Africa Media Review for November 25, 2020

Ethiopian Leader Rejects International ‘Interference’ in War
Ethiopia’s prime minister is rejecting growing international consensus for dialogue and a halt to deadly fighting in the Tigray region as “unwelcome,” saying his country will handle the conflict on its own as a 72-hour surrender ultimatum runs out on Wednesday. … The government led by Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, has warned Mekele’s half-million residents to move away from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders or there will be “no mercy” — language that the United Nations human rights chief and others have warned could lead to “further violations of international humanitarian law.” But communications remain almost completely severed to the Tigray region of some 6 million people, and is not clear how many people in Mekele are aware of the warnings and the threat of artillery fire. Diplomats on Tuesday said U.N. Security Council members in a closed-door meeting expressed support for an African Union-led effort to deploy three high-level envoys to Ethiopia. AP

US Urges Ethiopia to Stop Crackdown on Tigray, Pursue Dialogue
The Ethiopian government is facing new pressure from the US to stop the crackdown on the Tigray region, with some rights groups warning of possible war crimes in the area. Just about 24 hours to the end of the second ultimatum issued by the Ethiopian Prime Minister for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender, the US government said both parties should choose dialogue for the sake of civilians. A statement from the US National Security Council indicated that Washington supports the African Union’s move to send special envoys to Addis Ababa. “The United States calls for mediation in Ethiopia and supports the efforts led by [South African] President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African Union to end this tragic conflict now,” the Council said. The statement signalled renewed pressure from the US, which had last week said it would focus more on peace rather than mediation as both parties had hardened their stances to fight. The EastAfrican

At Least 600 Killed in Mai Kadra Massacre: Ethiopian Rights Body
At least 600 civilians were killed in an ethnically-driven massacre earlier this month in the town of Mai Kadra in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the country’s human rights body has said following an investigation. Tigray has witnessed heavy fighting since November 4, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an assault against the regional government after alleged attacks by Tigrayan security forces against the central government’s military posts in the northern region. … The killings in Mai Kadra on November 9 were first reported by rights watchdog Amnesty International three days later, sparking fears of war crimes being committed as fighting intensified. On November 14, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) dispatched a team of experts to the region for an investigation that ran until November 19. On Tuesday, the government-appointed but independent body said it had found that the killings were carried out by a local youth group called Samri, with the support of other Tigrayan civilians, police and militia. Al Jazeera

Violence Rocks Uganda as Former Musician Challenges Long-Ruling President
The 38-year-old opposition leader, Bobi Wine, has faced multiple arrests as he takes on the country’s five-term leader, Yoweri Museveni. … Wine’s arrest led to days of unrest around the country. Gunfire rang out and demonstrators erected barricades and lit fires on some roads in Kampala, local media reported. Campaign billboards belonging to the incumbent Museveni were demolished by protesters angry at Wine’s arrest, and by the time of his release on bail in the eastern town of Iganga, at least 36 people had been killed with more than 600 arrested. … For Museveni, this election represents an opportunity to further consolidate his grip on all institutions of the state. … In Uganda, the road to the January 14th election continues. It remains to be seen if this will be Wine’s last arrest before the votes are cast. If the prelude to the elections has been anything to go by, a free and fair ballot is almost certainly impossible, said [Judd] Devermont. VICE

Uganda: Besigye Adds Kyagulanyi Protest Killings to ICC Petition
As Uganda descended into violent protests that swept the capital Kampala and several towns across the country, former opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been compiling the “ongoing atrocities” to present before the International Criminal Court. This week’s protests had, by Thursday, reportedly claimed the lives of 37, shot by security forces. “We’re still compiling names of more petitioners and will continue gathering and forwarding more evidence, including the ongoing atrocities,” Mr Besigye said on Friday. On November 11, The Hague-based court acknowledged receipt of Mr Besigye’s compilation of crimes against humanity committed by President Yoweri Museveni’s regime and security forces that are within the mandate of the ICC. The EastAfrican

Cameroon Women’s Opposition Figure Jailed for Six Months
 A Cameroonian military tribunal has jailed the head of the main opposition party’s women’s wing for six months for “plotting revolution,” according to an order seen by AFP on Tuesday. Fri Awasum Mispa of Maurice Kamto’s Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) was arrested Saturday in the capital Yaounde along with around 20 other women who took part in a march calling for the release from house arrest of opposition leader Kamto. MRC officers and activists are frequent targets of the government of President Paul Biya, who has ruled the central African country with an iron fist for 38 years. Many have been jailed for long periods without due process since Kamto contested Biya’s re-election in a 2018 vote. Kamto, who was runner-up in the vote, himself spent nine months behind bars last year without having been tried after peacefully demonstrating against Biya’s re-election. He was released after intense international pressure, but is now under house arrest, with police surrounding his home for the past two months. AFP

Somalia Pledges Free and Fair Polls in Spite of Challenges
Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has said the country is working towards a free, fair and timely election to sustain its rise from years of conflict. In his inaugural speech to the UN Security Council on Monday, Mr Roble said the planned elections that start next month should signal a permanent departure from chaos that for long defined the country. “We seek our partners’ renewed commitment to timely and adequate technical and financial support to relevant institutions and bodies tasked with organising and overseeing the 20/21 elections,” he said. Mr Roble pledged to ensure at least 30 percent of seats in parliament are taken by women to “ensure women’s participation is developed.” Somalia plans to hold parliamentary elections in December before holding a presidential vote by February 8 next year. … Next month’s vote will be indirect, but an improvement from the 2016 one as delegates will this time be appointed by the clan elders in collaboration with local electoral commissions, at federal and state levels. The EastAfrican

U.N. Fears Ethiopia Purging Ethnic Tigrayan Officers from Its Peacekeeping Missions
The Ethiopian government has been rounding up ethnic Tigrayan security forces deployed in United Nations and African peacekeeping missions abroad and forcing them onto flights to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where it is feared they may face torture or even execution, according to an internal U.N. account. The moves come as Ethiopia is preparing a military offensive against the capital of the country’s Tigray region, Mekelle. Conflict erupted earlier this month between federal and Tigrayan forces in the ethnically divided nation, which for decades was under de facto rule by the minority Tigrayans. The alarm inside the U.N. suggests that Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, may be expanding the country’s weekslong conflict beyond the country’s borders. It has alarmed human rights advocates and U.N. officials, who fear that the U.N. blue helmets may be persecuted upon their arrival back in Ethiopia. FP

AU Urged to Speed up Formation of South Sudan’s Hybrid Court
Human Rights Watch has urged the African Union Commission to engage South Sudan’s unity government to speed up the establishment of the hybrid court as stipulated in the 2018 peace agreement. As per the peace accord, the African Union is to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing crimes since the conflict began in December 2013. In a statement at the 67th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Tuesday seen by The EastAfrican, the rights group urged the continental body to initiate investigations into allegations of human rights violations. “We call on the African Commission to urge all States across Africa, notably Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Guinea, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria to initiate prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations. “These violations include destruction of property, extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, and other abuses committed by members of the security force,” HRW said. The EastAfrican

A South African Village, a Murder and a Coal Mine
In the wake of last month’s murder of an anti-mining activist in rural South Africa, the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani travelled to the once peaceful community in KwaZulu-Natal, now plagued by tensions and death threats. We drive in a convoy of two vehicles, weaving our way deep inside a forest in northern KwaZulu-Natal, to see two men who have demanded a meeting place away from curious eyes. Fikile Ntshangase, who was fighting a plan to start an opencast mine on the site of her village, was shot dead not far from here and the men tell me they are fearful that they could be next. “We don’t sleep at night, we don’t know who to trust any more, not even our own families,” one says as we sit between tall eucalyptus trees. “We never thought not coming to an agreement as a community could lead, would lead, to someone’s death, especially because the mine is still operating,” he continues, his face visibly weary. BBC

Priscilla Jana, Lawyer Who Battled Apartheid, Is Dead at 76
Priscilla Jana, a forthright human rights lawyer whose client list embraced both the fabled elite and the foot soldiers of the struggle against apartheid — and who acknowledged crossing a line in her native South Africa between the law courts and the clandestine war to end white minority rule — died on Oct. 10 at a care home in Pretoria. … Ms. Jana was descended from a family of middle-class Indian immigrants, and her status was defined by laws that consigned many people of Asian heritage to segregated neighborhoods, schools and amenities — apart from the white minority and the Black majority alike. In her early years, she said, she felt unsure about her identity. The New York Times

Niger’s Former President Mamadou Tandja Dies at Age 82
Former Niger President Mamadou Tandja has died at agef 82, the government said Tuesday. Tandja, who was elected to lead Niger twice from 1999 to 2010, was eventually overthrown in a coup d’etat after trying to change the constitution to extend his grip on power. Niger’s government announced three days of national mourning for the former leader of the West African nation. The government said Tandja died Tuesday in Niamey, the capital, though it did not specify a cause of death. Tandja had been weakened by illness for several years and had been taken for medical treatment to France, Germany and Morocco. Tandja’s death came just over a month before Niger holds a presidential election. AP

Africa’s Largest COVID Treatment Clinical Trial Launched by 13-Country Network
A network of 13 African countries has joined forces with global researchers to launch the largest clinical trial of potential Covid-19 treatments on the continent. The Anticov study, involving Antwerp’s Institute of Tropical Medicine and international research institutions, aims to identify treatments that can be used to treat mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 early and prevent spikes in hospitalisation that could overwhelm fragile and already overburdened health systems in Africa. The clinical trial will be carried out at 19 sites in 13 countries and led by doctors from African countries. The initiative emerged after calls for responses to the coronavirus better tailored to the developing world and the challenges of often underfunded healthcare systems. The Guardian

Benin: In a Capital’s Afro-Brazilian Architecture, Traces of a Complex Story
Walk around Porto-Novo, Benin, and amid the city’s diverse architecture you’ll notice one particular style – colonial, brick, and ornate. This is the legacy of the Agudas: a local community descended from Portuguese slave traders and Brazilian enslaved people who were freed and returned to West Africa. Each building – many of their facades worn and crumbling from neglect – is a window into the complex history of Benin, a West African country on the Gulf of Guinea. Like many parts of coastal West Africa, modern Benin was forged by the violent globalization of the slave trade, which left profound cultural influences on both sides of the Atlantic. And in recent years, as the government and private groups have pushed to renovate the city, it’s put a spotlight on the area’s heritage – including difficult, often controversial chapters related to slavery and colonialism, imprinted on each Afro-Brazilian building. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones