Africa Media Review for October 16, 2020

Two West African Presidents Are Out of Terms. They’re Running Again, Anyway.
One president is 82. The other is 78. They’ve both held power for a decade, the maximum their constitutions allow. But they’re still running this month for fiercely contested third terms. Alpha Condé, the leader of Guinea, and Alassane Ouattara, the head of Ivory Coast, are vying to extend their tenures on Oct. 18 and 31, respectively, setting off pre-election protests that have already left dozens dead across their countries. The tension is soaring at a fragile moment for West Africa. A coup d’etat in neighboring Mali brought Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s second term to a dramatic end in August, raising concerns about a power vacancy as the nation struggles to fend off fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Guinea and Ivory Coast are also vulnerable to attacks, analysts say. … Healthy democracies are less likely to endure violent fractures, researchers say: Nine of the 10 nations facing civil conflicts on the continent are those without term limits, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. The Washington Post

Guinea’s President, 82, Seeks to Prolong Rule in Sunday Vote
Guinean President Alpha Conde, 82, is seeking a third term in office Sunday, insisting his attempt to prolong his rule does not make him a dictator even as opposition protesters slam his candidacy as an illegal power grab. … Already the International Criminal Court at The Hague has said it is “deeply concerned” about the mounting tensions. “These recurring episodes of election-related violence are deplorable,” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said. “I particularly condemn the use of inflammatory rhetoric by some political actors during their electoral campaign, leading to growing ethnic tensions among the people of Guinea,” she added. In recent days, opposition supporters have clashed with ruling party activists in northern Guinea, leaving dozens injured. And Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana’s procession was pelted with rocks while visiting another opposition stronghold. … Diallo, the opposition candidate, is urging the international community to monitor Sunday’s vote, accusing the government of rigging the electoral lists. AP

Leading Challengers in Ivory Coast Presidential Election Say They Will Boycott Vote
Two leading challengers to Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara say they are boycotting this month’s election and are urging their supporters to block the election. Thursday’s announcement by former president Henri Konan Bedie and former premier Pascal Affi N’Guessan is the latest rejection of Quattara’s bid to seek a third term in the Oct. 31 poll. Affi N’Guessan said he and Bedie are inviting their “supporters across the country to block this electoral coup d’état that President Ouattara is preparing to commit, to prevent the holding of all operations connected to the election and to apply the call for a boycott by all legal means at their disposal to convince the powers in place to convene the country’s political forces so as to find an acceptable solution.” … The boycott means Quattara’s only opposition is Independent candidate Kouadio Konan Bertin. VOA

20 Dead in Jihadist Attacks in Northern Burkina Faso
Jihadists have killed around 20 people in attacks in three villages in northern Burkina Faso, the epicenter of a five-year-old jihadist insurgency, government officials said on Thursday. The attacks took place on Wednesday in the villages of Demniol, Bombofa, and Peteguerse in Seno province, government spokesman Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said in a statement. “The provisional count of these attacks perpetrated in markets and villages shows about 20 victims, as well as wounded and missing persons,” he said. Regional governor Salfo Kabore confirmed the attack in another statement. … Earlier this month 25 civilians, most of them people displaced by jihadist violence, were killed in an ambush in the central-north of the country, according to the UN’s refugee agency. The Defense Post with AFP

Mali: Rights Groups Concerned after Jihadists Released in Prisoner Swap
Rights groups are voicing concerns over the release of 200 jihadist militants in a recent prisoner exchange in Mali. The militants were freed by the government earlier this month in exchange for the release of four people, including a French aid worker, two Italian nationals and a prominent Malian opposition leader, who had been held captive by an al-Qaida-affiliated group in northern Mali. While local rights groups have welcomed last week’s release of the four individuals, they also believe that freeing a large number of “presumed terrorists” could pose a further threat to Mali’s stability and undermine the country’s judicial system. This release “means that the fundamental rights of those murdered by jihadists in Mali have been violated, while (their relatives) were waiting for justice to take its course,” said Aguibou Bouare, president of the National Human Rights Commission in Mali. VOA

Protesters March on Nigerian Parliament after Army Threatens to Step In
Hundreds of protesters marched Thursday to the gates of Nigeria’s parliament, hours after the army said it was ready to step in and restore order after more than a week of demonstrations against police brutality. The protest defied a ban on mass rallies in the capital, Abuja, that the government said was imposed earlier Thursday to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Chanting crowds also blocked roads and waved flags and banners in the commercial hub Lagos, where protesters reported clashing with unidentified men wielding weapons. Video on social media appeared to show men coming out of a bus and chasing protesters, though Reuters could not verify the footage. “We have suffered enough. We youths want to stand — no more brutality,” one demonstrator, Obinna Paul, said in another part of the city where crowds blocked a toll gate funneling traffic to and from the main airport. Reuters

Libya: EU Targets Putin Ally Accused of US Poll Interference
The European Union on Thursday slapped sanctions on a Russian tycoon, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin and is accused of interfering in a U.S. election, for helping undermine the security of Libya and breaking the U.N. arms embargo on the conflict-torn north African country. The EU said it imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Yevgeny Prigozhin, accusing him of being “engaged in and providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Libya, including through violations of the UN arms embargo.” It said the Russian businessman has “close links, including financially, to the private military company Wagner Group. In this way, Prigozhin is engaged in and providing support for Wagner Group’s activities in Libya, which threaten the country’s peace, stability and security.” The EU accuses the Wagner Group of “multiple and repeated breaches of the arms embargo.” AP

Zambia Opposition Leader Jailed for Forgery
The Lusaka Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday jailed outspoken opposition leader Chishimba Kambwili for forgery. Mr Chishimba, leader of opposition the National Democratic Congress, was a member of the governing party, but fell out of favour and became critical of the incumbent Lungu regime before being fired as Information minister. His forgery charges are deemed politically motivated as he was only arrested after the falling-out with the Patriotic Front. … The conviction is a major setback to his presidential bid. Opposition members have complained of the narrowing of democratic space, especially for those critical of the regime. They claim the government is using state institutions to intimidate them ahead of the August 2021 General-Election in which the incumbent is controversially seeking a third term. The EastAfrican

Pressure Grows on Zimbabwe to Free Detained Student Leader
A campaign focusing on the detention of 22-year-old Takudzwa Ngadziore, who has been held for 30 days in a remand prison, is gaining momentum in Zimbabwe, putting pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to release the student. Ngadziore, president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu), was arrested and jailed last month for protesting outside a car hire company, Impala Car Rental. The company has been under pressure from campaigners to release details of the alleged use of one of their vehicles in the suspected abduction of another student activist, Tawanda Muchehiwa. Muchehiwa was snatched in July by suspected state agents in Bulawayo and was tortured for three days. His abduction appeared to have been caught on CCTV. … The arrest of Ngadziore is the latest in a series of actions against opposition figures in Zimbabwe. The Guardian

Foreign Lawyers for ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Say They Have Been Denied Access to Him
Foreign lawyers of Paul Rusesabagina, depicted as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, say they have been stopped from seeing their client who is under detention in the central African country. … Attorneys Vincent Lurquin and Philippe Larochelle said in an online press conference their efforts to talk to their client during a recent visit to Rwanda had been frustrated by authorities. Larochelle said both had tried unsuccessfully to get required clearance from the head of the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA), Julien Kavaruganda, to be allowed to see their client. After spending 16 days in the country looking for Kavaruganda, Larochelle said he “was nowhere to be found and I was never able to meet Rusesabagina during my stay in Rwanda.” Larochelle said he went to the prison and tried to speak to his client and was blocked by authorities there. Reuters

Africa’s Largest Dam Powers Dreams of Prosperity in Ethiopia — and Fears of Hunger in Egypt
A colossal dam is near completion on Ethiopia’s stretch of the Nile, a project so large that it promises to set the country on a path to industrialization that could lift tens of millions out of poverty. Downstream in Egypt, where the Nile meets the sea, a starkly different picture emerges: The dam is a giant, menacing barrier that could be used to hold back the source of nearly all the country’s water. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has stoked intense nationalistic fervor in both Ethiopia and Egypt. Ethiopians see building the dam as a fundamental right, one that could bring electricity to the more than half of Ethiopians who don’t have access at home. Egyptians see their fate potentially falling into foreign hands. The Washington Post

Anger Rising in Sudan as Desperate Needs of Flood Victims Go Unmet
The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns Sudan’s fragile political stability could be at risk if the desperate needs of hundreds of thousands of flood victims are not urgently addressed. Severe floods have affected nearly 900,000 Sudanese, reportedly killing more than 120, rendering thousands of families homeless, and destroying farmlands and livelihoods. Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain has just returned from a four-day assessment mission to Sudan. He said the impact of the worst floods in three decades is far beyond anything he had expected. “I visited an area called Algamayer on the outskirts of Khartoum. Homes, infrastructure and crops have been destroyed,” Chapagain said. “The conditions are simply appalling. It is boiling hot — more than 40 degrees, and there is no shade. The camp we visited is surrounded by stagnant water, and mosquitoes are rife.” VOA

Virus Fears as Mozambique Conflict Fuels Overcrowding, Hunger
Three months ago, Sofia Bombina and her family of 11 had to flee their home on the Mozambique coast after their town was attacked by a militant group. The 39-year-old farmer, her nine children and her sister travelled nearly 400km (250 miles) by bus from Mocimboa da Praia to Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, where they now live with a host family. Bombina is among the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced since an insurgency erupted in the northern province three years ago. Most of those escaping the ongoing conflict are finding shelter with family or strangers in areas further south, putting a burden on the host families and leading to overcrowding that raises the risk of spreading COVID-19, say aid groups. … The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) says more than 300,000 people have been forced to leave Cabo Delgado to escape the violence. Reuters

New Report Challenges Narrative about African Migration
Portrayals of migration flows in Africa are often misconstrued and mischaracterized, according to a major new report from the African Union and International Organization for Migration. Among other things, the report says most African immigrants are crossing land borders in the continent, not trying to sail across seas and oceans on rickety boats. Experts say those false perceptions have a detrimental impact on policies, whereby most of the money goes to deterring people from traveling north across the Mediterranean rather than focusing on the 80 percent of Africans who have no interest in leaving the continent when they migrate. … Maureen Achieng, the International Organization for Migration’s chief of mission to Ethiopia, who authored the report, spoke to VOA in an interview. “In the case of Africa, the false narrative is that all Africans are trying to get across the Mediterranean to Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. VOA

Angola Says Stolen Assets Worth More Than $24 Billion Estimate
Angolan authorities are likely to unearth far more looting than the current estimate of $24 billion as they deepen their probe into funds that went missing during the previous regime, President Joao Lourenco said on Thursday. “New things are being uncovered,” Lourenco said in a state-of-the-nation speech on Thursday. “It’s very likely that much bigger numbers will be announced later. This figure alone exceeds the value of Angola’s debt to its main creditor,” he said, referring to China. Lourenco, a former defense minister, has vowed to crack down on corruption since he took the helm of Africa’s second-biggest oil producer from Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in 2017. Among the targets are his children, daughter Isabel and son Jose Filomeno. Bloomberg

South Africa Extends Relief Grants to Help Poor Amid Virus
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Thursday that his government will extend relief grants to 6 million of the country’s unemployed who have been hurt by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Ramaphosa, delivering an economic recovery plan to parliament, also announced more than $5.9 billion for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years to stimulate the economy and create jobs, many of which were lost during the country’s strict lockdown. … “Studies have shown that these grants were vital in reducing the impact of the pandemic on levels of poverty and hunger,” said Ramaphosa. South Africa has lost up to 2.2 million jobs in the second quarter of the year, taking the unemployment rate to a record high of 42%, according to official statistics released last month. AP

Fires on Slopes of Kilimanjaro Threaten a Diverse Ecosystem
As fires swept up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, for the fifth day on Thursday, hundreds of volunteers from local villages joined firefighters racing to stop a blaze threatening to ravage one of the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. The fires, which first started to burn at a rest stop for climbers, have been raging for five days with dry grass and strong winds hampering efforts to bring the flames under control. “This devastating fire is cutting through the most prestigious natural space in the whole of Tanzania,” Padili Mikomangwa, an environmentalist based in the port city of Dar es Salaam, said in a telephone interview. “The nation at large is following this seriously and shocked.” … Helicopters were set to be deployed on Thursday for the first time to help stop the fires. The New York Times

Economist Shakes up Guinea’s Male-Dominated Leadership Race
It’s rare for women to run for president in Guinea, where the last two elections were dominated by the same men who are vying for the presidency on Sunday. That hasn’t stopped Makalé Traoré, 59, from trying to persuade voters to back her campaign, which has won praise locally for its clear policy proposals to reduce the uneven distribution of wealth in a country with some of the world’s largest iron-ore and bauxite reserves. “I bring a credible governance program to the table,” Traoré said in an interview. “Women have held important positions throughout our country’s history and the fact that I’m a woman –- a competent woman — is not an obstacle for voters.” While Africa has a greater proportion of females on company boards than all other regions, women remain grossly underrepresented in politics. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones