Africa Media Review for June 3, 2020

Waves of ‘Bandit’ Massacres Rupture Rural Life in North-West Nigeria

Last week more than 70 died in violence fuelled by poverty, ethnic divisions and competition for land. In the morning, reassurance, in the evening, another mass killing. When the governor for Sokoto state in north-west Nigeria arrived in Sabon Birni, a district reeling from relentless killings by armed groups, he assured local officials that authorities were in control. Police reinforcements would arrive soon, he added. Just hours after the governor left the town, 20km from Nigeria’s northern border with Niger, more than 70 people were killed in five villages in the district. The brutal details of the massacre, which took place on 26 May, mirror countless similar attacks by suspected “bandits” across north-western Nigeria and increasingly, southern Niger. The Guardian

Mozambique Security Forces Kill 78 Insurgents Cabo Delgado – Govt

The Mozambique defence and security forces have killed 78 insurgents, including two of their top leaders, and injured 60 others in Cabo Delgado, in the northern part of the country, the government has announced. The two militant leaders were said to be foreign nationals. During the raid, government forces seized equipment and goods suspected to have been stolen from locals, including vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles. Mozambique’s Defence Minister Jaime Neto told journalists Sunday that following this offensive, they are hopeful that life in Macomia District will now return to peace and order. … On Saturday, President Filipe Nyusi visited Cabo Delgado Province where he met officials from the defence and security forces. The East African

A Year Later, Sudanese Raped in Crackdown Wait for Justice

Mayada was among dozens of women raped by Sudanese security forces over the course of a few hours on June 3, 2019. In a rampage that day, fighters from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other troops tore apart a sit-in camp in Khartoum where protesters had been demanding for weeks that the military give up power. At least 87 people were killed, with activists putting the number at more than 120. A military-backed prosecutor said no rapes or sexual assaults took place during the violence. But over the past year, activists have been documenting what they say was a campaign of rapes – ordered by the military’s leadership to crush the pro-democracy movement. “It was an orchestrated scenario …. All was by order and systematic,” said Sulima Ishaq Sharif, who at the time headed a trauma center at Khartoum’s Ahfad University. AP

At Least 5,000 People Displaced after Sudan-Ethiopia Border Violence

Residents of Barakat Nourein and El Fursan in Sudan’s El Gedaref are reportedly suffering from a humanitarian crisis following cross-border violence involving Ethiopian militiamen on Thursday during which a Sudanese army captain was killed. Shihabeldin Wad El Yam, a leading member of the Forces for Freedom and Change in El Gureisha locality told Radio Dabanga that residents in these areas have been living in fear because of the recent attacks. He confirmed that a significant number of people have been displaced after rumours that the Ethiopian militia is preparing for new attacks. Wad El Yam also explained that during daytime the residents of Barakat Nourein have been forced to hide in El Kutabi and other adjacent areas. “About 5,000 people have been displaced now,” he said. Radio Dabanga

Uganda: UPDF Kill Four South Sudan Soldiers in Yumbe District

Four soldiers with the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) were on Sunday shot dead by UPDF soldiers following a clash at Maru village in Yumbe District. According to Mr Yusuf Taban, the LC1 chairman of Maru, the armed South Sudanese soldiers had been harassing locals from May 20 to May 30 when the UPDF got involved. He said the South Sudanese soldiers looted people’s houses, took animals and forced people to give them money as well as threatening to attack them if they did not leave the area. He added: “Following a public outcry, the UPDF soldiers at Goboro detach Parish in Yumbe District launched an operation at Fitinambaya trading centre in Maru village on May 30 that ended with the killing of the four soldiers during an exchange of gunfire.” The Monitor

Algeria to Release Two Leaders of Hirak Protest Movement

Two main figures of Algeria’s Hirak protest movement will soon be freed at the president’s initiative, the leader of an opposition party said. Karim Tabbou, a veteran opposition figure and secretary-general of Algeria’s Socialist Forces Front (FFS), is serving a one-year term for an “attack on the integrity of national territory”. Samir Benlarbi has been held in preventive detention since March 7. … Abdennour Toumi, a Paris-based Algerian journalist, said Tabbou and his group are considered as “hardliners” which explains why the government has taken stronger measures in dealing with them. Commenting on the expected release, he said the move is a “pre-emptive” measure designed to deny the Hirak the ability to use activists as a “rallying call” should the resurgence of mass protests begin. … But the Algerian government continues to target opponents, journalists, independent media and internet users. Al Jazeera

Court Rules Some S. African Lockdown Restrictions Invalid

A South African high court declared some of the government’s coronavirus lockdown regulations unconstitutional on Tuesday but suspended the order for 14 days, leaving the rules in place for now. South Africa introduced in March one of the world’s most restrictive COVID-19 lockdowns – including a ban on alcohol and cigarette sales – but has gradually eased restrictions down to the third of five levels. The Liberty Fighters Network advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the regulations in May, arguing they were unlawful as they violated South Africa’s Bill of Rights. In response, the court declared rules governing levels three and four of the lockdown to be “unconstitutional and invalid.” “The regulations…in a substantial number of instances are not rationally connected to the objectives of slowing the rate of infection or limiting the spread thereof,” the written judgement read. Reuters

COVID-19 Update: Nigeria Reopens Places of Worship, Uganda Schools Stay Shut

Some governments across the African continent are cautiously coming out of Covid-19 lockdown, such as Nigeria, which on Tuesday reopened churches and mosques, with social distancing restrictions in place. Others like Uganda are postponing a return to normal daily life. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni announced that schools for final-year students would be postponed one more month as not enough test kits are available to test students every two weeks as proscribed. The president said that each village would be given two TV sets in order to help students continue through televised school lessons. “Two television sets per village equals to 140,000 TV sets in the country,” he said in a televised address. The delay comes as Uganda’s dusk-to-dawn curfew is set to continue for three more weeks, with movement still curtailed. RFI

COVID-19 Aggravates Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s northwest region, has been at the heart of a three-year conflict between Cameroon government troops and armed groups that are fighting to create a state they call Ambazonia. Frequent gun battles, lockdowns, road blocks and now the COVID-19 pandemic have made life difficult for the majority English-speaking population. The Anglophone crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have two things in common: lockdowns, hospitalizations and an ever-increasing number of deaths. … The region is experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. Health officials are warning that if people do not observe preventive measures – such as washing of hands, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance – the number of infections could rise further. Cameroon now has more than 6,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Nearly 200 have lost their lives. DW

Coronavirus Infects Famed Research Lab Working on At-Home Test

For months, researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, a prestigious biomedical research center in Senegal, have been working to produce a low-cost, rapid, at-home test for the coronavirus – the kind that countries across Africa and elsewhere have been most eager to have. Now the coronavirus has infected a cluster of staff members at the institute, one of whom has died, according to its director, Dr. Amadou Sall. He did not say how many workers had tested positive, but local media reports said it was five. Their contacts have been isolated and the work is continuing, according to Cheikh Tidiane Diagne, a researcher at the lab. The center’s work has been crucial in efforts to contain the spread of the virus in West Africa: In the early stages of the outbreak, it trained laboratory staff from more than a dozen countries in how to test for the virus. The New York Times

6 Elephants Killed by Poachers in Single Day in Ethiopia

At least six elephants were killed in a single day by poachers in Ethiopia last week, wildlife officials said, the largest such slaughter in memory in the East African nation. “The elephants were killed while they ventured out of the Mago National Park to drink water,” Ganabul Bulmi, the park’s chief warden, told The Associated Press. “The poachers then removed all the tusks from the elephants. It was a mass killing. We haven’t seen anything like this before.” … Officials suspect that most elephant tusks and finished products are slipped out of the country to China and Southeast Asian countries. In 2015, Ethiopian officials burned 6.1 tons of illegal elephant tusks, ivory trinkets, carvings and various forms of jewelry to discourage poaching and the ivory trade. AP

Zambia Feels the Way for Distressed Nations in Seeking Debt Talks

As Zambia embarks on an attempt to restructure billions of dollars in debt, investors are watching closely to assess whether distressed emerging market economies, weakened by the coronavirus crisis, will be able to negotiate deals with creditors.Before the pandemic, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer had consistently deflected long-running concerns over the rapid growth of its $11bn external debt and the large share, or about one-third, that is owed to China. But the appointment last week of the investment bank Lazard to advise President Edgar Lungu’s government on “liability management” has signalled that a restructuring is on the way.After Argentina defaulted last month in the middle of negotiations with its bondholders, Zambia’s ability to fix what Bwalya Ng’andu, the finance minister, has called the country’s “over-ambition in terms of borrowing” is seen as the next big test of a sovereign borrower’s response to the pandemic. FT

Virus Has Been ‘Very Devastating’ for Many African Airlines

A “new baby” was born with the revival of Uganda Airlines, the country’s president announced last year. But now its four new jets sit idle, business suspended indefinitely because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Questions are swirling in Africa and elsewhere over the financial wisdom of sustaining prestige carriers that often have a tiny share of an aviation market that sees no recovery in sight. African airlines had been piling on debt long before the pandemic but government bailouts allowed them to limp on for years. Now, as sub-Saharan Africa faces its first recession in a quarter-century, some airlines will find it harder to survive. That’s despite growing global interest in the continent of 1.3 billion people. In some cases, local airlines are so important for pan-African business on a vast continent with historically poor infrastructure that their collapse would cripple speedy travel. AP

Fears for Livelihoods over Fishing Harbor Demolition in Ghana

Demolition of Accra’s iconic James Town fishing community began late last month, to construct a China-funded multi-million-dollar fishing harbor. Local authorities pulled down over 300 temporary and permanent structures, including businesses, a school, and places of worship in the largely poor, densely populated area. While many are excited about the prospect of development, the demolition has also raised fears for already precarious livelihoods. Rubble is all that’s left of a brightly colored playground in Accra’s James Town fishing community that children once enjoyed before it was demolished in May. VOA

The Somali Atheist Activists Who Get Death Threats

Somali atheists in the diaspora are running a Facebook group to challenge their community’s Islamic beliefs, but they often receive death threats, writes journalist Layla Mahmood. “I am going to kill you. I am going to find you. I am going to cut your head off,” was one of the threats that Ayaanle, a Canada-based Somali atheist, received. “[But] that’s kind of normal,” the founder of the True Somali Freedom Page (TSFP) says sardonically as he talks about the death threats that clog his inbox. The popular Facebook group, which has more than 80,000 members, is predominantly led by atheists, or “ex-Muslims,” as they refer to themselves. It was initially inspired to create a safe space for religious discussion and now promotes all forms of freedom for Somalis who feel marginalised by mainstream Somali culture. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones