Africa Media Review for October 31, 2019

3 Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan; Ebola Monitoring Suspended
Three aid workers with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have been killed in South Sudan, during fighting between government forces and National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels. The aid organization said Wednesday it has suspended Ebola screening activities at various locations near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, because it is too dangerous to continue operations in those areas at this time. The IOM communications officer in Juba, Liatile Putsoa, told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that one female and two male volunteer aid workers from Morobo County were caught in cross-fire Sunday between government forces and NAS rebels who were fighting in the remote village of Isebi, in Yei River state. … On Tuesday, the National Salvation Front issued a statement in which it accused government forces of attacking rebel positions in Morobo County on Oct. 27 and 28, adding that NAS forces fought back in self-defense. … SSPDF spokesperson Major General Lul Ruai Koang confirmed that clashes occurred in Morobo County on Sunday but accused NAS rebels of attacking government forces’ positions in Isebi. VOA

Sudan Drawing Down Troops in Yemen in Recent Months
Sudan has recently drawn down its forces taking part in a Saudi-led coalition at war with Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen, two senior Sudanese officials said Wednesday. … The Sudanese officials declined to disclose how many troops have left Yemen, but said “several thousand troops,” mainly from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, returned home over the past two months. The officials said Sudan isn’t quitting the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition was formed in 2015 to stem the advance of the rebels known as Houthis after they took over Yemen’s capital and the northern provinces in 2014, pushing out the internationally recognized government. The officials said Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF, agreed with Saudi Arabia that he would not replace returned forces as fighting on the ground has dwindled in recent months. They said a “few thousand troops” remain for training Yemeni government forces. AP

Facebook Suspends Fake Accounts for Meddling in 8 African Countries
Facebook on Wednesday said it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that meddled in the domestic politics of eight African countries, and were tied to a Russian businessman [Yevgeny Prigozhin] accused of interfering in past U.S. elections. … The campaigns used almost 200 fake and compromised accounts to target people in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, Facebook said. Between them, the accounts amassed more than 1 million followers. … In some of the African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to better disguise their origins and target internet users, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy. “There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.” … In Sudan, said Observatory Research Scholar Shelby Grossman, “the tone has been generally supportive of the government, but not transparently so. It does suggest the strategy is very different across countries.” Africa News

Inside the WhatsApp Hack: How an Israeli Technology Was Used to Spy
Earlier this year, Faustin Rukundo’s phone started to ring at odd times. The calls were always on WhatsApp – sometimes from a Scandinavian number, sometimes a video call – but the caller would hang-up before he could answer. When he rang back no one would pick up. Mr Rukundo, a British citizen who lives in Leeds, had reason to be suspicious. As a member of a Rwandan opposition group in exile, he has lived for several years in fear of the security services of the central African nation where he was born. In 2017, his wife, also a British national, was arrested and held for two months in Rwanda when she returned for her father’s funeral. Unidentified men in black suits have previously queried her co-workers about her route to the childcare centre where she works, he says. His own name has shown up in a widely circulated list of enemies of the government of Rwanda titled “Those who must be killed immediately.” FT

Change of Regime Leaves Burkina Faso Disillusioned
“We are working hard to ensure that the president returns immediately and triumphantly to the country,” says Mamadou Abdel Kader Traoré, who leads a movement for the comeback of Blaise Compaore. While this might be taking nostalgia a step too far, many Burkinabes feel deeply disappointed by the years that followed the uprising that ousted a 27-year-old regime, on October 30 and 31 of 2014. At the time, tens of thousands took to the streets to keep the president from changing the constitution to extend his rule. In the end, he resigned. … Compaore, who fled the country to neighboring Ivory Coast to escape an international search warrant, has seen his reputation improve with the deterioration of security and the negative impact on the economy. DW

2 Killed in Suspected Al-Shabab Attack on Kenya Police Post
Kenyan police say suspected al-Shabab extremists raided a police post during an attempt to free two suspects who ended up dead in the melee. North Eastern regional police chief Paul Soi said Wednesday there had been plans to transfer the suspects from the Dadajabula police post in Wajir county near the border with Somalia, where al-Shabab is based. A police report seen by The Associated Press says officers fled amid heavy gunfire by an unknown number of men speaking Somali. Two policemen were wounded. It is not clear who killed the suspects in custody, but police blame the extremists. Kenyan police are often accused of extrajudicial executions. AP

South African Police Use Force to Disperse Refugee Sit-In after 3 Weeks
South African police clad in riot gear on Wednesday forcibly broke up a group of refugees who had occupied a square in central Cape Town for three weeks, pleading for help in leaving a country plagued by anti-immigrant violence. Photos and videos of the raid showed police officers carrying away some of the protesters, their legs and arms dragging on the road, before the police shoved them into armored vehicles and vans. The police aimed water cannons at crowds, according to some local news reports, and some protesters accused the officers of firing rubber bullets at them, showing the welts on their bodies to journalists. The police said about 100 people were arrested after they failed to heed the call to disperse from the area they have occupied since Oct. 8. The New York Times

Nigeria’s Supreme Court Upholds President Buhari’s Election Win
Nigeria’s top court has dismissed an appeal by main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar to overturn the result of February’s presidential vote in which President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election. “We have examined all the briefs and the exhibits for over two weeks and we agree that there is no merit in this appeal,” Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad said on Wednesday following the Supreme Court’s judgement. The chief justice did not give reasons for the judgement but announced they would be released at a later date. The judgement brought an end to an eight-month bitter legal battle since February’s polls when Buhari, 76, won a second term with 56 percent of the vote. The delayed vote was marked by low turnout and saw violence across the country, with accusations of vote-rigging by both sides. Abubakar, the 72-year-old former vice president of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), came in second with 41 percent, and immediately branded the result a “sham.” Al Jazeera

Nigeria Army ID Check Operation Causes Uproar in Parliament
Nigeria’s military is set to begin systematic identity checks throughout the country from 1 November to root out suspected foreign criminal elements. MPs have protested the move, which the president has not publicly approved, saying it amounts to an undeclared state of emergency. Members of the House of Representatives passed a unanimous motion on Tuesday urging President Muhammadu Buhari to halt the so-called Operation Positive Identification (OPI), to be launched by army chief of staff, Maj. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai. During the heated debate, some lawmakers qualified the ID check operation as an indirect declaration of a state of emergency, a measure which, under Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, cannot only be applied through an act of parliament. But observers don’t expect a quick presidential directive halting the operation, saying the military could not have adopted the scheme without the approval of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces – the president. RFI

Nigeria’s Border Closures Place Further Strain on a Burdened Economy, Experts Warn
Nigeria has shut down its land borders, restricting trade and further compounding an uncertain outlook for Africa’s largest economy. Such a drastic move from one of Africa’s major players also casts doubt over the continent’s wider push toward free trade and cooperation. The closure, ostensibly aimed at stemming flows of smuggled goods such as rice and tomatoes, effectively severed trade with neighboring Benin, Niger and Cameroon only months after Nigeria signed the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which plans to establish the world’s largest free trading bloc. Underpinning the shutdown is a shift in economic policy intended to address some of the country’s domestic frailties by driving production at the expense of imports. CNBC

Côte d’Ivoire Petitions ICC to Block Gbagbo Acquittal
Côte d’Ivoire has filed an injunction at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, following the January acquittal of former president Laurent Gbagbo over charges of crimes against humanity during the 2010 post-election violence in which 3,000 people are reported to have been killed. The move underscores Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara’s intent to keep his political rival out of the 2020 elections, according to says Stephanie van den Berg, a blogger based at The Hague. Gbagbo had petitioned for the tribunal to lift travel and free speech restrictions imposed on his conditional release. But since ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda appealed the acquittal, the former president has been confined to strict bail conditions in Belgium on the grounds that he must remain accessible to the tribunal if any new incriminating evidence against him emerges. RFI

Morocco and Polisario at Odds over Disputed Western Sahara
The U.N. Security Council called for “a realistic, practicable and enduring solution” to the future of the disputed Western Sahara on Wednesday, but the pro-independence Polisario Front again demanded a U.N.-organized referendum and Morocco declared “there will be no independence.” The comments before and after the council approved a resolution extending the mandate of the U.N. mission in Western Sahara for a year reflected the huge gap between the two sides, and their growing frustration at the failure to resolve one of Africa’s longest disputes. … Omar said when the Polisario Front agreed on a cease-fire in 1990 it did so in exchange for a referendum of self-determination and “in the absence of a referendum, people, of course, will have to consider other ways to defend their rights.” He said in response to a question that the Polisario Front as “a liberation movement” has the right to defend its rights by all legitimate means so a return to armed conflict “has always been a possibility on the table.” Morocco’s U.N. Ambassador Omar Hilale said his government would respond to any renewed military action. AP

Denmark to Send Three Aircraft to the Sahel
Denmark has announced it will send a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft to Mali and two EH-101 helicopters to the Sahel as it strengthens its military contributions to the Sahel region. On 24 October, the Danish Parliament approved the Danish Government’s proposal to provide extra support to the region. The Danish Ministry of Defence said that to the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Denmark will send a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft as well as up to 65 persons for six months from mid-November 2019. The Danish aircraft will be transporting personnel and material across MINUSMA’s area of operation in Mali. Denmark will also deploy up to 10 persons to an intelligence unit within MINUSMA, whose task is to help strengthen the mission’s situational awareness and increase the security of MINUSMA forces. defenceWeb

From ‘Strength to Strength’ UN-African Union Security Partnership Growing, Security Council Hears
“The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations continues to grow from strength to strength,” Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative and Head of the UN Office to the AU told the Chamber via videolink. In introducing the Secretary-General’s annual report on the partnership, she elaborated on a various mechanisms based on the 2018 Joint UN-AU Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. Ms. Tetteh also highlighted joint field visits and consultations between the Security Council and the AU’s Peace and Security Council and noted some “major challenges” that need to be addressed, including workable funding for AU peace operations. Meanwhile, in her video briefing, AU Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed described the burgeoning cooperation between the two organizations, noting that their combined efforts have contributed to positive recent developments in Sudan, following its major political upheavals this year. UN News

2 Million on Brink of Starvation in Regional Drought in Zambia
More than two million Zambians are facing “severe” food insecurity after drought and flooding reduced harvests, the Red Cross said. Southern Africa is grappling with one of the worst droughts in decades after months of erratic rainfall and record-high temperatures. Zambia Red Cross warned the drought had left an estimated 2.3 million people facing “severe food insecurity,” up from 1.7 million a month ago. “The successive mixture of drought and flooding has been catastrophic for many communities,” said Zambia Red Cross head Kaitano Chungu in a statement. While rainfall hit a record low in southern and western Zambia, flash floods and waterlogging occurred in the north and east of the country. The Red Cross said that combination resulted in “poor harvests,” with families in the worst-affected areas surviving on wild fruit and roots – posing a serious risk to their health. AFP

WHO, Congo Eye Tighter Rules for Ebola Care over Immunity Concerns
The World Health Organization and Congolese authorities are proposing changes to how some Ebola patients are cared for, new guidelines show, after a patient’s death challenged the accepted medical theory that survivors are immune to reinfection. There are many unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of the woman’s death in Democratic Republic of Congo, which has not previously been reported. But it has raised concerns because the woman, whose name has not been released for confidentiality reasons, was thought to have had immunity after surviving infection, but fell ill again with Ebola and died. “That was a big red flag event for all of us,” said Janet Diaz, who leads the World Health Organization’s clinical management team for the epidemic in Congo. … The woman was working as a caregiver in the high-risk “red zone” of a treatment centre in Beni, eastern Congo, according to health officials familiar with her case. She was one of dozens of people assigned to care for Ebola patients because it was assumed they would not get sick as Ebola survivors, although some researchers have considered reinfection to be at least a theoretical possibility. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones