Africa Media Review for August 25, 2020

Mali Talks End with No Decision on Transitional Government
Talks between West African mediators and Mali’s military coup leaders ended on Monday after three days of discussions without any decision on the make-up of a transitional government, a junta spokesman said. West Africa’s regional bloc dispatched negotiators to Mali at the weekend in a bid to reverse President Ibrahim Keita’s removal from power last week. But talks had focused on who would lead Mali and for how long, rather than the possibility of reinstating the president, diplomats said. The coup has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in Mali which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from militants. Ismael Wague said mediators would report to regional heads of state ahead of a summit on Mali this week but, highlighting the backing the soldiers enjoy, the final decision on the interim administration would be decided locally. “Nothing has been decided. Everyone has given their point of view. The final decision of the structure of the transition will be made by us Malians here,’’ Mr Wague said. Premium Times

Libyans Hit Streets Despite Cease-Fire
When shots were heard in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square Sunday evening, a few protesters scattered. Others cheered, arms aloft, shouting, “Libya! Libya!” But the gunfire ended the anti-government protests in Tripoli, the seat of Libya’s internationally backed government, and authorities blamed “infiltrators” in the ranks of the security forces for the chaos. It was the first protest of its kind in the city in at least five years, coming only two days after a cease-fire agreement formally ended a more than yearlong conflict that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands. “We just want simple basic services,” said protester Ahmed Bin Shaaban, 24. “Electricity cuts out for 15 to 20 hours a day… and medicine and food go bad. … When I go to the bank to pick up my salary, they say ‘We have no cash.’” The protest was planned online for the anniversary of the day rebel forces stormed into Tripoli in 2011, forcing Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, to flee. VOA

Nigeria: Gunmen Attack Kaduna School, Kill Man, Kidnap Students, Teacher
Armed men on Monday attacked a school in Kaduna, killing one person and kidnapping seven students and a teacher, residents said. The armed men killed a man and abducted seven students and a teacher of Prince Academy, located at Damba-Kasaya village in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The incident happened around 8 a.m. on Monday when the gunmen stormed the rural community while the students were preparing for their Junior secondary school examination‎. … The incident at the Chikun school is the latest in the spate of attacks by armed men on Kaduna communities and schools. The state is one of the Northwest states that has suffered from repeated attacks by armed bandits. Other states such as Zamfara and Katsina also witness such attacks. The attacks have continued despite the deployment of more soldiers and other security operatives to the state. Premium Times

Weakened in Battle, Shabaab Now Opts for Softer Targets
Somalia’s militant group al-Shabaab has increased raids in Mogadishu, taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic. The group has launched fewer attacks outside Somalia in 2020 even though those in the country have been deadly. Analysts at the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi, however, say the pandemic coupled with intensified targets have reduced room for manoeuvre. UN Secretary General Special Representative to Somalia James Swan on Thursday told the Security Council that attacks in Mogadishu have risen significantly since the Covid-19 was declared in the country. … According to a report released this month by the UN Secretary General, there have been roughly 75 terrorist incidents every month since Covid-19 was reported in Somalia. While the raids mainly targeted African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and local security forces in Hiraan, Shabelle Dhexe and Banadir, the group also lost territory. The “Situation in Somalia” report says Amisom and the SNA captured Janaale and Lower Shabelle regions and have been focused on stabilising the recovered areas and consolidating their presence. Daily Nation

Algeria to Hold Promised Constitution Referendum on November 1
Algeria will hold a promised referendum on a revised constitution on November 1, the office of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced on Monday evening. The new constitution is expected to boost democracy and give parliament a greater role, the presidency said on Monday, after months-long protests demanding reforms. After “consultations with the parties concerned, it was decided to set the date of 1 November 2020 for the holding of the referendum on the draft revision of the Constitution”, the presidency said. The date also marks the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s 1954-1962 war for independence from France. President Tebboune has repeatedly pledged to introduce political and economic reforms since coming to power in a presidential election last December after an unprecedented lengthy protest movement, which had forced long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April 2019. Even official figures put turnout in the poll at less than 40 percent. France24

Tunisia to Get Second New Government in Six Months
Prime minister-designate Hichem Mechichi unveiled Tunisia’s second government in six months on Tuesday. The new cabinet must now win a confidence vote from lawmakers, many of whom are enraged at how the cabinet was formed. Mechichi had previously said he would form an administration with independent technocrats in order to “present urgent solutions” for a country where an ailing economy has been damaged further by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the 46-year-old’s decision to bypass talks with political factions had frustrated, among others, the Islamist party Ennahdha, which has been seeking a “political” government reflecting the various forces within parliament. Ennahdha won the most seats in last year’s election but fell far short of a majority and eventually agreed to form a coalition government. DW

NAS Says South Sudan Army Build Up Troops Ahead of Imminent Offensive
South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) have been building up troops and preparing for an imminent offensive on the positions of the National Salvation Movement (NAS) said the holdout group on Monday. “The SSPDF Command ordered all divisions in South Sudan to contribute troops to the GHQs in Juba,” said NAS Spokesman Suba Samuel Manase in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday. Following this order the SSPDF reinforcement has started arriving in the army’s bases of Liria, Lobonok, Kajo-Keji Yei, Mundri and Maridi areas in a preparation for an imminent attack on NAS positions, he further said. Last week, NAS fighters killed six bodyguards of Vice President James Wani. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: Dire Humanitarian Conditions Emerging in N. Bahr el Ghazal
Authorities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State are warning of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in several areas of the state due to shortages of food after a failed agricultural season. William Deng Mou, the Executive Director of Aweil North County, told Radio Tamazuj on Thursday last week that citizens in his county are in a dire humanitarian situation, attributing the challenge to the failed agriculture season. “They [citizens] are not properly prepared in terms of food security because the agricultural season failed last year due to the floods and all crops were destroyed. …” Deng explained. … Deng Kuel Kuel, the state director for Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), confirmed the dire humanitarian situation but said the World Food Program (WFP) started distributing food in all the five counties. Radio Tamazuj

Trial of Sudan’s Bashir over 1989 Military Coup Resumes
The trial of Sudan’s ousted ex-president Omar al-Bashir, over the military coup that brought him to power in 1989, is to resume Tuesday, his lawyer told AFP. Bashir’s trial alongside 27 other defendants had been delayed on August 10 as the defence team sought bail for three defendants. But lawyer Hashem al-Gali told AFP that “the defendants in prison have been informed that the trial will resume on Tuesday.” The second hearing had originally been set for August 11, but defence lawyers had sought Bashir’s release on bail along with two former senior leaders of the once powerful but now defunct National Congress Party. After an appeal court rejected their request, the trial may now continue. AFP

Kenya Sees Spike in Sexual Abuse Cases During Pandemic
Kenyan authorities and aid agencies say rape and sexual abuse cases against girls have increased since the start of pandemic restrictions, and they say in most cases relatives are the offenders. Some safe shelters in Nairobi are overwhelmed by girls who need an escape from people meant to care for them. Kenyan children have extra time off these days since schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. That is making them more vulnerable to sexual predators. … Kenya’s Ministry of Health says it has received reports of at least 5,000 sexual violence cases across the country, 65% of them involve girls younger than 18, many of whom live in poverty. Officials say in many cases the perpetrators are close to the victims and do not believe the abuse is a crime. VOA

Imprisoned Rights Defenders in Egypt at ‘Grave Risk’ of COVID-19, Warn UN Experts
A group of independent UN rights experts have raised alarm over “grave and unnecessary” risks faced by imprisoned human rights defenders in Egypt due to lengthy pre-trial detention. The risks are all the more pronounced during the current pandemic, they said in a news release on Monday, calling on the authorities to facilitate the release of prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions or those detained without sufficient legal basis. … Detained rights defenders have few opportunities to make known their health conditions, as they are not being given a chance to individually contest the charges they face under national security legislation, the experts added. The UN human rights experts also raised concern over the handling of the activists’ detention and trials, noting that such actions violate international human rights standards. UN News

Zimbabwe Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono Denied Bail for Third Time over Anti-Government Protests
Award-winning Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was on Monday denied bail for the third time since his arrest last month on charges of inciting violence. Chin’ono, 49, has been charged for his role in promoting opposition-organised protests against corruption and the country’s ailing economy. He had also helped expose a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal involving the procurement of coronavirus supplies. He was arrested at his house in Harare on 20 July, and two previous bail applications were thrown out. On Monday, magistrate Ngoni Nduna rejected Chin’ono’s third attempt at bail. He said the journalist, a government critic, had sought the downfall of the ruling ZANU-PF party. … The internationally-acclaimed
lawyer has been at the forefront of defending human rights activists for many years. News24

Offices of Mozambican Newspaper Burned in Arson Attack
The premises of two of Mozambique’s leading independent newspapers, the weekly Canal de Mozambique and the daily CanalMoz, were attacked with petrol bombs and burned, the newspapers’ editor Matias Guente confirmed Monday. The office and its equipment were thoroughly burned in the fire Sunday night and a container of gasoline fuel used in the attack was found at the site, Guente told the Zitamar news agency. The papers are privately owned and often critical of the government. … Several prominent civil rights campaigners have condemned the attack. “This is barbaric … Freedom of expression is under attack,” Adriano Nuvunga of the Center for Democracy and Development wrote on Twitter. The fire-bombing could be linked to a report Canal printed days earlier about bribery and the efforts of prominent Mozambicans to win control of part of the fuel retail business worth millions of dollars, said the Center for Democracy in a statement. AP

Sudan’s Jabal Maragha: Illegal Gold Diggers Destroy Ancient Site
Illegal gold diggers have destroyed a 2,000-year-old archaeological site in Sudan in the eastern region of the Sahara desert, official say. The Jabal Maragha site, which dates from the Meroitic period between 350 BC and 350 AD, is said to have either been a small settlement or a checkpoint. Officials from Sudan’s antiquities and museums department said when they visited the site, some 270km (170 miles) north of the capital Khartoum, last month they found two mechanical diggers and five men at work. They had excavated a vast trench about 17 metres (55 feet) deep, and 20 metres long. … Sudan is home to hundreds of pyramids and other ancient sites, although they are not as well known as those in its northern neighbour, Egypt. Sudan’s archaeologists warned that the destruction was not unique but part of a growing problem. BBC

Africa Celebrates the End of the Wild Poliovirus (but Not the End of All Polio)
Africa is set to announce that it has stamped out wild poliovirus after a three-decade campaign against a disease that once paralyzed 75,000 children on the continent every year. The achievement is a major step toward ridding the globe of the virus that causes the disabling — and sometimes deadly — disease of polio: Only Afghanistan and Pakistan are still reporting cases. … But the victory has a hollow note. Every year, hundreds of people across Africa are still being infected with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, which can infect people in areas where there is only partial vaccination. African cases of the vaccine-derived strain, which results in the same symptoms as the wild kind, increased to 320 last year from 68 in 2018, and could rise again in 2020 because many vaccination campaigns were paused during coronavirus lockdowns. … Nigeria was a major sticking point on the African continent. After northern Nigeria boycotted the vaccine in 2003 because of rumors about its safety, an outbreak there spread to 20 countries in five years. A huge effort was initiated to change minds about the vaccine, and by 2015, it seemed that the situation was under control and rumors sufficiently squashed. But then, in 2016, four new cases of wild poliovirus were reported. NY Times



Photo: Adam Jones