Africa Media Review for August 13, 2021

More Than 50 Dead in Attacks on Mali Villages
Militants in Mali have massacred more than 50 villagers near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger. The area has seen increasing violence from armed Islamists, and activists are calling on authorities to act. Militants attacked three villages in northern Mali simultaneously this past Sunday, leaving more than 50 civilians dead and several injured. The neighboring villages of Karou, Ouatagouna, and Daoutegeft are in an area near the borders with Niger and Burkina Faso that has seen increasing, often deadly, violence the past few years. Almahady Cissé is coordinator of the collective Songhoy Chaawara Batoo, a group of organizations representing the Songhoy people, who make up most of the inhabitants of the Gao region, where the attacks occurred. He says through a messaging application from Bamako, the assailants shot at everything that moved, including those leaving the mosques and those returning to the village from the fields. VOA

Egypt Officials Say Militant Attack Kills 7 Troops in Sinai
A roadside bomb exploded late Thursday in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, killing seven members of Egypt’s security forces, security and medical officials said. The dead included an officer, and six others were wounded. The troops were riding an armored vehicle when the bomb went off in New Rafah, a town on the border with the Gaza Strip, added the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The wounded, who suffered serious injuries, were transferred to a military hospital in the nearby Mediterranean city of el-Arish, added the officials. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on an IS-affiliated website. AP

Zambia Counting Votes with Internet Restrictions Still in Force
Zambia prepared on Friday to begin announcing results of a tight presidential election between top contenders President Edgar Lungu and main rival Hakainde Hichilema held amidst restrictions on internet access and violence in three regions. Use of social media such as WhatsApp is part of everyday life in the southern Africa country and the curbs on access could fuel suspicion about the outcome of the vote, which appeared too close to call. The Electoral Commission of Zambia(ECZ) said voting continued overnight in some areas with the last polling station closing at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Friday to allow people who had queued for hours to cast their ballots. … Hichilema took to Twitter to accuse the ruling party of ordering a social media shutdown. He urged Zambia’s telecoms regulator to “unblock the internet so citizens can follow the electoral process and continue with their lives unhindered”. “When an outgoing regime panics, it can resort to desperate measures. So stay calm and focused,” he said. Reuters

Zambia’s Democracy at ‘Tipping Point’ as Army Deployed on Polling Day
As Zambia goes to the polls today, fears are growing that political meddling in the process could push its long-treasured democracy towards a “tipping point”. Zambia has long been considered a model of democracy for its neighbours. But today’s vote has been accompanied by a military deployment, while the run-up to the election has been marred by political violence and restrictions on opposition campaigning, analysts and human rights monitors have said. Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), said on Wednesday that his party had been barred from campaigning in the key Copperbelt province for the second time in a week. “In the run-up to this election we’ve witnessed things that are not typical to Zambian elections,” said Linda Kasonde, who heads human rights group Chapter One Foundation. She said that in the past five years of rule under President Edward Lungu, there had been increasing violence by supporters of his Patriotic Front, as well as the UPND. “It’s fair to say that most of those instances have been instigated by the ruling party. They seem to be able to get away with all manner of things, including killing people,” she said. The Guardian

Amnesty: Hundreds of Women, Girls Raped in Ethiopia’s Tigray
Amnesty International said this week that Ethiopian government forces, Amhara region’s militia group and Eritrean forces have been systematically raping and abusing hundreds of women and girls in the conflict in the country’s northern Tigray region. As part of a new report, Amnesty spoke to 63 survivors of rape and sexual violence from Tigray, in addition to health professionals working with the survivors. Among the survivors, 38 said the rapes were perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers. “The victims were detained for more than 24 hours, and in some cases for weeks, while they were being raped by the soldiers,” said Fisseha Tekle, an Amnesty International researcher for the Horn of Africa speaking to the Associated Press. “We can see that soldiers were brutalizing the survivors, they were beating them, they were using demeaning words or ethnic slurs against the victims, which shows that sexual violence was used to dehumanize the Tigrayan women in the ongoing conflict.” VOA

Algeria Leader Calls Wildfires ‘Disaster’, Says 22 Arsonists Arrested
Algeria has arrested 22 people suspected of being behind the most devastating wildfires in the country’s history that killed 65 people, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said on Thursday, calling the fires a ‘disaster’ and urging the preservation of national unity. Dozens of forest fires have hit mountainous areas in northern Algeria since Monday, mainly in Tizi Ouzou, the main province of the Kabylie region east of the capital, Algiers. “Some fires have been caused by high temperatures but criminal hands were behind most of them,” Tebboune said in a live speech on state television. “We have arrested 22 suspects, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. Justice will perform its duty.” At least 28 military men were among the dead as the North African country deployed the army to help firefighters contain fires that ravaged several houses in forested areas. Reuters

Lesotho’s PM Isolating with Covid as Cases ‘Go Unrecorded’
Lesotho’s prime minister, Moeketsi Majoro, has said he is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, as doctors warned that the true tally of cases in the country was going unrecorded. Majoro tweeted that he had taken a travel-related test that came back positive. He said: “May I advise anyone who has been in close contact with me recently to rush for PCR testing to ensure your safety.” Majoro’s spokesman, Buta Moseme, said the prime minister would remain in quarantine at home, although he was not showing any symptoms. … Lesotho, with a population of 2.1 million, has recorded more than 3,000 new Covid-19 cases from the start of May to 10 August. The virus has killed 391 people. A doctor at a private clinic in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, is among those concerned that the National Covid-19 Secretariat is failing to gather data. “In the last month alone, we have seen over 100 patients who are Covid-19 positive but the secretariat has never collected our data,” he told the Guardian. The Guardian

UN, AU Urge Somalia to Hold Elections Without Further Delay
The United Nations and the African Union urged Somalia on Thursday to hold already delayed national elections this October despite attempted intimidation by Islamist militants. “Preparations for election security are key due to the continuing threat posed by al-Shabab,” U.N. Special Representative for Somalia James Swan told a meeting of the Security Council. “Al-Shabab continues terrorist attacks and insurgent operations, including by encircling communities; especially so in South-West State.” African Union Special Representative Francisco Madeira told the council that “our collective focus” must be on preventing the militants from disrupting the electoral system. He said the group is using “sinister tactics both in Mogadishu and beyond” to derail the process. … Parliamentary and presidential elections have been repeatedly delayed since February over disagreements between the government and opposition. VOA

S Africa: Ramaphosa Admits Rampant Graft during Time as Zuma VP
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledges there was rampant state corruption while he was deputy to former president Jacob Zuma, but says he did not resign as that would have hampered his efforts to resist the rot. Ramaphosa was appearing before a judicial panel on Wednesday probing the alleged mass looting of state coffers during Zuma’s 2009 to 2018 presidency. He served as Zuma’s deputy for four years from May 2014 before succeeding him in February 2018. “I had five options: resign; speak out; acquiesce and abet; remain and keep silent; or remain and resist,” Ramaphosa said. But had he quit his job, “This action would have significantly impaired my ability to contribute to bring about an end” to the corruption, he argued. Ramaphosa said he decided to stay in order to “resist some of the more egregious and obvious abuses of power”. … Ramaphosa came to power three and a half years ago on a promise to fight corruption. He told the panel that had he chosen to be confrontational under Zuma, he would have risked being fired, and “my ability to effect change would have been greatly constrained, if not brought to an end.” Al Jazeera

Wagner: Gaddafi’s Son Faces Arrest over Russian Mercenaries
Prosecutors in Libya have issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, over suspected ties to Russian mercenaries. A BBC World Service investigation has revealed links between the shadowy Wagner group’s activities in Libya and war crimes committed against Libyan citizens. Russian fighters first appeared in Libya in 2019 when they joined the forces of a rebel general, Khalifa Haftar, in attacking the UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli. … The order for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s arrest was circulated internally to Libyan security bodies by prosecutor Mohammed Gharouda on 5 August, but was only made public after the BBC’s investigation was broadcast. … During the making of the BBC documentary into the Wagner group’s operations in Libya, the BBC met Libyan intelligence officials who spoke of Gaddafi’s strong links with Moscow and described him as “Russia’s favourite candidate to rule Libya”. BBC

Nigerian Minister Says Twitter Ban to be Lifted Soon
Nigeria plans to soon lift its ban on Twitter, the country’s information minister said Wednesday, two months after authorities blocked the social network when a tweet by the president was deleted. Information Minister Lai Mohammed told journalists that an “amicable resolution is very much in sight,” but did not specify how soon the ban could be lifted in Africa’s most populous nation. Sarah Hart, a Twitter spokesperson, said the company had recently met with the Nigerian government to discuss the ban. “Our aim is to chart a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria,” Hart said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to ongoing discussions with the Nigerian government and seeing the service restored very soon.” AP

Sudan Inches Closer to Handing Over Ex-Dictator for Genocide Trial
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in his first visit to the capital of Sudan, said Thursday he was hopeful that the Sudanese government would turn over former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges of genocide and war crimes in the region of Darfur. Mr. al-Bashir, 77, was ousted two years ago and has been imprisoned since then. He has been wanted by the international court in The Hague since 2009 over atrocities committed by his government in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, the United Nations estimates. The court has been pressing Sudan’s transitional government, which took over after Mr. al-Bashir was deposed, to hand him over along with other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur. It will not be an easy decision. The transitional government is made up of both civilian and military leaders, and some of those military leaders, once allied with Mr. al-Bashir, were also implicated in the atrocities in Darfur, a western region. If he is extradited, he might give evidence that could expose them to prosecution. NY Times

Malawi Village Gets Award for Fighting Malaria Infection and Deaths
[Video:] Malawi had nearly seven million malaria cases last year, more than a third of the population, with 2,500 lives lost to the mosquito-borne disease. However, one village has become a model for how to eradicate malaria and in June was honored as the first ever to have zero malaria cases for a whole year. Lameck Masina reports from Machinga district in southern Malawi. VOA