Africa Media Review for September 2, 2020

Watchdog Warns of ‘Limited Progress’ in Africa Counterterror Fight

The findings, part of a new report released Tuesday from the Defense Department inspector general, come as U.S.-led efforts have been forced to adjust, and in some cases, scale back activities because of the coronavirus making its way across the continent. “The United States and its international partners made limited progress,” Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell wrote in the quarterly report, citing setbacks against affiliates of both al-Qaida and Islamic State, also known as IS or ISIS. Rather than slow terrorist groups down, the report warned the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, appears to have given many of them new opportunities to expand. “The pandemic exacerbated many of the underlying conditions that foster VEO (violent extremist organization) growth, including economic and food insecurity,” O’Donnell wrote, pointing to assessments by the United Nations that in some areas, terror groups “capitalized on the virus to undermine state government authority and continue their attacks.” VOA

Paul Rusesabagina of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Fame Was ‘Kidnapped’ Daughter Says

When Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved more than 1,200 Rwandans during the 1994 genocide, landed in Dubai last Thursday, he texted his family members on the messaging application WhatsApp to assure them he had arrived safely. That was the last the family said they heard of him until Monday, when authorities in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, paraded him in handcuffs in front of the media, and said he was being held on charges including terrorism, arson and murder. … The case of Mr. Rusesabagina has caused consternation in the United States and Belgium, where he has lived in exile over many years, and in Rwanda, where residents debate his international reputation as a human-rights activist. In Rwanda, he is known as a fierce opponent of the country’s president – Paul Kagame – who has clamped down hard on dissent. The New York Times

In the World’s Coronavirus Blind Spot, Fears of a Silent Epidemic

The global scramble to thwart the coronavirus has a vast blind spot: sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, the government outlawed coronavirus testing and declared its national outbreak defeated, even as hundreds of people died monthly from unexplained respiratory problems. Last month in Zambia, 28 people died at home in a single day with Covid-19-like symptoms while waiting to be tested. In South Sudan, government forces barricaded thousands of people inside refugee camps, claiming they were infected but refusing to conduct tests. WSJ

Africa’s Covid-19 Corruption: ‘Theft Doesn’t even Stop During a Pandemic’

Doctors have gone on strike over a lack of protective equipment, and protesters have taken to the streets in anger at the abuse of medical funds, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with #arrestCovidthieves. Public uproar in Kenya in recent weeks has highlighted the depth of frustration over the handling of aid to combat coronavirus, not just in the east African country but across the continent as a whole. Uganda has recalled its ambassador to Denmark and her deputy after the duo were recorded in a Zoom call allegedly plotting to pocket money allocated to deal with Covid-19. In Somalia, a court handed down heavy sentences to four top health officials for misappropriating pandemic relief funds. In South Africa, the government’s procurement scheme for medical equipment has been hit by allegations of corruption. “Theft doesn’t even stop during a pandemic,” said Kenyan anti-corruption activist Wanjeri Nderu, who has rallied protesters under the hashtag #stopCovid19thieves. “We have people dying while some are stealing.” FT

Uganda Refugee Camp Locked Down after Coronavirus Surge

Uganda and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have placed one of the largest refugee camps in Africa, Kyangwali, under lockdown after a jump in confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The refugees there say they are feeling the pinch. Kyangwali, in southwestern Uganda, is home to more than 120,000 refugees. The lockdown is due to a rising number of coronavirus cases among both aid workers and refugees. Rebecca Noel, a Congolese national and mother of two, has lived at the settlement in Kikuube district for 11 years. To supplement the monthly $6 cash for food money given to her and others by the World Food Program, Noel says she does casual labor and trades in shoes and clothes. With little food to put on the table, Noel says she too could be at risk of contracting the coronavirus. VOA

Migrants Trying to Reach Europe Pushed to Deadly Atlantic

Migrants and asylum-seekers are increasingly crossing a treacherous part of the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago near West Africa, in what has become one of the most dangerous routes to European territory. … More than 250 people are known to have died or gone missing so far this year according to the International Organization for Migration. … In the week that The Associated Press spent in the Canary Islands to report this story, at least 20 bodies were recovered. The increase in traffic to the Canaries comes after the European Union funded Morocco in 2019 to stop migrants from reaching southern Spain via the Mediterranean Sea. … “There’s been a change in profile,” said Muller, the UNHCR representative in Spain. “We see more arrivals from the Sahel, from the Ivory Coast, more women, more children, more profiles that would be in need of international protection.” AP

Two OMN Journalists Freed on Bail but Colleagues Remain in Ethiopian Jail

After over 45 days in prison, Ethiopian journalistGuyoWariowas finally released on bail Tuesday. But at least three of his OromiaMedia Network (OMN) colleagues remain in custody…. A lower court ordered Wario’s release on bail a week ago, and the higher court gave the final order Monday but paperwork delayed the release, a family member said. Wario and his colleagues were arrested as authorities cracked down after protests and violence erupted in severalOromiacitiesand abroad over the killing ofHachaluHundessa, an Oromo cultural and political singer who was shot dead in Addis Ababa on June 29. Media and civil rights groups have raised concerns about Ethiopia’s responses to the unrest, including internet blocks, and the arrests of journalists, protesters, and several members of the opposition including Jawar Mohamed, from the Oromo Federalist Congress and members of the Oromo Liberation Front. VOA

Tunisian Parliament Approves Third Government in Less Than a Year

Tunisia’s Parliament has approved Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi’s government – the country’s third administration in less than a year. Following a 15-hour session that started on Tuesday, Mechichi’s cabinet – dominated by independent technocrats – won 134 votes out of the 217 members of parliament. A former interior minister, Mechichi replaces Elyes Fakhfakh, whose government stayed in power for just five months before he resigned as prime minister last month after questions over his business dealings. Mechichi proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man – a first in the country’s history. The 46-year-old has pledged to enact policies seen as critical to revitalising a tourism-reliant sluggish economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Al Jazeera

Malawi President Reinstates Fired Army Commander

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has fired the army chief and replaced him with the commander who was dismissed in March by Chakwera’s predecessor, former president Peter Mutharika. In his live address Tuesday on state broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Chakwera said the sacking of Gen. Vincent Nundwe was not procedural. … Mutharika fired Nundwe in March for allowing the military to protect demonstrators protesting the results of last year’s elections. The Constitutional Court later annulled the elections and called for fresh polls, which were won by Chakwera in June of this year. VOA

Sudan to Cooperate with ICC

Sudan will fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission and memorial sites will be set up. Imbalances in the civil service and the judiciary will be addressed. The transitional government and the armed movements that signed the peace agreement in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Monday have affirmed their willingness to “full and unlimited cooperation” with the ICC regarding the indicted Sudanese. In accordance with the Juba agreement, Sudan will allow easy access for ICC prosecutors and investigators to victims, witnesses, and investigation sites. The ICC officials will be able to move freely in all parts of the country at all times. The government and the armed movements will not interfere in ICC investigations and trials and guarantee the protection of all prosecutors, victims, and witnesses. Radio Dabanga

Ex-Malian President Keita Hospitalized at Private Clinic

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Malian president ousted in a military coup last month, was hospitalized late Tuesday at a private clinic, intensifying fears about the 75-year-old’s health after being detained for 10 days by the junta now in power. Keita’s condition was not immediately known, and it was unclear whether he would be evacuated abroad for medical treatment given the circumstances. His hospitalization was confirmed to The Associated Press by two people at the clinic who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists. The former Malian president has appeared gaunt in recent photographs, and concerns only mounted during his time in military custody in the barracks at Kati outside the capital. AP

French Forces in Mali Kill Civilian, Wound Two

France’s army command in Mali has said French troops killed a civilian and wounded two others after a bus did not slow down in a volatile area despite their visual warnings and warning shots. This version of events, however, was disputed by bus company director Abdoulaye Haidara, who told AFP news agency that his driver had denied refusing to stop and did not hear any warning shots. The incident occurred about 50km (30 miles) from the city of Gao in the conflict-hit country’s north. The French army command said on Tuesday the troops fired warning shots in the ground but two bullets ricocheted and hit the windscreen, wounding three people, including one fatally. Al Jazeera

Ghana and Nigeria’s Historic Spat Flares

The two West African nations have been at loggerheads over trade for decades, without serious consequences. That could change now that the region is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and several deep political crises. The intensifying diplomatic row came to a head in recent days, with Abuja and Accra trading insults and grievances over the alleged mistreatment of Nigerian nationals in Ghana. “Nigerians who have been doing business in Ghana have been harassed. Their shops are being closed, with all sorts of molestation and intimidation,” Ken Ukoha, president of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, told DW. Ghanaian authorities deny that Nigerian traders are being specifically targeted. Some 700 Nigerians who were recently deported were allegedly involved in criminal activities, they said. DW

South Sudan’s Forex Shortage Highlights Broader Economic Crisis

The South Sudan central bank announced last month that the country had nearly run out of foreign cash reserves. Daniel Kech Pouch, the second deputy governor at the Bank of South Sudan, told reporters in Juba that there is nothing the central bank can do to stop the South Sudanese pound from depreciating further against the United States dollar. … South Sudan’s economy has been devastated by a number of factors, including recent floods, a drop in global oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic, to name a few, according to the deputy governor of the bank. … “If we want a long-term solution, then the country should diversify its exports and that can only be done if there’s peace,” [Ahmed Morjan, an economics lecturer at the University of Juba] told The Insider. Without peace, he noted, it would be difficult for South Sudan to diversify its economy and stabilise the exchange. Mail & Guardian

China’s Demand for Luxury Wood Furniture ‘Fuels’ West Africa’s Deforestation
A report by the World Wide Fund [WWF] says deforestation in Cameroon and the wider central Africa region is not as bad as it is in South America or Asia, but that the lack of accurate data on logging means illegal harvesters could be profiting. And China’s huge craving for logging products such as rosewood has made it a major destination for timber sourced from vulnerable areas in Africa-including even protected areas. In Cameroon, the Sudcam concession, though considered a legal venture, is adjacent to Campo Ma’an National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site which is home to 26 species of medium and large mammals, including elephants, buffalos, great apes, panthers, Okapis, Chimps and pangolins. Environmentalists fear lax regulations could influence operators to exceed limits. The EastAfrican

Facebook’s Push to Fix Its Fake News Problem Isn’t Working in Africa Either

Just over a year ago, Facebook announced it would add fake news checks on local language content in a bid to boost trust and reliability among African users. It came along with other measures, including shutting down suspected networks of fake accounts targeting African elections with misinformation. But recent data suggests those moves have not yet paid off among one of Facebook’s most coveted demographics: young Africans. More than half of young Africans do not regard Facebook as a trustworthy source of news, claims a poll by the African Youth Survey, which was commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and conducted by global polling firm, PSB Research. WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook, which is the dominant social media platform in Africa, is also deemed untrustworthy by half of the survey’s respondents. In contrast, only about a fifth of respondents had similar misgivings about Google as a source of news. Quartz Africa

Meet Senegal’s First Female Professional Surfer

Khadjou Sambe, Senegal’s first female professional surfer, trains near her home in the district of Ngor – the westernmost point of the African continent. “I would always see people surfing and I’d say to myself: ‘But where are the girls who surf?'” says the 25-year-old. “I thought: ‘Why don’t I go surfing, represent my country, represent Africa, represent Senegal, as a black girl?'” Reuters photojournalist Zohra Bensemra has documented Sambe’s training and her coaching of other girls and women. BBC

This AI Expert from Senegal Is Helping Showcase Africans in Stem

Adji Bousso Dieng will be Princeton’s School of Engineering’s first Black female faculty. Not only has Adji Bousso Dieng, an AI researcher from Senegal, contributed to the field of generative modeling and about to become one of the first black female faculty in Computer Science in the Ivy League, she is also helping Africans in STEM tell their own success stories.Dieng, who is currently a researcher at Google and an incoming computer science faculty at Princeton, works in an area of Artificial Intelligence called generative modeling. … In addition to this, Dieng started The Africa I Know (TAIK), a platform that showcases Africans who’ve had successful careers; highlight how Africans are leveraging technology to solve developmental problems -in agriculture, health and education- and narrate African history as told by Africans. Forbes



Photo: Adam Jones