Africa Media Review for September 30, 2020

Safeguarding Democracy in West Africa

Over the last two decades, West Africa has led Africa’s transition toward democracy. The recent military uprising in Mali, however, is a wake-up call. Coups can be contagious and democratic gains can be rolled back. West African leaders and citizens must heed the lessons of recent conflicts in the region. … Elections are a central pillar of our peacebuilding efforts-and a major milestone. Elections, of course, are only the start of a democratic process. What happens afterward is the tough part. Political space must be protected so that differing views can be heard as part of a participatory discourse. A democracy must also deliver accountable and inclusive governance that improves the lives of its citizens. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Efforts to Unify Soldiers in South Sudan ‘Stuck’: UN Envoy

The United Nations special envoy to South Sudan on Tuesday said almost no progress has been made in unifying the country’s warring forces under one army, as promised under a hard-fought peace deal. The pledge to bring government and rebel soldiers under a national banner was a cornerstone of a September 2018 peace agreement that paused five years of bloodshed in which 380,000 people died. But troops brought together at joint training sites across the troubled country were deserting because of a lack of food and other essentials, said UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) special representative David Shearer. “There has been almost no movement on the critical areas of security sector reform,” Shearer told a news conference in Juba. “At the moment, the process is stuck. It hasn’t even moved past the first stage, where forces are trained and graduated. Urgent action is needed to move the process forward.” AFP

Sudan Launches Mass Disarmament Campaign with Bang in the Desert

Sudan’s army launched a disarmament campaign Tuesday to seize all illegal weapons in a country left awash with guns after decades of civil war, by blowing up 300,000 firearms. “Our country has suffered enough,” said Lieutenant General Ibrahim Jaber Ibrahim, a member of the sovereign council, the highest body in the country, at a ceremony in the desert. “We are going to take very strict measures to prevent the possession of weapons,” Ibrahim said, speaking at the Hager al Assal base, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the capital Khartoum. “They must remain exclusively in the hands of regular forces.” … The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, a research organisation, calculates there were 2.76 million illegally-held weapons in Sudan in 2017, or 6.6 guns for every 100 people. … The disarmament campaign follows a ceasefire deal last month between Sudan’s government … and rebel commanders from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) coalition. AFP

Rights Groups Condemn Cameroon Police Stationed at Opposition Leader’s Home

Human rights groups in Cameroon have condemned the de facto house arrest of opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who has spent a week at his residence surrounded by riot police.  Authorities say Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement party is being investigated for attempts to destabilize the country after last week’s anti-government protests. Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior central African researcher for Human Rights Watch says several hundred people have been arrested in Cameroon since September 22 protests. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto called for demonstrations demanding the cancellation of upcoming regional elections and to protest Paul Biya’s leadership of the country. … “This follows a well-documented pattern of politically motivated arrests and prosecutions and also threats to crush opposition parties and silence dissent,” Allegrozzi said. VOA

Cameroon’s ‘President for Life’ Is Facing Protests as the Anglophone Crisis Rumbles On

This Nov. 6 will mark 38 years president Paul Biya has clung on to power in Cameroon-making him Africa’s second longest-serving head of state, after his peer Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. Biya, 87, became president in 1982, long before the majority of the central African country’s 25 million people were born. His current mandate will expire in 2025 when he’ll be 92. As has been tradition, Biya supporters and members of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party, often use the day to feast, pledge their “unalloyed and unconditional” support to the president and call on him to continue leading the country indefinitely. But this year’s anniversary will also be coming up at a particularly uncertain time as a campaign to end his four-decade reign picks up steam. Quartz Africa

Zimbabwe Opposition Dismisses Accusations of Plot to Topple Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party is denying an accusation from a state security official that it is plotting a coup attempt.  State security minister Owen Ncube offered no evidence for his accusation, made Monday, and political analysts warn Zimbabwe has a history of using such allegations to crack down on opposition parties. Clifford Hlatywayo, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC Alliance), dismissed a claim from state security minister Owen Ncube that the party is smuggling guns into the country for a coup. “MDC Alliance are archbishops of peace. ZANU-PF are the archbishops of violence,” said Hlatywayo. “We are victims of violence, state sponsored and state engineered. What we know is the ballot and not the bullet. What we are being accused of is false, baseless. What they are trying to do is blame game. They do not want dissenting voices.” VOA

Tundu Lissu Explains Strong Opposition Following in Tanzania

Tanzania’s Chadema (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo) presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has said the opposition in has continued to grow in strength despite facing crippling hurdles over the years. Lissu Saturday said the euphoric campaigns by Augustine Mrema in 1995 and former premier Edward Lowassa in 2015 gave them valuable lessons that inform their current movement. He said the strong grassroots organisation created by his party during the last five years is the secret behind the large turnouts. … According to him, the grassroots mobilisation has helped them survive a media blackout. “That is what differentiates us and previous presidential contestants who couldn’t protect their victories. We are sure to have many supporters in every district as well as regions,” he said. Mr Lissu pledged widespread reforms to ensure the people’s rights and freedoms are respected if elected. The Citizen

Guinea Closes Borders with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal Ahead of Vote

The West African country of Guinea, in the middle of a turbulent election campaign, has closed its land borders with Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, a senior government official said on Tuesday. The closure is for security reasons, the source in the Guinean capital Conakry said without elaborating. … The president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has tense relations with Guinean President Alpha Conde, who is seeking a controversial third term in office in the October 18 ballot. … Sources in Bissau, the capital, say that Guineans living there had been recently trying to return home to vote after encountering difficulties in doing so at their country’s consulate. Many of the expatriate community are Fulani, also called Peul — an ethnic group considered likely to favour Conde’s electoral rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo. Guinea, one of the poorest and most volatile countries in Africa, has been buffeted by political turbulence ahead of the vote. AFP

UN: Libya Rivals Reach Preliminary Pact on Prisoner Exchange

The United Nations says talks between Libyan rivals in Egypt have concluded with preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. The face-to-face military talks, which started Monday in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, came amid international pressure on both sides of the war and their foreign backers to avert an escalation. The U.N. support mission in Libya said in a written statement that the two days of talks, conducted in “a spirit of responsibility, transparency and mutual trust,” had resulted in progress on several of the lingering issues between the war’s two parties. It said that both sides agreed they should take steps to ensure the release of all prisoners taken amid military operations sometime next month. Another point was that both sides would expedite the opening of transit links across their respective territories. AP

US Defense Secretary to Visit Maghreb Countries to Boost Security & Military Cooperation

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to start this week a tour of the Maghreb to discuss military and security cooperation with leaders of countries of this region, according to press reports. The tour includes stops in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. In Tunisia, the US official will meet on Wednesday with President Qais Saied and his peer Ibrahim Albertaji, before visiting the American military cemetery in Carthage. On Thursday, Mark Esper will visit Algeria, the first by a US defense secretary since 2006. The US official is expected on Friday in Morocco, a major non-NATO ally in the region. Esper’s visit to the Maghreb aims at strengthening US cooperation with the three North African countries to foster regional stability & peace and counter terror threats in the Sahel, Africa, and other regions of the world. The North Africa Post

How COVID Sowed the Seeds of Food Security in Johannesburg

During South Africa’s strict lockdown, groups of activists decided to distribute parcels of vegetables as wells as seedlings and gardening materials as well as to hundreds of vulnerable households. … Siyabonga Ndlangamandla, coordinator of the Makers Valley Growing Community, maintains one of the food gardens he has set up in the area. Makers Valley is an inner-city neighbourhood in Johannesburg, home to about 46,000 people. The edible gardens initiative lets residents grow food at home and on kerbsides to contribute towards long-term food security in the area. The Guardian

Congo’s Sapeurs Pass Their Style on to a New Generation

Some residents of the twin Congolese capitals of Brazzaville and Kinshasa have long been known for their love of stylish dressing – in particular members of the Society of Ambience-Makers and Elegant People (Sape). These photographs by Tariq Zaidi reveal a whole new generation of “sapeurs.”