Africa Media Review for June 7, 2021

At Least 160 Killed in Deadliest Burkina Faso Attack since 2015
Suspected jihadists massacred at least 160 civilians, including around 20 children, in a village in Burkina Faso’s volatile north, the deadliest attack since Islamist violence erupted in the West African country in 2015, local officials said Sunday. The slaughter in the early hours of Saturday followed the slaying of 14 people late Friday in the village of Tadaryat in the same region, where jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been targeting civilians and soldiers. … An earlier toll from local sources had put the dead at 138, while a government toll stood at 132 dead and around 40 wounded as of late Saturday. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would visit the former French colony “this week,” saying he would reiterate Paris’ “solidarity” after speaking with Kabore by phone. … The assailants struck around 2 am (0200 GMT) against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), an anti-jihadist civilian defense force that backs the national army, before attacking homes and carrying out “executions,” a local source said. … The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help Burkina’s poorly equipped military fight jihadists but it has suffered more than 200 fatalities, according to an AFP tally. The Defense Post with AFP

French Military Suspends Joint Operation with Mali Military
France issued its strongest threat yet to Mali’s coup leader late Thursday, suspending joint military operations with Malian forces until the junta complies with international demands to restore civilian rule. The move by the former colonial power comes amid mounting international criticism of Mali’s second coup in nine months and deepening fears that the political instability will embolden Islamic extremists in the north. There was no immediate reaction from Col. Assimi Goita or his allies who retook control of Mali’s transitional government May 24 by forcing the resignations of the civilian transitional president and prime minister. France’s military has been fighting Islamic extremists in Mali since 2013, and the temporary suspension applies only to operations carried out in coordination with the Malian military. … The West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union already have suspended Mali’s membership, and the French official said those regional bodies have made clear what actions the junta now needs to take to avoid further isolation. AP

Death Toll Surpasses 80 in Attack on Seven Villages in Northwest Nigeria
Police in northwest Nigeria’s Kebbi state told AFP Sunday that the death toll from an attack by a gang of cattle thieves on seven villages Thursday had risen to 88. The region has struggled with decades-long communal clashes over resources but more recently some groups have become more violent, looting, killing and kidnapping for ransom. “Initially 66 bodies were recovered but 22 more have been found,” Kebbi state police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar said, adding that the search for more bodies was ongoing. Dozens of assailants on motorcycles attacked seven neighbouring villages in Danko-Wasagu district on Thursday, Abubakar said. The gunmen targeted the villages of Koro, Kimpi, Gaya, Dimi, Zutu, Rafin Gora and Iguenge, he said. Many people were still unaccounted for Sunday after fleeing the attacks. … Nearly 700,000 people have been internally displaced in northwest and north central Nigeria in February, according to the UN’s migration agency IOM, as a result of violence. In Zamfara, Doctors without Borders (MSF) said it was struggling to respond to growing needs. AFP

Nigeria Suspends Twitter after the Social Media Platform Freezes President’s Account
Nigeria has indefinitely suspended Twitter two days after the social media giant temporarily froze the account of the nation’s president, sparking a torrent of Internet outrage in Africa’s most populous country. The minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, made the surprise announcement Friday in the capital Abuja, citing vague safety concerns. On Wednesday, Twitter removed a post by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, that vowed to punish separatists in the nation’s southeast whom authorities have blamed for attacks on federal property. … The social media platform said Buhari’s tweet violated its “abusive behavior” policy, removed the post and suspended his account for 12 hours. … Nigerian activists have harnessed the platform to fuel major protest movements — including #EndSARS, which led to the end last year of a police unit that human rights groups called abusive. … Amnesty International’s Nigeria arm criticized the ban in a tweet Friday, saying that Twitter is “widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights.” SERAP, a human rights law nonprofit group in Lagos — Africa’s largest city, with an estimated 20 million inhabitants — pledged to sue the government. “Nigerians have a right to freedom of expression and access to information including online,” the group tweeted, “and we plan to fight to keep it that way.” The Washington Post

Hundreds Detained without Trial in Uganda in New Wave of Repression
A new wave of repression in Uganda has led to the abductions of dozens more opposition activists by security forces and at least one alleged death. Several hundred people are thought to have been detained without trial in the east African country in secret prisons where they are subjected to a brutal regime of mistreatment. The country has suffered a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent since campaigning began for presidential elections late last year. The trigger for the most recent repression by security services appears to have been the swearing-in ceremony of Uganda’s veteran president, the 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni, in May. Museveni won a sixth term in office in January in an election denounced as fraudulent by the opposition. Police and other unidentified security agencies moved to arrest and detain hundreds in the week before and after the inauguration. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu – the singer turned politician known by his stage name, Bobi Wine – who is Uganda’s main opposition leader, told the Guardian a member of the inner security team was tortured to death by security operatives in the capital, Kampala. … The NUP has listed more than 700 members and activists said to have been detained but said the true figure was likely to be higher. The Guardian

UN: Famine Is Imminent in Ethiopia’s Embattled Tigray Region
Famine is imminent in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and in the country’s north, the U.N. humanitarian chief said, warning there’s a risk that hundreds of thousands of people or more will die. Mark Lowcock said the economy has been destroyed along with businesses, crops and farms and there are no banking or telecommunications services. “We are hearing of starvation-related deaths already,” he said in a statement Friday. … “There is now a risk of a loss of life running into the hundreds of thousands or worse,” Lowcock said. He said getting food and other humanitarian aid to all those in need is proving very difficult for aid agencies. The United Nations and the Ethiopian government have helped about 2 million people in recent months in northern Ethiopia, mainly in government-controlled areas, he said. But Lowcock said there are more than 1 million people in places controlled by Tigrayan opposition forces and “there have been deliberate, repeated, sustained attempts to prevent them getting food.” In addition, there are places controlled by the Eritreans and other places controlled by militia groups where it is extremely difficult to deliver aid, he said. AP

Special Report: How Ethnic Killings Exploded from an Ethiopian Town
[I]n March the government granted Reuters rare access to the region, where reporters saw burned out homes and hastily marked graves. Drawing on more than 120 interviews with Tigrayans and Amharas in Mai Kadra and other towns and villages inside Tigray, as well as in refugee camps in Sudan, they were able to build the first comprehensive chronicle of western Tigray’s descent into communal violence. Reuters cross-checked the accounts it collected over the past six months with 44 unpublished testimonies gathered by two international aid organisations, medical records and satellite data. The timeline that emerges tells of two rounds of bloodletting in Mai Kadra and ethnic violence that spilled across western Tigray. The first killings in Mai Kadra were committed by ethnic Tigrayans against Amharas, the reporting showed. … Then came revenge killings by forces from the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south and whose leaders back Abiy’s government. Tigrayan residents said the Amhara forces drove out Tigrayans, expunged Tigrayan names from street signs and seized Tigrayan homes, daubing some doors with letters in red paint: “This is an Amhara house.” Reuters

Several Dozen Reported Dead in Clashes in South Darfur
About 36 people were killed and 32 wounded in clashes in Sudan’s state of South Darfur, state news agency SUNA reported on Sunday. The violence occurred between members of the Fellata and Taisha groups in the area of Um Dafuq, SUNA reported. A resident said the fighting happened on Saturday in a land dispute. Security has worsened in recent months in Darfur despite a peace deal signed between Sudan’s transitional authorities and some rebel groups late last year. A joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force stopped patrolling on Jan. 1 ahead of its withdrawal, with Sudanese national forces pledging to secure Darfur in its place. A conflict that intensified across Darfur from 2003 mostly subsided, but some 1.5 million people remain displaced and outbreaks of violence have become more common since last year. Reuters

Hemetti Rejects Integration of His RSF Militiamen in Sudanese Army
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemetti,” Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) rejected publically the integration of his forces into the Sudanese army, challenging plans to merge the various armies under a unified command during the transitional period. … On Saturday, the Sudan Tribune got a video including the second part of his remarks before the SLM-MM supporters where he openly rejects the merger of his RSF into the reformed Sudan Armed Forces. … Last month, officials in Khartoum said al-Burhan was angered by decisions to dismiss the chief justice and to “accept” the resignation of the general attorney taken by Hemetti during his absence in Paris to participate in a summit for Sudan. Analysts in Khartoum say Hemetti’s rejection to disband his forces constitutes an additional challenge to the democratic transition in Sudan. Adding, it can incite holdout rebel groups to refuse the DDR during the transitional period. Sudan Tribune

Kenya Offers to Support Sudan’s Transition to Democracy
Kenya has offered to help Sudan’s reforms for government institutions as the country emerges from years of conflict and isolation. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo says Nairobi is willing to support Khartoum’s “broad-based reform” needed to move the country from the transition stage to a democracy. Ms Omamo was in Khartoum on Saturday and Sunday where she delivered President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “goodwill” message to Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. She also met Sudanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Mariam Al Mahdi, where they discussed new relations for an emerging Sudan. … Kenya said it is willing to use its experience in reform, including elevation of women in leadership, to support Sudan’s own transition. “The ministers noted the progress made in implementing the transition in Sudan, with the Cabinet Secretary indicating that Kenya had experience and expertise in various sectors of reforms and governance,” said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nation

Somalia’s Opposition Decries ‘Assassination Attempt’ on Ex-President Mohamud
Somalia’s opposition groups are demanding an investigation into an incident in which prison guards fired at a convoy carrying former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu. The Wednesday evening incident prompted an apology from the country’s Justice Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, who described the shooting as “accidental.” Mr Nur told local media that he had launched an inquiry into the incident involving guards from Somalia’s Custodial Corps. Mr Mohamud, however, insists that the Wednesday incident was a plot to end his life. … Happening amid a tense electioneering period, politicians allied to the former president agree with him. Abdirazak Mohamed, a federal MP and former internal security minister, called on Prime Minister Hussein Roble to look into the incident. The prison guards, however, argue that they were provoked by the ex-president’s security detail. Mahad Abdirahman, the head of the Custodial Corps, condemned the incident but did not take responsibility, saying his forces had only responded to the leader’s guards opening fire. The EastAfrican

ISWAP Militant Group Says Nigeria’s Boko Haram Leader Is Dead
The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) militant group said in an audio recording heard by Reuters on Sunday that Abubakar Shekau, leader of rival Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, was dead. Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle, a person purporting to be ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi said on the audio recording. “Abubakar Shekau, God has judged him by sending him to heaven,” he can be heard saying. Two people familiar with al-Barnawi told Reuters the voice on the recording was that of the ISWAP leader. A Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and Boko Haram researchers have also said Shekau is dead. Last month, Nigeria’s military said it was investigating Shekau’s alleged death, also reported in Nigerian and foreign news outlets. The audio statement, first obtained by local media, is ISWAP’s first confirmation that its arch rival in the Lake Chad region has been killed. Reuters

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Dissident Denied Food and Medicine in Prison, Family Says
Paul Rusesabagina, the prominent dissident who was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda,” is being denied food and medicine in a prison in Rwanda where he is being held on terrorism-related charges, according to his family, lawyers and foundation, even as the 66-year-old has complained of poor health. Mr. Rusesabagina told family members that prison officials informed him that they would cut his access to food, water and medicine starting Saturday. His family and lawyers believe the move by Rwandan authorities was an attempt to pressure him to return to his trial, which he stopped attending in March after saying he did not expect to receive justice. … On Friday, Mr. Rusesabagina’s lawyers were scheduled to visit him but were denied entrance to the prison, his lead counsel, Kate Gibson, said. Calling the latest developments “disturbing,” Ms. Gibson said the legal team filed an “urgent submission” with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention seeking an inquiry into Mr. Rusesabagina’s situation. The New York Times

Solar-Powered Motorbikes: Climate-Friendly Tool to Fight Poaching in Africa
The electric ‘bush-bikes’ developed by Stockholm-based electric motorcycle company CAKE are due to be tested between June and August in South Africa. And because electric motorbikes are largely silent, they will allow rangers to move with much more stealth than on normal motorbikes, making them real game-changers. The Kalk AP (the AP stands for anti-poaching) model is based on CAKE’s regular electric bikes, says Klara Edhag, a brand manager for the company. But there are crucial modifications. These include thick off-road tyres, high mudguards made from recycled plastic and solar panels and a portable power station to charge the bike’s batteries. A number were done in consultation with staff from the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC). The college is situated near South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park, which last year saw 245 white rhinos killed for their horns and 16 elephants poached for their ivory, according to official figures. … The silent motor and four-hour battery range will give rangers the element of surprise. Conventional petrol engines, in addition to gobbling up thousands of litres of fuel doing a year’s-worth of patrols, can be heard approaching from kilometres away and give poachers an early warning. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones