Africa Media Review for January 31, 2020

Find Unity ‘To Halt Libya’s Senseless Unraveling’ UN Envoy Urges Security Council
The top UN official in Libya on Thursday expressed his “deep anger and disappointment” over intensifying conflict in Libya despite a high-level summit held in the German capital of Berlin earlier this month, that set out measures to de-escalate fighting and put the divided country back on a path towards peace. “There are unscrupulous actors inside and outside Libya who cynically nod and wink towards efforts to promote peace and piously affirm their support for the UN,” Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council. “Meanwhile, they continue to double down on a military solution, raising the frightening spectre of a full-scale conflict and further misery for the Libyan people, more refugees, the creation of a security vacuum and further interruptions to global energy supplies,” he added. … Painting a picture of indiscriminate shelling that has caused death and injury, including to children, Mr. Salamé said: “With recent developments on the ground, I regret to report that the truce holds only in name.” UN News

African Bid for ‘Solutions’ in Libyan Crisis
African leaders on Thursday began a diplomatic push in the Congolese capital Brazzaville aimed at bolstering efforts to end the Libyan crisis. The talks include Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, and Ghassan Salame, the UN’s secretary-general’s special representative, along with several African presidents, an AFP journalist present at the start said. They were to meet behind closed doors with the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj, and separately with envoys from strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls eastern Libya, a Congolese diplomat told AFP. The aim is “to search for solutions for resolving the Libyan crisis, as recommended by the (January 19) conference in Berlin,” the office of the Congolese presidency said in a statement on Wednesday. Leaders of the 55-nation AU are to meet in Addis Ababa on February 9 and 10. … The presidents of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, of Mauritania and of Djibouti were present at the start of Thursday’s meeting, while Algeria’s new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, was represented by his prime minister. AFP

Burundi Court Sentences 4 Private Journalists to Prison
A court in Burundi on Thursday sentenced four journalists to two and a half years in prison after they were convicted on charges of trying to undermine state security. One of their lawyers, Martin Ndayisaba, told journalists they will appeal the decision of the court in Bubanza Province. They have 30 days to do so. The journalists are with Iwacu, one of the few remaining private media organizations in the East African nation. They were arrested in October in Musigati district in the western province while covering the aftermath of clashes between the army and a rebel group from South Kivu in neighboring Congo. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government has cracked down on the media ahead of this year’s election in May. Several local radio stations and media houses have been closed and many journalists have fled the country. The government suspended broadcasts in Burundi by Voice of America and the BBC. Jean Bigirimana, a journalist with Iwacu, has been missing since July 2016. AP

Cameroon Rebels Attack Reporters, Torch Media Offices
Journalists in Cameroon’s troubled English-speaking regions say separatists are attacking them because of critical reporting and refusal to broadcast rebel propaganda. Media organizations say separatist intimidation is intensifying as Cameroon prepares for local and parliamentary elections, which the rebels have vowed to stop. Community radio station Stone FM, in Cameroon’s northwestern town of Ndop, stopped broadcasting Monday. Manager and presenter Mbuotna Zacks Anabi says armed men stormed the station late Sunday night, firing shots into the air before setting the building on fire. Speaking via a messaging application, he said the suspected separatists left nothing. “Before burning, they first of all looted radio equipment. Then on the 27th of January 2020, they burned the radio house [station] as well as my own personal house – maybe because I have been against broadcasting their messages. I have been campaigning for schools to go back [reopen],” Anabi said. … Anabi said after the attack, he fled to the English-speaking town of Bamenda, 60 kilometers away, and the station staff in 13 villages went into hiding. Rebels have not claimed responsibility for the attack. However, on social media, they have threatened anyone supporting Feb. 9 elections in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. VOA

Nigerian Soldiers Arrest Journalist ‘Over Boko Haram Report’
Nigerian soldiers on Thursday arrested a Daily Trust reporter in Maiduguri, Borno State, over a report about the Boko Haram war. The soldiers who stormed the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) at New GRA, handcuffed the reporter, Olatunji Omirin, forced him into a Hilux van and drove away. Mr Omirin was driven to Maimalari Barracks of the 7 Division Nigeria Army were an officer, a deputy director military intelligence was waiting, Premium Times learned. Mr. Omirin was kept in detention till about 7 p.m. when the military released him after coming under pressure from other journalists who promptly boycotted a major military function scheduled for 5 p.m. The Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Olusegun Adeniyi, a major general, who was to host the event, said he was not aware of the journalist’s arrest. Mr. Omirin told Premium Times he was kept handcuffed for some time. The reporter said he was arrested in connection with his recent reporting on the increasing attacks along the dreaded Kano-Maiduguri highway. He said the officer that ordered his arrest told him the military was not happy with some of his reports, and that the officer demanded to know his sources. Premium Times

Nigeria Court Orders Halt to Lagos Waterfront Evictions
A court in Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos on Thursday ordered the military to halt forced evictions of coastal communities after thousands of people were removed from their homes. Navy personnel last week shot in the air and bulldozed houses as they cleared a community of some 10,000 people living on an island in the bustling megacity. The military said the operation was aimed at stopping the looting of nearby oil pipelines but residents complained they were being punished for the crimes of a small minority and given no notice of the eviction. Dozens of men, women and children from the Tarkwa Bay and Okun Ayo communities crowded the courtroom on Thursday as they launched their bid to end the clearances. The judge issued an interim injunction ordering the authorities to stop the demolitions of homes, businesses and community facilities or evicting any more inhabitants. It forbade the military and government from harassing people from the community “with shooting of guns, other violent attacks, threats of arrest or arrest.” AFP

Boko Haram Refugees Find Safety in Niger. But How Long Can the Country Remain a Safe Haven in the Sahel?
Ali’s husband, Issa, a driver, decided that they should leave Maiduguri with their children. “The next night, we left silently, on foot.” They fled north like many before them, toward Niger, the country that borders Nigeria to the north. At the town of Damasak, they were able to climb aboard a pickup heading toward Niger, but one of their children fell from the vehicle and died. Now they have spent a year waiting in a refugee camp in Niger with little to do. “We’re just sitting here, hoping for some kind of way to make a living,” Ali told me. “We can never go home.” I traveled to Niger in December with the United Nations’ Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, who was in the country to review U.N. humanitarian programs and build relationships with the Nigerien authorities. The country hosts almost half a million refugees, despite the fact it ranks last on the U.N.’s human development index, which ranks countries on per capita income, life expectancy and levels of education. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have traversed its deserts seeking a better life in Europe over the last decade-in just five months, from February to June, 2016, the International Organization for Migration recorded more than 168,000 migrants heading north out of two of Niger’s Saharan transit towns. Time

UN Agency Halts Operations at Troubled Libya Migrant Center
The U.N.’s refugee agency in Libya announced Thursday it is suspending its operations at a jam-packed migrant facility over safety concerns as deadly fighting near the capital intensifies. The U.N. first opened its transit center in Tripoli as an alternative to Libya’s notorious detention sites for migrants ostensibly awaiting repatriation or resettlement. Detention facilities in Libya, run by a patchwork of militias, have become synonymous with the abuse and exploitation of desperate asylum-seekers at the hands of fighters and smugglers. But even the U.N. center in Tripoli, known as Gathering and Departure Facility, soon became a complex and dangerous operation. In December, The Associated Press reported on conditions at the facility, which presented an increasingly urgent problem for the U.N., and the people inside. In a statement explaining the closure, the UNHCR chief of mission cited police and military training exercises taking place just a few meters (yards) from the migrants’ living quarters. Earlier this month, errant mortar shells landed in the compound. AP

Algerian Protests Blunted without a Shot Fired in Anger
While uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East have been quelled by deadly force, Algerian authorities are on the way to becalming a powerful protest movement without a shot fired – at least for now. Thousands still march, but protests are smaller than those that toppled the veteran president last year. Some prominent figures say the opposition should accept an offer of dialogue from the government. These changes suggest the secretive authorities, known to Algerians as le pouvoir – “the powers that be” – may have outmanoeuvred the biggest threat to their rule in decades. Their strategy has been to place new faces at the top of government, while playing for time and proposing talks. The approach seems to be wearing down the opposition. … Protesters say the marches have diminished since last month’s election of a new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, seen by the leaderless opposition as an establishment stalwart. … Some politicians who embraced the protest movement, known as “hirak,” say their struggle should now move from the street to the negotiating table, arguing that further reforms can only be achieved through dialogue. … For the remaining protesters that viewpoint is anathema. Reuters

Upcoming Round of Talks Will Be Decisive for Peace in Sudan: Gatluak
Juba is committed to making the next round of Sudan peace process decisive, said the South Sudanese presidential adviser for security affairs after his arrival in Khartoum on Thursday. Tut Kew Gatluak who leads the South Sudanese mediation team delivered a message from President Salva Kiir to the Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan about the progress made in the talks for peace in Sudan. In a statement issued after the meeting, the South Sudanese official briefed al-Burhan on the ongoing preparations for the upcoming round of talks which is scheduled for 4 February. … “We affirmed the commitment of President Salva Kiir Mayardit that the next round of negotiations will be decisive and end with the signing of a final peace agreement in Sudan,” stressed the South Sudanese official. On 14 December 2019, the government and the armed groups agreed to extend the talks to 15 February 2020. However, talks for peace in the Two Areas with the SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu are stalled as the government rejects its demand to include self-determination and the secular state in the talks. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: Salva Kiir Off to South Africa for Talks with Ramaphosa
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Thursday left for South Africa for a three-day official visit following an invitation from President Cyril Ramaphosa, his office said. Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the president was accompanied by two cabinet ministers and the managing director of state-owned oil firm Nilepet for the diplomatic and trade talks. Mr Ateny said the delegation will have various side meetings while in South Africa. President Kiir will also brief President Ramaphosa on the remaining days left to the 100-day deadline for the formation of a unity government, security matters and the issue of the number of states and boundaries. The deadline for forming a governmnet of national unity is February 22. “As we all know, South Africa is a leading member of C5, which is one of the groups supplementing Igad on South Sudan peace process. President Kiir will brief President Ramaphosa on the remaining part of R-ARCSS particularly on the area of security arrangements, the issue of 32 states and the lapse of the remaining days ahead of formation of [the] unity government,” Mr Ateny said. He added that the petroleum minister and Nilepet boss will have meetings with their South African counterparts. The East African

Security Improves, Fishing Resumes on River Nile
Authorities and residents in South Sudan’s Eastern Lakes and Jonglei states say, as security has improved along the River Nile, fishing activities have resumed and locals are once again using the Nile as a regular mode of transportation. Two months ago, several people were killed on the disputed island of Cuet-Akwet after clashes erupted between rival communities. Twenty-eight-year-old Teng Buol said Thursday he resumed fishing on the Nile after staying away for about a month due to the threat of violence. Buol said he now travels regularly to Cuet-Akwet in his canoe and catches plenty of fish which he later sells in Bor town.” We used our nets to catch fish from the Nile but there were some areas that we used not to access because of insecurity. And those areas have more fish including tilapia, catfish and Nile perch. In the last few days, my friends and I could fill our canoe with fish,” Buol told South Sudan in Focus. … Eastern Lakes state information minister Marial Awuok said deploying national forces to the area changed everything.” Organized forces have been dispatched to the River Nile and they have already arrived to the areas of Joor-wach, Cuet-Akwet, Lietbuoi and their base will be in Shambe. All those areas are now in the control of the national government. VOA

River Nile Dam Talks Extended
Talks to resolve a long-running dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the fate of Africa’s largest hydropower project are continuing in Washington, US, a day after they were initially supposed to end. The negotiators are still deadlocked over the finer details on how the $4 billion dam will operate, sources have told the BBC. Technical details on the duration of the filling stages, the amount of water to be released downstream by Ethiopia and the quantity of water that will be retained in the reservoir being built are some of the bigger sticking points. In addition, Egypt has demanded assurances over drought management once the dam becomes operational later this year. A final deal was supposed to have been signed by 29 January following an earlier draft agreement that had been brokered by the US Treasury Department and the World Bank. It’s not clear yet how long the talks will continue for. BBC

DRC Moves to Monopolise about 25 Percent of All Cobalt Exports
The Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, created a state monopoly that will buy all output not extracted by industrial operators in a bid to exert more control over the price of the key ingredient in rechargeable batteries. The central African nation dominates output of the metal, accounting for more than 70% of the global market in 2018. While most Congolese cobalt comes from large, mechanized mines operated by companies including Glencore Plc, artisanal miners can account for as much as a quarter of the nation’s output. The move to control “the whole value chain of the artisanal sector” arises from the country having “insufficient control” over the metal’s price despite its “strategic position” in the market, states a decree signed by Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga and Mines Minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni on Nov. 5. The purchases will be made by a company controlled by state-owned miner Gecamines, and it will be responsible for processing cobalt ores bought from authorized artisanal miners, according to the decree. The unit will retain the monopoly for five years and has the option of renewing the arrangement. Al Jazeera/Bloomberg

Kenyan Court Halts Biometric Registration
Kenya’s High Court has halted the implementation of a new biometric registration system until data protection laws are enacted. The court also declared the collection of GPS and DNA data unconstitutional. The Kenya government had been collecting sensitive personal data, including fingerprints, family details and even location details in the mandatory exercise. … The government insisted the registration was mandatory, saying citizens would not be eligible to receive government services including passports and birth certificates unless they took part. But the high court found that the collection of all this private data was putting Kenyans at risk of suffering irreversible damage if the information was misused. So the three-judge panel ordered a halt to the implementation of the project – known as Huduma Namba – until comprehensive data protection laws had been enacted. … The Nubian community had tried to get the entire ID system scrapped on the grounds that it discriminated against marginalised groups. To register, one needs a national ID – which the stateless Nubians have reported extreme difficulties in obtaining. However the court dismissed the petition. BBC

Are Ghanaians Ready to Take Advantage of the New Right to Information Law?
After more than 20 years of considerable legislative maneuvering and exhaustive political scrutiny, Ghana’s right to information (RTI) law has come into effect. But some citizens say it doesn’t go far enough. The new law, in effect since January 1, restricts access to information at the country’s presidency and exempts information relating to some government institutions, which critics say fly in the face of transparency. “The problem with this country is that people are averse to releasing information, especially public officials,” said Elvis Darko, editor of the Finder Newspaper and member of the Media Coalition for RTI, a pressure group that campaigned for the passage of the law. In all, 13 categories of information concerning key executive government actors are listed as exempt in the new law, including information prepared for the president, vice president or cabinet. Others are information relating to law enforcement and public safety, matters affecting international relations and security of the state and information relating to economic or any other interest. DW



Photo: Adam Jones