Africa Media Review for February 21, 2020

South Sudan’s Feuding Leaders Announce Unity Deal, amid War Crimes Report
The feuding leaders of South Sudan announced on Thursday that after several missed deadlines they had agreed to form a unity government in a bid to end the ruinous civil war they began soon after the country was formed in 2011. … After talks in the capital, Juba, Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar, his former deputy turned rebel leader, told journalists on Thursday that they intend to form a unity government by a Saturday deadline. They had missed two previous deadlines in May and November last year, which they had set as part of an initial peace agreement that they reached in September 2018. … Their announcement appeared to represent a significant step forward after years of stalled negotiations. But the findings of a three-person United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, also released on Thursday, underscored the enormous challenges still facing South Sudan, an oil-rich nation that is also one of the world’s poorest. The U.N. commissioners’ report found that the country’s political leaders had been pillaging national finances and enabling brutal attacks by local militias that inflicted heavy civilian casualties. The New York Times

South Sudan: Aid Agency Urges New Government to Prioritize Citizens’ Needs
As plans get underway for the formation of the unity government, a humanitarian agency on Friday urged political leaders to prioritize peace and providing humanitarian access to areas gripped by food insecurity caused by extreme weather and locusts. “The formation of the new government presents an opportunity to start working towards a path to peace and reconciliation that has until now remained elusive,” said Alexander Davey, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in South Sudan. “The focus of attention will logically shift towards the central government in Juba, but government representatives must no longer neglect the serious protection and humanitarian needs of their people,” he added. An estimated 7.5 million people will need humanitarian assistance according to OCHA’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2020. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), some 5.5 million people were acutely food insecure in January. The invasion of desert locusts to the Eastern Equatoria region this week could prove catastrophic for its already fragile food security situation and could increase vulnerable people´s dependence on humanitarian aid. Radio Tamazuj

Boat Carrying 91 Migrants Goes Missing in Mediterranean
A rubber dinghy packed with 91 migrants that set out from Libyan shores in hopes of reaching Europe has apparently gone missing in the Mediterranean, the U.N. migration agency said Thursday. The inflatable boat carrying mostly African migrants departed from al-Qarbouli, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the capital Tripoli on Feb. 8, said Osman Haroun, whose cousin was on board. He hasn’t heard from the 27-year-old Mohamed Idris, or his 10 other friends also on the boat, since. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of this happening,” Haroun told The Associated Press by phone from the western coastal district of Zawiya, where he has lived with his family since fleeing the conflict-ridden Darfur region of Sudan in 2016. “Those who set out you usually hear from within a few hours … no one has even seen the boat’s remains.” News of the missing boat comes amid criticism of the European Union’s lack of rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. Member countries agreed earlier this week to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted U.N. arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war. AP

Libya’s Warring Rivals Resume Talks in Geneva – UN
Libya’s warring sides resumed talks in Geneva on Thursday aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country. “The talks are under way again,” said Jean El Alam, spokesperson for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, days after the country’s UN-recognised government announced it was halting its participation. UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame launched a second round of military talks on Tuesday with five senior officers from Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and five negotiators representing renegade eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces. The GNA then pulled out of the process after a barrage of rockets hit a port in the capital Tripoli – the target of months of bombardment by Haftar’s forces. Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said that since the rocket attack and subsequent GNA pull-out, the UN has been trying to “pick up the pieces.” Al Jazeera

Sudan Police Fire Tear Gas, Disperse Protests over Soldiers’ Retirement
Sudanese police fired tear gas Thursday at hundreds of protesters in Khartoum calling for the reinstatement of soldiers forced into retirement after having voiced support for last year’s revolution. The protesters, mostly youths, gathered near the presidential palace carrying Sudanese flags and signs reading “The army is Sudan’s army” and “Don’t dismiss the army’s free men.” They burned tyres and blocked roads, before police fired tear gas to disperse them, an AFP correspondent said. Earlier this week, the military published a list of officers of various ranks who had been forced into retirement. Army spokesman Brigadier Amer Muhammad al-Hassan, quoted by state news agency SUNA, said the list was issued “as usual at the beginning of each new year.” Hassan told AFP that the army’s code of conduct bars soldiers from taking part in political activities. But activists launched a social media campaign backing sidelined Lieutenant Mohammad al-Sadiq, who had voiced support for their campaign from the outset in December 2018 over soaring bread prices. AFP

Lesotho’s Leader Misses Court Date to Be Charged in Killing of Estranged Wife
Lesotho’s prime minister, Thomas Thabane, who was expected to be charged on Friday in the killing of his estranged wife, failed to appear in court, the authorities said, following weeks of mounting pressure and his announcement that he would resign from the country’s top political office. Mr. Thabane’s press secretary said on Friday that the prime minister felt ill on Thursday evening and had left for neighboring South Africa to receive an emergency medical checkup. The press secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala, said he expected the prime minister to return to Lesotho over the weekend, whenever doctors in Johannesburg released him. … The killing has riveted the southern African kingdom for more than two years as accusations have swirled around Mr. Thabane, 80, and his new wife, Maesaiah, who had long competed for the title of Lesotho’s first lady and was herself charged in the killing this month. … Mr. Thabane’s political party had called on him to step down for weeks, but the prime minister refused to give a time frame until his announcement on Thursday, when he said he would step down in July. The New York Times

Stella Nyanzi Marks Release from Jail in Uganda with Yoweri Museveni Warning
The feminist academic and writer Stella Nyanzi has been released from prison after her 18-month sentence for insulting Uganda’s president was quashed. Nyanzi collapsed as she left court in Kampala on Thursday, and scuffles broke out between her supporters and prison wardens, who fired live rounds into the air to disperse the crowd. Nyanzi was found guilty of cyber harassment of the president last year, after writing a poem about the president’s mother’s vagina. But high court judge Henry Peter Adonyo said Nyanzi’s right to a fair trial was violated because magistrates denied her the right to identify, prepare and call defence witnesses. “The lower court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case. The appellant should be released immediately,” he said. The judge also dismissed the state appeal on Nyanzi’s acquittal on charges of offensive communication. Her supporters packed the courtroom in the capital, Kampala, and cheered at the verdict. After the ruling, Nyanzi said: “Why was I in court for all these months? Why is the current regime of Uganda oppressing Ugandans who are expressing their constitutional rights? I am the voice for the opposition of Uganda. The Guardian

Uganda and Rwanda: Museveni, Kagame Meet Today
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame will meet today (Friday) at the border town of Katuna to discuss the reopening of the main crossing. The two mediators, presidents João Lourenço of Angola and Felix Tshisekedi of the DR Congo, are also expected to attend to oversee the implementation of terms agreed upon in Luanda, the Angolan capital, in August. Hopes for a resolution of the tension between the two countries rose this week after a prisoner swap in which Kigali released 20 Ugandans and Kampala setting free 13 Rwandans as part of the Luanda agreement. “After assessing the progress, the Heads of State will decide on the way forward,” Rwanda’s East African Community Affairs Minister Olivier Nduhungirehe told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview Thursday. “They will have a one-on-one meeting and come up with a way forward.” The Luanda agreement also calls for the resumption of movement of persons and goods across the common border, which is expected to be discussed today. The East African

Boko Haram Raids Displace Thousands More in Cameroon
New Boko Haram attacks have displaced more than 3,000 people along Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria in the past three months. Authorities say the Nigerian Islamist militants torched houses, abducted, raped and looted, creating panic among villagers. Twenty-seven-year-old Cameroonian Alidda Mannodi is getting help from the Association of Muslim Women in the northern town of Mora, on Nigeria’s border, after escaping from Boko Haram. Last week, she managed to flee the border village of Touski, where the Islamist militants were holding her captive as a sex slave. She said at the first opportunity she fled a hut in the bush, where she was repeatedly raped by several men. Mannodi said she told one of the men that she was menstruating, but the man still raped her. Mannodi said she trekked for three hours before getting help from a Nigerian fuel vendor, who brought her to Mora. She said she was among 12 people Boko Haram abducted from her village – some for a second time. The Association of Muslim Women is treating her and 16 other women who escaped Boko Haram in recent months. Cameroon’s military said the Islamist militants have in the past three months stepped up raids on villages along the border. VOA

French Actions ‘Neutralize 50 Terrorists’ Near Mopti in Central Mali
round 50 militants were “neutralized” in actions carried out by the France-led Operation Barkhane targeting Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali, according to an Armed Forces Ministry release. The operations, conducted in two phases between February 9 and 17 around the central town of Mopti, were the result of “preparatory work and intelligence gathering that made it possible to characterize with certainty the activity of armed terrorist groups,” the Thursday, February 20 release said. Around 30 motorcycles and two pickup trucks were destroyed, and weapons, telephones and electronic equipment were seized during the actions. In the first operation, carried out northwest of Mopti between February 9 and 10, airstrikes conducted by Reaper drones and Mirage 2000 jet fighter aircraft along with combat helicopter engagements “neutralized some 20 armed combatants” including an Islamic State in the Greater Sahara officer. … A second action was carried out between February 16 and 17 south of Mopti, “in a region where Katiba Macina is rampant.” Katiba Macina is one of the constituent groups of JNIM, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. The Defense Post

How Jihadists Are Fuelling Inter-communal Conflict in Burkina Faso
Dagnoudou Ouédraogo blames jihadist groups for uprooting his family last year in northern Burkina Faso. But he also blames his neighbours – ethnic Fulani cattle herders that he claims are working side by side with the extremists. “Before, we were living together [with the Fulani herders], there was no problem,” said Ouédraogo, a farmer from the Mossi ethnic group, Burkina Faso’s largest. “But now they stood up against us.” It’s an increasingly common complaint in Burkina Faso, where extremist violence has displaced nearly 800,000 people – all but 50,000 in the past 13 months – and is driving a wedge between communities once known for diversity, tolerance, and social cohesion. As attacks by Islamist groups – some linked to al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State – have risen dramatically, so have reprisals against some marginalised Fulani communities, who are accused of joining and harbouring the militants. A string of attacks on churches in northern and eastern Burkina Faso in recent months – including one last Sunday that left 24 people dead and 18 wounded – has triggered fears the militants are also trying to create a religious divide in the country. The New Humanitarian

Somali President Signs Election Law Ahead of Key Popular Vote
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo signed into law the electoral bill on Friday, jumping one more hurdle for the country to hold planned polls this year. The president signed the bill into law during the closing ceremony of the 6th assembly of Somalia’s 10th parliament, allowing the legislators to take a two-month break. The gathering that started on Thursday evening and went on beyond midnight was held at the Villa Somalia, the official residence of the Somali President in Mogadishu. President Farmajo termed the signing historic. “You, the people of Somalia, can see that the bill had been endorsed by both the Peoples’ Hall and the Upper House. It returns the power to you so you can vote for the (political) party and the person you want,” he said. The law is expected to advance the democratic process of the troubled Horn of Africa country, which seeks to hold its first all-participating elections in five decades. … This year, Somalia and its partners plan to involve every eligible citizen, although it is unclear for now whether it will be a universal suffrage process, given the insecurity in the country. Daily Nation

‘Police Have Not Stopped Killing Young Men’: Officers Shoot Dead at Least Eight People in Kenya Slums in Past Two Months
Police in Kenya have shot dead at least eight people in two months in the poorest regions on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, a human rights NGO has reported, amid calls for greater scrutiny over the use of force in the country. New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) found examples of a number of shootings at the hands of officers in Nairobi since Christmas Day 2019, when officers gunned down 19-year-old Peter Irungu and 20-year-old Brian Mung’aru. Officials from the nation’s police force said officers did not use excessive force. The first in a string of killings, which have predominantly involved young males shot at close range, witnesses said both men were on their knees pleading with officers for their lives. A witness was quoted as saying that officers went on to remove bullets and spent cartridges from the scene. The following day anti-riot police used live ammunition and tear gas to break up protests over their deaths in the Mathare slums where they had died, according to the NGO, leading to 10 people being injured and multiple arrests. Independent

Work on Your Reputation – Akufo-Addo Charges Ghana Police
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, delivering his fourth State of the Nation Address (SoNA) to Parliament on Thursday, tasked the Police to work on their reputation. He pointed out that the public perception of the Police continued not to be the best and that they (Police) should make a comprehensive effort to earn the confidence of the public. “I acknowledge the work they have done but I urge them to work harder on their reputation,” President Akufo-Addo said. “We cannot run a country of law and order without a well-trained and accomplished Police Service that has the respect and confidence of the people.” He reiterated the Government’s commitment towards improving the Service Conditions of all the security forces. “We will spend a lot of money to ensure that the security agencies that are in-charge of maintaining law and order and keeping us safe are well resourced to enable them to perform their duties.” He said the Police population had been increased and it would go up till the nation had met the recommended ratios. The Police had been provided with an unprecedented number of vehicles and equipment, which included more than 600 vehicles and three incoming helicopters. GNA

Mozambique: Worsening Conflict Rooted in Poverty, Repression, Intolerance
Dr. Yussuf Adam of Eduardo Mondlane University, one of the foremost experts on the region, cautions that simplistic explanations, such as Islamic extremism, obscure the complex causes of violence and retard the path to peace. He talked to AllAfrica by phone from Mozambique’s capital, Maputo. … You have spent much time with people in Cabo Delgado province and doing research there. You’ve written about extreme poverty and discrimination as underlying causes of violence and conflict. Do you see hope for building peace in northern Mozambique? … Yes, my reply would be yes. It is a complex situation and there is no other way [except understanding the issues] to get a peaceful situation in northern Cabo Delgado. I would not say the whole province of Cabo Delgado, and I wouldn’t speak about northern Mozambique. The first response of the government to activities of the groups called by various names, for example al-Shabaab [Youth], was violence. Since then it has been escalating. There hasn’t even been an attempt, using community institutions, mosques, and so on, to build some kind of relationship with the people and see who is doing what. A reaction generally from the people is that there are killings by insurgents, but that army units have been doing much of the killings, and that some of the attacks have been done by rogue army elements in Mozambique military outfits. … AllAfrica

US Military Assures Africa of Continued Support
This week, top U.S. military commanders met their counterparts in Africa to discuss ways of protecting African countries from violence and instability. In recent years, the threat of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabab has increased, and criminal networks have become more brazen and prominent. U.S. Army Africa Commanding General Roger Cloutier said the continent needs professional armies to combat the armed groups. “In keeping with this theme, tomorrow’s security demands leadership today. We have been focused on the roles Africa’s land forces chiefs and senior leaders have in developing defense systems, institutions that are trained, capable professional forces that respect the rule of law, and human rights-a contributor to greater security and stability on the African continent,” Cloutier said. The annual summit of Africa Land Forces was attended by representatives from 42 countries who gathered in Addis Ababa to share their experiences in dealing with violence and the need to cooperate in dealing with emerging threats. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones