Africa Media Review for October 14, 2020

Thousands of Nigerians Demand Police Overhaul for Sixth Day
Thousands of people across Nigeria have taken to the streets for a sixth straight day to protest against police brutality, keeping up the pressure in a campaign that forced the government to announce the dissolution of a notorious police unit. Last week, young people mobilising through social media began staging demonstrations calling for the abolition of the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has long been accused of unlawful arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. … On Sunday, days after angry protests, the government announced SARS was being disbanded and its officers would be redeployed to other units. … But many in Africa’s most populous nation say the announcements did not go far enough, expressing scepticism after previous pledges to improve Nigeria’s notorious police went unfulfilled. The demonstrators’ demands now appear to have widened to include calls for reforms across the country’s entire police system. Al Jazeera

UN Humanitarian Chief: Sahel Is Very Close to Tipping Point
The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that daunting problems in Africa’s Sahel region are getting worse and the region “is very close to a tipping point — and so by extension are its African neighbors, Europe, and the world.” Mark Lowcock said in a virtual speech to students at the Paris Institute for Political Science that he deals with the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies, and “nowhere scares me more than the Sahel.” He said six central Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and northeast Nigeria — are at “a true epicenter of conflict and insecurity, weak governance, chronic underdevelopment and poverty, demographic pressures, and climate change.” … On Oct. 20, Germany, Denmark, the European Union and the U.N. are sponsoring a high-level virtual conference on the Sahel not only for the pledging of funds but for making “concrete policy commitments,” he said. AP

Suspected Jihadists Kill 25 in Central Mali Attacks
Suspected Islamist militants killed 25 people including 13 soldiers in multiple attacks in central Mali, burning down an army base and ambushing troops sent as reinforcements, the army and local authorities said on Tuesday. The attacks were the deadliest since the Aug. 18 military coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and came just days after scores of jailed militants were freed by the interim government in a prisoner swap. Nine soldiers were killed in the first attack that took place overnight against a base in Sokoura near the border with Burkina Faso, an army statement said. At around 8:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) on Tuesday, another three soldiers were killed in an ambush at a bridge near the base as their unit headed to the scene of the first attack, it said. Nine militants were killed in clashes with the reinforcement unit and two of their vehicles destroyed by the air force. Reuters

Boko Haram Jihadists Kill 14 Farmers in Northeast Nigeria
Fighters from the Boko Haram jihadist group killed 14 farmers in restive northeast Nigeria, members of a government-backed militia said Tuesday. The sources told AFP that insurgents on Monday seized 15 farmers working on their irrigation fields in Ngwom village, 14 kilometers (nine miles) north of the region’s main city Maiduguri, and cut their throats. “They slaughtered the farmers, killing 14 while one survived with a deep slash. They left him for dead,” Babakura Kilo, a leader of the anti-jihadist group, said. The insurgents captured the farmers as they tended to their crops during the early afternoon, giving them no room to escape, said another member Ibrahim Liman who gave the same death toll. The Defense Post

With Elections Ahead, Some African Presidents Try Engineering Results
Presidential elections are scheduled soon in at least 10 African countries. Many incumbents are changing constitutions and bending rules to ensure they stay in power. The president of the West African nation of Guinea is running for a third term on Oct. 18, even though Guinea requires its presidents to step down after two. But because of a constitutional change he initiated, his first two terms don’t count. The president in neighboring Ivory Coast has made his first two terms disappear with a constitutional amendment, too. … Rigging outcomes on Election Day, by stuffing ballot boxes or changing vote tallies, has become more difficult in recent years, said Mathias Hounkpe, a specialist in political governance at the Open Society Initiative West Africa. Politicians are changing their tactics as a result, he said. The New York Times

Bobi Wine Accuses Ugandan President of ‘Trumped up’ Claims to Block Election Bid
Bobi Wine, the popular reggae star and prominent opposition leader in Uganda, has accused the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, of seeking to block his candidature at next year’s elections through a series of “trumped up” legal challenges and a campaign of intimidation. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said he was calling on people all over the world to “keep their eyes” on Uganda because international attention was the only way to “stop human rights abuses and impunity in Uganda today.” … The legal challenge to Wine’s leadership of the National Unity Platform (NUP) has been launched by two members who allege electoral law was not followed when the former singer was appointed earlier this year. If judges decide that rules were broken, Wine may not be able to stand in the elections. The Guardian

Cameroon Opposition Leader Still ‘Sequestered’ After UN Mission
Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto said Tuesday he remained “sequestered” at his home despite a call by UN rights experts for his release from house arrest for calling for peaceful protests against longtime ruler Paul Biya. The rights experts issued a statement on Monday calling for Kamto’s release and that of dozens of others reportedly arrested during demonstrations on September 22. Kamto is the chief opponent of President Biya, who has ruled the Central African country for 38 years. “The (police) unit outside my house is still in place, and I have received no notification whatsoever,” Kamto told AFP, adding that a police car was blocking his driveway. “Kamto’s house arrest could amount to a deprivation of liberty, in violation of his rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, as well as liberty and security of person,” the UN statement said. AFP

End Sars Protests: The Young Nigerians Who Forced the President to Back Down
Widespread protests over Nigeria’s hated Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) are a sign that the country’s massive young population is finding its voice and demanding reforms in Africa’s most populous country, which has been characterised by poor governance since its independence 60 years ago. … The majority of them are between 18 and 24 years old, have never experienced steady electricity in their lifetime, did not enjoy free education in the country and had their years at university punctuated and elongated by lecturers going on strike. The frustration with the police is a reflection of the frustration with the state in general. “What have I benefited from this country since I was born?” asked Victoria Pang, a 22-year-old graduate, who was at one of the protests in the capital, Abuja – and one of the many women who have been at the forefront of the demonstrations. “Our parents say there was a time when things were good, but we have never experienced it,” she said. BBC

Widespread Floods Devastate Large Sections of East Africa
In recent months, unpredictable, intense floods have washed across parts of Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti and Tanzania, ruining homes and livelihoods as people and governments try to battle a global pandemic. As the world battles a pandemic, large swaths of the African continent have been —literally — submerged by floods. Since March, this crisis has left more than 400 people dead in East Africa. A separate round of flooding has hit West Africa’s Sahel region. In Uganda, Catholic Relief services estimates that as many as 580,000 people are affected. … [Country direct Niek] De Goeij says heavy rainfall is normal in East Africa — what isn’t, he says, is their frequency and intensity. And, he says, the pandemic makes it harder for groups like his to respond. VOA

In Pictures: Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s Tallest Peak, on Fire
Tanzanian authorities say 500 volunteers have been trying to put out a fire on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. The flames can be seen from miles away. A statement from the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) said on Tuesday that the volunteers have managed to limit the fire’s spread. Spokesman Pascal Shelutete said the area still burning is known as Kifunika Hill, adding that the cause of the fire has yet to be established. Shelutete did not say how the fire, which has been burning for more than a day, has affected wildlife or vegetation, but he assured tourists of their safety. The mountain is popular with hikers and climbers. Al Jazeera

Eritrean Poet Amanuel Asrat Named International Writer of Courage
The Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat, who was arrested in 2001 and is believed still to be detained in a maximum security prison, has been named International Writer of Courage by Linton Kwesi Johnson. Johnson won the PEN Pinter prize earlier this year, for his “political ferocity” and “tireless scrutiny of history.” Accepting the prize last night, the Jamaican dub poet named Asrat, a poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Zemen, as the International Writer of Courage winner with whom he will share his prize. This award goes to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs, with previous recipients including the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano. … [Asrat] was arrested on 23 September 2001, along with the editors of all privately owned newspapers, as part of the Eritrean government’s campaign to silence its critics, and has not been heard from since. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones