Africa Media Review for November 6, 2020

Ethiopia Conflict Escalates as Army Sends More Troops to Tigray Region
Ethiopia’s dispute with the northern Tigray region escalated Thursday with reports of heavy shelling and the army’s deputy chief declaring that the country had entered into “an unexpected war” and was sending more troops to the area. The intensifying conflict drew an urgent international response, with the United Nations dispatching a special envoy to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and the International Crisis Group warning that the conflict could spread beyond Ethiopia’s borders. … A statement attributed to the regional government on Tigray TV claimed government fighter jets had bombed the outskirts of the region’s capital, Mekele, but those reports could not be confirmed. Communications, including Internet and phone connections, were cut in the region this week. The Washington Post

Why Did Ethiopia’s Leader Launch a War on the Tigray Region?
Ethiopia edged to the brink of civil war this week after Abiy Ahmed, its Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, ordered a military offensive against the government of the country’s northern Tigray region. The military operation, which began on Wednesday and escalated on Thursday, came after Mr. Abiy accused the region’s ruling party of attacking a government defense post and attempting to steal artillery and military equipment. A long-simmering feud between the federal government and the powerful faction in control of Tigray has been barreling toward such a violent confrontation in recent months. The conflict comes as Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, faces mounting economic and social challenges amid a volatile democratic transition. Here’s a look at why the Tigray issue became a flash point in Ethiopia, and what the situation there means for the broader region. The New York Times

Elite European Anti-Jihadist Force Takes First Steps in Sahel
Inside a military base in northern Mali, a concrete bollard emblazoned with French, Estonian and Swedish flags marks a zone reserved for a new anti-jihadist unit of elite European troops. Dubbed Task Force Takuba, the new joint deployment marks a coup for France, which has sought partners in its long fight against Islamist militants in Africa’s vast Sahel region. French troops first deployed to Mali in 2013 after a jihadist insurgency broke out in the country the previous year. … At the base in the city of Gao, about a dozen French and Estonian soldiers from Takuba sit under an awning, surrounded by storage containers and light military vehicles. They discuss their first mission: A sweep operation conducted in the lawless Mali-Burkina Faso border region last month, alongside local troops and French regulars. Despite their different backgrounds, the polyglot force had little trouble working together. “For our unit, it’s the first time we work with the French,” said an Estonian soldier. “So far there is no problem of interoperability.” AFP

The 26-Year-Long Search for Africa’s Most Wanted Man
It was January 2003 and US special agent Scott Gallo had not heard from his Kenyan informant for more than 24 hours. He was anxious. The informant, a 27-year-old journalist turned government fixer named William Munuhe, had approached the US embassy in Nairobi some weeks prior offering information about one of Africa’s most wanted men. Félicien Kabuga, a Rwandan businessman accused of organising, financing and directing the Rwandan genocide nine years earlier, was living in Kenya, protected by certain members of the government, the informant said. Not only had he seen the fugitive, but he had been working for him, helping a small group of Kenyan security officials move him from safe house to safe house. FT Magazine

Two South Sudan Aid Groups Suspend Operations after Workers Killed
Two aid groups have suspended operations in parts of eastern South Sudan after gunmen killed two of their workers late last week. The suspensions will make matters worse for thousands of citizens displaced by widespread flooding in Jonglei state. Annette Hearns, deputy head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Juba, said the killings not only affected aid delivery to vulnerable people but caused more suffering for the families of the deceased. “We condemn this type of behavior. Our colleagues, South Sudanese citizens who are giving their ultimate sacrifice, these people are attempting to support children who are malnourished, the new mothers and help them receive the support they need to live,” Hearns told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. VOA

Cameroon Teachers, Students Abandon Schools after Attacks
Authorities in Cameroon say schools in rebel areas that reopened for the first time in four years are again being abandoned due to lack of security. Separatist forces are blamed for recent attacks that killed at least six teachers and seven schoolchildren. In a video shared on Cameroon social media, seven armed rebels order teachers at the Kulu Memorial College in the southwestern town of Limbe to strip naked. Teachers and students are shown crying for help as the teachers are humiliated then ordered to close the school and to leave. Cameroon authorities confirmed the school on Wednesday was attacked. … The governor of Cameroon’s Northwest region, Deben Tchoffo, says about 20 of the schools that reopened in October have closed once again. And he admits several thousand students and teachers at other schools in the region are too scared to attend, despite added troops, which the governor called a “special security device.” VOA

Cameroon’s Paul Biya Marks 38 Years in Power, but His Political Problems Just Won’t Go Away
Paul Biya will clock 38 years as president of Cameroon tomorrow, November 6, maintaining his position as Africa’s second longest-ruling leader. He is only beaten by Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, who has been in power for nearly 41 years. 87-year-old Biya first rose to Cameroon’s top seat on November 6, 1982 when a large number of the country’s 26.5 million citizens were not yet born. He inherited a country of 9.2 million people from Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president. … The current mandate ends in 2025, at which point Biya will be 92-years-old, a year younger than former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he was ousted from power. … This time, however, Central Africa’s economic giant is beset with several challenges threatening peace and the president’s grip on power. The Nation

Burkina Faso President Launches Campaign for Second Term
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore launched his re-election campaign on Thursday, promising “peace” in a country undermined by jihadist attacks over the past five years. Speaking to a crowd of 25,000 at a stadium in the country’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, Kabore promised to “lead the fight until we have peace and victory for our people.” He unveiled a programme for a second term in office focused on “securing the national territory,” and acknowledged the “major social upheavals” the country has faced. “I come to ask for five more years so that together we work for the security, stability, peace and resilience of the Burkinabe people,” he said. Twelve other candidates will compete at the November 22 vote in the impoverished Sahel nation, which is grappling with an insurgency and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. AFP

Fracas as Protesting Zimbabwean Journalist Appears in Court
Shouting and commotion disrupted Zimbabwe’s normally staid Magistrates Court Thursday when investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was ordered to spend a third night in detention after a magistrate said she could only hear his case on contempt of court charges on Friday. “Are you not embarrassed? You have no shame!” a handcuffed Chin’ono shouted as police led him into the courtroom. Police with batons later tried to disperse journalists from the courtroom, but proceedings resumed after the reporters refused to leave. Chin’ono has been in police custody since Tuesday. His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that he should be freed when he appeared in court Thursday, arguing that police had detained the journalist for more than the prescribed 48 hours. Magistrate Gofa Marehwanazvo said she would determine the matter Friday. In the meantime, the journalist will spend the night in prison. AP

Facebook Removes ‘Inauthentic’ Networks Spanning 8 Nations
Facebook on Friday said it has dismantled seven separate networks of fake accounts and pages on its platform that were active in Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Myanmar, Georgia, and Ukraine due to “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” … Many of the networks taken down by Facebook were involved in deceptive political influence campaigns using fake accounts, targeting audiences both domestically and abroad. One network of Facebook accounts and pages was operated from Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco by individuals connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist movement that operates networks of groups across the Middle East. The pages targeted countries across the region and included some terrorism-related content, Facebook said. Reuters

Tanzania: Internet Slowdown Comes at a High Cost
Tanzania’s internet and social media have been disrupted for more than a week, at great cost to the economy and free speech. The slowdown started just before Tanzania’s presidential elections. … NetBlocks, an internet services watchdog, has reported “widespread disruption” to internet services in Tanzania as well as restrictions to popular social media applications, like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube. … An official with Tanzania’s communications regulator confirmed to DW that the internet shutdown had been sanctioned by the government of President John Magufuli, who was sworn in for a second term on Thursday. … Analysts say the impact of the communications slowdown has been immense. Tanzania has more than 2 million internet users and many of these, especially young people, can’t earn money without the internet. … Since Magufuli came to power five years ago, Tanzania has passed a raft of laws that muzzle the media and stifle free speech, analysts say. DW

Shipping Camels to China Is Goal of Sudan’s $140 Million Port
A Chinese-built port for shipping livestock from Sudan’s Red Sea coast will be completed by year-end, the latest African component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a Sudanese company official said. Constructed by China Harbour Engineering Co. and located in Haidob, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Port Sudan, the facility is being primed to help transport cattle, camels and sheep for mainly Asian markets, according to the state-run Sea Ports Corp.’s general director, Onour Mohamed Adam. Livestock exports are a potential growth area for economically ravaged Sudan, which has invested a total of 120 million euros ($142 million) in the port, Adam said in an interview. … Sudan, where long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year amid mass protests, has also earmarked $300 million for a 10-year plan to develop Port Sudan’s facilities, Adam said. Sudan’s state-run Military Industry Corp. will perform the work. Bloomberg

Kenya Launches Human Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine
About forty volunteers, mostly front-line health workers are participating in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in Kenya. The trial phase of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is being conducted by the KEMRI-Welcome Trust Research program based in Kilifi. KEMRI’s Dr. Samuel Sang said researchers are trying to determine if the vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is safe for Kenyans. “Vaccines which have been found to work and are safe in one population [may not] work across populations,” Sang said. Therefore, he said, there’s a need to assess whether the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is safe and works among the Kenyan volunteers. VOA

Doctor’s Self-Funded Test Lab Leads Way in Somalia’s COVID Fight
Having scraped money together following medical studies abroad, Somali doctor Abdullahi Sheikdon Dini opened Mogadishu’s first advanced diagnostic laboratory in January. Its arrival could hardly have been better timed because, just two months later, the coronavirus epidemic reached the Horn of Africa country. Since then Medipark Diagnostics, which he runs with five other doctors who pooled $1 million to buy equipment, has become a linchpin of the country’s creaking, donor-supported health infrastructure. Hospitals in the battle-scarred city that once had to wait weeks for blood test results now use the lab to test for conditions including HIV and hepatitis. But, as the Somali government has acknowledged, it is in the fight against COVID-19 that Medipark has made its most visible mark. Reuters

Small Things Worth Preserving – LagosPhoto20’s Home Museum
This year the Lagos photo festival examines the ramifications of restitution through the Home Museum. An open call in May asked people to submit images of objects important to them and their home, resulting in more than 200 submissions [Photos]. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones