Africa Media Review for November 14, 2019

Six Killed in Tanzania Attack near Border with Mozambique
Six Tanzanians were shot dead and seven others injured in an attack carried out by unidentified assailants in a village bordering a region in Mozambique known for jihadist activity, a police official said on Wednesday. For nearly two years, jihadists have carried out numerous raids in the Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province bordering Tanzania, killing at least 300 civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people. “The attackers, presumably from Mozambique, gathered the villagers together before opening fire,” said Robert Boaz, criminal investigations chief for the Tanzanian police, during a meeting near the attack site in the southeastern district of Tandahima. “Six were killed and seven were injured,” he said. The attack targeted the village of Ngongo on the Tanzanian side of an island in the Ruvuma river, which forms part of the border between Tanzania and Mozambique, Boaz said. AFP

Clashes on Ethiopian Campuses Kill 3 University Students
Ethiopian authorities say three university students have died in days of unrest largely along ethnic lines, and students say security forces have entered campuses to restore order. Clashes in the Amhara region began Saturday and in the Oromia region Monday and some students have been evacuated. Education ministry official Samuel Kifle said Wednesday some people behind the unrest had fake student IDs and arrests were underway. Two students at Woldia University in the Amhara region and one student at Dembi Dollo University in the Oromia region died. Ethnic conflicts have posed a major challenge to Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Also Wednesday, the attorney general said 68 people who took part in a June attack that killed Ethiopia’s army chief and others will be charged this week. AP

‘Climate of Fear’: Nigeria Intensifies Crackdown on Journalists
Fisayo Soyombo was eating an evening snack in Lagos in late October when a colleague called to warn him about a plan hatched by Nigerian government officials at a clandestine meeting to arrest him. Hours earlier, the second in a three-part undercover series by the Abuja-based investigative journalist on corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system had been published. “I made two more calls that night [to government sources] and it was clear I was in trouble,” Soyombo said. According to all three contacts, the government wanted to prosecute him under a law criminalising certain types of communication with inmates. Soyombo pulled out of a public event he had travelled to Lagos for, and went into hiding. Had he been detained, Soyombo would have been the latest victim of a crackdown on the media and freedom of speech this year in Nigeria, which is 12th out of 13 on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index, a ranking of countries with the worst records of unsolved murders of journalists. The Guardian

UN Chief: Terrorists Strengthen Foothold in Africa’s Sahel
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that terrorist groups have strengthened their foothold across Africa’s Sahel region, which is experiencing escalating violence. The U.N. chief said in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Wednesday that the expanding foothold is “making large swaths of territory unstable and stoking ethnic, violence, especially in Burkina Faso and Mali.” … Guterres’ report focused on the G5 Sahel force, which he said “continues to face significant training, capability and equipment shortfalls” that hamper its operations. “The lack of air assets, armored vehicles and transport capabilities and individual protection equipment compounds the threat posed by the use of improvised explosive devices,” he said. But Guterres said he is “particularly encouraged” by the commitment of leaders of the West African regional group ECOWAS at a summit in September to pledge “$1 billion to fight terrorism and extremism over the next five years.” AP

Foreign Forces in Sahel Struggle with Flagging Public Support
If military operations depend on winning hearts and minds, the thousands of foreign troops deployed to the Sahel to combat jihadism seem to be on losing ground. At first welcomed, these troops find themselves today in the crosshairs as a growing number of locals in this fragile region accuse them of failure or covert exploitation. “We don’t see the justification for these bases, we don’t see the results on the ground,” said Maikoul Zodi, a prominent figure in Niger civil society. “How can 20,000 foreign soldiers be unable to defeat 3,000 terrorists?” asked Ibrahima Kebe, host of a weekly show broadcast by a small Malian anti-establishment station, Patriot Radio. France has some 4,500 soldiers in the Sahel, the UN has 13,000 peacekeepers in Mali, and the G5 Sahel alliance — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — is mustering a joint deployment of 5,000 troops. AFP

France’s Macron Urged to Take Action in Cameroon Anglophone Crisis
Fifty human rights advocates, scholars and writers have penned an open letter to French President Emmanuel Macron urging France to “up its engagement in resolving Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis” amid ongoing reports of “dehumanizing violence.” For the past two years, Cameroon’s predominately English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been rocked by unrest after separatists declared the independence of Ambazonia. Up to 3,000 people have been killed in the violence between the separatists and government forces, and more than half a million have fled their homes since the uprising began. The letter, which was first published in French on Jeune Afrique news site, was released on Tuesday to coincide with the launch of the second Paris Peace Forum in which 27 heads of state – including Cameroon’s longtime President Paul Biya – met with leaders of businesses and NGOs to discuss solutions to global challenges, with a focus on finding “innovative and lasting solutions.” DW

Cameroon President Acknowledges Differences with English Speakers
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has for the first time spoken publicly about the root causes of the three-year Anglophone separatist rebellion. President Biya acknowledged at a peace summit in France there were key differences between French- and English-speaking people because of their contrasting experiences under colonial rule. The 86-year-old president appears to be saying that lumping them all together under the highly centralised state has not worked. Mr Biya has previously used the military to crush the rebellion. But correspondents say that with the Cameroon government now speaking publicly about giving the English-speaking regions a special status, it suggests a potential new approach to the crisis. The conflict has devastated the Anglophone regions – it has killed thousands, displaced more than a million people and hundreds of schools have been burnt down. The president talked about granting special status to the English-speaking regions. BBC

G. Bissau Leader Invokes the Virgin Mary in Ecowas Power Duel
Guinea Bissau President José Mário Vaz remains defiant in the face of condemnation from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) over his meddling in government that has caused a political crisis ahead of the country’s presidential elections on November 24. … President Vaz comments appeared a response to the Ecowas extraordinary summit of heads of state and government in Niamey, Niger which on Friday said it recognised Mr Gomes government. The President had days earlier sacked Mr Gomes’ government and installed his ally in the elections Faustino Imbali as prime minister. … Ecowas said it would deploy an electoral observer team in Guinea Bissau and disburse $1.5 million to support the electoral process. … Ecowas threatened sanctions against those who undermined democracy and elections tasking the heads of state of Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria “to convey” the decisions to President Vaz. The leaders are expected in Guinea Bissau on November 16 and will be preceded by a mission of Ecowas chiefs of defence, diplomats said. The East African

China-Backed Consortium Wins $14Bn Guinea Iron Ore Deal
The consortium of the Societe Miniere de Boke and Winning Shipping (SMB-Winning) offered $14bn to win a tender to develop part of Guinea’s Simandou iron ore project, edging out Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group, sources familiar with the talks told Reuters on Wednesday. The consortium – representing Chinese, French, Singaporean and Guinean interests – has committed to developing blocks one and two of the largest-known deposit of its kind, holding more than two billion tonnes of high-grade ore. Guinea has sought to develop the Simandou deposit for decades, but the project has been mired in protracted legal disputes while its high costs have curbed interest. The government required bidders to build a 650km railway and a deepwater port to transport the ore from the remote southeastern corner of Guinea to the coast for export, deterring some miners from bidding. … Investors in the relatively little-known SMB-Winning consortium include the Yantai Port Group, Guinea’s government, and Chinese aluminium producer Shandong Weiqiao, a subsidiary of China Hongqiao. Al Jazeera

Will China Ever Tire of Zimbabwe’s Corruption and Bad Debt?
The relationship between China and Zimbabwe dates back more than half a century. At the height of the African nation’s armed struggle with the white minority government of Ian Smith, Beijing provided arms and training to the guerillas of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, the military wing of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Among those who trained was current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from Mugabe following a coup two years ago. While Zimbabwe has lost favour with the West over its land policy, corruption and human rights abuses, China has continued to provide financial and diplomatic support. Despite Mugabe’s death in September, Beijing has shown no signs of walking away from the relationship any time soon despite its displeasure over Mnangagwa’s failure to improve governance. … Meanwhile, both China and Zimbabwe have denied media reports that Chinese financiers had suspended US$1.3 billion in lending to three key projects after the Mnangagwa government diverted US$10 million from an escrow account for the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport expansion project as the country was hit by an acute shortage of foreign currency. South China Morning Post

Security Arrangements Get Priority in South Sudan Deal
South Sudan warring factions reached a resolution to delay the formation of a government of national unity that was slated for November 12, in order to avoid a reoccurrence of hostilities, after observing that “critical tasks related to security arrangements and governance” were incomplete. The two leaders, President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar whose factions have been at war since December 2013, were on November 12 expected to form a revitalised transitional government of national unity. Now they have 100 days to resolve all pending issues. The extension is partly a win for Dr Machar who has all along wanted the unity government delayed for at least six months, arguing that the President Kiir-led government had not met the conditions, especially the personal security of Machar. … During the pre-transitional period, the four Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries represented in the meeting-Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan – are to request the bloc to resolve Machar’s status from exile and facilitate his return to Juba. The East African

Sudan’s Defence Minister Stresses Good Military-Civilian Coordination
During a meeting with the U.S. Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth, Sudanese Defence Minister Jamal Ibrahim reaffirmed the strong coordination between military and civilian components of the transitional government. Booth who is currently visiting Khartoum was briefed by the Sudanese minister on the reforms undertaken by the Sudanese government after the revolution of December, said the official news agency SUNA. Ibrahim “affirmed the unparalleled coordination among the civilian and military components of the government at all levels of the transitional government in terms of concordance of objectives and the joint support of the parties to the issues for which the revolution was established,” said the statement. He further “asserted that the armed forces are a major supporter and an honest guard for the demands of the Sudanese people.” Sudan Tribune

Flag ‘Confusion’ as Algerian Courts Condemn or Acquit for Same Charge
Five demonstrators who brandished a Berber flag during recent Algerian anti-government demonstrations accused of “undermining national unity” were acquitted in a court in Algiers on Wednesday – just one day after 28 were slapped with six-month prison sentences for the same offense. “The judges who freed the five people today, they only did their job, because there is no law condemning people who brandish the Amazigh flag,” [Nourredine Bessadi, an independent researcher] said, referring to a symbol of the indigenous Berber, or Amazigh, identity in North Africa, which pre-dates Arab influence in the region. … The issue of Amazigh identity is a sensitive one, says Silvia Quattrini, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for Minority Rights Group International, an organization that works for the rights of indigenous peoples. “The flag is the same throughout North Africa, they use it to recognize their cultural identity and their origins,” says Quattrini. “The government associates it with claims of self-determination and I think they pass this law about only showing the Algerian flag as a way to promote national unity, because they perceive this Amazigh flag as threatening,” she adds. RFI

Property Prices Soar in Libya’s Capital as Displaced Seek Housing
Since fleeing his southern Tripoli home seven months ago with his pregnant wife and daughter, Moataz Saleh al-Fagih has been staying for free in an apartment provided by his employer. With rents in the centre of Libya’s capital soaring as those displaced by fighting on its edge seek housing, the 35-year-old IT engineer says he has been unable to find anything he can afford. “If I lose my job … I will be homeless,” Fagih said. Since forces holding much of the eastern part of the country launched an offensive on Tripoli in early April, more than 120,000 people have been displaced, according to U.N. estimates. A wide buffer zone was created behind the front lines, from which most residents were evacuated. Many flooded into the centre of the city of three million and have remained there as the offensive stalled. … Alongside those already displaced, some have sought housing in central Tripoli because of the fighting. Sami Zayed Sobkha, a resident of the Mashroa al-Hadba area south of the centre in his 50s, said he wanted to move but could not afford more than 1,000 dinars. “There’s more shelling on the area where I live, and I am trying to keep (my family) away from danger.” Reuters

Security Stymies Effort to End Ebola in Congo
The World Health Organization says that dangers posed by armed groups in two eastern Democratic Republic of Congo provinces are impeding progress in the battle to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Latest reports put the number of confirmed Ebola cases at 3,287, including 2,193 deaths. International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks. While that is encouraging, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier says “we are not out of the woods yet.” “The risk of re-introduction of Ebola into former hotspots remains high and is…contingent on the level of access and security in these communities,” Lindmeier siad. “So, the outbreak has been and is occurring in an extremely complex environment, marked by poor infrastructure, political instability, as you heard, community mistrust of national authorities and outsiders and ongoing conflict involving scores of armed…militia groups.” VOA

WHO Approves Ervebo, the World’s First Ebola Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday approved a historic vaccine to combat Ebola virus. The drug called, Ervebo and manufactured by MERCK pharmaceuticals had until now been used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, as an experimental vaccine to the latest outbreak in the country’s east. The global health outfit said there is sufficient evidence that shows that the vaccine is effective. Ervebo effectively becomes the world’s first ever drug aimed at prevention of Ebola. According to standards, a WHO prequalification is granted to a trial medication only after a drug passes important safety and efficacy tests. Experts have hailed the development as a crucial step that will accelerate access to and deployment in countries most exposed to Ebola epidemics. The announcement follows the European Commission’s decision on Monday to authorise the marketing of this vaccine manufactured by the US laboratory Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD). Now, the various UN agencies and the Gavi Vaccination Alliance can obtain the vaccine “for countries at risk.” Africa News

Breaking the Chains – Sierra Leone’s Uphill Struggle to Reform Mental Health
David Conteh’s shrine is hard to find amid a labyrinth of tin-roofed houses and alleys on a steep slope in the east end of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. On the blue painted clay hut’s wall are bleached-out letters spelling “Bush Doctor.” The rest of the wall is decorated with paintings of diseases the traditional healer cures, be it love sickness, toothache, or mental health problems – “craziness” as Conteh calls it. The latter is not unusual in Sierra Leone, a country that has witnessed the trauma of a long and brutal civil war, extreme poverty, and the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history – all of which have left scars on the society’s collective psyche. The World Health Organisation estimates that 10 percent of the seven million Sierra Leoneans have mental health problems. But due to the unknown number of unreported cases, the scourge of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is likely to be much bigger. The New Humanitarian



Photo: Adam Jones