Africa Media Review for August 28, 2020

West African Leaders Hold Virtual Talks on Mali after Coup
The heads of state of the West African economic bloc are holding a virtual extraordinary summit Friday to discuss Mali after negotiations with the junta that staged a coup last week failed to agree on a timeline for a civilian transitional government. On Thursday, military leaders released former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to his home, where he remains under tight security. His release could be a signal that Mali’s ruling junta are trying to meet some of the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc’s demands. The main demand from ECOWAS, however, is at a standstill. West Africa’s leaders have demanded that the junta put in place an interim government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, that would last no longer than one year before democratic elections are held to restore the country to civilian rule. Mali’s junta has proposed staying in power for three years until an election. … The regional group is also considering mobilizing a standby military force to restore civilian rule, a proposal likely changed by the overwhelming show of support for the coup by Malians who took to the streets to support the junta. African countries and others have expressed fear that Mali’s upheaval could allow Islamic extremists that the military has been fighting with heavy international support for seven years to extend their reach. AP

Where State is Weak, Mali Militants Broker Talks between Rival Clans
A few weeks before military officers overthrew Mali’s government in a bloodless coup, a series of meetings in the remote centre of the country underscored how much the state’s grip on power had loosened. Video of one gathering in the rural commune of Sangha shows leaders from the rival Dogon and Fulani communities, whose militias have slaughtered hundreds of civilians in tit-for-tat attacks this year, sitting down together and making peace. Also surprising were the mediators: fighters from al Qaeda’s Mali affiliate, who can be seen squatting in the shade with rifles and ammunition belts, many of their faces obscured by turbans and dark sunglasses. Until recently, members of the al Qaeda-linked Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) – Mali’s most powerful militant group – had sided with the semi-nomadic Fulani herdsmen when they clashed with the Dogon people over land and resources. But flush with new recruits and weapons captured from overwhelmed state forces, the jihadists have turned to mediation in a bid to further entrench their local control, said Idrissa Sankare, a former member of parliament from the area. Reuters

Tribal Clashes in East Sudan Kill 3
At least three people were killed and 11 others wounded in clashes between rival ethnic groups in Sudan on Thursday. The fighting between the Beni Amer tribe and the Beja tribe, following the nomination of Salah Ammar, of the Beni Amer, as the new governor of the eastern Kassala state. Thousands of people converged on Kassala, some with sticks and swords, to protest against the nomination. … In July, the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced that he would replace all the military governors in the country’s 18 states with civilian ones, but the move has stoked tribal rivalries. AfricaNews

UAE Implicated in Lethal Drone Strike in Libya
The BBC has uncovered new evidence that a drone operated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) killed 26 unarmed cadets at a military academy in Libya’s capital Tripoli in January 2020. At the time of the strike on 4 January, Tripoli was under siege by the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). It has denied responsibility for the attack and suggested the cadets had been killed by local shelling. But evidence indicates the cadets were hit by a Chinese Blue Arrow 7 missile. This was fired by a drone called the Wing Loong II and the investigation by BBC Africa Eye and BBC Arabic Documentaries also found evidence that, at the time of the strike, Wing Loong II drones were only operating from one Libyan air base – al-Khadim – and that the UAE supplied and operated the drones that were stationed there. … The BBC investigation also found new evidence that Egypt is allowing the UAE to use Egyptian military air bases close to the Libyan border. BBC

Media Watchdog Urges Libyan Gov’t to Release Reporter
A media watchdog Friday urged Libyan authorities to immediately release a local journalist detained while covering recent anti-government protests in the capital Tripoli. Libyan radio journalist Sami al-Sharif was detained Sunday by men in military uniforms affiliated with the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord, according to a statement released late Thursday by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Libyan authorities must immediately disclose whether they are holding journalist Sami al-Sharif and, if so, release him unconditionally,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Libyan Government of National Accord must do its utmost to protect journalists from harm, and ensure that government groups are not harassing, abducting, or obstructing the press.” Protesters rallied in Tripoli and other western provinces over corruption and deteriorating economic conditions for several straight days starting Sunday and lasting into the week. AP

Kenyan Journalist’s Arrest Highlights Ongoing Press Freedom Concerns in Ethiopia
The arrest and alleged abuse of a Kenyan journalist working in Ethiopia is renewing scrutiny of press freedoms in the country. Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo, also known as Yassin Juma, said he was in Ethiopia on assignment for the U.K.-based Sky News as a producer. Juma said his own company, Horn24 Media, also planned to film a documentary for the Oromo Broadcasting Network (OBN), an Ethiopian government affiliate in the Oromia region. In an ordeal that lasted more than two months, Juma was arrested and faced multiple charges, including inciting violence and plotting to kill senior Ethiopian officials. Juma told VOA that he contracted the coronavirus while in a detention center in Addis Ababa. He also said he broke a rib during an altercation with men he believes were security personnel after he was released on bail. … In an interview with VOA, while in quarantine as he prepared to return home, Juma said his experience shows the press in Ethiopia continues to face severe restrictions. VOA

Rescue Boat Seeks Port for 200 Migrants in Mediterranean
A German-flagged charity boat says it has been waiting for several days for port permission so it can disembark 201 migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean. The charity Sea-Watch said Thursday that the migrants were rescued earlier in the week by the ship Sea-Watch 4, and that Malta rejected its port request. The Italian coast guard on Wednesday evacuated another migrant who had been aboard Sea-Watch 4, a teenager who had severe fuel burns. Among the migrants awaiting a port were several that were transferred to Sea-Watch 4 by a smaller boat, the Louise Michel, Sea-Watch Italy tweeted. … Disembarking rescued migrants in Italy has become particularly politically sensitive during the pandemic. Last week, the governor of Sicily closed all migrant centers on the Italian island since the residences had become too crowded to guarantee social distancing. Some rescued migrants in Italy have also tested positive. AP

Ivory Coast: Alassane Ouattara’s Third-Term Bid Reignites Violence
Recent clashes in the town of Divo — about 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of the capital Abidjan, and in Bonoua — some 80 kilometers from the capital, left eight people dead and more than 100 injured. As you enter the town, the traces of burnt tires and car wrecks are visible. Part of the Bonoua bus station, shops, and vehicles were set on fire or ransacked. Camille Adjobi, who heads the city’s largest transportation company, saw nine vehicles from his fleet and the facilities at his station set ablaze. The fruits of many years of hard work were destroyed in just a few hours, he said. … The violence did not only affect Ivorians. Foreigners’ businesses were also targeted. … In recent days, images of men armed with shotguns and machetes, as well as hate speech messages, have become pervasive on Ivorian social media platforms. According to Christophe Kouame of the NGO Citizens and Participation, such crimes often go unpunished and could potentially lead to violence. DW

Tanzanian Opposition Parties Allege Candidates Have Been Unfairly Disqualified
Several opposition parties in Tanzania allege that hundreds of their candidates have been dubiously disqualified from participating in the October 28 general election. The parties have called on the National Electoral Commission to address their grievances, which have been formally submitted, after lower-level election officials removed more parliamentary and councilor candidates from opposition parties than from the ruling Party of the Revolution, otherwise known as Chama Cha Mapinduzi. Benson Kigaila, deputy secretary-general of the main opposition party Chadema, said 57 of its candidates for parliament and 642 for councilor had been disqualified as of Thursday. … The CUF’s presidential contender, economics professor Ibrahim Lipumba, said his party had received reports of candidates being challenged and, in some instances, robbed of their nomination forms by unknown individuals. “There are people who have been dubiously disqualified. And, in some cases, people have been attacked and their forms have been taken,” Lipumba said. VOA

UN Rights Expert Calls for Ceasefire, Commitment from All Stakeholders to Ensure Free Elections in Central African Republic
The UN’s expert on human rights in the Central African Republic (CAR) issued a series of recommendations on Wednesday to ensure that citizens – after years of civil unrest – can freely decide the future of their country during presidential elections on 27 December. “For the elections to be peaceful, they must be preceded by a ceasefire and cooperation among all sides,” said Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. “Time is running short and there is much to be done in the four months before polling day.” With a potential run-off vote and National Assembly polling slated for early 2021, he called on armed groups to immediately lay down their arms, as agreed under the 2019 Peace Agreement, to fully cooperate in the conduct of elections – and to respect the results. UN

Rwanda, Burundi Army Spy Chiefs End Talks, Agree on Border Security
Rwanda and Burundi have negotiated a path towards enforcing security at their common border, a move aimed at ending longstanding hostilities and a return to the good relations they once shared. For the first time since 2015, military intelligence officials from both countries met on Wednesday at the frontier Nemba town and agreed to “work towards the return of security to their common borders.” “This collective commitment augurs for a hopeful future for both Rwanda and Burundi, whose people share a common history,” reads a statement by the meeting’s facilitator, Col Leon Mahoungou of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism, a regional military framework under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). … However, no agreement was signed between the two countries, and the commitments they made remain as “promises to one another” that the ICGLR will continue to monitor to assess each party’s willingness to enforce the bargain. The East African

Burundi Refugees Return Home from Rwanda after Five-Year Exile
Almost 500 Burundian refugees living in Rwanda returned to their home country on Thursday. They are the first group to return after five years in exile. They fled in 2015, when the decision by the late President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term, which his critics called unconstitutional, caused political turmoil and the death of hundreds of people. … A new president, Evariste Ndayishimiye, won the elections last June. He has invited all those in exile to return and help build a new nation. Rwanga hosts close to seventy two thousand refugees and many of them wish to go home. AfricaNews

Signing of Sudanese Peace Agreement Postponed
South Sudan’s government said on Thursday it had postponed the initialling of a peace deal between the Sudanese government and the opposition coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). Tut Gatluak, head of the South Sudan mediation team in the Sudanese peace talks, said at a press conference in Juba that the initialling of the peace agreement has been delayed from its original schedule on Friday to next Monday. Tut pointed out that the work on revising the documents to be initialled will continue on Friday and Saturday. The chief mediator announced that the signing ceremony will be attended by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and several Sudanese officials. Tut added that the ceremony will also be attended by foreign ministers of IGAD countries, Chad, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many friendly countries to Sudan. The new transitional government and armed opposition leaders plan to bring an end to Sudan’s years-long civil wars after a power-sharing deal between the military and a pro-democracy movement following the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Radio Tamazuj

Man Arrested in London on Suspicion of Liberia War Crimes
A man has been arrested in London on suspicion of war crimes during the Liberian civil wars. The 45-year-old man is accused of offences relating to the country’s first and second civil wars between 1989 and 2003, the Met Police said. Officers from the Met’s War Crimes Team detained the man at about 07:20 BST on Thursday. The force said the suspect remained in custody and officers were searching an address in south-east London. The man has been held on suspicion of war crimes contrary to Section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, according to Scotland Yard. BBC

China Launches Unusual Attack on Zim Journalist over Diamond Miner, Angers Scribes
China this week launched an unusual attack on a senior Zimbabwean journalist, Tawanda Majoni, accusing him of corruption and harbouring political ambitions over a recent article he wrote on the return of Anjin Investments Ltd to mine diamonds in Marange. … In his latest article last Sunday, Majoni queried the secretive readmission of Anjin, which was booted out of the diamond fields by the late ex-president Robert Mugabe in 2016 together with six other companies for allegedly looting gems worth billions of dollars. The journalist, who is also the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit media advocacy institution currently supporting reporters to investigate corruption, questioned government’s decision to readmit Anjin without availing the audit it promised in 2016. He argued that the Chinese government pressured Zimbabwe to take Anjin back, following a visit to Beijing by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2018. … China has been accused of lending intelligence and military help to Zimbabwe to rig elections and is widely seen as holding the country to ransom for loans worth billions of dollars that the southern African country is failing to repay. New Zimbabwe

‘Education Emergency’ as Third of World’s Children Lack Remote Learning
One in three schoolchildren across the world have been unable to access remote learning during coronavirus school closures, the U.N. children’s agency said on Thursday, warning of a “global education emergency”. Nearly 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures as countries locked down to prevent the disease from spreading, UNICEF said in a report. Yet at least one in three students have had no way of continuing their education at home. “For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement. … It found students in Africa were the most impacted, with almost half unable to access remote education, compared to 38% in South Asia and 34% in eastern Europe and Central Asia. … UNICEF said that the situation was likely far worse than the report’s findings. Even when children have the technology and tools at home, they may not be able to learn due to factors such as pressure to do chores, being forced to work, or living in a poor environment for learning such as crowded, noisy accommodation, it said. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones