Africa Media Review for March 12, 2020

UN Condemns Increasing Threat from Terrorism in Africa
The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the increasing threat to peace and security in Africa from terrorism Wednesday and urged all countries “to consider mobilizing more predictable resources and expertise” to strengthen African efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism. A Chinese-sponsored presidential statement approved by all 15 council nations also urged the 193 U.N. member states and the United Nations system to take measures “to address all drivers of violent extremism conducive to terrorism.” The council encouraged countries to foster quality education and provide employment opportunities and vocational training for young people and include them in all levels of decision-making, saying “such efforts contribute to countering recruitment to terrorism.” U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the council that terrorism and violent extremism continue to grow in various part of the continent despite efforts to prevent and counter it. … DiCarlo said the U.N. “cannot overemphasize the importance of support” for the G5 Sahel Force established by Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to fight terrorism. She reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for international funding and military support for the force. AP

Guinea-Bissau: A Toxic Mix of Guns, Cocaine and Cashew Nuts
For a day recently, the small West African country of Guinea-Bissau had two presidents and two prime ministers, until one of the presidents stepped down citing death threats. The country has been gripped by political turmoil for so many years that analysts do not agree on exactly how many coups it has had in its 46 years of independence. Some say nine, others count 10. An election held last year was another attempt to carve a new peaceful path but it has sparked yet more chaos, as journalist Ricci Shryock reports. Amidst the political chaos, daily life appears to be carrying on as normal in the capital, Bissau, but underneath the veneer, residents say they are deeply frustrated with the political chaos and confused about what will happen next and whom to believe. While the Portuguese word “saudades” expresses a longing for the past, the feeling in Bissau is more akin to a longing for a more prosperous future they know is possible, but each time Bissau-Guineans’ raise their hopes, they are dashed by political manoeuvring – often backed by guns. BBC

Coronavirus in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Week in Review
As the region faced up to the COVID-19 outbreak and more than a dozen confirmed cases, it marked a milestone in the second-worst Ebola epidemic ever and battled the world’s worst measles epidemic as well. The World Health Organization has labelled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The Ivory Coast has announced its first case of the coronavirus. An Ivorian man developed symptoms after travelling to Italy, which continues to battle the biggest outbreak of the virus outside of China. A Thai man suspected of having the coronavirus in Zimbabwe has tested negative for the infection, after causing panic in the capital city of Harare. Zimbabwe has so far not detected any cases of the coronavirus. Africa Climate Week in Kampala, Uganda, has been postponed. Initially scheduled for April 20-24, the UN has not specified when the conference will take place. Ghana and Gabon have banned official travel. Meanwhile, South Africa has confirmed six new cases of the coronavirus, four of which are in the Gauteng province. DW

Coronavirus Case in Senegal Holy City Ahead of Religious Event
A novel coronavirus case has been confirmed in the central Senegalese city of Touba, the country’s health ministry said on Wednesday, ahead of a large religious gathering planned there later this month. A Senegalese national who normally lives in Italy visited a doctor in Touba on March 10 – a day after exhibiting symptoms – becoming the West African state’s fifth confirmed case. A branch of French-research group the Pasteur Institute in Senegal’s capital Dakar confirmed the infection, health ministry officials said at a press conference on Wednesday. The patient is currently receiving treatment in Dakar. But the confirmation of coronavirus case in Touba, Senegal’s second-largest city, raises questions about the viability of the country’s religious festivals. The city has some 1.5 million inhabitants, but it also attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year, who come to visit holy sites built in honour of the founders of the Mouride brotherhood. Senegal is 90% Muslim and most of the faithful follow Sufi brotherhoods. AFP

A ‘Mafia-Style’ Cartel Is Running the African Union, Claim Staff
African Union staff have accused their boss of corruption, cronyism and a total collapse of leadership. They say that AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat is involved in a “mafia-style” cartel that operates with impunity at the highest levels of the institution. The allegations were made in an interoffice memorandum that was leaked by multiple sources to the Mail & Guardian. The memorandum, dated March 6, 2020, was addressed to Chairperson Faki, and signed by Sabelo Mbokazi, the head of the AU Staff Association, on behalf of the association. The memo was written in the wake of an extraordinary meeting of the AU Staff Association, which was held on February 28. The meeting was called to discuss long-running grievances about the working conditions of staff at the AU Commission, which functions as a secretariat for the continental body. In particular, staff raised concerns about the fact that senior appointments are routinely made without following due process. They claim that the recent confirmation of Hamza Sahal as head of human resources management was unlawful. “By and large the appointment is regarded by the staff as the manifestation of glaring cronyism and the total collapse of leadership which member states continue to underscore,” the memo said. Mail & Guardian

Malawi Government Faces Pressure to Release Arrested Activists
Pressure is mounting on Malawi’s government to release three activists detained this week for planning to hold protests aimed at shutting down presidential residences. Two members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) – vice chairperson Gift Trapence and member Macdonald Sembereka – were arrested Sunday after saying they would organize demonstrations. HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo surrendered to police Tuesday. Their aim was to pressure President Peter Mutharika to sign electoral reform bills paving the way for fresh elections after Malawi’s constitutional court nullified last May’s polls. The court cited massive irregularities in the vote, which saw Mutharika reelected. The electoral bills propose a date for fresh elections and procedures to follow in case of runoffs. Police say Mtambo, Trapence and Sembereka will face charges of inciting people to close state residences, under Section 124 of the Penal Code. But Amnesty International says the arrests are a government attempt to crack down on dissenting views. … On Wednesday, a court in Lilongwe denied bail to the three activists. VOA

Key Algerian Opposition Figure Sentenced for ‘Undermining National Unity’ Lawyer Says
A court in Algiers Wednesday sentenced Karim Tabbou, a key figure in Algeria’s anti-government protest movement, to six months in prison for “undermining national unity,” one of his lawyers said. Tabbou, who heads the small, unregistered opposition party UDS, has been detained since September. The prosecutor last week had requested four years in prison for the 46-year-old, who has denied all charges against him. Salah Abderahmane, one of Tabbou’s lawyers, said an Algiers court Wednesday sentenced him for “undermining national unity.” He was also handed a six-month suspended sentence. Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), said Tabbou would be released on March 26 due to time already served. He said the conviction was part of a “hardening of justice” and described the verdict as “heavy.” Also on Wednesday, a court in Mascara, northwest Algeria, tried protest figure Hadj Ghermoul on appeal. The prosecutor has requested Ghermoul’s 18-month prison sentence be increased for spreading videos “harming the national interest,” the CNLD prisoners’ rights group wrote on its Facebook page. France24 with AFP

Zambia Arrests 15-Year-Old for ‘Defaming’ President on Facebook
A 15-year-old boy was arrested in Zambia for allegedly defaming President Edgar Lungu in Facebook posts, police said on Wednesday as critics accuse the regime of turning increasingly authoritarian. The unnamed teenager based in the central small town of Kapiri Mposhi was arrested on Monday and charged with three counts of libel. He will appear in court “soon,” police said. “Police have charged and arrested a male juvenile aged 15 years for the offence of defamation of the president,” police spokesperson Esther Katongo said in a statement. “The suspect is alleged to have created a Facebook page using the name ZOOM and published defamatory matters against the republican president.” The juvenile faces a maximum five-year jail term. One of his posts read “which other name can you name a dog apart from Edgar Lungu”, while another said “we are better off as a country without Edgar Lungu.” Lungu, in power since 2015, faces mounting complaints that he is cracking down on dissent and seeking to consolidate power ahead of next year’s elections. AFP

Top Sierra Leone Ex-Rebel Arrested in Finland
Former top Sierra Leonean rebel Gibril Massaquoi has been arrested in Finland. According to Civitas Maxima, a Swiss organisation that works to ensure justice for victims of war crimes, he is being held over alleged crimes committed in Liberia, which neighbours Sierra Leone, between 1999 and 2003. Mr Massaquoi, who was the spokesman for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF), is thought to have lived in Finland for at least 10 years, Civitas Maxima says. The crimes he allegedly committed include homicide, sexual violence, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. “The latest news regarding the arrest of Mr Gibril Massaquoi in Finland is a huge step towards addressing the issue of accountability for past crimes committed during the two bloody civil wars in Liberia,” said Fayah Williams, from Liberia’s Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), which is linked to Civitas Maxima. BBC

South Africa’s ‘Afrophobia’ Problem
Hundreds of African refugees and asylum seekers have staged five months of sit-ins on the streets of the South African city of Cape Town to protest xenophobia and demand their relocation to any other country. The stand-off has focused on the Central Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square, where some 700 refugees were given temporary sanctuary. But their numbers meant a makeshift camp quickly grew on the pavements outside the 19th century church – an area that is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Police enforced a court order on 1 March and evicted the demonstrators, including women and children, from the square. But protesters remain not only in the church; there is also now a new camp outside the District Six Museum – a building that commemorates forced removals under South Africa’s apartheid regime. As the stand-off with the authorities continues, this briefing examines the rising tide of xenophobia in South Africa, a country that hosts over 260,000 refugees and asylum seekers – mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and many more economic migrants. The New Humanitarian

A Tiny Army Is Fighting for 20 Million Lives. Can Mali’s Military Grow Fast Enough?
At the heart of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency, a national force of approximately 12,000 soldiers struggles to defend a population of 20 million. … Leaders pledged this year to nearly double the size of the army, asserting that military help from France and regional partners was not enough to stop the enemy. Yet they are short on weapons, vehicles and basic supplies for combatants already on the payroll – a cost that devours nearly a quarter of Mali’s budget. “We don’t have a choice,” said Gen. Oumar Dao, chief of staff for the Malian president. “We increase, or they increase.” Where funding is lacking, enthusiasm surges: An average of three people raise their hands for every opening in the army, according to official estimates, even as the war against the extremists reaches bloody new heights. … Residents have accused Malian soldiers, meanwhile, of hurting and killing innocent people suspected of working with the militants, according to reports from Human Rights Watch. Leaders say reforms are underway, but they lack the money to fix every problem at once. “It is not enough to simply hire soldiers,” said Marc-André Boisvert, a Mali analyst in Washington focused on the army. “Trust needs to be built.” The Washington Post

‘Crime against Humanity’: UN Expert Calls on Australia to Stop Selling Weapons to War-Torn Mali
The independent United Nations human rights expert in Mali has called on Australia to cease selling arms to the war-torn country and urged the international community to do more to stop nations “actively producing and selling weapons” in conflict zones. The Guardian revealed on Wednesday that the Australian government had issued 16 permits to arms manufacturers to export weapons or military technology to Mali in 2019. Mali has been in near-perpetual conflict for eight years. Last year, while Australia was approving the weapons sales, the UN warned that internal conflict was causing an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in Mali, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and putting millions of civilians at risk. Alioune Tine is currently monitoring the deteriorating human rights situation in Mali as the UN’s independent expert. Just last month, Tine warned the multiple failures of the state – in administration, justice and security – were facilitating “mass violence with impunity” in central Mali. The Guardian

US Team in Sudan to Probe PM Assassination Attempt – Minister
US investigators arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday to help local authorities investigating an assassination attempt that targeted the Sudanese prime minister earlier this week, a minister said. Authorities have launched an investigation into Monday’s assassination attempt, when a blast hit Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s convoy as he drove to work. “A team of American experts arrived this morning, they will join the investigation team. We needed them because they have much more modern experiences and techniques than we have,” Information Minister Faisal Salih told a news briefing. Sudan has arrested a number of suspects including foreigners over the attempted killing, said Saleh, without giving details. Initial investigations showed that a homemade explosive device planted on a roadside was used in the attack, the interior ministry said on Tuesday. Sudan’s ruling council said on Tuesday it would step up its drive to remove loyalists of former President Omar al-Bashir, a day after Hamdok escaped the assassination attempt unscathed. Reuters

Nigeria to Revise 2020 Budget Due to Oil Price Slump
The record budget of Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer estimated at 34.6 billion dollars for the year 2020 will be revised downwards, according to the Ministry of Finance. This is due to the sharp drop in the price of crude oil. World oil demand is expected to contract this year for the first time in more than a decade, as the coronavirus epidemic is causing a blockage in economic activity, the International Energy Agency disclosed on Monday. Another trigger effect of the crisis on the oil market is the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia, two OPEC heavyweights that have caused the production pact between the two countries to collapse. The 2020 budget, adopted in December, was calculated assuming crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day at a price of $57 per barrel. Nigeria is still struggling to emerge from the 2016 recession, which was caused by the collapse of oil prices at the end of 2014, with economic growth currently hovering around 2%. Africa News

Somalia: The National Archives Built from a Crumpled Napkin
How do you build a national archive for a country that doesn’t exist? The same way you build anything here. From the ground up. In this case, quite literally. It was 1991, and in the bombed-out ruins of Somaliland’s newly proclaimed capital city, a woman selling camel milk tea and laxoox, spongy Somali pancakes, handed a customer a piece of paper off the ground so that he could wipe the dirt off his hands. But as Jama Musse Jama prepared to crinkle the paper in his hands, his eyes snagged on the text. These were the trial records from a famous court case a decade earlier that had sent hundreds of student activists to prison. Mr. Jama was on his way to Italy, where he was to begin work as a mathematics professor. But in the meantime, he asked the tea seller if he could take the rest of her papers, which she had gathered off the road near her stall. And then he wandered the rest of the gutted-out city center, picking up whatever other documents he could find. At the time, Somaliland was mostly trying to forget. For three years, it had been bombed into submission in a brutal civil war waged by Somalia’s government in Mogadishu. Up to 90% of its capital, Hargeisa, was destroyed. It had recently declared its independence, trying to build something new from the rubble. But one day, Mr. Jama thought, Somaliland might want to remember. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones