Africa Media Review for October 15, 2020

European Union Agrees to Help Mozambique Tackle Insurgency: Statement
The European Union has granted Mozambique’s request for assistance in tackling a wave of attacks in the country’s north by rebels with links to Islamic State, the EU delegation in the southern African country said. Militant attacks in Cabo Delgado province date to 2017 but the violence has gathered pace this year, with insurgents seizing important towns for brief periods and hitting military and other key targets. Mozambique wrote to the EU in September to ask for help in training its armed forces to battle the insurgency. The EU delegation statement said the bloc would grant Mozambique’s request for help with “logistics for training and technical training in several and specific areas, as well as assistance in addressing humanitarian challenges, including medical services” dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Reuters

Somali Soldiers Killed in Al-Shabab Attack near Mogadishu
At least 13 Somali troops have been killed by the al-Shabab armed group near the district of Afgoye, northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, a military official has said. For more than 10 years, the group has been fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and establish its own government based on its strict interpretation of Islamic law. “We left Afgoye district and attacked al-Shabab in the farms outside Afgoye,” Major Mohamed Ali told the Reuters news agency, describing Wednesday’s incident in the district about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Mogadishu. “We killed four militants and chased al Shabab,” Ali said late on Wednesday. “Most of the military came back and we left two dozen soldiers there. Then, this evening, al-Shabab attacked our few soldiers and killed 13.” Al Jazeera

Uganda Police Raid Offices of Presidential Hopeful Bobi Wine
Armed police on Wednesday “besieged” the campaign headquarters of Bobi Wine, a pop star and politician who is seeking Uganda’s presidency in elections set for 2021, an opposition figure said. Police confiscated items such as security cameras and supplies of red berets that are symbols of Wine’s popular campaign, David Lewis Rubongoya, an official with Wine’s party who is at the scene in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, told The Associated Press. “They have taken away everything,” he said. Wine, a legislator whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was meeting with other leaders of his National Unity Platform party when the police swooped in and cordoned off the area, he said. … Museveni, 76, has ruled Uganda since taking power by force in 1986. Critics accuse him of relying on the armed forces to stay in power. He is able to seek another term after the legislature voted to remove constitutional age limits on the presidency. AP

S. Sudan Government, Rebels Agree to Work Towards Ceasefire
South Sudan’s government and National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels agreed on Wednesday to a meeting between their military commanders, while falling short of committing to an existing ceasefire. Instead, the two groups meeting in Rome pledged to work “towards” the ceasefire signed in January, which has failed to bring calm to the war-torn region. Talks between government envoy Barnaba Marial Benjamin and NAS leader Thomas Cirillo Swaka took place in Rome under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic association with ties to the Vatican that has been working to restore stability to South Sudan, where a civil war has been fought since December 2013. AFP

Nigerian Army Offers to Back Civil Authorities Amid Protests
Nigeria’s army said it’s prepared to help the authorities maintain law and order, amid ongoing protests against police brutality that have left at least 10 people dead. “The Nigerian Army is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively,” spokesman Colonel Sagir Musa said in an emailed statement Thursday. It warned “all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts as it remains highly committed to defend the country and her democracy at all cost.” The statement signals a potential escalation in the standoff between protesters and the government of Africa’s biggest oil-producing nation. While most previous protests in Nigeria have been quashed by the security forces, this time round the government has prohibited the use of force against marchers, ordered the release of all arrested participants and disbanded the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Bloomberg

UN Envoy Outlines Progress Towards Cooperation in Africa’s Great Lakes Region
Even as they confront the COVID-19 pandemic, countries in Africa’s Great Lakes Region continue to improve political, security and economic cooperation in line with a 2013 Framework agreement, UN Special Envoy Huang Xia told the Security Council on Tuesday. … Mr. Xia, who spoke in French, last briefed the Council in April. He reported that over the past few months, the situation in the region has remained stable with encouraging progress. … “I also welcome the fact that the countries of the region are using diplomatic means and regional mechanisms to resolve their differences, as can be seen in the solving of the border dispute between DRC and Zambia,” he continued. “The commitment of Rwanda and Uganda to pursue the process of normalizing their relations through the good offices of Angola and DRC is another positive example of this.” However, Mr. Xia voiced concern over ongoing instability in the eastern DRC, where armed groups “continue to be the cause of intolerable human suffering.” He called for stepped up action from the Council. UN News

Pirate Kidnappings off West African Coast Rise 40%, Study Shows
The number of kidnappings reported off the West African coast in the year through September is 40% higher than the same period in 2019, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea contributed to a total of 132 global attacks in the first nine months of 2020, up from 119 in the prior period, the IMB said in a report Wednesday. Out of 85 sailors taken for ransom around the world, 80 were seized off the coast of Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana, it said. Incidents on vessels in West African waters have been rising in recent years, with attacks targeting crew rather than the ship or its cargo. The region has overtaken southeast Asia as the worst area for piracy and kidnappings, driving up insurance premiums for shippers. Bloomberg

Libya’s Tripoli Government Says It Holds UN-Sanctioned Alleged People Smuggler
Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has detained Abdalrahman al-Milad, a coastguard commander sanctioned by the United Nations for alleged human trafficking and migrant smuggling, its interior ministry said on Wednesday. The ministry said it had detained Milad at the request of the U.N. Security Council and that it had referred the case to the public prosecutor to take legal measures against him. Milad heads a coastguard unit in Zawiya, just west of Tripoli, and was one of six people sanctioned by the U.N. for involvement in people trafficking or smuggling in Libya two years ago. Reuters

In Algeria, a New Constitution Protesters Did Not Call For
A referendum on a new constitution hailed by authorities as marking the beginning of a new era in Algeria is reviving tensions, with opposition leaders and activists denouncing the vote as a ploy to further entrench the ruling elite’s hold on power. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has since his election in December presented the flagship initiative, set to be put to a vote on November 1, as the best guarantee against a slide towards authoritarianism, saying the charter would lead to a strong parliament capable of counterweighing the head of state’s hitherto unchecked powers. … Though heads of state are still limited to two consecutive or separate terms in office under the new constitution, it is the charter’s claim of enforcing the principle of separation of powers that is drawing the most criticism. If approved, Tebboune would continue to enjoy much the same prerogatives as his predecessors, with the president still able to name and remove a sitting prime minister. Al Jazeera

G20 Agrees to Additional 6-Month Debt Suspension for Poor Nations
The Group of 20 nations, representing the world’s biggest economies, have agreed to extend the suspension of debt payments by an additional six months to support the most vulnerable countries in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The G-20 says the extension will provide ongoing relief for the $14bn in debt payments that would have come due at the end of the year otherwise. Wednesday’s decision gives developing nations until the end of June 2021 to focus spending on health care and emergency stimulus programs rather than debt repayments. … Some critics have also complained that China objected to portions of the debt relief plans that have been advanced. “It is unfortunate that the pressing need for broader debt relief for poor countries is being stymied by the apparent recalcitrance of China, which has become a major creditor,” said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University and a former head of the IMF’s China division. AP

Zambia Warns It Is Preparing for Default
Zambia has warned it is ready to become the first African country to default as a result of the coronavirus pandemic if investors in its $3bn worth of US dollar bonds reject a request by the southern African nation to suspend payments. Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, which is attempting to restructure its $12bn of external debt, has become a crucial test of global efforts to help emerging nations find debt relief as the pandemic devastates their economies. … Creditors’ reluctance to accept the suspension in part stems from concerns that not all creditors are being treated equally. Chinese debts total about $3bn. Some Chinese creditors have pressured Zambia to pay their share of about $200m in arrears on its Chinese debts before they agree to suspend future payments, a demand that Lusaka is resisting. Holders of the US dollar bonds have complained that Zambia, which is also seeking an IMF programme, has not disclosed enough information about the Chinese debts and its wider plans to rein in public finances. FT

Why Africa’s Animation Scene Is Booming
Nigerian animator Ridwan Moshood was so determined to learn how to make cartoons, he spent hours in internet cafés in Lagos, watching YouTube lessons and taking notes. “I would go to a cyber café, watch video tutorials and write down whatever I’d learnt,” he says. Today, the 26-year-old is a rising star in Africa’s blossoming animation scene. Two years ago, he was recognised by the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab for his animation Garbage Boy and Trash Can. … He has since formed a production company and he’s now hoping to have his latest idea, a cartoon set in Lagos, called In My Hood, commissioned into a series. Surprisingly, Ridwan Moshood’s journey into animation, is not particularly unique. “All over the continent we hear these stories,” says Nick Wilson, the founder of the African Animation Network, who is based in Johannesburg. BBC

In Pictures: ‘We Need to Live’: Young Nigerians on Why They Are Protesting
For a week now, people across Nigeria have united their voices to protest against police brutality and demand justice for victims. Mobilised through social media, the youth-led rallies in several parts of the country initially targeted the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious police unit long accused of harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killings. After days of demonstrations, authorities on Sunday announced the scrapping of SARS and the redeployment of its officers to other police units. However, the announcement fell short of expectations for many protesters, who have since pledged to continue fighting for accountability, an end to police violence and a complete overhaul of the security apparatus. Al Jazeera met protesters from all walks of life in the streets of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Here is what they had to say… Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones