Africa Media Review for June 11, 2020

Armed gangs killed 57 people in a string of attacks on villages in northwest Nigeria, residents said on Wednesday, as security forces struggle to curb violence in the region. Roughly 150 gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on residents before looting shops and stealing cattle in a series of assaults on Tuesday in six remote communities in Katsina state, the sources said. “We lost a total of 57 people in the attacks across the six villages,” a local leader told AFP on condition of anonymity as he feared for his safety. In the worst-hit village of Kadisau the assailants – dubbed “bandits” by locals – shot and killed 33 people, local resident Mohammed Salisu said. … Nigeria’s military last month said it had launched air raids to halt a spike of attacks in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina. Authorities have carried out several security operations and local peace negotiations in the region but have failed to end the bloodshed. AFP

The United Nations on Wednesday said Libya’s warring sides were “fully” engaged in military talks aimed at ending the fighting in the country’s west, calling the virtual meetings “productive.” The U.N. support mission in Libya, UNSMIL, said it convened a meeting with a delegation from military commander Khalifa Hifter’s eastern-based forces on June 3, and another meeting Tuesday with a delegation from the U.N.-supported government. “Both meetings – which were conducted virtually – were productive and enabled UNSMIL to discuss with the delegations the latest developments on the ground,” the mission said. … UNSMIL said it received both sides’ comments on a draft cease-fire deal presented by the mission Feb. 23. It did not elaborate on details of the draft, or the warring sides’ comments. Airstrikes and grad rockets killed at least 19 civilians, including three women and five children, between June 5-8 outside the strategic coastal city of Sirte. AP

Zimbabwe’s National Security Council (NSC) in a maiden news conference on Wednesday accused allies of the late former leader Robert Mugabe and some opposition officials of peddling rumours of an impending military coup and said the country was stable. Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis in more than a decade and rising public anger have stoked concern the military, which ended Mugabe’s more than three-decades rule in November 2017, might step in again. Giving its first news conference since being formed in 2013, the NSC said speculation was intensifying that Mugabe allies living in exile were plotting a comeback with the help of elements in the military and the opposition. The NSC is chaired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and its members include security ministers and military chiefs, who were present at Wednesday’s media briefing. Reuters

Zimbabwe police Wednesday arrested three opposition activists on accusations that they lied in saying that they had been abducted and tortured, their lawyers said. The arrests came as a group of UN experts spoke against a “reported pattern of disappearances and torture” by government agents in the country. The three opposition women alleged that they were tortured and sexually abused by their abductors, whom they said took them from a police station in May, after they had been arrested for organizing an anti-government protest. Their abductors were unidentified, but because they took the women from police custody, it appears they were some kind of state agents. The young women were missing for nearly 48 hours before being released by their abductors. While they were being treated in a hospital for injuries inflicted during their captivity, prosecutors charged them with contravening lockdown regulations for participating in the protest. AP

When four Congolese business owners were caught trying to bribe a Mercy Corps worker with bags of cash in November 2018, staff members at the international NGO were shocked. But the organisation was about to make an even bigger discovery: a multi-layered aid scam that was siphoning off money – aid officials think millions – meant for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s most vulnerable. The scam – known about by aid organisations since late 2018 but made public for the first time now, after a more than nine-month investigation by The New Humanitarian – involved corrupt aid workers, business owners, and community leaders. Together, they zeroed in on the humanitarian sector’s flagship rapid response programmes – the main mechanism for helping displaced people in Congo, where hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid are spent every year. The New Humanitarian

Nobel winner Denis Mukwege on Wednesday said he had resigned as head of a coronavirus taskforce in an eastern province of DR Congo, blaming organisational problems, outpaced strategy and slow testing. Mukwege, a DR Congo gynaecologist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war, was appointed on March 30 to lead a committee in South Kivu province. Panzi Hospital, where Mukwege treats abused women, is also located in the province. In a statement, he said there had been “weaknesses in organisation and clarity between the various teams in charge of the response to the pandemic in South Kivu.” “We are at the start of an exponential… curve (in infections) and we can no longer apply a strategy that would be purely preventive,” Mukwege said. “I have decided to resign… in order to devote myself entirely to my medical duties and to treat the influx of patients at Panzi hospital.” AFP

