Africa Media Review for March 10, 2020

Gunmen Kill 43 in Attacks on 2 Villages in Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed at least 43 people in attacks on two villages in northern Burkina Faso, the government said Monday. Armed men attacked Dinguila and Barga villages in Yatenga province, the government said in a statement on Monday. The military was dispatched to secure the villages and at least six injured were taken to the central hospital in nearby Ouahigouya, said the statement. Government spokesman Remis Fulgance Dandjinou told The Associated Press he didn’t know who was behind the violence. The villages that were attacked, however, are known to be populated by Fulani herdsman who have been targeted by local defense groups and the army for their alleged affiliation with jihadists. A resident from Ouahigouya, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of his safety, told the AP that the attacks occurred after jihadists sought shelter in the town of Dinguila. Local defense groups followed the extremists to the town and massacred people, he said. Analysts say the attack signifies a worrying trend. “This is also one of the areas where we have identified a significant risk of increased stigmatization against the Fulani,” said William Assanvo, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies. This is the first massacre of this scale in that area, he said. AP

Uganda Says 20 Killed in Raid on Army Post Near DRC Border

Twenty people including three soldiers were killed in an attack on an army post in Uganda close to its northwestern border with Democratic Republic of Congo, a military spokesman said on Tuesday. Around 80 raiders, including members of Congolese militias, carried out the March 6 attack. They were armed with bows, arrows, machetes and spears, and were intending to steal guns, said deputy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Deo Akiiki. Loosely controlled by Congolese authorities, the country’s eastern border region has long been plagued by insecurity, with fighting between rival militias seeking to exploit patches of territory and mineral and other resources riches often spilling into Uganda. The Ugandan army had stepped up border patrols in response to last week’s attack, Akiiki said. It occurred a few kilometres (miles) from the northern edge of the Albertine rift basin where Uganda’s oilfields are found. They are operated by France’s Total, China’s CNOOC and Britain’s Tullow Oil and were not attacked during this incident. Reuters

EU Outlines New Africa Strategy

The European Union outlined Monday a new partnership with Africa that seeks to build a more equal relationship between the two sides. The strategy is still in the bare-bones stage. Many details still need filling in, including financial ones. European Union officials said they will be looking for feedback from African counterparts in the run-up to an EU-Africa summit later this year. But the EU’s executive arm has outlined five key focus areas – transitioning to and accessing green energy; the digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace security and governance; and migration and mobility. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said overall, the bloc wants to scale up its partnership with Africa and make it more effective. “We have geopolitical interests in Africa. Our growth and security depends on what happens in Africa, maybe more than in any other part of the world,” Borrell said. While the EU is not always seen as a financial heavyweight in Africa, the 27-member bloc together is the source of more than $250 billion in foreign investment on the continent, compared to $48 billion from the United States, and $43 billion from China. Borrell said current European support also includes helping African nations cope with the global coronavirus outbreak, and more broadly strengthening their health systems. VOA

Coronavirus: Burkina Faso Confirms Two Cases

Burkina Faso has confirmed two coronavirus cases – the country’s first, the health ministry reported. The patients are of Burkinabe origin and had returned from France in February, Minister Claudine Lougue told reporters. The man is 73-years-old and the woman is 57. They tested positive for the virus on Monday and have been placed in isolation, authorities say. A third person who was reportedly in close contact with the couple has been placed under observation. Burkina Faso becomes the sixth sub-Saharan African country to report positive tests for coronavirus. West Africa is the is second most impacted region with single-digit cases reported in Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Cameroon is the only country in Central Africa with two cases whiles in southern Africa only South Africa has seven cases. North Africa is the most impacted region with only Libya having escaped infection so far. Egypt has 55 cases whiles Algeria has 20, Tunisia, Morocco have 5 and 2 cases respectively. … Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari on Monday announced a coronavirus task force with the aim of helping control the virus which as at today had affected two persons. Africa News

In Burkina Faso, Arming Civilians to Fight Jihadists. What Could Go Wrong?

Passed by parliament in January, Burkina Faso’s new “Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland” law is a response to a spike in violence that has forced more than 750,000 people to flee their homes – almost all since the beginning of last year – and overwhelmed the country’s ill-equipped and demoralised security forces. The scheme will provide local volunteers with weapons and two weeks of training to combat the jihadists, who are linked to al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State and have spread across the country – and the wider Sahel region. Recruitment is just beginning, but the idea has drawn strong criticism from rights groups who fear amateurish local fighters might commit abuses against civilians during operations against the extremists, and potentially invite attacks by jihadists on communities where recruits assemble. Researchers worry that the vigilantes will also exacerbate ethnic tensions with Burkina Faso’s marginalised Fulani community, who are often accused of joining and harbouring the militants and have been targeted by the Burkinabe army and existing local defence groups as a result. … TNH sent several questions to Burkina Faso’s ministry of defence asking how it will oversee and control the volunteers but received no response. The New Humanitarian

Influential Nigerian Traditional Ruler Dethroned

The influential traditional ruler of northern Nigeria’s largest city of Kano was removed from his position on Monday after a long-running argument with the authorities. The emir of Kano is by tradition the second most senior Islamic ruler in Africa’s most populous nation, after the sultan of Sokoto. Lamido Sanusi, who ascended the throne in 2014, was accused of “disrespect to lawful instructions,” the state government said in a statement. The government said his removal was also to safeguard the “sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige” of the Kano state emirate established more than a millennium ago. Sources said the deposed ruler was taken into custody by police in his palace immediately after the announcement was made, and then escorted out of the city to neighbouring Nasawara state under tight security. … Sanusi, a former head of Nigeria’s central bank, has been at loggerheads with state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje because of his outspokenness against the authorities and allegations he supported the opposition at last year’s elections. … Emirs have no constitutional role in Nigeria, but they wield enormous king-like influence over their subjects. Their funds come from state government, and politicians rely on their support during elections. AFP

Nigerians Condemn #SocialMediaBill at Senate’s Public Hearing

Over 20 institutions and groups that appeared at the public hearing of the ‘Social Media Bill’ have asked the lawmakers to trash the legislation. Only the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Islamic Affairs and Civil Voices Coalition for protection of right and privileges supported the bill. Many of the critics said Nigeria had existing laws that could cover the provision of the bill. … Many have said the bill is targeted at silencing the media and the masses. … The President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isigwuzo, was the first to make his presentation. He said the bill seeks to pigeonhole Nigerians from freely expressing themselves, noting that democracy is the right of people to free expression. … “We want to advise the sponsors to withdraw same. It is (an) unnecessary proliferation of laws. We have the Criminal Code, Penal Code and Cyber Crime Act which have dealt with the issue of misinformation or disinformation. “We are not saying there is no fake news on social media, some of us are victims. Fake news is worse than coronavirus, no doubt but people should not be stopped from expressing themselves,” he said. He urged the lawmakers to regulate the social media platforms “but not the end-users.” Premium Times

Mali Militants Say They Are Open to Talks If Foreign Troops Leave

Al Qaeda-linked militants have said they will only attend peace talks with Mali’s government if it expels French and United Nations forces. There was no immediate response from the government which has been proposing talks in recent weeks to try and end an insurgency that has spread violence across the West African state and its neighbours. But Malian authorities have repeatedly said they want French forces to stay, and France has promised to boost its military presence in the Sahel region. … Mali has been in chaos since 2012 when jihadist fighters hijacked an insurrection by Tuareg separatists to seize Mali’s entire desert north. They were forced back by an intervention led by Mali’s former colonial ruler France the following year. The militants have since reconstituted and extended their range of influence, striking hotels and restaurants in regional capitals and terrorising villages in the hinterlands, where nearly 1 million people have fled their homes. Reuters

Libya’s Haftar Committed to Signing Ceasefire: French Presidency

Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s eastern military commander, has told France’s president he will sign a ceasefire and stick to it if militias backed by the internationally recognized government respect it, a French presidency official said on Monday. “Marshal Haftar assured (us) that he was committed to signing the ceasefire but this commitment would cease if the militias do not respect it,” the official said after Haftar met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The official gave no further details. Despite a peace conference held in Berlin in January, violence has increased in Libya, with combatants in the west and east preparing for a long conflict as foreign weapons flood in, eastern factions close oil ports and rival alliances wrangle over revenues from Africa’s largest petroleum reserves. Several countries backing rival factions in Libya have violated an arms embargo, according to the United Nations, which has previously named the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey for breaching the embargo. After the Berlin conference the violations increased and the U.N. denounced them without naming countries. Reuters

In Starving South Sudan, Peace Is No Guarantee of a Meal
The villagers hear the distant roar of jet engines before a cargo plane makes a deafening pass over Mogok, dropping sacks of grain from its hold to the marooned dust bowl below. There is no other way to get food to this starving hamlet in South Sudan. There are no roads, and the snaking Nile is miles away. After enduring famine-like deprivation, women sprint to gather the rations that must sustain their families for months. “The children were eating leaves,” Nyawal Puot, 36 and a mother of five, told AFP in Mogok, a cluster of thatch huts on a barren plain, many days walk from anywhere in northeast South Sudan. Mogok was saved from the brink, but one in two South Sudanese are starving, some approaching famine, just as President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have once again united in government to try and lead the country out of six years of war. In February, just days before the old foes declared an end to the conflict their rivalry started, the United Nations announced hunger in South Sudan was again at crisis levels. AFP

Malawi Court to Hear President’s Appeal against Vote Annulment

Malawi’s Supreme Court will hear next month an appeal by President Peter Mutharika against a ruling that annulled his May 2019 re-election, an official said on Monday. In February, the Constitutional Court nullified results that saw Mutharika narrowly re-elected, citing widespread irregularities, in particular the “massive” use of correction fluid on tally sheets. The ruling was issued with an order for officials to hold a new presidential election within 150 days. Allegations of vote-rigging following the May 2019 poll sparked protests across the normally peaceful southern African country, and violence erupted at several demonstrations. On Monday, spokeswoman Agnes Patemba told AFP that an appeal lodged by Mutharika and the electoral commission would be heard for two weeks from mid April. “Seven Supreme Court justices will convene to hear the appeal …. on April 15,” she said. On Sunday, two protest organisers were arrested for threatening more demonstrations if Mutharika did not sign laws to allow for fresh polls. AFP

Wife, Rights Groups Pressure Zimbabwe’s Government to Find Missing Activist

Rights groups are renewing their demand that Zimbabwean officials investigate the case of a pro-democracy activist who went missing five years ago. Itai Dzamara was a fierce critic of the late president Robert Mugabe and his former deputy, now president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. On Monday, Sheffra Dzamara the wife of missing activist and journalist Itai Dzamara delivered a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices in Harare. “My wish is that Mr. Mnangagwa responds to my letter and invites us – the Dzamara family and we sit down,” Dzamara said. “She wants the Zimbabwean leader help her understand what happened to her husband. “This is important, even to the children, as they need closure or they will grow up with anger, especially the boy. If they really want to do it, within a day we would know where Itai is or what happened to him,” she added. Itai Dzamara vanished in Harare on March 9, 2015, after going out for a haircut. Rights group Amnesty International suspects he was abducted by state security agencies. VOA

Human Rights Activist ‘Forced to Flee DRC’ over Child Cobalt Mining Lawsuit

A Congolese human rights activist has said he was forced to flee the country with his family after being linked to a lawsuit accusing the world’s largest tech companies of being complicit in the deaths of children in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In December, the Guardian revealed that a group of families from DRC were launching landmark legal action against Apple, Google, Tesla, Microsoft and Dell. They claim they aided and abetted the deaths and injuries of their children, who were working in mines that they say were linked to the tech companies. Auguste Mutombo, executive director of Alternatives Plus, a DRC-based NGO that works to improve conditions in the artisanal mining sector, helped facilitate the field research that formed the evidence base for the suit. He said that shortly after details of the lawsuit went public, he received dozens of death threats in person and via telephone, and text messages from people who claimed to be members of mining cooperatives. Mutombo said he did not go to the police as he did not trust the authorities to protect him. The Guardian

On a Mission to Heal: The Man with a Plan to Transform Burundi

When civil war erupted in Burundi in 1993, like many children, the teenage Dieudonné Nahimana fled to the capital, Bujumbura, and ended up destitute. He became the de facto leader of a group of 40 street children, surviving in the shelter of abandoned buildings. It was an experience that drove his ambition higher, sowing the seeds for a nation-building project and his decision to run for president. Burundi goes to the polls on 20 May and Nahimana, standing as an independent, has a manifesto of unity. “In our country political parties have developed out of ethnic divisions,” he says. “But the people helping my campaign come from all ethnic groups. Together, we are showing it’s time to value life in Burundi.” … Nahimana lost his father and 18 relatives in the civil war and genocide which left 300,000 people dead. He believes ethnic disputes can finally be set aside in the election for a leader to replace President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has held office since the conflict ended in 2005. “This time the elections are going to focus on development and stability of the country, not on fixing the same issues that have been around for a long time,” Nahimana says.  The Guardian

Photographer Kyle Weeks Uses His Medium to Show That Manhood in Africa Is Not a Singular Image

When Kyle Weeks was growing up in Windhoek, Namibia, his father would watch the news every morning before work, and again at lunchtime. He’d then relay the headlines to his son: a perpetual cycle of bleak outlooks on Africa. “There was never really any good news,” Weeks remembers. Now, as a photographer, he’s challenging that narrative by focusing his lens on the creativity of the continent’s youth. And it would seem that this perspective is resonating. In 2016, Weeks was honored at the Magnum Photography Awards for his 2015 series “Palm Wine Collectors,” which captures Makalani palm harvesters from the Kunene region of Namibia tapping palm trees to make a nourishing moonshine. That same year, he had a solo show at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. … Over the past four years, Weeks has been regularly traveling to Accra, Ghana, for an ongoing body of work. What started as a loose investigation into Ghanaian manhood has evolved into a project that highlights the immense creativity of the city’s young people. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones