Africa Media Review for May 27, 2020

South Sudan has a new unity government after six years of war, but violence is still ongoing across the country, deepening a catastrophic humanitarian outlook worsened by mass flooding in 2019, aid workers are warning. In eastern Jonglei state, a cycle of attacks has included the looting of food and livestock, threatening the current planting season and undermining an already fragile local economy. “If a planting or harvesting period is missed [due to violence or disruption], it’s gone,” the World Food Programme’s country director, Matthew Hollingworth, told The New Humanitarian. “If cattle cannot move to pasture or water [because of insecurity], they may not survive.” … While the violence in Jonglei is largely a local problem, growing clashes in the south of the country between government forces and rebel groups that refused to sign on to the unity deal threaten the country’s precarious peace. The New Humanitarian

Burundi’s leading opposition party will start filing challenges to election results as early as Wednesday, a lawmaker said a day after the ruling party’s candidate was named winner of the presidential contest. Evariste Ndayishimiye, a former army general chosen by the powerful CNDD-FDD governing party as heir to outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza, won the May 20 poll with 68.72 percent of the vote, according to results announced Monday. The strongest opposition candidate, Agathon Rwasa, came in a distant second with 24.19 per cent, but his National Freedom Council (CNL) has rejected the results and accused the CNDD-FDD of fraud. … Burundi is tightly controlled by the ruling party and its youth wing has been implicated in a forceful crackdown against the government’s critics. No foreign observers were allowed into Burundi to keep an eye on the election, which went ahead with scant regard for the coronavirus outbreak following a tense campaign marked by violence and arbitrary arrests. AFP
 

A generation of children in West Africa risk missing out on vital education and health care amid ongoing conflicts in the region, human rights organizations warn. A new report released by Amnesty International on Wednesday detailed failure on the part of Nigerian authorities to protect and provide education to children in the country’s northeast, which has been devastated by more than a decade of conflict between the Nigerian government and the Boko Haram armed insurgency. Another report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday found an increase in Islamist extremist attacks in Burkina Faso since 2017 has had a horrific impact on children’s education. … Amnesty International’s report, entitled ‘We dried out tears’: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict, accuses Nigeria’s military of unlawfully detaining children who escaped from the armed extremist group. … Since the emergence of the Burkinabe Islamist group, Ansar ul Islam in 2016, violence has steadily increased, primarily in the country’s northern and eastern regions, according to report by the organization entitled ‘Their War Against Education’: Armed Group Attacks on Teachers, Students, and Schools in Burkina Faso. DW

In ordinary times, it takes Boureima Diawara two or three days to truck his mangoes the 1,200 km (745 miles) from southern Mali to Senegal’s seaside capital Dakar. But since coronavirus restrictions came in, some shipments have taken more than twice as long. After struggling with border delays and a dawn-to-dusk curfew in Senegal, Diawara’s workers have ending up dumping sacks of rotten fruit in landfill. Trading across borders in West Africa, with its rutted roads and bribe-hungry police, has never been easy. But restrictions imposed by governments in response to COVID-19 are crippling the trade in perishable goods and livestock like never before, according to commercial data and interviews with traders. … The breakdowns in trade are contributing to fears of a spiralling food crisis. The United Nations says the pandemic could cause the number of West Africans living in food insecurity to double to 43 million in the next six months. Reuters

The U.S. military accused Russia of covertly deploying at least 14 fighter jets to Libya last week to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside a beleaguered commander in his campaign to oust the government from Tripoli, the capital. The deployment of the fighter jets appeared to confirm the Kremlin’s deepening role in the sprawling proxy war, where its Libyan ally, the commander Khalifa Hifter, suffered a series of major losses last week that dealt a heavy blow to his campaign. The warplanes were repainted at a base in Syria, en route to Libya, to camouflage their Russian origin, the United States Africa Command said in a statement accompanied by 15 photos, including satellite images, that showed the planes in the air and at an air base in Libya. The New York Times

It was dark, in the early hours of a Sunday morning, when he called. A stormy wet wind was spitting at the kitchen window. The table was a mess of phones and laptops, wires and mugs. Carlos and Jacinta had been answering calls all night. It had gone quiet for a short while – and then the phone rang again. On the other end of a crackling line a man spoke in broken English. “I can remember his voice quite clearly,” Jacinta says. He was strangely calm. … Three nights earlier, on 6 February in the town of Garabulli on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, Maher was shouting down the phone. “Give me my son,” he said. “Give me Muzammil.” Maher was looking for his nephew. Over the two years they’d spent together in Libya, he had come to regard him as a son. He had been worried this would happen, that the 18-year-old would “try the sea.” The man he was shouting at was in a forest – a place they called the “campo” – on the outskirts of town. It’s a place where criminal groups who organise the crossing take migrants while they wait for the right conditions to send them across the Mediterranean. BBC

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR warns hundreds of thousands of urban refugees across the East, Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa are resorting to desperate measures to survive as the economic impact of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, takes hold. Government-imposed lockdowns and curfews aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus are restricting everyone’s freedom of movement and ability to earn a living. The U.N. refugee agency says urban refugees are most seriously affected by the measures and unable to meet their most basic needs. UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley says many urban refugees are at risk of exploitation and falling into debt. He warns many may be forced to take desperate measures to survive, such as engaging in transactional sex or child labor. VOA

After four years of waiting, he had the ticket booked: Nairobi, Frankfurt, Toronto. He had fled Uganda’s violent homophobia, survived in neighboring Kenya, where it’s only a little better, and allowed himself to fantasize about what he’d wear when he went out at night in Canada. “Some of us had sold our mattresses, you know. We were so ready,” said Chris Wasswa, who goes by the name Tina and doesn’t care which pronoun is used to refer to him. He’s one of nearly 500 migrants in Kenya, more than 3,000 across Africa and 10,000 worldwide -­ the vast majority of whom are refugees -­ whose approved resettlement to third countries has been put on indefinite hold by the coronavirus, according to the International Organization for Migration, or IOM. Once a country approves a refugee’s resettlement, the IOM – part of the United Nations’ refugee agency, ­UNHCR – controls their travel. It suspended those processes on March 17. The Washington Post

For more than a decade, KANERE, the world’s first fully independent refugee camp news outlet, has defied funding shortages and other challenges to publish investigations and reports about life in Kenya’s remote Kakuma camp. Now, with the vast settlement registering its first COVID-19 case, the publication arguably faces its biggest challenge yet. “Journalists are always on the front line next to health professionals in providing clear information to society to combat the pandemic, [and] KANERE is the only media which can provide information about the COVID-19 situation on the ground.” Asrat’s team of refugee journalists is on a mission to keep residents informed about the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic amid increasing concerns that a potential outbreak could devastate the camp’s vulnerable population. Al Jazeera

An Angolan trade union on Tuesday accused the police of shooting dead one of their senior officials and his neighbour in front of his home in the capital, Luanda. The police removed the body from the scene and launched an investigation, interior ministry spokesperson Waldemar Jose told local media. The Sinptenu teaching union named the dead man as Lazarino Dos Santos, their national secretary. He was “shot dead at the door of his house on Monday evening by two police officers on a motorcycle, without justification”, union president Avelino Calunga told AFP. Angolan security forces have long been criticised for using excessive force. They have also been accused of killing three people during operations to enforce restrictions brought in to combat the spread of coronavirus two months ago. AFP

Supporters of Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi demonstrated in the capital Kinshasa and other cities across the country on Tuesday, following an evening of tension at the National Assembly. In Kinshasa, about 300 activists of the presidential party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) were dispersed by police, an AFPTV journalist said. They burnt tyres to protest against the dismissal of a UDPS official, Jean-Marc Kabund, from his post as first vice-president of the assembly in a vote by MPs. The demonstrators demanded the dissolution of the coalition between President Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who are in the majority in parliament. … On Monday, 289 out of 500 deputies voted to remove Kabund from his post as first vice-president of the National Assembly. AFP

Four days after the Congolese government shut down Kinshasa’s pulsating nightlife, her husband knocked out some of her teeth and went to live with his mistress, leaving her bleeding and naked on the floor. Their three children saw it all. A policy aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus meant that case K1B1 – whose name Reuters is withholding for her safety – had been locked down with her abuser. “When Marie came to visit me I was still vomiting blood from the beatings,” she told Reuters, referring to Marie Lukasa, who set up Congo’s first domestic abuse hotline a year ago. During the coronavirus crisis, it’s a service in increasing demand in a country ill-equipped to deal with such abuse. Reuters

Senegal, one of West Africa’s largest economies, has torn up its tax treaty with Mauritius as debate rages over the island tax haven’s impact on developing economies. Senegal unilaterally ended its double non-taxation treaty, or DTA, with Mauritius without fanfare earlier this year – and it is only now coming to the attention of tax officials in the region. Senegal had previously threatened to cancel the treaty if certain conditions were not met. Senegal alleged that the agreement, signed in 2004, had cost the West African nation $257 million in lost tax revenue over 17 years. It is the first time that Senegal has called time on a bilateral tax treaty. “The problem with this tax treaty is that it was unbalanced,” Magueye Boye, a Senegalese tax official told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. ICIJ

A bootlegging culture has sprung up across South Africa in response to the government’s nearly 8-week-old ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol, part of its strict lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus. … South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with over 24,000. The virus has spread relatively slowly across Africa, whose 54 countries with a population of 1.3 billion have reported a total of over 115,000 cases. More than 230,000 South Africans have been arrested for breaking the lockdown regulations, including the bans on alcohol and tobacco sales, said national police minister Bheki Cele. “We have also observed an increase in smuggling of contraband (liquor and tobacco) between South Africa’s land borders with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, as well as the sale of these products in the black market,” Cele said on May 22, adding that officials seized alcohol and cigarettes worth Rand 2.67 million (about $148,000) in March and April. AP

South Africa’s churches and other places of worship can reopen their doors from June, but will be limited to 50 people, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday as coronavirus lockdown rules are further eased. Africa’s most industrialised economy has been largely shut since late March, when the government enforced restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected 23,615 people in South Africa and killed 481. Some churches responded by moving to radio, television and online so that people could worship from home. “This pandemic has … taken a toll on us emotionally and spiritually. It has shaken our sense of well-being and security. Many of us are anxious and fearful of both the present and the future,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address. “We have a responsibility to…take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being of all South Africans.” South Africa will move to “level three” of its five-level lockdown system from June, allowing the vast majority of the economy to return to full capacity. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones