Africa Media Review for February 24, 2020

South Sudan Forges ‘Unity Government’ in Bid to End Civil War That Has Killed 400,000
Warring sides in South Sudan formed a “unity government” Saturday with rebel leader Riek Machar as vice president, launching the most serious bid in years toward ending a merciless civil war that has killed at least 400,000 people and left millions homeless. The agreement between Machar and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir comes after two failed attempts that resulted in a return to war. International pressure had mounted on the two leaders after deadlines to reach a peace agreement passed over the past year. But key concessions were made in the past week, clearing the way for a deal. “This action signifies the official end of the war, and we can now declare a new dawn in South Sudan,” Kiir said at the ceremony. “Peace has come to stay, not to be shaken ever again in this nation.” Almost as many people have died in South Sudan’s civil war as in Syria’s, and in less time. Conflict has plunged parts of the country into famine and driven more than 2.2 million people into neighboring countries, while 1.4 million in South Sudan have been left homeless and 190,000 are living under direct United Nations protection. The Washington Post

Ethiopia: 29 Injured in ‘Bomb Attack’ at Pro-Abiy Rally
A “bomb attack” on a rally in support of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed injured nearly 30 people Sunday, a police official said, in the latest sign of instability ahead of elections in August. The incident occurred in the town of Ambo, located roughly 100 kilometres west of the capital, Addis Ababa. “The bomb attack on a rally for Dr. Abiy has injured 29 people, of whom 28 have been treated and sent home,” Arasa Merdasa, the top police official in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, where Ambo is located, told the state-run Ethiopian News Agency. “Police have arrested six people who are suspected in the attack,” Arasa said. Ethiopia’s electoral board has scheduled landmark national polls for August 29. Opposition parties and civil society organisations have questioned whether the elections will be peaceful and credible, citing persistent ethnic violence since Abiy was appointed in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests. … Arasa said Sunday’s attack was believed to be the work of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the breakaway armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition party. Officials have also blamed the OLA for the assassination on Friday of the top security official in Burayu, another Oromia town located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. AFP

Togo’s President Wins, Keeping Family’s Long Hold on Power
Togo’s electoral commission said Monday the country’s president has easily won a fourth term, extending the grip his family has had on power since 1967, while the opposition alleged organized fraud. The commission announced overnight that President Faure Gnassingbe received 72% of the votes in preliminary results. The West African nation’s constitutional court will make the final, official announcement. The political opposition, which for years has called for new leadership, said several of their delegates were prevented from voting Saturday. Internet access was restricted on election day. Opposition candidate Agbeyome Kodjo, who was second with 18% of the vote, saw his home surrounded by the military as vote-counting began. The minister of security, Gen. Damehame Yark, said it was done to ensure protection. Kodjo said in a statement Sunday that “the data we have collected so far throughout the country indicate that we have won the election by 57 to 61% of the votes.” … Shortly before Saturday’s vote, Togo expelled a major U.S.-based election observer, the National Democratic Institute, and decided against using an electronic vote-counting system. In both cases, the electoral commission said it feared disruption, while critics objected. AP

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State Groups Are Working Together in West Africa to Grab Large Swaths of Territory
Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, at war with each other in the Middle East, are working together to take control of territory across a vast stretch of West Africa, U.S. and local officials say, sparking fears the regional threat could grow into a global crisis. Fighters appear to be coordinating attacks and carving out mutually agreed-upon areas of influence in the Sahel, the strip of land beneath the Sahara desert. The rural territory at risk is so large it could “fit multiple Afghanistans and Iraqs,” said Brig. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations arm in Africa. “What we’ve seen is not just random acts of violence under a terrorist banner but a deliberate campaign that is trying to bring these various groups under a common cause,” he said. “That larger effort then poses a threat to the United States.” The militants have wielded increasingly sophisticated tactics in recent months as they have rooted deeper into Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, attacking army bases and dominating villages with surprising force, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior officials and military leaders from the United States, France and West Africa. The Washington Post

Joint Niger-Barkhane Operation ‘Neutralizes’ 120 Terrorists, Defense Ministry Says
A joint operation conducted by Niger’s armed forces and troops deployed to the France-led Operation Barkhane “neutralized” 120 “terrorists” and seized bomb-making equipment and vehicles in western Niger, the defense ministry said on Friday, February 22, AFP reported. As of February 20, “120 terrorists” had been “neutralized, including 23 in the Inatès-Tongo Tongo-Tilloa triangle” in the expansive Tillaberi region near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, a statement read on public radio said, adding there had been no losses “on the friends’ side” during the operation. “Ten motorcycles and various equipment used for the production of improvised explosive devices and for observation” were seized and destroyed. Niger’s defence minister Issoufou Katambé praised the “cooperation with the strategic partner in the fight against terrorism” alongside the Armed Forces of Niger (FAN), the statement said, adding that the joint operation “is in line with the recommendations of the Pau Summit of January 13.” The Defense Post

Kigali, Kampala Sign Deal to Ease Border Tensions
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni have signed an extradition treaty as the two countries move to end tensions that have paralysed movement of people and goods across their common borders. The signing, on Friday, was witnessed by President João Lourenco of Angola and President Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo. The treaty will act as a framework to handle cases of justice, including those related to alleged subversive activities by nationals of both countries in the territory of the other party, according to a communique released after the private talks at the 3rd Quadripartite Summit held at the Gatuna/Katuna border. Uganda also agreed to, within one month, verify the allegations of Rwanda about activities in its territory by forces hostile to Rwanda. … The two leaders agreed that once this recommendation is fulfilled and reported to the Heads of States, the facilitators will convene within 15 days, at Gatuna/Katuna, for the solemn reopening of borders and subsequent normalisation of the relations between the two countries. The East African

Rwanda Faces Mounting Demands for Investigation of Famed Gospel Singer’s Death in Police Cell
The mysterious death of a famed gospel singer in Rwandan police custody has sparked fresh questions from U.S. and British diplomats and international human-rights groups, intensifying the pressure on Commonwealth leaders to take action before their planned summit in Rwanda this year. Kizito Mihigo, a hugely popular musician and peace activist who helped compose Rwanda’s national anthem but was later banned from state media for questioning the official narrative of the 1994 genocide, was buried on Saturday in Kigali in a tightly controlled ceremony with security agents reportedly in attendance. Mr. Mihigo, who was arrested while allegedly trying to flee the country on Feb. 13, died in a Rwandan police station last Monday. Police said he strangled himself with bed sheets from the cell, but opposition groups have accused the police of torturing and killing him. Human Rights Watch said the musician had recently told its researchers that he wanted to flee Rwanda because he feared for his safety after he was ordered to give false testimony against the government’s opponents. He had been beaten and forced to confess to crimes after an earlier arrest, it said. Mail & Guardian

Reports of Wave of Arrests in Bujumbura Region Burundi
The National Council for Liberty (CNL), the main opposition party in Burundi, condemned Saturday “a wave of arrests” of its local leaders in the province of Bujumbura since Thursday. “After a mock attack (…) on Wednesday, there has been a wave of arrests of local leaders of the CNL party,” Therence Manirambona, a spokesman for the party, told AFP. He said that “23 people had already been arrested by the police and Imbonerakure (youth of the ruling party) and are being held in police dungeons.” These arrests were confirmed to AFP by a police official who spoke of “arrests for investigative reasons.” According to the CNL, “some of our party’s leaders have been ill-treated and unfortunately one of them, Felix Ndikuriyo (…) was beaten to death on Thursday evening. … The CNL spokesman condemned a “harassment enterprise orchestrated by the government in the run-up to the May 2020 elections.” “Today, at least six activists have been murdered, others have been reported missing or have been tortured, more than 200 are languishing in prison and more than 100 offices have been destroyed or damaged,” he said. AFP

Sudan Peace Talks: Agreement on Eastern Track Finalised
On Friday, the delegations of the transitional government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front’s eastern Sudan team signed a final peace agreement within the framework of the current peace talks in Juba. The agreement includes the political participation of the eastern Sudanese people, confers the regions of eastern Sudan more powers within the framework of the federal government system, and stipulates the establishment of a reconstruction fund with local funding. An eastern Sudanese private bank will be funded by international donors, that will support the development of political structures, education, health, and capacity building. During the signing ceremony, Mohamed El Taayshi, member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and the spokesperson for the government peace talks delegation explained in a press conference after the signing of the accord that the agreement will be subject to further discussion regarding its implementation mechanisms in eastern Sudan. “Each part of the agreement can be deemed as a gain for all the eastern Sudanese people and not for a particular political group. this agreement is a serious and sincere attempt to address the root causes of the east Sudan problems,” El Taayshi said. “We are expecting that the final peace agreement on all tracks will be signed three weeks before the deadline,” he concluded. Radio Dabanga

Activists: ‘ICC Suspect Ali Kushayb Has Fled Sudan’
An activist group in South Darfur claims that former janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), has fled Sudan, apparently in fear of arrest by the transitional government. The activists report that Kushayb fled his residence in Rahid El Birdi on South Darfur, accompanied by several soldiers, to Um Dafoug locality and the border with Central African Republic (CAR). They says that they previously submitted several complaints about Kushayb’s activity in the area two weeks ago. An activist Salem El Naw claimed on social media that Kushayb was seen in the border area of Um Dafoug. He also said that there is a joint committee that was formed under the leadership of the 16th Division and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Nyala to arrest Kushayb. As reported by Radio Dabanga on February 11, government negotiators and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance agreed during peace talks on the Darfur track in the South Sudan capital of Juba, to hand deposed dictator Omar Al Bashir and other ICC indicted to the court in The Hague. Radio Dabanga

Nigeria: Buhari Pledges Aggressive Campaign to Rout Boko Haram
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration will soon commence an aggressive campaign to rout Boko Haram. Mr Buhari said this while condemning a recent Boko Haram attack in Adamawa State. The Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria has caused over 30,000 deaths since 2009 and displaced millions of others. The president’s statement was contained in a press release by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu. President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned Boko Haram attack on Garkida in Adamawa State, extending his sympathy to families of victims. The President assured that no part of Nigeria would be abandoned to their fate. … President Buhari said since the coming of his administration, Boko Haram’s ability to invade and occupy Nigerian territories, let alone be able to hoist their flags had been frustrated. The president said in the coming weeks Nigerians would witness an aggressive campaign to rout Boko Haram once and for all. “Security will continue to be well funded despite the competing needs of social services. I appeal to Nigerians to continue to support our troops in their gallant efforts to protect the citizens and secure the country,” President Buhari further added. Premium Times

‘Africa at Risk, Given Its Fragile Health Systems’ – WHO Alarms Africa over Coronavirus
The World Health Organization warned on Saturday that African health systems were ill-equipped to respond to the deadly coronavirus outbreak should cases start to proliferate on the continent. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on African Union member states “to come together to be more aggressive in attacking” the virus, known as COVID-19. “Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros, speaking by video link from Geneva, said during a meeting of 36 African health ministers at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. The outbreak which began in December has already killed more than 2 200 people and infected more than 75 500 in China. More than 1 150 people have also been infected outside China, although Egypt is the only African country to have recorded a confirmed case. There have been more than 200 suspected cases in the WHO’s AFRO region, which includes most African countries, though nearly all have been confirmed negative, regional director Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti said Saturday. AFP

Zimbabwe’s Rural Elderly Battle Hunger amid Severe Drought
Living alone in Zimbabwe’s arid Mudzi district, Leah Tsiga’s best friend is her cat. But when it comes to food, each has to look for their own and the 90-year-old Tsiga often comes second best. The crafty feline forages in nearby bushes for rats, birds, insects and worms. As for the frail Tsiga, she sometimes goes for days without a solid meal, as Zimbabwe is ravaged by a combination of drought and deepening economic crisis. Tsiga ate porridge the previous night, her first meal in two days, she said. “I approached one of my neighbors who felt pity for me and gave me a bowl of mealie-meal and some sugar for the porridge,” she told The Associated Press, sitting outside her round, grass-thatched hut. She used to get help from her three children, but they are battling to make ends meet because of Zimbabwe’s high unemployment. “They all went to Harare (the capital) to look for jobs,” said Tsiga. “They are also struggling. So it’s just me and my cat here,” she said. Zimbabwe is among the world’s most food insecure countries with more than half of the its 15 million people in need of food assistance, according to U.N.’s World Food Program. AP

UN Chief Issues 7-Point ‘Call to Action’ on Human Rights
The head of the United Nations issued a “call to action” on Monday to countries, businesses and all people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict and repression. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the appeal at the start of the latest Human Rights Council session in Geneva, known as the council’s “high-level segment” because it hosts a parade of dignitaries – including Libya’s prime minister and foreign ministers from countries like Germany, Saudi Arabia and South Korea at the start of the four-week session. … His seven-point plan involves linking human rights to issues like sustainable development, crisis prevention, gender equality, the development of the digital age, and freedom of expression and civil society, among other things. “Success must be measured by the yardstick of meaningful change in people’s lives,” he said. “As a United Nations family, a culture of human rights must permeate all we do.” In a veiled allusion to China’s Communist government, which has made economic and social development a key pillar of its approach to human rights, Guterres said: “It would be a mistake to diminish economic, social and cultural rights. AP

A Kenyan Painter Casts a Critical Eye on China’s Role in Africa
In the painting, one of 100 on the same theme, China’s president, Xi Jinping, appears as he has in all the previous ones: a larger-than-life figure who commands attention because of the goodies he has brought with him. Decked in a flowing white garment, Mr. Xi is surrounded by a crowd of black men – some with bald heads, others with unkempt beards – all reaching out for the dollars leaking out of a briefcase. The work of a Kenyan artist and painter, Michael Soi, the collection “China Loves Africa” questions the guiding principles of Beijing’s engagement in Africa, scrutinizes the role of leaders on both sides in shaping the relationship and examines the consequences for ordinary citizens. The bright acrylic paintings on canvas have proven popular and polarizing and have offered a creative and complex approach to China-Africa relations. But on Jan. 2, after six years and 100 pieces, Mr. Soi said he was finished with the series, having drawn enough attention to the issue. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones