Africa Media Review for July 13, 2020

Mali Protest Leader Calls for Calm after Demonstrations Turn Deadly
A Malian protest leader called for calm Sunday after four more people were killed during demonstrations calling for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s resignation, the West African country’s worst civil unrest in years. Bloody demonstrations rocked the capital Bamako on Friday and Saturday, with witnesses saying that security forces fired live rounds during clashes with protesters. The atmosphere remained tense on the streets of Bamako on Sunday, as hundreds of people converged on the Badalabougou district for the funerals of four people killed in the violence. In the face of the heightened tensions, Keita had announced he would dissolve the poor Sahel country’s constitutional court, the focus of anger since it overturned provisional results for parliamentary elections earlier this year. … Fresh clashes broke out on Saturday as protesters took to the streets of Bamako, angered by a long-running jihadist conflict, economic woes and perceived government corruption. AFP

What’s behind the Mass Protests in Mali?
Malian analysts say the protests – which began last month – represent the most serious threat 75-year-old Keita, commonly known as IBK, has faced since he was elected president a year after a military coup helped extremist groups take control of large chunks of Mali’s desert north. Political tensions have been rising across Mali since a disputed legislative election in March. Some of the results were later overturned by the country’s constitutional court in a decision that was perceived to benefit Keita’s party, sparking protests in different cities. Ibrahim Maïga, a Bamako-based researcher at the Institute for Security Studies said the protests have since grown to encompass a broader set of concerns among Malians, in particular a “dissatisfaction linked to the deterioration of the security situation” in the country. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia Announces Arrests in Prominent Singer’s Killing
Ethiopia has said that two men have been arrested in connection with the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a well-known musician and activist whose death last month was followed by unrest in which hundreds were killed. Attorney General Adanech Abebe announced the arrests in a televised statement on Friday night, saying that a third suspect in Mr. Hundessa’s shooting was still on the run. “We will continue to uphold the rule of law,” Ms. Abebe said. She said the two men arrested had confessed to killing Mr. Hundessa, acting on the orders of an armed splinter wing of the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition group, with the goal of inciting ethnic tension and overthrowing the government. She provided no evidence for the claim, and the Oromo Liberation Front had yet to respond to the accusation as of Saturday morning. The New York Times

Counting the Burials: African Nations Scramble to Track COVID-19
Long after the funding for his project was frozen, Bilal Endris has kept a lonely watch over cemeteries in Ethiopia’s capital by slipping cash to gravediggers to alert his team to any sudden spikes in burials. In a nation where fewer than 2% of deaths are registered, an increase in burials may be one of the first signs that a killer disease is on the loose. The program was set up to monitor deaths related to HIV/AIDS a decade ago. Now doctor Bilal monitors for a spike in fatalities linked to COVID-19. He has yet to see one, but projects like his are being set up in other African countries where many deaths go unrecorded, making it hard to assess the scale of a disease. In some cases, nations are dusting off programs set up during Ebola outbreaks. … Only eight countries in Africa – Algeria, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, and South Africa – record more than 75% of deaths, according to the United Nations. Reuters

South Africa Returns to Ban on Alcohol Sales as Virus Surges
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country will immediately return to a ban on the sale of alcohol to reduce the volume of trauma patients so that hospitals have more beds open to treat COVID-19 patients. Confronted by surging hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, South Africa is also reinstating a night curfew to reduce traffic accidents and made it mandatory for all residents to wear face masks when in public. Ramaphosa said, in a nationally televised address Sunday night, that top health officials warn of impending shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen as South Africa reaches a peak of COVID-19 cases, expected between the end of July and September. He said some hospitals have had to turn away patients because all their beds are full. South Africa’s rapid increase in reported cases has made it one of the world’s centers for COVID-19, as it is ranked as the 9th country most affected by the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University. AP

Five Killed in Attack on South African Church, Hostages Freed
Five people have been killed in an attack on a church west of Johannesburg, South African police have said, with some of the attackers taking hostages who were later freed. At least 40 people were arrested and 40 firearms, including rifles, shotguns and handguns related to the attack on the International Pentecost Holiness Church in Zuurbekom, were seized, police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told the local eNCA television on Saturday. Police said they rescued men, women and children who had been held hostage and appeared to have been living at the church. It was not clear how many were rescued. The early morning attack by a group of armed people “may have been motivated by a feud” between church members, the police statement said. The church is one of the largest – and reportedly richest – in South Africa. Al Jazeera

Libyan Forces Set Conditions for Lifting Oil Blockade
Forces loyal to a Libyan commander said they will only allow the reopening of oil fields and terminals once a mechanism has been set up to fairly distribute revenue across the country, which is split between rival, warring factions. Powerful tribes in eastern Libya loyal to Khalifa Hifter closed export terminals and choked off major pipelines at the start of the year. The move was aimed at pressuring their rivals in the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, in the country’s west. … Oil, the lifeline of Libya’s economy, has long been at the center of the civil war, as rival authorities jostle for control of Africa’s largest reserves. The closures have deprived authorities of over $6.5 billion. AP

Tunisian Parties Seek to Oust Parliament Speaker, Islamists Want New Government
At least five Tunisian parties plan to launch a vote of no confidence in parliamentary speaker Rached Ghannouchi who has been accused of partisan interests, while members of his moderate Islamist Ennahda party have called for a new government, escalating the country’s political crisis. The no-confidence motion poses the biggest challenge yet to Ennahda, which first took power following the Arab Spring uprising, but was forced to step down in 2013 after a series of protests. Pressure on the government has mounted in recent weeks after opponents called for the resignation of Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh over an alleged conflict of interest. On Sunday, Ennahda, the main party in the ruling coalition, said it supported calls to change the government. Reuters

Eastern Congo Militia Pledges to Surrender after Leader Forced Out
One of the largest rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo announced overnight that it had ousted its leader, accusing him of human rights abuses, and planned to surrender. … The NDC-R armed group, which control vast areas of North Kivu province and earns money from the illicit gold trade, said late on Wednesday it had expelled its leader, Shimiray Guidon, who is the target of UN sanctions. In a statement, the group accused Guidon of “deviant behaviour” and criticised him for human rights abuses. It said Guidon’s deputy had taken over and that fighters plan to disarm as soon as possible, without giving further details. Researchers following the NDC-R said a faction of the militia had tried to resist the ousting and the end result could be a split in the group. Reuters

‘Guardians of the Bush’: Brutal Vigilantes Police Burkina Faso
A rifle hangs in the corner, refuse bags of seized cannabis strewn in the dirt at the men’s feet. Heavy chains have been fixed to the trees in the surrounding field. As we arrive, a group of teenage boys are being shackled to them by their ankles. This is the headquarters of a local branch of the Koglweogo, a network of crime-fighting volunteers that are proliferating across Burkina Faso, west Africa. For the group’s members in Poessen, a village a few hours’ drive from the capital, Ouagadougou, the afternoon has been a success. … Depending on who you ask, the Koglweogo – “guardians of the bush” in Mooré, a local language – are either a solution to the insecurity or a growing source of it. Armed with one or two guns, and sometimes makeshift uniforms, men who work day jobs as farmers, masons or drivers moonlight as village detectives, judges and juries. Their ranks have swelled since the organisation was formed in 2015. The Guardian

Uganda Cracks down on Media Ahead of Elections in 2021, Watchdog Says
Uganda’s security forces are cracking down on authors and journalists who challenge the 34-year-old rule of President Yoweri Museveni ahead of elections next year, a watchdog told Reuters. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it documented the cases of at least 10 journalists and writers assaulted by security personnel, detained, or charged with offences to do with their work this year, compared to four such cases last year. “Police and the military have turned political reporting into a dangerous assignment,” said Muthoki Mumo, the committee’s representative for sub-Saharan Africa. … Presidential elections are scheduled for early next year. Opposition leaders say the clampdown makes campaigning even harder after the government forbade mass rallies, citing the spread of the new coronavirus. Reuters

Tanzania’s Ruling Party Nominates President to Run Again
Tanzania’s ruling party on Saturday nominated President John Magufuli to run for a second five-year term, while opposition parties and human rights groups demand an independent electoral body to oversee the October vote. The unanimous decision by the Chama cha Mapinduzi party to back Magufuli came as no surprise. The president, nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his relentless work ethic and populist approach, has unsettled critics and some in the international community as his government clamps down on opposition gatherings, arrests opposition leaders and punishes dissent. His administration’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic – not announcing case numbers since April, questioning face masks and declaring COVID-19 defeated – has caused further alarm. AP

‘On Our Own’: Kenyan Activists Feel Alone in the Fight against Police Brutality
A global movement is pointing a spotlight at police brutality, which is rampant in Kenya, and so grass-roots human rights activists here thought they might get the one thing their protests usually lack: a big turnout. … On Tuesday, more than 60 people were arrested by police, using batons and tear gas, on charges of breaching coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings. There was no mass protest, just scattered groups, and the organizers, some of Kenya’s most hardened activists, were left to wonder: What will it take for Kenyans to push back against police? … The very leaders who would build such a movement, however, face police brutality and intimidation themselves. On a morning in late April this year, Michael Njau Nyambura, a leader in a social justice center in the neighborhood where Yassin was killed, left his home to visit an aunt whom he had not seen in a while. He and a cousin hired a taxi bound for a suburb. That was the last his family has heard of him. The Washington Post

Nigeria Anti-Corruption Chief Suspended, Accused of Graft
The head of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency has been suspended from office following corruption allegations against him. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the suspension of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission “in order to allow for unhindered inquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel,” according to a statement Friday by the spokesman for the Justice Ministry. Magu is being investigated following allegations made by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. They include the “alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends.” Magu denies the allegations. Nigeria’s government set up the EFCC in 2003 in response to widespread official corruption in Africa’s most populous country. AP

Nigeria: How the FBI Used Instagram and Snapchat to Track down an Alleged Conman in Dubai
Last month, the Dubai Police Force arrested twelve alleged Nigerian scammers living in the United Arab Emirates as part of their now-viral special operation dubbed “Fox Hunt 2.” Six raids were conducted concurrently while the suspects were asleep; among several items, Dubai police reportedly seized more than $40 million in cash and hard disks containing the addresses of nearly two million victims. … The arrest was part of a United States’ FBI investigation that unveiled [Ramon Olorunwa Abbas aka “Hushpuppi”] as one of the kingpins of a transnational cybercrime network specializing in Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, a fast-growing form of cyber-fraud that involves hacking corporate emails and sending fake messages to clients in order to redirect financial transfers and steal bank details. Quartz Africa

Details Emerge about Corruption Surrounding ‘Congo Condo’ and Sassou Nguesso’s Son
Anti-corruption campaigners Global Witness have revealed more details about a move by US prosecutors to seize a three million dollar Miami penthouse belonging to Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, the son of Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Denis Christel allegedly embezzled millions of dollars in public funds from the Congo’s state oil company, the Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC), according to US federal prosecutors. Using a network of shell companies and nominees accounts, the president’s son laundered the money to buy real estate and luxury goods in the US, France and elsewhere. … The US Department of Justice told Global Witness that Denis Christel funnelled money from SNPC into accounts in the names of shell companies such as Mercuria, Atlas Logistique and SCI Etoile, using the Congolese subsidiary of BGFI Bank Group, a Gabonese bank.

Illegal Ivory Trade Shrinks While Pangolin Trafficking Booms, UN Says
The illegal global trade in ivory has shrunk while the trafficking of pangolins has soared, a UN report on wildlife crime based on four years’ data said on Friday. National bans on selling ivory, particularly China’s in 2017, appear to have helped further erode ivory trafficking after it peaked around 2011-2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its World Wildlife Crime Report, which was last published in 2016. At the same time, the trafficking of pangolins – a reclusive, nocturnal mammal covered in scales that are used in traditional Chinese medicine, has surged, the UNODC said. … Seizures of pangolin scales, mainly sourced in Africa, increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018 as trafficking moved away from pangolin meat, which was mainly seized in Asia. In that time 185 tons of scales were seized, for which roughly 370 000 animals would have been killed, the UNODC said. Reuters

Zindzi Mandela, Daughter of Nelson and Winnie, Dies at 59
Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has died aged 59. State television South African Broadcasting Corporation has reported that Mandela died at a Johannesburg hospital early Monday morning. The cause of her death has not been announced. She had been South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark since 2015. The Mandelas’ daughter came to international prominence in 1985, when the white minority government offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison if he denounced violence perpetrated by his movement, the Africa National Congress, against apartheid, the brutal system of racial discrimination enforced in South Africa at that time. Zindzi Mandela read his letter rejecting the offer at a packed public meeting that was broadcast around the world. AP



Photo: Adam Jones