Africa Media Review for November 18, 2020

Ethiopia Faces ‘Hell’ in Battle for Tigray, Say Rebels

The rulers of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray region refused on Wednesday to surrender to federal troops and instead claimed they were winning a war that has exacerbated ethnic fractures in the vast nation and further destabilised the Horn of Africa. “Tigray is now a hell to its enemies,” they said in a statement on the two-week offensive against them. “The people of Tigray will never kneel.” Ignoring international appeals for talks, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is also claiming major victories and says its forces are marching on Tigray’s capital Mekelle and will triumph shortly. … In a lengthy statement, the Tigrayan leaders accused federal forces of targeting civilians, churches and homes, while blocking internet, electricity and banking services. … The northern state is largely cut off to the world as media are barred, most communications are down and foreign aid workers are pulling out, meaning Reuters could not independently verify assertions made by either side. Reuters

People Go Hungry in Ethiopia’s Tigray as Conflict Marches On

People are going hungry in Ethiopia’s rebellious northern Tigray region as roads are blocked, airports are closed and the federal government marches on its capital in a final push to win a two-week war. But residents are afraid to leave for fear of being killed, an internal assessment says. Trucks laden with food, fuel and medical supplies have been stuck outside the region’s borders since the Nov. 4 announcement by Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that a military offensive had begun in response to an attack by Tigray regional forces on a military base. “At this stage there is simply very little left, even if you have money,” according to the internal assessment by one humanitarian group, seen by The Associated Press. AP

Warning of Famine, UN Releases $100m to Seven Countries

The United Nations humanitarian office is releasing $100 million in emergency funding to seven countries at risk of famine in Africa and the Middle East amid conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, while the humanitarian chief says returning to a world where famines are common would be “obscene.” A statement overnight said $80 million of the money will go to Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. Another $20 million has been set aside for “anticipatory action to fight hunger in Ethiopia,” where deadly fighting erupted this month in its rebellious northern Tigray region. … The U.N said the money will target the most vulnerable, especially women, girls and people with disabilities. … All have been destabilized by conflict or extremist attacks. AP

Congo Declares End of Ebola Outbreak, Sees Lessons for COVID Fight

Democratic Republic of Congo announced the end of an almost six-month Ebola outbreak in the west of the country on Wednesday as health authorities looked to apply lessons from the successful response to the fight against COVID-19 in Africa. The outbreak, which infected 130 people and killed 55, emerged in June, weeks before a separate Ebola epidemic in the east drew to a close. That one killed more than 2,200 people, the second-most in the disease’s history. … Medics vaccinated 40,000 people in communities scattered across rainforests that often lacked electricity. They used cold-chain technology to keep vaccines at temperatures as low as -80 degrees Celsius, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. “The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa,” said WHO’s Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti. Reuters

Dozens Killed in Eastern DRC in Latest Attacks Blamed on ADF

Some three dozen people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) troubled east, local officials have said, blaming a notorious armed group that has been accused of killing hundreds of civilians over the past year. Twenty-nine bodies were found in the Virunga National Park after being “executed en masse,” Jean-Bosco Sebishimbo, the interior minister of North Kivu province, said on Tuesday. He added that six civilians were also killed during “an armed attack” in the nearby village of Kokola earlier on Tuesday. … A security source told Reuters news agency it was suspected, based on the state of decomposition of the victims’ bodies and their location, that the victims were among the more than 1,400 men who escaped from Beni prison when it was attacked by suspected ADF fighters on October 19. Al Jazeera

Security Tops Concerns as Burkina Faso Prepares to Vote

Worsening security dominates the list of concerns in Burkina Faso, where voters will go to the polls Sunday to elect a president and national legislators. Militant Islamist insurgencies and internal ethnic conflicts plague the West African nation of nearly 21 million, displacing more than 1 million and killing at least 1,600 Burkinabè since 2015. Among the dead are at least 14 Burkina soldiers killed when suspected jihadists ambushed a military convoy November 11 in the northern province of Oudalan, near the borders with Mali and Niger, Reuters news service reported the government’s information minister as saying. … Extremist groups’ efforts to fan ethnic conflict also “have frayed Burkina Faso’s long-cherished sense of national unity,” the U.S.-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies reports. “The ineffective and at times heavy-handed response of security forces, which had not previously faced a serious security threat, has made leadership in the combating of militant groups an overriding concern for voters.” VOA

Rights Group Calls on Côte D’Ivoire to Free Opposition Leader

Amnesty International has urged authorities in Côte d’Ivoire to release opposition politician Pascal Affi N’Guessan, detained since 6 November on charges of terrorism and sedition. The rights group also called on the Ivorian authorities to investigate the killing of dozens of people in post-election violence. “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and all those detained simply for exercising their human rights,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty’s regional director for West and Central Africa. Lawyers for N’Guessan told RFI that he has been held incommunicado since 9 November, when he first appeared before a judge. N’Guessan, head of the Ivorian Popular Front [FPI] party, has been accused of plotting against the state, following the announcement of a transitional council led by Henri Konan Bédié, the other main opposition leader. RFI

Five Dead, Many Wounded in Suicide Bomb Attack in Somalia

At least five people have been killed in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant near a police academy. Mohamed Abdirahman, a police officer at the scene, said two of the victims of Tuesday’s attack were police personnel. More than 10 people were wounded and rushed to hospital, some in serious condition, Abdirahman told AFP news agency. Witness Abdukadir Hussein said there had been dozens of people in the restaurant when the attack took place. “Many of the people inside were wounded and I personally saw the … dead bodies of two people,” he said. “The whole area was in a mess as the blast destroyed everything.” … The al-Shabab armed group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by the SITE intelligence agency. Al Jazeera

US Hits East Africa’s Al-Qaida Affiliate with New Sanctions

The State Department announced it had imposed sanctions on two senior leaders of [on Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group, an al-Qaida-linked organization], which had been designated a “foreign terrorist organization” in 2008. The State Department said it had identified Abdullahi Osman Mohamed and Maalim Ayman as “specially designated global terrorists,” a step that freezes any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bans Americans from doing any business with them. It said Mohamed is the group’s senior explosives expert, a special adviser to the so-called “emir” of al-Shabab and is the leader of al-Shabaab’s media wing, al-Kataib. Ayman is the leader of Jaysh Ayman, an al-Shabab unit conducting attacks and operations in Kenya and Somalia, including one in January on a military base in Kenya that killed one American soldier and two U.S. contractors, it said. AP

More Than 1,000 Killed in South Sudan Communal Conflicts in 6 Months: UN

Violence has increased throughout South Sudan over the past six months, with more than 1,000 killings nationwide, the United Nations mission in South Sudan said on Tuesday. “More than 1,000 people died in Warrap in the past six months…there are a lot of people who want to go on and carry out revenge attacks for those that have died,” UN special envoy David Shearer said, referring to the state in the north of the country. The UN describes these attacks and killings as communal conflicts, adding that some 400 people have been abducted in eastern Jonglei state while hundreds died in fighting there. Rival communities competing for land or carrying out cattle raiding leads to long cycles of revenge killings. The dry season will only see violence worsen, according to Shearer. “The potential for conflict in Jonglei as a result … is very, very high,” said Shearer. RFI

UN to Set up Temporary Peacekeeping Bases in Jonglei Region

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said plans are underway to establish temporary peacekeeping bases to end inter-ethnic clashes in the greater Jonglei region. Speaking to reporters in Juba on Tuesday, the head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said peacekeeping mission will locate their troops and staff to promote reconciliation and rebuilding in conflict areas. “So over the coming weeks in cooperation with security services, we will begin deploying peacekeepers to place like Manyabol, Likongule, Duk Padiat, Yuai, and Waat to set up temporary bases or conduct extended long-distance patrols,” he said. According to the senior UN official, the peacekeeping mission’s seventh engineering contingents from countries, including Bangladesh, China and Pakistan will commence a major road rehabilitation project during the dry season to help the troops patrol with ease. Sudan Tribune

Morocco PM Says Western Sahara Wall at Centre of Dispute Completed

Morocco has finished building a sand barrier in a U.N.-monitored buffer zone in Western Sahara, Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Otmani told Reuters on Tuesday, after the Polisario Front independence movement withdrew from a ceasefire. The Moroccan army entered the buffer zone on Friday to open a road linking Western Sahara with Mauritania which had been blocked by Polisario supporters and fighters, leading the group to quit the 29-year-old truce agreement. Speaking in an interview with Reuters, El Otmani reiterated that Morocco was sticking to the ceasefire and said there had been only “skirmishes and sporadic fighting” in recent days as concerns grew that a long-frozen conflict could reignite. Reuters

Nigeria: Airforce Bombs Bandits’ Camp along Abuja-Kaduna Highway, Kills Scores

The Nigerian Air Force on Tuesday launched a major offensive against bandits along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, killing many of the criminals in their camp. The operation followed intelligence reports indicating that a cluster of huts and other structures at the location served as hideout for a notorious bandits’ leader, named ‘Major’ and his fighters. The Defence Headquarters explained that six NAF aircraft undertaking five missions in a total of 13 sorties carried out a dawn raid on the cluster of huts housing the vagabonds. This is coming 24 hours after bandits kidnapped over 10 persons on the road and also killed no fewer than five others. Punch

Different Agendas, One Goal: How Nigerians United to #EndSARS

When Adaeze Feyisayo, 24, joined the protests against police brutality in Nigeria on Friday, October 3, she had just returned from a trip to the southeastern city of Aba, where she went to visit her friend, Tina*. On her way back, at one of the police checkpoints in between Aba and Umuahia – where Feyisayo, a lawyer and writer, lives – the taxi she and Tina were riding in was stopped. The policeman in charge singled Feyisayo out from the other passengers. “He searched my luggage as if he was looking for something but I wasn’t bothered because there was nothing there,” she says. “After a few minutes, he reluctantly let us go. As we drove off, Tina* told me she suspected that the policeman had just profiled me as a prostitute because of my blonde haircut and, if he had found condoms or drugs on me, he would have arrested me.” At first, Feyisayo thought this was odd. But after reading similar accounts, she realised the policeman’s actions were far from unusual. Al Jazeera

Ghana Anti-Graft Prosecutor Quits Over ‘Interference’

Ghana’s special anti-corruption prosecutor has quit, accusing President Nana Akufo-Addo of “political interference” over a report into a controversial gold royalties deal. The move comes just three weeks ahead of a presidential election that sees Akufo-Addo facing a tight race against former leader John Mahama. Former attorney general Martin Amidu announced his resignation late on Monday, saying he had become convinced “that I was not intended to exercise any independence” in the job. … There was no immediate response from the presidency to the allegations but officials have previously insisted they are acting transparently. The report was eventually published two weeks ago and the government has said it was delaying the London floatation in the face of opposition until after elections on December 7. The authorities insist the plan will help Ghana raise vital cash to help offset the damaging impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its economy. AFP

Fugitive Preacher Sparks Diplomatic Incident in South Africa

A preacher who calls himself a prophet has triggered anger, a diplomatic incident and a good amount of head scratching by authorities in South Africa after skipping bail, fleeing the country and emerging in his home nation of Malawi while facing charges of money laundering and fraud relating to more than $6 million. Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, who have both been charged, failed to report to a police station in South Africa on Friday to meet their bail conditions. Bushiri then released a statement and appeared on a television station on Saturday saying they were now in their country of birth over 1,000 miles away despite apparently having no travel documents. … South Africa responded by issuing an arrest warrant for the “two fugitives” and canceled their bail and confiscated the $26,000 they put up as bond. They have until Thursday to hand themselves in at a courthouse in the capital, Pretoria, said Col. Katlego Mogale, the spokeswoman for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, a police unit that investigates high-profile crimes. AP

World’s Last Known White Giraffe Gets GPS Tracking Device

The only known white giraffe in the world has been fitted with a GPS tracking device to help protect it from poachers as it grazes in Kenya. But despite its singular status, the lonely male doesn’t have a name. The white giraffe now stands alone after a female and her calf were killed by poachers in March, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy said in a statement Tuesday. A rare genetic trait called leucism causes the white color, and it makes the one surviving giraffe stand out dangerously for poachers in the arid savannah near the Somalia border. AP

Photos: Why South Africans Built an Illegal Settlement Called COVID

If you ask Alfred Sonandi where he lives, he’ll tell you Izwelethu. “It sounds nice,” he says. “It means ‘Our Land’ in Xhosa [one of South Africa’s 11 languages]. But to be honest, almost everyone here calls it ‘Covid.’ And ‘nice’ is not really the word I’d use …” Izwelethu, also known as “Covid,” is a densely populated settlement in South Africa comprising more than 800 tin shacks and 3,000-plus residents. It was founded in March, when South Africa’s national lockdown began, and has been weathering a number of storms ever since — the meteorological ones that the “Cape of Storms” is infamous for, and the grim epidemiological storm of a global pandemic. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones