Africa Media Review for May 28, 2020

Malawi’s Year-Long Election
Long a bedrock of stability, Malawi’s 2019 presidential election continues to be hotly contested. On February 3, 2020, Malawi’s Constitutional Court overturned the results of the May 2019 election, deeming the process to have been riddled with irregularities. The Court’s historic action, later validated by the country’s Supreme Court, represents a noteworthy illustration of the independence of the judiciary in Malawi’s maturing democracy. Moving forward with a re-run, as the Constitutional Court ordered, has been far from straightforward, however. Rather than implementing the ruling, President Peter Mutharika has refused to ratify the electoral reforms passed by Parliament and directed by the Court. He has, furthermore, kept Parliament out of session, limited political space, and attempted to politicize the military. Resolution of the crisis affects not just a path to determining the electoral outcome, but also represents a challenge to upholding executive oversight in Malawi. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

DRC: At Least 40 Killed in Massacre by ADF Rebel Group
At least 40 people were killed in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the latest grisly attack on civilians in the mountainous jungles near the Ugandan border. Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group, which was driven out of Uganda in the late 1990s, attacked Samboko village, about 100km (60 miles) southwest of the city of Bunia, Omar Kavota from rights group CEPADHO said on Wednesday. A day after killing at least 17 in the nearby village of Makutano, ADF members killed at least 40 people with machetes and looted food and valuables early on Tuesday, Kavota added. More than 400 people have been killed in attacks attributed to the ADF since the army began an offensive to oust the group from its bases last year, according to the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a research initiative that maps unrest in the region. AFP

UN Sees Possible War Crimes by Congo Militia with 296 Dead
At least 296 people have been killed in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo since October, many in acts of violence that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, the United Nations said Wednesday in a new report. Attacks against civilians mainly by militia from the Lendu community have increased since March, particularly around artisanal gold mines in Ituri province, the UN said. Several hundred thousand people have fled the recent violence, bringing the total number of displaced in Ituri to more than 1.2 million. … In recent months, a Lendu armed group known as the Cooperative for the Economic Development of Congo, or Codeco, has splintered and increased attacks in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, it said. The main victims of the violence have been members of the Hema and Alur communities, but Codeco offshoots have started targeting other communities as well. Bloomberg

Catholic Church Slams Burundi Election Irregularities
Burundi’s Catholic Church has criticised the conduct of the country’s elections, as incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza prepares to hand over power to President-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye, both members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party. … The church said it deployed 2,716 observers across the country to monitor the polls, according to a statement published on Tuesday. International election observer groups were absent from the vote. The Burundi Conference of Catholic Bishops said the election was hampered by numerous problems including ballot box stuffing, fraudulent voting on behalf of deceased persons and refugees, as well as voters who cast more than one ballot. … The church also said voters were intimidated and coerced by certain officials at polling stations who accompanied them to the polling booth. Burundi’s opposition has already criticised the polls, saying electoral fraud was planned in advance. RFI

South Sudan Vice President Abdelbagi Contracts COVID-19
The newly appointed chairman of the South Sudan’s reconstituted National Committee on Covid-19 has tested positive for the coronavirus, the national Ministry of Health has confirmed. Fifth Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi is the fifth senior government official to publicly announce his test results following last week’s announcement by First Vice President Riek Machar and his wife Angelina Teny – the minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs – who publicly revealed they had tested positive for Covid-19. … South Sudan on Wednesday night also confirmed 188 new Covid-19 cases. This brought the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the country to 994, with six recoveries and 10 deaths. The East African

Al Bashir in Khartoum Hospital with ‘Suspected COVID-19’
Deposed president Omar Al Bashir and seven former members of his regime, who are being held in Khartoum prisons, have been transferred to hospitals in the capital; three with chronic conditions, three with confirmed Covid-19, and two, including Al Bashir, with suspected coronavirus symptoms, Sudan’s Public Prosecution reports. In a statement on Wednesday, the Public Prosecutor confirmed that Ahmed Haroun, former Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs and Governor of North Kordofan, Abdelrahim Hussein, former Minister of Interior, Defence, and Governor of Khartoum, and Ali Osman Taha, former Foreign Affairs Minister and First Vice President, are being treated for Covid-19. … On December 14, 2019, Al Bashir, who ruled the country for 30 years and was deposed by a military coup on April 11, 2019, was convicted on charges of corruption and currency irregularities, and sentenced to two years in a ‘correctional facility’ designed for older prisoners. Radio Dabanga

Nigerians Pay over N7 Billion Ransom to Kidnappers in Nine Years – Report
In Nigeria, kidnapping for ransom has become a feature in all parts of the country with thousands of people falling victim. Between the year 2011 and 2020, Nigerians paid at least $18.34 million (N7 billion) as ransom to kidnappers, a report on the country’s kidnap industry shows. The report from SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence published early this month captures the kidnap cases that occurred from June 2011 to the end of March 2020 using data collected from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the Council for Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker, newspaper reports including Premium Times, and SBM Intel’s own countrywide network of researchers. It also contains the breakdown of name of victims, date, state and amount paid respectively. Premium Times

Cocaine and Guinea-Bissau: How Africa’s ‘Narco-State’ Is Trying to Kick Its Habit
Concern is mounting that Guinea-Bissau’s efforts to stem the flow of drugs to Europe and the US have suffered a setback after a military-backed president took office, writes journalist Ricci Shyrock. Court documents show that the loot seized in Guinea-Bissau’s largest ever drug bust last September included more than 20 vehicles, among them a “cinnamon coloured” Mercedes Benz, $3m (£2.5m) stashed in bank accounts, $90,000 worth of wine and porridge found in a warehouse, and, of course, 1.8 tonnes of cocaine hidden in sacks of rice. Dubbed Operation Navara, the seizure culminated in 12 men – of Bissau-Guinean, Columbian, Mexican and Portuguese nationalities – being sentenced to between four and 16 years in prison last month. BBC

Burkina Prosecutor Says Cause of Death of 12 Detainees Unclear
A Burkina Faso prosecutor said on Wednesday that a preliminary probe could not determine what caused the death of 12 people in detention cells hours after they were arrested, a decision advocacy group Human Rights Watch says could signal a cover-up. The prosecutor launched the investigation on May 14 after 12 out of 25 people arrested for suspected terrorism-related offences in a town in the east of the country died in detention cells. The prosecutor, Judicael Kadeba, told a news conference on Wednesday that it wasn’t clear what caused the death of the 12 people, and further investigations would be needed by military authorities because the incident occurred on military grounds. Reuters

‘I Realised My Body Was Burning’: Police Brutality in Uganda Lockdown
… The next moment, security forces arrived. “They said you pack your things and go. I told them I’m packing, I want to leave,” she says. At that point, Joyce says, a local government enforcement officer walked over and kicked her saucepan, which was filled with boiling oil. “He came and kicked it without saying anything. I realised my body was burning,” she says. “That day I had put on a white dress and the whole thing was brown.” Joyce’s account fits a pattern of security forces using excessive force during Uganda’s lockdown, which began on 30 March. Days before the incident, dozens of women and men were allegedly tortured in Elegu, two hours drive from Gulu. The soldiers and police said to be responsible were only arrested after images of the victims went viral on social media. The Guardian

Tanzania Releases Comedian Held Over Video Mocking Magufuli
Tanzanian authorities on Wednesday released on bail a popular comedian who was held for more than a week after posting a video of himself laughing at a photo of President John Magufuli. Police summoned Idris Sultan, a former winner of the Big Brother Africa television series, on May 19 and questioned him over a possible violation of a law against “cyberbullying,” his lawyer, Benedict Ishabakaki, told AFP on Wednesday. Sultan was instead charged with a lesser offence related to using a SIM card registered in someone else’s name, according to a charge sheet seen by AFP. He was released after posting bail of 15 million Tanzanian shillings (more than $6,000), with a hearing scheduled for June 9. Sultan’s release comes one day after activists and opposition leaders took to Twitter demanding the case against him be thrown out. AFP

Red Cross Says 208 COVID-Related Attacks on Health Workers
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said it has recorded 208 COVID-19-related attacks against health workers and installations in 13 countries since March, a striking contrast to the cheers and clapping in gratitude for their work in many nations. Peter Maurer said Wednesday that health workers are being attacked and abused and health systems are being targeted at a time when they are most needed. “The COVID-19 crisis is fast threatening to become a protection crisis,” he told the U.N. Security Council. … “In some cases, the pandemic may even create incentives for warring parties to press their advantage, or to strike hard while international attention is focused elsewhere,” he said. “Both scenarios could lead to increases in violence. And civilians always pay the price.” He pointed to conflict-torn Libya where the U.N. mission documented at least 58 civilians killed and 190 injured between April 1 and May 18. AP

Anatomy of a COVID-19 Outbreak: How the Coronavirus Tore through a South African Hospital
On March 9, a patient, who had recently been to Europe, visited a private hospital in Durban, South Africa, seeking treatment after showing symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the pandemic coronavirus. Within weeks, 39 patients and 80 hospital staff had been infected and 15 were dead. The coronavirus spread rapidly, transmitted from ward to ward between patients, doctors and nurses in the early days of the country’s encounter with the disease. Now scientists at the University of KwaZulu-Natal have retraced the coronavirus’ deadly path through the hospital in a report that its authors say offers lessons not just for the medical facility but also for the public and private health system as a whole. South China Morning Post

Algeria to Recall Ambassador in France over Protest Films
Algeria said Wednesday it would “immediately” recall its ambassador from France for consultations, after documentaries about the North African country’s anti-government protest movement were aired on French public television. The interior ministry said films, including two broadcast on Tuesday, “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of freedom of expression, are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions” including the army. Citing the “recurrent character” of such programmes on French public TV, it singled out two documentaries broadcast on Tuesday by France 5 and the former colonial power’s Parliamentary Channel. “Algeria, my love,” aired by France 5, sparked fierce debates on social media. It told the story of the country’s protest movement through the eyes of five Algerians in their 20s. AFP

Health Woes, Outrage, and Toxins Near Ethiopia Gold Mine
In the villages around Shakiso, children have been born with deformities, and women have had so many miscarriages they believe they are cursed; the bones of cattle have snapped like twigs, and men’s bodies have crumpled and collapsed without warning. Residents who live near Ethiopia’s largest gold mine, Lega Dembi, say that for the past 15 years or so, life-threatening illnesses, disabilities, and mysterious ailments have become so widespread that almost no household has been left untouched. “We are the walking dead,” Dembela Megersa told The New Humanitarian, describing the unaccountable pain in his back that has afflicted him for years. … The community’s concerns over the mine have added to other long-standing grievances and a sense of alienation throughout this part of Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous and restive region. The New Humanitarian

Coronavirus Hampers Africa’s Fight against Malaria, TB
As early as February – when the coronavirus outbreak was still almost exclusively restricted to China -experts were raising the alarm: Once the virus arrived in Africa, the continent’s poor healthcare system meant certain catastrophe. So far, however, the official figures in Africa do not equal such a disastrous scenario – probably also because many African governments reacted swiftly and appropriately to the potential threat. … It’s crucial, however, to keep an eye on the potential “collateral damage” as a result of the fight against coronavirus, says Anne Jung, a global health consultant at Medico International, a German-based aid organization. Jung points out that the strict lockdowns implemented in many African countries have interrupted routine vaccinations for children. She’s worried the measures introduced by authorities to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus may indirectly lead to an increase in other infectious diseases such as measles, especially in children. DW

The Legendary Hip Hop Label Def Jam Has Been Launched in Africa
While Def Jam has long since evolved into a major multinational label brand far from its early days in a dorm at New York University’s Weinstein Hall, it still stays close to its hip hop roots and is now taking that to Johannesburg and Lagos, under the auspices of its parent company Universal Music Group. UMG has been expanding its base across Africa for the last couple of years. The new Def Jam Africa label doesn’t have a standalone label head yet, but will be on the search for one. For now, Sipho Dlamini, UMG Sub Saharan Africa/South Africa chief will oversee it and build A&R (artists & repertoire), marketing and promotions teams. … “Def Jam has also been a mark of quality in hip-hop and so it was a natural fit,” says Dlamini.”Whilst it looks to Def Jam’s historical blueprint for artist development, cultural impact and hopefully global success, the Def Jam Africa identity and sound will come from Africa.” Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones