Africa Media Review for January 15, 2021

Dozens Killed in Suspected Rebel Attack in Eastern DR Congo
At least 46 civilians are reported to have been killed in an attack by suspected rebel fighters on a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a senior provincial official said on Thursday. Local security forces have been dispatched to the village in Irumu territory to investigate, provincial Interior Minister Adjio Gidi said by phone. “The death toll as of this afternoon is reported to be 46,” Gidi said. He said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were behind the raid. A local NGO leader told AFP news agency that all the victims were from the pygmy ethnic group. The Ugandan armed group is believed to have carried out a string of massacres in the eastern DRC, killing more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to UN figures. After being alerted to the latest violence, troops went to the village and are in the process of recovering bodies, local army spokesman Jules Ngongo said. He did not say how many had been killed. DRC’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are home to a constellation of more than 100 different rebel groups, many remnants of its brutal civil wars that officially ended in 2003. Al Jazeera

Uganda Elections 2021: Museveni Takes Early Lead as Bobi Wine Cries Foul
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has a clear lead in the presidential race following Thursday’s vote, early official preliminary results show. But his main challenger, pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine, said that tally was the result of the worst rigging in Ugandan electoral history. Election monitors say confidence in the count has been damaged by an internet shutdown, now in its third day. Dozens of people were killed in the run-up to the election. President Museveni, who has been in power for 35 years, is hoping for a sixth term. … With 29.4% of ballots counted, Mr Museveni has won 63.9% of the vote compared to Bobi Wine with 28.4%, Reuters news agency quotes the electoral commission as saying. … The results were being transmitted to a tallying centre despite the internet not working … But Bobi Wine, who said some of his polling agents were arrested on Thursday, believes the shutdown is being used to block communication and as a way of compromising the vote.… BBC correspondents say there is tight security in the capital, Kampala, with soldiers and police patrolling the streets. BBC

Uganda Social Media Row Raises Question over Regulation in Africa
After Facebook’s suspension of some Ugandan accounts, followed by the authorities’ shutdown of social media and then the entire internet, the BBC’s Dickens Olewe looks at the wider implications for Uganda, and elsewhere in Africa. … [A]ccording to Kenyan internet policy researcher Odanga Madung, banning the NRM-linked accounts exposed how sensitive the subject of content moderation can be and handed the Ugandan government the perfect excuse to do what it had already planned. “Any casual observer of Ugandan politics expected the government to impose internet restrictions ahead of the elections, so Facebook’s decision – especially the absence of tact when punishing infringements of its terms of service – offered Museveni a timely ruse to clothe the inevitable shutdown as a retaliation,” said Mr Madung. BBC

Rights Groups Urge Zimbabwe to Drop Charges Against Journalist, Politicians
Rights groups are calling on Zimbabwe authorities to drop charges against a prominent journalist and two senior opposition members accused of “peddling falsehoods,” saying the charges against the three are part of the government’s efforts to stifle critics. Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, was denied bail Thursday by Harare Magistrate Lanzini Ncube, who said Chin’ono had a high chance of skipping the country or committing more offenses. Paidamoyo Saurombe — from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the organization representing Chin’ono and the two opposition politicians — has a different point of view. “It is our considered view that Mr. Chin’ono is not a convicted criminal, he has not been convicted of any crime in the past and hence to say he has a propensity to commit other offenses whilst on bail would be a gross misdirection on the part of the court,” he said. VOA

U.N. Chief Guterres Tries Again to Appoint a Libya Mediator
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to appoint veteran diplomat Jan Kubis as his envoy in Libya nearly a year after the last mediator stepped down, according to a letter to the U.N. Security Council seen by Reuters on Thursday. If there are no objections by any of the 15-member council by Friday evening, Kubis will succeed Ghassan Salame, who quit the role in March last year due to stress. Salame’s deputy Stephanie Williams has been acting Libya envoy. Kubis, a former Slovakian foreign minister, is currently the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon. He has also served as the U.N. special envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The planned appointment of Kubis comes after the Security Council approved in December a plan by Guterres’ to name Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov to the Libya role. But a week later Mladenov said he could not take up the position due to “personal and family reasons.” Reuters

UN Security Council Condemns CAR Rebel Attack on Bangui
The UN Security Council has denounced Wednesday’s attack on the Central African Republic capital Bangui that left one blue helmet dead. It marks the first attack by the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel group on the capital, a key objective for the rebels who oppose the government. A declaration in New York by members of the Security Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres criticised the breaking of the CAR peace deal, as well as violence carried out by armed groups in opposition to December’s electoral process. The statement called on the rebels to honour the peace agreement, which has effectively been broken, and cease hostilities. A Rwandan peacekeeper was killed in Bangui in an attack by CPC rebels on Wednesday morning in fighting with Central African soldiers, the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA and Russian paramilitary forces, following an incursion into the capital. RFI

UN Refugee Chief ‘Very Worried’ for Eritrean Refugees in Tigray
The chief of the U.N.’s refugee agency said Thursday he remains “deeply troubled” by the humanitarian situation in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, noting the number of Eritrean refugees already at risk there. Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement Thursday that while aid and food have been distributed at a few refugee camps in the region, aid workers have been unable to access at least two camps since unrest broke out two months ago. “I am very worried for the safety and well-being of Eritrean refugees in those camps. They have been without any aid for many weeks,” the statement read. “Furthermore, and of utmost concern, I continue to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity and allegations of grave and distressing human rights abuses, including killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea.” Approximately 96,000 Eritrean refugees lived in four camps in Tigray prior to the conflict that erupted in November. Many fled the violence to Sudan or to other parts of the country, including the capital, Addis Ababa. VOA

UAE Explores Ways to Facilitate, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt Stalled Talks on Giant Dam
United Arab Emirates (UAE) seeks to facilitate the stalled talks over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Dam (GERD), said the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) on Wednesday. The official agency said a delegation including senior officials from the UAE’s foreign ministry was in a one-day visit to Khartoum to in an effort to break the stalled discussions between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia over the giant dam. “The Emirati delegation was briefed by officials from the foreign affairs and irrigation ministries about the Sudanese on the GERD,” said the agency quoting an anonymous official source. “The Emirati initiative did not come at the request of Sudan,” stressed the official. The UAE has strong economic cooperation with the Ethiopian government as part of its plans to enhance its investments and diplomatic presence in the Horn of Africa. Sudan Tribune

Rare Conviction of South Sudan Soldiers for Rape Raises Hope
First, the soldiers stole their belongings. Then they took their food. On their third and final visit, the woman said, the soldiers raped her and her daughter-in-law until they were unable to walk. What sets these assaults in South Sudan apart from many other rapes by soldiers in the troubled country is this: The women brought the men to court and won. Ten years after South Sudan gained its independence and two years after its own deadly civil war ended, large-scale fighting has subsided but clashes continue between communities and between the government and groups that did not sign the peace deal — and the use of rape as a weapon remains rampant. Justice is exceedingly rare, but the September conviction has raised hopes that such crimes will increasingly be prosecuted. … In the end, 26 soldiers were convicted, some for rape but others for offenses including looting. It was the first time soldiers had been convicted of rape since the 2016 rampage at the Terrain Hotel, where five international aid workers were gang-raped and a local journalist was killed. AP

Sudan Closes Airspace on Ethiopian Border
The Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) has declared the closure of airspace over eastern Sudan region of Gadaref, after the incursion of an Ethiopian fighter plane on Wednesday. “The measure has been taken in the wake of the violation of the Sudanese airspace by an Ethiopian fighter jet on Wednesday morning,” the SCAA Director Ibrahim Adlan told the Sudan Tribune. On Wednesday, the head of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fatah al-Burhan made a very tough speech during a visit to the border areas of al-Fashaga against the Ethiopian government without naming it and pledged to fight anyone who claims the Sudanese territory. He pointed to one of the senior officers who accompanied him to visit the families of the Sudanese women killed by the Ethiopian forces saying “he was posted in this area 25 years ago and now they come to claim the ownership of our land”. In the same trend, foreign minister Omer Gamar Eldin rejected calls by the Ethiopian government for negotiations saying there is no border dispute to be negotiated because the claimed area is a Sudanese territory. Sudan Tribune

Somalia Faces Moment of Uncertainty as Term of President Nears End
Somalia is largely an oral society where word of mouth spreads like fire. This week, the rumour has been whether President Mohamed Farmaajo’s term will be extended or whether the vocal opposition groups will see through their threat of running parallel elections. Both options have supporters and opponents, but the donor community, which is expected to fund the electoral programmes, has asked for consensus. In a joint statement on Tuesday, the donors said Somalia’s political leaders must choose national interest over personal ambitions and resolve the impasse. … The impasse arose mainly from the listing of polling officials meant to conduct the elections. Opposition groups argued the teams were composed of spy agents and civil servants loyal to Farmaajo, and argued the polls would be unfair. The East African

Malawian Migrant Workers, Back Home From South Africa, Riot in Quarantine
Malawi is struggling to quarantine migrant workers returning from South Africa who were being tested for the coronavirus. At a facility this week, returnees upset over living conditions clashed with police, and authorities said about 20 returnees escaped. One migrant laborer, Glory Kayira, returned to Malawi after working in South Africa for five years because she lost her job amid the pandemic. “As foreigners,” she said, “we were living in rented houses. We were supposed to buy food on our own, but we could not manage that.” Kayira is one of about 600 Malawians who returned Saturday and were quarantined at Mapanga Prison Training School. The facility was set up to stop the importation of coronavirus cases. Migrants returning from South Africa account for 40 percent of Malawi’s caseload. But returnees on Sunday torched buildings to protest the poor living conditions. Police used tear gas to end the riot. VOA

Mozambique: Terrorist Hostages Released
A group of 21 people (15 women and six children), kidnapped by the islamist terrorists operating in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado can now return to their homes on Matemo island, after being rescued by the defence and security forces. According to a report in Thursday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Carta de Mocambique”, they were captured during a terrorist attack against Matemo on 6 January. Their captors used them to transport goods looted from the local populations, and took them to Macomia district on the mainland. One of the rescued women, Maisha Ambasse, said “there were about 30 terrorists who took us from Matemo to Olumboa (a village on the mainland). When we got there, they said they were going to take us to Mocimboa da Praia, to study in a madrassa (a Koranic school)”. But before that could happen, a government helicopter arrived to rescue the hostages. “We’re thankful that the helicopter saved us”, said Ambasse. “Otherwise by now we would be in Mocimboa da Praia”. Agencia de Informação de Mocambique

Google Translations Reveal Kinyarwanda is Not So Simple
Google Translate last year added Kinyarwanda as one of the five new languages onto its offering, breaking a four-year deadlock of no language added. Rwandans had waited with bated breath since a big segment of the population relies on Kinyarwanda to communicate, yet they wish to communicate in other languages. Since then, social media has been awash with hilarious English translations, which people get when they type in certain words or phrases in the Google Translate bar, revealing an even bigger dilemma. When one types in ‘Nagushatse ndakubura’, a legitimate Kinyarwanda phrase meaning, ‘I looked for you and I couldn’t find you’, the English translation in Google is ‘I married you, I missed you’. Which is also somewhat accurate. That one phrase can mean different things, exposes how narrow Kinyarwanda is. But that is just part of the problem. Jean Bosco Iradukunda, a linguist and translator, said it is true Kinyarwanda is limited in richness, but that the biggest challenge is that Kinyarwanda has very limited digital footprint on the Internet. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones