Africa Media Review for November 16, 2020

Boko Haram Violence against Civilians Spiking in Northern Cameroon
Northern Cameroon has experienced the sharpest spike of Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin over the past 12 months, namely in the form of attacks on civilians. The number of violent incidents linked to militant Islamist groups in Cameroon’s Far North Region jumped 90 percent, to roughly 400 events. The spike of violence in the Far North coincides with an increase in battles between militant Islamist groups and Nigerian security forces on the Nigerian side of the border. The increased pressure in Nigeria has most likely forced these militants into Cameroon, underscoring the regional dimensions of this security threat. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ethiopia’s Tigray Leader Confirms Firing Missiles at Eritrea
The leader of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray region has confirmed firing missiles at neighboring Eritrea’s capital and is threatening more, marking a huge escalation as the deadly fighting in northern Ethiopia between Tigray forces and the federal government spills across an international border. “We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have,” he said. He asserted that around 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he called a “full-scale war.” … At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government warned it might attack. It accuses Eritrea of attacking at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government after the conflict in the Tigray region erupted on Nov. 4 with an attack by regional forces on a federal military base there. … The United Nations and others have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in the growing conflict as some 25,000 Ethiopian refugees, hungry and scared, have fled the Tigray region into Sudan. AP

They Once Ruled Ethiopia. Now They Are Fighting Its Government.
When it comes to mountain warfare, the people of Tigray — an ancient kingdom in the far north of Ethiopia, spread across jagged peaks and lush farmland — have decades of hard-won experience. Tigrayan fighters led a brutal war through the 1970s and ’80s against a hated Marxist dictator of Ethiopia, whom they eventually toppled in 1991, becoming national heroes. For most of the next three decades, Tigrayans ruled Ethiopia. But after Abiy Ahmed, a peace-talking young reformer, came to power as prime minister in 2018, he brusquely sidelined Tigray’s leaders. Tensions exploded violently on Nov. 4, as the world was focused on the presidential election in the United States, when Mr. Abiy launched military strikes in Tigray. Now Tigray is once again at war, fighting the federal government. But this time the risks could be even wider: the potential fracturing of Ethiopia and the upending of the entire Horn of Africa. The New York Times

Gunmen in Western Ethiopia Kill at Least 34 People in Bus Attack, Rights Body Says
Gunmen in western Ethiopia killed at least 34 people in an attack on a bus on Saturday night, the national human rights body said on Sunday, as fears grow of a security vacuum in the country amid a military campaign in the north. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said the number of people killed was likely to rise after what it called a “gruesome” attack on the passenger bus in the Benishangul-Gumuz region. It said there were reports of “similar” attacks, and of people fleeing the violence, in other parts of the region. “The latest attack is a grim addition to the human cost which we bear collectively,” Daniel Bekele, commission head, said in a statement. He urged regional and federal authorities to work together on a strategy for Benishangul-Gumuz due to the “unrelenting pace” of attacks there. Reuters

Western Sahara Ends Truce with Morocco
The leader of a pro-independence group in Western Sahara declared war Saturday on Morocco, shattering a three-decade-long cease-fire and threatening a full-blown military conflict in the disputed desert territory in northwest Africa. The announcement came a day after Morocco launched a military operation in a United Nations-patrolled buffer zone after having accused the pro-independence group, the Polisario Front, of blocking access to neighboring Mauritania. … On Friday, Morocco said it had put up a “security cordon” on an important road connecting the country to Mauritania, which the Polisario considers illegal because the independence group says it was built in breach of the 1991 United Nations-brokered truce. Both sides said late on Friday that they had exchanged fire but did not confirm any deaths or injuries. The New York Times

Tanzania Opposition Turns to ICC for Probe into Rights Violation, Electoral Misconduct
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, has confirmed receipt of two formal letters alleging human rights violations by the Tanzania government in the wake of the October 28 election and its aftermath. The Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo), one of the main opposition parties and Maria Sarungi Tsehai, an independent human rights activist, have separately written to court, requesting an official ICC inquiry into their claims of atrocities committed against Tanzanian citizens in opposition and those who are disputing the election’s conduct and results. … ACT-Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe told the media on November 8 that the party had already submitted evidence to the ICC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. “We have also written to the Commonwealth and the AU asking them to investigate the October 28 elections and oversee the holding of new elections. … ” Mr Kabwe said. The EastAfrican

Rebel Leaders Who Inked Deal with Government Return to Sudan
Sudan’s rebel leaders returned to the capital, Khartoum on Sunday, signaling the first major steps toward implementing a peace agreement with the government that aims to end the country’s decades-long civil war. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, welcomed leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front as “partners and peacemakers” upon their arrival from South Sudan. The front — a coalition of several armed groups centered in the western Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile — inked a peace agreement with the transitional government on Oct. 3 after months of arduous negotiations in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. AP

South Sudan Talks Endorse a Two-Term Presidency
South Sudan has made a major step towards competitive politics by embracing a two-term limit for the president that did not exist before. The National Dialogue conference which started November 3, unanimously adopted a two five-year term for the president. The conference ends November 15. The debate now is whether President Salva Kiir — who officially became president at Independence in July 2011 but had been in charge since 2005 — will still be eligible to contest. The 2011 interim constitution has no provision for a term limit and the incumbent is allowed to run as long as they get the full backing of their party. The EastAfrican

UN-Led Libya Talks End without Naming Interim Government
Libya’s rival sides wrapped up a week of U.N.-brokered talks without agreeing on a transitional government that would lead the county to an election in December next year, the top U.N. official for Libya said Monday. The political forum, which concluded late Sunday in Tunisia, was the latest effort to end the chaos that engulfed the oil-rich North African nation after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The main goal of the gathering was to draw a roadmap for presidential and parliamentary elections. The participants agreed to hold the vote on Dec. 24, 2021, but failed to name a transitional administration to lead the war-torn country. The Libyan rivals would meet again, online and within a week, to agree on a mechanism to name the next government, she said. AP

Ethiopia Withdraws Thousands of Troops from Neighboring Somalia
Ethiopia pulled back thousands of troops who’ve been helping Somalia’s government fight an Islamist insurgency, according to three people familiar with the matter, raising concerns of a security vacuum in the war-torn nation. Their departure from Somalia comes as federal soldiers continue to battle forces loyal to the ruling party in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. … Ethiopia is redeploying about 3,000 troops to help with the Tigray offensive, the people said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. The troops being withdrawn are Ethiopian National Defence Force soldiers and don’t fall under the command of the 5,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, they said. Bloomberg

Mali Jihadist Chief, 14 Others, Sentenced to Death
A court in Mali’s capital Bamako sentenced an Islamist militant leader and 14 other people to death on Friday for jihadist activity in the south of the war-torn Sahel state. … The court charged Keita, the head of an al-Qaeda offshoot named Khaled Ibn al-Walid, for attacks carried out in Mali’s south, near the border with Ivory Coast. … Keita is thought to have fought in northern Mali alongside hardened jihadist leaders before founding his own southern group in 2013. He was arrested in 2016, and a security official said at the time that his group had some 200 members. AFP

Algerian President Ends COVID-19 Treatment, to Undergo Checks
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has finished treatment for COVID-19 and will undergo further medical tests, his office said. … Tebboune, 74, was sent to an Algerian military hospital last month and then transferred to Germany on a special flight on October 28. His office initially did not explain the reason for the move, but confirmed a week later that he had the coronavirus. … Tebboune’s illness meant he was out of the country for a referendum on November 1 on a revised constitution seen as aiming to bury a mass protest movement and boost the president, elected on a record low turnout last December. … For many Algerians and among local media, Tebboune’s treatment in Germany has recalled the absence of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in early 2013 and stayed in hospital abroad for nearly three months. Al Jazeera

Kenyan Doctors Threaten Strike as Virus Infections, Deaths Surge
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union issued a 21-day strike notice due to “longstanding unresolved issues,” as the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the East African nation accelerate. The issues include provision of standard and adequate personal protection equipment, comprehensive medical insurance cover and workman’s compensation, according to a statement on the union’s Twitter account. “The loss of 30 health care workers, of which 10 are senior specialist doctors, is a great loss to the country in the war against Covid-19,” according to the statement. Kenya suspended political rallies for 60 days from Nov. 4 as part of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic after a surge in cases followed an easing of restrictions in September. The East African nation has 70,245 confirmed infections and 1,269 deaths as of Sunday, according to the health ministry. Bloomberg

Top A.N.C. Official Charged with Corruption in South Africa
A top member of South Africa’s governing African National Congress party appeared in court on Friday, charged with corruption, in a rare sign that powerful members of the party could be held to account for endemic pilfering of public funds under former President Jacob Zuma. Ace Magashule, the party’s secretary general, was charged with 21 counts including fraud, money laundering and corruption, in a court in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State province, where he headed the government for nearly a decade. Mr. Magashule, who denies any wrongdoing, was released on bail. Mr. Magashule is considered one of the A.N.C.’s “top six” — the most influential members of the party that has governed South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994. He oversees the day-to-day running of the party, and his arrest could, in theory, push him to leave the influential position. The New York Times

3 Years after Mugabe Overthrow, Many Zimbabweans Say Life’s Worse
Having lost his job as a sales assistant in an electrical consumables shop, Amos Chivedede at first believed Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who succeeded Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe in a military coup three years ago, was a godsend. The reason? Mnangagwa’s promises of jobs and democracy. … Weary of Mugabe and his ruinous economic policies, Zimbabweans were optimistic. An infectious euphoria premised on the pledge of change and a prosperous Zimbabwe was palpable at the time, with thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans taking to the streets to celebrate what they hoped would be the dawning of a new chapter in the country’s history. But for the 38-year old father of three, reality quickly set in. … After years of diplomatic ostracisation under Mugabe, Mnangagwa early on committed to political reforms as part of a process of re-engagement with the international community. But three years later, critics say his administration has not steadfastly implemented these pledges. Al Jazeera

Nigeria Goes on Offensive Against Youth Protesting Police Brutality
Nigeria’s leaders have made a show of responding to the demands of a massive youth-led uprising over police brutality that recently brought the country to a standstill and captured global attention. The government has commissioned panels of inquiry into police brutality, and the president promised to disband the notoriously abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS. But at the same time, protesters say that the government is conducting a targeted campaign against people associated with the uprising in order to harass, impede and break up the movement — destroying any good faith the government had hoped to build. “They are persecuting peaceful, and actually quite patriotic young people,” said Chidi Odinkalu, senior manager for Africa at the Open Society Justice Initiative. The New York Times

Challenges Faced by Cameroonians Living with Disabilities Aggravated by Anglophone Crisis
People living with disabilities in Cameroon’s Anglophone northwest and southwest regions have been badly affected by a deadly separatist crisis. Some have been killed, wounded, or abandoned, while others have been forced out of their homes. Nearly four years into the violence, this group faces heightened danger of attacks because most of them find it difficult to flee when their communities come under assault. At the conference room of the coordinating unit of associations of persons living with disabilities in the Anglophone northwest, 45-year-old Samuel Nyingcho, head of the unit. He has been living with vision loss for the past 33 years. He tells RFI that the challenges facing people living with disabilities in these regions are unbearable. RFI

New Museum in Nigeria Raises Hopes of Resolution to Benin Bronzes Dispute
A new museum designed by Sir David Adjaye is to be built following the most extensive archaeological excavation ever undertaken in Benin City, Nigeria, raising hopes of a resolution to one of the world’s most controversial debates over looted museum artefacts. The kingdom of Benin, in what is now southern Nigeria and not to be confused with the modern-day country of Benin, was one of the most important and powerful pre-colonial states of west Africa. The Benin bronzes, some of Africa’s greatest treasures, were looted by British soldiers and sailors in 1897 and are mostly in western museums and private collections. The British Museum has more than 900 bronzes – arguably the most famous – and has long faced calls for them to be returned. Details have been announced of important steps towards these treasures being loaned or given back with the creation of the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA). The Guardian

Blackout Makes It Hard to Report on Ethiopia’s Civil War
… Abiy’s Facebook had not been hacked. Ethiopia really was going to war, which meant that journalists needed to get to work. Except they could not get any information out of Tigray because of a province-wide communications blackout imposed by the national government: no internet, no mobile phones, no landlines. Overnight, the region went silent and has remained so. (It is not only journalists who are affected; none of Getachew’s Tigrayan friends have yet been able to contact their relatives). Nor are journalists allowed to travel to the conflict areas. The government said that special permits are required to go anywhere near the front lines, and they have not been issuing any of these permits. (Foreign correspondents have been told that the machine that prints press accreditation at the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority has run out of ink). “Nobody independently is having access to Tigray,” said an Addis Ababa-based foreign correspondent, who asked not to be named. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones