Africa Media Review for April 14, 2021

African Union Wants Five Vaccine-Making Centres on Continent
The African Union on Tuesday announced the launch of a partnership to manufacture vaccines at five research centres to be built on the continent within the next 15 years. Africa sits on the “sidelines” of the vaccination drive against Covid-19, with only two percent of the world total to have received jabs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), citing supply, funding and personnel shortfalls. However the AU and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) plan to change all that. CEPI, which helps run the global Covax vaccine-sharing program with the public-private alliance Gavi and the WHO, signed up to boost African vaccine research and development as well as manufacturing The five centres will be located in the north, south, east, west and centre of Africa over the next 10-15 years, said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, an AU agency. … Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI, a public-private partnership set up to try to stop future epidemics, added, … “By building regional resilience and strengthening health security on the continent we can mitigate the disproportionate health and economic impacts that epidemic infectious diseases can have on populations in low and middle-income countries.” AFP

Somali President Signs Law Extending Mandate for Two Years
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known by his nickname Farmajo, has signed a controversial law extending his mandate for another two years, despite threats of sanctions from the international community. … Somalia’s lower house of parliament on Monday voted to extend the president’s mandate – which expired in February – after months of deadlock over the holding of elections in the fragile state. However the speaker of the Senate slammed the move as unconstitutional, and the resolution was not put before the upper house, which would normally be required, before being signed into law. Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi said it would “lead the country into political instability, risks of insecurity and other unpredictable situations.” A coalition of opposition presidential candidates said in a joint statement that the decision was “a threat to the stability, peace and unity” of the country. … “The United States is deeply disappointed by the Federal Government of Somalia’s decision to approve a legislative bill that extends the mandates of the president and parliament by two years,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement released Tuesday. France24 with AFP and Reuters

Mali: CMA Leader Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati Dies from Gunshot Wounds
Unidentified assailants have killed the leader of a former Tuareg-led rebel alliance in Mali in an attack outside his home. Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, president of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), was shot in the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday morning, alliance spokesman Almou Ag Mohamed said. He was taken to a hospital but died hours later from his wounds, added Mohamed. Mali’s government confirmed that Ould Sidati died of gunshot wounds and said it would open an investigation into the attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the shooting. Mali is going through a transition following a military coup last year that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The killing could imperil the implementation of a 2015 peace accord which Ould Sidati signed on behalf of the CMA, an umbrella organisation of Tuareg and Arab separatist groups. The CMA had fought Malian government forces in the north until they signed a peace accord in 2015. Implementation of the deal has been repeatedly delayed, but it remains in effect. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso Ex-President Compaoré to Face Trial over Thomas Sankara Murder
The exiled former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, is to be tried in absentia for the murder of Thomas Sankara, one of Africa’s most revered post-independence leaders who was killed in a 1987 coup. Sankara, a Marxist, pan-African leader, was murdered after four years in power and succeeded by his former friend Compaoré, who has repeatedly denied involvement. Compaoré went on to become one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, governing Burkina Faso for 27 years. The former president has been in exile in Ivory Coast since 2014, when he was swept from power by mass protests triggered by his attempt to extend his tenure. The trial is a landmark moment in a 34-year quest for justice, led by Sankara’s family and supported by many in Burkina Faso. While in power, Compaoré denied calls for Sankara’s remains to be exhumed, but the country’s transitional government reopened the investigation in 2015. In 2016 Burkinabé authorities issued an international warrant for Compaoré’s arrest, but Ivorian authorities have rejected extradition requests… The Guardian

Ten Killed in Inter-Communal Violence Amid Protests in Eastern Congo
Ten people have been killed and 34 injured in fighting between rival ethnic communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Goma, a spokesman for the provincial government said on Tuesday. … The governor of North Kivu province, Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, banned all public protests from Monday and called for calm. “From now on we no longer want public demonstrations in the city of Goma because many people take up arms,” said Nzanzu on a visit on Monday to Buhene, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Goma where the ethnic clashes began. Fighting between the Nande and Kumu communities was sparked by the killing of two moto-taxi drivers on Sunday, for which one group blamed the other. A number of houses were also burned down, the provincial government said. Protests erupted against the 12,000-strong U.N. mission in several eastern cities last week. Demonstrators said they were frustrated at the failure of efforts to stop rising violence around the city of Beni, which officials blame on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group that has operated on Congolese soil for decades. Reuters

Burundi Refugees in Tanzania Living in Fear: UN Rights Experts
The rights of refugees and asylum seekers who have fled Burundi for Tanzania must be respected, experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said on Tuesday in an appeal to authorities in both countries. Burundi refugees have suffered violations such as arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, allegedly carried out by the Tanzanian police and intelligence services in cooperation with counterparts in their homeland, they reported. “In addition to the strict encampment policy imposed on them by the Government of Tanzania, Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers now live in fear of being abducted in the middle of the night by Tanzanian security forces and taken to an unknown location or being forcefully returned to Burundi,” the experts said in a statement. Hundreds of thousands of people fled Burundi for neighbouring countries following deadly clashes surrounding the 2015 presidential election. While the worst of the violence has eased, the situation remains fragile, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. UN News

Libya Releases Man Described as One of World’s Most Wanted Human Traffickers
Libyan authorities have released a man described as one of the world’s most wanted human traffickers, who was placed under sanctions by the UN security council for being directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats. The coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad, known by his alias Bija, is suspected of being part of a criminal network operating in Zawiyah in north-west Libya. He was arrested last October but was freed on Sunday after the military attorney general of Tripoli dropped charges against him “for lack of evidence.” News of his release was criticised in Italy, where two journalists who had reported on Bija’s alleged criminal activities were given police protection because of death threats. In June 2018, the security council imposed sanctions on Bija and five other alleged leaders of criminal networks engaged in trafficking migrants and others from Libya. The Guardian

Trade Picks Up on Cameroon-Nigeria Border, Despite Boko Haram
Officials in Cameroon and Nigeria say economic activity has gradually resumed along their border, despite the continued presence of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Markets have re-opened and border merchants say traveling near the border is safer thanks to a heavy presence of troops. Gasoline seller Oumarou Fouman, 40, said life is gradually returning to the town of Amchide on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria. He said many merchants have been crossing into Cameroon from Nigeria with electronic appliances, auto parts and food to sell. Fouman said he is one of eight men who have resumed buying gasoline from Nigeria and selling it in Cameroon. He said before he crosses over from Cameroon, he calls his suppliers in the Nigerian town of Banki to find out if it is safe to travel. … “The first thing to do is to help us to finalize the security actions and also to boost the commercial activities. Amchide is a strong commercial city, we have people coming from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and so on,” said Boukar. VOA

Rights Experts Sound Alarm over Uganda ‘Brutal’ Election Crackdown
UN-appointed independent rights experts on Tuesday condemned the killing of more than 50 people by “brutal policing methods,” linked to disputed national elections held in January.  “We are particularly alarmed by the reports of widespread and continued repression against opposition leaders and their supporters”, the nine experts said in a statement urging the authorities to investigate and prosecute all human rights violations. They drew attention to allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill treatment, deprivation of due process; and assault on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Several thousand people have been arrested and while some have been released, others have allegedly been tortured before appearing in military courts, the experts said. Meanwhile some relatives still do not know the fate or whereabouts of their family members. UN News

Ugandans Criticize Oil Pipeline Deal with Tanzania and Total
Uganda, Tanzania and the French oil company Total, along with its investment partner in Uganda, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), signed a series of agreements on Sunday to build a heated pipeline that will carry crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast. The deal, worth $3.5 billion (€2.9 billion), and the secrecy surrounding the details have raised public fears of corruption. … Watchdog groups and others also have warned against the personalization of Uganda’s oil resources and heavy borrowing by national budget authorities anticipating oil revenue. … The AFIEGO [African Institute for Energy Governance] noted that some of the people affected by the pipeline have not been compensated and that the oil developments are also taking place in an ecologically sensitive conservation area. … President Museveni, who has led Uganda since 1986, has sometimes suggested that the discovery of commercially viable oil quantities in 2006 created an opportunity for him to remain in power. “They are targeting my oil,” he said of his challengers in the country’s 2016 presidential election. His personalization of the oil fields quickly dashed hopes in Uganda that the country could become an oil Eldorado. After that, the scramble to evict residents began and was often perpetrated by Museveni’s cronies and members of his inner circle. DW

Nearly a Million Going Hungry in Conflict-Hit Mozambique, U.N. Says
Almost one million people face severe hunger in northern Mozambique, where hundreds of thousands have fled Islamist militant attacks, the United Nations food agency said on Tuesday. Islamic State-linked insurgents last month attacked Palma, a town in Cabo Delgado province next to gas projects under development by companies including Total and Exxon. The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a briefing in Geneva that 950,000 people are now hungry in Mozambique. It appealed to donors for $82 million to confront the crisis. “Families and individuals have had to abandon their belongings and livelihoods and flee for safety… adding to an already desperate situation in Northern Mozambique,” WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said. The U.N. Children Fund’s director of emergencies, Manuel Fontaine, told the same briefing: “We are facing both a large and likely long-lasting humanitarian situation.” Reuters

Somaliland and Taiwan: Two Territories with Few Friends but Each Other
Both Taiwan and Somaliland appear to be fully functioning states which proudly declare their independence yet neither is recognised internationally and now, as Mary Harper reports, they are moving closer together. … Although some see their relationship as bizarre, Somaliland and Taiwan are in many ways natural bedfellows. Somaliland and Taiwan established diplomatic relations last year to the fury of those neighbours. Both are unrecognised internationally and both have larger neighbours – Somalia and China – which insist they are part of their territories. Somalia denounced Taiwan for becoming friends with Somaliland. Chinese officials travelled to Somaliland and insisted it sever ties with Taiwan. It is possible that China sees Taiwan’s relationship with Somaliland as a potential disruptor of its Belt and Road Initiative, whereby it plans to develop sea and land trade routes across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. An obstructive Somaliland, with its highly strategic Berbera port, could block the continuity of its Maritime Silk Road along the eastern coast of Africa. BBC

Twitter Chooses Ghana as Its African Headquarters, Says It’s Due to Country’s Support of Free Speech
Twitter has officially announced its decision to base its African headquarters in Ghana. The social media company is already looking to fill 12 positions in the West African country but will hold off on opening a physical office until the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. The announcement comes just a week after Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, held a virtual meeting with Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo. “The choice of Ghana as HQ for Twitter’s Africa operations is excellent news,” said Akufo-Addo in response to Dorsey’s announcement on Monday. On why Ghana was chosen as the company’s African headquarters, Twitter explained that the country was a firm supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet. Additionally, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area allows Twitter to “establish a presence in the region.” Business Insider SA