Africa Media Review for April 21, 2021

Chad Leader’s Son Takes Power as U.S. Urges Legal Transition
The son of Chadian President Idriss Deby took control of the oil-producing nation after the death of his father, a key ally of western efforts to quell Islamist insurgencies, as the U.S. urged a lawful transition of power. General Mahamat Idriss Deby will head a 15-member military council that will lead the former French colony for the next 18 months, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said on state television. The announcement circumvents the central African nation’s constitution, which requires elections to be held within 90 days in the event the president’s post becomes vacant. “We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. … [Deby’s] death at the age of 68 came shortly after he secured a sixth term as president in disputed elections that were preceded by a crackdown on anti-government protests. The credibility of the vote was called into question after the Supreme Court barred seven opposition candidates from running and three others later quit the race. Bloomberg

Chad’s President Killed in Fighting with Rebels, Threatening Stability in West Africa
Mr. Déby, in power for 30 years after leading a coup in 1990, had been proclaimed the winner of Chad’s latest national election on Monday … after an election campaign in which demonstrations were banned or broken up. [After Déby’s death] Chad’s army announced that the government and parliament had been dissolved. A curfew was imposed and borders were closed. The army declared the formation of a military council to rule the country for an 18-month transitional period, with 15 generals appointed as members of the council, headed by the late president’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, a four-star general who leads the elite presidential guard. This means that the military is ignoring the provisions of Chad’s constitution, which requires the head of the National Assembly to take over if the president is incapacitated or the presidency is vacated. The constitution also requires elections within 90 days, but the military made no mention of the timing of elections. … Dan Eizenga, a researcher at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, expressed similar concerns about Chad’s future. “We’re faced with what is likely to be prolonged instability in Chad,” he told a seminar organized by the Sahel Research Group at the University of Florida on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a very contentious moment for Chadian politics. The chances of instability or violent conflict are quite high now.” The Globe and Mail

40,000 Displaced in North Mozambique after Assault on Palma
Some 40,000 displaced and urgently needing food, work suspended on a multi-billion-dollar gas investment, and scores of dead still being counted. The damage caused by Mozambique’s extremist rebels in their deadly assault on the northeastern town of Palma continues to be assessed. Four weeks after the rebels launched a three-pronged attack, which lasted at least five days, Mozambican police and relief agencies are working to help the thousands uprooted by the violence and restore the town to daily life. Although the fighting has ended, Palma does not appear to be completely secure, the rebels still able to make hit and run attacks, according to Cabo Ligado, which reports on the crisis caused by extremist violence in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. … The aftermath of the siege of Palma is adding to the humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique. An estimated 700,000 people have been displaced and more than 2,600 killed in the conflict against the extremist rebels, according to the U.N. … The number of civilians killed in Palma is being added up by officials. … One of the first targets of the rebels, estimated to number between 100 and 200, were the banks in Palma, from which they stole about $1 million, according to local reports. AP

Somalia: Criticism Grows Against Farmaajo’s Extension of Term
The UN Security Council members on Tuesday rejected President Farmaajo’s extension of term, but endorsed efforts of the African Union to help parties resolve an electoral impasse. Members of the UN’s most powerful body gathered for an informal sitting meant to help address the political crisis currently building in the country. Last week, the Lower House of Parliament passed a motion to delay elections by two years, effectively extending President Farmaajo’s term. It angered donors and opposition groups. “India called for: the Need for Federal Government and Federal states to resume dialogue, the need to implement 17 Sept agreement and Baidoa declaration,” said Indian Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr. TS Tirumurti. … The session was called by the UK, one of the most vocal critics of a recent extension of Farmaajo’s term by parliament. Under a format known as the Informal Interactive Dialogue [IID] where diplomats freely speak off the record with representatives of the countries affected, the 15-member Council allowed members to voice their concerns on Somalia. They all called for dialogue to end the impasse. Nation

Somalia’s Rival Factions Spread Across Mogadishu as They Jockey for Power
After months living at an upmarket inn close to Mogadishu’s airport, Somalia’s opposition leaders, including two former presidents and their armed teams, have decamped, spreading across the capital in what is seen as a strategic move. The sitting president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo,” meanwhile, returned last night from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he was reportedly hoping to win support for an extension of his presidential term from the African Union. The two ex-premiers are reportedly sleeping a few kilometres apart, embedded within residential neighbourhoods, better placed to mobilise the public. Protests broke out Sunday night, suggesting that their move to spread across the city is having an impact. As the people were on the streets, the men who had ignited the demonstrations stayed home. In another part of Mogadishu, troops supporting the recently sacked police commander, Sadiq “John” Omar, have set up roadblocks around his residence, ready to fend off any government attack. … A formidable opposition with sizeable personal security and aligned clan militia, as well as leadership in the upper house, does not recognise the president’s legitimacy, let alone the extension. The Guardian

German Government Agrees to Expand Military Mission in Mali
The German government on Wednesday approved plans to expand the country’s military training mission in Mali, a government source said. Up to 600 troops will be deployed in Mali as part of the European Union’s training mission EUTM, 150 troops more than under the current mandate, government and defence sources said. The mission is also about to build a new training base in Sevare in central Mali, a region which has been ravaged by Islamist and ethnic violence. The cabinet also gave the green light for extending by one year Germany’s participation in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Mali, upholding the current level of up to 1,100 troops which are mainly based in the northern town of Gao. Both mandates still have to be approved by parliament. The U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has deployed more than 13,000 troops to contain violence by armed groups in the north and centre of the country. Reuters

Nigeria Police Kill 30 ‘Bandits’ after Northwest Raids
Nigeria police have killed 30 gunmen after criminal gangs raided four villages in the country’s northwest, which has been hit by a surge in kidnappings and attacks, police said on Tuesday. At least 10 villagers were killed in the different raids, Zamfara State police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement, before police fought off the gangs. Heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as “bandits” have become an increasing security challenge in northwest Nigeria, ransacking villages and carrying out mass abductions for ransom. Police said gunmen carried out raids on Gobirawa, Gora, Rini and Madoti Dankule villages in Zamfara State in the early hours of Tuesday. … Criminal gangs have recently turned their attention to kidnapping students and schoolchildren for ransom. Dozens of gunmen last month seized 39 students from their dormitories in the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Afaka in Kaduna state, after a gunfight with soldiers. AFP

For Nigerian Students Living in Fear of the Next Mass Kidnapping, There Is Only One Defense — To Run
By night, the boarding school teacher becomes a security guard. He wears a whistle around his neck in case gunmen jump the low-slung fence and break into dormitories where 300 boys sleep. They know to run if they hear the shrill warning — straight to town, toward the police station. … Attackers stormed schools in Nigeria’s north three times in the past five months, kidnapping at least 667 children. The abductions have instilled fear in students and teachers, leading to a wave of dropouts. The attacks are chipping away at an already fragile education system. More than 600 schools in the region have shuttered this year — some temporarily, some indefinitely — and 3 million fewer children are in class, government data show. … “Our responsibility is to provide quality education to every Nigerian,” spokesman Ben Goong said in a statement. “It is the duty of security agencies to provide security to schools.” A military spokesman directed The Post to the Ministry of Education. Local government officials say they have pleaded for more backup from the police, and police say they need extra support from the military, intelligence agents and civil defense groups. “Gone are the days when you can say protecting lives and property lies with police alone,” said Frank Mbah, a spokesman for the Nigeria Police Force. The Washington Post

DRC Seeks Over $4bn in Reparations from Uganda at ICJ
Lawyers for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Tuesday told the International Court of Justice that they are seeking $4.3bn in reparations payments from neighbouring Uganda for its role in the conflicts in the country’s mineral-rich Ituri province. The UN court, known as the World Court, is holding hearings this week in the long-running dispute between the DRC and Uganda over damages caused from 1998-2003. DRC’s representative before the court, Paul-Crispin Kakhozi Bin-Bulongo, told the judges that the damage done to his country by Uganda during the over five-year conflict in Ituri was of “incommensurate magnitude” and said Uganda had not negotiated in good faith during reparations talks. The case was first brought before the court in 1999 and in 2005 the ICJ ruled that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of Ituri with its own troops and supporting other armed groups in the area during the conflict. It also ruled that the DRC had violated international law with an attack on the Ugandan embassy in Kinshasa. The court ordered the African neighbours to negotiate mutual reparations but in 2015 the DRC returned to the UN court saying the talks were not progressing. Al Jazeera

After Years of Supporting Peace, Kenya Seeks More Market Pie in DRC
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday made his first ever State visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeking to strengthen business ties with Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country by land size. A statement from the Kenya Embassy in the DRC said the President landed on Tuesday afternoon in Kinshasa, ahead of a series of meetings with his host President Felix Tshisekedi. A provisional itinerary seen by The EastAfrican indicated the President could meet with business players in the DRC as well as attend the opening ceremony of Equity Bank’s offices in Kinshasa. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) and Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) were in an advance team of senior government officials already in Kinshasa to receive the President. … The President’s visit comes as Kenya faces competition for the DRC market, which relies heavily on the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam for imports. A brief seen by the The EastAfrican showed Kenya plans to open a consulate in Goma, North Kivu, and appoint an Honorary Consul in Lubumbashi, South Kivu – both in eastern DRC – to facilitate trade. The EastAfrican

Cape Town Fire Damages ‘Irreplaceable’ Archives
A wildfire that started on Sunday on the slopes of South Africa’s Table Mountain has destroyed, among others, the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus, ravaging its historic library that housed a priceless African Studies collection described as “unique in the world.” For years, local and foreign academics, students, and researchers have flocked to the university’s Jagger Reading Room to gain valuable insights and knowledge through its astounding collection of works pertaining to the African continent. “If you see inside, everything is gone. There’s nothing left, all the books, the history, all gone. It’s going to take a long time to rebuild it. I think the main thing is the history,” Shurud Jacobs, a caretaker who has worked at the university for more than 10 years, told DW. The library’s African Studies collection consists of around 65,000 volumes, 26,000 pamphlets, 3,000 African films, and 20,000 other audiovisual items. Some of these are very rare. Some works were published from as far back as the 1500s to the present. Written in multiple European or African languages, they include newspapers, maps, anti-apartheid works, activist pamphlets, graduate theses, film and audio. The specialist book collections include a Kipling and an Antarctic collection. Notably, even documents of transitions to independence of some of the other African countries form part of this collection. DW



Photo: Adam Jones