Africa Media Review for June 30, 2020

Virus Pushes Millions into Hunger; UN Seeks More Food Funds

Millions of people have been pushed into hunger by the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. World Food Program said Monday as it appealed for nearly $5 billion to help feed the growing numbers in poor and middle-income countries. “The frontline in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” said David Beasley, WFP’s executive director. “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.” He said without access to enough food, the world could see “increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread under-nutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger.” … Spikes in hunger are also evident in West and Central Africa, which has seen a 135% jump in the number of food insecure as well as in Southern Africa where there has been a 90% rise. AP

Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class

As the coronavirus surges in many countries in Africa, it is threatening to push as many as 58 million people in the region into extreme poverty, experts at the World Bank say. But beyond the devastating consequences for the continent’s most vulnerable people, the pandemic is also whittling away at one of Africa’s signature achievements: the growth of its middle class. For the last decade, Africa’s middle class has been pivotal to the educational, political and economic development across the continent. New business owners and entrepreneurs have created jobs that, in turn, gave others a leg up as well. Educated, tech-savvy families and young people with money to spare have fed the demand for consumer goods, called for democratic reforms, expanded the talent pool at all levels of society, and pushed for high-quality schools and health care. The New York Times

Security Council Extends Peacekeeping Force in Mali for Year

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to extend the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali for a year and called for a long-term and detailed plan for it to hand over security responsibilities and leave the West African nation. The resolution adopted by the 15-member council said the priority of the peacekeeping mission remains to support implementation of Mali’s 2015 peace agreement signed by three parties – the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination of Movements of Azawad that includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs who seek autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform. … The resolution underlines “that lasting peace and security in the Sahel region will not be achieved without a combination of political, security and development efforts benefiting all regions of Mali.” AP

France Warns W. Africa Instability Risks Reversing Gains against Jihadists Ahead of G5 Sahel Summit

Former colonial power France has deployed thousands of soldiers in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013, and now has 5,100 troops there. But attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have been on the rise. Leaders of the G5 Sahel states of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Nouakchott on Tuesday to assess recent military victories and plan next steps. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is set to confirm a contribution to a special forces unit in the Sahel, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also take part by video call. But there are fears that recent advances may be derailed amid political instability in the Sahel. Reuters

Islamist Militants Abduct Four Aid Workers in North-East Nigeria

Islamist militants have abducted four aid workers and a private security worker in north-east Nigeria, the hostages have said in a video. The hostages identified themselves and said they each worked for different organisations. With just their heads and shoulders showing against leafy plants outdoors, they named large aid groups Action Against Hunger, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Reach. “I am appealing to the International Rescue Committee to come and rescue me,” said one of the hostages. While the hostages did not name Isis or Boko Haram, they referred to their captors as soldiers of the “khalifa.” Previously, captives have used the term to refer to Islamic State West Africa Province rather than Boko Haram. Reuters

Talks May Lead to End of Blockade of Libyan Oilfields

Forces loyal to the Libyan warlord Gen Khalifa Haftar may be willing to end their blockade of the country’s oilfields, opening the way for a ceasefire, as a result of talks between the UN, US, France and Egypt. Under a deal under discussion for the past two weeks, the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) – one of the few institutions that has avoided a split between the country’s east and west – would restart production and exports, but the oil revenue would not be sent immediately to the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya, which Haftar’s eastern faction has accused of failing to hand over its fair share. The distribution of oil revenues has been a focal point of grievance fuelling Libya’s civil war. Successive blockades of the oilfields have deprived the NOC of as much as £6bn revenue. The Guardian

Egypt Seeks UN Resolution on Nile Dam Dispute with Ethiopia

[Egypt’s foreign minister ] Sameh Shoukry said the draft resolution is in line with the outcome of an African Union summit on Friday where the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to return to talks aimed at reaching an agreement over the filling of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam… Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Omer Mohamed Siddig called for the Security Council to take note of the African Union’s effort. He said Khartoum calls on leaders of the three countries “to demonstrate their political will and commitment by resolving the few remaining issues on the agreement.” His government also calls on the parties to use the comprehensive proposal Sudan submitted as the basis for finalizing an agreement, and discourages all parties from any action that may jeopardize the AU agreement. “We strongly believe that the African-led process can push forward the three parties’ efforts to reach a comprehensive, fair and balanced agreement,” Siddig said. AP

Ethiopian Singer Hachalu Hundessa Shot Dead

Prominent Oromo singer songwriter Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead on Monday evening, according to Addis Ababa city police commissioner Getu Argaw. Hundessa was shot around 9:30 pm in a suburb of the Ethiopian capital. The killing reportedly sparked unrest. On Tuesday, the internet was shut down, major roads were blocked, tyres were burned and smoke was seen billowing across the city, a reporter from Germany’s DPA news agancy said. The German Embassy in Addis Ababa warned people to avoid large crowds and driving through the city, citing calls for demonstrations on social media. The context to the singer’s death was not immediately clear, although the embassy said Hundessa’s supporters had blamed security forces and “assume a political motive” for the crime. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, expressed his condolences and tweeted that an investigation was currently under way. DW

Rwanda: Military Pushes Back Armed Attack from Burundian Territory

Rwanda’s army foiled an attack by an armed Burundian group at the weekend, targeting a displaced persons camp about one kilometre into Rwandan territory, according to the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF). Four of the attackers were killed. About 100 unidentified gunmen attacked a position of the Rwandan army near Yanze IDP Model village, with the aim of targeting displaced persons, the RDF said. The camp is located in Ruheru sector, Nyaruguru distinct, in southern Rwanda. The attack last between 20 and 30 minutes by assailants armed with machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades, the Rwanda military said in a statement. … The attack came shortly after the burial on Friday of former president Pierre Nkurunziza who died on 8 June aged 55 – possibly from a case of Covid-19, although that has been denied by the Burundian authorities. RFI

Burundi’s Slimmed-Down Cabinet Dominated by Ex-Regime Hardliners
Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye has unveiled a slimmed-down cabinet of only 15 ministers, dominated by former regime hardliners such as the head of the feared intelligence service. Ndayishimiye took office earlier this month after the sudden death of veteran leader Pierre Nkurunziza. Many Burundians had hoped for a new era after years of rights abuses, repression and violence. However Ndayishimiye, an army general handpicked by the ruling party to succeed Nkurunziza, has placed some of the regime’s most controversial characters in his government, in the cabinet announced on Sunday. According to an announcement on national television, Gervais Ndirakobuca, head of the feared national intelligence services, was named interior minister. RFI

Congo President Vows Not to Accept Judicial Reforms That Cause ‘Harm’

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said on Monday he would not accept any reforms that undermined the independence of the judiciary, the latest salvo in a standoff within the ruling coalition over proposed judicial changes. The disagreement over a proposal to give the justice ministry more control over criminal prosecutions has highlighted strains in the coalition between Tshisekedi and allies of his long-serving predecessor, Joseph Kabila. It led last week to the brief arrest of the justice minister, prompting the prime minister to threaten the resignation of the government. In an address to the nation to mark Democratic Republic of Congo’s 60th anniversary of independence from Belgium, Tshisekedi alluded to the dispute. “Under no circumstances will I accept reforms in this sector which, by their nature and content, would harm the fundamental principles governing justice,” he said. Reuters

DR Congo Marks Independence Day under Political Tensions

The Democratic Republic of Congo Tuesday marks 60 years since its independence from Belgium in 1960. This year’s celebration, however, will not feature pomp and grand military parade as President Félix Tshisekedi dictated the funds be directed in the fight against Covid-19. In a speech broadcast late Monday on state television Tshisekedi said the funds reserved for the festivities would be used to pay and motivate the soldiers involved in the pacification effort in the eastern part of the country and the health personnel engaged in the fight against Covid-19. He also announced that Joseph Kasavubu-Congolese first independent president-had been elevated to the rank of national hero and a town will be named after him. The East African

Australian Politician’s Home Raided in Chinese Influence Inquiry

The Australian authorities raided the home and office of a state lawmaker on Friday as part of a sweeping investigation into allegations of a Chinese government plot to manipulate the country’s politics and policy. … The case is the first high-profile criminal investigation of Chinese influence peddling to be made public since Australia passed a suite of foreign interference and espionage laws two years ago. The measures were aimed directly at Beijing’s attempt to shape the country’s politics through donations, promises and pressure on politicians at every level of government. … The Chinese government has long treated Australia as a petri dish for experiments in influence, and its playbook is relatively well known. The New York Times

Who’s Flying Those MiG-29s in Libya and Why Does It Matter?

Even though the 14 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bombers delivered by Russia to Libya in May have not yet been used in combat in Libya’s civil war, the question of who exactly is piloting these warplanes has already come up. A definitive answer could well shed a lot of light on the nature and purpose of this deployment. In May, these warplanes flew from Russia and made a stopover in Iran’s eastern Hamedan airbase. They then flew on to Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in western Syria, where social media photographs clearly showed that they were unmarked. Russian Air Force jets then escorted them to Al-Jufra airbase in Libya, which is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) group led by General Khalifa Haftar. Forbes

Sudan to Commemorate Slain Demonstrators in Mass Marches Tomorrow

People in Sudan will commemorate tomorrow the protestors killed during the December uprising that led to the ousting of President Omar Al Bashir in April 2019, and the formation of a civilian government five months later. In preparation for the June 30 ‘March of Millions,’ the Sudanese army deployed soldiers and armoured vehicles on the streets of Khartoum and on the bridges linking the three city parts. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok is expected to deliver a speech to the Sudanese people on Tuesday. On June 30 last year, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets. They demanded the then ruling Transitional Military Council be replaced by a civilian government, and an independent investigation into the violent dismantling of the sit-in in front of the army command in Khartoum on June 3. Radio Dabanga



Photo: Adam Jones