Africa News Roundup: Kismayo, Somali Presidential Selection, Boko Haram and Mobile Phones, Senussi, Flooding, and More

VOA: “Politics Hinders Capture of Somalia’s Kismayo” – a major port city and stronghold of Al Shabab.

Somalia’s new parliament plans to select a new president for the country on Monday.

As Nigerian forces continue to battle militants from Boko Haram in Maiduguri and elsewhere, Boko Haram claims responsibility for attacking a number of mobile phone towers in Northern Nigeria.

“The Movement … is fighting to establish an Islamic state and we will wage war against anyone who tries to stop us,” Abul Qaqa, a spokesman, said in a written statement issued from the group’s headquarters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

“This is the reason we attacked the telecoms firms, because they are providing the security personnel with information used to track our members. We will continue attacking them until they stop,” he said.

The shift in tactics underscores how much trial and error figures in Boko Haram’s thinking, and how unpredictable the group can be. This move will undoubtedly elevate investors’ concerns, as it is the first time I am aware of that the group has conducted a major attack against private businesses. (As commenter Chavuka points out, Boko Haram has attacked newspaper offices in the past.)

Two developments connected to associates and family of dead Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi occurred this week: Mauritania, after months of refusing to extradite former intelligence chief Abdullah al Senussi, deported him to Libya; and Niger has granted the Colonel’s son Saadi permission to travel. Saadi was previously under house arrest.

Also in Niger, the government has charged that international aid for flood victims “is being [illegally] diverted to other places.”

IRIN on flooding in Chad.

A video has been released showing four French hostages in northern Mali, held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The employees of the French company Areva were kidnapped in Arlit, Niger on September 15, 2010 and were transferred to northern Mali which is now controlled by armed Islamists.

What else is happening in the Sahel?

Sahelian Governments Continue to Resist Extraditions to Libya

In March, a delegation headed by Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour attempted – and failed – to convince Mauritanian authorities to extradite Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al Senussi, to Libya. About six weeks ago, a Mauritanian court indicted al Senussi, suggesting Mauritanian authorities’ desire to keep him in their country, where he was first arrested. On Wednesday, Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim visited Mauritania (note that Libya sent an even higher-ranking official this time) and asked again for al Senussi’s extradition. AFP adds, “The head of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, had on Tuesday reiterated his administration’s demand for Senussi’s extradition in a phone call to the Mauritanian president.” The Libyan government really wants al Senussi, but I am not sure they will get him.

Meanwhile, Niger reportedly remains unwilling to extradite Col. Qadhafi’s son Saadi back to Libya.

Since Gadhafi arrived [in Niamey], he has led a normal life, eating at restaurants and dancing at nightclubs early into the morning, according to restaurant and nightclub owners and local journalists.

Over the past three months, though, Niger’s government has ordered him to keep a low profile and stay inside his mansion, after comments he made to al-Arabiya television that he was in contact with Gadhafi loyalists and wanted to retake power in Libya.

At the same time, Niger’s government has refused to extradite him, saying that Gadhafi would never receive a fair trial, raising tensions with Libya’s new rulers. “We won’t accept this demand,” said Morou Amadou, Niger’s justice minister. “We won’t extradite someone where he is certain to face the death penalty.”

Here at the blog, commenters and I have puzzled over Sahelian governments’ reasons for such refusals before, without coming to any definitive conclusions. The article excerpted above is worth reading in full, as it notes lingering loyalties to Qadhafi (the father) in Niger but also mentions Niger’s incentives to cooperate with the new government in Libya.   Maybe the loyalties outweigh the other incentives, at least for now.

Sahelian governments may also be internally divided on these issues. The case of Tunisia is instructive:

A row inside Tunisia’s ruling alliance over the extradition of Libya’s former prime minister took a fresh turn late on Monday [June 25] after reports that he had suffered a beating in a Libyan jail.
Tunisia’s post-revolution political alliance had already been plunged into crisis over the affair.
President Moncef Marzouki is furious that Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali ordered Mahmudi’s transfer to Libya without his consent.
Marzouki had always opposed the extradition, arguing that Libya’s new regime offered insufficient guarantees of a fair trial. But when Jebali approved the move Sunday [June 24], the president was in southern Tunisia for an official ceremony.
Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist did not sign the extradition order and, according to his adviser, he only found out about Mahmudi’s transfer through the media.
The presidency “considers this decision is illegal, all the more so because it has been done unilaterally and without consulting the president of the republic,” a statement from Marzouki’s office said late Sunday.

Mauritania and Niger may fear, then, that handing over their respective prisoners to the Libyans could result in news of torture, news that might play badly with domestic constituencies in the Sahel and cause public relations headaches. Or, simpler still, perhaps the Sahelian governments simply prefer keeping these controversial figures in their own hands for as long as possible, because in that way they have the most control.

What is your read of these situations?