Africa Media Review for September 23, 2020

South African President Warns Pandemic Has Set Back African Development
Despite the continent-wide approach taken by African countries to combat COVID-19, the pandemic has set back their development aspirations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Speaking via video-link, Mr. Ramaphosa noted that, with resources redirected to fighting the virus, efforts to provide housing, health care, water and sanitation, and education have been hampered, and called for interest payments on African countries’ debt to be suspended. … Turning to peace and security matters, Mr. Ramaphosa declared that South Africa is continuing with efforts to “silence the guns,” through conflict resolution and peace-building. Increased cooperation between the UN and African Union has, he said, contributed to improving peace and security in the Darfur region of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic. UN News

Cameroon Opposition Say One Killed in Protest against Veteran Ruler
One protester was killed in Cameroon as police and gendarmes put down protests against the veteran President Paul Biya, the country’s main opposition party said on Tuesday, while accusing security forces of laying siege to their leader’s home. Police and gendarmes fired tear gas and water cannon to break up protests in the commercial hub of Douala, calling for an end to Biya’s near 40-year rule, Reuters witnesses said. The rally was called by 87-year-old Biya’s closest rival, Maurice Kamto, of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement party, who hopes to spark a popular revolt as seen in other African nations such as Mali and Burkina Faso. Kamto’s home was “in a state of siege,” surrounded by tanks and heavily armed gendarmes, said Joseph Ateba, a senior member of Kamto’s party, the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC).

Terrorists Kill Nigerian Army Commander, 6 Others in Ambush
At least seven soldiers and their commander have been killed in an ambush by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria’s northeast, the epicentre of the group’s insurgency. The Nigerian Army on September 21 confirmed the killing of Col Dahiru U Bako, the commander of 25 Task Force Brigade in Damboa in Borno State, where Nigeria Army’s Operation Lafiya Dole has been battling terrorists. A statement released late on Monday by Mr Ado Isa, spokesman of Operation Lafiya Dole, said Bako led a patrol to clear Boko Haram terrorists from Sabon Gari-Wajiroko axis near Damboa when his team entered an ambush at about 10 am on September 20. “Under his able leadership, the troops cleared the ambush, resulting in the killing of scores of terrorists and recovery of weapons and equipment.” Nation

Extremist Violence Causes Food Shortages in North Mozambique
The escalating extremist insurgency in northern Mozambique has displaced 310,000 people, creating an urgent humanitarian crisis, the World Food Program said Tuesday. The rebels have recently stepped up attacks in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, seizing the strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia, which they have held for six weeks. Clashes between the extremist fighters, aligned with the Islamic State group, and government forces have caused massive numbers of local residents to flee their homes and fields. … “We are deeply concerned about the unfolding humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado where conflict and violence have left people without access to food and livelihoods,” Antonella D’Aprile, the World Food Program’s representative for Mozambique, said Tuesday. “The growing insecurity and poor infrastructure have meant that reaching out to people in need has become harder and now with COVID-19 the crisis becomes even more complex,” she said. AP

Macron Tells Mali Junta to Hand Power Back to Civilians Quickly
Mali’s military junta must restore power to civilians and arrange quick elections, France’s president said on Tuesday, warning that the French role in fighting Islamist militants in the region would depend on it. Former Mali defence minister and retired colonel Bah Ndaw was named interim president on Monday while the leader of the junta that seized power last month, Colonel Assimi Goita, was appointed vice president. France, the former colonial power in Mali and now with some 5,100 troops fighting jihadists across the Sahel region, worries that the Aug. 18 military coup will set a dangerous precedent and undermine the campaign against militant Islam. “They (the junta) must put Mali on the irreversible path of returning to civilian power and organise rapid elections,” Macron said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Reuters

Ivory Coast Ruling Party Says Will Hold Election with or without Opposition
Ivory Coast’s ruling party said on Tuesday it will push ahead with the October election regardless of whether the opposition participate, comments likely to deepen political tensions in the world’s top cocoa producer. At least a dozen people have been killed since riots broke out last month after President Alassane Ouattara declared he would run for a third term, following the sudden death of his handpicked successor in July. Last weekend, Ouattara’s main challenger Henry Konan Bédié called for civil disobedience and reform of the electoral commission and the constitutional court, but opposition parties have stopped short of saying they would boycott the poll. Reuters

South African Overtures to Opposition Rile Zimbabwe
A dispute between the ruling parties of South Africa and Zimbabwe is threatening the longstanding alliance between two former liberation movements that for decades helped shore up the regime of Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa. After repeated brutal crackdowns in Zimbabwe, South Africa’s ruling ANC this month expressed interest in talking to the opposition in its crisis-hit neighbour. This is its biggest political intervention in Zimbabwe since Mr Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe, the longtime dictator, in a 2017 army coup. While Mr Mnangagwa promised to make political and economic reforms, his own rule has become even more repressive. Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF reacted angrily to the suggestion. … “We would love to have dialogue” with the ANC, Mr [Tendai] Biti [a senior figure in Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change] said. But, he warned, Mr Mnangagwa was “paranoid” and now liable to see any pressure from outside, whether from South Africa or others, as an attempt to unseat him. FT

A project that aims to develop Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum mine has cleared a significant hurdle, with the African Export-Import Bank completing a due diligence study allowing it to proceed with a $500 million syndicated funding program. While some work has started on the mine, with $100 million spent to date including exploration costs, a significant amount of investment will now be needed if Great Dyke Investments, owned by Russia’s Vi Holding and Zimbabwean investors, is to complete the $2 billion project. … The so-called Darwendale project, which lies 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the capital Harare, is central to the Zimbabwean government’s plans to revive its stagnant economy. The country has the world’s third-biggest platinum reserves after South Africa and Russia. Bloomberg

South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria Have Seen Millions of Cyber Attacks in 2020
In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUA) detections, according to Kaspersky security solutions. … These numbers show that it’s not only the malware that attacks users but also the “grey zone” programmes that grow in popularity and disturb their experiences, while users might not even know it is there. … “The reason why ‘grey zone’ software is growing in popularity is that it is harder to notice at first and that if the programme is detected, its creators won’t be considered to be cybercriminals. … By taking a closer look at PUA, it becomes apparent that they are not only more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware. Evaluating results over the same 7-month period in Nigeria, there were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million PUA detections – which is four times as much. defenceWeb

Press Freedom Group Condemns Censorship as Algeria Bans French TV Channel
In a move denounced as censorship by Reporters Without Borders, the Algerian Ministry of Communications says it will “no longer authorise” the private French television channel M6 to operate in Algeria. This follows the broadcast by M6 of a “distorted” documentary on the anti-government protest movement Hirak. … “This is called censorship and it’s an admission of political weakness,” tweeted the head of RSF Christophe Deloire. In May 2020, a documentary on the Halak movement broadcast on France 5 public television led to a diplomatic crisis between Algiers and Paris. … Algeria ranks 146th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index for 2020. RFI

Zambia Headed for Africa’s First COVID-Related Debt Default
Zambia has asked investors in its US dollar bonds to accept delays in their interest payments into next year, in what would be the first African debt default on private creditors since the pandemic. President Edgar Lungu’s government said on Tuesday that it was seeking “the suspension of debt service payments for a period of six months” from holders of its $3bn worth of international bonds, beginning in October. The country first tapped international bond markets in 2012, at a time when its fast-growing economy and investors’ hunger for high-yielding dollar assets allowed it to borrow more cheaply than Spain. Further sales followed in 2014 and 2015 amid a post-financial crisis boom for bond issuance by African governments. But Tuesday’s proposal leaves investors – including holders of the original $750m 10-year bond – facing losses. Even before the pandemic hit the continent, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer was battling to control $11bn of debts, a large part of which is also owed to China. FT

Sierra Leone Doctor in Dedicated Mission against COVID-19
Dr. Mamadu Baldeh can’t forget the 18-year-old who came into his hospital with COVID-19, gasping for air until the day he died. This suffering was all too real for Baldeh, who battles asthma just as that young man did. At the time, Baldeh, 32, was the only physician treating COVID-19 patients at Sierra Leone’s main public hospital. “This moved me significantly and made me very worried at the time,” the doctor recalled of the young man, one of dozens who has now died from the virus at Connaught Hospital, in the capital, Freetown. “And really I couldn’t figure out how or why I kept my composure.” … But supplies remain a struggle. Sometimes patients must share oxygen tanks, and often patients can’t get or even afford medications they need. COVID-19 is an added burden on Sierra Leone’s fragile health system, which is still recovering from an 11-year civil war that ended in 2002 and an Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 4,000 people between 2014 and 2016. AP

On Patrol with Nigeria’s ‘Agro Rangers,’ Who Protect Farmers from Boko Haram
The rainy season is the best time to grow rice and corn in Borno, one of Nigeria’s agricultural regions. But farmers are frequently targeted by Boko Haram attacks. In a bid to improve security in the region and reassure farmers, teams of so-called “Agro Rangers” were set up a year ago by authorities. The men, who are often volunteer militia or hunters, are recruited by the Nigerian civil defence. Our correspondent Moïse Gomis went on patrol with them on the outskirts of Maiduguri and elsewhere in Borno. France24

Old Soldiers Never Fade Away, They Just Keep Dancing
When Madala Simon Mhlanga signed up to fight in the army in 1941 he was ready to die. Nearly 80 years later Mhlanga is still going strong, dancing and celebrating life at 101 years old. And what a life it has been. He has been a sports coach, a mentor to children, a performer, a dance instructor and a traditional healer. Mhlanga is one of only a handful of survivors of the 80,000 black South African servicemen who served with the South African Native Corps in World War II. A total of 344,000 South African served. On September 2, the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The generation who fought that war – in which many millions of people died – are all but gone. When Scrolla.Africa arrived at his house in Dobsonville, Soweto, Mhlanga greeted the team with a song and a dance. Mhlanga has vivid memories of his youth and his war service. Scrolla.Africa



Photo: Adam Jones