Africa Media Review for January 29, 2020

Assessing Africa’s 2020 Elections
African elections in 2020 will be a test against efforts to erode presidential term limits and other democratic checks and balances, with direct consequences for stability on the continent. As Africa gets set to host a dozen presidential or general elections in 2020, leaders seeking to evade term limits, democratic resiliency in the face of armed conflict, and the increasingly overt efforts by external actors to shape outcomes emerge as recurring themes. 2020, thus, represents an important benchmark of whether African citizens (especially its increasingly active and networked youth), regional organizations, and international partners will tolerate efforts to erode democratic norms – or whether a renewed effort to uphold certain standards will gain traction. Underscoring the stakes at play, a majority of African elections in 2020 will be held in countries confronting or emerging from conflict, including Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Niger, and Somalia. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

At Least 50 Killed in Militia Clashes in Central African Republic Town
Clashes between rival armed groups in Bria, a strategic town in eastern Central African Republic, have left dozens dead, a senior official said on Tuesday. “There are about 50 dead. Some bodies were immediately buried by relatives, so it is difficult to give a precise figure,” said the prefect of Haute-Kotto department, Evariste Binguinidji. After mediation with UN peacekeeping forces sent to the area, “the town is calm. The armed groups have withdrawn their men from the town centre and displaced people have started to return,” he said. The clashes are the latest test to a nearly year-old agreement aimed at bringing peace to the CAR. Deeply impoverished despite its mineral wealth, the CAR has been in the grip of militia violence since 2013. More than two-thirds of the former French colony lies in the hands of armed groups, who typically claim ethnic or religious affiliations and often fight over mineral resources. Bria is the main town in a diamond-rich region. AFP

Why African Countries Seek Greater Role in Libya Peace Process
African Union leaders are expected to renew calls for greater involvement in efforts to resolve Libya’s long-running conflict at a summit held on Thursday in the Republic of the Congo. The meeting in Brazzaville will be held almost two weeks after international stakeholders – including many who back opposite sides in the months-long battle over Libya’s capital, Tripoli – gathered in Berlin and agreed to push the warring sides for a permanent ceasefire and respect an existing United Nations arms embargo. … “The whole African continent is worried about the consequences of what is happening in Libya,” Senegalese President Macky Sall said on Tuesday during a news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Dakar. Sall called for the bloc’s involvement “in any search for a solution,” which he said could only be political. The push for greater AU say is led by the countries bordering Libya, especially in the Sahel region, which fear the crisis will have a greater knock-on effect on an escalating conflict with armed groups operating across the region including in Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The worsening violence in the region involves fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) and last year killed more than 4,000 people. Al Jazeera

UN Report: Chilling Details of Libya Migrant Center Strike
The United Nations revealed on Monday chilling new details about an airstrike that smashed into a migrant detention center in Libya, killing at least 50 people. The July attack, which ranked among the deadliest assaults on civilians since the start of Libya’s civil war, sparked international condemnation and accusations of war crimes. The 13-page-report said the conduct of compound officials at the time of the deadly attack may have contributed to the high death toll. It also documented numerous violations of international law by warring Libyan militias and urged further investigation to ensure accountability. It was published Monday by the U.N. Support Mission in Libya and the U.N. Human Rights Office. The Tajoura detention facility, run by a militia allied with the U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, placed civilian refugees “in grave danger” in manifold ways, the report said. Not only did the center sit in a military complex beside an ammunition depot, making it a prime target for opposition forces laying siege to the capital, but guards at the center also prevented detainees from fleeing after the first airstrike hit. AP

West Darfur Tensions Could See 30,000 Flee across Sudanese Border to Chad: UN Refugee Agency
So far, 11,000 people have crossed the border since deadly inter-communal clashes erupted in the state capital, El Geneina, in late December, with some 4,000 fleeing in the past week alone. The violence has also uprooted another 46,000 people within Sudan, most of whom were already displaced. “With El Geneina only 20 kilometers from the border, thousands of refugees crossed into Chad, a number UNHCR anticipates could reach 30,000 in the coming weeks as tensions persist. UNHCR teams on the ground are hearing accounts of people fleeing after their villages, houses and properties were attacked, many burnt to the ground”, agency spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva. The arrivals are scattered in several border villages in Chad, around the town of Adré, which already is hosting some 128,000 Sudanese refugees. Mr. Baloch described their conditions as dire: “Most are staying in the open or under makeshift shelters, with little protection from the elements. Food and water are urgently needed, while health conditions are a concern.” UN News

UAE Security Firm Repatriates Sudanese Youth from Libya after Protests
Dozens of Sudanese youth who had been sent to Libya by an Emirati firm returned to Sudan on Tuesday after protests and media campaign carried out by their families against the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The families of the returnees organized a campaign on the social media and demonstrated on Monday in front of the UAE embassy in Khartoum, accusing its government of being behind the Black Shield security company. The security firm signed contracts with some three hundred of Sudanese youth to work as security guards in the UAE. But, once arrived in the Gulf country, they received military training and sent to Libya against their will, three months after. 50 Sudanese youths arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday noon and went directly to the Emirati embassy in Khartoum, where they held a sit-in there to demand their rights and hold accountable the company for luring them. Activists also published pictures and videos of a group of young people at Tripoli airport before to return to Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Sudan, SPLM-N Agar Start Truce’s Implementation
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, led by Malik Agar, (SPLM-N Agar) announced the start of the cessation of hostilities’ implementation. The SPLM-N Agar and the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement for peace in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states last week. The Movement’s deputy leader, Yasir Arman told Sudan Tribune, on Tuesday, that the Movement and the government with the participation of a delegation from South Sudan held a workshop on the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access organised by UNAMID. Arman added that the participants will be distributed in Khartoum and the Movement-controlled areas to monitor the truce implementation. “Thus, the ceasefire enters into force” he stressed before to announce the arrival of an SPLM-N mission to the Blue Nile State to assess humanitarian needs on Wednesday. … Referring to the framework peace agreement, Arman said the preliminary agreement is a major achievement that opens a path for achieving reforms. He stressed the need for security reforms to build a professional army with a new military doctrine that includes the RSF militiamen and armed groups struggle fighters. Sudan Tribune

How Smuggled Arms Fuel Nigeria’s Farmer-Herder Clashes
A major field study has uncovered that weapons used in inter-communal violence in three states in northern Nigeria originate in countries including Libya, Turkey and Ivory Coast. Over three years, investigators from the Conflict Armament Research examined hundreds of weapons and ammunition in Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, where there are frequently clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic herdsmen. They found weapons manufactured in Turkey and linked to an unnamed trafficking network. They also discovered assault rifles from Iraq similar to those used by Islamist groups operating in the Sahel. Some had originally come from state stockpiles across the region. The similarity in the weapons suggests a common source, but the organisation was keen to stress this did not mean herding communities in Nigeria were linked to terror groups. Clashes over land have plagued Nigeria’s central and northern states for decades. BBC

Report Alleges Killings in Burundi as Elections Draw Near
Repression has intensified in Burundi as the country prepares to hold elections, according to a human rights research group. Abductions and killings target the government’s political opponents in rural areas where the crimes are likely to go unreported, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative charges in a report published Tuesday. The attacks often are carried out with the knowledge of local officials, the report says. Violence persists even though President Pierre Nkurunziza will not be a candidate in elections set for May. Nkurunziza, who has served three terms, is expected to remain influential behind the scenes. “The discovery of dead bodies, many of them unidentified, in various provinces in Burundi continues to be a deeply disturbing phenomenon in early 2020,” the report says. “Some of the bodies have been found with their arms tied, with injuries, mutilations, or other indications that they did not die of natural causes.” Most of the victims of the repression are members of the opposition National Freedom Council, known by its French acronym CNL, whose leader is the president’s leading opponent, the report says. AP

Mali’s 2012 Coup Leader Released on Bail amid Trial Delays
Former military Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who overthrew Mali’s president in 2012, was released on bail Tuesday as he awaits a long-delayed trial on charges he had 21 soldiers killed after a failed counter-coup that same year. Human rights groups have decried the long quest for justice for the victims, whose bodies were found in a mass grave. The government of the West African nation, though, has expressed concern that the trial could inflame tensions at a time when discontent is on the rise in the military. Sagara Bintou Maiga, president of the victims’ association, acknowledged that risk in saying “we only want stability for our country” after learning of Sanogo’s release on bail. Sanogo and his co-defendants did not go on trial until late 2016 and then the case was swiftly adjourned. The trial was supposed to start up again earlier this month, but it was again put on hold. No date has been set for his trial to resume, and Sanogo is free to move without restrictions, according to his lawyer, Cheick Oumar Konare. … Malian authorities have expressed concerns that Sanogo’s trial could undermine stability in the country wracked by Islamic extremism and growing resentment of the military’s inability to contain the spread of violence. AP

Ivory Coast’s Soro Says He Remains Presidential Candidate despite Warrant
Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro said on Tuesday he would not drop out of presidential elections set for the end of the year, despite an arrest warrant out against him. “I definitely remain a candidate in the election. Those who tried to stop me from going back to my homeland will not stop me from being a candidate,” he told Reuters in Paris. Ivory Coast’s public prosecutor issued the warrant for Soro on Dec. 23 as part of an investigation into an alleged coup plot. Soro denied any wrongdoing and said he was a victim of judicial persecution. “Mercenaries made illegal recordings thinking they can entrap me,” he said. “My lawyers have filed a case in Paris against the authors and prosecutor because part of(the alleged recording) was done in France.” Soro added that his lawyers had placed a request with French prosecutors for his rights to be respected, and will do the same with the regional West African Court of Justice, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, and the United Nations. Reuters

Malawi Government Shuts Schools Ahead of Poll Ruling
A number of schools in Malawi have closed and sent their pupils home ahead of a court ruling next week about the country’s disputed election. Opposition parties are challenging the re-election of President Peter Mutharika in May last year – and the judiciary has announced that its decision will be announced next Monday. The schools say they fear there may be violence in the aftermath of the ruling. Leading bus companies have also issued notices saying that there will be no services on the day of the judgement. Malawi has been experiencing an unprecedented wave of political violence since the poll. The information minister has called for calm, saying the government has put in place measures to ensure all citizens are safe. CGTN

Hunger, Fear and Death: An Ethiopian Migrant Family’s Story
First, drought in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region destroyed Asha Khalif Ali’s crops and animals. Then her husband and brother were killed in ethnic violence. She fled with her seven children, the youngest on her back, and watched their small faces grow gaunt with hunger as they sought safety. Scientists and humanitarians say Asha’s story – of a once prosperous family endlessly buffeted by the intertwined plagues of climate change and violence – will become more familiar around the world as repeated disasters push families into competition for ever-scarcer resources. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Jan. 21 the world needs to prepare for “millions” more climate change refugees and cited a U.N. ruling this month that such people deserved international protection. Behind each number lies a story of suffering. … “Many make the link today between their experience of violent conflicts and climate change,” said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as he toured Ethiopian villages devastated by violence, drought, heavy rains and desert locusts. “The struggle over less productive land is at the origin of much of what they suffer.” Reuters

How the ‘Venice of Africa’ Is Losing Its Battle against the Rising Ocean
Ameth Diagne points to a single tree submerged in the ocean. It is barely visible from the patch of land where he is standing, 50 metres away. The few branches emerging from the water mark the place where he proposed to his wife 35 years earlier. It used to be the town square of Doun Baba Dieye, a vibrant fishing community on the outskirts of Saint-Louis in northern Senegal. The village has been wiped off the map, with only the tree and crumbling walls of an abandoned school remaining as testament to its existence. Everything else is 1.5 metres under water. “This was home. I was born here. Everything which was important to me happened here,” says Ameth, the former village chief. Doun Baba Dieye is in the southern part of Langue de Barbarie, a thin, sandy strip of land protecting Saint-Louis, former colonial capital of Senegal, from the ocean. Saint-Louis, a city of 230,000 and a Unesco world heritage site, is nestled between the mouth of the Senegal river and the Atlantic. The French chose Saint-Louis as the capital because of its strategic location, which allowed the city to flourish in colonial times. But today the “Venice of Africa” is being eaten up by the rising waters. Crossing the Faidherbe bridge, which connects the colourful city centre to the mainland, it seems as if you can almost touch the water. This state of a permanent flood alert has become the city’s new normal. The Guardian

How Transparency International Assessed Nigeria’s Corruption Level
According to the global anti-corruption watchdog’s latest index, Nigeria’s latest ranking of 146 out of the 180 countries that were surveyed worldwide shows that its score of 26 is way below the global average of 43 and the 2019 average score of 32 for the sub-Saharan Africa region. Indeed, Nigeria is ranked 32 out of 49 countries in the sub-region. In the entire West African sub-region, Nigeria is ranked higher than only Guinea Bissau whose score is 18. The report of ranking which was released on Thursday has drawn the ire of authorities in the country. … For Nigeria, the CPI 2019 relies on nine different data sources from different institutions that capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years. These institutions include: African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment; Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index; Economist Intelligence Unit Country Ratings; Global Insight Country Risk Guide. … The Chairman, Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said “perception will continue to be perception but it can be real or not.” … He added that “the best that can be done is for the government to take the rating on face level and improve on some of the issues raised in the report.” Premium Times



Photo: Adam Jones