The quarantine law was passed by Parliament in Mauritius on 15 May to address the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to ten deaths on the island. The Quarantine Act 2020 repeals and replaces the Quarantine Act from 1954, which was voted when Mauritius was still a British colony. The government says that the new quarantine law is necessary to protect the small island’s population of 1.3 million against the highly contagious coronavirus. Activist Ashok Subron says that the government took advantage of a situation when the country was under strict lockdown to pass a controversial bill in just three days, without proper democratic debate. One of the provisions of the law allows police to enter premises without a warrant. Another allows the police to arrest a person without warrant. RFI

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “we continue to remain hopeful” that Tanzania will cooperate by sharing its COVID-19 data even as the country’s president declared victory over the pandemic. John Nkengasong says “they understand exactly what is at stake” in the East African nation, which has not updated its virus data since late April. Tanzania’s number of cases remains frozen at 509, while opposition leaders have asserted there are actually tens of thousands. President John Magufuli at a church service on Sunday declared that “corona in our country has been removed by the powers of God,” and he praised the congregation for not wearing face masks. He has warned that masks not approved by the government could be infected with the virus. AP

“It’s a terrible incident. It is a continuation of violence against top opposition officials in Tanzania,” Tumaini Makene, the Chadema party’s spokesperson, told DW. Freeman Mbowe, Tanzania’s leader of the main opposition party, was attacked by unknown assailants late Monday in the capital Dodoma. According to Makene, three suspects ambushed their party leader while he was on his way home in the Tanzanian administrative capital. The attack left Mbowe with a broken leg. He was initially hospitalized in Dodoma before being airlifted to Dar es Salaam for further treatment. … This is the second time in three years that a leader of Tanzania’s opposition has been attacked. In 2017, Chadema’s deputy chairperson, Tundu Lissu, narrowly escaped when armed men fired multiple shots at his car while on his way home after attending a parliamentary meeting. The 49-year-old leader was severely injured in the attack. He was flown to Belgium for specialized treatment, where he currently remains in self-exile. DW

Ethiopia’s parliament approved on Wednesday an extra year in office for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after August elections were postponed, two days after a leading opposition politician resigned as speaker of its upper house in apparent protest at the delay. The upper house voted for a resolution that extends the terms of federal and regional lawmakers and the executive branch of the government for between nine and 12 months, house spokesman Gebru Gebreslassie told Reuters. The elections will go ahead within that period, once health authorities determine that the coronavirus is no longer a threat to public health, Gebru said. Ethiopia had recorded a total of 2,336 cases of COVID-19 and 32 deaths by Wednesday. Keria Ibrahim, who quit as speaker on Monday, is a top official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which opposed the decision taken in March to delay the elections due to the pandemic. Reuters

There will be no extension of the presidential mandate under the cover of coronavirus in the Central African Republic. This was the final verdict issued by the constitutional court in Bangui, ending a wrangle between the ruling party and the opposition last week. The government had intended to continue its mandate due to the prevailing coronavirus outbreak arguing that the country will not be ready to hold an election by the end of the year. The judges on the other hand maintained the rule of law must prevail. The country’s constitution has explicit clauses that prohibit changing the presidential term. One such is Article 35 which states that under no circumstance can the presidential mandate be modified for any reason whatsoever. … Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the electoral commission is required to organize a general election by December 27 this year. Africa News

An unlikely crew of maintenance workers, made up of former child soldiers and other vulnerable youngsters in the Central African Republic (CAR), was hard at work in June 2019. Deployed to an impoverished suburb of the capital, Bangui, they were digging a well for a community otherwise cut off from water supplies. During years of civil war, whether by choice or by force, these young individuals joined militias that brought the country to its knees. But now, splattered with red-brown mud, elbow-deep in water, and free from the grip of armed groups, they are spearheading the push to protect their fellow citizens from the coronavirus pandemic. “Our response plan for COVID-19 includes the provision of safe water for drinking and hygiene, particularly hand-washing,” said Olivier Sieyadji, a sanitation specialist with UNICEF. Foreign Policy

On June 4, officers with Nigeria’s State Security Services detained Mr Onitsha, founder of the privately owned Naija Live TV news website, in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, after he responded to a summons for questioning, his lawyers told [the Committee to Protect Journalists] by phone and messaging app. Mr Onitsha told CPJ on June 3 that he received the summons, and said it involved his May 2 reporting on the alleged collapse of a COVID-19 isolation centre in Nigeria’s northern Kogi State. He said he believed it also may be connected to a December 2019 report published by Naija Live TV alleging that a court had ordered the arrest of Bayelsa Deputy Governor Lawrence Erwhudjakpo. After he was detained, the SSS charged Mr Onitsha with violating Nigeria’s cybercrime act and arraigned him at a federal court, according to his lawyer Benjamin Ogbara, and a copy of the charge sheet, which CPJ reviewed. Premium Times

The surrender of ex-warlord Ali Kushayb to the International Criminal Court has raised hope that others wanted for crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region could be turned over to the ICC, including former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Sudanese officials in February said that former officials, including Bashir, would face trial at the ICC. Ali Kushayb is in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after surrendering to authorities in the Central African Republic on Tuesday. … There are reports in the Sudanese media that Kushayb may be used as a witness against other war crimes suspects.  Political analyst Ahmed Abdelghani thinks that would cause trouble for the transitional government. Abdelghani says if Kushayb is used as a witness for the state regarding war crimes in Darfur, it will lead to political complications, especially that some military institutions might be involved in the conflict, with Kushayb and other militias in committing war crimes and genocides in Darfur region. VOA

South Sudan’s cantonment sites and training centres are on the verge of collapse due to lack of support and means, said the head of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism on Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Teshome Gemechu Aderie made his remarks at the two-day meeting of the CTSAMVM Technical Committee in Juba on Tuesday and Wednesday 9-10 June. Addressing the opening session on Tuesday, Aderie said the main focus of his mechanism was to monitor and verify the cantonment sites and barracks as well as training centres across the country. Most cantonment sites are near collapse because of the lack of logistical support, he said. There is also a critical lack of logistic support to the Training Centers and other concerns such as the lack of training syllabi at the centres and lack of clear directives on dates of graduation and funding, he added. The pre-transitional period had been extended twice to allow the implementation of the security arrangements which should lead to the formation of one army through the cantonment sites and training. Sudan Tribune

The South Sudanese government and a Chinese contractor have suspended the construction of a major highway connecting to Uganda over quality. The construction of Juba-Rumbek highway has been put on hold after a heavy downpour last month swept away some sections of the road, according to Taban Deng, the vice president in charge of Infrastructure. “The suspension does not mean the construction has stopped, but is to review the design of the road. So I call on the company to build their capacity within the suspension period to ensure quality standard of the road,” Taban told journalists during a media site visit on Tuesday. The 392km project that connects Bahr El Ghazal Region to Uganda through Equatoria region is being constructed by Shandong Hi-Speed Group Corporation over a three-year period. Last week, President Salva Kiir fired the Presidential Affairs Minister, Mayiik Ayii, over what he described as poor supervision of the project. The East African

Ghana’s Incas Diagnostics expects the country’s regulator to approve its new COVID-19 antibody test by the end of July, saying its kits could help health authorities ease pandemic restrictions. The company is also working with developers in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Senegal, with backing from the World Health Organization (WHO), on a mobile app that would help trace people potentially at high-risk of getting the virus. Ghana has reported one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Africa with nearly 10,000. The West African country has begun a phased easing of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus and plans to reopen schools and universities from June 15. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones