Africa Media Review for March 4, 2020

Guinea-Bissau Supreme Court Accuses Army of Occupying Courts
A dozen soldiers have occupied the grounds of Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court, the court said on Tuesday, deepening a post-election crisis that has resulted in the appointment of rival presidents and the silencing of state media. The West African country’s military, which has regularly intervened in politics in recent decades, vowed to remain neutral ahead of the December election. But the presence last week of senior army officials at the contentious inauguration of Umaro Cissoko Embalo as president appeared to signal it had picked a side. The electoral commission has repeatedly confirmed Embalo as the winner of the Dec. 29 run-off despite complaints by the Supreme Court and the declared runner-up that the commission had not respected the court’s orders to conduct a full audit of the vote. … State radio has been silent and the state television channel has shown only a blank screen since Feb. 29. Streets in Bissau have remained quiet. … In a statement on Sunday, West African regional bloc ECOWAS said Embalo’s inauguration had taken place “outside legal and constitutional frameworks” and warned about “the interference of the defence and security forces in the political sphere.” Reuters

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has discharged its last Ebola patient from a treatment center — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa posted video on social media showing the patient leaving an Ebola treatment center on Tuesday in the city of Beni, the epicenter of the outbreak. The woman, whom the WHO office only identified as Masiko, is seen walking out with a doctor as the two thrust their joined hands into the air with people around them cheering. Doctors, nurses and other health workers dressed in green scrubs dance and sing in jubilation. “I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment center healthy,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement Tuesday. “It is not yet the end of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We must stay vigilant in the coming weeks and beyond.” ABC

Five Soldiers Killed in Checkpoint Attack in Central Mali
Five Malian soldiers were killed when militants armed with rocket launchers attacked a checkpoint in a central region of the conflict-torn nation, a military source and local official said Monday. “At least five soldiers were killed on Sunday in Mondoro during a jihadist attack,” said a source from the Mali army base in Mopti, the largest town in the region, adding that the assailants had also “suffered losses.” A local official said the militants had launched the assault “using rocket launchers fired at parked military vehicles.” The official said the Malian air force then bombed jihadist positions, adding that the clashes lasted for an hour. “I don’t know the number of jihadists killed but there are victims,” the official said. A local association on Monday expressed concern over the possible withdrawal of troops from Mondoro, where one soldier was killed and three others wounded on February 14. The camps at Mondoro and Boulkessi, near the border with Burkina Faso, were targeted in twin attacks in September that left at least 40 soldiers dead. AFP

How an ‘Execution-Style’ Massacre Unfolded in Cameroon
Rights groups are accusing Cameroonian security forces of waging an increasingly brutal counter-insurgency campaign against English-speaking separatists after one of the deadliest civilian massacres in recent years sparked international condemnation and fears of an expanding conflict. The attack on 14 February in Ngarbuh village left at least 21 civilians dead, including 13 children and one pregnant woman, according to more than a dozen eyewitness survivors who spoke to The New Humanitarian on the ground shortly after the incident. Government forces and an ethnic Fulani militia were to blame, the survivors said. … The government has dismissed reports of the Ngarbuh massacre as “terrorist propaganda.” In its version of events, five people died – one woman and four children – when fuel tanks exploded during a gun battle between the security forces and separatist rebels based in the village. But the survivors TNH spoke to in a village close to Ngarbuh denied any rebels were present, and instead described an unprovoked attack, with summary executions, beatings, and the torching of homes by the security forces and Fulani militia. The New Humanitarian

Women Bearing Brunt of Ongoing Violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis
Giving birth in the bush, being forced into prostitution, unable to go to school, struggling to take care of family – women in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions are suffering as the crisis continues, unabated, as women such as Pearl, 30, scramble to protect their families and survive during difficult times. “There was shooting from morning until night, and we don’t know who’s shooting,” says Pearl, who fled on December 10 with her husband and three children– and the rest of Ekona village. It took three hours for the village to get to safety in the bush. She remembers the buildup of violence around the beginning of October, when she gave birth to her daughter in the local hospital. “I was so stressed because I heard the gunshots, I couldn’t nurse the baby for three days after I gave birth,” she said. And she was one of the lucky ones. North-West and South-West regions erupted in violence in 2017 after a Francophone central government crackdown on peaceful protests. The repression against Anglophone teachers and lawyers rallying against alleged discrimination spurred an armed separatist movement and self-declaration of independence for so-called Ambazonia. RFI

Ethiopia’s Enslaved Child Maids Seek Solace at Night School
Each day, 12-year-old Tesfa waits for the clock to strike 3.30pm and provide her respite from the cooking, cleaning and beatings she endures working as a maid in Ethiopia’s capital. Once she finishes her daily tasks – which include caring for a toddler – Tesfa runs to a primary school to avoid being late for a catch-up class tailored towards underage domestic workers. “I’m only happy when I come here,” Tesfa, whose name was changed to protect her identity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after a class in Addis Ababa last month. Fiddling with her necklace, she spoke of sleeping on the floor, eating only leftovers and being denied any days off. “I do anything (the employers) order me to do … they beat me, always,” added Tesfa. She was left with the family last year by an aunt who took her from northern Ethiopia to Addis Ababa. Tesfa is one of countless girls working as maids in cities across Ethiopia although official data is lacking. Most come from rural areas and are sent away in search of a living by their families – often via labour brokers or with relatives. Kept indoors, far from home, and unprotected by labour law, many child servants are denied an education, exploited and enslaved, according to activists that work with such victims. Reuters

Egypt Executes Special Forces Officer Turned Militant Hisham Al-Ashmawy
Egypt executed an ex-special forces officer turned top Islamist militant, Hisham Ashmawy, on Wednesday over involvement in several high-profile attacks, said the army. “The execution by hanging was carried out based on a decision by the military court … and after taking all the relevant judicial procedures,” said army spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai. Ashmawy – dubbed Egypt’s “most wanted man” by local media – was a former officer with Egypt’s special forces who went on to fight with al-Qaeda linked groups. On Monday, a Cairo court sentenced Ashmawy to death along with 36 others over 54 crimes including killing police officers and blowing up several security installations. Born in 1978 or 1979, Ashwamy joined the Egyptian Armed Forces as a young man and rose to join the elite unit, but was dismissed in 2012 over his hardening religious views. Ashmawy was convicted last November by a military court over his role in 14 crimes including the 2014 killing of 22 soldiers in a border post attack, and a 2013 assassination attempt on a former interior minister, who survived the attack. The Defense Post

Togo Opposition Cries Foul as Court Confirms President’s Election Triumph
Togo’s constitutional court on Tuesday rejected opposition claims of electoral fraud and declared Faure Gnassingbe the winner with more than 70% of the February vote and president for a fourth term. … “I dispute with all my strength these results,” said Agbeyome Kodjo [who heads the Movement of Patriots for Democracy and Development], who had declared himself the winner before provisional results were released. “I consider that I am the legitimate victor in this election. I will continue to claim my victory,” he added. The former prime minister, alleged “serious irregularities” in voting, including ballot stuffing and the use of fake polling stations. Togo’s bishops, who back Kodjo’s movement, on Monday put out a statement critical of the election noting it took place “in a relatively calm climate” but “as far as transparency and fairness go the same cannot be said.” Neither former colonial power France nor the European Union has commented on the outcome of the ballot which keeps the Gnassingbe dynasty in power for more than half a century. The US voiced concern over the limited checks on voting and urged the Electoral Commission to publish results polling station by polling station for greater transparency. AFP

Nigeria: Court Declines Bail for Critics Accused of ‘Insulting’ Governor
An Area Court in Pantami area of Gombe metropolis has failed to release on bail two critics of the Gombe State governor, Inuwa Yahaya, who were detained on Thursday for allegedly “conniving to insult the governor.” Premium Times has reported how Atiku Boza-Boza and Adamu Babale, social critics and members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, were sent to prison after they were arraigned on a work-free day last week. The arrest and detention of the two politicians echo increasing cases of the muzzling of opposition voices across the country by state governors who often rely on obnoxious laws, as reported by this newspaper. Messrs Boza-Boza and Babale were sent to prison by Abdullahi Abubakar, the presiding judge of Pantami Area Court, after a brief docking on Thursday, at which they had no legal representation. The two were not produced in court on Monday and Tuesday as the judge dilly-dallied on excuses, their lawyer, Habu Abdu told Premium Times Tuesday evening. He said the two were remanded in prison on the orders of the court following their arraignment on allegations of “conspiracy and intentional insult.” Premium Times

Poverty Gap Fuelling North-South Migration in Nigeria
Mustapha Abdullahi spent his childhood in constant hunger “roaming the streets for food” in his village in northern Nigeria, unsure when his next meal would arrive. Like many living in areas where opportunities are scarce, he knew he had to move. When he turned 12 he travelled south to Nigeria’s commercial megacity, Lagos. “I came to Lagos to look for money,” Abdullahi, now 40, told AFP. As with many of the arrivals from the north, he has made his living driving a motorbike taxi locally known as an okada. Yet a recent ban on okadas across major parts of Lagos has left drivers struggling to feed their families. Rising migration to Lagos has caused the city’s population to soar — spurred by widening inequality between the largely-Muslim north and Christian-majority south. According to the World Bank, 87 million people in Africa’s most populous country live in extreme poverty — of which 87 per cent live in northern Nigeria. The nation’s total population is around 190 million people. “Regionally, the north lags far behind the south in every human capital outcome,” a 2019 World Bank report said. A jihadist insurgency in the northeast, armed attacks and kidnappings in the northwest, and the impact of climate change have caused conditions in northern Nigeria to worsen. AFP

Talks to Form South Sudan’s Government Are Going Well: Sudanese Official
Senior member of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council said discussions are progressing well in Juba for the formation of the national unity government. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti” met on Tuesday with President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar to discuss the formation of the revitalized transitional government of national unity. Until Wednesday, the technical committees did not finalize the formation of the 35-member cabinet as the SPLM-IG of President Salva Kiir is accused of seeking control all the important ministerial positions. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the two peace partners, Hemetti expressed hope that the government would be announced soon. “Consultations are underway to form the transitional government, and we hope the cabinet will be formed without obstacles,” said Hemetti who is Sudan special envoy tasked with the follow-up of the implementation of the revitalized peace pact. He further called on the two sides to make the needed concessions to ensure reconciliation and achieve stability in the country. “We hope that the government of South Sudan will be formed, given the special relationship between the two countries and that stability in South Sudan serves stability in Sudan,” he stressed. Sudan Tribune

S. Sudan Overdraft Appetite from Oil Wealth Raising Eyebrows
Even before the ink has dried on South Sudan’s new transitional government of unity deal, there are allegations that Juba may have been spending oil revenue in advance against the advice and warnings of lenders such as the International Monetary Fund. Lenders say such a move could worsen the country’s debt situation. South Sudan could now be forced to open up its books on oil revenue following that little had changed. Emilio Manfredi, the co-ordinator of the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan, in a February briefing to the UN, claimed that there was no transparency in use of money from petroleum sales or the financial probity in planning for it, making officials largely unaccountable. The panel had tabled an interim report on the country’s sanctions status. “The Ministry of Petroleum has not ended the practice of pre-sale financing arrangements for South Sudanese oil, despite the recommendations of the IMF,” the report drafted in November, but made public this week, shows. … President Salva Kiir is yet to name his full Cabinet, and all the former ministers relinquished their posts last week. But being the world’s most oil-dependent country (according to the World Bank), revenues from petro sales could account for a large portion of its budget. The transitional government needs at least $100 million to start running. The East African

Hit by Power Shortages, South Africa’s Economy in Recession
Widespread power cuts are blamed for pushing South Africa’s economy, the continent’s most industrialized, into recession, according to official statistics released Tuesday. The South African economy shrank by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019 from the previous three-month period, after contracting by 0.8% in the third quarter, according to Stats SA. A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline. South Africa’s nationwide power blackouts are blamed for the larger than expected decline in the fourth quarter. The state-owned power utility, Eskom, has been unable to meet demand and has had to implement rotating cuts in electricity to residences, factories, mines and businesses. … South Africa’s economy grew by just 0.2% in 2019 and 0.8% in 2018, according to the official statistics. Seven out of 10 of the country’s sectors contracted in the fourth quarter, including agriculture, which dropped by 7.6%, manufacturing, which dropped 1.8%, and transport, which declined 7.2%. South Africa’s economic growth forecast for 2020 has been cut to 0.9%. AP

Coronavirus Infects Africa’s Economy
So far, two countries in sub-Saharan Africa have officially been affected by the COVID-19 disease: Nigeria and Senegal. But the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak are already being felt on the continent. In Africa, fear of a COVID-19 epidemic is growing. The economy is also in turmoil: no one knows how big the economic damage caused by the little-researched coronavirus will be. Small African companies that import food, technology or clothing from China – the country of origin of the COVID-19 virus – are already feeling the effects of the crisis. If companies in the Far East remain closed or restrictions are imposed on Africans travelling to China, customers in Africa will be left out in the cold. Sales are falling dramatically. African exporters also fear the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak: China is Africa’s largest market for crude oil and other raw materials. … “The coronavirus can be more harmful to countries like Angola in the medium term than to China itself.” The resilience of the Chinese economy is far greater than the one of Angola, he said. “We should look at the coronavirus with great concern,” Domingos warned. DW

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: The Ethiopian at the Heart of the Coronavirus Fight
What a challenge to be the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the time of the coronavirus. The entire planet hanging on your every word, addressing daily press conferences at the headquarters in Geneva to detail an ever increasing number of cases in an ever increasing number of countries. This is the lot of Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African head of the WHO, who took office two-and-a-half years ago promising to reform the organisation, and to tackle the illnesses that kill millions each year: malaria, measles, childhood pneumonia, or HIV/Aids. And yet, while the WHO is undoubtedly working hard on those illnesses, Dr Tedros’ time in office has been dominated first by Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and now by Covid-19. Both have been declared Public Health Emergencies of International Concern, or PHEICs. That means they require 24-hour monitoring, deployment of medical staff, equipment and medicines, daily discussions with affected countries and countries who might be affected, and of course, a steady stream of reliable information for an anxious world desperate for immediate answers. BBC

Uganda: Baseball Camps Building Sport’s Profile
While baseball is one of those negligible sports in Uganda, its growing profile highlights the impact it is making. Just last year, Uganda’s attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games were quashed by African champions South Africa, but efforts are in place for future talent development. During a learn and fun event held at St Katherine Girls School in Lira District on Saturday, Carly Van Orman, the US Mission Cultural Affairs Officer, spoke on the important contributions baseball can make to youth seeking career options. For the second year running, the US Mission in Uganda is facilitating the Jackie Robinson baseball camps to encourage young people take up the sport. “It builds teamwork and you learn to work hard on something you are targeting. You also learn how to deal with disappointment especially when you lose,” Orman said. Orman touched on the influence that Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League Baseball player, left on America. As Robinson desegregated baseball by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he helped jump-start the civil rights movement. Daily Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones