elections postponed to July 2. In general the European External Action Service (EEAS) has to re-asses the deployment of the Observation missions, but “in this case Malawi is not a part of the EU observation mission priority for 2020, the EU will not send the Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) for the re-run of the Presidential elections in Malawi” the spokesperson said commenting on the issue. She reminded that at present the issue of re-running of the presidential elections on the July 2 is examined by the Supreme court in the capital city Lilongwe, and the decision of the judges will “determine if the Presidential election will be or not repeated in July“, she added.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) had declared President Peter Mutharika the narrow winner of the May election with 38% of votes, followed by Lazarus Chakwera with 35% and former Vice President Saulos Chilima third with 20%, while four other candidates collectively received of 6% of ballots.

Since the announcement of the election results almost a year ago, Malawi has experienced a wave of protests across the country demanding the resignation of Jane Ansah, the chairwoman of the MEC for allegedly mismanaging the elections. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) defended its managment of the process, being within the legal framework.

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