Africa Media Review for January 30, 2020

Attack Kills 15 in Eastern DRC
Fifteen people have been killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo region of Beni, where hundreds have died in militia violence since November, a local official said Wednesday, giving a provisional toll. In the past 24 hours, “14 bodies have been found hacked to death,” while a pastor was killed in a separate attack, the administrator for the Beni region, Donat Kibwana, told AFP. Two people with severe head wounds have been admitted to the hospital in Oicha for surgery, an AFP reporter there said. … The massacres seem to be a tactic by the ADF to frighten the population into silence, say local commentators. The ADF began as an Islamist rebel group in Uganda that opposed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. It fell back into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities. AFP

Gruesome Attacks Deepen Instability in Congo’s Ebola Zone
Amida Maha and her family were farming their fields when neighbours warned that people speaking different languages to theirs were approaching from nearby hills. Minutes later her mother and 10-month-old brother lay dead, murdered “horribly,” said Maha, 19. Residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern region of Beni have been at the centre of the world’s second deadliest Ebola epidemic for more than 17 months. But now they are contending with the resurgence of another, longer-running crisis: attacks by armed groups that have killed more than 260 people – mostly women and children – in the past 12 weeks alone. Blamed on a Ugandan Islamist militant group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the death toll is the highest residents have faced over such a short time period since a series of similarly gruesome attacks left hundreds dead in 2014. The recent killings have sparked outrage and mass protests against the authorities here, and heaped pressure on the UN’s peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, which has hundreds of troops stationed in Beni but not for the first time, residents say, is failing to protect them. The New Humanitarian

6 Soldiers Killed by Roadside Bomb in Burkina Faso
Six soldiers are dead and seven others are missing after their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in eastern Burkina Faso, authorities said. The violence Tuesday came as authorities confirmed that 39 people had been killed over the weekend in an attack on a marketplace in the West African nation. Earlier reports had said more than 30 were thought to have died but details were unclear because communication had been cut in the town ahead of the attack. In other violence, a nurse died Monday while traveling with three others on her way to her post in Kelbo. Gunmen on motorcycles attacked their vehicle, according to a statement from Col. Salfo Kabore, the governor of Sahel region. … Burkina Faso’s defense ministry is trying to recruit 2,000 more soldiers, and parliament has approved the use of civilian volunteers in the fight against extremism, a move that has concerned human rights groups. The Norwegian Refugee Council warned this week that as many as 900,000 people could be displaced in the country by April, up from current estimates of 560,000. AP

Mali Plans to Increase the Size of Its Army to Rein In Jihadists
Mali will increase the size of its army by about 50% in a recruitment drive this year aimed at uprooting jihadist groups, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse said on Wednesday. The plan is to hire 10,000 new soldiers in the coming months to “allow our armed and security forces to be much more present in quantity and I hope in quality in areas where they were not,” Cisse said. He did not say how much the increase would cost or how the arid West African country would pay for it when military costs already take up a significant part of the budget. It was also not clear how it would lure people into an army whose troops are frequently killed in attacks by Islamists. The army declined to say how many troops it has now, but the World Bank estimated there were 18,000 armed forces personnel in 2017. Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali in 2012, but groups allied with al Qaeda and Islamic State have sprung back. Reuters

Mali Jihadists Return to Village Where Raid Killed 20
Jihadists on Wednesday regained control of a village in central Mali, locals said, returning to the site of a recent attack that killed 20 members of the security forces. The Malian army, which had retaken control of Soloko, had “fallen back” to the neighbouring area of Diabaly and jihadists had returned to the village, a local teacher told AFP on condition of anonymity. The Sunday attack on the Soloko camp claimed by the Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) — an umbrella group of Al-Qaeda affiliates — killed 20 Malian security forces and wounded five, according to authorities. “The jihadists… have raised their flag in the gendarmes’ camp,” said Hamed Drame, president of the Soloko youth association. “There is a threat over the whole town. We have alerted the authorities but until now there has been no reaction from them.” Sokolo is the last town before the Mauritanian border, near a forest considered a base for groups linked to Al-Qaeda. AFP

Six Children Abducted in Abyei Attack Returned
Six children who were reportedly abducted last week in the disputed territory on the Sudan-South Sudan border have been returned, a local official has confirmed. Kuol Alor, Abyei chief administrator on Wednesday said six out the fifteen children who went missing when suspected Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked Kolom village had been returned with the help of NGOs. “Today [Wednesday] afternoon, we received six children out of the fifteen children that were abducted during last week’s attack. This was through the help of Save the Children and Global Aid Fund together with the local chiefs. Out of the six children retuned children, five of them are boys and one girl in the age group of between 8 and 14 years,” said Kuol. The Wednesday attack on the Dinka village left at least 19 people dead and dozens other injured, according to UN peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA). 19 houses were burnt. Kuol urged Juba, Khartoum, UN and the African Union to fast track the designation of Abyei to avoid future conflict. The East African

How Africa Is Preparing for the Coronavirus
With the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continuing to rise, concern over the deadly virus is growing across the globe. While the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet declared an international health emergency, the US and British governments, among others, are nevertheless trying to evacuate their citizens from the crisis region around Wuhan, the center of the outbreak. Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have sealed off the area. For the nearly 5,000 Africans studying in the city, the situation is particularly stressful. Many fear they will not be able to leave China anytime soon. … Some countries on the continent may benefit from their recent experience with another deadly virus. During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that claimed more than 10,000 lives, several countries – including Ivory Coast – developed early warning systems. “We have activated the same systems we were using at that time,” said Joseph Benie Bi Vroh, director of the state institute for public hygiene in Abidjan. Thermal imaging cameras have already been installed at the country’s international airport in Abidjan, designed to check all arriving passengers for fever. “Thanks to our experience with Ebola, we are well-prepared,” Benie Bi Vroh told DW. DW

Nigeria: Reps Demand Resignation of Military Chiefs
The House of Representatives on Wednesday called for the resignation of the nation’s service chiefs, amid widespread public discontent over growing insecurity in the country. The House urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the military commanders if they failed to resign. The resolution was reached following a motion of urgent public importance motion titled “Need to Curb the Incessant Attacks of the Boko Haram Insurgents in the North-East Zone,” and moved by the Chief Whip, Mohammed Mongunu, and 14 others. Mr Mongunu decried the recent surge in attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east zone. He said that the successes earlier recorded by the security agents which led to increased economic activities within the North-east zone is gradually being eroded by the resurgence of the insurgency in Borno and Yobe states. … Defence Chief Abayomi Olonisakin, Army Chief Tukur Buratai, Navy Chief Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, and Air Chief Sadique Abubakar, were appointed on July 13, 2015, by President Muhammadu Buhari. But he has kept them in office despite public outcry. Based on the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, the tenures of the defence and service chiefs expired on July 13, 2017. Premium Times

Nigeria: She Was Found Guilty of Killing Her Husband. Her Punishment: Hanging.
The judge read his verdict. The woman in a black veil screamed through her tears. And social media erupted with outrage and praise. A high-profile murder case that has captured Nigeria’s attention for nearly three years finally came to its grim conclusion this week: Maryam Sanda, found guilty of killing her husband, was sentenced to die by hanging. “Maryam Sanda should reap what she has sown,” Justice Yusuf Halilu told the packed courtroom Monday in the capital, Abuja. “It is blood for blood.” The decision landed as Africa’s most populous nation is increasingly divided over how to punish those convicted of the highest crimes. Some argue that hanging is outdated in the continent’s largest economy, while others cast it as the ultimate deterrence – a necessity at a time of rising bloodshed. The Washington Post

Nigeria to Recover Fresh $321million Abacha Loot – Malami
The Nigerian Government says it is set to recover a fresh $321 million stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha. It also said it will soon seize other assets linked to a former governor, James Ibori, and an ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. This was revealed in Wednesday during a Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. The agreement on the Abacha loot is expected to be signed next week, according to the Attorney-General of the federation, Abubakar Malami. Mr Malami said the agreement is a tripartite understanding between Nigeria, the Island of Jersey, and the United States of America, as part of the country’s efforts to recover more stolen funds stashed abroad. Mr Malami also said the funds will be deployed for the construction on Lagos to Ibadan highway in the South-west, Abuja to Kano in the north and the Second Niger bridge. Premium Times

Drought Leaves Tens of Thousands in Lesotho ‘One Step from Famine’
Tsepo Molapo gazes into space, worrying about where the next meal will come from. Next to him, his two-year-old granddaughter plays, oblivious of their desperate situation. Molapo’s children all died at illegal mines in neighbouring South Africa, where they had trekked in search of work. Molapo, 80, relies on a monthly government pension payout of about $48 (£37) but the paltry amount cannot feed him and the eight grandchildren he cares for on his own following the death of his wife. “I do not know how I am going to survive with my grandchildren,” Molapo says. According to the UN, more than 500,000 people – a quarter of Lesotho’s population – face severe hunger due to droughts that caused a 60% fall in cereal production last year, compared with 2018. At least 71,000 people in rural areas are “one step away from famine”, says Jens Laerke, spokesperson from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which in December launched a $34m flash appeal for more funding. The Guardian

Zimbabwe Sets Pay Deal with Government Workers
Unions representing government workers in Zimbabwe said on Wednesday they had accepted an offer of higher pay as a provisional step in long-running negotiations. Cecilia Alexander, chairperson of the Apex Council, an umbrella of unions representing civil servants, said the government would pay a cost-of-living adjustment with effect from January 1. “The balance of the already paid January salary and the new salary offer will be paid over four months starting February,” she said. “We wish to advise our members that as the National Joint Negotiating Council we have agreed to continue with negotiations,” she said. Civil servants late last year said they had no option but to stay at home because their wages, devastated by inflation, no longer stretched to the next pay day. According to the pro-government daily The Herald, the increase amounts to 140%. The lowest-paid government workers will earn 2 200 Zimbabwean dollars (US$137) per month. Last week, doctors at state hospitals agreed to returned to work after a London-based telecommunications mogul, Strive Masiyiwa, offered to top up their salaries. AFP

The Families Facing Generations of Statelessness in South Africa
It has taken years for Luthando, 28, to be recognised as a South African citizen, even though she believes she was born here, albeit to undocumented migrant parents. The law in South Africa states that if you are born in South Africa and you have no other nationality, then you are South African. In practice, however, it does not always work this way. Furthermore, even though Lawyers for Human Rights, which has been fighting cases on behalf of migrants and refugees in South Africa for the past 30 years, won an important victory when the courts recognised Luthando as South African several months ago, she has yet to receive her much-needed documents or those for her one-year-old son, Bandile*. Her son has inherited his mother’s statelessness; without a nationality, she cannot pass a nationality onto her child. Without any documentation, it was difficult for Luthando to find work, but she found many people who wanted to exploit her. … “The law makes provision for most people to get nationality if they are stateless in South Africa. The problem in South Africa is that there is not proper administrative justice.” Al Jazeera

Kenya’s New Digital IDs May Exclude Millions of Minorities
Born in the capital, Nairobi, Mr. Kafe worked as a police officer and even served with the presidential guard, court documents show. But last April, when he tried to register for a national ID in the giant biometric database that President Uhuru Kenyatta has said will be the “single source of truth” on Kenya’s population, he was turned away. Now, Mr. Kafe said, “My life is in limbo.” In an ambitious new initiative, the Kenyan government is planning to assign each citizen a unique identification number that will be required to go to school, get health care and housing, register to vote, get married and obtain a driver’s license, bank account and even a mobile phone number. In preparation, nearly 40 million Kenyans have already had their fingerprints and faces scanned by a new biometric system that ramped up last spring. But millions of ethnic, racial and religious minorities – like Mr. Kafe, who is a Kenyan of Nubian descent – are running into obstacles and facing additional scrutiny when they apply for the documents required to get a biometric ID. Many have faced outright rejection. Now the biometric ID plan is being challenged in court by civil rights organizations, which say it is disenfranchising members of minority groups. The high court is expected to rule Thursday on whether the project is constitutional. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones