Africa Media Review for May 11, 2020

UN Says 3 Peacekeepers Killed, 4 Wounded in Mali Attacks
The United Nations said three peacekeepers from Chad were killed and four others seriously injured Sunday in attacks against a U.N. convoy in northern Mali using improvised explosive devices. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks near Aguelhok in the Kidal region, which may constitute war crimes under international law. The secretary-general calls on Malian authorities “to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of these attacks so that they can be brought to justice swiftly,” Dujarric said. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali was established in 2013 to help stabilize the northwestern African nation. AP

More than 20 Killed in Attacks in West of Niger
Bandits riding motorbikes killed 20 villagers in a string of attacks in Niger’s western region of Tillaberi, the governor there told AFP on Sunday. An unknown number of “armed bandits” attacked three villages on Sunday at around 5:30 pm local time (1630 GMT), said governor Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella. He said that the assailants “pillaged shops” and looted cereal as well as cattle before heading off towards the north. One local source named villages targeted as Gadabo, Zibane Koira-Zeno and Zibane-Tegui, all administered by Anzourou, a commune some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Tillaberi city, the main town in western Niger and some 100 kilometres from the border with Mali. Last January, Niger authorities restricted motorcycle traffic by day as well as night in a bid to crack down on jihadists operating in the region. They also closed down a number of food markets they said were “supplying terrorists with fuel and cereals,” according to the governor. AFP

Malawi’s Supreme Court Affirms Nullification of Presidential Election
The Supreme Court in Malawi has affirmed the decision of the country’s Constitutional Court to nullify the country’s presidential elections – paving the way for fresh presidential elections which are due to be held later this year. Embattled President Peter Mutharika, whose re-election in May 2019 was successfully overturned in court by the opposition and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), had appealed the historic decision of the Constitutional Court delivered in February. Mutharika narrowly won the disputed elections and now faces an uphill battle to win the forthcoming elections after major opposition parties formed an electoral alliance. Echoing the previous decision of the Constitutional Court, the panel of seven Supreme Court judges, the highest court in the country, unanimously agreed that the management of the cancelled elections failed to meet constitutional tests due to a litany of irregularities. Mail & Guardian

Ethiopia Reportedly Claims Responsibility for Downing Coronavirus Supply Jet
Kenya media, including the Daily Nation newspaper, claim that troops from Ethiopia operating inside Somalia – but not assigned to the African Union (AU) mission AMISON – mistakenly shot down the Kenyan cargo plane last Monday. The aircraft, an Embraer EMB 120 carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to handle potential coronavirus cases, crashed on approach to Bardale in central Somalia, reportedly killing its six occupants. AMISON on Tuesday said it welcomed the decision by leaders of “Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia to investigate the incident” that reportedly involved a rocket firing. Daily Nation, and other outlets, on Saturday cited what it called a “preliminary report” filed by AMISOM disclosing that “non-AMISOM” Ethiopian troops guarding the Bardale airstrip were surprised by the plane’s “unusual” flight approach. The troops had suspected the aircraft was a “suicide attacker,” said the Daily Nation, adding the plane’s crew had approached Bardale unusually from the west. DW

As Cases Rise, Amisom Turns Fight to COVID-19
Somalia’s fast-rising cases of Covid-19 are exposing African Union Mission peacekeepers to the disease, risking key operations against the militant group al-Shabaab. Lacking adequate health infrastructure and personnel, Somalia had recorded 873 cases and 38 deaths by Thursday. The country had 26 cases just two weeks ago. Sources within the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) told The EastAfrican that so far there have been 30 confirmed cases in the Ugandan contingent and seven among Burundi troops. Amisom has troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi. Affected Amisom soldiers are being attended to in Halane, which is within the camps, and their condition is a matter of military intelligence. Al-Shabaab is already spreading propaganda that Covid-19 is a punishment for non-believers. Since the advent of Covid-19, Amisom has scaled down its operations in the war against Al-Shabaab, and are only conducting low key operations in Lower Shabbelle, avoiding unnecessary exposure. The East African

Kenyans Protest House Demolitions amid Virus Restrictions
Hundreds of protesters in Kenya blocked one of Nairobi’s major highways with burning tires to protest government demolitions of the homes of more than 7,000 people and the closure of an adjacent food market. Police used teargas and water cannons on the protesters, who then looted shops and parked cars. … The government had on Thursday closed Korogocho market which served an estimated 100,000 people who depend on it for their livelihoods and fresh vegetable produce, said Patrick Maina, the market’s chairman. He said the market serves several informal settlements. … The demolitions continued through the week and displaced thousands of residents, who are sleeping out in the rain and cold because Nairobi has restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus. The government claims that it owns the land where the demolitions took place and it ignored a court order that barred it from evicting the slum residents until their case arguing for their right to live on the land is determined. AP

Kenya’s Preexisting Condition: Mistrust in the Government
With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Kenya, the government has appealed for the public’s trust – that invisible but essential component on which any public health intervention relies. But decades of policies that disadvantage the poor have eroded any chance of gaining that trust in the city’s slums. … Kenya’s outbreak seems under control at just above 600 cases, but if it gets out of hand, the trust deficit will be the preexisting condition. Public health is more than testing and treatment. It requires faith that the government has the public’s best interests at heart. Since a dusk-to-dawn curfew was implemented in late March, police have killed more than a dozen people in slums and rural towns across Kenya. Others have died in stampedes for food. While other countries ramp up welfare, Kenya is raising taxes on staples like flour, eggs, milk and cooking gas. The Washington Post

As Coronavirus Spreads in Egypt, Sissi Sees Opportunity to Tighten His Grip
Egypt’s military-backed government is using the coronavirus pandemic to tighten its grip on the country, human rights activists say. In recent weeks, authorities have ordered up punishments, including prison terms, for anyone they accuse of contradicting official accounts about the pandemic. Political opponents have been linked to the virus and targeted. And under coronavirus-related restrictions, political prisoners are more isolated than ever from the world as the virus threatens them. On Friday, President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi approved amendments to the nation’s emergency law, giving himself and security agencies additional powers. The stricter measures, the government claims, are needed to address a legal “vacuum” and prevent the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But activists say some of the measures open the door to more abuses of rights and freedoms. The Washington Post

Algeria Regime ‘Exploiting Coronavirus’ to Defeat Protesters
The Algerian regime is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to defeat a protest movement that has shaken it to its core over the past year, analysts say. Despite protesters deciding to suspend their weekly gatherings since the start of the public health crisis, repression of regime opponents has persisted. Security forces have targeted young bloggers, independent journalists, online media and activists from the “Hirak” protest movement. Rapidly adopted laws ostensibly aimed at preventing the dissemination of false news and hate speech have further stoked fears of an orchestrated campaign to muzzle free expression. The new laws “aim to repress citizens’ freedom of expression”, said lawyer and activist Abdelouhab Chiter, a lecturer at the University of Bejaia. A law on “spreading false information,” he said, “was debated and passed by parliament in a single sitting, in the absence of almost half of its members.” … Karima Direche, a historian specialising in contemporary Maghreb region affairs, said the pandemic was “bread from heaven for the regime.” AFP

Sierra Leone’s President Accuses Main Opposition Party of Inciting Violence
Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio has accused the main opposition party of orchestrating a spate of violent incidents, deepening a political standoff that risks undermining the country’s efforts to contain a coronavirus outbreak. At least 18 people have died in three riots in separate parts of the country in recent weeks, including a disturbance at Freetown’s central prison on April 29 which started after an inmate tested positive for the virus. In a televised address, Bio claimed members of the All People’s Congress (APC) party were behind the violence. … The APC has denied the accusations. “It is shocking, the claims the president is making,” party spokesman Sidi Yayah Tunis said. Last week, the United Nations called on the authorities and all political parties to work together to avoid distracting from the fight against the virus, which has so far infected 291 people and killed 17. Since then, two prominent opposition members have been detained without charge. Amnesty International and local rights groups have called for their immediate release. Reuters

Three Killed and 79 Wounded in Tribal Clashes in Eastern Sudan
Clashes between two tribes in Sudan’s eastern city of Kassala killed three people and wounded 79 others, the state’s acting governor said on Sunday. Violence between members of the Beni Amer and Nuba ethnic groups, which has flared in the past, reignited on Thursday and escalated on Friday when houses were set ablaze, Brigade Mahmoud Baker Homd said in a statement. It was not immediately clear what caused Thursday’s clash. Violence between the Beni Amer and Nuba was reported in Port Sudan in January by a local doctors’ group that said eight people were killed and dozens injured. The two groups had made peace in September 2019 after Sudan’s top military commander, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, threatened to expel both tribes from the country if they did not commit to reconciliation. Reuters

Sudan: Clashing South Darfur Herders to Face Justice
Rizeigat and Fallata herdsmen arrested during the recent violence will all face justice, without any consideration of diya compensation, the acting governor of South Darfur has vowed. Sudanese security forces have reportedly managed to retrieve at least 20,000 head livestock that was plundered during the clashes. The acting governor of South Darfur asserted that those responsible from both disputed parties will face justice. On Friday, while addressing the security forces, the deputy commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia, Maj Gen Abdelrahim Hamdan, confirmed that his forces have retrieved large numbers of livestock that was stolen during the recent tribal violence between Rizeigat and Fallata. “We will not allow any political opportunist or anyone with an agenda to use the people and create chaos,” he said. Radio Dabanga

Militants Increasing Attacks on Burkina Faso Mines
… Jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization have been overrunning gold mines like Tambura’s one by one as they try to gain control of Burkina Faso’s most lucrative industry. The extremists are then collecting a “protection tax” from communities living around the gold mines and also forcing the miners to sell them the gold exclusively, which is then smuggled and sold across the border in places like Benin, Ghana or Togo. The violence already has shuttered many small mines across the volatile north and the government also has tried to shut down other small-scale mines in the east so that they can’t be used by extremists to finance more attacks. … Some are warning too that the government’s strategy to cut off the flow of money from the east may also backfire, as unemployed miners falling deeper into poverty could become more sympathetic to the jihads’ recruitment messages of marginalization. … Some 1.5 million people are believed to be working in small scale mines across the country, according to government estimates. Many of them are young and know the surrounding area well, making them ideal recruits, analysts say. AP

Silencing the Guns: Pandemic Disrupts Plan to End Wars
“Silencing the Guns”, the continental programme to end civil wars in Africa by the end of this year, has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic is exposing weaknesses in governance, as youth unemployment and restlessness rises in already fragile countries. This could trigger widespread unrest and test crisis management systems on the continent. These issues came up at a virtual discussion by African security and policy experts on the impact of Covid-19 and its implications on the Silencing the Guns 2020 programme, and whether the pandemic could reverse the gains achieved so far. Experts said that acute food scarcity, increased gender-based and sexual violence, diminishing economic opportunities, which has led to lost livelihoods as a result of the pandemic, were more severe in countries with ongoing conflict. “Covid-19 will do more harm in regions experiencing conflicts. We must deal with security in the wake of the pandemic,” said Andrews Atta Asamoah, a senior research fellow with the Institute of Security Studies. The East African

Gulf of Guinea: The Day the Pirates Came
The MT Apecus dropped anchor off Nigeria’s Bonny Island shortly after sunrise. Sudeep Choudhury was at the end of a draining shift on deck. Looking towards land, he could make out dozens of other ships. On the shoreline beyond them, a column of white oil storage tanks rose out of the ground like giants. He had breakfast and then made two phone calls. One to his parents – he knew they worried about him, their only child – and one to his fiancee, Bhagyashree. He told her that everything was going to plan and that he would call her again later that day. He then clambered into bed for a sleep. It was 19 April, 2019. BBC

President Says One Person Infected 533 with Coronavirus at Ghana Fish Factory
A worker at a fish-processing factory in Ghana’s Atlantic seafront city of Tema infected 533 other workers at the facility with the coronavirus, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a broadcast late on Sunday. Ghana’s health authorities reported the outbreak at the industrial facility late on Friday, but did not provide details. “All 533 persons were infected by one person,” President Akufo-Addo said. He did not provide details of how the disease spread in the facility or if safety measures had been in place. He said that the 533 positive cases, which represents around 11.3% of Ghana’s total infections, were part of a backlog of about 921 cases going back as far as April 26 that are only recently being reported. The new cases pushed Ghana’s total since the pandemic was first reported in the West African nation in mid-March to 4,700 as of Sunday night, the highest number of infections in West Africa. … With 160,501 tests since the outbreak, Akufo-Addo said Ghana had carried out more tests per million people than any other country in Africa. Reuters

Nigeria’s Lagos Risks New Coronavirus Lockdown If Social Distancing Ignored
Africa’s largest city Lagos could return to lockdown to halt the coronavirus if residents continue to ignore social distancing rules, the governor warned on Saturday. Nigeria’s economic hub emerged on Monday from a five-week stay at home order that left the city’s large number of poor struggling to make ends meet. But since the easing of the restrictions people have been seen thronging markets and banks despite orders remaining in place to avoid mass gatherings. “It is disappointing to see the crowd at banks and markets across the state flouting the guidelines,” Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu wrote on Twitter. “We will be forced to take the painful decision of bringing the state under lockdown if it remains clear that Lagosians are determined to flout the rules.” Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has confirmed 3 912 infections and 117 deaths from the novel coronavirus. Lagos, a city of some 20 million people, has been the country’s main hotspot and the daily increase in recorded cases has doubled in the past few days. AFP

Djibouti Backtracks on Decision to Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Measures
Djibouti, the tiny Horn of Africa nation with the highest prevalence of coronavirus cases on the continent, has delayed plans to begin lifting lockdown measures on Monday. “The government, via the prime minister, has decided to extend lockdown by another week, through until 17 May,” the foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf  said in a Twitter post on Sunday. “The pre-requisite conditions for lifting lockdown are not in place.” In an earlier series of posts, the foreign minister announced lockdown would begin on Monday, largely for economic reasons. Acknowledging the “stakes are high” he insisted “people need to make a living and go to work.” People in Djibouti had been looking forward to using public transport and going to places of worship once more, albeit following strict of measures of protection such as wearing masks and respecting physical distancing. Borders, however, were not set to open “except for humanitarian personnel who will follow an agreed protocol of prevention to avoid reintroducing a new form of the virus,” the foreign minister said. RFI

Chad Begins Coronavirus Lockdown amid Lack of COVID-19 Testing
Authorities in Chad on Friday put the country’s capital and larges cities on lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Chad has confirmed 253 cases of Covid-19 and 27 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Travel between different urban areas will be forbidden for two weeks. Goods vehicles are only allowed to enter towns from 22:00, two hours after the end of a curfew that starts at 20:00 and continues until 05:00. The measures are intended to stop the circulation of the virus, according to Mahmound Youssouf Khayal, Chad’s public health minister. “Decree 38 that we’ve just signed takes into account all the major towns and the city of Ndjamena,” said Khayal, according to RFI correspondent Madjiasra Nako. “It’s to stop the circulation of the virus, it’s very contagious … these are measures to stop the virus from travelling.” RFI

Turkey Threatens Retaliation against Haftar’s Forces in Libya
Turkey is threatening tough retaliation if forces loyal to Libyan general Khalifa Haftar strike Turkish interests or its diplomatic missions in Tripoli or elsewhere. Haftar, who has set up a rival government in eastern Libya, has been fighting to topple the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. “If our missions and our interests in Libya are targeted, we will deem Haftar’s forces legitimate targets,” The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Sunday. Turkey says the area near its embassy in Tripoli was shelled late last week. Haftar’s forces deny responsibility. But Turkey is strongly criticizing the United Nations for what it says is the U.N.’s failure to move against Haftar. VOA

African Nations Seek Their Own Solutions in Virus Crisis
A loud hiss and grunt come from a green bag pressing air through a tube, as Senegalese researchers work to develop a prototype ventilator that could cost a mere $160 each instead of tens of thousands of dollars. The team is using 3-D printed parts as it works to find a homegrown solution to a medical shortfall that has struck even the richest countries: how to have enough breathing machines to handle an avalanche of COVID-19 patients who need the devices to help increase their blood oxygen levels. Complicating the task in Africa is the fact that the peak in coronavirus cases for the continent’ is expected to come later than in Europe and the United States, well after dozens of other countries have bought out available supplies. “Africans must find their own solutions to their problems. We must show our independence. It’s a big motivation for this,” said Ibrahima Gueye, a professor at the Polytechnic School of Thies in Senegal, on the 12-member team developing the prototype ventilator. AP



Photo: Adam Jones