Africa Media Review for June 24, 2020

Malawi Starts Counting Votes in Rerun of Presidential Poll
Polls closed across Malawi Tuesday evening after millions voted for the country’s president in a rerun of the 2019 election that was nullified by the courts because of vote tampering. Counting of ballots has begun at the 5,000 polling stations and the results will be announced from the National Tally Center in Blantyre. The Malawi Election Commission has eight days to announce the officials results. … The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a local organization, led demonstrations across the country to call for fairness in the electoral process. The group’s national coordinator Luke Tembo told AP that the voting Tuesday is what the group had been campaigning for. “This has now given people a second chance to exercise their rights. Now we have been calling on people to come out in their large numbers to vote to determine the future of this country,” said Tembo. “We believe this time around we are going to get things right and get a free, fair and credible election.” AP

Tanzanian Opposition Leader Arrested as Election Approaches
Police in Tanzania have arrested the leader of a prominent opposition party while he was meeting with supporters, a party official said Tuesday as pressure rises ahead of the national election in October. Zitto Kabwe was in police custody without clear charges against him, said the secretary general of the Alliance for Transparency and Change party, Addo Shaibu. Also arrested at the meeting in Kilwa district was lawmaker Suleiman Bungara, Shaibu said. Rights groups accuse President John Magufuli of shrinking the democratic space in the East African country since taking power in 2015. Newspapers have been shut down – another large one was closed Tuesday – and non-governmental organizations’ work has been severely restricted. AP

Burundi Picks Regime Hardliner as Prime Minister
Burundi’s national assembly on Tuesday approved the nomination of Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, a hardliner under US sanctions for his alleged role in political repression, as prime minister. Bunyoni, who will fill the new position of head of government created in the 2018 constitution, was backed by an overwhelming majority in a session boycotted by the opposition. Bunyoni is currently minister of public security and former head of the national police. He has been under sanctions by the United States since 2015 for his role in violence against civilians and political repression that marked late president Pierre Nkurunziza’s disputed third-term bid that year. AFP

Libya’s internationally recognised government says plans were discussed with the head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to jointly “fight terrorism” in the war-torn country during a meeting with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Libyan-American discussions were held as foreign ministers from the Arab League on Tuesday were to hold an emergency meeting to try and find a diplomatic solution in Libya amid increasing foreign intervention and heightened fighting. “Under the framework of consultations on the evolution of the situation in Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj on Monday met with [American] General Stephen Townsend and the US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland,” the Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement. … They held talks on “joint coordination between the GNA and AFRICOM for the fight against terrorism in the framework of the strategic cooperation between Tripoli and Washington,” the GNA said. Al Jazeera

The dusty Mediterranean town where former Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi was born and died seems an unlikely place for a military standoff between Russia, Turkey and Egypt. But Sirte is also the gateway to the largest oil reserves in Africa. The front lines were calm Tuesday around the city, located on the Mediterranean coast midway between Tripoli and Benghazi. Rebel commander Khalifa Haftar controls it now, but forces loyal to internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj are preparing to take it back, building on momentum after rebuffing a 14-month siege of the capital. … Whoever holds Sirte “controls half of Libya,” said Brigadier Abdul-Hadi Dara, a military spokesman for the GNA who said forces are awaiting Sarraj’s command to launch a full assault. Bloomberg

Arab Leagues Calls on Ethiopia to ‘Refrain’ from Filling Dam Reservoir
The Arab League on Tuesday called on Ethiopia to “refrain” from starting to fill the reservoir of the large dam it is building on the Nile, before an agreement is reached with Egypt and Sudan. The resolution, prepared by Egypt and approved by the Arab League foreign ministers, except those of Djibouti and Somalia, was adopted during a video conference. It calls on Ethiopia not to “fill the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam without having concluded an agreement with downstream countries.” Ethiopia has indicated that it will start filling the reservoir of the dam in July, even without an agreement with Cairo and Khartoum. AFP

Burkina Faso’s security forces said on Tuesday they had destroyed two jihadist bases in the north and east of the country and arrested two suspects near the border with the Ivory Coast. A gendarmerie unit on Saturday “dismantled a terrorist base” near the eastern town of Tanwalbougou, the armed forces chief of staff said in a weekly bulletin. In a separate operation in the north of the country, Burkinabe troops in the five-nation G5 Sahel force, supported by a company of soldiers from Niger, destroyed a terrorist base on Saturday in a drilling zone 40 kilometers from Oursi, it said. Eight motorbikes, phones, and other equipment were seized. Meanwhile, two “suspects” were picked up in a joint operation with Ivorian forces to secure the two countries’ 550-kilometer (340-mile) border, it said. The operation “considerably disrupted armed groups in the area,” the statement said. The Defense Post

Coronavirus Testing May Not Reach Women in Conflict Zones: IRC
Big gaps between the number of male and female coronavirus cases in parts of Africa and the Middle East suggest that women may be struggling to access testing or care, an aid agency said on Wednesday. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, more than 70 percent of reported cases were male, compared with a global average of 51 percent, and the same was true in the Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia, said the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “What we are seeing is a situation in which women are potentially being left out of testing and their health deprioritised,” Stacey Mearns, senior technical adviser of emergency health at the IRC, said in a press release. Al Jazeera

Cameroon’s Aid Workers Welcome High Profile Calls for COVID-19 Cease-Fire
Cameroonian aid and health workers have welcomed calls by Nobel Peace laureates and former heads of state for a COVID-19 cease-fire in the country’s troubled western regions. Fighting between Cameroon’s military and rebels has forced over a thousand health and aid workers to flee, putting tens of thousands of patients at risk in the middle of the pandemic…. Tanyi Christian Eselekwe is with the Cameroon branch of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, a U.S. group providing aid to the troubled region. He says the foundation’s services were disrupted in May when armed groups abducted his staff and stole vehicles transporting humanitarian supplies. … “Our plea is that there is the need for a cease-fire to allow those who are affected by the crisis to receive the needed assistance,” he said. VOA

Devastating South Sudan Coronavirus Deaths, ‘a Tragedy That Can Be Prevented,’ Security Council Hears
South Sudan is facing the twin threat of COVID-19 and an uptick in violence that risks unravelling a fragile ceasefire and derailing the peace process, the top UN official in the country says. Briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, David Shearer said that so far, nearly 2,000 cases of novel coronavirus – and 35 deaths – have been recorded in South Sudan. But limited testing and social stigmatization is likely obscuring the true magnitude of the pandemic, said Mr. Shearer, who heads the UN Mission in the world’s youngest nation (UNMISS). The Mission’s greatest fear is that the additional pressure of responding to COVID-19 on South Sudan’s weak healthcare system will disrupt vaccinations, maternal health services and treatment for curable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. UN News

South Sudan: ‘Peace Implementation Not Moving Fast Enough’: Shearer
Some progress has been made towards restoring peace in South Sudan as outlined in the peace deal, yet the implementation process is not happening fast enough, a senior UN official said. … “I would like to see the peace agreement move faster, I would like to see greater accountability on where resources of South Sudan are being spent at the moment because I don’t believe it is benefiting the people as it should,” said Shearer. …  Shearer lauded President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar for agreeing on the allocation of states, saying appointment of state governors will help feuding communities to reconcile. … Meanwhile Shearer said the UN peacekeepers would continue to provide security and protection to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside the Protection of Civilians (POC) sites, amid reports of insecurity often caused by fighting among different groups inside the camps in the country. Radio Tamazuj

Uganda Reopens Border to Thousands of People Fleeing Violence in DRC
Uganda has temporarily opened its border to thousands of people fleeing deadly ethnic clashes in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Ugandan government closed its reception centres at border crossings in March in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But last week President Yoweri Museveni instructed the minister of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees to provide asylum to an estimated 10,000 men, women and children who have been stuck in no-man’s land between the two countries since late May, after fleeing violence. Dozens of people are reported to have been killed and thousands displaced by recent clashes in Ituri province in eastern DRC. The Guardian

Berlin Conference Will Show Strong International Support for Sudan’s Transition: EU Diplomats
The Berlin-hosted donor conference aims to show strong international support for Sudan’s democratic transition process and Hamdok’s government, said European officials in Khartoum on Tuesday. The meeting which gathers over 40 countries is co-hosted by the EU, Germany, the UN and Sudan. It will be virtually held from Berlin on 25 June. … The International Crisis Group (ICG) in a briefing released on Monday said that Sudan’s donor conference affords the country’s partners a significant opportunity to support Hamdok as he keeps the economy afloat and co-pilots the country toward the 2022 elections envisaged by the 2019 agreement. Sudan Tribune

S. Africa to Begin Africa’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Trial
As South Africa prepares to launch the continent’s first coronavirus vaccine trial, the Rainbow Nation has opened a new field hospital for people with COVID-19 in a de-commissioned Volkswagen plant. According to the country’s health authorities, 3,300 beds have been installed in the new field hospital, bringing the total number of beds across the country to 27,000 for COVID-19 patients at more than 400 quarantine sites. … Coronavirus cases in South Africa rose to more than 100,000 Monday, while the number of deaths neared 2,000. About 3,500 doctors and nurses have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic, and at least 34 have died of respiratory illness. But the southern African nation is in the process of vaccinating 2,000 people with the vaccine, developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute, which is already being evaluated in Britain, where 4,000 participants have enrolled in the trial. AFP

The All-Women Law Firm Helping Prisoners Get Justice in Nigeria
On a breezy February morning at the height of the dry season, Oluyemi Orija cranked down her car window and turned up the speakers, leaving trails of Jailer by Nigerian singer Aṣa in the warm air. It was a fitting but ironic choice of song as she drove south towards Lagos State Ikoyi Prison with three members of Headfort Foundation – an all-women law firm – in the backseat. The prison was 15 minutes away and a world apart from Awolowo Road, an affluent stretch the 31-year-old criminal lawyer was cruising through. Luxury shop fronts displayed designer dresses while curb-side juice bars pumped out jazz. “We are going into hell,” Orija said. Seated beside her, I had volunteered with her team for the day to collect prisoner testimonies. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones