Africa Media Review for June 5, 2020

Tripoli Forces Say They Have Ended Siege of Libyan Capital

Forces allied with Libya’s U.N.-supported government said Thursday they regained control of all of Tripoli’s entrance and exit points after taking back the airport, claiming that the siege by rival troops trying to capture the capital for over a year has effectively ended. The announcement marks another blow to the east-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by commander Khalifa Hifter who has recently lost several strategic spots in western Libya. Late on Wednesday, the Tripoli-allied troops said they had retaken Tripoli International Airport, which fell to Hifter’s forces last year. … Hifter’s military command said it was “relocating” forces out of Tripoli in response to calls for the resumption of the U.N.-brokered political process, but that the battle for the capital “is not over.” Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj vowed the Tripoli forces would press on, apparently spurning the cease-fire talks. “We will in no way give him the opportunity for negotiations,” Sarraj said of Hifter. AP

UN Chief: COVID-19 Compounds Dire Situation in Mali, Sahel

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coronavirus pandemic has compounded the “dire humanitarian and security situations” in Mali and Africa’s Sahel region. The U.N. chief said in a report to the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that the deteriorating security situation “remains of grave concern with terrorist groups allied with al-Qaida and Islamic State competing for control over areas of influence.” Guterres said terrorist attacks against civilians, Malian and international forces are continuing in northern and central Mali, posing the most significant security threat in the north. He said clashes between al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have also been reported. … Guterres said the impact of COVID-19 was exacerbating the humanitarian crises in Mali, where 3.5 million people are currently suffering from food insecurity and 757,000 are severely food insecure. AP

Thousands Flee Niger Refugee Camp after Jihadist Attack

Thousands of people have fled a camp hosting 20,000 Malian refugees in western Niger after a deadly jihadist attack devastated the site, the United Nations said Wednesday. Around 50 jihadists on motorbikes killed three local leaders, abducted a guard, destroyed communication antennas, and sabotaged the water supply at the Intikane site near the Malian border in a coordinated attack on Monday. Intikane is home to around 20,000 Malian refugees and 15,000 internally displaced Niger citizens – all of whom previously fled their villages due to jihadist violence – as well as the local population. … A radio report said troops had been deployed to secure the area. Niger is home to nearly 60,000 Malian refugees who fled their country’s north after it fell under the control of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in 2012, according to the UN. The Defense Post

Jihadist Attacks Displaced 210,000 Mozambicans, Says UN

More than 210,000 people, most of them women and children, have been forced to flee their homes in northern Mozambique since 2017, when a shadowy Islamist group started waging deadly attacks on the region, the UN said Thursday. Around 50,000 of those displacements have occurred in the past three months, as the jihadists ramped up their bloody campaign in the southern African country’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. “Displacement has risen rapidly as violence has escalated, with 211,485 people now estimated to be internally displaced in Cabo Delgado,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement, citing IOM statistics. That represents nearly a tenth of the province’s 2.2 million population. AFP

Burundi Court Rejects Opposition Bid to Annul Poll Results

Burundi’s constitutional court on Thursday rejected an opposition bid to overturn the results of last month’s contested election, declaring the ruling party’s presidential candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye the victor. The opposition National Freedom Council (CNL), headed by Agathon Rwasa, had alleged the May 20 general election was riddled with fraud and irregularities, including intimidation of voters, the arrest of opposition polling agents, ballot stuffing and proxy voting. … The CNL appeared resigned to an outcome it had predicted. “We were not expecting a miracle, despite the massive fraud and numerous irregularities that we presented to the court and despite the Catholic Church’s report,” party secretary general Simon Bizimungu told AFP. … Burundi’s Catholic Church said last week its observers stationed at polling centres across the country also witnessed ballot box tampering, officials harassing and intimidating voters, and proxies registered “in place of dead people and refugees.” Foreign observers were not allowed to oversee the electoral process. AFP

African Countries Secure 90 Million Coronavirus Test Kits for Next Six Months

African countries have secured 90 million test kits for the novel coronavirus for the next six months, a regional disease control body said on Thursday, urging states and donors to boost testing capabilities on the continent as quickly as possible. “We needed to increase our testing very quickly to about 10 to 20 million tests to move ahead of the curve. This is a call to action which means we have to rally everybody,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a branch of the African Union bloc. Nkengasong presented a new initiative, the Partnership to Accelerate Testing in Africa (PACT), which aims to increase testing across the continent. He added that 3.4 million tests have been conducted in Africa so far, about 1,700 tests per 1 million people, compared to 37,000 tests per 1 million in Italy and 30,000 per 1 million in Britain. Reuters

Coronavirus Rips into Regions Previously Spared

For months, one enduring mystery of the coronavirus was why some of the world’s most populous countries, with rickety health systems and crowded slums, had managed to avoid the brunt of an outbreak that was burning through relatively affluent societies in Europe and the United States. Now some of those countries are tumbling into the maw of the pandemic, and they are grappling with the likelihood that their troubles are only beginning. Globally, known cases of the virus are growing faster than ever with more than 100,000 new ones a day. The surge is concentrated in densely populated, low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia. The New York Times

South Africa: Virus Spreads Like Fire in the Cape

The Western Cape accounts for two thirds of South Africa’s Covid-19 cases – many in poor, crowded townships. It is the epicentre of the pandemic in the country and has recorded more infections than countries such as Ghana, Israel, Denmark and Poland. By Wednesday, the province had 24,657 confirmed cases. The province with the next highest number of confirmed cases was Gauteng, followed by the Eastern Cape with 4,526 cases. Much has been made of Covid-19 hitting anyone; the great leveller. But the Western Cape numbers show that the hardest-hit areas are densely populated and poverty stricken townships around Cape Town. These are areas where people cannot retreat behind the walls of a single home, work remotely or drive alone in a car to the shops. The Mail & Guardian analysed specific suburbs in four sub-districts with the highest number of cases. Mail & Guardian

Senegal to Ease Some Coronavirus Curbs after Protests Escalate

The Senegalese government has said it will it slightly ease a curfew and lift a ban on inter-regional travel after two nights of unrest against the curbs imposed in March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Protesters in the capital, Dakar, set tyres on fire and threw rocks at security forces on Wednesday, a day after similar scenes in the city of Touba, some 200km (120 miles) further east. Demonstrators were dispersed by police and gendarmes using tear gas, while pictures posted on social media showed military vehicles in the street. Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told a news conference on Thursday the dusk-to-dawn curfew would be shortened by two hours to 11pm until 5am (local time), and that restrictions on travel between Senegal’s regions would be lifted. “Gatherings in public or private places, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures,” he said. Al Jazeera

Kenya Charges Police Officer with Murder for Coronavirus Curfew Death

Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (or IPOA) on Thursday announced a police officer was being charged with murder in the shooting death of Yassin Hussein Moyo. The thirteen-year-old boy was standing on the balcony of his parent’s home in Nairobi on March 30 when he was hit by a bullet as police enforced a nighttime coronavirus curfew. Jonathan Lodompui, vice chairman of the policing oversight authority, a civilian group established to investigate and audit police misconduct, says more officers have been disciplined, but he would not disclose how many. … The IPOA said Thursday that five other police officers were facing charges over other deaths, shootings, and assaults that pre-dated Kenya’s curfew. VOA

South Sudanese Army Officer Dies of Injuries Following Implication in Civilian Death

A senior South Sudanese army officer implicated in the shooting deaths of four civilians has succumbed to his injuries and died at a hospital in Juba. A source in the office of President Salva Kiir who is not authorized to speak to the media said Lual Okook Wol Kiir died from injuries he sustained during a gunfight involving his bodyguards and civilians on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday. At least three other people died in the shootout in Juba’s Sherikat neighborhood.  Residents say the shootings occurred when Wol Kiir, a distant cousin of the president, ordered soldiers and police to open fire on demonstrators. Demonstrator Juuk Thiong Juuk said Wol Kiir, who was also known as Lual Marine, was trying to steal land from local residents. VOA

Sudanese Parties Make Significant Progress in Peace Talks: Mediator

The Sudanese negotiating parties, the government and the Revolutionary Front (SRF) have achieved a “very significant progress” in the peace talks, said the South Sudanese mediation on Thursday. Speaking to the press after a videoconference session of talks between the two parties from Juba, Dhieu Matouk told reporters that the two parties agreed on 25 of the 29 issues on the agenda of the talks. “This is very significant progress and a healthy start,” Matouk stressed. On Thursday, the two parties are discussing national issues. The peace talks which are approaching their deadline of 20 June are now focused on security arrangements, national and pending issues. Sudan Tribune

What’s behind the Ethiopia-Sudan Border Row?

Amid heightened tension along its border with Ethiopia, Sudan swore in a new defense minister. Major General Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was recalled from retirement to fill the position following the death of General Gamal al-Din Omar. Yassin’s swearing-in came after an alleged Ethiopian cross-border attack which left at least one Sudanese soldier and a child dead, according to Sudan’s military. Three Sudanese civilians and a soldier were also wounded. The attack, which took place in the eastern province of al-Qadarif, started after an Ethiopian militia group penetrated Sudan’s border to fetch water at the Atbara river, Brigadier Amer Mohammed al-Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudanese military, said. “It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute. Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian farmers, which in turn brought in Ethiopian security forces,” William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group, told DW. DW

Nigeria: Boko Haram Abducts Soldier, Three Aid Workers in Borno – Official

At least three humanitarian workers and a Nigerian soldier were on Tuesday abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in the northern part of Borno State, officials confirmed. Humanitarian workers travelling under a military escort, from Maiduguri to Monguno in the northern part of Borno, ran into an ambush that led to the abductions. The concerned organisations have been silent about the incident days after it happened. The Borno State government has, however, confirmed the development. It is not clear which of the humanitarian organisations the two abductees work for. But the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) confirmed that one of the three aid workers was their official. Premium Times

‘It Is a Very Ugly Time for Journalists in Cameroon’

In an interview with DW, President of Cameroon’s Association of English-Speaking Journalists Jude Viban discusses the recent death of journalist Samuel Wazizi after 300 days in prison and allegations of torture. … DW: What exactly led to the death of Samuel Wazizi? … Viban: From the information that we have, he was arrested some 300 days ago in Buea by the police. While he was in a police cell we later learned that he was picked up from that cell to Yaounde by the military. Since then we haven’t heard from him and we understand that he was severely tortured and then, when he was in really bad shape that is when he was taken to the military hospital in Yaounde and that is where he died. DW

Tunisians Emerge from Lockdown into Mosques and Cafes

Tunisians returned to mosques and cafes on Thursday as the country ended most lockdown restrictions after largely containing the spread of the novel coronavirus for now. Sitting with friends at the Brazil coffeeshop in the Ibn Khaldoun district of Tunis, schoolteacher Nizar Jamal said he was glad to resume his daily chats with friends. “We are again breathing the air of life. We missed the smell of coffee a lot,” he said. Tunisia in March closed its international borders, stopped all movement between towns and cities, shuttered mosques, shops, schools, cafes and restaurants, imposed a nightly curfew and stopped people leaving homes at day for most reasons. It has recorded 1,048 cases of the coronavirus and 48 deaths, compared with nearly 10,000 cases in neighbouring Algeria. The only recent cases came from people arriving into quarantine from abroad. Reuters

US-Africa Coronavirus Fight Is Multi-Front Battle

The challenges faced by African nations during the coronavirus pandemic are about much more than a rapidly spreading virus, American aid officials say. They’re concerned about the threats it poses to proper nutrition, the economy, liberties and freedoms, and the ongoing war against a deadly parasite that has plagued this continent for centuries: malaria. The U.S. has put in more than $1 billion toward helping other countries fight the coronavirus pandemic. By State Department estimates, more than a quarter of that money has gone to the African continent. And in 2019, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department added another $8.3 billion of assistance to 47 countries. VOA

Who Do People Trust for Coronavirus Info? In Zambia, It’s Nuns on the Radio

A nun in headphones is on the radio – offering expectant families advice for stimulating fetal development. “Tell the husband to pat [your] tummy,” she laughs. “And speak to the [baby]!” When Sister Astridah Banda, a Catholic nun and social worker in Zambia, first went on the air, she recalls that people were jolted by her manner. “People are always surprised to see sisters can joke,” she says. “They think you’re always serious and praying – and in such instances, I look at myself and say ‘Madame, you and I are one and the same.” And now she’s branching out in her subject matter with a show she started in March – the “COVID-19 Awareness Programme.” NPR



Photo: Adam Jones