Africa Media Review for December 11, 2020

Uganda: Journalists Targeted as Government Revokes Foreign Press Passes before Elections
In a move a little over a month before the presidential election, Uganda has revoked the media accreditations of all foreign journalists, including those already registered to cover the 14 January polls, according to the government-run Media Council of Uganda on Thursday. … For Ugandan journalists who registered many years ago with the Media Council, this new regulation will make it complicated for the majority of the journalists, whether they are Ugandan or foreign correspondents. “The timing is very suspicious, both in terms of when it has been announced, and how much time has been given for conformity,” Daniel Kalinaki, a journalist working with the Nation Media Group as general manager in Uganda tells RFI. … The new accreditation would apply to journalists and media houses and required for 2021, which includes the coverage of the end of election campaigning. RFI

DR Congo Parliament Ousts Pro-Kabila Speaker, Confirming Power Shift
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s lower house of Parliament voted on Thursday to remove its speaker, handing President Felix Tshisekedi a major victory in his power struggle with predecessor Joseph Kabila. The vote was a show of strength by Tshisekedi’s allies, who might have enough support to form a new majority in DR Congo’s parliament and bring down the prime minister’s government, which is dominated by Kabila loyalists. … Tshisekedi was a longtime opponent of Kabila, who governed from 2001 to January 2019. He won office by defeating Kabila’s chosen successor in the 2018 election… But Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) won parliamentary majorities in the same election with over 60% of the seats, forcing Tshisekedi to enter into a coalition with it. The awkward arrangement has frustrated Tshisekedi as he tries to pursue an agenda that includes addressing armed violence in the mineral-rich east, reforming the judiciary and securing financial support from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Reuters

Aid Groups Say Staffers Killed in Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict
International aid groups said Friday that at least four staff members have been killed in the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, while Ethiopia and a frustrated United Nations aired differing views on a growing humanitarian crisis as food and other supplies run out for millions of people. The Danish Refugee Council said its three staffers killed last month had worked as guards at a project site. “Sadly, due to the lack of communications and ongoing insecurity in the region, it has not yet been possible to reach their families,” it said. Separately, the International Rescue Committee said it was still working to confirm the events “that led to the death of our colleague” in the Hitsats refugee camp in Shire. The Tigray region remains largely sealed off from the outside world as worried humanitarian organizations warn of growing hunger, attacks on refugees and dwindling medicine and other supplies… AP

Ethiopia: A Glimpse into the Future of Government Propaganda
Ethiopia is the latest government to hijack the business of fact checking, imitating the work of independent media and repurposing it for government propaganda while in the middle of a conflict. One example: On 20 November, more than two weeks after the conflict in Ethiopia began, the African Union chair announced a three-person special envoy who would travel to Ethiopia to mediate, and thanked Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for accepting the initiative. The following morning, government social media accounts and state-owned broadcasters came out swinging, calling the mediation “fake news.” The first account to deny the mediation plans was the newly created government account, the Ethiopia State of Emergency (SOE) Fact Check, which has more than 14 000 followers on Twitter and some 160 000 “likes” and “follows” on Facebook. The government’s “fact-checking” claims, particularly pertaining to the military operation in Tigray, are troubling because the internet shutdown in the region makes it difficult to independently verify information about the conflict. Mail & Guardian

Election Observers Urge Trust in Ghana Poll Result
A group of election observers on Thursday urged Ghanaians to trust the outcome of a presidential ballot lashed as “spurious” by the country’s opposition. President Nana Akufo-Addo, 76, won a second term with 51.59 percent of the vote, beating longtime rival John Mahama, 62, who garnered 47.36 percent, according to official results announced on Wednesday. “The results declared by the electoral commission reflect how Ghanaians voted in the presidential election polls,” Sheikh Arimiyawo Shaibu, from a coalition of election observers called CODEO, told a press conference in Accra. The respected Ghanaian organisation urged the public to remain calm and for any disputes to be settled through legal channels. The vote for the presidency took place on Monday at the same time as balloting for the 275-seat legislature. … CODEO, set up by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) think tank, is drawn from civil society groups, faith organisation and professional bodies. It has been widely praised for non-partisan monitoring of elections. AFP

Cameroon’s Habit of Arbitrary Detention and Arrest
German engineer Wilfried Siewe is now a free man after being held in a Cameroon prison for nearly two years. “I am very very happy to see the family again,” said Siewe, referring to his wife and two children at a virtual press conference held on Thursday. “It was a tough time during which I really couldn’t tell when it was going to end or how.” “I just need some time to sort myself out and live a normal life again.” Siewe, who was born in Cameroon, was released from Yaounde Central Prison on Saturday and returned to his home in southern Germany earlier this week. He was arrested in Cameroon in January 2019 on the last day of a family vacation after police saw him snapping photos of a justice building in the capital, Yaounde. When officers searched his mobile phone, they found a WhatsApp video of a protest against the government of President Paul Biya that was held in Germany’s capital Berlin. Some sources report that Siewe also had books in his possession by Cameroon opposition figures. Siewe was detained on suspicion of being a threat to state security. DW

Executed Nigerian Farmers Were Caught between Boko Haram and the Army
For years, the farmers had an agreement with Boko Haram militants: They could tend their fields in peace, as long as they did not report the fighters’ presence to the Nigerian Army. But just over a week ago, that deal was broken. The Islamist group killed more than 70 farmers from Zabarmari, a village in northeastern Nigeria, residents say. The militants accused the farmers of betraying them. “Everything is shattered now,” said Ibrahim Abubakar, 36. Four of his friends were beheaded, he said. People in rural areas of northeast Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, have largely been left at the mercy of Boko Haram by a government whose security forces have mainly retreated from the countryside to protected garrison towns. … In Zabarmari, villagers struggle to eke out a living through subsistence farming and fishing. “We are accused of being collaborators by both the security operatives and the insurgents, when all we did was” look for peace, said Garbati Sani, a village elder. “What do we do to stay safe?” The New York Times

Nigeria Warned of Possible New COVID-19 Wave, Authorities Eye Vaccine in Early 2021
Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the health minister warned on Thursday, as another official said the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year. Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a news conference in the capital Abuja, said 1,843 cases were recorded last week compared with 1,235 two weeks before that. “We may just be on the verge of a second wave of this pandemic,” he said. His comments came a day after South Africa said it had officially entered a second wave. Ehanire, in a weekly briefing by Nigeria’s COVID-19 task force, said the rise in cases was mostly driven by an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, by travellers entering Nigeria. He said he had ordered the reopening of all isolation and treatment centres that had been closed due to falling patient numbers. Nigeria, with a population of around 200 million people, has had 70,669 confirmed cases which resulted in 1,184 deaths as of Thursday. Reuters

How Nigeria Defied Dire Predictions in the Battle against COVID
On the 28th of February, the Federal Minister of Health made the announcement: Nigeria’s battle with the coronavirus had begun. “It was inevitable,” Dr. Femi Adewuyi, who volunteered as a medical officer at the Mainland Hospital, tells VICE World News. “We knew it would eventually get to Nigeria, irrespective of how hard we tried.” Prior to the index case in Nigeria, thousands of people across about 50 countries (including two African countries – Egypt and Algeria) had already been infected. The World Health Organisation had by then declared it a global health emergency. As soon as the first case was confirmed, all the required national agencies and institutions involved sprang into action. … A team of epidemiologists began tracing the Nigerians who might have been in contact with the infected Italian man to ensure that they were isolated and quarantined. Strict screening measures, documentation, temperature checks, and disinfection were also heightened at points of entry into the country. VICE

Kenya to Compensate Rape Victims from Violence 13 Years Ago
A Kenyan high court on Thursday ordered the government to compensate four victims of sexual attacks by security agents during post-election violence 13 years ago. Rights activist say the judgment sets a precedent and clears the way for hundreds, possibly thousands, of other victims to seek redress. Eight victims of sexual violence — six women and two men — had sued the government for neglect on behalf of thousands of sex abuse victims during the post-election violence after a flawed presidential election in Dec 27, 2007. Their cases were backed by several rights groups. Justice Weldon Korir awarded four of the eight victims $36,000 compensation Thursday after he found their rights to life and security — as well as prohibitions against torture, inhuman and degrading treatment — were violated as a result of government failure to act. … Human rights groups involved in the case hailed it as a landmark ruling. AP

Activists Sound Alarm over African Biometric ID Projects
In January this year, Kenya’s High Court halted the roll-out of the country’s controversial biometric ID, the Huduma Namba, citing the lack of a regulatory framework to protect the privacy of citizens. Once distribution is complete before the end of 2021, Kenyans will need the ID – which holds their fingerprints, contact details and occupational information – to access government services. When asked in 2019 why the government was pursuing the project, Kenya’s Information and Communication Technology Principal Secretary, Jerome Ochieng, responded, “Data is the new oil.” According to the World Bank, Africa is home to roughly half of the estimated one billion people in the world who are unable to prove their identities. To help remedy that, the World Bank has mobilised more than $1.2bn to support ID projects in 45 countries. Nearly every African country with a stable government now has active biometric ID programmes in place or under way, according to ID4Africa, with South Africa and Nigeria’s biometric IDs among the most developed. Al Jazeera

US Kills 8 Al-Shabab Fighters in 2 Airstrikes Amid Troop Reduction in Somalia
The U.S. military killed eight al-Shabab fighters and wounded two others in airstrikes Thursday in Somalia, Lt. Cmdr. Christina Gibson, U.S. Africa Command spokeswoman, told VOA. “We will continue to apply pressure to the al-Shabab network. They continue to undermine Somali security, and need to be contained and degraded,” Africa Command (AFRICOM) head Gen. Stephen Townsend added in a statement announcing the strikes. The AFRICOM statement said two strikes in the vicinity of Jilib targeted terrorists “who were known to play important roles in producing explosives for al-Shabab, to include vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.” … “Al-Shabab remains a dangerous franchise of al-Qaida,” said Townsend in the announcement Thursday. “This mission illustrates our continuing commitment to eradicating this threat and supporting our Somali partners in the region. We’re repositioning, but we will maintain the ability to strike this enemy.” VOA

Disputed Western Sahara Is in Spotlight after US Decision
Western Sahara stretches along Africa’s Atlantic coast south of the Moroccan resort city of Agadir, and borders Algeria and Mauritania. Roughly the size of Colorado, it has a population of about 600,000 people according to the U.N. Its main resources are fish and phosphates and it is believed to have off-shore oil reserves. The area was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and Morocco annexed it in 1975. The pro-independence Polisario Front, representing the local Sahrawi population and backed by Algeria, fought Moroccan forces for years for control of the territory. Some countries recognize Western Sahara as independent, some others support Morocco’s claims on the land, while others back a long-running U.N. effort to seek a negotiated solution. … The territory is home to one of the U.N.’s longest running peace-keeping forces, in place since 1991 to monitor a cease-fire and help prepare for a referendum on the territory’s future — which has never taken place. AP

ICC Urges Sudan to Give Investigators Access to Darfur
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor urged Sudan’s government on Thursday to match its commitment to justice in Darfur with action, starting with unimpeded access for the tribunal’s investigators to witnesses, crime scenes and other evidence in the country’s vast western region. Fatou Bensouda said in a virtual briefing to the U.N. Security Council that she didn’t doubt “the sincerity” of high-level officials from Sudan’s transitional government, but stressed that “access to Darfur is what the victims expect, and it is what Sudan, with the support of this council, must facilitate.” … Bensouda said her office has not received any confirmation from Sudanese authorities on what actions they intend to take on the ICC suspects in their custody. She appealed to the council, and through it to government authorities, to intensify talks with her office “in relation to these outstanding warrants.” AP

Italy Charges Egyptian Security Agency Officials over Murder of Giulio Regeni
Prosecutors in Italy have charged four members of Egypt’s national security agency over the kidnapping and murder of the Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni in Cairo. Tariq Saber, Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, Capt Uhsam Helmi and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif are accused of kidnapping the young student in 2016, and Sharif is also accused of grievous bodily harm and murder. The prosecutors said charges had been dropped against a fifth security official, Mahmoud Najem, who was previously named as a suspect in Regeni’s disappearance. Regeni’s body was found on the side of a highway on the outskirts of Cairo in February 2016, bearing signs of torture believed to be the work of Egypt’s security forces. … The move to charge the suspects represents a rare moment of accountability for the Egyptian security state and its use of harsh practices. The Guardian

Illicit Financial Flows Threaten Security and Stability in Africa: UN Deputy Chief
At a time when Africa is mobilizing resources for pandemic recovery and sustainable development, illicit financial flows (IFFs) are robbing the continent of $50 billion annually, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a high-level virtual meeting on Thursday held under the African Union’s (AU) ‘Silencing the Guns’ initiative. These “staggering losses” would be enough to bridge nearly 75 per cent of Africa’s health financing gap, provide inclusive education for all children there, and fund infrastructure projects, she added. “These flows pose a threat to stability and security in African countries, undermine institutions and democracy, and jeopardize sustainable development and the rule of law,” said Ms. Mohammed. “Women and girls are particularly exposed to criminal activities and conflicts driven by IFFs as they are subject to trafficking and sexual violence which are used as weapons of war,” she added. UN News



Photo: Adam Jones