Africa Media Review for January 17, 2020

Attack on Fulani Village in Mali Kills over a Dozen in Latest Spate of Ethnic Violence
Fourteen people were killed and two wounded on Thursday in an attack on a Fulani village in central Mali, according to the UN, in an apparent bout of ethnic violence. The figure, from a UN report on the incident, revises down an earlier death toll of 15 people given by a security official, and reported by AFP. According to the report, armed men on motorbikes, wearing the garb of traditional hunters known as the Dozo, attacked Siba village in the early hours of Thursday morning. They fired at villagers with hunting rifles and set fire to houses. Thirteen men and one girl died in the attack, while two people were wounded and livestock was also stolen. Tensions between the mostly Fulani villagers of Siba, and neighbouring village of Synda, which is mostly inhabited by traditional Dogon hunters, have existed for some time, the report said. Some Synda villagers were robbed of cattle on Wedneday, the report added, quoting local sources, in an incident blamed on Fulani. France24

Libya’s Warring Leaders Eye Berlin Truce Talks
Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar agreed “in principle” Thursday to attend a peace conference in Berlin after the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj signalled he would be present. The talks come as world powers step up efforts for a lasting ceasefire, nine months since an assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces sparked fighting that has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters, displacing thousands. An interim truce which came into force Sunday has mostly held, despite accusations of violations from Haftar’s forces and the rival Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). … The conference will aim to agree six points including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of a much-violated UN arms embargo and a return to political efforts for peace, Guterres said. AFP

EU Parliament Condemns Rights Crackdown in Burundi ahead of 2020 Election
The European parliament has passed a resolution condemning Burundi for restricting freedom of expression and violating human rights ahead of elections due in May this year. The resolution passed on Thursday states that EU lawmakers are concerned about the government’s “intimidation, harassment, and arbitrary arrest of journalists, human rights activists and members of the opposition”. It says the media in the east African nation work in a “climate of fear”, creating conditions that are not conducive for credible elections. Burundi government officials were not immediately reachable for comment on the resolution. The government has previously consistently denied violating human rights or restricting freedom of expression. … U.N. investigators warned in a September report that Burundi was at risk of a new wave of atrocities as the election neared and that there was a climate of intimidation against anyone who did not show support for the ruling party. Reuters

More Rebuke For Mnangagwa Over Constitutional Amendments
TWO elections based civic organisations have slammed current attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to amend the 2013 national Constitution for what has been perceived as intended for personal gain. The Elections Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) have said government should instead take the time to realign all the country’s laws with the Constitution before making any amendments. Speaking to journalists Thursday, ERC Director Tawanda Chimhini said more had to be done in strengthening the Constitution instead of creating a wall on other stakeholders who supported the Constitution in 2013. “It is disturbing that the same government that is calling for dialogue and national cohesion on one hand is shutting the door on all other stakeholders in an important exercise such as amending a Constitution that was overwhelmingly supported by Zimbabweans in 2013,” Chimhini said. … The ERC director said judges who are appointed at the discretion of the Executive undermined perceptions of fairness in the event of disputed elections given that the Executive is an interested party in elections. New Zimbabwe

Record 45 Million Need Urgent Food Aid in Southern Africa: UN
A record 45 million people in Southern Africa, mostly women and children, face severe food insecurity caused by drought, flooding, and economic disarray, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday. “This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,” said Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa, in a statement. Food insecurity defined by the US Department of Agriculture is the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life. … With temperatures rising at twice the global average and most of its food produced by subsistence farmers entirely dependent on increasingly unreliable rains, Southern Africa has had just one normal growing season in the last five years, WFP said. Al Jazeera

Darfur Displaced Demand Protection from Armed Criminals
Leaders of the displaced people of Darfur have decried the proposed withdrawals of the Unamid peace keeping force, and demand protection after repeated violent attacks. Displaced leader El Shafee Abdallah told Radio Dabanga that unknown assailants attacked Taha Ibrahim on Tuesday in camp Hasahisa in Central Darfur, causing him serious wounds. He was transferred to Zalingei Hospital. … On Wednesday, a delegation from the US State Department and the US embassy in Khartoum visited camp Hamidiya in Zalingei in Central Darfur and met with the leaders of the displaced camps in the city. Displaced leader El Shafee Abdallah, told Radio Dabanga that the delegation asked the opinion of the displaced people regarding the work of the Unamid, the ongoing peace negotiations in Juba, and the conference to be held by the peace commission. … El Shafee Abdallah indicated that the displaced people assured the visiting delegation of their rejection of the exit programme for Unamid from Darfur, while not satisfied with its work at the present time. They demanded that the mission spread throughout the region, conduct patrols to protect the displaced, and establish a section to monitor the mission’s work in protecting the displaced. Dabanga

Mistrust Provokes Attack on Red Cross Volunteers in Ebola-Affected Community in DR Congo
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says that community mistrust was the cause of an attack on Red Cross volunteers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this week. The attack took place during a burial service for an Ebola victim in Ituri province. Two of the 18 Red Cross volunteers performing a burial service of a suspected Ebola victim Monday were seriously injured. They are recovering in a hospital, where they are receiving medical and psychological care. The director of health and care at the Red Cross Federation, Emanuele Capobianco, tells VOA the attack was fueled by mistrust and suspicion among some members of the community. “The attackers came from within the community and there was a moment of panic during the burial that made the mob react and go after the team of volunteers that were performing the burial … and some of them were attacked with machetes,” he said. VOA

Kiir Accepts Regional Mediation to Resolve States’ Issue in South Sudan
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Thursday accepted the referral of his dispute with the other peace partners on the number of states and their boundaries to a regional arbitration panel. The announcement was made after a meeting with IGAD and South African envoys by South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza who took part in a joint meeting for IGAD, Kenyan, Sudanese and Ugandan envoys with President Kiir. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mabuza said they confirmed the formation of the transitional national unity government in February, as it was agreed by the South Sudanese parties. “But we are going to subject the question of the number of states to arbitration, a mechanism that is going to take 90 days,” after the formation of the transitional government of national unity. Also, he mentioned that the parties have achieved progress on the other sticky issue of the security arrangements. Sudan Tribune

Malawi in Turmoil as Judgment Day Looms
As Malawi anxiously awaits the results of a Constitutional Court case that could nullify last year’s presidential election, popular resistance to President Peter Mutharika is growing more strident, precipitating the country’s worst political crisis since the return to democracy in 1994. The scars of the unrest are all too visible in Msundwe, a trading centre on the outskirts of the capital Lilongwe that has become a hotbed of protest action against the government. Long-standing local grievances against this government were crystallised after the presidential election in May last year, which was won by Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with 38.57% of the vote. Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party came second with 35.41%. But the results were marred by serious allegations of electoral fraud, and rejected by opposition parties, who launched a legal challenge. This is now before the Constitutional Court. Mail & Guardian

Lesotho Premier to Resign as Police Probe Wife’s Murder
Lesotho’s prime minister said he intends to step down, following increased calls for his resignation over the murder of his second wife, which police have linked to the woman he married a little over two months later. Thomas Thabane, 80, was inaugurated as prime minister of the tiny African mountain kingdom two days after his second wife was shot in June 2017. He previously held the post from 2012 to 2015, but fled to South Africa in 2014 after an alleged coup attempt. … Earlier this month, court documents showed that the country’s police chief asked Thabane to clarify why his mobile phone number was linked to the crime scene, naming Thabane’s current wife, Maesiah Thabane, as a suspect in the killing. Thabane had issued a notice to replace the police chief but withdrew it after the Lesotho High Court intervened. Maesiah has been on the run since the police issued an arrest warrant last week. Neither she nor her husband have commented on the murder case. Bloomberg

Egypt Accuses Turkish News Agency Staff of ‘False News’
Egypt has accused four staff of Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu whom it arrested of spreading “false news” and working with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. Police raided their Cairo office Tuesday and formally arrested them Wednesday at a time of rising tensions between the rival nations. The interior ministry charged that the news bureau was a front for a “Turkish troll farm … intent on broadcasting false news about the country’s political, economic, security and rights situation”. The ministry said the employees were working “with the aim of distorting the image” of Egypt and said their cases had been referred to the prosecution. … The Turkish and Egyptian governments are fierce rivals, since Ankara strongly supported Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood administration that was overthrown by a military ouster in 2013. … Egypt ranks third in the world in terms of the number of journalists in detention, behind China and Turkey, according to CPJ. AFP

Jailed Stella Nyanzi wins 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award
Incarcerated Ugandan academic, writer and feminist activist, Dr Stella Nyanzi is this year’s winner of the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression. A medical anthropologist by training, Dr Nyanzi has published widely in the academia on topics at the intersections of culture, health, law, gender and sexualities. … “Stella Nyanzi has been deemed a criminal by the Ugandan authorities because she has criticised those at the highest echelons of power. Although her words might be colourful and shocking to some, this is not enough to justify the imposition of penalties, and public officials should tolerate a higher degree of criticism than ordinary citizens,” [PEN International president Jennifer Clement] said … Dr Nyanzi is currently in Luzira Prison serving an 18-month sentence for ‘cyber harassment’, in relation to a poem she wrote on Facebook in September 2018 criticising Mr Museveni. Daily Monitor

Gambia Presidential Issues Come to the Fore
Thousands of supporters of Gambia’s former strongman Yahya Jammeh have taken to the streets of Banjul to call for his return, according to local news outlet The Chronicle. It follows last week’s release of an audio recording, reportedly of the ex-president saying he wants to come home. … Barrow presidential adviser Do Sannoh said he did not know of any ongoing negotiations regarding Jammeh returning to The Gambia, but indicated that he would be welcome to appear before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which has been investigating human rights abuses under Jammeh for the past year. … Although the former dictator is living in exile in Equatorial Guinea, more than 3,000 kilometres away, he is very much in touch with his political base, said Sanneh. “There are indications that he receives security briefings from the side of the Army or the security forces he’s very well connected,” he said. RFI

Fifty Years On, Nigeria Struggles with Memory of Biafra War
Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation. He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that like the majority of his classmates he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14”. … Before then, Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967. He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970. “We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka told AFP. “We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened.” … While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu, the memory of those years lives on. … Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos—the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba—still feel marginalised. AFP

Benin Negotiates with France to Return Precious Objects Taken During Colonial War
When French soldiers began an incursion against the West African Kingdom of Dahomey in 1890, King Béhanzin sent his fiercest soldiers to defend the front line. The troops were an elite squadron of women warriors often remembered as “Amazons.” The French eventually defeated the kingdom, looting expensive jewelry and clothes that belonged to the women warriors. These precious objects speak to the warriors’ importance to the Kingdom of Dahomey that once ruled parts of modern-day Benin. The French colonized Benin until 1959. … In December 2019, France announced a deadline to return 26 objects taken by French colonial military leader Alfred-Amédée Dodds in the 1890s back to Benin by 2021 amid a growing call for the restitution of African art taken during colonial periods. … In 2018, Macron commissioned a report on France’s national art collections written by Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French art historian Bénédicte Savoy. The now infamous report shocked the art world by calling for the immediate restitution of African art looted or stolen during the colonial era. PRI

African Internet Slows After Undersea Cables Break
Some Internet users across sub-Saharan Africa are stuck with slow service after two undersea cables to the continent’s western coast were damaged. The so-called WACS and SAT3/WASC cable systems are in the Atlantic Ocean and connect South Africa and many other African countries to Europe, according to Openserve, a unit of South Africa’s biggest fixed-line telecommunications provider, Telkom SA SOC Ltd. One break is near Libreville in Gabon and the other is in the vicinity of Luanda, Angola, Openserve said in an emailed statement. In some countries, consumers and businesses can’t send emails or make cross-border phone calls. With parts of the cabling lying deep underwater, it’s unclear as to when full connectivity will be restored. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones