Africa Media Review for June 15, 2020

Islamic Extremists Attack 3 Towns in Northeastern Nigeria
Three attacks by Islamic extremists, including an assault on Monguno, a military garrison town, have killed more than 40 people in Nigeria’s notheastern Borno state. The extremists from the Islamic State West Africa Province on Saturday attacked Monguno, where there are an estimated 150,000 displaced civilians, a United Nations office and a Nigerian military base. “The well-armed attackers came in large numbers from three directions and took over the town for some hours before the military fought them back with the help of fighter planes,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, a member of Monguno’s community safety force. Many of the attackers appeared to have come from neighboring Chad and Niger, said Ibrahim. … The fighters dropped letters written in English, Hausa and Arabic warning people to stay away from the military and humanitarian organization because they could be attacked at anytime. AP

Two UN Peacekeepers Killed in Northern Mali Attack
A logistical convoy of the UN peacekeeping mission travelling between the towns of Tessalit and Gao was attacked Saturday evening by “unidentified armed individuals” who killed two of the soldiers, the mission, known as MINUSMA, said in a statement. It did not indicate the nationalities of those killed. The convoy had stopped when it was attacked near the village of Tarkint, northeast of Gao, the largest town in northern Mali. The UN troops “retaliated firmly and sent the assailants fleeing,” the statement said. The head of the peacekeeping mission, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned the “cowardly acts aimed at paralysing the mission’s operations on the ground.” AFP

France Launches Sahel Coalition to Fight Rising Jihadi Violence
France launched a coalition of West African and European allies on Friday to fight jihadi militants in the Sahel region, hoping more political cooperation and special forces would boost a military effort that has so far failed to stifle violence. … The coalition, first announced at a January summit after a series of attacks killing over 200 soldiers, was ratified during virtual meetings of more than 40 defence and foreign ministers. “We can now hope that the setbacks suffered by our armies during the second half of 2019 and the difficulties implementing our development projects are behind us,” said Niger’s Foreign Minister Kalla Ankourao. The new structure brings the so-called G5 Sahel states of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, plus French forces and any future troops under a single command, and also coordinates development, governance and humanitarian work. Reuters

Desperation Grows as Fighters Blockade Key Burkina Faso Town
In mid-May, Ahmed Dicko, a well-known figure in Ouagadougou’s business community, gathered with a group of volunteers, health workers and journalists outside the main football stadium in Burkina Faso’s capital. They climbed boarded minibuses and four-wheel drives and joined a military-escorted convoy of trucks laden with food, before driving out of the city on the northerly road to Dicko’s hometown, Djibo. … Along a 35km (22 miles) stretch of road between Namsiguia and Djibo, fighters frequently emerge from the bush to stop unescorted vehicles heading in or out of the town before disappearing again to unknown locations, Djibo residents told Al Jazeera by phone. The passengers of these cars, buses and trucks are either turned back to their destination or murdered by the side of the road, they added. Al Jazeera

Libya: For Tripoli Residents, a Grim Homecoming to Booby-Trapped Neighborhoods
One mine was hidden behind a garage door. Another, buried under rubble, was rigged to blow near a gas tank. A particularly diabolical explosive, activists claimed, was taped to an abandoned teddy bear.  Fifteen months after rogue military leader Khalifa Haftar attacked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, his bid to capture the city and unseat the United Nations-recognized government there has ended in retreat. But in the two weeks since his forces pulled back from Tripoli’s southern suburbs, some 200,000 people displaced by the fighting face a new threat as they try to return home: hundreds of mines, improvised explosive devices, booby traps and unexploded ordnance left as a parting gift by Haftar’s fighters. … Many of those mines, several weapons experts say, are of types not known to have been used in Libya and appear to have been recently supplied to Haftar by an outside actor. LA Times

Burundi Court Orders President-Elect Sworn In after Leader’s Death
Burundi’s constitutional court on Friday ruled that the country’s newly elected leader Evariste Ndayishimiye be rapidly sworn in following the sudden death of President Pierre Nkurunziza earlier this week. Nkurunziza’s death on Monday, aged 55, came after the May election of his successor Ndayishimiye, who was meant to be inaugurated in August. The unusual situation raised questions over how the transition would be managed, as the constitution calls for the speaker of the national assembly to step in if the president dies. However in its judgement the court wrote that an interim period “is not necessary.” The court ruled that the country must “proceed, as soon as possible, with the swearing-in of the president-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye.” AFP

Foreign Army Incursions, Clashes on the Rise in DR Congo
Soldiers from South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi have repeatedly made incursions into volatile eastern and north-eastern regions of DR Congo in recent months, local sources and experts said Friday. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s east is one of Africa’s flashpoints, gripped by militia violence which has claimed more than 1,000 lives in a matter of months and caused more than half a million people to flee their homes. The government in Kinshasa has in the past accused neighbouring countries of seeking to destabilise it. These governments have in turn said that DR Congo, a vast country the size of western continental Europe, is a haven for groups that oppose them. Since April “we have recorded eight incursions by South Sudanese soldiers” into the territory of Aru, in the eastern province of Ituri, local civil society chairman Innocent Magudhe told AFP. AFP

Sudan: Spike in Deaths in Darfur Points to Virus’ Invisible Spread
In the sprawling camps for the displaced of Darfur, the war-scarred western region of Sudan, officials say the elderly are falling sick and dying at astonishing rates. In North Darfur’s provincial capital of El Fasher, some say they scroll through a dozen death announcements each day: Another old friend, relative, community leader lost with dizzying speed. Doctors in the region’s few functioning hospitals report an influx of patients with symptoms like a lost sense of taste, breathing troubles and fevers. The official causes of their untimely deaths remain “unknown.” Humanitarian workers and medical personnel believe the coronavirus is spreading unchecked and untracked through Sudan’s most marginalized territory, where medical facilities are few and far between and where years of conflict have left some 1.6 million people crammed into camps. AP

Somalia and Breakaway State Somaliland Hold Talks
The leaders of Somalia and breakaway state Somaliland are meeting for talks Sunday in a renewed effort to mediate strained ties between the two, Mogadishu said in a statement. The talks are taking place in Djibouti, chaired by the country’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh, while Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is also attending, according to his Twitter account. Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed ‘Farmajo’, “is committed to all efforts to bring about fruitful talks with Somaliland,” said presidential spokesman Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed in a statement. The agenda has not been made public. These will be the first official talks between Farmajo and Somaliland President Musa Bihi, after Abiy hosted an informal meeting in February. AFP

Somalia Recognizes Contested Leader in Semi-Autonomous Border State
The Somali government on Sunday officially recognised the contested leader of the semi-autonomous Jubaland state after months of rising tensions and armed violence. Ahmed Madobe, a former warlord, was re-elected as president of the state in August 2019 in an election boycotted by the federal government who backed a loyalist candidate in a parallel election. The Jubaland crisis strained ties between Kenya-who backed Madobe-and Somalia, which has long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its affairs. Those tensions escalated in March, when heavy fighting broke out near the Kenyan border between Somali troops and Jubaland forces, with Kenya accusing Somali troops of violating its territorial integrity. The rival leaders in Jubaland signed a peace pact in April. France24

Kenya and Djibouti Cross Fingers over UN Security Council Post
United Nations members are scheduled to vote on June 17 for new non-permanent members of the Security Council in a race that could test future relations of Kenya and Djibouti. The vote will be conducted virtually although it will still be a secret ballot, due to measures meant to contain spread of coronavirus. Kenya, Djibouti, India, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and Norway have all fronted their candidature, but the actual race is between Kenya and Djibouti, two African countries bidding to replace South Africa on the UN’s most powerful organ. Traditionally, each region of the world is allocated seats to the Council, but the voting is a formality as the regions often agree on a candidate. For Kenya and Djibouti, the voting will be the climax of a bare knuckle campaigns that has forced African countries to take sides and at the African Union Summit last February, Kenya complained of Djibouti’s “dishonourable” campaign. The East African

Egypt: Ethiopia Rejecting ‘Fundamental Issues’ on Nile Dam
Egypt and Sudan have said that talks over a controversial dam on the Nile River will resume on Monday, amid Egyptian accusations that Ethiopia has sought to scrap “all agreements and deals” they had previously reached, and that “many fundamental issues” remain rejected by Ethiopia, the third party to the talks. The construction of the $4.6bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which is more than 70 percent complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people, has been a contentious point among the three main Nile Basin countries. Al Jazeera

All 36 Nigerian Governors Declare State of Emergency over Rapes and Violence
All 36 of Nigeria’s governors resolved to declare a state of emergency over rape and other gender-based violence against women and children in the country. The decision was made after a meeting among the governors earlier this week. As a part of their initiative, the governors aim to impose tougher federal laws punishing rape and violence against women and children, and to set up sex offender registers in all of the states. The emergency declaration comes after a buildup of the country’s concerns about gender-based violence. Within the span of a few days, from May 28 to June 1, two Nigerian students were raped and killed in separate incidents. The women were Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, 22, and Barakat Bello, 18. VOA

Four Poachers Arrested After Killing of Rare Silverback Gorilla in Uganda
Four poachers were arrested this week in connection with the killing of a rare silverback gorilla in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a lush preserve of mist-shrouded hillsides and thick rain forests that is home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorillas, the authorities said. The silverback, known as Rafiki, was killed by a poacher with a spear, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Rafiki, who was believed to be about 25, was the leader of the famed Nkuringo gorilla group, which has been popular with tourists for decades. The last time a mountain gorilla was killed by a spear was in June 2011, according to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. But there are signs that poaching in gorilla parks has increased in recent months, as tourism has fallen because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said. The New York Times

Red, Gold and Green: A Pan-African History of Flags and the Remarkable Woman Who Inspired It
Ghana was the first country to pick up on Ethiopia’s colour scheme. Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president and liberation leader, is often given credit for the design. But it was, in fact, a 35-year-old artist and sportswoman named Theodosiah Okoh who came up with it, after answering a national call for new flag ideas. … Okoh’s design represented a comprehensive rejection of the old flag. Red was for the blood spilt in the struggle for independence. Yellow for the vast reserves of gold and minerals in Ghana – and reminiscent of the lustrous banners of the ancient Ashanti Empire, that featured a golden stool set in black. Green for the land; for the bounties of its harvest. On the yellow middle stripe, where Ethiopia’s Lion of Judah symbol then sat – replaced by a blue disk and gold star on Ethiopia’s modern flag  –  Okoh placed a black star. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones