Africa Media Review for July 28, 2020

West Africa Bloc ECOWAS Calls for Mali Unity Government Formation
West African leaders have called for the swift creation of a unity government in Mali as part of efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis, but warned of sanctions against those standing in the way. In a statement issued after a video conference on Monday, heads of the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS stood by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita but called for a unity government to be “established rapidly” and urged the opposition to join it. … The ECOWAS four-point plan also recommended that 31 members of parliament whose elections were contested should step down and that by-elections be held. It also called for an inquiry into the deaths of 11 people earlier this month when anti-government protests spiralled into clashes, in the worst bout of political unrest Mali has seen in years. The bloc called for its plan to be implemented within 10 days. The M5-RFP opposition coalition, also known as the June 5 Movement, that has spearheaded anti-Keita protests was unimpressed by the proposals. Al Jazeera

Tanzania Exiled Chadema Leader Tundu Lissu Returns Ahead of Polls
Song, dance, and thunderous applause rent the air as Tanzania’s main opposition Chadema deputy chairman Tundu Lissu arrived at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam on Monday. Mr Lissu returns from exile to contest in the October elections, nearly three years after he fled to seek medical care following an assassination attempt at his home in Dodoma in September 2017. … A fierce critic of President John Magufuli’s government, he was shot 16 times, mostly in the lower abdomen, in an attack by unknown gunmen in the administrative capital Dodoma in September 2017.  … Mr Lissu was arrested eight times in the year leading up to his attack and charged with incitement, among other alleged offences. His most recent arrest was in August 2017 – two weeks before he was shot. … Mr Lissu will face President Magufuli in the October 28 election should he win the party’s presidential primaries. He picked nomination forms through his agents and is seen as the likely Chadema presidential candidate after Mr Mbowe and three other party leaders dropped out of the race. The East African

Zimbabwe Intensifies Crackdown after Journalist Arrest
Zimbabwe police on Monday launched a hunt for opposition and union activists, days after a prominent journalist was held for encouraging mass anti-corruption protests. The police appealed in a statement for information on the whereabouts of 14 well-known government critics including trade unionist Peter Mutasa, opposition legislator Job Sikhala and two former youth leaders of ruling Zanu-PF party. It follows the arrest last week of opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume who called for the 31 July protests and journalist and documentary filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono, an outspoken critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime. Chin’ono invited the public to join the July 31 demonstrations via Facebook and Twitter. He had also helped expose a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal known as Covidgate, involving the procurement of coronavirus supplies. The two were charged with incitement to commit public violence and denied bail by a magistrates court. AFP

Civilians Killed in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions: HRW
At least six civilians have been killed since May by separatist groups in English-speaking regions of Cameroon, while the army is responsible for “grave abuses,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. The Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances at perceived discrimination by the francophone majority. “Cameroonian armed forces have attacked a health facility in the Northwest region and arbitrarily arrested seven health workers in the Southwest, while armed separatists have killed at least six civilians, including a humanitarian worker and a teacher, since May 2020,” HRW said in a statement. The teacher at the University of Bamenda was shot dead in mid-May by separatists because he refused to stop teaching, in line with their demands to boycott education, according to HRW which cited his family and witnesses. The Defense Post and AFP

Congo Communities Slam Army, UN for Failing to Stop Massacre
Community leaders in eastern Congo are condemning the military and United Nations peacekeepers for not doing more to stop the bloodshed when at least 220 people were killed earlier this month amid clashes between armed groups. Local authorities have said a coalition of fighters loyal to an ex-Congolese army colonel set fire to villages and stole cattle on their way to the town of Kipupu in South Kivu province. Fighting then raged there with Mai Mai militia members, with civilians caught in the middle. Community leaders initially said 43 people died in the July 16 attack, but they have revised that figure to more than 200. … Congo’s military and the U.N. peacekeeping mission have not confirmed those tolls. The U.N. says it has sent a team to the town to investigate. Capt. Dieudonné Kasereka, a military spokesman for operations in South Kivu, has said Congo’s army is doing everything possible to protect civilians. While there were no soldiers in Kipupu at the time of the attack, troops have since deployed nearby. AP

‘Ebola Business’ Concerns Resurface as New Congo Outbreak Spreads
As an outbreak of Ebola ratchets up in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s densely forested northwestern province of Équateur, warning signs are growing that corruption problems that dogged the last epidemic, in the conflict-torn east, risk being repeated. Eight weeks into the latest outbreak – which has infected 67 people and left 31 dead – several senior humanitarian officials involved in the response told The New Humanitarian that government officials have been trying to profit from relief funds, following a precedent set during the previous outbreak, which cost more than 2,200 lives between August 2018 and June 2020. When hundreds of millions of dollars were pumped into that response it kickstarted a local scramble to profit. Examples of what became known as “Ebola business” included vehicles being rented from elites at sky-high prices, and security services being paid millions of dollars for military escorts. The New Humanitarian

Somalia Sees Internet Blackout after Prime Minister Ousted
An internet blackout across large parts of southern and central Somalia ended Monday after what critics called an attempt by the government to control information amid fears of political fallout after the prime minister was ousted over the weekend. Parliament on Saturday booted Hassan Ali Khaire, the longest-serving prime minister of post-war Somalia, in a surprise no-confidence vote, drawing criticism from the international community including the United States, which expressed concerns over “irregularities” in the process. Visibly upset, Khaire hurried back to the capital, Mogadishu, where he told reporters he was stepping down, despite knowing the “flawed process” through which he was removed, to protect national unity. AP

Month-Long Internet Shutdown Cost Ethiopia over $100m: Netblocks
Ethiopia suffered a loss of at least $100 million due to the internet shutdown the government imposed in July. This is according to NetBlocks, a group which monitors internet freedom worldwide. It calculated the daily impact of the cut in terms of direct economic costs. “Beyond the impact on fundamental rights, each day of an internet shutdown in Ethiopia runs up a bill in excess of $4.5 million, in terms of the economic impact to the GDP according to the Cost of Shutdown Tool (Cost),” it said. … Ethiopia’s latest communication disruption was the most serious internet cut in terms of severity and duration. … According to a report the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released in March, Ethiopia shut down the internet eight times in 2019 alone. This was during public protests and in its bid to prevent cheating during national exams. The rights group further said communication blackouts without government justifications have become routine under PM Abiy’s administration, during social and political unrest. The East African

South Sudan Misses Deadline to Form New Parliament
Parties to South Sudan’s revitalized peace deal missed a regional deadline Sunday to dissolve and reconstitute parliament. A July 14 communiqué by East African bloc IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development), which mediated South Sudan’s peace agreement, called on President Salva Kiir to dissolve the current National Legislative Assembly by July 26. A partial unity government was formed five months ago, but parliament has yet to be reconstituted and Kiir appointed state governors just a few weeks ago. Information Minister Michael Makuei told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus that the parties are still working on “the process” of reconstituting parliament. … The peace deal requires that the current 400-member parliament be dissolved and reconstituted to include the full 550 members of the unity government, including nearly 40% representation from parties other than Kiir’s ruling SPLM party. VOA

Wife of Detained Nigerian Humanist Pleads for ‘Proof of Life’
The wife of a prominent Nigerian humanist accused of blasphemy has pleaded for information about his wellbeing on the eve of the three-month anniversary of his detention. Mubarak Bala, the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April and taken to neighbouring Kano. In the weeks before, he had posted comments critical of Islam on Facebook that caused outrage in the deeply religious and conservative part of the country. Since being taken to Kano, Bala’s whereabouts and his health are unknown. According to figures close to him, he has been denied contact with his family and lawyers. … Kano has a dual sharia and state legal system and Bala has been charged under state law with violating a religious offence law and with cybercrime. The Guardian

Survivors of Rwandan Genocide Call for Arrest of Key Suspect Found in France
A Rwandan genocide victims’ association has urged French authorities to arrest former military official Aloys Ntiwiragabo, accused of playing a key role in the 1994 genocide. Anti-terrorism prosecutors on Saturday decided to open a preliminary investigation after journalists tracked the 72-year-old down in the French city of Orléans. Theo Englebert, author of the story published on the Mediapart website on Saturday, explained that former Rwandan military official Aloys Ntiwiragabo was found living in the suburbs of Orléans, a city 110 kilometres south of Paris. … Major-General Aloys Ntiwiragabo was Rwanda’s head of military intelligence from June 1993 to July 1994 and a member of the group known as ‘Akazu’ which orchestrated the 1994 genocide. RFI

Kenya Extends Curfew for a Month as COVID-19 Cases Jump
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta extended a nightly curfew on Monday for 30 days to curb the spread of COVID-19 and banned alcohol sales in restaurants but stopped short of locking down the country again despite a surge in cases. The curfew had been due to be lifted on Aug. 6 or 7. Kenya has so far reported 17,975 cases of infection with the new coronavirus and 285 deaths from the related disease COVID-19. The health ministry said on Sunday it had reported 960 more cases, the biggest daily jump since the first case was confirmed in March. “The harsh reality my friends is that we are at war. At war with an invisible enemy who is relentless,” Kenyatta said in a televised address. … “We cannot have a policeman at every street and in every village to enforce the rules. We need, as citizens, to hold ourselves and one another accountable,” he said. Reuters

99 Days, 4 Lives, 1 Pandemic: South Africa in Lockdown
On the morning of Friday July 3rd, the 99th day of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, Bongani Mabuza rose before dawn to open the small corner store at the front of his property in the Johannesburg township of Katlehong. The winter air was singed from controlled burns of the prairie that surrounded the city. And in the inky darkness outside Mr. Mabuza’s gate, the street was quiet. Before COVID-19 hit South Africa, 5 to 7 a.m. were one of his busiest times. His spaza – a local name for this type of store – served bread and Coke and hot sandwiches to a steady stream of customers in blue workmen’s overalls and security guard uniforms heading to jobs in the city. Now, there weren’t many people who needed to be up that early. Three months into the lockdown, so many South Africans had lost their jobs that there were more people unemployed than still formally working. For 99 days, Mr. Mabuza had charted the pandemic’s course by the purchases his customers made. The Christian Science Monitor

South Africa: Koba-Tlala Making a Difference in Mpumalanga
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) development programme Project Koba-Tlala continues to make steady progress in providing locally grown food to military bases, with efforts in Mpumalanga gaining momentum. Project Koba-Tlala, which translates as chase away hunger, has been going for the past three years under the guidance of Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, director SA Army Reserves. Its origins place the project in line with government’s National Development Plan, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. The pilot project for Koba-Tlala was in North West where it planned to harness communities in and around the provincial military hub of Potchefstroom. Units and bases would source fresh produce grown by community collective gardens with excess going to local residents. DefenceWeb

Virus-Linked Hunger Tied to 10,000 Child Deaths Each Month
The lean season is coming for Burkina Faso’s children. And this time, the long wait for the harvest is bringing a hunger more ferocious than most have ever known. That hunger is already stalking Haboue Solange Boue, an infant who has lost half her former body weight of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) in the last month. With the markets closed because of coronavirus restrictions, her family sold fewer vegetables. Her mother is too malnourished to nurse her. … All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The Associated Press ahead of its publication in the Lancet medical journal. … Some of the worst hunger still occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sudan, 9.6 million people are living from one meal to the next in acute food insecurity – a 65% increase from the same time last year. AP



Photo: Adam Jones