Africa Media Review for June 4, 2020

Sixteen Dead in New Eastern DR Congo Massacre
Sixteen civilians, five of them children, were killed overnight in a fresh massacre in the eastern DR Congo province of Ituri, a local official and a UN source said on Wednesday. “The toll, which is still provisional, is of 16 people killed by knives or gunfire. The people killed are four men, seven women, and five children all aged under five,” the administrator of Djugu territory, Adel Alingi, told AFP. The toll was separately confirmed by a source in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force, MONUSCO. The attack unfolded at a village in the area of Mambisa, north of the Ituri capital Bunia, the sources said. The authorities attributed it to a notorious ethnic militia called CODECO, for the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo. The Defense Post

UN Creates Political Mission in Sudan to Support Transition
The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted two resolutions to create a mission in Sudan to support the country’s political transition and extend the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, diplomats said. The resolution on the new United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) was drafted by Britain and Germany. The mission was established “for an initial period of 12 months,” according to the text of the resolution, seen by AFP. The resolution asks Secretary General Antonio Guterres to quickly name an envoy to head up the new mission. … Britain and Germany also drafted the resolution on renewing the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) through December 31. The text, seen by AFP, also calls for the force’s current strength of roughly 8,000 Blue Helmets to be maintained. AFP

Sudan Appoints New Defense Chief amid Tensions with Ethiopia
Sudan on Tuesday swore in a new defense minister more than two months after the death of the former defense chief and amid tensions with neighboring Ethiopia. Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was sworn in before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, according to a statement from the council. Yassin came out of retirement to take the position. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the country’s chief judge Neamat Abdullah attended the ceremony, the statement said. … Yassin replaced Gen. Gamal al-Din Omar, who died in March of a heart attack in neighboring South Sudan, while taking part in peace talks between his country’s transitional government and rebel groups. AP

UN Envoy Holds Cease-Fire Talks with Libya’s Eastern Forces
The United Nations said its top envoy in Libya held talks Wednesday with a delegation from Khalifa Hifter’s eastern-based forces to follow up on the agreement by the country’s warring parties to resume cease-fire negotiations, calling it “a positive step.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said acting special representative Stephanie Williams would hold a similar video meeting with a delegation from the U.N.-supported government in the capital of Tripoli “in the coming days.” … Dujarric called the meetings with the two delegations “first steps … in the right direction.” “We will continue pushing and working with the parties … to alleviate some of the suffering of the Libyan people,” he said. … Dujarric said negotiations on a cease-fire agreement and technical arrangement will continue on the basis of a draft presented to both sides by Libya’s U.N. Mission on Feb. 23. AP

Libya’s GNA Retakes Tripoli Airport from Haftar’s Forces
Troops loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government have taken control of Tripoli international airport, military spokesman for the Government of National Accord said. “Our forces have fully liberated Tripoli international airport,” spokesman Mohamad Gnounou said on Wednesday. The airport has been closed since 2014 and had been held by the eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar since last year when he launched his assault on the capital. Al Jazeera

South Sudan President’s Relative Shoots, Kills 5 Persons in Juba
The office of the president in South Sudan confirmed a shooting incident in the capital Juba, early Wednesday morning. A statement signed by press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny said the president was “saddened about the shooting incident that occured in Sherikat, Juba.” The statement voiced the president’s condemnation and said a full probe was underway. “The perpetrator has been arrested by authorities and is under close monitor in hospital, in a critical condition.” The gunman took the lives of 5 persons in the incident, four men and a woman. The statement dismissed reports that he was the son of the president, it said he was a distant relative of the president. … Protests broke out in the area where the incident took place as residents blocked roads and burned tyres. Africa News

Much of South Sudan’s Cabinet Has COVID-19. What Happened?
South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei contracted Covid-19 while he was on the country’s high-level task force to combat the virus. He was not the only one. Almost the entire task force became infected, including ten cabinet ministers and first vice president Riek Machar. …  Another member of the task force, Dr Richard Lako – director of policy planning, budget and research in the Health Ministry – said that the source of infection may have been a single funeral attended by several committee members. … South Sudan has so far confirmed 994 cases of Covid-19, with ten deaths and six recoveries. President Salva Kiir warned in a speech on Monday that the pandemic would overwhelm South Sudan’s precarious health system if the situation gets any worse, and used the infections of the vice-president and ministers on the task force to underscore just how serious a threat it posed. Mail & Guardian

South Africa: SANDF Stays Mum on Possible Assistance to Mozambique
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will only discuss behind closed doors the possibility of the deployment of its special forces to Mozambique to help quell terrorist activities. The Department of Defence and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on Wednesday about its fourth-quarter performance in the 2019-20 financial year. Secretary of Defence Sam Gulube said the SANDF participated in “Operation Copper” in support of the Mozambican Defence Force. The SAS Drakensberg conducted a long-range counter-piracy patrol along the northern coast of Mozambique, from Pemba towards the Tanzanian border from 11 February to 27 March. News24

Cameroon: Govt Silent on Reports That Detained Journalist Died in Military Custody
Journalists and activists in Cameroon are calling on the government to respond to media reports this week that the military has killed in detention journalist Samuel Wazizi. The military detained Wazizi about a year ago for allegedly supporting anglophone separatists and he has not been seen in public since. Lawyer and rights defender Christopher Ndong says he has reliable information that Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi died in a military hospital in Yaoundé of wounds inflicted on him by the military. “The brutal torture that was exerted on Wazizi by military officers is a condemnable act,” said Ndong. “He was arrested and badly tortured and when he fell ill, they took him to a military hospital in Yaoundé, where he finally died.  And so, we are asking for an independent investigation to detect all the culprits so that they should be brought to book and punished.” VOA

French Court Allows UN Trial for Rwanda Genocide Suspect
A Paris appeals court on Wednesday approved the transfer of Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, arrested in France after decades on the run, to a United Nations body to be tried in Tanzania. Accused of financing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Kabuga had asked for a trial in France and he can still appeal the decision to hand him over to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). Described as Africa’s most wanted man, Kabuga was arrested on May 16 at his home outside Paris, where he had been living under a false name. AFP

How COVID Is Affecting Elections in Africa
The novel coronavirus has complicated the election-year calendar for Africa, as elsewhere, prompting some polling delays, suspensions and uncertainties. It also has created openings for leaders to exploit fears and tighten their grips on power, political observers say. … The pandemic – imperiling health, devastating economies, and heightening risks of hunger and instability – has created space for political surprises in Africa’s elections and general governance, says Christopher Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute think tank. … Especially in countries with upcoming elections, Fomunyoh says he sees two opposing currents. The first is what he calls “authoritarian opportunism.” The second is “democratic resilience.” VOA

Top Gambian Officials Linked to Smuggling of Rare Tree
A new report by a US-based agency has alleged that the Gambian authorities have systematically undermined their own ban on the export of rosewood. The report, entitled cashing-in on chaos, claims senior government officials are the lynchpins in the illegal trade amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. The report by the Environmental Investigation Agency alleges some 1.6 million trees have been illegally cut down in Senegal and smuggled into The Gambia in the last eight years. The Gambia, whose own rosewood trees have long been declared extinct has been exporting the trees mostly to China, the report said. The three-year-long investigation claims the Senegalese separatist movement, MFDC, have been cutting down the trees to fund their operations, and smuggling the wood to The Gambia where senior government officials are alleged to have been undermining their own ban on the export of the protected species among them the environment minister Lamin Dibba. BBC

Coronavirus Protests Rock Senegal Capital and Holy City Touba
Protesters in Dakar set tyres on fire and threw stones at security forces on Wednesday night during protests against a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed almost three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. … Senegal’s government has not faced major opposition to its handling of the pandemic, but the economy has been hit hard by measures including the overnight curfew and a ban on inter-regional travel. Senegal has confirmed almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19, including 45 deaths. Dakar and Touba, which is both a trading hub and major pilgrimage destination, have been hardest hit. The unrest in Dakar and Touba highlights a dilemma for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where measures to protect citizens’ health are also damaging the livelihoods of millions who work in the informal sector, stirring up tensions. Unable to shuttle passengers between Touba and Dakar, taxi driver Same Diop has started begging in the street alongside dozens of other drivers struggling to support their families. Al Jazeera

Anti-Lockdown Protest in Madagascar over Alleged Police Brutality
A scuffle broke out between protesters and police in Madagascar Wednesday as citizens took to the street to denounce anti-lockdown measures to contain COVID-19. Tensions heightened after a police officer allegedly beat a street vendor, accused of violating an afternoon ban on commercial activities. Images of the victim were shared on social media, sparking fury among residents of Toamasina in eastern Madagascar. “People must respect the measures taken by the state and things will work out. But the police are severe and they scare people, that’s why people are extremely angry with them, and that’s why the situation in Tamatave is tense,” an eyewitness said. A vendor told AFP that she was afraid of how the police operates during this lockdown. “I am very afraid of the police but faced with the lack of money, we act as if we were not afraid,” she said. AFP

‘Crippling’: ICRC Says Support Vital as Coronavirus Hits Incomes
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for concerted action to protect livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic, warning that failure to do so may foster a boom in aid-dependency in countries at conflict. Citing new survey data from Nigeria, Libya, Iraq and Ukraine, the Red Cross said on Thursday the economic and food security impact of COVID-19 was massive and appeared likely to worsen over time. “In countries at conflict, millions already live with little or no healthcare, food, water and electricity, as well as volatile prices and destroyed infrastructure. COVID-19’s impact could set in motion a vicious cycle of lost income, deepening poverty and hunger,” it said in a statement. In Nigeria, 95 percent of people in a 313-person survey said their sources of income had suffered due to the pandemic. Al Jazeera

Celine Fariala Mangaza, Congolese Heroine of Disabled People, Dies at 52
A low murmur seeped from a packed room at the back of a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo one rain-soaked January afternoon. Hand-cranked Singer sewing machines thrummed while more than a dozen women worked, chatting quietly, the wood or metal crutches they relied on within easy reach. Children wove between them. Mama Leki, a woman with a tremendous, gaptoothed smile who easily broke into raucous laughter, sat in the middle of the group she had created in 2006 for women disabled mainly as a result of polio or meningitis. Mama Leki had been tired of the stories of women sexually assaulted or beaten while home alone or forced to beg on the street, more vulnerable because of their condition. Isolation, poverty and loneliness were part of their everyday existence until she brought them together to earn a little money by sewing brightly colored dolls, bags and dresses. The New York Times

In Pictures: Khartoum Protesters Mark 1 Year after Bloody Raid
Protesters have taken to the streets of the Sudanese capital to demand justice for pro-democracy demonstrators killed a year ago in a violent crackdown by security forces. Early on June 3, 2019, gunmen in military fatigues had stormed a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, the focal point of months-long protests that led to the removal of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. … At least 128 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the attack that ended the sit-in, according to doctors affiliated with the protest movement. Official figures put the death toll to at least 87. … At the rally on Wednesday, a mask-clad woman held a banner reading, “We won’t forget and we won’t forgive” as many other protesters rallied and smoke billowed from burning tyres. In a televised statement marking the anniversary, Abdalla Hamdok, the new prime minister under a civilian-military transition authority, promised justice. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones