Africa Media Review for July 14, 2020

Africa’s Varied COVID Landscapes
Despite gaps in testing, Africa has seen a doubling in the number of reported COVID-19 cases every three weeks since early May. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies identifies seven distinct risk profiles that are shaping the trajectory of the pandemic across the continent. Recognizing this wide variance of experience with COVID-19 can facilitate more precise assessments of the respective risk factors for each profile and guide efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in what is likely to be an extended campaign. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mali: Protest Leaders Released, Bamako Remains Tense
Authorities in Mali released a number of opposition leaders on Monday in a move to try and appease a protest movement calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. … Some 20 opposition figures had been jailed following unrest in Bamako on Friday – a peaceful rally turned violent with some demonstrators blocking bridges, attacking the state broadcaster and targeting the parliament. Gunfire was heard on Monday in the Badalabougou neighbourhood of Bamako, the home of Imam Mahmoud Dicko, one of the leading opposition leaders. … Rights group Amnesty International said 11 people have been killed in these latest protests and at least 80 injured. … A joint statement by the Ecowas regional bloc, African Union, EU and UN said they were “very concerned about the evolution of the socio-political situation in Mali.” … A clampdown on internet services in Mali continued on Monday, with restrictions hitting most, but not all users on social media and messaging apps, according to an internet access watchdog. RFI

Nile States End Talks on Africa’s Largest Dam with No Deal
A round of negotiations between three key Nile basin countries over Ethiopia’s contentious hydroelectric dam ended on Monday with no agreement, according to Egyptian and Sudanese officials. The setback sunk modest hopes that the three countries could resolve their differences and ink an agreement before Ethiopia begins to fill its $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam. Ethiopia had previously pledged to start filling the reservoir, even without a deal over its operation, at the start of the wet season in July, when rains flood the Blue Nile. A declared window of two to three weeks to resolve the dispute is closing fast. … Meanwhile the countries agreed they would send their reports to the president of the African Union, and reconvene in a week to determine next steps. There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia on the latest round of talks. AP

Sudan: Armed Groups Attack Protest Camp in Darfur, Kill 13
Sudanese armed groups on Monday attacked a protest camp in the war-scarred Darfur region, killing more than a dozen people, activists said, a day after security forces violently broke up another sit-in in the region. Both protest camps in North Darfur province called for better security conditions and an end to attacks by government-sanctioned armed groups, according to a local organization that helps run displacement camps in the Darfur region. … The protesters, mostly internally displaced people and refugees, began their camps about a week ago outside the government buildings in the nearby towns of Kutum and Fata Borno. In Fata Borno, government-sanctioned armed groups attacked the protesters and broke up their sit-in, killing at least 13 protesters and wounding 11 others, said Amany Hasabu, an activist in the area. AP

10 Nigerian Soldiers Shot Dead by Jihadists in Restive Northeast – Security Sources
Jihadists shot dead 10 Nigerian soldiers in two incidents in the country’s restive northeast on Monday, security sources said. The assailants gunned down eight troops in an attack on a military convoy near Kumulla village, roughly 40km southwest of regional capital Maiduguri, two sources told AFP. … Hours later, two soldiers were killed in a separate “firefight” after a military patrol encountered a group of insurgents in Kolore village, around 50km west of Maiduguri, the sources said. The latest losses for the Nigerian military come after at least 35 troops were killed last week in an attack by fighters loyal to the so-called Islamist State group near Kumulla. AFP

Somalia’s Army Chief Survives Bombing of His Convoy; 1 Dead
Somalia’s army chief has survived an assassination attempt when a suicide car bomber targeted his convoy in the Somali capital Monday, officials said. At least one person was killed by the blast, they said. The blast took place when the bomber tried to ram his vehicle into the convoy escorting Gen. Odowa Yusuf Rage bringing his bodyguards to open fire and the vehicle detonated, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police officer. A pedestrian standing nearby was killed by the blast, as well as the bomber, he said. Several people including some of the army chief’s bodyguards were injured, Hussein told The Associated Press. Casualties may rise as some of the wounded sustained serious injuries, he said. … Somalia’s extremist rebel group al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the blast in an announcement on its Andalus radio station. AP

U.N. Peacekeeper Killed in Central African Republic Attack
Militiamen killed a United Nations peacekeeper from Rwanda and injured two others in an ambush on a convoy in northwest Central African Republic on Monday, the U.N. said. The attack, in the Nana-Mambéré prefecture, was allegedly carried out by the Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) armed group, said a U.N. statement condemning the attack. Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted then president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. U.N. peacekeepers were deployed in 2014. Violence waned after a peace accord was signed in February 2019 between the government and 14 armed groups including the 3R, following talks in Khartoum. Reuters

Thousands Protest in DR Congo over Electoral Commission Appointee
Police have used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa, four days after five people were killed in banned demonstrations against the choice of a new election chief. Protesters gathered in Boulevard Lumumba, one of the city’s main avenues, marching around a vehicle carrying former rebel leader and opposition chief Jean-Pierre Bemba on Monday. … The marches were triggered by a decision by the National Assembly – dominated by supporters of former president Joseph Kabila – to appoint Ronsard Malonda as chairman of the independent national electoral commission, CENI. Pro-democracy campaigners said Malonda, currently CENI’s secretary-general, has played a historic role in rigging elections in favour of Kabila, who was succeeded in January last year by Felix Tshisekedi, son of a historic opposition leader. … Monday’s rally was called by the main alliance of opposition parties, Lamuka, which said that its candidate, Martin Fayulu, was denied victory in the December 2018 elections because of CENI’s fraud. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast Creates Northern Military Zone after Deadly Attack
Ivory Coast has created a special military zone in the north of the country, the government said, less than a month after a deadly attack on a frontier post. The pre-dawn killing of 14 army personnel on June 11 at Kafolo, along the country’s border with Burkina Faso, was the first assault by hardline fighters on Ivorian soil since March 2016 when a raid on the southeastern beach resort of Grand-Bassam left 19 people dead. “Given the persistent insecurity at the borders between Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso due to the presence of armed terrorist groups in these neighbouring countries and following the attack,” the government has authorised “the creation of an operational zone”, a statement made at the end of a cabinet meeting on Monday said. The zone will have a single central command for military operations. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast Vice President Resigns Citing Personal Reasons
Ivory Coast’s vice president has submitted his resignation less than a week after the prime minister died, officials said Monday, throwing the West African country’s political scene into further disarray three months before pivotal national elections. Daniel Kablan Duncan had been appointed to the position by President Alassane Ouattara three years ago. The 77-year-old vice president cited personal reasons for his decision, the presidency said without releasing further details. President Alassane Ouattara praised him as “a man of duty and commitment.” … The resignation comes less than a week after Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly died in Abidjan. Coulibaly was the president’s chosen successor as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the October elections. AP

Sudan Will Scrap Alcohol and Apostasy Laws, and End Flogging
Sudan will allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol, scrap its apostasy law and abolish the use of public flogging as a punishment as its transitional government eases decades of strict Islamist policies. The moves, announced late Saturday by the justice minister Nasredeen Abdulbari, are part of a slew of changes introduced under the transitional government as it seeks to break with the rule of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was deposed last year after more than three decades in power. The government had already moved to ban the genital cutting of women, a measure that is coming into effect now. The latest announcement came a week after tens of thousands of people took to the streets despite a coronavirus lockdown demanding faster reform and greater civilian rule as the nation takes baby steps toward democracy. The New York Times

ICC Trial Starts for Alleged Jihadist Crimes in Timbuktu
The trial of an alleged Islamic extremist charged with policing a brutal Islamic regime in Timbuktu after al-Qaida linked rebels overran the historic Malian desert city in 2012 opened Tuesday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, who sat in court wearing a face mask and white headscarf, is charged with involvement in crimes including rape, torture, enforced marriages and sexual slavery from April 2012 until the end of January 2013. … Al Hassan allegedly was a key member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaida that held power in northern Mali at the time. Prosecutors say Ansar Dine imposed a brutal regime on Timbuktu residents including public floggings, amputations and forced marriages. … A French-led military operation in 2013 forced Al Hassan and others from power, though elements have continued to stage numerous attacks on Malian and international forces. AP

Egyptian Journalist Jailed on Fake News Charges Dies of COVID-19
A prominent Egyptian journalist who had been jailed on charges of broadcasting false news has died of Covid-19, raising fears that the pandemic may be spreading undetected in Egypt’s notoriously crowded prisons. Mohamed Monir, 65, contracted Covid-19 in pre-trial detention and was released after falling ill in custody, according to the rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists. He died in an isolation unit at a Cairo hospital. Even brief detentions amid the Covid-19 pandemic can mean a death sentence, the group said in a statement on Monday. … Political prisoners in Egypt can be held in pre-trial detention for years on … vague charges, often in what rights groups describe as unhealthy conditions without proper access to medical care. The Guardian

Ebola Spreading in Western Congo with Nearly 50 Confirmed Cases – WHO
Ebola is spreading in western Democratic Republic of Congo, with nearly 50 known cases across a large region bordering the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. Since authorities announced the outbreak on June 1, 48 cases have been confirmed in Congo’s Equateur province, with a further three probable cases and a total of 20 deaths, WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan said. The province includes part of the River Congo, he said, adding that it was a large geographical area where communities were linked and people travelled long distances. “I would caution everyone that while the numbers in this event are low, again in the era of COVID it is very important that we do not take our eyes off these other emerging diseases and we saw in North Kivu and other previous outbreaks of Ebola that these can get out of control very easily,” [Ryan] said. Reuters

From Jonathan to Buhari: Inside Nigeria’s Multibillion Naira Railway Fraud
In May 2010, months after he came to power, President Goodluck Jonathan launched an ambitious project of resuscitating and expanding the country’s rail lines. One of the lines identified for immediate rehabilitation was the Port-Harcourt – Maiduguri corridor. The rehabilitation work was partitioned into three contracts. … But nine years after, the contractors are yet to deliver. If anything, the N67.3 billion project has failed. How much exactly has been paid out cumulatively to the three contractors remained unclear, although insiders say several billions have been wasted. Officials are now scrambling to design a way forward for the failed project. Premium Times

Nigerian Virus Hunters in Race against COVID-19 in Africa’s Giant
Early one evening, Folasade Fadare and her team of four disease hunters piled into a van and headed for Okegun, a rural community down a narrow potholed road in eastern Lagos state. A coronavirus patient had visited the area, and it was their task to find anyone exposed, isolate them and trace their contacts. The team quickly realised the job was too big: more than 100 people needed to be interviewed and tested. Ultimately, only the two sickest people, feverish and gasping for air, were sent to hospital to be isolated and tested. The rest were told what symptoms to watch for and urged to stay home for two weeks. … Contact tracers like Fadare are among the few safeguards standing between Africa’s fragile public health systems and a pandemic that could quickly overwhelm them. Reuters

How 6 Problem-Solvers Tackled Pandemic Challenges in Their Neighborhoods
Cardboard beds. Urban farms. Roving mariachi bands. These are some of the ways that regular folks are solving problems and spreading happiness during the pandemic. The solutions aren’t perfect – public health experts have some critiques and suggestions. But at the same time, they applaud the ingenuity and positive vibes. … In April, Jackline Oyamo, 31, was laid off from her job as an electronic sales assistant at a shop in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. The curfews to control the pandemic meant fewer customers – and staff cutbacks. … But Oyamo is able to get fresh produce for free from Victor Edalia, a 30-year-old urban farmer in her neighborhood. Last November, Edalia, who works as a driver by day, converted a trash dump site in the slum into an urban garden. … NPR



Photo: Adam Jones