Africa Media Review for April 19, 2024

Kenya’s Military Chief Dies in a Helicopter Crash
Kenya’s military chief Gen. Francis Ogolla died in a helicopter crash west of the country, President William Ruto announced Thursday and declared three days of national mourning. The helicopter was carrying 11 people, including Gen. Ogolla, when it crashed Thursday and caught fire in a remote area near the border with Uganda, killing nine people onboard, the president said…Gen. Ogolla, 61, was on a tour of the country’s troubled western region that has seen frequent attacks by local bandits. He was appointed Kenya’s Chief of Defense Forces in April last year after Gen. Robert Kibochi retired. Political controversy surrounded Ogolla even before his appointment, when he was accused by the country’s electoral commission chairperson as being part of a national security council delegation that tried to influence the outcome of the 2022 general election against President Ruto. Ruto later explained that he called Gen. Ogolla before his appointment and said that, despite the election controversy, he was the most qualified for the job. AP

Zimbabwe Frees Prisoners, including Those Sentenced to Death, in an Independence Day Amnesty
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa granted clemency to more than 4,000 prisoners, including some who were on death row, in an independence day amnesty on Thursday. Zimbabwe marked 44 years of independence from white minority rule, which ended in 1980 after a bloody bush war…The presidential amnesty, the second in less than a year, benefits female, older and juvenile inmates, the terminally ill and some who were originally sentenced to death…Mnangagwa freed more than 4,000 prisoners in another clemency order last May aimed at decongesting the southern African nation’s overcrowded prisons, where conditions are usually harsh. At the time, Zimbabwe had about 22,000 prisoners crammed into prisons with a capacity of 17,000. AP

Laborers and Street Vendors in Mali Find No Respite as Deadly Heat Wave Surges through West Africa
On Thursday, temperatures in Bamako reached 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) and weather forecasts say it’s not letting up anytime soon. The city’s Gabriel-Touré Hospital reported 102 deaths in the first four days of the month, compared to 130 deaths in all of April last year. It’s unknown how many of the fatalities were due to the extreme weather as such data cannot be made public under the regulations imposed by the country’s military rulers…The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre says that a lack of data in Mali and other West Africa countries affected by this month’s heat wave makes it impossible to know how many heat-related deaths there were but estimated that the death toll was likely in the hundreds if not thousands…With the political instability, many foreign investors are leaving Mali. Rolling power cuts and fuel shortages have forced companies to shut doors, exacerbating an already dire economic situation. AP

Deadly Heat in West Africa Warns of Climate Change-Driven Scorchers to Come, Says Report
In late March and early April, days and nights of extreme heat above 40° Celsius (104°F) gripped many West African countries. Temperatures soared so high in Mali and Burkina Faso they equated to a once in 200-year event, according to the report on the Sahel region by World Weather Attribution (WWA). The severity of the heatwave led WWA’s team of climate scientists to conduct a rapid analysis, which concluded the temperatures would not have been reached if industry had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and other activities…”It was the hottest that anyone in living memory has had to deal with (there),” [WWA statistician Clair Barnes] said…On the current trajectory, if fossil fuel emissions do not fall “we would expect to see heatwaves like this maybe 10 times more frequently, so potentially up to 20 times a year,” Barnes said. Reuters

UN Approves an Updated Cholera Vaccine That Could Help Fight a Surge in Cases
The World Health Organization has approved a version of a widely used cholera vaccine that could help address a surge in cases that has depleted the global vaccine stockpile and left poorer countries scrambling to contain epidemics…The vaccine was shown to be help preventing the diarrheal disease in late stage research conducted in Nepal. WHO’s approval means donor agencies like the vaccines alliance Gavi and UNICEF can now buy it for poorer countries. Leila Pakkala, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said in a statement that the agency will be able to boost supplies by more than 25%…The U.N. agency said warming temperatures that allow the cholera bacteria to live longer, have also worsened outbreaks and led to the highest death rates in a decade. AP

Millions of Girls in Africa Will Miss HPV Shots After Merck Production Problem
Nearly 1.5 million teenage girls in some of the world’s poorest countries will miss the chance to be protected from cervical cancer because the drugmaker Merck has said it will not be able to deliver millions of promised doses of the HPV vaccine this year. Merck has notified Gavi, the international organization that helps low- and middle-income countries deliver lifesaving immunizations, and UNICEF, which procures the vaccines, that it will deliver only 18.8 million of the 29.6 million doses it was contracted to deliver in 2024, Gavi said. That means that more than 10 million girls will not receive their expected HPV shots this year — and 1.5 million of them most likely will never get them because they will be too old to qualify for the vaccine in subsequent years…The delay is a big setback for countries that had already waited years to begin vaccinating girls against HPV, the human papillomavirus, which causes an estimated 90 percent of cervical cancers. The New York Times

How South Africa’s Former Leader Zuma Turned on His Allies and Became a Surprise Election Foe
Zuma shocked the country in December by denouncing the ANC and campaigning against a party that had been at the heart of his political career. His new political party, UMkhonto WeSizwe, was named after the ANC’s military wing, which was disbanded at the end of the struggle against white minority rule. The ANC has launched a legal case seeking to stop the new party from using a name and logo that are similar to those of the military wing. The charismatic Zuma continues to crisscross the country, delivering lively speeches, and an image of his face will represent the party on ballots. The ANC already had been facing pressure from other opposition parties. But Zuma’s new party threatens to draw support from within the often divided ANC. South Africa’s electoral body has cleared him to run for a parliament seat, despite his past conviction. AP

‘We Share with Rats’: Neglect, Empty Promises for S African Hostel-Dwellers
Hostels were first introduced on the mines, and later townships like Soweto, as a place to house Black men from rural parts of the country who provided a cheap source of labour under apartheid. But by 1994 – when white minority rule relinquished power and the country elected its first multiracial government – the nature of these spaces had begun to change. South Africa was free and accessible to all. With that came a mass influx of people into cities and townships. However, despite the political gains, service delivery has not kept up with the needs of the population, state corruption and mismanagement thrive, and many promises remain unfulfilled…Last month, angered by the lack of basic services, hostel residents went out in protest – blocking major roads, including two highways, with burning tyres and rocks. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Army Rescues a Woman Abducted from Chibok as a Schoolgirl, and Her 3 Children
Nigerian soldiers rescued a woman who was abducted by extremists a decade ago while she was a schoolgirl in the village of Chibok, the army said Thursday. Her three children were also rescued. Lydia Simon, who is five months pregnant, was rescued by Nigerian troops in the Gwoza council area of Borno state, where the 15-year insurgency by Islamic extremists is concentrated, according to a statement from the army…Simon was among 276 girls seized from their school in Chibok in April 2014 at the height of the extremist violence in the region. About 82 of them are still in captivity…The Nigerian army didn’t say how she was freed other than that she was rescued in a hot spot known as Ngoshe, 130 kilometers (74 miles) north of the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. AP

Nigerian Judge to Rule on Separatist Leader’s Bail Next Month
A Nigerian judge will rule next month if separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu’s bail should be reinstated, the judge said on Wednesday, after the court last month denied a fresh application and ordered that he face a speedy trial on terrorism charges. Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, was first arrested in 2015 but disappeared from Nigeria after while on bail in 2017. He was subsequently arrested in Kenya in 2021 and charged in Nigeria with seven counts of terrorism. Kanu has pleaded not guilty…Kanu’s IPOB campaigns for the secession of southeastern Nigeria where the majority belong to the Igbo ethnic group. Nigerian authorities have labelled IPOB a terrorist organization. An attempt by the southern region to secede as the Republic of Biafra in 1967, the year Kanu was born, triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people. Reuters

Tunde Onakoya: Nigerian Attempts to Break Chess Marathon Record
Under the beaming lights of New York’s iconic Times Square, Nigerian chess master Tunde Onakoya is attempting an ambitious challenge to break the record for the longest chess marathon. He aims to play for 58 consecutive hours and raise $1m (£805,000) for charity in the process. The money, he says, will support chess education for millions of children. Hundreds of supporters have shown up to cheer on the chess master, including Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido. The Nigerian community in New York has rallied behind their compatriot, providing Mr Onakoya with music and energising him with supplies of classic Nigerian dishes, including the beloved national staple, jollof rice. Back home in Nigeria, people are throwing their support behind Onakoya as they watch him try to conquer the record on Twitch, a video-streaming service…Mr Onakoya, 29, credits chess with saving him from the overwhelming poverty he faced growing up in Lagos’s infamous floating slums. His NGO, Chess in Slums Africa, teaches children from poor communities chess and helps them with their education. BBC