Africa Media Review for September 22, 2020

Mali’s Junta Leader to Be Veep of Transitional Government

The head of Mali’s military junta said Monday he will serve as the vice president in a transitional government that is supposed to bring about a return to democracy, more than a month after he led a coup to overthrow the president. The move announced by Col. Assimi Goita himself on state television may be rejected by the international community, which has called for civilian leadership during the political transition and for the junta to be dissolved. Goita said that retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, 70, a former defense minister, has been named president of the transitional government, which is to be inaugurated on Sept. 25. Both positions were chosen by a transition committee selected by the junta that included its members and representatives of political parties, civil and religious groups. … It was not immediately clear whether [ECOWAS] would accept Goita as vice president as he would still hold a prominent role in government. AP

Mali Coup, Third-Term Bids Fan Fears of West African Democracy Backslide

Until this year, West Africa looked to have shed its “coup-belt” moniker, winning plaudits as a model of democratic progress on the continent. But last month’s putsch in Mali is fuelling fears among activists that gains of the past decade are unravelling. The power grab came at a time when the presidents of Ivory Coast and Guinea are seeking third terms after winning referendums to alter constitutions that barred them from running again. While elections are now held consistently across the region, such moves, combined with governments’ attempts to stifle political opposition, are making many West Africans lose faith in the ballot box as a way of holding leaders accountable, activists and analysts say. … Political instability could further undermine security in a region where militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are threatening to overrun state forces in inland countries like Mali and extend their influence into coastal nations like Ivory Coast. Reuters

Facebook Campaigners Skirt Rules in Guinea Vote, Study Says

Guinea’s ruling party is running a coordinated propaganda network on Facebook Inc. ahead of October elections that’s inconsistent with transparent campaigning, Stanford University said in a report Monday. Researchers found 94 pages “clearly” tied to the ruling party, but failing to disclose that they’re being paid to post text and images in support of President Alpha Conde. Many of the administrators hide their identities by using names, such as “Guineas, Open Your Eyes” or false names, such as “Alpha the Democrat,” according to the report. Conde is seeking a third term in the Oct. 18 vote. After investigating, Facebook said it won’t suspend the pages because they are operated by real people with real identities. The company is working on tools to help people better understand who’s behind the pages they follow, a spokeswoman said by email. … However, the Guinean propaganda network exposes “gray areas in Facebook’s policies,” the Stanford study said. Bloomberg

EU Sanctions Three Firms for Breaking Libya Arms Embargo

The European Union (EU) on Monday imposed sanctions on three companies – one Turkish, one Kazakh, and one Jordanian – for breaching the UN arms embargo on Libya, drawing an angry reaction from Turkey. At a regular meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers signed off on the measures, which freeze any EU assets held by the companies, cut them off from EU finance markets, and bar them from doing business with anyone in the bloc. Two individuals were also hit with sanctions for human rights abuses in Libya, where the UN-recognised government in Tripoli has been under attack from strongman Khalifa Haftar, who runs a rival administration in the east. The EU has a naval mission operating in waters off Libya which is tasked with policing the embargo and collecting intelligence on violators. The Defense Post with AFP

Armed Men Kill at Least a Dozen Civilians in Northeast Congo

Armed men killed at least a dozen people and kidnapped several in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday night, authorities said, the latest in a string of attacks they have blamed on Ugandan Islamist rebels. Violence attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, has surged since the army began a counter-insurgency campaign against them late last year. Armed men attacked the city of Mbau in Beni territory, North Kivu province, near the Ugandan border, killing and kidnapping people and burning houses before fleeing into the bush, officials and a civil rights groups said. “They committed macabre acts. For the moment we have just found 12 bodies of civilians killed by these rebels,” said Donat Kibwana, administrator of the Beni territory. Reuters

Cameroon Soldiers Jailed for Murdering Women and Children

Four Cameroonian soldiers received 10-year prison sentences on Monday for the killing of two women and two children in an incident that sparked international outcry, their lawyers said. They and three other soldiers were arrested after a video surfaced on social media in July 2018 showing uniformed men levelling rifles and firing at the victims, one of whom had a baby strapped to her back. The video was one of several to emerge in recent years of alleged atrocities by Cameroonian forces during operations against Islamist Boko Haram militants in the north and Anglophone separatists in the west. The trial started in January and has been conducted behind closed doors. On Monday, the court found three of the soldiers guilty of murder, while their commander Etienne Fabassou was found guilty of complicity in murder, according to his lawyer Sylvestre Mbeng. Reuters

Cameroon Army on Alert Ahead of Tuesday’s Protests

Military units are on alert in Cameroon ahead of the expected nationwide protests on Tuesday. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement is calling for peaceful protests, with demands that include the resignation of President Paul Biya, election reform and better representation for undeserved groups, especially in the Anglophone regions. In an apparent attempt to discourage participation in the protests, the government is reportedly threatening participants with jail time. Violent clashes between security forces and those demanding rights for the Anglophone regions has prompted thousands of people to flee their homes in recent years. VOA

‘Coloured Lives Matter’: A South African Police Shooting like No Other

The young man who was shot last month, 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies, was of mixed heritage, or, as it is still known, colored, a vestige of apartheid-era South Africa’s racial classification. Two of the three officers arrested in the case are also colored, and one is Black. When Nathaniel’s mother, Bridget Harris, saw first his body, she said, she was shocked by the gunshot wounds. “We couldn’t count,” she said. “It’s too many.” Death at the hands of the police in South Africa is hardly uncommon – by one estimate, each day a South African dies in a police action. But this particular shooting in Johannesburg unleashed passionate protests that commanded an unusual degree of attention, inside South Africa and out. And the explanation, at least in part, is that this was no ordinary young man who was killed. Nathaniel was seriously disabled by Down syndrome, and barely able to form complete sentences. The New York Times

Graft Alleged as Kenya’s Fight against COVID-19 Struggles

Organizations have contributed aid worth more than $2 billion to help Kenya’s in its fight against COVID-19.  But much of the aid has gone missing, prompting President Uhuru Kenyatta to order an investigation into who might have taken it. Money and medical supplies were donated by such groups as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Jack Ma Foundation. The Network Action Against Corruption (NAAC), an organization sanctioned by the Kenyan government to promote fiscal accountability, accuses KEMSA, a government agency that supplies medicine and medical equipment to the Ministry of Health, of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars meant for the COVID-19 battle. The network said officials in KEMSA ran multiple schemes. VOA

Kenya’s Judge Advises Parliament to Dissolve over Lack of Women

Kenya’s top judge has advised the president to dissolve the country’s male-dominated Parliament, saying legislators failed to meet a constitutional provision which would allow for one-third of seats to be occupied by women. Despite Kenya’s 2010 constitution stating no more than two-thirds of any elected or appointed body can be of the same gender, women hold 22 percent of seats in the country’s lower house of Parliament, and 31 percent in the upper house. Court rulings since 2012 have directed Parliament to pass legislation to enforce the gender rule or risk being dissolved – but previous attempts have failed with female members of Parliament accusing male legislators of deliberately blocking efforts. In an advisory sent to President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday, Chief Justice David Maraga said the failure to enact the legislation was clear testimony of legislators’ “lackadaisical attitude and conduct” in relation to the two-thirds gender rule. Reuters

Uganda Makerere University Fire: ‘Ivory Tower’ Gutted

A fire has gutted an iconic building at Uganda’s Makerere University, which is a prominent landmark in the capital. Known as the “Ivory Tower,” an overnight blaze has left its distinctive white walls with blue-shuttered windows blackened. Police in Kampala have started an investigation into the cause of the fire at one of Africa’s oldest and most prestigious universities. The vice-chancellor described the destruction as unbelievable. “It is a very dark morning for Makerere University. Our iconic Main Administration Building caught fire and the destruction is unbelievable. But we are determined to restore the building to its historic state in the shortest time possible,” Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe tweeted. BBC

Survival of Wildlife Reserves under Threat in Namibia

Namibia has 86 communal conservancies, which are run by the local residents, and are highly appreciated by tourists. … Communal conservancies play an important role in sustainable development. People who live on conservancy land are granted rights to utilize wildlife sustainably, which include the harvesting of meat and the sale of trophy hunting rights, both based upon regulation and quotas. This way they benefit from wildlife management and tourism, and have less incentive to trade illegally in animal parts. The conservancies protect and even recover wildlife, building back the population of animals lost to poachers. In 2019, poaching in Namibian conservancies decreased by more than 60% over the preceding year, thanks to greater intelligence and law enforcement operations – supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – and tougher sentences and fines. This success now risks being undermined by COVID-19. UN News

Botswana Reveals the Cause of a Mass Elephant Die-Off after Months-Long Wait

Months after hundreds of elephants were found dead in a concentrated area near Botswana’s famed Okavango swamps, raising fears that they had been intentionally poisoned, the southern African country’s government said test results on samples collected from the carcasses pointed instead to a naturally occurring toxin called cyanobacteria. The official death toll stands at 330, with the fatalities occurring between late April and June. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, around 130,000. Their growing numbers have been lauded by conservationists, and Bostwana has become a mecca for tourists seeking to witness and photograph wildlife. Popular sentiment in parts of the country has turned against elephants, however, as many blame them for the destruction of cropland. President Mokgweetsi Masisi campaigned and won reelection partly on promises to keep elephants more in check, and his government has reintroduced a small number of elephant hunting licenses, which were banned under his predecessor. The Washington Post

At 60 and with New Rulers, Mali Once Again at a Crossroads
A French colony since the late 19th century, Mali achieved independence in 1960, first in a federation alongside Senegal on June 20, 1960, and then becoming a country in its own right on September 22 of that year following the secession of its neighbour the month before. Since then, the West African country has retained strong relations with France as it experienced alternate cycles of political stability and instability, punctuated by rebellions, financials woes and military coups -several of them. Its very first president, Modibo Keita, was overthrown in 1968 by Moussa Traore, a young army lieutenant who met the same fate nearly a quarter of a century later. Buoyed by widespread anger at the government, Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Toure in 1991 led a coup against Traore. But unlike Traore, Toure quickly withdrew from public life – auguring the country’s longest period of democratic governance – only to return some 10 years later to successfully run for the presidency. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones