Africa Media Review for November 23, 2020

Ethiopia Warns Civilians of ‘No Mercy’ in Tigray Offensive
Ethiopia’s military is warning civilians in the besieged Tigray regional capital that there will be “no mercy” if they don’t “save themselves” before a final offensive to flush out defiant regional leaders — a threat that Human Rights Watch on Sunday said could violate international law. “From now on, the fighting will be a tank battle,” spokesman Col. Dejene Tsegaye said late Saturday, asserting that the army was marching on the Tigray capital, Mekele, and would encircle it with tanks. “Our people in Mekele should be notified that they should protect themselves from heavy artillery.” He accused the Tigray leaders of hiding among the population of the city of roughly a half-million people and warned civilians to “steer away” from them. … Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, in a new statement is giving the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front 72 hours to surrender, saying that “you are at a point of no return.” AP

Ethiopia Rejects African Union Mediation Offer
Ethiopia on Saturday rejected the African Union’s offer for mediation in the Tigray crisis. Hours after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU Chairperson, appointed three ex-presidents to mediate in the Tigray conflict, Ethiopia said the reporting on the mediation was fake news. “PM Abiy Ahmed will be meeting the Chairperson’s special envoys to speak with them one on one,” said a statement posted on the Prime Minister’s official Twitter page on Saturday. “News circulating that the envoys will be traveling to Ethiopia to mediate between the Federal Government and TPLF’s criminal element is fake.” On Friday, President Ramaphosa appointed a team of ‘Distinguished Statespersons’ to help end the conflict that has raged for the last two weeks as Ethiopian forces battle the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The EastAfrican

Al-Qaida Names New North Africa Leader, Reports Kidnap Death
Al-Qaida’s North African branch said it has appointed a new leader after confirming the death of its former chief, who was killed in June by French forces, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The Washington-based group, which monitors jihadist sites, said in a video published Saturday, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, showed the dead body of its former leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, for the first time. AQIM also said that Yazid Mubarak, also known as Abu Ubaida Yusuf al-Annabi, is the new leader. Droukdel was killed in Mali by French forces who had been hunting him in the Sahel region for years. Al-Qaida’s North African branch also confirmed the death of Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, who had been captured in January 2016 from Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu. … AQIM has made millions of dollars abducting foreigners for ransom over the years and has made large swaths of West Africa too dangerous for aid groups to access. AP

Burkina Faso Holds Elections Amid Fear of Attacks
Voters have gone to the polls in Burkina Faso for presidential and legislative elections held against the background of a spiralling conflict and one of the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crises. Insecurity, caused by the devastating war in the western portion of Africa’s Sahel region that has also spread in Burkina Faso, has defined the first term of President Roch Kabore, who is now seeking another five years in power. Facing 12 other candidates, Kabore is expected to come first but the opposition hopes to split the vote, depriving him of the 51 percent support needed for an outright victory in Sunday’s first round. It then plans to form a coalition behind the strongest opposition candidate for the second round of voting. … The election went smoothly in the capital and there were no reports of large-scale violence elsewhere during the vote. But some polling stations in insecure eastern areas had to be closed because of threats, the electoral commission said. Al Jazeera

Tanzania: Lissu, Karume Call for Sanctions against Magufuli
Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu and former Chair of the Tanganyika Law Society Fatma Karume have called for economic sanctions against President John Magufuli’s regime. Mr Lissu, a former presidential candidate and deputy chairperson of political party Chadema, and Karume called upon the international community to levy economic sanctions, claiming that donor funds could be used to further destabilise the opposition rather than for development. However, the two said that the opposition remains strong in Tanzania despite President Magufuli’s determination to limit their political activities. … Ms Karume said the Tanzanian administration had politicised the army and police forces. “The army is weaponised and so is the police force,” she said. She termed the decision by President Magufuli to use of the army to take personal property as illegal and unconstitutional. The EastAfrican

Tanzania, Mozambique Launch Joint Operations against Insurgents
Police chiefs in Tanzania and Mozambique have agreed to launch joint operations against fighters linked to Islamic State whose three-year-old insurgency recently spilled over the border between the two southeast African countries. Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, and his Mozambican counterpart, Bernardino Rafael, met on Friday in the southern Tanzanian border town of Mtwara, according to a police statement. The meeting came a month after about 300 suspected Islamist militants crossed over from Mozambique and attacked Mtwara’s Kitaya village, killing an unspecified number of people. Militants based in Mozambique’s gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province have killed more than 2,300 people since the insurgency began and displaced 500,000 others, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, spreading alarm through the region. Bloomberg

Burundi Tells UN to Close Local Office by January
Burundi has told the United Nations secretary general that the office of the organisation’s special envoy must shut by the end of the year. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently asked that the office remain in operation for one more year owing to a “fragile” situation in the country. The envoy’s office was established in 2016 to track tension in Burundi, which had plunged into a political crisis a year earlier when then President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a disputed third term. In a notice seen by AFP and confirmed by a senior Burundian diplomat, the foreign affairs ministry notified Guterres of “the formal closure and liquidation of the office of the special envoy to Burundi on December 31, 2020.” … The UN sought to extend the envoy’s mission by a year despite a positive change on the part of new President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who took office after Nkurunziza died in June, describing the situation in Burundi as still “fragile.” AFP

Zimbabwe: Three Years after Mugabe, New Dawn Remains Elusive
Three years after a coup that unseated long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, Zimbabweans are losing hope of a new dawn as President Emmerson Mnangagwa tightens his grip on power while the promised economic turnaround remains elusive. … Former finance minister Tendai Biti said Zimbabwe had regressed under President Mnangagwa, with human rights violations and corruption worsening. “Three years later the revolution has eaten its children,” said Mr Biti, who is also the deputy president of the mainstream opposition MDC Alliance. “The centre can’t hold and things have fallen apart. A bunch of thugs took over the state and plunged it into a sewer of illegitimacy, incompetence, corruption, plunder and poverty.” President Mnangagwa has been accused of narrowing the democratic space through regular arrests and abductions of civil society and opposition activists. In August, the AU and UN agencies accused the Zimbabwean government of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on freedoms of speech and assembly. The EastAfrican

Zuma to Face Charges for Snubbing South African Graft Probe
South African Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said former President Jacob Zuma should be criminally charged for violating a subpoena to testify before a panel that’s probing graft during his nine-year rule. Zuma and his legal team left a Nov. 19 hearing, where he was supposed to respond to corruption allegations, without permission after failing to persuade Zondo to recuse himself as the panel’s chairman. “I have decided to request the secretary of the commission to lay a charge against Zuma,” Zondo said at a hearing in Johannesburg on Monday. The ex-president’s actions “impacts on the integrity of the commission,” he said. At least 34 other witnesses who’ve testified before the commission implicated the former president in the embezzlement of state funds. He appeared before the panel last year, but withdrew from proceedings after his lawyers objected to the line of questioning and argued that he was being unfairly cross-examined. He was then subpoenaed to testify. Bloomberg

All Eyes Set on Kiir after South Sudan Concludes Dialogue Conference
[The National Dialogue] conferences, originally mooted in 2017 to help unite and reconcile the country after years of violence, finally took place over the past two weeks. The discussions, which were divided into two phases, began with grassroots regional meetings followed by the national conference. Participants presented solutions to local issues such as cattle rustling and land tenure, as well as to more critical concerns like whether the country should adopt a federal system. … The conference, led by a steering committee with funding from the Japanese embassy through UNDP, held regional meetings in Upper Nile, Bhar-el-Ghazel, and Equatoria, with representatives from the grassroots levels. … At the closing ceremony on Wednesday in Juba, President Kiir said the resolutions will be incorporated in the permanent constitution. … However, some participants feared that the country may sweep the suggestions under the carpet now that there is some sort of stability. The EastAfrican

Sudan Boycotts Faltering Talks over Ethiopia’s Mega-Dam
Sudan boycotted talks on Saturday between Nile Valley countries over Ethiopia’s controversial mega-dam, calling on the African Union to play a greater role in pushing forward the negotiations that have stalled for years. It was the first time that Sudan refused to attend talks with Ethiopia and its northern neighbor Egypt, which has expressed for years its fears that the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile will dramatically threaten water supplies downstream. Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said in a statement that the current approach to reaching a tripartite agreement on the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s dam had not yielded results, and the AU should do more to “facilitate the negotiation and bridge the gap between the three parties.” Sudan’s boycott, however, could derail the complicated talks, which the AU has already taken the lead role in supporting. AP

Sudan to Combat Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism
Siham Osman, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice and Head of the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism, confirmed that Sudan has full political will to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, under the supervision of the Council of Ministers. She addressed the general meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force yesterday, which was held virtually. Osman spoke about Sudan’s desire to “coordinate and cooperate with the all countries in the task force through standards and procedures which allow Sudan to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.” … In her speech, she affirmed Sudan’s readiness to integrate into the global financial system following the completion of the procedures for removing Sudan from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Radio Dabanga

Russia Stops UN Blacklisting of Libya Militia, Leader
Russia on Friday stopped a UN Security Council committee from blacklisting a Libyan militia group and its leader for human rights abuses because it said it wanted to see more evidence first that they had killed civilians. The United States and Germany proposed that the council’s 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on the al-Kaniyat militia and its leader Mohammed al-Kani. Such a move has to be agreed by consensus, but Russia said it could not approve. … The United States and Germany wrote in their sanctions proposal that international human rights groups and the UN political mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, has “received reports of hundreds of human rights abuses perpetrated by the al-Kaniyat militia against private individuals, state officials, captured fighters, and civil society activists in Tarhouna.” Reuters

Ankara Prevented German Vessel from Policing Libya Arms Blockade – Berlin
Turkey prevented German forces belonging to a European Union military mission searching a Turkish cargo ship believed to be taking weapons to Libya, the German military said on Monday. Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish vessel, the Rosalina-A, during the night, but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the EU mission, a German military spokesman said. Turkey said the Rosalina-A was carrying various materials such as food and paint, and that the search team had violated international law by not waiting for permission from Turkey. Reuters

Gunmen Kill Five in Mosque Attack in Nigeria: Police
Gunmen have killed five worshippers and kidnapped 18 in an attack on a mosque during prayers in northwestern Nigeria’s Zamfara state, police said Sunday. Around 100 cattle thieves on motorcycles opened fire on a Muslim congregation in remote Dutsen Gari village in Maru district as residents were observing the weekly Friday prayers. “The bandits killed five worshippers and kidnapped 18 others, including the imam,” state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu told AFP. Residents however said more than 30 worshippers were abducted. “The gunmen attacked the mosque while the imam was delivering the sermon and took away more than 30 people, including the imam, after shooting dead five worshippers,” one resident, Ibrahim Altine, told AFP. The Defense Post with AFP

Nigeria’s Slip into Recession Blamed on COVID-19 and Oil Prices
Nigeria has slipped into a recession after its gross domestic product contracted for the second consecutive quarter, according to official data released. Africa’s biggest economy is in recession for the first time since 2016. The recession four years ago was its first in a generation, and the country emerged from it the following year. However, growth has been fragile and COVID-19 has hit the economy hard, amid low oil prices. The continent’s top oil producer and exporter relies on crude sales for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria normally accounts for an average output of two million barrels per day. But the effects of the pandemic and low oil prices have cut production to approximately 1.4 million barrels. “Q3 2020 Real GDP contracted for second consecutive quarter by -3.62 percent,” Yemi Kale, the statistician general, said on Twitter on Saturday. Al Jazeera

G20 to Extend Debt Relief to Mid-2021, Pushes Private Sector to Help
Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies on Sunday endorsed a plan to extend a freeze in official debt service payments by the poorest countries to mid-2021 and backed a common approach for dealing with their debt problems. In a joint statement, Group of 20 leaders also strongly encouraged private creditors to take part in the initiative on comparable terms and said they were keeping an eye on the special challenges facing African and small island states. The G20 debt relief initiative – launched shortly after the start of the pandemic in the spring – has helped 46 of 73 eligible countries defer $5.7 billion in 2020 debt service payments, freeing up funds for countries to fight the pandemic and shore up their economies. … Some big creditor countries, including China, also failed to include all state-owned institutions, such as the China Development Bank, in responding to requests for debt relief. Reuters

Somalia’s Strongest Tropical Cyclone Ever Recorded Could Drop 2 Years’ Rain in 2 Days
The strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the northern Indian Ocean has made landfall in eastern Africa, where it is poised to drop two years’ worth of rain in the next two days. Tropical Cyclone Gati made landfall in Somalia on Sunday with sustained winds of around 105 mph. It’s the first recorded instance of a hurricane-strength system hitting the country. At one point before landfall, Gati’s winds were measured at 115 mph. … “With climate change we’re seeing warmer ocean temperatures and a more moist atmosphere that’s leading to a greater chance of rapid intensification for tropical cyclones like Gati,” meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus told NPR. “Gati’s strength is part of that broader global pattern of stronger storms.” And those storms are leading to a lot more rain. … A United Nations alert warned the storm posed an immediate threat to the marine shipping lane that links Somalia and the Gulf states. NPR

Congo in Conversation | A Collaborative Chronicle
Congo in Conversation is an online collaborative reportage with Congolese journalists and photographers, curated by Finbarr O’Reilly and Fondation Carmignac. Over six months, they documented the human, social and ecological challenges DRC faces today, within the context of the Covid-19 crisis. … In this essay we feature the work of some of the photographers taking part in the project. Raissa Karama Rwizibuka examined environmental issues in Virunga national park, and fashion and self-confidence in a post-colonial context. Arlette Bashizi captured the realities of confinement in a country with unreliable electricity. Moses Sawasawa looked at politics and insecurity caused by the ongoing conflicts, along with Dieudonné Dirole. … The Guardian