Africa Media Review for April 15, 2021

UN Security Council to Meet on Tigray
A new meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tigray in Ethiopia, where fighting continues, will be held Thursday at the request of the United States, AFP learned Wednesday from diplomatic sources. This session will be held behind closed doors, like the last meeting, which was held on March 4. At the time, China and Russia opposed the adoption of a unanimous declaration calling for an “end to violence” in Tigray. Beijing and Moscow consider the armed conflict in Tigray since the beginning of November an “internal affair.” On Thursday, the 15 members of the council are expected to hear a briefing on the situation by U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, while the obstacles to the delivery of aid to the populations have not ceased, according to the U.N. In early March, Lowcock demanded that Eritrea withdraw its troops from Tigray in the first recognition by a U.N. official in New York of Eritrea’s involvement in the fighting. The Eritrean army has been accused by the U.N. services in Geneva of atrocities in Tigray that are likely to constitute “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” AFP

UN Envoy: South Sudan Has Potential, Needs to Hold Elections
David Shearer said Wednesday he’s leaving the top U.N. job in South Sudan convinced the world’s youngest nation has the potential to become a tourist destination to rival any country in East Africa and the oil and mineral riches to spur economic progress — if it can eliminate corruption and establish a transparent and open government. As the country approaches its 10th anniversary of independence from Sudan on July 11, it has a transitional government in place following a 2018 peace agreement, and a 2020 cease-fire. Shearer said in an interview with The Associated Press that though “it’s all moved too slowly,” it’s now time to focus on elections “and have a legitimate, popularly elected government. “That needs to be the rallying cry as we go forward — to bring everybody on board and to put pressure on the government to actually speak up and hold those elections,” he said. “That doesn’t mean to say winner needs to take all, because that can create all sorts of problems. But we do have to allow people to have their say in what comes next.” AP

Five Things to Know About Somalia’s Political Turmoil
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmaajo, has signed a controversial law to extend his term by two years despite threats of international sanctions. The move is the latest in a deepening political crisis that, analysts warn, risks undermining the peace process and stability in the Horn of Africa country. The lower house of Somalia’s parliament voted this week to extend Formaajo’s four-year term, which expired in February, for a further two years. Lower house speaker Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdurahman said the measure would allow the country to prepare for direct elections. Farmaajo then signed the disputed mandate extension into law, even though the resolution was not put before the upper house, which would normally be required. Upper house speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi immediately slammed the move as unconstitutional, saying it would “lead the country into political instability” and pose security risks. Al Jazeera

14 Killed as Minibus Hits Landmine in Somalia: Official
Fourteen people died and four others were wounded Wednesday when the minibus they were traveling in ran over a landmine on the outskirts of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, a regional official said. “We have confirmed that 14 people died and four others were wounded after a minibus traveling along the road between Mogadishu and Balcad ran over a landmine,” said Andikarim Mohamed, a government official from the south-central Hirshabelle region. … Somali military commander Abshir Mohamed, who works in the area, blamed the incident on the Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab Islamists who carry out regular attacks in the country. “The terrorists are indiscriminately targeting everybody. They planted the mine that had killed those innocent civilians who we were going about their businesses traveling,” he told state media. The Defense Post with AFP

Sudan’s Hamdok Calls for Prime Ministers to Hold Talks over Nile Dam
Following a stalemate in the Nile dam talks in Kinshasa, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has suggested that further talks be held at heads of state level. In a letter written on April 13 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Kamal Madbouly, Dr Hamdok says that negotiations over the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) have reached an impasse and the three countries should now revoke Article 5 of the Declaration of Principles signed in March 2015. The article says that “if the parties are unable to resolve the dispute through consultations or negotiations, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation of referring the matter for consideration of the Heads of State or Government.” … He suggested a virtual summit between Dr Abiy, Dr Madbouly and himself within the next 10 days. The latest round of talks between the three countries in the Democratic republic of Congo ended earlier this month with no progress made. Sudan and Egypt were aligned on a proposal to include the European Union, the US, and the UN in the negotiations, in addition to the current African Union mediators. But Ethiopia rejected the proposal during the meeting, and also rejected suggestions to restart negotiations. The EastAfrican

Nobel Doctor Calls Sexual Violence in Conflict a ‘Pandemic’
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege warned Wednesday that the scourge of sexual violence and rape in all conflicts is now “a real pandemic” and without sanctions and justice for the victims these horrific acts won’t stop. The Congolese doctor told the U.N. Security Council in a video briefing that “we are still far away from being able to draw a red line against the use of rape and sexual violence as a strategy of war domination and terror.” … Mukwege said there has been progress in international law, and the greatest challenge today is to transform commitments into obligations, and Security Council resolutions into results. Accountability and justice “are the best tools of prevention,” he said, and without punishment and sanctions, rapes and sexual violence in conflicts will continue. Mukwege spoke at a council meeting on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report on sexual violence in conflict which said the COVID-19 pandemic led to a spike in gender-based violence last year. It focused on 18 countries where the U.N. said it has verified information that 52 warring parties are “credibly suspected” of patterns of “rape and other forms of sexual violence” in conflicts on the council agenda. AP

Russian Mercenaries Accused of Rights Violations in Central African Republic
It is no longer a secret that the government in the capital, Bangui, has solicited the services of Russian mercenaries to maintain security, albeit criticism. UN experts recently reported “serious human rights violations” allegedly committed by Russian security companies — including mass shootings, arbitrary arrests, torture and attacks on civilian facilities. … The Kremlin officially gives the number of Russian military experts in CAR as 535. But according to press reports, the actual number is much higher. The Wagner Group alone, a private security company from Russia, employs over 1,000 people in CAR. … “It is well known that the security companies are connected to the underworld and organized crime,” Paul Stronski, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW. “They regard their use as a lucrative business, and their services are partly paid for with shares in gold and diamond mines.” “For Russia, the Central African Republic is part of its long-term strategy to expand its influence on the African continent. At the same time, the use of private mercenaries is seen as an inexpensive way of demonstrating Russia’s global clout,” Stronski said. The elites in CAR are increasingly dependent on the Russian security companies. This partnership is not only about politics, but above all, also about economic interests. “CAR is not only rich in raw materials such as gold and diamonds, but it is also very interesting from a geostrategic point of view.” DW

Algeria Protesters at Crossroads as Islamists Take Spotlight
Algeria’s pro-democracy movement is at a crossroads two years after it ousted the country’s long-serving leader, confronting fears it’s been infiltrated by a group with links to an Islamist party outlawed during a dark era of strife in the 1990s. Members of the Europe-based Rachad group cannot be clearly identified, nor do they advertise their presence. But it’s widely believed that they are among the thousands of protesters of the Hirak movement marching each Friday. Algeria’s president and its powerful military have castigated Rachad, without naming it. The Hirak movement forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in 2019 with its giant weekly protests peacefully demanding change in Algeria’s opaque power structure in which the army plays a crucial shadow role. … But they’re now less numerous amid concerns that Rachad may be using Hirak’s “smile revolution” for an agenda of its own. Debate about Rachad focuses on whether it could reopen the door to the dark past when Algeria waged a murderous war with Islamist extremists seeking power. An estimated 200,000 people were killed, and the nation has yet to heal. … Conspiracy theories have long abounded in Algeria. In the case of Hirak, where some see exaggeration about the role of Rachad, others see dark plots promoted by authorities. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has portrayed himself as a protector of what he has called the “blessed Hirak,” but critics suspect authorities may be out to divide protesters with fear-mongering about Rachad coupled with multiple arrests of marchers during protests. AP

Nigeria: 7 Years after Chibok Mass Abduction, Still No Solution
Seven years after the abduction of 279 girls from a government school in northern Nigeria, authorities have failed to find a strategy to protect schoolchildren and their right to education, according to a human rights group. The schoolgirls were taken hostage by the armed group Boko Haram in Chibok, a town in Borno state, on April 14, 2014. While most of them were able to escape or were released, more than 100 are still missing. In a report marking the anniversary of the mass kidnapping on Wednesday, Amnesty International highlighted how a string of recent attacks targeting students and learning institutions across northern Nigeria has resulted in the closure of more than 600 schools, with “disastrous consequences” for young people in the region. Criminal gangs seeking lucrative ransom have intensified attacks and mass abductions in recent years, often targeting boarding schools located outside towns and cities. Hundreds of students have been seized by gangs of so-called bandits in at least five separate incidents in northern Nigeria since late last year. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Exploitation, Eviction Threat ‘Killing’ Residents of a Lagos Island
Like many of the 30,000 residents of Sagbo Kodji Island, [Bolanle Taiwo] struggles to access clean water, free of high mineral concentrations or contamination. The island has no pipe-borne water or boreholes. This issue is not unique to Sabgo Kodji. With a population of over 200 million, access to clean water – which the UN General Assembly recognises as a human right – is limited in Nigeria. In fact, according to 2020 water data, less than 10 per cent of Nigerians can access clean water from pipes in their homes. … Sagbo Kodji’s water crisis is as old as the community, but it has not been the government’s concern. … Residents of at least two dozen slums, waterfront communities and islands like Sagbo Kodji have been evicted by the state government, according to Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), an organisation working with informal communities. … When Tarkwa Bay dwellers and other coastal communities got wind of their impending eviction, they filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos and the court temporarily restrained the government from carrying out evictions in the community. Despite the court orders, on January 21, 2020, gun-wielding naval officers stormed Tarkwa Bay to evict the residents. Premium Times

Scientists Sound Warning Note Over Malaria Drug Resistance in Africa
Resistance to malaria drugs in Africa may be starting to take hold, according to a study that maps changes similar to those seen a decade ago when drug resistance spread in south-east Asia. In Cambodia and neighbouring countries, the artemisinin drug compounds widely used against malaria are no longer always effective. The falciparum malaria parasites have developed genetic mutations that allow them to evade the drugs. There has been great concern that drug resistance could spread to Africa, which has the highest burden of cases of this type of malaria – and the highest toll of child deaths from it. A study in Rwanda, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, shows that the feared erosion of efficacy of the malaria drugs may have begun. As happened in south-east Asia, researchers have found that giving a child a course of artemisinin compound drugs does not always clear the malaria parasites from their blood in three days, as it should. … “Loss of efficacy of key ACTs [artemisinin-based combination therapies], particularly artemether-lumefantrine, the most widely used antimalarial, could have dire consequences, as occurred when chloroquine resistance led to enormous increases in malaria deaths in the late 20th century.” The Guardian

Rattling at the Gates: West Africa Fends off New Ebola Threat – but for How Long?
In a hastily constructed Ebola treatment centre, Bertrand Karumba slowly peels off his protective gear, dipping it in disinfectant and laying it aside to be burned. He knows that any hasty move could prove fatal. If a drop of virus goes in his eye or his mouth, he could end up like the patients he’s spent the last few years mopping up. “I’ve seen friends die,” the sinewy hygienist told the Telegraph, in the ramshackle city of Butembo in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “I was in the last outbreak from 2018 to 2020. We were so overjoyed when it was over. But when I heard Ebola was back, I came straight back to fight it.” By mid-February, alarm bells were ringing across Africa. Billions of pounds had been spent and thousands of lives lost trying to eradicate the deadly disease. For a while, it seemed like victory was at hand – but suddenly, the haemorrhagic fever was back, rattling at the gates. … But this time, both countries now seem to have contained the outbreaks with a sum total of 30 recorded cases and 15 deaths between them. … But optimism that the latest outbreaks have been squashed comes as new research that experts have described as “genuinely shocking” suggests the virus can linger in survivors for years. Telegraph

COVID-19: Africa’s Aviation Industry Suffers Massive Losses
Many prominent carriers like Kenya Airways have trimmed business trips across the continent down to an absolute minimum. Popular destinations to Asia, Europe, and North America have also been affected. In February, Air Namibia, one of the most historic airlines on the continent, ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. For a year now, South African Airways has grounded its fleet. It had been struggling even before the COVID-19 struck. … Around 54 million passengers flew by plane within Africa during the pandemic in 2020. In the previous year, twice as many traveled. According to figures from the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the the turnover of airlines on the continent fell by around €8.6 billion ($8 billion), a hard blow to an industry that raced from one record to the next before the crisis. And there is no end in sight to the misery. “We know that 2021 will also be a challenging year,” said Abderahmane Berthe, the secretary-general of AFRAA. “Many airlines are on the verge of bankruptcy while others are already winding up their operations.” DW



Photo: Adam Jones