Africa Media Review for February 13, 2020

Jihadist Attacks Kill Five Nigerian Security Personnel
Jihadists aligned with the Islamic State group have killed five security personnel in three attacks in northeast Nigeria, sources said Wednesday. In the first incident, truckloads of fighters from the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) group attacked a military post in Tungushe, a village near the Borno state capital Maiduguri, killing a soldier and injuring another, a military officer told AFP. “The terrorists attacked around 18:00 (on Monday), leading to a gun battle in which a soldier was killed and another one was injured,” said the officer, who asked not to be identified. … ISWAP on Tuesday issued a statement claiming responsibility for three attacks, including the ones in Tungushe and Rann, resulting in the “killing and wounding” of several troops and the burning of 20 public buildings. The militants have recently stepped up deadly assaults in the restive northeast. On Sunday, jihadists killed at least 30 people in an overnight raid on Auno village along the highway leading to Maiduguri where travellers had stopped to comply with a nighttime curfew. President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday made a rare visit to Maiduguri to express his condolences over that attack and called for better cooperation with local communities to provide intelligence on the fighters. AFP

Nigerian Military under Scrutiny after Latest Attacks
More brutal attacks by suspected Islamic extremists in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state have once again sparked criticism of the Nigerian military’s response towards extremist groups. More than 30 people were killed on Sunday while sleeping inside their cars.They had been locked out of the city gates outside of the town of Auno. According to the state government spokesman, Ahmad Abdurrahman Bundi, the attackers stormed in on trucks mounted with heavy weapons, before killing, burning and looting, as well as kidnapping women and children. Governor Babagana Zulum accused Nigeria’s military of failing to protect the victims and once again called for soldiers to re-establish a base there. … In addition to the military and the police, Nigeria has numerous agencies responsible for security in the country – including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, the State Security Service, and the Federal Road Safety Corps, just to name a few. The country’s security framework is vast and complex, making it particularly vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. This, in turn, makes it harder to ensure effective operation in conflict areas. DW

UN Council Endorses 55-Point Road Map to End War in Libya
The U.N. Security Council endorsed a 55-point road map for ending the war in Libya on Wednesday and condemned the recent increase in violence in the oil-rich North African country. … The resolution demands that all countries refrain from interfering in Libya’s conflict and its internal affairs and observe a U.N. arms embargo, “including by ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel.” Russia sought unsuccessfully to change references to growing involvement of mercenaries in the initial draft to “foreign terrorist fighters.” … The resolution welcomes last week’s cease-fire talks between Libya’s warring sides in Geneva and calls for their continuation “without further delay in order to agree a permanent cease-fire.” … South African Ambassador Jerry Matjila, whose country chairs the African Union, stressed Libya’s roots in Africa, saying the arms embargo must be observed to prevent the conflict spilling into the Sahel. “The African Union has been very ready to play a central role, including the issue of monitoring of peace,” he said. “The road ahead is going to be very, very difficult, long. So it really needs all hands on deck, and you couldn’t do that without African hands.” AP

South Sudan Buries Reports on Oil Pollution, Birth Defects
The oil industry in South Sudan has left a landscape pocked with hundreds of open waste pits, the water and soil contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals including mercury, manganese, and arsenic, according to four environmental reports obtained by The Associated Press. The reports also contain accounts of “alarming” birth defects, miscarriages and other health problems among residents of the region and soldiers who have been stationed there. Residents describe women unable to get pregnant and having excessive numbers of miscarriages, and babies born with severe birth defects. … The AP obtained the reports and supporting documents from people with close knowledge of the oil operations, one of whom works in the industry. The reports have never been released publicly. The reports, which date as far back as 2013, were presented to the oil companies and South Sudan’s ministry of petroleum but subsequently buried, according to four people with close knowledge of the oil operations and the documents. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of their safety. AP

Malawi Court Rejects Application to Suspend Poll Result Ruling
Malawi’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday threw out an application by President Peter Mutharika and the country’s electoral commission to suspend a landmark judgement that annulled last May’s presidential elections. The court last week overturned the results that saw Mutharika narrowly re-elected, citing widespread irregularities – especially the “massive” use of correction fluid on tally sheets. It ordered the southern African country to hold a fresh presidential election within 150 days and an investigation into the operations of the electoral commission. But Mutharika and the commission applied for a stay order until an appeal the president has filed is heard by the country’s Supreme Court. The court dismissed the application in its ruling in the capital Lilongwe on Wednesday. “This is a public law case and the law must be cautiously applied,” said judge Dingiswayo Madise. The court also rejected the electoral commission’s argument that another election would be costly for the impoverished country. “Democracy is expensive. Citizens’ rights are paramount. The court will not stop the pursuit of constitutionally sound elections on account of cost,” Madise said. AFP

Who’s behind the Violence in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado?
In pictures, the young men pose on pick-up trucks with rocket-propelled grenades and the black-and-white flag of the so-called Islamic State (IS). In weekly magazines, members of IS attribute attacks by the youngsters to “soldiers of the caliphate.” But on the ground in Mozambique’s gas-rich coastal province of Cabo Delgado – where spreading violence is being blamed on Islamist extremists – few residents are clear why they are being attacked and who is responsible. “We don’t know what they want,” said Gildo Muntanga, a displaced person whose village was attacked last November. “We just see them killing people.” More than two-years of militancy here has intensified dramatically in recent months, according to the UN. There have been attacks on passenger buses, Christmas Day village burnings, and a string of ambushes on Mozambican soldiers trying to rein in the insurgency. The deepening crisis has displaced at least 100,000 people and cut hungry farmers off from their fields and livelihoods, heaping yet more misery onto communities still struggling in the aftermath of last April’s Cyclone Kenneth – the strongest to ever hit the African continent. The New Humanitarian

DR Congo Forces Captured 40 ADF Fighters Near Makeke, UN Says
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) captured 40 Allied Democratic Forces fighters inn the restive east, the United Nations mission MONUSCO said on Wednesday. At around 10:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Sunday, February 9, “a joint action launched against the ADF enabled the FARDC to apprehend 40 ADF fighters near Makeke and take them to the FARDC base in Mangina,” said MONUSCO military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Claude Raoul Djehoungo. Senior FARDC officials did not confirm or deny the capture or detention of 40 ADF combatants. The joint MONUSCO-FARDC operation came on the same day that at least seven civilians were killed in Makeke in an attack blamed on the ADF. The main militia force operating in eastern DR Congo, the ADF has been carrying out reprisal attacks on civilians in response to an FARDC offensive against armed groups in North Kivu province launched on October 30. The Defense Post

Ethiopia Approves Controversial Law Curbing Hate Speech
Ethiopian lawmakers on Thursday approved a controversial law aimed at curbing hate speech and disinformation, especially online, just months ahead of a major election. The law’s approval, with 23 lawmakers opposing and two abstaining, came amid concerns over widespread online false information and hate speech that some observers blame for ethnic tensions in the East African nation. … Some government officials and observers have called for the need to regulate hate speech and disinformation online, citing the ethnic unrest. Lawmakers said the law is needed because existing legal provisions didn’t properly address hate speech and disinformation and said it will not affect citizens’ rights beyond protecting them. According to the new law, content with hate speech or disinformation that is broadcast, printed or disseminated on social media platforms with more than 5,000 followers is punishable with up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 birr ($3,000). The law, however, says “dissemination” doesn’t include liking or tagging such content on social media. Human Rights Watch said the law could “significantly curtail freedom of expression.” AP

‘The Police Shoot at Journalists All the Time’: Press Freedom Shrinks in Somalia
Abdulaziz Billow, a TV correspondent for China Global Television Network based in Mogadishu, is accustomed to being shot at by government soldiers and police trying to disperse reporters when he goes to cover al-Shabab blast sites in Somalia. “The police shoot at journalists all the time,” he told the Mail & Guardian. He never expected, however, that a government official would assault him and his cameraman at an evening Independence Day reception at the prime minister’s residence. He has been threatened and harrassed “time and again” by the government, but Billow told the M&G that the manhandling at the celebration was “on another level.” Billow’s account is echoed by the findings of a just-released Amnesty International report titled, We Live in Perpetual Fear, a 52-page document comprising more than 70 interviews that accuses the sitting Somali government of quashing overall freedom of expression, both in person and on the internet. So extreme have these threats to free expression become that the only free ambulance service in the capital, Aamin Ambulance, was told it cannot publicly report civilian casualty figures after it arrived at the scene of al-Shabab attacks. Public figures critical of the administration on social media will be reported as “terrorists” and their accounts deactivated. Mail & Guardian

Rights Groups Want Swift Hand Over of Sudan’s Bashir to ICC
Rights groups pushed Wednesday for the swift handover of Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Sudan’s new authorities pledged to bring the ousted strongman to justice for alleged war crimes in Darfur. Top Sudanese officials said Tuesday that the country’s new rulers had agreed with rebel groups to send Bashir and three former aides to The Hague-based court for their role in the conflict in the western Darfur region. “The Sudanese authorities should translate these words into action and immediately transfer al-Bashir and other individuals (facing ICC arrest warrants) to The Hague,” Amnesty International acting secretary general Julie Verhaar said. “Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC over the murder, exterminatInternationalion, forcible transfer, torture and rape of hundreds of thousands of people during the conflict in Darfur. “A decision to hand him over to the court would be a welcome step towards justice for victims and their families.” AFP

Canadian PM Trudeau Meets African Leaders over Peace, Economic Security
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held talks with African heads of state, foreign ministers and representatives of the United Nations and other multilateral bodies on February 10, on the sidelines of the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. The talks, titled Sustaining Peace and Economic Security, aligned with the Summit’s theme: Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development. Top on Trudeau’s agenda was ways to secure peace across the continent as a necessary condition for prosperity. Other issues discussed were the role that international financial institutions and youth job creation can play in Africa in averting extremism and conflict; and the AU leadership in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Among the participants were President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, the Vice President of Gambia Isatou Touray, President of the United Nations General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Vera Songwe, and the foreign ministers of Sierra Leone and Rwanda. The East African

Hundreds of Billions of Locusts – Fueled by Conflict and Climate Change – Are Swarming East Africa
From a distance, it looks like billowing smoke. But as it nears, the swarm of locusts comes into focus: billions upon billions of them, thick as a blizzard, uncountable as raindrops, a jaw-dropping procession of the ravenous creatures of biblical infamy, flailing and flapping in the air, blocking out the sun like a bad omen. The pests, known and feared by the world’s most ancient civilizations, are invading southern Ethi­o­pia and neighboring parts of Kenya in numbers not seen in generations. They breed freely in areas outside government control in conflict-ravaged Yemen and Somalia, and they reach their voracious adolescence while migrating west toward the feeding grounds of lusher inland Africa. Unseasonable rain, linked to a climate-change-driven event in the Indian Ocean, has turned the region into a buffet for locusts. A major humanitarian crisis looms. Locusts can decimate cropland, crippling farms and leaving markets empty and livestock with nothing to eat. Around 19 million people already face high levels of food insecurity in East Africa. The Washington Post

World Radio Day 2020: Radio – Africa’s Prime Medium
Mali’s largest private radio station, Radio Kledu, recently aired a special program about teachers’ long-running strike for higher pay. The lunchtime show presenter Oumou Dembele first interviewed teacher union representatives to hear their side of things. A little later, the government had a chance presents its version on air. It is part of Radio Kledu’s editorial policy to give everyone a platform to express their opinion. In a country that ranks 116th on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, and where terrorist groups often target journalists, giving different sides a voice isn’t an easy task. “We often encounter problems doing our job,” presenter Oumou Dembele told DW. It’s difficult for reporters to access to certain regions because of armed groups, especially in the northern region, Dembele said. For many in Mali, the work of radio journalists like Dembele is vital to keeping them informed. Only around 30% of people in Mali have access to mobile internet. In rural regions, where even less people have internet access, and where the power supply is unreliable, most rely on battery-operated radio sets for information. DW



Photo: Adam Jones