Africa Media Review for April 1, 2021

Niger Government Confirms Military Coup Attempt Thwarted
Niger’s security forces thwarted an attempted military coup at the West African country’s presidential palace overnight just two days before the newly elected president is to be sworn into office in a peaceful transfer of power, the government said Wednesday. The coup attempt raises fear of more violence coinciding with newly elected President Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration on Friday. Already his administration faces unprecedented threats from Islamic extremists near its troubled border with Mali. Several people have been arrested in connection with the coup attempt while “others linked to the events are being actively sought,” government spokesman Abdourahmane Zakaria said Wednesday afternoon. … [U.N. Secretary-General Antonio] Guterres calls on the armed forces to strictly abide by their constitutional obligations and urges all parties to respect the outcome of the Feb. 21 presidential election “and allow for an orderly and peaceful transfer of power,” Dujarric said. AP

AU Calls for Urgent Action after Mozambique Jihadist Attack
The African Union on Thursday called for urgent and coordinated international action after a jihadist attack that killed dozens and uprooted thousands on the northern Mozambican coastal town of Palma. The jihadists captured Palma on March 24, ransacking buildings and beheading residents and forcing thousands to seek safety in surrounding forest. Dozens have been killed, more than 8,000 displaced and many more are still missing following the coordinated attack seen as the biggest escalation of an Islamist insurgency that has battered Cabo Delgado province since 2017. In a statement, AU chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said he “condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks.” Expressing “utmost concern” at the presence of international extremist groups in southern Africa, he called for an “urgent and coordinated regional and international action.” Regional bloc the Southern African Development Community held emergency talks in Harare to discuss the violence. Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi vowed regional help but gave no details. The EastAfrican

UN Urges Somali Leaders to Break Impasse Delaying Elections
The U.N. Security Council called on Somalia’s leaders Wednesday to meet “at the earliest opportunity” to break the impasse delaying the holding of elections that had been scheduled for Feb. 8. The council said in a press statement after a closed briefing by U.N. special envoy James Swan that inclusive elections should take place “as soon as possible” in the interest of all Somalis. Pressure has been growing on Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed since the February elections failed to take place because of the lack of agreement on how the vote should be carried out. Two regional states have said they would not take part without a deal. Contentious issues in the election process include the formation of the electoral management commission, the selection of commission members for the breakaway region of Somaliland, and the crisis in the Somalia-Kenya border region of Gedo. Critics accuse Mohamed, who is seeking a second four-year term, of delaying the election to extend his current mandate. … This was the second appeal this month by the U.N.’s most powerful body for action to organize elections. AP

ICC Upholds Acquittal of Former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo
The International Criminal Court on Wednesday upheld the 2019 acquittal of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and ordered all conditions of his release removed. Prosecutors had argued that grave errors were made by war crimes judges who found they failed to prove their case against Gbagbo and co-accused former minister Charles Ble Goude. … Trial judges acquitted both on charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in post-election violence in Ivory Coast in 2010-11. They ended the trial after the prosecution finished its case and before the defence began, saying evidence submitted was not enough to support a conviction. … Gbagbo still has strong support in Ivory Coast and his followers say they have been left out of the country’s reconciliation process in the years since his removal from power. They supported his run for president last year, but his candidacy was not approved. The 75-year-old had been released conditionally to Belgium. Judges on Wednesday ordered all restrictions on his release removed, paving the way for his possible return to Ivory Coast. Al Jazeera

France Rejects UN Report Its Forces Targeted Mali Wedding
A U.N. investigation concluded Tuesday that a French airstrike in Mali had killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration back in January, prompting the French Defense Ministry to categorically reject the findings. The report put together by the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA said that more than 100 people had been at the celebration on Jan. 3 in Bounti, including five suspected members of an al-Qaida-linked group. Three of those suspected militants were killed, the report stated, while the other two had left the event early. The dead were all men between the ages of 23 and 71, the majority of whom lived in the village of Bounti, the report found. … “This strike raises significant concerns about compliance with the principles of the conduct of hostilities, including the precautionary principle that requires that all feasible steps be taken to verify that targets are military objectives,” [the report stated]. French authorities have said that “several dozen” extremists were killed during the airstrike. On Tuesday, they said the U.N. report had relied on unidentified witnesses and failed to make clear under what conditions their testimony was taken. AP

Gunmen Kill 30 People in Western Ethiopia, Witnesses Say
Gunmen killed at least 30 civilians in an attack on a village in the Ethiopian region of Oromia, witnesses said on Wednesday, the latest outbreak of ethnic violence to challenge the federal government. Farmer Wossen Andaege, 50, said his neighbours were killed during the Tuesday night attack in the West Wollega Zone of Oromia. He identified the victims as ethnic Amharas. “We took the bodies using a car and we buried 30 people,” said Wossen told Reuters news agency by phone. He said he and his family heard gunshots and fled to a nearby government office to wait for protection from federal troops. A resident of the Babo-Gembel district where the attack took place told AFP news agency that gunmen arrived after 9pm (18:00 GMT), forced residents to gather outside in a group and shot them dead. … Local authorities blamed the attack, in which 15 more people were wounded, on a splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), known as OLF Shane or the Oromo Liberation Army. The OLF is an opposition party that spent years in exile but was unbanned after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Al Jazeera

Suspected ADF Rebels Kill 23 in Eastern DR Congo Attack
Suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia fighters have killed 23 people in yet another massacre in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a senior local official has said. Fighters attacked Beu Manyama-Moliso village in the Beni region late on Tuesday night, North Kivu provincial Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita told the AFP news agency. The army intervened, killing two assailants, he said. The death toll was still provisional as the search for bodies continued, the governor’s office said on Twitter on Wednesday. The ADF, which originated in the 1990s in western Uganda with the aim of establishing an Islamic state, is one of more than 100 rebel groups that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country. About a year ago, the Congolese army launched a large-scale campaign against the ADF. Al Jazeera

South Sudan Road Attacks Leave Nearly 30 Dead
A string of deadly road attacks in South Sudan, including one on a governor’s convoy returning from the scene of an earlier attack, have left nearly 30 people dead. Officials in Eastern Equatoria state say gunmen killed a bodyguard of Governor Louis Lobong Lojore and a woman on Monday, a day after armed youths allegedly from the town of Kapoeta attacked an area called “Camp 15” where members of the ethnic Buya community reside. Governor Lojore said the motive behind Sunday’s incident was believed to be retaliation for an attack in 2020 on the SPLM-In Opposition cantonment site in the town of Lowuareng. “There was an incident in Lowuareng where a small cantonment site which was there was turned into a small market and it was attacked by people suspected to be youth from Buya community killing five people, so it was based on that,” Lojore told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. … In Central Equatoria state, gunmen killed another 10 people in two separate incidents on the same road. VOA

‘Militias Responsible for Most Violence in South Sudan’-UNMISS
Community-based militias were responsible for 78 percent of killings, injuries, abductions, and conflict-related sexual violence meted out on civilians during attacks in pockets of South Sudan, according to a new UNMISS human rights report. The Annual Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians, released by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, documented the killing of 2,421 civilians in 2020, more than double the previous year. “Just over 1,500 people were injured, up from 866. While the figures represent a significant increase in violence compared to 2019, the clashes were concentrated in just 13 percent of the country’s 540 payams (administrative areas) and largely involved community-based militias rather than conventional parties to the conflict,” the UN mission said in a press statement. The level of violence also remains significantly lower than the period before the signing of the 2018 peace deal. The report raises particular concern about a sharp spike in abductions by more than 300 percent. Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan: Peace Project Launched in Yei River County
A peace-building project aimed at promoting peace and social cohesion has been launched in South Sudan’s Yei River County of Central Equatoria State. The Hagiga Wahid (one truth) Peace Project is an information service that helps communities to counter rumors in South Sudan. Sebit Martin, the Executive Director of the Community Development Center (CDC), a local NGO implementing the project in Yei told Radio Tamazuj that the initiative is aimed at building durable peace and reconciling communities affected by years of conflict in the area. “We are looking at creating a social behavior change in the minds of the people because we have seen that our people in Yei have been prone to rumors and misinformation without verification,” Sebit said. “And such spreading rumors in a distorted way so one of the reasons for this project is to enable people question rumors to build peace and social cohesion among the South Sudanese living in Yei.” Sebit noted that his organization has created a free mobile platform ‘228 rumor reporting’ and an online verification application for people to send text messages and phone calls. Radio Tamazuj

Uganda Election Petition Filed at EACJ
Six citizens from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have file a petition at the East African Court of Justice challenging the conduct of the January 2021 presidential election in Uganda. The petition filed earlier this month, also asks the court to end the widespread violence and human rights abuses that erupted before the election, and some of which continue. The lead petitioner Dr Lina Zedriga Waru Abuku, is a Ugandan citizen, human rights activist, and secretary of the Uganda National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination. … The applicants want the regional court to declare that the conduct and outcome of the presidential election were unlawful due to the “massive violence and criminality” that marred it. They also want the court to order an end to rights abuses of opposition supporters allegedly orchestrated by Ugandan police, military and special forces command, and declare that the East African Community should have done more to ensure a free, fair and credible election in the country. The EastAfrican

Uganda’s Return to the Dark Days of Idi Amin
Hundreds of opposition supporters have disappeared in the last few months, allegedly at the hands of Uganda’s increasingly ruthless and unaccountable security forces. Some turn up in court; some turn up tortured or dead; others haven’t turned up at all. For Ugandans who lived through the dictatorship of Idi Amin, these scenes are all too familiar. Fabian Luuka is slumped on a hospital bed. His leg is shattered. Both his tibia and fibula bones poke through skin. Wounds on his buttocks have rotted and are turning black from severe necrosis. Luuka said that he had been severely tortured, and his injuries are consistent with this claim. He was allegedly abducted by state security forces in late February, along with two colleagues, Agodri Azori and Obundu, for the alleged ‘crime’ of possessing a National Unity Platform (NUP) membership card. They were not the only ones. In the wake of the disputed presidential election in January, hundreds of the party’s supporters — as well as bystanders — have been rounded up by various state security forces. Mail & Guardian

Malawi Starts Vaccination Drive with Astrazeneca from Covax
Malawi is vaccinating health care workers, the elderly and those with health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, using the AstraZeneca doses that arrived early in March. People are lining up to get the jabs at hospitals and clinics in Blantyre, the southern African country’s largest city, in the first phase of the inoculation drive. Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, has launched its vaccine drive with the 360,000 doses that it received through the global COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to vaccines. … Malawi Secretary for Health Dr. Charles Mwansambo said the government is trying everything possible to get enough vaccines to inoculate more than the 20% planned for the first phase. “For us, as a nation to be adequately protected, 20% is not enough. So, we are looking at getting that number to 60% of the population so that we get herd immunity,” he said. “So as a country we are planning to immunize 11 million people so that we can get adequate protection, so that everybody should be adequately protected.” AP

Man’s Ebola Relapse Spawned Dozens of New Cases in Africa
A man in Africa who developed Ebola despite receiving a vaccine recovered but suffered a relapse nearly six months later that led to 91 new cases before he died. The report adds to evidence that the deadly virus can lurk in the body long after symptoms end, and that survivors need monitoring for their own welfare and to prevent spread. Relapses like this one from the 2018-2020 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo are thought to be rare. This is the first one clearly shown to have spawned a large cluster of new cases. The New England Journal of Medicine published details on Wednesday. Earlier this month, scientists said a separate outbreak that’s going on now in Guinea seems related to one in West Africa that ended five years ago. A survivor may have silently harbored the virus for years before spreading it. AP

Action Needed as Hunger Looms in Horn of Africa
Somalia has sent out an appeal for help to address the escalating impact of drought in the country’s Gedo region, where hundreds of people requiring food and water rations. International and regional humanitarian bodies have raised the alarm on the hunger situation in the Horn of Africa and region extending into South Sudan and northern Kenya. Khadija Diriye, Somalia’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management said in a statement last week that aid agencies were welcome to supplement local efforts in providing life-saving items. … “The food insecurity situation is now extremely concerning with potentially disastrous consequences for the millions of our people are who are now facing crisis levels of food shortage.” … [T]he UN and other humanitarian organisations are warning of more months of hunger in the Horn of Africa region in general, as a result of drought, conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest situational report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said almost 50 million people in the region require urgent food and water assistance. The EastAfrican

‘Suez 2’? Ever Given Grounding Prompts Plan for Canal along Egypt-Israel Border
The blockage of the Suez canal by the beached Ever Given container ship has prompted fresh international efforts to find an alternative to the world’s most important shipping corridor. UN officials are understood to be reviewing plans to construct a new canal along the Egypt-Israel border, having previously dismissed ideas for a much longer route through Iraq and Syria as too hazardous. The blockage of the Suez canal is estimated to have cost hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as threatening Europe’s vital supply chains from Asia, bringing everything from toilet roll and iPhones to takeaways and PPE. The UN had previously commissioned a feasibility study from the international tunnelling company OFP Lariol, which estimated “Suez 2” could be dredged within five years. The canal would run in a near straight line into the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. The Guardian

Kenya Becomes the Second African Country to Roll Out 5G
Mobile network operator Safaricom has launched a 5G network in Kenya, making it the second country in Africa to roll out the technology. The company has started the rollout in four towns and expects to expand it to nine over the next year. Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa described the launch last week as “a major milestone for the country.” The telco is implementing the project using technology from the Finnish company Nokia and the Chinese company Huawei. MTN and Vodacom launched 5G in South Africa last year. Telecommunications companies in five other African countries—Gabon, Lesotho, Nigeria, Uganda, Egypt and Morocco—are conducting internal trials for 5G, meaning it’s not yet available for public use. While the new development makes Kenyans early adopters of 5G in Africa, questions remain over investor and market readiness for mass use of the technology across the continent. As a result, widespread adoption of 5G in the region, while a promising prospect, may be far-off. Quartz Africa

Africa Faces Severe Debt Crisis, UN Warns
African countries need strong policies and further support from the international community to avert a debt crisis and protracted low growth, says the United Nations. In a statement issued by the UN Department of Global Communications, on Wednesday, the global body warned of the devastating socio-economic impact of COVID-19. The report was jointly signed by Devi Palanivelu, UN Department of Global Communications; and Helen Rosengren, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It said that the impact of the pandemic would be felt for years to come, unless smart investments in economic, societal and climate resilience were made to ensure a robust and sustainable recovery of the global economy. … The UN also said that African countries needed further support from the international community and strong national efforts in averting a debt crisis… Against such a backdrop, the report warned that social unrest and political tensions may easily escalate, which could, in turn, worsen food insecurity, violence, internal displacement and migration pressures. The report, however, underscored that sustained recovery from the pandemic would depend not only on the size of the stimulus measures, and the quick rollout of vaccines, but also on the quality and efficacy of these measures to build resilience against future shocks. NAN