Africa Media Review for April 22, 2021

Climate Change Amplifies Instability in Africa
Climate change is straining livelihoods across broad swaths of Africa, intensifying instability in multifaceted ways. The continent’s ability to adapt to and mitigate these effects will have global repercussions. Climate tends to most affect the poorest countries that have the lowest carbon emissions. By adding pressure to already strained environmental and economic systems, climate change exacerbates resource competition, intercommunal grievances, state fragility, and other vulnerabilities. Countries in conflict, in turn, are less able to focus on conservation and long-term adaptation. With every 0.5-degree Celsius increase in local temperatures, the risk of conflict increases 10-20 percent. Globally, the period from 2011 to 2020 was the hottest decade ever recorded. The Sahel was particularly affected, with temperatures rising 1.5 times the international average during this period. Eight of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. Six of those eight are facing armed conflict. Climate change looms large across Africa, with each region facing a different mix of climate-induced risks. Following are illustrative cases of how climate change is contributing to instability in Africa. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Chadian Opposition Decries Deby’s Son as Interim Leader
Chad’s political opposition is saying the country suffered a “coup d’etat” when power was handed to Mahamat Idriss Deby, arguing that the military did not follow constitutional rules for succession following the death of his father after more than three decades in power. The mounting opposition to Chad’s transitional government Thursday came as the international community also pressed for a democratic transfer of power following the killing of longtime President Idriss Deby Itno. The military said Deby died while making a visit to the front lines of the battle against rebels now threatening to advance on the capital. “The Chadian people tell us they do not want a dynastic transfer of power,” one opposition leader, Succes Masra, said in a video message released online. “The Chadian people do not want to continue with the same institutions that have created the current situation.” AP

Where Did Chad Rebels Prepare for Their Own War? In Libya.
The rebels pulled off a stunning feat. Barely a week after their armed convoy roared across the desert into northern Chad, they kicked off a battle that on Monday claimed the biggest scalp of all: Idriss Déby, Chad’s iron-fisted president of three decades, killed on the battlefield when a shell exploded near his vehicle, according to a senior aide. On Wednesday, a day after his death was announced, a sense of apprehension and disbelief reverberated through the capital, Ndjamena, where the military formally installed as interim president Mr. Déby’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Déby. Rumors of an impending rebel attack on the city coursed through its streets. But the secret of the rebels’ striking success thus far lay behind them, across Chad’s northern border in Libya, where they have been fighting as soldiers of fortune for years, amassing weapons, money and battlefield experience, according to United Nations investigators, regional experts and Chadian officials. In effect, the rebels used Libya’s chaotic war to prepare for their own campaign in Chad. The New York Times

In Darfur’s Rebel-Held Mountains, the War Is Far from Over
Armed groups from Sudan’s western region of Darfur – and other parts of the country – signed a peace deal in October with the transitional government, which took power following the revolution that ousted long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019. But after trekking to a rebel base in the far-flung Jebel Marra mountains in early March, The New Humanitarian found the conflict is far from over: The region’s most powerful insurgent group is still recruiting and training fighters, and its leaders are rejecting the deal and denouncing the government that co-signed it. “We are very clear,” said Abdelgadir Abdelrahman Ibrahim, the military commander of the main faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, known as the SLA-AW. “This agreement does not meet the needs of our people.” … Rebels offered rare insights into the mindset of the insurgent group as it navigates Sudan’s political transition with deep distrust, but also a snapshot of the ongoing humanitarian crisis facing hundreds of thousands of mountain residents, who have endured some of the worst atrocities committed in the Darfur conflict. The New Humanitarian

Massacres Threaten to Engulf Darfur, Where Revenge Has Substituted for Justice
Darfuris, human right activists and even Sudan’s attorney general said in interviews that continued impunity for the RSF [Rapid Support Forces], which compounds historic injustices, could quickly lead Darfur back to where it was less than two decades ago, when the militias ran rampant and cycles of revenge sparked one massacre after another. RSF leaders have repeatedly rejected allegations that they are tied to current or past massacres in Darfur. Idriss Hassan Ibrahim, their top official in Geneina, did not respond to a request for comment. … “In principle all crimes against humanity, war crimes, extrajudicial executions and other mass crimes will be investigated and prosecuted before a special tribunal for Darfur … no matter who the perpetrators are,” said Tag el-Sir el-Hibir, Sudan’s attorney general. But he pointed to massive challenges: 80 percent of jobs, from clerks to prosecutors to judges, are unfilled; political interference blocks most access to records from the Bashir era; budgets are insufficient; and his office has no enforcement capability. He can file charges, but he has no officers to carry out the arrests. And then there’s the issue of immunity for the RSF. “It is a real threat to social peace and justice,” he said. “Immunities send a negative message of impunity.” The Washington Post

Ethiopia Rights Commission Said Armed Group Has Taken Control of County
An armed group has taken control of a county in western Ethiopia, reportedly killing civilians and kidnapping public servants, the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said. The commission said it received reports that Sedal Woreda, in the Kamashi Zone of the western Benishangul-Gumuz Region, was “under near full control of an armed group as of April 19.” The commission did not say which armed group it was referring to. The woreda, or county, is home to around 25,000 people, the commission said in the statement issued late on Wednesday. Local officials were not immediately available for comment. The region is home to the strategically important Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $4 billion project that Ethiopia says is key to its economic development and power generation but has sparked fears in Egypt and Sudan over disruptions in supplies of water from the Nile. Benishangul-Gumuz has seen a surge of ethnic violence in recent months, including an attack in December that killed more than 200 civilians. The region is home to a myriad of ethnic groups, including the Gumuz, Agaws and Shinasas and the Amhara, and has seen increasingly bloody attacks on civilians. Reuters

Thousands Flee Renewed Clashes in Central African Republic
The U.N. refugee agency reports renewed fighting between government forces and rebel groups in Central African Republic has sent more than 2,000 refugees fleeing for their lives to neighboring Chad this past week. Newly arriving refugees have been telling aid workers in Chad of the mayhem engulfing their region. The refugees, who come from CAR’s northern Kaga-Bandoro region describe shocking acts of violence, looting and extortion by rebel groups as government forces were closing in on them. As people were fleeing toward the Chadian border, U.N. refugee spokesman, Babar Balloch, says other people from towns they passed along the way joined them, fearing that they too would come under rebel attack. … Chad is hosting nearly 11,000 of the 117,000 Central African refugees who have fled violence sparked by CAR’s contested presidential and parliamentary elections in December. VOA

Mali Soldiers ‘Killed, Mistreated, Disappeared’ Dozens of People: HRW
The armed forces of Mali are responsible for dozens of cases of killings, mistreatment, and disappearances during counterterrorism operations in the country’s central Mopti region, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday. In a press release, the international nongovernmental organization claims that Malian soldiers have taken the lives of at least 34 villagers, caused the disappearance of more than 16 people, and severely mistreated several detainees. The allegation was reported after the rights group interviewed people who have allegedly witnessed massacres and beatings committed by security forces from 2020 to this day. One of the incidents that HRW investigated and included in the report was the abuse of dozens of bus passengers on March 23. Soldiers in Boni reportedly detained, blindfolded, and severely beat passengers after finding suspicious materials in the vehicle’s baggage compartment. Another case of reported abuse involving Mali’s armed forces occurred on October 22, 2020, after 25 fleeing villagers, including women, children, and the elderly, were killed. The Defense Post

Zimbabwe Parliament Approves Amendments to Constitution
Zimbabwe’s parliament on Tuesday approved proposed amendments to the constitution removing a clause on electing vice presidents, a move critics say is meant to entrench President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule. The raft of amendments came a fortnight after the Senate voted for another amendment that will see the tenure of senior judges being extended and the president directly appoint judges, instead of them being subjected to public interviews as is the case now. … The ruling party will also choose the president’s successor in the event that the incumbent is incapacitated or dies in office. … Fadzayi Mahere, the MDC Alliance spokesperson, said the changes to the constitution marked Zimbabwe’s descent into a dictatorship. “The assault on our supreme law is an attack on the last bastion of protection that citizens have against dictatorship,” Advocate Mahere said. “Who can forget how under Robert Mugabe, the constitution was amended until there was barely anything left? Nation

Kenya, DRC Sign Deals on Security, Trade and Transport
Kenya has signed crucial agreements on transport, security and trade with the Democratic Republic of Congo, signalling a push to improve low figures of business between them. After a bilateral meeting between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and his host Felix Tshisekedi, the two sides on Wednesday signed a new deal to handle cargo from the port of Mombasa that grants the DRC certain privileges for using Kenyan facilities. Kenya also offered to open diplomatic outposts in Goma and Lubumbashi in eastern DRC in what President Kenyatta said would ease consular services for traders. The Agreement on Maritime Freight Management, revised from earlier arrangements, will be the basic legal framework in handling all freight cargo coming through Mombasa destined for the DRC. President Kenyatta told a joint press conference that Nairobi is seeking to bring the region “closer so that we can fight our common problems together.” When fully implemented, the deal will address delays on DRC imports by dedicating clearing channels for the goods headed for the DR Congo market. The EastAfrican

China’s Overseas Naval Base Is Now Big Enough for Its Aircraft Carriers, A Top US Commander Says
China’s first overseas military base has expanded and is now capable of supporting the country’s growing aircraft carrier force, a US combatant commander revealed Tuesday. “Their first overseas military base, their only one, is in Africa, and they have just expanded that by adding a significant pier that can even support their aircraft carriers in the future,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command, told the House Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported. China opened a base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and began deploying troops there in 2017. … Speaking to lawmakers Tuesday, Townsend said the base is becoming a “platform to project power across the continent and its waters,” adding that “around the continent, they are looking for other basing opportunities.” Business Insider

How Solar Panels Are Changing Lives for the Better in Mali’s Rural Areas
In Mali’s Ségou region, only half of the inhabitants have electricity in their houses. The amount of power produced by the National Energy Company, EDM, is not enough to keep up with the demand. But private companies are making solar panel plants that are changing living conditions in rural Ségou. The small village of Séminbougou is a good example of this growing trend. The big roads, public lighting, and nice houses in Ségou tell the story of a prosperous city. But in Séminbougou, a small village just 10 minutes from there, it’s a different reality. The village does not have access to the electricity powered by EDM, and no plans have been made to make this happen. Séminbougou is not alone in this situation. Many small villages have the same problem—people have had to regularly work in the dark. But in 2018, Séminbougou finally got a small solar panel plant, that helps villagers in their daily tasks. “These solar panels brought changes in our village. It was difficult to charge our phones and watch TV. But now, it’s better,” says Baba Gambi, the villager that takes care of the solar power plant. RFI

Along the Mighty Niger River, Fewer Fish and More Jihadists
Ousmane Djebare Djenepo, wearing sunglasses and an easy smile, stands upright to show off the mighty Niger River which is flowing around his traditional wooden canoe, or pirogue. The 76-year-old Malian is one of tens of thousands of fishermen who make a living from the river and the verdant wetlands which surround it. But Djenepo’s smile hides unease. “Before, the river was deep and the fishing seasons long,” says Djenepo, head of the federation of fishermen of the Niger River’s inner delta. “Now there are far fewer fish, and the river has too many problems.” Ecological issues are threatening livelihoods in the area in central Mali, even as inhabitants have to contend with jihadists and armed groups. Islamist militants launched a brutal insurgency in Mali in 2012 which has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more. But in the inner Niger delta, overfishing has depleted stocks, and the Sahara Desert is also encroaching on the green floodplains. Boukary Guindo, the government’s fisheries director for the region, said the situation for fishermen has gone “from bad to worse.” AFP

Global Virus Resurgence Threatens Vigorous Growth Momentum
The renewed surge in Covid-19 infections is threatening to further divide the world economy between the rich and poor, potentially damaging overall global growth if the fresh outbreaks spread or if key sources of demand falter. More people were diagnosed with Covid-19 last week than any other since the pandemic began. The World Health Organization this week warned that new infections are increasing everywhere except Europe, led by rocketing numbers in India with cases also rising in Argentina, Turkey and Brazil. That’s casting a shadow over a previously vigorous global economic rebound given that failure to control the virus or get vaccines distributed evenly risks driving new mutations, first in emerging markets and then on to developed nations that had been beating the pandemic back. … “I see it as a race between virus mutations and vaccine rollout,” said Rob Subbaraman, head of global markets research at Nomura Holdings Inc. “Many people are not aware that while the 1918 Spanish flu is believed to have started in the U.S. and then spread to Europe, in the end the countries that suffered most were in emerging markets. It’s an ominous sign of history repeating itself.” Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones