Africa Media Review for June 29, 2020

Lazarus Chakwera Inaugurated as Malawi’s New President
Lazarus Chakwera has been sworn in as Malawi’s new president Sunday after the announcement the previous night that he had won the southern African country’s rerun elections. Chakwera is Malawi’s sixth president after winning the historic election held last week, the first time a court-overturned vote in Africa has resulted in the defeat of an incumbent leader. Following a hard-fought campaign, Chakwera urged national reconciliation in his inaugural speech in the capital, Lilongwe, and spoke directly to supporters of defeated incumbent president Peter Mutharika. “Perhaps the prospect of my presidency fills you with fear and grief. I want you to remember one thing, that this new Malawi is a home to you, too,” said Chakwera. “So long as I am its president it will be a home in which you, too, will prosper.” … The Malawi Human Right Commission, one of the observers, endorsed the rerun election as peaceful and transparent. AP

Ethiopia Says Set to Begin Filling Disputed Dam in 2 Weeks
Ethiopia on Saturday said it is set to begin filling a $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile within the next two weeks and that construction will continue, hours after the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed late Friday to return to talks aimed at reaching an accord over its operation. … Egypt and Sudan had said Ethiopia would refrain from filling the dam next month until the countries reached a deal. Early Saturday, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister, confirmed that the countries had decided during an African Union summit to restart stalled negotiations and finalize an agreement over the contentious mega-project within two to three weeks, with support from the AU. … African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said the countries “agreed to an AU-led process to resolve outstanding issues,” without elaborating. AP

Jihadists in NE Nigeria Kill 11, Others Missing
At least nine Nigerian soldiers and two members of a civil defence militia were killed in a jihadist attack on a civilian convoy in northeast Borno state, security sources told AFP Sunday. Several civilians were said to be missing after the ambush. The jihadist fighters opened fire with heavy guns and rocket-propelled grenades on the convoy of more than a hundred vehicles Saturday afternoon outside Komala village near the town of Damboa, 90 kilometres (55 miles) from the regional capital Maiduguri. Damboa lies on the fringes of Boko Haram’s Sambisa forest enclave from where the group launches attacks on villages and against troops. AFP

Insurgents Stage ‘Very Violent’ Attack Close to Gas Projects in Mozambique
Suspected Islamist insurgents attacked a town in the north of Mozambique near billion-dollar gas projects managed by Total and Exxon Mobil early on Saturday morning, a police and a security source told Reuters. The police source said the attack, the latest on the strategically important town of Mocimboa da Praia, 60 km (40 miles) south of the gas projects, was “very violent” and the country’s defence and security forces (DSF) had suffered a number of casualties. “The DSF are fighting a fierce fight because they were met with hefty firepower,” the source said, adding that communications were now down. Spokespeople for the defence ministry and police did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Reuters

Zimbabwe Rocked by Worst Economic Crisis in over a Decade
Zimbabwe is being buffeted by its worst economic crisis in over a decade, including scarcity of basics like fuel and cornmeal. Prices of basic goods gallop every week as the value of the Zimbabwean dollar continues to tumble, pushing official annual inflation to 785.6 per cent in April. … “Things cannot continue this way. These people should just admit they have failed,” said Harare resident Timothy Bhaureni, referring to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. Mnangagwa, who took power in 2017 following a military coup pledging to revive the moribund economy, now blames the economic malaise on unnamed “political detractors.” AFP

South Africa’s Surge of Virus Cases Expected to Rise Rapidly
South Africa’s current surge of COVID-19 cases is expected to dramatically increase in the coming weeks and press the country’s hospitals to the limit, the health minister said Sunday night. South Africa, a country of 57 million people, already has more than a third of the reported cases for all 54 countries in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people. More than 4,300 people have been hospitalized out of South Africa’s 138,000 confirmed cases, Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement. He warned this number is expected to rise quickly. “We are seeing a rapid rise in the cumulative number of positive COVID-19 cases indicating that, as we had expected, we are approaching a surge during the … months of July and August,” Mkhize said in a statement. AP

Sudan Says over 120 Arrested before Going to Fight in Libya
Sudan on Sunday said security forces arrested at least 122 people, including eight children, in the western Darfur region who intended to go and fight as mercenaries in neighboring Libya’s civil war. Brig. Gen. Gamal Gomaa, a spokesman for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, said in a statement that 72 of the arrested people belonged to the Sudanese Awakening Revolutionary Council, an armed group led by the former Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal. Hilal was an adviser to Sudan’s longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir before they had a falling out. Hilal quit his post in 2013 to establish his own armed group, and was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council for his involvement in the Darfur conflict. He was arrested in November 2017 and is imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum. AP

In Central Mali, Community Fighting and Impunity, ‘Overwhelming’ Efforts to Protect Civilians
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said violent disputes between the Peulh and Dogon communities have risen in recent months, with community-based militias – initially formed to defend communities – becoming increasingly involved in attacks against others. From 1 January to 21 June, 83 incidents of fighting across communal lines were documented in the restive central region of Mopti by the UN Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSMA) Human Rights and Protection Division. … These attacks across community lines have also been fuelled and instrumentalized by militant Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, who have bolstered their presence in Mali’s central regions following push back in the north by national and international armed forces. UN News

Egypt Targets Activists in New Wave of Arrests
Over the past month, Egyptian authorities have arrested several activists on trumped up charges, human rights observers say, including inciting terrorism, propagating fake news and misuse of social media. For the Egyptian government, the moment is ripe for targeting critics. … “Sissi’s government feels increasingly insecure because of its failure to control the COVID-19 outbreak in Egypt, the country’s weak healthcare system and the economic fallout of the crisis,” [Amr Magdi, Egypt researcher at Human Rights Watch] said. “Security agencies know that many Egyptians are angry and that there’s a ripe environment for protests. Therefore, they are trying to prevent the slightest criticism before it grows.” DW

Cameroon Journalist Filing for VOA Harassed by Police
A Cameroonian journalist who freelances for the Voice of America says he was harassed by police who seized his equipment Saturday in Yaoundé, the capital. Moki Edwin Kindzeka said he was also ordered to speak only in French. In a social media post, Kindzeka said, “These guys should not molest people just because they speak the English language.” The Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists on Twitter condemned “this act in the strongest terms.”  The group demanded an apology. … Timescape Magazine reports that the attack on Kindzeka came during military raids Saturday on Anglaphone Cameroonians in the capital, many of whom were arrested and ordered to speak French. VOA

Congo’s Justice Minister Released Hours after Arrest
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Justice Minister Celestin Tunda was released from custody on Saturday evening, just hours after his arrest in the capital Kinshasa. Tunda was questioned by prosecutors for several hours at the court of cassation after surrendering to police at his home earlier in the afternoon. … Authorities did not immediately explain the reason for Tunda’s detention, which comes at a time of discord in the ruling coalition between President Felix Tshisekedi and allies of his long-serving predecessor, Joseph Kabila, who stepped down last year. Political analysts and diplomats said the arrest appeared to be connected to a proposed legal reform to give politicians more control over criminal prosecutions, which had sparked several days of protests this week. Reuters

Somali Elections Won’t Take Place on Schedule
Somalia’s electoral commission has announced that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections will not take place on time, as scheduled. The chairperson of the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), Halima Ismail Ibrahim, has told the Lower House of the parliament that political differences, insecurity, flooding and COVID-19 have hampered the commission’s work schedule. The parliamentary elections were scheduled for Nov. 27; the president’s term ends on Feb. 8, 2021. Ibrahim says neither deadline can be met. Ibrahim says the biometric registration necessary for holding popular election as stated in the electoral law cannot be completed in time. VOA

Ghana Ruling Party Nominates President Akufo-Addo for Re-Election
Ghana’s governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) has picked incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo as its presidential candidate in this year’s election, setting up a third consecutive head-to-head battle against former President John Dramani Mahama. Akufo-Addo, 76, unseated Mahama in 2016 with 53.8 percent of the vote, cementing the West African nation’s reputation as a leading democracy in a region that has earned notoriety for political instability. Akufo-Addo will contest the December 7 poll with Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia as his running mate, the NPP said in a statement on Saturday. Mahama, 61, who has been chosen by the National Democratic Congress as its candidate, defeated Akufo-Addo in the 2012 presidential race. Reuters

Audacious Zambian Protesters Outsmart the Police
On Tuesday, Zambian riot police were deployed all over Lusaka. They were armed and wore full body armour. This show of force was intended to disperse a youth protest planned for Tuesday afternoon, organised in response to several government corruption scandals. The protesters never arrived but the protest went ahead. “We had this idea,” said Chama Fumbe, an activist rapper better known by his stage name, Pilato. “Let’s announce that the protest was on. But then let’s do it from the bush.” At the last minute, the organisers had told their supporters to stay at home. From an undisclosed location just outside of Lusaka, 13 youth activists live-streamed themselves making fiery speeches that railed against corruption and poor governance. And, while the police searched fruitlessly for a demonstration that was not happening, more than half a million people tuned in online. Mail & Guardian

Africa’s Unsung Army of Women Wage War on COVID-19
Armed with a face mask, notebook and pen, Everlyne Akinyi Omondi sets out each morning from her one-room home in Nairobi’s informal settlement of Kawangware to do a job few others would contemplate in a pandemic. As cases of the new coronavirus climb and Kenyans are told to stay home and avoid human contact, 38-year-old Omondi moves house to house through Kawangware’s maze of narrow lanes. Standing at the doorways of the cramped, corrugated houses, she talks about Covid-19, shows residents how to wash hands or don a mask, patiently answering their questions. “I know there are risks of contracting the virus, but I don’t feel so scared. I have made a pledge to keep my community safe,” said Omondi, turning to reprimand a group of children crowded around her for not maintaining social distancing rules. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones