Africa Media Review for March 8, 2021

Senegal Braces for 3 More Days of Protests as Crisis Deepens

Supporters of jailed Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko have called for three more days of protests starting Monday following violent demonstrations last week that threatened to erode the country’s reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. Sonko, seen as President Macky Sall’s greatest potential political threat in the upcoming 2024 election, was arrested last week following a rape allegation. His supporters maintain that the charge is aimed at derailing Sonko’s political future and the ensuing protests have been accelerated by broader, long-standing grievances with Sall’s administration. The violence is the worst unrest to hit Senegal in nearly a decade, as demonstrators have sought to undermine Sall’s business ties with former colonizer France. In recent days crowds have set fire to more than a dozen supermarkets opened by French retailer Auchan, and have targeted Total gas stations. … The opposition coalition known as M2D has urged peaceful protests this week, urging the president “to take concrete action to meet the democratic demands of the Senegalese people.” AP

Massive Explosions Rock Equatorial Guinea’s Largest City; At Least 17 Dead, Hundreds Injured

At least 17 people were killed and hundreds injured Sunday as four massive explosions at a military camp shook Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, authorities said. The blasts Sunday afternoon in the port city of Bata sent giant plumes of smoke into the air and destroyed dozens of buildings. Images broadcast on state-run television showed injured residents fleeing. Some seemed to be carrying bodies. The Health Ministry said it had confirmed 17 dead and 420 injured. A doctor in Bata, a former capital, told the state-run TVGE television network that at least 20 were dead. In a statement read by TVGE’s broadcasters, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema called the incident an “accident” and blamed it on the “negligence” of those tasked with guarding stores of dynamite and munitions. He ordered an investigation and asked the international community for help in rebuilding parts of the city that had been destroyed. The Washington Post

Death Toll in Bombing in Somalia’s Capital Rises to 20

The death toll has risen to at least 20 after a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into a popular restaurant in Somalia’s capital on Friday night, with 30 wounded, the government news agency reported Saturday. The Somali National News Agency cited the Aamin ambulance service for the death toll. Police spokesman Sadiq Ali Adan blamed the attack on the local al-Shabab extremist group, which is linked to al-Qaida and often targets Mogadishu with bombings. The Luul Yamani restaurant also was attacked last year. Some houses near the restaurant collapsed after the dinnertime blast, and police said that caused a number of deaths. Security in Mogadishu had been especially heavy, with thousands of government forces deployed in anticipation of a planned demonstration on Saturday by an alliance of opposition leaders over the country’s delayed national election. The demonstration was later postponed. AP

Niger’s Outgoing President Wins Coveted Mo Ibrahim Prize

Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down as president of coup-prone Niger after two terms in office, on Monday won Africa’s top prize for leadership. He was awarded the 2020 Mo Ibrahim Prize for facing “seemingly insurmountable challenges,” ranging from deep poverty to jihadism and desertification. Despite these enduring problems, “Issoufou has led his people on a path of progress,” said a statement by award committee chairman Festus Mogae, who is also former president of Botswana. “Today, the number of Nigeriens living below the poverty line has fallen to 40 percent, from 48 percent a decade ago,” the statement said. “While challenges remain, Issoufou has kept his promises to the Nigerien people and paved the way for a better future.” Issoufou, 68, is stepping down next month after 10 years in office. His decision to quit after two terms has enabled Niger to have the first democratic transition between elected leaders since it became independent from France more than 60 years ago. … The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is based on principles of sound government, respect for term limits and democratic elections. AFP

Young Men Take up Arms in Northern Ethiopia as Atrocities Fuel Insurgency

Ethiopian troops and their allies in the restive northern province of Tigray face a growing insurgency fuelled by a series of massacres and other violence targeting civilians. The country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a military offensive four months ago to “restore the rule of law” by ousting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party in power in the province, following rising tensions and a surprise attack on a federal army base. Despite government claims of a significant improvement in the security situation in recent weeks, tens of thousands of Ethiopian troops and soldiers sent by neighbouring Eritrea to support Addis Ababa’s military operations appear to be facing continuing resistance. Mekelle, the provincial capital, is relatively calm, but there are reports of fighting elsewhere. Around a third of the province may remain out of government control. The Guardian

Egypt’s President el-Sissi Visits Sudan Amid Rapprochement

Egypt’s president visited Sudan on Saturday, his first visit to the country since a popular uprising led to the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met with with Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling Sovereign Council, at Khartoum’s presidential palace. There, they inspected a military guard of honor. El-Sissi also met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagal, deputy head of the sovereign council. … The Egyptian leader discussed with Sudanese officials an array of issues, including economic and military ties and the two nations’ dispute with Ethiopia over a massive dam it is building on the Blue Nile, Egypt’s presidency said. El-Sissi, who returned to Cairo later Saturday, also discussed Sudan’s border dispute with Ethiopia and security in the Red Sea region, which has become a theater of growing competition among world and regional powers in recent years, the statement said. AP

Five Civilian Volunteers, One Soldier Killed in Burkina Faso Ambush

Six people including civilians were killed when a military detachment was ambushed in northern Burkina Faso, security sources said Sunday. The nation, among the world’s poorest, is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. “A unit from Gaskinde (Soum province) was ambushed on Saturday. One (soldier) sadly lost his life, and another was injured. On our side, there were five other casualties, all volunteers,” a security source told AFP. The five civilians were part of Volunteers for the Defence of the Nation (VDP), a network of civilian volunteers who help the army in their uphill battle against the various jihadist groups operating in the country. “The Kourao VDP were patrolling the area and were targeted by armed individuals. A unit went to their aid and came under heavy fire,” said another security source, confirming the death of one soldier. The Defense Post with AFP

Cameroon Military Accused of Killing Civilians in New Attacks on Separatists

Cameroonians are complaining of increasing human rights abuses as the central African state intensifies raids on English-speaking rebel camps. The military says within the past week, at least 23 separatist rebels and three soldiers have been killed, but local people say most of those killed were unarmed civilians. The military is denying the accusations. There are growing calls for investigations of alleged human rights abuses by troops. General Valere Nka, commander of the Cameroonian troops fighting separatists in the English-speaking North-West region, said within the past seven days, 400 troops have attacked at least 15 separatist camps. Nka said in Bui, an English-speaking administrative unit in the North-West region, more than 15 rebels were killed, and hundreds of weapons seized. VOA

Crew of Chinese Boat Freed after Ransom Payment: Nigerian Army

The Nigerian army freed 14 crew from a Chinese fishing boat from their pirate kidnappers on Saturday, after a month in captivity. Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Yahaya told AFP news agency a ransom of $300,000 was paid before the crew were freed. The Chinese fishing boat, registered in Gabon, was seized using high-speed boats off the Gabonese port of Port-Gentil on February 7 and the crew – six Chinese nationals, three Indonesians, a Gabon national and four Nigerians – kidnapped. The boat, with the crew still on board, was spotted some 110km (68 miles) from the Nigerian island of Bonny a few days after the attack. Maritime security consultants Dryad Global said the hijacked Chinese boat was used as a “mothership” for attacks on oil tankers. … The Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than 95 percent of all maritime kidnappings last year – 130 out of 135 cases – according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors security at sea. Al Jazeera

Court Allows Bobi Wine to Withdraw Election Petition

The Supreme Court in Uganda has accepted the withdrawal of a presidential petition filed by former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine challenging the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni during the January 14 General Election. Mr Kyagulanyi, who ran on the ticket of opposition National Unity Platform (NUP), filed the petition on February 1, 2021, on the grounds that the election was neither free nor fair, and was marred with gross irregularities, violence and outright rigging. He asked the court to annul the election and order for a fresh one devoid of irregularities. Last week, however, he instructed his lawyers to notify the Supreme Court that he was withdrawing the petition citing bias, impartiality of the court and the uncomfortable composition of the judges chosen to hear the petition. He said he would instead take the matter to the people, the court of public opinion. … Mr Kyagulanyi said he withdrew the petition because he did not believe he would get a fair hearing before a court appointed by President Museveni. He said based on the conduct of the early stages of the case, it was his opinion that the court was “not interested in giving Ugandans justice.” The EastAfrican

‘So Much Trauma’: Mozambique Conflict Sparks Mental Health Crisis

The insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province is causing a mental health crisis, with a quarter of the region’s population now displaced. People are struggling with untreated trauma after witnessing extreme violence, including mass beheadings, said humanitarian groups concerned about the strain on those who have sheltered dozens of displaced people in their homes. “There is so much trauma. There is an atmosphere of fear; people are afraid to speak. This is a public psychological condition that is affecting Cabo Delgado,” said David Matsinhe, an Amnesty International researcher. The Guardian

Radio Dabanga: Monitoring Media for Women in Sudan

While Sudanese women continue to be disproportionately affected by violence in its various forms in the country, they have also been at the forefront of the revolution, demanding justice and peace. “Known to be leaders in all aspects of society, these women have taken on the part of caretakers, heads of households, and now, the face of the Sudanese revolution,” according to Washington-based Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG). Women’s slowly-increasing influence in the emerging democracy of post-revolution Sudan has highlighted the many roles they play in Sudanese society, as business owners, doctors, lawyers, activists, and cabinet ministers as well as mothers, sisters, nurses, caretakers, teachers, housekeepers, and cooks. … According to Radio Dabanga Project Officer, Laura McDowell: “When women’s voices are in the minority, there can be a lot of pressure on individual women to present a ‘women’s perspective,’ which is problematic. But when we regularly hear from a whole range of women, not just about ‘women’s issues’ but on all matters, then we get closer to building a more inclusive and better understanding of some of the complex issues facing Sudan.” Radio Dabanga

International Women’s Day: ‘If I Die Fighting for Justice, I Will Not Have Regrets’

In Nigeria, where nearly three out of 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15, human rights lawyer Rashidat Mohammed fights for the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups. Ms. Mohammed, the only woman to have opened a law firm in the northwestern Nigerian states of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, is known for fiercely prosecuting rapists and paedophiles, even though such cases are considered highly difficult to win. She spoke to the UN ahead of International Women’s Day which is marked annually on 8 March. “I have always been passionate about speaking up for the less privileged, even when I was in secondary school. I have seen many cases of gender-based violence, but not many people speak up against it, and the reason most victims don’t talk about what happened is because they don’t feel that they have support. If they report the case, they feel that nobody cares about them. In 2018 I decided to open my own law firm, to advocate for women and children and to provide free legal services to less privileged, vulnerable people.” UN News

Woman Army Officer in Forefront of COVID-19 Battle in Sierra Leone

“COVID-19 is a dynamic and fluid situation,” says Lieutenant Matilda Mattu Moiwo. “You can’t predict everything that will occur in advance.” Lt. Moiwo is a staff officer of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. Her military training serves her well in the fight against COVID-19.  As the National Emergency Medical Services Referral Coordinator in the capital city of Freetown, Lt. Moiwo has to juggle national ambulance services, clinicians at hospitals, treatment centers and isolation units, and psychosocial assistance for patients and their families. She also disseminates test results and updates a national database on COVID-19. … Building women’s leadership is part of government efforts to promote gender equality in all areas of life. Such moves include a new law on sexual offenses, the launch of one-stop centres on sexual and gender-based violence, and the government’s 2019 declaration of rape and sexual violence as a national emergency. UN News

As Protests Shake Senegal, Women Fear That Sexual Assault Victims Will Be Silenced

As the street cleaner swept away charred rubble, she thought of the woman at the center of the biggest protests to shake Senegal in years: a masseuse who accused a popular opposition leader of rape and then went into hiding. Thousands of Senegalese — mostly men — marched throughout the West African nation last week, rallying against a government they say framed him. Awa Ndiaye, 22, cleaned up the aftermath. She heard protesters calling for a healthy democracy and fair trial for Ousmane Sonko, the accused politician. But she worried the fury in the air could silence victims of sexual assault. “Now women will think twice about coming forward,” she said. Demonstrators have accused President Macky Sall of targeting political rivals with phony charges. … The widespread public dismissal of the woman’s allegations against Sonko has troubled victim’s rights advocates, who say reporting sexual assault is already difficult in a nation that did not punish rape as a serious crime until last year. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones