Africa Media Review for February 7, 2020

African Ministers Kick Off Ordinary Session in Framework of 33rd AU Summit
The 36th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Executive Council, which comprises ministers of the 55-member pan-African bloc, opened on Thursday in the framework of the 33rd AU summit at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. In the two-day session, the AU Executive Council is expected to consider the draft agenda and the draft decisions and declarations of the assembly with appropriate recommendations for consideration by the AU heads of states, whose session is scheduled to take place from 9 to 10 Feb. The AU summit is held under the theme of the year 2020, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.” As a flagship project of Agenda 2063, a blueprint for prosperous and peaceful Africa by 2063, “Silencing the guns by 2020” was adopted by the AU heads of state during the 50th anniversary of the then Organization for African Union (OAU) now African Union (AU) in 2013. Conflict is one of the biggest challenges for the implementation of Agenda 2063, and with the vision of “Silencing the Guns,” it was aimed to end all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020. Xinhua

African Leaders Grapple with Failure to ‘Silence the Guns’
In remarks Thursday to AU foreign ministers, AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat painted a bleak picture of the continent’s security situation, citing extremist threats stretching from the Sahel to Somalia. The “missed deadline” to silence the guns, he added, “reveals the complexity of the security situation in Africa.” In an op-ed this week in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, Solomon Dersso, head of the AU’s human rights body, was blunter, saying the current level of insecurity “seems to make a mockery of the theme of the year.” Two days of talks open on Sunday. … South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who will take over from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as AU chair on Monday, appears well aware of these challenges. In a speech to South Africa-based diplomats last week, he warned that conflict “continues to hamper” development. South Africa’s goals of advancing economic integration and curbing violence against women “must be underpinned by the promotion of a peaceful and secure Africa,” he added. AFP

No Deal on South Sudan States, Boundaries as Deadline Nears
With a Feb. 22 deadline fast approaching for South Sudan’s rival leaders to form a unity government, there is still no agreement on how many states the country will have or their boundaries. The chief mediator in talks aimed at ending the stalemate chaired a six-hour consultative meeting on the matter Wednesday, but there was no breakthrough. Henry Odwar, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) deputy chairman, told reporters late Wednesday it was “disheartening” that the parties “hit another brick wall.” Information Minister Michael Makuei, one of the government’s representatives on the National Pre-Transitional Committee, said despite the parties’ failure to resolve all outstanding issues, the Kiir administration is not prepared to extend the pretransitional period yet again. “We are saying there is no more extension. We are saying on the 21st of February, which will be the last day of 100 days, the government will be declared, and they will take oath on the 22nd. And if they don’t take part, that will be the time we will respond, not now,” Makuei told VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus” program. VOA

Cameroon Elections Overshadowed by Boycott and Violence
Voters in Cameroon will cast their ballots on Sunday in a country where the mood has been darkened by separatist violence and calls for an election boycott. Elections to renew the central African country’s legislature and local councils are taking place for the first time in seven years, after two postponements. Despite the delays, the campaigning has been low key. In the capital Yaounde, the few banners put up by the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC in its French initials) are barely more numerous than posters calling on people to pick up their litter. The RDPC supports President Paul Biya, one of the world’s oldest and longest-serving leaders, who has ruled with a steely fist for 37 of his 86 years. The main opposition party, the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) is refusing to field a single candidate. Its leader, Maurice Kamto, spent nine months in jail after his defeat in the 2018 presidential elections and is now abroad. “We could have had a few seats in parliament and some town councillors, but how would that enable us to influence events in Cameroon?” Kamto said in an interview with AFP in Paris last month. AFP

Cameroon’s Intensifying Conflict and What It Means for Civilians
Cameroonian government forces and rival anglophone separatists have stepped up arrests, abductions, and deadly attacks in the two months leading up to Sunday’s parliamentary and municipal elections, causing a devastating fallout for civilians that looks set to worsen. Perceived marginalisation by the francophone majority of the minority English-speaking community – some 20 percent of the population, concentrated in the Northwest and Southwest regions – saw a separatist insurgency erupt in Cameroon in October 2016. But what has until recently been a low-intensity conflict – albeit one that has left an estimated 3,000 civilians dead, and nearly 730,000 people displaced at home and abroad – now risks entering a new and more dangerous phase, according to aid workers, residents, and experts. In November 2019, President Paul Biya set a date for the elections, sparking unprecedented violence, destruction, and human rights abuses across the two western regions – referred to collectively by the separatists as the Southern Cameroons or the Republic of Ambazonia. The New Humanitarian

Sudan’s Burhan and Hamdok Agree to Enhance Coordination
The head of the Sovereign Council and the prime minister of Sudan Thursday agreed to overcome the political crisis raised by the meeting with the Israeli prime minister and to enhance joint coordination to achieve the goals of the transitional period. The meeting between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Abdallah Hamdok took place on Thursday evening after separate meetings held with them by three members of the Sovereign Council: Mohamed Hamdan Hemetti, Aisha Musa and Siddig Tawer. In a first time, the three members of the Sovereign agreed with the prime minister on the need to work together to achieve the goals of the revolution and implement the transitional period, according to a short dispatch by the official news agency, SUNA. … “The joint meeting stressed the importance of continued consultation between the institutions of the Transitional Authority to achieve stability ( in the country),” (spokesman) al-Faki further said. Al-Burhan meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu triggered a dissent between him and Hamdok as the later said that the head of Sovereign Council breached the transitional constitutional when he met with Israeli head of government. Sudan Tribune

Africa Has 1.2 Billion People and Only Six Labs That Can Test for Coronavirus. How Quickly Can They Ramp Up?
After Africa’s first suspected case of the Wuhan coronavirus emerged last month in the Ivory Coast, doctors sent a sample from the coughing college student to the closest equipped lab – 4,500 miles north, in Paris. Officials said the wait for the results, which came back negative, highlighted the need to rapidly expand testing capacity on the continent, where health authorities are scrambling to prepare for a potential outbreak. No cases have been confirmed so far in any of Africa’s 54 countries, but the risk of an outbreak is high, World Health Organization leaders say. Africa is home to 1.2 billion people, including an estimated 1 million Chinese nationals, who tend to work in business, construction, oil and mining – a testament to Beijing’s increasingly tight relationship with Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia and beyond. Flights from the Asian power bring at least 1,000 travelers to the continent each day. But as of this week, only six labs could test for the coronavirus. The Washington Post

CAR Marks First Peace Deal Anniversary
The Central African Republic has marked one year anniversary of the peace and reconciliation agreement which was signed in Khartoum, Sudan. In Bangui, it was an opportunity to take stock of this deal signed in February last year between the Central African government and 14 active armed groups in the country. “The current results are real and effective. But they need to be strengthened and developed. That is why I also appeal to the guarantors and facilitators. Indeed, one year after the signing of the Agreement, it is clear that the period of observation has passed and that the time has come to take the road to stability so that the Agreement is really respected,” President Faustin-Archange Touadéra said. Twelve months later, the level of violence has decreased and state authority has been restored. But, armed groups continue to clash with each other in violation of the provisions of the agreement. An ultimate test for the implementation of the agreement will come at the end of 2020 with the organization of general elections with the assistance of UNMISSA and partners of the Central African Republic. AFP

Algeria President Pardons Thousands but Not Protesters
Algeria’s president pardoned almost 6,300 prisoners on Thursday, but scores detained as part of an anti-government protest movement will not benefit from the move, a support group said. The pardon came two days after the president issued a similar pardon for almost 3,500 other prisoners. Abdelmadjid Tebboune signed a decree on Thursday pardoning “a second group of prisoners (6,294 detainees) … whose remaining sentence is 18 months or less,” a statement from the presidency carried by official press agency APS said. The measure does not apply to those imprisoned for crimes including terrorism, treason, espionage and corruption, it added. On Tuesday, Tebboune pardoned 3,471 people who had six months or less remaining of their sentence. The Hirak movement was launched in February 2019 to demand that longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resign instead of running for a fifth term. The CNLD prisoners’ rights group, which identifies and supports detainees, said the pardons did not affect 142 Hirak members who are still in preventive detention. AFP

Nigerian Terror Raid: Police Admit One Officer Killed, Name Two Deceased Suspects
The police on Thursday admitted the loss of an inspector following a raid on a hideout of suspected terrorists in Kaduna State Wednesday. Chief police spokesperson Frank Mba said Thursday night that Muhammed Abubakar, a member of the elite police special forces, was the only casualty recorded in the dawn raid that left at least 250 suspected criminals dead. The police said those killed included members of outlawed Ansaru sect, bandits and other criminals supposedly using Kuduru forests as a hideout. Mr Mba’s statement came a day after he told Premium Times that no officer was killed. He also said that two officers who were in a police chopper that was allegedly shot down by the suspected terrorists only sustained minor, non-life-threatening injuries. But on Thursday evening, amidst raging suspicion that the police account of the operation left more questions than it answered, Mr Mba said the police lost a dedicated inspector. He also provided names of two suspects out of the over 250 he said were “neutralised” during the raid on Wednesday morning. Premium Times

Nigeria Officially Has 18 Political Parties as Election Body De-Registers 75
Nigeria’s elections body has announced that 75 political parties had been deregistered for breaching regulations that govern their operations. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday said the affected parties “did not satisfy the requirement of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution.” Prior to today’s exercise, Nigeria as Africa’s most populous nation with over 200 million people had a total of 93 registered parties. There are only 18 parties that are currently authorized to operate. Details of the reasons that led to the de-registration included: Failure of the parties to win at least 25% of votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election or one local government of a state in a gubernatorial vote; Failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election, a seat in the national or state legislature, a seat in at the councillorship level. INEC under section 225 A of the Nigerian constitution (Fourth Alteration, No. 9) Act, 2017 also reserves the power to de-register a party over a breach of any of the regulations for registration. Africa News

The Swedish Armed Forces has begun planning for a possible deployment including helicopters to the new France-led special operations Task Force Takuba in Mali, following a request from the government. “Exactly what the Swedish contribution will look like is still too early to say, but it will likely include personnel and helicopters from the Special Forces,” the armed forces headquarters said in a Wednesday, February 5 release. Both government and parliament must approve the plans. The announcement comes less than three weeks after Sweden’s Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist accompanied his French counterpart Florence Parly on a visit to Chad and Mali. Hultqvist later told SVT that France had requested a contribution to Takuba but that no government decision had been made. “This is something that we will have to prepare,” he said. More than 200 Swedish military personnel are already deployed to multinational missions in Mali, in the heart of sub-Saharan Africa’s Sahel region. The Defense Post

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday to discuss trade, climate change and the war in Libya. … Ramaphosa and Merkel also discussed the ongoing conflict in oil-rich Libya, with Merkel calling for collaboration in handling the crisis without “imposing a solution on them.” “It is unfortunately not only an African problem but all the way from Russia to Arab states, Turkey and also from European states. We have seen many who apparently have a vested interest in Libya,” Merkel said. “The Libyans themselves have to find a solution for their country.” Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said he “would like to see Africa taking the lead in all this,” but he acknowledged that “the Libyan problem is a unique one because we have a number of other countries outside of Africa involved in that conflict.” Ramaphosa said nevertheless he expects a “much clearer African position” on Libya to follow the African Union summit that is scheduled to take place in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday. DW

Reflections on 1960, the Year of Africa
A little more than a year ago, the archival storytelling group came across a photo of a woman carrying on her back a baby holding a tiny Nigerian flag. The year was 1960. It was a powerful illustration of how new independence felt for so many African nations. Seventeen countries declared independence that year, which became known as the Year of Africa. And with the coming of its 60th anniversary, the idea for this project was born. We selected images – some from The New York Times’s archive and others from various collections around the world – to tell the story of the heady days around the Year of Africa. Each of the 17 countries that gained independence that year is represented here in photographs, but there are also images from countries, like Ghana, with especially rich photographic traditions. We then invited a group of creative people of African descent to give us their personal reactions to these images. The responses varied, but all of the contributors saw glimpses of home and family in these photographs. All of them, in their own way, were moved by the sparks of power and possibility that are as much a part of their individual stories as of the collective history of a continent being redefined. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones