Africa Media Review for May 15, 2020

About a Dozen Civilians Killed in Eastern DRC

A dozen civilians were killed by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in two separate attacks in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, local sources said Thursday. Seven bodies were found on Thursday in the Beni region near the Ugandan border, a local official told an AFP correspondent. They had been abducted the previous days by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group, he added. Human rights NGO Cepadho said the same story, adding that there are nine missing. At least 386 civilians have been killed since November in the Beni region in attacks attributed to the ADF, experts from the Kivu Security Barometer (KST) said on 27 April. … In addition, four people have been killed further north in Ituri, a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The killings are attributed to the political-religious militia Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (Codeco). AFP

Sudan: Five Killed in Attack on Kadugli Neighbourhood

A group of militiamen reportedly killed at least five people in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan, early on Thursday morning. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga from Kadugli that men wearing uniforms of the Rapid Support Forces raided the El Amara district in the eastern part of the town at about 3 am on Thursday. They beat the residents and chased them from their homes. A number of houses were torched. At least five people were killed, and an unknown number of others were wounded. … The sources reported “a severe tension” in the town, “while flames and smoke continued to be seen at the El Amara district. All people are confined to their homes. No one dares to leave their home, and go to the market to buy their needs.” … Earlier this week, 26 people were killed in clashes that erupted at the market of Kadugli. There were no security forces or regular forces present at the time. A three-day curfew was announced to contain the situation. Radio Dabanga

Jihadists Kill Five Soldiers in Attack on Military Outpost in Nigeria’s Northeast

Jihadists have killed five soldiers in an attack on a military outpost in restive northeast Nigeria, army sources said on Thursday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in several trucks opened fire on troops at a checkpoint outside the town of Mainok in Borno state on Wednesday, they said. “We lost five soldiers in the surprise attack on the checkpoint,” a military officer, who did not want to be named, told AFP. Troops from the town intercepted the militants, leading to a gunfight in which “some of the terrorists” were killed and two vehicles fitted with machine guns were recovered, he said. … Mainok, which lies along the 120km highway linking Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capital of neighbouring Yobe state, is an ISWAP stronghold. The area has seen an upsurge in abductions of civilians, prompting increased military deployments to confront the insurgents. AFP

Mozambique Soldiers Killed Another 50 Jihadists This Week: Govt

Mozambique’s army said it has killed 50 suspected jihadists in the northern Cabo Delgado province after another spate of insurgent attacks in the gas-rich region this week. A shadowy Islamist group has terrorised remote communities in the Mozambique’s Muslim-majority north since 2017, killing more than 1,100 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). The jihadists have grown bolder over the past two months, stepping up attacks and venturing into towns as part of a declared campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate. Interior Minister Amad Miquidade on Thursday reported around 20 attacks on 11 Cabo Delgado villages between the 3rd and 12th of May. Miquidade said the militants had abducted citizens, destroyed a newly-built hospital and cut off telecommunication lines. “In the same period, our defence and security forces carried out various offencive and defensive actions,” Miquidade told reporters in the capital Maputo. AFP

First Virus Death in South Sudan, Alarm over Cases in Camps

South Sudan on Thursday recorded its first coronavirus death, as aid agencies raise the alarm over a sharp rise in cases that have also reached vast, crowded camps of displaced people. The country, emerging from a devastating six-year civil war, has recorded 231 cases since its first case on April 5. The number was just 35 two weeks ago. Makur Matur Koriom, undersecretary at the health ministry, told journalists an unnamed “high profile personality” arrived at a military hospital in critical condition on Wednesday and quickly died. Test results Thursday showed he had the virus. South Sudan this week announced the virus had reached a camp of some 30,000 displaced people who have been seeking United Nations protection in the capital Juba since 2013. Two cases have been confirmed. A case has also been confirmed in a similar camp in northern Bentiu, home to almost 120,000 people. AFP

Years of Conflict Leave Somalia Ill-Equipped to Fight Virus

Years of conflict, instability and poverty have left Somalia ill-equipped to handle a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, no one really knows how many cases of COVID-19 it has. The uncertainty has led to fear, confusion and panic even after authorities have tried to keep the public informed about the outbreak. The official count of cases is now above 1,200, with 53 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. But some aid groups – and even authorities leading the fight – have warned that official figures could be far too low in a country with one of the world’s weakest health systems after three decades of civil war and attacks by Islamic insurgents, as well as recurring humanitarian crises. “We are not dismissing the fact that the death toll could be a lot higher than publicized,” Mohamed Mohamud Ali, the head of Somalia’s COVID-19 task force, told The Associated Press. … Ali described the spread of the virus as “a speeding car with a failed brake.” …. Gravedigger Ali Dhere said they were burying 15-25 bodies a day, “and this has never happened before.” AP

Benin Set for Controversial Local Poll despite Virus

Benin gears up to hold local elections without key opposition parties Sunday as the authorities push ahead with the vote despite the coronavirus threat and calls for a delay. The West African nation of 11 million on Monday rolled back a raft of restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. Covid-19 has caused 339 confirmed infections and two deaths in the country. Voters will have to follow rules making face masks mandatory and officials insist social distancing measures will be enforced at polling stations. Campaigning has been limited to posters and media appearances as candidates were forced to scrap rallies due to a ban on gatherings of over 50 people. … Benin, traditionally seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies, has been mired in a political crisis since a disputed parliamentary poll last April sparked mass protests. Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of carrying out a crackdown that has driven key rivals into exile. AFP

Guinea Bissau President Calls for Amendment of the Constitution

Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embaló has called for the amendment of the country’s constitution, and set up a committee to come up with a proposal. He gave the committee 90 days to come up with the proposal. The country’s current constitution dates back to 1984. In a presidential decree issued Monday, President Embaló said the constitution contains “ambiguities.” “Before the contemporary challenges, the country has to have a system of government which adapts better to the sociocultural reality and also which contributes to guarantee institutions’ stability,” he said. … [Ecowas] also urged Guinea Bissau political actors to start working towards a constitutional amendment and a referendum. The East African

Zimbabwe Opposition Says Activists Missing, Police Deny Holding Them

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said on Thursday three of its activists were missing a day after taking part in a protest over food shortages and police denied holding them after initially telling local media they had been arrested. The southern African nation has a history of enforced disappearances of government opponents and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it feared its members, including a member of parliament, had been abducted by state security agents. Police spokesman Paul Nyathi was quoted by state-owned and private press as saying the three had been arrested for taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration on Wednesday. Nyathi could not be reached for comment. Reuters

Algeria Summons Moroccan Ambassador over ‘Enemy Country’ Remark

Algeria has summoned Morocco’s ambassador to Algiers in protest against a hostile remark allegedly made by a Moroccan diplomat, the official APS news agency reported. Tensions between the two regional rivals arose after the Moroccan consul in the Algerian city of Oran purportedly referred to Algeria as an “enemy country,” the report said. The alleged comments came while the consul was addressing a crowd of Moroccans gathered outside the consulate in Oran to demand repatriation during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, the Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum summoned the Moroccan ambassador on Wednesday to “confront” him with the alleged remark, APS said, citing the foreign ministry. … Algiers and Rabat have for decades struggled to mend ties, with the tensions between them dating back to the early 1960s, when the two countries gained independence from colonial France. Their relations worsened after Morocco annexed the phosphate-rich Western Sahara after Spain withdrew from the region in 1975. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast to Ease Virus Restrictions in Abidjan on Friday

Ivory Coast will on Friday lift an almost two-month curfew in its main city Abidjan but nightclubs, cinemas and bars will remain closed to fight the coronavirus epidemic. A statement issued on Thursday after a meeting of the national security council, however, said traditional open-air restaurants called ‘maquis’ would be allowed to reopen on Friday. Abidjan, a sophisticated city known as the “Paris of West Africa” for its vibrant nightlife and world class restaurants, will, however, remain isolated from the rest of the country. The greater Abidjan region is home to over five million people – a fifth of the population of the world’s top cocoa grower. AFP

Germany Debates Troop Deployment to Africa’s Sahel

On Thursday Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag, debated mandates governing the deployment of its troops in the Sahel, a vast swath of land stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The region, which includes Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, has experienced unprecedented waves of violence in recent years, with attacks becoming increasingly ambitious and complex. The German Bundeswehr is currently involved in two missions in the Sahel: the European Union’s training mission (EUTM) and the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, both based in Mali. The German government has proposed extending the two mandates by one year, to May 2021, as well as expanding the Bundeswehr’s participation in the EU’s training mission. Angela Merkel’s Cabinet has already signaled that it backs the time extension, but there is disagreement about how the Bundeswehr should expand its field of operations. DW

World Leaders Call for Free Access to COVID-19 Vaccine

World leaders and medical experts have signed an open letter calling for free access to any vaccine against COVID-19. According to a statement issued Thursday by the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS, (UNAIDS), the letter was signed by more than 140 world leaders. “More than 140 world leaders, experts and elders have made an unprecedented call for guarantees that COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments will be provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere,” the statement said. The letter was signed by the President of South Africa and Chair of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa; the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan; the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall; and the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo. Premium Times

Taps Run Dry in Kenya’s Capital as Coronavirus Spreads

Rachel Wanjiru was already struggling to get enough water to wash her children’s hands during the coronavirus lockdown – then a landslide knocked out the supply near her home in Nairobi’s Kangemi slum. Heavy rains swept away the main water pipes running through forests in the Aberdare mountain range north of Kenya’s capital a week ago. Soon after that, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company shut down a treatment plant feeding the city. Now huge swathes of Nairobi, from its slums to its well-heeled districts of Lavington and Kitisuru are struggling with little to no supplies, at a time when the government is ordering people to stay put and keep clean. … Nairobi’s water infrastructure was already creaking. At the best of times, Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company could only supply 526,000 cubic metres out of a daily demand for 810,000, according to Nahashon Muguna, the utility’s acting head. Since the landslide, supplies are down another 20%, Muguna told Reuters. Reuters

The Coronavirus Is Upending Cash Economies. Mobile Money Could Emerge as the Winner.

When Lagos went into lockdown last month, banks in Nigeria’s bustling financial hub shut their doors. But many agents who offer financial services informally, crucial commerce for the city’s impoverished communities, continued to work using mobile payment apps on their phones, helping customers transfer money and pay bills. “We’re a country where people live day-to-day and barely have savings,” said Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Paga, a Nigerian mobile money company. He estimated 75 percent of Paga’s agents active in March worked through the city’s five-week lockdown, which lifted on May 4. In the United States and elsewhere, mobile money services like Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPall, along with its subsidiary Venmo, are rising in popularity by offering mobile wallets that allow users to send money digitally. A similar model has taken off in developing countries, particularly in Africa, targeting those with no or limited access to the banking and financial system. Experts and members of the industry say the pandemic is likely to escalate that trend. The Washington Post

Faster Internet Coming to Africa with Facebook’s $1 Billion Cable

Facebook Inc. and some of the world’s largest telecom carriers including China Mobile Ltd. are joining forces to build a giant sub-sea cable to help bring more reliable and faster internet across Africa. The cost of the project will be just under $1 billion, according to three people familiar with the project, who asking not to be identified as the budget hasn’t been made public. The 37,000-kilometer (23,000 miles) long cable — dubbed 2Africa — will connect Europe to the Middle East and 16 African countries, according to a statement on Thursday. The undersea cable sector is experiencing a resurgence. During the 1990s dot-com boom, phone companies spent more than $20 billion laying fiber-optic lines under the oceans. Now tech giants, led by Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are behind about 80% of the recent investment in transatlantic cable, driven by demand for fast-data transfers used for streaming movies to social messaging. Bloomberg

An African Literary Festival for the Age of Coronavirus

For the novelist Maaza Mengiste, the coronavirus lockdowns and stay-at-home measures that have taken hold around the world have brought back the sense of exile she felt when she and her family fled Ethiopia in the 1970s. So it was a welcome reprieve when she was asked to participate in and help curate a virtual literary festival focused on connection – specifically, between writers of African origin and readers throughout the continent and globe. “I jumped at the chance,” she said in a phone interview from Zurich. “Doing this online breaks a lot of boundaries that felt insurmountable.” Afrolit Sans Frontieres, a series of hourlong readings and question-and-answer sessions held entirely on Facebook and Instagram, kicked off on March 23 and returned for a second edition in April. A third is scheduled to begin on May 25, to coincide with Africa Day, and a fourth is already in the works. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones