Africa Media Review for January 15, 2020

Five Killed as Sudan Crushes Revolt by Security Agents
Five people, including two soldiers, were killed as Sudanese troops crushed a rebellion launched by agents of the country’s long-feared security agency against a restructuring plan, officials and medics said Wednesday. On Tuesday, heavy gunfire broke out at some Khartoum bases of the Directorate of General Intelligence Service, formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service, after some of its agents rejected a retirement plan proposed by the country’s new authorities. NISS agents were at the forefront of a crackdown on protesters during a nationwide uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir last April. Late on Tuesday, troops from the regular army and from the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) stormed the bases amid heavy gunfire. “We decided to storm the bases to end this rebellion… We have now taken control of these bases,” Sudan’s chief of staff Lieutenant General Osman Mohamed al-Hassan told reporters early on Wednesday. “We lost two soldiers and four others, including two officers, have been wounded.” Doctors close to the protest movement that led to Bashir’s ouster said that three civilians — all from the same family — had been killed by bullets near a NISS base in south Khartoum. AFP

Race to Refine: The Bid to Clean Up Africa’s Gold Rush
In a refinery just outside Uganda’s main airport, workers slip bars of freshly refined gold into clear plastic bags sealed with a sticker of the national flag – black, yellow and red – and the label “Ugandan’s Treasure.” Uganda produces little gold of its own. Alain Goetz, who set up the refinery, says that by branding gold from abroad as Ugandan, the operation is merely imitating others – for example, the Swiss don’t mine the gold they refine in Switzerland. A pink building guarded by dogs at Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria, the refinery, African Gold Refinery (AGR), is part of a trend across Africa. Small-scale mining is booming, and new gold refineries are opening by the dozen, to process metal produced by informal diggers in Africa and beyond.The refineries, which often win high-level political backing, can be positive because they offer miners and states a way to extract value from their own mineral wealth rather than just exporting raw commodities. But if not properly controlled, they risk adding to problems of smuggling and funding conflict. Reuters

Nearly 1,000 Migrants Forced Back to Libya since Start of Year: UN
Heavy clashes have spurred a growing exodus of migrants from Libya, but nearly 1,000 intercepted at sea have been forced to return to the war-ravaged country since January 1, the UN said on Tuesday. Since the start of the year, as many as 1,100 migrants have left Libya by sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), adding that a majority had been sent back to the country and detained. “At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020,” spokeswoman Safa Msehli told reporters in Geneva. “Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres,” she added. At the behest of Italy, Libya’s coastguard routinely blocks migrants from reaching Europe. Rights groups charge that Libya picks up migrants in the Mediterranean and brings them back to overcrowded detention centres, where many have been victims of abuse and forced labour. The increase in departures comes after a surge in violence in Tripoli, which was temporarily tempered by a weekend halt in fighting, but with the international community so far unable to secure a longterm ceasefire. AFP

Pilot Killed in Egypt Air Force Fighter Jet Crash during ‘Training Activity’ in North Sinai
An Egyptian Air Force pilot was killed when his fighter jet crashed in North Sinai on Tuesday, January 14, the military said. The Egyptian military spokesperson said the plane crashed during an air force training exercise in “one of the training areas,” adding that the cause of the crash is yet to be determined. The spokesperson did not specify the type of aircraft that crashed. Egypt’s large air force has a range of fighter jet aircraft in its inventory, including F-16 Fighting Falcons, Alpha Jets, and Mirages, all reportedly used for training. Amaq, Islamic State’s propaganda arm, announced the crash of an Egyptian armed forces F-16 in the village of Shebaneh, south of Rafah in north Sinai. Amaq did not mention a possible cause of the crash and did not say ISIS brought down the aircraft. The Egyptian government has been battling a significant Islamist insurgency in North Sinai in recent years. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a defunct Islamist militant group active in northern Sinai, pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014, dubbing itself as ISIS’s Sinai province. The Defense Post

US Citizen Dies in Egypt Prison Following Hunger Strike
Egypt said on Tuesday it would investigate the death in custody of a US citizen who went on a hunger strike as part of a six-year battle against what he insisted was wrongful imprisonment. Mustafa Kassem, 54, an Egyptian-born auto parts dealer from Long Island, New York, died late on Monday of heart failure after a hunger strike he began last year, his lawyers said. The case has trained a spotlight on the dangers of Egyptian prisons, where many inmates are held for crimes they insist they did not commit, or have not been charged at all, as the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, escalates a crackdown on dissent. Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered an autopsy and said officials were questioning all doctors who oversaw Kassem’s care in prison and at the Cairo University hospital where he died. In Washington, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Schenker, told reporters Kassem’s death was “needless, tragic and avoidable.” “I will continue to raise our serious concerns about human rights and Americans detained in Egypt at every opportunity,” he said. The Guardian

Somali Security Forces Recaptures Key Town from Al-Shabaab
Somalia Special Forces (Danab) on Monday recaptured a key town in the southern region from al-Shabaab and arrested senior leaders of the local terror group. Ismail Abdimalik Malin, commander of the 16th Brigade, said that Toratorow, a key revenue collection region for al-Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region, was recovered in an operation that also saw the arrest of ten militants. “Our Somalia National Army liberated Toratorow from al-Shabaab without any resistance from the militants. Ten militants were arrested during the operation,” Malin told journalists. He vowed to intensify security operations in the region to flush out the al-Qaeda militant group in other areas under their control. It’s not the first time the town which is an al-Shabaab stronghold was captured by government forces. Toratorow is located near the US military base in Balidogle Airfield and is an important revenue collection centre in south-central Somalia. Xinhua

Rights Group Criticizes Rwanda’s Ruling on Former Officers
Human Rights Watch says the decision by Rwanda’s Court of Appeal upholding the conviction of two former high-ranking army officers, who are said to be in failing health, fits a pattern of government repression of critics. Rwanda’s Military High Court sentenced Col. Tom Byabagamba and retired Brig. Gen. Frank Rusagara in 2016 to 21 years and 20 years in prison, respectively, on charges including insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image. The former allies of President Paul Kagame denied the charges. Critics have said the charges related to simple criticisms made against Kagame’s government in private. Human Rights Watch in a statement Monday noted that the appeals court reduced their sentences to 15 years on Dec. 27, but it reiterated concerns about the use of unreliable evidence in their trial. The rights group also expressed concern about reports of ill treatment and inadequately treated health problems behind bars. … Rwanda in June will host the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which will include discussions on governance and rule of law. AP

Burundi: More than 4,000 Mass Graves Uncovered
More than 4,000 mass graves have been found in Burundi following an investigation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into conflicts since independence in 1962. The commission, set up in 2018 to shed light on ethnic tensions, says it has identified 142,505 victims. Mass killings took place in 1965, 1969, 1972, 1988 and 1993. Burundi’s politicians are accused turning the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu communities against each other. Commission chairperson Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye presented the report to parliament of the landlocked African country. “Many more mass graves are yet to be found because people who know about them are afraid to talk or are traumatised,” he said. Finding out the truth of what happened would lead to forgiveness between the perpetrators and the families of the victims to “forge a peaceful future for Burundi’s generations,” he added. On Monday, a mass grave, with up to 270 bodies, was opened to the public in the country’s main city of Bujumbura. It is believed to contain the remains of those killed in clashes following the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first elected Hutu president, in 1993. BBC

Ethiopia’s Electoral Board Sets Tentative August Date for Elections
Ethiopia’s electoral board said on Wednesday it expects to hold national elections on Aug. 16, 2020, the first vote under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in 2018 and has directed political and economic reforms. Birtukan Mideksa, the head of the electoral board, told Reuters that the date was tentative. Abiy released political prisoners and appointed former dissidents to high-level positions. But the reforms have also unleashed long-simmering ethnic divisions, and the electoral board said last June that the security situation could delay this year’s election. But Abiy, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said last week elections would be held this year in May or June despite concerns over security and logistics. Reuters

Mozambique’s Nyusi Begins 2nd Term amid Violent Challenges
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi was sworn in for a second and final term Wednesday after five turbulent years in office amid two armed insurgencies. Nyusi, 60, won re-election in October with 73% of the vote, while the opposition alleged irregularities. The president of Portugal, Mozambique’s former colonial power, and the leaders of Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe were among the dignitaries who attended the open-air inauguration in downtown Maputo, capital of the southern African country of 30 million people. Ossufo Momade, the leader of the Renamo opposition who had protested Nyusi’s reelection as unfair, did not attend the ceremony. … The crowning achievement of Nyusi’s first term was meant to be the peace agreement signed in August with the armed opposition Renamo. Instead, it triggered fresh violence in central Mozambique by dissidents unhappy with the terms of the accord. More than 15 armed attacks on vehicles in central Mozambique have been reported in recent months, killing 21 people. Nyusi’s government is also battling to contain deadly attacks in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado by extremists reportedly linked to the Islamic State group. An estimated 300 people have been killed, including by beheading, since the attacks began in 2017. AP

Nigeria: Why Supreme Court Sacked Ihedioha, Declared APC’s Uzodinma Winner in Imo
The Supreme Court on Tuesday nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the governor of Imo State. The apex court declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state. In the unanimous judgment of the seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court agreed that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo State. Justice Kekere-Ekun said with the results from the 388 polling units added, Mr Uzodinma polled a majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The judge did not provide the details of the new votes scored by each of the candidates after the addition of the results from the 388 polling units. Consequently, she voided and set aside the declaration of Mr lhedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the South-East state. Premium Times

Africa Struggles to Stem Deadly Flood of Fake Medicine
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year some 100,000 people across Africa die from taking “falsified or substandard” medication. The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated in 2015 that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor quality anti-malaria drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. Weak legislation, poor healthcare systems and widespread poverty have encouraged the growth of this parallel — and deadly — market. Since 2013, Africa has made up 42 percent of the fake medicine seized worldwide. The two drugs most likely to be out-of-date or poor, ineffective copies are antibiotics and anti-malarials, say experts. And bogus drugs not only pose a risk to the patient — they also play a worrying part in building resistance to vital frontline medications. In a bid to tackle the scourge, presidents from seven countries — the Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda — meet Friday in Lome to sign an agreement for criminalising trafficking in fake drugs. AFP

African Women Fight Underrepresentation in Climate Research
As a child, Kenyan meteorologist Saumu Shaka helped out on her parents’ small farm growing maize and pigeon pea and learned how the weather can hold food producers hostage. “Looking back, the yield has declined over the years,” said Ms. Shaka, who works with the Kenya Meteorological Department. A decade ago, her parents would get 25 sacks of maize from their six hectares in Taita Taveta County, southeast of Nairobi. Today that number dwindled to five bags at most, because of erratic rainfall that can spur crop-destroying pests. As climate change fuels extreme weather and threatens harvests, Africa needs more scientific expertise to help small-scale farmers adapt, especially women who tend to be hit worst, said Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of Nairobi-based group African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women represent nearly half of farmers in Africa and produce up to 80% of basic food crops. They are also largely responsible for preparing, storing, and processing food. But in many cases, the FAO says, they have limited rights, mobility, and access to resources, information, and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable and less able to adapt to climate change impacts than men are. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones