Africa Media Review for May 18, 2020

Top Fugitive in Rwanda’s Genocide Arrested outside Paris
One of the most wanted fugitives in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, a wealthy businessman accused of supplying machetes to killers and broadcasting propaganda urging mass slaughter, has been arrested outside Paris, authorities said Saturday. Felicien Kabuga, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, had been accused of equipping militias in the genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them. The 84-year-old Kabuga was arrested as a result of a joint investigation with the U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals office of the prosecutor, French authorities said. He had been living in a town north of Paris, Asnieres-Sur-Seine, under an assumed name, the appeals court’s prosecutor’s office said. The U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted Kabuga in 1997 on charges related to conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination. AP

Militia Massacre: 20 Villagers Killed in Northeast DR Congo
Fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) militia, which is made up of fighters from the Lendu ethnic group, attacked Hema village in Ituri province at about 1am on Sunday, the army and local authorities said. … The attackers fled after United Nations peacekeepers arrived at the village and the militia later opened fire on a nearby UN base, a UN source said. Women and children were among the victims. Another local official said 22 people were killed. … CODECO split into several competing factions after the Congolese army killed its leader Justin Ngudjolo in late March. Earlier this month, Ngabu Ngawi Olivier, who claimed to have taken over the leadership of CODECO, surrendered to the military and called for the militia to lay down its weapons. Another faction later issued a statement denouncing Olivier as an impostor. Al Jazeera

Somalia Suicide Bomber Kills Governor in Somalia’s Puntland Region
A Somali police officer says a suicide bomber driving explosives-laden motorized cycle-taxi killed a regional governor in central Somalia. Mumin Abdi, the police chief of Galkayo town in Somalia’s central Mudug region, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the bomber rammed a vehicle carrying Ahmed Muse Nur, the governor of Mudug region, killing him and three of his bodyguards outside the regional administration’s headquarters. Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, quickly claimed responsibility for the bombing. The group, which is allied to al-Qaida, said they carried out the bombing in an announcement on their radio broadcast. AP

Burundi Defies COVID-19 for Election Ending a Bloody Rule
Burundi is pushing ahead with an election on Wednesday that will end the president’s divisive and bloody 15-year rule. When President Pierre Nkurunziza hands over power, it could be the first truly peaceful transfer of authority in the East African nation since independence in 1962. But the coronavirus poses a threat to the May 20 vote. Burundi has kicked out World Health Organization workers after concerns were raised. The WHO Africa director messaged the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief about political rallies the day that Burundi’s campaigning launched and images of crowds circulated online. Authorities have been accused by critics of downplaying the pandemic and citing divine protection. But the government appears to be using virus measures to limit election observers, warning the East African regional bloc on May 8 that arriving foreigners face a 14-day quarantine. More than the virus, however, it’s the fear of violence that weighs on many of the more than 5 million people eligible to vote. AP

Sudan: Accord Signed to End Violence in South Kordofan
An Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and Restraint was signed today between native administration leaders and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) in South Kordofan in the presence of the Chairman of the Security Committee, Gen Abdallah El Bashir and the Acting Wali (Governor), Maj Gen Rashad Abdelhamid. Gen El Bashir told the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) that the consecutive meetings and the efforts of the native administration leaders, the FFC and the Security Committee in South Kordofan resulted in the signing of the “agreement on cessation of hostilities and restraint to stop the bloodshed besides, the principle for good intention.” On Friday, in separate incidents, armed men allegedly affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan’s main government militia, killed two people and injured a woman in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan. In some neighbourhoods in Kadugli, fear and heavy shooting forced residents to stay indoors. Radio Dabanga

Libya’s Haftar Suffers Blow as Tripoli Forces Capture Key Base
Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli said Monday they had captured a key air base in the western part of the OPEC nation. The Watiya base, which had been under the control of the Libyan National Army headed by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, was seized by fighters backing Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord early Monday, according to a statement on the military group’s Facebook page. Haftar, who’s backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russian mercenaries, controls the eastern part of the country, including vital oil ports and fields, but has suffered major setbacks in the west over the past few weeks. Bloomberg

Egyptian Editor Briefly Detained in COVID-19 Reporting Crackdown
Egyptian security forces briefly arrested the founder of the country’s last independent media outlet in a growing crackdown on freedom of expression linked to Covid-19. Lina Attalah, the editor-in-chief of the website Mada Masr, was arrested outside Tora prison in the south of Cairo while interviewing the mother of a jailed activist attempting to bring medication and hand sanitiser to her son. The activist, Abd El Fattah, has been on hunger strike since mid-April in protest at deteriorating prison conditions, including the risk of the spread of coronavirus as well as the suspension of visits and trial hearings due to the pandemic. Atallah was taken to a police station and held for undisclosed charges, before she was questioned by a prosecutor. She was later ordered to be released on bail of 2,000 Egyptian pounds (£105). The Guardian

30 Militants Killed in Raid, Malian Army Says
Malian troops have killed about 30 militants in a raid, the army said Friday, in the latest violence in the war-torn West African state. The country’s armed forces said on Twitter that they had killed “about 30 terrorists” near the border with neighboring Burkina Faso on Thursday afternoon. They added that they had seized 25 motorbikes as well as other equipment, without offering further details about the attack. Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since. AFP

Report: Jihadist Influence Growing in Northwest Nigeria
Nigerian jihadist groups are gaining sway in the restive northwest and the region could become a “land bridge” to Islamists across the Sahel, the International Crisis Group warned Monday. Northwestern Nigeria has been wracked by years of insecurity involving clashes between rival communities over land, attacks by heavily-armed criminal gangs and reprisal killings by vigilante groups. The violence has left an estimated 8,000 people dead since 2011 and displaced over 200,000, the Brussels-based research group said in a report released Monday. “As security has deteriorated, the region has steadily come under the renewed influence of jihadist groups, which have also stepped up attacks on security forces,” it said. … “Two Boko Haram offshoots are making inroads into the region, where they are forging tighter relationships with aggrieved communities, herder-affiliated armed groups and criminal gangs,” the report said. AFP

COVID-19 Outbreak in Nigeria Is Just One of Africa’s Alarming Hot Spots
In the northern Nigerian city of Kano, some people say they now get four or five death notices on their phones each day: A colleague has died. A friend’s aunt. A former classmate. The gravediggers of the city, one of the biggest in West Africa, say they are working overtime. And so many doctors and nurses have been infected with the coronavirus that few hospitals are now accepting patients. Officially, Kano has reported 753 cases and 33 deaths attributed to the virus. But in reality, the metropolis is experiencing a major, unchecked outbreak, according to doctors and public health experts. It could be one of the continent’s worst. … Kano is only one of several places in Africa where a relatively low official case count bears no resemblance to what health workers and residents say they are seeing on the ground. The New York Times

Benin Votes in Controversial Elections despite COVID-19 Threat
Benin staged local elections minus key opposition parties on Sunday with authorities pushing ahead despite the coronavirus threat and calls for a delay. The West African nation of 11 million this week lifted 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.  Turnout nonetheless appeared to have suffered, observers noted after the polls had closed, and AFP saw that in opposition strongholds it did not exceed 10 percent. … Benin, seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies, has been in political crisis since a disputed parliamentary poll last April sparked protests. Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile. … Now leading opposition parties again find themselves barred from the vote for control of 77 councils across the country. AFP

Defiant Lesotho PM Shows No Sign of Resigning
Lesotho’s embattled prime minister appeared far from quitting after the attorney general advised him that he could not be forced to resign despite a scandal over his former wife’s murder. The tiny southern African kingdom has been plagued by political instability since the start of this year after police accused Thomas Thabane of having a hand in the killing of his estranged wife in June 2017. Thabane, 80, has denied involvement but has faced mounting pressure to quit. He had been expected to resign by May 22 when a new government is due to be installed after his coalition disbanded in parliament on Monday. … It has emerged that on the day he had planned to resign, he received legal advice from the attorney general saying he could not be compelled to leave. AFP

As Mosques Reopen in West Africa, COVID-19 Fears Grow
Last week Niger and Senegal allowed mass prayers to resume, and Liberia is reopening its houses of worship beginning Sunday. In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, several states recently signaled the reopening of mosques even as the number of confirmed cases nationwide exceeded 5,000. The warnings about resuming public gatherings are being made worldwide – but the stakes are particularly high in West Africa, where countries with fewer hospitals and ventilators have been prioritizing disease prevention as a public health strategy. As elsewhere, though, decisions here are starting to reflect an acknowledgement that the coronavirus crisis might last longer than some restrictions can be tolerated. AP

South Africa: Victory for Khosa Family as Judge Makes Orders to Prevent Further State Brutality
In an emphatic victory for Collins Khosa’s family, on Friday the high court in Pretoria gave a number of orders aimed at putting an end to police and army brutality during the Covid-19 lockdown, including court supervision of the investigations into Khosa’s death. Khosa died on Easter Friday after an altercation with members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) – allegedly at their hands. The court heard from his family that he was severely assaulted by soldiers, including being strangled, slammed against a cement wall and a steel gate and hit with the butt of the machine gun. Afterwards, he could not walk, began to vomit and lost the ability to speak. A few hours later, his partner, Nomsa Montsha, could not wake him up. Montsha and brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango were also assaulted, they said when they took the case to court. Mail & Guardian

South Africa Traffics Thousands of Endangered Wild Animals to China in ‘Corrupt and Growing’ Trade, Investigation Finds
South African traders with China are illegally selling thousands of wild animals threatened with extinction and endangered, under the guise of legal exports, according to an investigation. Monkeys have been stolen from the wild, and together with cheetahs, tigers, rhinos, lions and meerkats, they have been trafficked to circuses, theme parks, laboratories, zoos and “safari parks,” researchers found. The researchers uncovered how some traders have links to international organised crime syndicates and the system is riddled with fake permits, but not a single offender has been prosecuted. … The South Africa-based groups Ban Animal Trading (BAT) and the charitable EMS Foundation, which examined wild animal exports from 2016-19, hit out at the supposed myth that legal trade crowds out the illegal trade and that animals are treated well in legal deals. … The two groups examined the scope of South Africa’s trade with Beijing by visiting the claimed destinations, examining licences and analysing data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Independent

Somalia Oil Blocks Put Up for Initial Bidding
Somalia has officially opened the first round of bidding for oil exploration, even as critics charged there was insufficient law to manage the programme. The country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said the programme, known as the Licensing Round Pre-Announcement Offshore will target seven blocks with the ‘most potential’ for hydrocarbons. The blocks are scattered in Galmudug state, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland. Officials argued the bidding will be run under the Somali Petroleum Law as well as Petroleum sharing agreements. “The process will be transparent and take for one year, said Mohamed Abdikadir Hilaal, Somalia’s Deputy Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources. This week, the Ministry gathered some 130 international investors for a virtual meeting where they were told of the potential for the oil stock. Somalia has about 50 offshore oil blocks running along its 3,000 km coastline. The East African

Rwanda Plans Life beyond COVID-19 with Food Reserves
Rwanda has drawn up a recovery plan that includes storing up an equivalent of maize and beans for 10 per cent of the population at 2,500 kilocalories per person per day, in a bid to ensure strong food reserves after the pandemic is defeated. “This shall be achieved by increasing resources for National Strategic Reserves to stock food, by supporting the districts to establish their own district food reserves and mobilising farmers to have community stores as well as storage facilities at the household level,” the Economic Recovery Plan says. … This comes as Rwanda has indicated a successful slowing of coronavirus infections. The country registered only one positive case of coronavirus between Monday and Wednesday last week. Consequently, the country is pushing towards full re-opening of the economy. The East African

African Countries Get New Tool to Predict Climate-Related Disasters
A new weather forecasting system in Africa allows meteorologists to track approaching storms in real time, potentially saving lives from climate-related disasters, scientists said on Monday. The technology is already used in developed countries but was not available until recently in most of sub-Saharan Africa, according to scientists behind the project at the University of Leeds. “We had forecasting methods before but they were not as good,” said David Koros, principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department. “It’s very important because we can issue information for the safety of lives, property and the environment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The new method, called nowcasting, was tested in Kenya last year. The state now uses it regularly and it has helped with the evacuation of people affected by landslides and mudslides in Western Kenya and flooding on Lake Victoria, Mr Koros said. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones