Africa Media Review for April 26, 2021

Gunfire Erupts in Mogadishu as Somalia’s Political Feud Turns Violent
Gunfire erupted across the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday as security forces loyal to the president clashed with units that appeared to have sided with his rivals, stoking fears that Somalia’s simmering political crisis is spilling over into violence. The fighting, some of the worst in the Somali capital for years, followed months of tense talks between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and opponents who accuse him of making an unconstitutional power grab. The talks collapsed after Mr. Mohamed failed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by February, as scheduled, and then two months later signed a law extending his term in office by two years. His actions have drawn criticism from the United States and other Western allies. The moves effectively ended United Nations-mediated negotiations backed by the United States and added fuel to an already combustible political situation. The shooting started Sunday afternoon after soldiers aligned with the opposition took positions at several strategic locations in Mogadishu, drawing fire from pro-government forces. The New York Times

Chad Military Refuses Talks with Rebels as Opposition Presses for Civilian Rule
Chad’s ruling military council has rejected an offer from northern rebels for a ceasefire and talks, calling them “outlaws” who needed to be tracked down and arrested for their role in the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby. The rebels, known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), said on Sunday that they were ready to discuss a political settlement, two weeks after they poured over the border on election day demanding an end to Deby’s 30-year rule. They came as close as 200-300 km (125-185 miles) from the capital N’Djamena before being pushed back by the army. The air force has since bombarded rebel positions, the military and rebels said. The military said on Saturday it had “annihilated” the rebels. … The military council is under pressure to hand over power to a civilian transitional government as soon as possible. The African Union has expressed “grave concern” about the military takeover, while France and regional powers are pushing for a civilian-military solution. Reuters

Who Killed Chad’s Warrior King? Macron Flies into Murder Mystery Troubling the West
Emmanuel Macron touched down in Chad on Friday to pay his respects to one of France’s indispensable African strongman, a warrior king allegedly killed on the battlefield in a murder mystery troubling Western leaders. … Paris has coddled successive Chadian autocrats and consistently turned a blind eye to rampant tribal nepotism, corruption and human rights abuses which have kept the country’s 15m people some of the poorest on earth. Since the 1990s, Mr Déby has been France’s go-to dictator in Africa, a client autocrat with a well equipped, professional army to balance Paris’ regional security strategy on. … Despite massive opposition from Chadian civil society groups, the Élysée Palace has doubled down on Mahamat Déby. … Critics say the move reveals France’s double standards on democracy in its dealings with its former African colonies. When a military junta ousted Mali’s president in 2020, France demanded a “return to constitutional order.” “The whole argument the French always made throughout the last few years about why they supported Haftar was that he could stabilise the region,” said Wolfram Lacher, a Libya researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Now their main ally in the Sahel is dead.” Telegraph

Africa’s Already Slow Vaccine Drive Is Threatened as Supplies from a Stricken India Are Halted.
The rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis in India is not only forcing hospitals to ration oxygen and sending families scrambling to find open beds for infected loved ones. It is also wreaking havoc on the global vaccination effort. Nowhere is that more evident than in Africa. Most nations were relying on vaccines produced by the Serum Institute factory in India. But the Indian government’s decision to restrict exports of doses as it deals with its own outbreak means that Africa’s already slow vaccination campaign could soon come to a near standstill. Before India suspended exports, more than 70 nations received vaccines it manufactured, totaling more than 60 million doses. Many went to low- and middle-income countries through the Covax program, the global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines. … Even before India’s halt in shipments, Africa was experiencing the slowest vaccine rollout of any continent. As of Wednesday, African nations, with a total population of 1.3 billion, had acquired more than 36 million vaccine doses but administered only about 15 million, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York Times

A New Scramble for DR Congo Begins in Earnest as Tshisekedi Steadies the Ship
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi is increasingly being viewed as his own man. He has succeeded in shaking off his predecessor and perceived puppeteer Joseph Kabila and even has gone ahead to be elected chair of the African Union. The world in general, and Africa in particular, has garnered confidence in the “new” DRC under President Tshisekedi, after decades of being seen as a failed state. The president looks committed to reforms, cracking down on corruption and bringing relative peace to the troubled east, where dozens of militia groups operate. After he was elected in the controversial polls of 2019, President Tshisekedi had to fight off allegations of vote theft and claims that it was indeed Joseph Kabila who had the levers of power. But the Congolese leader seems to have rejigged the country’s politics, taking control of the two chambers of Parliament, which recently voted to oust Kabila’s prime minister Sylvestre Ilunga. His choice of Prime Minister, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, is viewed as a reformer. The EastAfrican

Rescue Groups Decry Loss of Migrant Lives in Mediterranean
Rescue groups and the Vatican are decrying the latest deaths of migrants who put to sea in traffickers’ unseaworthy boats, amid laments that central Mediterranean nations are choosing not to dispatch vessels to save them. Aid group Alarm Phone said in a tweet that despite a spotter plane locating an overcrowded ship in the sea north of Libya on Wednesday and pleas for help from the occupants, “only non-state actors actively searched for the boat in distress at sea.” By the time a charity rescue ship reached the site on Thursday evening, the boat had capsized and all the estimated 130 occupants are believed to have drowned. “Abandoned and buried at sea” read the headline across a photo of the sea on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper on Saturday. On Sunday, Pope Francis somberly built on the newspaper’s denunciation of what he called a “moment of shame.” AP

Total Suspends Mozambique LNG Indefinitely on Security Threat
French energy giant Total SE suspended its $20 billion liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique indefinitely after an escalation of violence in the area, including a March attack by Islamic State-linked militants. The decision is a blow to Total, which bought a 26.5% stake in the project for $3.9 billion in 2019 hoping to start exporting the super-chilled fuel by the end of 2024. The increasing violence is also a setback for Mozambique, which is now losing out on jobs and revenue from the gas sales. Hours after Total said on March 24 it was resuming work on the project, stalled since January because of security threats, more than 100 rebels raided the town of Palma. Dozens of people died, millions of dollars of property was damaged and the company immediately froze plans to resume the project. The fresh violence in the north of the Cabo Delgado province “leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure,” the company said in a statement on Monday. … Force majeure is a provision that allows parties to suspend or end contracts because of events that are beyond their control, such as wars or natural disasters. Bloomberg

UN Deplores Torture of Burundian Refugees in Tanzania
A report prepared by a panel of UN experts said arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and forced returns have allegedly been carried out by the Tanzanian police and intelligence services in cooperation with the Burundian intelligence services. “In addition to the strict encampment policy imposed on them by the Tanzania government, Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers now live in fear of being abducted at night by Tanzanian security forces and spirited to unknown locations or being forcefully returned to Burundi,” the experts said. The report said Burundi political opponents had been tracked down among the refugee and asylum-seeking population in Tanzania. “The security situation in the camps seems to be extremely compromised amid reports that Burundian intelligence agents posing as refugees within the camps are identifying specific individuals who are later arrested by Tanzanian security forces,” the experts said. The EastAfrican

Jihadists Kill At Least 11 in Northeast Nigeria Attack
At least 11 civilians were killed when IS-aligned jihadists invaded a town in northeast Nigerian Yobe state, an official and residents told AFP on Saturday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in eight trucks fitted with machine guns stormed the town of Geidam as residents were preparing to break their Ramadan fast on Friday, leading to a gunfight with troops from a nearby base. “We lost 11 people in the terrorist invasion and the gunmen are still in the town,” Ali Kolo Kachalla, Geidam political administrator, said. “Our people are trapped in the town and soldiers have been prevented from leaving,” Kachalla said by phone from the state capital Damaturu. The victims were killed when a projectile hit two adjoining homes in the Samunaka neighborhood of the town during the fighting between troops and the militants, residents said. AFP

Isa Pantami: The Nigerian Minister Haunted by His Extremist Views
Nigeria’s presidency says it “stands behind” an embattled minister facing calls for his resignation after extreme Islamist views he held in the past recently came to light. Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, and also a renowned Muslim cleric, expressed views sympathetic to groups such as al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. In one sermon from the 2000s he said he considered al-Qaeda founder, Osama Bin Laden, a better Muslim than himself, and in another, he said he was happy when infidels were massacred. Recordings of him expressing these views began circulating on social media last week, leading to calls for his resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari. … The minister also attempted to renounce his past views at the weekend, telling a local newspaper that some of the comments were based on his “understanding of religious issues at the time” and that he has changed several positions “based on new evidence and maturity.” But that has not stopped calls for his sacking or resignation with many using the #PantamiMustGo hashtag on Twitter to express concerns over his access to sensitive data as the minister of communications. BBC

Eswatini Parliament Starts to Push Back
King Mswati III turns 53 today. Fresh from Sherbone School in Dorset, England, he ascended the throne at just 18, inheriting a system carefully built by his father, King Sobhuza II. Over the years, he has exercised control over the country, routinely quelling dissent and populating institutions with people agreeable to him and his policies across all three spheres of government. Now, 35 years later, one institution – Parliament’s House of Assembly – is showing signs of independence, vigorously debating the government’s bills and notices to the point of rejecting some. But there is no official opposition in the house, owing to there being no political party representation. Instead, some members of Parliament (MPs) have formed a collective akin to one. Radical MPs have steadfastly opposed some of the government’s laws and positions, but they are few and have had little support and impact on decision-making. This could change, though, as the number of MPs who have organised themselves into an effective coalition has progressed and they are critically debating bills, raising motions and defeating many of the government’s positions. New Frame

‘My Octopus Teacher’ Wins the Oscar for Best Documentary
My Octopus Teacher,” the tale of an eight-limbed creature and her human companion, has won the Oscar for best documentary. Ten years in the making, “My Octopus Teacher” began as a personal video project by South African filmmaker Craig Foster to rekindle his connection with nature by observing an inquisitive female mollusk while free-diving near Cape Town. He filmed their interactions and became increasingly dazzled by how she could fashion tools from shells, furl herself in ribbons of kelp to avoid detection, outwit a a pajama shark and adjust her hunting techniques to envelop crabs, lobsters and fish. Viewers even see her play. The lifespan of a female octopus of the kind Foster met extends to only about 18 months. But that was enough time for him and his fellow directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed to be profoundly impacted by her. “This really is a tiny personal story that played out in a sea forest at the very top of Africa. But, on a more universal level, I hope that it provided a glimpse of a different kind of relationship between human beings and the natural world,” Ehrlich said on the telecast. AP



Photo: Adam Jones