Africa Media Review for September 10, 2020

UN: COVID-19 Could Fuel More Conflict, Poverty, Starvation
Top U.N. officials warned Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated discrimination and other human rights violations that can fuel conflict, and its indirect consequences are dwarfing the impact of the virus itself in the world’s most fragile countries. [U.N. humanitarian chief Mark] Lowcock warned the council that the indirect economic and health effects from the crisis in fragile countries “will be higher poverty, lower life expectancy, more starvation, less education and more child death.” … During the pandemic, U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the U.N.’s far-flung missions, with over 100,000 personnel, “continued to prevent and respond to threats to civilians, which have unfortunately not decreased in the past six months despite the secretary-general’s global cease-fire call.” He singled out continued violence in Mali, Central African Republic and Congo. AP

Four Soldiers Killed in Central Mali Attack: Officials
Four Malian soldiers were killed in an attack in the country’s restive central region on Wednesday, official sources said. The attack took place near Alatona, not far from the Mauritania border, a source at the region’s security ministry said. There was no word on the identity of the attackers. Central Mali is often the theatre of jihadist attacks as well as intercommunal violence. “Four soldiers were killed and two vehicles stolen. This is the provisional toll that we have received,” a regional source told AFP. An army lieutenant gave the death toll figure. This was the fourth significant attack on the Malian security forces since the military overthrew president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18. A total of 22 have been killed. AFP

Mali’s Protest Leader Backs Civilian ‘Rare Bird’ to Lead Transition
Influential Mali cleric Imam Mahmoud Dicko urged the military junta on Wednesday to comply with demands from West African leaders to name a civilian president and prime minister by Sept. 15 to ease sanctions imposed after last month’s coup. On Saturday the junta began talks with Mali’s political parties and civil society groups over a transition to civilian rule. The move was welcomed by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), but it kept sanctions in place. Dicko, a Salafist preacher who earlier this year electrified protesters during anti-government demonstrations, told the state broadcaster late on Wednesday that Mali needed assistance and that it had nothing to gain by going behind the back of the international community. Reuters

Nigeria’s Buhari Tells Peers Not to Cling to Power
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has warned fellow West African leaders not to violate their constitutions to stay in power, as regional counterparts push for controversial third terms. Speaking at a summit on Monday, Buhari said it was “important that as leaders of our individual member states of ECOWAS, we need to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our countries, particularly on term limits.” He referred to the Economic Community of West African States, which was meeting in Niamey, Niger. “The challenges facing the sub-region are enormous; from socio-economic matters to security issues, the ECOWAS sub-region cannot therefore afford another political crisis in the guise of tenure elongation,” Buhari warned. “I urge us all to resist the temptation of seeking to perpetuate ourselves in power beyond the constitutional provisions.” AFP

Mozambique Accused of Abuses in Its Fight against Extremists
Amnesty International Wednesday accused Mozambique’s government forces of torturing suspected members of an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province, as well as “possible extrajudicial executions” and “discarding a large number of corpses into apparent mass graves.” … Amnesty said its researchers analyzed five videos and three photos obtained from sources in Mozambique. The soldiers committing the atrocities in the videos are wearing the uniforms of the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces (FADM) and the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) of the Mozambican police, Amnesty said. In several videos, the soldiers refer to their captives as Al-Shabaab, Arabic for “the youth,” local slang for the Islamic rebels in Cabo Delgado, picking up the name of Somalia’s extremist rebels. … The videos show the torture, murder and burial of an estimated 15 men in a mass grave, says Amnesty. AP

Suicide Bomber Kills 3, Including Child, in Somali Capital
A Somali official says a suicide bomber killed at least three civilians, including a young boy, at a restaurant in Somalia’s capital Wednesday evening. Ismail Mukhtar, spokesman for Somalia’s information ministry, told The Associated Press that seven other people were injured when the bomber detonated a suicide vest outside the restaurant near a security checkpoint close to the presidential palace in Mogadishu. Ambulance sirens could be heard as police officers sealed off the area, according to Col. Ahmed Aden, a police officer. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However, the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group often carries out such attacks. AP

Cameroon Army Launches Operation in Anglophone Regional Capital
Cameroon’s army launched a “special operation” against anglophone separatists on Wednesday in Bamenda, the capital of the English-speaking northwest region, bringing the city to a halt. The country’s northwest and southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances at perceived discrimination by the francophone majority. After the recent murder of a police inspector in Bamenda, the army said in a statement Tuesday that “defense and security forces have engaged in a special operation to secure the city.” Called “Clean Bamenda,” it is the first time the federal government has launched such a military operation in the city. The Defense Post with AFP

Cameroon Separatists Turning to Cattle Rustling, Ranchers Say
Cameroon authorities say anglophone separatists have stolen thousands of cattle from ethnic Mbororo ranchers since July, forcing them to move livestock hundreds of kilometers away to more secure areas. Authorities say the rebels’ cattle rustling appears to be motivated by food shortages. Forty-one-year-old Mbororo rancher Sule Kerla leads several hundred cattle to graze in the French-speaking village of Balamba, in central Cameroon, near Bafia town. He says the cattle belong to five Mbororo, an ethnic group of ranchers, by tradition, located mainly in Cameroon’s Northwest Region. But, Kerla says the Mbororo are fleeing the English-speaking region because anglophone rebels are stealing their cattle. VOA

Nigeria: Controversy Trails Killing of Benue’s ‘Most Wanted’ Criminal, Gana
Controversy has trailed the killing of notorious Benue gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana as the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, accused the Nigerian Army of sabotaging his peace efforts. The governor, on Tuesday, in an interaction with reporters, also accused the army of killing the ex-bandit while he was on his way to Makurdi after embracing amnesty. According to the governor, Gana was killed while he and 42 other repentant criminals were being conveyed to Makurdi, the state capital “after they embraced the government’s amnesty program.” … It is not yet clear if the soldiers that killed Gana killed him despite knowing he had just accepted an amnesty offer or if his killing was as a result of poor communication among government officials and security agencies. Premium Times

South Sudan: Over 25 Government Soldiers Convicted for Crimes against Civilians in Yei
At least 26 South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) soldiers have been convicted by a district court-martial in Yei River County of Central Equatoria State on Monday. Seven other soldiers were acquitted. The soldiers who have been in detention for months and undergoing trial were accused of committing crimes against civilians including murder, rape, and looting, and, loss of firearms and ammunition. A military-civil relations and information officer Lt. Colonel Michael Machar said most of the accused soldiers have been dismissed from the military under article 85, of the 2009 SPLA Act. … Brigadier General John Lual army commander of the SSPDF in Yei said the verdict is a clear warning to other soldiers not to repeat similar crimes in the future. Radio Tamazuj

Will Sudan’s Peace Deal with Rebels Work?
Sudan’s government and rebel forces have agreed on a landmark deal aimed at ending decades of war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. After an initialing ceremony on August 31, rebel commanders and the transitional government, which took power after the toppling of hardline ruler Omar al-Bashir last year, are set to sign a “final” deal on October 2. The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is a coalition of five rebel groups and four political movements. They come from the vast western region of Darfur, at war since 2003, as well as South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states in the country’s south. Rebels there took up arms in 2011 following a pause in the wake of Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war. The agreement deals with peace, justice, rights, and the “fair distribution of authority (and) wealth.” The Defense Post

Ethiopia Expects to Hold Delayed Elections within Next Year
Ethiopia expects to hold general elections within the next year after a vote scheduled for August was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. “I personally believe there will be elections in the year 2013,” Abiy said on state television on Wednesday. Ethiopia, with its own 13-month calendar that is about seven years behind the Gregorian calendar, celebrates the start of 2013 on Friday. The ballot will be a test of reforms unleashed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been opening up the country’s once tightly regulated political space since coming to power in April 2018. His unbanning of opposition and rebel groups has stoked political fragmentation and long-suppressed rivalries among ethnic communities. … Abiy announced the new timeline for the election on the day that the nation’s Tigray region held its own parliamentary vote, defying a ban by the federal government. Bloomberg

Ugandan Move to Regulate Online Activity Is Tool to Curb Dissent Ahead of Polls, Rights Groups Say
Rights groups have asked Uganda to reverse a move that requires some social media users to get a license and pay fees, saying the move is aimed at censoring content critical of the government ahead of a presidential election. In the election due around February, President Yoweri Museveni, 75, and Africa’s third longest-ruling leader, is seeking another five-year-term which would extend his period in office to 40 years. He is expected to face competition from pop star and lawmaker Bobi Wine – real name, Robert Kyagulanyi- who has exploited his music to galvanize a large following among young people. The regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) said in a notice this week that all users of social media and other online users engaged in “communication and broadcasting services” must obtain a license by Oct. 5. Reuters

‘They Want to Shut down His Voice’: How Did Hotel Rwanda Hero End up on Trial?
Until late August, there was nothing exceptional about Paul Rusesabagina’s summer. For months, the 66-year-old had done little more than sit on the porch of his home in Texas, water his plants, telephone his children and chat with neighbours. A cancer survivor, he worried about Covid-19 and carefully observed the measures recommended to avoid catching the virus. His weeks passed without incident. But on the other side of the world, in Rusesabagina’s native Rwanda, security agencies were formulating plans to bring the former businessman to the capital, Kigali, to face terrorism charges, a trial and jail. The secret operation – described by Rusesabagina’s lawyers as an illegal “rendition” – has focused the world’s attention on the small country’s traumatic history, its veteran leader’s ruthless efforts to silence dissidents, a region teetering on the brink of catastrophic conflict, and a family in shock. The Guardian

UN Protection Back for Threatened Nobel-Winning Congo Doctor
For weeks, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Congolese doctor has faced death threats, leading alarmed supporters to urge the United Nations to reinstate the peacekeepers who were withdrawn from his hospital months ago. On Wednesday, after international expressions of concern, the peacekeepers returned. “They will be there as long as necessary,” a spokesman with the U.N. mission, Mathias Gillmann, told The Associated Press. The death threats against Dr. Denis Mukwege, famous for his work with survivors of sexual assault at Panzi Hospital in eastern Congo, drew condemnation from U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, Amnesty International, and others. Hundreds of people have marched in support of Mukwege in the eastern city of Bukavu, where his hospital is located. AP

Sierra Leone Ex-Rebel Leader Augustine Gbao Granted Early Release
A former rebel leader in Sierra Leone, imprisoned for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s civil war, has been granted conditional early release, the country’s UN-backed tribunal said. Augustine Gbao, 72, a former leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was given a 25-year sentence for acts including terrorism, extermination, murder, rape and sexual slavery. “Former RUF commander Augustine Gbao has been granted conditional early release, with a three-month delay, during which time he must undergo specific training geared to his understanding of and acceptance of responsibility for the harm he inflicted by his crimes,” the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in The Hague, said in a statement released on Wednesday. … The conditions include a radio and television apology to the victims of his crimes and to the people of Sierra Leone. AFP

‘Octopus Teacher’ Lets Filmmaker into Secret World
South African nature filmmaker Craig Foster was burned out. He had lost his passion for working on documentaries such as “Blue Planet 2.” To re-energize, he started free diving without an oxygen tank or wet suit near in the chilly waters off the Western Cape, where he’d grown up. The dives served as a form of therapy, comforting yet challenging the depths of his understanding of marine life. … One tangible result is “My Octopus Teacher,” the first South African nature documentary to air as a Netflix Original… it tells the tender story of Foster befriending a small octopus in the icy Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Town. … Ehrlich says she hopes the work will create awareness about the octopus’s home. The Great African Sea Forest stretches for 1,300 kilometers, or just over 800 miles, along South Africa and Namibia’s coastlines. In the last few decades, “40 percent of our world’s kelp forests have declined and some of them have disappeared completely,” mostly due to climate change, Ehrlich says. VOA

‘It’s like Opening up a Wound to Let It Heal’: The Sisters Giving War Refugees a Voice
If there’s one thing podcasters should be good at, it’s talking. And so it is with Surer and Saredo Mohamed. There isn’t a moment I’m not drawn into the 90-minute Zoom call with the sisters, whose voices tag-team through their equally compelling new podcast, On Things We Left Behind – although never in the same episode, since they say people can’t tell their voices apart. “Not even our mum!” they laugh. … Their story-driven podcast masterfully explores the hidden afterlife of war, and was conceived as conversations between them – children of Somali refugees who were forced to flee their homeland at the outbreak of civil war 30 years ago. The Guardian

George Bizos, Anti-Apartheid Lawyer Who Defended Mandela, Dies at 92
George Bizos, who fled the Nazi occupation of his native Greece at age 13 to become one of South Africa’s most prominent human rights lawyers, championing Black people who were denied those rights and devising a three-word phrase that may have shielded his client and friend Nelson Mandela from execution, died on Wednesday. He was 92. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the death in a televised news briefing. No cause was given, but he said Mr. Bizos’s health had recently begun to fail. His family said Mr. Bizos, who lived in Johannesburg, died at his home. Over a long and combative career, Mr. Bizos was one of only a handful of lawyers who sought redress for victims of racial separation through the very legal system that sanctioned it. The New York Times