Africa Media Review for June 8, 2020

French Military Says It Killed Top Qaeda Leader in Africa
The French military said on Friday that its forces in Mali had killed one of Al Qaeda’s longest-serving commanders in Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdal, who has led an affiliate of the terror network for more than a decade. The killing of Mr. Droukdal, later confirmed by the U.S. Africa Command, is a setback for Al Qaeda’s operations in northwestern Africa. … “If confirmed to be true, the death of Droukdal removes one of the most senior and most durable leaders of AQIM, a longstanding Al Qaeda affiliate,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington. “Droukdal remained doggedly loyal to Al Qaeda’s senior leadership.” The New York Times

Mali Vows to Investigate after Army Accused of Deadly Village Attack
Mali on Saturday pledged to investigate claims that the army killed dozens of civilians in its conflict-riven centre, as complaints about the military’s conduct in the West African nation escalate. Some 30 people were killed and a village burnt in the region, officials said, but it was unclear who was behind the latest violence. Friday’s attack targeted a Fulani village named Binedama in the volatile Mopti region, said Aly Barry, an official from Tabital Pulaaku, a Fulani association. The group released a statement later on Saturday saying that 29 people had died and called for an independent probe led by the United Nations. Two other local officials confirmed the attack to AFP, but gave a lower death toll of 26, adding that the village was torched and its chief killed. AFP

Libya’s Tripoli Forces Press Gains despite Egypt Truce Offer
Libyan fighters allied with the country’s U.N.-supported government in Tripoli pressed their advance on Monday, boosted by recent battlefield gains and their rivals’ withdrawal from around the capital, the warring sides reported. The push came despite a unilateral cease-fire proposal over the weekend by Egypt, a backer of the rival Libyan forces commanded by Khalifa Hifter, who has waged a year-long campaign to capture Tripoli from the militias allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government. The Tripoli forces, backed by Turkey, gained the upper hand last week after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key towns near Tripoli, forcing Hifter’s fighters to withdraw – defeats their command painted as a tactical measure to give the U.N.-backed peace process a chance. AP

Libyan Commander Backed by Russia Says He’s Ready for Talks to End War
The Libyan commander backed by Russia, whose forces suffered a string of battlefield losses in recent days, declared on Saturday that he was ready to stop fighting and enter talks to end his oil-rich country’s grinding civil war. The announcement was unlikely to bring an immediate end to the fighting. But it offered new evidence of the decisive clout of Turkey, on the other side of Libya’s war, whose intervention in favor of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli has thwarted Russia’s ambitions and shifted the course of the conflict. … The scale and speed of Mr. Hifter’s losses have stunned Libyans, and analysts say the retreat not only marks the end of his assault on Tripoli, but is likely to reshape the broader military and political landscape in the country. The New York Times

Six Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Jihadist Attack on Army Base
Six Nigerian soldiers were killed in a jihadist attack on a military base in northeastern Nigeria, military sources disclosed on Sunday. Fighters from the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP), Boko Haram branch, in trucks equipped with machine guns, attacked the Auno base, 25 km from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, the sources said. … The clashes lasted for two hours until the overwhelmed Nigerian military was forced to retreat, another military source said, confirming this assessment. The army is searching for 45 soldiers who could not be located but who it believes managed to escape, the source added. The attackers looted weapons and burned buildings inside the base before being repelled with air support, according to the same source. AFP

Somalia: Three Die after Assault on Mogadishu Army Camp
A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Mogadishu army camp Monday, killing at least three soldiers a day after the army chief escaped an attack on his convoy, military sources said. “The suicide bomber was stopped at the main entrance and he blew himself up. Three soldiers died and several others were wounded,” said soldier Abdukadir Farah, who was inside the camp at the time of the attack. Farah said there had been a meeting of military officials underway at the camp. But it was not clear if army chief Ahmed Mohamed Jimale was among them, he said. Military official Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Abdirahman told AFP the attacker had been “disguised as a member of the military” to gain access to the training camp. AFP

Terrorist Groups Exploiting COVID-19 in Sahel, UN Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council
COVID-19 is complicating an already complex security situation in the Sahel, with terrorist groups exploiting the pandemic as they step up attacks on national and international forces, the UN’s peacekeeping chief said on Friday. Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that the last six months have been particularly challenging as the G5 Sahel group of nations – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – deploys a joint force to restore stability to the vast African sub-region. “We are seeing attempts by terrorists and other groups in the region to capitalize on the pandemic to undermine State authority and destabilize Governments,” with innocent lives being lost daily, schools shuttered and many people denied access to basic social services, he said. … Mr. Lacroix was briefing a videoconference meeting of the Council as the United Nations considers options for beefing up its support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, including through its MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali. UN News

Thousands in Mali’s Capital Demand President Keita Step Down
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Mali’s capital demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Urged by opposition parties and government critics, demonstrators gathered on Friday in a central square in Bamako to condemn what they say is the president’s mishandling of many crises plaguing the country. Later on Friday, there were reports of a heavy security presence outside the presidential palace as thousands of protesters began surrounding it. Some demonstrators waved banners bearing slogans such as “IBK, get out,” using the acronym by which the president is popularly known. Others had banners demanding the release of Soumaila Cisse, a former prime minister and opposition leader who was kidnapped by armed men in volatile central Mali on March 25 while campaigning for an upcoming parliamentary election. Al Jazeera

Mali: Migrants Stranded by COVID-19 Border Closures Now Home
Dozens of Malian migrants stranded for nearly three months in Niger by COVID-19-related border closures have returned home.  Earlier this week, the International Organization for Migration was finally able to repatriate 179 migrants who had been waiting at IOM transit centers in Niamey and Agadez. In the past two weeks, the U.N. migration agency was able to return 43 migrants to Burkina Faso and 58 migrants to Benin from Niger by land.  However, the return of the Malian nationals was the first by air since restrictions on air travel were imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said the airlift was made possible by an agreement between Niger and Mali. … The agency reports around 30,000 migrants are stranded in West and Central Africa. VOA

Sudan PM Hamdok: ‘Return of Displaced, Refugees, Major Challenge for Transitional Govt’
Sudan’s Prime Minster Abdallah Hamdok says that addressing the issues of displaced people and refugees are the major challenges for the transitional government. In an interview with Sudan National TV Channel on Thursday, the PM also said that issues such as secularism of state or self-determination should be no prerequisite to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement. The PM said that his government had a peace framework in place before the current peace talks began. He added that this peace framework aimed to address the root causes of the conflict in the country. “The framework includes various issues such as transitional justice, good governance, and social development,” PM said. He explained that “if we could address the root causes, we would put an end to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence in the country.” Radio Dabanga

Former Political Detainee Forms New Rebel Group in South Sudan
A former political detainee Kerbino Agok Wol has formed a new armed group, the October 7th Movement, to bring democratic change in South Sudan. “We are the 7 October Movement. We are voices of the collective citizenry and the sacred homeland that is called South Sudan,” read the manifesto of the rebel group. Wol who described the ruling elite in South Sudan as “looters” says that the root cause of the crisis can be found in the system of power and repression this corrupt elite. Therefore, the whole “system must be eliminated.” Wol had been detained on 27 April 2018 without charge and incarcerated at the Blue House in Juba. After the riot of 7 October 2018, he had been imprisoned for 10 years for taking part in the organized insurrection by the inmates of the detention facility. President Kiir, however, pardoned him and he was released on 3 January 2020, as part of the government commitment to create a conducive environment for peace implementation. Sudan Tribune

Rebel Group Suspends Participation in Central Africa Peace Pact
A key militia in the Central African Republic has said it is suspending its participation in a peace agreement signed by the government and rebel groups last year that has led to relative calm in the war-torn country. “The 3R movement has decided to suspend all its participation in the bodies involved in implementing” the peace pact, the group’s leader Sidiki Abass said in a statement released late Friday. He called on the militia’s members to “respond with all their strength” should government forces attack its bases. But he insisted that 3R “reaffirms its irreversible commitment to the process” of implementing the peace agreement “if the threats and provocation cease.” On Wednesday, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, known by the acronym MINUSCA, had warned Sidiki Abass “against his expansionist tendencies in other parts of the region, in clear violation of the political accord for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic.” AFP

Zimbabwe: Top Opposition Officials Held in Dispute over Party HQ
Police in Harare have arrested several top officials of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party after they attempted to enter its headquarters, which is being occupied by members of a splinter faction. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been divided since the Supreme Court ruled on March 30 that Nelson Chamisa was not its legitimate leader and installed Thokozani Khupe, head of one faction of the party, to lead it in the interim. Most MDC members still regard Chamisa as their leader and accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of siding with Khupe’s faction in the battle for control of the movement. Supporters of Khupe seized control of the party’s offices at Harvest House in central Harare late on Thursday while police watched, a video of the incident circulated by the MDC showed. Anti-riot police on Friday cordoned off the building, which has stood as a symbol of the MDC’s fight against Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party for the past 20 years. Al Jazeera

Malawi’s President Appoints New Election Boss
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has appointed a new electoral commission chairperson ahead of a presidential re-run. The country’s Constitutional Court in February ordered a fresh presidential election be held within 150 days after annulling last year’s re-election of President Mutharika – a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court. The former commission chairperson Jane Ansah resigned amid criticism by the opposition on how she managed the disputed election. President Mutharika on Sunday appointed Justice Chifundo Kachale to head the electoral commission. … Malawian MPs are due to meet to decide on the exact date for the election – one of the proposed dates is 23 June. Africa News

Ex-Chadian Dictator Hissene Habre Returns to Prison
Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre will return to prison in Senegal on Sunday after a two-month release aimed at protecting him from the coronavirus. Habre seized power in Chad in 1982, fleeing to Senegal in 1990 after he was overthrown. The former leader – who is now in his late 70s – was jailed in Senegal in 2016 over abuses committed during years of iron-fisted rule in Chad. Some 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed under Habre’s leadership of the semi-desert country. But on April 6, a judge granted Habre a 60-day release from prison after his lawyer argued that his age left him particularly vulnerable to coronavirus. Habre’s supporters are ramping up efforts to have him freed, which has fuelled fear among his victims that the authorities might be gearing up to release him permanently. AFP

Schools Re-Open in South Africa after Initial Delay
Children in South Africa began returning to classrooms on Monday as part of a gradual loosening of restrictions imposed under a months-long COVID-19 lockdown in the continent’s most industrialised nation. The re-opening of schools had been delayed after teachers’ unions urged school staff to defy the government order last week, saying schools lacked sufficient health and hygiene measures to keep educators and pupils safe. South Africa has counted nearly 50,000 cases of the new coronavirus – the most of any country in sub-Saharan Africa – along with almost 1,000 deaths. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday that ramped up efforts to equip schools over the past week meant that 95% of South Africa’s primary and secondary schools were now able to host classes. Reuters

Focus on Food Security, Governments Urged as Global Event Is Marked
Amid the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, food security has become a major concern, especially to vulnerable communities across the world. Many are now finding it more difficult than ever to put food on the table as the pandemic has impacted heavily on various sources of livelihoods. Today, Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the second World Food Safety Day (WFSD), which is marked on June 7. The European Union (EU) has been at the forefront in supporting this important sector, which affects humans in health and wealth. … MARKUP’s food safety campaign, which is run through online and traditional media, targets food producers, transporters, sellers, chefs and cooks as well as consumers. Last week, this campaign engaged social media influencers in a cooking demo for different delicacies, with focus on food safety and its importance. The East African