Africa Media Review for July 21, 2020

Zimbabwe Detains Prominent Journalist, Activist Who Called for Mass Protests
Zimbabwe’s government stepped up a recent string of arrests of its critics when at least eight state agents stormed the residence of the country’s most prominent investigative journalist and also detained an opposition activist. Hopewell Chin’ono, the journalist who had recently exposed a corruption scandal in the Ministry of Health, used social media to echo a call by activist Jacob Ngarivhume for protests next week against corruption. Both were charged Monday with incitement to violence, according to a statement from police. A government spokesman, Nick Mangwana, said on Twitter that “no profession [is] above the law” regarding Chin’ono’s arrest. Chin’ono’s reporting has repeatedly dogged the government for corruption, which Transparency International Zimbabwe says costs the country more than $2 billion every year. The Washington Post

Mali Opposition Declares ‘Truce’ as Regional Leaders Prepare for Negotiations
Mali’s political opposition said it would halt protests in a “truce” ahead of the upcoming Eid festival, as four West African presidents prepare to travel to the country this week for mediation talks to try and resolve a deepening crisis. … Opposition figures have been tapping into a wellspring of anger over the president’s perceived failures in tackling the dire economy, corruption and an eight-year jihadist conflict. The leaders of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal and Niger will fly to the capital Bamako for talks on Thursday regarding the impasse, according to a Malian presidency official. Nouhoun Sarr, one of the protest movement leaders, told AFP overnight Monday to Tuesday that the opposition has “decided to observe a truce on the subject of civil disobedience. This is to allow Malians to properly prepare for and celebrate Eid.” AFP

Africa Facing Coronavirus ‘Acceleration,’ WHO Warns
The WHO said South Africa’s outbreak, which accounts for 61% of the continent’s pandemic burden, could be a “precursor” for the region. Kenya, Zambia and Namibia are already seeing surging infection rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced alarm on Monday about the spread of coronavirus in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan countries. “I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa, and we need to take that very seriously,” WHO emergency operations chief Mike Ryan told a press briefing from Geneva. “Many of those countries exist in the midst of fragility and conflict.” … The continent has so far registered close to 725,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 15,000 deaths. DW

African Union Summons Regional Leaders to Discuss Disputed Dam
The African Union summoned regional leaders to discuss an impasse over an Ethiopian hydropower dam on the Nile River. The virtual talks will take place Tuesday and may be a prelude to the resumption of negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan about how quickly the reservoir is filled, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said by phone Monday from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. “The meeting will take place within the context of the AU’s efforts to strengthen the negotiations and to infuse new momentum towards the resolution of all the outstanding legal and technical matters,” the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chairman of the African Union, said in an emailed statement. Bloomberg

Sudan’s Bashir on Trial over 1989 Coup That Brought Him to Power
Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown last year by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule, is set to go on trial over his role in a coup that brought him to power more than 30 years ago.nAl-Bashir, 76, is scheduled to appear in court in the capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday to face charges of undermining the constitution, violating the Armed Forces Act and fomenting a coup in 1989 against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. “This trial will be a warning to anyone who tries to destroy the constitutional system,” said Moaz Hadra, one of the lawyers who led the push to bring the case to court. “This will safeguard Sudanese democracy. In this way, we hope to bring an end to the era of putsches in Sudan.” Al Jazeera

US Sanctions Aim to Keep Russian Financier from Meddling in Sudan’s Future
This month the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on businesses tied to Prigozhin. The Putin ally is accused of supporting former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and advising him to violently suppress protests. In return for this support, Sudan gave businesses linked to Prigozhin access to gold and the ores of precious metals. … With Bashir jailed, U.S. officials do not want Prigozhin to serve as a conduit for Russian meddling in Sudan’s future. Prigozhin, who denies interfering in the West, Africa and Asia, finances the actions of Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a massive online troll farm accused of trying to influence elections around the world. In Sudan, a business he controls called M-Invest is accused of spreading disinformation and advising Bashir on ways to quell protests that swept the nation in 2019. … “[M-Invest] also, they advised him to stage public executions and kill a reasonable number of protesters so as to quell the protest against his regime,” [Suliman Baldo, senior adviser at The Sentry] said. VOA

Libya Standoff Deepens as Egypt Lawmakers Approve Use of Force
Egypt’s president secured a parliamentary green light for possible military intervention in Libya, raising the stakes in the OPEC member amid international efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict. The unanimous backing, announced in a statement by the 596-seat parliament, came after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told a group of mainly eastern Libyan tribal heads last week that Egypt was determined to protect its interests and those of its North African neighbor. El-Sisi has warned the Turkish-backed internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, against trying to take the central city of Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s oil crescent, from eastern commander Khalifa Haftar. Bloomberg

Ivory Coast Governing Party Asks President Ouattara to Stand Again
Ivory Coast’s governing party says it has asked President Alassane Ouattara to seek a third term in the country’s upcoming elections following the death of his chosen successor earlier this month. … Ouattara, 78, had said he would step down and named his close ally, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, as the RHDP party’s candidate for the October 31 ballot. The 61-year-old Coulibaly, who underwent heart surgery in 2012, became unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting on July 8. He was taken to hospital where he passed away. This left the RHDP without a candidate in the run-up to a crucial election that analysts say is expected to test stability in the world’s biggest cocoa producer. The vote is expected to be the most hotly contested since 2010, when Ouattara defeated incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat. The months-long standoff, until Gbagbo’s arrest in April 2011, killed some 3,000 people and left lingering divisions. Al Jazeera

Activists Petition African Union to Form Hybrid Court in South Sudan
Activists in South Sudan have petitioned African Union Peace and Security Council to establish hybrid court in the country to try leaders accused of committing crimes since the conflict began in 2013. The South Sudan Civil Society Forum, a coalition of organisations, in a joint letter addressed to AU Peace and Security Council, has appealed to the council to use the session slated for July 21 to revive the stalled implementation of peace agreement. … Chapter 5 of the Revitalised Peace Agreement stipulates that there shall be a hybrid court in South Sudan, as a key part of the peace deal, aimed at holding war criminals accountable in the conflict that has killed nearly 400,000 people and forced four million to flee their homes. As per the peace accord, the African Union is to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing crimes since the conflict began in December 2013. The East African

Hundreds of Refugees in Uganda Displaced after Food Riot
The United Nations refugee agency has moved hundreds of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to a safer location following violence that broke out over accusations of stolen food. The violence was sparked by an incident July 13, in which youth from the Nuer community allegedly stole maize from the farm of the Kuku community in Palorinya, Obongi district, northern Uganda.  Even though the perpetrators were punished, the situation escalated into violence. Three boys aged 16, 17 and 18 were killed, seven others were wounded, and some 280 shelters were set ablaze.  The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has relocated 762 South Sudanese refugees due to fear of retaliation attacks. Eighty percent of these, according to the UNHCR, are children. VOA

Malawi: African Wildlife Traffickers Face Long Prison Sentences
A court in Malawi on Monday sentenced nine members of a gang of wildlife traffickers to a total of more than 56 years in prison for dealing in endangered species body parts in Africa. The Lin-Zhang gang – named for the husband and wife leaders – was one of the continent’s most notorious wildlife trafficking syndicates and had been operating out of Malawi for 10 years, said conservation groups. “Fighting crime on this scale demands sophistication, collaboration, courage and tenacity,” said Mary Rice, head of the Environmental Investigative Agency. “Malawi should be immensely proud, and other African countries currently battling the scourge of illegal wildlife trade would do well to follow this example of global leadership.” VOA



Photo: Adam Jones