Africa Media Review for October 7, 2020

West African Regional Bloc Lifts Sanctions against Mali
West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS lifted sanctions against Mali on Tuesday after the prime minister announced the rest of the transitional government positions nearly two months after a military coup. … ECOWAS also called on the transitional authorities to release all remaining detainees arrested since the Aug. 18 coup, when democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was forced to resign after the junta surrounded his home and fired shots into the air. The regional bloc had insisted that the transitional government be headed by civilians, though junta leader Col. Assimi Goita is staying on as vice president. On Monday, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane announced the government of 25 ministers, four of them military officials. Those positions are the ministries of defense, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation. Armed movements from the north that signed the 2015 peace agreement have entered the government for the first time with two ministerial portfolios. AP

Relatives: French Woman, Mali Politician Freed by Jihadists
Relatives of a prominent Malian politician and a French aid worker held hostage by Islamic extremists said late Tuesday that both had been freed and would soon be on their way to the capital, Bamako. An official with Soumaila Cisse’s political party told The Associated Press that the parliament member’s relatives had been informed of his release along with that of aid worker Sophie Petronin. … There was no independent confirmation in the remote northern town of Tessalit where the pair were reportedly freed in exchange for nearly 200 jihadists who had been in Malian government custody. There was no immediate comment from the French or Malian governments, though relatives of both the hostages had arrived in Bamako earlier Tuesday by plane from Paris. News of Cisse’s reported release led groups of his young supporters to shout “Soumaila! Soumaila!” in the streets of Bamako while other thronged the airport in anticipation of his arrival. AP

Turkey and UAE Openly Flouting UN Arms Embargo to Fuel War in Libya
Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are carrying out regular and increasingly blatant violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya, fuelling a proxy war that is evading political solutions, a joint investigation by the Guardian has found. Flight data and satellite images show both nations using large-scale military cargo planes to funnel in goods and fighters to forces or proxies inside Libya, routinely violating the 2011 UN arms embargo despite political promises to abstain. In the nine-year conflict, Turkey has backed the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli with troops and weapons, while the UAE has bolstered opposing forces in eastern Libya led by General Khalifa Haftar. … Satellite footage shows a rapid build-up of cargo capacity at Sidi Barrani airbase beginning in late 2019. The military airbases on Egypt’s border with Libya are key to UAE efforts to support Haftar’s Libyan National Army. The Guardian

DR Congo’s Fragile Detente ‘Could Yet Unravel,’ Security Council Warned
Planning for a drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is well underway, but much work still remains to be done to put the country firmly on the path to long-term stability and sustainable development, the Security Council heard today. Leila Zerrougui, Head of the UN’s Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), urged Council members to continue to support its efforts to help the Congolese government and people maintain the gains made since its establishment in 2010. Discussing the political situation, she said that in the peaceful transfer of power following the 2018 elections, the political class accepts…the opportunities offered by the ruling coalition between the Cap pour le Changement (CACH) and the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC). However… there is a risk that politicking and positioning ahead of elections in 2023 will overshadow the governance reforms and stabilization measures… UN News

UN Human Rights Council Welcomes Progress in Sudan
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva welcomes the progress Sudan has made recently. It unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday to end the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan. In his report to the Human Rights Council Independent Expert Aristide Nononsi called on Sudan to ratify international human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention Against Torture. The permanent representative of Sudan to the UN agency in Geneva, Ambassador Ali bin Abi Talib, commented that “the unanimous adoption of this resolution reflects that the international community welcomes the positive developments in Sudan with regard to the promotion of and respect for human rights in Sudan.” “At the same time it reflects the support of the international community for the efforts made by the government to achieve peace and stability throughout the country,” he added. Radio Dabanga

Six Remaining Detained Sudanese Artists Released
All six FEED Arts members that were still held in prison in Omdurman have been released yesterday. The release was based on a request to annul their sentence submitted by the defence. 11 FEED Arts members were charged on August 10 with endangering public safety and creating public disturbance by protesting when a policeman took photos of the women artists in the group and chanting in a police cell. The FEED Arts group was rehearsing for a theatrical performance in El Zohour in central Khartoum, leading neighbours to file a complaint with the police, which they later withdrew. … On October 1, the first five members of the group were released after the Court of Appeal annulled the sentence. They started an ‘artistic sit-in’ in front of the Omdurman Women’s Prison on Monday. Resistance Committees active in in Omdurman organised ceremonial events when the remaining six prisoners were released yesterday. Radio Dabanga

Enough Evidence to Try S. Sudan Forces over Starvation Tactics: UN Probe
South Sudan’s government forces and other armed groups have deliberately starved civilians, UN investigators said Tuesday, adding there should be enough evidence to try Juba’s forces for “crimes against humanity.” In a fresh report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found that both South Sudan government forces and opposition fighters intentionally starved civilians during the country’s civil war “as a method of warfare.” … “It is quite clear that both government and opposition forces have deliberately used the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare… sometimes as an instrument to punish non-aligning communities,” commission chair Yasmin Sooka said in a statement. AFP

Ethiopian Parliament Votes to Cut Ties with Tigray Region Leaders
Ethiopian lawmakers have ruled that federal officials should cut off contact with leaders of the northern Tigray region, which defied Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month by holding elections his government deemed “illegal.” The decision, announced late on Tuesday by the House of Federation, the upper house of parliament, furthers the breakdown in relations between Abiy and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopian politics before Abiy came to power in 2018 and is still in command in Tigray. … The statement noted that the federal government would continue to work with local institutions in Tigray to provide “basic services” to the region…. Ethiopia was due to hold national elections in August, but the country’s poll body ruled in March that all voting would need to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. … Tigrayan leaders have rejected the extension of political mandates – which before the pandemic were due to expire this week – contending Abiy is no longer a legitimate ruler. AFP

Tanzania Police Block Opposition Leader Lissu in Nine-Hour Standoff
Tanzanian opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu was blocked by police on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam on Tuesday for nine hours, according to Chadema party officials, less than three weeks before the presidential election. … NEC has banned Lissu from campaigning until 10 October. NEC has historically been partisan, but this recent ban shows how the current government under President John Magufuli has taken their power to the extreme, says Thabit Jacob, a political researcher based at the Danish Institute for International Development. Ruling party “Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has total control of the electoral machinery, and the sitting president has control of the electoral commission—it’s supposed to be independent, but it’s not,” says Jacob. … Observers indicate that the police have been out in force to impede the opposition since Chadema resurrected the party with the return of Lissu from exile after an assassination attempt on his life in 2017. RFI

Burundi Seeks Extradition of Rebels from Rwanda
Burundi wants 19 combatants who were arrested in Rwanda deported, a demand that could test the fragile relations between the two neighbours. Rwanda says the Burundian combatants, who identified themselves as members of the Red Tabara – an armed rebel group – were apprehended in Nyungwe Forest on September 29. According to the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), the incident was reported to the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a regional conflict monitoring team under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), to investigate the occurrence. On Sunday, Burundi released a statement demanding the extradition of the “group of armed bandits,” claiming the militants use Rwanda as a hiding base to commit crimes in Burundi. … Rwanda and Burundi have over the years traded accusations related to supporting rebels opposed to their governments. The EastAfrican

Kenyan Court Finds Two Men Guilty for Role in 2013 Shopping Mall Attack: Magistrate
A Kenyan court on Wednesday found two men guilty of helping al Qaeda-linked militants launch a 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping mall, the nation’s only trial related to the deadliest Islamist attack since the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing. A third man who also faced charges under the country’s terrorism prevention act was acquitted on all charges. The judgment comes more than seven years after gunmen from the Somali militant group al Shabaab massacred at least 67 people inside the Westgate shopping mall, seen at the time as symbol of the East African nation’s growing prosperity. Reuters

Displaced Nigerians Face Jihadist Attacks after Returning Home
Authorities in volatile northeastern Nigeria have been encouraging thousands of people displaced by jihadist violence to return home, even as bloody attacks persist. On September 27, hundreds of people came back to Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad in Borno state, six years after it was seized by Boko Haram. Their return came shortly after the convoy of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum was ambushed by the IS-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) while he was making an assessment of the area. Thirty security personnel and civilians were killed. … Like many officials before him, Zulum has insisted that the displaced “must return” to rebuild their homes and live a “dignified” life. Since 2018, people have returned to five major towns where they typically live behind a defensive line of trenches to fend off jihadists. But attacks have persisted… AFP

Outcry in Nigeria over Footage of Shooting by Notorious Police Unit
Graphic footage showing officers from Nigeria’s “Sars” police unit dragging two men from a hotel in Lagos and shooting one of them in the street has sparked mass fury across the country and fuelled long-held demands for reform. … The video has sparked a deluge of footage and stories posted on to social media alleging recent atrocities and brutality by the notorious Sars unit, long accused of rampant abuses. … On Sunday, Nigeria’s inspector of police, Mohammed Adamu, banned Sars and other “tactical” police units focused on armed crimes from stop and searches, from setting up roadblocks and said officers would always be uniformed. … However, a history of unmet promises for change has fuelled cynicism in Nigeria and a sense that the armed police units are beyond reproach. In 2018 Nigeria’s police chief ordered a re-organisation of Sars after similar public outrage after alleged abuses. The Guardian

Surrounded by War, Burkinabe Civilians Have Votes Taken Away
oters in Burkina Faso are due to head to the polls next month to select the country’s president, in the second general election since a popular uprising in 2014 overthrew longtime ruler Blaise Compaore. But not everyone will be able to cast their ballots. Wracked by a worsening conflict pitting government forces and international troops against various armed groups linked to ISIL and al-Qaeda, the country’s government ruled it unsafe for registration to take place in 17.4 percent of its electoral communes. As a result, more than 400,000 people were unable to register for the November 22 vote. … “I think the government could have done a lot more to avoid being in this situation in the first place,” Alex Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and an expert on the Sahel, told Al Jazeera. “Curtailing security force abuses would have helped. But, now that the insecurity is so bad, they have limited options vis-a-vis the elections.” Al Jazeera

Coronavirus in Senegal: Keeping COVID-19 at Bay
Despite only having seven doctors for every 100,000 people, Senegal has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC’s Mayeni Jones and Naomi Scherbel-Ball look at how the country has managed to keep Covid-19 in check. … A global Covid-19 response index by Foreign Policy magazine gave Senegal the highest possible score for its communication strategy – and top musicians too joined the effort to inform people. In April they clubbed together to release Daan Corona, meaning “Defeat coronavirus” in the local Wolof language. The song features famous Senegalese musician Youssou Ndour calling on people to stay at home and wash their hands. There are also colourful murals on the walls of Senegal’s oldest university calling on students to share the right coronavirus prevention techniques with their classmates, rather than sharing coronavirus. … Today all of Senegal’s 14 regions are equipped to treat coronavirus patients and there are now just 26 patients remaining on ventilators across Senegal. BBC

The Pilgrimage Must Go on: Senegal Holds Festival That Could Draw Millions
All roads to the holy city of Touba were bumper-to-bumper. Buses packed with pilgrims inched along, their roofs piled high with foam mattresses. Tollbooth attendants smiled in greeting and held out ungloved hands for change, all day long. Many people wore masks. Many did not. Huge throngs of people traveled in recent days to Touba, 120 miles east of Senegal’s capital of Dakar, for West Africa’s largest religious gathering — the Magal — which commemorates the exile of a Muslim spiritual leader. It is expected to be one of the biggest events to be held anywhere in the world since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. … One of the beauties of the Magal, in normal years, is its emphasis on community and hospitality. Pilgrims do not book hotel rooms: Touba’s residents open up their homes and travelers bed down, many to each room. Lunch and dinner, in the Senegalese tradition, are usually eaten off a communal plate. The New York Times