Africa Media Review for December 7, 2020

Ghana Votes for President to Keep Reputation for Stability
Voters lined up early in Ghana to cast their ballots in presidential and legislative elections likely to test the West African nation’s credentials as one of the most politically stable countries on the continent. There are 12 presidential candidates, including three women, with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 76, of the New Patriotic Party and former president John Dramani Mahama, 62, of the National Democratic Congress forecast as the frontrunners. The two have faced off twice before. Mahama won the 2012 elections, but lost in 2016 to Akufo-Addo. If either of the two heavyweights win, they’ll serve a second and final term under current constitutional limits. Any candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a second round. Ghana has held peaceful, free, fair, and transparent elections for nearly two decades — this will be the eighth consecutive election since the country’s return to multi-party democracy in 1992. AP

Military Officer Elected Head of Mali’s Interim Legislature
Mali’s interim legislature on Saturday elected Colonel Malick Diaw, a member of the military junta that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August, as its president. The 121-seat body known as the National Transition Council was meeting for its inaugural session in the capital Bamako, and is a key part of the post-coup interim government apparatus in Mali. Young army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests. Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections. Figures with army links dominate this interim government, however, and anger over their prominent role is growing. … Diaw was second in command of the military junta that took power after Keita’s ouster. The junta has never formally been dissolved. AFP

Amidst Positive Steps, Challenges in Africa ‘Loom Large,’ UN Chief Tells Security Council
The United Nations-African Union (AU) partnership has yielded “significant results,” including at the country level, the UN chief told the Security Council on Friday. Addressing a debate on cooperation between the two international organizations, Secretary-General António Guterres credited UN political missions and peacekeeping operations in supporting an array of activities, from a ceasefire agreement in Libya to an AU Military Observer Mission in the Central African Republic; and a truce in South Sudan that has generated “cautious optimism” across the country. … Despite these positive steps, “challenges loom large”, the UN chief stated, citing new conflicts, a raging climate emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic, which is “exacerbating fragilities.” Moreover, trust – which “underscores the importance of good governance and respect for human rights” and is “crucial to peace and security” – is being eroded. Against the backdrop of growing restrictions in civic space and increasing threats to minorities around the world, he underlined that “dealing with the pandemic must not take attention away from maintaining peace and security.” UN News

‘Silencing the Guns’: African Union to Extend Deadline for Peace on Continent by Another 10 Years
African Union (AU) member states look set to extend their year-end deadline for peace on the continent by another decade, when leaders gather via Zoom this weekend for back-to-back summits hosted by AU chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa. … The preceding summit on Saturday laid the legal basis for the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area on New Year’s Day. The summits were originally planned for the end of May and were supposed to have marked one of the highlights of Ramaphosa’s year-long tenure as AU chairperson, but they had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns at the time. News24

Jihadists Kill 25 Soldiers in Mozambique’s Restive North
Islamist militants in Mozambique killed two dozen soldiers in an ambush attack, military sources told AFP, a significant show of force against the military’s struggle to quell an insurgency in the north. A shadowy jihadist group has wreaked havoc in the northern Cabo Delgado region since 2017, targeting villages and towns in a bid to establish an Islamist caliphate. The insurgents grew bolder this year and took control of large swathes of territory which the army has so far failed to regain. Militants ambushed a group of soldiers driving through the district of Muidumbe on Sunday and opened fire on the group, killing at least 25. Two military sources only confirmed the attack in recent days on condition of anonymity. AFP

Ethiopia’s War in Tigray Shows No Signs of Abating, despite Government’s Victory Claims
Clashes continued across Ethiopia’s Tigray region and humanitarian aid remained paused at its border Friday, despite government claims that military operations had ceased and pledges to allow U.N. agencies access to hundreds of thousands of people who rely on them for food. Diplomats, aid workers and analysts said in interviews that the war in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost region, was far from over even with government troops in effective control of the region’s main city, Mekele. The fighting has shifted to Tigray’s many craggy mountain ranges — difficult terrain where TPLF leaders and militia hold the advantage of familiarity and have been able to regroup. “We have reports of fighting still going on in many parts of Tigray,” said Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the United Nations’ humanitarian coordination office, adding that security concerns were preventing aid missions from crossing into the region. “We have not, indeed, been able to send personnel or relief items to Tigray [yet].” The Washington Post

Ethiopia’s Conflict Stokes Humanitarian and Virus Crisis
Ethiopia’s month-long war in its northern Tigray region has severely hampered efforts to fight one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, as the fighting has displaced almost 1 million people and strained local humanitarian services to the breaking point. Tens of thousands of those fleeing the conflict between Tigrayan and Ethiopian federal forces have crossed into neighboring Sudan, where countrywide virus numbers are also rising rapidly. More than 45,000 refugees from the Tigray conflict are now living in remote parts of Sudan, where they have taken shelter in crowded camps that have no coronavirus testing or treatment capabilities. … Many staying in the camps are forced to share shelters and crowd together in lines for food, cash and registration with different aid agencies. There are few face masks to be seen — or available for distribution. At the Umm Rakouba camp, Javanshir Hajiyev with aid group Mercy Corps told The Associated Press that the number of chest infections was high, but that humanitarian workers had no materials to test for the coronavirus. AP

Sudanese Military Enters Disputed Lands Neighboring Tigray Region
Sudan’s military continues to deploy in disputed Sudanese agricultural lands neighboring Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region. The Sudanese government is not commenting on troop movements. Sudanese forces moved into the farming area bordering Ethiopia on Thursday and have spread out since on land that had been controlled by Ethiopian militias for over 25 years — a longstanding source of friction between Khartoum and Addis Ababa. Ethiopian armed groups called “Shefta” are very active during harvest time every year, stealing crops from farms in Fashaqa and other localities claimed by Sudan. A local security official who requested anonymity told VOA Sudanese troops are asserting control of the territory. He says the Sudanese military spread east of Berkat Norain — originally Sudanese land. Because the Ethiopian military is busy with the Tigray conflict, it’s a chance for the Sudanese military to take over this area. In May of this year, an Ethiopian militia attacked the villages surrounding Eastern Qadarif city, resulting in the deaths of five civilians and several Sudanese military casualties. VOA

DR Congo President Tshisekedi Announces He Is Quitting ‘Kabila Coalition’
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Sunday said he planned to form a new coalition government and warned he might be forced to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections if he was unable to do so. The announcement came after the failure of a coalition with supporters of predecessor Joseph Kabila who currently wield a majority in parliament. Tshisekedi took over from Kabila in January 2019, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful transition since independence from Belgium in 1960. But the president’s room for implementing much-trumpeted reforms was hampered by the need to forge a coalition with the pro-Kabila Common Front for the Congo (FCC). … In the runup to Sunday’s announcement, Tshisekedi conferred at length with senior members of the armed forces and police to ensure he had their support. AFP

Violence, Deaths Continue Ahead of Uganda Elections
Last Monday, following weeks of deadly encounters between its supporters and Ugandan security agencies, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu’s National Unity Platform tweeted: “This is war, not presidential campaigns.” A few hours later, a police car ran over his supporters in an attempt to block the opposition presidential candidate from accessing a campaign rally venue. One supporter was killed and at least four others injured. At the next campaign stop police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse his supporters. The injured this time included one of the police guards officially allocated to the candidate, shot in the face with a rubber bullet. At the third rally of the day, police fired live bullets at the candidate’s car as he attempted to drive through a military barricade set up to block him from driving through the centre of Jinja City Centre. One bullet struck the windscreen of Mr Kyagulanyi’s car… It wasn’t 4pm yet. Mr Kyagulanyi had seen enough. The EastAfrican

Zimbabwe Opposition VP Biti Released on Bail in Assault Case
Zimbabwean police briefly arrested a former finance minister and top opposition alliance official late on Friday on the charge of assaulting a Russian national last month, his party’s spokeswoman has said. Tendai Biti, 53, was freed on $10,000 bail on Saturday after a night behind bars, after being charged with assault. The provincial head magistrate in Harare, Vongai Muchuchuti, set his trial for January 18. The charge against Biti, a legislator and vice president of Zimbabwe’s opposition alliance Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), relates to an alleged incident following a court hearing on November 30. Biti, who is also a qualified lawyer, was involved in litigation, representing a client in the Harare Airport Road scandal, Tatiana Aleshina, a Russian national, who was reportedly whispering information to the prosecution constantly. Biti voiced a complaint to the magistrate about Aleshina’s conduct. “After the court hearing, Aleshina confronted honourable Biti threatening that he should not mention his name,” MDC spokeswoman Fadzai Mahere told AFP news agency, adding that she then filed a police report. Al Jazeera

Liberia Referendum Could Pave Way for Contentious Third Term for President Weah
Liberians vote Tuesday in a referendum on shortening presidential terms, a change some members of the opposition fear President George Weah will exploit to extend his stay in office. … In Guinea, for example, 82-year-old President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term in October after pushing through a new constitution that allowed him to bypass a two-term limit. The same month, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, 78, was elected for an equally contentious third term, after having revised the country’s constitution. Weah’s critics fear the president is pursuing the same goal. “President Weah will seek a third term simply because the first six years would then be under (a) different constitutional arrangement,” said opposition senator Darius Dillon. A “yes” vote would be a mistake, he said. … Some view the referendum — as well as concurrent mid-term senatorial elections — as a bellwether on support for the president. Still only in his first term, Weah firmly denies that the referendum is designed to keep him in power. AFP

Social Media a Major Factor in Cameroon’s Domestic Tensions, Report Finds
Social media in Cameroon are heightening political and ethnic tensions unleashed by the disputed 2018 presidential election – that’s according to a report by the International Crisis Group. The ICG says social media platforms, especially Facebook, should improve filtering toxic content and promote verified pages to reduce the tensions. The ICG report says Cameroon is already facing serious security challenges and should find a way to ease political tensions and stop offensive language, such as ethnic slurs, that are causing the central African country to sink into violence. Arrey Elvis Ntui, the ICG’s senior analyst for Cameroon, says hate speech and inter-ethnic tensions have increased since the October 2018 poll. He says the hate speech problem could endanger Cameroon’s stability. … Ntui said the ruling CPDM party and the opposition should take measures to address the excesses of their supporters on social media, especially Facebook. He added that Facebook itself should also help check inflammatory language, provocative content and fake news which, he said, contribute to inflaming ethnic and political tension in the country. VOA

In Kenya, Covid-19’s Rural Spread Strains Creaky Healthcare
The recent deaths from COVID-19 in Kenya of a refugee, a member of parliament and a retired civil servant all happened for the same reason: emergency help was hours away. Nearly three quarters of Kenya’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds are in the two largest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa. Yet the new coronavirus is spreading into rural areas where the public health system is creaking and scarce ICU units are full and turning patients away, medics round the nation told Reuters. Christmas travel may worsen the problem – and not just in Kenya. “That is our biggest fear now,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a branch of the African Union bloc. “During the holiday season, there will be a tendency for large movement from capital cities to villages, remote areas, for people to connect with families. That might drive the pandemic,” he told a news conference from Ethiopia this week. Reuters