Africa Media Review for September 3, 2020

Zimbabwean Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono Is Freed on Bail
Hopewell Chin’ono, the Zimbabwean journalist held in a high-security prison for almost six weeks pending trial on charges of inciting violence, has been freed on bail. Chin’ono was arrested at his home in Harare in July after publishing a series of investigations into corruption in Zimbabwe. He has since been held in an overcrowded cell in Chikurubi jail on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. Earlier this week, the journalist’s legal team said Chin’ono had fallen ill and was displaying possible Covid symptoms. … His co-accused, Jacob Ngarivhume, a political activist, was also freed. … Ngarivhume, the leader of Transform Zimbabwe, said 45 days of detention would not deter him from fighting injustice in Zimbabwe. “Our hope for a new Zimbabwe is renewed every day. We will get there. We dream of a Zimbabwe that respects human rights, that is free of corruption, and a Zimbabwe that respects the rule of law. We will never relent … We will remain strong,” he told reporters and supporters outside the court. The Guardian

Waves of Russian and Emirati Flights Fuel Libyan War, U.N. Finds
As war raged in Libya last winter, a dozen world leaders gathered in Berlin to talk peace. The contradictions surrounding the conference were no secret: Many of the global leaders who pledged to end foreign meddling in Libya’s conflict were themselves fueling it. Even so, few expected the hypocrisy would be so blatant. As leaders posed for a group photo with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Jan. 19, having signed a pledge to respect the arms embargo on Libya, at least five cargo airplanes filled with weapons from the United Arab Emirates and Russia were cruising across the skies of North Africa, bound for the battlefields of Libya. Details of the secret, embargo-busting flights are contained in a confidential report to be presented to a panel of the Security Council on Friday. Such breaches are nothing new in Libya, where even U.N. officials call the embargo a “joke.” But the sheer scale of violations so far this year, combined with the volume of advanced weaponry now circulating inside the country, are a cause of growing international alarm. The New York Times

After Ousting a Renegade Warlord, Libya’s Pro-Government Forces Turn on One Another
Less than three months after pro-government forces pushed a renegade warlord out of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, infighting within the government now threatens to unravel it and plunge the country into the next chapter of chaos. Powerful militias in the capital are exerting their influence, sensing an opportunity to grab power and wealth. Pro-government forces and political figures are turning on one another in an effort to gain supremacy in western Libya, according to analysts. “Libya is witnessing a dramatic turn of events that underlines the urgent need to return to a full and inclusive political process,” the U.N. mission in Libya said in a statement over the weekend, calling for “calm, the application of the rule of law and the preservation of the rights of all citizens to peacefully express their views.” The Washington Post

ISWAP Fighters Kill Nine Troops in Nigeria’s Borno State: Sources
At least nine Nigerian troops were killed in an offensive by jihadists in northeast Borno state, two security sources said Wednesday. Fighters from the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 10 trucks fitted with machine guns overran a military position in the town of Magumeri late on Tuesday, killing nine troops, they said. “The terrorists took over the (military) post around 4:00 pm (1500 GMT) and dispersed the troops, killing nine,” the first source told AFP. The militants burnt three vehicles at the base, including an armored tank and an excavator used in digging fortifications to stave off jihadist incursions, said the second source who gave the same toll. A military reinforcement from the regional capital Maiduguri engaged the retreating attackers in a fight and killed 20 insurgents, the sources said. The Defense Post with AFP

Mali’s Junta Names Newcomers to Strategic Positions
Mali’s junta has named a new army chief of staff and appointed people to other key army and security posts, weeks after seizing power, according to decrees published Wednesday. General Oumar Diarra is named chief of the general staff of the armed forces in a decree dated September 1 and signed by the junta’s leader, Colonel Assimi Goita. He replaces General Abdoulaye Coulibaly at the head of an army which has lost hundreds of men in the last few years fighting jihadists, despite the support of French, international and UN troops. Coulibaly is still being detained by the junta along with several other high-ranking and leading political figures arrested during the August 18 coup that overthrew president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Keïta is under house arrest, with limited access to the internet and telephone while being denied visitors, according to the former president’s entourage. AFP

South Africa Is Ready to Help Mozambique with Its Insurgency
South Africa is ready to help insurgency-hit Mozambique with support from its intelligence services or military, but its neighbour would first need to request that help, South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday. Pandor told a parliamentary committee that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had asked Mozambique to provide a roadmap on the assistance it might need, which would then be deliberated upon before a course of action was chosen. “If it is more intelligence support, if it is the South African navy patrolling the coast, if it is assistance from our defence force, we as South Africa stand ready, but we must have that indication from the government of Mozambique,” Pandor said. “Mozambique is a sovereign country, if it needs assistance from any of us it would ask for it…But should South Africa be jumping into Mozambique without any request from the country, without any indication as to where it needs help? I’m not sure that we can do that,” she added. DefenceWeb

UN Deploys Troops to New Base as Violence Surges in South Sudan
The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan announced Wednesday it was deploying troops to the country’s strife-torn south following an upsurge in violence by armed rebels against civilians and aid workers. The deployment of blue helmets to establish a new outpost in Central Equatoria follows attacks on humanitarian convoys this week that left two civilians dead, and a roadside ambush in the same region in late August that killed six vice-presidential bodyguards. UN special envoy David Shearer said the peacekeepers would set up a base at Lobonok, some 110 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of the capital Juba, in a region witnessing a resurgence in violent clashes between rebel and government forces. The Defense Post with AFP

Cameroon Says Conflict Destroying Anglophone Regions’ Economies
Cameroon says the economies of its troubled English-speaking western regions are collapsing as a result of the country’s four-year separatist conflict. Officials say the ongoing fighting has made tax revenues in the English-speaking Northwest region drop from $800,000 annually to just $1,000 last year. The lack of government funds has had devastating effects on the region.Fotso Dominique, the most senior government economic official in the English-speaking Northwest region, says separatist fighters have succeeded in chasing customs and tax officials from almost all crossing points along the border with Nigeria. Speaking on Cameroon state television, Dominique said there has been a 90% drop in imports of building materials, drugs, vehicles, electronics and basic commodities from Nigeria. VOA

Senegal Sends 3,000 Tons of Ammonium Nitrate to Mali
People in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, are breathing a sigh of relief after officials removed from its port 3,050 tons of ammonium nitrate, the same substance at a slightly lesser volume that caused the explosion in Beirut last month that killed at least 190 people, injured thousands and caused extensive damage. After the Beirut explosion, countries with ports have been scrambling to be sure they are not in a similarly vulnerable situation. “To date, no ammonium nitrate is present at the port of Dakar,” said the statement issued Wednesday by the port’s communication department, adding that the evacuation of the dangerous material was completed Tuesday. … Mali’s ministry of transport has said that the substance is intended for use by Malian mining companies in its quarries. AP

Nigeria: How 10,000 Newly Recruited Constables Will Be Deployed – Police
The Commissioner of Police (CP) for Ekiti State, Tunde Mobayo, has hinted that police constables currently being recruited by the Nigeria Police across the country would be deployed in their respective local government areas. The recruitment process has started for 10,000 new police officers to join the force with recruitment portals open for interested applicants. The federal government has also approved the sum of about N13 billion for the take-off of its community policing initiative which is expected to bring crime-fighting closer to the local communities. … Mr Mobayo said the decision to post the new officers to their local government areas was informed by the belief that the personnel would have more knowledge about their terrain than people from other states. Premium Times

Family of Detained ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Seeks Belgium’s Help
A daughter of the man portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda” said Wednesday that his family has met with Belgian officials about contacting Paul Rusesabagina in jail after Rwandan authorities paraded him in handcuffs this week but gave no details about how he had been apprehended overseas. … Separately, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, tweeted that he had met with the Rwandan ambassador to the U.S., Mathilde Mukantabana, to discuss the arrest. “The United States expects the Rwandan government to provide humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law and provide a fair and transparent legal process,” Nagy said. And the United Nations human rights office said it expects the rights of Rusesabagina, an outspoken government critic, will be respected “notwithstanding the serious allegations” against him. AP

Pandemic to Push 47 Million More Women, Girls into Poverty: UN
The coronavirus pandemic will widen the poverty gap between women and men, pushing 47 million more women and girls into impoverished lives by next year, and undoing progress made in recent decades, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Worldwide, more women than men will be made poor by the economic fallout and significant job losses caused by COVID-19, with informal workers worst hit in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, according to new UN estimates. … During the pandemic, women have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men have, as they are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit by long lockdowns such as retail, restaurants and hotels, it said. Women are also more likely to work in the informal economy, typically in jobs as domestic workers and cleaners that often come with little or no healthcare, unemployment benefits or other protections. Reuters

Zimbabwe Investigating Deaths of 22 Elephants, More Expected
The number of elephants dying in western Zimbabwe from a suspected bacterial infection, possibly from eating poisonous plants, has risen to 22, and “more deaths are expected,” a spokesman for the country’s parks agency said Wednesday. … Scientists are investigating the deaths last month of more than 275 elephants in Botswana’s Okavango Delta area. Poaching, poisoning and anthrax have also been ruled out in those deaths. Animal welfare groups such as the African Wildlife Foundation, have expressed “concern” at the mysterious deaths of elephants in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Parks rangers should urgently remove and destroy the carcasses of the elephants that are in close proximity to human settlements “to prevent any potential transfer of pathogens as a precautionary measure,” said African Wildlife Foundation Vice President of Species Conservation and Science Philip Muruthi, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya. AP

Does Netflix’s Blood and Water Show the ‘Real’ South Africa?
Where it might have once seemed strange to see a South African teen drama on Netflix, Blood and Water is part of a huge foray into the continent for the streaming service. The show, which was in the streaming service’s Top 10 in the US, UK and France within its first week of release, followed spy thriller Queen Sono and the vigilante drama Shadow. Scouting for talent on the ground before partnering with the region’s creative organisations to bring its ideas to the screen, Netflix’s strategy is clearly international but the stories are rooted in the people local to each region. A Nigerian original series is in the works, and the company’s head of African original programming, Dorothy Ghettuba, who is from Kenya, has said that her home country has “promise” for Netflix. The Guardian

When Andiswa Gebashe was growing up in Soweto in the 1990s, she had two dreams. “I wanted to be an actor, and I wanted to be the president,” she says. Today, improbably, she is both – thought not exactly in the way she imagined. Gebashe is a South African Sign Language (SASL) interpreter for South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, interpreting his televised speeches on the coronavirus pandemic on live TV for the country’s deaf community. “When you are up there interpreting, part of the job is to embody the speaker,” says Gebashe, who grew up with a deaf father and signed before she ever spoke. “So when I’m on stage with him, I’m not Andiswa. I am actually the president.” And with millions tuning in for the presidential updates on the coronavirus and the country’s continuing lockdown, Gebashe and her fellow presidential interpreter Nicoline Du Toit have also become known figures here in their own right – or as one local newspaper put it, “low key celebrities of a very unusual persuasion.” NPR

The Real Story of the World’s Biggest Tanzanite Find
Lazaro Lasimi and his colleagues descended hundreds of metres into the earth underneath the Mererani Hills, in Manyara in northern Tanzania. At the bottom of the mine, they dug 57 small holes, carefully placing dynamite into each. Only when they were all safely on the surface did they press the trigger. The explosion was designed to break the hard rock which protects one of the world’s most unique natural resources: tanzanite, the rare, shimmering violet-blue gem stone that is found only in Tanzania, and mostly in the Mererani Hills. Usually, it takes 15 minutes for the dust to settle. That day, Lasimi remembers, something was different: it took half an hour, even with oxygen pipes lowered into the depths to speed up the process. Once the staff geologist had given the go-ahead, Lasimi and the team eventually made it back down. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones