Africa Media Review for April 2, 2021

DR Congo to Host Talks on Controversial Ethiopia Dam
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will meet in Kinshasa from Saturday for talks on the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Democratic Republic of the Congo officials said. The three-day meeting will be hosted by President Felix Tshisekedi, who took over the chair of the African Union last month, officials at the foreign ministry and presidency said on Wednesday, confirming a report in the publication Jeune Afrique. The chairman of the AU’s Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is also expected to attend, Jeune Afrique said. Egypt and Sudan earlier this month urged the DRC to steer efforts to relaunch negotiations on the contested GERD being built at a cost of $4.6bn. AFP

Sudan: African Union Approves Sudan’s Reform Timeline
Sudan has received a vote of approval on its transitional plan, including the gradual accommodation of former rebel fighters into the government, after a top security organ of the African Union toured Khartoum this week. A delegation of the African Union Peace and Security Council held sessions with leaders of the transitional government now under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. And the verdict was that Khartoum was on track to ensure the country’s full return to democracy. Team leader Jean Kamau, the Kenyan Permanent Representative to the African Union, told reporters in Khartoum that the Council was in Sudan to assess the country’s progress on political and economic reforms. “As one of our leading countries in Africa, we also noted that the efforts that have been put in place are very important for the peace and security, and show how African problems have been addressed by Africans,” she said on Tuesday. The EastAfrican

‘They Told Us Not to Resist’: Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War
Mona Lisa lay on a hospital bed in Mekelle, the main city in war-torn northern Ethiopia, her body devastated but her defiance on display. Named for the iconic painting, the 18-year-old Ethiopian high school graduate had survived an attempted rape that left her with seven gunshot wounds and an amputated arm. She wanted it to be known that she had resisted. “This is ethnic cleansing,” she said. “Soldiers are targeting Tigrayan women to stop them giving birth to more Tigrayans.” Her account is one of hundreds detailing abuses in Tigray, the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia where a grinding civil war has been accompanied by a parallel wave of atrocities including widespread sexual assault targeting women. A senior United Nations official told the Security Council last week that more than 500 Ethiopian women have formally reported sexual violence in Tigray, although the actual toll is likely far higher, she added. In the city of Mekelle, health workers say new cases emerge every day. The assaults have become a focus of growing international outrage about a conflict where the fighting is largely happening out of sight, in the mountains and the countryside. But evidence of atrocities against civilians — mass shootings, looting, sexual assault — is everywhere. The New York Times

Joy, Agony as Boat Brings Mozambique Attack Survivors to Safety
More than 1,000 survivors of a deadly attack last week on the town of Palma in northern Mozambique have safely reached the port of Pemba by boat, some of them crying on arrival after spending days hiding in the forest. Aid workers on Thursday were at the crowded port in the capital of Cabo Delgado province to give food to the displaced people disembarking from the green-and-white ferry. Police and soldiers kept control of crowds of people excited to see relatives, while others continued to despair without any news. Mozambique’s government has confirmed the deaths of dozens of “defenceless” civilians in the March 24 raid on Palma, which marked the dramatic escalation of an armed campaign that has wreaked havoc in gas-rich Cabo Delgado since 2017. Palma is home to some 110,000 people, according to United Nations estimates, including some 40,000 internally displaced people who had settled there after fleeing attacks by ISIL-linked fighters elsewhere. The area adjacent to the town holds a number of multibillion-dollar natural gas projects. Al Jazeera

Africa CDC Says India Vaccine Woes Could Be ‘Catastrophic’
Africa is unlikely to meet its targets for vaccinating the continent against COVID-19 if supply delays from a key Indian manufacturer continue, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday. Dr. John Nkengasong told a press briefing that officials hope the problems at the Serum Institute of India will only be temporary otherwise “it would definitely impact our ability to continuously vaccinate people.” “I really want to deliberately hope that it is a delay — not a ban — because that would be catastrophic,” he said. More than half of the 29.1 million vaccine doses received by African nations so far have come through the global COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to vaccines. … But the Serum Institute of India recently announced that as many as 90 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine destined for COVAX worldwide will be delayed through the end of April as India’s government grapples with a spike in infections among the country’s 1.4 billion people. AP

Tanzanian Doctors Pin Hopes on New President for COVID Turnaround
Throttled by late President John Magufuli’s coronavirus denialism, Tanzanian doctors have expressed hope the arrival of a new leader will bring positive change to the country’s questionable handling of the pandemic. Magufuli’s vice president and successor, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced on March 17 that the 61-year-old had died from a pre-existing heart condition. But many suspect Magufuli, who had not been seen in public for weeks, passed away from COVID-19 complications. In June last year, Magufuli declared his country had beaten the virus through prayer. Authorities had already stopped registering cases and deaths since May – at the time, Tanzania had 509 cases and 21 deaths – and warned of strong measures against those who allegedly spread “false information.” Anyone who defied orders – including doctors – could be jailed under a law passed in 2018, which prohibits questioning the accuracy of official statistics. “Since they weren’t allowed to admit the scale of the problem, many were still having to manage COVID-19 patients without actually saying it,” said the doctor, who worked for six years at a medical facility in Tanzania and is still in regular contact with doctors there. Al Jazeera

Violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis Takes High Civilian Toll
Worsening violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions is taking an increasingly heavy toll on civilians, with renewed attacks against schools and a spate of incidents involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and extrajudicial killings documented in recent months. These attacks are the latest escalation in the nearly five-year conflict between government security forces and armed separatists which has displaced more than 700,000 civilians and forced another 63,800 across the border to Nigeria, according to a United Nations report this week. Overall, the UN estimates three million of the four million people in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest have been impacted. The Anglophone conflict began in late 2016 when government security forces used lethal force to put down peaceful marches by lawyers and teachers protesting against perceived marginalisation by the country’s majority Francophone government. In response, more than 30 armed separatist groups formed to fight for an independent nation they called Ambazonia. A self-declared Interim Government of Ambazonia also emerged and is run largely by Anglophone Cameroonians living in Europe and the United States. Al Jazeera

Libya Authorities Release 120 Captured Pro-Haftar Fighters
Authorities in western Libya released 120 fighters from a rival eastern force on Wednesday, the latest move towards reconciliation in a UN-backed peace process aimed at ending years of violence. The men were fighting for the 107th Brigade under the command of eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who in April 2019 launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from a unity government. The fighters had been captured near the western city of Zawiya that same month. On Wednesday, dressed in loose white outfits and matching skullcaps, they were released following a ceremony in Zawiya, 45 kilometers (30 miles) east of Tripoli. The ceremony took place at a sports ground in Zawiya under heavy security. In a speech, Abdallah al-Lafi, vice-president of the country’s new presidential council, welcomed the move and called for further reconciliation and rebuilding. “We must not pass on hatred and bitterness to our children,” he said. The Defense Post with AFP

Niger on the Hunt for Suspected Coup Plotter, Investigations Ongoing
The suspected coup leader, Captain Gourouza, is on the run following the incident, becoming the most wanted man in the Sahelian country following the coup attempt timed just before the swearing-in of incoming President Mohamed Bazoum. Investigations are ongoing to identify the plotters involved in the attempt and according to several sources at least 15 soldiers have been arrested for questioning in connection with the incident. Soldiers taken into custody admitted to acting under the orders of Gourouza, an air force officer, who sources described as having managed to traverse the city from east to west, from the airport to the presidential palace, armed to the teeth, without being spotted. A high level security source speaking to RFI said they had anticipated the coup attempt over the past few weeks and “caught them red-handed.” Authorities were keen to underline that the coup attempt did not interfere with the functioning of government. … Niger has a long history of coups and the last successful attempt took place in 2010 when rogue soldiers seized control of the presidential palace and overthrew former President Mamadou Tandja. RFI

In Mali, France’s Defence Chief Defends January Airstrike That UN Report Says Killed 19 Civilians
Defence Minister Florence Parly travelled to the Sahel state’s capital Bamako on Wednesday after the probe raised concerns about possible rights violations. Published on Tuesday, a report summarising the investigation’s findings concluded that a French air strike in central Mali killed 19 civilians on January 3. “This strike raises serious concerns about respect for the principles of the conduct of hostilities,” said the UN report, which constituted a rare criticism of a French military operation in Mali. The French defence ministry denied the account, insisting that it had identified and attacked an “armed terrorist group.” … “There were no women or children among the victims, and these strikes were intended to neutralize terrorist elements,” she said. “There is a difference between the realities of the facts and what is in this UN report.” … The French minister’s Czech and Estonian counterparts accompanied her at the meeting with the Malian president. Together they announced that a multinational force, Takuba, has become operational in the region. The force has 500 French soldiers at its core, and is expected to grow to 2,000 troops, who are to operate in close cooperation with the national armies of the region. France24 with AFP and AP

EU Approves 5 Billion Euro Facility to Train and Equip Foreign Militaries, with Africa a Priority
The European Union Council has adopted a decision establishing the European Peace Facility (EPF), an off-budget fund worth approximately €5 billion for the period 2021-2027, to be financed through contributions from EU member states. … In a statement released on behalf of the EU Presidency, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said training and equipment will be provided to African countries. “These measures may include supplying defence and military-related equipment or infrastructure at the request of third countries or regional and international organizations. This assistance will be embedded in a clear, coherent political strategy and will be accompanied by thorough risk assessments and strong safeguards,” the EU said. “The ultimate aim of the EPF is to enhance the EU’s ability to prevent conflict, preserve peace and strengthen international stability and security.” defenceWeb

DR Congo Seeks Foreign Help against Armed Groups in East
DR Congo’s army said it had reached out to the militaries of neighbouring countries to help “neutralise” armed groups in its troubled east. An estimated 122 armed groups roam the resource-rich east of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo, many of them legacies of two bloody regional wars in the 1990s, according to a US-based monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST). In a statement dated Tuesday, the DRC military said the armed forces “have undertaken contacts with all the armies in neighbouring countries for drawing up appropriate strategies for permanently resolving the thorny question of insecurity” in the Great Lakes region. The statement, signed by army spokesman General Leon-Richard Kasonga, said the DRC was in favour of “strengthening military cooperation, regular consultation between armies in the region… (and) pooling efforts and intelligence.” AFP

US Raises Red Flag Over Human Rights Violations in Zimbabwe
The United States has raised the red flag over alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe, which include torture of government critics by security forces. In its country report on human rights practices in 2020, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour said Zimbabwean security forces acted with tacit support from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. The report is yet another unflattering assessment of President Mnangagwa’s administration by the US in the last three years following a military coup that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe. “Non-governmental organisations reported security forces abducted, assaulted and tortured citizens in custody, including targeted assault on and torture of civil society activists, labour leaders, opposition members and other perceived opponents of the government,” the report released on Tuesday says. “Human rights groups reported government agents continued to perpetrate physical and psychological torture on labour leaders and opposition members during abductions. The EastAfrican

Report: Chinese Loan Terms Hamper Post-Virus Debt Talks
China’s loans to poor countries in Africa and Asia impose unusual secrecy and repayment terms that are hurting their ability to renegotiate debts after the pandemic, a group of U.S. and German researchers said in a report Wednesday. It adds to warnings about problems from Chinese lending, which surged after Beijing launched its Belt and Road Initiative in 2012 to expand trade with Asia, Africa and the Middle East by building railways and other infrastructure. China has become one of the biggest lenders, especially to developing countries, as the ruling Communist Party tries to expand its global influence to match the country’s status as the second-biggest economy. State-owned Chinese banks, unlike most official lenders, require foreign borrowers to keep terms and sometimes even the existence of loans secret… Chinese banks insist on being repaid ahead of other creditors, which can disrupt debt talks with groups of lenders, their report said. It said borrowers are required to put oil or other revenue into foreign accounts that can be seized in the event of default. AP

Stronger International Support Needed for Africa – IMF, African Caucus Chair
Africa needs carefully-calibrated domestic policies and stronger support from the international community to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and return to its path of stronger growth, the head of the IMF and the African Caucus said on Thursday. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Domitien Ndihokubwayo, Chairman of the African Caucus, issued a joint statement after a meeting of the African Consultative Group, which includes senior representatives from 12 African countries. They said the key priority remained to significantly scale up COVID-19 vaccine production capacity and accelerate vaccine roll-out, but it was also essential to prioritize policies to help protect livelihoods and vulnerable groups. Africa remains gripped by the COVID-19 health emergency which triggered its worst economic shock in decades and saw millions of people fall into poverty. While oil-rich North Africa was expected to grow faster, the recovery was likely to be much slower in Sub-Saharan Africa, the IMF and African Caucus leaders said, noting that per capita incomes in many countries were not expected to return to pre-crisis levels before 2025. They called for transformative policies, including increased investment in digital technologies and climate resilient infrastructure. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones