Africa Media Review for June 22, 2020

Libya Unity Govt Says Egypt Threat ‘Declaration of War’
Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord on Sunday denounced Egypt’s warning of military intervention in Libya, labelling it a “declaration of war.” “This is a hostile act, direct interference and amounts to a declaration of war,” the GNA said in a statement. The war of words came on the eve of a virtual meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Libya, in which the GNA declined to participate. That meeting, which had originally been scheduled for Monday, has been pushed back to Tuesday. On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that if pro-GNA forces advanced on the strategic city of Sirte — some 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli — it could provoke a “direct” intervention by Cairo. AFP

Gunmen Kill More than Dozen Civilians in Eastern DR Congo Attacks
At least 19 civilians have been killed in the restive eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo at the weekend in attacks blamed on a notorious armed group, local officials said. Nine people were kidnapped on Friday by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and their bodies were found in the province of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda, regional administrator Donat Kibwana said on Sunday, adding that their burials were under way. In the neighbouring Ituri region, ADF fighters attacked the village of Bukaka late on Saturday and killed 10 civilians, local official Bananilao Tchabi told AFP news agency. … In another incident on Saturday in Fizi, in South Kivu province, gunmen from a “coalition of armed groups” attacked an army unit, killing two soldiers, a local army spokesman said. Al Jazeera

Blasts Kill 7 People in Southern and Central Somalia
At least seven people have died in two separate bomb attacks in southern and central Somalia in the last 24 hours, police and military officers said on Sunday. In the first incident, two bombs planted in front of the house of a military official in Wanlaweyn town, 90 km northwest of the capital Mogadishu, exploded late on Saturday, killing four people, including soldiers and civilians. … “First we heard a blast at the house. The military officer was absent by then. Guards and residents came to find out what caused the blast and then a second blast went off,” Mohamed Nur, a police officer, told Reuters from Wanlaweyn on Sunday. In the second incident, three militants in a car carried out a suicide bomb attack at a military checkpoint in Bacadweyn town in central Somalia’s Galmudug state on Sunday. Reuters

Jihadists Kill Six Herders in NE Nigeria: Sources
Jihadists linked to the Islamic State have killed six people in raids on herding villages in northeast Nigeria, militia and residents said Sunday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked Bunuri and Gaderi villages as well as a nearby herding settlement in Gubio district late Saturday, stealing livestock and killing residents, they said. “The insurgents killed six people in the attacks and stole more than 3,000 cattle,” militia leader Ibrahim Liman told AFP. The assailants riding in pickup trucks fitted with machine guns stormed into Bunuri around 1630 GMT, killing three people and taking hundreds of herds, according to Umara Kyari from nearby Tungushe village. AFP

West African Bloc Urges Mali to Re-Run Disputed Elections amid Mass Protests
West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Saturday called on Mali to re-run some of its contested local elections and convene a government of national unity after anti-government protests swept the capital Bamako. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Friday for the second time in a month to demand President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita step down. Keita, who was re-elected in 2018 for a second five-year term, has struggled with an ongoing security crisis, a strike by teachers and the coronavirus outbreak. Political tensions increased after disputed local elections in March in which turnout was low due in part to fears of attacks by jihadist groups who roam the desert north. Reuters

Sudan Warns against Escalation in Nile Dam Dispute
Sudan has warned against escalation and urged further negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of a controversial dam on the Blue Nile river by Addis Ababa. Tensions are running high between the three countries after recent talks failed to produce a deal on the filling and operation of the $4.6bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. … Ethiopia has declared plans to start filling the dam next month, regardless of whether a deal has been reached. The dam is more than 70 percent complete and promises to generate much-needed electricity for the country. Egypt, which views the massive hydroelectric barrage as an existential threat, on Friday urged the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the dispute, citing Ethiopia’s “non-positive stances.” On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in a televised address that his country had remained committed to a political solution. Al Jazeera

Damming the Nile
Nestled deep in the Blue Nile Valley, not far from the border with Sudan, the dam is an extraordinary construction: 155 metres high and 1 780 metres long, with a reservoir that can hold 72-billion litres of water and 16 turbines that will be able generate 6 000 megawatts of power – more than double Ethiopia’s current capacity. It is the eighth largest dam in the world. … But before any of the promises of the dam can be realised – before Ethiopia’s already booming industrial sector gets a massive boost from cheap, reliable electricity; before the country starts exporting its new power, both literal and metaphorical, to its neighbours; and before access to electricity can be extended to the 56% of Ethiopians who currently go without – the dam must be filled. Do you know how long it takes to fill a dam with 72-billion litres of water? The futures of several nations may hinge on the answer to this question. Mail & Guardian

Virus Outbreak Could Spin ‘Out of Control’ in South Sudan
It began with a dry cough, weakness and back pain. For Reagan Taban Augustino, part of South Sudan’s small corps of health workers trained in treating COVID-19 patients, there was little doubt what he had. Days later, hardly able to breathe, the 33-year-old doctor discovered just how poorly equipped his country is for the coronavirus pandemic: None of the public facilities he tried in the capital, Juba, had oxygen supplies available until he reached South Sudan’s only permanent infectious disease unit, which has fewer than 100 beds for a country of 12 million people. … The pandemic is now accelerating in Africa, the World Health Organization says. While the continent had more time than Europe and the United States to prepare before its first case was confirmed on Feb. 14, experts feared many of its health systems would eventually become overwhelmed. AP

Algeria Cracks Down on Activists in Bid to Break Protest Movement
Algeria has intensified a crackdown on an anti-government protest movement, targeting social media users in a bid to stop demonstrations resuming once coronavirus restrictions end. Weekly protests rocked the North African country for more than a year and only stopped in March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The “Hirak” protest movement caused the downfall of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019 after 20 years in power. It has continued demanding an overhaul of Algeria’s governance system, in place since independence from France in 1962. Authorities have made about 200 arrests linked to the protests since the country’s coronavirus restrictions came into effect three months ago, according to Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights. “The authorities have taken advantage of the lull to arrest the maximum number of activists,” he said. AFP

DR Congo Court Hands Top Presidential Aide 20-Year Sentence in Graft Case
A top DR Congo court on Saturday sentenced Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff to President Felix Tshisekedi and a key powerbroker, to 20 years hard labour for corruption in an unprecedented case testing the government’s anti-graft campaign. Kamerhe, 61, was found guilty of “diverting public funds worth 48.8 million dollars” along with his co-accused, Lebanese businessman Jammal Samih, 79, the Kinshasa court said. “We will appeal,” one of Kamerhe’s lawyers, Jean-Marie Kabengela, said. The ruling was handed down in the fast-moving trial after the Constitutional Court on Friday asked the lower court to hand over the judicial dossier under an “exception of unconstitutionality.” The lower court had said it was unable to transmit the file. AFP

Ivory Coast Ex-President Bedie Says He Will Run in 2020 Election
Ivory Coast’s octogenarian former President Henri Konan Bedie will run for office again in presidential elections in October, he said in a statement on Saturday. Bedie’s candidacy is the latest twist in a turbulent build-up to a vote that is wide open after current President Alassane Ouattara said he would not run again after 10 years in power. “I am both surprised and happy with the content of your messages asking me to be a candidate in the election,” Bedie told members of his PDCI-RDA coalition. “I feel honoured.” Bedie, 86, was president from 1993-1999. The coalition between his PDCI party and that of Ouattara’s RDR, forged in 2005, was meant to dominate for generations and help heal the political rifts that led to civil war three years earlier. Reuters

ICC Judges to Hear Appeal against Acquittal of Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will try on Monday to overturn last year’s shock acquittal of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on charges of crimes against humanity. Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé were in January 2019 cleared of allegations of masterminding post-electoral violence in the restive west African nation in 2010-11, in which around 3,000 people died. The one-time Ivorian strongman, the first former head of state to be tried by the ICC, had spent eight years behind bars in The Hague before his surprise acquittal by the court. Appeals judges will this week listen to arguments by the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who says the court erred in letting Gbagbo and Blé Goudé go. France24 with AFP

UN Urges End to Sexual Violence in Conflict Areas
Forcibly displaced by drought and extremist violence in southwestern Somalia, Fadumo Mohamed Abdi thought she had found safety in the Puntland region’s northeastern city of Bosaso. But one day in May 2019, while she and three other women were gathering firewood on the outskirts of their camp, they were accosted by four armed men, she said. “The other three women managed to escape, but unfortunately I could not. They raped me repeatedly and left me unconscious,” Abdi told VOA’s Somali service in a phone conversation Friday. … The toll of sexual violence extends well beyond a single person or family, the United Nations said in marking Friday’s annual observance of International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. “It reverberates throughout communities and societies, perpetuating cycles of violence and threatening international peace and security,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. VOA

Sudan to Teach Police, Army, Medics Awareness of Gender-Based Violence
In an interview on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on Friday, Sudan’s Minister of Labour and Social Development, Lina El Sheikh, said that material on the new law is to be included in teaching materials in the curricula of the military college, the police, the medical and health colleges, and legal studies. There will also be training courses for the various regular forces, in coordination with state agencies and civil society organisations, to protect the public from this type of violence in conflict zones. El Sheikh said that a clearance of procedures document has been competed to address gender-based violence in Sudan, noting that her ministry launched a hotline service to receive reports of domestic violence in coordination with the Family and Child Protection Unit of the police and the specialised prosecution. Radio Dabanga

Coronavirus Lockdowns Increase Poaching in Asia, Africa
In many parts of the developing world, coronavirus lockdowns have sparked concern about increased illegal hunting that’s fueled by food shortages and a decline in law enforcement in some wildlife protection areas. At the same time, border closures and travel restrictions slowed illegal trade in certain high-value species. … Others say an international treaty, known as CITES, which regulates the trade in endangered plants and animals, should be expanded to incorporate public health concerns. They point out that some commonly traded species, such as horseshoe bats, often carry viruses but are currently not subject to trade restrictions under CITES. “That is a big gap in the framework,” said John Scanlon, former Secretary-General of CITES now with African Parks. “We may find that there may be certain animals that should be listed and not be traded or traded under strict conditions and certain markets that ought to be closed.” AP

Veteran AP Video, Photo-Journalist in Congo Dies of COVID-19
John Bompengo, who covered Congo’s political turmoil as a freelance photographer and video journalist for The Associated Press over the course of 16 years has died, relatives said Sunday. He was 52. The cause of death was complications due to the coronavirus. Bompengo had been hospitalized for about a week but his condition rapidly deteriorated Friday and he died the following day. Bompengo had contributed to AP since 2004, including coverage of the Ebola outbreak in northern Congo, in 2018. He also worked for the U.N.-backed news service, Radio Okapi. AP

In Pictures: Solar Eclipse Marks the Summer Solstice
Skywatchers along a narrow band from West Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and southern China witnessed a dramatic “ring of fire” solar eclipse on Sunday. Annular eclipses occur when the Moon, passing between Earth and the Sun, is not quite close enough to our planet to completely obscure sunlight, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible. They happen every year or two, and can only be seen from a narrow pathway across the planet. Remarkably, the eclipse arrived on the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year – the summer solstice – when Earth’s North Pole is tilted most directly towards the Sun. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones