Kenya and Somalia – Al Shabaab launch three attacks


African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers assess the scene of an explosion after members of the al Shabaab Islamist group rammed a suicide truck bomb into their military base in the area of Beledweyne town, north of the capital Mogadishu, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar | MOGADISHU

Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist group rammed a military base with a suicide truck bomb, shot dead an intelligence officer and killed 12 people in a Kenyan border town in a series of strikes over 24 hours, the militants said on Tuesday.

The group, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out African AMISOM peacekeepers made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African nations.

The attacks mark the build up to elections in coming weeks for the Somali parliament, which will in turn pick a new president to continue slow reconstruction efforts in a nation racked by more than two decades of conflict.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group was behind a truck bomb that rammed into an AMISOM base in the Somali town of Beledweyne, north of Mogadishu. He said 17 soldiers from Djibouti were killed in the attack.

There was no immediate comment from AMISOM and police said they did not have access to the base to offer any figures. Al Shabaab’s numbers are often much larger than officials figures.

Al Shabaab’s usual tactic is to ram the entrance to a target site so that its fighters can storm inside, but a police officer in Beledweyne said no such assault took place on Tuesday.

AMISOM has been battling the rebels in support of the Somali government.

The al Shabaab spokesman also said the group shot senior intelligence officer Colonel Abdiasis Araye as he walked to a mosque late on Monday in Mogadishu.

He also said al Shabaab was behind Tuesday’s early morning attack on a hotel in Kenya’s northeastern Mandera town, killing at least 12 people according to police and 15 people according to al Shabaab’s account.

Al Shabaab has often launched attacks in neighbouring Kenya, saying it will continue until Kenyan forces were withdrawn.

Kenya’s government has repeatedly said it would not be forced out of Somalia by al Shabaab, saying it sees the mission as a matter of national security.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

South Africa – ANCYL hits out at Ramaphosa over his support for Gordhan


2016-10-25 16:55

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (File)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (File)

Johannesburg – The ANC Youth League has been critical of all who’ve publicly pledged support for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan ahead of his court appearance on November 2, saying that he should go through the normal court processes like everyone else.

“Society wants us to believe there are some who must not be prosecuted and prove themselves innocent and that some should be prosecuted,” ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said.

He said Gordhan should be allowed the space to undergo the legal process without people taking sides, he also hit out at the deputy president of both the country and the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, for publicly supporting Gordhan.

“The deputy president is succumbing to pressure that is portraying [Pravin] Gordhan as someone who must not be charged.”

Nzuza criticised Ramaphosa for taking sides, arguing that a leader in government should not do this.

“There are many others in government who have been taken to court on a number of occasions, but the DP [Ramaphosa] has never released a statement to say he supports their institutions. Minister of police was taken to court, he never received support from him,” Nzuza told News24 on Tuesday.

Gordhan is facing a charge of fraud along with two former South African Revenue Service officials, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, in connection with an early retirement package signed off by Gordhan for Pillay in 2010.

Stop drawing conspiracies

Nzuza said he was worried about the double standards shown by many, including some in the ANC.

“Now the integrity committee and other people zoomed in, including the organisation, into Marius Fransman, they ended up having him set aside because he was charged with a case. Pravin [Gordhan] is charged and no one is saying he must step aside,” said Nzuza.

Several leaders in both business and the ANC – including Jackson Mthembu, Max Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize and Matthews Phosa – have come out in support of the finance minister.

Fransman was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute in July following claims of sexual assault by Louisa Wynand.

Nzuza also rubbished concerns raised by many that Gordhan’s legal woes were politically motivated.

“People must stop drawing conspiracies when there are none, where is the evidence? [If] it’s politically motivated, provide proof,” he said.

Nzuza said Gordhan was not pursuing a position in the party’s elective conference taking place in 2017, yet people seemed to be creating a perception that he is being targeted because of the battle to lead the party.

South Africa – NPA’s Mrwebi, Jiba suspended over KZN Hawks and Mdluli cases


2016-10-25 17:38

Lawrence Mrwebi (Herman Verwey, Beeld)

Lawrence Mrwebi (Herman Verwey, Beeld)

Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday announced his intention to suspend National Prosecuting Authority advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi.

“The President has requested the two advocates to provide him with reasons as to why they cannot be suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry into their fitness to hold office,” the Presidency said in a statement.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled on September 15 that Jiba and Mrwebi’s names be struck off the roll of advocates. The General Council of the Bar brought the application, following their handling of cases involving former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen and former police crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

In a scathing 109-page judgment Judge Frans Legodi wrote: “I cannot believe that two officers of the court [advocates] who hold such high positions in the prosecuting authority will stoop so low for the protection and defence of one individual who had been implicated in serious offences.”

They should have stood “firm and vigorous” and persisted with their prosecution of Mdluli on fraud and corruption charges.

“By their conduct, they did not only bring the prosecuting authority and the legal profession into disrepute, but have also brought the good office of the President of the Republic of South Africa into disrepute by failing to prosecute Mdluli, who inappropriately suggested that he was capable of assisting the President of the country to win the party presidential election in Mangaung during 2011 should the charges be dropped against him.”

Legodi said Mrwebi was supposed to be part of a system that effectively investigated and prosecuted the surge of corruption and fraud. Jiba was the “commander in chief”. Her failure to intervene when she was required to brought the legal profession and prosecuting authority into disrepute.

“Both Mrwebi and Jiba should be found to have ceased to be fit and proper persons to remain on a roll of advocates.”

Mdluli had been accused of murdering a love rival and also of fraud and corruption for allegedly abusing a crime intelligence fund.

Three sets of lawyers

The NPA however decided to withdraw the corruption charges against him. Lobby group Freedom Under Law (FUL) wanted the record that led to this decision, but delays and conduct over this appeared to be Jiba and Mrwebi’s undoing.

Legodi accused Jiba of dishonesty and of passing the buck in her handling of the FUL application.

She went through three sets of lawyers who withdrew from representing her. A fourth said they could not support her decision because, in their view, there was allegedly a prima facie case against Mdluli.

Legodi found Mrwebi had not been honest in handling the withdrawal of the charges against Mdluli. There were discrepancies with dates of meetings; he had already made the decision to withdraw charges against Mdluli before consulting his colleague Sibongile Mzinyathi, and had already told Mdluli’s lawyers about his decision.

He tried to claim it was not a matter for the police, but for the inspector general of intelligence to handle.

NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said it was up to Zuma whether to suspend Jiba and Mrwebi, therefore the NPA would not comment.

Swaziland’s rhino horn trade bid defeated at CITES – but what are the alternatives?

Talking Humanities


In the last of his series on the rhino horn trade debate, Professor Keith Somerville calls for a new and effective solution to protect these endangered animals. He says the ban on all trade, which has been in effect for 39 years, has not worked and maybe the answer is a more realistic mix that includes biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining.

Swaziland’s proposal to trade in rhino horn has been decisively defeated by member states of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

In a secret ballot on 3 October 100 members voted to reject the country’s request to sell its stocks of rhino horn and small annual quantities resulting from natural morality. Twenty-six voted for and 17 abstained. It is believed that Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe (which have the majority of Africa’s black and white rhinos) supported the Swazi bid, while states like Kenya, which has a small and threatened population, voted against.

According to Ted Reilly, who heads the country’s parks, Swaziland would have used the funds from the sale to increase protection and conservation measures and provide incentives for local people to support their efforts.

In an emotional speech to the conference in Johannesburg, he appealed for a vote in favour of the trade, reminding delegates of the financial and human and costs of protecting rhinos, notably the number of wildlife rangers killed by poachers. He said the ban wasn’t working and a regulated trade was the only answer.

Swaziland’s official bid claimed ‘proceeds from the sale of stocks will raise approximately $9.9 million at a wholesale price of $30,000 per kg. That amount will be placed in an endowment fund to yield approximately $600,000 annually’, which would make a huge difference to resources available for protection, development of wider conservation programmes in protected areas and benefit staff and local communities. Private rhino owners is South Africa are currentlyfighting their own government in the courts to get a moratorium on domestic trade in horn lifted. Their success would enable trade within South Africa but not legal exports of horn.


Ted Reilly (left) on top of a 60 foot ranger watchtower in Mkhaya Royal National park, Swaziland

NGO’s welcome continued ban
Western conservation and animal welfare NGO’s were jubilant about the vote against Swaziland’s proposals. Kelvin Alie, director of wildlife trade at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said ‘At a time when rhinoceros are more under threat than ever from poachers due to rapidly increasing black market prices in their horn, this decision by parties to deny Swaziland’s request to trade in white rhino horn is to be applauded.’ He didn’t, however, say how the fight to conserve rhinos could be sustainably financed without a legal trade.

The IFAW view and that of other NGOs is best summed up by a speech by Will Travers, head of the Born Free Foundation based in London. Debating the issue at London’s Royal Institution, he made it clear that he and many other NGO activists in the conservation field would never support a legal trade – even in natural mortality horn or horn removed without injury to the rhino to deter poachers from killing the animals (see The Conversation).

He believes Western governments and NGOs should finance conservation and enhanced anti-poaching in Africa range states – something which disempowers those states and hands power over their wildlife resources to NGOs and foreign governments. But this would add to local populations’ sense of alienation from wildlife. In addition, it may increase the likelihood that they will help poachers as they feel that have no power over their own wildlife and receive no benefit from it. Voicing the concern for a lack of sustainable income for conservation Tom Milken, the veteran monitor of international wildlife trade and its effects, said after the vote, ‘The underlying issue is, who pays for it?’

The answer is the NGOs that support a ban on all rhino horn trade. They are a major source of funds for conservation and use the funding, or the denial of it, to persuade countries to adopt anti-trade policies and move away from community-based, sustainable use approaches to wildlife. As the former head of the Natal Parks Board, David Cook and veteran South African conservationist John Hanks, told me recently, this approach denies countries like Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, greater influence over rhino conservation policy and the chance for self-funding conservation and rural development.

What next?
The CITES vote against legal trade comes at a time when a brief period of optimism that the rate of poaching was being reduced by anti-poaching operations is being replaced by evidence of a sharp rise in poaching in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Just before the CITES meeting opened Edna Molewa,  South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs, confirmed 702 rhinos had been killed in the country as a whole this year, compared with 796 in the same period last year. She said between January and August 458 poached rhino carcasses were found in Kruger compared with 557 in 2015. But there is growing evidence that poaching has not been halted. It has been diverted from Kruger to other areas – particularly the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KZN.

On 23 September (Wold Rhino Day) the Hluhluwe Park reported that six rhinos had been found dead that day with their horns removed. This brought the number poached there to 113 this year – up 20 per cent on 2015. Twenty were killed in September alone. When I visited the park in early September, the head of rhino protection, Cedric Coetzee, said poaching gangs were switching to the park because of the tightening of security in Kruger National park and because, as I saw when I toured the park, the rhinos are easy to find. He said that whereas a poacher in Kruger might take two to three days to kill rhinos, in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi they could be in and out of the park in two to three hours having killed and removed the horns of several of the animals.

The KZN wildlife authorities are fighting back. Last month they announced that three poachers had been shot dead there. A spokesman for KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife (which runs the park) said in addition, so far this year rangers and the police had arrested 91 poachers, compared with 49 for the whole of 2015.

This demonstrates that with rhino horn fetching $65,000 a kilo in Vietnam and China, the illegal trade will persist. Poor rural dwellers, former professional hunters, corrupt ex-staff of wildlife parks and even some current wildlife personnel are part of a complex mix of people who work with criminal syndicates to poach rhinos and smuggle their horn. Anti-poaching patrols can kill or catch poachers but have had little success in smashing the syndicates, as Kruger Park’s chief ranger Nicholus Funda told me recently.


Black rhino in Mkhaya Royal National Park, Swaziland

A more realistic mix, biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining seems to me the only answer in the long run. The rejection of the Swazi bid will not end attempts to find solutions involving the reintroduction of legal and regulated trade, despite the emotively-expressed opposition of wildlife NGOs. Rhinos are in danger and new methods are needed, as the 39 years of a ban on all trade has not improved protection of the rhino. It has only created a continuing demand, hiked prices and encouraged poaching. Something new and effective is needed – fast!

Kenya – Al Shabab attack on theatre group in Mandera kills 12


Aftermath of the attack
Those killed were staying in this guest house

At least 12 people have been killed in an attack in Kenya carried out by Somalia-based militant Islamist group al-Shabab.

Police in the Kenyan border town of Mandera said the attackers used explosives during the overnight attack.

The target was a guesthouse hosting members of a theatre group who were in the town for performances in schools.

It is the latest in a spate of deadly attacks targeting Christians in the mainly Muslim region.

Reports say that the theatre group was composed of university students who had travelled to the north-eastern town to perform plays in local schools.

At least six of the members are yet to be accounted for, while four are in hospital.

The militants have claimed the attack in an affiliated radio station saying that it launched an attack in Mandera killing “15 Kenyans”.

Earlier this month, al-Shabab militants killed six people in an attack the group said was aimed at forcing Christians out of the area.

Analysis: Abdullahi Abdi, BBC Somali service, Kenya

Mandera borders Somalia, making it vulnerable to attacks from militants based there. The militants usually cross the porous border, carrying out deadly attacks on civilians and security agents before fleeing back.

Muslims in the north east increasingly see al-Shabab as a threat to their own interests and are making a concerted effort to improve relations with Christians living there.

Many of the Christians are skilled workers from other parts of Kenya, making a vital contribution to hospitals and schools. The north east is one of Kenya’s poorest areas and, if they are driven out, public services will worsen.

Al-Shabab, based in Somalia, is affiliated to al-Qaeda.

The group has been at war with Kenya ever since Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October 2011 in an effort to crush them.

Kenyan troops are now part of the African Union mission in Somalia.

The militants have lost control of most Somali towns and cities in recent years but still control rural areas in southern and central Somalia.

Nigeria – APC governors tackle Buharti over government appointments


APC governors tackle Buhari on appointments

Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

State governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress on Monday expressed their displeasure on how they were being sidelined in the choice of those being given federal appointments in their states by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The governors protested to Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at a meeting they had at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Our correspondent, however, learnt that the complaints were not presented to Buhari at the larger meeting attended by the APC governors and some deputy governors.

A source, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity,  said the larger meeting was only devoted to encouraging the President on the 21 Chibok girls recently released by Boko Haram, agriculture, the ongoing anti-corruption war and the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.

The source stated that the larger meeting, which also had in attendance political appointees like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and some presidential aides, lasted for a few minutes.

“During the larger meeting, the governors said they would like six of them to meet with the President and the Vice-President alone, but they did not disclose the agenda of the meeting then,” the source added.

At the second meeting, our correspondent learnt, the governors expressed their displeasure with the way they were being sidelined while deciding who would benefit from federal appointments in their states.

The source gave the names of the six governors, who attended the meeting with the President and Vice-President as Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna).

“The meeting was held right inside the President’s office. Presidential aides, including the SGF, were not part of that meeting. It was just between the President and the Vice-President on one hand and the six governors on the other hand.

“They told the President clearly that they wanted to discuss issues of national importance with him and that the six governors would represent them,” the source told The PUNCH.

The Plateau State Governor, Lalong, confirmed this development to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Lalung said the President had asked that state governors, who had complaints to put them in writing while promising to look into them.

“So, all the states that have complaints are going to put them into writing and the President promised that he is going to look into it,” he said.

Specifically on the ambassadorial nominee from his state, Paulen Tallen, who has rejected her nomination, Lalong said the rejection was not only about her husband’s ill-health as she claimed.

He said the rejection had more to do on the need for all zones in the state to be treated fairly in terms of federal appointments.

The governor added, “The rejection is not only about her (Tallen’s) husband. I think it is the dimension of Plateau politics, because I had already made complaints to Mr. President that appointments should not be concentrated in one zone.

“All these appointments came again from that particular zone.

“The complaints that are coming from our state are not about her own personal interest; it is the fact that two ambassadorial appointments are coming from the same zone that we had complained about. That is my zone.

“We had said that the next appointment should go to the other zones, the central and the northern zones. So, when that appointment came, the kind of uproar that followed that appointment also necessitated an intervention.”

Meanwhile, a meeting of the National Economic Council, comprising all state governors, will hold inside the Presidential Villa on Tuesday (today).

The Vice-President will preside over the meeting which will hold inside the Council Chambers.

Ahead of the meeting, state governors, on Monday evening, met under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.

The meeting, presided over by the forum’s chairman, Yari, was held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

It was called to give the governors the opportunity of taking a common position on issues to be discussed at the NEC meeting.

We take responsibility for economic downturn – Okorocha

The Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, on Monday, said the APC had taken responsibility for Nigeria’s economic downturn.

He said although some of the problems predated the present administration, the party must take responsibility without shifting blame.

Okorocha spoke with State House correspondents shortly after leading the APC governors to a closed-door meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The governor said, “This was not a problem brought by APC government; it is a problem that has existed long before APC came to government and we are only trying to clear the mess of the past.

“But we must take responsibility and we must never shift the responsibility to anybody.

“As APC, we are responsible for everything happening in Nigeria. We are responsible for the good, the bad, the ugly, but we are promising Nigerians that we shall fix it.”

While admitting that Nigerians were passing through difficult times, Okorocha said there was no surgery that was not painful.

He said Nigerians were experiencing pains because the country was going through what he called “a very serious economic surgery.”

The governor asked Nigerians to be more patient with the present administration.

He said, “We share the pains of Nigerians, every human being must feel it. We also feel what they are going through but we are asking for a little patience.

“Let us do things the right way and do it once and for all. I am sure that by next year, you will begin to see changes; the price of rice will drop, prices of dollars will begin to stabilise and we will see a lot of changes.

“But at this painful moment, nobody likes it. It is like a woman in the labour room. When she is in the labour room, there is no joy, but she has to pass through that moment and that moment, she does not wear her high heel shoes, no makeup, no champagne, no party.”

On the meeting with Buhari, Okorocha stated, “We came particularly to encourage him and congratulate him on the release of the 21 Chibok girls and we say whatever was done to bring back these girls, let the action be repeated so that the rest of the girls can be freed. This will help because this is a very big achievement in the history of this government.

“Again, we came to report to Mr. President that his agriculture policy is producing result. This time round, we have bumper harvest in most parts of the country in rice production and other things. So, that policy should be sustained.

“On the funding policy by the CBN, the anchor borrowers should be encouraged because it is yielding results. In the next couple of years, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in agriculture and will not need to import food products into this country.

“We also encouraged him on the fight against corruption; that he should continue. We know that in the pursuit of good programmes, certain lapses will be noticed and there is nothing wrong in pursuing a good cause.

“We also looked at the issue of the Ondo election and said we are happy that we have delivered the first state under his administration, which is Edo, but in Ondo, the governors have decided to show support for that election so that APC will take over the government of Ondo State.”

Okorocha agreed that the crisis in the APC was capable of affecting the party but expressed the hope that the controversy would be resolved before the elections.

Copyright PUNCH.

South Africa – shades of Polokwane in Mthembu leadership resignation call

BD Live

Critical:  ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.  Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Critical: ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

Is ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu’s call for the entire ANC leadership to resign an awakening of the beast that has long slumbered through the numerous crises bedevilling the ruling party?

It is an open secret there is a leadership vacuum within the ANC. The party and its leader have lurched from one crisis to the next without a whimper of protest from those leading it.

First there was Nkandla, followed by Nenegate, “state capture” and an attack on the Treasury. Instead of condemning these crises, those close to the president sought to protect him at all costs, as if their jobs and political survival were tied to his. Those that protested were ruthlessly dealt with. Many were fired or redeployed to political oblivion. Others were discredited and had flimsy allegations thrown at them in courts.

Mthembu’s outbursts have exposed that all is not well in the party’s leadership echelons and could encourage those who had been itching to speak to do so.

This may yet be President Jacob Zuma’s rubicon.

But Zuma’s faction continues to dominate the party’s NEC, its national working committee and the Cabinet.

It must have taken a lot of bravado for Mthembu to come out and open the sluice gates. Many see this as a resurgence of the fight to recapture the movement as happened in the pre-Polokwane period. It was lone brave voices at the time that culminated in a groundswell against former president Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s 2005 national general council.

This may yet be President Jacob Zuma’s rubicon

Political staff

Mthembu, an NEC member, said he had called on the entire leadership structure, which included Zuma, to resign after the poor election result. He said everyone should fall on their swords for failing party members. He now says he will deal with the matter internally after dropping his bombshell at the weekend. But insiders say Mthembu is leading the charge against the Zuma faction — he is testing the waters ahead of what is hoped will be a bigger ground-swell against the status quo.

With a president allegedly reporting to Saxonwold and Dubai, and a Cabinet whose appointment is under investigation, any sign of “real leadership” would be “absorbed like a sponge”. It is part of a bigger strategy in which others are set to follow.

A closer look at the ANC NEC shows that barring a handful of unknowns, the numbers for and against the president and his faction are evenly matched. The so-called Premier League — a grouping of premiers from the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga — is now a known entity, having peaked too early. Barring a few tactical issues, its game plan is well-known.

Zuma, it seems, has relied so much on it to ride one scandal after the other.

Also batting in his corner is the party’s youth league, the fractious war veterans association and its women’s league. But these organisations are a pale shadow of their former selves. Some of these organisations’ leaders have credibility issues.

No wonder Mthembu and those that support him have gathered enough strength to go for the jugular.

The Zuma faction has dismissed Mthembu’s comments and say he will be dealt with at the meeting of the party’s leadership next month.

It remains to be seen if Mthembu will go the way of those before him, being sidelined into oblivion, or if those who support him will stand up and be counted. With less than a year to go before 2017, the anti-Zuma forces are hedging their bets.

Some say he stands a better chance of taking on the Zuma faction because he was one of them. Before his “Damascus road moment”, Mthembu was a staunch Zuma supporter. His appointment as parliamentary chief whip was a reward for loyalty, they argue. Something must have gone awfully wrong in the camp to have forced him to take such a brave, and possibly career-limiting, stance.