Africa Media Review for May 29, 2020

Gunmen Kill Dozens in Restive Northwest Nigeria
Dozens of armed criminals on motorcycles raided a number of villages in the northwestern Nigerian state of Sokoto, killing at least 60 civilians. Regional governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said that the attacks late Wednesday, close to the border with Niger, came as a “rude shock” as security officials had recently visited the area to try to appease ongoing conflict. “We recovered 25 corpses in Garki, 13 in Dan Aduwa, 25 in Kuzari, seven in Katuma and four in Masawa,” Lawal Kakale, one of the witnesses, told French news agency AFP. The local traditional leader is from Sabon Birni district, some 175 kilometers (110 miles) from the city of Sokoto. … Last week, Nigeria’s armed forces launched a series of bomb raids on camps in the northwest region in its latest attempt to curtail violence in the area. In an apparent retaliation attack, armed gang members raided five villages in the Sabon Birni district on Monday, killing 18 people. DW

Shooting at Smuggling Warehouse in Libya Kills 30 Migrants
The family of a slain Libyan human trafficker attacked a group of migrants in a town that recently changed hands amid the fighting over the country’s capital, killing 26 Bangladeshi and four African migrants, the Tripoli government said on Thursday. There was scant information about the attack in the statement issued by the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli. But the U.N. migration agency said the migrants were shot and killed on Wednesday in a smuggling warehouse in the desert town of Mizdah, where a group of migrants were being held. The slayings underscore the perils that migrants face in Libya, where violence and lawlessness have created a haven for smugglers to operate along the North African country’s coastline. AP

Many Killed in Central Mali Ethnic Attacks: Officials
Armed men on motorcycles have killed at least 27 civilians in central Mali in three attacks on ethnic Dogon farming villages in less than 24 hours, local officials said on Thursday. … Local officials told Reuters news agency they believed the three attacks, between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening, were carried out by people claiming to be defending Fulani against rival Dogon. “We were surprised by the attack on the village of Tille. Seven were killed, all Dogons, some of them burned alive,” said Yacouba Kassogue, the deputy mayor of Doucombo, the municipality in which Tille is located. Attacks on villages in the neighbouring areas of Bankass and Koro killed another 20 civilians, most of them shot or burned to death, local officials said. Al Jazeera

Ten Jihadists Killed in Western Burkina Faso: Army
Ten “terrorists” died in an offensive against a jihadist base in the west of Burkina Faso on Thursday, according to the army’s chief of staff. The West African country is battling an Islamist revolt, which has also exacerbated deadly inter-ethnic tensions. Since 2015, nearly 900 people have died and 840,000 have fled their homes. A unit of soldiers and gendarme carried out the offensive in the rural locality of Worou in Sourou province, said the statement, which was not independently verifiable. “This anti-jihadist operation allowed us to neutralize 10 terrorists and to recover weapons and motorcycles,” it said, adding that one gendarme was injured. The Defense Post

Burundi Opposition Candidate Goes to Court to Challenge Vote
Burundi’s top opposition leader went to the constitutional court Thursday to challenge the results of this month’s presidential election, alleging the vote was rigged in favor of the ruling party candidate. “We’ve seen a lot of irregularities,” Agathon Rwasa told reporters. “There are many examples showing, for example, the stuffing of ballot boxes.” He said the electoral commission must be held accountable, adding that the electoral roll was never published. “Not a single district, no single province was spared,” he said. “So the results proclaimed are fake.” The court has eight days to decide. Rwasa said that if he is not satisfied he will take his argument to the East African Court of Justice based in Arusha, Tanzania. AP

Africa Hit by Sustained Community Spread of Coronavirus -Disease Centre
Cases of community transmission of the new coronavirus are growing in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, and a new strategy for testing is needed to prevent this, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. Community transmission refers to cases where patients had no travel history or known contact with infected people – worrying for health workers because it means the virus is moving undetected through the population. “We are beginning to see sustained community transmission within Ethiopia and many other countries across Africa. That means we need to increase our public health measures like distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands,” John Nkengasong told journalists. He said countries should modify the way they test their population – instead of focusing on testing people arriving at airports, governments should switch to surveillance testing of those with flu-like symptoms. Reuters

Ethiopia’s Security Forces Accused of Torture, Evictions and Killings – Report
Ethiopia’s Nobel peace prize-winning prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been urged to investigate allegations that state security forces have committed a raft of serious human rights abuses including torture and unlawful killings since he came to power in 2018. According to a report by Amnesty International, published on Friday, Ethiopia’s military and police in its two most populous regions arbitrarily detained more than 10,000 people, summarily evicted whole families from their homes – some of which were burnt and destroyed – and in some cases were complicit in inter-communal violence targeting minorities. Federal authorities have not responded to the report, which focuses on the period between January and December 2019 in the regions of Amhara and Oromia. The Guardian

Sudan Accuses Ethiopia of Fresh Border Attacks
A Sudanese army officer and a child have been killed in cross-border attacks carried out by Ethiopian army forces and militiamen, said the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, Brigadier Amer Mohamed al-Hassan, SAF spokesman said that Ethiopian militiamen on Thursday morning sought to collect water from the Atbara River and clashed with the Sudanese troops in the area when it prevented them from taking water. … This is the first time that Sudan openly accused the Ethiopian army of involvement in the attacks against Sudanese farmers in the border areas. In the past, Sudanese official used to accuse armed gangs of these attacks. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: Surge in Deaths in North Darfur Raises Fears of Disastrous COVID-19 Outbreak
The cemeteries of El Fasher are now watched over by Sudanese police guards, posted to stop a surge in rushed burials. The town’s elderly are reportedly dying at such an alarming rate that the government has now banned funerals without death certificates as it investigates the cause, and has placed the state of North Darfur on lockdown. Activist networks have been recording dozens of deaths every day over the past fortnight, prompting concerns that an outbreak of Covid-19 is killing older people in their homes. At least 150 deaths were confirmed by an investigation carried out by the University of El Fasher with the government and UN. Samples were taken from a third of the dead and while the results have not come through for the majority, 11 out of the 15 received had tested positive for Covid-19. The Guardian

Halt Plan to Withdraw Sudan Peacekeepers, UN Urged
Activists in Sudan are urging the UN and African Union not to go ahead with plans to withdraw 26,000 peacekeepers from Darfur this year, claiming the move will put lives at risk. The peacekeepers from the AU-UN hybrid operation in Darfur (Unamid), which has a mandate to protect civilians by force if necessary, will leave in October under plans expected to be agreed by the UN security council, although it is understood the UK and Germany want to delay troop withdrawal. The withdrawal will make way for a new UN “political mission” in the country to help the government draw up a new constitution and arrange elections. Almost 100 civil society groups have signed a petition opposing the plan which decries the “cone of silence” around what it says is persistent conflict in Darfur. The Guardian

Fresh Jihadist Violence Hits Northern Mozambique
Islamist militants terrorising remote communities in Mozambique’s Muslim-majority north mounted a fresh attack on Thursday, police sources said, striking Macomia district in an early morning assault. Gunmen forced the population of several thousand inhabitants to flee, while the military and police withdrew from the area according to a police officer who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. “We can’t defeat them. They’re very strong,” the officer who hid in the bush since dawn told AFP. The attack comes a week after Mozambique called on its southern African neighbours to help it fend off the escalating jihadist insurgency that began in 2017. … Called in from the port city of Pemba some 156km away, reinforcement helicopters operated by private security companies flew in a few hours after the assault erupted, to repel the attackers. AFP

Islamist Militants Unmask as Crisis Mounts in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado
They are known for beheading dissenters and torching homes in grisly attacks that have uprooted more than 150,000 people. But when Islamist militants stormed three key towns in northern Mozambique in March and April, they offered residents something different: looted food and friendly meetings. And having shied away from showing their faces or publicising a message since launching their revolt in October 2017, members of the group – known by some as Ansar al-Sunnah – have suddenly become much clearer about what they want. Prior attacks have been claimed by so-called Islamic State, and in videos released during the raids they demanded Shari’a law and raised IS flags, leaving little doubt as to their allegiance, though it remains unclear if they are receiving direct material support. The New Humanitarian

Manhunts after Hundreds Flee Quarantine in Zimbabwe, Malawi
Manhunts have begun after hundreds of people, some with the coronavirus, fled quarantine centers in Zimbabwe and Malawi while authorities worry they will spread COVID-19 in countries whose health systems can be rapidly overwhelmed. In Malawi, more than 400 people recently repatriated from South Africa and elsewhere fled a center at a stadium in Blantyre, jumping over a fence or strolling out the gate while police and health workers watched. Police and health workers told reporters they were unable to stop them as they lacked adequate protective gear. At least 46 escapees had tested positive for the virus. Some of those who fled told reporters they had bribed police. And in Zimbabwe, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said officers were “hunting down” more than 100 people who escaped from centers where a 21-day quarantine is mandatory for those returning from abroad. AP

Rights Groups Sound Alarm over Waning Press Freedoms in Nigeria
Nigeria is one of West Africa’s “most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists,” an international media watchdog has said. Expanded state surveillance, the spread of disinformation, and arbitrary arrests of journalists who report critically on the ruling political establishment were cited as the main obstacles to press freedom by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In its 2020 annual World Press Freedom Index, RSF ranked Nigeria 115 out of 180 countries, in which one is considered the freest. Other rights groups have also expressed alarm about conditions for the media in Nigeria over the past year. VOA

Alleged Rwandan Genocide Bankroller Kabuga to Be Tried in Arusha – Judge
The alleged financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, arrested this month in France after 25 years on the run, will be transferred to the war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, once conditions allow it, a judge in The Hague has ruled. The judge was replying to a request for Felicien Kabuga to be temporarily transferred to The Hague given travel restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Described as Africa’s most wanted man, Kabuga has been held in a French jail since his May 16 arrest at his home outside Paris. Kabuga was indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide, incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity. AFP

Rwanda Court Sentences Ex-Mayor to Life for Role in Genocide
Rwanda’s High Court on Thursday sentenced a former mayor to life in prison for his role in the country’s 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which included leading attacks that resulted in the deaths of around 25,000 ethnic Tutsis in his town. Ladislas Ntaganzwa was one of the top fugitive suspects, accused of playing a key role in the massacre of over a million Tutsi, when he was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2015. A statement from Rwanda’s prosecution authority said the court “convicted him for genocide, extermination as crime against humanity and rape as crime against humanity and sentenced him to life imprisonment.” AFP

ICC Allows Laurent Gbagbo to Leave Belgium
The International Criminal Court on Thursday said former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo can leave Belgium under certain conditions following his acquittal last year over post-electoral violence that killed 3,000 people. Gbagbo and his deputy Charles Ble Goude were both cleared of crimes against humanity a year ago, eight years after the former West African strongman’s arrest and transfer to the Hague-based court. Belgium agreed to host Gbagbo, 73, after he was released in February last year under strict conditions including that he would return to court for a prosecution appeal against his acquittal. An ICC spokesman said Gbagbo could travel provided if the country he was going to agreed to receive him. Gbagbo’s return to Ivory Coast, where his Ivorian Popular Front Party (FPI) is preparing to contest presidential elections in October, therefore remains uncertain. AFP

Six Ways COVID-19 Is Changing South Africa
No country escapes coronavirus unscathed, but South Africa seems to have done better than most – despite dire predictions that African countries are a “ticking time bomb” of COVID-19 devastation. President Cyril Ramaphosa has won international praise for a generally sure-footed response, and, after years of bad news, the country is experiencing a tentative feel-good bloom over its ability to pull together. South Africa has recorded some 26,000 positive coronavirus cases, with over 550 deaths. On 1 June, the government will ease what have been fierce lockdown measures, despite some criticism this is premature. It has warned it will not hesitate to reimpose stringent conditions should there be an uptick in cases. The New Humanitarian

African Fashion Designers Take On COVID-19 in Style
The face mask has become a global symbol in the fight against COVID-19. But for fashion designers in Africa, the masks are more than just a protective piece of cloth. Here are some of the best styles from the continent. DW



Photo: Adam Jones