Africa Media Review for June 10, 2020

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a heart attack at age 56, the government announced Tuesday, ending a 15-year-rule marked by deadly political violence and a historic withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. The statement posted on social media said the president was admitted to a hospital overnight Saturday after not feeling well. He appeared better Sunday but “to very great surprise” his health abruptly worsened Monday morning, and several hours of effort failed to revive him. Burundi’s government has declared a week of mourning. Nkurunziza’s death comes weeks before president-elect ruling party candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye was expected to be sworn in after winning the May election. It was not immediately clear what the government’s steps will be and a spokesman was not available for comment. AP

At least 59 people have been killed in an attack on a herding village in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, local militia members and residents told AFP news agency. Fighters drove into remote Felo village in Gubio district on Tuesday afternoon, shooting fleeing residents, running them over with their vehicles and razing the village. The Reuters news agency reported that 69 bodies were recovered. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack is believed to be a reprisal for the killing of fighters by local vigilantes protecting the villagers’ herd from theft. “It’s an unfortunate day, for us to witness this,” a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) member, Kachallah Bumu told AFP. While he said the residents were armed, and had repelled previous attacks, this one caught them off guard. … The fighters had been stealing livestock from the village, prompting residents to form a militia force to end the theft, said another militiaman, Ibrahim Liman. Al Jazeera

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Tuesday that Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb had surrendered to authorities in the Central African Republic and was now in its custody. “Mr. Kushayb is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur,” said an ICC statement. “The initial appearance of Mr. Kushayb before the ICC … will take place in due course.” Kushayb, who led notorious state-backed militias in a brutal campaign through Darfur, has been charged with at least 50 crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is “alleged to have personally participated in some of the attacks against civilians,” according to the ICC. The Netherlands’ representative to the ICC described the arrest as “a great success for the ICC and its efforts to get justice for the victims of the crimes committed in Darfur.” Reuters/AFP

At least three people died during a protest by hundreds of demonstrators in the DR Congo capital against the coronavirus lockdown closure of the city’s main market, officials and witnesses said. Police said they fired warning shots to disperse the protesters who gathered at the site on Tuesday to demand the reopening of the Kinshasa market, AFP reporters said. Several of the demonstrators said at least one person was killed by gunfire. A spokesman for the Kinshasa provincial government said two people were electrocuted while another was crushed to death by the fleeing crowd after “trouble by people pretending to be trade unionists” from the market. … Demonstrators had stood their ground behind barriers that have since early April cut off the Gombe area housing the market as part of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. AFP

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said the Covid-19 pandemic was “worsening” worldwide, noting that June 7th recorded the biggest ever one-day total with more than 136,000 cases. “Most countries in the African region are still experiencing an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, with some reporting cases in new geographic areas,” he said. “Although most countries in the region have less than 1,000 cases.” South Africa is the worst hit country on the continent with 50,879 reported cases. But with 1,080 deaths, South Africa comes second to Egypt which recorded 1,237 deaths but 34,079 reported cases. RFI

Tanzania’s president is again claiming the country is free of the coronavirus because of the power of prayer – six weeks after his government stopped publicly updating virus data. “Corona in our country has been removed by the powers of God,” President John Magufuli declared at a church service on Sunday. He praised the congregation for not wearing face masks, amid cheers from the faithful. He has warned that masks not approved by the government could be infected with the virus. Tanzania’s number of COVID-19 cases has been stuck at 509 for six weeks as health officials, opposition figures and some neighboring countries worry that cases in the East African nation continue to climb. Opposition figures have estimated that cases could be in the tens of thousands. … The U.S. Embassy last month released a security alert asserting that hospitals in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, were overwhelmed with virus patients. AP

More than $182 million is needed to sustain lifesaving aid to Africa’s most populous country over the next six months, the World Food Programme (WFP) said. “We are concerned by conflict-affected communities in northeast Nigeria who already face extreme hunger and who are especially vulnerable. They are on life-support and need assistance to survive,” said Elisabeth Byrs, WFP senior spokesperson, in reference to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. The three so-called BAY states, have been plagued by a decade-long insurgency that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region. It remains among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with some 7.9 million mainly women and children in need of urgent assistance today. UN News

Plans by Nigeria’s government to cut healthcare spending risk undermining the country’s coronavirus response and severely impacting already strained services, health and transparency groups have warned. Funding for local, primary healthcare services will be cut by more than 40% this year in a revised budget expected to be passed into law in the coming weeks. The proposed cuts could affect immunisations, childcare, maternal healthcare and family planning services. Nigeria currently spends less than 5% of its federal budget on health. Dwindling oil sales, the crash in global oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are understood to be the reason for the cuts. According to Prof Innocent Ujah, the head of the Nigerian medical association, the proposed cuts have come just as more investment in health is needed. The Guardian

Kenya’s chief justice has accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of disregarding court orders, failing to approve the appointment of new judges, and threatening the constitution. Speaking to reporters Monday, Chief Justice David Maraga called on the president to appoint some judges forwarded by the judicial service commission. “The constitution does not donate any mandate to the president to perform any other act upon [receiving] the names recommended by the JSC except to appoint them,” he said. The names of the 41 judges were forwarded to Kenyatta for appointment in mid-2019. … Bob Mkangi, one of the authors of the 2010 constitution, said the executive branch was “endeavoring to claw back some of the powers that were taken away by the 2010 constitution.” Having an independent judiciary was one of the ways to end Kenya’s cycle of political violence, according to some analysts. VOA

Malawi will go to the polls on June 23, a week earlier than initially ordered by the courts, which annulled President Peter Mutharika’s narrow election victory last year due to irregularities. The Constitutional Court ruled on Feb. 3 that a fresh presidential election be held within 150 days after citing “widespread, systematic and grave” irregularities when it annulled the vote that returned Mutharika to power. The initial date was July 2. But opposition members of Parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution setting the June 23 date, to the surprise of the government side which had hoped for a vote through Constitutional amendments. That vote would have delayed the setting of the new date. Reuters

Of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises, nine are in Africa, the Norwegian Refugee Council reports in an annual assessment released Wednesday. “The deep crises represented by millions of displaced Africans are yet again the most underfunded, ignored and deprioritized in the world,” Jan Egeland, the NRC’s secretary general, said in a news release announcing its new report. … Cameroon tops the list of neglected crises for the second consecutive year. The West African nation has reeled from conflict over the Anglophone separatist movement in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, displacing more than 679,000 people. VOA

Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea have agreed to jointly map out a disputed border area after skirmishes between their troops left several wounded and property destroyed.  Officials from the two countries are asking hundreds of traders and farmers who relocated because of the clashes to return to the disputed area but, some are reluctant. Officials from Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea agreed to work on defining their disputed border after a crisis meeting Monday night. Cameroon’s South Region Governor Felix Nguele Nguele said in the past two weeks there have been several skirmishes along the border with Equatorial Guinea’s military. VOA

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has confirmed that the decision to dissolve the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) was final, rebutting previous media reports that PDF has been reintegrated into SAF. In a press statement on Monday, the SAF explained that PDF has been dissolved and its headquarters and coordination together with coordination of the National Military Conscription Service have been confiscated. … Yesterday, Radio Dabanga reported that as part of changes within the army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) announced that the Popular Defence Forces government militia will now be called the Reserve Department. The report was based on posts on the SAF Facebook page by SAF Chief-of-Staff, Lt Gen Mohamed El Hussein, that the militia’s name was changed and that its command has been changed as well. “The Reserve Department will be part of the Ministry of Defence. It will have its headquarters in Khartoum,” Gen Hussein posted. Radio Dabanga

The United States, Britain and Norway have called on South Sudan’s presidency to agree on the selection of governors, saying any further delay could undermine the transition process. … “Now is the moment for the President and Vice Presidents, supported by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the guarantors of the peace agreement, to agree on the selection of governors and to move forward to govern together for the benefit of the people of South Sudan,” the three countries known as the Troika said in a statement on Tuesday. They added that any further delay creates uncertainty that undermines the transition process, slows the fight against COVID-19, and holds back efforts to end the violence that now threatens the hard-won peace. … The Troika has expressed concern at “the increased levels of violence across South Sudan.” “In Jonglei, the vacuum created by the lack of governance has exacerbated cycles of intercommunal violence,” the Troika said, referring to recent fighting in Pibor and Uror areas. Radio Tamazuj

Global economic growth could rebound in 2021 – but the number of people living in extreme poverty is expected to remain unchanged after a huge surge this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank warned Tuesday. The projection came after the Washington-based development lender said Monday the pandemic could drive between 70 and 100 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 as the global economy faces its worst recession in 80 years. Before the pandemic, extreme poverty — defined as living on $1.90 per day — had been decreasing. … “Nigeria, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo – three countries which we project are home to more than a third of the world’s poor – are predicted to have per-capita growth rates in real GDP of -0.8 per cent, 2.1 percent and 0.3 per cent, respectively,” the World Bank said in a blog. “With population growth rates of 2.6 per cent, 1.0 per cent and 3.1 percent, this is hardly enough for sustainable decreases in the poverty headcount.” AFP

The Paris Club suspended debt payments for four more countries, bringing the total waivers to help battle the human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic to $1.1 billion for 12 nations. The club, which groups 22 mostly wealthy country creditors, announced a suspension in payments for Pakistan and Ethiopia, the two biggest economies to get relief so far, as well as Chad and the Republic of Congo on Tuesday. Of the 73 eligible countries, 30 have so far applied for the suspension as part of the agreement by the Group of 20 leading economies to help the world’s poorest countries struggling with the virus. The G20 plan was estimated to suspend about $11 billion in loan payments this year. Bloomberg

A Kenya-based company has developed a video conferencing application, the first made in Africa, designed to be more affordable than foreign counterparts.  Gumzo, which means “chatting” in Swahili, is free to join and costs only $1 per week for users who want to host meetings. Eight weeks — that’s the amount of time it took for the first African-made video conferencing system to becreated. Gumzo – which is Swahili for “chatting” was made in the offices of Usiku Games, a Nairobi company that until a few months ago, focused on making video games for the African market. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones