Africa Media Review for October 1, 2020

US Lawmakers: Democratic Institutions Backsliding in Sub-Saharan Africa
U.S. lawmakers convened a hearing Wednesday in Washington on what they said was an erosion of democratic institutions in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and its impact on the region’s economic growth as well as access to health and education resources. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa are retreating from core democratic principles, said Representative Karen Bass, chair of the House subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations. “Democratic backsliding includes but is not limited to the degradation of free and fair elections, infringement of freedom of speech, impairment of political opposition to challenge the government or hold it accountable [and] the weakening of the rule of law.” Bass said flawed elections remained an issue in most of Africa, with leaders manipulating laws, freedoms and elections to retain power. VOA

US Defense Chief Visits North Africa, World War II Cemetery
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with Tunisia’s president Wednesday, kicking off a North African tour amid growing concern about lawlessness in Libya. Esper is expected to travel to Algeria on Thursday and Morocco on Friday, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. It is his first trip to Africa as defense secretary. Esper met with Tunisian President Kaïs Saied and Tunisian Defense Minister Brahim Bartagi. He then visited the American military cemetery in Carthage to pay respects to the more than 6,500 U.S. soldiers killed or missing in action in the region during World War II, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission. … That meeting concluded with the signing of a “roadmap” tracing out bilateral military cooperation in the decade ahead, a statement from Tunisia’s defense ministry said. The accord focuses on improving operational capacities of the Tunisian army. AP

Libyan Rivals Conclude Talks on Key Security and Military Issues
The discussions in Egypt, which ended on Tuesday, were marked by “a spirit of responsibility, transparency and mutual trust,” UNSMIL said in a statement issued that day. “They addressed a number of pressing security and military issues, including confidence-building measures; security arrangements in an area to be defined at a later stage within the framework of the 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC) talks; in addition to tasks and responsibilities of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG).” The 5+5 JMC talks began earlier this year in Geneva, bringing together five senior officers from each side. The talks in Hurghada ended with a series of recommendations which will be presented to its members. The parties urged the 5+5 JMC to swiftly resume face-to-face meetings starting next week, while all people detained on account of their identity or origin should be released “without pre-conditions or restrictions”. Additionally, a prisoner exchange should occur before the end of October. UN News

Sudanese Women Keep Pushing for Democracy
Sudanese women helped organize the protests that resulted in the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 after three decades of iron-fisted rule. After his removal and the creation of a new transitional government, women are playing a prominent role in Sudan’s politics. A woman has been appointed a chief justice — the first, not only in Sudan but in the entire Arab world. An unprecedented four women were appointed to cabinet positions in the new government, including the country’s first female minister of foreign affairs, Asma Mohamed Abdalla. But women are still marching to amend the laws and restore the rights taken from them under the strict Islamic code enforced by Bashir’s government. The Sudanese Professionals Association, or SPA, was one of the key groups behind the demonstrations that led to Bashir’s ouster. Samahir Elmubarak, who heads the SPA’s pharmacist’s association, remains active in politics. … VOA

Shadowy Militia Sows Fear in C. Africa Ahead of Vote
Major Ashif is tense as he watches from the turret of his armoured vehicle as the muddy road in front of him slowly unwinds. His is the lead vehicle in a UN escort shepherding a convoy through northwest Central African Republic (CAR), one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries — and the thick undergrowth on either side of the road is perfect for an ambush. And, in line with the CAR’s tortured history, those likely to carry out any attack are members of an armed group that has signed up to a peace deal. The militia calls itself the 3R, from the words in French meaning “Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation.” … But with presidential and legislative elections looming on December 27, the army and the UN force MINUSCA that supports the beleaguered government are bracing for a possible flareup. In June, MINUSCA carried out a wide-ranging operation to root out 3R rebels from bases in the northwest. Several hundred militiamen scattered into the bush, where they have continued to mount attacks on the security forces and carry out ransom kidnappings of traders. AFP

10 Years after UN Report Exposes Grave Crimes on Congo
Ten year ago, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published the report of its human rights mapping exercise on Congo. The report covers the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in the country between March 1993 and June 2003. This unprecedented investigation was intended to put an end to more than a decade of impunity. Reportedly, more than 4 million Congolese died as a direct or indirect result of the conflicts, more than 40,000 girls and women were victims of sexual violence and around three million people were displaced. But none of the crimes have been brought to trial, an account that has been strongly denounced by the Congolese citizens, such as Dr Denis Mukwege, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Africa News with AFP

Sierra Leone Anti-Graft Body Summons Ex-president Koroma for Questioning
Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption body has summoned former president Ernest Bai Koroma for questioning under oath over allegations of graft while in office, it said on Wednesday. The summons by the anti-graft commission is the latest move in a campaign by Koroma’s successor, President Julius Maada Bio, to call to account the previous administration that Maada Bio says took the country to the brink of economic collapse. It concerns alleged wrongdoing in connection with mining, construction and procurement contracts, and follows an order on Tuesday to bar Koroma and 111 officials from leaving the country after a judge-led inquiry alleged that they illicitly enriched themselves during his 2007-2018 tenure. Reuters

South Africa: Justice Department Hit by a Costly Cyberattack
Absa bank and the department of justice are investigating the theft of R10-million stolen in a daring hack of the Guardian’s Fund’s accounts in the Pietermaritzburg master of the court offices. The Mail & Guardian has learned that the department, together with Absa, is scrambling to try to recover the stolen funds. This is after they learned of the hack late last week. It is not clear exactly when the money was taken, but well-placed sources say it was siphoned off in 11 transactions. The breach is believed to have emanated on Absa’s side, the sources said. Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola’s spokesperson, Crispin Phiri, said: “Unauthorised transactions may have been attempted on the Guardian’s Fund. At this stage, it is not clear whether this unauthorised attempt was the work of a cyberattack. The department has opened a case with the South African Police Service (SAPS). Mail & Guardian

French High Court Oks Extradition of Rwanda Genocide Suspect
France’s highest court on Wednesday gave the green light for Rwandan genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga to be extradited to a special international court in Tanzania, rejecting his appeal. Kabuga, one of the most wanted fugitives in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arrested outside Paris in May after 25 years on the run. He is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for equipping militias that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them. Kabuga has denied involvement in the massacre. In June, a French appeals court ordered Kabuga, 87, to be turned over to the U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which had sought his arrest since 2013. AP

Ethiopia Readies to Launch Second Satellite, Plans for 10 More by 2035
In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican, the Director-General of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI), Dr Solomon Belay, said that the country’s second satellite will be launched on December 20, 2020, from China’s Taiyuan Spacecraft Launch Site. … The satellite, according to Dr Solomon, has improved resolution features that would enable it to capture and send high-quality images to its command centre in Addis Ababa. “The major mission of the second satellite is on flood and disaster prediction,” he said, adding that “agriculture and environment are also its secondary missions.” … Ethiopia is among several African countries that have built and launched satellites to advance economic development and scientific innovation in line with the African Union policy on space development adopted in 2017. The EastAfrican

Tanzania’s Opposition Leader on Reggae, Resistance and His Own Resurrection
In the rare moments when Tundu Lissu takes a break from running his presidential campaign – the vote is just a month away – he plays Bob Marley in his study and starts to dance. When he talks about it, in an interview, he can’t help but sing along. “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.” The 52-year-old opposition leader is a diehard fan. On his bookshelf are biographies of Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. He plays reggae music in his car on the way to campaign events, and the distinctive beats accompany him whenever he strides on to the stage to address the increasingly large crowds at Chadema party rallies. It’s not just the music that he loves, but what it represents. Reggae is inspirational, Lissu says, and it tackles themes that are more urgent than ever: mercy, equality, social justice, and the struggle against dictatorship. This is a struggle with which Lissu is intimately familiar, and he has the scars to prove it. Mail & Guardian

Nigeria Turns 60: Hope despite Anger over Corruption, Poverty
It was just after midnight in Lagos, on a horse-racing track turned square, when Nigeria’s new white and green flag was hoisted officially for the first time, replacing Britain’s Union Jack. Several hours later, on the morning of October 1, 1960, a representative of Queen Elizabeth II handed Nigeria’s constitution over to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the country’s new prime minister. “It was celebrations all over the place,” said Tanko Yakasi, 93, who attended a party that afternoon hosted by the soon-to-be-former governor-general, James Wilson Robertson. “There were high expectations and the [Nigerian] political class really believed that they would be able to change the fortune of the country for the better.” Nigeria became a republic three years later, with Nnamdi Azikiwe assuming the role of the president. Large oil reserves discovered in 1956 had brought hopes of wealth and fortune to many. AFP

Nigeria’s Independence: Six Images from Six Decades
As Nigeria prepares to celebrate its independence anniversary, the BBC’s Nduka Orjinmo selects six images, one from each decade, that represent watershed moments in the country’s 60 years of self-rule. … After decades of British colonial rule, Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa took on the reins of power and led independent Nigeria’s new coalition government. The celebrations lasted for weeks in some parts of the country and for those present at the Race Course (now Tafawa Balewa Square) in Obalende, Lagos, on 1 October 1960, it was an unforgettable experience. “Just before the stroke of midnight, they switched off the lights and lowered the British Union Jack,” Ben Iruemiobe, then a bright-eyed 16-year-old student who witnessed the raising of the Nigerian flag, told the BBC. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones