Africa Media Review for July 8, 2020

Over 180 Bodies Found Dumped in Burkina Faso Town, Report Says

The bodies of at least 180 men thought to have been killed by security forces have been found dumped in fields, by roadsides and under bridges in a town in the West African country of Burkina Faso over the past eight months, witnesses told human rights researchers. Residents of the town, Djibo, in the north of the country, said many of the bodies were found shot and blindfolded, their hands bound. Many said they recognized relatives among the dead. The testimony is contained in a new report by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch and matches the accounts of several witnesses interviewed for a recent investigation by The New York Times into extrajudicial killings by Burkina Faso’s security forces. The New York Times

Africa’s Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Now above a Half-Million

The continent-wide total is over 508,000, according to figures released Wednesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after South Africa recorded another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases as a new global hot spot. The true number of cases among Africa’s 1.3 billion people is unknown as its 54 countries continue to face a serious shortage of testing materials for the virus. “A tremendous problem, a real crisis of access,” the World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said last week. So far most testing has been concentrated in capital cities, but infections in many cases have spread beyond them. Africa’s health systems are the most poorly funded and thinly staffed in the world, and already more than 2,000 health workers have been infected by the virus, according to the WHO. AP

15 Farmers Killed by Gunmen in Northern Nigeria – Police

Gunmen on Monday killed 15 farmers in Nigeria’s northwest Katsina state, police said, in the latest violence by cattle thieves in the restive region. Roughly 200 gunmen on motorcycles besieged the farmers in Yargamji village, 25km from the state capital Katsina, opening fire on them, police spokesperson Gambo Isah told AFP. … Rural communities in Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, have been repeatedly targeted by gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers. Last month, bandits killed 57 people in raids on several villages in the state. Attempts by local authorities to broker peace with the criminal gangs have not been successful. The military has carried out air raids on bandit camps in Katsina and neighbouring Zamfara state to end the incessant killings. AFP

Morocco Arrests Four Jihadist Suspects ‘Planning Attacks’

Morocco on Tuesday arrested four alleged members of a “terrorist cell” linked to the Islamic State group who had plotted to attack “sensitive sites” in the kingdom, the interior ministry said. The men, aged between 21 and 26, were arrested in the northeastern city of Nador, said a ministry statement. The suspects, “including the brother of a fighter of Daesh,” the Arabic acronym for IS, had been “in close contact” with members of another cell dismantled in December in a joint operation with Spain, it said. The arrests were carried out by the anti-terrorism body the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, which had taken the suspects into custody “for further investigation.” Morocco last suffered a bloody Islamist attack in late 2018 when two Scandinavian tourists were beheaded in the name of IS in the High Atlas Mountains. The Defense Post

Ethiopia PM Says Unrest Will Not Derail Filling of Nile Dam

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Tuesday that recent domestic unrest would not derail his plan to start filling a mega-dam on the Blue Nile River this month, despite objections from downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan. Violence broke out last week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region following the shooting death of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest. More than 160 people died in inter-ethnic killings and in clashes between protesters and security forces, according to the latest official toll provided over the weekend. Abiy said last week that Hachalu’s killing and the violence that ensued were part of a plot to sow unrest in Ethiopia, without identifying who he thought was involved. On Tuesday he went a step further, saying it was specifically intended to throw Ethiopia’s plans for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam off course. AFP

Darfur Protesters Call for Action to End Attacks on Civilians by Armed Militias

Thousands of people have joined a sit-down protest in front of local authority buildings in Central Darfur demanding action against the armed groups that patrol the region. A large number of women have joined the first peaceful demonstration – now in its second week – in Nertiti county since war erupted in 2003. Some of the women, with children on their backs, carry food on their heads to feed the protesters, who want the military governor removed from office and replaced by a civilian. They also want to see an end to attacks on civilians, the prosecution of perpetrators of violence and access to land taken from them by armed settlers, backed by the government of Omar al-Bashir. The Guardian

Mali Camp Housing Un, French Troops Comes under Shell Fire

A camp in northeastern Mali housing UN, French and Malian troops fighting jihadist insurgents came under shell fire on Tuesday, but there were no casualties or damage, the United Nations mission MINUSMA said. Sixteen rounds were fired at the Tessalit camp in Kidal region near the Algerian border, but all fell outside its perimeter, MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado said. In January, 18 UN troops and two civilians were wounded in a mortar attack on the same camp. On Monday, three MINUSMA troops were injured, one seriously, when their convoy struck a road mine in the Kidal region, the mission said. AFP

Central Mali Seeks Protection Following Deadly Attacks

Local officials in central Mali are calling on the government to deploy additional troops to the restive region following several attacks that targeted civilians last week. The simultaneous attacks, which killed at least 30 civilians, took place in four villages of the Bankass region last Wednesday, local officials said.    While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, local officials have blamed jihadists for carrying out the deadly assaults. … Guindo told VOA that 33 villagers, including women and children, were killed in the attacks. The victims were all from the Dogon ethnic group, he said. Guindo told VOA that 33 villagers, including women and children, were killed in the attacks. The victims were all from the Dogon ethnic group, he said. The mayor added that the attacks have forced hundreds of villagers to leave their homes, fearing that armed groups could launch new attacks. VOA

Burundian Refugees in Tanzania Face New Pressure to Go Home

Burundian refugees in Tanzania say they fear being forced to return to their country now that a new president has taken power and invited them home. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled during the bloody political turmoil that followed former President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in 2015. Nkurunziza decided not to run again in May’s election and died days later in what the government called a heart attack. … A coalition of refugees’ human rights defenders denounced the Tanzanian official’s position. “We are not assured by the new government team,” said Leopold Sharangabo, the coalition’s vice president. He noted the new appointment in Burundi of a prime minister, Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who is under U.S. sanctions for his alleged role in rights abuses. He called the appointment an insult to refugees. AP

Burundi, South Sudan: East Africa’s Weak Link in Human Trafficking

Burundi and South Sudan are lagging behind in the elimination of human trafficking, says US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) released in June. The two countries have been ranked in Tier 3, meaning they did not make any effort to eliminate human trafficking. However, the other members of the East African Community –  Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda -also did not perform well in preventing and prosecuting human traffickers, but were listed in Tier 2 for their efforts. … The report says Burundi did not investigate, prosecute or convict officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes for the past five years, and lacked the procedures to identify and refer victims to services. The East African

In Burkina Faso, Violence and COVID-19 Push Children Out of School and into Harm’s Way

As jihadist-linked violence surges in Burkina Faso, children are facing particularly severe hardships: more than half of the roughly one million Burkinabe now displaced across the country are 18 and under, and many have been forced out of school by attacks and threats from extremists. Rights groups and local authorities say the situation is particularly dire for children like Martine, whose parents sent them away to towns where it is safer to go to school but, without parental supervision, are falling victim to exploitation and abuse from sexual violence to child marriage and labor. The risks have been compounded by a nationwide shutdown of more than 20,000 schools, which was introduced in March as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and will continue until September. The New Humanitarian

Cameroon Govt Dispels ‘Phantom’ Talks with Separatist Leaders

The Cameroon government says it is not in any talks with separatist leaders as widely reported on social media last week. Even a number of mainstream news outlets including the BBC reported that a government representative had met with some anglophone separatist leaders in the capital Yaounde where they were being incarcerated. A July 6 statement signed by Information Minister, Rene Emmanuel Sadi said dispelled the news stressing that the reports “did not conform with reality.” down their arms and embrace a peace offer by president Paul Biya. … Nine separatist leaders are currently serving life sentences in a Yaounde prison. The now-dismissed talks were held after they were briefly let out of prison to meet a government envoy. Africa News

Cameroon: Military Refuses to Hand over Body of Journalist

Cameroonian rights and press groups are alleging a military cover-up in the death of journalist Samuel Wazizi, after the military on Monday refused to hand over his body to the family.  Cameroon’s military in June admitted Wazizi had died at a military hospital in August last year after months of silence on his whereabouts or condition.  Supporters of Wazizi, who was arrested for allegedly collaborating with anglophone rebels, have accused the military of torturing him to death – a charge they deny. VOA

Peacekeeping Operations Set to Contract as Africa Sees Exponential Growth of COVID-19 Cases

African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions in Africa have been slimmed down, rotations have been frozen and most staff are working remotely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and peace operations on the continent may be forced to drastically contract in size and scope even as conflict and unrest may increase due to the coronavirus. These were some of the key findings of a webinar held last month by the Egmont Institute with senior researcher Dr Cedric de Coning from the peace conflict and development research group at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). He is also a senior advisor for ACCORD (The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes). DefenceWeb

Foreign Trawlers, Illegal Fishing, Staff Shortage Deny Somalia $300m in Revenue

But for all these, the fishing sector generates only $135 million in value per year – or about two percent of Somalia’s gross domestic product – according to a study by the Heritage Institute for Policy and City University of Mogadishu released at the end of June. “However, it has the potential to be one of the largest and most profitable in the world, considering that the current annual catch represents only a small fraction of the country’s estimated fishery production potential of over 800,000 tonnes per year,” said the study. The problem is that Somalia fisheries is dominated by foreign-owned trawlers. The illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is costing the country more than $300 million each year in lost revenue. … Lack of common legal framework and regulatory regimes as the Somalia Federal Government and some of the federal states follow different laws and rules in managing the sector, is said to enable illegal trawlers to encroach into Somalia’s EEZ. The East African

A Bird? a Plane? No, It’s a Google Balloon Beaming the Internet

A fleet of high-altitude balloons started delivering internet service to Kenya on Tuesday, extending online access to tens of thousands of people in the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology. The balloons, which hover about 12 miles up in the stratosphere – well above commercial airplanes – will initially provide a 4G LTE network connection to a nearly 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi. Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched 35 balloons in recent months in preparation for Tuesday’s start. It is collaborating with Telkom Kenya, the East African nation’s third-largest carrier.  The balloons had previously been used only in emergency situations, such as in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria wiped out cell towers. The New York Times