Africa Media Review for March 13, 2020

Central African Republic Militia Fighting Kills 13
At least 13 people were killed in fighting in the Central African Republic where rival armed factions are battling after a seven-year civil war, UN officials said on Thursday. Fighting erupted a week ago in the northern province of Bamingui-Bangoran between rival factions of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa or FPRC, one of the country’s largest militias. CAR struggles with violence despite a peace deal signed between the government and 14 armed groups. Rival militias battling over resources control most of the country. “Combat with heavy weaponry and light arms has left 13 dead in Ndele town, including some civilians,” an official with the UN mission MINUSCA told AFP by telephone from the capital Bangui. AFP

Africa: More Than 10 Countries in Africa Report COVID-19 Cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially designated COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020.There are now 137 confirmed cases in Africa. “With COVID-19 officially declared a pandemic, all countries in Africa must act,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, “Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response. Cases may still be low in Africa and we can keep it that way with robust all-of-government actions to fight the new coronavirus.” Containment remains the most appropriate strategy for African countries. Apart from South Africa and Algeria – which have clusters of transmission linked to imported cases – the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African region are sporadic importations from European countries, mainly Italy, France, Germany and Spain. To focus on containment in this narrowing window of available time, the WHO Regional Office for Africa is shifting from readiness to response mode. In countries with confirmed cases, efforts are underway to trace people who may have come into contact with those confirmed to have COVID-19. Efforts to support countries as they bolster essential early detection and surveillance capabilities at their ports, airports and land crossings are underway. AllAfrica

Kenya Confirms First Case of Coronavirus in East Africa
Kenya announced its first confirmed case of coronavirus on Friday, saying a woman who returned from the United States tested positive for the illness in Nairobi. “I want to inform you that the Ministry of Health has confirmed the first coronavirus case in Kenya,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe told reporters. “The case is a Kenyan citizen who travelled back to Nairobi, returning from the United States of America via London, United Kingdom, on March 5, 2020.” The woman’s temperature had returned to normal and she was stable and recovering in isolation, he said. It is the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in the East African region. AFP

Ghana and Gabon Confirm Their First Coronavirus Cases
Ghana has confirmed its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus as Gabon confirmed its first case. Ghana’s Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang Manu said two people who’d arrived from Norway and Turkey tested positive for the virus. In Gabon, government spokesman Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou said the patient was a Gabonese man who’d arrived from France. The Ghanaian authorities have said their two patients are being kept in isolation and are in a stable condition. They have also started the process of tracing everyone who was in contact with the two patients. Gabon’s spokesman said the patient who had tested positive was feeling better – having displayed symptoms of cough, sore throat and breathing problems earlier. BBC

Uganda Arrests Ex-Security Chief Seeking to Unseat President
Ugandan authorities arrested a former security minister seeking to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for more than three decades. Retired Lieutenant General Henry Tumukunde was arrested for “alleged treason” on Thursday, police spokesman Fred Enanga said in a statement. Officers will continue to search Tumukunde’s premises in the capital, Kampala on Friday for any additional evidence. Tumukunde’s recent utterances on radio and television “seek to foster hatred that might lead to inter-community violence,” Enanga said in the statement. “He in addition, calls on the support of a neighboring country to support him in removing the current leadership with or without the ballot.” Political tensions in Africa’s top coffee-exporter are heightening in the run-up to the general elections early next year, with the opposition accusing the government of intensifying a clump down on dissent. The arrest of Tumukunde comes after Museveni, 75, dropped him as security minister in 2018 and less than two weeks following his public expression of interest in becoming president. Tumukunde joins a burgeoning opposition in Uganda seeking to challenge Museveni’s hold on to power from 1986. Bloomberg

Nigeria Aims to Silence Dissent With Charges Against Prominent Journalist, Advocates Say
After months in prison and a prolonged legal fight, a prominent Nigerian journalist and activist is now facing charges of treason. Omoyele Sowore, founder of the news website Sahara Reporters, appeared before the High Court in Abuja Wednesday and was given a date for a hearing in April. He was initially arrested last August by Nigeria’s Department of State Services, the country’s counterintelligence and counterterror force. The arrest came after Sowore organized an event, Revolution Now, to protest corruption and allegedly unfair elections. He was released Dec. 5, rearrested the following day and released again Dec. 24, at the direction of Nigeria’s attorney general. … The new charges come as Nigeria’s senate considers a controversial “Social Media Bill” that would criminalize spreading false information online and allow the government to block access to social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Critics say the tool will be used to silence critics. VOA

Nigeria: Court Orders Police IG, SSS, AGF to Release Sanusi
The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the release of the deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, from the post-dethronement detention and confinement the state government had imposed, pending the determination of the case. Mr Sanusi had on Thursday filed an application, asking the court to order his release. Mr Sanusi was deposed following a resolution of the Kano State Executive Council on March 9, on allegations of insubordination. Following his sack, he was taken to Awe in Nasarawa State and has been detained in an apartment in the town. … Many Nigerian lawyers have condemned the dethronement and banishment of the emir to Nasarawa, saying he was not granted fair hearing before the dethronement and such banishment violates his freedom of movement. Premium Times

South Sudan’s Kiir Names Cabinet
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has named cabinet ministers, sharing power with ex-rebels in a key step in the peace process. Kiir announced the formation of the transitional cabinet on state television this evening after opposition leaders had submitted the lists of their nominees. The main opposition SPLM-IO took the prominent cabinet dockets of the petroleum as well as the defense ministry. Kiir’s supporters hold the finance and interior ministries. Kiir nominated 20 ministers, while SPLM-IO’s Riek Machar nominated nine ministers. The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) nominated three ministers, Former Detainees nominated two ministers and other opposition political parties nominated one minister. The new Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) is part of a peace agreement signed in September 2018 between President Kiir and several opposition leaders including Riek Machar, the new First Vice President. Radio Tamazuj

13 Injured as Trains Collide in Cairo
Thirteen people were injured when two passenger trains collided on Thursday in the Egyptian capital, the health ministry said, triggering a suspension in nationwide rail services. It said the casualties were ferried to hospitals, while the rail authorities said that services were suspended across Egypt. The government had declared Thursday a holiday because of heavy rains and strong winds. In the accident involving passengers from Upper Egypt, one train crashed into the other which was stationary, the rail services said. Egypt’s rundown railways have a history of disasters. … Officials often blame the rail network’s poor maintenance on decades of negligence and a lack of funds. AFP

Facebook, Twitter Remove Russia-linked Accounts in Ghana Targeting U.S
Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc said on Thursday they had taken down a network of Russian-linked fake accounts operated out of Ghana and Nigeria which targeted the United States. Facebook told reporters that the network, which it removed from Facebook and Instagram for engaging in foreign interference, was in the early stages of building audiences and was operated by local nationals, some wittingly and some unwittingly, on behalf of individuals in Russia. … The accounts in the new takedown managed Facebook pages posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or personal blogs, or posting in Facebook groups. They focused on topics such as black history, black excellence and fashion, celebrity gossip, U.S. news and LGBTQ issues. They also shared negative content about oppression and police brutality. … Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told reporters on a conference call that the network’s technique appeared “to be attempting to create an NGO that had real-world people working for it on the ground in Ghana as a way to build legitimacy for their narratives and use that to message out.”

Kenya: Tension in Moyale after Gunmen from Ethiopia Kill 5 Kenyans
Tension gripped parts of Moyale town on Friday after gunmen, whom locals claimed were Ethiopian soldiers, crossed the border and killed five Kenyans at Sessi. The foreigners broke into houses on Thursday night and opened fire on the men, accusing them of harbouring Ethiopian rebels. Sporadic gunshots were also witnessed Friday morning in the area that lies on the Kenya-Ethiopia border. On Friday morning, the provincial administration, security agencies and local leaders were holed up in a crisis meeting over the attack. The meeting came hours after Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde paid President Uhuru Kenyatta a courtesy call at State House, Nairobi. “The leaders discussed a wide range of bilateral and multilateral subjects, including peaceful co-existence among communities along the Kenya-Ethiopia border, and the desert locusts invasion,” a dispatch from State House said. Daily Nation

Row between Kenya and Somalia Reaches New Low
A new theater of conflict emerged in East Africa when opposing Somali forces clashed on Kenya’s border last week. Kenya has hinted that it could annex parts of Somalia to keep al-Shabab terrorists out of its territory. Tension between Kenya and Somalia soared last week following heavy fighting along the border. The clashes involved Somali government troops and forces loyal to Ahmed Madobe, the leader of Jubbaland, which is one of Somalia’s five semiautonomous states. At least 11 people were killed in the Somali border town of Bula-hawo. Kenyan authorities said the fighting spilled over into Kenya, after Somali government troops pursued Jubbaland forces that had crossed over the border. “This action amounts to an unwarranted attack by foreign soldiers with the intention of provoking Kenya,” the Kenyan report reads. It also alleged that Somali soldiers destroyed properties of Kenyans in the border town of Mandera. … Somalia also accused Kenya of harboring a fugitive Jubbaland minister who was arrested by Mogadishu for “serious crimes” but fled from prison in January. … “This is the product of a very long dispute that really dates back decades,” says Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur, who is known for his reporting on piracy in Somalia.

Thousands Wait in Shelters a Year after Mozambique Cyclone
Hundred-year-old Vasco Gaspar leans on his walking stick in a field in central Mozambique, gathering maize near the tent where he has lived since floods and winds destroyed his house in March 2019. Like thousands of others, he is still in a temporary shelter almost a year to the day after Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa. … Gaspar lives on his own in a U.N.-backed government camp in Nhamatanda district, about 70km (40 miles) inland from the port city of Beira where the cyclone hit land on March 14, 2019. The government plan is to build up the camp into a permanent settlement. But for now the residents are making do with huts and tents and the small plots of land they have to grow their own crops. The International Organization for Migration said in December nearly 100,000 people were still displaced in Mozambique. The U.N. World Food Programme says two million people in the country need food assistance, and it is struggling to reach them all. “WFP have been forced to reduce the food ration for those not living in resettlement centres by 50% in order to assist those most vulnerable up to the end of March,” a spokesman said. Reuters

The Women Who Defied Boko Haram, and Survived
[…] In the decade-long war with Boko Haram that has coursed through northeast Nigeria and spread to three neighboring countries, more than 500 women have been deployed as suicide bombers or apprehended before they carried out their deadly missions — a number that terrorism experts say exceeds any other conflict in history. Some, like Ms. Mohammed and the women at the well, have bravely resisted, foiling the extremists’ plans in quiet and often unheralded ways. But most women who broke away from Boko Haram keep their abductions secret, knowing they would be stigmatized as terrorist sympathizers even though they were held against their wills and defied the militants. … Dozens of women interviewed by The New York Times have said that Boko Haram gave them a terrible choice: “marry” the group’s fighters or be deployed as bombers. Captives have said some women chose instead to blow up only themselves. But some survived and want to tell their stories. Ms. Mohammed is one. NY Times