Africa Media Review for February 25, 2020

Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian Leader Ousted in Revolt, Dies at 91
Hosni Mubarak, the former autocratic president of Egypt, whose hold on power was broken and place in history upended by a public uprising against the poverty, corruption and repressive police tactics that came to define his 30 years in office, died on Tuesday. He was 91. His death was confirmed by state TV. Mr. Mubarak spent most of his final years at the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo, under guard in a room overlooking the Nile as he defiantly battled courtroom charges of corruption and conspiracy to murder. He was finally released on March 24, 2017, having been convicted in a single, relatively minor case, and spirited across the city to his mansion in the affluent neighborhood of Heliopolis. Last October, he made a rare appearance in a video published on YouTube where he shared his memories of Egypt’s 1973 war against Israel, when he commanded Egypt’s air force. It was the first time he had spoken before a camera since his ouster during the Arab Spring in 2011. The New York Times

Four, including Three Police Officers, Killed in Ambush in Burkina Faso – Police
An ambush on a police patrol in northern Burkina Faso on Monday left four people dead, three of them officers, police said. The attack, carried out in the morning by unidentified gunmen, killed a police lieutenant, two sergeants and a civilian, a police statement said. Another five people were wounded, the statement added, without saying if they were police officers or civilians. Monday’s attack happened on the Pissila-Gibga axis of the Sanmatenga province, in the West African country’s Centre-Nord region. An attack last Tuesday killed three soldiers from a detachment at Kelbo, in the farther north Soum province, in the Sahel region bordering Mali. … According to UN figures, the jihadist attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso killed 4,000 people in 2019 and caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The attacks have forced more than 770,000 people to flee their homes, 20,000 of them schoolchildren, according to the Burkinabe authorities. AFP

Francophone Countries Question Credibility of Guinea’s Electoral Register
Guinea’s electoral authorities were on Monday warned by the international association of French-speaking countries which shared concerns over the credibility of the electoral register in the country’s upcoming polls. The warning from the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) came six days before elections condemned by the opposition as a ploy by President Alpha Conde to stay in office. The OIF said the register included nearly 2.49 million “problematic” names, including duplicate names, people who were too young to vote or individuals who had died. Of these 2.49 million, 98 percent “do not have documents to enable their identification,” the OIF said. The OIF, the francophone equivalent of the Commonwealth, said the problems were such that it found it “difficult” to carry out its role of providing support to the electoral process. It urged the government to avoid further deaths and “prevent any risk of escalation.” A country with a long tradition of political turmoil, Guinea is to vote on Sunday in a referendum and in legislative elections. The referendum will be on changes to the constitution, which the opposition say is a bid by Conde, 81, to restart his time in office and stay in power beyond two terms. AFP

Detained Tanzanian Journalist Freed after Pleading Guilty to Financial Crimes
A prominent Tanzanian journalist arrested in July was released on Monday after pleading guilty of tax evasion and money laundering in a case critics had said was politically motivated. After Erick Kabendera acknowledged both crimes in court and agreed to fines of nearly 275 million shillings ($119,305.86), magistrate Janeth Mtega ruled he be freed. … The reporter has written for international publications including Britain’s Guardian and Times and was known for pursuing politically-sensitive investigations. … After he was arrested at his home last year, the United States and Britain called the affair “irregular” and in violation of Tanzania’s criminal procedures law. Rights groups saw the case as part of a pattern of tighter control on the media since the 2015 election of Magufuli. … Magufuli’s administration has shut down newspapers, fined some critical outlets, arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies. … Held at the Segerea maximum security prison on the outskirts of the capital Dar es Salaam, the journalist had appeared in court more than ten times, sometimes appearing frail. In September, Magufuli said that people held on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and other financial crimes should be freed if they confess and return the cash. Reuters

UN: Libya’s Warring Sides Agree to Cement Cease-Fire Deal
The U.N. mission in Libya said Monday that the country’s warring sides had agreed to turn a shaky cease-fire into a formal deal, stirring modest hopes after weeks of sporadic violence that derailed negotiations. As the latest round of U.N.-mediated talks between rival military leaders wrapped up in Geneva, both sides reached a draft deal “to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas,” according to a U.N. statement. The return of thousands of displaced civilians will be monitored by military representatives in Geneva with support from the U.N. mission in Libya. The delegates negotiating on behalf of Libya’s rival administrations must now send the draft for approval to their respective leaders who have the power to halt the fighting, a prospect that faces further obstacles. The representatives promised to reconvene in Geneva next month to hammer out details of the deal’s implementation. Monday’s apparent breakthrough came days after eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter escalated their attacks on the capital, Tripoli, which is held by a rival U.N.-backed government. AP

Turkey Says 2 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Libya
Two Turkish soldiers have been killed in fighting in Libya, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday as he also defended Ankara’s move to also send Syrian opposition fighters to the North African country. Erdogan’s remarks followed reports that as many as 16 Turkish soldiers may have been killed in the fighting in Libya since last April, reports that the Turkish leader did not address. Turkey, which backs the U.N.-supported Libyan government that is based in Tripoli, has sent Turkish military trainers as well as Syrian fighters to battle against rival Libyan forces under commander Khalifa Hifter, who in April launched an offensive to capture Libya’s capital. Erdogan had said on Saturday that a “few” Turkish soldiers have been killed in Libya but did not say how many. That angered Turkey’s opposition, which claimed the government was not disclosing military losses in Libya. The head of mobilization for Hifter’s forces, Khaled al-Mahjoub, had claimed that their fighters killed at least 16 Turkish soldiers who were taking part in the fighting in and around Tripoli since April. AP

Faure Gnassingbe: Togo Leader Treads in Father’s Steps
Faure Gnassingbe was seen as a malleable 38-year-old when the military installed him as president of Togo after the death of his strongman father in 2005. Now the leader once dubbed “the youth” has claimed a fourth term in power after elections on Saturday, extending his family’s grip over the small West African nation towards a sixth decade. The taciturn business studies graduate, 53, forced through constitutional changes last year that allowed him to stand again. They could potentially see him remain in office until 2030. Gnassingbe was just months old when his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, seized power in a military coup in 1967. … When Eyadema died suddenly in 2005, the military men around him moved with lightning speed to install Faure — one of dozens of children he reportedly fathered — in the presidential palace. … Provisional results from the electoral commission on Monday gave Gnassingbe 72 percent of the vote in a poll marred by allegations of widespread fraud by the opposition. Gnassingbe coolly shrugged off the claims of victory from his main rival Agbeyome Kodjo. AFP

Algeria Court Seeks Prison Sentence for Protest Leader
An Algerian prosecutor is seeking a year’s prison sentence for Fodil Boumala, a leading figure in the country’s protest movement, an advocacy group said Monday. Boumala, a former state TV journalist who in 2011 co-founded an opposition group, was arrested in September and detained pending trial. Prisoners’ rights group CNLD said Boumala appeared for 16 hours in an Algiers court, with lawyers from the defence wrapping up their pleas early Monday. The group said Boumala was charged with “undermining (national) territorial integrity,” punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the “distribution of publications that could undermine the national interest”, which can attract a year in prison. The verdict was delayed until March 1. Mass protests erupted in Algeria on February 22 last year, in response to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announcing he intended a run for a fifth term after 20 years in power – despite being debilitated by a 2013 stroke. … In early February the CNLD prisoners’ rights group said 142 members of the protest movement, known as the “Hirak,” were still in preventive detention. AFP

After 6 Years of War, Will Peace Finally Come to South Sudan?
South Sudan’s warring parties have once again declared an official end to the country’s brutal civil war that killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced millions of others over the past six years. … The transitional government will lead the country to elections in three years. Addressing the nation from the capital, Juba, Kiir urged the population to forgive one another like he and Machar did and assured the country that peace was now “irreversible.” “It is no longer in the corner or on the way,” he said on Saturday. “Peace is here in Juba and it will spread to all corners of our country.” This is the bitter rivals’ latest attempt at peace since fighting erupted between forces loyal to Kiir and troops supporting Machar in 2013, two years after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Countless ceasefires have since been violated and a 2015 peace deal collapsed when renewed clashes broke out the next year, forcing Machar to flee the country on foot. While fighting largely subsided over the past year, the implementation of the 2018 agreement has been sluggish and fraught with a lack of funding and questionable political will. Two deadlines, in May and November, were missed due to unresolved key issues, including security arrangements and an agreement on the number of states. Al Jazeera

Holdout Groups Call for Peace Talks with New Government in South Sudan
The holdout South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) on Monday called on the transitional national unity government to negotiate with them to achieve sustainable peace in the country. The call comes two days after the appointment of the first vice-president and the four vice-presidents as the first step in the formation of the transitional national unity government tasked with the implementation of the revitalized peace pact during the coming 36 months. Achieving sustainable peace in South Sudan requires to address the root cause of the crisis not a distribution of political positions, said the alliance. “SSOMA would like to reiterate to all the people of South Sudan that sustainable peace cannot be achieved without resolving the root causes of the conflict in the country,” SSOMA said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune. … The SSOMA includes the Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM), National Salvation Front (NAS). South Sudan United Front (SSUF) and the United Democratic Revolutionary Movement/Army (UNDRM/A), National Democratic Movement-PF (NDM-PF), and Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC). Sudan Tribune

Government, Armed Groups Agree to Allocate 20% of Sudan Civil Service for Darfur
Sudanese government and Darfur armed groups said they agreed to allocate 20 per cent of the jobs in the civil service to the western Sudan region. The negotiating teams from the transitional government and Darfur groups announced they reached a deal on the employment of Darfurians in the civil service which is part of the power-sharing in the peace talks. Mohamed Hassan al-Taishi told reporters in Juba that the two parties agreed to address the underrepresentation of Darfur people in the civil service. He stressed they agreed to establish two mechanisms, the first will study the causes of the historical imbalance in the representation of Darfur and ways to address it. While the second will address the short-term imbalance through positive discrimination. … Darfur people complain of the underrepresentation in the public service saying it is controlled by people from the centre and north Sudan who have more opportunities for education than the other regions. Sudan Tribune

Uganda: Age-Limit Case against Museveni to Proceed
The East African Court of Justice has declined to stop a case challenging the constitutionality of changes in Uganda’s presidential term and age limits. This is a fresh blow to President Yoweri Museveni’s bid to remain in power when the country goes to the polls in 2021. The case filed by a Kampala-based lawyer, Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, will now be heard and determined in the Arusha-based court. In his application, Mr Mabirizi wants the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to halt the implementation of the Uganda Electoral Commission Strategic Plan and Road Map for the 2020/2021 electoral period. He argues that Uganda has violated the EAC Treaty on the principles of good governance, failed to adhere to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights. … The EACJ has ruled that it has jurisdiction over the matter, paving the way for another clash between Mr Mabirizi and AG Byaruhanga. The court will determine whether Uganda violated the EAC Treaty. The East African

Artisanal Miners Attack Gemfields’ Mozambique Ruby Unit, Injuring Four
Artisanal miners torched a car belonging to miner Gemfields’ Mozambique operation on Saturday and attacked the occupants with pickaxes, injuring three employees and one security contractor, the company said. Gemfields owns 75% of Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), which operates in northern Mozambique. The mine, considered to be the world’s largest deposit of rubies, is located in a region rife with crime, illegal mining and that is home to a nascent Islamist insurgency. The attack follows an incident earlier in February when 800 artisanal miners invaded a pit belonging to MRM, 11 of whom died when parts of the pit collapsed. “MRM has observed a dramatic and coordinated increase in the number of artisanal miners entering MRM’s concession, including women and children,” the company’s statement, sent to Reuters on Monday, said. MRM says the artisanal miners are exploited by illegal ruby-smuggling syndicates, and receive only a fraction of the true market value of the rubies they obtain. Reuters

Inside Mauritania’s Winning Strategy against Sahel Terrorists
Mauritania will on Tuesday take over the rotating presidency of the G5 Sahel, which coordinates the anti-jihadism fight of five countries in the region. “Mauritania is a player which was able to overcome terrorism in 2011,” said a French source. “We expect a lot from their presidency.” To Mauritania’s east, the death toll in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has been rising inexorably, but this largely desert country of four million has not experienced an attack in almost nine years. … At the same time, Nouakchott launched a battle of the minds, to deter vulnerable young people from joining the jihadists. In 2010 a dialogue between leading Muslim scholars and around 70 jailed jihadists caused around 50 of the detainees to repent. Some were sent to talk on television and in mosques, preaching to young people about the perils of jihad. More than 500 imams were recruited and youngsters were offered vocational training after they left Islamic schools, giving them the chance of earning a living. “We saw a sharp drop in jihadist recruitment at this time,” said Kone. “People are less accommodating to radical ideas, and the public is working more with the state.” AFP

A Police Raid, Viral Videos and the Broken Lives of Nigerian Gay Law Suspects
The 57 men stumbled out of the back of a dark police truck into the glare of a sunny courtyard and a phalanx of cameras. Some clutched another’s hand, as if for comfort. They lined up on wooden benches in the dirt, almost all of them trying to hide their faces, and not succeeding. Standing behind a bank of microphones, the Lagos state police commissioner, Imohimi Edgal, told the gathered journalists that he personally had ordered the raid that swept up the men after the authorities received a tipoff that young men were being initiated into a “homosexual club.” Edgal declared that homosexuality ran contrary to Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. … Last November, after more than a year of court hearings, Brown [a wiry young man who said he had been hired to dance at a birthday party and had done nothing wrong] was among 47 men who pleaded not guilty to a charge of public displays of affection by people of the same sex. Arrest warrants were issued for the 10 other men who failed to appear in court. In a landmark case that may reach its resolution next month, the men face 10 years in prison if found guilty under the 2014 law, which has never been used to secure a conviction. Reuters

Coronavirus: Mauritius, Tunisia Take Measures to Reduce Exposure to Virus from Italy
Authorities in Mauritius are not taking chances, telling passengers from Northern Italian regions affected by the coronavirus that they would have to go into quarantine. The Alitalia plane landed in Mauritius on Monday with 224 passengers but up to 40 passengers from from the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto returned home rather than go into quarantine, Alitalia said. The airline said they had not been notified by the Mauritian authorities before landing, adding that ‘nobody declared symptoms of illness.’ Italy is struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has so far claimed the lives of 6 people out of more than 200 cases recorded. 11 towns in the northern part of the country are under lockdown. Churches, schools, fashion events and football matches have been affected by the changes. Tunisia’s Transport Minister Rene Trabelsi said on Monday the country may suspend some flights to Italy to reduce its exposure to the coronavirus. Authorities in Uganda and Kenya have reiterated their call to citizens in China to stay put, insisting that the Chinese are better placed to handle the new coronavirus. Africa News

Which African Countries Are Most Vulnerable to the Coronavirus?
As the coronavirus continues to spread beyond mainland China, the medical journal The Lancet has released a study ranking the vulnerability of African countries to the highly contagious respiratory disease. The study models the risk of Covid-19 exposure based on air travel from areas in China with active transmissions, and the capacity of individual African countries to manage an outbreak. Air travel data alone suggests – in order of decreasing likelihood – that Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ethiopia have the highest “importation risk”, with Cairo International Airport receiving the most travellers from areas with active transmission in China – excluding Hubei province, the epicentre of the disease, from where flights are banned. That risk was underlined when Egypt became the first African country to register a confirmed case of coronavirus on 14 February. Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya were identified as having a moderate importation risk, but with varying levels of health system preparedness to handle an outbreak. The New Humanitarian

African Roots: DW’s Popular History Series Is Back with a New Season
The second season of DW’s project “African Roots” premiered at Social Media Week in Lagos on February 24. Kicking off the journey into some of the cornerstones of African history at the week-long conference was a panel discussion entitled “My history – My African roots.” It included a discussion among young social media influencers, a historian, and a graphic artist about the importance of projects like “African Roots” in spreading historical knowledge among the youth in the digital world. The radio and social media project aims to bring African history to a younger audience through a collaboration between historians, cultural scientists, writers, journalists and cartoonists. As DW’s Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl explained, the inspiration for the project came from concerns raised by DW’s audience that “African history is often dominated by Western narratives and that young Africans don’t have easy access to historical documentation.” “African Roots is an exciting project that hopes to help close this gap,” Pohl said. DW



Photo: Adam Jones