Africa Media Review for June 17, 2020

Keeping Terrorism at Bay in Mauritania
Mauritania’s security reforms, including training, enhanced mobility, Special Forces, prudent procurement, and community engagement have strengthened its capability to confront violent extremist groups. … The story of Mauritania’s transformation from the weakest link in this crisis-ridden neighborhood to one of its most resilient is instructive. The country was the first in the Sahel to be hit by terrorist attacks in 2005. However, since 2011 it has avoided the expanding and diversifying threat from militant Islamist groups. That security threats in the Sahel are characterized by layers of intertwined and crosscutting interests at the local, national, and regional levels makes Mauritania’s example all the more informative. Importantly, the government has managed to restore its authority and control over border regions, which militant Islamist groups in the Sahel have often exploited to their advantage. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced on Tuesday that he would hold talks on establishing a new unity government, after weeks of escalating criticism from the country’s political opposition. In a speech in the capital Bamako, the president also suggested first steps towards reforming the constitutional court and the national parliament. The series of announcements came as Keita has been struggling to maintain political support in the volatile West African state over a jihadist revolt that first broke out in the north in 2012. … On June 5, tens of thousands of people rallied in the Bamako demanding the president’s resignation over his perceived mismanagement of the poor Sahel country. That protest was organized by a coalition of political opposition groups, which has since rebranded itself the “June 5” movement. Africa News with AFP

Judge in Congo President Aide’s Trial Murdered, State Says
The judge who oversaw the corruption trial of Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi’s chief of staff was murdered, Justice Minister Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende said. Judge Raphael Yanyi Ovungu, who was handling the trial of Vital Kamerhe, died May 26. His death initially was thought to have been from natural causes. An autopsy of the body found he suffered a brain hemorrhage after trauma to the head, according to a statement on Twitter that Tunda ya Kasende verified in a message to Bloomberg. There was also a non-lethal dose of an unidentified toxic substance in Yanyi’s body, it said. The justice ministry will open “a judicial investigation in order to elucidate the circumstances of this murder and to identify the authors,” Tunda ya Kasende said. Bloomberg

Civilians in Kenya’s Northeast Targeted by Both Jihadists and the State
On a stifling night in April, Ibrahim Abdi was sitting outside his home in Wajir, trying to catch a breeze after evening prayers, when his Kenya Police Reserve unit came for him. They said a group of al-Shabab jihadists had been spotted in a nearby village in the remote northeastern region, close to the Somali border, and he should get his gun and come with them. Abdi’s wife remembers he was reluctant. He asked why he always had to prove his loyalty by confronting the Somali-based insurgents, but he went nonetheless. The next morning, Abdi was dead: killed in an ambush 15 kilometres from his home, along with six other reservists in the eight-man unit. The New Humanitarian

2021 Election: Uganda Opts for Virtual Campaigns
Candidates seeking electoral positions in Uganda’s general election due early next year will have to conduct their campaigns without physical contact as dictated by Covid-19 social and physical distancing, the Electoral Commission has announced. The commission, which released a new roadmap of electoral activities, has set November 2 and 3, 2020 as nomination dates for Presidential candidates. Those seeking seats in Parliament will be nominated a month earlier on October 12 and 13, 2020. The chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, said at a press conference on Tuesday that no definite dates have been set for the elections. He, however, indicated a general period of between January 10 and February 8, 2021. The East African

UN Sees ‘Progress’ in C. Africa Political Reform
United Nations (United States) (AFP) – UN chief Antonio Guterres has hailed “progress” in the Central African Republic on political reform, but voiced concern over the failure to disarm rebel groups. In a report delivered to the Security Council this week and seen by AFP on Tuesday, the secretary general said such reforms were “essential” to implementing the peace deal signed by the government and 14 rebel groups early last year. “I am encouraged that the people and government of the Central African Republic continue to make progress in advancing the peace process, even as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic,” Guterres said. But even as violations of the peace agreement have waned in the troubled country, the UN chief said there were still problem areas to address. AFP

Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau Health Workers Have Been Infected with COVID-19
More than 170 of Guinea-Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted COVID-19, a World Health Organization expert said on Tuesday, warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed. The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed 15. Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients. “The three main Bissau hospitals are currently facing rooms filled with COVID-19 patients and a breakdown in essential medical services,” said Joana Cortez, a WHO expert in Guinea-Bissau, during an online seminar on the impact of the epidemic on Portuguese-speaking African countries. Reuters

Egypt Thought It Dodged the Worst of the Pandemic. But Now, Hospitals Are Being Overwhelmed.
For three months, Egypt seemed to escape the huge case numbers seen in many other nations, including those with far lower populations. But the number of reported cases in the country has steadily risen in recent weeks, with more than 1,500 infections per day since Friday, escalating pressure on a health-care system that was strained long before the pandemic. … “The patients are increasing in very rapid numbers,” said a 32-year-old doctor at a quarantine hospital in the southern city of Esna, where every bed was filled with coronavirus patients. “But you don’t have the capacity of beds, hospitals and staff numbers. It’s really exhausting for the staff.” Like other doctors interviewed, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government has sought to muzzle criticism of its response to the pandemic. The Washington Post

COVID-19 Just the Latest Crisis Facing Somalia
Devastating floods, desert locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic constitute a ‘triple threat’, that risks reversing political and security gains made in Somalia in recent years, the United Nations is warning. Close to 500,000 people have been displaced and more than a million affected, by recent floods in Somalia’s central regions; a severe locust infestation which threatens food security and nutrition; and at the same time, as the country is responding to the spread of COVID-19. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is calling for swift action from the international community, to avoid a major humanitarian crisis in a country whose ability to cope with disasters is significantly less than that of surrounding countries. UN News

IOM Data Shows Migration in West, Central Africa Drops by 50 Percent Due to COVID
Data collected at 35 key transit points across West and Central Africa by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate regional migration has dropped by nearly 50 per cent during the first half of 2020 (compared with 2019) due to government travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On International Day of Family Remittances, the data reflect the double burden low- and middle-income countries bear at this time: the response to COVID-19 has caused great disruption to cross-border mobility and trade even as the World Bank is projecting remittances to sub-Saharan Africa will drop 23 per cent. One in nine people on earth is affected by remittance flows. Roughly half reside in small towns and rural villages where remittances put food on the table, educate children and support small businesses. The effects of the border closures in this region are being felt by many. Devdiscourse

UN Alarmed about Detention, Abuse of Egyptians in Libya
The United Nations raised the alarm Tuesday about the detention and mistreatment of a large group of Egyptian citizens in Libya, in possible violation of international law. Graphic footage has surfaced on social media in recent days that purportedly shows militias allied with Libya’s U.N.-supported government abusing scores of Egyptian migrant workers captured in the western city of Tarhuna. Egypt has supported east-based military commander Khalifa Hifter against the forces of the U.N.-supported government, based in the capital, Tripoli. The U.N. Mission in Libya said the mistreatment runs counter to Libya’s “human rights law obligations on the prohibition of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.” AP

EU Chief Urges Bloc to Increase Support for Libya Mission
The European Union’s chief diplomat has called on the bloc’s member states to increase their support for a recently launched military mission aimed at enforcing a collapsing arms embargo on Libya. Speaking during a video conference on Tuesday, Josep Borrell urged EU defence ministers to “provide all necessary assets and intelligence in order to strengthen the operation.” “We need navy and air assets,” he said at a news conference at the meeting’s conclusion, pointing out that the mission had only two boats and three aeroplanes at its disposal. The operation, dubbed Irini after the Greek word for peace, was launched in late March with a view to halt arms shipments to the war-wracked North African nation. Al Jazeera

African Nations Seek Scrutiny of US, Others over Racism
The text calls for a commission of inquiry – the rights body’s most powerful tool to inspect human rights violations – to look into “systemic racism” and abuses against “Africans and of people of African descent in the United States of America and other parts of the world recently affected by law enforcement agencies” especially encounters that resulted in deaths. … At an “informal” meeting to discuss the initiative presented by the Africa Group late Monday, diplomats and human rights defenders expressed overwhelming support for efforts to fight racism. … On Monday, the council agreed unanimously to hold the urgent debate Wednesday afternoon on “racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests” in the wake of Floyd’s killing. AP

South Africa Marks Youth Day with Masks, Social Distancing
With calls to protect each other against COVID-19, nearly 200 young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, marked the country’s Youth Day holiday, the 44th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto students’ uprising which helped to bring about the end of apartheid, the country’s previous regime of racist, minority rule. Lined up along a Soweto street, the young people sang anti-apartheid anthems and held up posters saying “Äsivikelane” – Zulu for “Protect each other,” urging people to work together to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some held up a banner saying “Use the spirit of June 16 to fight Covid 19.” Others held up placards in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for an end to domestic violence against women. AP

Tunisia’s First Satellite to Highlight Country’s Technology
Later this year [Telnet] plans to launch Tunisia’s first satellite, called Challenge One, which will improve the provision of data from the earth, including climate information. The small satellite will be launched by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. If it is successful, Telnet plans to roll out a constellation of 30 additional satellites over the next decade. The satellite will mark Tunisia’s first venture into space. The African space market is now worth over $7 billion annually, according to the website Space in Africa which reports that it “is likely to grow over 40% in the next five years.” From 1998 to 2019, 32 satellites were launched by eight African countries and three other satellite projects were funded by African institutions. Fifteen of these were launched in the last four years. AP



Photo: Adam Jones