Africa Media Review for September 16, 2020

West Africa Bloc Fails to Reach Agreement with Mali Junta
Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met the heads of a junta that on Aug. 18 overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in the bloc’s latest attempt to quicken the transition from military leadership. ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions after the coup, and said a new president should be appointed by Tuesday. Those actions, and multiple diplomatic interventions, appear to have had little effect so far, reinforcing the difficulty regional powers face in shaping events inside the turbulent country. “We have not reached any agreement with the military junta,” said Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, the acting ECOWAS chair, after the talks. He said that a mediating mission would return to Mali next week to try to resolve outstanding issues. “We need a civilian leadership of the transition and we have also made it clear that the minute that leadership input is in place…the sanctions…would be lifted,” he said. Reuters

U.N. Chief to Appoint Special Envoy to Broker Peace in Libya
The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy to broker peace in Libya, although Russia and China abstained from voting on the resolution that also extended the U.N. mission in the country. Ghassan Salame, who headed the U.N. political mission and was also charged with trying to mediate peace, quit in March due to stress. Guterres informally proposed a replacement, but the United States wanted the role split to have one person run the U.N. mission and a special envoy to focus on mediation. The Security Council agreed to that proposal on Tuesday. “With the new structure, we will have to present a new candidate and we will have to naturally consult with the Security Council for that purpose,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Reuters

Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj to Resign Soon, Officials Say
Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj plans to announce his resignation soon but will stay on in a caretaker capacity through negotiations for a new government in Geneva next month, according to officials familiar with his thinking. With Turkey’s help, the internationally recognized premier, whose government controls only parts of western Libya, in June quashed a yearlong offensive on the capital by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar. But Tripoli has since descended into political infighting, and Sarraj has also faced pressure from a protest movement against corruption and poor services. … The rival sides will be asked to agree on a new presidential council structure that unifies the country’s dueling administrations and schedule elections. Bloomberg

Algerian Journalist Khaled Drareni Jailed for Two Years on Appeal
Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni received a two-year prison term at his appeal hearing on Tuesday, in a trial rights groups have called a test of press freedom in a country recently rocked by anti-government protests. Drareni, 40, an editor at the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language channel TV5 Monde, had been sentenced to three years in jail in August for his coverage of Algeria’s anti-government protests. The journalist was arrested on March 29 on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” after covering demonstrations by the “Hirak” protest movement. Weekly protests rocked Algeria for more than a year and only came to a halt in March due to the novel coronavirus crisis. The Algerian judiciary has stepped up prosecutions and convictions of journalists, activists, political opponents and bloggers in recent months. France24 with AFP

Burkina Army ‘Dismantles’ Jihadist Base, Says Kills Two
Two jihadists were killed during an operation to break up a jihadist base in northern Burkina Faso, the West African state’s army said Tuesday. The raid in the Tongomayel area took place last Friday led to the “dismantling of a terrorist base,” the army said in a statement. “Result: two neutralized terrorists (and) the seizure of improvised explosive devices and various materiel,” it added. The day before, the army had lost four soldiers in a newly-formed regiment on a reconnaissance mission near Mentao, in the same province of Soum. On Saturday, a gendarme, or policeman, died in the center-north of the country, the army said. The Defense Post

Moussa Traore, Who Led Mali for 22 Years, Dies Aged 83
Moussa Traore, who led Mali from 1968 until he was ousted in a coup in 1991, died at his home aged 83 in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, his family said. As a young lieutenant in 1968, Traore was the main instigator of a coup that overthrew Modibo Keita, the country’s first post-independence president. He became president the following year and ruled with an iron fist. His 22 years at the helm of the West African country were marked by the arrests of opponents, quashed demonstrations, suspicious deaths such as that of former president Keita in detention, and accusations he embezzled international aid money. AFP

US Places Travel Restrictions on Nigerians Involved in Violence and Rigging during Elections
The US government has placed travel restrictions on Nigerians who undermine “democratic process or organize election-related violence” during elections. This latest move follows a decision in January 2019 to deny visas to individuals involved in electoral violence. … The visa restrictions will only affect “certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people,” the report says. However, the individuals affected were not named. … More than 620 people died of violence during the 2019 elections cycle, according to a report from SBM Intelligence, one of Nigeria’s leading analysis platforms. This violence weakens voter confidence in the government and scares away Nigerians from participating in elections, says Lagos based public affairs analyst Samuel Ibemere. … “Nigeria is Africa’s largest democracy and the US is trying to set it up as a model that other African countries can copy. If Nigeria works well, the rest of Africa might just follow,” he said. CNN

Gambia’s Former First Lady Zineb Jammeh Hit with US Sanctions
Zineb Jammeh, the wife of Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh, has been hit with U.S. sanctions for her role in the economic plunder of the tiny West African county during her husband’s 22-year rule, the U.S. Treasury said on Tuesday. Yahya Jammeh stole at least $50 million of state funds during a despotic tenure that ended in 2017 when he was forced into exile after losing an election, the Gambian Justice Ministry says. Much of his remaining assets are controlled by Zineb, the U.S. Treasury said. … Zineb is in charge of most of Jammeh’s assets around the world, the U.S. Treasury said. She ran a charity that Reuters revealed was used to send millions of dollars to Jammeh instead of to charitable projects. … The U.S. also placed sanctions on Nabah Ltd, a U.K.-registered company run by Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal which the Treasury says holds funds for senior-level South Sudanese officials in an attempt to avoid sanctions. Reuters

South Sudan Peace Activist Receives US Institute of Peace Award
South Sudanese peace activist Rita Lopidia Abraham received the 2020 Women Building Peace Award on Tuesday from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) based in Washington, D.C. Abraham told South Sudan In Focus that her struggle for peace in South Sudan has been an uphill task full of threats from men at the negotiating table. Sometimes when you talk to the parties and you speak truth to power, people seem to misunderstand you,” she said. “This is very sad, because at the end of the day, the purpose is for peace. But with the warring parties (in South Sudan), it’s not always the case.” … Abraham, who is in her mid-30s, has been a delegate at the South Sudan peace talks in Addis Ababa and Khartoum. She signed a peace agreement in 2018 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on behalf of the South Sudan Women Coalition for Peace, an umbrella group of 50 women’s organizations in South Sudan and the diaspora. VOA

Sudanese Youth to Be Trained in Democracy
The Sudanese Ministry of Youth and Sports announced yesterday that it will start an independent youth-based programme on Sudan’s transition to democracy. It will do so in partnership with the US-based Carter Center. The programme aims to train more than 20,000 young Sudanese men and women on impartial monitoring, reporting, constitutional principles, and conflict mitigation. After the training, young people can play an influential role in the transitional period and help the country to achieve a smooth and safe transition to democracy, Minister of Youth and Sports Wala El Boushi said in a statement yesterday. She described the programme as “one of the most important and greatest steps that the ministry takes in pursuit of the most prominent goal which is providing training and development opportunities for young people in various fields.” Radio Dabanga

UN Report Highlights Links between ‘Unprecedented Biodiversity Loss’ and Spread of Disease
The continued degradation of the environment is increasing the likelihood of diseases spreading from animals to humans, warns a UN report on biodiversity, released on Tuesday. The fifth edition of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook report, published by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), provides an authoritative overview of the state of nature worldwide. The report notes the importance of biodiversity in addressing climate change, and long-term food security, and concludes that action to protect biodiversity is essential to prevent future pandemics. … “As nature degrades,” said Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity, “new opportunities emerge for the spread to humans and animals of devastating diseases like this year’s coronavirus. The window of time available is short, but the pandemic has also demonstrated that transformative changes are possible when they must be made.” UN News

An Asian malaria-carrying mosquito that has adapted to urban life has the potential to spread to dozens of cities across the African continent, a new modeling study suggests. That could put more than 100 million additional people at risk of the deadly disease, including many who were never before exposed to it and have no immunity. … Malaria, which kills more than 400,000 people per year-most of them African children-is caused by Plasmodium parasites and spread by several mosquito species. In Africa, the most important one is A. gambiae, which thrives in rural settings. But recently, scientists have also spotted A. stephensi, which is well adapted to city life and has long spread malaria in urban environments in Asia. A. stephensi hopped from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula between 2000 and 2010 and then made another jump to the Horn of Africa; scientists first discovered it in Djibouti in 2012, then later in Ethiopia and Sudan. Science

TV Replaces Teachers for African Children Amid Coronavirus Curbs
Many children do not have the option to learn online. The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, says at least half of sub-Saharan Africa’s schoolchildren do not have internet access. So some, like Miguel, watch a cartoon made by Tanzanian non-profit organisation Ubongo, which offers television and radio content for free to African broadcasters. “Other programmes are just for fun, but Ubongo is helping children,” Miguel’s mother Celestine Wanjiru told Reuters news agency. “He can now differentiate a lot of shapes and colours, both in English and Swahili.” In March, programmes by Ubongo – the Kiswahili word for brain – were broadcast to an area covering about 12 million households in nine countries, said Iman Lipumba, Ubongo’s head of communications. That rose to 17 million in 20 countries by August. “The COVID-19 pandemic has really forced us to rapidly grow,” Lipumba said. Reuters

Three days after Tsitsi Dangarembga was nominated for the Booker Prize longlist on July 28 with her latest novel, This Mournable Body, she was arrested. Now, she has made it onto the UK’s leading literary award’s shortlist – also three days before her trial following her arrest is set to begin. Back in July, the internationally acclaimed author and filmmaker was simply standing at an intersection with a friend, holding a placard that read: “We want better. Reform our institutions.” Shortly after, a riot truck arrived; police arrested them and kept them in detention for a night. … She explained that critics are protesting against “the misgovernance in Zimbabwe, the clampdown by authorities against dissent, and of course corruption, a lack of service delivery, a lot of alleged embezzlement of funds that were earmarked for the COVID response.” DW



Photo: Adam Jones