Africa Media Review for December 29, 2020

South Africa Imposes Strict New Rules as It Surpasses 1 Million COVID-19 Cases

In an emotional address Monday night, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reintroduced bans on public gatherings and alcohol sales, made mask-wearing required in public and lengthened a curfew as a second wave of coronavirus cases sweeps Africa’s worst-hit country at “an alarming and unprecedented rate.” Earlier this month, South African scientists discovered a new variant of the coronavirus, similar to one found in Britain. Ramaphosa said it was “well established” throughout the country at this point. Testing positivity rates have soared above 30 percent nationwide, up from just 5 percent two weeks ago. … On Sunday, South Africa passed 1 million coronavirus cases. More than 50,000 cases have been recorded since Christmas Eve — just under one case per 1,000 people nationwide. “I beg you all” to follow the new measures, Ramaphosa said toward the end of his address, with tears in his eyes. He also asked South Africans to join him in lighting a candle at midnight on New Year’s Eve in remembrance of the more than 26,000 who have died of covid-19. The Washington Post

Burkina Faso President Says Security Priority after Swearing-In

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has promised to make security his priority after he took the helm of the troubled Sahel country for a second term. “I intend to win the wager of providing security and stability for our country and ensure displaced people return to their homes,” the 63-year-old said after taking the oath of office at a sports stadium in the capital Ouagadougou before 10 African heads of state and 1,200 guests. Kabore acknowledged the scale of damage wrought by armed groups, who extended their campaign from neighbouring Mali in 2015. At least 1,200 people have been killed and a million of Burkina Faso’s population of 20.5 million have fled their homes. Swathes of the country are out of the government’s control. “These last five years, our country has been targeted by armed terrorist groups, whose actions have disrupted our search for development, our social unity and our communal life,” Kabore said. He vowed to launch a “broad consultation” in the coming months over “setting down ways towards national conciliation.” AFP

Explosive Kills 3 French Army Soldiers on Mission in Mali

The French presidency said three French soldiers were killed Monday in Mali when an improvised explosive device hit their armored vehicle. The soldiers were participating in a military operation in the Hombori area of Mali’s central Mopti province, part of a larger mission aiming at fighting Islamist extremists in Africa’s Sahel region, the French presidency said in a statement. Defense Minister Florence Parly said the soldiers were working “in an area where terrorist groups are attacking civilians and threatening the regional stability.” Parly said they were involved in a mission aiming at helping Mali to gradually be able to ensure its own security. The defense minister did not provide further details. AP

Mali Investigates ‘Violations of State Security’

Authorities in Mali say they have opened an inquiry into the violation of state security, a move that came after half a dozen prominent figures were detained for questioning earlier this month. The country, which underwent a coup in August, is in the hands of a transitional government scheduled to oversee a return to civilian rule within 18 months. The public prosecutor in the capital Bamako said a “preliminary inquiry” had been launched by judicial investigators “following a report by the security services relating to violations of state security.” … Six people were detained on December 21, including Aguibou Tall, who is the half-brother of former Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, and the secretary of the president’s office, Sekou Traore, according to security sources. Another well-known figure is campaigner and radio presenter Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, who is popular among young Malians. AFP

Ugandan Journalists Protest Security Brutality

Journalists in Kampala Monday walked out of a news conference after a top military officer refused to apologize for injuries meted on journalists covering the campaign trail Sunday. Instead, the police deployed heavily with officers saying they were scared journalists were going to harm them. On Sunday night, journalists received a text message inviting them to a press conference to be addressed by the chief of defense forces, General David Muhoozi, on Monday morning at Kampala’s Media Center. However, upon arrival, journalists who had come in large numbers were addressed instead by the political commissar for the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, Brigadier General Henry Matsiko. After speaking about the upcoming 40th anniversary of the UPDF, Matsiko was asked why journalists are being targeted. Three journalists, including Ali Mivule of NTV Uganda and Ashraf Kasirye of Ghetto TV were hit with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets by security forces on Sunday in the Masaka district. VOA

Reuters Cameraman ‘Arrested, Held without Charge’ in Ethiopia

Ethiopian police have arrested a Reuters cameraman at his home in Addis Ababa last week and have kept him in custody without charge, the international news agency said while condemning the arrest that came two weeks after the beating of its photographer by Ethiopian police. Kumerra Gemechu, 40, was handcuffed and taken away in front of his family last Thursday by 10 armed federal police officers who did not give a reason for his arrest, Reuters said in a statement on Monday. “Kumerra is part of a Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia in a fair, independent and unbiased way. Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality, and we are aware of no basis for his detention,” Stephen Adler, editor in chief of the news agency, said in the statement. … Kumerra’s arrest follows government pressure on some journalists working for international news outlets who have covered the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where government forces have been battling the former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Al Jazeera

25,000 Refugees in Unsettled Tigray Region Receive Urgent UN Food Supplies

Some 25,000 Eritrean refugees, sheltering in two camps in the unsettled Tigray region of Ethiopia, have received desperately needed food aid for the first time since mid-October. “Families, women, men, children — even new-borns — have been cut off from supplies and essential services for many weeks, so this distribution was urgently needed,” said Ann Encontre, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative in Ethiopia. In coordination with federal Ethiopian authorities, a convoy of 18 trucks delivered nearly 250 metric tons of corn soya blend, grains, pulses and vegetable oil to local humanitarian partners for distribution to 13,000 Eritrean refugees in Mai Ayni camp. Another nearly 240 metric tons of food were delivered to Adi Harush refugee camp to support 12,170 refugees there. The supplies were distributed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR, and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). Some 96,000 Eritrean refugees registered in four camps in the Tigray region, are dependent on WFP food assistance for survival. UN News

Violence Closed 800 Polling Stations in Central African Republic

More than 14% of polling stations in the Central African Republic failed to operate during Sunday’s presidential and legislative election due to armed rebels who attacked voters and barred electoral staff, the electoral commission said on Monday. Around 800 out of a total 5,408 polling stations nationwide did not open, Theophile Momokouama, an executive of the electoral authority, told a news conference in Bangui. “There were localities where voters were brutalized, threatened with death. The electoral staff were forbidden to deploy on the ground,” Momokouama said. The diamond- and gold-rich nation of 4.7 million has struggled to stabilise due to a successive waves of militia violence since 2013 that have killed thousands and forced more than a million from their homes. … Security forces, helped by more than 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers, and reinforcement from partners Russia and Rwanda, managed to fend off attacks in the capital and some towns, but rebels were able to stop the vote in some areas of a sparsely populated country larger than France. Reuters

Somalia Facing Delayed Elections as Poll Agency, Leaders Disagree

Somalia may be headed for delayed polls following an acrimonious squabble between the federal government and opposition contenders for the presidency. Such a delay, which now looks likely, could be a repeat of the 2011 polls which were delayed as the country shifted from a transitional government to a federal government, and which forced the then Prime Minister Mohamed Farmaajo out of power in the infamous Kampala Accord. The Federal Indirect Election Commission (FIEC), whose composition is disputed by opposition candidates, on Wednesday announced new dates for Senate elections. The FIEC said the Upper House elections will be held between December 31 and January 6, delaying the polls by three weeks. The new schedule requires regional presidents to announce list of candidates by December 29. The elephant in the room, however, is that the membership of the Commission remains a point of disagreement and some 14 opposition presidential candidates have said they won’t take part in a process officiated by the current Commission. The EastAfrican

Africa Pilots Anti-Illicit Financial Flows Project

Africa has been selected to pilot a United Nations-funded project to reduce illicit financial flows. The pilot by the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) support the project, which is aimed at helping the region achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the next decade. UNCTAD and UNODC said the framework, adopted this week, was arrived at through collaborations with international organisations and national tax, Customs and statistics experts. The framework identifies four main types of activities that can generate IFFs — illicit tax and commercial activities, illegal markets, corruption and financing of crime and terrorism. The measures will also be extended to Asia and the Pacific from next year, as part of a global war against IFFs to promote peace, justice and strong institutions, as reflected in target 16.4 of the SDGs. According to UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2020, stopping illicit capital flight would cut in half the annual financing gap of $200 billion with an estimated $88.6 billion reported to leave the continent illegally. The EastAfrican

2020 Was the Year Young People across Africa Demanded Change

Across the continent, several movements sprung up or became electrified, calling for an end to gender-based violence, police brutality and the impunity of elected government officials. Young people filled the streets, most of them for the first time in their lives, questioning the status quo and envisioning a world currently better than the one they live in. This will be remembered as the year Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement progressed from a tiny online agitation to a full-blown movement demanding an end to the violent excesses of the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). … Violence against opposition politicians has been another unwelcome feature in Africa this year. In Uganda, security forces arrested prominent opposition politicians running against the long-serving president, Yoweri Museveni, in next month’s presidential election. … Tanzania’s elections in October was marked by arrests and deaths in opposition strongholds like Zanzibar. President John Magufuli won a second term. The common theme running through most of the political and social movements in Africa is that young people are overwhelmingly involved in organising, often on the internet, and translating online concerns into real-life marches. VICE