Africa Media Review for September 25, 2019

Burundi, the Forgotten Crisis, Still Burns
Mass atrocities and crimes against humanity committed primarily by state agents and their allies continue to take place in Burundi, according to the September 2019 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. The Commission, moreover, found that President Pierre Nkurunziza and many in his inner circle are personally responsible for some of the most serious of these crimes. They include “summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, sexual violence, and forced disappearances.” The Commission has been investigating the Burundi crisis since 2016. Its findings mirror those of the International Criminal Court, which opened a separate investigation in 2017 based on “a reasonable basis to believe that state agents and groups implementing state policies … launched a widespread and systematic attack against the Burundian civilian population.” The persistence of such atrocities echoes Burundi’s 1972 and 1993 genocides and the brutal civil war that ended in 2005. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Cameroon’s Separatists Intensify Attacks to Protest Dialogue
New violence has flared in Cameroon as preparations intensify for a national dialogue called by President Paul Biya to end the conflict that has killed at least 2,000 people in the country’s English-speaking regions. Scores of people have been killed in recent days and electricity has been cut, mostly in English-speaking towns, when attackers set fire to power distribution equipment. The military has been deployed to replace teachers who are, once again, escaped to safer places. … As the violence continues, Cameroon’s prime minister, Dion Ngute, has been consulting with political party leaders, civil society activists, opinion leaders, traditional rulers, lawmakers and clergy to gather their proposals, which will be submitted for examination during the national dialogue announced from September 30 to October 4 in Yaounde with the aim of achieving a definitive return to peace. VOA

Bouteflika’s Brother Sentenced to 15 Years in Algeria Court
An Algerian military court has sentenced the brother of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and three co-defendants to 15 years in prison, the state APS news agency reported on Wednesday. Said Bouteflika, widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, went on trial on Monday alongside two former intelligence chiefs and a political party head. Their convictions are the most prominent so far in a string of prosecutions of prominent politicians and businessmen over alleged graft launched since Bouteflika was pushed out in April after two decades in power. All four defendants were convicted of “undermining the authority of the army” and “conspiring” against the state in order to bring about regime change, in the run-up to the ageing president’s resignation in the face of mass protests earlier this year. AFP

U.S. forces said on Wednesday they had killed 11 suspected militants linked to Islamic State in their second air strike near the southern Libyan town of Murzuq in less than a week. The attack, carried out on Tuesday, followed a Sept. 19 strike that the U.S. said had killed eight suspected militants. “This air strike was conducted to eliminate ISIS terrorists and deny them the ability to conduct attacks on the Libyan people,” Major General William Gayler, director of operations for U.S. Africa Command, said in a statement. Some Islamic State militants retreated south into Libya’s desert as the group lost its stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte at the end of 2016. The U.S. has said it will not allow militants to use a conflict between eastern and western-based factions around the capital Tripoli to protect themselves. Reuters

Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj will be representing only part of the country when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. His government has been battling for months to keep control of the capital, Tripoli, amid an offensive by forces aligned with a rival authority based in the country’s eastern portion. Extremists, including those from the Islamic State group, have exploited the unrest to expand their reach. With a long coastline on the Mediterranean, Libya also has become a major transit point for migrants seeking to escape conflict, persecution and poverty. Thousands are hoping to reach the shores of Europe despite reports of systematic abuse by traffickers in Libya, including beatings and sexual violence. A look at the devastation in Libya and its wider effects… AP

North Korea has quietly reopened a construction firm in Senegal in an apparent violation of United Nations sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s nuclear programs, VOA Korean has confirmed. At least 31 North Koreans are working at the firm, Corman Construction & Commerce Senegal Sural (CCCSSS), according to interviews and official documents reviewed by VOA Korean. Under a series of sweeping sanctions enacted two years ago, the U.N. prohibited member states from conducting most business activities with North Korea. The sanctions also prohibited member states from allowing in new North Korean workers and required any North Korean workers in place be expelled by the end of 2019. … U.N. and U.S. officials maintain that North Korea obtains hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from these and other remittances. The sanctions are meant to cut off North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s access to foreign currency that could help finance his nation’s nuclear and missile development program. VOA

Zimbabwe Police Defy Court in Blocking Doctor’s Travel
Defying a high court’s order, Zimbabwe police on Tuesday blocked an activist doctor from leaving a Harare medical facility to seek care in South Africa. Attorneys for Peter Magombeyi told VOA’s Zimbabwe Service that they were headed back to court in the capital city Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day, High Court Judge Happias Zhou ruled that Magombeyi, recovering from an alleged abduction, was entitled to leave the country since he is not under arrest. Magombeyi’s representatives, with the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said he needed to travel to be examined for possible physical and psychological harm. Zimbabwe Republic Police officers barred Magombeyi from leaving Avenues Clinic to go to the airport Monday, the lawyers group said in a Facebook post Tuesday. The lawyers told VOA that they were returning to court after police continued to block Magombeyi’s departure. VOA

African Free Trade Stumbles with Nigerian Blockade of Benin
Nigeria and Benin are embroiled in a trade dispute two months after signing an agreement to free up the movement of goods and services in Africa. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the partial closing of its boundary with Benin last month to curb smuggling of rice and other commodities. The blockade has had a ripple effect across West Africa, with factories and traders struggling to import key raw materials and having to use alternative routes for their exports, according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce. Bloomberg

How China and Other Asian Countries Are Fueling an African Drug-Abuse Crisis
On the Kenyan coast, there are two starkly different worlds. One is the lavish realm of the drug lords who wield a lot of power in politics and business. They are corrupt individuals who use violence to silence rivals, security agencies and judicial officials to protect their drug trafficking empires. The other group clings to existence in abject poverty: a large section of the country’s youth who are wasting away in the prime of their lives due to drug abuse. The drug barons supply the drugs in the coastal towns of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale. Some of the young people are now members of criminal gangs with addicts, financing their lifestyle through muggings; others idle their time away. In August, a wave of crime hit the coastal region, impelling the government to launch a crackdown on gangs and drug lords. South China Morning Post

Africa’s Charcoal Trade Is Decimating Fragile Forest Cover
The machete-wielding men lodge themselves deep inside forests for weeks at a time, felling trees that will be incinerated into pieces of charcoal. Because they often work at night and target seemingly idle public land, they operate with relative impunity while decimating forests in parts of Africa. … Edwin Muhumuza, an environmental protection activist who runs the Kampala-based civic group Youth Go Green, said demand for charcoal has turned it into a precious commodity much like gold or coffee. … Figures show a dire situation. Uganda’s forest cover as a percentage of total land stood at 9% in 2015, down from 24% in 1990, according to government data. But authorities in northern districts such as Gulu, which provides much of the charcoal entering Kampala, are fighting back in a campaign that has yielded scores of impounded charcoal trucks since 2015. Gulu chairman Martin Mapenduzi organizes raids in hopes of arresting charcoal burners. AP

Somali Journalist: ‘I Was the Only Female Reporter in My City’
Maryan Seylac is a journalist from Somalia. She was one of the first female reporters from her city, Baidoa, and set up an organisation that seeks to encourage and support women journalists in the country. She has told the BBC her story, discussing the challenges that women face in one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a journalist and how she was almost killed in an attack by militant Islamist group al-Shabab. BBC

Mo Ibrahim Foundation Announces Launch of ‘Governance Report’
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has announced the launch of the first comprehensive Africa Governance Report. The report will be published online on October 15 on mo.ibrahim.foundation. Data from “the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, IIAG, will be used in the report to further governance analysis in Africa,” a statement by the organisers on Wednesday noted. The focus will be placed on Governance and Africa’s implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. AU’s Agenda 2063 was adopted in January 2015. It is “both a Vision and an Action Plan” and a “call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.” Premium Times

Special Report: The Future of African Healthcare
Healthcare systems across Africa are underfunded and understaffed. But clinicians and politicians are campaigning to secure more funds, improve medical training, widen access to vaccines, tackle counterfeit drugs and develop more affordable medicines. Financial Times



Photo: Adam Jones