Africa Media Review for April 23, 2021

U.N. Security Council, For First Time, Declares Concern about Ethiopia’s Tigray
The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday about the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, particularly abuse of women and girls, a week after the U.N. aid chief said sexual violence was being used as a weapon of war. It was the first public statement by the 15-member council, which has been briefed five times privately on the conflict, since fighting between Ethiopia’s federal government troops and Tigray’s former ruling party began in November. “The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls in the Tigray region, and called for investigations to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” it said in the statement, drafted by Ireland and agreed by consensus. Reuters

Ahead of Deby’s Funeral, Chad Rebels Say Command Hit by Air Strike
Chadian rebels said on Friday their command centre was bombed on Wednesday night in an attempt to kill their leader, as the nation gathered to pay homage to slain President Idriss Deby who was killed on the frontline on Monday. The rebels have this month swept south across the desert from their bases in Libya towards N’Djamena, and say they are around 200-300 km (125-190 miles) from the Chadian capital. They called a temporary ceasefire to allow Friday’s funeral for Deby to take place. It is being attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African heads of state. The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which was formed by dissident army officers in 2016, accused the French air force of assisting the overnight bombing with aerial surveillance. The group did not specify where the command centre was located or give details of any casualties or damage. Reuters was not immediately able to obtain confirmation of the attack from other sources. Reuters

Five African Presidents Join Global Leaders in Climate Talks
President Uhuru Kenyatta is among 40 participants in an ongoing Leaders Summit on Climate convened by United States President Joe Biden. From Africa, Mr Kenyatta was invited alongside President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Ali Bongo of Gabon and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari. The summit, a two-day virtual event that began Thursday, is aimed at underscoring the urgency of stronger climate action. It also aims to galvanise action by leading economies to tackle the global climate crisis ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled for November this year in Glasgow. At the opening of the summit, President Biden said the science and cost of climate change are undeniable facts. He called on all players, especially the leading global economies, to set higher climate ambitions and act urgently to forestall global warming, which now exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts. The EastAfrican

Tanzania’s New President Samia Suluhu Reaches Out to Opposition
Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu reached out to the opposition Thursday as she vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the East African country, which had seen a slide into autocratic rule under her predecessor. Democratic rights as well as individual and press freedom “are important for stimulating development and peace,” she said in a maiden televised policy speech before parliament. Suluhu, who became Tanzania’s first female president in March, said she would discuss with the opposition “how best they will conduct their political activities for the benefit of our country.” The 61-year-old was vice president to John Magufuli at the time of his sudden death last month, also aged 61. He was a Covid-sceptic who said the virus had been fended off in Tanzania through prayer. … Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly autocratic rule. AFP

‘It Was a Torture Chamber’: Ugandans Abducted in Vicious Crackdown
Hundreds of ordinary people suspected of supporting opposition politicians in Uganda have been snatched off the streets by security services in the worst wave of repression in the east African country for decades. Many suffered systematic torture, detention in harsh conditions in often secret prisons and the denial of access to relatives or lawyers. The abductions, which were described in detail to the Guardian by survivors and relatives of victims, have led the UK and the US to express concern through diplomatic channels. Some victims appear to have done no more than vote for political parties seeking to topple Uganda’s veteran president, 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni. … Prosecutors at the ICC are already reviewing a submission from the opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, the former reggae singer known as Bobi Wine, describing widespread human rights abuses in the runup to presidential polls held in January. Museveni claimed victory in the vote which was marred by allegations of fraud and the death of at least 50 people during protests. Most were shot by security forces. The Guardian

Mauritius: Island Nation Tackles Cyber Security
For nearly two decades, the island country of Mauritius has aspired to be a technical and financial force on the world stage. The country’s ambition to become an “information society” dates to 2001, when it established the Business Parks of Mauritius Ltd as a government-owned company to develop information and communications technology. That led to the Cyber City Project in 2003. The goal of the project was to make Mauritius a preferred destination for business and professionals and “to create wealth and employment through the use of information technology,” reported The New Economy of the United Kingdom. Today, the project takes up 62 hectares with five distinct zones: Cyber and Multimedia, Business and Finance, Knowledge, Commercial, and Residential. Mauritius is now viewed as the country most committed to cyber security in Africa and is ranked sixth in the world by the Global Cybersecurity Index. It is no coincidence that Mauritius is considered Africa’s most successful democracy and one of only 20 countries worldwide to be classified as a “full democracy.” ADF

130 Europe-Bound Migrants Feared Dead off Libyan Coast
More than 100 Europe-bound migrants are feared dead in a shipwreck off Libya, independent rescue groups said. SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said late Thursday that the wreck of a rubber boat, which was initially carrying around 130 people, was spotted in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The aid vessel did not find any survivors, but could see at least ten bodies near the wreck, the group added in a statement. “We are heartbroken. We think of the lives that have been lost and of the families who might never have certainty as to what happened to their loved ones,” read the statement. … The European humanitarian organization added that more than 350 people have drown in the sea so far this year, not counting the victims of this latest shipwreck. “States abandon their responsibility to coordinate Search and Rescue operations, leaving private actors and civil society to fill the deadly void they leave behind,” added the statement. Alarm Phone, a crisis hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, said in another statement that it had been in contact with the boat in distress for nearly ten hours before it capsized. AP

Nigeria: At Least 83 Killed as Bandits Strike Again in Zamfara
Attacks by suspected bandits across villages in Zamfara State have left at least 83 persons dead and hundreds of others, including women and children, injured. Reports on the attacks were given by displaced people, officials and residents of the affected communities. Most of the attacks, which appeared coordinated, happened on Wednesday in Gusau, Maradun and Bakura local government areas of the troubled North-west state. Premium Times had, the day before the latest attacks, reported apprehension in the Dansadau district of Maru Local Government Area following the killing of 20 people in separate attacks by rival groups in the area. The sole administrator of Bakura local government , Aminu Suleiman, told reporters that over 30 people were killed in attacks in Bakura and Maradun. Mr Suleiman, however, said the deaths were recorded over days of reprisal attacks between members of outlawed vigilante groups and bandits. Premium Times

Nigeria: Africa’s Biggest City Plans Own Power Market to Guarantee Supply
Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos is preparing to establish its own electricity market to ensure more reliable power supply. The plan, if implemented, would be a first in Nigeria, where energy generation, transmission and distribution is overseen by the central government. Lagos hosts headquarters of most large international and domestic businesses present in Africa’s largest economy, contributes about 25% of gross domestic product and more than half of industrial and commercial output. Lagos’s government is proposing that generation, transmission and distribution functions “be owned and operated substantially by the private sector” and supervised by a regulator, state Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources Olalere Odusote said in a consultation paper. Companies using gas and renewable energy will feed the Lagos grid, which will be connected to its national counterpart and complemented by off-grid alternatives such as standalone solar solutions. Gas-fired plants already account for about 80% of Nigeria’s electricity capacity. Bloomberg

Sudan Cancels Controversial Kajbar Dam Project
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok Thursday cancelled a controversial dam project in northern Sudan, a decision hailed by the residents of the area who struggled against it during the former regime. The Kajbar Dam is located in the Northern State, at the third cataract in the Kajbar area, at 111 km north of Dongola, inhibited by the Mahas Nubian group. The Nubians in northern Sudan opposed the dam project fearing a new displacement similar to Aswan High Dam, especially since the government did not conduct required feasibility studies for financial compensations and did not propose an appropriate alternative for residential and agricultural lands. In addition to the loss of the Nubian civilization in the area, especially since the capacity of the reservoir will cover large areas extending to Al-Gouled and Kumi, south of the dam. Hamdok announced his decision to stop the construction of the hydroelectric project on the River Nile during a visit to the Northern State. Sudan Tribune

Sahara’s Polisario Front Chief Gets COVID Treatment in Spain
The man leading the Polisario Front in its fight for independence of Western Sahara is hospitalized in Spain for treatment of COVID-19, officials from Spain and the group said Thursday. Brahim Ghali, 73, heads the Algeria-backed pro-independence movement representing the local Sahrawi population that has periodically fought Moroccan forces for control of the territory in western Africa. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the self-declared government also led by Ghali, announced in a statement on social media that he was “recovering favorably” after having contracted the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus. The statement didn’t say where Ghali was being treated. But an official from Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Ghali had been taken to Spain “for strictly humanitarian reasons.” AP

There Are 200 Million People in Nigeria. Only 1 Million Have Been Vaccinated
At the beginning of March, Nigeria received nearly 4 million vaccine doses through the World Health Organisations COVAX programme — an initiative that works to ensure the equitable global distribution of the vaccine. Frontline health workers were vaccinated first, followed by public officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo who received their shots live on TV in an attempt to prove that the vaccine was safe. Still, uptake has been painfully slow. According to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) – the organisation responsible for implementing Nigeria’s vaccine rollout – only a million Nigerians have been vaccinated, an anaemic figure for a country of nearly 200 million people and where many vaccination centres have opened eligibility to all adults. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has recorded over 2,000 deaths from nearly 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Health experts fear that the current high rate of vaccine hesitancy has resulted from a flood of deliberate disinformation and conspiracy theories that are pushing many people away from getting vaccinated, leading to fears that the government will fall worryingly short of its target of vaccinating 40 percent of the population by the end of the year. VICE

Oxford Malaria Vaccine Proves Highly Effective in Burkina Faso Trial
A vaccine against malaria has been shown to be highly effective in trials in Africa, holding out the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children every year. The vaccine, developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over 12 months. The hunt for a malaria vaccine has been going on the best part of a century. One, the Mosquirix vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has been through lengthy clinical trials but is only partially effective, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years. It is being piloted by the World Health Organization in parts of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. The Oxford vaccine is the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy against the mosquito-borne parasite disease. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries. The Guardian

African Futurism through Sahel Sounds
Through DIY technology and a futuristic use of cellphones that is particular to Africa, the Sahel Sounds label has released roughly 60 albums in the past 10 years. Sahel Sounds is a portal into alternate realities. The small independent label has made music from the greater West African Sahel region accessible over the past decade, including from remote desert areas in Mali, Niger and Mauritania. Founder Christopher Kirkley runs Sahel Sounds from Portland, Oregon, in the United States and the project encompasses writing, archives, research, film and a record label. Sahel Sounds shines a spotlight on previously obscure artists from northwestern Africa. It has catapulted many careers by introducing their sounds to a global audience, including Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar, all-female guitar band Les Filles de Illighadad, keyboardist Hama and pioneering organist Mamman Sani. New Frame



Photo: Adam Jones