Africa Media Review for August 13, 2020

Insurgents affiliated to Islamic State once again took control of the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique after heavy fighting this week, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing Mozambique government troops to flee the town by boat. At least 55 government army recruits were reported killed over the past few days in the running battles culminating in the fall of the port in Cabo Delgado province, security sources said. The main reason for the insurgent victory was that government forces had been cut off and had run out of ammunition. … Sources said Mocimboa da Praia was now under total insurgent control and the insurgents were likely to remain in control for a long time. They have taken the port town several times since the insurgency began in October 2017, especially this year. They usually retreat after a few days, rather than taking on heavy government reinforcements. Daily Maverick

At least 10 people were killed and five others were wounded in fighting between al-Shabab and armed residents in Somalia’s central region of Mudug, witnesses and officials said. The fighting started Wednesday after heavily-armed al-Shabab militants, who control parts of the region, tried to impose taxes on the residents of Shabellow village. It’s about 20 kilometers west of the Ba’ad weyn district, a base for the 21st division of the Somali National Army. “Heavily-armed al-Shabab members first asked us to pass through our village, but in fact we found out they wanted to seize our village and we confronted them,” the head of the village, Mohamed Ibrahim, told VOA by phone. Ibrahim said eight of the residents and a number of al-Shabab militants were killed in the fighting. … Earlier this year, the villagers, who already are struggling economically after losing hundreds of livestock in the country’s drought, dismissed the militants’ demand for taxes. VOA

Malian security forces have fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse protesters who camped out at a square in the capital, renewing calls for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to step down. Thousands of people had gathered at Bamako’s Independence Square on Tuesday after an opposition coalition resumed anti-government protests as talks mediated by regional leaders to resolve the weeks-long political crisis stalled. Clashes began about 06:00 GMT on Wednesday after police arrived at the square and fired several rounds of tear gas at hundreds of protesters who had remained there overnight. “There was panic. The demonstrators scrambled for safety. Some were trampled,” Rokia Diarra, a local resident, told Reuters news agency. Photos on social media showed the square hazy with tear gas. Al Jazeera

The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) says the Boko Haram terrorist group has introduced the use of child soldiers to resuscitate its declining influence in the Lake Chad Basin. The Chief of Military Public Information for MNJTF, Timothy Antigha, said this in a statement issued from N’Djamena – Chad on Thursday. Mr Antigha, a Nigerian army colonel, said the recruitment of child soldiers by the sect was part of their new strategies following the recent mass surrender by their fighters to the military. He said information on this disturbing development was brought in by intelligence sources and corroborated by concerned individuals and groups a couple of days ago. Premium Times

A dispute between Fulani herders and their nomadic Tuareg neighbours over stolen cattle and motorbikes threatened to turn violent in the village of Amataltal when one man grabbed his rifle and fired skywards. It was a rare outburst in the quiet commune of a few hundred people in north Niger, residents said, and sent a warning: disputes like this have opened a door for jihadists expert at exploiting conflict to boost recruitment and spread chaos. Wary of escalation, Amataltal’s leaders called in a regional peacekeeping committee to mediate in June last year. Within days, rivals sat opposite each other at tables in a eucalyptus grove. They aired concerns and agreed to keep peace, according to a video of the event and two witnesses. … the Agadez region where Amataltal is located – an area the size of France that borders Algeria, Libya and Chad – has remained largely peaceful. Local leaders say a network of influential ex-rebels, clerics and peace committees – formed in response to an armed uprising seeking greater political autonomy for Tuaregs in the 1990s – has stopped jihadists gaining a foothold by monitoring grievances and people with extreme ideas. Reuters

The bail hearing for Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was moved to Thursday after the prosecutor called for the press and public to be prevented from attending the court session. … Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna upheld the state application to try Chin’ono in private tomorrow, even though his lawyer argued that his case is in the public interest. … Ngarivhume, from the small Transform Zimbabwe party, had called for people to peacefully protest against the government on 31 August. Ngarivhume’s lawyer Donso Nkomo spoke to the press outside the courthouse, explaining that the whole process is difficult, especially because the government is not adhering to the law. “We have had to wait for one hour on all occasions we have sought to visit them. When we do visit them, we are given very limited time to meet,” said Nkomo to reporters. “The constitution provides for private consultation between a lawyer and his client. That has not been given to us in respect to Jacob and Hopewell,” he added. RFI

The UN peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, dispatched a patrol to Tonj on Wednesday to prevent further violence in the area following the bloody clashes between the army and gunmen. … In a briefing to reporters in New York on Wednesday, Stephan Dujarric, UN Spokesman said that a patrol from the UN Peacekeeping Mission arrived on Tuesday evening in Tonj. The patrol includes both military and civilian peacekeepers. They are engaging with local authorities and community leaders to prevent further violence and help with reconciliation efforts. The UN patrol will also visit Romich, a village in Tonj East that was directly impacted by the violence, to assess the security situation there. Further, he added that a human rights team is also on the ground to carry out an investigation. Sudan Tribune

Sudan has beefed up security in Red Sea state and imposed a curfew in its main sea gateway of Port Sudan after 32 people died in recent tribal clashes, the country’s interior ministry said late on Wednesday. Sudan is one year into a three-year transition after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir and faces challenges including simmering insecurity in several regions and a deep economic crisis. Security forces arrested 85 people over the recent violence, which also left 98 people wounded, and local authorities imposed a curfew in Port Sudan to restore order, the ministry said in a statement. The casualties included security force members. … The security measures had helped to stabilise the situation and led to “a cautious calm,” [the interior ministry] added. Reuters

The Friends of Sudan endorsed a declaration to support sustainable peace in Sudan and warned against attempting to spoil the Sudan peace process or democratic transition. The eighth Friends of Sudan meeting was held in Riyadh on Wednesday via videoconference with the participation of the group members with the participation of South Sudan for the first time as a guest of honour. The virtual meeting will be chaired by Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs was addressed by the South Sudanese chief mediator Tut Gatluak who briefed the meeting about the ongoing negotiations in Juba, Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) leader Hadi Idriss and Sudan Liberation Movement leader Minni Minnawi. At the end of the meeting, the participants endorsed the Partners for Sustainable Peace in Sudan Declaration. The Declaration voiced the group’s support for the “for Sudan’s civilian-led transition” and its efforts to achieve peace in the country. Sudan Tribune

When Divine Umukoro refused to pay police a bribe after breaking Lagos state’s night-time curfew, she says they slapped her, slashed her car tyres and threatened violence. A video of the incident went viral on Nigerian blogging sites, and Citizens’ Gavel, a non-profit organisation that fights against police misconduct, stepped in, helping her to recover her seized car within three days. The police have declined to comment on the incident. “When the whole thing started with the hitting, with the slapping of my face, pushing my friend – I felt so angry,” Umukoro, 25, said of the July 11 incident, when she acknowledged she was out past a 10 pm curfew instituted to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Citizens’ Gavel, founded in 2017, and the Headfort Foundation, founded last year, aim to help marginalised Nigerians get fair treatment from the police and the courts. Reuters

The devastating explosion in Beirut is a grim reminder of a deeply troubling fact: the thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored in that city’s port is not the only site at risk of spontaneous detonation. In the Philippines, Ukraine, Georgia, Libya and Guinea-Bissau there are dangerous dumps of munitions left over from both past and present conflicts, some of them perilously close to residential areas. According to the Swiss-based monitoring agency Small Arms Survey, between 1979 and August last year almost 30,000 people across 101 countries were killed or injured by unplanned explosions at munitions sites (UEMS). Of the 606 recorded incidents, nearly three quarters involved state-owned stockpiles. One of the worst explosions took place at Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo in 2012, killing more than 500 people. BBC

Formerly known as Ubangi-Shari or Oubangui-Chari, the Central African Republic (CAR) declared independence on 13 August 1960. … The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks third last in the Human Development Index, ahead of Niger and Somalia. The average age of its approximately 5.6 million inhabitants is around 20 years. The CAR does have some valuable resources. Its main exports are diamonds and timber. There are also important uranium deposits. But according to UN figures, two-thirds of the country’s population are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid. The COVID-19 pandemic is now threatening the country with widespread hunger. … Now the country’s presidential elections scheduled for December 27, risk inflaming the situation further, particularly owing to the return of former leader Francois Bozize from six years in exile in Uganda. DW

Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor has been flown to Accra, Ghana for medical treatment after suffering respiratory complications from Covid-19. RFI has learned that Howard-Taylor tested positive for coronavirus, according a government official who wanted to remain anonymous. The vice president was initially admitted to the privately run Aspen Medical Facility within the Sinkor neighborhood in Monrovia, on 7 August and was undergoing treatment for respiratory complications, according to a release provided by her office. She was flown to Ghana for treatment based on her doctors’ advice. … Liberia’s health authorities are currently reviewing the sector and are expected to report findings in ten days to readjust existing health protocols and give the response budget to President Weah. RFI

In the remote Lamu region, on the northeast coast of Kenya, quality healthcare is hard to come by. Every month, medical staff from Safari Doctors, an NGO founded by Umra Omar, set sail on a boat filled with medicines, to provide free basic medicines to hundreds of marginalized inhabitants in several coastal villages. Despite insecurity near the border with Somalia, and the threats associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Safari Doctors, which has won several commendations, including a UN award, for its work, continues its monthly visits to the marginalized communities of Lamu. Ms. Omar shares her story as part of the #RealLifeHeroes campaign, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ahead of this year’s World Humanitarian Day, on 19 August. UN News

Like many countries, Rwanda is finding it impossible to test each of its citizens for the coronavirus amid shortages of supplies. But researchers there have created an approach that’s drawing attention beyond the African continent. They are using an algorithm to refine the process of pooled testing, which tests batches of samples from groups of people and then tests each person individually only if a certain batch comes back positive for COVID-19. Pooled testing conserves scarce testing materials. Rwanda’s mathematical approach, the researchers say, makes that process more efficient. That’s an advantage for developing countries with limited resources, where some people must wait several days for results. Longer waits mean a greater chance of unknowingly spreading the virus. AP



Photo: Adam Jones