Africa Media Review for May 19, 2020

Geostrategic Dimensions of Libya’s Civil War
Libya’s civil war has become an increasingly high-stakes geostrategic struggle for control of this petroleum-rich country situated on the southern Mediterranean. The outcome from this conflict has direct implications for the security environments of the Maghreb, Europe, the Sahel, and the Middle East. In the latest Africa Security Brief, “Geostrategic Dimensions of Libya’s Civil War,” Tarek Megerisi unpacks the competing foreign influences that have been key drivers to this conflict from its outset, as well as its recent escalation. Recent setbacks to General Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize Tripoli have provided an opening for de-escalation of the conflict. This will require nonaligned actors to bolster the UN mediation efforts and the forging of a Libyan-owned political settlement. Lacking this, rival foreign factions are likely to further escalate the conflict, expanding the risks of instability for neighboring regions and the international security environment. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Sudan’s Machar and His Wife Test Positive for COVID-19
South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar and his wife Angelina Teny have tested positive for Covid-19. Dr Machar on Monday said that he and his wife, who is also the Defence minister, had contracted the virus after interacting with infected members of the High-Level Taskforce on Covid-19, a team drafted to help fight the pandemic. A statement from his office said a number of his staffers, including security guards, also contracted the virus, although their names were not immediately published. … South Sudan was the last East African Community member state to report a Covid-19 case when a UN staffer reporting to duty from abroad tested positive in April. The cases have since risen to 290 and four deaths. No recoveries have been reported. … Dr Machar re-joined the government of national unity in February following a peace deal signed in September 2018. The East African

Authorities: Boko Haram Attacks Nigerian Village, Killing 20
Islamic extremists stormed a village just as people were preparing to break their Ramadan fast after sundown, killing at least 20 people in the first attack of its kind in northeastern Nigeria since the Muslim holy month began, authorities said Monday. Witnesses said fighters from the extremist group Boko Haram carried out the attack in Gajigana, where they entered the opposite side of the village from where Nigerian soldiers were posted. “The shootings were sudden and intense; people began to flee in all directions,” said Ba’an Bukar, a member of a local civilian defense group. Many of the victims were too weak to flee after several weeks of fasting, and temperatures had soared to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday, he added. Audu Mustapha, a member of the Borno state House of Assembly, said 25 others were wounded in the attack about 47 kilometers (29 miles) north of the state capital, Maiduguri. AP

Nigeria to Impose ‘Precision Lockdown’ in Coronavirus Hotspots – Task Force Head
Nigeria will impose “precision” lockdown measures in areas that report rapid increases in cases of the new coronavirus but it will slow the phased reopening of the economy, the head of its task force said on Monday. The government also extended a full lockdown in the northern economic hub of Kano state, which has the second highest number of confirmed cases in the country behind the commercial capital Lagos, and where authorities are investigating a spate of mysterious deaths. The government said its phased reopening of strict lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states would also go more slowly than initially planned, and the current phase of the gradual reopening would last a further two weeks. Nigeria had planned to completely ease coronavirus lockdowns in those states over a six-week period from May 4. Reuters

Nigerian Navy Foils Pirates’ Attack on Chinese Ship – Official
The Nigerian Navy (NN) has said it rescued 18 crew members on board a Chinese vessel, MV HAILUFANG II, from pirates. This is contained in a statement signed by Ibrahim Shettima, the Commander Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT on Monday. Mr Shettima, a commodore, said that the crew members were rescued on Thursday (May 15). He said that the rescued crew members, comprising Chinese, Ghanaians and Ivorians, were attacked by pirates off the coast of Cote d’Ivoire. … Mr Shettima said the Nigerian Navy was alerted of the attack, adding that it immediately dispatched the NNS NGURU to intercept the vessel. … “All ships crew were safely rescued, while the 10 pirates were arrested,” he said. Premium Times

Lesotho’s Leader, Long Suspected in Wife’s Murder, Resigns
The leader of Lesotho, accused of being behind the murder of his estranged wife, announced his resignation on Tuesday, possibly paving the way for him to be formally charged in the killing. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said in a televised address that his time to retire and withdraw from public life had “finally arrived,” after clinging to Lesotho’s highest political office for months. Mr. Thabane, 80, a wily political survivor who has served in every administration since the tiny southern African nation gained independence in 1966, had tried to remain in power despite mounting pressure from his own camp to leave. Evidence links the prime minister to the assailants who killed his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, in June 2017, the authorities say. Mr. Thabane’s current wife has already been charged in the death, and investigators say phone records show ties between the prime minister and the gunmen. The New York Times

Abyei: 6 Month Extension of UNIFSA Mandate Welcomed
Alor Koul, chief administrator for Abyei, reacted positively Monday to word that the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate for Abyei for six months, but cautioned that renewing the U.N. mandate will not alone solve the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over who controls the area.   According to Koul, what is required is a strong political decision by the governments of both countries to determine the final status of the area.  “We urge the two countries to expedite their discussions over the issues of Abyei so that the final status of Abyei is determined before the end of this mandate. And this is what we really want as the people of Abyei,” Koul told South Sudan in Focus.  The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and urged Khartoum, Juba and local communities to take all necessary steps to ensure that the area is effectively demilitarized and to fully cooperate with UNISFA. VOA

New Deadline Set for Sudan Peace Negotiations
The South Sudanese team mediating the peace talks between the Sudanese government and the armed movements announced in Juba yesterday that the first documents of the peace agreement will be signed on June 20. The two parties agreed on a new negotiating matrix and time schedule, that starts today and will lead up to June 19. The mediation team has reserved the period from 18 May to 20 May to negotiate national issues between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance of armed movements. The peace talks sessions will be adjourned during the Eid El Fitir holiday (the three day-feast marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month), and resume on May 27. Security arrangements in Darfur will be discussed until June 2. Radio Dabanga

Developed World Must Work with Africa on COVID-19 – Ramaphosa
South African president and African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa says the deadly coronavirus outbreak has affected both developed and developing countries, but it’s the latter who are expected to suffer the most. Ramaphosa delivered a short virtual address to the 73rd World Health Assembly on Monday and, while it experienced numerous technical glitches, the South African president still managed to raise concerns over the presence of Covid-19 on the continent. He asked for global support in both combating the virus and undoing the socio-economic consequences that followed. He said the pandemic amplified dangerous and growing inequalities within and in between the different countries, with most health systems struggling to keep up with demand. There are over 80 000 cases across the continent, with South Africa and Egypt the most affected. News24

African Countries Struggle to Find the Coronavirus Test Kits They Need
“Test, test, test” has been the mantra for defeating the novel coronavirus, but African countries are finding themselves at the end of a long global queue for the chemical reagents and other commodities necessary for administering diagnostic tests, according to public health experts. What testing is being done shows a steep rise in COVID-19 cases. In the past three weeks alone, the numbers have nearly trebled – from 33,273 on 28 April to more than 85,000 on 18 May – according to figures from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. … There is a significant divergence in testing performance among Africa’s 54 countries, as of 18 May. … Many African researchers foresaw this scarcity and the consequent need for African countries to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to diagnostic tests. Given the global shortages – particularly the reagents necessary to run polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which remain almost exclusively the basis for diagnosis – African countries need to take two paths forward, suggests Dr. Misaki Wayengera of Uganda’s Makerere University. The New Humanitarian

Why Cape Town Has 10 Percent of Africa’s Confirmed Coronavirus Cases
This city at Africa’s southwestern-most tip stands out for a number of reasons – its extreme economic inequality and remarkable scenery among them – but burgeoning hot spots of coronavirus cases have distinguished it anew. The city accounts for 60 percent of cases in South Africa, 15 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 10 percent in Africa as a whole. South African epidemiologists are looking to the city – with nearly 10,000 cases as of Monday – to provide insight into how the virus is spreading on a continent that has largely escaped the waves of death that Western Europe and the United States have seen. The early answer, officials and experts say, is two-pronged. First, the city welcomed more tourists from hard-hit regions of the world than other spots in Africa did, meaning the coronavirus was widely seeded here early. Second, major hot spots emerged in two supermarkets and a pharmaceutical factory that supercharged the virus’s spread. The Washington Post

Uganda Arrests Stella Nyanzi at Protest over Coronavirus Response
Ugandan police have arrested a prominent activist for allegedly inciting violence as she led a group of protesters against what they called “slow distribution” of food and other relief goods to vulnerable people affected by coronavirus-related restrictions, according to local media. Stella Nyanzi, a vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni, together with a small group of activists, was arrested on Monday as she was marching towards the office of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in the capital, Kampala. In a petition on Monday, Nyanzi and others had urged the government to revise anti-coronavirus measures that have benefitted the rich and “created an apartheid state and occasioned avoidable suffering upon many vulnerable Ugandans, especially women and low-income earners.” … Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said Nyanzi had been arrested “for inciting violence.” Uganda has implemented one of Africa’s strictest lockdowns, including a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Al Jazeera

Mauritius: EU Lists Country as High Risk Country for Money Laundering
Companies operating in Mauritius face a test of integrity after the European Union included the island on its revised list of high risk jurisdiction for money laundering and terror funding. Mauritius has been a popular financial haven for the region’s wealthy individuals, with several companies registering their subsidiaries in Port Louis mostly due to its favourable tax regime with corporate and export taxes of 15 per cent and three per cent, respectively. The country also allows a 100 per cent foreign ownership with no capital gains tax. However, about a fortnight ago, the European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the EU, put Mauritius on its list of high-risk countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks. The East African

DRC: Kabila’s Legacy Faces Litmus Test after Complaint for His ‘Crimes’
When a popular cleric in the Democratic Republic of Congo recently accused ex-President Joseph Kabila of ‘crimes’ he committed during his tenure, the public took note. Bishop Pascal Mukuna’s filing a complaint against the former president, now ‘senator for life,’ was novel in some ways. On May 7, the clergyman filed ‘a letter of denunciation’, or an appeal for censure to the Attorney General at the Constitutional Court in which he lists “10 crimes” with which he charges Joseph Kabila. The cleric accuses the ex-leader of being the perpetrator of these crimes during the 18 years of his regime.  Yet this is claim from a man of cloth, which has never happened before in the DRC. As a matter of fact, the church controversially often praised Kabila’s regime when he was in power. In his letter of denunciation, Bishop Mukuna cites different cases of killings in several provinces, from 2008 to 2017. He added that apart from the “crimes” listed by him, the prosecutor “can find others.” The East African

UN: Floods in Central Somalia Hit Nearly 1 Million People
Flooding in central Somalia has affected nearly 1 million people, displacing about 400,000 people, the United Nations said Monday, warning of possible disease outbreaks because of crowding where the displaced are seeking temporary shelter. At least 24 people have died in the flash floods that hit Beledweyne and Jowhar, two agricultural centers in Somalia’s central area, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The area is still recovering from floods last year that displaced more than 500,000 people. … The flooding also threatens to cut off the main road connecting Beledweyne to the airport which could disrupt deliveries of emergency humanitarian supplies to the town, according to the U.N. AP

‘We Can Get It Done Here’: Africa’s Tech Scene Tackles Coronavirus
Watching from afar as much of the world was brought to its knees by the coronavirus, African scientists, engineers and innovators have turned to homegrown solutions to prepare for the worst case scenario. By the time the virus hit Africa, where cases have risen relatively slowly, images of overwhelmed hospitals and stories of health workers strapped for protective gear had been streaming in for weeks. Mehul Shah from Ultra Red Technologies, a 3D printing company in Nairobi, said he and his partner Neeval Shah quickly realised they could be “first responders” in producing locally-made equipment. In only three days they put together a working design for 3D-printed face shields made up of a visor that clips onto a plastic sheet. They currently produce around 500 a day. “It’s very important that we can show Kenyans that we can do this here and we don’t need to rely on importation. We have got the innovative know-how and the means to get this done here,” he said. AFP

Ghana WW2 Veteran Sets Out on COVID-19 Fundraiser
A 95-year-old Second World War veteran from Ghana has set himself the challenge of walking two miles a day for a week to raise money for coronavirus charities. Private Joseph Hammond hopes to raise $600,000 (£500,000) for frontline workers and vulnerable veterans across Africa. Private Hammond fought with the British army in Burma, in the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force. Now, he says, he has joined the fight in a different type of war to help health workers defeat Covid-19 on the continent. The money he raises will be used to purchase PPE for covid-19 frontline workers and vulnerable veterans in Commonwealth countries. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones