Africa Media Review for May 5, 2020

Dozens of Boko Haram, ISWAP Fighters Killed in Nigeria
Nigeria has killed 134 members of the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) armed groups. John Enenche, Nigeria’s defence ministry spokesman, told reporters on Monday the fighters were killed in Operation Kantana Jimlan, which was launched on May 1 in the country’s northeast. ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram. He said 78 of those killed were members of ISWAP and 56 were Boko Haram members, adding that Nigerian troops arrested 16 informants of the fighters as the country aims to eradicate both armed groups from its territory. Lots of ammunition was also seized during the operation, he said. Al Jazeera

Cameroon Military Denies Civilian Deaths in ‘Successful’ Raids on Rebels
Cameroon’s military says it killed at least 22 separatist fighters in a week of raids on seven rebel camps in the country’s troubled western regions. Villagers, however, say the military killed at least 13 civilians in the raids, which involved hundreds of troops. The commander in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest region said more than 300 troops were involved in successful raids this past week on rebel Ambazonian camps. General Valere Nka spoke via a messaging application Monday from the town of Bafut, where he was praising troops on behalf of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. “A good number of Ambazonians were neutralized and we have [recovered] 50 guns, pistols, ammunitions, motorcycles and even a Fortuna car, two horses and so on,” he said. Nka said troops on Thursday and Friday killed 15 rebels in Bafut, including an infamous fighter calling himself “General Aladji,” who in 2018 kidnapped dozens of schoolchildren. VOA

UNHCR Condemns Attacks against Malian Refugees by Burkina Faso Security Forces
The United Nations refugee agency is calling for an investigation into a violent attack against Malian refugees on May 2 by Burkina Faso security forces, which  left dozens injured, many seriously. Security forces reportedly burst into the Mentao refugee camp a day after Burkina Faso soldiers came under fire by one of the many armed groups operating in the region. One soldier reportedly was killed, and another has gone missing. U.N. refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch tells VOA security forces barged into the camp looking for so-called armed elements whom they blamed for the attack, which occurred on a nearby highway. “So, they went into this refugee camp asking men and boys to come out and beating them, mistreating them,” he said. “We have more than 32 refugees in the hospital right now being taken care of. So, this is what we are condemning, this violence. And, we are asking the authorities, one to investigate and the other to protect the refugees.” There has been no response from the Burkina Faso government. VOA

Kenya Questions Deadly Plane Crash in Somalia That Killed 6
Kenyan authorities are looking into the deadly crash of a plane carrying medical supplies in Somalia, while one Somali official asserts that the aircraft was shot down. Six people on board were killed. The Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday said the Kenyan-registered twin-engine plane with African Express crashed Monday afternoon on approach to Bardale “under circumstances we are yet to confirm.” A projectile fired from the ground hit the plane as it approached the airstrip in Bay region, Ahmed isaq, a local official with the Southwestern State regional administration, told The Associated Press. The airstrip is a base for the Ethiopian military under the multinational African Union mission, which is combating the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The group controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia. AP

Armed Group in Northeast Congo Says to Lay Down Weapons
The new leader of the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), Ngabu Ngawi Olivier, called on the army to enact a ceasefire to allow talks with the government, a potential breakthrough for President Felix Tshisekedi who has promised to bring an end to decades of unrest in the region. Olivier did not give a date when CODECO would halt violence. In recent weeks intense fighting in Djugu Territory in northern Ituri province has forced thousands of people from their homes, complicating the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 2,200 people. … Last week the army said an operation to uproot CODECO, which is drawn from the Lendu ethnic group, was gaining ground following the killing of its leader Justin Ngondjolu in late March. Jean-Bosco Lalo, civil society coordinator of Ituri province, said the ceasefire was unexpected but a welcome opportunity to bring peace to the area. Reuters

DR Congo Again Blames Hutu Rebels for Ranger Massacre
DR Congo on Monday reiterated its accusation that Rwandan rebels in the east of the country killed 12 rangers and five others at the world-famous Virunga national park. Fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) were behind the April 24 attack, said Major General Maurice Aguru Mamba, citing a preliminary investigation. He told a news conference those who attacked the UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its mountain gorillas, were from a “specialised unit” of the FDLR. “Our sources are credible,” said Aguru Mamba, who commands CORPPN, a corps assigned to the protection of national parks and natural reserves. The 17 people were killed in an ambush near the headquarters of the park in North Kivu province bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga park management said it had “precise indications” that the FDLR was responsible but three days later the FDLR denied the claims and blamed Rwandan government troops. AFP

Sudan Appoints First Ambassador to the US in More than 20 Years
Sudan has appointed its first ambassador to the United States, the first such envoy in more than 20 years. Authorities in both countries had agreed to improve ties following the fall of longtime President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown by the military in April last year in the wake of mass protests seeking civilian rule. The foreign ministry of Sudan’s transitional government said on Monday it had chosen Nureldin Satti, a veteran diplomat, as ambassador in Washington, DC, and that US authorities had approved his nomination. Satti served as Sudan’s ambassador to France in the 1990s and later worked with United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. A Department of State representative declined to provide any insight on plans to appoint a US ambassador to Sudan, saying there was no specific information on the timing but that the decision late last year to exchange ambassadors was “a historic step.” Al Jazeera

French Soldier Dies in Mali Fighting Extremists, 2nd in Days
A French Legionnaire who was a member of France’s Barkhane Operation fighting Islamist extremists in the Sahel died Monday in combat in Mali, authorities said. Kevin Clement was the second Legionnaire to have died within three days. He was killed in a battle “with terrorists” in Mali’s Menaka region in the area known as the three borders region where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso borders meet. It is known as a danger zone because of numerous attacks by jihadis. The exact circumstances of his death were not immediately made public. French Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a statement that Barkhane troops were working in the three borders region with soldiers of the G5 Sahel force, a coalition of five Sahel countries fighting extremists along with Barkhane forces. AP

Family of Seized Soumaila Cisse Says Mali Gov’t ‘Moving Too Slow’
The family of a leading Malian opposition figure who was kidnapped days before the country’s parliamentary elections in late March says the government is “moving too slow” in securing his release. Soumaila Cisse, the runner-up in a 2018 presidential election, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on March 25 in Mali’s restive Timbuktu region. The 70-year-old’s son, Bocar Cisse, said it was more than five weeks after the kidnapping when the family was contacted by the committee set up to negotiate the politician’s release. … Two people kidnapped alongside Cisse – who were later released – said they had also not heard from the committee, which was appointed weeks after the abduction, according to documents seen by Al Jazeera. … On April 8, the United Nations Security Council called for Cisse’s “swift liberation,” while in an April 22 letter, 42 African intellectuals and politicians said the abduction of such a high-profile figure was “unprecedented and unique” and called for “stronger involvement” from Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to secure his release. Mali’s government did not reply to requests for comment. Al Jazeera

Pirates Kidnap 6 Crewmen from 2 Fishing Boats off Gabon: Source
Pirates attacked two fishing vessels on Sunday near the Gabonese capital Libreville, abducting six crewmen, a source close to the Gabonese government told AFP. “The pirates kidnapped three Indonesians, two Senegalese and a South Korean,” the source said without elaborating. The Gabonese defence ministry did not respond to requests from AFP for comment. It was the second pirate attack since the start of the year off the Gabonese coast. In December pirates attacked several boats off Libreville, abducting four Chinese seamen and killing a Gabonese skipper. The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches some 5 700 kilometres from Senegal to Angola, has become the new world epicentre of pirate attacks, lootings and kidnappings for ransom. On 19 April, pirates attacked a container ship off the coast of the Benin capital Cotonou, leaving eight sailors missing. AFP

Making Sense of Mozambique’s Brutal Insurgency
The district of Muidumbe, in the province of Cabo Delgado, close to the border with Tanzania, is the heartland of the Mozambican liberation struggle. It is there that for 10 years, peasant guerrillas fought Portuguese colonialism, sowing the seeds for socialism in Mozambique. On April 6 this year, the insurgent group known as Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama (ASWJ) and locally as al-Shabaab (“the youths”) waged an attack of unprecedented intensity in this region, a stronghold of the ruling party, Frelimo. The attack began in the lowland village of Miangalewa, a rice production area and a bottleneck for traffic directed to the north, inhabited both by Christian Makonde and Muslim Mwani. After destroying a Portuguese engineering company, elements from the group addressed the residents by megaphone, prompting them to remain in their houses. Mail & Guardian

Decade-Long Largely Ignored Weapons Embargo on South Sudan Lapses in May
The South Sudan arms embargo ends on May 31 but investigations on the ongoing disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation reveal that it has been violated by arms companies since it was imposed in July 2018. An investigation by Amnesty International revealed that all armed groups in South Sudan have received arms and spares that were not on the ground when the embargo was imposed. The human rights watchdog says evidence of violations and illicit concealment of arms after visiting 12 military camps, must spur the UN to renew the arms embargo on May 31, as site visits and satellite imagery reveal multiple forces violating arms embargo, using child soldiers and illicit concealment. Diversion of arms has also been documented. The East African

Chad: 30 Medical Staff Contract COVID-19
30 of Chad’s 117 confirmed COVID-19 cases are medical staff, the National Order of Doctors of Chad said in a statement, Monday. The statement also denounced a lack of personal protective equipment for the country’s medical personnel. “Laboratory workers, nurses, trainees and five doctors have been contaminated by the virus. “In all, about 30 members of the nursing staff are infected,” the president of the union, Dionadji Mbaiguinam told AFP on the phone. “The medical staff are not equipped as they should be. It is through negligence that some have been infected, notably because of the lack of protective equipment and training,” he added. AFP

Uganda Starts Easing One of Africa’s Strictest Lockdowns
Uganda began to loosen one of Africa’s strictest anti-coronavirus lockdowns on Tuesday after President Yoweri Museveni declared the infection “tamed.” The country of 42 million reported 97 confirmed cases and no deaths in 45 days of restrictions, and Museveni said it was now better equipped to trace and detect new infections faster. “We have somehow tamed the virus,” Museveni said in a televised address late on Monday. “It is high time we … start slowly and carefully to open up, but without undoing our achievements.” Uganda, alongside neighbouring Rwanda, had some of Africa’s strictest lockdown measures, including the shuttering of all but absolutely essential businesses, dusk-to-dawn curfews, and bans on both private and public transport vehicles. Businesses including hardware shops, restaurants, wholesale stores and others will now be allowed to reopen. Public transport and most private vehicles would still remain prohibited, however – meaning that workers for reopened businesses will have to commute either by bicycle or on foot. Reuters

Journalist Critical of Madagascar President Released
A prominent Madagascar journalist detained a month ago after criticizing President Andry Rajoelina’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was released on Monday. Arphine Rahelisoa, who heads the pro-opposition newspaper Valisoa, was charged on April 4 with “inciting hatred” after running a blog that notably said “COVID-19, lockdown, Andry Rajoelina, killer.” The charges against Rahelisoa, the only journalist detained in Madagascar, have not been dropped. She could face a prison term of between one and five years. “I thank everyone for thinking of me,” Rahelisoa said as she left a detention center in Antananarivo on Monday. “I was treated well in prison because I was a journalist,” added Rahelisoa, who had previously filed three unsuccessful requests for release. President Rajoelina had promised her release on television on Sunday. AFP

Herbal Remedy Touted by Some African Governments for Coronavirus, despite Scientists’ Warnings
When the government of Madagascar began touting an unproven herbal remedy for the novel coronavirus, one of its most enthusiastic supporters was Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who announced that he would dispatch a plane to pick up a supply of the beverage. … So far, five African governments – Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros and the Republic of Congo – have obtained shipments of the Madagascar tonic or promised to import it, even though international experts have warned against it. … The WHO has also cast doubt on the herbal tonic that Mr. Magufuli aims to import from Madagascar, an Indian Ocean island nation. The global health agency has emphasized that there is currently no cure for the coronavirus, and it has warned against the dangers of self-medication. … The Madagascar Academy of Medicine has questioned the value of the beverage, calling it scientifically unproven and potentially harmful, especially to children. The Globe and Mail

Leaked Letter Warns Zimbabwe Headed towards Economic Catastrophe
Zimbabwe is headed for a health and economic catastrophe from the coronavirus pandemic because its debt arrears mean it cannot access foreign lenders, the finance minister has warned in a letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was never intended to be seen by the public. Mthuli Ncube said in the letter dated April 2 and seen by Reuters news agency on Monday that Zimbabwe needed to start talks and normalise ties with foreign creditors to clear its decades-old arrears and unblock urgently-needed funding. “The Zimbabwean authorities propose a high-level dialogue on mitigating the economic and social downfall from the COVID-19 pandemic through transformative arrears clearance … short of which the country will suffer a health and economic catastrophe,” Ncube said in the letter. It was sent to the IMF and copied to the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and the chair of the Paris Club of sovereign creditors. Reuters

Nigeria Reopens Main Cities Lagos and Abuja as Lockdowns Phased Out
Nigeria began easing restrictions on Monday in its capital Abuja and in largest city Lagos, heralding the reopening of Africa’s biggest economy after more than four weeks of lockdowns imposed to contain the new coronavirus. The government has said a 24-hour stay-at-home order in place since March 30 in Abuja and the states of Lagos and Ogun – with exceptions only for food shopping and health-related trips – will be lifted gradually over a six-week period. These densely populated regions will now come into line with the rest of the country in which slightly looser restrictions introduced last week by President Muhammadu Buhari include an overnight curfew, mandatory face masks in public and a ban on non-essential interstate travel. On Monday, the usually frenetic streets of the coastal megacity Lagos, largely empty during the lockdown, were busy again with cars, buses and motorised tricycle taxis. Reuters

Forty Percent of Nigerians Live below Poverty Line: Statistics Office
Forty percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to statistics released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), with north-western Sokoto state carrying the highest levels of poverty overall. Borno state was not included due to insecurity. The NBS poverty and inequality report indicates that from September 2018 to October 2019, forty percent of people, or 82.9 million, made 137,430 naira (322 euros) per year. The indication of high levels of poverty in Africa’s most populous country comes as the government is in the midst of trying to handle the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit Nigeria with 2,558 cases so far and 87 deaths. After suffering what President Muhamadhu Buhari acknowledged was a heavy economic cost, especially those who live day-to-day, Nigeria lockdown efforts are easing up on Monday for Lagos, Ogun state, and Abuja. However, cases continue to rise, especially in populous Kano state in the northwest. RFI

US Africa Command Commander Engages Senegal’s Chief of Defence
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, spoke with Senegalese Chief of Defense, Air Force Lieutenant General Birame Diop, on Apr. 24 via telephone. The military leaders discussed a range of topics from military exercises to COVID-19 response. “COVID-19 impacts how we currently interface with our African partners, but the virus is not stopping our support,” said Townsend. “Senegal is everything we ask for in a partner, and we will continue to stay fully engaged with Senegal to promote security and stability.” Diop echoed Townsend’s sentiments. “Africa Command remains for us a valuable strategic partner. In this pandemic context, our focus is to keep our troops safe, and support the government in implementing Senegal’s National Response Plan,” said Diop. Townsend and Diop discussed Exercise United Accord, a multinational army exercise scheduled to be hosted by Senegal Sept. 10-25. The command’s support to Senegal includes a UN-standard level-II field hospital, provided in October 2019 in partnership with the U.S. Department of State. Senegal recently deployed that field hospital to help support its response to COVID-19. Townsend and Diop agreed on the importance of security services’ positive role in helping citizens through the COVID-19 crisis. DefenceWeb

Conservation in Crisis: Why COVID-19 Could Push Mountain Gorillas Back to the Brink
… Such a close and well-populated encounter with one of humankind’s nearest relatives (witnessed before the Covid-19 pandemic) would have been inconceivable during the dark days of the early 1980s, when it was estimated that there were only 250 mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Virunga national park, and around 100 thought to be in Bwindi. That all-time low prompted fears they would vanish by the end of the 20th century. Even in early 2018, the conservation status of these gorillas put them one step away from extinction. Now, thanks to a far-reaching initiative, a recent census has revealed the number of known mountain gorillas has increased to 1,063 – taking them off the red list of critically endangered species. Amid climate chaos and unbridled habitat destruction, this is a momentous achievement, albeit one that could now be reversed by the coronavirus pandemic. Experts who led the revival put their success down to engaging local communities, securing government support and promoting transnational collaboration, a three-pronged strategy that could offer beleaguered areas worldwide a roadmap to recovery. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones