Africa News Roundup: Somalia’s New Prime Minister, Protests in Ethiopia, Bombings in Nigeria, Cabinet Reshuffle in Guinea, and More

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has appointed a new prime minister:

[Abdi Farah Shirdon] Saaid, a political newcomer, has been a prominent businessman in neighbouring Kenya and is married to Asha Haji Elmi, an influential Somali peace activist.

A Western diplomat said Saaid had a reputation for being above Somalia’s notoriously volatile clan politics, similar to the new president, and the news of his appointment would be welcomed by foreign governments.

“Like all the decisions the new president has made so far, this is a good one, and Somalia is on a bit of a roll with the election of (Mohamed Osman) Jawaari as parliament speaker and Mohamud as president,” the diplomatic source told the Reuters news agency.

Mohamud, a former academic and a political newcomer himself, was elected president in a secret ballot on September 10, a result hailed by his supporters as a vote for change in the Horn of Africa state ravaged by war and anarchy since 1991.
Saaid’s appointment as the prime minister will have to be approved by Somali legislators, diplomatic sources said.

VOA:

Ethiopian Muslims will elect a new Islamic Council this Sunday, October 7.  The election has stirred protest among many Muslims who believe the government is trying to influence the Council.
A protest erupted after the Friday prayer at the Anwar mosque, the largest mosque in Addis Ababa.  People were waving yellow papers, symbolizing a warning card for the government and the crowd was chanting for about 20 minutes, shouting slogans such as “let our voice be heard” and “release the prisoners.”  Dozens of protesters were brought to a police station during and after the demonstration.
The anger behind the protest started earlier this year, as some Muslims accused the government of interfering with religious affairs by trying to promote a more liberal form of Islam from Lebanon, known as al-Abhash.

Peter Tinti: “Understanding Algeria’s Northern Mali Policy”

In the recent killing of students in Nigeria’s Adamawa State, the prior destruction of mobile phone towers by Boko Haram seems to have contributed to victims’ difficulties in placing calls to warn others.

Two explosions in Nigeria’s Taraba State, in the town of Jailingo, occurred respectively on Thursday and on Friday/Saturday night, killing at least two persons and wounding at least nineteen.

Micah Zenko wonders, “Foreign governments and peoples ask for international humanitarian interventions all the time, so why do we only pay attention to some and ignore others?”

An unexpected cabinet reshuffle in Guinea.

IRIN reports on a cholera outbreak on the Kenya-Somalia border.

What else is happening?

Nigeria: Major Crackdown on Boko Haram in Yobe and Adamawa States

Mosque, Damaturu

Mosque in Damaturu, by Jeremy Weate

Last week, Nigerian security forces in Kano and Maiduguri killed at least four suspected high-ranking members of the Boko Haram sect and arrested two others. That tally includes the group’s infamous spokesman Abu Qaqa, who has been reported dead before. This week, security forces have mounted crackdowns on Boko Haram in Yobe and Adamawa States. While clashes between security forces and sect members are frequent, these crackdowns have been significant for their scale.
AFP on the crackdown in Yobe:

“The Joint Task Force has succeeded in killing 35 Boko Haram terrorists in shootouts between Sunday evening through Monday,” said Lieutenant Lazarus Eli, a military spokesman in Yobe state, of which Damaturu is the capital.

A round-the-clock curfew was imposed in the city late Saturday, ahead of the operation that also led to the arrest of 60 suspected Boko Haram members.

The curfew has been relaxed and residents are now allowed out of their homes from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm (0600 GMT to 2100), Eli said. The ban on movements in Yobe’s economic capital of Potiskum has also been eased.

Military forces went door-to-door through three Damaturu neighbourhoods beginning late Sunday and engaged militants in “a fierce exchange of gunfire” through to the early hours of Monday morning, the spokesman added in a statement.

Two soldiers were injured in the fighting.

[…]

A list of weapons that Eli said were recovered from Boko Haram hideouts included dozens of guns, explosive devices and hundreds of rounds of ammunition as well 32 arrows and two swords, among other items.

PM News on the crackdown in Mubi, Adamawa:

“In the three-day operation, the town was placed under 24-hour curfew, which enabled soldiers to comb the nooks and corners,” said Lieutenant Saleh Mohammed Buba, military spokesman in Adamawa.
“A total of 156 suspects were rounded up in raids of suspected (Boko Haram) hideouts. A sect commander known as Abubakar Yola who went by the alias Abu Jihad was shot dead in a shootout while trying to flee,” he added.
The detained suspected gunmen would soon be produced in court, Buba said.
[…]
The spokesman said about 300 explosive devices were discovered in what he described as an armory used by the sect, where about two dozen AK-47 guns were also being stored.

These crackdowns follow Boko Haram’s attacks on cell phone towers earlier this month. A suicide bombing at a church in Bauchi State on Sunday is believed to be the group’s work.

The crackdowns, along with the arrests and shootings of sect commanders, certainly put pressure on Boko Haram. Their success in disrupting the group’s activities will have to be judged over time, though. For one thing, militant groups and terrorist movements are often able to replace slain commanders with relative ease – the headline “Al Qaeda No. 3 Killed” has been written so many times that it has become a joke in some quarters. Second, the massive crackdown on Boko Haram in 2009 did succeed in driving Boko Haram underground for months, but it also seems to have fueled the group’s grievances against the state, especially security forces.

Force will undoubtedly be part of the state’s response to Boko Haram. What matters is how force gets used. To the extent that security forces can target known sect members while avoiding harming and harassing civilians, and can pair forceful tactics with sophisticated strategies for answering the political challenge the sect poses, the crackdowns may help resolve the problem of Boko Haram. If not, then crackdowns risk becoming just another element of a cycle of violence.