Africa Media Review for November 5, 2020

New Clashes in Ivory Coast, US and African Union Call for Dialogue
Two Ivory Coast government supporters were killed and a minister’s convoy hit by gunfire, officials said on Wednesday, as tensions build over President Alassane Ouattara’s contested reelection. … The United States on Wednesday joined the UN in calling for dialogue in the West African state where more than 40 people have been killed in clashes over Ouattara’s third term since he announced he would run again in August. … The United Nations, African Union and African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday called on Ivory Coast’s opposition to “respect constitutional order” and seek dialogue, while urging all sides to show “restraint to preserve human lives.” On Tuesday, the US called on Ivorian leaders to respect the democratic process and rule of law. “Grievances related to the presidential election must be resolved in a peaceful and transparent manner within the framework of the law,” a statement from the US embassy said. AFP

Ivory Coast: Ex-Rebel Leader Asks Army to Mutiny, Join Opposition
An influential former rebel leader has told Ivory Coast’s army to mutiny and back a rival breakaway government in the wake of a contested presidential election that the opposition says was illegal. President Alassane Ouattara won the election with 94 percent of the vote, according to the electoral commission. However, the opposition boycotted the vote, arguing Ouattara’s bid for a third term broke a legal two-term limit and undermined the country’s democratic process. … Guillaume Soro, who led the rebels that swept Ouattara to power during that war, but whose relationship with the president has since soured, released a message on Facebook on Wednesday night, calling on the army to join the opposition government. … It was unclear if there was any reaction to the statement late on Wednesday, but it added to tensions that many fear could help destabilise a region beset by political unrest. … The United Nations refugee agency said more than 3,200 people had fled into neighbouring Liberia, Ghana and Togo, fearing violence. Reuters

Ethiopia’s Conflict Continues as PM Vows Further Operations
Ethiopia’s conflict in its powerful Tigray region continues Thursday after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the nation the military will carry out further operations this week in response to an alleged deadly attack on a military base by the regional government. Communications remain cut off in the northern Tigray region after services disappeared at just around the time Abiy’s office first announced the attack and military action early Wednesday. The lack of contact challenges efforts to verify the Ethiopian federal government’s account of events. Observers warn that a civil war in Africa’s second most populous country, involving the heavily armed Tigray region, could destabilize the already turbulent Horn of Africa. … Aid organizations and human rights groups are pleading for communications links to be restored and warning of a humanitarian disaster if hundreds of thousands of people flee fighting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. AP

Ethiopia Shuts Down Telephone, Internet Services in Tigray
The Ethiopian government on Wednesday began restricting telephone and internet services to the troubled Tigray region, hours after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military response to an ambush on the military. … “The government of Ethiopia has again shut down the internet,” Access Now said. “Mobile network, fixed-line internet and landline telephony have been cut in Tigray, as PM declares a state of emergency and orders military intervention against Tigray People’s Liberation Front.” … Jakenn Publishing PLC, the publisher of the Addis Standard online magazine, issued an editorial demanding open channels to access the region and report on the incident. “Reporting on conflicts is never an easy task, but it is important that journalists are able to reach sources on the ground to update the world on the condition and safety of civilian citizens who are possibly caught in the crossfire of such conflicts,” the news organisation said. The EastAfrican

Ethiopian Tension Ropes in Neighbours Concerned with Another War
Ethiopia will be chairing this month’s African Union Peace and Security Council, the continental body charged with maintaining tranquillity, even as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military response to Tigray after the region “crossed the last red line.” And Ethiopia’s position in the region, and the continent, means analysts in the Horn of Africa are worried any snowball from the tension between Addis Ababa and Tigray region could be devastating to peace efforts elsewhere. … “The conflict brewing in Ethiopia has the potential to spill over to the region; the immediate Horn of Africa neighbours,” Abdimalik Abdullahi, a Horn of Africa Researcher said. “Both PM Abiy and Tigray ought to heed the voices of reason and embrace national dialogue. Sobriety and maximum restraint should reign or Ethiopia will go to the dogs.” Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union, is seen as an alternative safety haven for refugees fleeing neighbouring countries… The EastAfrican

Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Fail to Make Progress on Disputed Dam
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan failed to agree on a new negotiating approach to resolve their years-long dispute over the controversial dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the three countries said Wednesday. In late October, the three resumed virtual talks over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. … Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations met last week and delegated experts from their countries to discuss and agree on an approach so the talks could be fruitful. But differences remained and Wednesday’s meeting failed to bridge the gaps, said Mohammed el-Sebaei, Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry spokesman. Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas also said the talks did not achieve concrete progress, and that Egypt opposed a Sudanese proposal supported by Ethiopia to maximize the role of African Union experts. AP

At Least 20 Massacred during Mozambique Initiation Ceremony
Suspected militants beheaded over a dozen men and teenagers participating in a male initiation ceremony in northern Mozambique, local sources said Wednesday, in the latest violent incident in the country’s insurgency-hit northeast. The dismembered bodies of at least five adults and 15 boys were found on Monday, scattered across a forest clearing in Muidumbe district. Islamist militants operating in the area had attacked several nearby villages over the weekend, looting and burning down homes before retreating into surrounding thicket. “Police learnt of the massacre committed by the insurgents through reports of people who found corpses in the woods,” said an officer in the neighbouring Mueda district who asked not to be named. AFP

Landmine Kills 9 Troops in Northeast Nigeria
At least nine Nigerian troops were killed when a military truck hit a landmine in jihadist-wracked northeast Nigeria, two security sources told AFP Wednesday. The incident happened on Monday near the town of Malam Fatori on the border with Niger which houses a garrison of soldiers fighting insurgent groups, the sources, who asked not to be identified, told AFP. “We lost nine soldiers in the incident,” said the first security source. The military convoy was transporting food from regional capital Maiduguri, 200 kilometres (130 miles) away, when the lead vehicle hit the explosive device, the second source said. AFP

Gunmen Kill 8 in Central Mali Attack
Gunmen have killed eight people in central Mali, a local official and security ministry staffer said Wednesday, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn Sahel state. Militants attacked a minibus Tuesday, the officials said, which was travelling between the towns of Bandiagara and Bankass in central Mali’s volatile Mopti region, which is prone to frequent jihadist attacks and ethnic killings. “Armed men opened fire on the minibus,” a local government official told AFP, adding that eight people died, four escaped and eight were seriously wounded, three of them children. An official from Mali’s security ministry, who also requested anonymity, confirmed the details of the attack and the death toll. The local government official, and a survivor interviewed by AFP, both blamed the attack on jihadists. AFP

A Stalled Conflict in Sahara Risks Reigniting as Trade Blocked
Protesters in the disputed region of Western Sahara blocked Morocco’s main trade route to West Africa, prompting a warning that a conflict suspended for three decades could reignite. Dozens of supporters of the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the partly Moroccan-controlled territory, have picketed the southern border for two weeks, demanding a long-delayed vote on the region’s status, local media reported. Halting what was an average of 150 trucks crossing per day, they’re seeking leverage by impeding Morocco’s burgeoning trade with sub-Saharan Africa. Protesters have also approached Moroccan military outposts. … The United Arab Emirates this week became the first Middle Eastern nation to open a consulate in the region, handing a symbolic victory to Morocco, which considers it part of Moroccan territory. Bloomberg

Sudan-South Sudan Boundary to Be Defined
The joint Sudan and South Sudan Boundary Demarcation Commission, tasked with defining the borders of five disputed areas, began a new round of negotiations in the South Sudanese capital Juba yesterday. Since the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in July 2011, the two countries are contesting the border areas of Abyei, Kaka El Tijariya, Debbat El Fukhar/Megenes Mountains, Bahr El Arab, and Kafia Kingi/Hafrat El Nukhas. The head of the joint Boundary Demarcation Commission, Moaz Tengo, told reporters in Juba yesterday that the meetings of the technical committee, held under the auspices of the African Union, will last a week. They will then move to Khartoum and continue the negotiations on November 12. The succesful mediation of the South Sudanese government at the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese armed rebel movements in Juba made rapprochement between the two countries easier. Radio Dabanga

Top Nigerian Bank Sued for Blocking Protest-Linked Accounts
Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest lender, is accused of illegally blocking an account used to promote media coverage of protests against police brutality that recently swept Africa’s most populous country. Gatefield Nigeria Ltd., a public affairs company, filed a case against Access Bank in a federal court in Abuja, the capital, on Oct. 28, accusing the lender of “unilaterally restricting” its account and demanding damages of 100 million naira ($262,000), according to court documents. The account was used to raise funds to support independent Nigerian journalists that covered nationwide demonstrations that lasted almost three weeks, according to the firm. “As more people contributed to our efforts, we noticed that we could no longer conduct transactions on the dedicated account we used for this particular activity,” Adewunmi Emoruwa, the lead strategist for Abuja-based Gatefield, said Tuesday by phone. Bloomberg

COVID Slows Army’s Effort to Assist Terrorist Fight in Africa
The coronavirus pandemic has given an edge to terrorists in the Sahel region of Africa, the commander of U.S. Army Africa told the Washington Examiner in an exclusive interview. “In the Sahel, the forces that the countries are using to fight terrorism are now having to be used for some domestic requirements,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling by phone from U.S. Army Africa headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. “That’s going to reduce their abilities to fight the terrorist threats,” he added. … Rohling emphasized that he has seen no intelligence to indicate that COVID is helping terrorists, but it is hurting America’s efforts to degrade terrorist groups in Africa. “I wouldn’t say that COVID has made it 100% easier for them because they’re affected by COVID as well,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything that says that COVID is giving them free rein.” Washington Examiner



Photo: Adam Jones