Africa Media Review for September 28, 2020

The Legacy of Military Governance in Mali
A military coup on August 18 led by Colonel Assimi Goïta has again pulled Mali into the orbit of military rule. This builds on a long legacy. Mali has had four coups since independence in 1960. A military government or a former military leader has served as head of state for 35 of its 60 years as an independent country. The junta’s Transitional Charter once again promotes a central role for the military in Mali’s political affairs. Among other points, the Charter stipulates the junta’s judicial immunity, the Charter’s supremacy over the constitution, and the future place of the junta in a transitional government. Since the coup, Colonel Goïta has repeatedly engaged in public ceremonies to rehabilitate the perception of military governance. … The celebration of Mali’s coup leaders obscures the disastrous performance of Mali’s previous military governments. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Former Mali Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane Named Transitional PM
Mali’s interim President Bah Ndaw has named former Malian Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane as prime minister. … A civilian premier was the precondition for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lift sanctions it imposed two days after the August 18 coup removing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which the military government claimed inflicted no casualties. A veteran diplomat, Ouane, 64, served as Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1995-2002, and as foreign minister from 2004-2009 during Amadou Toumani Toure’s presidency. Ndaw himself is a former colonel and defence minister, and was sworn in before Mali’s supreme court on Friday with military government chief Assimi Goita as his deputy. … Fearing a lasting power grab by the military, ECOWAS has also demanded that the vice president not be permitted to replace the president under any circumstances. It also called for people arrested since the coup, including former Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, to be released. Al Jazeera

Death Toll in Nigeria Jihadist Attack Rises to 30
The death toll from a jihadist attack on the convoy of the regional governor in northeast Nigeria has risen to 30, security sources said Saturday. According to AFP, fatalities from the attack Friday in restive Borno state had doubled as more bodies were found and now included 12 policemen, five soldiers, four members of a government-backed militia and nine civilians. “The tally has increased to 30 as many bodies were picked in the surrounding areas after the attack,” one of the sources said, adding that “many people were injured.” Sources had earlier told AFP that a convoy transporting Borno governor Babagana Umara Zulum came under attack from insurgents on Friday near the town of Baga on the shores of Lake Chad. … Zulum — who sources said was unhurt in the attack — had flown to the area to prepare for the return of residents displaced from Baga by the conflict. He was driving in the convoy accompanied by government officials under tight security towards Baga ahead of the arrival of the returnees. RFI

Libya: Russia, China Block Release of UN Report Criticizing Russia
Russia and China blocked the official release of a report by U.N. experts on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers — including Russia — of violating a U.N. arms embargo on the conflict-wracked country, U.N. diplomats said Friday. Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Günter Sautter, said he brought the issue to the Security Council after the two countries blocked the report’s release by the committee monitoring sanctions on Libya, which Germany heads. “Many delegations have asked for the publication of the panel of experts’ interim report,” he said. “This would create much needed transparency. It would contribute to naming and shaming those who continue to blatantly violate the arms embargo in spite of agreements that have been made.” But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Friday’s council consultations were closed, said Russia and close ally China again blocked the report’s publication. AP

Congolese Security Forces Thwart Rebel Attempt to Seize Mining Hub
Democratic Republic of Congo’s second-largest city is the capital of the mineral-rich southeastern province of Haut-Katanga, where mining companies such as Ivanhoe and MMG Ltd have concessions. Late on Friday, around 200 Mai-Mai militiamen, armed with guns and machetes, had marched into the city of around 2 million people with the aim of occupying official buildings and the local television station, provincial interior minister Fulbert Kunda said. Two police officers were beheaded and a soldier was shot dead in the stand-off with security forces, who killed 16 rebels as they rebuffed the attack, he said. Mai Mai comprise several armed bands that originally formed to resist two invasions by Rwandan forces in the late 1990s. They have since morphed into a variety of ethnic-based militia, including hardline secessionists. Reuters

Attackers Kill at Least 15 People in Western Ethiopia
Armed attackers have killed at least 15 people in western Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Four of the victims in Friday’s pre-dawn assault in Benishangul-Gumuz region’s Metekel Zone were women, the EHRC said in a statement, expressing “deep alarm” over a “surge in attacks against civilians” in the area. At least two instances of violence earlier this month in the same region bordering Sudan had resulted in the killing of civilians and forced at least 300 people from their homes. … The EHRC did not say who was behind the attacks. It said the Ethiopian National Defense Force engaged in a shoot-out with fighters in the area and was able to restore calm by Friday afternoon. Al Jazeera

Somali, Kenyan Troops Exchange Gunfire at Shared Border
Somali and Kenyan troops engaged in a minutes-long firefight on Saturday at the two countries’ shared border, local officials and witnesses said after the Kenyan side fired shots to deter Somali demonstrators from approaching. The incident took place at the frontier between the Somali town Bula Hawo and Kenya’s Mandera, close to where the border meets Ethiopia to the north. Multiple sources told AFP the exchange was triggered when a group of Somali demonstrators angry at the alleged killing of three civilians approached border posts manned by Kenyan soldiers. … The demonstrators believed that three civilians “kidnapped the day before” in the border town of El Wak, south of Bula Hawo, had been killed by Kenyan anti-terror police, Abdirahman said. They “were dispersed with heavy gunfire by the Kenyan troops,” eyewitness Abdifatah Hassan said. AFP

Ghana’s Western Togoland Region Declares Sovereignty
An area of eastern Ghana has declared itself a sovereign state. The region known as Western Togoland has had secessionist attempts in the past. Armed men demanding the secession of Western Togoland from Ghana blockaded major entry points to the Volta region of Ghana on Friday morning. Local sources say the group are holding three police officers hostage, including a District Commander, and attacked two police stations. Prior to the blockade, the group reportedly broke into an armory and stole weapons. … About 12 hours before Friday’s dawn operation, the Western Togoland Restoration Front (WTRF) published photos of the graduation ceremony for around 500 personnel who underwent training for months in secret locations, raising questions over the effectiveness of security agencies in the region. Ghana’s Western Togoland region is predominately wedged between Lake Volta and the Ghana-Togo border. Currently, a number of splinter groups are demanding the area be recognized as a sovereign state. DW

African Court Requests Gbagbo Be Added to Ivory Coast Electoral Roll
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has said Ivory Coast should allow former President Laurent Gbagbo, who has been barred from running in October’s presidential election, to participate in the high-stakes poll. The court, based in Arusha in Tanzania, on Friday asked Ivory Coast to “take all necessary steps to immediately remove all obstacles” preventing Gbagbo from being added to the electoral roll. Ivory Coast withdrew its recognition of the court’s jurisdiction in April this year. Gbagbo, who was president from 2000 to 2010, is not on the electoral roll which was updated this year, and thus cannot vote or be a candidate in the election. The 75-year-old was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague after he was cleared in January 2019 of crimes against humanity. He is living in Brussels pending the outcome of an appeal against the ICC ruling. Al Jazeera

Central African Republic President Touadera Announces Second Term Bid
Central African Republic’s president said on Saturday he would stand for a second term in the December election, pressing on with preparations for a vote that the opposition wants delayed due to concerns over voter registrations. The main opposition coalition is questioning the credibility of the election, after instability in the region and the coronavirus pandemic disrupted voter rolls and required parliament to tweak the electoral calendar. Touadera made his candidacy announcement to a crowd of 6,000 supporters in a sports hall in the capital Bangui that had been repainted for the occasion in the blue and white colours of his party. … One challenger is deposed former president Francois Bozize, who was overthrown in a 2013 rebellion by a coalition of mainly Muslim rebels from the north, plunging the majority Christian nation into a violent civil war. Touadera, who was prime minister under Bozize, has served as president since 2016. Reuters

Chad Says Troops Killed 20 Boko Haram Fighters, Freed Hostages
Chadian soldiers killed 20 Boko Haram jihadists and freed 12 civilians, including nine children, kidnapped in the Lake Chad area where several countries’ borders meet, the government said Friday. The jihadist group, which originated in Nigeria in 2009, has established bases on islets dotting Lake Chad, a vast swampy expanse on the border between Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. It has stepped up attacks in the area in recent months. On September 17, Boko Haram fighters raided a village in the restive zone and kidnapped the civilians, Communications Minister and government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene told AFP. The army pursued the raiders and attacked them on Thursday in Barkalam, near the Nigerian border, he said, “killing 15 terrorists” and “freeing 12 civilians.” AFP

Nigeria: Ex-Boko Haram Fighters, Eluding Detection, Start New Lives in Kaduna, Kano, Abuja
He was in the senior commanding cadre among the revered elite jihadist corps in the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. As a Qa’id, the Nigeria Army equivalent of a Brigadier-General, he was high in the sect’s pecking order. Two years ago, Musa, (not his real name) took residence in Hayin Rigasa in Kaduna among ordinary people. Musa was joined by his family, his wife and three children. He lived discreetly, with a keen interest in the minutest information about his neighbours and the neighbourhood. He avoided conversations with people and only ventured out when it was necessary. … HumAngle tracked 15 ex-fighters of Boko Haram who have deserted the battlefronts and have taken up residence in major cities in parts of northern Nigeria. Their neighbours and colleagues at work know nothing about their violent past. Premium Times

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Admits Backing Rebels, Denies Violence
The man portrayed as a hero in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” has admitted in court that he backed a rebel group, but denied that he supported any violence or killings. Paul Rusesabagina, in a pink prison uniform for his bail hearing on Friday, told the court in Kigali, the capital, that he helped to form the National Liberation Front in order to assist Rwandan refugees, but said he never supported violence. The judge has postponed ruling on his application for bail until Oct. 2. Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. permanent resident who has been a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame, is charged with 13 offenses that also include financing terrorism, complicity in murder, recruiting child soldiers, and forming a rebel group. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. It’s not clear when his trial will begin. AP

Morocco Faces down COVID Spread with Tough Rules
With air and sea borders closed for months and eight cities barring people from entering or leaving, Morocco has been pulling out the stops to stanch the spread of coronavirus. Still, the kingdom on the Atlantic coast, a magnet for tourists in better times, has registered more than 110,000 positive cases since March and has a death toll of 2,041 – the highest among its North African neighbors. Morocco first decreed lockdown measures on March 20, but has been gradually easing restrictions. A recent upsurge in infections, however, has forced targeted measures. Marrakech, a major tourist destination, is at a standstill, while police checks are part of the scenery in hard-hit Casablanca, the country’s economic powerhouse. … The director of epidemiology at the Health Ministry, Mohamed Lyoubi, conceded during a webinar that he expects the situation to worsen over winter as the flu season overlaps with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Many hospitals and test sites for the coronavirus are expected to reach capacity,” Lyoubi said. AP

US Special Envoy: Millions in Aid Aim to Help Fragile Sahel Region
The U.S. has announced $152 million in new aid to the Sahel region of Africa to support one of the most fragile and troubled regions in the world. U.S. Special Envoy to the Sahel Peter Pham announced the aid on Thursday following a trip to West Africa, where he visited Mauritania and Niger. The Sahel is plagued by extremist violence, a harsh and changing climate, and political instability. “More than 2.5 million people in the Sahel region are displaced, 3.3 [million] are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection services, and the United States is proud to be the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the region,” Pham said during a conference call announcing the aid, hosted by the Wilson Center Africa Program. … [The funding] will assist some of the most vulnerable populations in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. VOA

Ugandan Lawmakers Reject Plan for Murchison Falls Hydropower Dam
Conservationists in Uganda have hailed a bipartisan decision to reject the government’s plan to construct a hydro-power dam at the country’s biggest tourist attraction. Lawmakers unanimously adopted a report by the 28 member parliamentary committee on environment on Thursday, rejecting the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development proposal to build a 360MW at Uhuru Falls on Murchison Falls national park. “Whereas the benefits of hydroelectricity are numerous, the country needs to pursue means of sustainably utilising its natural resources, a feat that requires a delicate balance of trade-offs,” said the report, presented by Keefa Kiwanuka, the committee’s chair. … “The parliament stands in solidarity with citizenry who have stood firm in rejecting the proposal to construct a hydropower dam at Uhuru Falls on Murchison Falls,” said Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of parliament. The Guardian

Somalia: Can One Woman Fix a Failed State?
Hodan Osman couldn’t stamp out Somalia’s endemic corruption. But she made sure the country’s soldiers got paid. … On the afternoon that Hodan Osman watched an acquaintance enter the central bank, she did a double take. It wasn’t his army uniform that concerned her. Nor that he was flanked by his men. Hodan was used to soldiers; Somalia was fighting a jihadi insurgency. Explosions and gunfire were commonplace, and the capital Mogadishu was a lattice of nervy checkpoints. It was his bag that got her. She watched him wheel a carry-on suitcase into the cash office and start to fill it up. “They were just piling millions of dollars into that battered bag,” recalls Hodan. “I thought: ‘My god, that’s what $3 million looks like. I just can’t believe this.'” FP



Photo: Adam Jones