Africa Media Review for September 4, 2020

Deadly Jihadist Attack Targets Cameroon Village Hosting Displaced People

A suicide bomber on Tuesday killed seven civilians in a village housing displaced people in Cameroon’s restive northern tip bordering Nigeria, where deadly attacks have been on the rise. The police officer said Tuesday’s bombing followed a Boko Haram raid on a village, adding: “The people fled and a young man strapped with explosives chased them and blew himself up.” The Cameroonian government uses the term Boko Haram to refer loosely to the Nigerian jihadist group of the same name, as well as the breakaway Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group. … “The suicide bomb attack took place near Kolofata, close to the border with Nigeria, where some 18,000 internally displaced people have sought safety over the past seven years,” the refugee agency said. … The attack came a month after 18 people died and 15 were injured by an armed group on the Nguetchewe IDP site. AFP

Mozambique Army ‘Eyeing Bid to Retake Port from Jihadists’

Troops are preparing an operation to recover a strategic port in northern Mozambique that was seized by jihadists three weeks ago, sources say. Islamist militants occupied Mocimboa da Praia, the focus of a scheme to develop the region’s offshore gas wealth, on August 12 following days of attacks. A senior military source who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media told AFP on Wednesday that the state still has “no control” of the town. Another source, who was also speaking in Palma 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of the port, said on Thursday that the military’s “priority is taking back” Mocimboa da Praia. “Steps are already underway to retake the town,” a source in the capital Maputo said on Wednesday. Locals have reported seeing busloads of soldiers moving northwards towards Mocimboa da Praia on the highway from Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province. AFP

French Oil Group Total Steps up Security Co-operation with Mozambique

French oil major Total has stepped up security co-operation with the Mozambican government in an effort to combat an Islamist insurgency that threatens the development of vast offshore gasfields. After insurgents with ties to Isis took over the Mocimboa da Praia port in northern Mozambique last month, Total said it would provide logistical support to a government “joint task force” to strengthen security at liquefied natural gas facilities. Total told the Financial Times on Wednesday that this task force would be run by the Mozambican ministries of defence and the interior, which oversee the army and police. … Total is one of several companies committed to pouring a total of up to $50bn into gasfields discovered over the past decade in investments that could transform Mozambique’s economy. FT

Mali’s Junta to Hold Transition Talks This Weekend

The junta that seized control of Mali in a coup two weeks ago will hold transition talks this weekend with political parties and civic groups, including the June 5 Movement that launched a protest movement that eventually led to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s resignation. A junta spokesman said the talks Saturday and Sunday are aimed at producing a blueprint for the transition. A delegation from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States recently rejected the coup leaders’ plan for a three-year transition. The bloc is demanding immediate civilian transition and elections within a year. Mali’s junta spokesman said a second round of talks will be held next Thursday through Saturday in Bamako, Mali’s capital. On Thursday, the head of Mali’s new junta visited Keita in a Bamako hospital, where he was admitted Tuesday for a condition that could lead to a stroke. VOA

Despite Coup, France and Allies Push on with New Mali Task Force

European special forces are set to begin fighting alongside Malian troops against Islamist militants in the coming weeks despite a military coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French officials said on Thursday. The junta, which on Wednesday replaced senior military officials appointed from the previous administration, is consulting on a transition plan with Mali’s political parties and civil society groups. Former colonial power France has more than 5,100 personnel spread across the region with a large portion in Mali operating against rising militancy. Paris has been counting on a new task force of hundreds of European special forces, including from Estonia, Italy, Sweden and Czech Republic to join its operation and integrate local battalions to help improve their efficiency. Reuters

Burkina Faso Says Its Poll Will Be Valid, Whatever the Turnout

What makes a national election national? One answer is that everyone is able to vote. But politicians in Burkina Faso disagree. With little consultation, the main political parties have voted to change the electoral code so that presidential and legislative elections to be held in November will be deemed valid even if people are unable to vote in the vast tracts of the country that are plagued by jihadists. One MP, Aziz Diallo, describes the change as an “attack on democracy.” Another, Alexandre Sankara, says it “violates the constitution.” It is but the latest worrying sign in a country at the heart of the fight against violent extremists in the Sahel. The Economist

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region to Holds Poll, Defying Federal Government

Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region will head to the polls on Wednesday in defiance of the federal government, the latest challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from a slew of regional leaders flexing their muscles ahead of next year’s national elections. Abiy has overseen sweeping democratic reforms since taking power in Africa’s second most populous nation two years ago. But the federal government – and major opposition parties – agreed to postpone national and regional elections due in August until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control. Tigray, whose leaders dominated the previous administration and have often bitterly denounced Abiy, announced it would hold elections anyway. “We know there is an open threat by Abiy to militarily intervene against Tigray and to cut funds, but we will still go ahead with the vote,” said Getachew Reda, a former federal information minister and now a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. “We know there will be consequences.” Reuters

Cameroon’s military has detained hundreds of people in the country’s troubled northwest as they search for separatists following the killing of a police officer this week. Locals accuse the military of carrying out revenge attacks, including looting and burning shops, in the English-speaking region – a charge the military denies. … Rights groups and opposition political parties have condemned the military for what they say are excesses and torture of civilians in handling the crisis. Prince Ekosso, president of the opposition United Socialist Party, says civilians are scared of the military. He says some of the abuses inflicted by troops on civilians are unbearable. “These are the things that we have decried for too long,” he said. “The people of the northwest and the southwest region cannot continue to suffer like this. You don’t go and punish innocent people for the crimes of another person. The military continues to terrorize the people.” VOA

It was dusk on July 24 when Emmanuel Ali said he heard the gunshots. A group of armed men entered his village in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, he said, and began setting fire to homes. Ali fled to the bush with his family and then returned to rescue his paralyzed mother, who was trapped inside her burning home. “The fire was almost catching her,” Ali told VOA’s French to Africa service. “I removed my window, that’s where I entered, and picked her out from the window.” In Nigeria’s isolated northern villages, nightfall is fraught with terror as bandits terrorize residents. According to a new report by Amnesty International, bandits are operating with near impunity in the region. At least 1,126 villagers were killed by armed groups between January and June of 2020, Amnesty reported. VOA

Nigerian, Ghanaian Officials Hold Talks to End Diplomatic Spat

Nigeria and Ghana yesterday began talks to cement cracks in their bilateral relations owing to the diplomatic crisis between them arising from the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in Ghana. Senior government officials from both countries have met in Abuja as part of ongoing efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis. Also, House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called on Ghanaian authorities to revisit the law that requires a capital base of $1 million for businesses by foreigners, saying as Africans, Ghana should encourage brotherliness. The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ferdinand Nwonye, said in a statement that the delegations of both countries had a successful bilateral engagement on improving Nigeria, Ghana relations. This Day

Mothers, Sisters, Wives: Kenyan Women Lead Fight against Police Violence

The confrontation was caught on film. As three armed policemen try to pull Wanjira Wanjiru away, she clings to the wing-mirror of a parked car and refuses to move. “Don’t touch me!” she yells. “Why are you arresting me?” “Why are you protesting?” one of the steel-helmeted policemen asks. “I’m protesting because you’re killing us,” replies the 25-year-old anti-police brutality campaigner. “Who is killing you?” “You police! You’re killing us in our communities!” Then, as the policemen back off, Wanjira, fist in the air, defiantly chants what has now become an iconic line: “When we lose our fear, they lose their power!” Her resistance during the “Saba Saba” protests that day, held annually on 7 July to commemorate Kenya’s pro-democracy movement that emerged in the 1990s, resonated as a symbolic moment in Kenyans’ fight against police violence – an issue now in the global spotlight after a string of police shootings of Black Americans in the United States. The New Humanitarian

Thousands Rally to Support Congo’s Threatened Nobel Laureate

A city in eastern Congo has rallied in support of Denis Mukwege, the Congolese Nobel Laureate who received death threats in recent weeks after he called for justice over serious human rights violations. On Thursday his supporters snaked through the streets of Bukavu, the lakeside home of the doctor who has helped thousands of survivors of sexual violence, honking motorcycle horns, singing and waving signs like “Don’t touch our Nobel Prize.” Mukwege has won international recognition, including the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for his decades of work treating female victims conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last week the United Nations said his life was in danger after he and his family received death threats via social media and by phone. Reuters

Rwanda Dissidents Suspect Paul Rusesabagina Was under Surveillance

Rwandan dissidents say they suspect that Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration behind the film Hotel Rwanda, was hacked or otherwise tracked using surveillance technology in the days before his arrest this week by the Rwandan government, raising questions about the country’s alleged use of spyware. Rusesabagina … appears to have been apprehended by authorities while he was on a trip to Dubai and reportedly left the United Arab Emirates on a private jet last week. Days later he was seen in handcuffs in Rwanda, where he has been arrested on terrorism-related charges. … In 2019 at least six dissidents connected to Rwanda were warned by WhatsApp that they had been targeted by spyware made by the NSO Group, the Israeli surveillance company that sells its software to governments, in a targeted attack that affected hundreds of users around the world over a two-week period from April to May that year. The Guardian

WHO Aiming for 20% of Africa to Get Initial COVID Jabs from Access Plan

The World Health Organization wants to secure an initial 230 million doses of any COVID-19 vaccine for Africa, officials said Thursday, while emphasising that any vaccine in development should also be tested on the continent. The global vaccine allocation plan, called COVAX, aims to help buy and fairly distribute deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021. “This … (initial batch) will cover 20% of the African population, initially prioritising those who are the front line, health care workers, then expanding to cover vulnerable groups,” Richard Mihigo, the programme area manager for WHO Africa, told an online news conference. … John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told an online news conference that talks with COVAX would supplement other negotiations with nations such as China, Canada and the United States over securing access to shots. Retuers

Coronavirus in South Africa: Scientists Explore Surprise Theory for Low Death Rate

Scientists acknowledge that reliable data is not always easy to come by and all these figures are likely to change. But even if deaths have been under-reported here – perhaps by a factor of two – South Africa has still performed impressively well, as have many other parts of the continent, where many hospital beds remain empty, and where infection graphs have almost entirely avoided the pronounced peaks and sharp angles seen in so many other parts of the world. … It is almost certain that many factors – particularly the quick lockdowns as well as youthful demographics – are likely to have contributed to South Africa’s successes in tackling the virus thus far. But in recent days, scientists at Vaccine and Infectious Disease Analytics unit, at Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, have been wondering if one missing factor might lie inside a glorified chest freezer in their laboratory, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. … The idea is that, by studying the PBMCs, the scientists might find evidence that people had been widely infected by other coronaviruses – those, for instance, responsible for many common colds – and that, as a result, they might enjoy some degree of immunity to Covid-19. BBC

South African Healthcare Workers Protest, Threaten Strike

South African healthcare workers have protested against poor working conditions and urged the government to end corruption in the purchase of COVID-19 personal protective equipment. The protesters gathered Thursday in Pretoria and Cape Town, charging that the lives of healthcare workers are endangered as some health facilities have inadequate supplies of protective equipment like surgical masks. The union leading the demonstrations, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, has threatened that its 200,000 public workers will go on strike on Sept. 10 if their issues are not addressed. A widespread strike by healthcare workers would cause serious problems for South Africa’s hospitals, which have been stretched to the limit by the coronavirus. Although the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 has decreased, South Africa is still reporting more than 2,000 new cases per day and the country has been warned of a possible second wave of infections. AP

Libya’s Interior Minister Restored to Post after GNA Talks

Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has restored the interior minister to his post, after announcing his suspension last week following protests against corruption and poor living conditions. In a Facebook post on Thursday, the Tripoli-based GNA said Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had “lifted the temporary suspension” of Fathi Bashagha, who would return to his role the same day. Bashagha also said in a statement posted online that he had been reinstated after a five-hour hearing about the demonstrations and the role of the security forces. The minister had demanded a public hearing “to expose the facts.” Bashagha’s return to office comes after hundreds of Libyans late last month staged several days of demonstrations in the capital and elsewhere in western Libya. Al Jazeera

UN Chief Urges Closure of All Migrant Detention Centres in Libya

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the closure of all detention centres holding refugees and migrants in Libya, condemning what he described as human rights violations committed there. “Nothing can justify the horrendous conditions under which refugees and migrants are detained in Libya,” Guterres said in a report submitted on Thursday to the UN Security Council, according to AFP news agency. “I renew my appeal to the Libyan authorities … to fulfil their obligations under international law and to close all detention centres, in close coordination with United Nations entities,” he added. According to the secretary-general’s report, more than 2,780 people were being detained as of July 31 in centres across Libya. Twenty-two percent of the detainees were children. UN News

Locusts Now Threatening Parts of Southern Africa, UN Says

Locusts are threatening another part of Africa, with up to 7 million people in the southern region facing further food insecurity, the United Nations said Friday. The outbreaks of African migratory locusts in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe are not related to the huge outbreak of billions of desert locusts that has affected East Africa for months, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said. While far smaller, the southern outbreaks need quick attention to prevent a wider problem as farmers and others already struggle to recover from a serious drought last year and the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. agency said in a statement. Swarms of the voracious insects “can eat enough food for 2,500 people in a day,” according to a separate Food and Agriculture Organization document on the southern Africa outbreaks. AP

South Sudan Pledges to Clean up Oil Pollution after Locals Protests

The South Sudanese government has pledged to oversee speedy conservation and infrastructure development efforts and take action against oil companies operating in Melut County, Upper Nile State after residents protested against pollution. In a memorandum of understanding with the locals, a Chinese oil consortium, in which the government is a shareholder, promised to clean up fuel spills and conserve the environment. The Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC), the consortium made up of China National Petroleum Corporation, the majority shareholder, State-owned Nilepet, Malaysia’s Petronas, Sinopec, and Tri-Ocean Energy, operates the main oil fields – Block 3 and 7 – in the Melut Basin. Last week, hundreds of youths in the area, carrying placards, barricaded roads and demanded the suspension of oil operations accusing the companies of violating environmental and safety measures. The EastAfrican

Media Watchdog Voices Concern about Zimbabwe Journalist Bail Conditions

Press freedom advocates in Zimbabwe have welcomed the release on bail of a reporter who is charged with stoking anti-government violence. But, they say the conditions placed on Hopewell Chin’ono violate his right to free expression. A court in Harare granted Chin’ono the bail late Wednesday, after four failed attempts and more than a month behind bars. He has been ordered not to post anything on social media. On Thursday, the Media Institute of Southern Africa said it welcomed the release of Hopewell Chin’ono on bail after more than six weeks at Chikurubi Maximum Prison. Tabani Moyo, the head of the media advocacy group in Zimbabwe, said Chin’ono’s bail conditions are too restrictive. “Hopewell is not free. He has been removed from custody but he is still being pursued through trial coming from his home. He is being stopped from performing journalism literally.” VOA

Chinese Mining Firms in Zimbabwe Pose Threat to Endangered Species, Say Experts

Rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs and other endangered species face a new threat in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park: Chinese mining companies. Zhongxin Coal Mining Group and Afrochine Smelting have received permission from the government to begin environmental impact assessments for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys at two proposed sites inside the park, which is home to almost 10% of Africa’s remaining wild elephants. If this leads to a new mine, conservationists warn it will shrink and disturb the habitat of many rare species including black rhino, pangolin and painted dogs, and devastate safari tourism, which is a vital source of income for local people. … Local media say the mining concessions have been personally granted by the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has previously expressed strong support for coal. The Guardian

Gorilla Baby Boom Offers Ugandan National Park Hope That Conservation Efforts Are Working

Uganda says it has recorded a “baby boom” among gorillas in a national park that is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the East African country’s most prized tourist attractions. Five babies have been born in just six weeks in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, according to the state-run Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The park is located near Uganda’s southwestern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latest, born last weekend, brings the total born this year to seven. In comparison, only three were born last year. All the babies were born in the same gorilla group or family – the Rushegura – and the rash of births has increased the membership of the group, one of more than 20 in the park, to 18. Reuters