Africa Media Review for November 17, 2020

UN: Over 25,300 Fleeing Ethiopia Fighting Have Reached Sudan
Ethiopia’s growing conflict has resulted in more than 25,300 refugees fleeing the Tigray region into Sudan, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, as fighting spilled beyond Ethiopia’s borders and threatened to inflame the Horn of Africa region. More than 5,000 refugees arrived in Sudan’s border provinces of Kassala and al-Qadarif on Sunday, the highest single-day number of arrivals since the start of the conflict in Tigray earlier this month, the UNHCR said. … [Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed] also said his government is ready to “receive and reintegrate” the refugees. … But many refugees say they fled under attack from those federal forces. Most of the refugees arriving in Sudan are children and women who walked long distances on rugged terrain to reach safety. … Authorities in Kassala and al-Qadarif were already overwhelmed and urged U.N. agencies to speed up assistance to deal with a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. Officials said last week they expected up to 200,000 refugees to enter Sudan. AP

Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Promises ‘Final’ Offensive into Tigray
Ethiopia’s leader warned “the final and crucial” military operation will soon be launched against the government of the country’s rebellious northern Tigray region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Tuesday a three-day deadline given to the Tigray region’s leaders and special forces to surrender “expired today”, paving the way for a final push on Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. … The prime minister’s warning came after government forces carried out “precision led and surgical air operations” outside Mekelle, a government emergency task force said, and ground forces pushed forward. Tigray government’s said civilians had been killed in the attacks, allegations the task force denied. … With communications down and media barred, it is impossible to independently verify assertions made by any side. … Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, continues to reject international pleas for dialogue and de-escalation in the two-week conflict. Alarmed African neighbours – including Uganda and Kenya – are calling for a peaceful resolution… Al Jazeera

African Governance Worsens for First Time in a Decade: Survey
Africa’s governance performance worsened in 2019 for the first time in nearly a decade due to a broad deterioration in the areas of human rights, security and rule of law, according to a survey published on Monday. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) – the most comprehensive survey of its kind on the continent – rates 54 African nations against criteria including security, human rights, economic stability, just laws, free elections, corruption, infrastructure, poverty, health and education. The 2019 African average score for overall governance declined by -0.2 points from 2018, registering the first year-on-year score deterioration since 2010… The report said that progress achieved over the past decade was mainly driven by improvements in economic opportunities and human development. “This is threatened, however, by an increasingly precarious security situation and concerning erosion in rights as well as civic and democratic space,” it said. Reuters

Putin, Extending Russian Footprint, Approves New Naval Facility in Sudan
President Vladimir Putin on Monday approved the creation of a Russian naval facility in Sudan capable of mooring nuclear-powered surface vessels, clearing the way for Moscow’s first substantial military foothold in Africa since the Soviet fall. The new facility, earmarked to be built in the vicinity of Port Sudan, will be capable of accommodating up to 300 military and civilian personnel and improve Russia’s ability to operate in the Indian Ocean, expanding its influence in Africa. Putin presided over a flagship Russia-Africa summit last year, an event designed to increase Russian sway on the continent, and two nuclear-capable Russian bombers landed in South Africa at the same time in a show of intent. Putin, in a decree published on Monday, said he had approved a Russian government proposal to set up a naval logistics hub in Sudan and ordered the defence ministry to sign an agreement to make it happen. Reuters

Many Challenges Remain for Sahel Joint Force, Warns Lacroix, Welcoming ‘Increased Coordination’
It will take a variety of different actors to confront and deal with the “daunting challenges” in the Sahel region, the head of UN peacekeeping told the Security Council on Monday. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix noted that counterterrorism efforts in the region have “actually intensified.” “We welcome the increased coordination of security players on the ground…for a more visible presence of defence and security forces in the region as well as stepped-up pressure on terrorist groups,” he said in his virtual briefing on the Joint Force of the Group of Five (G5) Sahel nations, namely Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. As an essential compliment to peacebuilding efforts, Mr. Lacroix urged that the Joint Force’s police component be strengthened to improve military oversight as well as to support institution-building, prison reform and the “human rights compliance framework.” UN News

Morocco’s King Warns Polisario after Rivals Clash in W. Sahara
Morocco’s king warned Monday that his country would react with the “greatest severity” to any attack in Western Sahara, as the pro-independence Polisario Front said conflict would continue until Rabat ended its “occupation” of the disputed territory. The United Nations said that both sides had exchanged fire, and urged restraint. Moroccan King Mohammed VI, speaking after a telephone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Rabat remained committed to a ceasefire. But Morocco also “remains firmly determined to react, with the greatest severity, and in self-defence, against any threat to its security”, the king said, quoted in an official statement. AFP

