Africa Media Review for July 17, 2020

UN Says 2 Aid Workers, 4 Others Shot Dead in South Sudan
Two aid workers in South Sudan were shot dead along with four people they were helping after members of an unknown armed group attacked them early this week, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country said Thursday. … “These terrible acts cannot continue,” U.N. coordinator Mohamed Ag Ayoya said in a statement calling on South Sudan’s government to do more to protect aid workers who take “significant risks” to help millions of people facing hunger and now the coronavirus pandemic. The gunmen opened fire as the staffers with an international aid group were providing health and nutrition services to residents, mostly women and children, who tried to flee the scene, the U.N. statement said. The aid group wasn’t identified. The attack occurred in Pajut town center in restive Jonglei state, which has seen vicious rounds of communal violence that have killed hundreds of people this year and displaced thousands. AP

Anger at Mali’s President Rises after Security Forces Kill Protesters
When security forces in Mali shot and killed protesters last weekend, they were met with an unexpected response. Instead of being cowed into submission, the demonstrators have become more determined, announcing plans to continue their efforts for reform despite the violent crackdown. The leaders of the ballooning protest movement in the West African nation have called for mass civil disobedience until President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta steps down. … A team of regional mediators arrived in the capital, Bamako, on Wednesday night to try to mitigate the growing unrest, but Mr. Keïta has shown no sign of stepping down. … The killing of at least 11 protesters was “a red line that should not have been crossed,” said Boubacar Sangaré, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in the capital. “There is a convergence of crises and anger,” he said. The New York Times

In Protests-Hit DRC, a Fierce Power Struggle Deepens
On the surface, the recent protests that have swept across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) surround the potential appointment of Ronsard Malonda as the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). But at the root, there is a fierce struggle for political power that dates back more than a decade. Malonda, the current secretary-general of CENI, was a senior figure involved in running the country’s previous elections in 2006, 2011 and 2018. Critics have accused him of playing a historic role in rigging results in favour of former President Joseph Kabila, who came to power after his father was assassinated in 2001 and stood down last year. Supporters of the DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi claim that Malonda’s appointment is part of a plan by Kabila, who continues to wield enormous power through his parliamentary majority, control of the army and several cabinet ministries, to interfere with the country’s next elections in 2023. Al Jazeera

Libya Denounces Egypt’s ‘Will Not Stand Idle’ Threats
Libya has condemned the Egyptian president for recent comments suggesting Cairo “will not stand idle” against threats to national security and could arm Libyan tribes against the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. During a meeting in Cairo with tribal leaders from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Thursday, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said Egypt “will not stand idle in the face of any moves that pose a direct threat to the national security not only of Egypt but also that of Libya” and the region, according to a presidency statement. In response, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Foreign Ministry spokesperson criticised the statement as “blatant interference in Libyan internal affairs.” “El-Sisi’s talk is a repeat of his previous statements, which is a blatant interference in Libyan affairs,” Mohammed al-Qablawi told Al Jazeera, adding that el-Sisi’s speech was “not aimed at peace, as he said, but it is he who is fueling the [Libyan] conflict.” Al Jazeera

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Sudan Rejects ‘Unilateral Actions’
Tensions are rising between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan following the publication of satellite images that show the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile filling with rainwater. However Ethiopia insists that the water that is to be seen from the satellite images has accumulated naturally during the rainy season, and denies that the dam’s sluice gates have been closed. … In reaction to the latest reports, underpinned by pictures of the swelling reservoir, captured in imagery on July 9 by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources issued a press statement last night via the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reiterating its “firm rejection of any unilateral actions taken by any party,” especially at a time when the African Union and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa continues to seek an agreement between the three countries on the pending issues that could be resolved with robust political will. Radio Dabanga

Sudan: Conflict Gold in Spotlight as Investors Flock to Precious Metal
As demand for gold as a safe haven surged during the coronavirus pandemic, concerns about sourcing the precious metal responsibly have again been thrust into the spotlight. A report from Global Witness alleging one of the world’s biggest gold refiners has worked with a supplier that was at risk of having bought conflict metal originating in Sudan is the latest in a series of calls from advocacy groups urging the London Bullion Market Association to scrutinize producers more closely. … In its report on Thursday, Global Witness alleges that Swiss refiner Valcambi SA bought large amounts of gold from Dubai-based Kaloti Precious Metals Group, which in turn was at risk of having purchased Sudanese conflict gold. It said there are gaps in the LBMA’s responsible sourcing standards that don’t generally require refiners to disclose their suppliers. Bloomberg

US Sanctions Hit ‘Putin’s Chef’ for Threatening Sudan’s Democracy
US authorities on Wednesday slapped sanctions on entities linked to Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin over attempts to “suppress and discredit” democratic reforms in Sudan. … The US Treasury said Prigozhin’s role in Sudan demonstrates the relationship between Russia’s paramilitary operations, support for authoritarian regimes and exploitation of natural resources. US authorities noted how Russia had developed a relationship with Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir, offering military assistance and getting involved in oil, natural gas, agriculture and gold.  Bashir was ousted in April 2019 and a transitional government installed. The US Treasury said new sanctions would stop Prigozhin from interfering with “Sudan’s democratic transition and allow the new government an opportunity to regain control of Sudan’s national assets.” … Russian investigative website The Bell previously reported on how ties between Sudan and Russia were developed in November 2017 with the deployment of Wagner Group contractors and a company connected to Prigozhin started to prospect for gold in Sudan. RFI

Nigeria Steps up Probe at Anti-Corruption Agency
Nigeria has suspended a dozen staff members at its top anti-corruption agency, a move criticised by civil society groups as undermining the government’s commitment to rooting out graft in west Africa’s biggest economy. This week’s suspensions were made pending an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by Ibrahim Magu, chief of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Mr Magu was suspended last week, detained for 10 days and only released on Wednesday. He has denied all accusations.President Muhammadu Buhari won two elections largely on an anti-corruption platform and has long touted the EFCC’s successes under Mr Magu. Under his stewardship, the agency has taken on targets including sitting governors and international oil companies that it had not in the past. The suspensions have prompted anger from activists. FT

Gabon Appoints First Woman Prime Minister Amid Government Shakeup
Gabon President Ali Bongo on Thursday promoted his defence minister, Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, to prime minister on Thursday, the first time a woman has held the role in the country. Ossouka Raponda, 56, is the sixth prime minister appointed since Bongo succeeded his father in 2009. Her first job is to form a new government after her predecessor, Julien Nkoghe Bekale, stepped down earlier in the day. She will take on two major challenges: declining oil production and prices, which have weighed on growth in recent years, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Central African country has registered nearly 6 000 cases to date. Ossouka Raponda will also have to navigate a delicate political scene that was shaken up when Bongo, 61, had a stroke in 2018, followed by a long medical leave abroad, during which there was a brief coup attempt. Bongo’s recovery has been slow and rare television appearances show him still struggling to walk. AFP

Tanzania: African Court Orders Tanzania to Allow Challenges to Presidential Results
The African rights court on Wednesday ordered Tanzania to amend a section of its constitution which bars any court from probing the election of a president after a winner is officially announced. Tanzanian advocate, Jebra Kambole, filed a case at the Arusha-based court in 2018 arguing the provision was a violation of his rights. Tanzania’s constitution states that once a presidential candidate has been declared the winner by the electoral commission “no court of law shall have any jurisdiction to inquire into the election of that candidate.” Recently courts in Kenya and Malawi have overturned the results of presidential elections won by an incumbent due to irregularities, forcing a re-run, in what has been seen as a victory for democracy on the continent. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ordered Tanzania to take “necessary constitutional and legislative measures, within a reasonable time” to amend the relevant article, read a statement from the court. The Citizen

South Africa’s Virus Epicenter Shifts Away from Cape Town
Declining numbers of patients prompted the decision to reduce the size of Khayelitsha field hospital from 60 to 30 beds, indicating cautious optimism among health workers. The field hospital will send 30 of its life-saving oxygen concentrating machines to other parts of the country where they are desperately needed, an aid worker, Sean Christie, said. Where they will go is still to be decided. … Virus hospitalizations are surging across other parts of South Africa, especially in Gauteng province, which includes the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria. Numbers are also growing significantly in the more rural Eastern Cape province. … Gauteng province this month overtook the Western Cape in total confirmed COVID-19 cases. In just a week, Gauteng’s cases have increased by more than 37,000 to 112,714, according to the health ministry. AP

African Scientists Step up Role in Coronavirus Fight
Scientists in Africa are taking a proactive stance in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus, says the continent’s top epidemiologist. Dr. John Nkengasong says that across the continent, scientists are doing genome sequencing, clinical testing and trying to find innovative ways to apply African knowledge to this global threat. Africa was never going to escape the spread of the coronavirus, the continent’s top epidemiologist says. He adds that African scientists and doctors are applying lessons they learned from the continent’s battle with the HIV pandemic, and stepping up their role in the fight. … He said 64 clinical drug trials are currently happening, and South Africa is leading the continent’s first vaccine trial. Eventually, he said, if a successful vaccine is found, African countries should be allowed to produce and distribute it themselves. VOA

In Nigeria, African Researchers Blaze a Trail in Virus Fight
“Strong people don’t put others down — they lift them up. “So says the discreet sign at the entrance to one of the most remarkable research facilities in Africa. Run by a Cameroon-raised, Harvard-trained molecular biologist, the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) has been at the forefront in the fight of killer diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever — and now COVID-19. The force behind the lab is Professor Christian Happi, who has a steely belief in catapulting young African scientists to the top of scientific research. “As long as Africa fails to make intellectual contributions, it will always be told what to do,” he said. ACEGID’S 52-year-old director has already set down a marker in the battle against coronavirus by devising a low-cost test for the highly contagious disease. AFP

As Seaweed Becomes a Top Crop in East Africa, a New Program Will Help Farmers Grow It Sustainably
Seaweed has become one of Zanzibar’s major crops since seaweed farming was introduced on the Tanzanian archipelago in the 1980s. Exports were valued at $5.2 million for the year ending in May, up from $4.1 million the previous year, according to the Bank of Zanzibar. The aquaculture industry is estimated to employ more than 25,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them women. “It’s one of the hot spots for seaweed production in the world,” Robert Jones, global lead for aquaculture at the Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based environmental organization, told ABC News. Rising sea temperatures and marine pollution pose challenges to the industry globally, especially in Zanzibar, Jones said, making it harder for farmers to maintain their yields sustainably and cost-effectively. As a result, on Wednesday the Nature Conservancy is launching a pilot program in three villages in the region that will work with farmers to develop sustainable practices and improve the resiliency of the crop. ABC



Photo: Adam Jones