Africa Media Review for November 12, 2020

#EndSARS Demands Nigerian Police Reform

Nigeria’s largest protests in a generation are calling for police and governance reforms—and expose long-delayed initiatives to enhance professionalism and oversight of Nigeria’s police. … The #EndSARS movement is driven by deep discontentment and systemic problems perceived by Nigerian citizens. Surveys show that Nigerians report very low levels of trust in the police—and that a third of them have paid or been asked to pay a bribe to police. … Partners West Africa Executive Director Kemi Okenyodo has long called for police reform in Nigeria. The Africa Center spoke to her about the meaning of the #EndSARS movement and what it portends for police reform in Nigeria. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Libyans Reach Deal on Elections, UN Says

Libyan delegates have agreed on a plan to hold elections for parliament and president within 18 months as part of a process to end a decade of violence and instability in the country. Acting U.N. Libya envoy Stephanie Williams called the development a “breakthrough.” The world body brought together 75 Libyans for talks in Tunisia this week. “There’s real momentum and that’s what we need to focus on and encourage,” Williams told reporters Wednesday. The delegates are also working to develop plans for a temporary government to prepare for elections and provide services. Libya has been in a state of instability since the 2011 overthrow of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. VOA

First Witness Account Emerges of Ethiopians Fleeing Conflict

Tensions over the deadly conflict in Ethiopia are spreading well beyond its cut-off northern Tigray region, as the federal government on Thursday said some 150 suspected “operatives” accused of seeking to “strike fear and terror” throughout the country had been detained. The statement said the suspects “happen to be ethnically diverse,” but concerns remain high among ethnic Tigrayans amid reports of being singled out by authorities. Ethiopia’s parliament voted to remove immunity from prosecution for 39 top Tigray region officials, including its president, accusing them of revolting and “attacking the federal army.” Meanwhile, rallies occurred in multiple cities in support of the federal government’s military offensive against the Tigray regional government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. … The top U.S. diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, spoke with Ethiopia’s foreign minister on Wednesday “to urge again immediate action to restore peace and de-escalate tensions,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email. AP

Tigray: UN Fears Refugee Emergency, Warns of Aid Being Blocked

The United Nations says it is worried about a refugee emergency if more civilians are forced to flee fighting between federal troops and local forces in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, the UN refugee agency’s representative in the country said. Sudan has received more than 10,000 Ethiopian refugees since the fighting started and aid agencies say they are unable to restock food, medical and other emergency supplies. The UN is negotiating with both sides in the conflict for humanitarian corridors to be opened, Ann Encontre, UNHCR’s representative in Ethiopia, told the Reuters news agency in an interview. … Telephone lines to the region were still down, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said in its report on the crisis on Thursday, hurting aid operations. “Transport is not allowed to and from Tigray, as a result of which shortages of basic commodities are reportedly appearing, impacting the most vulnerable first and the most,” the UN agency said. Al Jazeera

Guinea Arrests Opposition Leaders after Disputed Election

Guinean police have launched a sweeping operation against opposition politicians and activists following deadly post-election violence in the West African country. Officers on Wednesday arrested the vice president of Guinea’s leading opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). The operation came after President Alpha Conde, 82, won a controversial third term after topping an October 18 poll…Opposition leader Cellou Diallo from the UFDG party had declared himself victorious after the election and alleged voter fraud. … More than 100 other people – mainly activists – have also been caught in the police dragnet. … As part of the recent sweep operation, Guinean police have detained or tried 137 people in the capital Conakry alone, state prosecutor Sidy Souleymane Ndiaye said in a statement on Tuesday. … Diallo, 68, called the police operation an “electoral coup d’etat” in a statement on social media on Wednesday, and accused Conde of seeking to “decapitate” his party. AFP

Ivory Coast President Meets Opposition Leader Amid Tensions

Ivory Coast opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie met with President Alassane Ouattara Wednesday after contesting his re-election to a third term in an effort to start a dialogue to avoid a crisis in the West African nation. The two leaders said they had managed to break the ice wall between them and restore confidence after the meeting. “With today’s meeting, we have broken the wall of ice, of silence,” said Bedie after the meeting. He said confidence was restored and that the two would continue to meet in the weeks to come. Ouattara said: “We agreed that peace is the most important thing for both of us, and for all Ivorians.” The re-elected leader on Monday invited Bedie to the dialogue during his address to the nation. He also urged the opposition to put an end to their initiatives against his re-election. AP

Escorted by Diplomats, Tanzanian Opposition Leader Leaves

Escorted by Western diplomats, Tanzania’s main opposition candidate Tundu Lissu left the country for Belgium on Tuesday after rejecting a presidential election he asserted had “widespread irregularities” and was a “butchery of democracy.” “I am not fleeing the country,” said Lissu, the survivor of an assassination attempt in 2017 who returned to Tanzania this year from Belgium to challenge populist President John Magufuli, who won a second term. “I am only going to explore different platforms to reclaim justice, democracy and dignity of Tanzanians.” Lissu was escorted at the airport by the U.S., German and Belgian ambassadors, and he posted video of his departure. … On Tuesday the United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement she was “disturbed by reports of continued intimidation and harassment against opposition leaders and members in Tanzania” after the vote. AP

Gunmen Shoot Dead Female Libyan Dissident in Busy Benghazi Street

Gunmen have shot dead a prominent female dissident on a busy street in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, in the latest killing of a critic of military strongman Khalifa Haftar. Hanan al-Barassi, an outspoken critic of abuses in the eastern areas controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), was shot dead in her car in broad daylight on 20th Street, a busy artery in Benghazi’s city centre, rights groups and security officials said. A prominent figure in Libya, 46-year-old Barassi was known for giving voice to female victims of violence in videos that she broadcast on social media. She also ran a local association for the defence of women’s rights. … News of Barassi’s killing “is appalling and a painful reminder of the reality on the ground especially for women,” said Elham Saudi, a Libyan lawyer who is also known for her defence of human rights. “With no accountability, violators will continue to get away with literal murder in broad daylight.” The Guardian

Seven Burkinabe Soldiers Killed in Ambush Ahead of Presidential Election

Seven soldiers in Burkina Faso were killed on Wednesday in an ambush by suspected Islamist militants, two sources said, close to a week before a presidential election. Worsening insecurity in the West African country is the main issue in the Nov. 22 vote, when President Roch Marc Kabore is seeking a second term. … A security source and a local official, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said seven soldiers were killed in the ambush in the northern Oudalan province, near the borders with Mali and Niger. The security source said about 10 of the assailants were killed in the ensuing battle. The army had no immediate comment. Reuters

Civilians Reel as Violence Spins Out of Control in Mozambique

When Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi last month visited some of the areas in the gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado that have been hit by an escalating conflict, he was accosted by a man who had an urgent demand. “We’re not asking for support,” the man said, after Nyusi pointed to humanitarian assistance being provided to the hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes due to the deadly fighting between an armed group linked to ISIL (ISIS) and government forces. “We want the war to stop.” The war, however, has not stopped. Instead, it seems to be entering a particularly gruesome new phase, if reports of dozens of recent beheadings in Cabo Delgado’s Muidumbe district turn out to be true. Less than two weeks ago, just as Muidumbe was getting back on its feet after its main villages were overrun in April, ISIL-linked fighters launched another assault on the district. Al Jazeera

South African Police Issue Arrest Warrant for Top ANC Official

South African police have issued a warrant for the arrest of one of the country’s most important politicians, a key moment for President Cyril Ramaphosa in his battle against graft and for control of the ruling party. The warrant relates to corruption charges for Ace Magashule, the secretary-general of the African National Congress, over his role in a multimillion-rand scandal involving the award of asbestos-related public works contracts in the Free State, the central province where he was formerly the premier and a party baron, South African media reported. Mr Magashule was issued with the warrant on Tuesday, the country’s elite specialist Hawks police force confirmed. He will appear in a court in Bloemfontein the Free State’s capital, on Friday, they said, but did not specify which charges he faced. FT

Dozens of Sudanese Migrants Held in Cairo after Protests

Dozens of Sudanese refugees and migrants have been arrested after protests over the murder of a young boy in Cairo. Amnesty International said about 70 people, including children, were arrested by Egyptian security forces after what it said were two peaceful protests on 29 October. Amid reports of rising xenophobia and violence towards refugees in Egypt, the demonstrations were sparked by the stabbing of Sudanese 12 year-old Mohamed Hassan. An Egyptian man has been arrested over the killing. The rights group said security forces dispersed the protests using teargas and water cannon and that some of those arrested were beaten in police custody. The Guardian

Sudan Receives Russian Training Vessel

Sudan’s navy has taken delivery of a training vessel donated by Russia as part of bilateral military cooperation between the two countries. The vessel arrived in the second week of October. According to the Sudan News Agency, it was officially received at the Port Sudan Naval Base in the presence of a Russian delegation and Sudanese officials. Sudan and Russia signed several military cooperation agreements related to training, knowledge exchange and ship visits during a trip by former President Omar Al-Bashir to Moscow in 2017. In May 2019 Sudan and Russia signed an agreement to allow Russian warships access to Sudan’s ports. … The donation of the training ship comes as Russia attempts to establish a naval base in Sudan. According to a document published on 11 November on a Russian government website, a bilateral draft agreement between the two countries would allow for Russia to establish a naval logistics base in Sudan for the repair and supply of warships as well as provide rest to sailors. defenceWeb

Nigeria Takes Delivery of Chinese Drones to Combat Insurgency, Armed Banditry

Four Chinese-made Wing Loong II combat drones have reportedly arrived in Nigeria to take part in ongoing counter-insurgency and anti-banditry operations in the country’s restive northwest region. This comes a month after Nigeria’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, reportedly revealed that his country had concluded the purchase of eight armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from China. The remaining four UAVs are expected to arrive before the end of the year. Wing Loong II, designed and manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Design & Research Institute, was primarily developed for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Defense Post

Nigeria Partners UNICEF to Launch ‘Chatbot’ to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation

The Nigerian government has launched an instant messaging platform to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation about COVID-19 amid an imminent second wave of the pandemic in Nigeria. With support from the United Nations’ children agency, UNICEF, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday said it has launched an SMS-based interactive ’chatbot’ to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information on COVID-19. Health experts and officials have reckoned that misinformation is a key factor contributing to why citizens undermine the potency of the coronavirus and are not fully embracing safety protocols. Premium Times

‘Climate of Fear’ in Eswatini Media

The media in eSwatini is facing a new crackdown, in the form of a spate of defamation actions by the rich and powerful and massive damages awards by the courts. Recent awards range between E200 000 and E350 000 (one lilangeni is equivalent to one rand). Judicial compensation on this scale is unknown in South Africa, except in rare cases where the plaintiff’s business interests have been affected. At one major newspaper, the Eswatini Observer, the trend is coupled with a proposed policy under which journalists are to be fined for writing stories that result in damages for defamation. … The trend has prompted concerns that compensation is becoming an industry and that the role of the media as a vital democratic institution and curb on executive power is being undermined. Mail & Guardian

Ghanaians Devastated by Illegal Fishing Try Hand at Citizen Sleuthing

Illegal and destructive practices by industrial trawlers in Ghana have led to one of the worst overfishing crises in west Africa, with small pelagic species known as “the people’s fish” driven almost to the brink of collapse. Scores of small-scale fishers are now fighting back against illegal trawlers using a smartphone app that allows them to record, log and report any alleged fishery crimes they spot out at sea. Evidence gathered via the app, developed by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an NGO working in Ghana and other west African countries to help combat overfishing, was used to report an alleged infraction of fisheries law to Ghana’s Fisheries Commission late last year. A canoe fisher who spotted an industrial trawler with its nets allegedly within the six-mile nautical exclusion zone reserved for small-scale fishers, used the app to photograph and film the boat, and a report was submitted to the Ghanaian government. The Guardian

The Shadow King: The ‘Detective Work’ behind a War Novel

When Maaza Mengiste found out that she was a Booker Prize finalist for her novel “The Shadow King,” “I went from screaming into the phone, when my editor told me, to just sitting down very quietly,” she said in a phone interview. “I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move,” Mengiste added. “I was just shaking.” The book, about a young Ethiopian woman who becomes a soldier in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War in 1935, features some of the characters Mengiste introduced in her debut novel, “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze,” including Haile Selassie, Ethiopia’s emperor during that time. She spent years working on “The Shadow King,” scrapping an early draft that didn’t work out and delving into research about people on both sides of the conflict. The New York Times

Joy in Nairobi as Plan to Uproot Iconic Fig Tree Abandoned

Environmental activists in Kenya have hailed an official decision to save an iconic, century-old fig tree from being taken down to make way for a highway in the capital, Nairobi. A decree issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta described the famed tree – the height of a four-storey building – as a “beacon of Kenya’s cultural and ecological heritage.” Kenya’s roads agency had said in October that it planned to uproot and transplant the fig tree in order to erect a pillar to support the Chinese-funded expressway built to reduce traffic jams. In response, environmentalists launched a campaign to protect the tree, which stands on Waiyaki Way in the west of the city, where engineers are building the expressway above the existing road on pillars. “We did it!” Elizabeth Wathuti, a prominent environmental activist and head of campaigns at the Wangari Maathai Foundation, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday after the issuing of the declaration. “We’ll keep doing it for all green spaces!” Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones