Africa Media Review for June 19, 2020

Kenya Wins UN Security Council Seat by 2 Votes
Kenya narrowly won an election for a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat Thursday, in a vote impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  India, Ireland, Mexico and Norway all won their bids in first-round voting on Wednesday, but neither Kenya nor Djibouti attained the two-thirds majority needed in the U.N. General Assembly to take a seat designated for Africa on the powerful 15-nation council. In a second round on Thursday, Kenya achieved the slimmest of victories, obtaining 129 votes, one more than needed to win the seat.  Djibouti fell well short with 62. Djibouti’s foreign minister congratulated Kenya after the vote. … The elections were held in a sparsely populated General Assembly Hall, where all coronavirus protocols were observed, including face coverings, social distancing and staggered voting. VOA

African Countries Drop COVID-19 Curbs in Effort to Limit Economic Harm

Strict lockdowns have inflicted significant suffering on hundreds of millions of people who live without regular employment in overcrowded housing, and undermined public finances in already poor nations. … The picture is mixed across the continent. Countries such as Namibia and Gambia, are reporting very few new cases, but numbers are climbing rapidly in others, including Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana. “We are seeing an increase in the number of cases [but] there is quite a lot of diversity in the situation of countries,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said on Thursday. … Many governments lifted the strictest restrictions several weeks ago, but most recognise that weak health systems are unlikely to be able to cope with a big wave of infections. Many are seeking local solutions to contain specific outbreaks. The Guardian

COVID-19: AU Hails ‘African Jewel’ as Continental Medical Supplies Platform Launched

African leaders have lauded the launch of the continent’s first medical supplies platform as the “jewel in the crown of Pan-African cooperation.” The initiative, described as groundbreaking innovation, will serve as a one-stop shop for the continent’s 55 member states to access medical supplies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. On Thursday, African Union (AU) chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa, AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki and the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Dr John Nkengasong held a media briefing, giving an update on the platform. The platform was developed in partnership with Afreximbank. “Out of the ashes of Covid-19 the continent is going to be able to trade together in a much more forthright manner and even more transparently as well,” Ramaphosa said. AFP

Burundi’s New President Evariste Ndayishimiye Warns Opposition Parties

Burundi’s new president has warned opposition parties that they “would no longer get space” in the country, questioning “why should one oppose the government.” Evariste Ndayishimiye made the statement during his hour-long inauguration speech on Thursday. He also promised freedom of expression and protection of human rights. The fast-tracked inauguration ceremony came after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died suddenly last week. Mr Ndayishimiye had been due to take power in August after being declared the winner of May’s presidential election, in which he was the candidate of the ruling party. The opposition said the poll was rigged. No foreign heads of state were present when he took the oath of office in the administrative capital, Gitega, where he pledged to defend the nation’s interests and unify its citizens. BBC

Four Mozambique Policemen Jailed for Poll Observer’s Murder

A Mozambican court has handed jail terms of 24 years to three elite police officers and 23 years to another for the murder of a poll observer ahead of national elections in October last year. Prosecutors last month had requested an “exemplary” and “severe” punishment for the four, accused of shooting Anastacio Matavele, 58, behind the wheel of his car in the southern city of Xai-Xai. The men were also ordered to pay a total of $21,000 in compensation to Matavele’s family. Two of their colleagues received lesser sentences of two and three years, each. The killers were caught red-handed after colliding into another car as they fled the scene, allowing police to link the murder to Mozambique’s elite rapid intervention unit. … Adriano Nuvunga, the head of local pro-democracy charity Center for Democracy and Development, described the sentences as “half victory.” “The masterminds are drinking cold beer at home. The big crooks and the state are off the hook,” he tweeted. Al Jazeera

Sudan Wants PMS to Solve Nile Dam Deadlock

Sudan proposed on Wednesday upgrading negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia on a Nile mega-dam to prime ministerial level in a bid to break the deadlock. “The disputes between the three delegations are of a legal nature especially in terms of a… mechanism for water sharing. Sudan has proposed to refer these issues to the prime ministers of the three countries,” Yasser Abbas, Sudanese irrigation and water resources minister, told reporters after the latest round of virtual talks. No timeline has been set for the prime ministers to meet as Addis Ababa continues to stick to the July deadline of filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to the consternation of its partners. … The recent rounds made progress on the technical front but the minister stressed that “legal differences need a political decision by the heads of government of the three countries.” AFP

Nigeria’s President Rebukes Security Chiefs over Worsening Violence

Nigeria’s president criticised his heads of security on Thursday for their handling of attacks across the north of the country and said more needs to be done to resolve the problem, the national security adviser said. The comments attributed to Muhammadu Buhari are some of his sharpest criticisms of his security chiefs as the conflict in the north has steadily worsened through most of his five years as president. Security forces in Nigeria, which plays a key role in maintaining stability in West Africa, have in recent months contended with deadly attacks by gunmen in the northwest and a spike in Islamist militants’ strikes in the northeast. “Mr. President has expressed great concern over the declining security situation in the country,” the national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, told reporters after Buhari’s meeting with the security chiefs. Reuters

Nigeria Attacks Spark Fears of Bloodier Jihadist Strategy

The attacks were swift and brutal: fleeing villagers were gunned down or crushed under the wheels of trucks. When the Islamist fighters left, dozens of mangled bodies lay scattered around. People in northeast Nigeria are no strangers to horror after a decade-long jihadist insurgency that has seen thousands massacred and schoolgirls kidnapped. But a flurry of bloody assaults last week has ramped up fears that a powerful jihadist faction may be opening a grim new chapter by extending its murderous attention from military to civilian targets. Fighters of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) splintered from the main Boko Haram group in 2016. The rupture was in part over claims veteran leader Abubakar Shekau’s campaign of suicide bombings against local Muslim residents was too cruel. AFP

Ghana: The Journalist Who Was Shot in Cold Blood

With the exception of the public execution of corrupt state administrators by the military government of Jerry Rawlings in 1979, no other killing in Ghana has had as deafening a ricochet as that of journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela. Grabbing media headlines and dominating public discourse in cities and far-flung villages alike, everyone is talking about the man who lived and worked in the shadows, but whose death transformed him into a public hero. On the night of January 16, 2019, two men on a motor bike trailed a blue BMW, zipping through the streets and roads of Madina, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital, Accra. As the motorbike levelled with the car, a gun was fired at the driver, for-cing him to swerve and crash the car into a roadside store. One of the men then calmly walked up to the BMW and fired two more shots at the man behind the wheel. Then, turning to face the motley crowd watching from a distance, he smiled and raised a finger to his lips. Mail & Guardian

Tanzania: Africa’s ‘Bulldozer’ Runs into COVID-19, Claims God on His Side

Last week, [Tanzania’s President John Magufuli]  became the first African leader to declare victory over the virus, even though health data haven’t been released for more than a month. … Tanzania’s approach to the pandemic “has caused panic and tension within the East African community,” Haningtone Amol, chief executive officer of the East African Law Society, said from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “The truth is, cemeteries are busy across Tanzania.” Neighbors are worried. Kenya has shut the border to all but cargo, Zambia temporarily did the same and Rwanda is insisting on tests before entry. Uganda is “concerned” about the rise in cases in Tanzania, Spellanza Muhenda Baguma, vice chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on health, said in a June 4 interview. Magufuli skipped two recent summits where he would have met with regional heads of state.

How ‘Ebola Business’ Threatens Aid Operations in Congo

Questionable practices in the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including payments to security forces, renting vehicles at inflated prices, and job kickback schemes, may have jeopardised humanitarian operations and put lives at risk. A months-long investigation by The New Humanitarian into the so-called “Ebola business” found such practices, which are also reported in a recent draft operational review commissioned by a group of UN agencies and NGOs looking at corruption and fraud across the wider aid sector in the country. The New Humanitarian

How South Sudan Military Brass Wrung State Golden Goose’s Neck

Sentry, an American anti-money laundering organisation, is calling out 11 top South Sudan military personnel for what it terms massive looting of the resources of Africa’s youngest nation. Four former army chiefs of staff – Gabriel Jok Riak, James Hoth Mai, Paul Malong Awan, and Oyay Deng Ajak – feature prominently in the report titled “Making A Killing: South Sudanese Military Leaders’ Wealth Explained.” … The import of the report is that military leaders who have blood and friendship links with President Kiir and those who have committed atrocities to deter the forces of former rebel leader Dr Riek Machar, have been awarded lucrative contracts and blank cheques to loot the country’s resources, in the face of weak oversight mechanisms in the military. The East African

South Sudan: 5 Soldiers Die at Aswa Cantonment Site Due to Lack of Food, Medicines

At least five soldiers have died due to lack of food and medicines at Aswa cantonment site in Eastern Equatoria State since May, a military officer said. Gen. George Onek Lam, the head of the cantonment site, told Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday that the situation has forced some soldiers to request for leave in order to solve their family problems. “We have five soldiers that passed on, others have taken leave because of their conditions at the cantonment site and they decided to go home. In their various locations, we could hear some deaths, but they have not yet given me the report,” he explained. The military officer said forces at the cantonment site have not received protective equipment since the outbreak of coronavirus. According to Gen. Onek, some of the forces at the site lack tents. Radio Tamazuj

NATO to Probe France-Turkey Med Naval Incident

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the military alliance would investigate an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, as France accused Turkey of repeated violations of the U.N. arms embargo on conflict-torn Libya and branded Ankara an obstacle to securing a cease-fire there. According to a French defense official, the frigate Courbet was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking. The ship was being escorted by three Turkish warships. The Courbet backed off after being targeted. … [EU foreign policy chief Josep] Borrell has highlighted some of the challenges the EU naval operation faces. He said its personnel tried to make contact last week with a “suspicious” Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship that was being escorted by two Turkish warships. AP

US Says Jets Deployed by Russia in Libya in Active Use

The United States has renewed its accusations that the Russian government is deploying fighter jets in Libya in support of eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. In a statement on Thursday, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) alleged Russia was using jets it had recently sent to the North African country to support private military contractors working with Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army. AFRICOM said it had photographic evidence of a Russian aircraft taking off from Jufra in central Libya, and that a MiG-29 was photographed operating in the vicinity of the coastal city of Sirte. “There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state PMC [private military companies] mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict,” said Bradford Gering, AFRICOM’s director of operations. Al Jazeera

South African Choir Adapts to COVID-19 by Making New Music

The dusty streets of rural South Africa are a far cry from the bright lights of “America’s Got Talent,” but that’s where the members of the Ndlovu Youth Choir find themselves coping with the coronavirus pandemic. With an electrifying mix of vocals and dance moves, the group made the finals of the U.S. television show last year. … Ndlovu is the Zulu word for elephant, and like the pachyderm the choir members are showing determination to move forward. The group was formed in 2008 to help orphans and children of HIV patients, said Hugo Tempelman, a Dutch doctor who 30 years ago started a medical clinic that has become a wide-ranging community development project, the Ndlovu Care Group. The project had more than 600 child-headed households in the orphan and vulnerable children program, he said. AP



Photo: Adam Jones