Africa Media Review for August 14, 2019

Child Soldiers and Deaths Surge in Mali as Violence Worsens
The number of children forced to join armed groups in Mali has doubled since last year amid worsening jihadist and ethnic violence, the United Nations said Tuesday. In the first six months of 2019, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, recorded 99 cases of children in Mali being recruited or used by armed groups, often as soldiers, spies, cooks or cleaners, compared to 47 in the same period last year. “This is very much a reflection of the deteriorating security situation, in particular in the center of Mali,” UNICEF spokeswoman Eliane Luthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The West African country has been in conflict since 2012 when Islamists hijacked an ethnic uprising by Tuaregs in the north. More recently the violence has moved to central Mali, where fighting between farmers and herders has surged this year. The number of children in Mali who were killed or maimed in conflict almost quadrupled to 229 in the first half of 2019, up from 59 in the same period last year, UNICEF said. Reuters

Libya Officials: Fighting around Tripoli Resumes, Truce Over
Fighting around Tripoli resumed overnight, following a two-day truce observed during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Libyan officials said Tuesday. The two-day cease-fire – proposed by the U.N. – was the first since the self-styled Libyan National Army led by commander Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive in April to capture Tripoli from a U.N.-supported but weak government. Hifter’s forces carried out airstrikes overnight on Tripoli’s southern outskirts, the officials said. The strikes focused on the road linking the city center with a shuttered old airport that Hifter’s forces took back in April, as well as the neighborhoods of Wadi el-Rabie, Khallat el-Fujan and Suq al-Jumaa, the officials said. The militias allied with Tripoli’s U.N.-backed government also shelled Hifter’s forces in the southern and eastern outskirts, they said. AP

Central Africa Militias Abuse Peace Deal to Tighten Grip, Say Experts
After years of bloodshed in the poor and largely lawless Central African Republic, renewed hopes of peace are being eroded by the country’s militia groups, experts say. The military situation across the landlocked country has been considered stable since the deal-the 13th in a decade-was signed in February between the government and 14 armed groups. But assaults on civilians and fighting among the militias themselves continue unabated in the provinces, and some armed groups are even misusing terms of the pact to tighten their grip. A new report to the UN says impediments to peace range from attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers to “doublespeak” from rebel forces, banditry and arms trafficking. “There is little evidence to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in the behaviour of combatants or that leaders have made efforts to identify and discipline those responsible,” according to the report, authored by experts. … More than 450 militiamen belonging to smaller groups have been disarmed in the west, an area where government authorities are slowly regaining control. But disarmament will be more complex in the central regions. AFP

A Long-Dormant African Conflict Draws Unusual White House Spotlight
The world’s longest minefield stretches hundreds of miles through the Sahara, cutting a path through one of Africa’s quietest conflicts. For nearly three decades, a few hundred United Nations soldiers have ensured that this 1,700-mile cease-fire line, which separates Moroccan soldiers from an outgunned group of Western Sahara militants striving for independence, has remained quiet. To the U.N., this tiny peacekeeping mission is a success. But to the White House, it’s a failure, one that President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has zeroed in on as Exhibit A of the shortfalls of the U.N. and the international order it represents. Mr. Bolton is putting the weight of the White House behind a contentious plan to resolve the Western Sahara conflict by turning the screws on the U.N. and trying to force the rival parties to cut a deal. … White House efforts to resolve this small African problem come with risks. Failure could stoke discontent in one of the few remaining pockets of stability in North Africa, creating new opportunities for Islamic State or al Qaeda to expand. WSJ

Economists: Removal from State Sponsors of Terrorism List Essential to Sudan’s Recovery
Economists have called on Sudan’s coming transitional government to make efforts to remove Sudan’s name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, so that Sudan can take advantage of the initiative to relieve Sudan’s debt. Sudan’s debt has exceeded $58 billion, according to the economists. … During his visit to Khartoum last week, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Hale affirmed that while “America is fully committed to helping Sudan transition to a civilian-led government that reflects the will of the people,” he cautioned that his country still needs to settle some issues with Sudan before considering removing it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism[.] … On Thursday, at a symposium in Khartoum, economists and bankers presented proposals for the first 100-day programme including the introduction of entirely new currency, and a return of cash block to the banking system. Radio Dabanga

Sudan Camp Burdened with ‘Fleeing’ Eritrean Refugees – UNHCR
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has told the BBC that a refugee camp it operates in neighbouring Sudan was being overwhelmed with Eritrean influxes. The Shagarab camp, located in eastern Sudan has on average received 1,000 new arrivals between January and June this year, the UN agency said. The BBC reporter added that: “Most of the new arrivals are from Eritrea, thought to be fleeing the country’s indefinite national service.” The controversial scheme has been the subject of a recent Human Rights Watch report that said Eritrea continued with the indefinite conscription despite a July 2018 peace deal with Ethiopia. The border between both countries had been closed till earlier this year when embattled Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir promised to open it. Since his ouster in April, the military generals that took over have made several trips to Asmara promising to boost new ties between the two countries. Asmara has in the past cited Ethiopian aggression as a key reason for the national service program. The special United Nations rapporteur has in the past referred to the program as a form of slavery. Africa News

Mystery Militia Sows Fear – and Confusion – in Congo’s Long-Suffering Ituri
Since June, at least 360 people have been killed and more than 300,000 uprooted, as a mysterious militia group thought to be drawn from the region’s marginalised Lendu community spreads across the region, attacking mainly ethnic Hema villages like Fitchama. With the world’s eyes on eastern Congo’s Ebola outbreak – the second deadliest on record – the killings here have attracted little attention, leaving displaced people wallowing in under-resourced, overflowing camps and victims stuck in poorly equipped hospitals like Tchomia. Aside from major towns, aid agencies say they are struggling to access the displaced. Some fear the spread of Ebola – which has already killed 179 people in Ituri and almost 1,900 overall – among displaced people, though for now measles, cholera, malaria, and diarrhoea are striking down many more. Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has described the suffering as “unprecedented”. Last month the Congolese army said it had “totally neutralised” the armed group it believes is behind the violence: CODECO – a decades-old Lendu religious and agricultural organisation that allegedly re-emerged in late 2017 as a violent militia. The New Humanitarian

The Children Sent to a DRC ‘Holiday Camp’ Never to Come Back
Hundreds of miles north of DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, is the village of Gemena. Most people make a living from agriculture or fishing; others are carpenters or shopkeepers. Abdula Libenge, a 34-year-old tailor, is the father of one of four families in the area who in May 2015 sent a child away to Kinshasa on what they thought was a holiday camp. Their children never came back. Without access to legal representation or assistance from local authorities, all they could do was wait. About two years after Mr Libenge’s daughter disappeared, he received an unexpected visit that would finally shed light on what happened. Belgian journalists Kurt Wertelaers and Benoit de Freine had got wind of an inquiry beginning into adoption fraud in their country. BBC

Top Ally of Malawi President Resigns after US Ban over Corruption
Uladi Mussa, a senior aide to Malawi President Peter Mutharika, resigned his position following a corruption indictment by the United States in July 2019. Mussa till August 8 was presidential advisor on parliamentary affairs. He tendered his resignation to the presidency days to his appearance before court over a corruption case. Despite standing down from government, he still maintains his role as a vice-president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the Central Region. The state is accusing him of misdealings in the issuance of Malawi citizenship to 50 foreigners, the privately-owned Malawi Nation newspaper reported. The report quoted a US Embassy public affairs officer Douglas Johnston, as saying Washington was encouraged by the resignation. Africa News

Fears of Fresh Unrest as Zimbabwe’s Opposition Plan Protests
Zimbabweans are bracing for fresh unrest after the main opposition party unveiled plans for a series of major rallies starting this week and unions called for strike action. Any demonstrations or industrial action will pose a new test for the ruling Zanu-PF party, which brutally suppressed a round of protests in January, leading to at least 13 deaths and hundreds of rapes and beatings. Last month senior Zanu-PF officials said the constitution allowed the government to deploy the army to confront protesters and warned that soldiers were trained to kill. “Forewarned is forearmed,” one said, telling demonstrators to stay at home. The opposition campaign comes as the government imposes austerity measures and attempts to launch a new currency. Millions have been hit by soaring prices of food and fuel, while foreign exchange shortages have led to a lack of vital medicines and other goods. The Guardian

Buhari to the Central Bank of Nigeria: We’ve Achieved Food Security; No Forex for Food Importation
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria not to provide foreign exchange for the importation of food, saying his administration has achieved food security. Mr Buhari said this in Daura, Katsina, on Tuesday as he hosted APC governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch, his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement. “Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,” the president was quoted as saying. “We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly,” he said. … The President, who hosted All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch at his country home in Daura, said the foreign reserve will be conserved and utilized strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills. Premium Times

Taraba Killings: Police, Army Blame Game Not Helping against Nigeria’s Security Challenges – NMA FCT Chairman
The chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja, Ekpe Phillips, has blamed the intractable security challenges in the country on lack of coordination among security operatives. He said the continued trading of blames between the Nigerian Army and the police over the recent killings of police officers in Taraba State has left Nigerians in a state of confusion and hopelessness. Mr Phillips spoke on Monday at a media briefing organised by the NMA on the security challenges Nigeria is facing. “There should be a collaboration between security forces to nib this situation in the bud. But, instead, what we see are blame games and at the end of the day, our people remain in the kidnappers’ dens.” … The medical officer was referring to last Tuesday’s killings of three police officers by some soldiers at a checkpoint in Taraba. Premium Times

The Emerging Alliance of Cote d’Ivoire’s Two Former Presidents
One is currently out on parole in Brussels after being acquitted for war crimes; the other has joined the opposition after walking out of Côte d’Ivoire’s coalition government. In recent months, Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bédié have gotten closer and teir rapprochement could shake up next year’s presidential election. There were no paparazzi on hand to capture the much-anticipated meeting between Gbagbo and Bédié on 29 July in Brussels. The two men, who have not always seen eye to eye, spoke for over two hours about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Yet, it was rumours about a potential alliance ahead of the 2020 presidential election that grabbed public attention. RFI

Uganda is ramping up efforts to curtail online content deemed immoral or hateful, a move critics say will silence dissent. Since March 2018, the Uganda Communications Commission, a state regulator, has required certain online publishers to register and pay a fee of $20 per year. Now, the government is expanding its enforcement of the regulation, levying the fee on news organizations and social media influencers with large followings, including some journalists, celebrities, musicians and athletes. The UCC calls these people “data communicators” and will be looking at media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, to determine which users will be affected. Catherine Anite, executive director of the Freedom of Expression Media Hub, told VOA’s Nightline Africa that the registration requirement curbs free speech. VOA

More than one million people have been infected with malaria in Uganda in the last two months, officials have said. The health ministry has attributed the rapid rise partly to climate change, with the disease now appearing in regions that were previously malaria-free thanks to a mild climate. This time of year is normally a peak malaria season, but prolonged June rains seem to have created an even more fertile breeding environment for the mosquitoes that transmit the infectious disease. There has been a 40 per cent increase in cases reported in the same period last year, according to a statement by the ministry. … Burundi is currently battling a malaria epidemic. BBC

In Kenya, a Stagnating Fight against Malaria Calls for New Strategies
Kenya seemed to be on track to win the fight against malaria. It distributed millions of insecticide-treated bed nets. It fumigated countless homes. It made drugs and diagnostic testing cheap and available. For several years, it was also rewarded with a fall in malaria cases. But now progress has stalled. Last year, there were 10.7 million malaria cases, up from 7.9 million in 2017. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, malaria is still the second biggest cause of reported deaths after respiratory infections, with nearly 70 percent of the country’s 46 million people at risk from the disease. So what has gone wrong? For one, growing resistance among mosquitoes to the commonly used pyrethroid-based insecticides, especially in high-prevalence areas around Lake Victoria in western Kenya. The New Humanitarian

Even as some exiled former allies have questioned the government’s economic performance and criticism of Mr Kagame’s authoritarian tactics has mounted, the World Bank’s support has continued. In the past decade, opposition parties have been squeezed out of the political system and dozens of regime opponents have been detained or died in suspicious circumstances. … Yet a Financial Times analysis of government statistics has found that the data look to have been misrepresented on at least one occasion, casting doubt on both the strength of the proclaimed economic miracle and the integrity of Rwanda’s relationship with its biggest donor. The Rwandan government says poverty has reduced progressively since 2001 in the country of 12m people. But according to an FT analysis of survey data published by the Rwandan bureau of statistics, poverty increased during at least one important period – the run-up to a referendum in 2015 that allowed Mr. Kagame to extend his then 15-year rule for up to another two decades. Opposition politicians say the country’s poverty level is part of a much bigger deception over economic progress in which donors, keen to laud Rwanda as a success story, have become complicit. Financial Times



Photo: Adam Jones