Africa Media Review for October 5, 2020

Sudan, Rebel Leaders Seal Peace Deal in Effort to End Wars
Sudan’s transitional authorities and a rebel alliance signed on Saturday a peace deal initialed in August that aims to put an end to the country’s decades-long civil wars, in a televised ceremony marking the agreement. “The next biggest challenge is to work with all local and international partners to preach the agreement and its benefits,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tweeted on Friday upon his arrival at Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Reaching a negotiated settlement with rebels in Sudan’s far-flung provinces has been a crucial goal for the transitional government, which assumed power after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Sudanese civilian leaders hope the deal will allow them to revive the country’s battered economy by slashing military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. AP

Mali Releases 180 Jihadists in Likely Prisoner Exchange
Malian authorities have released 180 Islamic extremists from a prison in the capital and flown them to the country’s north, an official confirmed late Sunday, fueling speculation that a prominent opposition politician held by jihadists could soon be freed after more than six months in captivity. The militants who abducted Soumaila Cisse back in late March were believed to be seeking a prisoner exchange with the Malian government. Some 70 men were released on Saturday and another 110 on Sunday, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. There was no immediate comment late Sunday from Mali’s transitional government, which was only recently put in place more than a month after the country’s democratically elected president was ousted in a military coup. … Little is known about Cisse’s conditions in captivity after the initial abduction… AP

US Signs 10-Year Military Cooperation Deal with Morocco
The United States and Morocco on Friday signed an accord that aims to strengthen military cooperation and the North African kingdom’s military readiness over the next decade. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed the 10-year agreement during a two-day visit to Morocco, his last stop on a tour of three North African nations, which began this week in Tunisia, where a military accord also was signed. He also visited Algeria, the first U.S. defense secretary to meet with leaders there since 2006. He held a meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and the army chief, Gen. Saïd Chengriha. No deals were known to be signed there, but the U.S. defense secretary reportedly discussed expanding security cooperation and security issues in the Sahel region just south of Algeria. The U.S. counts Algeria as a major ally in the fight against terrorism. Morocco is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. AP

Gunshots and Tear Gas Fail to Deter Tanzanian Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu
As he campaigns across Tanzania as the candidate of Chadema, the largest opposition party, Mr. Lissu has attracted huge crowds of supporters. But he also attracts a barrage of harassment tactics from the authorities – including tear gas by the police to break up his rallies. Videos on social media on Sept. 28 showed Mr. Lissu giving water to tear-gassed supporters to help them wash the spray from their eyes. … On Friday, the NEC ordered him to suspend his campaign for seven days, alleging that he had uttered “seditious comments” at a campaign rally – although Mr. Lissu said he was never served with any charges or given an opportunity to respond to them. “This banning of Lissu is part and parcel of the ongoing measures that prevent opposition groups from operating freely,” said Ugandan law professor Frederick Ssempebwa, chairperson of Tanzania Elections Watch, an independent African monitoring group, in a statement posted online by the group. The Globe and Mail

DR Congo Militia Fighting Kills 11 in Ituri Province despite Peace Deal
Fighting between DR Congo’s regular army and a militia force has claimed 11 lives and breached a peace deal in the conflict-plagued northeast of the country, according to UN sources. In the violence overnight Wednesday, three soldiers, six militia fighters, and two civilians were killed in Ituri province, the UN Radio Okapi reported. “Ten people were seriously wounded, among them six militia members and four soldiers,” the report said late Thursday. The Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), one of many rebel movements active in eastern DR Congo, signed a peace accord with the government on February 28 this year, in the presence of the United Nations. … Under the deal, the militia members — several hundred men — have since been confined to their quarters awaiting their transfer to the armed forces (FARDC). The overnight battle is believed to have broken out when FARDC soldiers opened fire to disperse FRPI fighters who attempted to attack a military command post. The Defense Post

UN Expert: Somalia Backtracking on Human Rights Commitments
A U.N. human rights investigator is expressing concern about possible regression by Somali authorities from their adherence to international human rights law. The concerns are amplified in a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N.’s independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia. IIsha Dyfan was appointed independent expert on Somalia in March, during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping her from going there. … “There have been reports of attacks against health care and aid workers, excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies resulting in the death of civilians, violations of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and an increase in sexual and gender-based violence and forced evictions during the pandemic,” she said. VOA

Nigeria Special Police Unit Reined in after Abuse Allegations
Nigeria’s top police chief has banned a controversial anti-robbery unit and other special agents from carrying out stop-and-search operations and mounting roadblocks over accusations of abuses. Muhammed Adamu, inspector general of police (IGP) said in a statement on Sunday the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other tactical squads must stop such operations, including traffic checks, “with immediate effect.” He added that police officers must no longer work in plain-clothes but always appear in their uniform or approved tactical gear. “The IGP’s directives come against the backdrop of findings by the leadership of the Force that a few personnel of the Tactical Squads hide under these guises to perpetrate all forms of illegality,” the statement said … Calls have grown in recent months for the police investigation branch to be shut down over accusations of unlawful arrests, torture and even murder of suspects. Al Jazeera

Separatist Fighting Continues in Cameroon a Year after Major National Dialogue
October 4 marks a year since Cameroon held its Major National Dialogue to solve the Anglophone separatist crisis that has killed at least 3,000 people in four years. Cameroonians and some participants at the dialogue say that fighting has continued unabated and that most parts of the English-speaking regions are ungovernable, an indication the event was a failure, but the government maintains it was successful. Eric Tataw, a U.S.-based Anglophone activist says the National Dialogue organized by Cameroon president Paul Biya a year ago to solve the separatist crisis has failed woefully. … [Former Cameroonian Prime Minister Philemon] Yang said among the achievements of the dialogue was the liberation of prisoners in October 2019, the creation of assemblies of chiefs, regional assemblies and regional councils for the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions with each of the two regions having elected presidents, vice presidents, secretaries and public affairs management controllers. VOA

Tight Security, Many Arrests for Ethiopian Irreecha Festival
Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, on Saturday celebrated the annual Thanksgiving festival of Irreecha amid tight security and a significantly smaller crowd due to political tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of people were arrested ahead of the festival, some accused by authorities of plotting terror attacks and a new wave of unrest. Wearing face masks and white clothes stitched with the colors of the Oromia region’s flag, people in downtown Addis Ababa were subjected to at least six security checks complete with body searches and, in some areas, sniffer dogs. … The festival usually attracts hundreds of thousands of people, but only a few thousand were allowed to attend this year. AP

Belgium Arrests 3 Men Suspected of Involvement in Rwandan Genocide
Three men suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide were arrested in Belgium this week, according to the Belgian authorities, the latest in a series of captures linked to the 100-day blood bath in which as many as one million people were killed. A spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said that the men were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that two of the suspects remained in detention while the third was put under electronic surveillance. “The investigation is still ongoing, and the prosecutor’s office will determine whether the men should face trial,” said the spokesman, Eric Van der Sypt. The New York Times

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Denied Another Bail, Ordered to Stand Trial
A court in Kigali has denied bail to Paul Rusesabagina, the polarising hero of the movie Hotel Rwanda, ordering he remains in custody to stand trial for serious charges, including terrorism. Rusesabagina, whose actions during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide inspired the 2004 Oscar-nominated film, had been living in exile for years and became a high-profile government critic. But in August, he suddenly appeared in Kigali under arrest under murky circumstances, with his family alleging he was kidnapped abroad and brought back to Rwanda. He must answer to 13 charges including terrorism, financing and founding armed groups, murder, arson and conspiracy to involve children in armed groups. … Rusesabagina’s lawyer, Emeline Nyembo, said they would begin preparing his legal defence. Al Jazeera

Sierra Leone’s President Cracks Down on His Predecessor
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has banned more than 100 top officials from the previous administration from leaving the country by air, land or sea — including former president Ernest Bai Koroma. The former president has also been summoned to appear before the country’s anti-corruption court on Monday October 5. The former officials have been asked to repay all stolen money and return any property deemed to have been acquired through corruption. They officials are not allowed to travel outside Sierra Leone until their names are cleared or they are granted permits. Earlier, Bio pledged to fully implement findings of the three commissions of inquiry set up to investigate allegations of corruption by former government officials. In a joint report, commissions concluded that corruption was endemic in Koroma’s administration. Mail & Guardian

Eight Migrants Drown after Forced off Boat by Smugglers
At least eight migrants have drowned and 12 are missing after human smugglers forced them off a boat near Djibouti, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Another 14 migrants survived and are receiving medical care, a statement said. The migrants were all believed to be Ethiopians returning to the Horn of Africa after failing to reach Saudi Arabia via Yemen due to COVID-19 border closures. The pandemic and the conflict in Yemen have made the journey to Gulf nations more dangerous, and some migrants have turned back. … The IOM said some 2,000 migrants have arrived in Djibouti from Yemen in the past three weeks. “This tragedy is a wake-up call,” added Ndege, warning that further tragedies could occur as hundreds of migrants are leaving Yemen every day on the precarious voyage by boat across the Bab al-Mandeb strait. Al Jazeera

No More Hostages Held by Somali Pirates
Over the past five years Somali pirates took more than 3 600 people hostage in attacks on ships varying in size from tankers through to container transporters, dhows, fishing vessels and yachts. All those held captive by Somali pirates are now free the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said this week when three crew members of a Iranian registered fishing vessel were released. The three were working on FV Siraj when it was hijacked off Hobyo, Somalia in March 2015. They are now on their way home after completing COVID-19 tests and other medical checks. … Vessels are urged to continue implementing BMP5 recommended practices while transiting Horn of Africa waters. “Somali pirates are still capable of attacks,” it said in a statement. No attacks were reported off Somalia last year and in the first six month of 2020. In 2018 three vessels reported being fired on in the region. defenceWeb

The 5G “Revolution” Is Underway in Africa—but It Remains a Long Way off from Reality
To gauge the progress of 5G networks in Africa, consider this stat: 5G connections will account for only 3% of the total mobile connections on the continent by 2025. While the rest of the world races to make the technology become the standard, it is pretty clear that mass adoption of the 5G networks is not yet on the cards in Africa. In fact, the 5G networks launched by Vodacom and MTN in South Africa are the only ones in operation across sub-Saharan Africa. But even this has happened ahead of schedule with the South African government assigning temporary spectrum in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, ostensibly to boost broadband connectivity with millions working from home amid a national lockdown. Deployment remains in infancy stages elsewhere on the continent with trials conducted in Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda so far. Quartz Africa

Nigeria’s Railway People: Life Alongside a High-Speed Rail Link
A Chinese-backed railway was supposed to reinvigorate communities along its route, but residents have mixed feelings. … Poor transport infrastructure has long been a big hindrance to economic development in Nigeria. This railway line, opened by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, is the first of the country’s standard gauge railway modernisation projects, accommodating high-speed rail lines. It is part of an attempt to reinvigorate Africa’s largest economy as railways make a comeback after decades of neglect. … The new standard gauge line – the most widely-used railway track around the world for high-speed trains – connects Abuja with the former colonial capital of northern Nigeria, Kaduna, as part of the $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) unveiled by China in 2013. Al Jazeera

Egypt Unveils 59 Ancient Coffins in Major Archaeological Discovery
Egypt on Saturday put on show dozens of coffins belonging to priests and clerks from the 26th dynasty nearly 2,500 years ago, with archaeologists saying tens more were found in the vast Saqqara necropolis just days ago. The 59 coffins were discovered in August at the UNESCO world heritage site south of Cairo, buried in three 10-12 meter shafts along with 28 statues of the ancient Egyptian God Seker, one of the most important funerary deities. They belonged to priests and clerks from the 26th dynasty, said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. The Egyptian archaeological mission behind the discovery had been active since 2018 and previously unveiled a cache of mummified animals and a well-preserved tomb of a fifth dynasty royal priest called ‘Wahtye’ in the area. Reuters