Africa Media Review for November 9, 2020

Concern of Outright War in Ethiopia Grows as PM Presses Military Offensive
Ethiopia’s prime minister stepped up a military offensive in the northern region of Tigray on Sunday with air strikes as part of what he called a “law enforcement operation,” increasing fears of outright civil war in Africa’s second-most populous country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has defied calls from the United Nations and allies in the region to negotiate with leaders in Tigray, home of the ethnic group that dominated the federal government before he took power in 2018. Abiy last week launched a military campaign in the province, saying forces loyal to leaders there had attacked a military base and attempted to steal equipment. … Also on Sunday, Abiy named a new chief of the army, a new intelligence chief and a new federal police commissioner and foreign minister, changes that analysts said brought close allies into top posts as the conflict escalates. Reuters

Ethiopia: Reports of Heavy Casualties in Fighting in Tigray
Heavy casualties have been reported in ongoing clashes between the Ethiopian army and troops loyal to the ruling party of the restive northern province of Tigray. At least six people were killed and 60 people wounded in one location along the Tigray border alone, Doctors Without Borders said on Saturday, and a medical official said nearly 100 government soldiers had been treated for gunshot wounds at a hospital in the northern Amhara region. … Abiy and military leaders have touted Ethiopian soldiers’ successes, but a communications blackout in the region has made their accounts difficult to verify. Both sides have access to heavy weapons, armour and considerable stocks of ammunition. … The UN has warned of a major humanitarian crisis if as many as 9 million people flee all-out fighting or Tigray remains largely cut off from the world. The Guardian

Ivory Coast Authorities Arrest Top Opposition Figure
Authorities in Ivory Coast have arrested opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan as part of a growing crackdown on those who challenged the president’s re-election to a third term, opposition party officials said Saturday. … The arrest comes after authorities detained a top-ranking official from another opposition party, Maurice Kakou Guikahue of PDCI. The opposition has referred to President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election to a third term as an “electoral coup d’etat.” … N’Guessan and the other top opposition candidate, Henri Konan Bedie, boycotted the vote and said shortly afterward they considered Ouattara’s mandate to be finished. The government called the declaration “an act of sedition.” On Friday, public prosecutor Adou Richard said N’Guessan would be prosecuted on charges of terrorism and attacking state authority and that authorities were also seeking another opposition figure, Albert Toikeusse Mabri. AP

Libya’s Rivals Start UN-Led Talks to Reach Political Accord
Libya’s rival factions began much-awaited political peace talks in Tunisia’s capital on Monday brokered by the United Nations, with a goal of drawing a roadmap to presidential and parliamentary elections. The U.N. selected 75 delegates from Libya to take part in the six-day forum in a Tunis hotel, aimed at ending the political chaos that engulfed the North African nation after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Tunisian President Kais Said attended the talks’ opening ceremony, calling the forum “historic by all measures.” Said added the U.N. efforts aim to set “clear measures and specific dates” to reach “a peaceful solution” in Libya’s conflict. Said called on those who will lead the transitional period to refrain from running in the next presidential or parliamentary elections. AP

Seventeen Bodies Unearthed in Libyan Mass Graves
Seventeen bodies have been unearthed in newly found mass graves in western Libya’s Tarhuna region, taking the total exhumed in recent months to 112, the missing persons authority said Saturday. Lotfi Tawfiq, who heads a committee tasked by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord to search for missing people, said five new mass graves containing 17 bodies had been discovered since Thursday. The graves are located in Tarhuna, from where eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces launched an aborted assault last year on the capital Tripoli, seat of the GNA. The area, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Tripoli, served as the main staging point for Haftar’s failed offensive. The presence of mass graves in Tarhuna was first reported after the withdrawal of Haftar’s forces from western Libya in June. AFP

Algeria Eyes Cross-Border Missions as Fear of Militant Spillover Grows
Algeria approved constitutional amendments on Sunday that experts call an ambitious move to answer public demands after months of protests and to safeguard its borders against violent extremism spillover from Libya and other troubled neighbors. Since its independence from France in 1962, the North African country’s constitution has stipulated that the army’s mission is to defend Algeria’s borders and sovereignty without breaching other nations’ sovereignty. That changed in the Nov. 1 referendum when articles 28 and 29 of the constitution where amended to allow cross-border operations upon the approval of two-thirds of its parliament and under the supervision of the Arab League, the African Union and the United Nations. VOA

French Minister Darmanin Thanks Algeria for ‘Cooperation’ against Extremism
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Sunday praised his country’s “cooperation” with Algeria against extremism, during a visit to France’s North African former colony. His visit came after a string of deadly jihadist attacks in France. Darmanin arrived in the capital Algiers on Saturday after a tour of several Mediterranean countries, including neighbouring Tunisia. After meeting his counterpart Kamel Beldjoud, the French interior minister thanked Algeria for “our continued cooperation, particularly on security and the struggle against terrorism.” The two men discussed the conflict in neighbouring Libya as well as clandestine migration, he told journalists. AFP

China Offers Backing to Guinea President after Disputed Election
China on Monday offered its backing to Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, congratulating him on his re-election despite accusations from the opposition of fraud during the vote in the major bauxite producer. “China and Guinea are good friends,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing. … China has mining interests in Guinea in iron ore and bauxite, used for making steel and aluminium respectively. China is the top world producer of both metals. Guinea’s top court on Saturday confirmed Conde’s victory in last month’s election, rejecting accusations of fraud and handing him a third term his opponents said is unconstitutional. China agreed in 2017 to loan Guinea $20 billion over nearly 20 years in exchange for concessions on bauxite which the West African country has in abundance. Reuters

Tanzania Ex-MP Flees to Kenya as Tundu Lissu Holed up in German Embassy
A Tanzanian ex-MP has fled to Kenya with his family to escape what he terms as threats to his life, as opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who is seeking refuge in the German embassy, called for non-recognition of the country’s recent polls. Godbless Lema, the former MP for Arusha Urban Constituency, fled by road with his wife and three children. He was received at the Namanga border by his lawyer, George Luchiri Wajackoyah, who said the politician will seek asylum in Kenya. … Mr Lema was arrested by Tanzanian authorities together with other politicians in the aftermath of the October 28 elections, but was later released on a police bond without a charge. … Freeman Mbowe, chairman of Tanzania’s biggest opposition party, Chadema, was arrested alongside Mr Lema and former mayor of Ubungo Municipality, Boniface Jacob, in a crackdown intended to neuter demonstrations called to protest against alleged poll irregularities. The Nation

Tanzanian Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu: ‘My Life Is Not Safe’
The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition Chadema party Tundu Lissu has told DW that he fears for his life after losing a highly controversial election that observers say effectively turned the East African country into a one-party state.  … Lissu was also briefly detained by police earlier this week after calling for a national protest. Speaking from the residence of German ambassador Regine Hess in Dar es Salaam, where the presidential candidate fled on Monday, Lissu said he had been pursued by Tanzanian police officers and that an order to kill him had already been issued. DW

Nigeria: Like a Military Junta, Buhari Govt Goes after #EndSARS Protesters
The Nigerian government is currently deploying different strategies to punish those who played key roles in the nationwide protests against police brutality and poor governance in the country. The new development, which involves freezing of bank accounts, confiscation of travel documents, and gestapo-like arrests, has been likened by many Nigerians to what happened when the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, was the military head of state between 1984 and 1985. The move is also contrary to the administration’s endorsement of dialogue as the best approach to addressing the protesters’ call for justice and good governance. The government echoed this choice when the protests peaked and spiraled across many states. The government had promised to constructively engage the protesters in dialogue towards finding lasting solutions to some of the issues they raised. Premium Times

Canary Islands Sees 1,600 Migrants Arrive over Weekend
More than 1,600 African migrants have been rescued at sea or reached Spain’s Canary Islands over the weekend, Spanish emergency services said. About 1,000 arrived on Saturday alone, setting out on about 20 barely seaworthy boats. One person was flown to hospital by helicopter. There has been a sharp increase in the number of migrants from West Africa attempting to reach the Canary Islands in recent months. The island chain is just 100km (60 miles) off the coast of North Africa. According to the Spanish government, more than 11,000 arrivals have been recorded in the Canary Islands this year compared with 2,557 during the same period last year. BBC

South Sudan: Two Journalists Remain in Detention in Juba
Two journalists, Zechariah Makuach Maror and Jackson Ochaya remain in detention in separate facilities, the Juba main prison and the National Security Service headquarters in Juba, for ‘criminal defamation’ and for writing a news story about illegal gold mining by an armed group respectively. The chairperson of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), Mary Ajith, told Radio Tamazuj on Friday it was indeed true that the two journalists are still detained but they are working with the South Sudan government’s Media Authority to release them. … The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide and the right of journalists, on Thursday demanded the immediate unconditional release of the duo and asked the South Sudan government to halt all acts of intimidation against the press. Radio Tamazuj

Egypt Plans Railway Lines Extending to Libya, Sudan
Egypt’s transport minister Sunday announced proposals to construct a railway line to reach the Sudanese city of Wadi Halfa, and to extend a line in the north to Libya’s Benghazi. The announcement came as part of Egyptian government efforts to overhaul the country’s transport system, including an ailing railway network with a poor safety record. The government decided on “a number rail transport projects that could be carried out in cooperation with investors,” Transport Minister Kamel al-Wazir told a news conference in Cairo. They include “building an Aswan-Toshka railway line that will extend to the city of Wadi Halfa in Sudan,” he said, referring to locations in Egypt’s south and a city just across the border. He also said there were plans to extend the Marsa Matrouh-Salloum line, in Egypt’s northwest, to reach the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. AFP

A Famed Fig Tree’s Days Are Numbered as a New Highway Plows Through
“Not all trees have the same status,” said Peter Kiarie Njoroge, an elder in the Kikuyu tribe, which regards fig trees as the “house of God,” and the abode of their ancestors. This one, he said, craning his neck to peer up at the giant leaves, is “like a guard post.” But the famed tree’s days are numbered. It is standing in the path of a four-lane, 17-mile highway now being built through the city of Nairobi. Government authorities say they will take it down — and though they have promised to relocate and transplant it, experts say that may be impossible for such a hulking specimen. Construction vehicles were already stationed nearby on a recent afternoon, and workers said they were preparing to get started any day. This tree has now become the most visible symbol of growing public opposition to the massive new highway — the Nairobi Expressway — for reasons ranging from environmental to economic to aesthetic. The New York Times

Millions at Risk in Sahel, Each One with a Story to Tell
Some 13 million people in the central Sahel region of north Africa require urgent humanitarian assistance, due to violence, insecurity and extreme weather events. Behind these stark figures lie personal stories of tragedy, resilience and hope. “We fled because of the ongoing conflict. A lot of people have been wounded. Five of my family members, including my nephew, were killed. We were afraid of reprisals, so we came here.” Fighting in the town of Tessit, in Mali, forced Abdou Salam Djibril from his home. He is now living in a tent in the informal camp of Bagoundié, some eight kilometres from the town of Gao. He says that those in the camp, including a large number of children, are living on a poor diet, and are getting sick. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has collected the stories of Mr. Djibril and others struggling to cope in a region seeing one of the world’s fastest growing humanitarian emergencies. UN News

Mogadishu Radio Group Seeks to Tell a Better Somalia Story
In 2011, Mogadishu’s media scene was mostly about the BBC World Somali Service, rivaled by Voice of America’s similar service in Somali language. Al-Shabaab controlled most towns and word of mouth, the traditional Somali cultural media, was restricted to folklore, not politics as the militant group forbade most talk about politics. Bar Kulan Radio, the UN-funded station was the only local radio station in Mogadishu with sufficient resources to gather enough news for the community. … Then came Radio Dalsan. In Somalia, communities often love radio, making it the most powerful medium of communication, according to an InterNews Report. But Hassan Gesey, Director of the Dalsan Media Group, told the Nation says the absence of a local radio made the narrative uncontrollable. “We wanted to focus on human interest stories; the positive things that Somalis do, which no one was reporting about,” Gesey said. The Nation



Photo: Adam Jones