Africa Media Review for November 13, 2020

Scores of Civilians Killed in Knife Massacre in Ethiopia, Say Reports
Scores, possibly hundreds, of civilians have reportedly been massacred with knives and machetes in Tigray, the restive northern region of Ethiopia where forces loyal to the local administration and the national military are engaged in fierce clashes. Amnesty International says that according to witnesses, the victims were stabbed and hacked to death in the town of Mai Kadra four days ago. The campaign group said it had not been able to independently confirm who was responsible for the killings but witnesses reported that forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is in power in the province, may have committed the killings after they suffered defeat from the federal EDF forces. … The reports will fuel an increasingly bitter conflict, which may stoke ethnic and other tensions across Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country. The Guardian

Ethiopian Police Seeking Lists of Ethnic Tigrayans: UN Report
Ethiopian police visited an office of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in Amhara region to request a list of ethnic Tigrayan staff, according to an internal UN security report seen by Reuters news agency on Friday. The local police chief informed them of “the order of identifying ethnic Tigrayans from all government agencies and NGOs,” the report said. The report underlines fears over ethnic undertones to the federal troops’ push against the leaders of the northern Tigray province, whom the government accuses of treason and terrorism. … The region has since been under a communications blackout in most areas. … On Friday, Ethiopia’s parliament appointed a new head of Tigray region, Abiy said. … On Thursday, Ethiopian parliament stripped Tigray president Debretsion Gebremichael – who was elected in September and chairs the TPLF – of immunity from prosecution. Al Jazeera

France Says It Has Killed Senior Al Qaeda Operative in Mali
French forces have killed Bah ag Moussa, a military leader of al Qaeda’s North Africa wing, during an operation in northeastern Mali, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Friday. The former Malian army colonel, also known as Bamoussa Diarra, was a right-hand man of Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Mali’s most prominent jihadi group, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). The jihadist outfit has repeatedly attacked soldiers and civilians in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso. “A historic figure of the jihadist movement in the Sahel, Bah ag Moussa is considered responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces,” Parly said in a statement. Moussa, who was on the US terrorism list, was killed on Tuesday after an operation involving ground troops and helicopters and comes after a series of operations that have seen French forces kill dozens of Islamist fighters in recent weeks. France24 with Reuters, AP

Tensions Persist as Libya’s Warring Sides Debate Road to Peace
Libyans at the United Nations-led talks in Tunisia have started to hammer out the powers of a proposed transitional government amid cautious hopes for an end to a decades-old conflict. But tensions simmer as the rival administrations vying for control of the oil-rich North African country also held separate military talks in the central Libyan city of Sirte. The Tripoli-based unity government warned a landmark ceasefire agreed last month could be in peril, saying their Moscow-backed rivals had launched live-fire exercises and accusing Russian mercenaries of blocking their delegation from landing at an airport near Sirte. “We do not want these moves to cause the failure of peaceful dialogue,” the military command of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a tweet on Thursday. “But we will not accept to negotiate under the duress of mercenaries and their air defences.” AFP

At Least 74 Drown in Wreck Off Libya, U.N. Agency Says
At least 74 people drowned on Thursday when a rubber raft carrying migrants sank off the coast of Libya, the latest in a series of disasters in the world’s deadliest sea crossing, according to a United Nations agency. The motorized raft, crowded with more than 120 people, had left Khoms, Libya, on Wednesday, according to the agency, the International Organization for Migration. But the craft, which was ill equipped for the journey across the Mediterranean Sea, capsized on Thursday, it said. Fishermen and the Libyan Coast Guard rescued 47 people and recovered 31 bodies, including the remains of at least one child, the agency said…. Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the group in Geneva, said that the migrants who drowned on Thursday were mainly from Nigeria, Gambia and Burkina Faso and that the survivors were obviously distressed and traumatized. The New York Times

Helicopter Crash Kills 7 Peacekeepers from Multinational Force in Sinai
A helicopter carrying members of a multinational peacekeeping force crashed on Thursday near Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, killing five Americans, a French citizen and a Czech citizen. The peacekeeping force, Multinational Force and Observers, said that one person had survived and was medically evacuated. An earlier statement reported incorrectly that eight people had died, including six Americans. “At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” the statement said. The force, known as the M.F.O., supervises the implementation of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It consists of 1,154 troops from 13 countries, including Australia, Britain, Fiji, the United States and Uruguay. … In a statement, the Defense Department said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of five U.S. and two partner nation service members.” The New York Times

Morocco Sends Troops to Western Saraha Border to End Polisario ‘Provocations’
Morocco announced Friday that its troops have launched an operation in no man’s land on the southern border of the Western Sahara to end “provocations” by the pro-independence Polisario Front. Rabat said its troops would “put a stop to the blockade” of trucks travelling between Moroccan-controlled areas of the disputed territory and neighbouring Mauritania, and “restore free circulation of civilian and commercial traffic.” The Polisario Front warned on Monday that it would regard a three-decade-old ceasefire with Morocco as over if Rabat moved troops or civilians into the buffer zone. The Moroccan foreign ministry said it had been forced to act by the actions of Polisario fighters and the failure of its own appeals and those of the UN peacekeeping mission MINURSO. AFP

Western Saharan Polisario Says Morocco Has ‘Ignited War’
The Polisario movement seeking independence for Western Sahara said on Friday that Morocco has broken the 1991 ceasefire between them and had “begun the battle and ignited the war.” Morocco earlier on Friday said it would clear Polisario supporters from the main highway linking the desert territory to Mauritania. Reuters

Mass Grave Found in Search for Sudanese ‘Missing’ after December 2018 Revolution
The committee set up by Sudan’s Attorney General to investigate the cases of people missing since the start of the 2018 December Revolution has found a mass grave which may contain the bodies of some of the people who are still considered as ‘missing’ after what is known as the Ramadan 29 massacre in front of the army command in Khartoum, which caused the death of at least 127 people. In a press statement yesterday, the committee reported that the bodies found in the mass grave “were killed and buried in a manner contrary to human dignity,” and that it will do “everything necessary” to complete the exhumation and re-autopsy procedures after the site has been marked and the necessary guarding has been placed on it to prevent the public from approaching the area until the procedures are completed. Radio Dabanga

Sudan’s Burhan Pardons Armed Groups Leaders
The head of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Thursday pardoned the former rebel leaders, two days before their announced return to Khartoum. On October 3, the transitional government, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) signed a peace agreement, mediated by the South Sudan government. The amnesty is part of the peace agreement. … The SRF and SLM-MM leaders will arrive in Khartoum on 15 November. Also, Presidents Salva Kiir and Idriss Deby are expected to take part in the peace celebrations that will take place on the same day. The amnesty decision does not include persons against whom arrest warrants have been issued by the International Criminal Court. Also, it does include those facing criminal charges for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Sudan Tribune

UN Votes to Crack down on Somalia’s Al-Shabab Extremists
The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to prevent the sale or shipment to Somalia of components of improvised explosive devices if there is “significant risk” they may be used to manufacture the often deadly devices that are increasingly being used in attacks by al-Shabab extremists. It also urged the Somali government to keep cracking down on the militant group’s illegal financing methods that U.N. experts estimate raised over $21 million last year. The resolution, adopted by a 13-0 vote with Russia and China abstaining, reaffirmed the arms embargo on Somalia and banned the resale or transfer of any weapons or military equipment sold or supplied to help develop Somalia’s National Security Forces and security sector. AP

Zambia Is Starting to Look like Zimbabwe, the Failure Next Door
Unless it pays an overdue $42.5m coupon, or bondholders give it more time, on November 13th Zambia will officially default on its debt. Though it would be the first African state to do so since the start of the pandemic, covid-19 is not the root cause of its troubles. More important is the pf’s misrule, which will worsen ahead of elections in August 2021. “We are heading in the same direction as Zimbabwe,” says Laura Miti of Alliance for Community Action (aca), an NGO. Any such comparison to the failing state on its southern border is cause for alarm. … Zambia has asked the imf for a cheap loan to tide it over. An IMF programme would also reassure creditors who worry that any relief they provide will only bolster the PF’s election war chest or the accounts of Chinese lenders. Yet the antics of the Lungu regime have done little to convince creditors that it can be trusted. The Economist

Zimbabwean Journalist Denied Bail for Alleging Corruption
A Zimbabwean magistrate Thursday denied bail to an investigative journalist who has been in detention for more than a week for alleging corruption in the country’s prosecuting agency, sending him back to a harsh prison in which he recently spent six weeks on a separate charge. Hopewell Chin’ono is being charged with obstruction of justice arising from a tweet he made alleging corrupt practices within Zimbabwe’s National Prosecuting Authority. He faces up to a year in jail or a fine if convicted. Prosecutors dropped a separate charge of contempt of court. … “Hopewell is a journalist and it’s his day to day job to share information,” she argued, saying Chin’ono “is a whistleblower. Prosecuting him would discourage other whistleblowers from exposing corruption in Zimbabwe.” AP

Nigeria: 160 Journalists Attacked in Nigeria in Last Two Years – Report
About 160 journalists were attacked in Nigeria in the last two years, a report by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), has shown. The report was prepared by the PTCIJ’s press freedom project and collated cases through the Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool designed to track and report attacks on the press. The tool provides a data-driven advocacy response to the continued repression of the media through physical attacks, arrests and detentions, unconstitutional legal proceedings, repressive laws, and cyber attacks amongst others. The report shows that the police, thugs and political figures were responsible for most of the attacks faced by journalists. The other aggressors are civilians, the State Security Service (SSS) and security aides. The report shows that the North-Central zone witnessed the highest number of attacks and that the phenomenon is present in the other five geo-political zones.  Premium Times

The Afrobeats Star Davido, an Upbeat Voice in a Turbulent Time
Davido — the American-born Nigerian Afrobeats artist David Adedeji Adeleke — has built an international career on songs about love and lust that have collectively amassed more than a billion streams. The album he is releasing on Friday, “A Better Time,” is filled with them. But the perky song that opens the LP, “Fem” (“Shut Up”), has taken on an unexpected role since it appeared in September: as a protest song for Nigerians demonstrating to end police brutality and corruption. … The protests were set off by anger at a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and became known as the #EndSARS movement. On Oct. 11, Davido joined protests in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, and ended up defusing a confrontation between the police and demonstrators; videos of the incident raced across social media. The New York Times

Musicians from Mali Offer Advice on Getting through Hard Times
The northwestern African country of Mali is one of the world’s musical cradles. Its rich traditions helped give birth to American blues and jazz, traditions brought by enslaved Africans to these shores. But today, Mali is in turmoil. The country has suffered a long civil war spurred by Islamist insurgents (whose attacks are still ongoing), and the government fell to a coup in August. The country is also trying, like the rest of the world, to cope with the coronavirus. Despite all of those challenges, however, Malian musicians are still creating amid the chaos — and have some important lessons to share about how to get through tough times. The band Songhoy Blues plays rollicking music of resistance against the political and social threats its country is facing. NPR

Jerry Rawlings, from Coup-Plotter to Ghanaian Statesman, Dies at 73
Jerry Rawlings, a former Ghanaian Air Force officer who led two military coups before steering his country toward democracy with an authoritarian hand, died on Thursday in the nation’s capital, Accra. He was 73. Mr. Rawlings died in a hospital “after a short illness,” President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana said. “A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” he added. The death prompted both main political parties to suspend their campaigns ahead of the Dec. 7 general elections. A bear of a man with a booming voice, Mr. Rawlings entered Ghana’s political stage as an archetypal African military ruler, seizing power in 1979. He executed former heads of state, ordered the flogging of market women accused of profiteering, and jailed dozens of businessmen for corruption. His entourage called it a “housecleaning exercise.” By the time he left office voluntarily 22 years later, he had served two presidential terms brought about by free elections and had established Ghana as a rare democratic example on the continent. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones