Africa Media Review for August 31, 2020

Rebel Deal Fuels Hopes of an End to Sudan’s Conflict in Darfur
Sudan’s transitional government initialed a peace deal with rebels, sparking hopes of an end to fighting that ravaged Darfur and other parts of the African nation under ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir. The agreement inked Monday with five rebel groups in a loose coalition paves the way to fold insurgents into the army and grant them government roles. It’s the fruit of months of intense negotiations with Sudan’s rulers, a mix of civilians who led the revolt against Bashir and military officials who once enforced his rule. … Signatories to the deal in Juba include the Justice and Equality Movement — Darfur’s largest rebel group — and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army. Another ceremony to sign the same agreements will take place later in Sudan itself. … While most insurgents in Darfur have laid down their guns, fresh violence has roiled the region this summer. Bloomberg

France: Mali Junta’s Timeline ‘Out of the Question’
France’s defense minister is pressing Mali’s military junta to return the country to civilian rule within months, saying Sunday that the three-year timeline proposed by the coup leaders is “out of the question.” The comments came hours after the junta hastily met with prominent figures from the opposition coalition following a public dispute that highlighted emerging divisions. Both sides were united in their desire to see former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita gone, but the opposition has begun criticizing the junta in recent days showing how tense the debate over Mali’s future has become. On Friday, imam and opposition leader Mahmoud Dicko publicly urged the junta leaders to meet the demands of regional mediators in order to spare Mali further crippling financial sanctions. Dicko, whom some suspect has political ambitions of his own, called on the current leadership to “be part of the solution and not another problem.” AP

Militants Kill Four Malian Soldiers in Ambush
Four Malian solders were killed and 12 wounded on Thursday after militants ambushed a military anti-poaching patrol in the violence-plagued central region of Mopti, the army said. Mali was rocked last week by a coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which international powers fear could further destabilise the country and undermine the fight against insurgents there and in the wider Sahel region. Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate in arid central and northern Mali, using the area as a base to attack soldiers and civilians in neighboring Burkina Faso, Niger and beyond. Reinforcements have been sent to the area of the Mopti attack around 25 km from the town of Konna, the army said in a statement. Reuters

Eye on Beirut, Senegal Port Rushes to Truck Away Tons of Ammonium Nitrate
At Dakar’s congested port last week, men in neon orange and yellow jackets waved their arms to speed up a line of trucks carrying away sacks of ammonium nitrate – the compound that exploded at the port in Beirut, Lebanon, three weeks before. Dock workers in this West African coastal city raised the alarm, port staff said, after news of the massive blast in Beirut, which killed around 200 people and injured at least 6,500. Soon Senegal was scrambling to transport more than 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate – slightly more than exploded in Beirut – out of Dakar, its densely populated capital. The trucks were destined for gold mines in neighboring Mali, a landlocked country that has been grappling for eight years with insurgents and instability. And Mali is now in even more tumult, since less than two weeks ago its president was overthrown in a coup d’état. The New York Times

Al-Shabaab’s Supreme Leader Replaced Due to Sickness, Somalia Spy Agency Says
Somalia’s spy agency says Al-Shabaab has made changes to its top leadership amid internal wrangles in the militant group with divided allegiance to global jihadist movements. The National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa) reported on Friday that Al-Shabaab’s Emir (supreme leader) Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah had been replaced due to ill health. Nisa’s statement on its Twitter page said, “Because of health concerns, the power of militant group Al-Shabaab has been temporarily transferred to Abukar Adan, his deputy leader.” “There has been a bitter power struggle between a section led by Mahad Karate and supporters of Abu Ubaidah on the nomination of a new leader,” Nisa added. It did not give details of the leader’s illness. A study released early in August, by Nairobi-based think-tank Africa Policy Institute, indicated the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group may have been overwhelmed by Covid-19. The Nation

Somalia’s New Law against Sharing Info with ‘Enemies’ Opposed
A new Somali media law meant to enforce professionalism and safeguard the country’s state secrets from ‘enemies’ has been met with wide-ranging criticism for ‘criminalising’ journalism. Last week, Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo assented to the Media Bill, an amendment from a controversial 2016 law which had been seen by players as retrogressive. Farmaajo’s spokesman Abdinur Mohamed declared “victory” for press freedom and suggested the new law will enforce some sort of patriotism among journalists, professionalise the industry as well as weed out quacks working for foreign entities. … Besides creating a government communication centre to coordinate public information sharing, the new law also creates a public broadcaster, different from state broadcasters, which will be seen as editorially independent and fair to all, especially during political campaigns. But media lobbies in Somalia and outside the country are pushing against clauses that could cancel all existing licences for private media and journalists for a new type of accreditation seen as punitive. The EastAfrican

Inside Somalia: How COVID-19 Created a Perfect Storm in a Humanitarian Crisis
Considering the country was in the middle of a pandemic, the silence at the entrance to Mogadishu’s De Martini hospital felt almost numbing, the expected noise replaced by stillness in its deserted, sanitised halls. It sent a chill through me as I arrived in May to capture the work being done at what was, until recently, the Somali capital’s only hospital taking coronavirus patients. It felt like a prison. … Even before the arrival of Covid-19, Somalia faced what seemed like insurmountable odds: ongoing insecurity, the worst desert locust infestation in decades, flash flooding that has affected more than 1 million people since March, and a cholera outbreak that began in 2017. The Guardian

Egypt Army Says Killed over 70 Jihadists in North Sinai
Egypt’s army announced Sunday that more than 70 alleged jihadists have been killed in recent military operations in North Sinai, the location of an insurrection affiliated to the Islamic State group. A statement by the Egyptian army said that the operations had targeted alleged “homes of terrorists” and “takfiri elements” leading to “the deaths of 73 takfiris in northern Sinai” between July 22 and August 30. Four other “takfiris” were killed, the statement added, without elaborating. The term “takfiri” is used by Egyptian security officials to refer to jihadists. AFP

Libya Peace-Building Efforts in Doubt Amid Government Infighting
A power struggle in Libya’s UN-backed government that erupted over street protests has raised fears about the future of fragile peace-building efforts after its prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, said the interior minister had acted unlawfully in giving his backing to the calls for improved living standards. The surprise developments, unfolding over the past week, move Libya away from a carefully planned UN-backed move to build on a ceasefire and plans to resume oil production agreed a fortnight ago. Sarraj suspended Fathi Bashagha from office pending an investigation that is supposed to take place within 72 hours. … In an effort to shore up his power, Sarraj has appointed a new defence minister, a new chief of defence staff, met up local municipal leaders and set up an inquiry into corruption in the health ministry over the past two years. The Guardian

Ten Militants and Five Civilians Killed in East Congo Violence – Army, Local Leader
Ten Islamist militants were killed after they ambushed an army convoy in eastern Congo on Friday, according to the military, while a community leader said five civilians were killed by members of the same rebel group soon after. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for more than three decades, has killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to United Nations figures. The latest violence saw six Congolese soldiers wounded in clashes with the militants following the ambush near the town of Mbau, army spokesman Antony Mwalushayi said on Sunday. Reuters

Complex Security, Environmental Crises Worsen Conditions for over 360,000 in Western Chad
More than 360,000 internally displaced persons in Chad’s Lake province are facing a “double” crisis, exposed to security and environmental risks, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported, highlighting the need to strengthen resilience of affected communities. According to Paul Dillon, an IOM spokesperson, while the region has been a target of repeated attacks by insurgents since 2015, the situation has worsened dramatically in 2020. Recurrent security attacks and incursions by non-State armed groups since the beginning of the year prompted the Chadian Government in March to declare the departments of Fouli and Kaya, two of Lake Chad’s borderlands departments ‘war zones’,” he said. Since April, the number of the displaced has increased by almost 22 per cent, according to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, a tool to monitor displacement and movement of people in emergency or crisis situations. UN News

UN Slams Guards’ Killings during Madagascar Prison Escape
The U.N. human rights office is condemning excessive use of force by security guards that killed 22 inmates and injured eight others during a mass escape at a Madagascar jail nearly a week ago. Security forces reportedly opened fire as hundreds of men were trying to escape Sunday from Madagascar’s Farangana prison in the southeast of the country. The attempt largely failed. Out of 380 inmates, only 25 were still on the run Saturday. The U.N. human rights office on Friday described the squalid prison conditions as appalling and a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19. Agency spokesman Rupert Colville said it was the seventh attempted prison escape in the country since the coronavirus pandemic began. He said prisoners were living in fear of being stricken with this deadly disease. VOA

Tundu Lissu Raises Alarm over Rejection of Tanzania’s Opposition Candidates
Tanzanian presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, has raised concerns over rampant disqualifications suffered by opposition parties, disclosing that about 1,020 Chadema councillorship candidates were disqualified out of 3,754 aspirants filed in 3,955 wards in mainland Tanzania. According to the Chadema party leader, 53 candidates for parliamentary seats have been eliminated from election participation out of 244 hopefuls approved to contest the October 28 elections. “They have been eliminated even before the election whistle has been blown. Candidate disqualification has been done unjustifiably against legal procedures and rules,” he said during his maiden rally at Zakhem grounds in Dar es Salaam last Friday. … He claimed the move was intentional to ensure that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is declared winner without elections, a tactic he claims was applied during the 2019 civic polls across the country. The Citizen

South Africa’s President Urges Calm after Killing of Disabled Teenager
South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa called for calm after the alleged police killing of a disabled teenager sparked protests and placed the spotlight back on the country’s record of police brutality. Relatives of Nathaniel Julius, 16, who had Down’s syndrome, said that police shot him in the street and left him at a local hospital after he went out to buy food in Eldorado Park, part of Johannesburg’s Soweto township, on Wednesday. Residents chanting “We want justice” clashed with police this week after they accused local officers of covering up the killing. Mr Ramaphosa said on Friday that Julius’s “tragic death has given rise to anger and unrest in a community that deserves better” as he called on residents to “work with our criminal justice system.” South Africa’s independent police ombudsman body said it was investigating the killing. “We won’t spare anybody, whoever has committed the crime will have to face the law,” Bheki Cele, the police minister, said on Friday. FT

South Africa: Nyameka Goniwe, Who Sought Justice in Her Husband’s Killing, Dies at 69
Nyameka Goniwe, an activist, politician and social worker who survived the death of her husband in one of apartheid-era South Africa’s most brutal extrajudicial killings and went on to campaign in vain for his assassins to be brought to justice, died on Saturday in Cradock, South Africa. She was 69. She was awaiting the results of a coronavirus test, which proved negative, and the cause of death was not known, a nephew, Mbulelo Goniwe, said. … Ms. Goniwe was propelled to global prominence in 1985 as a 33-year-old mother of two when a hit squad abducted her husband, Matthew Goniwe, and three other men as they traveled by car from Port Elizabeth to Cradock, where Mr. Goniwe was a schoolteacher and political leader. The New York Times

Burundian Journalist Jean Bigirimana Missing for 1,500 Days
On International Day of the Disappeared, experts describe the plight of those who have gone missing and their families. The last time Jean Bigirimana’s family saw or heard from him was 1,500 days ago. The Burundian reporter and father of two went missing on July 22, 2016, allegedly after being arrested by the country’s National Security Service in Bugarama, some 45km (28 miles) from the capital, Bujumbura. Later that day, one of Bigirimana’s colleagues at the independent Iwacu newspaper received an anonymous phone call alerting him them of the arrest. Unlike dozens of other Burundian journalists, Bigirimana had decided against fleeing the country in the aftermath of the widespread violence that erupted in 2015 following late President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to seek a third term in office. Al Jazeera

Zimbabwe’s ‘Keyboard Warriors’ Hold Protests off the Streets
Unable to protest on the streets, some in Zimbabwe are calling themselves “keyboard warriors” as they take to graffiti and social media to pressure a government that promised reform but is now accused of gross human rights abuses. Activists use the hashtag #zimbabweanlivesmatter to encourage global pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. Tens of thousands of people, from Jamaican reggae stars to U.S. rap and hip-hop musicians, have joined African celebrities, politicians and former presidents in tweeting with the hashtag. But some analysts say online protests might not be enough to move Mnangagwa, who increasingly relies on security forces to crush dissent despite promising reforms when he took power after a coup in 2017. AP

Thousands March in Mauritius over Dead Dolphins, Oil Spill
Honking and drumming, tens of thousands of people protested Saturday in Mauritius over the government’s slow response to an oil spill from a grounded Japanese ship and the alarming discovery of dozens of dead dolphins in recent days. Outraged over the Indian Ocean island nation’s worst environmental disaster in years, protesters displayed signs such as “You have no shame” and “I’ve seen better Cabinets at IKEA.” “Inaction,” one protester scrawled on an inflatable dolphin held above the crowd. They marched peacefully through the capital, Port Louis, a month after the ship struck a coral reef a mile offshore. It later cracked under the pounding surf and spilled around 1,000 tons of fuel oil into fragile marine areas. AP

Meet Two of the Women Running for President in Male-Dominated Ivory Coast
Despite the male-dominated political landscape in Ivory Coast, a handful of women intend to stand for president in the October election. Among them are Marie Carine Bladi and Danièle Boni Claverie, who offer a study in contrasts: one is a relative newcomer, a beauty queen making waves, while the other is a seasoned politician. Politics in the Ivory Coast is a largely masculine affair. The ballot for October’s presidential election is dominated by three veteran male politicians: 78-year-old President Alassane Ouattara, 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bédié and 67-year-old former premier Pascal Affi N’Guessan. But Article 36 of the new constitution, introduced at the end of 2016, says the state must seek “the promotion of political rights for women by increasing their representation in elected assemblies.” France24

A Virtual Tour of Malawi, the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’
A landlocked country in southeastern Africa, Malawi is often overshadowed by its more better-known neighbors: Tanzania, with its abundant wildlife; Zambia, home of Victoria Falls; and Mozambique, with its picture-perfect beaches. But Malawi – roughly the size of Pennsylvania – has plenty of natural beauty of its own: the clear waters of Lake Malawi (close to 365 miles long and 52 miles wide, it’s sometimes called the “Calendar Lake”); the magnificent cliffs of Mount Mulanje; the unique highland plateau of Nyika; and its wildlife reserves, including Liwonde and Majete, where cheetahs, lions, elephants and rhinos have been reintroduced. The New York Times

In Africa, Chadwick Boseman’s ‘Black Panther’ Was Also Warrior against Stereotypes
Chadwick Boseman’s groundbreaking portrayal of King T’Challa – the king guiding the mythical African utopia of Wakanda at the center of “Black Panther” – was seen in Africa as more than a Marvel Comic hero battling for his country. He also waged a fight against stereotypes about the continent and its place in the world. His death on Friday following a four-year battle with colon cancer underscored the 43-year-old actor’s global cultural impact. When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a Gabonese soccer player with the British team Arsenal, scored a goal during a game Saturday, he celebrated by striking Boseman’s famous “Wakanda Forever” pose, arms folded over his chest. While the futuristic Wakanda was a figment of Marvel’s imagination, Boseman’s portrayal of its fictional leader won praise for engaging with many of the contemporary issues shaping African culture and politics. The Washington Post