Africa Media Review for March 11, 2020

Arrests in Sudan after PM Survives Assassination Attempt
Sudanese authorities have arrested a number of suspects in connection with what the government called an assassination attempt against Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in an incident that underlines the fragility of the country’s transition to civilian rule. Officials and state media said on Monday Hamdok, 64, survived unharmed after a bomb and gun attack targeted his motorcade in the capital, Khartoum. In a Twitter post, Hamdok said he was in “good shape” and that what had happened would be “an additional push to the wheel of change in Sudan,” where he heads a transitional government following the military overthrow in April last year of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in the face of months-long pro-democracy protests. Khartoum Governor Ahmed Abdoon told Al Jazeera that a number of people suspected of involvement in the attack had been attacked, without providing additional details. The country’s top prosecutor, Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr, said in a statement that prosecutors have embarked on their investigation into the “professionally plotted” attack. Al Jazeera

S.African Court Clears Ramaphosa of Misleading Parliament, Money-Laundering Alleged by Graft Watchdog
South Africa’s High Court on Tuesday cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of lying to parliament about the source of donations to his 2017 campaign to lead the ruling party, setting aside a potentially damaging report by a powerful anti-graft watchdog. The high court judges described the watchdog’s approach as based on a mistaken and “fatally flawed” reading of the law. The case was seen by many analysts as a proxy of the bitter power rivalry inside the ANC between supporters of Ramaphosa and his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma. Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had alleged in July that Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament about the 500,000 rand ($32,500) donation for his campaign to succeed Jacob Zuma as head of the ruling frican National Congress (ANC). In her report she said there was also prima facie evidence of money laundering involving millions of rand in the handling of the donations, sparking an angry response from Ramaphosa, who swiftly challenged the legality and motivation of the report. The high court, in a sitting of three justices, concurred with Ramaphosa’s complaint. “It is apparent from the report that the Public Protector was confused about the legal foundation of her finding,” said Keoagile Elias Matojane. Reuters

Burundi Election Countdown amid ‘Deteriorating’ Human Rights Situation
Two months ahead of Burundi’s planned local and presidential elections, senior UN-appointed independent rights investigators have urged the Government to reopen the “democratic, civil and political space” there. “These are not only basic human rights, they are also an absolute requirement for the holding of free, transparent and credible elections in a peaceful climate”, said a statement from the Commissioners leading the official Geneva-based Commission Inquiry on Burundi (COIB) during an oral briefing to the UN Human Rights Council on 9 March. The Commission reiterated its warnings that the situation in Burundi continues to worsen – politically, economically as well as in terms of security. Of particular concern are the Imbonerakure – members of a youth league linked to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling party – and to multiple attacks against opposition politicians and their families. They have continued to carry out “killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment and rape against actual or alleged political opposition members,” the Commissioners warned. UN News

Malawi Police Tear Gas Protesters, Leaders Arrested
Police in Malawi tear gas protesters on Tuesday as a pro-democracy activist handed himself in over his calls for anti-government demonstrations. Timothy Mtambo heads the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which has been spearheading protests since last year’s disputed presidential elections. … Lawyer for the Coalition Khwima Mchizi is not sure whether his client will be granted bail. “We will wait and see. It’s unlikely that he will be given police bail. So if all the processes are done at the police station, the file will be ready to apply for bail at court,” Mchizi said. President Peter Mutharika was narrowly re-elected in May 2019. But in February, the Constitutional court annulled the results, citing widespread irregularities. Mtambo has been on police wanted listed following the arrest of fellow activists Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka on Sunday. About 5,000 supporters gathered outside the police station in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe in solidarity with the man seen as the face of anti-government resistance. Police fired teargas at protesters before whisking Mtambo into the police station, according to AFP. AFP

Guinea Protests: Renewed Calls for President’s Resignation
Opposition repeats calls for President Conde to step down, after he delays constitutional referendum to extend term. … Opposition supporters and security forces have clashed yet again over fears President Alpha Conde is trying to extend his rule for a third term. He recently postponed a planned referendum to amend the constitution which would allow him to prolong his time in office. Continued protests which started in mid-October have rocked the West African country. [Video] Al Jazeera

Suspected Military Supplies Pour into Libya as UN Flounders
International powers are increasing deliveries of suspected military supplies to factions in Libya’s civil war, ignoring a poorly enforced UN embargo as the shattered country braces for a new round of fighting. The United Arab Emirates, which is backing Khalifa Haftar, the warlord commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, is thought to have sent more than 100 deliveries by air since mid-January, according to flight-tracking data. Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 aimed at capturing Tripoli, the capital and the seat of the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA). Frontlines have been largely static in recent months, with both sides unable to break a military stalemate. Most of the suspect UAE flights leave military bases in the UAE, while some appear to depart from a base run since 2016 by the UAE in Eritrea, where an authoritarian regime is in charge and there is minimal international monitoring. In all, the flights are thought to have carried about 5,000 metric tons of cargo into Libya in very large chartered transport planes that land at an airport close to Benghazi, Haftar’s coastal stronghold, or in western Egypt, from where their loads are thought to be trucked into Libya. The Guardian

Germany’s Merkel Meets Libyan Military Commander Haftar
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met renegade Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Berlin on Tuesday and reiterated the importance of finding a political solution for his war-torn country. The meeting comes less than two months after an international conference was hosted in Berlin and touted at the time as a significant breakthrough in the years-long conflict. At Tuesday’s meeting, Merkel stressed there can be no military solution to the conflict and so “a ceasefire and progress in the political process, in line with the decisions of the Berlin conference, are necessary,” her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement. He did not detail Haftar’s response. Leaders in the German capital on January 19 agreed to uphold a United Nations arms embargo and end military support for the country’s warring factions. The embargo has not been effective, however, and the Berlin meeting failed to make any real difference on the ground. Last month, rival Libyan military officials met in Geneva, where the UN said they agreed to a draft ceasefire agreement that involved the return of displaced civilians to their homes. The fate of the draft agreement remains unclear. Al Jazeera

Schools Close in North-East Kenya after al-Shabaab Targets Teachers
A series of targeted killings of schoolteachers by a militia group in Kenya has seen an exodus of staff and the closure of hundreds of schools across the north-east of the country. Thousands of teachers have left their posts in the past two months following several suspected al-Shabaab attacks in the region. Schools in rural areas near the Somali border have been badly hit. On 13 January, suspected members of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked the village of Kamuthe in Garissa county and killed three non-local teachers and destroyed a communication mast. A few days earlier, a boarding school in another remote village in the Dadaab area of Garissa was targeted by al-Shabaab attackers, according to the Kenyan police. They killed three students and a teacher. Predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis, north-eastern Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and it is one of the country’s most marginalised areas. It is inhabited mostly by nomadic pastoralists whose access to education has been limited. The Guardian

Mozambique Opposition Party Wants ‘State of War Declaration’ in Restive North
A major opposition party in Mozambique has called on the government to declare a state of war in the northern part of the country, where an Islamist insurgency has been going on for several years. Daviz Simango, president of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), the third largest party in the country, said that such a move would mobilize the international community to provide assistance to the Mozambican government in its fight against armed Islamist groups in Cabo Delgado province. “It is important for the government to declare war in Cabo Delgado, so that the population receives humanitarian aid and the international community helps Mozambique to fight evildoers,” the Mozambican O País newspaper quoted Simango as saying Monday. Since 2017, the Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado province has been the target of terror attacks claimed by Islamist militants, some of which are affiliated with the Islamic State terror group. Such attacks in the region have killed at least 500 people, while hundreds of homes have been destroyed or burned down by militants, according to rights groups. VOA

Cameroon Journalists Caught in Separatist Conflict Plea for Help
Dozens of reporters in Cameroon are calling for help after losing their jobs and, in some cases, their homes because of the war between separatist forces and the government.  The reporters say they are constantly attacked or kidnapped for refusing to be propaganda tools for one side or the other. Thirty Cameroonian journalists, most of them women from the volatile North West region, have gathered in the capital city Yaounde to discuss the difficulties of reporting from Cameroon’s crisis zones. Comy Mussa, coordinator of Sisters Speak 237, an NGO that convened the meeting, says she invited the reporters because they need help to continue practicing their profession. “They do not have the kind of editorial support they need to tell a good story. We have a space where we provide this type of support and we also help them with sourcing for grants. Occasionally, we help with maybe transportation to go to an area and get a story that needs to be told,” she said. Mussa said the reporters are victims of brutality and violence and most of them are now poor because they are either out of their job or can no longer work in an environment which is increasingly hostile. VOA

African Lion Multinational Exercises Scaled Back over Coronavirus Threat
Military leaders from Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and the United States decided to size and scope of the annual African Lion multinational exercise this year to reduce the exposure of U.S. and partner forces to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), U.S. Africa Command said on Tuesday, March 10. Nearly 5,000 personnel from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States were scheduled to take part in the exercise held across Morocco, Senegal, Spain and Tunisia from March 23 to April 3. “The safety and protection of all of our forces – U.S. and partner nation – is a priority. Modifying the exercise still improves readiness while minimizing risk to protect both U.S. and partner forces,” said U.S. Africa Command commander General Stephen J. Townsend. “While the scope of the exercise will adjust, our commitment to our African partners endures.” African Lion will now only include portions of the drills that do not require lodging troops in close quarters, AFRICOM said. An academic portion of the exercise that has already begun will still be included. The Defense Post

DRC Records First Case of Coronavirus, 11th African Country Infected
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, have confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country. The patient according to reports is a Belgian national who had been under quarantine at the main airport in the capital, Kinshasa. DRC thus becomes the 11th African country to record a case. They are the second in the southern African region, the first being South Africa that has seven confirmed cases. The country had as at last weekend started implementing a compulsory quarantine for nationals from three virus-infected countries. The countries were: France, Italy, Germany and China. Health Ministry officials wrote to the embassies stressing that persons with symptoms were to be quarantined at a state run facility. Whereas those with no symptoms will be requested to undergo mandatory self-quarantine of 14-days. Africa News

Zim to Give Back Farms Taken under Land Reform Programme
Zimbabwe has announced plans to give back land controversially taken over under its controversial fast track land reform programme, which started in 2000. The programme, which was criticised for being both chaotic and violent, resulted in numerous deaths in the course of land seizures. On Friday, the Zimbabwean government gazetted new legislation under which former landowners may opt for repossession or monetary compensation. … However, the new legislation does not automatically grant compensation. Any application may be rejected “on the basis that granting it would be contrary to the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, regional or town planning or the general public interest”, according to the gazetted regulations. … Despite droughts that have befallen the southern African country several times since year 2000, land reform has been blamed for Zimbabwe’s failure to feed itself, with the country resorting to imports and international help. The United Nations World Food Programme plans to double the number of Zimbabweans that it assists, up to 4.1 million, and will require over $200 million to meet needs in the first half of 2020 alone. Fin24

2 Rare White Giraffes Slaughtered by Poachers in Kenya
Two rare white giraffes, a female and her calf, were killed by poachers in Kenya, officials have said, illustrating the challenges of wildlife conservation and the persistent and devastating impact of poaching in the East African nation. The deaths of the giraffes left just one of the unusually colored animals in the country’s wild, a bull, out of a family of three, conservancy officials said. Officials with the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in Garissa County, northeastern Kenya, where the giraffes lived, said on Tuesday in a Facebook post that armed poachers had killed the two animals in the town of Ijara Town. Conservationists found the skeletal remains of the giraffes, and it was estimated from the state of the carcasses that the animals had been killed four months ago. The Kenya Wildlife Service said it was investigating the killings. “This is a very sad day for the community of Ijara and Kenya as a whole,” the manager of Ishaqbini Hirola, Mohammed Ahmednoor, said in a statement. “We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe.” The New York Times

US Heart Surgeon Treats Children Lacking Care in Libya’s War
Yazan, a 1-year-old Libyan boy, was born with congenital heart disease. With just one chamber, the organ pumped so little blood that when Yazan cried, his skin turned black. Without surgery, he would not survive. But Yazan’s country, Libya, has only one heart surgeon who can’t possibly perform surgeries on 1,200 or so infants born every year with heart defects. Of those, typically some 150 are in dire need of surgery and die in their first year, said William Novick, an American pediatric cardiac surgeon. His international team of experts, part of the Novick Cardiac Alliance, regularly flies into Libya to perform surgery on patients like Yazan. “To me this is simply an unacceptable situation that needs our attention,” said Novick, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee. The medical trips help prop up Libya’s fragile health care system, which the World Health Organization has described as overburdened, inefficient and short of medicine and equipment. Libya has been plunged into chaos since 2011, when a civil war toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. Eastern-based opposition forces attacked Tripoli last spring to wrest it from control of the weak U.N.-backed government. The fierce round of fighting has killed hundreds of civilians, including at least 13 children since mid-January. AP

TikTok Is Quietly Snapping Up Creatives from YouTube and Instagram for a Full Africa Roll-Out
Early this year, the short video app TikTok joined Nairobi Garage, a leading coworking space in Nairobi’s Kilimani district. The Chinese company behind the world’s fastest-growing social media app had already been holding “creator sessions” and meetups around the city in 2019, urging creative young Kenyans to learn about the benefits of joining the “fun, cool short video platform”. Last October it partnered with Chinese phone maker Transsion’s Infinix brand in Kenya with a hashtag campaign called #WeAreHot to boost a new phone model but also raise awareness of the app. TikTok has been investing quietly, but significantly, to usher in a new age of influencers in Africa. It’s part of a concerted strategy for the youth-friendly app to get a major foothold in the world’s youngest continent and home to some of the leading global pop culture movers across music and film especially with the recent rise of Afrobeats and Nollywood. … When TikTok first looked at the African market in 2018, it had barely been searched by Africans on Google trends.  Today, hits for TikTok top searches for terms like “influencer” in the apps three key markets: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones