Africa Media Review for August 10, 2020

8 Dead after Attack in a Wildlife Reserve in Niger

Gunmen killed eight people on Sunday at a wildlife reserve in Niger, including six French humanitarian workers, their Nigerien driver and a guide, according to authorities. The group had traveled to Kouré reserve in an area known as the Giraffe Zone, home to the only remaining population of West African giraffes. But they had been there for less than an hour when they were shot, their car set aflame and their bodies left in the sand. … Some areas of Mali have been rocked by terrorist attacks in recent years, as have several neighboring West African countries. But the Giraffe Zone has been widely considered safe. The visitors were French humanitarian workers, said the authorities. … Though Kouré is in the region of Tillaberi, where four American special forces soldiers were killed in an attack in 2017, it is far from the site of that attack, which was on the other side of the capital. The New York Times

Al-Shabaab Claims Deadly Blast at Military Base in Somali Capital Mogadishu

At least seven people were killed when a car bomb exploded at an army base in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, military and emergency services said. The attack, claimed by the Al-Shabaab militant group, targeted a compound near Somalia’s national stadium where soldiers from the Somali National Army (SNA) are stationed. “There was a heavy blast at the 27th brigade camp. A vehicle loaded with explosives rammed the entrance and there are casualties. Seven people died and more than ten others were wounded,” Mohamed Abdirahman, a lieutenant in the SNA, told AFP. Aamin Ambulance, the country’s only free ambulance service, said in a statement that eight people died and 14 others were wounded in the blast. The blast sent shockwaves through the city and a cloud of smoke overhead. Windows were blown out in buildings nearby. Witnesses said the vehicle passed by a checkpoint before a huge explosion erupted near the military camp. AFP

Gunmen Kill at Least 20 in Village in Eastern Burkina Faso

Gunmen stormed a cattle market and opened fire in an eastern Burkina Faso village Friday, killing at least 20 people and injuring many others, a local government official said. The attack in Namoungou village is being investigated, said Saidou Sanou, the governor of the eastern region, who urged people to be vigilant and to closely collaborate with the army. Violence linked to Islamic militants and local defense militias killed nearly 2,000 people in Burkina Faso last year and displaced almost 1 million. Violence in the once peaceful West African nation is on track this year to surpass that of last year, Sahel researcher Heni Nsaibia says. Residents in the region’s last safe haven of Fada N’gourma town, where some tens of thousands of displaced people have also sought refuge, worry the violence is inching closer. Friday’s attack was only 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) away. Jihadists killed a cattle breeder in a village about 15 kilometers away earlier this week, according to residents. AP

In Darfur, Civilians Pay Price in New Wave of Deadly Violence

Ibrahim Arbab had no option but to flee. Having heard of a mass killing in a nearby village, the 34-year-old and his family late last month sought shelter in el-Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state. Thousands of others did the same. “The Janjaweed will definitely come after you,” Arbab said, referring to the feared militias who have long been accused of committing atrocities in Darfur, in the west of Sudan. At least 60 people were killed – mostly unarmed civilians from the Black African Masalit tribe – when some 500 armed men attacked Masteri village, according to the United Nations, the latest in a string of attacks that have left several villages burned and markets looted. … Across Sudan, the UN says almost 10 million people are now facing food shortages due to conflict, rising prices and the coronavirus pandemic, with many of these people being in the country’s conflict-hit areas. Back in el-Geneina, Arbab said the displaced people are left without any assistance. “I have been displaced four times since the beginning of the war,” said the father of two. Al Jazeera

Sudan Civil Society Launches ‘Right to Live’ Campaign

In response to the many recent incidents of violence in several parts of the country, civil society organisations and activists in Sudan started a campaign in Khartoum on Friday under the name “Protect the right to live.” Dozens of civil society organisations and activist teams, including a large number of Resistance Committees, the Association of Relatives of the Victims of the December Revolution, and the Darfur Bar Association, agreed to set up the campaign, and are collecting signatures online. According to its founding declaration, the campaigners consider the right to live as a non-negotiable right. They state that the reasons for the launch of the campaign are “the increase in violence between social components in Sudan, and the growing number of killings in Darfur, the East, Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains, at a time while the transitional authorities fail to protect the people.” Radio Dabanga

More Than 100 Boko Haram, Captives Surrender along Cameroon-Nigeria Border

More than 100 Boko Haram and their captives, almost all Nigerians, have fled the group in the past two weeks, according to the Multinational Joint Task Force fighting the Islamist militants. Thirty-four-year-old Nigerian Kharim Kalga is among 109 people who have surrendered to the task force since late July. Kalga said he has not seen his two wives and five children in the two years since he joined the Islamist militant group because they kept him captive. He said he was living in poverty when Boko Haram fighters promised to give him a motorcycle to earn money for his family, so he joined the group. He said he was forced to steal cattle and millet from villages surrounding the militant group’s camp in Nigeria. Kalga said he surrendered to the military because Boko Haram did not fulfill its promise to give him a motorcycle. … Meanwhile, the former militants were handed over to the Cameroon Center for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. VOA

Chad Inquiry Finds 44 Prisoners Died in Hot, Overcrowded Cell

A group of 44 prisoners died in one night in a prison in Chad because they were all kept in the same cell in 46C heat, an investigation has concluded. Prosecutors had suggested that the group were suspected Boko Haram militants and had taken poison to kill themselves. But the National Human Rights Commission said they were civilians. Their report described a dangerously overcrowded cell, scorching heat, thirst and hunger. Chad’s Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP he had taken note of the Commission’s report and that an inquiry had been launched to determine who was responsible for the deaths. The 44 prisoners were found dead in their cell on the outskirts of the capital N’Djamena on the morning of 15 April. … “The jailers did not deign to give assistance to anyone in danger in these conditions despite cries of distress and prayers recited all night,” the report said, according to AFP. BBC

In Ethiopia, a Musician’s Death and a Transition in Trouble

Ethiopia’s transition to multiparty democracy is facing one of its most serious tests yet, after the murder in June of Hachalu Hundessa, a much-loved Oromo singer and activist, sparked the worst bout of unrest since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took charge of the East African country more than two years ago. Over 200 people were killed in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region when groups of Oromo youth – who saw the 34-year-old as an icon in their community’s long struggle against oppression – began attacking members of other ethnic groups, while security forces used lethal force against protesters. More than one month on, calm has largely returned and suspects have been arrested, though their motives are not fully understood. Roughly 10,000 people displaced by the violence are still sheltering in mosques, churches, and empty schools across Oromia, or in the relative safety of the capital. The New Humanitarian

Extreme Poverty Rises; A Generation Sees a Future Slip Away

As a domestic worker, Amsale Hailemariam knew from the inside out the luxury villas that had grown up around her simple shelter of raw metal and plastic sheeting. And in them, she saw how her country, Ethiopia, had transformed. The single mother told herself, “Oh God, a day will come when my life will be changed, too.” The key lay in her daughter, just months from a career in public health, who studied how to battle the illnesses of want and hunger. Then a virus mentioned in none of her textbooks arrived, and dreams faded for families, and entire countries, like theirs. Decades of progress in one of modern history’s greatest achievements, the fight against extreme poverty, are in danger of slipping away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world could see its first increase in extreme poverty in 22 years, further sharpening social inequities. AP

Fighting for Breath: How the Medical Oxygen Industry Is Failing African Hospitals

As Covid-19 spreads throughout Africa, a potentially deadly lack of oxygen is leaving doctors unable to offer essential treatment. … Ex-employees, industry insiders and hospital staff point to the processes and prices Linde Group and Air Liquide have for medical oxygen and say they are leaving hospitals struggling for supplies. … Before 2013 Linde Group’s Kenyan subsidiary BOC Kenya was charging about $58 per J cylinder, plus transport, a cylinder deposit and a leasing fee on top of the refill cost. Dr Steve Adudans and Dr Bernard Olayo, of Kenya’s Centre for Public Health and Development, acquired funding and built their own oxygen plant under the name Hewatele – “abundant air” in Swahili. They devised a system to drop off and pick up oxygen cylinders directly from hospitals and clinics for free, providing rural areas with oxygen for the first time. … Hewatele charges $25 for a J cylinder; BOC soon reduced its prices for some hospitals, Olayo says. The Guardian

Malawi President Working to Trim Executive Powers

Malawi’s new president Lazarus Chakwera says he is working on proposing legislation aimed at trimming his presidential powers in an effort to empower the citizens. In his national address Saturday, Chakwera said having a president who makes too many decisions has created problems in Malawi and this has led to government mismanagement in the past. Trimming presidential powers was among the campaign promises Chakwera made during political rallies that helped him defeat former President Peter Mutharika in the June 23 presidential election re-run. In his address, Chakwera said the president has too much appointing authority and responsibilities that he says bring him into conflict. “Having a presidency that makes too many decisions has created problems for our country for a long time. Chief among them is that it has stifled a culture of responsibility and innovation among public institutions and private citizens,” he said. VOA

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Central African Republic Militia Leader

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the leader of a Central African Republic-based militia group, the Treasury Department said, accusing the leader, Sidiki Abass, of human rights abuse, including directly participating in torture. The Treasury Department in a statement said it had blacklisted Abass, leader of the Central African Republic-based militia group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, which it said “has killed, tortured, raped, or displaced thousands of people since 2015.” The U.S. sanctions come after the United Nations Security Council Central African Republic sanctions committee imposed sanctions on the militia leader on Wednesday. … In February 2019, the 3R signed a peace deal in Central African Republic, but it has violated the agreement and remains a threat to the peace, stability and security of the country, the Security Council committee said. Reuters

U.S. Imposes Libya-Related Sanctions on Individuals, Company

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on three individuals and a Malta-based company, accusing them of acting as a network of smugglers and contributing to instability in Libya. The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it blacklisted Faysal al-Wadi, accusing the Libyan national of having smuggled drugs and Libyan fuel into Malta. Also blacklisted were two associates, Musbah Mohamad M Wadi and Nourddin Milood M Musbah, Malta-based company Alwefaq Ltd, and the vessel Maraya, which the Treasury said Wadi used in his alleged smuggling operations. The Treasury said that “competition for control of smuggling routes, oil facilities, and transport nodes is a key driver of conflict in Libya and deprives the Libyan people of economic resources.” Reuters

Rough Seas Are Hampering Response to Mauritius Ship Leak; Oil Spill Reaches 1,000 Tons

More than 1,000 tons of oil have leaked from a cargo ship and into the shallow, reef-fringed coastal waters of Mauritius, officials said Sunday, imperiling protected habitats and the economy of the Indian Ocean island nation, which relies on fishing and tourism. Aerial images and drone footage showed miles of shoreline covered with thick, black sludge. Conservationists in the country say a slow response and rough seas have turned what could have been a minor accident into an ecological and economic disaster. … and appealed for help. By Sunday, France, which held the island as a colony until handing it over to the British in 1810, and which retains possession of nearby islands, pledged military aircraft to help extract fuel from the ship. Japan, where the ship’s owner is based, also promised help. The Washington Post

Here’s What Rapid Urbanisation Looks like in the Ethiopia’s Capital, Addis Ababa

Floods, droughts, and food insecurity from climate change are expected to propel people vast populations of people to migrate away from rural areas to cities. In Ethiopia, for example, data from the country’s central statistics agency predicts the urban population to triple to 42.3 million by 2037, according to a report from the World Bank. The country is undergoing “rapid urbanisation,” where the labor force has doubled in the past two decades and is predicted to rise even more to 82 million by 2030, the report says. A recent deep investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine warned of the devastating consequences of extremely rapid urbanisation, pointing out how overcrowded cities can prompt people to “congregate in slums with little or electricity” which “fuel extremism and chaos.” Because of the country’s massive population influx, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, Addis Ababa, has been going through that kind of rapid urbanisation. Business Insider

Eswatini: The Media Is Dead, Long Live the King

The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted the secrecy about King Mswati’s health, as the Swazi traditional elite continues to struggle with the concepts of information rights and media freedom. Various world leaders have publicly disclosed their coronavirus-positive status. ema­Swati, by contrast, were left in the dark when their king dropped out of the public eye after the outbreak of the disease. The king’s chief officer, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi and the governor of the Ludzidzini Royal Residence, Lusendvo Fakudze, offered no explanation for Mswati’s prolonged absence. This has fuelled the rumour mill.  Speculation was rife that the 52-year-old monarch was battling his alleged infection in Manzana Royal Hospital, which is reserved for the royal family’s use. Mail & Guardian

Where Do Women Lead in the Media? South Africa.

Nwabisa Makunga can point to the exact moment she knew she would become a journalist. It was April 1993 and she was 11 years old, watching the TV broadcast of the funeral of assassinated anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani with her family in their living room. The presenter was a Black reporter named Noxolo Grootboom, and her powerful tribute to Mr. Hani brought Ms. Makunga’s parents to tears. “She was a woman who looked like me, who spoke like me, telling the story of a man who had been so important to people from my community,” she recalls. “I said to myself – this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to be like Noxolo, and I’m going to tell stories.” Three decades later, Ms. Makunga is the editor-in-chief of the Sowetan, one of South Africa’s most-circulated daily newspapers. She is part of a generation of women who have risen through the ranks to take leadership of many of the country’s most important news outlets. The Christian Science Monitor

South Africa: Humans of COVID-19, in 13 Pictures

We read about the science of survival rates, treatments, oxygen and other interventions, but sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the fact that regular folk are at the centre of this pandemic. Maverick Citizen was given exclusive access to capture some of the “Humans of Covid-19” at Johannesburg’s vast 600-plus-bed Nasrec field hospital. The intermediate care section (oxygen) of the hospital, where we spent some time, is staffed by a mix of volunteer doctors and allied healthcare workers and contracted clinical associates and nursing staff who are caring for Covid-19 patients in an attempt to lighten the load on the province’s overburdened hospitals. While health workers are undisputed heroes, the patients courageously face their own daily battles. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones