Africa Media Review for July 18, 2019

WHO Declares Ebola Outbreak ‘Health Emergency’ of International Concern
The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern,” a rare designation only used for the gravest epidemics. “It is time for the world to take notice,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, as he accepted the advice of his advisory board to invoke the emergency provision (PHEIC), only used by the UN health agency four times previously. Those included the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009, the spread of poliovirus in 2014, the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and the surge of the Zika virus in 2016. … More than 1,600 people have died from Ebola since August 1, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in DR Congo’s North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri. AFP

Earlier Ebola Outbreaks, and How the World Overcame Them
The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is only the second-largest in history, but undoubtedly the most frustrating. Scientists are fairly certain they have the medical tools needed for victory: one vaccine that appears to work about 98 percent of the time, another that has worked well in monkeys, and four therapies that may block the virus if they are given early enough. Instead, scientists are being thwarted by the nightmarish conflicts and politics of eastern Congo. Health workers have been murdered, treatment centers have been torched, rumors have repeatedly outwrestled the truth. An overwhelming sense of divisiveness and fear has undone almost every effort to save the stricken and protect the vulnerable. Three previous Ebola outbreaks have demonstrated how a response can succeed — or how, in an atmosphere of suspicion, it can go badly wrong. NY Times

DRC: 2 Dead as Protesters March against Insecurity in Goma
In addition to the Ebola virus, residents of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are facing insecurity. At least two people were killed by bandits on Tuesday evening, following a failed kidnapping attempt. The bandits were reportedly taking part in a funeral ceremony for one of the victims of Ebola. The incident infuriated locals who took to street to protest. “We march because we believe we are neglected. People are dying, there is still no solution. We have assigned a police station, but we wonder if it is to ensure people’s safety or what?’‘, a protester queried. Insecurity is a recurrent problem in Goma, with some acts of barbarism, including abduction and torture of children for ransom. AFP

Sudan’s Power-Sharing Deal Missing Key Details
After months of on-again, off-again talks, Sudan’s military and opposition leaders have signed a power-sharing deal that rotates control of an executive council, but leaves other key details to be determined. Under the deal, the 11-member Sovereign Council, the top level of government, will be made up of five civilians, five military officials, and one additional civilian to be selected by the 10 members. … The agreement stipulates that a Council of Ministers, which shall not exceed 20 people, shall be appointed by a civilian prime minister and that a legislative body will be formed within three months of the beginning of the transition. The more contentious details over a constitutional agreement that would spell out the division of powers has yet to be worked out. Omer Ismail, a senior adviser at the Washington, D.C.-based Enough Project, says those missing parts are important. “It is not there; it was postponed for 90 days. Instead of talking about that, and talking about it as an important institution, they are spelling out their reservations,” Ismail told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. But Mohammed Hassan Labat, the African Union’s special envoy to Sudan, believes the agreement paves the way for a constitutional deal. VOA

Sudan’s Political Agreement Fails to Resolve Difference over Transitional Parliament
The political agreement reached Wednesday between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) did not resolve the difference over the legislative council composition as it provides that every party sticks to its initial position. In accordance with the agreement, the FFC reiterated its position that 67% of the legislative council would be dedicated to the FFC groups as agreed last May; while the TMC reaffirmed its demand to review this percentage. After the bloody raid on the pro-democracy sit-in on 3 June, the head of the Rapid Support Forces and TMC deputy head Mohamed Hamdan Daglo ’Hemetti’ claimed that the opposition FFC plans to disband his militia through a law to be adopted by the transitional parliament. … However, the text of the political agreement on the transitional institutions provides that the legislative council should be formed within 90 days from the establishment of the Sovereign Council. … The TMC and FFC are expected to resume meetings on Friday to discuss the constitutional declaration which defines the attributions and powers of the three organs of the transitional authority established by the political agreement. Sudan Tribune

Devils on Horseback Leader Holds Fate of Sudan in His Hands
A one-time camel trader turned leader of a Sudanese militia known as the “devils on horseback” now holds the fate of Africa’s third-largest nation in his hands. Known popularly as Hemeti, Mohamed Hamdan dominates the military council that overthrew President Omar al-Bashir in April. He also commands the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group accused of killing more than 100 protesters in June in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Swaggering and unaccountable, his fighters have become the most tangible obstacle to Sudan’s escape from three decades of dictatorship. “All roads forward in Sudan now run into the Hemeti problem,” said Alan Boswell, an analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. “Over time, his power will need to be reined in, yet any action against him at the moment risks civil war.” Bloomberg

Protesters Take to Streets to Declare New Ethiopian Region
Protesters in the Ethiopian city of Hawassa blocked roads and burned tires on Thursday after security forces thwarted a meeting of activists to declare a new region for their Sidama ethnic group, witnesses said. The declaration would be a test of whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government can stick to its commitment to peaceful political reforms amid increasing demands from competing ethno-nationalist groups. Hawassa is the capital of the multi-ethnic Southern Nations region but some Sidama – who make up the largest group there – want it as the capital of their own new entity. … But activists told Reuters that security forces prevented them from accessing the meeting venue, and that mobile data had been blocked in an apparent move to impair their means of communication. Reuters

Boko Haram: 2.8 Million in Dire Need of Protection, Intervention – UNDP
The United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP) has said about 2.8 million people are in dire need of protection and humanitarian intervention as the Lake Chad region continues to witness the ravages of the Boko Haram insurgency. The UNDP Regional Director, Bureau for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, said this on Tuesday during a regional parley by representatives of the four affected nations in Niamey, Niger Republic. Security experts, however, believe the figure is much higher and is expected to increase. Eight governors and representatives from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad are currently meeting in Niamey, Niger, on Wednesday alongside several CSOs and stakeholders to deliberate on the crisis rocking the Lake Chad region. Premium Times

South Africa: Commission of Inquiry Adjourned after Zuma Cries Foul
South Africa’s deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday adjourned until Friday morning a public inquiry into state corruption, after lawyers Zuma’s lawyers said he was being questioned unfairly. Zuma’s lawyers have argued that the inquiry’s lawyers should not cross-examine the former president because they say evidence given by other witnesses does not directly implicate Zuma in corruption and fraud. … Former president Jacob Zuma on Wednesday denied having interfered with the appointment of a chief executive at transport and infrastructure company Transnet, during his third day testifying at a corruption inquiry. Transnet, which operates railways, ports and fuel pipelines, is one of a handful of state-owned firms that became embroiled in corruption scandals during Zuma’s tenure. AfricaNews

SA Not Co-operating in Arrest of Genocide Suspect – UN Court
The chief prosecutor of a UN tribunal on Wednesday accused South Africa of failing to co-operate in the arrest of a fugitive sought over his role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. “Since August of last year, my office has been seeking urgent cooperation from South Africa in relation to the arrest of a fugitive located on its territory,” said Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Since 2010, the tribunal has handled outstanding and ongoing cases from the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that tried suspects in the 1994 genocide that killed around 800 000 people, mainly minority Tutsis. “We have continually renewed our requests, and have repeatedly sought to engage directly with South African authorities,” he told the UN Security Council. AFP

Media Advocates Decry Burundi’s Increasing Restrictions
Press freedom advocates are coming down hard on Burundi, after increasing restrictions prompted the BBC to shut down its bureau in the central African country this week. Burundian authorities have also suspended VOA from operating in the country since March and have threatened sanctions against Radio France International. … On March 29, Burundi’s National Communication Council indefinitely suspended the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) from operating on its territory. The government also prohibited anyone from supplying any form of information to the two international broadcasters. The media regulator initially had imposed a six-month suspension on both news agencies in May 2018. It also forbade journalists in the country from contributing to either the BBC or VOA. … Last week, the media regulatory body also warned Iwacu, a weekly newspaper, that it could be shut down over alleged bias and defamation. A journalist working for Iwacu has been missing since July 2016. In another development, President Pierre Nkurunziza recently appointed the head of the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, to be head of the national broadcaster. VOA

Tanzanian Press Champion Hopes Prize ‘Lifts Veil’ on Abuses
A Tanzanian journalist awarded a prestigious prize for press freedom said on Wednesday he hoped the recognition will “lift the corner of the veil” on the plight of reporters in his homeland. Maxence Melo, a blogger whose critical writings of President John Magufuli have landed him in hot water, was named one of five recipients of the International Press Freedom Prize by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). … Melo has been in court more than 80 times, the CPJ said, and is still facing prosecution for refusing to disclose his sources in a story criticising Tanzanian authorities. His work focuses on corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations. … “This prize lifts a corner of the veil on what is happening in our country,” said Melo, who is barred from leaving Tanzania’s financial capital and biggest city, Dar es Salaam. “Never before in our country has a government violated press freedom so much.” Tanzania fell 25 places in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index this year, with the media watchdog branding Magufuli a “press freedom predator” who attacked journalists with impunity. AFP

South Sudan Seeks Chinese Support in Education Sector
South Sudan is seeking to strengthen cooperation with China to enhance development in the education sector. The country’s general education minister, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, said Juba seeks to expand the existing cooperation with Beijing in an effort to increase education opportunities in Africa’s newest nation. Deng, Xinhua reported, also disclosed that they began discussions on a new education agreement that would allow China print more text books for South Sudan and increase exchange programs. The agreement, he said, would also cover issues of capacity building for the people of South Sudan. “We have a lot of young people who are learning in China for bachelor, masters and some for PhDs [Doctorate of Philosophy],” said Deng. “We have also a lot of teachers and head teachers who were taken to China for training and many of them have come back and they are now doing a lot better than before,” he added. Sudan Tribune

ICC Panel Upholds Congo Child Soldiers Reparation Order
International Criminal Court appeals judges have upheld a ruling that found a convicted warlord from the Democratic Republic of Congo liable for $10 million in reparations to hundreds of victims. Thursday’s appeals judgment also cleared the way for more victims to seek reparations, saying some people whose initial requests were rejected can apply again along with other victims who have come forward since the initial ruling in December 2017. The reparations were ordered following the 2012 conviction of Thomas Lubanga for using child soldiers. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. AP

Zimbabwe: Drought Means Residents are Only Allowed to Use the Tap Once a Week
A recent drought in Zimbabwe has left more than two million people unable to access clean water, according to officials. Last month, the country’s two major cities, Harare and Bulawayo, announced they had started a water rationing program which would see residents accessing tap water only once a week. The two cities combined have a population of more than two million people. In recent years, Harare municipality has been battling against low water quality due to a critical shortage of purifying chemicals, which cost in excess of USD$3 million per month, water engineers said. Harare Acting Water Director Mabhena Moyo Tuesday blamed the current economic crisis for hampering water service delivery. “We are using more chemicals and we have not been able to procure enough safe chemicals as a result, we are targeting to provide water to our residents with a minimum of once a week’ supply of the precious liquid,” he said. CNN

Zimbabwe: Govt to Cede 70% Ownership to Russia’s Aldrosa in Diamonds Deal
Russian Diamond exploration and mining giant Alrosa will have 70% stake in its joint venture with state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in Manicaland with a provision set for possible expansion ‘in the territory of the whole country; according to their agreement. … “The shareholding will however be renegotiated at agreed intervals of the project cycle up to a split of 49-51% in favour of Alrosa.” … President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, at inception, amended the country’s controversial black empowerment law which gave locals a mandatory 51 percent plus stake in all foreign firms operating in Zimbabwe. Only diamond and platinum exploration, mining and marketing retained the mandatory 51% local ownership which government seems to have ignored. New Zimbabwe

End of a ‘Secret’ German Military Mission in Cameroon
The announcement that Germany has ended its military mission in Cameroon came as a surprise to many who were unaware of the presence of German soldiers in the conflict-torn African country. Besides Cameroon, Niger and Tunisia are two other African countries where Germany has military and police training missions not mandated by its parliament. Germany’s defense ministry confirmed to DW that, according to the law, the government does not have to ask the Bundestag for approval to send military instructors to peaceful countries as long as the German military is not involved in any direct confrontation on the ground. Berlin also has no obligation to inform deputies about the particulars of these missions. DW

South Africa: Inside the Football-Mad Township ‘Too Dangerous’ for Scouts to Visit
Football is thriving but, despite the foundation of a Fifa Football for Hope Centre during the 2010 World Cup, and initiatives from local top-flight team Cape Town City FC, there is still a big gap between Khayelitsha and the rest of the football world. This is the kind of area – a mixture of formal and informal homes in a makeshift city of concrete and corrugated metal, sprawling across ‘the flats’ on Cape Town’s outskirts – that was supposed to benefit from having football’s showpiece event on its doorstep. ‘Legacy’ is a popular buzzword in major tournament bids, but for the millions of people who live here, football remains an escape but not a route to a career. Notorious for gang violence and its criminal subculture, Khayelitsha is in the top 10 areas for crime in the whole of South Africa, with nearly 3,500 contact crimes (192 of them murder) reported in the township during 2018. With both education and employment opportunities limited for young people growing up there, a lot of importance is placed upon football to help keep them on track. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones