Africa Media Review for October 8, 2020

Attackers Kill 25 Displaced Civilians in Burkina Faso, UN Says
A convoy carrying dozens of displaced civilians hoping to return to their homes in central-northern Burkina Faso was ambushed by armed assailants, who then separated the men from the group and killed 25 of them, the United Nations has said. The attack late on Sunday took place some 9km (five miles) from the town of Pissila in Sanmatenga province, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday. The women and children were let go, the UNHCR said in a statement based on survivors’ testimony. One man who was left for dead also survived. … Three of the women who survived the attack told the Associated Press news agency that the assailants identified themselves as “jihadists” who said their attack was in retaliation for having volunteer defence fighters in their village. Al Jazeera

Curb ‘Dangerous’ Hate Speech, Guinea Candidates Told before Vote
Less than two weeks before Guinea’s tense presidential election, the United Nations has expressed alarm at ethnically charged hate speech rising in the lead-up to the polls, warning the situation is “extremely dangerous” and may lead to violence. In a joint statement on Wednesday, the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and Pramila Patten, the world body’s acting special adviser on the prevention of genocide, decried the “increasingly pervasive and divisive appeals to ethnic affiliations” before the October 18 vote. They also urged the candidates to “refrain from using provocative language that may lead to violence, discrimination and other human rights violations.” … The country’s 82-year-old President Alpha Conde, who is seeking a controversial third term, is largely backed by Malinke people, while his main opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) party, is largely backed by Fulani people – although both insist that they are pluralist. Al Jazeera

3 Years into Insurgency, Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Remains Vulnerable
A growing Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique entered its fourth year this week, with experts saying there is no end in sight for a conflict that has killed and displaced thousands of people. Since the first attack in 2017 by al-Shabab in the province of Cabo Delgado, militants have taken control of territory in the northern province, including a strategic port, and burned down dozens of villages. … Over the past three years, there have been at least 600 attacks across the restive province, according to the conflict monitoring group Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED). Experts say the insurgents have become more sophisticated and dangerous in their attacks in Cabo Delgado, which is rich with gas resources. “The insurgents are quickly overtaking the government’s capability to counter the offensive,” said Jasmine Opperman, an Africa analyst at ACLED. She told VOA that government security forces are “in a defensive mode. …” VOA

UN ‘Outraged’ by Attack on Food Aid Convoy in South Sudan
The U.N. World Food Program says it is “outraged” by an attack on a convoy carrying food aid in South Sudan that left one crew member missing and three with gunshot wounds. A statement says the attack occurred Monday as the WFP convoy of boats was carrying food aid to Melut and Malakal in the north to assist hundreds of thousands of people displaced by recent flooding. The missing crew member is presumed dead, the WFP statement says. It does not give details about the attackers. Country director Matthew Hollingworth called on South Sudanese authorities to hold those responsible for “this unspeakable violence.” South Sudan remains one of the world’s most dangerous places for humanitarian workers and one of the most precarious nations. Two years after the end of a civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people, roughly half the population is hungry. AP

3 Mali National Guardsmen Killed in Overnight Attack
Three national guardsmen were killed in an attack in central Mali on Tuesday night, a security official said, in the latest violence to hit the turbulent region. Unidentified gunmen ambushed the guardsmen at around 11 pm in the village of Birga-Peul near the town of Koro, by the border with Burkina Faso, the security official said on Wednesday, killing three. The militants also torched two vehicles and made off with another, added the official, who declined to be named. The Defense Post with AFP

Gunmen Kidnap 20 Villagers in Central Mali
Gunmen seized about 20 people in volatile central Mali, with nine remaining in detention Wednesday after their captors released the other hostages, local and security officials said. The kidnapping occurred on Tuesday during a weekly market in the village of Farabougou, near the central Malian town of Niono, according to Boukary Coulibaly, the village chief. A youngster was killed during the kidnapping, he said, adding that the “armed men” afterwards released some hostages, mostly women and children. “At the moment, they’re holding nine people,” Coulibaly said. AFP

Families Await Freed Hostages’ Return in Mali’s Capital
Relatives and supporters on Wednesday anxiously awaited the return of a prominent Malian politician and a French aid worker released by Islamic extremists, after families were notified of their release. Family members of Soumaila Cisse and Sophie Petronin still were awaiting details of a reunion in the capital, Bamako, nearly 24 hours after first hearing word of their freedom. The reason for the delay was not immediately known, though French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told reporters it was an “extremely sensitive” situation. Petronin’s nephew told France’s BFM-TV he had received no new information since Tuesday evening but remained upbeat: “We’re not worried, we’re calm. The latest news was that the embassy was preparing her arrival, but we don’t know the timing.” AP

Four Nations Confer on African Great Lakes Security
The presidents of four countries agreed to step up efforts to strengthen security in the African Great Lakes region in the face of armed groups and the plundering of natural resources. The talks, twice postponed because of disagreements over agenda and format, gathered the heads of Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, who spoke by video link, the Congolese president’s office said. Burundi did not take part. They agreed to “cut funding sources from the negative forces,” a joint statement said after the brief summit, in an apparent reference to militias in eastern DRC. The four also pledged to “jointly fight gang networks, regionally and internationally, which contribute to the exploitation and illegal trade of natural resources.” … Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye had been invited to attend, but gave notice on September 8 that he would not take part. AFP

Sudan’s Red Sea State Oil Facilities Reopen after Protests End
Leaders of a group of protesters in Sudan’s Red Sea state that had blocked the main road linking Khartoum to oil facilities in Port Sudan town for two straight days called off the protest on Wednesday. The protest leaders released a statement Tuesday saying all roads, oil facilities and ports would be reopened after Sudan’s security and defense council met and agreed to send a delegation headed by Sovereign Council member General Ibrahim Jabir to the area to meet with leaders of the Beja community and resolve their issues. The protesters rejected what’s been called “the eastern track” of the recently signed Sudan peace deal between the government and armed rebel groups in Juba. Protesters killed a police officer on Monday at oil field facilities in Haiya town, some 208 km from Port Sudan, according to eyewitnesses. VOA

Egypt Seeks Kenya’s Support in Row with Ethiopia over Dam
Egyptians are seeking Kenya’s support to help Cairo reach an amicable solution on the use of the waters of the Nile, after Ethiopia erected a dam along the river. The revelation came out of a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his host Abdel Fattah al-Sissi this week as the former stopped over from France. A statement from State House only indicated that they discussed subjects of mutual interest “among them regional peace and security, trade and Africa’s response to Covid-19.” But the Egyptian officials said the two leaders had agreed to work closely on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) currently under construction on the Blue Nile. The Nation

U.S. to Maintain Halt to Mali Military Aid until after Election
The U.S. government’s suspension of military aid to Mali will remain in place until the West African nation has held elections, the American envoy to the Sahel region said. Cooperation with international partners in Mali, including the French-counter terrorism force Barkhane and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the region, will continue, J. Peter Pham told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. The U.S. suspended all cooperation with Mali’s military after the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita by army officers on Aug. 18. The nation’s junta last month appointed a retired army officer as transitional president to lead the nation until elections take place in 18 months. Bloomberg

West and Central Africa’s Closed Schools Putting Children at Risk, UNICEF Warns
Only one in three countries in west and central Africa have reopened their schools, leaving children at risk of child marriage, early pregnancy and recruitment by local armed groups, Unicef has warned. Six months after schools across the region closed under lockdown measures, just seven out of 24 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone – have been able to put measures in place to make classrooms safe for reopening, including hygiene stations and social distancing. … Ensuring even the most basic measures to protect against Covid-19 in schools has proven difficult. In Guinea-Bissau, only 12% of schools have access to soap and water for handwashing. The figure is 15% in Niger, 22% in Senegal and 25% in Burkina Faso, according to Unicef. The Guardian

Up to 150 Million Could Join Extreme Poor, World Bank Says
Up to 150 million people could slip into extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day, by late next year depending on how badly economies shrink during the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank said Wednesday in an outlook grimmer than before. Middle income-countries are expected to have 82% of the new extreme poor, including India, Nigeria and Indonesia. Many of the new extreme poor will be more educated urban residents, meaning cities will see an increase in the kind of poverty traditionally rooted in rural areas. … Now Africa’s 54 countries say they need $100 billion per year over the next three years to fight COVID-19 and its economic and social effects. Roughly a third of the newly extreme poor are expected to be in sub-Saharan Africa, between 26 million and 40 million. … And climate change could drive another 100 million people into poverty by 2030, the report says, with sub-Saharan Africa seeing some of the “most destructive impacts” of global warming. AP

In Tackling COVID-19, Africa Gives World Lesson
Africa’s response to COVID-19 has gained global recognition for its fast and targeted action. … In late February, after Egypt confirmed Africa’s first COVID-19 cases, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, called a high-level meeting of health ministers. More than 40 ministers from around the continent scrambled to Addis Ababa on February 22. Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, even changed his schedule while on a trip to Europe to be present. Within days, Africa CDC had produced the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19, a blueprint to coordinate government action to combat the coronavirus, Nkengasong told VOA in an interview. … “That momentum that we had developed in Addis Ababa became the galvanizing force for countries to do the work we had agreed on,” he said. “This COVID-19 crisis has really exposed the divisions that exist in the world, and also exposed the unity on the continent. I think the continent has come together more than I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of public health service.” VOA

Somalia Opens First Independent Modern Arts Institution
Somalia in September saw the opening of what is being touted as the country’s first independent, modern arts institution. The Somali Arts Foundation says it seeks to promote creativity and critical discussions on what it means to be a Somali. Mohamed Sheikh Nor reports from Mogadishu. [Video] VOA



Photo: Adam Jones