Africa Media Review for July 5, 2019

Escalating Tensions between Uganda and Rwanda Raise Fear of War
Formerly staunch allies, Uganda and Rwanda are at loggerheads. Since March 2019, their armies have been massing along their border. In May 2019, tensions rose after Uganda protested what it said was an incursion by Rwandan forces onto Ugandan territory, killing two civilians in the border town of Rukiga. Rwanda refuted the claim, saying that it was pursuing a group of smugglers that had illegally crossed over to its side of the border. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudan Power-Sharing Deal Reached by Military and Civilian Leaders
Sudan’s military and civilian leaders announced on Friday that they had reached an agreement to share power until elections, promising an end to the standoff that has paralyzed the African country since the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April. The two sides, which resumed talks this week after a monthlong hiatus that included a bloody crackdown by the military, have agreed to form a joint military-civilian authority to run Sudan during an interim period of just over three years, a senior protest leader said. Power will rotate between military and civilian leaders during the transitional period, a mediator from the African Union, Mohamed Hassan Lebatt, told a news conference in Khartoum. Then, elections are to be held and the military is to return to its barracks, ushering in democratic rule. … A military general will lead the joint council for the first 21 months, then a civilian leader will lead for 18 months, said Amjad Farid, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association. New York Times

More than 100 Civilians Killed in Fresh South Sudan Violence: UN
Fresh violence in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria region has claimed lives of over 100 civilians, the United Nations said a new report released on Wednesday. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said civilians were “deliberately” and “brutally targeted” by government forces and rebels in Central Equatoria region. At least 104 people were killed in attacks on villages in the southern region, UNMISS said a report, which undermines the peace agreement signed in September 2018. Violence, it further observed, has forced more than 56,000 civilians to flee their homes, while an estimated 20,000 people have crossed the border into Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Cases of sexual violence also appear in the report, with government troops said to have carried out “sexual violence as well as looting and destroying homes, churches, schools and health centers.” Sudan Tribune

Good News Radio Director Released after Hours in Detention
Marial Deng, the director of Good News Radio, an affiliate of the Catholic Radio Network (CRN) was released on Wednesday evening after spending hours in detention. According to CRN’s Director Mary Ajith, Deng was taken from the radio premises on Wednesday by national security agents over accusations of interviewing former Western Lakes State governor John Deng Mamer. She told Radio Tamazuj that Deng was taken in at 2 PM and spent four hours in detention. “The national security guys picked him up from the radio station compound together with the news editor. But then the news editor was asked to come back and Marial was put in,” she said. Ajith explained, “They were told that Radio Good News should never do any program without permission from security. All the programs of the radio have to be screened by the security before they go on air.” Radio Tamazuj

Migrant Boat Sinks off Tunisia, 83 Drown
Eighty-three African migrants drowned and three survived when their boat sank two days ago off the Tunisian coast, the Coast Guard says. The vessel went down in the Mediterranean two days ago, just hours after launching from the Libyan town of Zuwara. Fishermen saw four people clinging to pieces of wood and alerted Tunisian authorities. One of the four survivors later died at a hospital. The Red Cross says the boat was carrying too many people. One of the survivors says the boat started filling with water while the migrants could still see lights on the shore. An urgent telephone call for help went unheeded because the caller was unable to tell Libyan rescuers the exact location of the boat. VOA

Niger’s Migrant Smugglers Use Ever Deadlier Routes through the Sahara
Smugglers are turning to perilous routes through the desert, or even dumping those hoping to reach North Africa. DW visited the transit hub of Agadez where efforts are being made to rescue migrants lost in the Sahara. … IOM say they have rescued nearly 20,000 people from the Sahara in Niger in the past three years. The “vast majority of these” were sub-Saharan African migrants rounded up in Algeria by authorities who dumped them back over the border into Niger, said Martin Wyss, the IOM’s Chief of Mission to Niger. Although Algeria has largely stopped this practice after an international outcry, there is still need for the IOM to organize regular rescue patrols in the Sahara, one of the harshest environments on earth. DW

Deadly Land, Deadly Sea: Libya Migrants Face Brutal Choice
A boat from Libya carrying 86 migrants sank in the Mediterranean and left only three survivors, authorities said Thursday, after an airstrike on a detention center near the Libyan capital killed dozens of others. The twin tragedies illustrate the almost unthinkable choice facing those who have reached the North Africa coast while seeking a better life in Europe: Risk a hazardous sea voyage in a flimsy, rubber-sided boat, or face being crammed into a detention center, where some of the migrants say they have been forced to assemble weapons for someone else’s war. AP

UN Says Libyan Guards Reportedly Shot at Migrants Fleeing Air Strikes
The United Nations said on Thursday it had information that Libyan guards shot at refugees and migrants trying to flee from air strikes that killed at least 53 people, including six children, in a migrant detention centre. A report from the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were two air strikes late on Tuesday, one hitting an unoccupied garage and one hitting a hangar containing around 120 refugees and migrants. “There are reports that following the first impact, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape,” the OCHA report said. Bodies were still being recovered from the rubble, the report said, suggesting the death toll could rise. Reuters

Ethiopia Faces More Conflict with Ethnic Group’s Push for Region
Ethiopia’s destabilising regional frictions may worsen this month if the small Sidama ethnic group carries out a threat to unilaterally declare a new semi-autonomous region in defiance of the federal government, a global think-tank said on Thursday. The Sidama, who make up about 5 percent of Ethiopia’s 105 million people and are the largest of more than half a dozen ethnic groups in the Southern Nations region, say they will declare their own region on July 18 unless granted a referendum.Ethiopia already has nine regional states, mainly along ethnic lines, with considerable autonomy which the Sidama also want. They are emboldened by a more open political climate – and a weaker ruling coalition – since reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April 2018 and eased the iron first of his predecessors. However, that has also brought a surge of long-repressed rivalries between Ethiopia’s 80 plus ethnic groups, forcing 2.4 million people out of their homes and killing hundreds, according to the U.N. and monitoring groups. Reuters

Somalia Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Guinea over Somaliland
Somalia’s government announced it is cutting diplomatic ties with Guinea, accusing the West African country of violating its sovereignty. The decision came after the president of the breakaway northern territory of Somaliland received a red carpet welcome in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, earlier this week. Somalia’s foreign minister Ahmed Awad announced the action against Guinea on Thursday in a press conference but declined to give further details. Awad said he sent warnings to other countries that were similarly violating Somalia’s sovereignty. AP

Lesotho Political Parties Sign Agreement to Ease Tension
Political parties in Lesotho have agreed to constitutional, governance, security and media reforms to ease tensions in the mountain kingdom, which has long been dogged by political upheaval and a spate of coups. An agreement to implement the reforms was signed during a visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday. Ramaphosa was appointed by the Southern Africa Development Community, a regional trading bloc, to facilitate dialog between the parties. The deal will ease the passage of legislation that will safeguard the entire reforms process, Ramaphosa said at a media briefing in the capital, Maseru. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention, which holds 53 out of 120 seats of the National Assembly, has ruled Lesotho in alliance with the Basotho National Party, Alliance of Democrats and Reformed Congress of Lesotho since June 2017 general elections. Bloomberg

France to Fast-Track Return of Artifacts from Benin
Returning African artifacts taken by explorers and colonizers remains a hot-button issue in Europe-Africa relations — one that gained traction last November when French President Emmanuel Macron announced the return of 26 historic artifacts to Benin. On Thursday, French Culture Minister Franck Riester said Paris will go ahead with the restitution without waiting for a new law to enshrine it. He said France will consider similar demands from other countries. Europe is believed to house about 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage. Benin was the first country to formally ask France to give back the artifacts. VOA