Africa Media Review for June 26, 2020

Record 29 Million Africans Are Forcibly Displaced [Infographic]
An additional 4 million Africans were forced from their homes due to conflict and repressive governance in the past year, continuing an upward trend since 2011. … There are 29 million people in Africa who have been forcibly displaced from their homes (internally displaced, refugees, and asylum seekers). Renewed conflict and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Ethiopia, and the Sahel have led to the increase. … Reversing the trends of Africa’s population displacement crisis will require addressing its primary drivers-conflict and repressive governance-and not just the symptoms. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Opposition Poised to Win Malawi’s Fresh Presidential Vote
The opposition looks poised to win a historic presidential election in Malawi, where a court overturned the original vote last year citing widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on ballots. This is just the second time in Africa that a court has overturned a presidential election, following a ruling on Kenya’s vote in 2017. Malawi’s state broadcaster on Thursday night said opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera was leading with 59% with all votes counted, while President Peter Mutharika had 38%. But Malawi Electoral Commission chair Chifundo Kachale told reporters they were expected to announce the winner in the next 36 to 48 hours. AP

Donors Pledge $1.8 Billion for Sudan’s Democratic Transition
Western and Arab countries pledged a total $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan on Thursday to help the struggling African nation a year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir. The pledges from 40 countries, including an additional $400 million in grants from the World Bank, came during a video conference co-hosted by Germany, marking the formal launch of the international community’s financial support for Sudan’s democratic transition after three decades of punitive sanctions and isolation under al-Bashir. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said that the conference was just the start of helping Sudan and that donors would reconvene early next year. Sudan’s interim government has been grappling with an economic crisis since it took office last year while also navigating a treacherous transition to civilian rule. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the economic despair, throwing millions of laborers out of work. AP

Congo’s Deadliest Ebola Outbreak Is Declared Over
The second-worst Ebola outbreak in history is over, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, after nearly two years and 2,280 deaths. Efforts to fight the outbreak in eastern Congo were hampered by mistrust from community members, feuds between government officials, attacks on health care facilities and the emergence of new hot spots. The announcement came even as the country contended with the world’s largest measles epidemic as well as the coronavirus pandemic. The response drew on 16,000 front-line workers, technological innovation and a new vaccine. …This was Congo’s 10th known outbreak of Ebola. The country is continuing to fight a separate, smaller eruption of the disease that began in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The New York Times

Ebola Stirs Concern in Northwestern Congo, Even as Eastern Outbreak Declared Over
… Attention now switches to the northwestern outbreak in largely peaceful Équateur province, where 24 cases have been reported and 13 people have died since it was announced on 1 June. … Several cases have been reported in Mbandaka, the main city in the province and a trading hub of roughly 1.2 million people that has river connections to the densely populated capital, Kinshasa, and neighbouring countries. Unlike in Beni, there is no armed conflict in Équateur, and the 2018 outbreak was brought under control in less than three months. Health workers and local residents are also better trained to detect and test cases, and to raise community awareness. … The UN said aid organisations are “intensifying” community outreach efforts, but they have faced resistance from some local residents, particularly in Mbandaka, where police officers opened fire on demonstrators protesting against response efforts last week. The New Humanitarian

DR Congo: COVID-19 Slows Pace of Reform, Exacerbates Fragile Security Situation
The head of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is asking the Security Council for its continued support as the mission adds the fight against COVID-19 to its to-do list, while also dealing with a fragile security situation in the east of the country. Leila Zerrougui made the request on Thursday as the 15-member organ ponders the longer-term future of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) – the biggest of all the 13 UN peacekeeping missions – after its current mandate runs out on 20 December. “The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced an additional layer of complexity and concern to the existing issues that we face in the country,” she said, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in DRC. UN News

The Coronavirus Is Jeopardizing a ‘Very, Very Finite’ Workforce: Africa’s Doctors and Nurses
The coronavirus pandemic has tightened its grip on much of Africa, where reported cases have more than tripled over the last month, jeopardizing overstretched medical teams as the need for care soars. From the pandemic’s early days, leaders across the continent urged prevention and took aggressive action – sealing borders, tracing contacts and building extra isolation wards – asserting that many places lacked the resources to withstand unchecked outbreaks. Now African health officials and medical professionals are raising concerns about cracks in a crucial armor: Infections among health-care workers have shot up 203 percent since late May, according to the World Health Organization’s Africa arm, following a spike in community transmission and a drop in access to protective gear. The Washington Post

Doctors under Siege in Sudan
Doctors are celebrating a small victory in Sudan after the government issued a law earlier this month that will protect healthcare workers in the country. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a civil society group pivotal in the revolution that ousted former president Omar al-Bashir, said attacks on medical teams by security forces and civilians had become a common phenomenon, especially in emergency units when security of health personnel is paramount. Public attacks against doctors are commonplace in Sudan. … Hundreds of doctors have temporarily left their positions either because of these attacks or in protest over a lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle Covid-19 cases, according to the committee’s secretary general, Omer Ahmed Salih. Mail & Guardian

UN Security Council to Meet Monday on Ethiopia Dam
The United Nations Security Council plans to meet Monday to discuss Egypt and Sudan’s objections to Ethiopia’s construction of a mega-dam on the Nile River, diplomatic sources said Thursday. The public video conference was called by the United States on behalf of Egypt, according to the sources. Ethiopia wants to start filling the reservoir for the 475-foot (145-meter) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July, with or without approval from the two other countries. Egypt sees the structure as an “existential” threat and Sudan on Thursday warned of “great risk” to millions of human lives if the dam plan moves forward. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he would meet with the prime minister of Sudan shortly. “The only way out in a situation like this is through dialogue among the parties and we are entirely at the disposal of the parties,” he said. AFP

Three People Shot Dead by Kenyan Police at Protest
Kenyan police killed three people when they fired at a crowd of motorcycle taxi drivers protesting against the arrest of a colleague for flouting coronavirus restrictions. Police shot at the crowd in the western city of Lesos after clashes on Thursday, a police statement said. “I have ordered the arrest of the officers involved in the shooting and we regret the loss of these lives,” the police inspector general, Hillary Mutyambai, said. “A thorough investigation will be carried out and action will be taken. They must face the law.” According to a police statement, the first shots fired killed a 40-year-old man after motorcycle taxi drivers “attacked” one of the officers. Two more people were shot dead after the crowd followed the officers back to their police station, it said. Al Jazeera

Kenya: Near-Record Police Killings Mark a Bloody Year in Law Enforcement
Deaths climaxed under curfew as the first five months recorded the second-highest toll in six years. Police brutality has been linked to at least 101 deaths in the first five months of the year. This is 40 per cent more than an average of 74 deaths recorded in a similar period in the previous five years that Nation Newsplex has documented police killings in the country. The publicly accessible Deadly Force database collects and presents killings and claims reported by the police, the media, human rights groups and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa). … Most crime-related killings were reported in low-income areas of large towns with a high crime incidence, such as Mathare in Nairobi where many families have complained that the police repeatedly carry out extrajudicial killings, disguised as the fight against crime. Daily Nation

Armed Group Abducts 10 Aid Workers in Southwestern Niger
Unidentified gunmen have abducted 10 humanitarian aid workers as they were distributing food in a village in southwestern Niger, their NGO said in a statement. Kadidiatou Harouna, of the Action and Impact Progress (APIS), said on Thursday the assailants drove into the village in the Tillaberi region on Wednesday afternoon on a motorbike and told the victims to follow them. She told the AFP news agency APIS, a partner of the UN World Food Programme, had worked in the volatile region near the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali “without problems” in the past year. A German aid worker and an Italian priest were abducted in the region in 2018. Al Jazeera

Thousands Flee Intense Fighting’ in Eastern South Sudan: MSF
Thousands of people have fled a fresh wave of intercommunal clashes in South Sudan’s eastern region of Pibor, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Thursday, adding it had suspended medical activities after its staff were forced to flee into the bush. Brutal fighting has taken place between rival communities in the area in recent months, with clashes in May leaving over 200 dead, including an MSF staff member, the charity said in a statement. The latest violence erupted on June 15, it said. “The fighting is now approaching Pibor town, in the east, with almost all residents choosing to seek refuge in the surrounding bush, including MSF staff,” said the statement. The closure of the medical facility comes as more wounded are expected, as the height of the malaria season approaches and as the new coronavirus spreads in the country. The Defense Post

Commander in Somali Al Shabaab Militant Group Killed – State Media
Somali security forces have killed a commander of the al Shabaab militant group in a military operation, state radio reported on Thursday. Ahsraf Azmi Abu Hamdan, who was from Nepal, was a senior trainer in the Islamist group. He was killed in an operation in the Middle Juba region in southern Somalia, state radio said. Three other fighers were also killed. Al Shabaab has been fighting to topple Somalia’s central government since 2008 to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law. Reuters

These Syrian Militiamen Were Foes in Their Civil War. Now They Are Battling Each Other in Libya.
Thousands of Syrian men have been recruited for the warring sides in Libya over the past year, coaxed to fight there by powerful foreign sponsors and promised lucrative salaries or other incentives, according to a Syrian human rights monitor, Syrian opposition members, and Libyan and U.S. officials. The Syrians are not the only mercenaries in Libya. But their preexisting rivalries have introduced a “bizarre” dynamic into Libya’s already volatile conflict, said Tarek Megerisi, a Libya expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations. “You have the Syrian civil war taking place inside Libya,” he said. Syria’s ruinous and durable conflict was largely to blame: Many of the young men being recruited were idle, desperate for cash and, after nine years of devastating civil conflict at home, possessed of little experience but war. The Washington Post

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Outbreak Could Impoverish 5 Million People, World Bank Says
Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak may push 5 million people into poverty as it triggers the worst recession in the African powerhouse since the 1980s, the World Bank said on Thursday. The twin shock of the pandemic and a global oil price crash has pummelled Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy mainly because it is the continent’s top crude producer. But Nigeria also has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world, and has not recovered from another recession in 2016. The World Bank forecasts Nigeria’s economy will shrink 3.2-7.4% this year, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a worst case scenario, the recession could continue into 2021 when the economy could contract 2%, it said. Poverty and unemployment have often fuelled violent insecurity in Nigeria, from militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta to the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and banditry in the northwest. Reuters

South Africa Tobacco Ban Greeted with Cigarette Smuggling Boom
South Africa and Zimbabwe have stepped up border patrols in a bid to stop cigarette smuggling, which has boomed since Pretoria banned the sale of tobacco in March. The country claimed smokers were more prone to Covid-19 – something that has been challenged by tobacco companies – but the illegal trade has increased, despite South Africa erecting a R37m (£1.7m) 25-mile fence across the border in April as part of its measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Smugglers have been crawling through broken sections of the fence and taking advance of the particularly porous Beitbridge/Musina crossing point. … A recent study by the University of Cape Town researchers showed 90% of smokers had bought cigarettes during the lockdown, smokers who could not buy their usual brands had access to other new brands on the market, from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China. The Guardian

Coronavirus: How Africa’s Supply Chains Are Evolving
The coronavirus lockdown measures imposed by governments around the world have caused severe disruption to supply chains, as companies were forced to shut in March. … “Supply chains have become longer and more complicated, and hence more vulnerable,” says Andrew Alli, chief executive of Southbridge, a pan-African consulting advisory and financial services firm. For example, rubber might be produced in Africa, but it is then exported to China to make personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, which are then shipped to Europe, he explains, rather than African firms just making the masks themselves for sale. But this is changing now – Africa Rising has seen a new trend of businesses trying to import more machines into African nations to set up local production centres, instead of importing finished products. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones