Africa Media Review for April 19, 2021

Chad Army Claims It Has Stopped Rebel Drive Toward Capital
The Chadian military said it had halted an advance by rebels coming from neighboring Libya, but the rebel group said Sunday that it was pressing ahead after the American and British embassies warned of a possible assault on the capital in the coming days. Army spokesman Azim Bermandoa Agouna said that clashes had taken place late Saturday in the northern province of Kanem and that the rebel column from Libya was “totally decimated.” … It was not immediately possible to independently corroborate the claims given the remote location where the fighting took place. A warning issued to British citizens, though, said there were believed to be two rebel convoys — one moving from the town of Faya toward the capital, N’Djamena, and another seen headed toward the town of Mao. The rebel group known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad issued a statement Sunday on its Facebook page stating that its forces had begun “the liberation of Kanem region.” … The rebels are believed to have crossed over into Chad a week ago on election day as President Idriss Deby sought to extend his three-decade-long grip on power. AP

Suspected Islamic Militants Kill 19 People in Niger Village
Gunmen on motorcycles attacked a village near Niger’s troubled border with Mali, shooting at people as they prayed at the mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and killing 19 people, officials said Sunday. The attack took place Saturday evening in the village of Gaigorou in Niger’s Tillaberi region, which has come under repeated attack by suspected Islamic militants since January. … “The government will continue to fight the terrorists without weakness,” Defense Minister Alkassoum Indatou told residents in western Niger on Sunday. … The mounting violence [in the Tillaberi region] poses a strong threat to Niger’s newly inaugurated President Mohamed Bazoum. He was sworn into office earlier this month only days after security forces thwarted an attempted military coup at the presidential palace in the capital of Niamey. AP

US Slaps Visa Bans on Ugandans Linked to Disputed Polls
The United States has said it is imposing visa restrictions on “those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda,” including during an election in January and the campaign period. … “Opposition candidates were routinely harassed, arrested, and held illegally without charge. Ugandan security forces were responsible for the deaths and injuries of dozens of innocent bystanders and opposition supporters,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday, adding that the election process was “neither free nor fair.” “The Government of Uganda must significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed election conduct, violence, and intimidation,” he added. The run-up to the election was marked by violence and crackdown by security forces on opposition rallies. In November, 54 people were killed as security forces tried to quell riots that erupted in several cities after Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was detained for alleged violation of anti-coronavirus measures. He was arrested multiple times during campaigning. Al Jazeera

In a Growing Number of African Countries, Long-Ruling Presidents Look to Anoint Their Sons as Next Leaders
Africa’s oldest president [Paul Biya, the 88-year-old autocrat who has dominated Cameroon for the past 39 years], preparing to enter his fifth decade in power, may finally have a successor waiting in the wings: his eldest son. … Rumours of a father-to-son handover have been splashed across newspaper front pages and social media in recent weeks. If it happens, it will be another tumble in the backward slide of democracy in Africa and many other parts of the world. Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization, reported last month that 2020 was the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. “The long democratic recession is deepening,” it said. Freedom House estimated that less than 20 per cent of the world’s population is now living in a free country – the smallest percentage since 1995. In a growing number of African countries, the deterioration of democracy has been marked by attempts to perpetuate the power of long-dominant families. In Togo and Gabon, sons have already succeeded their fathers as rulers, allowing their families to remain in control for more than half a century. Similar dynastic accessions to power have been rumoured in Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. The Globe and Mail

Somali Government Troops Face Off with Forces Loyal to Sacked Police Boss
Gunshots rang out late on Friday in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, witnesses said, when government troops approached the home of the city’s former police commander who was sacked for opposing a move by the president to extend his term. The stand-off reveals splits within Somalia’s security services that threaten to see forces turn on each other, creating an opportunity for the al Qaeda linked al Shabaab insurgency to exploit. “Somalia’s long-running political crisis has entered a new, dangerous phase,” said the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, in a briefing note on Saturday. “The opposition is said to be considering forming a parallel government; cracks have deepened in a security apparatus long divided along clan lines; and the president’s opponents have vowed to resist extension of his rule.” Reuters

Eritrea Confirms Its Troops Are Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray
Eritrea has acknowledged for the first time its forces are taking part in the months-long war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and promised to pull them out in the face of mounting international pressure. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November last year to disarm and detain leaders of the region’s once-dominant political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). For months, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments denied Eritreans were involved, contradicting testimony from residents, rights groups, aid workers, diplomats and even some Ethiopian civilian and military officials. Tigray residents have repeatedly accused Eritrean forces of mass rape and massacres, including in the towns of Axum and Dengolat. … It came a day after UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that despite Abiy’s earlier promise, there had been no evidence of a withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region. He also said aid workers “continue to report new atrocities which they say are being committed by Eritrean Defence Forces.” Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Two Killed in Addis Ababa Bomb Blast
Two people were killed when a bomb exploded in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday afternoon. According to the police, at least one person was seriously injured in the explosion. The explosion occurred in front of the Meteorological Centre in Lideta Sub-City, near a large residential condominium area where tens of thousands of people live. According to Lideta Sub-City Police Department Detective Inspector Daniel Tafesse, the explosion was heard shortly after a man and two women were seen at the scene. However, police did not reveal the identity of the suspects. Nation

Heavy Loss of Life Feared in Clashes between Chad Herders, Farmers
Clashes between sedentary farmers and semi-nomadic herders in southeastern Chad have left many dead in recent days, humanitarian and human rights sources said Sunday. The two groups have a long and troubled history in the region, where weapons abound and violence often flares after cattle destroy crops. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and aid groups said the latest clash claimed more than 100 lives, while the local hospital recorded seven deaths. “More than 10 villages… were torched and we mourn more than 100 human lives lost,” the CNDH said in a statement on Saturday. The hospital in Am Timan, the capital of Salamat province, meanwhile recorded seven deaths and 61 wounded in clashes in the Mouraya area, a medical source told AFP on Sunday. Government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene told AFP on Friday that calm had been restored. AFP

New Clashes in Mozambique Three Weeks after Palma Attack
New clashes have erupted in the town of Palma, Mozambique, three weeks after a jihadist attack left dozens of people dead and forced thousands to flee their homes, military and security sources said. “There were shots, but the situation is under control,” said a military commander, speaking on condition of anonymity late on Thursday. “They attacked in a village in Mueda, in Pundanhar and Palma almost simultaneously,” said a security source based in Maputo. Islamic State-linked militants raided the coastal town of Palma on 24 March in an assault that marked a major intensification in an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across Cabo Delgado province for over three years as the jihadists seek to establish a caliphate. The violence pushed France’s Total to desert a nearby multi-billion-dollar gas project. And since then, there have been fears of new attacks in the gas-rich province. AFP

Tunisia Divers Find Another Body from Migrant Boat; 22 Dead
Navy divers recovered another body on Saturday from a migrant boat that floundered and sunk off the coast of eastern Tunisia, bringing to 22 the number of known dead, including nine women and a baby, as police searched for the smuggler. An estimated 40 people were aboard the boat which sank Friday off the coast of Sfax in the Mediterranean Sea and the search for the missing continued, according to Ali Ayari, spokesman for the port city’s National Guard. Also sought is a Tunisian said to have been the main smuggler and two others from sub-Saharan Africa, Ayari told The Associated Press. A Tunisian middleman has been arrested, he added. … The craft was allegedly headed to Italy, a main destination for migrants taking to the Mediterranean from this North African country and looking for a foothold in Europe to escape poverty or conflict. AP

Libya Welcomes UN Decision to Deploy Cease-Fire Monitors
Libya’s transitional government on Saturday welcomed a U.N. Security Council decision to deploy international monitors to watch over a nearly six-month-old cease-fire in the conflict-stricken country. The Government of National Unity also urged the council to help get mercenaries out of the oil-rich country, as it heads toward December elections after a decade of fighting and upheaval. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent proposal for up to 60 monitors to join an existing political mission in Libya. The monitors would arrive in an “incremental deployment … once conditions allow,” according to the council’s British-drafted resolution. The council also urges all foreign forces and mercenaries to get out of the country, as was supposed to happen months ago. The vote, announced on Friday, was conducted by email, due to the coronavirus pandemic; the results were announced at a brief virtual meeting. The interim government, which took power last month, expressed its willingness to facilitate the work of the U.N. monitors. AP

Cape Verde Holds Parliamentary Vote Amid Major Recession
Cape Verde, a bastion of democracy in Africa, is holding parliamentary polls with no clear winner in sight after a campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on a tourism-dependent economy. Neither of the two main parties is expected to emerge the outright winner in Sunday’s vote, giving four smaller parties a chance to have their say over the group of islands off the west coast of Africa. With foreign tourism accounting for about a quarter of the economy and visitors unable to come owing to global pandemic restrictions, Cape Verde, with a population of 550,000, was plunged into a recession in 2020, when output shrank by 14.8 percent. Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva nonetheless told reporters: “We are very confident. We hope to have an absolute majority.” But his Movement for Democracy (MpD) is being closely challenged by the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), a socialist party led by Janira Hopffer Almada. The 42-year-old lawyer and former youth minister hopes to become the first woman to lead the former Portuguese colony. Al Jazeera

Soaring Food Prices, Conflicts Driving Hunger, Rise Across West and Central Africa: WFP
More than 31 million people across West and Central Africa may not have enough to eat in the coming months as hunger rises due to an “explosive mix” of skyrocketing food prices, conflict and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday. The figure is more than 30 per cent higher than last year and represents the highest level over most of the past decade, according to a joint food security analysis assessment released under the auspices of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), a regional organization. WFP stressed that immediate action is needed now to avert a catastrophe. The warning comes ahead of the lean season, from June to August, when food is scarce before the next harvest. … Meanwhile, escalating violence in some parts of West Africa is forcing people to flee their homes and abandon their fields, a source of income. Affected countries include Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic, as well as areas in northern Nigeria and in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. People escaping violence are especially at risk of acute food insecurity. WFP reported that across West Africa, nearly 10 million children under five are acutely malnourished, half of them in the Sahel alone, and their numbers could rise significantly. UN News

Firefighters Battle Wildfire on Cape Town’s Table Mountain
Firefighters in Cape Town on Monday were battling a wildfire that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s archival library. Helicopters dumped water on the area in an effort to contain the blaze, which began on Sunday and was most likely caused by an abandoned campfire, according to South African National Parks officials. But as wind picked up strength overnight — fanning the flames — the fire spread to neighborhoods in the foothills of the mountain and forced some homes to be evacuated on Monday morning. … On Sunday night, police arrested a man in his thirties in connection with the initial fire on Table Mountain, according to Jean-Pierre Smith, a city councilman in Cape Town who sits on the mayor’s safety and security committee. … Several buildings, including a historic mill and the school’s library, which houses important archives and book collections, were soon alight, and billows of thick white smoke rolled across the city. So far, there have been no reported fatalities, but five firefighters have suffered injuries, according to officials. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones