Africa Media Review for December 30, 2020

UN Rights Experts Urge Uganda to Halt Pre-Election Violence, Arrests
United Nations human rights experts called on Uganda on Tuesday to rein in violent security forces and drop charges against political opponents and activists arrested in what the experts termed an election clampdown. Pop star Bobi Wine has emerged as the strongest challenger to President Yoweri Museveni in the presidential election scheduled for Jan. 14. On Sunday Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said one of his bodyguards was killed when military police ran him over while Wine’s convoy was taking a wounded journalist to seek medical help. Military police said the bodyguard had fallen from a speeding car. “We are gravely concerned by the election-related violence, the excessive use of force by security personnel, as well as the increasing crackdown on peaceful protesters, political and civil society leaders and human rights defenders,” the U.N. experts said in a statement. Reuters

Mozambique Insurgents Stage Closest Attack Yet to Total LNG Site
Mozambican forces clashed with suspected Islamist insurgents who staged their closest attack yet to a Total SE liquefied natural gas project since Islamic State began claiming responsibility for violence in the region last year, according to three people familiar with the matter. The assault began in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the town of Monjane, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the perimeter fence of Total’s $20 billion project, according to the people who didn’t want to be named because they’re not authorized to talk to the press. The development is Africa’s biggest private investment. Total is closely monitoring the situation in the area, and remains in constant contact with the government about it, the company said in an emailed response to questions. Mozambique last week said its security forces repelled an attack by insurgents on the town of Mute about 21 kilometers south of the project. It was the second raid on the town in the northern Cabo Delgado province this month. Bloomberg

Sudanese Bury Man Apparently Tortured during Detention
Thousands of Sudanese on Tuesday attended the funeral service of a man who was apparently tortured to death this month at a detention center run by a paramilitary force whose members once belonged to a militia that rights groups say committed war crimes in Darfur. Bahaa el-Din Nouri, 45, was snatched Dec. 16 while sitting at a coffee shop in Khartoum by men wearing plain clothes and riding in a vehicle without license plates. His death sparked outrage across Sudan. Five days later, his body appeared at a hospital morgue in the city of Omdurman, just across the Blue Nile River from Khartoum. The family refused to take the body for immediate burial after seeing signs of apparent beating and torture, and asked for an autopsy to reveal the cause of death. Culture and Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh said Nouri died while being while being interrogated by the Rapid Support Forces, a force comprised of former Janjaweed militiamen who executed a brutal crackdown in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2000s. AP

Boko Haram Landmines Kill 11 Nigerian Security Personnel
Landmines planted by Boko Haram jihadists have killed 11 security personnel, including four soldiers in northeast Nigeria, security sources said Tuesday. Seven hunters recruited to help the military fight the Islamist insurgents were killed on Tuesday when their vehicle hit a landmine in the village of Kayamla, outside Borno State’s capital Maiduguri. “Seven hunters died in the explosion and nine others are badly injured,” Babakura Kolo, the head of a local anti-jihadist militia, told AFP. “Their vehicle hit a landmine as they were pursuing Boko Haram insurgents,” he added. Another local militiaman confirmed the incident. Four Nigerian soldiers were killed on Monday when their vehicle hit a landmine planted by Boko Haram fighters in Logomani village near the border with Cameroon, two security sources told AFP. There has been a sharp increase in attacks in northeast Nigeria since the start of the month. AFP

Nigeria Warns on Oxygen Supplies, Dysfunctional Labs in Tackling COVID
Nigeria faces oxygen supply challenges to treat coronavirus patients in parts of the country and unacceptable laboratory delays as case numbers rose to the highest recorded in a single week, health authorities said on Tuesday. The new warnings from Nigerian officials come as the resurgent virus strikes across much of the world, bringing greater case loads and hospitalisations. “There is an on-going review of the chain for the supply of medical oxygen for our medical facilities across the nation,” said Boss Mustapha, chairman of Nigeria’s coronavirus task force, naming the capital of Abuja as an area of concern. Labs’ “inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results,” he added, calling on Nigeria’s state governments to reopen all laboratories, ensure prompt testing and keep open treatment centres. “This is not helping our national response.” Reuters

‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ Sees Egypt Roll Out Chinese Coronavirus Jab
When Egypt’s health ministry sent out an invitation to doctors to be vaccinated against Covid-19, they neglected to make clear it was a clinical trial. Instead, it assured them that two Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s National Biotec Group, part of a state-owned conglomerate known as Sinopharm, had no side-effects and that “the minister of health was vaccinated today, and orders were issued to vaccinate all doctors and workers who wish to be vaccinated.” Many were sceptical. “When my colleagues and I got that message, none of us participated, as we cannot trust it,” said one worker at a state hospital, who said there was a “lack of credibility” in the government’s approach to the pandemic and the vaccines. The doctor, who cannot be named to protect their safety, described Egypt’s extensive publicity campaign around the vaccines, featuring a well-known actor driving to a sunlit clinic to get his jab, as “government propaganda intended to boost people’s morale.” The Guardian

Algeria’s President Returns from COVID Care to Fresh Challenges
Algeria’s president returned from two months abroad receiving treatment for Covid-19 to a country facing a simmering crisis at its western border and more economic uncertainty. Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrived back in the North African nation late Tuesday, state TV reported, seemingly ending a prolonged absence that had stoked speculation over both his condition and the future political direction of Algeria, which was roiled by protests for much of 2019. … Now, the veteran political insider who won an election last December that many boycotted, has two days to sign the 2021 budget bill into law and must soon approve constitutional amendments that were backed in a recent referendum. A possible escalation in the dispute over Western Sahara, a territory that lies to Algeria’s southwest and which Morocco claims sovereignty over, also looms. The OPEC member state is also grappling with deepening economic troubles, sparked by a decline in oil and gas revenue that threatens further tumult. Bloomberg

Algeria Seizes Nearly $100 000 Militants’ Ransom Cash
Algeria’s army has retrieved a “slice of the ransom” cash paid out to free hostages held by “terrorist groups” in the troubled Sahel region, the defence ministry has said. Soldiers “recovered the sum of €80 000” ($97 900) during an operation in Algeria’s north-eastern Jijel province, a statement issued late on Monday said. Algerian authorities use the term “terrorist” to describe armed Islamists who have been active in the country since the early 1990s, including members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The defence ministry said the cash was an “instalment of the ransom” paid out in a controversial October agreement, where neighbouring Mali released some 200 prisoners including militant leaders to secure the release of four hostages, including French aid worker Sophie Petronin. AFP

Ghana Opposition to Challenge Presidential Election Loss
Ghana’s main opposition party said on Tuesday it would formally challenge the outcome of a presidential election won last month by incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo, a rare move in a country where losing candidates typically concede defeat. Akufo-Addo was declared the winner of the Dec. 7 vote with 51.59%, ahead of the opposition National Democratic Party’s (NDC) candidate, former President John Mahama, who received 47.37%. The contest witnessed heated rhetoric during campaigning and election-related violence that killed at least five people, a rarity in a country that has a reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. … The NDC, which has yet to produce evidence of fraud, provided no details about the case it would file. The court has 42 working days from when hearings begin to issue its decision. Only one other Ghanaian presidential election, in 2012, was formally contested by the losing candidate. The court rejected Akufo-Addo’s challenge to then-incumbent Mahama’s victory in a case that dragged on for eight months. Reuters

Arrest of Cameraman in Ethiopia Signals Wider Crackdown
The arrest of a cameraman working for the news agency Reuters in the Ethiopian capital last week shows how press freedom has eroded in a country now engaged in a war with one of its own states, according to an international media watchdog group. Kumerra Gemechu, 38, was arrested at home in Addis Ababa, the capital, as his 10-year-old daughter clung to him screaming, said Hawi Desalegn, his wife. He was not charged, but will be held in detention for at least two weeks, according to his family. Ethiopia has long been known for repression of independent media. But there were hopes that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — who came to power in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize last year — would usher in an era of greater freedom and democracy. Recently, however, his government has used the judicial system to intimidate the press, said the Committee to Protect Journalists, the media watchdog group. The New York Times

2020 Was a Hazardous Year for African Journalists Marked by Killings, Harassment, Arrests, Covid
The year 2020 has proven to be a dangerous year for African journalists, some of whom were killed on assignment while others were killed in custody. Others were harassed while working, arrested while working, or stricken by Covid-19. The month of December was especially dangerous. … The Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab continues to carry out attacks against civilians, and in 2020 it targeted two television journalists. Universal TV’s Abdulwali “Online” Ali Hassan, was gunned down in February, and Kalsan TV’s Said Yusuf Ali, was stabbed to death in May, according to CPJ. And while security services and police have had a hand in harassing journalists, the Covid-19 pandemic took an Egyptian journalist after he was arrested for participating in an Al-Jazeera TV network broadcast. Mohamed Monir was arrested and tested positive for coronavirus before he was released, shortly before his death. It is alleged that he caught the deadly virus in prison. RFI

In 2020, Protests Spread across the Globe with a Similar Message: Black Lives Matter
“There is a George Floyd in every country,” South Africa-based journalist Lynsey Chutel tells NPR’s David Greene during a recent roundtable interview. … In South Africa, demonstrators came together following the police killing of 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies, a boy of mixed heritage with Down syndrome. Julies was shot and killed in August by police near his home in a neighborhood of Soweto allegedly for being outside his home during a pandemic lockdown. Chutel says that in the days after young people marched to the police station out of a sense of “deep frustration with this police station and the police force in general who are able to behave with impunity.” “If you have a police system that was used as the foot soldiers of the apartheid regime, where even though now the police are Black and the communities are Black, the culture of policing it still very much that authoritarian, militarized policing system,” says Chutel. NPR

‘A Critical Time’: How COVID-19 Piled the Pressure on Conservation Efforts
From the Nepalese Himalayas where tigers patrol the snowy peaks to the lush forest homes of mountain gorillas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, national parks emptied as Covid-19 spread around the world in 2020. Billions of pounds of ecotourism revenue – crucial to the livelihoods of many communities that live alongside biodiverse areas – dried up as people were locked down. Some parts of Latin America, Asia and Africa recorded spikes in poaching and human-wildlife conflict amid mass redundancies of park rangers and reduced enforcement capabilities. Conservation International warned: “There is a misperception that nature is ‘getting a break’ from humans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, many rural areas in the tropics are facing increased pressure from land grabbing, deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife poaching.” NGOs and scientists say the big picture is still unclear as many population surveys and monitoring programmes could not go ahead due to the pandemic. The Guardian

Judo for Peace in the Central African Republic
Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, is a city divided, clear lines between Muslim and Christian neighbourhoods. The country itself is hostage to the violence of fourteen armed groups competing for control of the territory and its resources since conflict spread through it at the end of 2012 with a rebellion by the Seleka coalition. The armed conflict has caused thousands of deaths and forces two-thirds of the population to flee, within the borders of the state or in neighbouring countries. In the midst of this instability and fear, one man is betting on peace. Anatole Yenguete, 28, lives in the Fatima neighbourhood, the sixth arrondissement of Bangui. In his judo gym, he welcomes young athletes of all faiths: “We train together and on the mat, every difference disappears. Here, inside the gym, we come back to being individuals, athletes and human beings. We stand together by the love for this sport and the ambition to win some medals in international competitions.” Al Jazeera

Top African Songs of 2020 – Part 1
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hampered the work of most artists. The cancellation of shows and restriction of movement and social gatherings caused a major reduction in artists’ income, which for most comes from live performances. Despite this, African artists released some incredible music during the course of the year. This was a time to hunker down, get creative and learn more about the digital tools at their disposal. Difficult times have always shown that humans can rise above the challenges and come out stronger ­­– and the COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how resilient creatives can be. As always, Music In Africa has curated a two-part playlist divided into Africa’s five geographic regions with the help of our regional editors. The selected songs represent some of the best and most successful music releases that the continent saw in 2020. This quintessential playlist, perfect for your New Year’s Eve celebrations, is in no particular order and features some of Africa’s biggest rising stars. Enjoy! Music in Africa



Photo: Adam Jones