G5 Sahel Joint Force gains traction; “Tunisia is finished”; Djibouti: China's gateway to Africa, and more

Tunisia rejects proposal for NATO presence: Official (Yamna Salimi, Anadolu Agency)
Tunisia has rejected a NATO proposal that would allow NATO officials to use a planned military command center, according to Tunisia’s defense minister. In a Monday statement, Abdul Karim al-Zubaidi said his ministry had rejected the proposal, by which Tunisia would receive a 3-million-euro grant in exchange for letting NATO officers maintain a presence at military operations center the country plans to establish. At a session of parliament’s security committee, al-Zubaidi said his ministry was currently working on plans to establish a “joint command center to coordinate between Tunisia’s air, land and sea forces.”

“Tunisia is finished”: Smugglers profit as downturn drives European exodus (Simon Speakman Cordall, Guardian)
Ahmed Souissi describes himself as a civil society activist. In a country where almost every job is unionized, Souissi is the leader of the Union of Unemployed Graduates on the island of Kerkennah: the departure point for Tunisians heading - legally and illegally - to Europe. Souissi is now employed, but his union work continues. He has seen the illegal migration business take root and flourish on his island. He describes the old fishing boats - packed with desperate, predominantly young men from across the country - making their way out of the harbour in full view of the police and national guard, groups ostensibly charged with halting them. It isn’t just Kerkennah. Coastal ports all along Tunisia’s picturesque coast have served as launching points for clandestine crossings into Europe. According to a leaked Interpol report from November last year, 50 Tunisians with ties to Islamic State are thought to be among those who emigrated illegally to Italy in 2017. One might even have entered France. By the country’s own estimate, a further 29,000 Tunisians were prevented from leaving the country during 2017 alone because of concerns about terrorism.

Funding Al-Shabaab: How aid money ends up in terror group’s hands (Sam Kiley, CNN)
The murderous al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab is making millions of dollars each year by exploiting foreign aid money sent to Somalia by the very western nations who are trying to eliminate the terror group. A CNN investigation has revealed how money given directly by the United Nations to people displaced by conflict and famine is ending up in the hands of Africa’s oldest terrorist organization. Former members of al-Shabaab and Somali intelligence agents said the terror group is extorting thousands of dollars per day through road blocks and taxes on merchants attempting to transport food and supplies to sell to internally displaced people in towns where they are concentrated.

U.S. and Egypt pledge allegiance in IS fight raging in Sinai (Brian Rohan, Washington Post)
The United States and Egypt on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to battle Islamic militants in the Middle East as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo at the start of his week-long trip to the region. Tillerson and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, cited productive discussions on regional security and the struggle against the Islamic State group, whose Egyptian affiliate, based in the Sinai Peninsula, has struck military and civilian targets across the Arab world’s most populous country. At a joint news conference with Shoukry, Tillerson said Egypt was an important part of the anti-IS coalition and that Washington was “committed to strengthening this partnership in the years to come.”

Cameroon imposes curfew in restive English-speaking regions (France24)
Cameroon imposed a week-long night curfew from Saturday in its restive English-speaking west citing fears of an “imminent” attack by separatists but long-serving President Paul Biya claimed the volatile situation had “stabilised”. Dozens of people have been killed in the two English-speaking regions since October after a violent crackdown on protests against the mainly French-speaking government. Many English-speakers have accused the Francophone majority of discrimination and that has fuelled a separatist movement.

Zimbabwe won’t return land to white farmers: Mnangagwa (News24)
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday said the country will not return land seized from former white commercial farmers almost two decades ago. “It will never happen,” Mnangagwa said in a speech to his Zanu-PF party supporters in central Zimbabwe, broadcast on television. His statement comes two months after white farmer Robert Smart got his land back after being evicted in June by ex-president Robert Mugabe’s government. Zimbabwe embarked on a violent land reform programme in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.

How Djibouti became China’s gateway to Africa (Dietmar Pieper, Spiegel)
[…] Djibouti is one of the smallest countries in Africa, but for several years now, people here have been thinking big. Many are dreaming of creating, with Chinese help, something similar to Singapore and the Gulf States. It may not be easy to make something of this parched land, but there is a true feeling of ambition here, a willingness to take risks and move forward. The Djiboutians are searching for a better life and for a bigger role for themselves in a global society that is in the process of reordering itself. The country practically serves as a laboratory setting for the global shift in power from the West to the East, and many vivid examples can be seen. Djibouti is more open and willing to experiment than other African countries. And even though Europe and the United States continue to be important for the people here, when they think about their future, it’s China that they look to.

Qaddafi ties halt return to Libya ghost town in peace setback (Ghaith Shennib, Bloomberg)
At a handful of all but forgotten camps across Libya, up to 40,000 men, women and children have been waiting seven years to go home. They aren’t drawn from the impoverished migrants who cross Libya on often-fatal treks toward Europe. Rather, they’re members of an ethnic minority co-opted by Muammar Qaddafi and then thrust into some of the most brutal fighting of the 2011 civil war only to end up on the losing side. A reconciliation deal that looked set to end their plight, and serve as a model for other intractable disputes in Libya, was halted last week amid violence. It was a striking reminder of the deep-seated animosities thwarting United Nations-led efforts to reunite the fractured country, a major oil producer where Islamist militants have exploited the turmoil.

Sudan finalizes joint military program with Russia (Mohammed Amin, AA)
Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir on Thursday said a joint military program has been finalized with Russia to improve the capabilities of the Sudanese national army. Addressing the army officers in the city of Port Sudan, Bashir said the program will help Sudanese military deter any violations against the country. He further stressed that Sudan is ready to defend its border specially its territorial waters on the Red Sea. “Sudanese army is ready to protect the security of the Red Sea”. “A program was set with Russia to develop the Armed Forces to deter all those targeting the nation and its capabilities,” he emphasized.