Africa Media Review for April 28, 2020

4 Days of Armed Conflict in Eastern DRC Kills 43
The death toll in the ongoing armed conflicts in two unstable provinces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since Friday is 43 dead, AFP said Monday from administrative and military sources. On Friday, “assailants with knives and guns killed 21 people, all civilians” in Mahagi territory, Gilbert Tsale, assistant administrator of this entity in the northeastern province of Ituri, told AFP. In the neighbouring territory of Djugu, there has been fighting since Sunday between regular troops and militias in Lisey, army spokesman in Ituri, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, told AFP. In these clashes, “two soldiers died, the assailants killed two civilians in their flight. The army has definitively neutralized 12 assailants,” he detailed. On Sunday, in North Kivu province, an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) left “six dead: five men and one woman,” according to John Kambale, the group leader in Malambo, a town about 20 kilometres from the town of Beni. … In the town of Beni in North Kivu, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have stepped up their killings of civilians since November in retaliation for military operations. AFP

Libya’s Eastern Leader Haftar Says Army to Take Formal Control
Libya’s eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar said on Monday his Libyan National Army (LNA) was accepting a “popular mandate” to rule the country, apparently brushing aside the civilian authorities that nominally govern eastern Libya. Haftar, who launched a war a year ago to grab the capital Tripoli and other parts of northwest Libya, was already widely understood to control the parallel administration that rules in the east. He did not spell out in his brief televised speech on Monday what form the new power structure would take and the wider political ramifications were not immediately clear. Libya has been split since 2014 between areas controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the northwest, and territory held by eastern-based forces in Benghazi. … Mohammed Ali Abdallah, an adviser to the GNA said, in a statement: “Haftar has once more exposed his authoritarian intentions to the world. He no longer seeks to conceal his contempt for a political solution and democracy in Libya.” Reuters

Buhari Approves ‘Gradual Easing of Lockdown Measures’ in Key Nigeria Cities
Nigeria will start easing a coronavirus lockdown covering its largest city Lagos and capital Abuja from 4 May, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday. “I have approved a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures,” Buhari said in a televised broadcast. He unveiled new measures including a nationwide night-time curfew, mandatory wearing of face masks and a ban on “non-essential” travel between different regions. He also announced an immediate two-week lockdown in northern Nigeria’s largest city Kano after officials said they were probing a spate of “mysterious deaths.” More than 25 million residents in Abuja, Lagos and neighbouring Ogun state have been under federal lockdown since 30 March and other states have introduced their own restrictions. The government faces a difficult balancing act trying to curb the spread of the virus and contain growing the desperation of vast numbers living hand-to-mouth in Africa’s most populous country. AFP

Lagos Protesters Kick against Coronavirus Lockdown, Attack Police Officers
At least five police officers were injured on Monday as a protest against security agents turned bloody at Eleko community in Ibeju-Lekki local government of Lagos State. Premium Times gathered that youth in the community had a face-off with police officers whom they accused of bias in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in the community. Bala Elkana, police spokesperson in the state, confirmed the development in an interview with Premium Times. He said 51 protesters were arrested, following police reinforcement. Speaking with our correspondent, one of the residents who asked not to be named said while residents and other company workers in the community were forced to stay in their houses, expatriates working with Dangote Refinery were allowed to go to their places of work. The youth in the area burnt tyres on the streets to express their anger over the alleged bias. … The military have also been deployed to help maintain normalcy in Eleko, Ibeju-Lekki. At the moment, people are allowed to walk in the community only with their hands up. Premium Times

Burkinabe Traders Demonstrate to Demand Reopening of Markets
Several hundred Burkinabè traders demonstrated Monday in Ouagadougou to demand the reopening of all the markets, which were closed at the end of March to combat the spread of the coronavirus, an AFP journalist noted. … The epidemic, which has caused 42 deaths out of 623 confirmed cases in this West African country, according to the latest official report on Sunday, had led to the closure of some 40 markets in the capital of 3 million inhabitants on 25 March, two weeks after the outbreak of the disease. On 20 April, the authorities reopened the large market in Ouagadougou and then the one in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, raising high hopes among traders in the other markets that remained closed. Gathered around the Sankaryaré and Nabi-Yaar markets, located in two working-class neighbourhoods of the capital, the demonstrators, mostly young people and women, set up a few roadblocks on tracks using stones, used tyres and tree trunks, preventing any traffic. These roadblocks were then dismantled by the police, without a hitch. AFP

Activists Appeal to AU as Abuse against Women, Girls Soars under COVID-19
Women from 48 of 54 African countries, have appealed to the African Union and Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to provide financial support to the continent’s women and girls during the Covid-19 pandemic. The women, through the Nairobi-based continental feminist organisation FEMNET, reported an increase in violence against women and girls forced into marriage since the coronavirus pandemic hit Africa. The report came during the Anglo-Francophone Africa Regional Women’s Webinar on Covid-19, which wrapped up last week. Speaking during the online conference, FEMNET executive director Memory Kachambwa called on African women and girls speak out so that policy makers across the continent did not lose sight of their suffering as they concentrate on the fight against Covid-19. … Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International’s office in the Kenyan capital, says since the outbreak of Covid-19, his organisation has seen a rise in gender-based and domestic violence across many countries in Africa, including Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. RFI

South Sudan Security Targets Stall as Oil Funds Diverted to Fight COVID-19
Implementation of key aspects of the South Sudan peace agreement are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Key among them is the implementation of security arrangements that was to follow the formation of the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU), but the meagre funds to finance it have been diverted to combat Covid-19. The situation has been made worse by the drop in global crude oil prices as global energy demands decrease due to the pandemic. The resource accounts for 98 per cent of South Sudan’s budget. … With troops cantonment and training having slowed down due to lack of funds and restrictions on movement, the programme for training and unification of armed groups is now running behind schedule. … “There are various challenges reported at cantonment sites, such as insufficient food supply, lack of medicines, poor sanitary conditions and lack of separate facilities and dignity kits for female trainees and dependents at the centres,” said Gen Njoroge. The East African

As Militaries Enforce Coronavirus Quarantine, Experts Warn of Escalating Violence
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered the deployment of 73,000 soldiers to enforce a lockdown in the country’s fight against the coronavirus. The move is unprecedented in the modern history of the country and includes active duty soldiers, reservists and auxiliary troops. “Your mission is to save lives,” Ramaphosa told soldiers in a speech in late March when the country’s lockdown began. “We are not the only country waging war against an invisible enemy – coronavirus. In you, our people have a defense mechanism.” Across Africa, security forces are being called upon to seal borders, enforce quarantines and maintain order. The measures are viewed with mixed emotions on a continent where, throughout history, military and police forces have been used to control the civilian population instead of protect them. … John Siko, the director of Burnham Global, a security consultant firm based in Dubai, said most militaries on the African continent are not trained in maintaining “public order.” Infantry training that teaches soldiers to subdue an enemy or retake a position could have tragic consequences when applied to a civilian population. VOA

South Africa: UN Human Rights Office Highlights ‘Toxic Lockdown Culture’ in Nation
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office says South Africa has created a “toxic lockdown culture” through heavy-handed and aggressive implementation by law enforcement. On Monday, Georgette Gagnon, director of field operations and technical cooperation for the UN Human Rights Office, highlighted a “highly militarised” law enforcement response to Covid-19 in South Africa. “We’ve received reports of disproportionate use of force by security officers, particularly in poor and informal settlements,” she said. “Rubber bullets, tear gas, water guns and whips have been used to enforce social distancing in shopping lines… and outside their homes.” According to the UN, more than 17 000 people have been arrested in South Africa for breaking lockdown regulations. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) was investigating complaints of “murder, rape, assault, discharge of firearms and corruption,” Gagnon said. … Just a week into South Africa’s nationwide lockdown, IPID reported that it was investigating three deaths, allegedly at the hands of police. The family of Collins Khosa from Alexandra, who was allegedly beaten to death by law enforcement during the lockdown, will approach the High Court in a bid to force government to intervene in the alleged heavy-handedness. News24

Uganda’s Opposition Presidential Hopeful Says Allied Lawmaker Tortured, Blinded
Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine accused the police on Monday of torturing and blinding one of his allies, shortly before the lawmaker, detained over coronavirus social distancing rules, was brought to court on a stretcher. Wine, a pop star whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is seeking to oust aging leader Yoweri Museveni, 75, in presidential polls due early next year. One of Wine’s leading supporters, lawmaker Francis Zaake, was detained on April 19 by police who accused him of committing a “negligent act likely to spread an infection of disease,” an apparent reference to the coronavirus. Zaake’s supporters say he was arrested after he distributed food to people at his residence as relief to help them cope with the coronavirus lockdown. Zaake has since been held in detention by security forces at several locations. “He was tortured at each of those detention facilities. His eyes were sprayed with a substance that has left him unable to see,” Wine told a press conference in the capital. After Zaake was brought to court on Monday on a stretcher, the court declined to allow him to be charged and instead ordered that he be taken to a hospital and treated first, judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita said. Reuters

Sudan: Juba Peace Talks: Agreement on Darfur Natural Resources
The Sudanese government and the armed movements negotiating a peace deal in Juba have agreed that Khartoum will allocate 40 per cent of the natural resources in the western region to Darfur itself. Spokesman for the South Sudanese mediation committee Dhieu Mathok reported yesterday that the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance agreed on the allocation of 40 per cent of Darfur’s natural resources, such as oil and minerals, to Darfur in the coming 10 years. In mid-March, the two parties agreed on most issues of the Darfur wealth-sharing file that Darfur will be one province again, and will be able to use its resources and funds freely, without interference from Khartoum. They further agreed to establish a fund for peace and sustainable development in Darfur, with the aim “to attract support from the Sudanese government and the international community.” … On Thursday, the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance agreed on the addition of four seats to the Sovereign Council in favour of the Darfur armed movements. Radio Dabanga

Sudan: Khartoum Denies Reports about UAE’s Control of Port Sudan
The Sudanese government on Sunday dismissed reports about the control of the country’s largest port terminal of Port Sudan by Dubai’s DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators. On Saturday Aljazeera TV reported that the Sudanese government is undertaking measures to hand over control of Port Sudan seaport to the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s DP World. The report quoted an engineer and team leader under the Sea Ports Corporation who confirmed that “DP World has been seeking to gain control of the country’s port operator.” In response, Ibrahim al-Badawi denied the accuracy of the report in a tweet released on Sunday. “The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning affirms that the information circulating about Port Sudan is incorrect,” al-Badawi said. “Port Sudan is an asset that belongs to the people of Sudan, which can only be dealt with through good governance, integrity and transparency,” he added. … On 17 February Reuters reported the UAE’s decision to take full control of the DP World as part of a $ 13.9 billion deal that will help the company repay some of its loans. The giant firm operates ports around the world from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires. Sudan Tribune

Somalia Launches Portal on Aid Flow Transparency
Somalia has launched a portal to publicise information how donor money is utilised in a bid to raise the transparency in the eyes the public and the international community. Managed by the Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, the platform known as Aid Information Management System (AIMS) launched this week is the country’s first attempt in three decades to aggregate information on donor contributions and where the money has been going. Somalia’s Planning Minister Gamal Hassan said the portal … will help provide more accurate data on sectors that have benefitted more from donor funding, as well as indicate whether the money has been used effectively. “The creation of a portal is a necessity borne out of the immense volume of information we, at the Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development (MoPIED), process on a daily basis. For example: more than 650 projects were started or scaled up in 2019 alone,” Mr Hassan told the Nation. Daily Nation

African Military Spending Up Nearly 20% over the Last Decade
Over the last ten years, African military spending grew by 17%, rising to $41.2 billion in 2019, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which reports that last year the world recorded the largest annual growth in military spending since 2010, rising 3.6% from 2018 to $1.917 trillion. At an estimated $41.2 billion, military expenditure in Africa accounted for 2.1% of the global total in 2019. The marginal growth in spending in 2019 was the first increase in African military expenditure for five years. Despite the annual decreases in 2015-18, increases in other years meant that total African military spending grew by 17% over the decade 2010-19, SIPRI said. Military spending by countries in North Africa is estimated to have totalled $23.5 billion in 2019, representing 57% of the total for Africa. … Military spending in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 2.2% in 2019 to reach $17.7 billion, which was 15% lower than in 2010. At $3.5 billion, South Africa’s military spending was the highest in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019. DefenceWeb

Coronavirus: How Africa Is Bracing for Pandemic’s Impact
The global coronavirus crisis is paralyzing African metropolises. In Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic capital, the military was deployed to monitor the imposed curfews. … Life is also slowing down in other African cities. For any kind of “normalcy” to return, the coronavirus pandemic must be contained as soon as possible. … “We intervened quickly, with the means, knowledge and proven social partners in the communities that have already been tested in the population.” This has contributed to the low infection rates in Africa so far, Ouma [deputy director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)] said during an online panel discussion on the topic: “COVID-19 – early lessons from Africa.” … The fact that Africa is anything but a helpless continent was recently emphasized by African intellectuals in two open letters. Among them, the Senegalese writer and musician Felwine Sarr, the Cameroonian political scientist Achille Mbembe and the Nigerian Nobel Prize for Literature winner Wole Soyinka. In the letters, the three demanded that Africa must provide “a fundamental, powerful and sustainable response to a real threat that should neither be exaggerated nor minimized, but rather tackled rationally.” DW



Photo: Adam Jones