Africa Media Review for October 23, 2020

UN Says Libyan Sides Sign Countrywide Cease-Fire Deal
The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country. After mediation this week led by U.N. envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the U.N. called an “important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya.” Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning. … “The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former U.S. State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony. “Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. AP

Ivory Coast Mulls Talks between Ouattara, Bedie before Vote
Ivory Coast’s government is considering a request for a meeting between President Alassane Ouattara and his main opponent Henri Konan Bedie after the opposition called for a boycott of Oct. 31 elections. The addition of a fifth opposition member and a vice president to the electoral commission is also being discussed, according to a statement from Minister of Territorial Administration Sidiki Diakite late Wednesday. Tensions have run high in the world’s top cocoa producer since Ouattara, who’s been in power since 2011, announced he’s seeking a third term. A ministerial delegation from the Economic Community of West African States on Monday asked the opposition to reconsider the boycott and iron out disagreements before the vote. Bloomberg

Nigeria’s President Urges End to Protests but Remains Silent on Demonstration Shooting
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday called for an end to street protests in the country, as authorities in the commercial capital Lagos struggled to enforce a curfew imposed to contain anger over a crackdown on anti-police protesters. … The unrest has become a political crisis for Buhari, a former military leader who came to power at the ballot box in 2015 and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Some protesters have said they feared a return to the dark days of military rule. Violence in Lagos, Africa’s biggest city and the commercial hub of the continent’s largest economy, has escalated since Wednesday. Groups of young men and armed police clashed in some neighbourhoods following a shooting on Tuesday night in Lekki district. … Buhari urged youths to “discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions” in a televised address to the nation that marked his first public statement since the shootings. But the president made no direct reference to the shootings, prompting criticism on social media. Reuters

UN Rights Chief Calls for Justice after Nigerian Soldiers Kill Protesters
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet strongly condemns what she says was the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Nigerian armed forces against peaceful protesters in the capital Lagos on Tuesday, and is calling for perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, told VOA that details about what happened Tuesday need to be clarified. He said questions about who ordered, who arranged and who knew about what appears to have been a planned assault, remain unanswered. “The bottom line here is – this endemic problem with security forces in Nigeria that need to be sorted out. Because what were these protests about? They were about a police force that was killing people, raping women, extorting money for years.… Now you have the army taking this heavy hand. So, now you have got a problem all across the security sector in Nigeria,” he said. VOA

Guinean Government Deploys Army to Quell Post-Election Protests
Territorial Administration Minister Bourema Conde “requisitioned the national army to maintain order in the country,” state-owned broadcaster Radio Television Guineenne reported, citing a government statement. At least nine people have died in demonstrations that erupted as the electoral commission releases tallies from Sunday’s presidential election. Conde, in power since 2010, has won 24 of the nation’s 38 districts, while opposition leader and former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo garnered 13, the commission said Thursday. … Diallo claimed on Oct. 19 that he’d won the vote, based on his campaign’s tally of results from polling stations. … Diallo said his supporters had taken to the streets to “defend his victory” while security forces surrounded his home preventing him from joining them in a video posted on social media. Guinea will hold a second round of voting on Nov. 24 if no candidate secures more than 50% of the ballot. Bloomberg

Nine Weeks of Bloodshed: How Brutal Policing of Kenya’s COVID Curfew Left 15 Dead
… In the following months, police unleashed a torrent of violence on Kenya. At least 15 people were killed by officers during the first nine weeks of curfew alone, according to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA). … “There is a pervasive culture of impunity among [police] service members who rely on systemic corruption, a lack of accountability and the limited capacity of oversight bodies to avoid justice,” says Demas Kiprono, campaign manager for safety and dignity at Amnesty International Kenya. Now, Amnesty International Kenya is one of four rights groups – along with Haki Africa, Kituo Cha Sheria and International Justice Mission Kenya (IJMK) – who are attempting to hold the police to account for the bloodshed on the streets. They have collectively launched a lawsuit against the police, calling for compensation from the government and an end to impunity for acts of violence inflicted upon the civilian population. The Guardian

Mali’s Army Liberates Village Besieged by Jihadists: Army Statement
Mali’s military has regained control of a village in the centre of the country where more than 2,000 residents have been besieged by suspected Islamist militants for two weeks, it said in a statement on Thursday. The siege began when the militants kidnapped several people in Farabougou, most of whom are of the farming Bambara ethnic group. Malian troops had been unable to reach the village by land because heavy rains have made the roads impassable, a local resident said. But a mission aided by the air force on Thursday meant that soldiers were able to penetrate the remote area, the statement said. Reuters

Little Progress on Disputed Abyei Region between Sudan and South Sudan
Despite the strengthening of the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, little progress has been made regarding the disputed Abyei region, the head of UN Peacekeeping told the Security Council on Thursday. Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed ambassadors on recent developments concerning the oil-rich border area, where the UN interim security force, UNISFA, has been deployed since 2011 to protect civilians and humanitarians. He recalled the signing earlier this month of an historic peace agreement between the Sudanese authorities and several armed groups from Darfur following a year of negotiations facilitated by South Sudan. The two neighbours have also signalled their intention to relaunch the political process to discuss the final stages of Abyei and its border areas, which Mr. Lacroix described as a positive development. … Meanwhile, the security situation in Abyei remained volatile. UN News

Amnesty Denounces Impunity for CAR Warlords
Amnesty International on Thursday denounced the impunity it says warlords who have carved up the Central African Republic and control most of the country after seven years of civil war enjoy. Many militia leaders have not been brought to justice despite the scale of human rights violations persisting two years after a Special Criminal Court (SCC) for CAR was inaugurated, Amnesty said in a new report. … “Civilians have borne the brunt of successive waves of violence and armed conflict since 2002 in CAR. Thousands have been killed, raped, and over half a million people are still displaced,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty’s west and central Africa director. “Impunity is an affront for the victims and a blank cheque for perpetrators of crimes,” she added, even if the inauguration of the SCC had provided “a glimmer of hope” for victims. Following remote interviews with judges, prosecutors, lawyers and human rights activists, Amnesty concluded the SCC must show more transparency. AFP

Libya: UN Condemns Arrest of Media Authority Chief
The United Nations on Thursday condemned the “unlawful arrest” of the head of Libya’s government media authority demanding “his immediate and unconditional release.” Mohammed Baayou, a journalist and prominent media official under the leadership of deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi, has spoken out strongly against Islamist groups as well as the many armed forces vying for control of swaths of Libya. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said Baayou, head of the Libyan Media Corporation, was arrested on Tuesday in the capital, Tripoli. … “This latest round of arbitrary arrests highlights the personal risks journalists take to promote the right to freedom of expression in Libya,” the UN statement said. “Media freedom is critical to Libya’s democratic transition,” it added. The US embassy in Tripoli also condemned “the unlawful detention” of Baayou and said it “reaffirms American support for the rule of law in Libya and the protection of journalists and all Libyans in their right to freedom of expression.”

WHO Africa: New Rapid Tests a ‘Game Changer’ against COVID
Health officials in Africa say the rollout of rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 could be a “game changer” for their fight against the coronavirus but also warned Thursday that increased testing could drive up confirmed cases on a continent that has seen them decline or plateauing as case numbers soar in the West. Some experts worry that Africa so far has lacked the ability to test widely enough, especially in hard-to-reach rural areas, and that its case counts therefore don’t reflect reality and impede tracking the virus. “African countries are gearing up to introduce antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests on a large scale, and this will be a game changer, we think, in the fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said. “These high-quality rapid tests will help meet the huge unmet need for testing in Africa.” AP

How Africa Fought the Pandemic — and What Coronavirus Has Taught the World
In a deserted wing of the African Union complex in Addis Ababa, John Nkengasong was hunched over a desk peering at numbers. It was early evening and almost everyone had gone home, disappearing into the dusty air of the Ethiopian capital. The large, drab room was one of several occupied by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a pan-African public health agency charged with bolstering health systems across the vast continent of 54 nations. Africa CDC was only three years old and Mr Nkengasong was its first director. The date was February 18, 2020. Four days earlier, Egypt had reported Africa’s first case of coronavirus when a Chinese national tested positive after flying into Cairo. So far, no further infections had been confirmed. But Mr Nkengasong, a virologist who had been working in public health for three decades, knew what was coming. FT



Photo: Adam Jones