Africa Media Review for July 9, 2020

Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly Dies in Abidjan at 61
Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly died Wednesday in Abidjan at the age of 61, the presidency announced on public television. Coulibaly had been picked to be the ruling party candidate in a presidential election planned for October. … Coulibaly, known as “AGC”, returned to the Ivory Coast last week after a two-month absence. The prime minister left May 2 for medical treatment in France despite the closure of borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. He received a stent about a week after arriving in France following an exam of his coronary arteries. He had also undergone heart surgery in 2012. … Coulibaly was hand-picked as the ruling RHDP (Houphouetists Rally for Democracy and Peace) party’s candidate in March. His death throws the October presidential election into disarray, raising concerns about who will represent the party of President Ouattara, who is required to step down after his second term. France24 with AFP and Reuters

UN Chief Warns Foreign Interference in Libya `Unprecedented’
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that foreign interference in Libya’s war has reached “unprecedented levels” and urged key players and their backers to unblock the political stalemate and agree to a cease-fire and peace talks. Calling the current situation “gloomy,” the U.N. chief said Wednesday that the United Nations political mission in Libya is undertaking de-escalation efforts, “including the creation of a possible demilitarized zone,” to try to reach a negotiated solution and spare lives. … Guterres addressed a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council six months after leaders of 11 world powers and other countries with interests in Libya’s long-running civil war agreed at a conference in Berlin to respect a much-violated U.N. arms embargo, hold off on military support to the warring parties, and push them to reach a full cease-fire. AP

Jihadists Kill 23 Soldiers in Nigeria Ambush: Sources
Islamist fighters killed 23 Nigerian soldiers in an ambush on a key road in the restive northeast of the country, security sources said Wednesday. The two sources told AFP the troops were attacked on Tuesday by jihadists linked to the Islamic State group some 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside regional capital Maiduguri. “Yesterday a military convoy was ambushed by terrorists at Bulabulin (village) along the Maiduguri-Damboa Road,” the first source said. “Twenty-three soldiers were killed, two wounded and an unconfirmed number missing in action.” The second source said the convoy was on its way back to Maiduguri when it came under fire. … The Nigerian military confirmed the ambush but said in a statement that only two soldiers were killed and four wounded. It said 17 insurgents were killed in the subsequent fighting. AFP

Ethiopia’s Week of Unrest Sees 239 Dead, 3,500 Arrested
At least 239 people have been killed and 3,500 arrested in more than a week of unrest in Ethiopia that poses the biggest challenge yet to its Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister. In the Oromia region, the toll includes 215 civilians along with nine police officers and five militia members, regional police commissioner Mustafa Kedir told the ruling party-affiliated Walta TV on Wednesday. Officials earlier said 10 people were killed in the capital, Addis Ababa, eight of them civilians, amid outrage after a popular singer was shot dead last Monday. … Local reports have said that in some places ethnic Oromo have attacked ethnic Amhara, and in Shashamane town some people were going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents. AP

Sudan Peace Agreement ‘Signed in a Week’
The South-Sudanese mediation team announced yesterday that a comprehensive peace agreement will be signed in a week in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Tut Galuak, head of the South Sudanese mediation team, said in a press statement before he departed to Juba that “peace is coming soon as the peace agreement will be signed in Juba a week from now.” He stressed that the agreement is ready to be signed. He also said that delegations from the Sudanese government and the armed rebel movements met yesterday evening to resolve one issue related to the participation of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front rebel alliance in the Legislative Council. He said he is sure it would not stand in the way of peace in Sudan. Radio Dabanga

Kiir Pledges Full-Scale Disarmament Campaign to End Tribal Violence in South Sudan
South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday announced that his government would start a full-scale disarmament campaign to end tribal violence in the country. Kiir made the announcement in a speech to the nation delivered on the Ninth Anniversary of the Country’s Independence which also will not be celebrated due to the health crisis caused by the COVID-19. He said the intercommunal clashes across the country are now threatening the “success in ending political violence” and South Sudan’s stability. The president was alluding to reports about the participation of military elements from the government army and the SPLA-IO in the tribal fighting against the Murle in Jonglei state. Accordingly, he announced three measures to deal with intercommunal violence… Sudan Tribune

Mali Leader Promises Court Changes in Bid to Quell Protests
In a televised midnight speech, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita promised early Thursday to reform the country’s constitutional court in a bid to quell another round of protests calling for his resignation. The change to the court’s makeup is among the demands being sought by Keita’s opponents, who already have taken to the streets twice in recent weeks in a show of his mounting unpopularity. Another demonstration was scheduled for Friday. … The court is at the heart of the growing political dispute because it declared official results after legislative elections were held in April. Several dozen candidates maintain the court’s official results differed from polling station tallies. A mission from the regional bloc known as ECOWAS already has suggested the government re-hold elections in the localities where results are contested. AP

Burkina Faso’s Volunteer Fighters Are No Match for Jihadists
Armed only with a knife, Issa Tamboure was no match for gun-wielding jihadists who attacked his village in northern Burkina Faso in March. So Tamboure, 63, rounded up his family – including his 13 children – and ran, eventually reaching a camp for people displaced by violence. But Tamboure was not a typical civilian fleeing the extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization who have been dramatically escalating their attacks in the West African nation in recent years. He is among the volunteers who signed up with Burkina Faso’s military to help fight the militants. But his plight shows the program’s weakness: With little training, few weapons, and dwindling means amid an economic downturn fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers now say they are unable to adequately battle the well-armed extremists. AP

Protests in the DRC over Election Chief Appointment Plans
Police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) made several dozen arrests as they broke up Wednesday’s protests in two cities over plans to name a new head to the country’s election panel, police and activists said. Political parties and campaign groups are angry over moves to appoint a figure accused by the opposition of helping former President Joseph Kabila rig past elections. Police arrested 30 demonstrators in Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu province, according to Ghislain Muhiwa, an activist with the group Lucha. Police commissioner Van Aba told AFP news agency the protesters were later released. AFP

Africa’s CDC Urges More COVID-19 Tests, Masks, as Continent’s Cases Top 500,000
African countries urgently need to scale up coronavirus testing and the use of face masks, a regional disease control body said on Thursday, as the epidemic gains traction across the continent with confirmed cases topping half a million. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said new cases were up 24% in Africa in the past week. “The pandemic is gaining full momentum,” he told a virtual news conference from Addis Ababa. “We must adopt an aggressive and bold approach: #maskonallfaces, ramp up Test, Trace, and Treat, strengthen community response. This will save lives and save (the) economy,” he added on Twitter. Reuters

Stretched and Stressed by Outbreak, African Doctors Push Back
For as long as she can remember, Bilqis Muhammad wanted to be a doctor. At age 34, she works in the emergency room of a hospital in Zaria, a city of 400,000 in the grasslands of northern Nigeria. Though she frequently has to put in overtime to make up for staff shortages, in seven years on the job she’s always showed up for work, no matter how tired or frustrated she was. The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed that. On June 15, Muhammad joined thousands of Nigerian physicians in a strike to highlight the dangerous conditions they face in the outbreak, which has infected more than 250 doctors in Nigeria and killed at least 12. The union says staff lack sufficient protective equipment, haven’t received promised overtime bonuses, and have been shaken down by police while commuting during the lockdown. “We’re putting in our best in the Covid response,” says Muhammad, a union leader in Zaria. “And the government isn’t ready to give us adequate protection.” Bloomberg

Egypt Has Arrested Doctors, Blaming Them for the COVID-19 Crisis
Egypt is arresting medics who speak out about the country’s coronavirus crisis, according to multiple reports. The arrests come after the country’s prime minister suggested it was “negligence and mismanagement” from the medical profession that was to blame for the disease’s spread in the country. Doctors have called for more beds and supplies at hospitals, Al-Monitor reported. But in response authorities have waged what Amnesty International has termed a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” that leaves having to choose between risking catching Covid-19 at work, or being punished by the authorities. … At least eight medical workers have been arbitrarily detained for expressing criticism of the government’s handling of the virus, Amnesty rights organisation said. This is often on vague charges such as “spreading false news” and “terrorism.” Business Insider

U.N. Predicts Rise in Diseases That Jump from Animals to Humans Due to Habitat Loss
A new United Nations report warns that more diseases that pass from animals to humans, such as COVID-19, are likely to emerge as habitats are ravaged by wildlife exploitation, unsustainable farming practices and climate change. These pathogens, known as zoonotic diseases, also include Ebola, MERS, HIV/AIDS and West Nile virus. They have increasingly emerged because of stresses humans have placed on animal habitats, according to the U.N. Environment Program report Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, released on Monday. … Meanwhile, in some of the world’s poorest regions, endemic zoonotic diseases associated with livestock cause more than 2 million human deaths a year, the report says. However, Africa, which has successfully responded to a number of zoonotic epidemics, such as Ebola, could be a place to turn for solutions to controlling outbreaks of human-to-animal diseases in the future, it says. NPR

Ghanaian Activists Sue Government to Save Forest from Mine
Environmental activists have sued Ghana’s government to stop a proposed mining project in a protected national forest, which they say endangers their health and well-being, amid growing calls to increase nature reserves to combat climate change. The proposed mine in the Atewa Range Forest is part of a $2 billion deal signed with China, which will gain access to bauxite – used to make aluminium – in exchange for financing infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges in Ghana. Seven local advocacy groups and four citizens claim that mining in the forest violates their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment and their right to protect it for future generations, their lawyer said this week. … Across Africa, local groups are becoming increasingly emboldened to use the courts to pursue grievances against mining firms, as they balance the need to boost growth and jobs with maintaining their dwindling forest cover. Reuters

Women from Kenya and Nigeria in Running for WTO’s Top Job
Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a development economist and former finance minister, and Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s sports, culture and heritage minister, are among seven candidates to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Okonjo-Iweala and Mohamed have been nominated alongside candidates from Egypt, South Korea, Mexico, Moldova and Britain. Nominations close July 8. The Geneva-based organization is looking for a replacement for Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who is stepping down in August – a year before the scheduled end of his four-year term. … No African has been WTO director-general since its founding in 1995, nor headed its predecessor organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which started in 1948. DW

‘Mama Boko Haram’: One Woman’s Extraordinary Mission to Rescue ‘Her Boys’ from Terrorism
Aisha Wakil knew many of Boko Haram’s fighters as children. Now she uses those ties to broker peace deals, mediate hostage negotiations and convince militants to put down their weapons – but as the violence escalates, her task is becoming impossible. … It was another scorching afternoon in Maiduguri. In the west of the city, in Nigeria’s north-east, 51-year-old Aisha Wakil sat in her office talking to a jihadi fighter named Usman. Wakil was draped head-to-toe in fine sequinned chiffon; a niqab covered most of her face, leaving visible only her dark eyes. Ka’aji, a sweet, woody incense that Wakil kept burning in a corner, perfumed the room… The Guardian