Africa Media Review for August 19, 2020

Mali’s President Announces Resignation after Armed Mutiny
Mali’s president announced his resignation late Tuesday, just hours after armed soldiers seized him from his home in a dramatic power grab following months of protests demanding his ouster. The news of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators and alarm by former colonial ruler France, and other allies and foreign nations. The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. … Keita, who was democratically elected in 2013 and reelected five years later, was left with few choices after the mutinous soldiers seized weapons from the armory in the garrison town of Kati and then advanced on the capital of Bamako. They took Prime Minister Boubou Cisse into custody along with the president. … U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. AP

Ecowas Rejects Mali Coup, Orders Sanctions against Masterminds
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has rejected the military coup in Mali and ordered sanctions against its ringleaders. The bloc of 15 West African countries condemned the mutiny within the Mali’s armed forces that led to seizure of power and ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita.  Mr Keita announced his resignation in a televised address, adding that he had dissolved his government. However, in a statement issued by the Ecowas Commission in Abuja, the body says the coup is likely to have a negative impact on peace and stability in Mali as well as the region. Ecowas said it had been mediating for more than two months in order to find a solution to the political crisis in Mali. It said it “strongly condemns the overthrow by Malian soldiers of the democratically elected government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita” and categorically denies any form of legitimacy to the coup plotters. It also demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order. The EastAfrican

One Million Flee Escalating Violence in Burkina Faso
Mounting violence in Burkina Faso has forced more than one million people to flee their homes: 453,000 so far this year alone, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Tuesday, citing government figures. The West African country is now the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian and protection crisis, with five per cent of the population displaced. “Attacks by armed groups in the north and east of the country have forced people to move multiple times and are set to push the numbers still higher,” said Babar Baloch, UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva. The displaced have found refuge in host communities which are at “a breaking point;” having to share scant resources, while also facing poverty, strained health services and rapidly disappearing livelihoods. People on the run are also facing the “devastating” impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. UN News

Burkina Faso’s New Conflict Front: Jihadists against Jihadists
When 60 jihadists were killed and 40 captured in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region one day in April, the country’s beleaguered armed forces didn’t claim victory: A rival jihadist group did.The attack was among three reports of infighting in as many days between the al-Qaeda linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), a regional offshoot of the so-called Islamic State. … The infighting has added a dangerous new dimension to an already multi-sided conflict that has uprooted nearly one million people in Burkina Faso – the vast majority since January last year – and left more than three million severely food insecure, compared to 680,000 by this time in 2019. More than 90 people have been killed in the country overall this year in 10 separate clashes between the two jihadist groups – up from just one such recorded death in a single skirmish last year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a conflict monitoring group. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia Defence Minister Ousted after Criticising Country’s Prime Minister
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office announced Tuesday that he was replacing his defence minister, a fellow ethnic Oromo and former close ally who has recently been openly critical of Abiy’s political reforms. The ouster of Lemma Megersa, announced on Twitter as part of a broader cabinet reshuffle, underscores tensions between Abiy and other high-profile politicians from his Oromo ethnic group over how Ethiopia’s democratic transition should be managed. … Many Oromos contend Abiy has not sufficiently addressed their longstanding feelings of political and economic marginalisation. In an interview with Voice of America’s Afaan Oromo language service last November, Lemma criticised Abiy’s push to merge the coalition of ethno-regional parties which had ruled Ethiopia for three decades into a single political party known as the Prosperity Party. … Lemma will be replaced by Kenea Yadeta, a former security official in Oromia. AFP

Captain in Mauritius Oil Spill Disaster Is Arrested
The captain of the ship that ran aground in Mauritius and spilled about 1,000 tons of oil into the Indian Ocean has been arrested, his lawyer said on Tuesday. The captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, was arraigned in a district court in the country’s capital, Port Louis, on the charge of endangering the safe navigation of a vessel, an offense under Mauritian maritime laws. Mr. Nandeshwar, an Indian national, was arrested alongside the chief officer of the ship, Tilak Ratna Suboda, a Sri Lankan. The two were taken into police custody and will appear again in court on Aug. 25, Ilshad Munsoor, Mr. Nandeshwar’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. The island nation of about 1.3 million people is still grappling with how to protect its world-renowned coral reefs and crystal-clear lagoons after the spill. The New York Times

Faction of DR Congo Rebel Group Surrenders after Internal Revolt
Almost 500 fighters from a faction of one the largest armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to the government just over a month after they attempted to overthrow the group’s leader. Soldiers from the NDC-R, a rebel group seen as having close ties with the national army, sang and danced before handing over an assortment of small arms at a ceremony on Monday in the village of Kashuga, about 75 km (46 miles) north of Goma. Fighting has raged between two groups of the NDC-R since July 9 when a section loyal to deputy leader Gilbert Bwira Shuo attempted to oust their leader Shimiray Guidon, who is the target of U.N. sanctions, accusing him of human rights abuses. “As you have just consented to become a government soldier, each of you come and lay down your weapon,” Bwira told the group of fighters, who wore a hodge-podge of camouflage, European football shirts and rubber boots. Reuters

Roads Blocked in Khartoum to Protest Violent Dispersal of Demo
Activists have blocked several main roads in Khartoum yesterday, protesting against the violent dispersal of Monday’s demonstration in Khartoum. Blocking the roads is part of the escalation of protests announced by the Resistance Committees after Monday’s demonstration in front of the Council of Ministers offices was violently dispersed by the police. The Resistance Committees in Sudan organised Marches of the Millions on Monday, calling on the transitional government to return to the principles of the Revolution. The new civilian governor of Khartoum state, Ayman Khalid, and the Sudan Doctors Central Committee already condemned the violent dispersal of Monday’s demonstration. Radio Dabanga

Former Mauritanian President Questioned by Police for Second Day
Ex-Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz slept overnight at national police headquarters in Nouakchott on Monday, and was being questioned by police for a second day on Tuesday, seemingly with regard to allegations of embezzlement during his tenure in office. Aziz “slept at the DGSN, where he still is, without the presence of his lawyer,” Taghioullah Aida, one of his lawyers told AFP newswire, adding that questioning is still underway. The former president went to the headquarters of the General Directorate for National Security (DSGN) on Monday. Police had come to his home to ask him to comply with the corruption probe. A parliamentary report came out earlier this month, investigating alleged economic malfeasance by the president. Aziz had refused to cooperate before going into the DSGN offices Monday. The report looked into oil revenue kickbacks, selling state property in the capital, selling a food company and awarding fishing contracts to a Chinese fisheries company. RFI

Libya Unity Govt Signs Military Accord with Qatar, Turkey
Qatar and Turkey have signed an accord to send military advisers and instructors for the armed forces of Libya’s Government of National Accord, the UN-recognised GNA said. “We have reached an agreement with Turkish Foreign Minister Hulusi Akar and Qatar’s (minister) Khaled bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah on tripartite cooperation to build a military institute for training,” said the GNA’s deputy defence minister, Salah al-Namrouch. Both Sheikh Khaled, Qatar’s minister of state for defence, and Akar were in Tripoli on Monday for meetings with the GNA’s military and for talks on three-way military cooperation. Under the accord between the three countries, Turkey and Qatar will send military advisers and provide training at their military academies for Libyan cadets, Namrouch said. Also visiting Tripoli on Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that Libya faces a “deceptive calm” since fighting stalled in June around the coastal city of Sirte. AFP

Zimbabwe Court Bars Top Lawyer from Representing Journalist
A Zimbabwean magistrate Tuesday barred Beatrice Mtetwa, a top human rights lawyer, from representing a jailed journalist and ordered that she be prosecuted for comments posted on a Facebook page run by an American filmmaker. Magistrate Ngoni Nduna also said he will forward his ruling to the Law Society of Zimbabwe for possible further punishment of the lawyer. Mtetwa was representing Hopewell Chin’ono, an investigative journalist who has reported alleged government corruption on Twitter and has been in jail for more than three weeks on accusations of mobilizing an anti-government protest. … Mtetwa has over the past decades represented dozens of journalists, human rights campaigners and opposition leaders accused of plotting against the government. She also frequently speaks against human rights abuses in the troubled southern African country. She has been arrested, detained and allegedly assaulted by police in a pattern of harassment and intimidation. AP

SADC Leaders Resolve to Tighten Social Media Controls
Southern African leaders have resolved to tighten restrictions on social media usage, especially during elections, ostensibly to curb the spread of fake news. According to a communique released at the of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) annual summit held virtually on Monday, the bloc resolved to “take pre-emptive measures against external interference, impact of fake news and abuse of social media particularly in electoral processes.” The resolution was described as ‘chilling’ and ‘ominous’ by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), which expressed fears it will be used by authoritarian regimes to clampdown on freedom of expression. “While there is need to curb the spread of fake news, the resolution is worrying as a number of countries in the southern African region have such laws as a pretext to clampdown on freedom of expression and the media,” Misa Zimbabwe said. Daily Nation

Coronavirus Impact on African Aviation Worse Than Initially Estimated, Says IATA
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Africa’s aviation industry has worsened sharply since a previous assessment by airline industry body, International Air Transport Association (IATA) in April. IATA now estimates that job losses in African aviation and related industries could reach 3.5 million. That is equal to more than half of the region’s 6.2 million aviation-related jobs, and 400 000 higher than the previous estimate. … Gross domestic product supported by aviation on the continent, meanwhile, could fall by up to $35 billion. IATA previously estimated a $28 billion decline. “Covid-19 has devastated African economies and brought air connectivity across the continent to a virtual standstill. And the situation is getting worse. The economic consequences resulting from a disconnected continent are severe,” warned Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, in a statement. Fin24

Guns, Rumours and Celebrations: Mali Turmoil in Pictures
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse have been arrested by mutinying soldiers in the capital, Bamako, prompting opposition supporters to take to the streets in celebration. Keita’s detention on Tuesday at his residence in southwestern Bamako followed hours of uncertainty after soldiers mutinied in the morning at the Kati military base outside the capital and rounded up a number of senior civilian officials and military officers. Rumours earlier in the day that the mutineers had detained Keita prompted hundreds of anti-government demonstrators to pour into a central square in Bamako. … Mali has been plagued by an eight-year conflict that began as a separatist movement in the north but soon devolved into a multitude of armed groups jockeying for control in the country’s central region. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones