Africa Media Review for September 14, 2020

Mali Opposition Rejects Military-Backed Transition Charter
Mali’s popular opposition movement has rejected a charter for a transition government backed by the ruling army officers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a coup last month. The military government backed a charter for an 18-month transition government on Saturday, after a three-day forum with political parties and civil society representatives. The charter also proposed the transition be led by either a military or civilian leader, which leaves open the possibility that military officers who seized power could remain at the helm for another 18 months until elections are organised. But the June 5 Movement (M5-RFP), which took part in the talks, rejected the road map in a statement on Sunday, and accused the military government of a “desire to monopolise and confiscate power.” It also said discussions had taken place against a backdrop of “intimidation, anti-democratic and unfair practices worthy of another era.” Al Jazeera

Officials Say East Libya Government Resigns Amid Protests
An interim government in eastern Libya resigned on Sunday amid street protests that erupted across the divided country over dire living conditions, officials said. Prime Minister Abdallah al-Thani submitted the resignation of his government to Aguila Saleh, speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives, said the government’s spokesman, Ezzel-Deen al-Falih. Abdallah Abaihig, a spokesman for the parliament, confirmed the government’s resignation, saying lawmakers would review it in their next meeting. No date set for the session. … Both the parliament and al-Thani’s government, which is not internationally recognized, are allied with Khalifa Hifter, commander of the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, which controls Libya’s east and south. Hundreds of young Libyans flooded the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities in the past couple of days in a spontaneous outburst of anger over the area’s crippling electricity shortages. AP

Russian Attack Jets Back Mercenaries Fighting in Libya
More than a dozen attack jets that Russia sent to Libya this year are conducting ground strikes and other combat missions in support of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside a beleaguered commander in his campaign to oust the government from Tripoli, the capital, a top American military official said on Friday. The Pentagon’s Africa Command revealed in May the deployment of at least 14 MiG-29 and Su-24 jets to Libya, underscoring Moscow’s deepening role in a sprawling proxy war, where its Libyan ally, the commander Khalifa Hifter, had experienced a series of setbacks that dealt his campaign a major blow. … Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the Africa Command’s director of intelligence, said on Friday that the Russian planes, flown by crews from the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private military company whose mercenaries provided a major boost to Mr. Hifter’s assault on Tripoli last fall, had carried out several ground strikes and other missions. The New York Times

Burkina Faso’s Wildlife Reserves Have Become a Battle Zone, Overrun by Militants and Poachers
The land used to be a tourist magnet, a haven for elephants and lions. Now park officials in the West African nation of Burkina Faso say extremists have turned wildlife reserves into a battlefield, targeting rangers and exposing endangered animals to poachers. “One of my colleagues was killed right in front of me,” said Brahima Kabore, 34, a ranger in the country’s east. The forest takeover marks another violent chapter in Burkina Faso’s four-year fight against militants loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who are vying to control vast swaths of West Africa. The government-protected reserves offer a double dose of value to armed groups, analysts say: secluded places for hideouts and illegal poaching activities to exploit. … “That is the common practice for these groups: to identify where illicit activity is going on and tap into it,” said Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The Washington Post

Akufo-Addo to Hold Consultative Meeting with ECOWAS Leaders on Mali Crisis at Peduase
Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Akufo-Addo, will on Tuesday, convene a consultative meeting as part of efforts to resolve the political crisis in Mali. Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway who disclosed this said it is part of several efforts by the Economic Community to resolve the crisis in the West African country. Speaking at a press briefing in Accra Sunday, she noted that the consultative meeting is in line with efforts by the regional block to ensure progressive development of member countries. Madam Ayorkor Botchway said the consultative meeting will be held to proffer conflict resolution strategies in accordance with relevant protocols to bring an end to the political crisis in the West African state.

Ambulance Hits Landmine in Southern Mali, Killing Six
Six civilians, including a pregnant woman, were killed in southern Mali when the ambulance they were travelling in struck a landmine, the health ministry said on Saturday. It was not clear who was responsible for laying the mine, but the incident on Friday represented a first for the southern Sikasso region, said Mama Coumare, the ministry’s secretary-general. Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State routinely attack soldiers and civilians in northern and central Mali, but the country’s south has been largely spared. “The ambulance had left Yorosso to bring a pregnant woman to Boura,” Coumare told Reuters. “All the passengers were killed – six deaths, mostly women.” Reuters

Arrested Zimbabwe Journalist: ‘They Would Have Thrown the Key Away’
A Zimbabwean journalist who was imprisoned on charges of incitement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has accused the successor to Robert Mugabe of having him jailed because he exposed pandemic-linked corruption implicating the first family. Hopewell Chin’ono, who was bailed last week after spending six weeks in prison on charges that drew international condemnation, told the Financial Times that he was repeatedly told by jailers that they were under orders to punish him. “Prison officers said that they were working under instruction…guards said they were acting on orders of the president,” he said. “The only reason I got out is because of unrelenting international pressure…they would have thrown the key away.” … Since March the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, an NGO, has documented more than 800 alleged human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, scores of assaults by security agents, and 20 attacks on journalists. FT

Thousands Back Ivory Coast Opposition Candidate Bedie
Thousands of opposition supporters in Ivory Coast gathered Saturday in the city of Yamoussoukro to support Henri Konan Bedie becoming their candidate for the Oct. 31 presidential election. Bedie’s PDCI-RDA political party celebrated the 86-year-old former president with hopes he will unseat President Alassane Ouattara, who has sparked controversy by standing for a third term. He and Pascal Affi N’Guessan of the Ivorian Popular Front Party pose the strongest threat to Ouattara, and have called on the president to withdraw his candidacy. “Once elected, I pledge to form a broad-based government,” announced Bedie, who was president from 1993 to 1999 before being ousted in a coup. AP

Nigeria Reels from Twin Crises That Threaten Food Availability
Floods early this month across northwest Nigeria destroyed 90% of the 2 million tons that Kebbi state officials expected to harvest this autumn, the head of the state branch of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria told Reuters. The loss amounts to some 20% of the rice Nigeria grew last year, and the waters are still rising. Farther south, outside Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, chicken farmer Hippolite Adigwe is also worried. A shortage of maize forced him to sell most of his flock of more than 1,000 birds, and the 300 left are hungry. Chicken feed prices have more than doubled, and he isn’t sure how long he can cope. Twin crises, floods and maize shortages, come just after movement restrictions and financing difficulties caused by COVID-19 containment measures complicated spring planting. Some farmers and economists say it could push Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, into a food crisis. Reuters

Sudan Floods Kill over 100, Threaten Archaeological Site
Flash floods in Sudan have killed more than 100 people this summer and inundated over 100,000 houses, threatening even a famous archaeological site near the capital of Khartoum and compounding the country’s already dire economic situation, officials said. The floodwaters this week entered the ancient royal city of the Kushite kings known as the Island of Meroe, a UNESCO World Heritage site, said Abdel-Hai Abdel-Sawy, head of the archaeological exploration department at Sudan’s National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums. The site – called the “Island of Meroe” because of its proximity to the Nile River – was the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power in the ancient world from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century. Abdel-Sawy told The Associated Press on Friday that parts of the ancient site, located 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Khartoum, have become submerged. AP

WHO Warns against Potential Ebola Spread in DR Congo and Beyond
Ebola is spreading in a western province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), raising fears that the disease could reach neighbouring Republic of Congo and even the capital, Kinshasa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. The outbreak in Equateur Province emerged in early June and has now spread into another of its 17 health zones, bringing the total number of affected zones to 12. So far, there have been 113 cases and 48 deaths. “The most recently affected area, Bomongo, is the second affected health zone that borders the Republic of Congo, which heightens the chances of this outbreak to spread into another country”, said WHO Spokesperson, Fadéla Chaib, underlining the need for cross-border collaboration and coordination. UN News

Ethiopia Opens Facility to Make Coronavirus Test Kits
With increasing cases of COVID-19, Ethiopia has opened a facility to produce kits to test for the coronavirus and says its researchers are working to develop and test a vaccine. The company producing the testing kits is a joint venture with a Chinese company, called BGI Health Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to nearly 64,000 causing almost 1,000 deaths, according to government figures. On Sunday, Ethiopia also opened a field hospital to hold up to 200 severely affected Covid-19 patients, which will start admitting patients immediately. Ethiopia has conducted more than 1.1 million tests, making it the African country that has carried out the third-highest number of tests, according to Ethiopian health officials. The country is struggling with a shortage of testing kits, ventilators, and intensive care beds, they said. AP

Drone Laws under the Spotlight at Africa Drones Conference 2020
According to Businesswire, the global unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, market will grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $43 billion in 2024 at a compound annual growth rate of 20.5%. South Africa is the largest drone market in Africa, with drones being employed in mining, energy, security, agriculture and medicine. “In South Africa, many users are operating drones illegally because of the cost and complexity in compliance,” said Kiasha Nagiah, senior associate at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa. … Nagiah expects regulatory changes to be made in the next few years, catering to the lack of specific drone laws and potentially make licensing for commercial operations simpler and more cost-effective. These were the key findings by Nagiah at the Africa Drones Conference, held virtually between 27 and 28 August. defenceWeb

How South African Activists Hope to Integrate Cities Built to Divide
When formal segregation ended in South African cities in the mid-1990s, their planners faced an existential puzzle: How do you integrate cities that were built to divide? For decades, city planners largely sidestepped it altogether in favor of addressing an even larger issue – how to simply provide decent housing to people who had been forcibly crowded into poor, segregated communities with few public services. Since the end of apartheid, the country’s government has built housing for millions of people like Ms. Rubin. But many are located at the edges of cities, in places that reinforce deep inequalities, rather than shrink them. In recent years, housing activists have begun pushing city governments to reverse that trend and build subsidized rental housing near city centers, close to jobs and schools. While not free, activists say this low-cost housing is a foot in the door for working-class people trying to access parts of the city from which they were once excluded. The Christian Science Monitor