Africa Media Review for June 28, 2019

Security Forces Use Tear Gas to Disperse Students in Sudan’s Khartoum
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of students demonstrating against the ruling military council at a financial academy in the heart of Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Thursday, a Reuters witness said. Dozens of lawyers also gathered outside the main courthouse complex in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, calling for civilian rule and for people to join mass demonstrations planned for Sunday. They chanted: “Freedom, peace, and justice. Civilian (rule) is the people’s choice.” Demonstrations in Khartoum have become rare since security forces broke up a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry on June 3, leaving more than 100 people dead, according to medical sources. The sit-in had become the focal point of protests against former president Omar al-Bashir and the military council that ousted him on April 11. Its dispersal caused the collapse of stalled talks between the military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups over how to manage a transition towards elections. Reuters

Sudan Protest Leaders Receive New AU, Ethiopia Transition Plan
The Sudanese movement protesting for the military to hand over to civilian rule said on Thursday it received a new proposal for a transition drafted by Ethiopia and the African Union (AU). The new proposal calls for a civilian-majority ruling council as demanded by protesters, but it fails to mention the make-up of a new transitional parliament. “The Alliance for Freedom and Change received the draft … and will be considering the proposal to make a decision,” the umbrella group said in a statement. The move comes after Sudan’s ruling generals urged mediators from the AU and Ethiopia to unify their efforts and come up with a joint proposal on the country’s transition. It entails creating a 15-member, civilian-majority governing body for a three-year transitional period. But it makes no mention of the composition of a legislative body. Al Jazeera

UN Freezes Decrease of Sudan Peace Mission
The UN Security Council on Thursday agreed on a four-month pause in the drawdown of a peacekeeping mission from Sudan’s Darfur region as leaders in Khartoum press on with difficult talks on a political transition. The council unanimously voted to renew the mandate of the UN-African Union mission known as Unamid until October 31, overcoming reservations from China and Russia. China, Sudan’s major trading partner, has long supported Khartoum’s view that the conflict in Darfur was winding down and that peacekeepers were no longer needed. The council last year agreed to push ahead with a series of phased drawdowns with a view to shutting down the mission in 2020. Deployed in 2007, Unamid now has about 7 200 troops and police, down from the 16 000 sent to Darfur at the height of the conflict. AFP

South Sudan: Lawyer Appeals against Biar’s Conviction in Juba
Philip Anyang Ngong, the defense lawyer for prominent activist Peter Biar Ajak, has lodged an appeal against the high court after his client was jailed for two years. Biar was sentenced along with businessman Kerbino Wol Agok and five others. “An appeal was filed on Monday this week and of course it based on the reason that we deserve a right to appeal when the verdict was read out. Basically, it is a constitutional right,” Ngong told Radio Tamazuj on Wednesday. The defense lawyer earlier said Biar was charged under articles 48-80 of the South Sudan penal code, but maintained he is innocent of all the charges. … The lawyer further said an appealed was filed based on the fact that during the trial, proper procedures were not followed and unfair decisions were made without necessarily looking at facts in the case. “We felt the court never looked into the substance of the case,” he added. Radio Tamazuj

Nigerian Troops Repel Jihadist Attack on Military Base: Army
Nigerian troops have thwarted a Boko Haram attack on a military formation in the volatile northeast, killing dozens of jihadists, the army said Thursday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in seven gun trucks and motorcycles stormed the base at Goniri, Yobe state on Wednesday evening, army spokesman Sagir Musa said in a statement. The ambush “resulted in the annihilation of dozens of terrorists”, while many fled with injuries, he said. Five gun trucks, weapons and rounds of ammunition were recovered from the jihadists, while their motorcycles were destroyed. AFP

Boko Haram Hunts Farmers in Borno for Leaking Information
The activities of Boko Haram in the North East, especially Borno State, have taken a new dimension, as insurgents now hunt farmers in communities in the state for leaking information on their exploits to security men. … Boko Haram insurgents killed 20 farmers at Ngangam village, about 50 kilometres away from Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area, Borno State, as punishment for leaking information on their operations to the military. … Vanguard gathered, yesterday, that the insurgents have taken their vengeance campaign to several other villages in the state, forcing farmers to abandon not only their farms but also communities. ‘’This is a new angle Boko Haram terrorists have introduced to their campaign. They have started going to villages because villagers give information to security agents about their operations. ‘’In some villages in Borno now, villagers have abandoned their communities and farms as a result of threats by the terrorists to deal with them, especially hearing of what happened in Ngangam village where 20 people were killed,’’ a source who fled one of the villages told Vanguard. Vanguard

Thousands Displaced by Boko Haram in Nigeria Protest over Food
Thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram violence poured into the streets of the Nigerian city Maiduguri on Thursday to vent their anger over food and medicine shortages in their camp. An AFP reporter witnessed about 4 000 men, women and children from the Gubio camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) block a busy highway in the northeastern city and disrupt traffic. The protesters accused camp officials of diverting aid supplies meant for the 33 000 IDPs from eight districts in Borno state sacked by jihadists. “We don’t get the food and medical supplies meant for the camp because they are usually diverted by the camp officials,” Sani Abubakar, one of the protesters, told AFP. AFP

Cameroon Separatists Attacking ‘Poison’ Aid Convoys
Humanitarian aid workers in Cameroon say they are scared after several consignments of aid meant for people in the country’s troubled English-speaking regions were attacked and burned by suspected separatists. The rebels are suspicious of the aid convoys’ military escorts and say they will never accept any assistance brought in by the military. The government of Cameroon insists the military is only escorting the convoys to protect aid workers. However, clashes between the mostly French-speaking government forces and armed separatists have occurred regularly since 2017, when a secessionist movement turned violent. The government cracked down on protests by English-speaking educators and attorneys in the northwest and southwest, where residents have complained about receiving second-class treatment from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. VOA

Swiss Government to Mediate Cameroon Peace Talks
Switzerland has agreed to mediate talks between Cameroonian authorities and separatists in a bid to end escalating violence in the country’s Anglophone regions, the Swiss government said on Thursday. A secessionist movement turned violent in 2017 after the government cracked down on peaceful protests by teachers and lawyers in the English-speaking northwest and southwest, which complain of being marginalised by the Francophone majority. … “Switzerland was tasked by a majority of the parties with facilitating an inclusive negotiation process,” the Swiss foreign affairs department (FDFA) said in a statement following two days of talks with a number of opposition groups. … President Paul Biya is reported to be on holiday in Switzerland this week. Reuters

Mass Arrests in Ethiopia after Coup Bid
Ethiopian security forces on Thursday rounded up scores of suspects believed to have links to a coup bid in northern Amhara state and the murder of the army chief in attacks which have highlighted the political crisis in the nation. The weekend attacks have heaped pressure on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, already facing waves of ethnic violence which have displaced over two million people, as he pushes forward with democratic and economic reforms. An ethno-nationalist party in Amhara, one of several political groupings gaining ground as political space opens up, said more than 56 of its members and supporters had been arrested. AFP

Tunisian President Hospitalised ‘in Severe Health Crisis’ – Presidency
Tunisia’s 92-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, a major player in the country’s transition to democracy since 2011, was taken to a military hospital on Thursday after suffering a “severe health crisis”, the presidency said. One of Essebsi’s advisers told Reuters he was in a “very critical” condition but was alive. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Facebook that Essebsi was receiving the attention he needed and that people should stop spreading fake news about his condition, after some reports said the president had died. The elderly head of state was hospitalised last week as well, for what the presidency described as non-serious treatment. Reuters

Tunisia Moves to Reassure Tourists after Suicide Attacks
Tunisian officials have sought to reassure tourists after twin suicide bombings targeting security forces struck the country’s capital on Thursday, killing a patrol officer and injuring at least eight people. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed described the bombings as “a cowardly terrorist operation [to] destabilise Tunisians, the economy and democratic transition,” noting that they happened as the tourist season was in full swing. In an interview with The Associated Press, his tourism minister, René Trabelsi, said he did not think the first attack was tied to the French Embassy nearby but had targeted Tunisian police. “This attack against national security agents (…) has nothing to do with tourists,” said Trabelsi. France24

‘If You Pay, You’ll Go’: Dadaab Residents Claim Bribery is Price of Getting Home
Somali people at Kenya’s sprawling refugee camp allege that UN staff want money for everything from food to repatriation. … Asha, whose name has been changed at her request for fear of retaliation, claims she had to hand over one family member’s repatriation money to be accepted for return, even though the UNHCR says all services are free. She says she paid it in two instalments: an initial amount at a UNHCR field office, the rest to an interpreter working with the agency. Asha’s experience is echoed by dozens of refugees who spoke on condition of anonymity for this investigation. They say corruption is endemic in east African refugee camps and implicate both UNHCR staff and employees of partner organisations. … The UNHCR denies allegations of widespread corruption. The Guardian

Two Years After Legal Release, Mauritania Blogger Remains in Detention
Nearly six years after his arrest, and two years after he was legally set free, Mauritanian lawyers and international rights groups are calling for authorities to release blogger Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mkhaitir. Citizen journalist and blogger Mkhaitir was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to death for what the state called blasphemy after he wrote a blog post condemning the use of religion to justify racial discrimination. In 2017, a Mauritanian court commuted Mkhaitir’s sentence to two years — which he had already served, legally liberating him. However, he has remained detained in an undisclosed location. “He is no longer officially, legally in prison,” Fatimata M’Baye, Mkhaitir’s lawyer, told VOA. “Today, since November 9th, 2017, he is detained in an undisclosed location — a location even we, his lawyers, don’t know.” VOA

DR Congo Copper and Cobalt Miners Killed in Kolwezi
At least 36 people have been killed after a copper and cobalt mine collapsed in Lualaba province in south-east DR Congo, authorities say. The provincial governor Richard Muyej blamed the accident on what he called “clandestine artisanal diggers”. Unofficial mining is common in the region and people do it as a means to make a living. Mines in southern DR Congo produce more than half of the world’s cobalt – a key component in mobile phone batteries. Prices for it more than doubled last year thanks to increased demand for electric cars, which also use the mineral in their batteries. The accident happened on Thursday at the Kamoto Copper Company, a subsidiary of Swiss mining giant Glencore, based near Lualaba’s main city of Kolwezi. BBC

Rampant Illegal Activities Threaten Ghana’s Fishing Sector
On a beach in Ghana’s capital, Accra, fishermen from the Nungua community are waiting for the vibrantly painted canoes to return from sea with their catch of small fish to be sold at the local market. In Ghana, about 2 million people rely on these fish for their food and income. But trawlers, run almost exclusively by Chinese operators using Ghanaian front companies, are illegally targeting this staple catch and selling it back to local communities at a profit in a practice called saiko, according to a report from local NGO Hen Mpoano and the Environmental Justice Foundation. Kofi Agbogah, director of the NGO, says saiko used to just be a regular practice where fishermen would meet trawlers at sea and exchange the trawler’s catch for goods they were carrying. “Today it has become a multimillion-dollar business where trawlers are harvesting fish that they are not licensed to harvest and sell it back to some canoes — I will call those canoe business people,” he said. “They are not traditional fishers. They just go out there without nets, they buy the fish from the trawlers, and come and sell it in some designated ports.” VOA

Breath, Death and Data: The Air in Our Cities is Killing Us
In Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, the air people breathe is often so dangerous that it is killing them. This air affects the health of everyone, from unborn babies to healthy adults and pensioners. Conservative estimates put the death toll at 54 people a day. … You need to get out of a city to look back and see the blanket of yellow, brown and red toxic air that covers it. This makes for dramatic photographs. But the mix of chemicals, dust, car exhaust fumes, burning firewood and hundreds of other pollutants is overwhelming the lungs of people living there. In Johannesburg, this air is bad enough to be dubbed “airpocalypse” 15% of the time — and it stays above safe levels for half of the year. This data on what you breathe has long been kept a secret, shared only between polluters and regulators. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones