Africa Media Review for August 12, 2020

Effort to Disarm Communities in South Sudan Fuels Deadly Clashes
At least 81 people were killed and dozens others injured in South Sudan over the weekend as an operation to seize weapons from civilians got underway, the authorities and a network of civil society organizations said on Tuesday. The clashes showed how the world’s youngest nation has continued to grapple with deadly violence as it tries to emerge from a punishing civil war. The efforts to disarm communities in South Sudan is an attempt by the authorities to tackle insecurity and stem retaliatory attacks in a country fractured along ethnic lines. But aid groups had cautioned that the “top down” approach, instigated by a government viewed with suspicion by many in the country, was likely to fuel clashes. The warnings proved prescient. Around 55 members of the security forces and 26 civilians were killed in separate attacks that took place in the county of Tonj East in the north-central state of Warrap, Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for the South Sudanese Army, said. The New York Times

Malian Protesters Regroup to Demand the Resignation of President Keita
Malians took to the streets in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, despite rainfall and pleas from mediators to stay home, to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Protesters numbering in the low thousands assembled in a central square, an AFP journalist saw, blowing plastic vuvuzela horns and carrying placards bearing anti-government slogans. “We want real change in Mali, IBK get out,” read one placard, using the acronym by which Keita is known. Other people carried umbrellas against the rain, and toted signs asking the prime minister to resign too. After the crowd sung the national anthem, prominent opposition leader Choguel Maiga told them: “We will continue our fight until the end of IBK and of his regime.” The gathering marks the first time the June 5 Movement has staged a protest since July 21, when the opposition group declared a temporary truce in a months-long push to topple Keita. AFP

Millitants in Central Mali Set Jail Ablaze in Attack Killing Two
Militants in volatile central Mali killed a prison officer and a gendarme late Monday night, officials said, in a raid that saw a jail set ablaze and five inmates escape. The overnight attack occurred in the village of Kimparana, in the Segou region of central Mali, which has witnessed a surge in violence linked to a Jihadist insurgency. Gunmen targeted a prison and gendarmerie in the village late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, the district prosecutor Dramane Diarra told AFP, killing one gendarme and prison guard. He added that the jail had been “torched” and that five prisoners escaped in the melee, without offering further details. … According to the United Nations, at least 580 civilians have been killed in Central Mali this year. The Defense Post with AFP

Niger Expands Emergency across Region Where Aid Workers Were Killed
Niger’s government has extended a state of emergency to the entire region that surrounds the capital Niamey and suspended access to the giraffe reserve where six French aid workers and two Nigeriens were shot dead. Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group on Sunday while they were driving through the reserve, a popular destination for expatriates southeast of Niamey in the Tillabery region. A state of emergency had already been in place in parts of Tillabery to the north and west of Niamey, near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso. An affiliate of Islamic State has repeatedly carried out attacks in that zone, including one that killed four U.S. soldiers in 2017. … The state of emergency empowers the government to impose security restrictions such as curfews and bans on the circulation of motorcyles, the jihadists’ most common means of transport. Niamey, which lies roughly in the middle of Tillabery, is an autonomous region and is not affected by the state of emergency. Reuters

Violence in Sudan’s Western Darfur Forces 2,500 into Chad: UN Refugee Agency
Recent clashes in Sudan’s Western Darfur region has driven more than 2,500 people across the border into neighbouring Chad, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported. According to UNHCR, more than 80 per cent of those arriving in the Chadian border town of Adré are women, children and elderly – many of whom have witnessed extreme violence. Attacks, said to have been carried out by armed nomads in the town of Masteri in Western Darfur, killed 61 people from the Masalit ethnic community and injured at least 88 on 25 July. Houses were also reported to have been burned to the ground in the town and the surrounding villages. UN News

Sudan Imposes Curfew in Eastern City after Clashes Kill 13
Sudanese authorities Tuesday imposed a round-the-clock curfew in an eastern port city after tribal clashes earlier this week killed more than a dozen people and wounded more than 40 others. The fighting in Port Sudan in the Red Sea province erupted earlier this week between the Beni Amer tribe and the displaced Nuba tribe. It wasn’t the first time the two tribes clashed in Port Sudan or elsewhere in the county. The Sudan Doctors’ Committee said at least seven corpses arrived at hospitals Monday, bringing the death toll to 13 since the clashes began over the weekend. At least 42 others were wounded, many from gunshots, it said. Red Sea Gov. Abddalla Shinqrai Ohag declared a state of emergency across Port Sudan on Tuesday until further notice. Security forces earlier this week deployed more troops to the city to help contain the clashes. AP

Sudan Says Nile Dam Talks Delayed for ‘Consultations’
Sudan on Monday said that negotiations over Ethiopia’s massive and controversial dam construction on the Blue Nile have been postponed for a week. Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were suspended last week after Addis Ababa insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile. “A meeting at the level of ministers of the three countries took place on Monday, during which Sudan asked to postpone the next meeting for one week for internal consultations,” Sudan’s water ministry said in a statement. … South Africa, which holds the presidency of the African Union and is mediating negotiations, has urged the countries to “remain involved” in the talks. AFP

DR Congo, Zambia Begin Talks to End Deadly Border Row
Congolese and Zambian experts went into talks on Tuesday in the DR Congo’s southeastern mineral hub of Lubumbashi over a deadly border conflict that erupted in March. Fighting broke out after Zambian soldiers occupied two villages in the DRC’s Tanganyika province, leaving one soldier dead on each side. “I remain convinced that the two delegations will not fail to put our peoples’ interests first,” said Jacques Kyabula, governor of the neighbouring Haut-Katanga province hosting the five days of talks. A Haut-Katanga official told AFP that the Zambian troops had not left the country but moved to within three kilometres (two miles) of the border. AFP

Tanzania Tightens Noose on Press Freedom, Media Activists Stunned
Local stations in Tanzania that are already airing programs from foreign international media will now be required to apply for authorization and present the agreements to the country’s media regulatory body, according to Tanzania’s Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA). … The amendments – regulating radio and television broadcasts – were issued after Radio Free Africa aired a BBC interview with Tanzania’s opposition leader Tundu Lissu. In the interview, Lissu claimed that authorities had denied him a chance to pay his last respects to former President Benjamin Mkapa, who was buried on July 29. DW

Ethiopia Holding Kenyan Journalist despite Court Ordered Release
Lawyers representing a Kenyan journalist detained in Ethiopia say authorities are still holding him, despite an Ethiopian court last week ordering his release on bail. Press freedom groups are calling on Ethiopian authorities to release Yassin Juma, who was arrested in July along with two Ethiopian journalists. They are charged with inciting ethnic violence and plotting to kill senior Ethiopian officials, which they strongly deny. Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma has been held in Ethiopia since his arrest in early July, despite a court ordering his release on bail last Thursday. Juma’s lawyer Tuli Bayisa went back to court Monday to push for Juma’s release after having paid the bail. He said the judge told him police are refusing to let Juma go. Juma was arrested along with two Ethiopian journalists while covering protests that erupted after the killing of Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa. VOA

Nigeria’s Hate Speech Fine Raises Fear of Licensed Intimidation of Dissent
Last week, the federal government, as part of the ministry of information’s review of the National Broadcasting Code, raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million. … Like the bill, the new fine in the reviewed broadcasting code has been heavily pushed back by some Nigerians who argue that regulators would arbitrarily define hate speech. They fear that what could otherwise pass as bickering, satire, or a challenge to authority may be adjudged as hate speech. This, they say, would stifle freedom of expression and gag the press in the country. The Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, told Premium Times that the new sanction is bound to undermine the right to freedom of expression and of a free press. “By imposing such an ambiguous provision, it creates opportunities for the press to be intimidated and harassed for disseminating information without interference,” the rights group head noted. Premium Times

Jailed Zimbabwean Journalist Is Denied Rights, Say Lawyers
Lawyers for a jailed Zimbabwean journalist have asked a court to force prison authorities to stop the “blatant and malicious stripping away” of his rights, including lack of access to appropriate food and warm clothing. The efforts to improve jail conditions for Hopewell Chin’ono come as South African envoys are in Zimbabwe to investigate reports of widespread arrests and human rights abuses. Chin’ono has been in prison for about three weeks after being accused of mobilizing anti-government protests. He has been denied bail twice. Opposition politician Jacod Ngarivhume was also arrested at the same time for allegedly organizing the anti-government demonstrations, which were foiled by police and military on July 31. … The chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said he is “concerned about reports of disproportionate use of force by security forces in enforcing COVID-19 emergency measures,” in signs of the international community’s growing frustration with Mnangagwa’s administration. AP

The Enduring Harm Inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
They have ambushed civilians and soldiers in remote corners of the Democratic Republic of Congo, pillaged markets in South Sudan, and forced villagers to porter stolen goods through forests in Central African Republic. And that was just over the course of a few weeks. The once-fearsome Lord’s Resistance Army has been reduced to a dwindling rump of fighters hiding out in jungle camps across vast swathes of territory in Central Africa. But a spate of recent attacks has once again demonstrated its capacity to inflict harm on long-suffering communities. At least 55 attacks and 163 abductions have been recorded over the past year in the three countries where the group operates, according to data from Invisible Children, an NGO focused on the LRA. The New Humanitarian

South Africa’s Poor Scramble for Anti-HIV Drugs Amid Virus
When her regular clinic ran out of her government-funded HIV medications amid South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, Sibongile Zulu panicked. A local pharmacy had the drugs for $48, but she didn’t have the money after being laid off from her office job in the shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Desperate for the lifesaving medication, the single mother of four called a friend — a nurse with a local charity helping people with HIV, the Sister Mura Foundation. She’s one of the lucky ones: Since April, the foundation has provided Zulu with the drugs, purchased locally. Across South Africa and around the world, the pandemic has disrupted the supply of antiretroviral drugs, endangering the lives of many of the more than 24 million people globally who take the medications that suppress the HIV virus. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, a study by UNAIDS found that a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could lead to 500,000 additional AIDS-related deaths. AP

The Pandemic Appears to Have Spared Africa So Far. Scientists Are Struggling to Explain Why
Although Africa reported its millionth official COVID-19 case last week, it seems to have weathered the pandemic relatively well so far, with fewer than one confirmed case for every thousand people and just 23,000 deaths so far. Yet several antibody surveys suggest far more Africans have been infected with the coronavirus-a discrepancy that is puzzling scientists around the continent. “We do not have an answer,” says immunologist Sophie Uyoga at the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme. After testing more than 3000 blood donors, Uyoga and colleagues estimated in a preprint last month that one in 20 Kenyans aged 15 to 64-or 1.6 million people-has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, an indication of past infection. That would put Kenya on a par with Spain in mid-May when that country was descending from its coronavirus peak and had 27,000 official COVID-19 deaths. Kenya’s official toll stood at 100 when the study ended. And Kenya’s hospitals are not reporting huge numbers of people with COVID-19 symptoms. Science



Photo: Adam Jones