Africa Media Review for November 20, 2020

Violent Clashes over Arrest of Ugandan Opposition Leader Leave Dozens Dead
At least 37 people have been killed in two days of violent clashes between Ugandan security forces and supporters of detained opposition leader Bobi Wine, police said Friday, as tensions flared two months before a presidential election. Ugandan security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets at angry protesters who set fires, barricaded roads and looted stores in the capital Kampala, as calls mounted for calm ahead of the January 14 elections. The popstar-turned-presidential candidate Bobi Wine … was still in detention after being arrested on Wednesday… Police spokesman Fred Enanga also told reporters that 577 suspects had been arrested across the country… In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday called for Wine’s release. “We call for the immediate release of the detained opposition leaders, including Bobi Wine, and it’s important that security forces act in a way that respects human rights principles and the rule of law in dealing with protesters.” France24 with AFP, Reuters

Ethiopia’s Tigray Forces Fire Rockets at Neighbouring Region’s Capital
Forces from Ethiopia’s rebel Tigray region fired rockets on Friday at the distant capital of the neighbouring Amhara region, Amhara authorities said, raising worries the conflict could spill into a wider war. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have been killed and tens of thousands of refugees have fled from two weeks of fighting in Tigray, raising questions of whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed can hold his ethnically diverse nation together. … Bahir Dar, the lakeside Amhara regional capital, is located hundreds of miles from the fighting in Tigray. Tigrayan refugees have told Reuters the Amhara militia is fighting on the government side, and the two regions have a border dispute. A local journalist and another resident in Bahir Dar both told Reuters they had heard two explosions and had been told by people in the area that at least one of the missiles landed near the airport. Reuters

U.N. Aid Agencies Call for Ceasefire in Ethiopia, Seek $200 Million Aid
United Nations aid agencies called on Friday for an immediate temporary ceasefire in Ethiopia and the setting up of humanitarian corridors that would enable access to civilians after two weeks of fighting. “A temporary ceasefire with immediate effect is needed to allow humanitarian corridors to be established,” Babar Baloch, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a Geneva briefing. U.N. aid agencies are seeking $200 million to cover food, shelter and other urgent needs for a growing exodus into Sudan, where they said 200,000 Ethiopian refugees might be expected over six months. Reuters

Burkina Faso to Vote Amid Escalating Violence
Burkina Faso will vote in presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, amid escalating extremist violence that’s killed more than 2,000 people this year and displaced some one million people from their homes. Speaking at a packed rally on his campaign tour in Bobo-Dioulasso town this month, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore promised, if reelected, to keep fighting until the country was secure. “We will not give up, we will keep fighting until we will have peace and victory on our soil,” he said. … Kabore is expected to be re-elected and needs more than 50% of the vote to win in the first round. The opposition, however, hopes to split the vote, deprive the President of an outright win and form a coalition behind the strongest candidate for round two. Election results should be announced within 48 to 72 hours, said a representative from The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI). AP

Egypt Arrests Human Rights Activists as Fears Grow of Government Crackdown
Egypt has arrested two senior staffers of a prominent rights group after they briefed European diplomats, in what has been called a “chilling” and “dangerous” escalation in the crackdown on civil society. Mohamed Basheer, an administrative manager for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was taken by heavily armed officers from his home on Sunday and held on terrorism charges, just days after the group met with the ambassadors from over ten countries. On Wednesday, National Security service agents then arrested Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s criminal justice unit director, while he was holidaying in the Red Sea resort of Dahab. His whereabouts remain unknown. … Amnesty International condemned the arrests calling them “outrageous” and adding that they dealt a “heavy blow” to human rights work in the country. Human Rights Watch said it was a “dangerous escalation” of the crackdown. Independent

Libya Rivals Yet to Start Withdrawing Forces: UN Envoy
Rival forces in Libya have failed to begin withdrawing as required under an October ceasefire agreement aimed at ending years of conflict following Moamer Kadhafi‘s 2011 killing, a UN envoy said Thursday. Last month’s ceasefire formally ended fighting between forces of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and those of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar. Following the ceasefire deal, recent developments on parallel economic and political tracks have raised hopes for progress in the North African country. But Stephanie Williams, UN acting special envoy for Libya, told the United Nations Security Council that “while the joint military commission seeks to operationalize the ceasefire agreement, the two sides have not yet begun to withdraw their forces.” The Defense Post with AFP

Mozambique Police Say Northern Village, Site of Reported Beheadings, Retaken from Insurgents
Over 1,000 Mozambique troops on Thursday recaptured the northern village of Muidumbe from Islamist insurgents, police general commander Bernardino Rafael said, killing 16 and destroying some of their logistics. Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to gas developments worth some $60 billion, is grappling with an insurgency linked to Islamic State that has gathered pace this year, with insurgents regularly taking on the army and seizing entire towns. Speaking to troops in a field in Muidumbe, an area where local media reported a spate of beheadings by insurgents last week, Rafael congratulated the men for their victory but warned they had not won yet. Reuters

Sierra Leone Considering a Warrant for the Arrest of Former President
Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commission could issue a warrant for the arrest of former President Ernest Bai Koroma after he failed to comply with a summons for questioning, the head of the agency said on Thursday. Koroma failed to appear before the anti-graft agency at its headquarters in the capital Freetown on Thursday because of concerns over his safety, his lawyers said. “We are considering issuing a warrant for his arrest,” the country’s anti-corruption commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala told Reuters. The summons was the latest move in a campaign by Koroma’s successor, President Julius Maada Bio, to investigate the previous administration that Maada Bio says took the country to the brink of economic collapse. … The case concerns alleged wrongdoing in connection with mining, construction and procurement contracts during Koroma’s 2007-2018 tenure. Reuters

Africa Needs More Than G20 Offers to Address Looming Debt Crisis
Approximately 40 percent of sub-Saharan African countries were in or at risk of debt distress even before this year, while Zambia became the continent’s first pandemic-era default last Friday. The United States, China and other G20 countries have offered the world’s poorest countries – many of which are in Africa – relief until at least mid-2021 and sketched out rules for rescheduling government debt to help fend off the risk of default in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. But these plans to provide near-term breathing space might not go far enough. “In 2021, a robust liquidity and structural response, recovery and reset toolbox must be developed in partnership between emerging markets, the private sector and the G20,” warned Vera Songwe, executive secretary at the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Al Jazeera

Surge in Africa COVID-19 Cases Due to Large Gatherings, Who Says
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the continent of Africa surged past two million total COVID-19 cases this week because of large family gatherings, workplace interactions, and gatherings related to elections occurring in several countries. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the 54-nation continent passed the two million cases mark this week, and, as of Thursday, Africa has 2,013,388 total COVID-19 cases and 48,408 deaths. Its infections and deaths make up less than four percent of the global total. Speaking to a WHO meeting remotely from the Republic of Congo capital, Brazzaville, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said cases had increased for the past 28 days in 19 countries in the region, including Ghana, Kenya and Angola and Algeria. Moeti said people were starting to relax and not observe restrictions. “There’s a certain level of fatigue around this and the upcoming holiday season may simply exacerbate the situation,” she said. Moeti said WHO was launching a new campaign called “Mask Up Not Down” to urge people to wear face masks and use them properly. VOA

Scientists Race to Find ‘Warm’ COVID Vaccine to Solve Issue of Cold Storage
News that one of the potential coronavirus vaccines had at least a 90% efficacy rate was a “victory for science”, said K Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist and president of the Public Health Foundation of India. But it meant little to his country’s 1.3 billion citizens. … The need to store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at at least -70C(-94F), with its required cold-chain infrastructure, puts it out of the reach of up to two-thirds of the world’s population, including swathes of south Asia, Africa and even rural parts of the US and South America, according to German logistics company DHL. … But for some time now, scientists have been busy developing a range of other ways to deliver vaccines that could bypass the need for expensive cold-chain infrastructure and the fragile glass vials often used to package doses. Scientists are exploring whether future Covid-19 vaccines could be in the form of inhaled vapours, powders, tablets, oral drops or intranasal sprays, for which the only delivery requirements could be a mailing address. The Guardian

How Climate Change Threatens African Coffee Farmers
Some 169 million bags of coffee were produced in the 2019/2020 coffee year, according to the International Coffee Organization. But the future of coffee is gloomy. About 60% of wild coffee strains worldwide are in danger of extinction, according to a study by the US journal Science Advances. This includes Arabica, a coffee species that accounts for over half of worldwide coffee production. Coffee farmers like Mercy Njambi in Kenya have long felt this worrying trend. “We used to produce a lot of coffee,” she told DW pointing to the red coffee cherries dotting the plants on her farm in Muranga County in central Kenya. “What we are harvesting now is nothing compared to 10, 20 or so years ago.” The coffee plant used to thrive in the moderate temperatures and high altitudes of this Muranga County. Now, due to rising temperatures and erratic rainfall caused by climate change, the coffee plants are suffering. Neighboring coffee farmer Maina Thuku is also worried. The droughts last longer, and there are more pests causing damage, the father of two said. DW

Somalia Mourns Former Prime Minister Omar Ghalib
Somalia is mourning after former Prime Minister Omar Arte Ghalib died on Wednesday. He served as prime minister from 1969 to 1977. Ghalib, who served Somalia for four decades as an educator, civil servant, diplomat and politician, died in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo sent his condolences to the family and the citizens of Somalia. Three weeks ago, Ghalib’s son Mohamed Omar Arte, a former deputy prime minister in the federal government of Somalia (2015-2017), resigned from the membership of the Lower House of Somalia’s parliament to be at his ailing father’s bedside. Ghalib’s death follows that of Nur Adde, another of Somalia’s Prime Ministers who died in London in April this year from Covid-19. Adde was premier from November2007 to February 2009. The EastAfrican

A Poet Seeks a Line in Somalia Presidency
Somalia was traditionally an oral society where word and learning often travelled by mouth. In the modern world, poets, writers and presidents have often emerged. They have rarely mixed, however. This is why when Hussein Halane indicated interest in the Somali presidency, he was joining a whole new arena. Halane, however, is not just a poet. His CV shows he is a technocrat and a behind-the-scenes policy maker. In September, he declared he would run for Somalia’s presidency when elections come in February 2021. The declaration of the 65-year-old former Finance Minister raises the number of presidential candidates to over 26, making it the most crowded race in the country in recent years. Nation

Congolese and Angolan Militaries to Hold Joint Airshow
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) is due to hold a joint airshow with Angolan counterparts on Friday in Kinshasa, marking rare cooperation in recent times. FARDC spokesman Léon Richard Kasonga said on Thursday that the fighter planes will fly with Angolans’ as part of ‘an “airshow” to mark military cooperation between the DRC and Angola. “This airshow is an opportunity for our young pilots to exchange experiences with their Angolan counterparts in order to improve their performance on specialised flying machines,” said Major-General Leon-Richard Kasonga, spokesperson for the FARDC. … Last Tuesday presidents Félix Tshisekedi and Joao Lourenço signed a military cooperation agreement was in Luanda, Angola. Nation

Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis: Fact-Checking Misleading Images
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in two weeks of clashes between the Ethiopian military and forces loyal to the political leadership in the northern Tigray region. As the conflict escalates, we’ve seen continuing attempts to share false or misleading information about the situation. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appears in uniform talking on a phone in a Facebook post which supports the campaign in Tigray by the Ethiopian army. There are three photos of the prime minister, and the post has been shared more than 1,000 times. It was posted in the name of Taye Dendea Aredo, ruling party spokesperson for the Oromia region, but has used a doctored picture. A reverse image search shows the one of him apparently on the phone is a generic one, which has been used before in stories about the US army. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones