Africa Media Review for April 16, 2021

UN: Tigray’s Humanitarian Crisis Worsens, No Eritrean Exit
The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Thursday that the grave humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region is deteriorating, with no sign of Eritrean troops withdrawing and alarmingly widespread reports of systematic rape and other sexual violence mainly by men in uniform. Mark Lowcock told a closed Security Council meeting that the U.N. knows that 4.5 million of Tigray’s nearly 6 million people need humanitarian aid and the government estimates 91% of the population needs emergency food. … “[Reports of people dying from hunger are] a sign of what lies ahead if more action is not taken. Starvation as a weapon of war is a violation.” … Lowcock said humanitarian organizations had hoped things would improve after Abiy announced in late March that Eritrean troops would leave Tigray, but he said neither the U.N. nor the aid groups it works with have seen any proof of withdrawal.  … “Improvements in access and a reduction in conflict and atrocities have often proved temporary and sporadic,” Lowcock said. … “To be very clear: The conflict is not over and things are not improving,” he said. Without a cease-fire, Lowcock said, the humanitarian crisis “is only going to get a lot worse.” AP

Reeling from a Coup, Mali Sets Date for Elections Next Year
Mali’s interim government has fixed a date for general elections which will mark a return to civilian rule following a military coup last year. The West African nation will hold a presidential and parliamentary vote on February 27, Minister for Territorial Administration Abdoulaye Maiga told journalists in the capital, Bamako, Thursday. Second-round polls will be held on March 13 and March 20 respectively, where relevant, Maiga said. A referendum to review the constitution is also scheduled for Oct. 31 this year. Mali is planning a return to civilian rule after an Aug. 18 coup overthrew former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The transitional council governing the country is currently made up of a mix of military and civilian members. The Economic Community of West African States had called on the military junta to organize elections within 18 months after the putsch. The 15-member bloc took a hard line against Mali, temporarily shutting borders and halting financial flows last year to force a return to democratic rule. Bloomberg

Up to 65,000 People on Run in Northeast Nigeria after Attack: U.N.
Up to 65,000 people in northeastern Nigeria have fled their homes after an assault by armed groups on a border town on Wednesday, while attacks that appear to be targeted have forced a temporary halt to aid operations, U.N. agencies said. Local officials and a resident said on Wednesday that at least eight people had been killed in the attack on Damasak by suspected Islamists, and that hundreds had fled across the border to Niger, a few kilometres away. “Following the latest attack on Wednesday 14 April, the third in just seven days, up to 80 per cent of the town’s population — which includes the local community and internally displaced people — were forced to flee,” Babar Baloch of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, told a Geneva briefing. Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told the same briefing that aid operations had been temporarily suspended. … Laerke added that humanitarian workers appeared to be targets, amid reports of house-to-house searches for aid workers and the burning of their offices. Reuters

Paris Court Issues Life Sentences over 2004 Bombing That Sparked French-Ivorian Clash
A court in Paris on Thursday handed down life sentences to two Ivorian officers and a Belarussian mercenary who were tried in absentia for the deadly 2004 bombing of French peacekeepers in Ivory Coast that triggered days of fierce clashes. Ivorians Patrice Ouei and Ange Gnanduillet and Belarus national Yury Sushkin were found guilty of carrying out the raid near the Ivorian city of Bouaké on November 6, 2004, in which nine French soldiers and a US aid worker were killed. The Bouaké bombing targeted a peacekeeping force deployed in a buffer zone between the government-controlled south of Ivory Coast and the rebel-held north. It prompted a French retaliatory strike that wiped out Ivory Coast’s small air force, in turn triggering days of fierce clashes that saw French helicopters pluck people to safety as angry mobs hunted foreigners through the streets of Abdijan and other cities. France24

Africa CDC Urges India to Lift COVID Vaccine Export Limits
Africa’s top health official said Thursday he wants to believe that India will lift export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, warning that “India is not an island” while some African nations still have seen no shots at all. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke as the African continent of 1.3 billion people doesn’t know when second doses of key vaccines will arrive and India sees a devastating resurgence in infections. India is a major vaccine producer and a key supplier to the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative aiming to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries. “If you finish vaccinating your people before Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself any justice because variants will emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts,“ Nkengasong said in a weekly press briefing, highlighting what has become a global crisis with as many as 60 countries possibly stalled at their first shots. He said the uncertainty around the arrival of second doses puts the African continent in a “very dicey situation.” Some countries have already exhausted their initial vaccine doses, including Ghana and Rwanda, he said. AP

UN Security Council Votes on Monitors of Libya Cease-Fire
The U.N. Security Council is voting on a draft resolution that urges all foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya and authorizes a small U.N. team to monitor last October’s cease-fire agreement that ordered their departure. The British-drafted resolution would approve Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ proposals on the composition and operational aspects of the cease-fire monitoring laid out in a letter to the council. In the April 7 letter, obtained by The Associated Press, the U.N. chief proposed “an initial maximum number of 60 monitors” for “a phased deployment” of the cease-fire monitoring component which would be part of the U.N. political mission in Libya known as UNSMIL. The monitors would be deployed to the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals, “once all requirements for a permanent United Nations presence have been met, including security, logistical, medical and operational aspects,” the letter said. In the meantime, it said, “a forward presence” would be established in the capital Tripoli “as soon as conditions permit.” AP

EU/Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Partnership Agreement Concluded
The European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States have formally concluded negotiations on the new partnership agreement. The document is not due to be signed until the second half of this year, but the framework for political, economic and sectorial cooperation over the next two decades has already been documented. “The new agreement modernises and deepens the partnership between the EU and the 79 members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States. Together we are a population of 1.5 billion people and we represent more than half of the seats at the United Nations.” saysJutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships. … Partners have raised their commitments in priority areas such as: human rights, democracy and governance, peace and security, human development which encompasses health, education and gender equality, as well as environmental sustainability, climate change, sustainable development and growth, and migration and mobility. Africa News

Rising Food Costs Add to Misery of Nigeria’s High Unemployment
Nigerian merchant Feyintola Bolaji, struggling with stagnant earnings and dwindling sales, is now being squeezed by the ever increasing prices demanded by her food suppliers, leading her to cut down on the amount she can put on her own family’s table. Bolaji’s belt tightening is being shared by millions across Africa’s most populous nation. Not long after Nigeria’s statistics agency revealed that one in three people in the continent’s largest economy were unemployed, on Thursday it announced that food inflation has accelerated at the highest pace in 15 years, compounding the misery of many households. … Insurgency, unrest, and President Muhammadu Buhari’s government’s stand on food imports in a nation where more than half the population lives on less than $2 a day, are issues worsening food insecurity in the African country. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has robbed 70% of Nigerians of some form of income, according to a Covid-19 impact survey published by the statistics agency last month. Bloomberg

Nigeria: Kidnap Victims Need Aid beyond Rescue, Experts Say
In Nigeria’s restive northern region, kidnappings have become all too common, with schoolchildren among the primary targets. Federal and state governments say they focus on ensuring abductees’ safe release and return, but a chorus of health experts and others say support for those abductees shouldn’t end there. Victims need specialized physical and psychological rehabilitation to reintegrate into their communities and to overcome stigma, independent experts working with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a news release March 3, a day after the release of 279 schoolgirls kidnapped in the northwestern state of Zamfara. The 10 experts called upon Nigeria’s government to make victims’ care a priority and, among other things, “to adopt effective preventive measures” against abduction and “to strengthen protection measures for children at risk.” VOA

A Surprising Kind of First Aid for Mozambicans Fleeing Violence
There’s medical first aid. And then there’s psychological first aid: an eight-step approach to help people who’ve been through trauma. It’s part of the mission of the Doctors Without Borders staff to help the tens of thousands fleeing the northern city of Palma, ravaged by civil unrest. They come by foot, covering around 200 miles, and sometimes by boat or plane if they’re being evacuated as armed militias kill men, women and children and chase others into the bush. They are often reeling from what they’ve seen — helplessly watching as family and friends were publicly beheaded or shot and their homes burned to the ground. Many of those who escaped and made the trek to the city of Montepuez came across the bodies of others who had been killed or died from hunger or thirst. And then there was the underlying anxiety that they might be caught themselves. … “We see people that have fled from other parts of the district to Palma, and now from Palma to Montepuez, and they are constantly reliving this horrible situation,” [Ampara Vilasmil, the mental health activity manager for a camp set up by MSF in Montepuez] says. NPR

Handwashing and Hot Tea: Eswatini Celebrates Roll Out of Solar-Heated Water
In Eswatini, the southern African country which lost a prime minister to Covid-19 in December and where most people have no access to hot water, handwashing – a key weapon in the fight against the pandemic – has been a problem. No government health clinic in the kingdom, formerly known as Swaziland, had hot running water for patients. Nine out of 10 didn’t have hot water for operations and cleaning instruments. But in just nine months, a solar sanitation project has reversed that, bringing hot water to all 92 clinics scattered across Eswatini. “To places we’d never have dreamed would have hot water,” said Lizzie Nkosi, minister for health. Hot water stations have been set up outside clinics with solar-powered tanks drawing cold water from the mains. “In 25 years working as a nurse, I have never had hot water in a clinic. Not for patients, not for nurses,” said Lindiwe Magongo, head nurse at the Ezulwini clinic, 14km away from the administrative capital, Mbabane. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones