Africa Media Review for November 5, 2019

Two youths were shot dead and several other people were wounded in clashes between Guinean police and protesters at a funeral march for those killed in recent anti-government demonstrations, the authorities and the family of one of the victims said. Violence erupted as hundreds marched in the capital Conakry carrying coffins of people killed in unrest since mid-October that has shaken the poor West African country. Demonstrators have taken to the streets over suspicions that President Alpha Conde is seeking to prolong his rule. According to an opposition toll, around 15 protesters have been killed during the weeks of bloody clashes with security forces, with dozens injured. The government has said one police officer was killed, but have not given an updated number of casualties. At Monday’s march, hundreds of people including relatives and opposition figures marched on foot or by motorbike through the Bambeto neighbourhood, bearing aloft the coffins of 11 of those killed since Oct. 24 draped in the national flag. AFP

A Burkinabe member of parliament and deputy mayor of Djibo, a town in Burkina Faso’s Sahel province has been assassinated on the road between Djibo and the capital, Ouagadougou, raising alarm over the continued violence in the country. Local sources said the vehicle in which Oumaru Dicko was travelling on Sunday with three others was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) causing a crash which killed two of the passengers instantly. … It is not unusual for attacks in Burkina Faso to go unclaimed, although most cases are attributed to armed groups including Ansar ul Islam, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which operate in Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel region of Africa. On Monday, France announced it would be expanding Barkahne, its Sahel military operation, into Burkina Faso by sending troops to its northern region. Al Jazeera

Mauritius’ leader Pravind Kumar Jugnauth is banking on accomplishments like a minimum wage law to win a general election on Thursday but could face a tough challenge from two opponents promising to end graft and higher retirement benefits. The Indian Ocean Island nation, which prides itself on a history of political stability in an often turbulent region, heavily relies on tourism and financial services for revenues. Jugnauth, prime minister since 2017 after taking over from his father, says he hopes voters will give his government another mandate, given its achievements including a light rail system in the capital and the introduction of a minimum wage law. Mauritius holds elections every five years. … The MSM will have to fend off a challenge from the Labour party, led by Navinchandra Ramgoolam. Ramgoolam, 72, is a former prime minister and has promised to increase retirement benefits by a higher percentage than one proposed by the incumbent, a promise he hopes will help him win over elderly voters numbering about 220,000. Reuters

As Mali began three days of mourning Monday for 54 people killed in a militant attack last week, locals expressed fear about a surge in violence and some analysts called for stepped-up military intelligence and collaboration. “We can’t stay idle every day when people attack our camps, kill tens or even hundreds of our soldiers,” activist Dr. Abdoul Kane Diallo said of Friday’s assault on a northeastern military outpost. He was indignant because, though authorities were alerted immediately of the daytime assault, “no reinforcements came, which is very surprising.” … According to local sources, militants had infiltrated the area at least several days in advance. On Friday, they allegedly commandeered a Malian military supply truck, killing its driver and substituting one of their own. Then they loaded the truck with explosives and drove it into the camp. Unsuspecting soldiers let in the familiar truck, accounting for the high number of casualties. VOA

Eight years into Kenya’s U.S.-backed offensive to combat al-Shabab, both in Somalia and domestically, residents of Kutulo say the Kenyan military is fighting terror with terror. They say the Kenya Defense Forces, or KDF, regularly round up noncombatants from Kenya’s ethnic Somali population as a form of collective punishment for al-Shabab attacks on Kenyan soil. … Presented with specific allegations made by residents of Kutulo, the KDF issued a blanket denial that its soldiers had in those instances or ever committed such abuses. In a statement, the KDF said any credible allegations would be referred to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a watchdog set up by the government. Jedidah Waruhiu, one of the commissioners of that body, said the KDF has not referred any allegations to her office, nor has the KDF cooperated with her investigators when she has brought them complaints from community members. “We have not been able to complete one investigation of the KDF,” she said in a phone interview. “They have refused us access or cooperation in every case. It frustrates our work greatly.” The Washington Post

“The foundations have been laid for a transition from peace to sustainable development,” she said, but building on these “will require unity and cooperation across the region and common ground internationally.” This is particularly the case surround the issue of tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons, many vulnerable to trafficking, along with finding regional solutions to protection challenges, including sexual violence, in areas where conflict is still ongoing. After visiting Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia from 21 to 26 October, she observed, “it was clear from our travels that this region is cut from the same fabric.” “Each country is its own shade, but they are interwoven,” the deputy UN chief asserted. “What happens in one country will impact the others, and so a regional approach and genuine collaboration is paramount.” … In paying tribute to UN peacekeepers, Ms. Mohammed noted that in each country visited, the “critical importance” of women serving in security forces, the police, military, and peacekeeping “was starkly clear.” UN News

Pictures and videos of former presidential candidate Besigye being thrust from his car by water canons evoked harsh reactions from Ugandans, who condemned the use of violence by the country’s police. Local journalists say Besigye was on his way to the national stadium to address a gathering of supporters from the biggest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Police later issued statement confirming Besigye’s arrest, saying he had defied orders to change the venue of the party meeting and also inconvenienced road users when he parked his car in the middle of the road. … Police also arrested a number of journalists, who on Monday organised a march protesting unfair treatment of members of the press by the country’s security agencies. The members of Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) were intercepted on their way to the police headquarters where they intended to deliver a petition asking the police leadership to stop brutalising journalists deployed to cover riots and demonstrations. Africa News

War-torn South Sudan is “barreling toward a crisis” and could slide back into fighting, warned the International Crisis Group on Monday. The new report said the country’s warring parties aren’t ready to form a coalition government on November 12th, when opposition leader Riek Machar is planned to return and once again serve as President Salva Kiir’s deputy, as part of a power sharing agreement to pull the country out of a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people. … Meanwhile reports indicate that the latest round of face-to-face talks between the two rivals is set for the Ugandan capital Kampala at the behest of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. … The failure to form a unity government would be the “final wake-up call” that a power-sharing deal will never bring peace to South Sudan, said Payton Knopf, senior adviser to the United States Institute of Peace. “The U.S. and its western partners should then take concrete steps to stand with the South Sudanese people in recognizing what they have known for a long time: Salva Kiir and his regime are not legitimate and neither he nor Riek Machar will ever be part of any viable political settlement,” he said. Africa News

According to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, who visited Zamzam and Abu Shouk camps for the displaced in North Darfur on Monday, refugees and displaced people should take part in Sudan’s peace-building process. He vowed to achieve transitional justice. The residents of the two camps that are among the largest in Darfur, pointed to the need to tackle the roots of the problems in Darfur in order to achieve “a just and lasting peace.” They further asked the government to allow humanitarian organisations to return as soon as possible to provide services to the people living in the camps. At both camps, Hamdok pledged to achieve transitional justice. This is “a priority and a basic requirement.” The new government will exert all efforts to meet the demands of the displaced, and added that “every criminal and corrupt person” will be prosecuted. Radio Dabanga

Less than nine months since rebel groups in Central African Republic signed a peace deal with the government, violence is once again on the rise in the countryside and opposition to the agreement is building ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Clashes in September between the FPRC and the MLCJ – two of the rebel groups that signed the February deal in the capital, Bangui – left at least 23 people dead and more than 24,000 displaced in one of the most serious outbreaks of violence this year. And MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission, recently launched a military operation against the Return, Reclaim, and Rehabilitation armed group, or 3R – a signatory to the deal that the UN says is continuing to attack civilians and carry out “illegal activities.” The New Humanitarian

Pirates seized four crew members from a Greek-flagged ship off the coast of Togo on Monday while authorities in neighboring Benin searched for nine people who were kidnapped from a Norwegian-flagged ship. The incidents mark an escalation of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, which already is considered a high-risk area by the International Maritime Bureau. The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said four of the 24-member crew of the Elka Aristotle were kidnapped – one Greek, two from the Philippines and one from Georgia. The incident was confirmed by the ship’s parent company, European Product Carriers Ltd. The company said the remaining crew and the vessel were safe, adding it could not comment in detail but said “we are doing everything we can to ensure their prompt and safe release.” AP

Botswana’s newly reelected President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in on Friday, November 1, during a ceremony snubbed by his predecessor after the two former allies fell out in a highly public feud. In a speech before several thousand supporters, Masisi promised to tackle corruption in diamond-rich Botswana, which has been seen across Africa as a beacon of stability and democracy. Masisi did not mention his predecessor, Ian Khama, who has been embroiled in a dispute with the president since last year and who himself is now entangled in a corruption scandal. “My government will put in place… mechanisms through the application of practices of good governance to ensure that corruption is defeated,” Masisi said. “I am committed to the rule of law in this country in order to enhance confidence in this country and send a message to all of us that the law must be abided by or face the consequences of non-compliance.” AFP

The U.N. Security Council on Monday joined regional voices calling for restraint and dialogue to end the latest political crisis in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz triggered the latest escalation in an ongoing power struggle with the ruling PAIGC (African Party of the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) party, of which he was once a member. Last Tuesday, he dismissed Prime Minister Aristides Gomes and named a replacement from a minority political party. But Gomes has refused to step down, escalating tensions ahead of an already delayed presidential election scheduled for November 24. The 15-nation West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, called Gomes’ firing “illegal.” While the U.N. Security Council did not go as far as ECOWAS, it did issue a consensus statement Monday in which it refers to Gomes as prime minister and “in charge of conducting the electoral process.” VOA

According to the 2019 “Freedom on the Net” report published by Freedom House, governments are increasingly turning to social media to garner huge amounts of data from citizens to identify perceived threats and often to silence opposition. The report warns that social media surveillance threatens civil rights activism on digital platforms. “This often includes using artificial intelligence, and in many cases, security agencies are automating their mass surveillance of social media,” Isabel Linzer, an expert at Freedom House on internet freedom in sub-Saharan Africa, told DW in an interview. “We have seen this in several sub-Saharan Africa countries, such as Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Nigeria and Uganda.” Many African governments, like Zimbabwe, have passed laws that enable them to monitor their citizens and follow their behavior online. “Apart from the legislation, there is the harnessing of social media by the government to promote its own agenda and to drown out perceived subversive opinions and dissenters online,” Natasha Musonza, a digital rights and security trainer, told DW. DW

President Trump said he will soon ax Cameroon from a trade program that allows African countries to sell goods to the United States on a duty-free basis, citing “persistent human rights violations” in a letter to Congress on Thursday. The decision comes as U.S. officials accuse the Central African nation of extrajudicial killings and unlawful detentions amid conflicts that have displaced more than a half-million people over the past two years. … The Cameroonian government has jailed activists without charge and failed to punish soldiers who crack down on dissent with torture and indiscriminate killing, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. State Department. A video analysis from Amnesty International last summer appeared to show Cameroonian troops executing unarmed people, including children, in the country’s north. The Washington Post

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to host the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as the president of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, in Washington on Wednesday for a discussion about a giant hydropower dam project on the Nile River. The controversial project in Ethiopia’s section of the river has been the focus of an escalating feud between Ethiopia and Egypt over scarce water resources. … Egypt has long-sought external help to mediate the conflict. Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said the parties have been invited to meet and “discuss breaking the deadlock in the ongoing negotiations.” Cairo considers the issue a national security matter because it believes Ethiopia’s planned construction of the massive upstream Nile dam could threaten Egypt’s source of fresh water. Ethiopia wants to keep the negotiations on a tripartite level and has previously rejected outside mediation. VOA

Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe says his story starts in 1973. He had just gotten his Ph.D. at the Rega Institute in Belgium. He could have stayed in Europe, but he decided to return to Congo, or what was then known as Zaire, which had only recently attained independence from Belgium. If he had stayed in Belgium, he says, he would have been doing routine lab work. But in Congo, he would be responsible for the “health of my people.” “But when I arrived here the conditions of work were not good,” he says. “I had no lab; I had no mice for the experimentation, so it was very difficult to work here.” Being a microbiologist without mice or a lab was useless, so he took a job as a field epidemiologist. In 1976, he was called to an outbreak of a mysterious disease in central Congo. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones