Africa Media Review for September 9, 2020

Once a Beacon of Hope, Tanzanians Now Resist Growing Authoritarianism

Since coming to power in 2015, populist President John Magufuli has presided over a precipitous decline of Tanzania’s democratic experiment. He has banned rallies, muzzled the press, cowed and co-opted independent institutions, and committed overt and covert violence against political opponents and “dissenters” within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. Tanzanians today live in a climate increasingly filled with fear, reticent to exercise their rights lest they run afoul of a raft of new restrictive laws or suffer physical retribution. “Do not test me” were the menacing words Magufuli used when he banned rallies a few months into his presidency. This is the restrictive environment in which Tanzania’s October 28, 2020, presidential elections are to be held. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ethiopian Region Votes, Defying Federal Government and PM

People began voting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region on Wednesday in a local election defying the federal government and increasing political tensions in Africa’s second most populous country. Tigray officials have warned that an intervention by the federal government would amount to a “declaration of war.” They have objected to the postponement of the national election, once set for August, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the extension of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s time in office. Over the weekend, Ethiopia’s upper house of parliament called Wednesday’s election unconstitutional. Ethiopia’s leader has ruled out a military intervention, but there are fears any punitive measures by the federal government could further escalate tensions. … Some 2.7 million people in the Tigray region were expected to cast their votes at more than 2,600 polling stations, regional election officials said. AP

Ivory Coast on Edge as High-Stakes Election Looms

Ivory Coast’s October election was always likely to be tense – but President Alassane Ouattara’s decision last month to seek a controversial third term has dramatically raised the stakes. … Likening it to a “coup,” Ouattara’s furious opponents said his course reversal violated the constitution. Moreover, they warned, it risked a return to the turbulence of the past. The anger swiftly spilled onto the streets, too. Days of violent protests erupted in different parts of the country, leaving several opposition supporters dead and dozens arrested. … The mounting tension has sparked fears the crisis would feed into long-simmering grievances, threatening almost 10 years of fragile peace in a country that has never seen a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. Al Jazeera

14 Al-Shabaab Killed in Attack on Town near Mogadishu: Army

Militants loyal to jihadist group Al-Shabaab waged a heavy attack on Bal’ad town, 30 km north of Mogadishu, early on Tuesday. In a Twitter message, Ministry of Information spokesperson Ismael Mukhtar Omar said there was an ambush but that the Somali National Army (SNA) recaptured the town. “The militants have been repelled from the town,” the spokesman tweeted, adding SNA forces killed 14 of them. He said one of Somalia’s soldiers was injured in the confrontation and seven civilians wounded. … Recently, Al-Shabaab has been under pressure from operations by Somali soldiers and allied regional forces, especially in parts of Jubbaland and Hirshabelle. Daily Nation

Inter-Libyan Talks in Morocco Agree on ‘Compromise’

Moroccan-brokered talks between Libya’s two rival administrations have led to agreement on the need for compromise, Morocco’s MAP news agency reported Tuesday. The meeting was held at the initiative of Rabat, which had hosted peace talks in 2015 that led to the creation of a United Nations-recognised government for Libya. The talks came after the two sides announced a surprise ceasefire last month. MAP, citing a joint statement at the end of the meetings, said the parties had agreed to work to eradicate corruption and the abuse of public funds in the chaos-strewn country and to end its institutional divisions. … Abdessalam al-Safraoui, heading the team from Tripoli, said Monday that the dialogue in the coastal town of Bouznika, south of Rabat, was focused on appointments at the top of Libya’s key institutions. The naming of the heads of Libya’s central bank, its National Oil Corporation and the armed forces have been the main points of dispute, according to Libyan media. AFP

Experts: Libya Rivals UAE, Russia, Turkey Violate UN Embargo

The warring parties in Libya and their international backers – the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Jordan vs Turkey and Qatar – violated a U.N. arms embargo on the oil-rich north African country that remains “totally ineffective,” U.N. experts said in a new report. The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against Libya said in the report seen Tuesday by The Associated Press that 11 companies also violated the arms embargo including the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company the panel said in May provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to support eastern Libya’s rebel commander Khalifa Hifter. … The new report follows a warning last week from the top U.N. official for Libya that the oil-rich country is at “a decisive turning point,” with foreign backers of its rival governments pouring in weapons and the misery of its people compounded by the coronavirus pandemic that appears to be “spiraling out of control.” AP

Journalists’ Union Urges South Sudan Security to Free Reporter

The Union of Journalists in South Sudan is calling on the government to release Jackson Ochaya, a journalist who was detained a week ago after he contacted a rebel group spokesman for a story. A family member who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals told Ochaya’s newspaper, the No. 1 Citizen, that agents of the National Security Service (NSS) are holding Ochaya at their headquarters in Jebel. Ochaya is likely being detained because he contacted the spokesman for the rebel National Salvation Front (NAS) for comment on an article he was writing, according to Oliver Modi, chairperson of the Union of Journalists in South Sudan. … Under South Sudan’s constitution, a detained person is supposed to appear in a court of law within 24 hours of their detention. VOA

Investigating Government Land Rights Abuses in Morocco Can Land You in Jail – and Charged with Sexual Assault

Award-winning Moroccan investigative journalist Omar Radi has been charged with espionage and jailed. Morocco’s counter-intelligence authorities have interrogated him about spying for South Africa and other countries. He says it’s all just a cover and the Moroccan government is just retaliating against him for his embarrassing exposés of corrupt land deals implicating powerful politicians and business people. He faces years in jail if convicted. Radi, 29, who has had several run-ins with the Moroccan authorities over the years because of his investigative journalism, has been in detention in Casablanca since 29 July this year, charged by a court for undermining state security by receiving foreign funding and collaborating with foreign intelligence. He was also charged with rape. Daily Maverick

Swedish Special Forces Preparing to Head to Mali

Sweden is preparing to deploy about 150 special forces to support the French-led Operation Barkhane in Mali. The Special Forces are getting ready to participate in the multinational task force Takuba, part of the French-led Operation Barkhane, at the turn of 2020/2021, the Swedish Armed Forces said. The expansion of armed terrorist groups in the region is detrimental to peace, security and development. The task force is charged with supporting and escorting parts of the Malian army, as well as international partners, thereby supporting the efforts of ensuring more security in Mali and the Sahel. … Sweden announced in March this year that it was going to send troops to Mali. Sweden has had a small number of troops in Mali since 2013 as part of the United Nations’ Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission. defenceWeb

Somaliland Opens Office in Diplomatically Isolated Taiwan

The breakaway territory of Somaliland opened a representative office in Taipei on Wednesday in a move that has already drawn Beijing’s ire. The territory’s representative to Taipei, Mohamed Hagi, said trade, security and development corporation were key aspects of “this very special relationship.” The two are “members of the same community of democracies founded by our shared political and economic freedoms, as well as international values,” Hagi said. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said both faced external pressures but are “proud of our sovereignty and ready to defend it.” Taiwan has just 15 formal diplomatic allies and is considered by China a part of its territory, while Somaliland is recognized internationally as part of Somalia, from which it broke away in 1991 as the country broke apart and descended into clan-based civil war. AP

Nigerian Doctors Strike Again over Benefits Amid Coronavirus

Nigerian resident doctors began their second strike of the year over pay and working conditions amid the spread of the new coronavirus, the doctors’ union told Reuters on Tuesday. The strike began on Monday, and includes 16,000 resident doctors out of a total of 42,000 doctors in the country, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, told Reuters. “It is an indefinite strike until issues are resolved,” he said. “All resident doctors at the COVID-19 centres have joined the strike.” Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has a total of 55,160 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,061 deaths. Resident doctors are medical school graduates training as specialists. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency wards in its hospitals. Reuters

South Africa’s ANC Sends Delegation to Help End Zimbabwe Crisis

South Africa’s ruling party dispatched a delegation to Zimbabwe to help mediate an end to the nation’s escalating economic and political crisis. The team, led by African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule, will meet officials from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. The visit comes after an Aug. 10 meeting between the ANC and Zanu-PF failed to yield any progress when Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said there was nothing to discuss and denied his country is in crisis. … South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said his country, the region’s richest, is prepared to help Zimbabwe politically and economically, but that Zimbabwe must accept the help. It’s facing shortages of medicine, food and water, its currency has collapsed and annual inflation is running at 837%. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Protects Elephants with Coal Ban in National Park

Zimbabwe has banned mining in its national parks in response to protests after permits to explore for coal in one of the world’s premier elephant reserves were awarded to Chinese companies. The permits in the Hwange National Park were allegedly awarded without the requisite environmental permissions, according to a court case filed by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association. “All special grants held in national parks will be canceled,” Winston Chitando, Zimbabwe’s mines minister, told reporters late on Tuesday. Bloomberg

Sudan Floods Threaten Ancient Archaeological Site, Experts Say

Rising Nile floodwaters are threatening to swamp an ancient archaeological site in Sudan after rivers in the country reached some of the highest ever recorded levels, archaeologists said. Teams have set up sandbag walls and are pumping out water to prevent damage at the ruins of Al-Bajrawiya, once a royal city of the two-millennia-old Meroitic empire, Marc Maillot, head of the French Archaeological Unit in the Sudan Antiquities Service, said on Tuesday. “The floods had never affected the site before,” Maillot said. The area includes the famous Meroe pyramids, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. AFP

Somali Architect Looks at City’s Ruined Past and Dreams of the Future

Mogadishu is a city of ruined glory: crenellated towers crumble by the sea and sand whirls against the pockmarked archways of the roofless old cathedral. But one young man, returning to his family’s homeland, walks through the streets and dreams of their future. Omar Degan, 30, was born in Italy to Somali parents who left three years before civil war broke out in 1991. He studied architecture in Italy and Hong Kong before returning to Mogadishu in 2017, part of an influx of young diaspora Somalis returning to rebuild their country. “I feel extremely sad and angry when I see Mogadishu the way it is now,” he said, walking through streets scarred by fighting and choked with rubbish. “It used to be the most beautiful city in Africa.” … “Public space, especially in a post conflict reconstruction context, it means a lot because it really helps the people to take ownership,” Degan said. “Having a public space, will help the reconciliation and the peace that Somalia needs and is looking for.” Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones