Africa Media Review for July 30, 2020

Mali Cleric Says Crisis Can Be Resolved without President Resigning
The Muslim cleric seen as the driving force behind Mali’s protest movement said the country’s political crisis could be resolved without President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigning, offering a more moderate solution than other opposition leaders. At least 14 protesters were killed earlier this month in demonstrations that have shaken the government since June and raised fears the instability could derail the fight against Islamist extremists in West Africa’s Sahel region. Despite concessions from Keita and recommendations for moderate reforms by regional leaders, the M5-RFP coalition organising the protests said on Tuesday it wanted Keita gone and has called for more civil disobedience. But influential preacher Mahmoud Dicko, who has led the protests even though he is not a coalition member, took a softer line in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday. “I think we can find a solution without going as far as the resignation of the president. Aside from his resignation, there are lots of things that can be done,” he said. Reuters

Joining the Conflict in Libya, Turkey Sees Economic Gains
When Turkey’s president signed a security deal last year to back one of the sides in Libya’s civil war, another agreement was waiting to be signed by his new proteges the same day: a memorandum redrawing the two countries’ maritime borders. In Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s memo, Turkey and Libya lay claim to large areas of the Mediterranean Sea and the potential natural gas deposits under it. The deal achieved a longtime goal of Turkey – finding a partner to back its claims. Officials in Libya’s U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, have disclosed for the first time to The Associated Press the deliberations that resulted in Turkey becoming a major broker in the war, opposite Russia. They describe the relationship as necessary, and say Turkey’s foray into the conflict goes hand-in-hand with its economic designs. AP

Gunmen Kill 14 Villagers in Central Nigeria: Police
Gunmen killed 14 villagers in central Nigeria’s Kogi state on Wednesday, police said, blaming the attack on communal violence. The night-time attack on Agbudu village in Koton-Karfe area also left six people seriously injured, said state police commissioner Ede Ayuba in a statement. “I was there and I was part of those who picked up some of the dead bodies we are talking about,” he said. He said 13 of the dead were members of the same family. “In that family, only one person survived. His uncle, his mother, his uncle’s wife, his younger brother, his senior brother’s wife, his wife, and all his children were killed,” he said. Ayuba said an investigation had been launched into the incident, adding that a long-standing row over land rights was a possible motive. The Defense Post with AFP

Nigeria: Boko Haram Attacks Borno Governor’s Convoy
The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, today survived an ambush by suspected Boko Haram gunmen, sources and his spokesperson said. The governor was on a trip to Monguno and Baga towns to distribute food to IDPs. A source said the governor’s convoy came under attack while he was returning from Baga, a deserted fishing community in Kaka local government area. Multiple sources, who spoke and confirmed the development to Premium Times, said the governor was unhurt as soldiers and police officers guarding him repelled the assault on the convoy. Premium Times

South Sudan Judge Seeks Reinstatement after Court Ruling against President Kiir
A former South Sudanese Judge says he and 14 other judges should be reinstated immediately after an East African court ruled President Salva Kiir illegally fired them three years ago. Former South Sudan Court of Appeals Judge Malek Mathiang Malek said he is grateful the East African Court of Justice ruled in his favor. President Kiir fired Malek and 14 colleagues in 2017 after they went on strike to demand better working conditions. “It has done justice for me and not only for me but also for other South Sudanese judges who were dismissed and … all South Sudanese because you know, South Sudanese are after one thing, the rule of law,” Malek told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. … South Sudan’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Reuben Madol Arol said the government accepts last Friday’s ruling by the East African Court of Justice, an Arusha-based body of the East African Community. VOA

South Sudan: Community Leaders, Military Agree to Promote Peaceful Co-Existence in Yei
Community leaders and military in Yei River County of Central Equatoria state have agreed to promote reconciliation and peaceful co-existence among the local communities in the area. The agreement was reached during a three-day civil-military peace dialogue which was organized by YAMORA with support from Kondrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Uganda and South Sudan. Over 30 civilians, military representatives, religious leaders, elders, local chiefs, and the other organized forces attended the dialogue. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday, Justoson Victor, the Executive Director of YAMORA said the three-day dialogue was aimed at promoting reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. “We want to bring the attention of the military to the challenges affecting civil-military relations, their expectations from the military protecting them and the military needs to explain to civilians why the relations between them and civilians are not smooth and in the end agree to co-exist together in the same community,” he said. Radio Tamazuj

Ivory Coast Ruling Party Nominates President Ouattara to Seek Another Term
Ivory Coast’s ruling RHDP party nominated President Alassane Ouattara to seek re-election, but he is withholding a decision on seeking a third term. Earlier this year, the 76-year old Ouattara spoke of turning over the leadership reigns to a new generation. Ouattara’s plans to bow out may have changed when his prime minister and preferred successor Amadou Gon Coulibaly died of cardiac arrest earlier this month. During a tribute to Coulibaly, the president said he needed time to decide if he would consider seeking re-election. Ouattara could announce his decision on running again during a planned speech to the nation August 6. Opposition groups in Ivory Coast oppose Ouattara extending his 10-year reign, citing a third term in office would be unconstitutional. Voters are expected to choose the country’s next president on October 31. VOA

Egypt’s Sisi Ratifies Law Hampering Soldiers from Seeking Office
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday ratified a law banning active and former military personnel from running for the presidency or parliament without the army’s approval. The legislative changes come after Egyptians voted overwhelmingly last year in favour of constitutional amendments that will potentially allow Sisi, a former army chief, to stay on until 2030. The new law is expected to make it almost impossible for military personnel to run in any election, in effect preventing anyone from squaring off against Sisi. … The army is highly visible in Egypt’s public life, with former top brass currently serving as ministers and heading governorates as well. Sisi led the army’s overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule. AFP

Morocco Arrests Dissident Journalist on Rape and Spy Charges
Moroccan police on Wednesday arrested a dissident journalist and charged him with rape and helping foreign spies, a prosecutor said, in a case worrying rights groups. Omar Radi, a business journalist and critic of Morocco’s human rights record, was also accused of receiving funds from abroad to undermine Morocco’s security, the Casablanca prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Radi, 33, denies all the charges, his lawyer Miloud Kandil told Reuters, adding that a first hearing would be on Sept. 22. His arrest follows 10 summons for a police investigation over suspicions of receiving funds linked to foreign intelligence which he denied. The investigation came after rights group Amnesty International accused Morocco of using Israeli-made spyware to snoop on his phone. Reuters

AFRICOM Heads Migrant Rescue off Libya
Migrants stranded in the Mediterranean off Libya were rescued earlier this month after US military personnel heard their distress signal. A US Africa Command (Africom) unit conducting surveillance off the North African coast picked up a distress signal from an inflatable vessel with 131 people aboard deflating north-west of Misrata. After receiving the distress signal by radio, US Air Forces Africa responded to the distress beacon and co-ordinated with Libyan and Maltese naval authorities for rescue aid. “Routine surveillance along the North Africa coast gave us an opportunity to lend a helping hand,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, Africom. “US forces have a tradition of helping mariners in distress and providing humanitarian assistance.” DefenceWeb

Zimbabwe Signs Billion-Dollar Deal to Repay White Farmers
Zimbabwe’s government on Wednesday signed a deal with former white farmers to pay them billions of dollars in compensation roughly two decades after they lost their land in often violent invasions. But because the government does not readily have the money, the farmers will be part of a team tasked with raising the cash. About 4,000 farmers lost large swathes of land when Zimbabwe’s late leader Robert Mugabe launched the often-chaotic land reform program which he said was aimed at addressing colonial-era land inequities. White farmers had owned the majority of prime farmland. Agricultural land now belongs to the government. AP

COVID-19 Sustains Assault on Battered Regional Currencies
In recent weeks, regional currencies have come under increased pressure against the dollar as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to dismantle efforts by central banks to maintain stability and arrest negative impact on their economies. Depreciating currencies result in increased cost of living as prices of basic goods rise; and servicing of hard currency-dominated loans becomes expensive for institutional borrowers. “There is not much forex coming into the region and economic activities are far from picking up because the number of Covid-19 cases has not peaked. Naturally, the currencies will come under more pressure,” Dr Joy Kiiru, lecturer at the School of Economics, University of Nairobi, told The EastAfrican. … The weakening of local currencies brings inflationary pressures in a region where current account deficits are projected to worsen owing to the huge discrepancies in earnings mainly from agricultural produce and inflows receipts particularly from tourism, remittances and foreign direct investments. The EastAfrican

South Africa: Kwazulu-Natal Is Emerging as a New COVID-19 Epicentre
KwaZulu-Natal is emerging as an epicentre in the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 3 000 new infections in the province reported daily since the weekend. By Sunday, the number of cases in the province had risen to 60 532, with 3 405 new infections being noted since the previous day. On Monday, the number of cases stood at 65 982, placing KwaZulu-Natal behind the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape in totals, but giving it the highest rate of increase in infections in the country. On Sunday Premier Sihle Zikalala told a media briefing in Durban that a number of factors, including people holding large funerals and other functions, had contributed to the spike in the infection rate in the province and creating hotspots. People also delay getting tested or treated until they are at an advanced stage of the illness. “The storm is here. It is with us now. Trends tell us that KwaZulu-Natal is now in the eye of the storm,” Zikalala said. Mail & Guardian

Virus Vanguard: Cape Town Learned Painful Lessons Early On
When Cape Town emerged as Africa’s first coronavirus hot spot, Dr. Abu Mowlana was surprised by the fear that broke out among his colleagues. Morale was crashing among doctors and nurses at Tygerberg Hospital even as infections surged in May and June, recalled Mowlana, one of the senior doctors leading the COVID-19 response there. The staff at the city’s largest hospital soon was fighting two battles: one against their own fear and another against the new disease that was killing their patients. … Now, as the situation begins to ease in the continent’s southernmost tip and the focus shifts to South Africa’s most densely populated province, the doctors in Cape Town hope their experience can serve as a blueprint for the rest of their country, as well as Africa’s 1.3 billion people. AP