Africa Media Review for August 4, 2020

Zimbabwe Continues Arrests of Critics, Says Opposition Party
Zimbabwe’s military and police are arresting scores of opposition members and activists after authorities thwarted an anti-government protest last week, according to rights groups. More than 60 people have been arrested so far in the continuing clampdown, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is providing lawyers for the arrested people. Last week internationally known author Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested for a peaceful protest and spent a night in police cells before being released on bail. Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC Alliance, says dozens of its officials have been arrested or have gone into hiding. If state agents do not find the person they want to arrest, they often vandalize their homes and harass their relatives, said opposition spokesman Tendai Biti. AP

Whatsapp Spyware Attack: Senior Clergymen in Togo among Activists Targeted
A prominent Catholic bishop and a priest in Togo have been told they were targeted by spyware made by the private surveillance firm NSO Group, in the first known case of its kind involving members of the clergy. A joint investigation by the Guardian and the French newspaper Le Monde can reveal that Bishop Benoît Alowonou and five other critics of Togo’s repressive government were alerted by WhatsApp last year that their mobile phones had been targeted with the spying technology. WhatsApp announced last year that 1,400 of its users were attacked with the malware, which is made by Israel’s NSO Group, over a two-week period last April. … Pro-democracy activists in Togo have separately alleged that their efforts to organise themselves have been hobbled by what they suspect to be surveillance by the Togolese authorities. The Guardian

Mali Opposition Plans More Protests to Demand President’s Ouster
Protesters in Mali are planning to go to the streets again this week as opponents continue to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Tensions are growing after the opposition in Mali rejected a plan by West African leaders to end the country’s political crisis. Streets were mostly quiet early Monday in Bamako, the capital, aside from a call from opposition activists for people to resume acts of civil disobedience and block the main roads to paralyze the country. Youth leaders within the so-called June 5 opposition Movement, known as M5-RFP, have asked their supporters to demonstrate peacefully to again demand President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s resignation. … Organizers say the protests have not fully resumed because a strategic meeting with senior leaders of the June 5 Movement is not scheduled until Tuesday – indicating to observers a diversity of opinions – or disagreements – within the movement. VOA

‘The Biggest Monster’ Is Spreading. and It’s Not the Coronavirus.
Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year. Lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease as well as H.I.V. and malaria. … The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs, according to interviews with more than two dozen public health officials, doctors and patients worldwide. … Malaria season has begun in West Africa, which has 90 percent of malaria deaths in the world, but the normal strategies for prevention – distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and spraying with pesticides – have been curtailed because of lockdowns. … Apprehensive about malaria’s rise in West Africa, the W.H.O. is now considering giving entire populations antimalarial drugs – a strategy of last resort used during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the Boko Haram insurgency. The New York Times

Suicide Bombing Attack on Mogadishu Restaurants Kills at Least Three
Media reports say a suicide bombing attack killed at least four people, including the bomber at a Mogadishu restaurant, which is popular with security forces and government workers. Several others were injured in Monday’s attack on the Lul Yamani restaurant, in the Somali capital. Police say the attacker detonated the explosives at the entrance to the restaurant after being stopped by a restaurant security guard. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Islamist al-Shabaab militant group is suspected of being involved because its history of targeting security forces. VOA

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia Return to Talks over Disputed Dam
Three key Nile basin countries on Monday resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said. The talks came a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia’s announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Both Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir without reaching a deal among the Nile basin countries. … Irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia took part in Monday’s talks, which were held online amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was also attended by officials from the African Union and South Africa, the current chairman of the regional block, said Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas. AP

Civilians Say Cameroon Government Undermines War against Boko Haram
There are growing concerns among Cameroonians that their government and military are undermining the war against Boko Haram terrorists in the northern part of the country. Civilians and experts have criticized authorities’ handling of the threat after a suspected Boko Haram militant attack on Sunday killed 17 people and wounded six others in a camp for displaced people.  Cameroon’s military rejects the criticism but admits that the Nigeria-based terrorist group is increasing the frequency of its attacks. Ousmanou Sani, head of the Nguetchewe village community near Cameroon’s northern town of Mozogo says they have been counting on community militias for protection from Boko Haram. The 62-year-old says the military presence in their locality has been reduced significantly and their porous border with Nigerian villages is no longer controlled regularly. VOA

Tanzania: Chadema Nominates Tundu Lissu to Battle President Magufuli in October Polls
Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema has nominated Tundu Lissu, who returned to the country last week from almost three years’ self-exile, as presidential candidate for 2020 polls. The Chadema vice-chairman nomination now awaits approval by the national delegates conference slated for next week Tuesday. The party’s deputy secretary-general Salum Mwalimu (from Zanzibar) has been proposed to be Mr Lissu’s running mate, while Said Issa Mohamed has been nominated as Chadema’s presidential candidate for the semi-autonomous island Zanzibar. Mr Lissu garnered 405 votes during the general council meeting on Monday attended by 453 of its 456 members. Central Zone chairman Lazaro Nyalandu and Mayrose Majinge got 36 and one vote respectively. Should the delegates’ conference endorse Mr Lissu he will challenge President John Magufuli in the October 28 general election. The Citizen

After a 55 Year Struggle, a Major Victory for Press Freedom in Sierra Leone
In most countries, libel or defamation is a civil rather than criminal offence. But in Sierra Leone, since 1965, libel has been punishable by a prison sentence. This law has been used to limit the freedoms of speech and expression in the country, and has provoked major discord between governments, journalists and human rights activists over the decades. But in a major victory for press freedom and freedom of expression, last month parliament repealed the infamous criminal libel law – making good a promise that President Maada Bio made on the campaign trail prior to his 2018 election. “The repeal of this law removed the chilling effect. Journalists have always been chilled or muzzled for the fear of going to jail if they picked up a story against a powerful politician,” said Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, the head of Society for Democratic Initiative, a civil society organisation who has been campaigning for the law to be overturned. Mail & Guardian

Trial of Algerian Journalist and Press Freedom Icon Khaled Drareni Opens in Algiers
The trial opened Monday of Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, who has become a figurehead of press freedom in the North African country, with the prosecution calling for a four-year prison term. The prosecutor at the Algiers court also called for Drareni’s two co-accused to be jailed for four years, as well as all three facing heavy fines and being stripped of their civic rights, judicial sources said. Drareni, 40, who ran the Casbah Tribune website and was a correspondent for French-language television channel TV5Monde, was arrested in March while covering an anti-government protest. He is accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and undermining the nation’s “territorial integrity,” charges he denies. The verdict is expected on Monday, August 10, according to lawyers and journalists on the spot. AFP

Coronavirus Numbers Drop in Egypt and Sudan; Libya, Tunisia and Algeria See Increases
Egypt is reopening churches for the first time in nearly four months, after a major decline in the number of recorded coronavirus cases in recent days. The number of new cases is also down in Sudan, while Libya, Tunisia and Algeria have been witnessing an increase. … Libya, however, is witnessing a rise in the number of new infections, according to Arab media. Libyan news channel 218TV reported that the Islamist militia-dominated port city of Misrata has been placed under curfew by authorities after six people died of COVID-19 over the weekend. Arab media reports say that mercenaries from outside Libya have been entering the country through Misrata. … Paul Sullivan, who is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, told VOA that he thinks the recent increase in the number of cases in Libya “is likely due in part to the movement of mercenaries into the country.” VOA

COVID-19 Strikes Gambian Government Officials
Three ministers in the Gambian government have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the government. The State House of the Gambia tweeted on Sunday that Finance Minister Mambureh Njie, Petroleum and Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang, and Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh all tested positive for the virus. The Gambian president, President Adama Barrow, announced last week he planned to self-isolate after Vice-President Asatru Touray tested positive for the virus. The Sunday tweet also reminded the public of “the compulsory wearing of face masks, temporary closure of non-essential public places and the prohibition of public and social gatherings.” The country’s air and land borders have been closed since March. Gambia, a country with a population of about two million people, has recorded 498 cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. VOA

‘Ghetto Presidents’: Musicians Risk All to Take on Authoritarian Rule in Africa
They call him the “ghetto president”, and his ambition is to bring the dreams and the sounds of the streets to the corridors of power. Bobi Wine, a popular reggae star and prominent opposition MP in Uganda, will release a new album next month that addresses what he calls “the real issues people are facing – the injustices, corruption, high taxation, misrule, abuse of human rights, dictatorship.” … The 38-year-old, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, hopes to end Yoweri Museveni’s 35-year rule in a presidential election scheduled for early next year. He is the most prominent but far from the only artist in Africa who aspires to swap the musical stage for a political one. From Senegal to Kenya to Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a new generation of artists is giving voice to the grievances and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people. The Guardian

Kenya on Course for $5 Billion Nuclear Plant to Power Industry
Kenya’s nuclear agency submitted impact studies for a $5 billion power plant, and said it’s on course to build and start operating the facility in about seven years. The government plans to expand its nuclear-power capacity fourfold by 2035, the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency said in a report on the National Environment Management Authority’s website. The document is set for public scrutiny before the environmental watchdog can approve it, and pave the way for the project to continue. President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to ramp up installed generation capacity from 2,712 megawatts as of April to boost manufacturing in East Africa’s largest economy. Kenya expects peak demand to top 22,000 megawatts by 2031, partly due to industrial expansion, a component in Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. The other three are improving farming, health care and housing. Bloomberg

Wildlife Forensics: How a Giant Pangolin Named Ghost Could Help Save the Species
A new research programme in Gabon is identifying the ‘isotopic fingerprint’ of the world’s most-trafficked mammal in the fight to beat smugglers. … After a two-week chase through Lopé-Okanda national park, a mosaic of rainforest and savannah in central Gabon, David Lehmann and his Wildlife Capture Unit were celebrating – they had caught a giant pangolin nicknamed Ghost, the biggest on record. The team – consisting of eco-guards, an indigenous tracker, a field biologist and a wildlife vet – hope that Ghost, who weighs 38kg and measures 1.72m from nose to tail, will give valuable insights in their fight against poaching. … “Gabon is seeing the commercial poaching of pangolins,” says [Professor Lee] White. “The demand from China and the enormous profit margins are attracting organised crime.” International syndicates smuggling ivory, minerals, gold and diamonds at the border with Cameroon have expanded the scope of their business, he says. The Guardian

Africa’s Comic Artists Tell Powerful Stories in Unique Online Exhibition
The work of 16 comic artists from seven African nations is showcased in an online-only exhibition, Afropolitan Comics. The French initiative, which germinated in South Africa, aims to show “what African can do,” the curators say. Afropolitan Comics is part of the Africa 2020 project and regroups comic authors from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Algeria. ‘Afropolitan’ is an amalgam of the words ‘Africa’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ in a reminder of the modernity and diversity  that exists across the African continent. “We wanted to break away from the clichés and stereotypes about Africans. Also, comic authors in Africa do not just work on biographies or make fun of politicians,” says Joëlle Epée Mandengue, one of the four curators of the exhibition. The online event is free to access and will be available, with Africa 2020, until July 2021. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones