Africa Media Review for December 8, 2020

DR Congo: Political Tensions, Armed Attacks, Displacement and COVID Threats Continue
There is a critical need for State institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to provide more stability and safety for citizens facing multiple threats, the head of the UN mission there told the Security Council on Monday. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), warned of heightened political tensions in the country, including fissures within the ruling coalition and a presidential threat to dissolve the national assembly. Over the past month, the mission’s leadership has met with numerous representatives, including civil society leaders, to diffuse “further provocations” that threaten security and economic stability … assuring that the UN would continue “to facilitate an expeditious and peaceful resolution.” Noting the importance of accountability for perpetrators of atrocities, the Special Representative highlighted the recent trial and conviction of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka … saying the resolution “represents an important step forward for the Congolese military justice in combating impunity.” UN News

UN Chief Urges Rule of Law and Rights in Ethiopia’s Tigray
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged quick restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights in Ethiopia’s defiant Tigray region on Monday as well as reconciliation efforts and unfettered humanitarian access. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the secretary-general has engaged in “an active dialogue” with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, including a phone conversation on Monday, and “is very concerned about the current situation.” Ahmed declared victory on Nov. 28 in a nearly monthlong military power struggle that exploded between his government and the heavily armed regional government in Tigray that once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition. Fighting continues in some areas, and with the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the run in rugged territory, fears remain of a drawn-out conflict. AP

‘I Don’t Know Where My Children Are’: Ethiopian Refugees Recount Horrors of War
Stories of shocking violence are emerging from civilians who have fled their homeland. With access to Tigray incredibly restricted it’s currently virtually impossible to verify the claims or harrowing stories of violence, but accounts of atrocities match up between people in different camps who fled from the same areas. “The soldiers came in the middle of the day and started to kill young men,” said Giray Seyfu, 24, who worked in agricultural irrigation in Mai Kadra, a town in northern Tigray. … Many of the refugees claimed that Abiy’s Ethiopian National Defence Force were joined by militia from the neighbouring Amhara Region to the south, which has a long-running land dispute with Tigray, and the Eritrean military from the north. Refugees from rural Western Tigray say that the Amhara militia men raided the animals and the crops and the household materials as they took control around Humera, a city on the border with Sudan. VICE

Central African Town Finds Muslim-Christian Peace after Years of War
In the crowded alleys of Bambari’s Kidjigira market, customers of all faiths brush together as steam rises from hanging cooking pots and flies swarm around them. At last, people are not afraid. Until recently, the marketplace remained a no man’s land separating the Muslim and Christian districts of Bambari, a town at the epicentre of civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR) from 2013 to 2017. Today, three weeks before presidential and parliamentary elections in a tense climate, the town at the heart of one of the world’s poorest countries could be an emblem of reconciliation between communities that tore one another apart. International donors and humanitarian agencies have concentrated their efforts on Bambari since 2017, treating the town as a “pilot project” for the rest of a divided, landlocked nation. But despite the millions that have been spent, unemployment and poverty persist and uncertainties weigh heavy on the future. Two thirds of the CAR’s territory is still occupied and controlled by armed groups. AFP

Sudan: Darfuris Protest End of Peacekeeping Mission
Crowds of people displaced by Sudan’s Darfur conflict protested Monday against the fast-approaching end to a long-running peacekeeping mission in the ravaged region, witnesses said. The United Nations Security Council and African Union recently signalled that their joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, would be wound up on December 31. UNAMID has been deployed in the region since 2007. On Monday, protesters including women and children massed outside the mission’s headquarters in the sprawling camp of Kalma, in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state. … “We demand that UNAMID remains to protect those displaced until peace process is complete,” said protester Yacoub Mohammed. In October, Sudan’s transitional government signed a peace deal with a coalition of rebel and political groups including from Darfur. The agreement covered pressing issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting. AFP

Top Saudi Diplomat on 1st Sudan Visit since Al-Bashir Ouster
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday, Sudan’s state-run news agency said, the first visit by the kingdom’s top diplomat since Sudan’s military overthrew former autocratic leader President Omar al-Bashir last year. Prince Faisal bin Farhan landed at Khartoum’s international airport Tuesday morning. He was received by Sudan’s acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din, SUNA reported. Prince Faisal was expected to meet with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. SUNA reported that Prince Faisal’s visit was meant to “activate deals” between Sudan and Saudi Arabia. It did not elaborate. AP

Algeria PM Slams Reported Ransoms To ‘Terror Groups’
Algeria’s prime minister has sounded the alarm over reported ransoms paid to “terrorist groups” for the freeing of hostages, weeks after the liberation of a French aid worker in Mali. “Algeria notes, with great concern, continued transfers to terrorist groups of huge sums of money as ransoms to free hostages,” Abdelaziz Djerad told African leaders at a summit of African Union heads of government late Sunday. This approach “undermines our counter-terrorism efforts,” he said, quoted by Algerian media. His comments came after neighbouring Mali released some 200 prisoners in October ahead of the release of four hostages including French aid worker Sophie Petronin. AFP

More African Countries Are Relying on an Israeli Surveillance Tool to Snoop on Private Citizens
As African governments crack down on protestors and opposition leaders in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda, it is emerging that state security agencies in seven regional countries are among 25 around the world using an Israeli surveillance platform to snoop on private communications of citizens. A new report names Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, and Zambia as the African countries that have been employing Circles’ surveillance platforms to exploit flaws in telecoms systems and to access telephone calls, SMS messages and location services. The report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab titled Running in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles offers new perspectives detailing how the telecom surveillance company, Circles has deployed its platforms across Africa, helping state security departments to snoop on communications of opposition politicians, journalists, and protestors. Quartz

Nigeria’s Women on the Front Line
On 9 October, when popular podcaster Feyikemi Abudu found out that protesters at the House of Assembly declared that they would be staying yet another night, she sent out a tweet asking for donations to provide support for them. The donations were initially targeted at providing breakfast. But, when the money didn’t stop coming, Feyikemi Abudu decided to provide other forms of support from first aid kits to drinks and toiletries. Then the Feminist Coalition stepped in. The coalition is the brainchild of Dami Odufuwa and Odun Eweniyi. Formed in July, the #EndSars protest was the organisation’s first major project. Although women’s safety and financial equality are at the core of the organisation’s aims, equality for all people is their vision, and so they decided to fight the injustice perpetuated by the squad by joining in the protests. Even before the coalition was established, Odufuwa and Eweniyi were at the forefront of women’s rights in Nigeria. Mail & Guardian

Cameroon Lawyers Go on Strike, Complaining of Government Interference in Cases
Lawyers in Cameroon on Monday declared an indefinite strike to protest what they call government interference in their profession. The stop work action, which follows a five-day strike last week that got no government response, means courtrooms across the country will remain closed until a deal is struck. The Cameroon Bar Council held an initial five-day strike last week to protest an incident on November 27 in the city of Douala. The Bar Council says security forces tried to intervene in a case there, accusing lawyers of corruption. When the lawyers insisted that police leave the courtroom, the police attacked them with tear gas. Evaristus Morfaw is president of the Bar Council’s general assembly. He says lawyers will not attend court sessions to protest what he says is the maltreatment of lawyers by the government. VOA

What’s Driving the Deadly Migrant Surge from Senegal to the Canary Islands?
The Atlantic maritime route, considered the most dangerous sea passage for Africans trying to reach Europe, had been mostly dormant since 2006, when a record 31,000 asylum seekers and migrants made the crossing. In 2019, just under 2,700 people arrived in the Canary Islands by boat. Already this year, that number stands at more than 19,500. The majority of people attempting the journey are North Africans and sub-Saharan Africans who set out from southern Morocco or from the contested territory of Western Sahara, crossing somewhere between 100 to 450 kilometres of ocean. But Senegal has also seen a sharp uptick in the numbers departing its shores, even though they’re an eight-day, 1,500-kilometre boat journey away. … It was Senegal’s fishing crisis that led Diakaté, a 36-year-old fisherman from Mbour, 100 kilometres south of the capital, Dakar, to attempt the journey. According to Diakaté and several other fishermen TNH spoke to, profits have dwindled to the point of desperation as overfishing – largely by Chinese and European vessels – has depleted stocks off the Senegalese coast. The New Humanitarian

Fishing by Lantern on an Island in Kenya
On Lake Victoria, attracting baitfish with lanterns extends as far back as anyone can remember. But overfishing may jeopardize the tradition. … As the sun sets over the waters of Kenya’s Lake Victoria, the soft sound of the lapping waves is drowned out by the hum of motors. Squinting, I can see them on the horizon, the tiny boats splitting the oranges and blues of the twilight sky. At first only one or two appear, but soon the few become many, a fleet spreading out over the water, appearing to chase the horizon. The vast expanse of the lake, the largest in Africa, appears to swallow the boats as darkness descends. But I know their destination and goal: the fishing grounds and the silver cyprinid — known as omena in Luo, the local language in this part of Kenya — that stir in the night under the wind-whipped waters. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones