Africa Media Review for June 18, 2020

South Sudan Leaders Reach Key Deal on Control of States

South Sudan’s president and his former rival have reached a deal on the selection of governors for the country’s 10 states, an issue seen as the biggest threat to peace since a transitional unity government was formed in February. President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, a former rebel leader and now vice president, had been at odds over the allocation of states, especially those producing oil, the country’s main earner. … On Wednesday, a statement by the Minister of Presidential Affairs Nhial Deng Nhial said Kiir’s camp will nominate governors for six states, including the oil-rich Unity State and Central Equatoria, which includes the capital Juba. Machar’s camp will propose governors for three states, including the largest oil-producing area, the Upper Nile state, while a third signatory to the peace deal, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, will nominate a governor for Jonglei state. Al Jazeera

Kenya, Djibouti Contest for UN Seat Heads to Second Round

The contest between Kenya and Djibouti will head to the second round of voting on Thursday after the first phase saw Nairobi’s victory insufficient to win the UN Security Council seat. In the first round, Nairobi scored 113 votes against Djibouti’s 78. And although Kenya was firmly in the driving seat, the rules of the elections demand at least two thirds of the votes of eligible UN member states to be declared winner. … It means Nairobi’s diplomats will have to work a lot harder on Thursday to lobby countries across the world for one more vote each to see off a Djibouti that rejected African Union’s decision to endorse Kenya, and went ahead to conduct parallel campaigns for the only seat allocated for Africa. The UN Security Council is the most powerful organ of the UN, charged with maintaining global peace and security. The East African

Tussle for Nile Control Escalates as Dam Talks Falter

The talks appear to have faltered over a recurring issue: Ethiopia’s refusal to accept a permanent, minimum volume of water that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, should release downstream in the event of severe drought. What happens next remains uncertain. Both Ethiopia and Sudan – a mutual neighbor that took part in the talks – said that progress had been made and left the door open to further negotiation. Yet the stakes in a region acutely vulnerable to the impact of climate change are disconcertingly clear. Ethiopia has threatened to start filling the dam’s reservoir when the rainy season begins in July, with or without a deal, a step Egypt considers both unacceptable and illegal. … Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry threatened on Monday to call for United Nations Security Council intervention to protect “international peace and security” if no agreement was reached. Bloomberg

Cameroon General Says Troops Kill 24 Separatists

Troops carrying out raids in a western region of Cameroon have killed 24 people described as separatists, a general who heads operations in the English-speaking zones has said. General Valere Nka told state radio Wednesday the army had carried out two major operations in recent days to fight separatists in the Northwest region, where a conflict erupted nearly three years ago, as well as in the Southwest region. Nka had told CRTV television late Tuesday that 13 “terrorists” were killed in a first raid in the towns of Bali, Batibo, and Widikum where separatists had barricaded a road leading to neighboring Nigeria. … Rights monitors regularly condemn abuses committed against civilians by both sides in the conflict, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced at least 700,000 from their homes. The Defense Post

Libya: The War for Tripoli Is Over, but New Battles Loom

The battle for Tripoli has been won, bolstering the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, as Haftar abandoned his 430-day campaign to capture the capital. But Libya’s war is far from over, and concern is mounting that the OPEC producer could go the way of Syria, prompting new waves of migration and militancy on Europe’s doorstep. … It also dragged in foreign powers, with Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt backing Haftar’s march from his eastern stronghold of Benghazi, and Turkey intervening on behalf of the Tripoli government 1,000 km to the west. Both sides deployed Syrian and other mercenaries, entangling local grievances with regional rivalries and potentially complicating efforts to establish lasting peace. The U.S. and European powers are pushing for peace talks but have struggled to impose a UN arms embargo on a country that’s home to the world’s largest uncontrolled munitions stockpile. Bloomberg

How Two Russians Got Caught Up in Libya’s War, Now an Action Movie

… More broadly, the case is emblematic of Russia’s multifaceted and sometimes contradictory engagements in the oil-rich North African country, where a plethora of official and nominally private Russian military and political outfits have forged ties with rival Libyan forces, apparently hoping that one of them will emerge victorious. Officially, Moscow recognizes the Tripoli government even as Russian mercenaries and warplanes have backed Khalifa Hifter, a militia commander whose 14-month campaign to seize Tripoli was repulsed this month. At the same time, Russian political operators and businessmen have reached out to other potential allies. … “From the beginning, they could see that Hifter was not necessarily a winning bet, so they hedged.” The hedge in this case was Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the second son of Libya’s deposed longtime dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and an avowed rival of both Mr. Hifter and the Tripoli government. The New York Times

UN Reports Highest Number of Refugees Ever Recorded

The UN refugee agency says the number of asylum-seekers, internally displaced people and refugees worldwide shot up by nearly nine million people last year – the biggest rise in its records. In its annual “Global Trends” report released on Thursday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that the 79.5 million people account for 1% of all humanity amid conflict, repression and upheaval. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said of the 79.5 million people forcibly displaced, 68% come from only five countries: Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and Venezuela. The surge was chalked up in part to a new way of counting people displaced from Venezuela and “worrying” new displacement in the persistent trouble spots of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. Africa News with AP

Coronavirus Centre Attacked by Mob Angry at Youth’s Killing in DRC

A coronavirus treatment and quarantine centre was ransacked on Tuesday in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when a riot erupted over the killing of a young man, authorities said. The authorities in South Kivu said unidentified gunmen had shot and killed the young man on Monday, adding that according to rumours, he was killed by police who were enforcing a virus curfew declared by Governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi. The governor promised “his personal involvement so that the investigations repair the harm caused” to the victim’s relatives, the authorities said in a statement. “When the death was announced, some young people protested and attacked the Bwindi treatment centre,” the statement said. AFP

Malawi Lawyers Protest Chief Justice’s Pre-Vote Forced Retirement

Hundreds of Malawian lawyers have taken to the streets of several cities to protest against interference with the judiciary, after President Peter Mutharika placed the country’s chief justice on leave pending retirement as the country gears up for a hotly contested election rerun ordered by the court. Donning black gowns and dark cream wigs, the lawyers on Wednesday were joined by law students and lecturers on the streets of the capital, Lilongwe, and the cities of Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu. Mutharika’s office issued a notice on Friday that sent Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda into early retirement, 18 months before he was due to leave and two weeks before the country returns to the polls on June 23. The move, which prompted widespread condemnation, was reportedly halted by a high court injunction following appeals by the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition, the Association of Magistrates and the Malawi Law Society. Al Jazeera

Sudan: Darfur Demo Commemorates 2004 Massacre

More than 25,000 people commemorated yesterday the massacre of 79 people in Mukjar locality in Central Darfur on March 2, 2004, allegedly carried out by Ali Abdelrahman (aka Ali Kushayb). The demonstrators shouted slogans, holding Abdelrahman responsible for murder, their homelessness and theft. The protesters marched from Freedom Square in Mukjar to the place where Abdelrahman allegedly carried out his first massacre, located 700 metres north of Mukjar. … Abdelrahman, who was transferred to the Netherlands last week, was informed of the charges against him on Monday. On the basis of his individual criminal responsibility Abdelrahman will be tried on 53 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur. The massacre was the start of other mass executions in Mukjar and Bindisi localities in Central Darfur, witnesses and survivors told Radio Dabanga. Radio Dabanga

Jobless for Years, Tunisians March on Capital, Demand Work

Hundreds of unemployed Tunisians from around the country tried to march on parliament Wednesday to demand a law guaranteeing jobs, and skirmished with police who blocked their way. Virus confinement measures are worsening joblessness and poverty in Tunisia, where the economy had already been struggling for years. Unemployment was a key driver of protests that overthrew Tunisia’s autocratic president and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. At Wednesday’s protest, demonstrators demanded “the right to work and to dignity.” … Several protesters were arrested but quickly released after the crowd accused police of harassment, activist Hassib Laabidi said. … The demonstration was organized by the Union of Unemployed Graduates, and brought in protesters to the capital from various parts of the country – especially impoverished towns in central and southern Tunisia. AP

With Climate Change, Conflict and COVID, Stresses Grow for Malian Villagers

Mali’s farmers say food production is at risk as economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has sent the price of cotton – a key crop – plummeting, leaving them struggling to afford farm inputs, even with government help. The West African nation has recorded about 1,885 cases of COVID-19 and just over 100 deaths from the respiratory disease, according to a Reuters tally. Gueye said income from activities other than farming is increasingly important for communities in the Sahel, but outside opportunities are shrinking due to conflict and COVID-19. “It’s a very critical household management challenge that all the rural communities are facing now,” he said. Temporary migration during the dry season to find work and additional income in cities is a long-standing part of life for young men and women in the region, Toulmin said. Reuters

West African Ministers Propose Phased Re-Opening of Borders

West African government ministers have proposed re-opening borders between their countries in the first half of July and allowing in travellers from other countries with low or controlled levels of coronavirus spread by the end of July. Countries across the 15-country ECOWAS trade bloc have imposed varying levels of travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many shutting their borders entirely. The new proposal, contained in an ECOWAS summary of a virtual meeting last week of foreign ministers and trade ministers, called for coordinated efforts to re-open cross-border trade that has been crippled by coronavirus restrictions. Reuters

‘Worst Outbreak Ever’: Nearly a Million Pigs Culled in Nigeria Due to Swine Fever

Hundreds of thousands of pigs have been culled by Nigerian farmers in response to an explosion of African swine fever (ASF). The outbreak began around Lagos and parts of neighbouring Ogun state earlier this year, pig farmers say, but has now spread to many other parts of the country. … ASF is harmless to humans but in pigs and wild boar the fatality rate is nearly 100%, and there is no vaccine against it. Safety depends on controlling animal movement and ensuring hygiene in farms, slaughterhouses and abattoirs. In Nigeria, many farms are not up to the task. … A further problem comes from poor record keeping. According to [Dr Pam Luka, ASF researcher at the NVRI], local authorities rarely have any data for the outbreak. Figures kept by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which should be notified of ASF cases, are significantly lower than the numbers quoted by farmers. OIE told the Guardian that they had received a notification about the recent outbreak on Tuesday. The Guardian

Africa Set to Get Debt Relief from China

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to cancel interest-free debt owed by “relevant” African countries as part of Beijing’s move to help the continent during the Covid-19 pandemic. … Mr Xi spoke directly to African leaders via video link for the first time since the virus broke out. “Within the FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) framework, China will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020,” Xi told his audience, among them South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Senegal’s Macky Sall, as well as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The leaders have been vocal in seeking easier terms on debt amid the pandemic. … China is now the biggest creditor of Africa and is owed some $145 billion by the continent, including some $5 billion (about Sh530 billion) by Kenya. But just under 20 per cent of these loans are interest-free, indicating the cancellation may be insufficient. The East African

South Africa Makes Arrests in High-Profile Banking Fraud

South African police have apprehended the prime suspects in a high-profile banking fraud, the most significant arrests for corruption under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has struggled to prosecute alleged graft. The four suspects who are accused of looting more than R2bn ($116m) from VBS, a mutual bank that collapsed in 2018, were arrested on Wednesday by the Hawks, South Africa’s special anti-corruption police unit, police and prosecutors said. Another four suspects have been asked to present themselves to police before a court hearing on Thursday on counts of racketeering, fraud and other charges. The arrests, over the alleged use of VBS to loot municipalities under the control of the ruling African National Congress, are the most substantial step yet in efforts by Mr Ramaphosa’s administration to reverse widespread corruption and impunity under Jacob Zuma, his predecessor. FT

Ramaphosa – ‘We Are Still near the Beginning of This Epidemic’

Addressing the nation on Wednesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa first dealt with the further easing of the lockdown, and then with the ongoing violence perpetrated by men against women. … Ramaphosa’s speech came 100 days after the first local case of Covid-19 was identified. There are now more than 80 000 confirmed cases in South Africa, with 55% of those people recovering and 1 674 deaths. He lauded the lockdown, saying “the cost in human lives could have been far higher” without it. … He said people’s anxiety and concerns about the increase in infections and the risk of infection were justified, but the likelihood of becoming infected or infecting others could be reduced by the appropriate behaviour. … Such actions included wearing masks in public, which millions of South Africans are doing, and washing of hands with soap and sanitiser and maintaining physical distance. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones