Africa Media Review for June 16, 2020

Dozens of Troops ‘Dead or Missing’ in Northwest Mali Attack
Dozens of troops have either been killed or gone missing after attackers ambushed their convoy in central Mali, according to reports citing military sources. About a dozen vehicles came under attack on Sunday at Bouka Were, some 100km (60 miles) from the Mauritanian border, a senior military official was quoted as saying by AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some of the vehicles were able to extricate themselves from the ambush, but of the 64 troops who had been in the convoy, only about 20 were present at a roll call, the source said, adding that the precise number of dead was unknown. … Later on Monday, army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone told Reuters news agency: “Twenty-four Mali army personnel died, eight survivors have been found.” Al Jazeera

Six Killed as Militia Torches Homes in East DRC – Local Official
Six civilians were killed and dozens of homes were torched in an attack in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo blamed on the notorious ADF militia, a local official said on Monday. The attack took place Sunday near the Eringeti-Kainama road, leaving four women and two men dead, said Sabiti Njiamoja, an official at the governor’s office in Eringeti, in North Kivu province. “Six (other) civilians are reported to be missing and more than 60 homes were torched, ” he told AFP. Locals are burying the dead after the six civilians “were gratuitously murdered by the ADF,” added Njiamoja, whose town along with Oicha and Mbau have become a triangle of death in North Kivu’s Beni region. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have killed hundreds in the region since late last year, in apparent retaliation for a military offensive against their bases. AFP

Inside the Murky World of Libya’s Mercenaries
A month-long investigation by The Independent into this murky mercenary underworld shows a labyrinth of recruitment stretching from Moscow to Damascus from Idlib to Istanbul. Interviews with western diplomats briefed on an ongoing UN probe into arms embargo violations, US military officials, Syrian and Libyan combatants, as well as over a dozen interviews with people across both countries, show the utilisation of the poorest Syrians at the heart of it. Hired to fight on both sides in Libya, Syrians are once again battling each other – but this time over someone else’s war-wrecked capital thousands of kilometres from home. Independent

Mass Grave Found of Sudanese Conscripts Killed in 1998, Says Prosecutor
Sudan’s public prosecutor announced on Monday the discovery of a mass grave containing conscripts allegedly killed after trying to flee a military camp in 1998 under ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s regime. The grim discovery came as part of investigations into misdeeds committed under al-Bashir, who ruled the country with an iron fist before the army deposed him amid huge street protests in April 2019. … In 1998, a group of conscripts died as they attempted to escape the base for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holidays. The Sudanese government said at the time that around 55 young conscripts who fled the base drowned when their overloaded boat capsized in the Blue Nile. … Many Sudanese families reported that their sons went missing and their remains were never found. Bashir used conscripts in the civil war against rebels in the oil-rich south, which seceded in 2011. AFP

South Sudan Military Kills Rebel Leader
South Sudan businessman and the chairman of 7th October Movement, Kerbino Wol, was killed in Rumbek East County of Lakes State on Sunday during a military confrontation. Speaking to The East African on Monday in Juba, army spokesman Maj Gen Lul Ruai said Mr Wol and two of his fighters were killed in Ayen Mayar village after a 4-day operation. “Wol has been engaging our forces…for the last four days. We have been fighting him from 11th and yesterday [Sunday] was the success of our operations. “He died with two others fighters, including a local youth leader who had been hosting him in his house.” … Last week, Mr Wol launched the 7th October Movement, an armed opposition which he said aims at fighting for the rights of South Sudanese oppressed by President Salva Kiir’ administration. The East African

UN Chief Appoints New UNISFA Force Commander
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday announced the appointment of Major General Kefyalew Amde Tessema of Ethiopia as Force Commander for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Tessema succeeds Major General Mehari Zewde Gebremariam of Ethiopia who will complete his assignment on 7 July 2020. “The Secretary-General is grateful for his tireless dedication and effective leadership of UNISFA,” UN spokesperson said in a statement. Major General Tessema has a distinguished military career with the Ethiopian Armed Forces spanning more than 30 years.  He has also been a Council Member of the Ethiopian Ministry of National Defence since 2017.  Radio Tamazuj

Burundi’s New President Ndayishimiye to Be Sworn In Thursday
Burundi’s newly-elected president Evariste Ndayishimiye will be sworn in on Thursday, the foreign ministry announced, after the sudden death of the incumbent forced authorities to expedite the ceremony. President Pierre Nkurunziza died last week aged 55, of what authorities said was a heart attack. His death came less than two weeks after his wife had been flown to a Nairobi hospital for treatment for the coronavirus, according to a medical document seen by AFP. The foreign ministry invited diplomats and foreign organisations to “take part in the inauguration ceremony” in the capital Gitega, in a letter sent out on Monday. Ndayishimiye, 52, a former army general and Hutu rebel like his predecessor, had been handpicked by the powerful ruling CNDD-FDD to run in a May 20 presidential election. AFP

Forced Retirement of Malawi’s Chief Justice before June Election Blocked
Attempts by the Malawi government to remove the country’s chief justice days before presidential elections have been blocked following protests from law and civil society groups. On Friday, the government announced that Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda had been placed on leave pending retirement with immediate effect. The notice read that Nyirenda had accumulated more leave days than the remainder of his working days until his retirement, due in December 2021. However, high court judges granted injunctions preventing the move after the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), the Association of Magistrates, and the Malawi Law Society lodged appeals against it. Nyirenda was among the judges who in February annulled last year’s elections, which saw a narrow win for incumbent president Peter Mutharika. … Fresh elections are expected to take place on 23 June. The Guardian

Zimbabwe Activists Jailed Awaiting Charges They Lied about Torture
Three female opposition activists in Zimbabwe who gave detailed accounts of torture, humiliation and sexual assault by unidentified state agents have been ordered to remain in prison to face charges that they invented their ordeal. The three women, all leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change’s youth section, have been held in the infamous Chikirubi high-security jail since Friday. They face prison sentences of up to 20 years or a fine. Clad in prison garb, the three activists appeared weak and distressed as they climbed out of a prison truck on Monday morning minutes before their bail hearing at Harare’s central magistrates court. Netsai Marova, 25, held a walking aid as Joana Mamombe, 27 and one of Zimbabwe’s youngest MPs, assisted her. The Guardian

Uganda’s Main Opposition Leaders Unite, Call for Peaceful Protests
Uganda’s top opposition leaders – Robert Kyagulanyi of the People Power Movement and Kizza Besigye of the People’s Government – announced Monday they are joining forces to demonstrate against President Yoweri Museveni’s administration. Citing what they called the mismanagement of the COVID-19 response, they are calling on Ugandans to carry out peaceful protests Tuesday.  The Ugandan government’s deputy spokesperson has called any street actions illegal. Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as singer Bobi Wine, trumpeted his message through his music at a rally on Monday. The singer-turned-legislator and longtime opposition leader Kizza Besigye are urging Ugandans to take part in a peaceful protest Tuesday against the government and its response to COVID-19. VOA

In Zambia, COVID-19 Has Claimed Democracy, Not Human Life
Even before the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in March 2020, Zambia’s flight from being a model of democracy in Africa to a disguised authoritarianism had already taken off. The erosion of democratic principles started under president Michael Sata, who led the Patriotic Front (PF) to victory in 2011. This trajectory has however worsened under President Edgar Lungu, who was first elected in 2015 after Sata died in office before a disputed vote returned him to power in 2016. As well as successfully pressuring the Constitutional Court to allow him to run for a third term, Lungu has presided over the shutdown of the main independent newspaper, almost succeeded in muzzling civil society, removed the vestiges of autonomy in nearly all state institutions, and created a general climate of fear. Mail & Guardian

Coronavirus Accelerates across Africa
The spread of the new coronavirus is now accelerating in many countries in Africa, where medical resources are stretched, rumors are rife and efforts to stop the pandemic are sometimes haphazard. … Most African nations staved off the initial spread of the virus for several months, partly by closing borders early, banning public gatherings and, in some countries, effectively tracing contacts using past experience of infectious diseases. But the extra time this bought was not enough to bolster weak health care systems and to prepare for the predicted explosion of cases. And now that many African countries, like others across the globe, are lifting their restrictions in order to restart their economies, the virus has new opportunity to spread and potentially, to overwhelm health care systems. Nigerian doctors announced a nationwide strike starting on Monday over the lack of personal protective equipment in government hospitals and hazard pay for treating Covid-19 patients. The New York Times

Coronavirus Shocks to Fuel Years of Unrest and Hunger in Poorest Economies
Economic shocks caused by the new coronavirus are set to fuel poverty, unrest and instability in heavily-indebted and politically fragile countries for years to come, found an international think-tank on Wednesday. The pandemic’s impacts will undo years of socio-economic development for some countries, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) said in a briefing released alongside its annual index measuring peace levels around the world. “The worst is still to come,” said Steve Killelea, head of the Australia-based IEP, which expects to see most of the peace indicators it measures fall for several years. “The countries which are going to suffer the most are those which are currently fragile because they are the ones which generally have higher levels of food insecurity, the governments are politically less stable and economies are less robust.” Reuters

Slowing the Coronavirus Is Speeding the Spread of Other Diseases
As poor countries around the world struggle to beat back the coronavirus, they are unintentionally contributing to fresh explosions of illness and death from other diseases – ones that are readily prevented by vaccines. This spring, after the World Health Organization and UNICEF warned that the pandemic could spread swiftly when children gathered for shots, many countries suspended their inoculation programs. … Of 29 countries that have currently suspended measles campaigns because of the pandemic, 18 are reporting outbreaks. An additional 13 countries are considering postponement. According to the Measles and Rubella Initiative, 178 million people are at risk of missing measles shots in 2020. The risk now is “an epidemic in a few months’ time that will kill more children than Covid,” said Chibuzo Okonta, the president of Doctors Without Borders in West and Central Africa. The New York Times

‘Fake News’ Fears as COVID-19 Highlights the Dangers of Misinformation
As Covid-19 – one of the most serious public-health threats in recent history – dominates global media coverage, less than four in 10 people trust the news. This sobering statistic comes from the Reuters Institute’s recently released report on global media behaviour, which found that concerns about “fake news” and misinformation remain high.  The report, which is published annually, reveals that in a poll conducted in January only 38% of the more than 80 000 respondents said they “trust most news most of the time” – a fall of four percentage points from 2019. And fewer than half of respondents (46%) said they trust the news they consume. The survey drew responses from 40 countries, including South Africa, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit many of them. Mail & Guardian

Meet the ‘Corona Guy’ Fighting COVID-19 Disinformation in Kenya’s Refugee Camp
Every weekday morning, from 10 to 11am, Abdullahi Mire hosts a radio show for the residents of Dadaab. His studio is inside a converted shipping container, once used by the United Nations to deliver supplies to this sprawling network of three refugee camps in northeastern Kenya. Mire is using his platform on Radio Gargar, the settlement’s local station, to battle a surge of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. He tells his listeners “don’t panic,” provides them with regular updates and brings on experts to dispel the myths about the virus. His voice has become so well known that people refer to him as the “Corona Guy.” Mail & Guardian

Flying High with Captain Kgomotso Phatsima
In Botswana, one of the country’s first female military pilots, Captain Kogmotso Phatsima, has made it her mission to ensure young people across Africa have the opportunity to learn about future technologies. [Video] DW