Nigerian Army Admits Shooting in Air at Deadly Protest
Nigeria’s army has said after weeks of denial that its troop did fire shots into the air to disperse a large crowd at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where several peaceful protesters were killed late in October. The October 20 incident at the plaza caused both local and international outrage. At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting, according to Amnesty International, which charged that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation. The government says two people died and 20 were hospitalized. The army denied shooting at protesters. … The army had initially maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but in late October they said soldiers had been deployed. … Although the protests were largely peaceful, at least 56 people have died across the country since the protests began, according to Amnesty, which accused security forces of using unnecessary force. AP

Former South Africa President Testifies before Commission
Former South African president Jacob Zuma appeared Monday before a state commission investigating serious allegations of corruption during his tenure as head of state from 2009 to 2018. It is the first time that Zuma has appeared before the commission since he abandoned his testimony at the commission more than a year ago. Zuma was forced to step down from his position as president in 2018 by his African National Congress party amid allegations of fraud and corruption. The commission has no powers to prosecute, but other law enforcement agencies may follow up on information revealed at the commission and pursue criminal cases against those implicated. … It is alleged that during his tenure as president, among others, Zuma had allowed the involvement of members of the controversial Gupta family in the appointment of some ministers in his cabinet. AP

US Government Committed to Helping Africa Enhance Maritime Security – Commanding Officer of Navy Ship
The United States government is committed to working with African countries to enhance maritime security on the continent, the Commanding Officer of the Navy ship ‘USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), Blue Crew,’ has said. Captain David L. Gray Jr. says they are “working with like-minded partners to enhance maritime security in African coastal waters.” “(This) is vital to ensure our partners in Africa can defend their territorial waters and cease illegal activities such as illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing and resource exploitation,” he told Joy News in an interview. The ship recently completed a 43-day operation in the Gulf of Guinea… “We are in the first ship dedicated to AFRICOM (United States Africa Command). We are not going to leave in 6 months and get another ship later. The ship is here to stay. So this is where we are going to put skin in the game,” Captain Gray added. Joy News

How War Threatens Ethiopia’s Struggle against Worst Locust Swarm in 25 Years
Last year, the plague destroyed 350,000 tonnes of cereals and more than 1.2m hectares (3m acres) of pasture in Ethiopia. This year is expected to be even worse. Since January locusts have laid waste to more than 200,000 hectares (almost half a million acres) of farmland. Boosted by the rains, the locusts’ numbers multiplied 8,000-fold, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Now the fight to control them has been dealt another blow: the outbreak of war in northern Ethiopia between the regional government of Tigray, where Awda is situated, and the federal government of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. A security crisis as the locust invasion takes place puts the wider region at risk. Swarms have been reported in Kenya, as well as smaller ones in Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. But with its great expanses of fertile cropland, no country has been so afflicted – and none is more crucial to regional efforts to control the insects – than Ethiopia. The Guardian

First Person: Fighting Human Trafficking in Malawi
Maxwell Matewere, a Malawian crime prevention expert with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has been active in the anti-human trafficking field for more than two decades. Today, he trains officials throughout Malawi to prevent and combat this crime: this year alone, despite COVID-19 restrictions, his work has led to the rescue of around three hundred human trafficking victims and 31 arrests. … I was a young, recent law graduate when I first experienced the horrors of human trafficking. It was in 1998. I was working for a human rights NGO and attending a workshop in South Africa. A taxi driver told me about two girls from my home country who worked in a bar in Johannesburg. He was very concerned about them… UN News

The Women Trying to Transform Burkina Faso, Whatever the Result of the Presidential Election
On the 27th of October, 2014, a million people marched on the streets of Ouagadougou, demanding then-President Blaise Compaoré resign after 27 years in power. Among the crowds, many women brandished brooms, spatulas and pestles, objects that symbolised the need to swipe out corruption from Burkina Faso. Today, the country prepares for a new round of elections – but not everything has turned out as the demonstrators had hoped. The relatively peaceful transition of power that followed the protests … was hailed as a positive example for nearby African countries. Yet, in recent years, the government has struggled to control a wave of escalating violence, as armed groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken control of large swathes of territory … A number of women in more rural areas are coming together to build communal development associations that might, in future, be key to ensure women in these regions are empowered to fight for change. VICE News spoke to a few about the work they are doing and what they hope will come from it. VICE



Photo: Adam Jones